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Under Custody of the Swan

Chapter Text

The first thing that Shen Yuan noticed was the lack of smell. Truthfully the air did have a scent just not ones he understood; the faint crisp whiff of sunny air, the dense fog-heady with water, light incense, and a bitterness that was only associated with medicine- the type that made noses scrunch and a shudder travel down spines. However, the distinct lack of Shen Yuan’s own strong pheromones in the air, signaling to anyone else with a nose that this was his territory, was noticeably absent, as was any other similar scent.  

Even hospitals had marked territories. Forests were littered with them. A scentless place was an abandoned place. Up until this moment Shen Yuan had wished he lived in a place without scent and now without it, he felt alone. Adrift. Abandoned like his useless body.

Had everyone in the world vanished?

The second thing that caught his attention was a heat by his right calf and that he was lying down. Eyes closed. 

Third was the silence. He’d drifted asleep under the influence of anesthesia in a hospital. There should at least be the constant beeping of his heart monitor. Murmuring of voices. Squeaking of shoes on overly waxed floors. People. Was this a dream?

Distantly he heard rustling of leaves, soft like birds’ wings and the faint tinkling of chimes. Too quiet. Has his heartbeat always been so thunderously loud? Not one to be a coward indefinitely, the omega opened his eyes and promptly bit his tongue to keep in a yelp. 

A man, in fancy traditional clothing, sat next to his calf, staring off through a window at swaying bamboo in the morning fog like some widower missing his husband. He was handsome in the way young omegas squealed about an older alpha: long face, narrow eyes and broad shoulders with wide enough hands to cover a vulnerable neck. The man looked like a Dilf except Yuan had never been into that kink. Not that he didn’t get it, just not for him. No one should be that handsome, it just felt unreal. Like his vision has been permanently filtered.

Why was he wearing such outdated clothing? Cosplay? Movie Set? Shen Yuan breathed in deeply, scenting the air and got nothing. There were no indicators how the man felt, what he was or even where Shen Yuan was. Only silence and scentless.

The man noticed his movement and turned his head with a soft smile usually reserved for babies and the dying - a smile Yuan was uncomfortably familiar with.

Oh, Fuck! Had he died? 

Was this heaven? 

God!?

“Xiao-Jiu,” the sad widower whispered. Voice gentle as a breeze, fleeting and useless against the heat of summer's sun.

Who the fuck was Xiao-Jiu? 

He was not close enough with the strange man to be referred to as ‘Xiao.’

Shen Yuan sat up and touched his neck-a nervous habit. His fingertips brushed smooth bare skin and a shiver ran down his spine. No. Glancing down in rep he found his wrists also vulnerably exposed. Scrambling back until his back hit the headboard, wrists pressed to his chest and hands covering his neck from the unknown man. Shen Yuan sniffed the air. Still scentless. Even his own distress did not leak out from his pores as it usually did, choking all within a few yards’ radius. 

“Why are you in my room?”

Only children, one's mate or close friends were allowed in an omega’s room. Possibly even medical professionals wearing scent blockers in dire situations. This strange cosplaying man was none of the above and Shen Yuan wanted him out.

The man across from him appeared stricken, standing up and backing away a few paces, holding up his hands. He didn’t have a scent, not a single familiar gesture or leak of pheromones to let Shen Yuan know if he was friend or foe. 

A windchime in the bamboo grove beyond the window rang in the air like a gong. Shen Yuan’s heart rate spread up. If this wasn’t the afterlife and he wasn’t dead, then was this a prostitution center? A weird fetish one where omegas were left unarmored. Had someone done something to him to suppress his potent pheromones? How the fuck had he been kidnapped from a hospital?

“Qingqiu-shidi,” the man said in a steadier tone. “You had a terrible fever following a Qi deviation during one of your disciples-“ his face twisted with a grimace, “-punishments. You collapsed a week ago. Mu Qingfang worried you might not wake up.”

Mu Qingfang’s name rang a bell that echoed in an empty forest. The name Qingqiu sounded familiar yet Shen Yuan couldn’t quite place where he’d heard it.

 [This System welcomes New Account holder. Current Status: Shen Qingqiu] The voice of the system sounded like the unloved bastard child of Google translate and Siri.

No shit. Really? Shen Qingqiu? Like the scum villain in PIDW? Was this a drug dream from the anesthesia? It would be a first. But yet . . .

