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Jiang Cheng has had a day. 

Last night, when he went to bed, he was a twenty-nine-year-old virgin. He awoke a thirty-year-old virgin. Yeah, you already see where that’s going. 

Thirty-year cherry magic - the most awkwardly translated spontaneously-occurring curse Jiang Cheng knows of - is much, much more common in Japan. And even there, it’s pretty rare - supposedly, something like only half of one percent of virgins wake up on their thirtieth birthdays to find themselves newly psychic. 

So while Jiang Cheng carries many of the risk factors (male, stressful work environment, distinctly embarrassed by his own virginity, all of that), he never really considered the possibility that it would happen to him. 

On his morning commute, he told himself that there were just some exceptionally blunt people out and about. At the sword takeoff site near his place, he brushed past a woman and heard her murmur, “The cultivator guy’s cute, but he always looks so mad.” 

That was weird, but whatever.

The sword takeoff point was as busy as it usually was on weekday mornings. Some guy bumped into Jiang Cheng and said, “Sorry.” At the same time, somebody right nearby who Jiang Cheng didn’t catch sight of was muttering, “What’s up his ass?”

Jiang Cheng gave the guy a nod and shook off his sinking feeling. 

The flight was solo, obviously. But when Jiang Cheng landed, his shoulder glanced against someone else’s, and he heard, “Why couldn’t my sect have gone with bells, too? Way less awkward than these earrings. Maybe that should be my platform when I run for sub-vice secretary to the sect leader. Jiang Clan bells for everyone .” 

That was harder to shrug off as urban zaniness. 

And at the office, his fingers touched his mom’s when she handed a report back to him. Her mouth stayed still, and yet he heard her say warmly, “I’m so proud of A-Cheng.”

So. He didn’t even need to see her closed mouth to know that he was definitely psychic now. Fuck. 

It wasn’t great. But it was. Fine. Probably. He didn’t know. He was too busy to know. He was too busy for anything. That was why he was a virgin. That, and. Like. There was this persistent thing where women didn’t seem to get that it would be really hot if they humiliated him. Jiang Cheng had tried suggesting it, in case they just lacked the imagination for it. Hey, so you should jerk me off and make fun of me while you do. Twice, it netted him blank stares. Once, he got a sidelong glance instead, like he’d made her uncomfortable, nervous. It mystified him, because like, that’s very hot, obviously? But they acted like it wasn’t, and then he was upset and embarrassed about how they didn’t want to embarrass him. He tried jerking off to the humiliation of rejection, but it didn’t sting the right way. 

Weirdly, when his sister got married, that helped Jiang Cheng gain some perspective. Like, if she really loved Jin Zixuan, then there was no accounting for women’s taste. It made Jiang Cheng sit with the idea that maybe other people - had - their own? - inner lives, and wanted things for themselves? Even if those things were Jin Zixuan?

He doesn’t have it all figured out - see: thirty, virgin - but he’s pretty sure he’s improved. As a person. He doesn’t expect girls to want to lovingly mock his dick just because he wants them to. 

So he was… caught off-guard when he brought some samples from a recent investigation down to Wen Qing in the lab and got a very clear, solid, unambiguous read from her: Wen Qing undoes Jiang Cheng’s pants with a sharp, sexy manicure, bright red. Jiang Cheng sits there patiently. No, not patiently, because he looks kind of mad, but he sits there according to the rules, with his hands on the edge of the chair, not allowed to move, not allowed to touch. 

His jaw is clenched as she pulls his cock out of his pants with those sharp, mean nails. She chuckles at him, making him shiver; she feels the movement in his cock. She tuts. Tells him he has to stay still. And if he stays very, very still, and stays hard long enough, maybe she’ll deign to sit on his stupid cock. 

“Thanks I need to go now goodbye,” Jiang Cheng stammered, and turned tail to his office, fervently ignoring Wen Qing’s annoyed call of “Wait, when do you need these back?” on his way out. 

