Shen Qingqiu was having a terrible day. The kind of day where it was boiling outside, and there weren't any clouds, and the PE teacher made you run a mile.
The kind of day where it was freezing and drizzling outside and your PE teacher made you run 1.60934 kilometers.
The kind of day where you plot the murder of said PE teacher for making you run a mile. While under influence of the elements. The elements that were doing their element thing and making life difficult for the students running 1.60934 kilometers.
Shen Qingqiu was being forced to run the mile and he was having a terrible day.
Although he wasn’t actually running. Congenital heart disease meant that Shen Qingqiu was just jogging. Sometimes walking.
Cause. Physical Education.
The point was that he was pseudo-running the mile. And it was a terrible day.
Most days were terrible though. What with him being in an orphanage and all.
The Qiu Family Orphanage for the Parentless Magicians.
It should be The Qiu Family Orphanage for Human Trafficking instead.
It was the orphanage kids were sent to if they have an inheritance, or if they were dirt poor.
The orphanage, which had a goal of spreading kindness and generosity throughout the world through the enrichment of the children under its care.
The orphanage that also had a habit of dabbling in the human trafficking market. Selling off their poorer children was great for their business.
Luckily, Shen Qingqiu had money and so was saved from the whole selling kids situation.
He only wished the adults and kids would believe him when he said the Qiu Family was running a slave trade.
At least they were allowed to go to school. A school whose entire staff was on the payroll of the Qiu Family but a school nonetheless.
If only he didn’t have to deal with the people that came with the school. Why were there people everywhere?
But if Shen Qingqiu was honest with himself, and that was always up to chance, the mile wasn’t why this particular day was terrible. It wasn’t even the orphanage really. Not anymore. He’d gotten over it. He’d gotten used to the general misery that permeated the walls of the establishment.
His misery was caused by the fact that a year had passed since the passing of his family.
Exactly a year.
He was miserable because his parents were dead, his gege was dead, his jiejie was dead, and he wasn’t dead.
He wasn’t dead.
He was supposed to be dead.
Jiejie wasn’t supposed to be in that car. He was.
Jiejie wasn’t supposed to be in that car crash.
He was supposed to be dead.
He was running the mile instead.
He didn’t know which fate was worse.
His only saving grace was Cang Qiong School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
He won’t have to run the mile at Cang Qiong after all.
His parents had met each other in Cang Qiong, his grandparents had met each other in Cang Qiong, his great-grandmother had been conceived in Cang Qiong.
Learning that little tidbit of information had almost convinced him to not spy on people. Almost.
His jiejie and gege were supposed to go with him to Cang Qiong this year, them in the seventh year and him in his first.
They didn’t even make it to their sixth year.
He still wanted to go though.
He wouldn’t have to run 160934 centimeters in Cang Qiong.
Shen Qingqiu was eleven and in Cang Qiong. He was eleven and he'd been sorted into Slytherin. He was eleven and he wasn’t at the orphanage anymore.
He was eleven and he was going to make his family proud.
They weren’t allowed to use the fact that they were dead to slack off on their “being proud of Shen Qingqiu” duties. That was just laziness.
Plus since they were dead they should be doing overtime. After all, it’s not like they have anything else to do.
They have to be proud of him.
You know, once he’s actually done something to be proud of.
Shen Qingqiu was eleven, and he was in Cang Qiong, and he would never have to run the mile ever again.
He does have to deal with the disaster quartet though. Nothing truly good in life comes without a price.
To cope, he plots. Honestly, murdering four of his classmates shouldn’t be too difficult. Especially with how stupid they all are.
Yue Qingyuan and his holy saint act. Shang Qinghua and his rat face. Mu Qingfang, and his habit of hanging around Yue Qingyuan, Shang Qinghua, and Liu Qingge.
Liu Qingge. The bane of his existence. The absolute meathead. The spirit of Gryffindor squeezed into the body of someone who was an inch taller than Shen Qingqiu. Which was his first mistake. Because the disrespect! To be both older and taller?!
His second mistake was being an idiot.
The idiot who’d almost fallen off their boat. The idiot who’d almost capsized their boat. The idiot he’d saved from drowning in the freezing lake.
The idiot who wouldn’t stop trying to befriend him due to the whole saving his life thing.
Shen Qingqiu should’ve just let him fall off and damned the consequences.
How hard would it have been to learn how to swim in the middle of a freezing lake?
It would certainly be easier than dealing with the brute.
The imbecile who was too pretty and too stupid and too much. Dear Merlin, he was too pretty to be as stupid as he was.
Together the quartet was unbearable. Separately, they were worse.
