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Burning Feelings

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Under a facade of arrogant pride, hundreds of aggressive emotions twist and beat like the instincts of a beast. It's almost ironic: everyone considers Shen Qingqiu a cold person, cruel because of his indifference, even though he is proud, envious, persevering, stubborn, conceited, intelligent, studious, spiteful... He is proud of his ability to hide those emotions and only show the ones that suit him. But despite having mastered his personality to create the image of Shen Qingqiu, sometimes his feelings are beyond his control.

It is always the fault of the same people.

Like Yue Qingyuan, who awakens the memories of a past that he has desperately tried to forget. And, recently, the brute head disciple from Bai Zhan Peak is getting under his skin too. Liu Qingge is everything Shen Qingqiu wants, and perhaps envy is the reason why he reacts so violently to his provocations.

Although Shen Qingqiu knew that he was no match for Liu Qingge, his humiliating defeat at Cang Qiong Sect's Annual Twelve Peak Martial Arts Meeting made him cry out that he would one day kill him. And everyone took him seriously instead of assuming it was an overreaction from someone who still didn't know how to lose gracefully.

Although Shen Qingqiu tries hard to hide his past as a slave, he resorts to dirty tricks to repay Liu Qingge's humiliation whenever they fight.

But that childishness, that excessive pride, pales in comparison to the rage at hearing the rumors he has spread. What Shen Qingqiu does or doesn't do in the brothels is his business, neither should Liu Qingge care nor should he spread twisted versions of the reality. Those are terrible words that others repeat to create an image more similar to Qiu Jianluo than the Shen Qingqiu that he is striving to build.

It hurts. It hurts too much. Those rumors have opened a festering wound and awakened unpleasant memories, which still haunt him in his worst nightmares. His blood boils with rage upon hearing those accusations of being lazy that revels in pleasure when he has worked twice as much as all of them to reach their same level, of being lustful towards women when he knows what it means when your life depends on the whims of another person, they make him feel sick.

Sometimes Shen Qingqiu's worst emotions escape his control, clouding his thoughts and interfering with his words. Sometimes he doesn't think about what he says or does, so he breaks a Bai Zhan Peak brat's arm for trying to ambush him and yells at Yue Qingyuan when he tries to convince him to stop going to brothels. Although he claims to understand him, Yue Qingyuan believes the rumors are true and he hasn’t tried to put himself in his shoes.

Shen Qingqiu's patience is at a dangerous limit, his rage still burning when he has another clash with Bai Zhan Peak's disciples in the city. At least it's daylight and they won't try to attack him like cowards, but they are too many and noisy. Very noisy. He is returning exhausted from a mission and just wants to dust himself off and maybe play his guqin until he relaxes. But those brats insult him in front of everyone. For some kind of stupid morality, it's okay for them to humiliate him so the entire world knows what kind of person he is (even if their assumptions are wrong). Shen Qingqiu is trembling with fury and that day he must hide behind a fan as he cannot control his expression.

Things get complicated when Liu Qingge shows up.

Unlike his peers, he doesn’t have the attitude of a rude animal. Liu Qingge's perfection also applies to his natural elegance. He's not like those snooty noble youths, rather he looks like a divinity who keeps himself aloof from the world. But he is not, no matter how much he thinks he has the right to judge others and condemn what he says is immoral for a virtuous cultivator.

Liu Qingge, who considers himself so perfect despite having ruined his reputation, just crinkles his nose upon discovering the scandal his peers are causing and doesn't intervene. That's worse. Shen Qingqiu can meet insults with crueler words and hits with other hits, but that indifference hurts because this nightmare it’s his fault and Liu Qingge doesn't care about the consequences of his actions.

Furious, Shen Qingqiu thuds the fan shut, allowing his rage to ravage the shreds of his patience.

"Oh, I think you've got yourselves confused with this one." He hisses in a venomous voice and with a crooked smile. "Since when having a predilection for pretty things is a crime?" That makes Liu Qingge, who had already turned his back on them, stop. Oh, Shen Qingqiu can hear all of his stupid arguments against it inside his head. "Although this one is starting to get bored. It's a shame, but there is no face more beautiful than Liu Qingge's."