No amount of soundproofing talismans could make him feel secure enough to jerk off in his tiny single office. (Even though it was so tempting, because it was a single office. He’d nearly jerked off about that in and of itself before.) He just sat there, hard and aggravated for a while. 

(And a little confused. In the vision, he’d seen himself, not Wen Qing, but he got the sense that she was just in her lab clothes, which didn’t fully track with his understanding of how this worked. Shouldn’t she be wearing latex? At least some tall, spiky heels?)

Then he qi-suppressed his hard-on. Which isn’t good for you, but needs must. 

It extra sucked because it was one of those days where he had to run stuff back to Wen Qing a bunch of times. (Which was his doing, really. He insisted on it after someone fucked it up once, because it’s not like seeing Wen Qing is a hardship. But now he couldn’t tell people that someone else had to do it. “Wen Qing is secretly nasty, and I can’t handle it” wouldn’t go over well.) 

Secretly really nasty, too. Because it kept happening. He’d go downstairs and she’d be there in the lab. He’d hand her a thing. She’d casually, cooly, touch him - the hand, the shoulder - and he’d be briefly dunked into a world where he squirmed while a beautiful woman sneered at him (sexually). 

It escalated, too. Wen Qing smiled at him too broadly after the second time, and almost smirked after the third. He told himself it was paranoia, which only worked until right at the end of the day, when Wen Qing smiled at him sweetly, touched his forearm, and said, “Happy birthday, by the way.” Behind his eyes, he saw: himself in a chair and Wen Qing looming over him, one foot (shod in a sensible flat) placed between his thighs, the toe of the shoe nudged right up under the tip of his cock. Jiang Cheng’s hips working. “You’re going to come from this,” she said. She snarled softly, “Fucking virgin.” 

(It seemed like her visions featured Jiang Cheng having to do a lot more work than he’d thought was usually involved in this sort of thing? And, in the visions, Wen Qing only made fun of him. In porn, the woman usually paired that with a lot of talk about how cruel and heartless she herself was for treating men that way. So maybe Wen Qing had some gaps in her understanding. But it was still really working for him.)

Unfortunately for Jiang Cheng, the end of the day wasn’t the end of his day. Lucky him: he’d been assigned overtime. By his mom. Who was also his boss. (Something about wanting Jiang Cheng to form connections and broaden his experience and stuff, which was much easier to agree with when he hadn’t spent all day using his golden core to turn his libido back off.)

The only benefit to being assigned overtime by his mom was that his dick was definitely soft again, all on its own this time. Thanks, mom. 

Jiang Cheng’s overtime assignments tended to be inter-clan things befitting a future sect leader. Lately, he’d gotten paired off with Lan Zhan, of the Lan clan. Working with him sucked. He was strident and judgy and super fucking good at cultivation, like he fit in an extra ten years of experience somewhere along the line, so nothing fazes or excites him. 

Nothing except, apparently, Jiang Cheng’s estranged brother. 

Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan met up. They got some work done. It was whatever. 

During cleanup, their hands touched briefly. Jiang Cheng braced himself for an earful of Lan Zhan’s mental landscape; maybe an eyeful, on the off chance that Lan Zhan turned out to be a really imaginative dude. 

Instead, he got something like microphone feedback. Cacophonous. Nauseating. Way too fucking loud to actually understand. 

All he got was a general impression of Lan Zhan’s absorption in the task at hand, unclouded by any consideration of his own capabilities. It was fucking weird. He just… wasn’t thinking about himself. Or even about Jiang Cheng. He was just thinking about work, for work’s sake. The impression reverberated back onto Jiang Cheng, like hearing himself hear himself, the mental sound folded in on itself at a painful pitch. 

Jiang Cheng pulled back. “What the fuck,” he said. 

“Apologies,” Lan Zhan said. 

Lan Zhan was older than Jiang Cheng. He turned thirty a few years ago. “You’re -” Jiang Cheng sputtered. 