Except for Mu Qingfang, whose only fault was his choice of companionship. His taste in friends was atrocious.
Professor Shen Anwei was a beacon of hope amongst the sub-par teachers at Cang Qiong. He was the History of Magic professor, the art professor, the music professor, the Ancient Runes professor and he was the best.
He probably needed to be paid more for doing everything he was doing. Shen Qingqiu was convinced that Professor Shen was the only reason Cang Qiong was considered one of the best magical schools in the East.
It would’ve been in the top five in the world if the West didn’t have a superiority complex.
But the conversation about the residual effects of British Colonialism on the world could wait.
The reason for this respect, nay adoration, was because Shen Anwei gave Shen Qingqiu unrestricted access to the restricted section of the library.
Shen Qingqiu loved his History of Magic professor.
He was so cool.
The rest of his teachers were competent. Usually. Their classes were about the correct material and were usually within the syllabus. Which was fine. Lazy, but fine.
Professor Li Anshan was another matter, however.
He was a lunatic.
(“I have a feeling a student is insulting us,” said Professor Fang Anrong.
“You always have a feeling a student is insulting us. You’re almost always wrong,” said Professor Xiu Anran.
“Yes, but this time our dear little Shizi has graced us with his continued presence.”
“You know what, fair point.”
“Maybe he wouldn’t be insulting you if you were competent at challenging him,” said Professor Zhao Yunlan. The traitor. Why did Shen Qingqiu’s fathers have to be so overprotective?!
“It is not our fault Shen Qingqiu is a genius! We’ve tried, okay?! The other students are struggling, even the toppers! Making the course work harder did not work.”)
Technically Shen Qingqiu didn’t know how Professor Li taught. After all, the headmistress hadn’t allowed him to take arithmancy in his first year.
(Apparently, there was a limit to the number of classes he could take. Apparently, he needed to sleep.)
Therefore, he had no personal experience with Professor Li.
Technically Shen Qingqiu didn’t know how Professor Li taught. Technically.
However, Professor Li had a habit of wearing suits to school, instead of the more traditional dress robes.
Suits that were purple.
Neon yellow. And royal purple.
Professor Li Anshan was a lunatic.
Shen Qingqiu had almost asked the school medic to remove his eyes, just so he wouldn’t have to subject himself to that atrocity.
Every single day.
He could deal with it, though. He'd deal with any annoyance that comes his way if it means he won't be at the orphanage.
He didn’t want to run the mile ever again.
He’d suffer through the fashion nightmares and idiocy personified if he could stay at Cang Qiong forever.
Professor Shen Anwei was happy. He was happy. His fellow teachers were happy.
Professor Shen Anwei was happy. His husband was happy.
Their son had arrived at Cang Qiong.
His son was here again.
He remembered accepting his son as his personal disciple. He remembered giving him his last name when their little Qingqiu had arrived at the sect. He remembered a time when little Qingqiu’s name had been Xiao Jiu. Which had turned to A’Jiu which had turned to Shen Qingqiu.
He remembered teaching him how to use the guqin, the pipa, the dizi, the erhu, the sword, the paintbrush, the canvas, and the paint.
He remembered Liu Qingge fighting with his son.
He remembered Liu Qingge apologizing to his son.
He remembered Liu Qingge courting his son.
He remembered making him the head disciple. He remembered making him the succeeding disciple.
He remembered watching him become Peak Lord Shen Qingqiu.
He remembered watching him become the famed Xiu Ya sword.
He remembered being at his son’s wedding. He remembered his son’s face as he asked him to take the role of his father at the wedding.
He remembered his husband’s face at the wedding itself. Full of pride, happiness, and sadness because their son was married but their son had also grown up.
He remembered going into seclusion with his husband to cultivate to immortality.
Their son had grown up after all.
He remembered being dragged out of seclusion to find his son's dead body.
His son, his beautiful son, was slaughtered by Liu Qingge himself. Their son’s husband.
He’d been told that it was a Qi deviation.
Rationally, he knew it wasn’t Liu Qingge’s fault.
He blamed him anyway. Liu Qingge was the reason his son was gone.
He’d been told that Peak Lord Shen Qingqiu had given up his life to secure the life of his husband. He’d been told that he didn’t need to worry about the funerary arrangements.
He didn’t remember much about that part of his long life.
He remembered burying his son, though. His talented, beautiful, damaged son who deserved a better fate. A kinder fate.
He hadn’t told little Qingqiu about his adoption. Mostly because he hadn’t adopted Shen Qingqiu on paper, but that was just a minor detail.
