Actions

Work Header

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Why was he wearing such outdated clothing?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. 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 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 familuar gesture or leak of pheromones to let Yuan know if he was friend or foe. 

A windchime in the bamboo grove beyond the window rang in the air like a gong. 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 fedish 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 more steady 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 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? Qinqin? 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, 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? 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?” 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 Qinqgin 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 (passibly- 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?

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

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

I’m a terrible liar , 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.

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 chucke dhis pillow at the window, startling the stupid bird. 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?” Qingyuan continued his questioning.

“Qingyuan, 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 devistations 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. 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 Qinqgin 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 leterious 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. Qinqgin 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?” Qingyuan questioned.

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

Not anymore bitch. With only fragments of a mind of course the original good’s 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?” Qingyuan’s shaking voice snapped Qinqgin 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.”

Qinqgin opened his mouth to defend himself then closed it. Explaining the annoying system to 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 Mia 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 quipt 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 blackMingl. 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 headpats 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.

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

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 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,” 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. 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. 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.

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 shoap 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. As Shen Qingqiu, these were now his children. His babies.

Ha, and the doctors said he’d never give birth. He might not be an omega any more but now he had a brood of his own. 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 would never find Luo Binghe cute. -2 points]

 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 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 , 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.

Chapter Text

“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. 

Chapter Text

[Host this goes-]

“Shut up,” Shen Qingqiu hissed in annoyance at the nagging system. “Just take points and leave me alone.” He straightened the thick green ribbon, hastily used as a collar, around his wrists and neck. It didn’t feel as secure as his actual pacers and collar had felt in the other world but he had to keep reminding himself he didn’t actually need it. However, like a toddler being weaned, he wanted his safety blanket.

[This is OOC behavior-]

He ignored the voice, flipping his hand in the air. Everyone knows I’ve lost my memory. Stepping outside of his room, he sat at the table already laid out with food and Luo Binghe hovering, clenching the hem of his shirt between white knuckles. The smells were mouth watering. 

Like every morning and dinner, the Peak Lord gestured to the seat across from him. “Sit.”

[+5 Protagonist Happiness]

The boy did as bid. A wobbly smile on that angelic face shot an arrow through Qingqiu’s heart. He wanted to pull the boy to his chest and squeal. Instead he picked up his chopsticks and began eating, thankful the boy couldn't smell how he activated his cute aggression. If he kept this up he’d be a pro at poker by the end of the year. Or have a heart attack.

“This master will pay a visit to An Ding Peak today. When you go to class, send over my senior disciple to escort me.”

“I can do it, Shizun.” The adorable little buddy offered, large eyes glistening like a real life anime character. 

Stop being so cute. It was bad for his amazing health. In a way he’d been able to sense and feel his pheromones Qi acted quite similar, although it didn’t leak from his body. Using it had taken virtually no practice. In his old world, Shen Yuan had become a pro at learning to reign in his offensive pheromones. A barren sickly omega smelt - as he’d been told countless times- like burning rubber or a rotten apple.  

“No, you must study.” Qingqiu stated, thinking of the new manual he’d found in his office and given to the small boy, mostly confident that it was the right level. The lengths he’d gone to spill ink and ruin the other -wrong- manual had been laughable but the boy hadn’t noticed at all, just thankful to have another. 

“Yes, Shizun.” Luo Binghe deflated like a sad pufferfish. “Will you return in time for dinner?”

As if he would miss eating food made by the white-lotus protagonist? No way. “Yes, Binghe. I will. Be sure to study.” 

Qingqiu gazed away from the brightness of the protagonist’s excitement as he was regaled by what the boy was learning and enjoyed doing. His fluffy hair had been put up with a ribbon belonging to the original goods. Qingqiu had styled up the boy's hair. Taking the time to teach him about oils, ribbons, braids, and beads. In true protagonist style, Binghe picked up the lessons fast, yet still lingered sadly in his doorway at night, wanting Qingqiu to offer to help with his hair. How sticky.

Thank all the deities Shen Yuan’s mother had insisted, actually even dragged him by force, to attend all those hair styling classes, and ancient chinese dance, music, and clothing instructional courses. He’d scoffed at the time, knowing even at a young age his days were numbered but had humored the woman regardless. Now, he had no problem dressing or styling up his hair. And he got to take care of his cute little pup and help him. His excellent performances in fan dancing classes assured him of his own elegance.

He would be a flawless Shen Qingqiu.

Five days lazing around the bamboo house lasted right up  until the lack of noise and movement began to itch at his skin. Omegas were not meant to live in isolated areas, even when Shen Yuan had moved from his parents house, he’d been at an apartment. There had been people around. If he remained  in ‘tranquil’ silence any longer, he’d pull out his lovely long hair. Binghe soothed his nerves, having an eager pup around to dote on and teach, but only slightly. Could he move the student dorms here? It was such a stereotypical omegan trait to want to sit on his eggs, protecting them from any predators.

There were children everywhere and only one -to be fair the cutest one- lived with him. It was a waste.

On second thought, that didn’t sound right. Even in the confines of his own head it was too creepy. He just wanted to cuddle them all. Pinch their cheeks and pet their heads and his heart wanted to explode from his chest just thinking about them. He had bad baby fever.

“Begging this one’s pardon, but is Shizun feeling well? Your face got all flushed.” Binghe crowded into his space, smelling like him and an undercurrent of his own earthy scent. 

Ah, how sweet of his little puppy to worry about him. Fanning himself to ease the flush of baby fever, Qingqiu nodded. “This master is recovering well. You’ve missed enough classes. Go.”

“And Shizun will be here when I return?” The boy searched his face. The question felt odd and Qingqiu thought he was missing something.