“Happy birthday,” Lan Zhan said, all cool and collected. It was like he didn’t know that it was, actually, absolutely fucking mortifying to be a thirty three-year-old virgin. 

“Fuck off,” Jiang Cheng said reflexively. He cast about for any subject change. “What about the talisman paper requisition forms?”

“I’ll order new stock,” Lan Zhan said, as he always did when they used something up. Clans could get really petty about supply use and restock requests on collaborative projects. One of the only good things about working with Lan Zhan, outside of the fact that he was wildly capable, was that he always put in purchase orders.

That night, though, Jiang Cheng was cranky and unsettled. He decided he didn’t appreciate Lan Zhan’s blase attitude. Toward purchase orders or virginity or whatever. He tried to tug the tablet displaying the requisition form out of Lan Zhan’s grasp. Lan Zhan grappled with him, because it was weird to just yank a tablet out of someone’s hand. Their hands touched again, and Jiang Cheng was dunked back into Lan Zhan’s mind. 

The impression that came to him wasn’t as warped as the one before. Maybe Lan Zhan could shield it, if he was prepared. He’d had three years to learn how. Maybe, in a million more years, Jiang Cheng could bring himself to ask Lan Zhan to teach him that trick. Instead of incoherent microphone feedback, Jiang Cheng got:

Lan Zhan orders cultivation supplies to his home on the Lan compound rather than to the main repository. He makes a point of receiving these deliveries personally. He doesn’t mind the small amount of extra paperwork involved - only three double-sided forms - because it means he gets to see… the delivery boy.

The delivery boy has an easy, friendly air. Really, the delivery boy is a flirt. Hot, eager. He has a wide grin. A nice mouth. An incredible ass, when he picks up boxes, leaning far into the delivery van to grab them. 

He works “your package” into the conversation whether he needs to or not. (As in, “Please sign for… your package,” delivered with batted eyelashes or a dart of his tongue to his own lower lip.) 

Lan Zhan goes out of his way to see the delivery boy - lets him flirt - but doesn’t actually do anything about him. The delivery boy is still in his student years. Or “self taught and still learning,” since he “dropped out a couple of years ago,” as he put it the second time he delivered something for Lan Zhan. 

(The very first time, he perkily introduced himself, forcing Lan Zhan to respond in kind.) He’s spoken of night classes before. Something about fitting enough credits in between his delivery job and his cultivation. He’s an unaffiliated cultivator with uneven knowledge - he knows little about traditional musical cultivation, but he cultivates with a flute nonetheless, playing songs he himself wrote. (He used one to take down a Wutong. Lan Zhan didn’t believe him until he pulled out his flute and played a few bars. It was dissonant. Wholly against Lan Zhan’s taste. But ruthlessly efficient.) 

The delivery boy works a student’s job. And his approach to men, while effective, is hopelessly juvenile. Even to Lan Zhan, who has never himself bothered to make an approach. 

If the delivery boy was, say, just some nineteen-year-old Lan Zhan met at Chipotle - burrito boy, instead of delivery boy - Lan Zhan would consider going for it. But hooking up with a nineteen-year-old who kind of works for you is another thing entirely, even if the nineteen-year-old has lately taken to staring at Lan Zhan’s package - the figurative one - and worrying at his own lower lip. Or calling him gege, or laoshi, or sir. 

He tested Lan Zhan constantly in one way or another. If it wasn’t by positioning himself as a naive waif - or, in terms of literal positioning, by leaning over to grab a package, keeping his knees straight, and waggling his ass for effect - he was casting aspersions on Lan Zhan’s sexual prowess. 

He would tease Lan Zhan, guessing the contents of the delivery: a type of incense known to cause lascivious dreams, or an herb commonly used to fight off succubi, or a historical dual cultivation manual. 