Considering the very exciting and terrible possibility he’d transmitted to another world and wasn’t having anesthesia induced hallucinations, Shen Yuan studied the slender fingers of his new body. Then that meant the surgery had been unsuccessful and he’d died on the table. 

Is this really a web-novel? Shen Yuan questioned the system. There was no answer. Typical. Systems, gods, and other such entities were rarely much help in any of the novels Yuan had hungrily consumed while bed-ridden in a hospital.

[This System has graciously assisted Shen Yuan in his last moments. Granting his final wish of “living a life with everything I couldn’t have in this one” while also charging New User responsibility of assisting This world in also getting a happy ending]

Not a gracious gift but burdened with someone else’s fuck up?

Ah, so then, the man in front of him had to, possibly be, Yue Qingyuan, the Sect Leader, and the only one who had ever been nice to the cranky villain. For reasons Yuan had never understood, Qingqiu was a complete asshole and didn’t deserve the Sect Leaders kindness. Except now he was the scum villain. Ice crawled across his skin. Fuck. Fuck.

“Shidi?” Yue Qingyuan murmured softly, his hand reaching out, then freezing when Shen Yuan tensed.

First thing, find out when the story was and change it. Don’t die. Again.

“Punishment? What happened?” Shen Yuan asked, mind scrambling to remember anything the taller, more dressed man had asked. 

He kept inhaling expecting to get a noseful of emotion. Nothing.

[OOC WARNING, minus 5 points, Shen Qingqiu is too prideful to admit any weakness]

If he could have thrown up his hands in the air, Shen Yuan would have tossed a table through the circular window nearby. Asking a question got him minus points? How was he supposed to survive? Sure he came from a well-off family and he knew the four-arts (passably- painting was so-so) but he didn’t have the deposition to be cold and cruel. He was an omega. He liked soft things, he wanted to cuddle sheep, and even sick he enjoyed children-despite them always being too germ-filled for him to ever play with.

Then you play him if you know him so well, Shen Yuan shot back. He’d know if I was lying. 

[This System graciously let you live, follow the rules or there will be consequences.]

Like what?

Yue Qingyuan assessed him, lowering his hands and taking a step forward then froze when Shen Yuan leaned back. “You don’t remember? Do you remember the night hunt in your first year where you sprained your ankle?”

“No,” he answered.

“Do you know where you are?”

Easy “Chang Qiong Peak where I am a peak Lord.”

“What is the property of a white spotted night orchid?”

Another easy one. “Mashed it can cleanse the skin and boiled with leeches it cures the purple night poison.”

“What year is it?”

Shen Yuan hesitated, considering his best option before admitting the truth with averted eyes. “I don’t know.” 

[OOC Warning, Shen Qingqiu would not admit such weakness]

I’m a terrible liar, Shen Yuan argued back. His scent always gave him away. Except, he didn’t have a scent. Nothing had scents. Reading PIDW had been a breath of fresh air because the world lacked second genders. Snatching the fan left near his hand, flicking it open with practiced ease, Shen Yuan covered the bottom of his face, biting his lower lip in thought.

Yue Qingyuan’s face scrunched up. Outside a shrill bird stopped its song and popped onto the round window nearby. It began a twittering mate song, which would have been soothing even relaxing had it not been only a meter from him. The song drilling into his head. Annoyed, Shen Yuan reached back and chucked his pillow at the window, startling the stupid bird. Yue Qingyuan did not even blink at his violent action towards a small animal. And didn’t that say something.

“Tell me where you were born?” Yue Qingyuan continued his questioning.

“Qingyuan- shixiong, stop interrogating me like I’m some traitor,” Shen Yuan spit out with more venom than he felt. The man’s broad shoulders slumped slightly. 

“Shidi, I will summon Mu Qingfang to examine you. Your mind appears to be fragmented. Qi deviations can be deadly, you’re lucky not to have died.”

Getting the man from his room as fast as possible seemed like a brilliant idea. Shen Yuan pursed his lips trying to play the role of a haughty immortal unimpressed at his former friend. Fluttering his fan added to his facade. Que’s face twisted even further. Shen Yuan thought it was a waste of a perfectly handsome face to be so scrunched up like an ugly newborn baby. The man’s stature gave him off to be an alpha but such sniveling and loyal behavior denoted beta tendencies. Most of Shen Yuan’s family had been Beta’s. All of whom he’d never see again.