How adorable that after five days of spoiling him with head pats and one-on-one instruction the boy appeared healthier, cuter, and smiled more. What an absolute scumbag the original goods was to torment such a precious flower. Binghe reminded him so much of a lapdog, just happy to snuggle and have occasional attention.

“Yes, this master will be here.”

Pushing his little pup out the door, Shen Qingqiu waited outside for his senior disciple to arrive, pondering the ground. A pond and a large pavilion, where the children could gather and study sounded best. He could sit and listen to noise, or have all his windows open.

Zhou Zishu appeared like a wind, there one moment. Had Qingqiu still been in possession of his omegan sensitivity no one could ever sneak up on him. He didn’t startle but he did tighten his grip on his fan. The lazy looking youth half bowed to him then yawned. 

“To An Ding Peak.”

They flew on swords, which felt like snowboarding but more elegant. The youth led him along the path of another peak, which honestly -mostly- looked like what he’d seen on his own peak. Some banners and colors differed but only that. He breathed in deeply, scenting the area. Even that smelt the same, which was to say it didn’t. Clean and crisp with a hint of bamboo and green in the air.

His head disciple spoke to a young woman at the entrance to an open door at a large house with a yellow banner which read ‘Fortune and Order’ and then they waited for only a few moments before the traitor came running, nervous and blubbering. Smaller than himself, the mousy man had a messy bun atop his head and an ink stain on the corner of his mouth. Like Qingqiu he wore a cloth choker -his more intricate than a discarded ribbon- over his throat and under his clothes. Odd but not suspicious.

“S-Shen-Shen-Shixiong,” Shang Qinghua stuttered. 

A flush crawled up his face like one of those silly anime gifs. Had the man had pheromones he would have flooded the entire area with embarrassment and fear, choking everyone around him with the stench.

Qingqiu waved his head disciple away and gave him a bullshit errand, asking for more ink and paper to be delivered to his house. The youth half bowed with a yawn and flew off. Fanning himself slowly in a manner his teacher had taught him displayed haughtiness and disinterest, Qingqiu gazed at the shorter man. How he wanted to punt the coward for being the catalyst for Binghe’s descent into hell and subsequent horrible life? 

“I am here to discuss my budget, alone,” he said.

Shang Qinghua trembled, glancing around as if someone would come to his rescue and need him for something more pressing. Every disciple running around the building averted their eyes, even the woman he’d met at the entrance had disappeared. Seeing no one to come help, the traitor’s shoulders slumped and he led Qingqiu further into the building and into a large room that was possibly an office. Papers were everywhere, there were three different desks, each looking out three different windows. The walls were decorated in cheery flower paintings and motivational scrolls of calligraphy. Very odd.  Multiple incenses were burning to create an interesting mix of ink, bamboo paper, a flowery tone which almost smelt like ripe roses, overlaid with fresh pine. Stepping into the chaotic office, Qingqiu felt at ease for the first time since arriving. His entire body relaxed. 

This smelt like a territory.

Shang Qinghua motioned at a low table in the middle of the room. He shoved a pile of books, small knitted bobbles and what looked like fashion designs to the floor. Did ancient China have hats in that style? 

“How can this one help you Shen Shixiong?”

Something tugged at his head like his sister used to yank on his hair. What was not adding up?

[Host this goes against-]

Is there an ignore button because I don’t want to listen to you , he thought.

[-5 B Points for being rude]

Whatever.

“This master wants a large pond with a water feature in front of his house. Don’t forget the fish inside. There will also need to be a large open pavilion with seats inside the bamboo forest, just at the edge.”

The traitor's eyes bugged out. “Shixiong, begging this one’s pardon but you hate noise.”

Huh. He did? Fuck. Uhhh. How to spin this so as not to lose more points?

[Tread carefully Host you only have 260 B Points left]

“Since this master’s Qi Deviation and memory loss of certain thing-”

[-5 Points, Shen Qingqiu would never admit such weakness]

I want a pond and children, fuck off , Shen Yuan snapped. His face did not twitch to betray his inner rage.

“-I now desire to have the sound of water nearby. To soothe my mind. Water is healing.”

Shang Qinghua stood up with a grumble, going to the far left desk rummaging around for something. Under his breath he muttered. Qingqiu didn’t catch everything but he did hear one word. Vacation.

What were the odds he wasn’t the only transmitter?

System, are there others like me in this story? he asked.

[Answering Host’s question; you are not qualified to know]

Rude.

Shang Qinghua returned with what looked like a finance book full of numbers. The traitor flipped through the thick pages and for a second Qingqiu swore there was a graph. How to ask without sounding crazy?

“What does the fox say?” Qingqiu questioned in his most serious tone.

[-10 points]

Shang Qinghua stopped breathing, blinking up through light eyelashes. His mouth dropped open. “Excuse this one, what did Shixiong ask?”

Maybe that was too subtle and vague. Hmm. He lifted his left arm and gestured to a painting on the wall of a crane in flight above a pond of beautiful purple and yellow lotus’.

“Is this a pigeon?”

[-15 points]

He was almost completely sure there weren’t pigeons in Ancient China and definitely -probably- not any in PIDW. 

Shang Qinghua’s face scrunched up as if he was constipated. “It’s a crane,” came his slow response.

Ugh, Fine. One more. 

“Numa Numa.”

[-20 points]

Shang Qinghua dropped his quill with a squeal. “Bro, are you also a transmitter?”

Qingqiu nodded and lowered his fan. “I just woke up in the body.”

[-50 B Points for revealing identity]

They both winched, and that told Shen Qingqiu that Shang Qinghua also had a system. Qingqiu knew he could just pat Binghe’s head and get more points later. He wondered how Qinghua earned them?

