Luo Binghe still liked to remember that day. The sun was blazing as his hands were covered in dirt, desperately trying to dig faster in hopes that one of the masters would notice him. He had been close to giving up when a shadow fell over him.
For a moment he thought a god had descended. Pristine white robes, silky black hair moving in the wind and that gentle and soft face that looked like it would forgive any transgression he could have done.
“Come,” the god said in a voice that sounded sweeter than anything he had ever heard before, “Shifu wishes to see you.”
“Binghe, there you are. I’ve been looking for you.” Shen Yuan smiled as he entered the room and sat down beside him. He gently leaned into him, their shoulders pressing together as he looked over Luo Binghe’s writing, the boy having to suppress the shiver running down his spine at the contact. “I see your calligraphy is progressing nicely.”
“Yes, all thanks to Shizun.”
“I’m not your Shizun. Try again.” Shen Yuan hit him with his fan but there was no heat behind it. Luo Binghe gave him a sheepish smile.
“Wrong again! Give some face to Shifu and Ming Fan, will you!” The hits by the fan became more incessant but Luo Binghe didn’t try to dodge, instead watching the anger colour the other disciples face. When he felt he had delivered an appropriate beating Shen Yuan opened his fan with a huff and covered his face with it. “Seriously. You are a disciple of the Qing Jing Peak, the least you could do is address your elders appropriately.”
“Then isn’t it right for me to call the one who taught me Shizun?” He got another whack on the head.
“I already told you I’m not your Shizun! If I taught you then I can’t remember teaching you to be this cheeky!” It was an old argument between them but Shen Yuan could still get this angry about it. He just couldn’t resist teasing his elder like this, not when his face red with anger was this lovely.
After joining the sect Luo Binghe had found out that the one who came for him was not a god but Shen Yuan, disciple of Qing Jing Peak and younger brother its Peak Lord. Gentle, kind and talented, the teen was a bit of an idol on his peak, something Luo Binghe learnt as soon as he met his Shifu.
In contrast to his brother Shen Qingqiu was an unyielding man, his face in a seemingly constant state of stoic displeasure. As soon as Luo Binghe had served them tea the immortal snapped his fan shut and pointed it at the boy, his eyes narrowed into a fierce glare.
“Listen brat, this master did not pick you out of the goodness of the heart nor do I care for any talents you may have. You are only here because of a requests by one of my disciples. Do you understand?”
Luo Binghe nodded with a gulp. Shen Qingqiu continued. “Good. There are many rules but there is one that you should follow the most: stay away from Shen Yuan. If you fail to follow that rule then this master will not hesitate to punish you.”
“Y-Yes, Shifu, this disciple understands.” He was shivering like a leaf, terrified of what his Shifu meant with punishment. Even if he wanted to be closer to his god he would have to bury that desire deep inside of him to avoid getting in trouble.
The peak lord nodded and took a sip of his tea. He grimaced, his nose wrinkling in distaste. “This is awful. You will learn to brew proper tea in your time here.”
As soon as he was dismissed Luo Binghe found that his promise to his Shifu was impossible to keep because Shen Yuan had been waiting for him, insisting to show him around. Every time he so much as thought about avoiding him the older disciple seemed to appear with a gentle smile and a guiding hand and Luo Binghe was too starved for affection to deny him.
Some of the other disciples, like Ning Yingying, were happy that their elder was taking care of him but others, like head disciple Ming Fan, took offense to the amount of time he spent with Shen Yuan which meant he neglected to help him in his cultivation training. Which just meant that Shen Yuan took it upon himself to help their youngest disciple catch up which meant they spent even more time together which made Ming Fan even more angry. It was a vicious cycle but one that Luo Binghe didn’t mind much.
“I still don’t understand why Shifu and Ming Fan refuse to teach you. Binghe is so talented, it’s a shame not to nurture it!” He felt warmth spread in his chest as he heard Shen Yuan’s anger over his situation even if he didn’t share the sentiment.
“As long as Shizun is there to nurture me I don’t mind being ignored by everyone else,” he replied with a smile. Shen Yuan gave him a sceptical glance over his fan, seemingly deciding if he should beat him again but ultimately deciding against it.
“This attitude will get you in trouble one of these days. I don’t know how you got away with it for so long.” Probably because every disciple agreed that Shen Yuan was more of a Shizun to them than Shen Qingqiu was, but he didn’t need to know that. “Anyway, that’s not why I was looking for you. Shifu has a new task for you.”
“Is it another hunt down the mountain?”
“Yes, Shifu has been sending you on a lot of those lately. I’ve hardly eaten your cooking because of it.” Shen Yuan bumped their shoulders together again and Luo Binghe felt his heart speed up. “Even though I got used to the food here, it’s terrible compared to yours! I wish he would just send someone else on those missions instead!”
That would defeat the whole point of the missions. Once Shen Qingqiu had realised that he couldn’t keep Luo Binghe away from his brother he had used his cultivation skills against him by sending him on hunts by himself for “training”. Which was code for “if I can’t stop him from seeking you out then I will make it impossible for him to meet you”.
“I tried to argue with him so often but he just won’t listen! He’s so stubborn!” Shen Yuan complained some more. He was quiet for a moment before a dangerou glint entered his eyes. “It’s been some time since I’ve been down the mountain. Perhaps I should change that.”
Luo Binghe froze. “Shizun, you can’t mean that you’ll come with me, right? Shifu would never allow that.”
“Do you think he can stop me?” There was that mischievousness in his eyes that any other disciple would be beaten for. While he would love to fight by Shen Yuan’s side - his use of his fan along with his sword was a thing of beauty - the thought of getting him in trouble or even hurt during the hunt dampened his enthusiasm a bit.
“Shizun, I will do my best to finish quickly and hurry back, so please be patient until then. I’ll cook your favourites so please don’t cause any trouble.”
Shen Yuan pouted which made resisting to kiss him that much harder. After a moment he looked away, his face hidden behind the fan again. “And here I was hoping I would get to see how good Binghe has gotten. What a shame.”
His heart skipped a beat. Was Shen Yuan also looking forward to fighting side by side? Because the older disciple was beautiful and talented and coveted by so many Luo Binghe had tried his best to get strong quickly to catch up with him but could it be that Shen Yuan also wanted them to equals? The thought made him dizzy but also warm inside.
“The Immortal Alliance Conference.”
“Shizun will enter next year, right? So I will do my best to improve so please be patient until then.”
Shen Yuan just stared at him for a moment before his surprise melted away into a soft smile. he raised a hand and gently patted Luo Binghe’s head. “Very well, I will wait. But Binghe better not disappoint me, understood?”
“Good, now up you go! Shifu said he wants you to leave as soon as possible and we’ve already wasted enough time.” As they got to their feet, Luo Binghe happily found that he had grown again, now being the same height despite being younger. It probably wouldn’t be long before he was bigger than Shen Yuan which meant holding him would be so much easier…
He shook the thought out of his head. The Immortal Alliance Conference. He would get stronger and place first. Then he would confess his feelings. With all his accomplishments even Shen Qingqiu wouldn’t object to him courting Shen Yuan. He just had to wait a little longer. Luo Binghe smiled at the thought.