Actions

Work Header

Misunderstandings

Chapter Text

Luo Binghe wants everything.

Power has made him greedy. He’s turning real all of his teenager’s dreams: countless palaces, an army, an unbeatable sword, and one hundred wives who love him. He knows that in a few years he’ll conquer the three worlds and will become the only ruler.

However, the trip to the mirror dimension has left him confused. Because he had in his hands something unique and strange, more beautiful than some jewels, a treasure that he had never valued before.

The demon almost laughs at the irony. His own shizun is locked up in the Water Prison while he was kissing the other one.

Luo Binghe wants everything. His palaces, his army, his magic sword, his wives… and now he also wants Shen Qingqiu.

 

Shen Qingqiu raises his head when he hears footsteps. As always, he freezes when he sees the demon, but hides his fear behind a cold expression. He doesn't say anything despite the bitter words he feels in his tongue. Beast. Monster. Mongrel.

Luo Binghe smirks when he looks at him. His attitude is… odd. There’s something different and Shen Qingqiu hates not knowing what it is.

They remain in silence for a few minutes until the demon kneels in front of him. Shen Qingqiu tries to turn his head, but Luo Binghe had caught his jaw.

“Stop running from me.” He orders. “It’s boring.”

“The last time you said you’re going to dismember me little by little.” Despite his efforts, fear makes his words tremble.

Luo Binghe’s eyes sparkle as if he had forgotten about that.

“I changed my mind.”

Shen Qinqgiu is expectant, but not relieved at all. If the monster had changed his mind, it only would be for the worst.

“What do you want?”

“Something you deny me...” Luo Binghe gets up. He’s taller, ferocious, and dangerous. He makes Shen Qingqiu shiver in the deep of his heart.

He's more scared than he'll ever admit.

“I want your love.”

I want you to love me as the other shizun loves the other Luo. Luo Binghe thinks. I want to wake up with you in my arms. I want you to heal my wounds and braid my hair.

He’s simpler than I thought… Shen Qingqiu thinks. Now that he has everything he also wants a beloved teacher.

The idea makes him sick. Luo Binghe notices and his smile turns into a grimace. “You’ll choose what fate you prefer: with me or without limbs.”

You’re a spoiled monster. Shen Qingqiu clenches his teeth before raising his head proudly. “Promise me you’ll never attack Cang Qiong Mountain Sect and I’ll give you what you want.”

Shen Qingqiu doesn’t care about his sect. He worries about Yue Qingyuan, but he’ll never recognize it out loud.

Luo Binghe nods before bending down to release him. “It’s a deal.” He says with a dark tone.

Shen Qingqiu allows him to help him up. He’s weak and Luo Binghe has to hold his arms so he doesn’t stumble. They walk in silence out of the prison.

It’s been… so easy. Luo Binghe is not completely happy. Maybe he has Shen Qingqiu, but his teacher is not the kind shizun he wants. It doesn’t matter. In the end, he always obtains what he wishes. I never had a husband before. I will have to court him properly.

It’s not a bad deal. Shen Qingqiu thinks. He’s too powerful. He can destroy me and the entire world. And he’s a survivor. Maybe it’s not too late to turn me into his master and gain a place by his side.

Chapter Text

Qiu Haitang appears in his rooms without warning. Luo Binghe looks at his wife, curious.

“Is that true?” She asks. “Did you release Shen Qinqgiu?”

“Yes.”

“Why? He is a murderer, and a monster, and...”

“So I am.” Luo Binghe smiles. “He will be my next husband.”

Qiu Haitang opens her mouth, stunned and speechless.

 

Shen Qingqiu admits that Luo Binghe has given him a nice room. His new prison remembers him at his bamboo house. It makes sense if he wants to repeat those days. Shen Qinqgiu doesn’t regret his decision. Just having a warm bed is already a great improvement, but it also has books, new tunics, and brushes.

He’s still browsing when the door opens and the sweet voice of Ning Yingying asks permission to enter. Shen Qingqiu nods.

His old pupil is now a beautiful woman. She was smarter than me. He thinks when he notices her luxurious dress and the jewels in her hair, wrist, and neck. Being one of his wives it’s a wise choice.

“This student is glad to see her shizun again.” She says, polite and kind as always. Maybe she’s the only one who’ll never hate him.

Shen Qingqiu almost scolds her. He’s not his shizun anymore but… maybe Luo Binghe wants it? “I’m glad too.” 

“I was worried.” Ning Yingying approaches with clasped hands. “I know that A-Luo… doesn’t like you very much.”

“It’s ok, you can say it: he hates me.”

“But he finally has freed you!” She’s genuinely happy. Shen Qingqiu sighs. Her innocence is astonishing, but for once he doesn’t care. “Even so… I’m surprised by the change. You two have made up?”

“More or less.” Shen Qingqiu thinks carefully about his answer. Ning Yingying is incapable of being malicious, but she’ll probably tell everything to Luo Binghe. “It’s a bit late, but I’m going to become the shizun he deserves.”

“That’s great!”

Her eyes shine.

 

Qiu Haitang tries to change his mind without success. It’s even funny. Luo Binghe listens with a genuine smile until her wife sighs.

“You’re determined, right?”

Luo Binghe nods.

“I just… I don't want him to hurt you!”

“He can’t. Not now.”