Qinghua pushed through his discomfort and offered an uneven smile. “You read Proud Immortal Demon Way? What did you think-”

Incensed and finally able to vent, he snapped his fan forward and slammed it on the table. “That piece of trash hack author wasted my precious time writing about a simply fascinating world focused on pappaing scenes and pointless fights. He regurgitated both every twenty chapters as if the average reader was a goldfish and wouldn’t notice the pattern. Don’t even get me started on Luo Binghe, a victim who just perpetrated the system of violence etched into him as if he married enough women he’d just be happier. He never actually tried. Why couldn’t he be a rogue cultivator? Or herd sheep? Did he even allow himself to enjoy the luxuries that he won? Probably not. The moment he got something, he just had to find something or one else. As if his time in the Abyss and with this scum” -he gestured to himself- “wasn’t enough he had to keep making himself miserable and-”

“Cucumber bro!” Shang Qinghua exclaimed with a wide smile, all the tension melting off of him. “My beloved anti-fan. I’m so glad it’s you in here with me. You’re like my walking Wiki.”

“Airplane?”

“Yep.”

Taking a breath, Qingqiu told himself that if he killed the author he’d probably go to cultivator jail and then he wouldn't have children. Binghe would be sad. He’d be a terrible parent to leave them now. Exhale, relax his shoulders.

He spoke measuredly, “okay, so we both know now. Can I have the pond? The silence and lack of smells have been getting to me.”

Qinghua didn’t respond right away. Tilting his head in a cute way made Qingqiu want to pat him. He had so many questions. 

Finally Qinghua’s eyes focused on him. He rolled the calligraphy brush in his hand, looking down at the table and book of numbers in front of him. “My system is telling me not to help you. That you’re deviating too far off the script.”

Hey, fuck off it’s not too much to ask for.

[That is not me Host]

Well, that changed his response.

“Tell it to fuck right off a cliff into the Abyss. If I don’t get the pond, in the perfect imitation of Qingqiu I will destroy this building then complain to the Sect Leader you provoked me.”

“Bro, way to channel the scum villain” he whispered in awe and fear, “ but aren’t you scared of dying?”

Qingqiu shrugged. “Retire bitch, there’s a new villain in town.”

Qinghua laughed full bodied, throwing back his head. Smiling made him look younger. “You were always my favorite troll.”

Troll? Hell no, he was more of a gremlin than anything. Trolls had no class and resorted to immature teasing, like calling others slick holes, beta blockers, or knot-heads.

“Why did you write about the “Alpha of all Alphas’ as you called him? Was it supposed to be a deconstruction of literature because it just pandered to thirty bros wanting to bang girls regardless of designation? It went against all-”

“You are such a mother hen.” Qinghua waved his brush, splattering ink against the table.

 “You can’t say that, that's designation discimination.”

“I’m an omega.”

That did explain the pure amount of unbridled horny the novel exuded. Still no excuse for pandering an actually good novel.

“Me too, so that's no excuse. Thin fucking ice, Airplane. I have a healthy body now and a lot of aggression I can channel.”

“Ah Cucumber-bro, I missed your abrasive and sharp tongue.”

“Just get me a pond so I don’t live in silence.”

“Anything for my most loyal anti-fan.” He fluttered his eyes in a mock imitation of a love-sick person. Qingqiu rolled his eyes in response, flustered. 

There was a lull in the conversation. Shen Qingqiu’s mouth moved without approval from his brain. “How do you earn back points you lost?”

Qinghua didn’t appear upset at the question. He set his brush down and leaned back on his arms. “Missions, character satisfaction points, and finding treasures.”

Hmm, he could work with that. He couldn't have the only other person who understood being an omega and not from this world die. 

“Am I considered a character?”

Qinghua winched, eyes squeezed shut, pressing a hand to his temple. “Sorry bro. I can’t answer too many more questions. I’m gonna run out of points then go into delinquency. I don’t want another punishment.”

Another? He wanted to ask about punishments but feeling generous he settled for the most pressing question.

“How long have you been here?”

“I was born here,” he answered through a hissing breath.

Ah, he was torn between thinking how cool and how awful. It’d only been less than five days and Qingqiu was already suffering from not having his omegan senses. An entire lifetime felt like too long to be apart from himself. He looked around at the paintings and took in a large whiff of the mixed incenses. Qinghua appeared to have made the best of his circumstances.

“I will send Binghe to you, in the afternoons, starting tomorrow. I’ll say it's for something but you should teach him how to run a kingdom since you successfully run and manage the peeks. Be sure to praise him, pat him, give him sweets and a soft pillow to sit on and you’ll earn back some happiness points for sure.”

“Oh, you do love me,” Qinghua crawled around the table to hug him, pressing his face into Qingqiu’s neck. Had they pheromones they could have scented each other for comfort. Both men inhaled at each other's necks anyway.

DING! The system chimed so loudly his ears rang. 

[-50 Points for hugging outside of character] They both winched.

Qinghua pulled away, frowns on both their lips neither one pointed out. Omegas found comfort in touch. More so than any other designation. Sending Binghe to Qinghua was more than just to nurture Binghe. Shen Yuan couldn’t imagine living in a cultivation world based on Ancient China where touching anyone was seen as scandalous. Airplane probably starved for touch. As a fellow omega he wanted to hug the hack author. 

Qingqiu picked up his fan, straightening his back. “Right. The show must go on.”

How many points do I have left , he thought at the system.

[110 B points left. Host be careful your account will go into delinquency at 60B Points. The interface will punish you if you don’t start listening to it.]

Wait, it’s not you doing this?

[Answering Host, think of me as your assigned system assistant. Here to guide, reward and punish those who do not follow the interface’s outline.]

Well my assistant cannot be nameless, now that I know your not in Shang Qinghua’s head and not the one making me follow the hack author's horrible story plotline. 