Xiao Jiu had been enraged, fearful, snappish, and intelligent.
Shen Jiu had been smarter, more bitter, skittish, and mistrustful of the world around him.
Shen Qingqiu was softer, calmer, happier, wiser, and more terrified. He’d had more to lose after all.
Shen Anwei didn’t want little Qingqiu to feel trapped, and he didn’t want him to misunderstand, and so he hadn’t mentioned it. He hadn’t mentioned wanting to adopt the little boy who’d arrived at Cang Qiong with the scars of his past lining his soul like a cloak.
Then he never got the chance to.
So Professor Shen Anwei was happy. His son was at Cang Qiong.
His son was at Cang Qiong and he was judging Li-shidi.
Dear gods above, he’d missed that.
Liu Qingge didn’t know what he had to do to become friends with Shen Qingqiu.
Or at least close enough to the younger boy to pay off his life debt.
(It matters not to Young Master Liu that the Cang Qiong groundskeeper was right there and he wouldn’t have died either way.)
He was honorable and he had a debt to pay back!
That was the only reason he was trying to become Shen Qingqiu’s friend.
(It had nothing to do with the weird swoopy feeling in his stomach whenever he saw Shen Qingqiu. It did not.)
His mother thought he had a crush.
Future Aurors don’t get crushes.
(Future Aurors just fall in love at first sight.)
And it doesn’t matter anyway because he couldn't even talk to Shen Qingqiu without doing something to set off the Slytherin boy.
But. He was Liu Qingge. He was Liu Qingge. He wouldn’t give up so easily.
Would he like magical animals in jars or should I just buy him some rare magical plant? thought Liu Qingge without considering the fact that he’d known Shen Qingqiu liked magical plants and animals. When he didn’t even know his favorite color.
(“Believe it or not, it’s green Liu-shidi.”
“That’s your peak’s color. Your favorite color is your peak’s color. That’s illegal.”
“What I’m understanding from your incredulous and dramatic statement is that I was sensible enough to choose a peak which catered to my preferences.”
“You didn’t even pick your peak, you were chosen by Shen-shibo!”
He decided to give him a sprig of Alihotsy because he really wanted to see Shen Qingqiu smile. He didn't know why though, he just knows he’d like to see it someday.
(“You’re looking at me weirdly, Qingge.”
“Admiring you is not the same as looking at you weirdly.”
“Technically you are using a gaze that deviates from your normal, therefore ‘admiring me’ is still looking at me weirdly.”
“It is not weird to admire my husband.”
“I prefer ex-fiance.”
“Look, I said I was sorry about the tanghulu. I didn’t know you were saving it! I’ve even brought you to the festival to make it up to you! It has fireworks!”
“And yet, this night would’ve been so much better if I hadn’t been robbed of the chance to eat my tanghulu. I still feel empty without it in my stomach, as if I've been starved. Deprived.”
“If I buy you an entire stall filled with tanghulu, will you forgive me, my love?”
“Ahh, Young Master Liu must be lamenting the weight of his purse and wants to lighten it. Such extravagance.”
“I’m sorry about mistaking you for a spoiled noble- you’re smiling.”
“And you’re mistaken. I am not.”
“You were. You are! Am I forgiven, dear one?”
“Buy me tanghulu first.”
“That might as well be a yes.” says the Peak Lord of Bai Zhan, Liu Qingge. With a dopey smile on his face.
He was, as the youths will say in the future, whipped.)
The plant didn't entirely work? It just made it so Shen Qingqiu wouldn’t glare at him anymore, and that. That was bad. Bad. Bad TM.
Because. At least when he was glared at, he was acknowledged.
Now he had nothing.
Shen Qingqiu had been avoiding Liu Qingge.
He hadn’t meant to avoid him. But. It was just easier. It was so much easier to just ignore Liu Qingge because then he could also ignore the dreams.
The dreams where he was smiling and laughing with him. The dreams where he was embraced by him, cuddling as if the only chair available was Liu Qingge’s lap. Dancing, as if they were the only two people in the whole world.
The dreams where he married Liu Qingge.
Or at least someone who looked like him. And had his name.
Liu Qingge, but aged up.
They unsettled him, mostly because he only ever woke up with the knowledge of the dream, never with the dream itself.
It was as if he’d been told a story of two lovers, Shen Qingqiu and Liu Qingge, but he'd never seen it.
Shen Qingqiu avoided Liu Qingge. For a while.
It didn't last long, they’re in the same year and the class size wasn't large enough to get lost in the sea of students. The only saving grace was the fact that they weren’t in the same house.