The outrage is reflected in the expressions of all the disciples, some clenching their fists in anger and two-stepping forward to face him. Shen Qingqiu ignores them all to flash his smirk at Liu Qingge, who is standing defensively, ready to fight.

"Dear shidi," he purrs. "If my visits to the Warm Red Pavilion bother you so much, why don't you become my bed warmer?"

Unable to ignore him anymore, fury colors Liu Qingge's cheeks and the tips of his ears.

"SHEN QINGQIU! HOW YOU DARE!?"

"Me?" He feigns surprise. "How dare you tempt me with that pretty face and narrow waist? But what a hypocrite, shidi, you hurt this one's feelings. We're martial brothers, wouldn't it be more fitting for you to take care of my needs instead of sacrificing the ladies of the Warm Red Pavilion?"

Shen Qingqiu savors his rage from that sweet humiliation. Does Liu Qingge consider him a pervert? Fine. He will be for him. With calculated movements, Shen Qingqiu surveys the figure of his shidi and lets everyone else know what he is doing, letting them imagine what he is thinking. Perhaps some will even begin to see him with eyes full of unpleasant desire. You deserve it , he thinks bitterly.

Liu Qingge doesn’t hesitate to draw his sword.

"That is the wrong sword , shidi." Shen Qingqiu scoffs without falling for his provocations. "Shidi, would you like to make a deal with me? If you kneel and promise to be my toy, I'll stop seeking comfort from other bodies. I don't need anyone but you. Maybe I'm not a good lover, maybe I use you as an object, but I'll always be faithful to you. It's a promise. But if my offer doesn't interest you..." He tilts his head, smirking. "Then stop bothering me when I go to the Warm Red Pavilion."

"Do you have any scruples?" He hisses through clenched teeth.

"I always pay twice as much as any client, although it is true that my tastes are... peculiar. You'll find out, cute shidi."

At least Liu Qingge is not stupid enough to fight among civilians, although unfortunately, his companions do fall for the provocations. Shen Qingqiu runs away laughing at his embarrassed expression. Once at Qing Jing Peak, his shizun sighs.

"I thought you were smarter, A-Jiu." She tells him after reviewing his report.

Of course, those kinds of rumors fly faster than swords. Shen Qingqiu shrugs.

"Why only does he have the right to humiliate me? He must taste his own medicine. And who knows." He plays with his fan mischievously. "Maybe he likes it."

 


 

Obviously, Liu Qingge doesn’t accept his deal. But now whenever Shen Qingqiu meets Bai Zhan Peak's disciples, he dedicates to praising Liu Qingge's beauty with all kinds of derisive and even some demeaning comments. And when the two of them bump into each other again and Liu Qingge dares to mention his affairs in the brothels, he uses some of the most harmful and humiliating words he ever heard in the Qiu mansion.

In the end, Liu Qingge stops bothering him and Shen Qingqiu wins.

Controlling the rumors swirling around him is a dangerous weapon, but Shen Qingqiu would rather be the one who makes up lies about himself than suffer what others say about him. And despite playing with fire, he dares to push the limits of that new game one day at a meeting of head disciples.

"Why are you looking at me like that, Qi Qingqi?" He hisses at her, tired of the contempt shining in her eyes. "I was never interested in Xian Shu Peak, furthermore, I'm not particularly interested in women. If you look at Liu-shidi, maybe you'll find out what my type is."

Liu Qingge, who is listening to them, clenches his fists in anger. At least he has learned not to intervene after suffering from his sharp tongue. However, the other head disciples look at him with disgust worse than usual.

At the end of the meeting, Yue Qingyuan approaches him.

"Xiao Jiu... Shen Qingqiu." He corrects himself after Shen Qingqiu hisses at him. "You must stop."

"Why? It's as true as the brothel stories."

"But this is different. Even though it's not proper, many cultivators go to... such places. However, harassing a martial brother is different."

"He harassed me first!"