[A name?]

How about Didi, I always wanted a younger brother but I did love my younger sister.

[This Didi happily accepts a name and will answer to it.]

“Bro?” Shang Qinghua snapped him out of his thoughts. “The system is riding my ass, you gotta go. It won’t stop taking points.”

He stood. “Just name it and get me that pond.”

Leaving Qinghua squawking behind him, he smiled behind his fan. Questions answered and more now to unravel. And in a few months -possibly- he’d get to leave the peak and observe more of the world. Well just a small village when they are given the plot point of the skinner demon. Shen Qingqiu had some ideas, but before that he wanted to watch his babies have lessons. 

[Careful Gege, the interface is watching and it doesn’t like knots in the weave of the story.]

Don’t worry Didi , Shen Qingqiu thought, I got this.

Chapter Text

“Shizun,” Binghe whined like the baby he was not. “What if you-”

“This master has lived his life thus far (like ten days) without an assistant. A few hours off the mountain will not lead to chaos and fires.”

Binghe’s adorable little nose scrunched up in a face that stated he doubted so. Only two weeks into living with each other his new -personally assigned- personal assistant was always at his heels. Binghe cooked, cleaned, practiced his forms, always asked him for help with something at night, then fussed over his office and papers lying around. How did he have the time? Shen Qingqiu. It was cute if also a bit off-putting how beta the boy acted.

Shen Yuan’s experience with betas mostly came from the fussiness of nurses in the hospital and trash dramas he binged when sick. The disconnect of character between the vengeful, violent & charismatic Alpha Airplane had written and the crybaby, uptight, and needy beta that followed like a little duckie. He was constantly at war with himself on how he should treat the boy, either pushing him away or pulling him close.

It gave them both whiplash yet the little beta bunny continued to return, pulling at the ends of his robes, asking for more and more. Like a child testing their limits. If he himself was a weak beta or overindulgent Alpha he'd probably give in but Omegas demanded order and reinforced boundaries. There was a line between over-patting and spanking and he needed to find the line for Binghe which almost felt impossible at times. 

“This master has arranged special lessons -for just you- with your Shifu.”

“This disciple is forever thankful that Shinzun thought of Binghe, but why can’t Shizun teach me?”

Well for one, he wasn’t sure Xianxia taxes existed but as the future Emperor Binghe should be very knowledgeable, and who else could teach him about the bullshit and Frankenstein monsters collage that was the world of PIDW than the hack author himself? Secondly, in the web novel Binghe kept leaving his Empire to travel which was all well and good, everyone deserves a vacation but that didn’t mean he couldn’t skirt his official duties to run around and continue to get married. Be! Responsible! Even if Xin Mo needed the “cleansing.” And Three, who didn’t love a smart man? 

Binghe would thank him later and not kill him. Wins all around.

Three cheers for him.

[Gege . . . ] He swore the mechanical voice sighed.

“This Master is not the peak lord of An Ding for a reason, I have my skills and expertise and he has his.”

[-1 pt Shen Qingqiu wouldn’t compliment someone] His Didi system said in a tone that almost sounded sad for a mechanical voice.

Fair enough.

Binghe never liked his response, no matter how many times he asked but Shen Qingqiu remained steadfast. The little sheep hung his head, the fingers of his left hand rubbing along the thick red bracelet Shen Yuan had finger-weaved a few nights ago. 

“Yes, Shizun.”

“I expect to hear nothing but praise from Shang Qinghua when he gives his weekly report,” Shen Quingqui said, handing Binghe the scroll they’d been passing back and forth through the boy.

Outside clouds, fat and lazy with rain overtook the sun, making the spring afternoon cooler. He could feel the moisture in the air. Even the birds were quieter. 

“Yes, Shizun, I’ll make you proud.”

 

>> I named my system Pen. Because it’s always with me and I’m always losing my pens, and they’re useful. Bro, Pen is basically my intern, unpaid and unhelpful

 

<<Extremely unimaginative. Very On Brand

 

>>Rude but true Lol I think Binghe doesn’t like me?? He’s respectful but he constantly questions me with such intensity, even for 14 yrs old, I keep questioning myself

 

<< Haha GG

<< But seriously do you know why we’re here? My system won’t answer?

 

>> No idea bro? I was told to ‘fix’. But not what? Or why? Not even sure How?

>> You need to tell me more things about yourself. Binghe only gives me 1pt if I praise him but he gives me 6pts if I tell him something about you. He’s always asking questions about what you like and dislike.

 

<<lol hes so cute. I need to sit on him. I like anything sweet I can eat one-handed, books & the color yellow. i dislike shitty novels and being hot. 

 

Even if Binghe did peek at their secret correspondence disguised as progress reports neither he nor anyone else would be able to interpret the English words. And if someone did, they’d know there was another transmuted.

“Shizun? Can you teach me how to do more finger weaving after dinner?”

Binghe picked up lessons and instructions and any matter of task like the genius he 

“Of course. Take an umbrella when you leave.”

 

***

 

Shen Qingqiu taught only one class at his peak -and he didn’t even have office hours- Calligraphy for all ages. A fairly large class crammed full of students. They worked silently, no one raised their hand. No one asked for help. They stared forward as he talked yet none dared to meet his eyes. Shoulders too stiff and lips pressed tight, movements too precise. It was a room full of babies waiting to be reprimanded and Shen Yuan just wanted to go to each one and cover them with his billowing sleeves and tuck them away in safe warm spots. 

Before class ended he decided to try something new. The rainy season would start soon and it would do all these children good to have hobbies other than slashing things with swords-not that it wasn’t awesome. But variety made a healthy mind, and in the worst case scenario when he couldn’t make up for what the original goods had done to Luo Binghe, he had to give his other children a fighting chance to survive.