It was clearly intended to stoke Lan Zhan’s irritation. And, unfortunately, it worked. Telling him off backfired. The delivery boy would say something like, “Your ears are all red! No one your age blushes so easily.” Wei Ying has no way of knowing exactly how old Lan Zhan, a very strong and established cultivator, is, which lends those statements an extra air of audacity.

Then he would imply that Lan Zhan needed teaching. Instruction. “Find someone who you can call gege, eh?” 

When it reached that point of absurdity, Lan Zhan tended to disengage. 

But the delivery boy wasn’t all sleaze. At times, he was horribly charming. Once, he turned up with one of Lan Zhan’s favorite rabbits in hand. “Do you know her, gege?” He asked. “She was trying to sneak in with the boxes.” He scrunched his nose in imitation of her and touched it to her forehead, which she allowed. 

“Mn,” Lan Zhan said. He took Yun from the delivery boy, careful not to touch him in the process. (The delivery boy, that was. Yun was not shy at all, and loved being petted.)

The delivery boy looked mildly disappointed, but he bounced back. “I thought you didn’t have pets.”

“Wildlife is permitted on the sect grounds,” Lan Zhan explained. 

“I see,” the delivery boy said, a twinkle in his eye. “So strict. I wouldn’t have lasted a day here, huh?”

“You would have done fine.”

“Nah, people try to teach me discipline, but it never sticks.” The delivery boy looked up from under his eyelashes, though he wasn’t really much shorter than Lan Zhan. “I need a firm hand.”

“I’m aware,” Lan Zhan said, thinking of paddles, of wrists tied with ribbon. He let it show on his face. 

The delivery boy’s eyes widened. 

“Goodbye, Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan said, and shut the door in his face, contemplating the delivery boy’s asshole, a bright red-pink from overuse, trying to close enough to keep Lan Zhan’s come inside - 

“Gross. Gross, what the fuck, that’s my brother,” Jiang Cheng shouted. “I don’t want to see that shit.”

“Your... brother,” Lan Zhan repeated. 

“The idiot with the rabbit.” His estranged brother, ish, but whatever. “I can’t believe he’s working a courier job, what the hell. If he just asked I would get him something. I thought he was at least contracting. Also, he’s older than me, you creep, what the fuck.”

“Older than you,” Lan Zhan said. 

“He’s thirty one!”

Lan Zhan just kept staring at Jiang Cheng, creepy and intense. 

“Yes? He’s not a teenager or whatever. He’s just stupid like one.”

“Wei Ying is very intelligent,” Lan Zhan said, almost with the air of a retort. “And… thirty one?”

“My parents fostered him starting when I was eight.”

“So he’s not... too young,” Lan Zhan said, with the revelatory tone you might use to tell someone that cleaning out red wine stains with white wine actually works. “Wei Ying is wholly age-appropriate, he just… doesn’t have his shit together?”

“He wants to make it on his own. He’s a lovable loser.”

“An idealist,” Lan Zhan corrected. For a second, Jiang Cheng could have sworn that a little smile crept over Lan Zhan’s face. “And... fair game.” He picked the tablet up again and started initialing the requisition forms, like that was the end of it.

“I’m gonna tell him,” Jiang Cheng threatened. 

Even as he said it, he lost his nerve. Anything he said would - Wei Ying would somehow weasel out of him that he got his intel via cherry magic, and Jiang Cheng absolutely could not tell his semi-estranged older brother that he was - Wen Qing’s sneer came to mind - a fucking virgin. And what would he say, anyway, that - 

“Go ahead,” Lan Zhan said, his voice breaking into Jiang Cheng’s thoughts, and Jiang Cheng believed that he honestly didn’t care.

Lan Zhan handed Jiang Cheng the tablet, displaying the forms that were waiting for his signature. Jiang Cheng took it automatically, and Lan Zhan allowed their hands to brush. 

He forced his way into Jiang Cheng’s head with, You’re welcome to tell Wei Ying that I was restraining myself because he was a tempting, off-limits treat. 

Jiang Cheng yanked his hand away and made a get a hold of yourself face.