They grow closer over time. Liu Qingge caught his necklace when it fell off during Quidditch and Shen Qingqiu tutored him to make sure he didn't fail his classes. Which turned out to be the only reason Liu Qingge could keep playing Quidditch.
He was still a moron after all. He was a moron who was also Shen Qingqiu’s friend.
Shen Qingqiu was horrified.
He’d given in. He was now associated with the Dumbass Quartet. He was friends with the Dumbass Quartet.
Shen Qingqiu thought running the mile would be more pleasant.
“It’s Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa, not Levio-sa.”
“I’ve been saying Levio- sa.”
“No, you think you’re saying Levi-o-sa when in reality you're saying Levio-sa. Now. Do it again.”
“It’s not working.”
Shen Qingqiu was thoroughly annoyed by this exchange. “It’ll work if you actually try for once in your life, Shang Qinghua!”
Shang Qinghua was annoyed by the lesson itself and wanted to run away.
Maybe there’d be a stray dark lord he could pledge his allegiance to.
At least he wouldn’t be stuck playing student to the youngest person in their year. How boring.
He would’ve left too, would’ve gotten up and walked out of the library if Shen Qingqiu wasn’t so scary.
Shen Qingqiu would make a good stray dark lord. He was certainly mean enough for it.
He was also scary. The guy could read an entire tome in 15 minutes while beating Yue Qingyuan at chess. He could perfectly recall a book he’d read six years ago. He also had the most brutal glare.
He was like 5 years old.
He was scary and Shang Qinghua didn’t like him.
It was too bad that Liu Qingge did.
Mu Qingfang was concerned. He’d been concerned when his newest friend had expressed his determination to befriend the Ice Prince. He’d been concerned when none of the Befriend Ice Prince Plans TM had worked. He’d been concerned when Liu Qingge had been snubbed completely after one of his plans had worked. He’d been concerned when Liu Qingge and Shen Qingqiu became friends after all of that drama. The progression was just too weird. Thus it was untrustworthy.
Shen Qingqiu was untrustworthy.
The point was though that he’d been concerned a lot but this time was different.
“Do you……need help?”
“You’re collapsed on the floor. You’re literally in the fetal position.”
“There’s no need to worry. My current condition is just a minor inconvenience.”
“Your fingers are blue.”
“Ahh yes, my body does like to rebel in the oddest of ways. But I digress, it’s not a matter of importance. I’m fine.”
“You’ve collapsed and your fingers are blue. You are not fine.”
“Are any of us okay in the grand scheme of things- PUT ME DOWN.”
“Save your breath, Shen Qingqiu. I’m taking you to the infirmary.”
“People with blue fingers don’t get the privilege of saying they’re fine.”
“You know, I thought you were the good one, the only sensible one in our year. How painful it is to be proven wrong, obviously you're just as much of an idiot as the rest of the commonwealth.”
“At least the rest of the commonwealth can recognize that blue fingers are not healthy.”
“Look, it's just a heart condition, okay? I’ve dealt with it all my life. It’s not a big deal. Now can you please let me go to the library?”
“Sure, I can take you to the library-”
“Fantastic, I knew you’d come to your senses.”
“-After I take you to the infirmary.”
“Oh, come on!”
Shen Qingqiu was untrustworthy.
He should never be trusted with his own well-being.
Mu Qingfang wondered how his parents would feel when they learned that they had become grandparents.
Life was tough as a single parent to four troublesome kids.
Professor Shen Anwei had regretted it when he hadn’t adopted his son.
Shen Anwei had always acted like Shen Qingqiu’s father. He’d been Shen Qingqiu’s father, since the moment his little chestnut had entered the sect’s walls.
He had been Shen Qingqiu’s father but by law, he was only his shizun.
The old Qing Jing Peak Lord had regretted it.
Finding out that his son had been orphaned had made him sad.
Finding out the orphanage he was residing in was abusive made him mad. Because that was his son.
That was his son and he’d been hurt. He’d been beaten, starved, and abused in the past life. He’d been tortured and he’d been hurt.
He wouldn’t allow anyone to hurt his son in this world. Not again. Never again.
The day he officially adopted Shen Qingqiu was the best day of his life.
The day he’d ruined the entire Qiu family was a close third.
After all, his wedding day had been absolutely wonderful.
Yue Qingyuan didn’t know what to think about Shen Qingqiu.
The young boy (“You are 6 months older than me. 6. Months. You do not get to call me a young boy.”) was clearly a genius, and yet he was also a dumbass.
Really, not caring about blue fingers should’ve tipped him off about Shen Qingqiu’s dumbassery.
Thinking himself to be “average-looking” should’ve tipped him off.