Nope, not gonna dwell on that shit. Lock it away. Deep deeeep inside.

Dock points now, we’re talking an alternate route.

[Gege please stick to your script (● ˃̶͈̀ロ˂̶͈́)੭ꠥ⁾⁾]

Haha. No.

[(T-T) Gege I’m going to get in trouble too]

Qingqiu had prepared in advance, asking Yingying and Ming Fan to carry two baskets of rough thread, thin hide strips and small ribbon strips into his class prior. Binghe had wanted to help but had been all but pushed to An Ding to get lessons from Airplane. 

Acting like one of those haughty teachers he saw in every drama ever, Shen Qingqiu motioned to the baskets. “I have two baskets that take two to three pieces that you like. Your hands are too stiff, no one is improving so to make your movements flow, you all will practice hand exercises by finger weaving.”

“Shizun weaving is for commoner girls,” an older boy in the back brought up.

Reminded he wasn’t in his world, it sounded so wrong for the words weaving and girl go together. Menial tasks, of such were usually handled by Betas. He only knew how to do a few because of traditional courting gifts and boredom at the hospital. 

Snapping open his fan, Shen Qingqiu stared down at the young spoiled lord. The boy’s sneer dropped off his face and he bowed low. “Begging Shizun’s pardon.”

“This is how I learned to be graceful-

[(¬_¬) Deducting 15 points]

Objection! I always wanted to say that. As the reader I knew nothing about Shen Qingqiu even when he died. No one else does either. Who's to say a master of four arts didn’t also do crafts? 

 “Finger dexterity will improve calligraphy and handling of weapons.”  He continued to bullshit, simultaneously discussing his case to the class and the system as if he was in a period court drama. His robes swished dramatically as he fanned his face, thinking not to itch a very specific spot that had been aggravating him for the past hour.

Very Ace Attorney. 

To prove his point, he picked up a clean brush and twirled it between the fingers of his left hand, the disciples' eyes all bulging out of their heads. Just to show off, he threw the brush across the room and hit the far wall, striking at the heart of a painted laughing fox scroll. The class exploded in noise, they gasped and clapped, impressed. And now he had the perfect excuse to get rid of that ugly scroll.

[….posting Gege’s response to the Interface for judgment.]

The children scrambled in a mad rush to get supplies. Returning to their seats, fascinated and willing to learn. His head itched something fierce and the crown he wore had been digging into his head the entire class but he grit his teeth and taught them a very simple braid, then how to add twists and when every single student picked both up, he taught them smaller more intricate weaves. Some enterprising youth even asked about beads and charms.

“Scraps will be left in these baskets for whoever wants them. This skill will not only improve your dexterity but can also be utilized for making bracelets, charms, or fixing clothes or armor when on a night hunt. It is important to be self-sufficient.”

Thunder lazily rumbled in the background like a spoiled young master forced to get up. The moisture in the air increased and he dismissed the class expecting the disciples to flee from his presence at the first chance they could take. Very few left. So he stayed in the class past time and examined, criticized and practiced with those brave enough to keep asking him questions. 

From there a trend started. 

 

>> one of my own disciples made me a bracelet with a charm to remind me to eat. Bro you’re doing god's work TT

 

<< Bow down to your new god. They’ve made me so many charms and tassels I’ve started hanging them in my bamboo forest for color

<< where’s my damn pond you hack

 

>>favorite animal

 

<<r u going to braid my hair next? I’m not gay. Sheep or Cardinals.

 

>>Cool cool mine are snow leopards and I am gay.

 

<< yeah Airplane I clocked that

 

>>Rage womber

 

<<Way to insult yourself hack author sell-out

 

The disciples at the peak went wild. Since he allowed them to weave in class, citing how it would help with mental performance-which he knew the other teachers hated him for, there seemed to be a constant flux of necklaces, charms, bracelets, scarves, and so on. He saw more and more disciples wearing chokers and bracelets as he did. It warmed his heart to see the children creating hand-made items for each other and gifting them. 

Go Peak Unity.

 [….wait for review. 30 Points frozen until further notice]

As a thank you for his loyalty to the original goods, and partly out of guilt for taking his friend's body, Shen Qingqui sent Yue Qingyuan a simply braided brown and green sword tassel with his weekly report. If he included some heavily infused spells of protection it was just a coincidence. No explanation or note. If asked he’d deny the item was a gift and he really didn’t want to interact with the sad-eyed man who made him uncomfortable. 

 The next day, he received a beautifully woven green sword tassel with small delicate jade beads and a note that said, “You remember.”

[Yue Satisfaction +25pts] He’d take it!

Huh, he could get points from other characters? What did he remember?

DING! [10 points credited back to Host for adding a new skill to the peak with a vague enough explanation that didn’t raise too much suspicion. OOC lock is still on. (~_~;) Please stop being so stubborn Gege]

When can I get the lock off?

Didi didn’t have an answer, which was stupid but also informative. If Didi lacked the clearance, how did he get permission to speak to the manager? Maybe if he misbehaved more? A little. In character. But helping the disciples

Oh! He had a terribly wonderful idea. 

[Gege, noooo]



***

 

The next day a new class was formed. An optional class in which any student was invited to attend at the end of the day right before dinner. As the peak lord he’d gathered the other teachers on the peak and attempted to coerce one of them into taking the class. Strangely he’d been met with push back and they had all refused. Which left him proctoring the class.

It hadn’t gone well the first day. The disciples didn’t understand. 

The largest room on the peak where all the disciples could cram themselves was the dining hall. Shen Yuan stood at the front, pacing as he talked and gesturing with his fan. The large hall smelt tantalizing as the kitchens nearby cooked up a storm for the small growing bodies. Crammed next to each other, every seat in the hall was taken. Some students- the older ones, leaned against the walls. 