"They want to kick you out, Shen Qingqiu! All of them!"

He snorts before raising his head arrogantly.

"Let them try if they dare."

But he's not stupid. Shen Qingqiu is aware that his emotions just got a little out of control. In the months to come, Shen Qingqiu tries not to cross any lines and only uses those comments to defend himself when he deems it necessary. And to harass Liu Qingge randomly. Once their masters send them together on a mission, he intentionally reserves just one room at the inn, and Liu Qingge discovers it at night when it is no longer possible to find another one.

"You!" He hisses, furious.

"Um, why haven't you found yourself a room too? Aren't you interested in this one?" He mocks him with a smirk. "Too bad I'm not in the mood today. If you're nice to me, I'll let you sleep on the floor."

Liu Qingge spends the night out and he laughs in his warm room.

After that incident, their masters send them under the supervision of a third party. That's ridiculous since Liu Qingge is much stronger than him and some of his teammates are weaklings like Shang Qinghua. It is under his watch that an accident occurs while fighting some ghosts near a well: trying to save him, the idiot Liu Qingge reaches the wrong conclusion. Which should no longer surprise him, but Shen Qingqiu is not going to allow him to create any more rumors.

"A pretty but empty face" He sneers, stepping forward and ignoring Liu Qingge's drawn sword. "I only forgive you because you're cute. Why would I want to kill you if I want you in my bed, begging for my cock, moaning my name as I fuck you?" He whispers as he looks into his eyes. Shen Qingqiu has lowered his sword, though he remains on guard when he raises his hand to slide it across his chest.

And for some reason, Liu Qingge doesn't react. He is paralyzed and his breathing is still rapid after the fight.

"You're a lucky one, shidi. I would never hurt you unless you asked me to with those soft lips."

Now Liu Qingge's face is as red as the blood that Shen Qingqiu has not spilled. Suddenly, he backs away from him and uses his sword to create a barrier between them.

"In your dreams, Shen Qingqiu!!!!"

"Aren't you even curious, shidi? Why else would it bother you so much that I visit brothels? If it's jealousy, don't worry. Once you surrender, I won't look at anyone else."

Back at the sect, both Liu Qingge and Shang Qinghua look at him strangely. He doesn’t care. It is better to have a reputation as a pervert than a murderer. Ironically, the second is true and not the first, but it is more socially accepted.

 


 

Shen Qingqiu considers his strategy a success. Perhaps his reputation is still terrible, but at least his days are a little calmer. Although the attempted aggressions have turned into contempt looks and the threats do not disappear, he could live like this.

He is at Qian Cao Peak to deliver an assignment to collect medicinal plants when he hears a familiar name in the chaos of hurried voices muttering with little success.

"What do we do?"

"It's Tinkerbell Fuchsia venom. It's a case of urgent sex pollen, we can't delay treatment."

"Neither shizun nor Mu-shixiong are here."

"At this rate Liu-shidi..."

"No! We have to find a volunteer to heal him!"

Oh , he thinks, raising an eyebrow. Although the disciples are trying to not be heard, their restlessness makes them scandalous. Even though it’s none of his business and getting involved in a situation involving Liu Qingge and sex pollen is dangerous to his already tarnished reputation, an unpleasant tremor shakes his gut. Shen Qingqiu feels a bitter taste in his throat since not even in a life and death situation would he allow to be touched without his permission. What am I doing? He wonders as he sneaks up Qian Cao Peak avoiding anyone seeing him. I should go back...

But his footsteps make him search for the room where Liu Qingge must be. He finds him in one of the rooms reserved for sporadic patients. Liu Qingge is lying on the bed. His uniform is a mess and his skin is sweaty and flushed. When Shen Qingqiu takes his pulse, his wrist burns with a weak fever.

"I expected no less from an idiot like you." He mutters. "Do you know how rare those flowers are? They're almost extinct. It's as difficult to find them as it is to be affected by their poison. But you're lucky." Shen Qingqiu leans down to caress his cheek with the back of his hand. "Shixiong will take care of you."