Lan Zhan just shrugged. “See how well that puts him off.”

Wei Ying voluntarily lived in a hovel of an apartment that Jiang Cheng had never seen in person; he cheerily called the shower the blood pool because of its tendency to spit out rusty red water when it first got going. The guy couldn’t be fazes. And he’d been throwing himself at Lan Zhan for a while, apparently. 

Jiang Cheng had no hope. He gave up and, with a final parting glare at Lan Zhan, stomped off to the sword liftoff point. 

It was, thankfully, empty at that time of night - no one to judge him for not smiling pointlessly while he was just walking down the street. Jiang Cheng ignored all thoughts of stuck-up coworkers and flew home with only the beautiful, dulcet tone of Wen Qing’s knowing snarl - fucking virgin - rattling around his head. 

— 

Twelve hours later, Jiang Cheng was locked in the single-occupancy bathroom at work, jerking off. 

It wasn’t his fault. Wen Qing nudged his foot with her foot and suddenly: Wen Qing is relaxing in a plush chair and sneering down at him. He’s kneeling on the floor and humping her smooth, shiny leg. No hands allowed. 

“If you really wanted it, you’d beg,” Wen Qing says. 

So Jiang Cheng had to jerk off at work, right? He had to. 

(Anyway, he deserved something nice after the trial he endured that morning - a message from Wei Ying reading, Hey, I never put together that you know Lan Zhan! You worked together AND you went to cultivation summer camp together? Small world. He says you approve of me and him hanging out? That’s very sweet, didi.) 

Unbeknownst to him, his semi-estranged brother was in roughly the same position at that exact moment: facing a wall, one hand braced on it. But instead of visions of Wen Qing to get him through it, he had actual company: Lan Zhan, the hot and obviously-too-posh-for-him cultivator who had apparently had a confusing but welcome change of heart. 

“You need any help with that package? It’s so... big,” Wei Ying offered, laying it on thick like he always did. 

It was usually where Lan Zhan declined, with just enough amusement to make Wei Ying think he liked it anyway, to make Wei Ying think it was worth a shot, every time, just to get a reaction. 

But this time, Lan Zhan said, “Mn,” and Wei Ying abruptly found himself inside of Lan Zhan’s place, getting railed up against a wall. 

He braced himself for Lan Zhan’s cock for as long as he could, but he faltered after he came. Lan Zhan took him by the hips, turned him back around, and supported his weight. That was their first kiss: both of them in their work clothes, Lan Zhan already balls deep inside of Wei Ying. 

“More, more,” Wei Ying pleaded. He meant more kissing - he did - only Lan Zhan fucked him harder, instead, a handful of hard, mean jolts that had Wei Ying going “What?” before he realized that that was Lan Zhan coming inside of him. 

So, holy shit, Wei Ying probably wouldn’t need to teach Lan Zhan as much as he’d thought. He was worn the fuck out. “I won’t try to teach you anymore,” he promised.

Lan Zhan pulled out - Wei Ying felt too dreamy, too almost-sleepy, to act out the usual haha, awkward wince - and carted Wei Ying further inside. 

Wei Ying swallowed. “Uh, Lan Zhan? Did you hear me? I won’t, I won’t try to teach you -”

Lan Zhan cut his pleas off with a kiss. 

It was a good kiss, close and warm and a little harsh. Wei Ying was tired, but he didn’t think Lan Zhan was carrying him over to a bed to sleep. “Lan Zhan? I didn’t mean… Lan er-gege? Spare me!”

Lan Zhan decidedly did not. 

(Needless to say, Lan Zhan’s cherry magic affliction was undone that very day. Jiang Cheng’s, on the other hand, had a full year to go. It took him six whole months just to ask Wen Qing out. And Wen Qing - being a spiritual medical professional, and knowing that cherry magic is essentially harmless - said yes, but had way too much fun with the whole fucking virgin thing to divest him of that particular curse before his thirty-first birthday.)