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Under Custody of the Swan

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“Who’s my head disciple?” Shen Yuan questioned the three children after he’d sufficiently squished their chubby faces and patted their heads enough times to make all their cheeks red. 

Ning Yingying, preening under the attention, who had also literally elbowed Luo Binghe out of the way to get more head pats, which had earned her a glare from the dirty boy, spoke up. “Zhou Zishu is the head disciple for the senior disciples and Ming Fan is the head of the juniors.”

Zhou? Yuan couldn’t really recall who that side character was. What even were senior disciples? Older immortals? Younger Immortals? When were immortals considered adults? He had just barely reached twenty-two before death, and while he knew for a fact he was older than the duckies in front of him, he didn’t have a clue how old the original goods were. 

With thoughts spiraling, he didn’t notice how he squished Ning Yingying’s face, using her plump cheeks like a stress ball as the two boys on either side of her glared at the attention and in the corner -like a sad creep or a disobedient dog- Qingyuan made a pitiful face. 

 Pulling his hand back to tuck inside the long sleeves of the cover robe, Yuan didn’t miss the deflated looks from the trio. Binghe clutched his neck and trembled much like how a rejected omega would. Sympathy mixed with intense cute aggression bubbled in his stomach. How could someone so tiny and adorable be the alpha of all alphas? 

He had to stop touching them. They were bound to get bored of it.

“Go bathe,” Yuan commanded the dirty boy. “Scrub yourself clean, wear the disciples uniform and report back to me.” 

“Ming Fan, go get my senior head. Ning Yingying, fetch me,” his voice trailed off and she stood on her tiptoes. He could almost imagine the sweet scent of excitement wafting off of her. 

Calm, he reminded himself. Display the image of an aloof master. Elegance and grace. Pulling himself up, fanning his face, Shen Qingqiu cast his gaze into the distance, in what he hoped appeared to be a calculating and cold expression. His eyes met Qingyuan’s and the taller man flinched, chin ducked down, staring at him through lowered lashes. For a man who had the body of an alpha his personality displayed beta traits. 

The sad dog look did not work for him.

[+1 point for a menacing and villainess look. Keep up the good work Host. -7 Points for cooing over children.]

Fuck off . He snapped to the system.

“Tea? A book? Snacks?” the girl helpfully added, hands clutched to her chest.

All sounded nice. “The schedule of classes. While sleeping this master had an epiphany.”

They whined like untrained dogs and he held firm. Shooing the children and Qingyuan from the room, Yuan dressed. Or attempted as best as he was able too with all the robes and ties. He’d blame the fever for his dishevelment. Sweating with effort, embarrassment, and the six layers, Shen Yuan admired himself in the mirror. 

His mom had been right, all those classical training classes had come in handy, not to attract an alpha but to keep children. He could just imagine how she and his father would squeal over the tiny bunnies hopping over his mountain. Stepping lightly, although sweating, he turned the face that now belonged to him, memorizing the original good’s face, practicing a few expressions. Sad, angry, disgusted, bashful flirting and even sticking out his tongue.

Smiling had to be his favorite expression. Sharp green eyes, high cheekbones and a chin that spoke of sternness all softened under the curve of his thin lips. 

Why did he have to be so pretty? We’re evil people supposed to be as hideous on the outside as they were on the outside? This was the -beautifully wasted- face of the notorious scumbag villain who had tortured Luo Binghe then had ultimately caused his blackening by pushing him into the abyss. No, that small dirty chick should be cuddled close not pushed away.

System does Luo Binghe have to go into the abyss.

[No other alternative. Falling into the abyss is a mandatory plot point that is unavoidable.]

Shit. Fuck. Damn it all. Why? That tiny child had suffered enough, he deserved hot cocoa and a long cuddle.

A knock pulled him from swirling thoughts. It unnerved him that he couldn't smell people before their arrival. Quickly arranging himself by a table, gently fanning himself, staring off into the distance with a bored yet pondering look, he called out. “Enter.”

Two men, wearing the green uniform, one with a silver pin - of a crane in flight- on his breast. They bowed and greeted him in unison. The white haired man with a watching white fan that depicted a winter scene leaned against the shoulder of his taller counter, a grumpy youth with a beautiful face. Well not as beautiful as Luo Binghe would grow into but still attractive. Which one was his head disciple? 

If they could have smelled him they would have sensed his nervousness. His face betrayed nothing. Years of intense family rummy nights and an annoying sister paid off.

“Zhou Zishu?” he called to both.