And he can’t make him hurt more than in the past. His old feelings gurgle in his chest. He can’t forget… but the memories are vanishing thanks to that kind shizun. Luo Binghe doesn’t want to be stuck in the past, instead, he’ll claim the future of his dreams.

“He used to be your fiance.” Luo Binghe remembers, staring at Qiu Haitang. “Tell me, what does he like? I need your advice.”

His wife is still dissatisfied but helps him after a sigh.

“I remember… He was happy when I gave him books.”

 

In the end, Ning Yingying and Shen Qingqiu ended up having tea.

“I’ll need your help.” Shen Qingqiu mumbles some bitter words that burn in his throat. “What did Luo Binghe want from me when you two were students?”

“Hmmm… Your attention. You were so distant… And A-Luo was having a very bad time in those days. He’ll probably enjoy everything you prepare for him. Maybe practice calligraphy?”

Shen Qingqiu listens to all her ideas. It can't be so hard to act as Luo Binghe’s ideal shizun. However, that night, when Ning Yingying was gone and the demon appeared, he had to bite his tongue.

“Good night, shizun.”

Shen Qingqiu breaths before looking at Luo Binghe’s eyes. “Good night, Luo Binghe.” Is the first time he has said his name in the last few years. It’s unpleasant, but the demon smiles how he used to do.

Is a beautiful smile, of course. Shiny and genuine.

Shen Qingqiu urgently needs a fan. Instead, he tilts his head, hiding his reaction. “It’s late. You should be resting.”

“This one wants to give a present to his shizun.”

It’s a book. Shen Qingqiu reads the first pages. It’s about… flowers and venoms? I suppose that’s the lesson he wants. He closes the books and nods. “I’ll read it carefully.”

He tries to smile back but is too hard. It doesn’t matter because Luo Binghe looks satisfied.

Chapter Text

Liu Mingyan appears when Shen Qingiu and Ning Yinying are walking in the gardens. Even though the two women greet each other affectionately, Liu Mingyan looks with resentment at Shen Qingqiu. Her veil almost hides her emotions, but her displeasure is evident.

“I want to know if you killed my brother.”

Shen Qingqiu sighs. He had been avoiding that question for so long and he still doesn't want to answer. But Liu Mingyan is one of Luo Binghe’s favorite wives. I guess I can't offend them either. What a shame.

Shen Qingqiu takes a deep breath before looking at the woman's eye. They are eerily similar to his brother's.

“I don’t know.” He responds, bitterly. “I cannot remember. We both ended up in a qi deviation.”

“Why did you never tell us that part?” Liu Mingyan insists.

“Cause I failed.”

The woman’s eyes widen when she realizes what that means.

“You try to save him…? No. That’s not true. I cannot accept it!”

“Why are you asking me if you can't believe me?” Shen Qingqiu controls himself so as not to use irony. “I don’t care if you accept it or not. The truth is I don’t know and I’ll never forget about what happened.”

Ning Yingying hugs Liu Mingyan. The woman is shivering and her eyes shine because of the tears. “One last question.” Despite her state, her voice is clear. “Did you want him dead?”

“Do you really want to hear it?” Shen Qingqiu sighs when she nods. “No. He was an idiot and an asshole. I wish he had lost miserably one day, not that he was dead.”

He can’t see it, but Shen Qingqiu feels that Liu Mingyan is smiling. After that, she joins their walk. They remain in silence despite Ning Yingying’s effort to start a conversation.

When they arrived at the training camp, Luo Binghe was there.

“Yingying, Mingyan...” The demon greets them with a smile. When he looks at Shen Qingqiu he hesitates as if he doesn’t know what to say. “Shizun.”

Shen Qingqiu nods. Maybe that’s a great opportunity to act as his ideal teacher.

“Are you going to train?” Shen Qingqiu asks. “I would like to see you.”

Luo Binghe is confused. And glad. I need to talk with Haitang later. He thinks. Her idea has been a success. He'd never imagined that one book would get that kind of attention. And now Shen Qingqiu WANTS to SEE HIM. Maybe his eyes are still cold and he doesn’t smile, but it’s an advance.

Luo Binghe goes to his favorite place accompanied by his two wives (and future husband). That morning Ning Yingying is lazy and she prefers to sit in a corner. Luo Binghe gives her his coat… and some more clothes. He has a lot of exposed skin when he joins Liu Mingyan in a demonstration.

Shen Qingqiu is watching in silence. He promptly discovers that Luo Binghe is a formidable warrior, but his technique is barbaric. He looks like a Bai Zhan disciple more than a Qing Jing. Shen Qingqiu claps his hands how he used to do.

“Not bad.” It’s hard to be nice. He doesn't know how to give compliments and Luo Binghe looks expectant. “You have improved a lot.” Shen Qingqiu approaches the two and puts his hand in Luo Binghe’s back. “But you must improve your posture. Like that.” With one hand he puts Luo Binghe straight and the other he guides his arm. “Try again.”

Instead of returning to his fight, Luo Binghe is looking at him with an amusing smile. Shen Qingqiu shivers. He doesn’t understand why he feels trapped by a depredator’s gaze.

“This one would be happy fighting with you.”

Is he mad? It’s a trap? Shen Qingqiu tries to control himself. “Alright.”