Thinking himself to be an idiot after he’d gotten a 95% on his Divination final should’ve tipped him off.
(“I’ve practically failed! Stop. Laughing. This is a serious issue! And no, Qingge, it doesn’t matter that I got the highest grade in our year. The fact of the matter is that I got 95% when the only acceptable grade is a 100%. I’ve failed. I’ve lost all of my honor-”
“What honor,” said Shang Qinghua, the rat.
“-my dignity, my GPA. I’ve lost everything.”
Liu Qingge knew that finding amusement in this altercation would bring about his end. He knew this and was amused anyway. At least he’d stocked up on tanghulu.
His death would be quick and merciful.
“Do you want some tanghulu? I have some tanghulu in my bag.”
“Thank you, Qingge. At least my final meal will be ambrosia incarnate. The rest of you should take notes. That’s how you should react when a friend of yours loses everything.”
Liu Qingge promptly malfunctioned. And died. Because. Shen Qingqiu. The love of his life. Was smiling at him.
Those detentions for sneaking out were worth it.)
But no. Shen Qingqiu had to keep outdoing himself.
The baby of their group (“6. MONTHS.”) had just asked him if Liu Qingge liked him. Like-liked him.
As if the boy (“Okay, it was funny when you did it to him but I’m literally only 4 months younger than you.”) hadn’t been in love with Shen Qingqiu since first year. As if he hadn’t been pining since first year.
Oh dear god, the pining.
Shen Qingqiu was a genius who was a dumbass who was going to go to the Yule Ball with Liu Qingge.
If only one of them would pluck up the courage to ask and get it over with.
The pining was too much to bear.
Su Xiyan didn’t know what to make of the scrawny Cang Qiong 4th year.
She also didn't know what to make of the not so scrawny 7th year from the Demon Realm. Although with a name that ridiculous it should’ve been obvious that the man himself would be just as absurd.
It still didn’t change the fact that she had no idea how she felt about Tianlang Jun.
Tianlang Jun. The ridiculous man who had spouted copyrighted poetry about her beauty, and in doing so, compared her to a squashed frog.
The man who was supposed to be her competitor. The man who’d asked her out to the Yule Ball despite their mutual competitor status. Which was honestly rude.
She was trying to win the Triwizard Cup, not the heart of the Demon Realm Champion.
Su Xiyan supposes that she would just have to win both. She was good at multitasking.
If while doing so she, hmmm, encounters situations in which the scrawny 4th year from Cang Qiong was being adorable. Well. That was her business.
Liu Qingge was simply delightful. And hilarious but that was mostly unintentional. The ways he managed to mess up even the simplest of confessions to the Ice Prince of Cang Qiong were hilarious to witness.
It was even funnier to realize that the two fourth-years liked each other to begin with.
The Triwizard Tournament was always a fun way to make friends with the other wizarding schools. It always was the perfect time to make fun of each other.
If only her headmaster would stop getting angry when she actually made friends with the other students. Or friends with anyone. Ever.
It was getting kinda creepy.
Tianlang Jun was in trouble.
Tianlang Jun was in the library but he was also in trouble.
These two facts were not entirely unrelated.
“So you’re Frog Boy.”
And Tianlang Jun knew that voice. Mostly because this was the most popular person in Cang Qiong. The Ice Prince. The Heterochromatic Panther. The…child who seemed too scrawny for his height.
If Tianlang Jun was a braver man he would’ve told the tall child to get some rest. He couldn’t keep burning the candle at both ends, after all. He would’ve said something if his existence did not depend upon said tall child.
So for once in his life, Tianlang Jun bowed his head to another person.
“Your majesty! I’ve been looking for you. I was told that your highness often visits the library when-”
“Why are you treating me like a prince?”
“Is that not your position at Cang Qiong? Many of your subjects refer to you as the Ice Prince-”
Shen Qingqiu was going to enjoy this. Idiots of this kind were a rare species.“You thought that was real. You thought that because I’m called such a ridiculous name that I’m actually a prince.”
“I didn’t believe that anybody could be foolish enough to orchestrate the Frog Incident but you’ve proved me wrong. Congratulations.” Oh god, the look on Tianlang Jun’s face. He looked like he was in shock.
“....so you’re just a regular kid. A child.”
“Now, hang on-”
“PLEASE HELP ME, TALL CHILD!”
“I am not a child!”
“You’re like 100cm tall.”
“I am 5’ 7”, you imbecilic tadpole.”
“See that’s why I need help! Help me with poetry, please!!! I need to woo my darling Su Xiyan. I promise to help you reach the items on the top shelf if you do!”