The grumpy man huffed. “Yes.”

Shen racked his brain for a mention of either young man in front of him in the novel and couldn't recall a single instance. The introduction of characters he hadn’t read of before made his head spin and bring to life the world around him which seemed much richer than the novel. When he pondered it, having junior and senior disciples made more sense than small babies running around. So how old were these boys? 

Not that it mattered. His kids were his, babies or not.

“This master dreamed and learned from the heavens.” He lied out of his ass, praying that in a cultivation world having ‘visions’ wouldn’t be too strange for his behavior. 

Zhou Zishu sat down across from him at the table, the other young man leaned by the wall nearby, watching with a fake smile. 

[OOC Warning]

I just woke up from a Qi deviation and they already suspect that I lost my memories. I am OOC. Shen Yuan argued. The system didn’t respond back.

“What did the heaven’s tell you Shizun?” His head disciple said in a tone that called him a liar.

He magnanimously ignored it.

“I am going to restructure the classes,” Shen Qingqiu announced. 

[Host this is not following the story] The system nagged him like a forgotten concubine.

I’m here to fuck the story up , he snapped back.

[If your B points drop below 10 a Punishment Protocol will be enacted.]

I’ve died once, even a day to make their lives better and cuddle a child is better than I had. He mentally swatted the system away. 

Instilling the protagonist early with virtues and lessons could possibly help. Not only that but these were his children and the world outside the mountain was scary. Full of horrible demons, sex flowers, evil lords, and such. Protecting his children meant teaching them, giving them every possible edge. If he remembered correctly in a few months there would be a demon invasion, and with no way to stop it he had to arm them. 

The head disciple sat up straighter, dark eyes glittering. “Oh?’

When Yingying returned, the three, with Ming Fan poured over the scrolls, debating until Shen Qingqiu had restructured the schedule, adding classes, taking away the more useless ones and breaking the classes into smaller chunks for more personable learning. Satisfied he sent the four off, giving all of them -even the twenty year-olds- a head pat and praise. The stunned expressions on their faces was adorable.

How long would it take to get them used to affection until he could cuddle one of them? A week? More? The cute aggression may give him a heart attack. He’d just have to squish cheeks to relieve the stress.

Content now that he had a small plan in mind, Shen Qingqiu decided to sate his curiosity and step outside the house. Alone, in the bamboo forest around his new house, Shen Qingqiu observed his surroundings. 

Quiet. Peaceful. 

Lacking scents.

Tranquil. Boring.

Never would he have thought he’d miss the noise and motion of the city but the silence reminded him too much of the hospital. Isolated from people. Alone on a boat at sea, reaching out for something, someone, anyone.

Since he was a peak lord, no one would say anything if he hung a few wind whims. Oh, he could raise birds. How did a person go about even getting birds? It didn’t matter if he was in a magic world, it would just happen. What else made noise? Water! He could commission a pond with a waterfall that would bring frogs and crickets, ducks, cranes, even small animals. Could he fill a field with bunnies and ckicks? He wanted to see his children holding fluffy animals.

If anyone questioned him, he just stared at them in disappointment, like a mother having caught her children lying about eating sweets. It had always worked for his own omega father. 

Did he have a budget? Thinking of money brought him to the one thing he could effect. The traitor in the sect, and what a coincidence he was about to commission a pond. Within the next few days he’d go visit An Ding Peak and the traitor.

[Host-]

This is my territory and if you think for a second that an omega won’t rip a threat into pieces, you know nothing of the world I come from , he snarled. There's a reason omegas are considered more dangerous than Alphas. 

[The punishment-]

Fuck you and the punishment. I am going to protect my territory and my children. 

 

***

 

Luo Binghe returned to the peak house, dripping water from his curly hair tightly wound in a bun that was sure to give him a headache later, to find his Shizun crouched on the ground behind his house drawing lines in the dirt. Ivory white hands smudged brown with dirt that looked like bruises. It was so viscerally wrong, Luo Binge’s entire body locked up in place, his foot raised slightly.

“Shizun?”

Said immortal looked over his shoulder and motioned for the boy to approach. He hesitated then did as bid. Stopping just behind the older man's shoulder with hands clasped behind his back. The qi devastation had changed the once cruel man more than he realized. His immortal teacher was touching the dirt! With bare hands. Two months ago he’d been reprimanded in class for having dirty paper the prissy man had refused to touch, and thus failed the lesson that day. The beating afterwards wasn’t special but had felt personable.

“This master would like more noise here. I want a pond, with a bridge, a waterfall and fish.”