Looks like that’s the correct answer. Luo Binghe has one of those dazzling smiles that makes him look away.

Luo Binghe uses his sword to open a portal. In a few minutes, Shen Qingqiu has Xiu Ya in his hands. Nostalgia bits his heart. He thought that he would never be able to wield it again.

They fight. Luo Binghe’s movements are ravenous. Shen Qingqiu feels that instead of defeating him he wants to devour him. The last months chained in the prison have left him weak. Shen Qingqiu tries to hide his frailty with elegance. But it's a matter of time that he loses.

Shen Qingqiu falls to the ground and Luo Binghe pins him down. If it wasn't enough to lose, also he has caught his wrists. He’s too close and Shen Qingqiu fears that he may discover his rage.

“You win.” Shen Qingqiu says bitterly. “Now, get up!”

Surprisingly, he listens to him. Demons had strange fighting techniques. Shen Qingqiu growls before taking a deep breath. “Not bad.”

Luo Binghe frowns. Shen Qingqiu’s words are too ambiguous. He watches how his shizun dust off his clothes. He doesn’t lose his elegance and his gaze is defiant when he points his sword at him.

They fight again. This time his shizun cheats. Shen Qingqiu controls the leaves using his qi. Luo Binghe gets distracted. A few leaves are no threat, but the man sneaks taking advantage of his lapse. When Luo Binghe tries to repeat his last movement, Shen Qingqiu fools him.

Luo Binghe stumbles from his strength. His back hits the ground. And Shen Qingqiu ends up on his chest, rubbing his neck with Xiu Ya’s edge. Luo Binghe blinks. It’s not an illusion: shizun is smiling. His smile is twisted, unkind, and too different from the other. Maybe it’s not the smile he is looking for, but it’s only his.

Luo Binghe can easily dispose of Shen Qingqiu, but he’s enjoying that closeness.

“I win.” Shen Qingqiu says. His satisfaction is genuine and Luo Binghe thinks he understands what happened.

You prefer to be on top. He doesn’t care. Luo Binghe is a versatile lover. He tries to touch Shen Qingqiu's legs, but he has already risen.

“It's okay for today. We will continue another day.”

Luo Binghe accepts it. He is patient and he wants to delight in his new game. And shizun is surprisingly giving him what he wishes.

 

“That’s weird.” Liu Mingyan says to Ning Yingying. “Qiu Haitang told me that Binghe was courting Shen Qingqiu. I thought that was a stupid rumor but now… I’m not sure.”

“Don’t be silly!” Her friend laughs. “Shizun just wants to act as his master.”

“Well, his teaching is a bit strange...”

Chapter Text

Qiu Haitang looks at Liu Mingyan with an incredulous expression.

“You can’t be serious.” She says, babbling. “He’s a murderer!”

“I didn’t say that I forgive him.” Liu Mingyan sighs. “It’s just… He seems sincere. Maybe I was wrong all the time and he didn’t kill my brother. Maybe I’ll never know. But If Binghe can forget him and move on, I want to try too.”

Qiu Haitang trembles and her eyes shine with tears. And that moment she is no longer an adult woman, but that girl whose family was murdered. Liu Mingyan and Ning Yingying exchange a look before hugging her.

“Why am I the only one stuck in the past?” Qiu Haitang cries.

“Tssss… It’s okay. You’re not alone anymore.” Ning Yingying pets her head. “We are a family now.”

“And you can always ask him what happened.” Liu Mingyan says. “Maybe you’ll get a surprise just like me.”

Qiu Haitang looks at her friends (also sisters) before smiling, the tears still shining on her cheeks. “Thanks.”

Today she can’t dare to talk to Shen Qingqiu, she can't even see him, but one day she will.

Liu Mingyan and Ning Yingying say goodbye before going to Shen Qingqiu’s room. In the end, they didn’t dare to ask her about that rumor. While Ning Yingyiny doesn’t believe it, Liu Mingyan has her doubts. So, the two of them have decided to do some research.

They hear one beautiful melody when they enter the corridor. Is a guqin. The song is as melancholic as sad, and Ning Yingying feels a tightness in her chest.

Shen Qingqiu stops playing when they arrive at his room.

“Good morning, shizun.” Ning Yingying bows. For a moment she has the impression her master has tensed, but he greets her normally.

“Do you want something?”

Shen Qingqiu is uncomfortable with those two there. He can't trust them, not as long as Luo Binghe's shadow covers them. Anxious, he looks at the door. He has the feeling that the demon will appear at any moment. Shen Qingqiu doesn't even relax when they smile and ask him to keep playing. 

He doesn't refuse either.

Shen Qingqiu ignores them and focuses on the guqin with his eyes closed. He extracts the instrument a new melody, serene as the breeze in a bamboo forest. With witnesses, he doesn't dare to plunge emotionally as before. He just plays, following the whispers and breaths of the two women.

He almost freezes when he hears new steps entering the room.

Shen Qingqiu will always recognize Luo Binghe's footsteps. For weeks they were a warning sign. The demon is not subtle: he wants to be heard and let everyone know that he is there even if you can't see him. Her presence is mischievous and dark. Shen Qingqiu knows he is behind his back, probably standing in the center of the room. He can feel his gaze on the back of his neck.

Shen Qingqiu breathes, stopping the music. And he turns to him more nervous than his face shows. “Luo Binghe.”