“I AM 5’7” you absolute coathanger of a human-”
It took several weeks for Tianlang Jun to wear Shen Qingqiu down.
Several weeks of bad poetry, puppy dog eyes, and a truly horrific collection of novels for Shen Qingqiu to finally cave in.
Shen Qingqiu wished his acquaintances would stop bulldozing their way into a friendship.
At least this one would be fun to bully.
Liu Qingge had faced down his fuming mother and he wasn’t even half as scared as he was now.
If he was being honest to himself, fighting a dragon seemed easier than the task ahead of him.
Liu Qingge had half a mind to just turn back and try again tomorrow, after all the Yule Ball wasn’t until Friday.
Trying again tomorrow seemed like a good choice, except for the fact that he’d said the same thing yesterday.
Thought the same thing yesterday.
Plus if he didn't ask today then he’ll have to face the howler his sister will send him.
For a five-year-old she was vicious. Knowing her, she'd ask out Shen Qingqiu for him. Via howler because that was her new favorite toy.
So it had to be today. But. It doesn’t have to be right this hour. He could wait. Maybe after dinner.
Liu Qingge turned back to go to his dorm. He’d started to hang his head in shame and everything when he realized that his heart was standing in front of him.
“Oh, Qingge! I was looking for you. Do you want to go to the Yule Ball with me?”
Shen Qingqiu was not nervous and anyone who said so could choke.
Although it would help his general mood if Liu Qingge stopped staring at him with his mouth wide open.
It was scaring him at this point. Liu Qingge hadn’t even blinked.
3 entire minutes had passed.
“....you don’t have to? I’m not going to force you to, but could you give me an answer?”
Shen Qingqiu could see Liu Qingge's eyes dry up. He still hadn’t blinked.
Shen Qingqiu wondered if the world could hear the sound of his heart breaking. “Right, this was a mistake, I’m sorry I asked, we ca-”
“WAIT! Go to the Yule Ball a-as friends?”
Salvation never felt more bitter. Shen Qingqiu had a way out, he could use this. He could hide and make it all seem like he’d just been asking platonically.
He didn’t want to. And he’d just had a pep talk from Shang-ge and he didn’t want to be just friends.
Shen Qingqiy tried to make his voice sound even, but it was still wobbly. “No, um, I wanted to as-ask you on a date. A real one.”
Shen Qingqiu would’ve liked a notice before the Sahara desert relocated into his throat.
Liu Qingge was still shocked. He didn’t even realize he was hugging Shen Qingqiu until he was.
He hadn’t realized how small his love was. Technically, Liu Qingge himself was an inch shorter but he was much larger.
He had at least 15 pounds on Shen Qingqiu and that was him underestimating.
“Is- can I take this as a yes?”
“Huh, oh. OH, yeah. Yes. I mean, yes I’d like to go to the Yule Ball with you. Please. Thank you. Yes, please. Yes.”
Liu Qingge would continue to make a fool of himself if he could keep hugging Shen Qingqiu and feel his laughter through his chest. If he could keep hearing his mirth reverberating through the empty halls.
Liu Qingge had woken to liquid beneath his face and fear in his veins.
Something wasn’t right.
He couldn’t move. He couldn’t feel his body. He couldn’t see.
The liquid was viscous, and smelt metallic.
It smelt like iron.
That means something. I don’t know what but that means something.
He got better slowly as if he was waking up from a dream. He still couldn’t move, but it was better than before. He could at least feel himself breathe.
He could feel himself in pain.
He’d had worse, honestly.
Something was wrong. Something to do with the iron liquid.
He wished Shen Qingqiu was here, he could’ve figured it out. He would’ve helped.
Shen Qingqiu. Oh god, there was something wrong with his husband.
He was in danger! I need to protect him. I need to.
Except. There was liquid under his cheek, and fear in his veins.
There was iron liquid under his cheek.
Blood. That’s blood. Why is there blood?
There was blood under his cheek, and suddenly he couldn’t move for a different reason.
He remembered. Qi Deviation.
By the gods, I hope that blood’s mine.
Because if it wasn’t then it had to be someone else’s.
Someone whose last name was Shen and first name was Qingqiu.
Shen Qingqiu was the only one in the caves with him.
The blood has to be mine.
Except he knew it wasn’t. Because he was in pain, but not enough to justify a stab wound.
Not enough to justify the sheer volume of blood surrounding him. The amount of blood on him.
He doesn’t want to look up. He doesn’t want to move.
He does so anyway.
Shen Qingqiu looked like he’d fallen asleep at his desk while grading.