Luo Binghe, stunned, simply nodded. “This disciple can go get approval.”

Shizun stood up, slowly and gracefully like the morning fog, and placed a hand on his head, then pulled back his hand to stare at his fingers and the moisture on it. Horrified, and worried the man would slap him or reprimand him, the boy depressingly wanted the hand to pat him again and not be a cruel one-off. How many people would pull him close only to toss him away until he learned? How many people would he still achingly desire to love him?  His knees trembled and eyes watered.

Please love him. Pat his head. Keep him. 

He would be good. So good.

“You’ll get sick with cold wet hair,” Shizun reprimanded, wiping the wetness off on his own robes- on his robes - and herded Luo Binge back into his house. 

The boy gaped as he settled on the floor. His perfect Shizun scrambled around his own house, opening drawers and boxes, mumbling and muttering, getting louder and more harsh as he searched. Finally he pulled out a shirt and used it to dry the boy’s hair. 

His shirt. 

Luo Binghe’s hair was dried with his immortal teacher's shirt. Did he wash thoroughly enough? Soft bamboo, tea leaves, something clean like soap and a sweet tang like the aftertaste of candy settled over the boy. He closed his eyes wishing for the scent to envelop him completely. He had to be insane to want a hug from the man who’d whipped him a week ago. Yet, something nagged at his brain, noting the differences in how new Shizun spoke, moved, looked around, even felt. 

Was he wrong to hope the body was possessed and a ghost was being kind to him? Shizun leaned forward and inhaled right over the crown of his head. 

“Better.” The new Shizun rubbed his hands through his hair then down his neck.

 A shiver ran down Binghe’s spine. Warmth blossomed like the first flowers of spring stubbornly pop out of snow banks. Helpless to his own desires, even if this was just a cruel trick, the boy settled back taking everything and wanting more. Shizun hummed low in his throat, vibrations trailing down to his fingertips and onto Binghe’s scalp. Without understanding why, Binghe made the same noise, a bit too loud and not as soothingly, at the same pitch. 

The peace was broken by a single word.

“Binghe,” Shizun rolled his name as if tasting a new tea, determining its richness and worth. 

Until this moment Luo Binghe has never even heard his teacher utter his name, preferring to address him rudely as ‘you,’ ‘beast,’ or simply snapping his fingers as if he was a well-trained dog. 

“Yes, Shizun,” his voice shook and he cursed himself.

“This master has come to realize his error in your teaching-”

His heart bottomed out, rolling down the mountain back into the mud below it. Unwanted and abandoned again. Not even this new version wanted him.

“-you require a more active hand in your education. Some students thrive in self study and others need a nudge. Until you are more firmly able to walk alone, you will be staying with this master so he may have a more encompassing role.”

“This lowly disciple? Living here? In Shizun’s house”

His master stopped talking, a scrunch forming between his brows, eyes distant as if in thought. How stupid. He shouldn't have questioned it. Now he would be punished and ruin Shizun’s new good mood. All he brought was misfortune. The village had been right to run him out, the other disciples were right to attack him, even Shizun was-

“Yes.”

Shizun’s voice interrupted. 

Without thought from his brain his lips spoke a wobbling word. “Really?” 

He wanted to hit his head against the nearest rock and simultaneously grab onto the new Shizun’s sleeve and never let go. He knew he was unwanted. Barely good enough for scraps. A greedy hungry thing and here Shizun was offering what he’d always wanted. Even when his mother was still alive she barely had enough time or energy for him and he tried to tamper down on his whining and begging but it festered and grew inside of him, snapping and grabbing at any scraps it could find.

Shizun made the same face again. As if holding a conversation in his head. Arguing. He spoke, words clipped and Binghe had been at the end of enough ire and lectures to know it wasn’t directed at him. Shizun’s gaze remained distant. Binghe’s eyes ping-ponged around the room, searching for the ghost Shizun argued with. His cultivation was too low to see the other-worldly spirit. Maybe the old Shizun was giving kind Shizun a lecture. He should give them separate names in his head, or watch more to confirm his growing theory.

“I will make sure you are raised right.” Shizun brushed his temple with his thin jade like wrist, rubbing his clean scent of honey, bamboo paper and jasmine over Binghe. 

The boy closed his eyes. It was silly to think his teacher was marking him, rubbing his scent on him as if to say he was one of them, what he’d desired since his mother died; a family, a place to belong. 

He hoped.

A dangerous pastime. Something that had betrayed him over and over again but he was a fool. And he hoped.