Although Luo Binghe's smile no longer scares him as much as before, he’s still restless.

“Shizun.” The demon nods. “Please, don’t stop. It was quite beautiful.”

Shen Qingqiu takes a deep breath. Maybe it's time for another lesson.

“Sit by my side… please.”

Luo Binghe raises an eyebrow, amused. He approaches under the watchful eye of his wives. Shen Qingqiu tries to remain calm when he sits, too close, too vigilant. Their arms brush when he begins to play. It’s the same melody, but this time his fingers are rigid and he can’t breathe normally. He’ll never get used to Luo Binghe just sitting next to him. Shen Qingqiu doesn't even remember that he allowed his disciples to get so close.

But this is such an exceptional circumstance as Luo Binghe.

The song dies and Shen Qingqiu turns to his disciple.

“This master wants to hear you now.”

From his shocked expression, Luo Binghe didn't seem to expect that. I’m not going to raise more lazy disciples. He thinks, getting up. Luo Binghe leans over the guqin as he takes a step back.

Even if he plays the same melody, it sounds drastically different. Shen Qingqiu frowns, although inside he’s blissful because he has finally surpassed him in something. More than playing the guqin, it seems that he’s torturing the instrument. Luo Binghe’s hands are made to break bones and start screams, not playing songs.

Perhaps he’s exaggerating? Shen Qingqiu values, unable to believe that that noise is intentional.

“Stop.” He orders in a soft voice. It’s hard to hold the yells and the complaints, the snorts, and the grimaces. But he tries. “That was… improvable.”

Luo Binghe looks at him curiously as he kneels behind his back. He wants to show him how to play properly, but the demon is exaggeratedly corpulent, and wide. Shen Qingqiu grits his teeth, but he presses his chest against Luo Binghe's back.

This is unexpected. Luo Binghe thinks. Is the second time shizun initiates some contact and he doesn’t know how to feel. It’s odd but nice. Shen Qingqiu’s hands glide over his arms, guiding him. “You must be more careful, like this.” He whispers in his ear. “Try again.”

At that moment, Luo Binghe can’t think of playing music but... other things. 

Shen Qingqiu’s fingers nail his wrist. “Stop.” He demands. “You are too rough.”

Luo Binghe smirks when he turns his face towards him. Shen Qingqiu doesn’t expect it and pales when their faces meet. They are so close that their noses touch.

“Shizun, that offends me. I’m quite gentle.”

“Show me.”

He would prove it right then if Ning Yingying and Liu Mingyang weren't looking at them. Luo Binghe raises an arm to touch Shen Qingqiu’s face, but his master catches his wrist.

“Luo Binghe...” His voice is doubtful but firm. “I don't care if you get mad. You have to accept criticism.”

“What?”

For a moment he feels like a child who has been scolded.

Shen Qingqiu gently pushes him back to the guqin. “Try again. Stroke the strings, not press them.” His voice tickles his ears. Luo Binghe doesn't understand why he is listening to him. And every time he makes it worse. Even if Shen Qingqiu doesn’t yell as he used to do in the past, Luo Binghe is getting angry. His touch is maddening and he can’t think clearly.

“It’s over.” Luo Binghe growls. “I haven’t come to your room to learn how to play the guqin, shizun.”

Shen Qingqiu raises. Although he doesn't say it, disappointment is reflected on his face.

“You are still a child if you don't understand. Not everything is about fighting.”

Luo Binghe gets up in silence and his wives approach him. From their looks, it seems that they have understood. Liu Mingyan and Ning Yingying push him out after quickly saying goodbye to Shen Qingqiu.

“You can’t be so dense, Binghe!” Liu Mingyan rebukes him. “He was trying to guide you. That’s a subtle way to explain how he wants to be touched.”

Luo Binghe looks at her, amazed. “I’m sure that I have more experience than him.”

“So what?”

“Shizun has always been very demanding.” Ning Yingying hugs his arm. Her voice is soft as always. “And it's quite different than what you're used to.”

Luo Binghe listens in silence. He’s still stunned (and hot) for the experience, but there’s a tiny detail that he can’t ignore.

“Do you think I’m too rough?”

 

Finally alone, Shen Qingqiu plays one of his sad melodies again.

Chapter Text

Luo Binghe finds Qiu Haitang in the garden. His wife stares at him, curious at first, resigned at the end. “I prefer not talking about him”, she says before he couldn't explain himself.

“Just give me another idea.” Luo Binghe uses one of his better puppy smiles. “I need one. A gentle one, not rough.”

Qiu Haitang grumbles, but she is unable to deny him anything. When she sighs, her chest feels cold. It’s the nostalgia for those lost days.

“I remember… He was very happy when he accompanied me to go shopping. His eyes used to light up when I told him that we were going out just the two of us.” The woman sighs. After all, she still longs for those days. “He accompanied me to all the stores and in the end, I always gave him something.“

She misses that boy. 

Luo Binghe nods. His smile shines, less innocent than the other. “Thanks.” He says goodbye to his wife and returns to the palace to make the necessary preparations.

Demons don't go shopping. Demons go to the palaces of their enemies to plunder them.