He looked peaceful.
He looked dead.
He’d been stabbed through the chest, pinning him to the cave wall in the process.
He’d been stabbed through the heart.
He’d been stabbed through the heart by Cheng Luan.
Shen Qingqiu had been stabbed by Peak Lord Liu Qingge.
Shen Qingqiu had been stabbed through the heart by his husband.
The screams that tore from Liu Qingge’s mouth were guttural.
The ball was amazing and his friends were amazing and Shen Qingqiu was amazing. His dream wasn’t amazing but you couldn't have it all.
Shen Qingqiu. His boyfriend. His actual real-life boyfriend. He wasn’t dreaming.
Which was good considering his last dream had resulted in his boyfriend’s, he could say that now, death.
Good thing it was just a dream. It was just a dream.
Liu Qingge would die before that dream became a reality.
Liu Qingge was nervous again. He hadn’t felt this nervous since the Yule Ball and he hadn’t missed this feeling.
Liu Qingge was nervous and he had an actual reason to be nervous this time. Which was an improvement.
The palm-sized velvet box in his pant’s pocket was the reason behind his nervousness. Despite its size, it felt as heavy as a boulder.
But. He was Liu Qingge. He was Liu Qingge. And he refused to lose twice.
His love had been the one to ask him out. Liu Qingge would definitely be the one to propose.
Liu Qingge was 17 and he had 3 more days of school left but he was going to propose anyway. After all, he’d met his soulmate. Why bother wasting any more time.
He’d met his Qingqiu when he was eleven and he’d fallen in love before he was twelve. It’d taken him two whole years to realize he’d fallen in love and it’s been three years since they started dating and hopefully it’ would only be two more hours until they got engaged.
Their time together wasn’t long but that just meant they had their whole life ahead of them.
It had taken Liu Qingge ages to find the perfect ring. He’d had to endure his mother’s knowing looks, his father’s smug smiles, and his sister’s little sisterness. It’d been worth it though. The ring he’d found was perfect.
“Where are we going?”
Liu Qingge kept his focus on Shen Qingqiu's hand. Which was cradled in his own hand. There weren’t any butterflies in his stomach from holding hands. There weren’t. Anybody who said otherwise was a liar. “Somewhere.”
“You know this whole situation is worrisome. And weird.”
“Hmm, why are you letting me drag you along then?”
“Because I trust you,” said Shen Qingqiu, drawing Liu Qingge’s hand to settle on his waist.
It was cold and he wanted warmth. His boyfriend just happened to be there.
(It was June. It was not cold. Even at night.)
The path to the clearing in the forest was a whimsical one. It was a familiar path, one they’d taken many times over their tenure as Cang Qiong students.
They stayed in relative silence, basking in each other’s presence. It was a quiet night, with clear skies and a full moon. The slight fog that always permeated the Forbidden Forest added to its otherworldliness. Shen Qingqiu had always loved the Forbidden Forest.
Liu Qingge wasn’t nervous anymore. He actually wasn’t.
Because Shen Qingqiu was with him and nothing bad ever happened when he was with his Ice Prince.
They arrive at a picturesque clearing, one of the few spots in the forest that wasn’t covered by foliage. There were tree trunks and stumps scattered around the glade, making it the perfect place to sit and stargaze. The trees themselves had vines stretching between them, in a parody of streamers. There were small bushes of berries and flowers around the perimeter, waiting to be plucked. It was their place.
They’d done this quite often. Just sit in the woods and look at the stars. It was soothing.
Shen Qingqiu always took a moment to look at the stars in quiet awe when he came to their place. That gaze would then drift to his perfectly stupid boyfriend.
His quiet awe never faded, not when he looked at the same stars week after week and not when he looked at his soulmate.
Today was different because when he moved his gaze down to his beloved he saw him on his knees.
On one knee.
Shen Qingqiu wanted to kiss Liu Qingge. He didn’t think he’d be able to do anything else.
His words had betrayed him and the pacific ocean was taking up residence in his eyes.
“I’ve tried for so long to make the words come out correctly. I’ve rehearsed and practiced and yet the moment I see you, my words drain away. I’m in love with you and it’s been that way since I’ve met you. I wanted to make a grand gesture but that’s not us. You asked me out in a deserted hallway in front of the library. I’m asking you to marry me in the deserted grove of our forest. Could you do me the honor of marrying me?”
Shen Qingqiu was nodding and then they were kissing and hugging and smiling. Slipping the ring on Shen Qingqiu’s finger was definitely the happiest moment of his life.