Speaking of death, Shen Yuan now Shen Qingqiu needed to cling to the protagonist's thighs. It was simple, he just had to make sure he didn’t bully the child anymore and correct any assumptions of his character being lecherous and cruel so that when the blackened protagonist came for him late in the story he could escape. Or even better, maybe the protagonist wasn’t even on the peak yet. He should ask about-

Alarms rang in his head. Shen Qingqiu ducked his head, squeezing his eyes tightly closed for a moment to center himself as the room spun from vertigo. Bitter bile rose up his throat, lingering in the back of his mouth before he wallowed the hot liquid back down. Inhale. Exhale. 

“Xiao-Jiu?” Yue Qingyuan questioned.

[OOC Warning: Shen Qingqiu would never ask about his most hated disciple, minus 5 points.]

Not anymore bitch. With only fragments of a mind of course the original goods would act differently. The systems blaring quieted slowly like a child pouting in a corner. It did not give back the five points.

Bastard.

“Shidi?” Yue Qingyuan’s shaking voice snapped Shen Qingqiu out of his argument with the system. “I realize this is a lot to process. You should rest while I go get a healer and tell your senior disciples.”

Shen Qingqiu opened his mouth to defend himself then closed it. Explaining the annoying system to Yue Qingyuan would lead to imprisonment. The venerable sect leader shifted on spot, like a dog dancing to be let outside to pee. Silence descended between them. Both choking on words, desperately trying to swallow back down into their stomach, hidden back in the dark.

Children's voices outside broke the awkwardness.

“Leave him alone Ming Fan,” a shrill girl's voice called out. 

“It’s his fault Shizun got sick. He’s a disease. No one wants him here,” a nasally boy's voice quip followed by the distinct sound of punching then a tiny whimper.

Ah, the person of the hour. Luo Binghe. Only that unfortunate child would have such a melodramatic scene unfold around him. Like a soap opera. Life would be so much easier without responsibilities. Why should he have to clean up someone else's shitty life choices and live even more of his life fearing for death? He’d never had a dog.

[This System-]

This system had better shut the hell up or Shen Yuan was going to find a way to rip it into shreds and make it feel the pain of death. The system meeped and didn’t respond. 

In life there were moments when a person had two choices, work or the easy road. With ants crawling over his skin Shen Yuan chose the only option truly available which honestly was basically blackmail. Yet, should he really complain this much, even in his own head? Here he was alive, in a fantasy world, presumably in a body that wouldn't easily die, in his -least- favorite web novel. The protagonist was a child. There were children here, children he -as the Peak Lord had to raise. 

Shen Yuan had never even had the opportunity to hold a child much less have any say in their development. He hadn’t even gotten to play with his own meimei until she was a toddler, his parents and older brothers too scared to let her near him lest they get each other sick. No one had ever trusted him with plants. Wait. He did have a tomachi once. Then he’d lost it.

On the most depressingly good side possible, he couldn't possibly be worse than the original, he just couldn't beat them and instead make sure all of them got food, beds and head pats daily. Now it sounded like he was housing dogs.

The former omega covered his mouth, hiding a wide smile. Children. He could finally have children. Many of them. Wait. That sounded creepy in his head. He could raise children. Marginally better. Okay he had a slight case of baby fever, but never in his wildest fantasies did he think he’d ever get to have them and now….

“Bring them to me.” Shen Yuan demanded of the man in front of him. 

Yue Qingyuan hesitated, eyes shifting to him on the bed then out the window outside, possibly able to see the scene of fighting children from his taller position. The imposing man didn’t move.

“Shidi, you should rest. Disciplining Luo Binghe is what overexerted you.”

Shen Yuan schooled his face into the most neutral expression he could muster, thankful Yue Qingyuan didn’t have a designation and wouldn’t be able to smell his fear. Time to lie his ass off. Channel his best impression of his Aunt- haughty, right, and bold.

[Careful host a minus of B points will result in termination of the account]

“Bring them to me,” his tone didn’t leave room for questions. The dog-leader bowed his head.  “My newest disciple, I haven’t greeted him yet.”

“He’s been here four months,” Yue Qingyuan said softly. 

This was working fabulously. Maybe he had a career in acting? 

“If you cannot fulfill my needs, I will find someone who can.”