 

Shen Qingqiu tries to enjoy that beautiful midday completely alone. He knows that at any moment someone will appear to bother him, probably Luo Binghe or any of his wives, but meanwhile he is savoring a cup of bamboo tea. The taste reminds him of Qing Jing Peak. He wonders what the sect is doing those days. I bet they didn’t miss me at all, he thinks. The next gulp is bitter and remains in his throat.

“Master Shen.” Says the sweet voice of a woman he would rather never have met. When he turns his head he sees Sha Hualing with her back reclined in the door. It was a matter of time for one of his wives to appear. Unlike Ning Yingying and Liu Mingyang, he doesn’t bother to hide his displeasure.

“What do you want?” Nevertheless, he uses a neutral voice.

“Master Luo is waiting for you.”

Of course. That beast can't leave me alone either.

Shen Qingqiu gets up and follows Sha Hualing. The demoness guides him outside the palace. To his surprise, a horde of demons awaits them. He notices that he is the only human and Luo Binghe is wearing black armor that enhances his figure.

“Shizun.” He smiles at him, motioning him to come to his side.

Shen Qingqiu approaches, a little intrigued. He no longer remembers how much time he has been locked up in the palace, but it’s nice to walk under the sky although their chains are now different. He squints his eyes unable to understand why Luo Binghe has styled himself so gracefully when he is marching into battle. Smug monster, he thinks and tries to smile.

He fails again.

“Stay by my side, shizun.” Luo Binghe brandishes his sword. Xi Mo cuts through reality to create a portal large enough for the horde to cross. Shen Qingqiu follows both his orders and the demon. When they walk across, the demon holds his waist almost like he wants to protect him. It’s… odd and unexpected, like the world that is waiting on the other side. The Demon Realm is red and cloudy, the air smells of sulfur, orange blossom, and ash. There’s a palace buried into black stones, lighting with green fires.

Next to Luo Binghe (too much next to Luo Binghe, his hand still brushing him), Shen Qingqiu watches how the soldiers attack the enemy palace. If I'm not here to fight with him, why does he want me? He tries to guess. Without clues, he decides to analyze his strategies.

“You shouldn't have brought an army of just demons.” Shen Qingqiu reproaches him and Luo Binghe blinks before looking at him.

“It’s the Demon Realm, of course, demons going to fight better.”

“Don’t forget that humans train to kill demons. A mixed army will be more useful to you in the future.”

It's good advice and Luo Binghe decides to consider it.

“Maybe a mixed army will have the benefits of both races, but also twice the complications.” Luo Binghe points.

“As if there is something that you don't know how to do.” Shen Qingqiu growls, a little jealous. But it's a sincere compliment and something inside Luo Binghe burns. “Except play the guqin.”

“Next time I’ll be more gentle.” He promises him with a smirk. “With the guqin and any other… instrument.

Shen Qingqiu misses his fan. I wish I could hit him over the head. “Don’t be so presumptuous.”

“I’m only aware of my abilities.” Luo Binghe enjoys mocking his shizun. “Look. My demon army just conquered the palace. As I had planned.”

Shen Qingqiu grumbles. Why do you want me to be your teacher if you don't listen to me? It doesn’t make sense. Luo Binghe grabs his arm and guides him to the palace, now ruined and bloody. “Even so,” he insists. “You can’t trust an army with plenty of demons.”

He realizes his mistake when Luo Binghe stops. Fuck. He desperately needs a fan or something to hide and pretend he doesn’t say anything. The fucking Demon Lord, also a Heavenly Demon, stares at him with a twisted, dangerous smile.

“You can’t trust any demon? Nor can you trust to make a deal with one?” He brings Shen Qingqiu closer to him while talking.

“You are also half-human, that’s why I can trust you.” He lies.

Luo Binghe pales. Or maybe it’s his imagination. He releases him from his grip and Shen Qingqiu breaths.

“I’m the one who can’t trust you.” He remembers him with a hurt and quiet voice, almost a sigh.

This time Shen Qingqiu follows Luo Binghe in silence and behind him. The demon walks as he knows where they are going. After a few minutes, they arrived at a chamber crammed with treasures. Luo Binghe is humming when he enters and he turns to him with a smile. “Help me choose a gift for Yingying.”

Shen Qingqiu nods. There are a lot of beautiful jewels, but he ignores them. His pupil is elegant but refined. He finally finds an exquisite hairpin. Luo Binghe likes his choice and keeps it in his clothes. “This one is for Haitang,” he says, choosing a gold bracelet. “And this one's for you.”

Shen Qingqiu almost scratched him at the idea that he was going to gift him jewels like one of his wives, but Luo Binghe is giving him a fan. “Oh.” Shen Qingqiu is astonished. He took the fan without believing it. What are you playing? That paper fan is better than all the ones he has ever had. But it is not its quality that has surprised him, but the fact that it has made him blissful.

He breathes.

He closes his eyes.

He hides behind the fan when he thanks him.

Luo Binghe grins satisfied. For a moment he has been able to see a tiny smile that Shen Qingqiu doesn’t seem to be aware of. It’s a cute smile and he wants to trap it in his hands and keep it forever.

It’s time for the second part of the plan.

He is aware that one enemy is hiding behind one of the columns. Now Shen Qingqiu has fulfilled his expectations, he is going to recreate what happened with the shizun of the other world.

First steep: a wound. Preferably, a deep wound that forces Shen Qingiu to take care of him. 