Although Liu Qingge doesn’t react, Shen Qingqiu knows that he is conscious. And he mischievously wonders if he is afraid or if the poison has clouded his brain to the point of finding this situation exciting. But that game is not fun but nauseating. Shen Qingqiu banishes certain thoughts from his head and leaves the room. Using the same stealth, he sneaks into Qian Cao Peak's warehouse to pick up some herbs, then searches for the right material to boil them.

None of that should matter to him, not even that every wasted minute is crucial, yet he hurries back to Liu Qingge's side with a cup. Shen Qingqiu sits on the edge of the bed and holds him until he is forced to sit with his body leaning against his.

"Gross, you're sticky from sweat." He hisses. "Now drink."

In that state, Liu Qingge can't help but obey his orders. Shen Qingqiu forces him to drink every last drop of antidote, then waits until his rival convulses and starts coughing.

"Shen... Qingqiu..." He manages to mumble. "What have you given me?"

"A brain regenerating drink since you still can't find yours." Shen Qingqiu rolls his eyes as he sits up. "You're lucky I was around."

"It's disgusting..."

"Well, the original recipe had sugar. Maybe this one has forgotten it."

Shen Qingqiu gives him a fake apologetic smile. Perhaps his antidote hasn't been perfect, as Liu Qingge stares at him for too long, still dazed and his lips open without actually saying anything. Shen Qingqiu sighs before turning his back on him. He has already wasted too much time.

"Tell Mu Qingfang to make you a second cup. Hopefully, you'll be cured tomorrow." He speaks as he walks to the door. "And ask him for something to grow your tiny brain. It's urgent."

The door closes with the abruptness of an arrogant personality. And in the next room, eight head disciples look at each other, not knowing how to interpret the failure of their plan. Although not everyone agreed about creating a situation of vulnerability between Liu Qingge and Shen Qingqiu to discover the latter committing a crime and expel him from the sect, none had expected such an outcome. And perhaps there was a bit of relief in some looks and incomprehension in others.

Everyone is startled when Liu Qingge bursts into his room. Even though the poisoning was real, he walks nonchalantly as he fixes his clothes.

"It hasn't worked." He announces.

"We know, Liu-shidi." Mu Qingfang sighs. "Although I have to say that I’m jealous. I would never have developed an antidote in such a short time and only after hearing the name of the plant."

"We need another plan. Perhaps he was suspicious of our intentions." Qi Qingqi insists. "Liu-shidi, are you alright?"

Liu Qingge has put a hand to his cheek and seems to be frowning in thought, and neither can discern whether he is upset or his usual expression. Hearing her, Liu Qingge clenches his fist and lowers his arm.

"It's nothing. What do you suggest now?"

"I'm not sure if this is the best idea..." Shang Qinghua mutters nervously. "I mean... I don't know what's worse, if Shen Qingqiu really goes too far with Liu-shidi or if we accuse him of something he didn't do..."

"He is a lecher!" Someone growls.

"What if he is in love with Liu-shidi and is trying to get his attention?"

"Well," Liu Qingge intervenes, crossing his arms. "There is only one way to find out."

 


 

"I accept your deal."

Shen Qingqiu nearly chokes on his tea. Until that moment, it had been a normal, uneventful day in a boring way that he now longs for.

"You WHAT?"

Liu Qingge is holding his gaze determinedly despite the blush covering his cheeks.

"Your deal."

"We're not talking about the same deal, are we?"

"We start tonight."

"No, no, no, no..." Shen Qingiqu shakes his head, forgetting his fan and composure. "You can’t be serious."

"I am."

"It will be painful."

"I can take it."

"It will be humiliating."

"I don't care." However, there is a hint of hesitation in his voice.

Shen Qingqiu narrows his eyes, sensing the shadow of a trap.

"I refuse."

"You can't. You promised me that you would be faithful to me and that you would leave the Warm Red Pavilion."

So that's it, huh? He makes a crooked face after understanding Liu Qingge's logic. It is interesting blackmail and it must be his because he has spent many months trying to confront his own game. Stuck in an awkward dead end, Shen Qingqiu fans himself feigning nonchalance.