The ring itself looked delicate, what with the band being disconnected, with a phoenix cast in gunmetal gray. The phoenix was engulfed in green flames of varying shades. It looked as if the tail of the phoenix had wrapped itself around the finger of his beloved.
It looked magnificent.
Shen Qingqiu couldn’t tear his eyes away. Liu Qingge, on the other hand, couldn’t stop looking at Shen Qingqiu.
Neither of them could stop smiling for the rest of the week. The month even.
Shen Qingqiu was getting married. To Liu Qingge. His life couldn’t get any better.
Shen Qingqiu might’ve been married for three years but that did not mean he was ready to be a parent.
Especially not to Luo Binghe. His godson.
Shen Qingqiu had always hated Lao Gongzhu, had always known he was a slimy git.
He had known that Lao Gongzhu disdained muggleborns and had known that he was obsessed with Su-xuejie.
He hadn’t known that that old man was romantically obsessed with Su-xuejie.
He had known that the rotting carcass of a human being would be against Su Xiyan and Tian Langjun’s marriage. That old sack of meat was always against purebloods marrying muggleborns. He had known that he would make a scene.
He hadn’t known that he’d start an all-out war against the muggleborns. He hadn’t known about the sheer amount of support he would garner.
He hadn’t known that he would kill Su-Jie and Tian-Ge.
He hadn’t known that he’d be left to take care of their child.
Shen Qingqiu was tired of his family leaving him behind.
He was tired of the world taking his family away from him.
Shen Qingqiu was tired but Binghe was still crying and he had his husband’s arms around him and maybe he could learn to be Binghe’s pare-
Binghe’s uncle. He would be his uncle. That’s what he would have been if Binghe wasn’t an orphan and that’s what he’ll always be.
He could learn to be Binghe’s uncle.
He was legally allowed to spoil him that way.
“Would you be our secret keeper, Shang Qinghua?”
“I-I thought Yue-ge was your se-secret keeper? Didn’t you a-ask him a week ago?”
“We did and he said yes but Yue-ge pointed out that he’d be the obvious choice. He’s the strongest out of the entire group. The plan is to make him a decoy secret keeper while the real one stays hidden.”
“We’re asking you again, would you be our secret keeper?”
“Y-yes. I’ll do it.”
Shang Qinghua ignored the guilt that threatened to overcome him. He’s gotten used to putting on a mask.
He’s gotten used to being a traitor.
Shen Qingqiu has accomplished a lot in his young life. He’d graduated with the highest scores in the history of Cang Qing. His research on various magical plants had resulted in many breakthroughs in medicine, magic, and potions.
His papers on the theory of Transfiguration and Charms have uncovered branches of magic previously unknown to the magical people.
He was 21 years old and he’d accomplished a lot in his young life.
He still didn't know if his family would be proud of him.
Until now. He thinks they would be proud now. He hoped they wouldn't be sad.
It doesn’t matter though, he was going to die soon.
Shang Qinghua had betrayed them. Sold them out to the Dark Lord. He tried to feel angry, to feel hurt.
He only felt numb. He felt like he was going to die soon.
He was fine with that, he’d heard the thump of a body meeting the floor. He’d known instinctively that the love of his life was dead. He was fine with death.
He was just glad he would be able to protect Luo Binghe before he died. Lao Gongzhu doesn’t even notice the shield around the babe. He doesn’t notice it until it’s tearing him apart, bit by bit.
He thinks his family might be proud of that.
The last thing Shen Qingqiu saw was his baby’s teary face staring at him from the crib. He doesn’t see Lao Gongzhu’s temporary death but he does see the continuation of his child’s life.
His godson, his nephew, his adopted son would survive.
Shen Qingqiu thinks he might be proud of that too.
Shen Qingqiu woke up and he could barely move his legs.
He woke up and his vision was blurry.
He woke up and he started to forget. He started to forget Arithmancy, and Charms, and Transfiguration.
He started to forget Cang Qiong and Su-Jie and Tian-Ge.
He started to forget Mu-ge, and Yue-ge. He started to forget his family
He started to forget Liu Qingge.
Shen Qingqiu was a baby and he was starting to forget.
It didn't take long for Shen Qingqiu to revert back into Xiao Jiu.
Yue Qi was the first to spot the baby in the ditch. It- he had beautiful heterochromatic eyes, one the shade of jade and the other the color of violets.
Yue Qi only wondered why those eyes seemed to bore into his soul. He wondered why he seemed to recognize those eyes.
Yue Qi decided that he was going to keep him.
He only wished he could understand why it felt like thre- two others were missing.
Yue Qi was having a wonderful day. He’d just found a baby in a ditch!