That’s why he pretends he doesn’t realize that a sneaky demon is approaching and lets him attack him. It was not in his plans to have the sword pierced through his gut, but he doesn’t care either. Yeah, this will work, he thinks, watching how a lot of blood stains his clothes.

He remains calm while Shen Qingqiu kills the demon with Xiu Ya.

“What are you doing?” He yells at him, furious in a way that made him nostalgic.

Luo Binghe is fine, he even can heal himself in this precise moment. A lowly demon cannot hurt him as his copy did, but he pretends to fall on top of Shen Qingqiu. His shizun catches him without hesitation.

“I cannot believe it!” He growls. “How could you let your guard down?”

“Are you worried?”

“Of course I am!”

I'm stuck with a bunch of demons in the Demon Realm, what do you think? He is making an effort to not pull his ears like a child. Shen Qingqiu helps Luo Binghe to lean on the column and tear the sword. Oh, wonderful, he huffs when blood also stains his clothes. When he raises his head, he finds out that Luo Binghe is looking at him with shiny eyes. And… almost satisfied?

“I’m not worried about you!” He blushes saying it. “I can't allow your demons to see you hurt.”

That’s… a good point. Luo Binghe hadn't thought about it. Of course, he cannot allow himself to be seen in that state. Better for his intentions.

“They will think that the blood is not mine.”

“Can you stand up?”

“No.” He lies. “But we can pretend a little...”

Shen Qingqiu frowns just when Sha Hualing appears.

“Luo~” She sings, cheerfully. “Did you finish?”

Luo Binghe attracts Shen Qingqiu to him, one hand in his waist, another in his nape. He can feel his racing heartbeats, but Shen Qingqiu remains close to him without saying anything.

“Yes.” Luo Binghe swings Xi Mo to create a new portal. “I have another business. Choose whatever you want.” 

And he drags Shen Qingqiu into his room. His steps are hesitant and Shen Qingqiu grabs him in turn.

 

"I want shizun to come back soon to play more music." Ning Yingying laments. She is with her friends in the gardens, enjoying the tea.

“He is shopping with Luo.” Qiu Haitang sighs for the nth time. “I still cannot believe Luo fell in love with him.”

“I’m not sure they are in love...”

“Yes, they are.” Both know that Liu Mingyan is smiling behind her veil. “The signs are unmistakable. Binghe is acting like a puppy and Shen Qingqiu is… shy, probably. I don't think he has had much experience being courted.”

The three of them are debating when Sha Hualing come. The demoness sits on Liu Mingyan’s lap and gives her a gold ring.

“We need information.” Ning Yingying looks at her a little flushed. “How has your instigation gone? Do you think they...?”

“Sorry, Yingying, Haitang’s theory is right.” Sha Hualing laughs, naughty. “They are probably fucking right now.”

“WHAT?”

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu drags Luo Binghe into his bed. The demon’s body is heavy, but Luo Binghe acts docile in his arms. Maybe too much docile. Right now the charade of master and disciple is uncomfortably odd. Shen Qingqiu still doesn't understand why they are playing, but he remains silent while helping Luo Binghe to lie down.

The demon smiles at him and Shen Qingqiu freezes.

Why are the beast's smiles so powerful? 

He is starting to hate him differently.

Shen Qingqiu moves away and growls. His robes are dirty with the blood of Luo Binghe and the other demon. Is unpleasant and disgusting. He takes his outer robes off without hesitation.

"I'm going to call the doctor." He says, turning his back to him.

A hand catches his wrist. His touch still makes him shiver, but this time it doesn't hurt. Shen Qingqiu looks curious at Luo Binghe.

“I'd rather have Shizun take care of me.” He purrs. “You said it yourself: it’s better to avoid rumors. They can't know that I've been hurt.”

His shameless enemy… disciple stares at him with shiny and wide eyes. Shen Qingqiu doesn’t understand why that monster sometimes looks like a puppy.

Be nice. Be nice. Be nice. Be nice. Be nice. Be nice. Be nice. Be nice.

Shen Qingqiu takes a deep breath. He tries to stay calm (but fails) when he turns to Luo Binghe.

“Fine.” He grumbles, sitting next to him and holding his wrist to pass him his spiritual energy.

 


 

“You must be kidding with us!” Ning Yingying screams, a little flushed. She is used to her husband having a hundred other wives, but she can’t accept that he is currently fucking his old master.

“I’m not!” Sha Hualing is as shameless as Luo Binghe and the idea makes her laugh. “I saw how Luo dragged him into his room. And before that, they were sooooo close. You know what I mean.”

Qiu Haitang, despite starting the rumor, cannot accept it either. She shares a look with Ning Yingying.

“Let's go to check it out.”

The four women finally agree.

They go to Luo Binghe’s chambers for the secret corridors their husband usually uses to go to his wife's rooms. Hide in a corner, they watch the door while discussing how they can discover the truth and who is gonna do it.

A few minutes later the door opens and Shen Qingqiu goes out to call a servant. They have to cover the mouth of Ning Yingying. The most innocent of the four almost screams when she sees her teacher with wild hair and in his inner robes.

“I told you.” Sha Hualing brags with a murmur.

“I cannot believe it.” Qiu Haitang babbling. “They are both men.”