"Fine. But it will be on my terms, are you okay with that, shidi?"

"Yes."

"Even if I wish to bind you? With immortal binding cables?"

That surprises him and his eyes widen. Liu Qingge clenches his fists before nodding defiantly. As stupid as annoying , Shen Qingqiu smirks. With lazy movements, he fiddles with his fan as he examines his shidi's body intending to make him nervous and force him to retreat. It is a losing fight since Liu Qingge is arrogant but not a coward. Although strangely, he agreed, it would be even more so if he chickened out. What do I do now? Shen Qingqiu thinks, clenching his teeth.

He never imagined that his plan would end with Liu Qingge in his bed and that prospect makes him feel nervous. He will definitely use the immortal binding cables to turn that potential threat into a human-sized pillow. And teasing him. A bit. He deserves it, he remembers, bitterly.

"See you tonight, shidi. If you bring the immortal binding cables, I'll find some nice lube."

Although Liu Qingge blushes furiously, he doesn't protest and nods. There is no obedience in his gestures, but a defiant determination, as if that night they were going to face each other in a duel different than usual.

Because of this interruption, Shen Qingqiu spends the rest of the day impatient and nervous. He doesn't tell anyone about his victory just like he doesn't plan to brag about humiliating Liu Qingge. Although he has accepted his deal, perhaps the others consider it blackmail and use it as the final argument to expel him from the sect.

The night comes too fast. And he is startled when Liu Qingge knocks on the door of his room. Shen Qingqiu is still perfectly and immaculately dressed as he greets his prey with a fake smile. He is a master at filtering his emotions and that is why he doesn’t hesitate to close the door and corner Liu Qingge against the wood.

"You have taken too long, shidi." He purrs as a deep blush creeps down Liu Qingge’s cheeks and neck.

"I have been punctual." He protests.

"You've kept me waiting for years."

Shen Qingqiu grabs his chin and turns his head as he brings his face closer to Liu Qingge's. Leaning his body against his, Shen Qingqiu can feel his tension even though there is no rejection or panic. His lips graze Liu Qingge's before he wrinkles his nose and pulls away from him without actually kissing him.

"You stink of a beast."

Actually, Liu Qingge smells good. Not sweat like his companions, but ash and willow. Even so, Shen Qingqiu makes him follow him to a wooden bathtub in which he had previously prepared water with rose petals and aromatic oils.

"Clean it. Everywhere." He adds, raising an eyebrow, and Liu Qingge averts his eyes as he realizes what that implies. "Notify me when you are ready."

Shen Qingqiu waits for Liu Qingge, taking a deep breath to hide his nervousness. Even though this is his room and it should be a safe environment, his heart is beating fast and his breathing is coming in short gasps. He is startled as he hears the splash of water indicating that Liu Qingge has gotten up.

"Keep your inner robes." Shen Qingqiu splutters in a voice too high-pitched. Embarrassed, he clears his throat. "I'll tie you up first."

A few seconds later, Liu Qingge leans out from behind the screen. It is strange to see him without his uniform. His hair falls down his back and his inner robes fail to hide his exquisite figure and his collarbones. As Shen Qingqiu had already guessed, his waist is narrow and he has ripped muscles from physical training. The bath has colored his skin and some drops still shine, making him imagine what it would be like to see him sweaty in a state similar to this one.

Liu Qingge walks to the bed losing some of his poise. He doesn't seem so sure anymore, though his gaze is still determined. His decision confuses Shen Qingqiu, who looks at him without saying anything for a few seconds.

"Turn around." He sputters after remembering his role.

And after collecting the immortal binding cables, he sets out to tie Liu Qingge. He binds his wrists behind his back and then slides the ropes over his body. The decision to choose complicated and almost artistic knots is another excuse to buy time. During all this time, Shen Qingqiu teases Liu Qingge with caresses that make him shiver or comments that make his cheeks burn red or he averts his eyes.