[Gege, I don’t think this constitutes as in-character ( ゚д゚)?]

The original was the chief tactician, why not teach the kids critical thinking? Airplane certainly wrote everyone with a Zero IQ, it can only help.

[(¬_¬) Searching…]

“Debate is not just your individual or family power but your tone of voice, the audience in which you are delivering your words, the words you chose, and the type of argument. Who wants-”

Binghe’s hand shot up and Shen Qingqiu pointed at the eager boy with his fan. Others around groaned and glared at the puppy. A good time to see how his lessons with Qinghua were going. Beside the boy, Ming Fan huffed and slumped onto his desk. Ning Yingying clapped her hands. Binghe scrambled up and stood in front of him, fluffy haired and pink-cheeked with a happy smile and his hands clasped behind his back.

“Our topic will be . . . ” his gaze flickered around the room, wanting to choose something easy. “Chopsticks. You will be on the opposing side.”

A murmur rose through the crowd. Just for fun and because Yingying lacked all common sense in the novels as well as to give his little sheep a good enough excuse to show off in front of his future first-wife, Shen Qingqiu picked the young girl as his opponent. She jumped to her feet with a squeal, braids bouncing. She -like a lot of the disciples- wore a collar around her neck and cute matching green thick bracelets. 

“You will each have one minute of uninterrupted time to state your case before the stage will be given to your opponent. We will go for ten minutes.”

“Yes Shizun,” they chorused. 

The two faced off, their adorable chubby cheeks and wide eyes scrunched up with seriousness. How. Precious. He wanted to sit on them all, just stuff them into his robes and bare his teeth at anyone who approached.

 A cool breeze from outside swirled through the large dining hall, rustling clothes and knocking the scroll paintings against the walls. The entire room was silent, except for the sounds of cooking nearby.

“Ning Yingying,” he played up his act and chose his ‘favorite’ disciple, “begin.”

The end result was a verbal blood bath which left both opponents almost in tears, panting, and glaring at each other. Gods above, good thing he ordered sweets to be served with dinner tonight. He stepped between the two youngest disciples on the peak and placed his hands on their heads, to praise them but also just in case they did leap at each other. They preened, frowns melting from their faces.

No, Binghe, you’re supposed to impress her with your knowledge or let her win. Not eviscerate your future wife in front of her martial brothers. Said girl looked mad enough to take the chopsticks in question and stab one through each eye. The hall broke out into cheering.

“Now, let us discuss what each opponent did right and how they can improve next time. First comment?”

A boy in the back, the one he recognized from his first day in his new body, raised his fan. Shen Qingqiu pointed to him. “The boy made a good argument about how chopsticks cannot scoop but the girl didn’t branch out and mention how chopsticks could be used for hair or killing.”

DING! [Approved…. (・・?)]

See Didi, no worries. Arguing is fun.

He ended the class right before dinner, sweeping out of the dining hall, leaving discussion in his wake as thunderclouds rumbled and Binghe eagerly chatted at his side, asking what he’d like for dinner and if they could practice more. Qingqiu held a green umbrella above their heads as rain lightly pattered down, a soft mist rising from the warm ground. 

A strike of lightning hit the ground right in front of them as a voice, mechanical and reverberating into his bones, shouted inside his head, so loudly his vision whited out.

[[ Universal Revising Interface warns user #726 Name: Shen Yuan playing Shen Qingqiu, real name Shen Jiu, to stick to script and cease changing unnecessary plot. No other warning will be given. One more infraction and a penalty protocol will be enacted]]

“Shizun,” Binghe tugged on his sleeve, large eyes worried. “What’s wrong?” He glanced around the empty bamboo forest and the fluttering colorful charms around them. 

Shen Qingqiu couldn't move, his body locked in position. 

[ヽ(・Д・)ノ]

Agreed Didi, fuck!

Chapter Text

[Gege]

[Gege]

[Gege]

Shen Qingqiu considered renaming his Didi system to Muquin just because the thing nagged him instantly. Only in dramas had he ever seen omega hens annoying another character to such an extent. It was similar to having a slightly incompetent personal assistant with him 24/7. Not inherently bad, since he always had someone to talk with and his ultimate goal was to sway the system into fully comprehending and appreciating all the amazing and adorable qualities of Luo Binghe, but the down side came with unrelenting anxiety. A time clock that spoke. Strange because he’d been led to believe technology and AI systems couldn't develop anxiety or fear but his did!

[Gege T^T]

He ignored Didi for now. As he did most things. A professional ignorer.

Living his best life with zero thoughts.

Everything was fine.

Steadily losing and gaining points at such a rapid rate, he also didn’t spend any time -except at night when he lay awake staring at the ceiling cursing himself- considering the consequences. 

Yep, everything was just peachy.

Time passed as it did. Hours, days, weeks and suddenly when he sat back and thought about it months had gone by. One of the major factors for his loss of time was his ‘new’ peak duties and the slow acclimation to a foreign world. Constantly surrounded by babies everywhere made it better. And worse.

Children were everywhere and they wanted his attention. He couldn’t take a single step without some bright eyed and chipper greeting from a fresh faced baby. He couldn’t help patting their heads, cooing at their projects or gifts. His new -personally assigned- personal assistant, Luo Binghe, was always at his heels. The worst of the offenders, and the most touch-starved of them all.

It was lovely.

And overwhelming.

“Shizun, look at this rock I found,” a young boy with a shy grin held out a beautiful blue rock.

[+6 pts for background building]

“Yes, please put it in the rock garden.” He instructed the boy. The area next to his new (yeah!) pond had developed into a rock garden due to the amount of rocks the disciples would give him. Shiny was his favorite.