“And? Both of them have... swords .”

Qiu Haitang blushes.

“I have never thought about it.” She acknowledges in a tremulous voice. “I always thought… But I guess it makes sense. At least they are not women.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Women don't have… swords.

“Fingers.” Sha Hualing and Liu Mingyan respond at the same time. “And some women also have swords.“ The demoness shakes her head. “Humans are very outdated.”

They return to their vigilance. A servant appears to prepare a bath by order of Shen Qingqiu. Sha Hualing smiles before getting closer. “I’m going to spy a little bit.”

The other three wait in expectant silence. The corridor remains quiet, the door closes while their curiosity grows. The demoness returns with a wide smile and the four of them form a huddle in their hiding place to gossip.

“Tell us!” Liu Mingyan demands her.

“Shen Qingqiu was in the tube and Luo is resting in the bed.”

“Sure?” Qiu Haitang clears her throat, her cheeks red like pomegranates. “I mean, all of us knew the stamina of our husband. He cannot be tired, right? He is insatiable and more the first time.”

“Well...” Ning Yingying is almost as embarrassed as her. “Shizun is a very perfectionist. If he makes love as he teaches, maybe he has made him repeat it until he gets it right.”

The four friends share the same anguished look.

“Poor Luo Binghe...”

 


 

Shen Qingqiu doesn’t act like the other kind Shizun. He doesn’t lie down next to him, he hides his smiles (but Luo Binghe is learning how to steal them), he’s not caring for him… But he remains to his side despite his disagreement and that's more than he bargained for him when he got him out of the Water Prison. Luo Binghe is greedy and wants more, but for the moment that calms down.

Shen Qingqiu shares his qi and huff like a cat, complaining about his timely demonic healing. Luo Binghe is controlling his powers because he prefers that sweet pain and Shen Qingqiu’s fingers touching his skin.

A few hours later, when the wound is closed, Shen Qingqiu gets up and pushes him out of bed.

“Go take a bath,” he growls. “You stink of blood.”

Shen Qingqiu may call him shameless, but he had already showered taking advantage of his convalescence

That’s my room, not yours. He thinks, but it’s fine so he doesn’t care.

When Luo Binghe comes back to the bathroom, Shen Qingqiu has dressed in one of his outer robes. Luo Binghe is not ready to see his Shizun covered by his black clothes, too big, too dark, with his hair down his back. They make him even paler and more fragile, desirable in a dangerous way.

Luo Binghe stumbles and this time it's not a lie. Fortunately, Shen Qingqiu raises his head to look at him, misinterpreting his shock.

“You look awful. Go back to bed.” He commands him.

“Only if Shizun helps me.” Luo Binghe smiles innocently.

Shen Qingqiu looks at him with displeasure… and tiredness. He clicks his tongue, but he goes up to him and helps him lie down. “Cheap demon,” he hisses. This time he sits on the edge of the bed and takes one of his wrists without being asked.

 


 

Luo Binghe and Shen Qingqiu are spending the whole day in the room and the four wives are guarding their hideout. Sha Hualing is trying to spy through the door and Ning Yingying is waiting when Qiu Haitang comes.

“Something new?” She asks.

“Neither of them has come out again”. Ning Yingying explains. “This fits with A-Luo's inhuman resistance.”

Sha Hualing approaches when she sees Qiu Haitang. “Luo is resting.”

“And Mingyan?” Qiu Haitang looks around, surprised.

“Also resting.”

 


 

Night falls when Shen Qingqiu feels the fatigue closing his eyes. He raises a hand to rub his hair. It has been a terrible and strange day. He needs to rest, but he refuses to fall asleep in front of Luo Binghe, showing weakness.

So he tries to resist, but the dream ends up catching him.

 


 

It’s night when the doors finally open.

The four women watch as Luo Binghe comes out carrying a sleeping Shizun. Shen Qingqiu is wearing some of the black outer robes of their husband and that image is more scandalous than what they did all day. They have never seen him so calm as if peace only exists in dreams.

“I’m so proud of A-Luo.” Ning Yingying whispers. “He has finally pleased Shizun.”

They follow Luo Binghe down the corridors to Shen Qingqiu’s room. Luo Binghe enters.

They wait.

Luo Binghe is still inside.

They wait.

But Luo doesn’t leave the room.

“Will they continue?” Qiu Haitang is trembling. “It has already been a lot.”

“I don’t think so.” Ning Yingying is the most romantic of the four and she smiles. “Luo Binghe is going to sleep with him.”

“A certain demoness could already learn from her Demon Lord”, Liu Mingyan says while Sha Hualing is looking at her nails.

 


 

The sun touches his face. Shen Qingqiu blinks. He believes he is still in a dream, one that has brought him back to Qing Jing Peak. The last thing he remembers is Luo Binghe's black, red, and gold chambers, and now he is in a room less ostentatious, where white and green reign.

Shen Qingqiu rubs his eyes, remembering he is still in Luo Binghe’s palace and that’s his new room. But this time it's not strange, it almost feels like home. When he tries to sit up, he discovers that he is not alone.

Luo Binghe is sleeping at his side, with one arm around his waist. Under the morning light, the powerful and cruel Demon Lord looks… human. Yesterday he saw a curious fragility and now he finds himself with a Luo Binghe that isn't one of his memories. He is not the cruel beast that demands revenge, neither the stupid child. He seems calm, almost happy, and that makes him feel nervous.