When Shen Qingqiu finishes, Liu Qingge is a precious work of art lying on his bed. With a wicked smile, he sits on his lap and leans down until his hair brushes against it.

"Since shidi is being so nice, this one will do whatever he wants." He whispers to him as his fingers trace Liu Qingge's jaw in a caress that prevents him from turning his face away. "What do you prefer? Should I do the same as I do with prostitutes or do you want something completely new?"

His proposal leaves him so stunned that Liu Qingge blinks. Beneath him, bound and almost naked, he no longer seems so dangerous.

"B...Both!" He growls.

"Are you sure?"

Liu Qingge nods, still with that stupid determination shining in his eyes.

"Fine." Shen Qingqiu sits up and with a wave of his qi, blows out the candles, plunging the room into darkness. Liu Qingge lets out a groan that is perhaps surprising or disappointing. 

"What? If you want to see this one get naked, you'll have to beg."

Fortunately, Liu Qingge doesn’t beg. After all, he is not interested in him, but the deal. Shen Qingqiu undresses with quick movements. Once with his hair down and in his inner robes, he climbs to the bed and returns on top of Liu Qingge. Even though his pulse trembles, he doesn’t hesitate to open his robes. His chest is different from a woman's. There are no soft breasts, in fact, Liu Qingge's musculature is quite hard, although after a few tips Shen Qingqiu confirms that it’s not at all uncomfortable.

Shen Qingqiu lays down on Liu Qingge. At first, it is strange. His partner is wider and taller than him, but the warmth coming off his body is nice and Shen Qingqiu finds a place to lay his head over Liu Qingge’s chest. After pulling the sheet over both of them, he closes his eyes and enjoys an unexpected but comforting bedfellow.

"Shen Qingqiu." Liu Qingge hisses after a few minutes of peace and inactivity. "What are you doing?"

"The same thing I do in brothels."

"Don't fool me!"

"Shidi, first you won't let me sleep in brothels without ruining my reputation and now you won't let me rest in my bed either. If you keep protesting, I'll have to gag you."

 


 

The next morning, Liu Qingge leaves Shen Qingqiu's house with a turmoil of confused feelings inside his chest. His footsteps tremble but not for the reason he assumed when he accepted his deal and ended up in his bed. It has been a different night than he had expected, strangely special. He flushes again at the thought of the intimacy they've shared even though nothing sexual has happened.

At noon he meets with the rest of the head disciples. Except for Yue Qingyuan and others who are indifferent, everyone else has been meeting for a long time to resolve Shen Qingqiu’s matter.

"Are you sure about this?" Shang Qinghua is insisting when Liu Qingge arrives. "It could be dangerous."

"It won’t be." He assures as he sits among his friends.

"How do you know?"

"I spent last night with Shen Qingqiu."

They all look at him with different expressions that oscillate between surprise, horror, and even disappointment. Qi Qingqi is the first to get up so abruptly that she knocks a cup onto the floor.

"You did WHAT!? The plan was today! We were going to catch Shen Qingqiu! Shang-shixiong is right, it's dangerous to leave you alone with him and... oh gods, won't he...? "

"No," he tries to reassure her without going into detail.

"Liu-shidi..." Mu Qingfang sighs. "This was just as stupid as when you brought that poison. You can't always put yourself in danger. Someday you'll be hurt..."

"I think you are all wrong." He interrupts them without losing his calm. "I accepted Shen Qingqiu's deal and didn't say anything to you because I was curious."

"Curious?"

"Mn." He nods. "Because there was a chance that I might like it."

"LIU QINGGE!!!!" They all exclaimed at the same time. "YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!"

"And I liked last night. That’s why I have come to inform you that I will repeat and that these meetings are over."

After all, Liu Qingge was sincere when he told Shen Qingqiu that morning that he wouldn't mind trying something different that he hadn't done with anyone else. His shixiong's face flushed adorably and he finally managed to affect him. Liu Qingge still doesn't understand Shen Qingqiu, neither why he lies nor why his attitude contradicts his actions, but at least he is finally aware of his own feelings towards his shixiong.