[-5 pts OOC]

“Shizun, do you like this wind chime?” An older boy held up an intricate woven chime with small brass bells at the bottom. 

[+7pts for Peak skill increase]

“Yes, thank you, hang it with the others.” 

[-8pts OOC]

The bamboo forest teamed with colorful chimes, charms and ribbons the disciples made him. A few crafty ones had even carved out bird houses that only increased the noise by his pond. Crafting had exploded as a hobby, and color bloomed over the peak like a flower popping out of the snow. Disciples wore handmade items, passed them to their martial siblings, teachers, him, and even decorated their areas.

The peak might not have a scent, which still irked him, but it had a feel, a sense about it, that this was his territory, lovingly reinforced by his children. The more they made, the larger his heart felt and the deeper his sense of responsibility grew.

“Shizun, I made you a rock statue.” 

Oh how lovely, another. 

[+ 4 pts for Side character growth]

“Shizun, do you like my calligraphy?”

[+2pts for Peak skill increase]

“Shizun, I made another disciple of Bai Zhan cry. Can I have some candy?” Yingying chirped with a wide smile, her hands open wide for treats he kept tucked in his pockets. “I didn’t even use my sword, just my words.

[+ 1 pts for Ning Yingying satisfaction]

“I’ll win next time.” Luo Binghe huffed and crossed his arms over his chest, she stuck her tongue out at him. Rude protagonist, that's not how you treat your future first wife. 

“Sure, sure,” the girl dismissed him with a wave. Took her treat, hugged him, and scampered off.

Debates had become a hot-topic on the peak and some of the other peak lords had even sent him scathing letters that his disciples were bullying there's. Which was not true and sort of hilarious. He’d have to make next week's topic- during debate class- be bullying which all his disciples knew he no longer tolerated. 

The upside of debate was that disciples devoured study material and swarmed the library. The more they knew the better they performed in debate. Plus he’d always thought that the mob characters in PIDW had an IQ of zero, it was truly the best for everyone. It warmed his heart to see them breaking into groups and practicing.

“Shizun, take my flower arrangement.”

“Shizun, A-Zhou won’t accept my duel challenge.”

“Shizun.”

“Shizun.”

Head pat.

[-5pts OOC]

Praise.

[-10pts OOC]

The points flew over his head and he ignored them. However, it was Luo Binghe who continued to save him as any good protagonist did. He got the most points being with the protagonist and doting on him, feeding him, giving him new clothes, yarn, beads, even his own ribbons.

[GEGE! ヽ(TдT)ノ STOP!]

Another head pat. Just to defy.

Shen Qingqui, just to be a petty bitch, considered leaning down and kissing Binghe the next time the little bunny did something that made his heart clench, like making his favorite foods or sweets, wondering if he could give his system a heart attack. 

He didn’t but he thought about it. His brother, from the other world, would have called that ‘character growth’ in a mocking tone. Plus five points to him.

 

***

 

“This disciples has found that assigned homework has cut down on time that could be better spent in a more productive manner to further my cultivation instead of wasted on assignments which do not promote my own growth and learning,” Su Xioadan argued passionately.

Her tirade cut short by the doors to the dining hall being opened and  a booming male voice calling out.

“Shen-Shidi?” The sad widower Yue Qingyuan interrupted debate class.

The two disciples who stood in front of him on either side had been fervently debating whether homework should be assigned after a lesson or if it does promote learning? He suspected they were especially feral over this week's topic in hopes he, as the peak lord, would ban homework. The fourth pair that night and the last session had gotten - as it did- heated. 

Luckily this week hadn’t resulted in a fist fight. The night was young and his disciples full of energy.

A groan passed through the audience in the large dining hall, watching in rapt attention at the debate. He waved a hand and dismissed the topic. Better not keep the sad-eyed Sect Leader waiting.

“Next week will be the ethical dilemma of killing demons.”

A murmur broke through the disciples. Even a few of the teachers, watching in the back, were stunned at the announced topic.

“Shizun,” his own senior head disciple, raised a lazy hand. “What does that even mean? Demons are evil. We kill them.” Nods followed his statement.

Shen Qingqui languidly swept his sharp eyes across the room, lightly fanning himself as if he had all the time in the world. His gaze ended on Binghe, the trembling sheep that perked up at his attention. “Humans are also evil, they have done some horrific things too. Should we kill every human for what a few have done? What's to say there are no good demons? However, that's everyone's homework this week.”

If more disciples were accepting, maybe Binghe might not have become so cruel and vindictive? His favorite character was a demon. His bias showed. 

A groan swirled through the hall like a breeze and he nodded, hiding a smile. Dinner was served, a tad late, and he walked out to meet the Sect Leader, not wanting too at all. Binghe trailed behind him, wringing his hands.

“I will meet you at the house, don’t wait for me.” He instructed the boy with a head pat. These few months he’d fattened the boy up under the ingenious plot of making him eat at his table. 

“Yes, Shizun.” Binghe bit his lips, hesitated, glanced at the Sect Leader then reluctantly left at a run.

Finally giving the sad man his reluctant attention, Shen Qingqiu waves his hand and they slowly walked towards his house. Behind the two the dining hall erupted with noise, plates clinking, voices yelling and laughing, mouths chewing as they talked.

“What class was that?” Qingyuan began the conversation.

Averting his eyes from the man, knowing he shouldn’t lie, Qingqiu answered. “This master noticed a lack of common sense on his peak and thus sought to rectify the issue with an extra class one a week before dinner. This master calls it ‘debate class’ since the disciples are required to argue their side of a topic for five minutes, following a review from me and their peers.”

“A sound idea,” Qingyuan answered after a long pause that made Qingqui sweat. “Fitting for the peak founded on the arts and intelligence.”