That got the man moving. He jolted, as if struck by lightning then turned on his heel and disappeared. Moving so fast he was there on second then gone the next. Shen Yuan used the man’s absence to finally crawl out of his bed and quickly survey the boring room. 

The children were gathered then lined up in front of him, bowing deep. It was clear who was wanted and loved and the child that was not. He held up the fan to his face, finally understanding why characters had always used fans in dramas. It gave him a mysterious and haughty look. It also hid his lips, where he chewed on them nervously.

The children were silent, bowed, twitching. Luo Binghe’s hair was so fluffy, cheeks so plump and squishable and those glistening wide eyes.

Must. 

Pat.

Compelled by the fluff, his feet moved forward. Yue Qingyuan made a noise but didn’t stop his hand reaching towards the muddy boy, his clothes torn and too small.

The boy's eyes closed with a flinch, expecting a hit. Instead, gentle hands lightly pat the top of his head before moving down to cup his cheeks in large hands, warm palms pressing into his cheeks until his lips pressed out like ducks he’d seen swimming around on lakes. Soft. Squishy. Adorable. Shen Yuan feared his chest would explode with confetti.

 Unable to do anything other than stand there and take the affection his usually cruel and scathing Shizun gave him, Luo Binghe’s eyes widened as his masochistic hopes sored.

Shen Yuan, drawn in by the protagonist's wet eyes, soft skin and the sight trembling of his body leaned forward taking in a deep breath. Despite Airplanes writing the blackened Luo Binghe as the Alpha of all Alphas even without second designations, the white lotus in front of him appeared to be the stereotypical budding omega. The child smelt of dirt, rot, and mold yet there was a touch of something fresh underneath it all. Something enthralling that made his chest squeeze and his palms itch to touch and sooth. 

Was this the baby fever he’d heard of? He wanted ten.

“You need a bath,” he spoke. Would the scent be stronger or more diminished after the smell of grime was washed away?

Ming Fan snickered while Yingying pouted cutely, puffing up her checks.

Luo Binghe flinched but didn’t pull away. “This disciple will go into the river and clean his dirty self.”

“With soap,” Shen Qingqiu’s eyes drifted around the room searching for something to give the child, unsure if he even owned soap. What did ancient soap look like? Did his house even have a bathroom? “Use mine, yours is clearly defective.”

Was he still an omega without his pheromones? He felt like one. He wanted to wrap the tiny bun in his sheets and scrub his face pink with his own soap. It wasn’t just Luo Binghe, although with the tiny protagonists the feeling was the strongest, Ming Fan and Ning Yingying also evoked the intense sensation. Small adolescents in cute uniforms, wide eyes that begged for reassurance and head pats. He wanted, no, he needed these children to have his scent. To Protect them from others wanting to harm them. Show the world they were under the custody of him. As Shen Qingqiu, these were now his children.

Ha, and the doctors said he’d never give birth. He might not be an omega anymore but now he had a brood of his own. Shen Qingqiu pressed Binghe’s cheeks together more, pursing his lips to a comical degree.

So. 

Cute. 

Like a baby bunny or a fluffy puppy.

[OOC Warning: Shen Qingqiu would never find Luo Binghe cute. -2 points]

 Shen Yuan raged in his mind. You cannot fine me for my thoughts; they're unavoidable. This isn’t 1984, just because you're in my head you can't punish me for my thoughts. Shen Yuan argued with the system. If you want someone else don’t be upset when an omega is drawn to a cute child. It's in my DNA to sit on these small eggs.

The system didn’t respond back but it also didn’t give back his points. Again. Fucker.

 Shen Yuan's non-existent omega instincts reared up like a war horse. The boy in front of him was young, the poor protagonist felt all alone - which Shen Yuan knew for certain from reading PDIW’s thousands of words. Shen Qingqiu needed to hug the protagonist's thighs to live or at least be spared torture and given a swift death. Luo Binghe didn’t have a mother anymore, and Shen Yuan had always wanted a child even though he was barren. The protagonist wouldn't hurt a parental figure. He just had to raise this little bun to be virtuous, merciful, and protective. 

I shall call him squishy and he shall be mine, Shen Yuan thought.

[Host this is a bad idea.]

Like all his other intrusive thoughts, Shen Yuan ignored the system. 

Ding. [Increased Protagonist Satisfaction +5]

Ha. Clearly it was a great idea. Fuck yeah, Shen Yuan was a genius.