Was that a compliment? Why? Feeling like his feathers had gotten ruffled and desperately needing this unknown man off his territory, Shen Qingqui got to the point, “what is so important that the Sect Leader himself would come to see me?”

“There is talk of a demon attack in the village below, and Shidi before your fever asked to be given leave off the mountain to take some disciples.” The Sect Leader stepped close enough, their elbows brushed lightly and Shen Yuan became reminded he took the body of the person Qingyuan cared for most in the world.

Despite the man’s giant size, which would have made him an omega, his passive and appeasing nature fit more with a beta. Neither of which Shen Yuan had ever been attracted to. He wasn’t gay, he preferred Alphas who were shorter than either betas or omegas, with leaner bodies and prettier faces. A provider and fighter to support the more aggressive and intense tendencies of being an omega . There wasn’t anythign wrong with being gay, he’d know a few, he just wasn’t. As an omega who’d desperately wanted children, he wanted an Alpha, found them more aesthetically pleasing too. Even in this new world, without the second genders, he couldn’t ever see himself being with Qingyuan. It would be a conflict of interest or like banging the principle.

 “Is this Shidi’s request going to be denied,” Shen Yuan said in a more demure voice, hating how he was playing the sad man but wanting to get off the peak if only for a little while. 

“Yes,” Qingyuan said. He reached into his robes and pulled out two brown tassels, one he recognized as the one he’d recently made and a frayed and lopsided one that he did not.

Oh, shit. Had the original goods made him one too? What were the blizzard odds they looked the exact same?

“Do you remember,” the Sect Leader held them both up.

[+10 pts for expanding backstory]

“No, who gave that to you?” he said in a light tone, still gently, expecting the wince and hating how he hurt the taller man but refusing to be a character he wasn’t.

[-15 pts for Yue Qingyuan heartbreak]

That was a thing?

Now he definitely could never push Binghe into the Abyss.

The Sect Leader tucked both tassels back into his robes, the sad look in his eyes increasing until he could have been a basset hound. They finished the walk to his house in silence. 



***



He chose twenty small duckies. As written in PIDW, the first mission Luo Binghe had gone on was a small journey to the nearby village to hunt a skin-stealing demon. Qingqiu vibrated under his skin. Finally a chance to escape and see the world. 

“Shizun my saddle is broken can I-”

“I fixed it,” Ming Fan elbowed his martial brother in the side. 

Binghe frowned deeply at the older boy as if he’d been mortally wounded and Shen Qingqiu raised his fan to hide a smile. Debate club had done wonders for the comradery on the peak. Children could fight -in a civil manner- with not only their swords but their minds. Hopefully some of Binghe’s and (surprisingly) Yingying’s freighting intelligence would rub off on Ming Fan. 

“Shizun,” Yingying ran up to the group, late. “I found (read: hunted them down like a shark sensing blood) and made a Bai Zhan disciple cry when I quoted him the seven virtues and questioned his motives for constantly fighting and not taking lessons. Can I have a piece of candy?” 

She held out her hand and Shen Qingqiu, without a thought, deposited a single piece from the pouch he kept tucked in his sleeve. Was he training the disciples or were they training him for sweets and head pats?

[+ 1 pts for Ning Yingying satisfaction ]

Yinying had become the fiercest in her age-group, even going so far as to search for others to debate with. He’d heard one student whisper to another that the debates were ‘tongue wars,’ and he’d almost choked on air, cheeks flushing at the unknown innuendo. The change in Ning Yingying’s demure and  passive attitude from the books to this now demanding and slightly feral alpha was a welcome change which did fit with Binghe’s 180 from Alpha of all Alphas to the slightly overbearing mother hen omega that walked in his shadow. 

They still had a chance.

Said feral cute girl grinned and the others around glared or looked sad at the exchange. Worried a fight would break out or Luo Binghe would find another way to sabotage his horse to ride with him, he loudly declared it was time to leave. The small group all got mounted and the small procession headed down the mountain.

Finally, more of the world to see.

[Starting First Mission: Failure to stop the demon will result in a deduction of 200B points]

Oh he definitely had less than that. 

Didi how many do I have?

[92  %!$@%#%@#!%#$!@]

Ohhhh, well, that wasn’t good.

[GEGE, it's more than not good]

“Shizun,” Binghe called in a sweet chirpy voice. “ I made snacks, would you like some?” The perfect little omega.

“Snacks?” Ning Yingying jumped on her far too patient mount.

“Snacks?” others perked up with hopeful expressions.

Yep, pavloved.

“No, they’re for Shizun,” Binghe defended the pack in front of him like a hen roosts on eggs.

Making his lips curve up into a smile, sweat dripping down his back, lightly fanning himself when he really wanted to run back to his bamboo house screaming -his new pond was lovely to be around- Shen Qingqiu was the picture of serenity.

“Binghe you should share with your martial siblings, it’s important.”

“Yes Shizun,” Binghe reluctantly allowed the others to reach into the box and take treats until there was only one left for him which he took, leaning out the carriage window and shoved in Binghe’s open mouth. The adorable boys' cheeks puffed like a little bunny’s, his nose even twitching as it scrunched up.

[-25 pts for OOC behavior]

[FUCK] his system cursed for the first time. 

He congratulated his Didi on actually cursing and received even more in response. Too bad his system couldn't have sweets, it deserved some.

Despite the sudden profanity, and the lack of points, the death sentence constantly handing over him, and the noose around his throat, Shen Qingqiu lightly stroked Binghe’s hair. The poor protagonist flushed from the hot sun and the heat.

“Binghe deserves sweets too.”

[-10 pts for OOC behavior]

“Yes Shizun.”

[+20 protagonist satisfaction points]