Shen Qingqiu remains a few minutes staring at that strange face (sometimes mocking, sometimes innocent), black curls tainting the sheets, the hand that seeks his skin. Shen Qingqiu sighs before breaking the peace.

“I know you are awake.”

Luo Binghe’s peaceful smile twists. He opens his eyes to look at him without hesitation.

“Good morning, Shizun.”

Shen Qingqiu raises an eyebrow, remaining in silence. The beast is acting strange the last few days but now looks pleased. Instead of calming him down, it makes him more worried. He no longer knows how to behave or how to act. Shen Qingqiu wants to kick him out of his bed, but he prefers the happy demon to the cruel one.

It would be better if he didn't look at me with those eyes. He thinks. Lately, Luo Binghe smiles at him too much.

Shen Qingqiu feels the cold scratching at his heart when he finally understands what Luo reminds him of.

Yue Qingyuan. Not the Yue Qingyuan that abandoned him, but the one that stayed by his side. The stupid Yue Qingyuan who saw the best in him despised the cruelties of the world.

At the same time, Luo Binghe is something different. Like a distorted version of Yue Qingyuan. Shen Qingqiu knows with certainty that Luo Binghe will never abandon him and that makes him shiver, and cry, but also makes him happy in a strange way.

Luo Binghe raises a little bit, his hand still brushing his waist. He faces him and Shen Qingqiu misses the fan (his gift) to hide. Suddenly, Shen Qingqiu is aware that they aren’t a master and a disciple, but two men too close in the same bed and he’s still wearing the big clothes of Luo Binghe. Both have disheveled hair and his clothes have run off, showing more skin than usual around his collarbones.

Shen Qingqiu clears his throat.

"Luo Binghe, this is inappropriate." He scolds him.

Luo Binghe smirks.

“Where is the problem?”

“Anyone can jump to the wrong conclusions if they see us.” He growls. "I am not one of your wives." 

Luo Binghe tilts his head.

That’s right. He thinks. We’re not married… yet.

Chapter Text

Sha Hualing is cutting her nails when Luo Binghe enters her room. His footsteps are rhythmic and determined, and the walls tremble as he passes. Sha Hualing knows why the atmosphere is turning so tense and why she feels cold despite the sun. Luo Binghe’s mood is reflected in every step and before he arrives the demoness has already paled.

“My lord?”

“Sha Hualing,” Luo Binghe's smile is empty and a threat shines in his eyes. “Do you remember what happened during the last shopping? With me and Shizun?”

Right now, Sha Hualing doesn't know what the correct answer is. She swallows hard and tries to resist his gaze. “You took him to your room…?” She murmurs.

“And you imagine what happened next, right?”

The demoness nods.

Despite his attitude, Luo Binghe hesitates. He could tell her the truth. Reluctantly agrees that Shen Qingqiu is right: he cannot trust her. His beautiful wife wears the same red as the spilled blood of the father she betrayed. She has never loved him and the feeling is reciprocal. They are tied by a different affection, a particular reliance, and it is not enough to tell her what happened.

“I hope you haven't told anyone,” he finally says. “I don't want rumors in my palace.”

An icy fear runs through Sha Hualing's bones. Even so, she smiles.

“Of course not!” She even pretends to be offended. “But… What if someone else has jumped to conclusions? You have a reputation, my lord.”

“I would rather not.” Luo Binghe’s smile is sharp like a dagger and his eyes sparkle with the red of a dead fox. “But in that hypothetical case, I hope those rumors ... disappear. And, of course, that none reaches him.” Luo Binghe approaches until his shadow envelops her. “I know my fame, but it would please me more if it’s said that Shizun wants to wait for marriage. Understood?”

Sha Hualing's throat is dry when she nods.

After Luo Binghe left, the demoness develops a new ability by running away so fast that she almost teleports in front of her friends.

“IT’S AN EMERGENCY!” She babbles. “You haven't told anyone what happened yesterday, right?”

The three women blush, look away, or smile guiltily.

“Maybe to Qin Wanrong… and the three nuns.”

“I haven't said anything, but maybe I've written something.”

“I’ve tried it! But it was hard to shut up.”

“We are doomed.” Sha Hualing wants to cry. “Lord Luo has asked me personally that he doesn’t want rumors. Either he or his teacher kills us.”

“Why?” Ning Yingyng asks as innocent as ever. “Shizun maybe gets a little angry, but he will forgive us...”

Her friends look at her with disbelief, very aware of his cruel and spiteful personality.

“He killed my family.” Qiu Haitang remembers her with a bitter voice.

“He used to torture our husband.” Liu Mingyan ads.

“And… HE WON'T BECAUSE HE WANTS TO KEEP THE APPEARANCES AND ARRIVE CHASTE AT MARRIAGE.” Sha Hualing rubs her temples, her head is starting to hurt. “Last night… and day must be a secret and… Now what?”

Three pairs of eyes looked at her, unable to hide their illusion.

"They are getting married?"

“Yes, I supposed.”

“Who has declared?”

“I think Shen Qingqiu for his demands.”

“And A-Luo hasn't told me anything?” Ning Yingying sits up angrily at the outrage. “Girls, we have a wedding to plan.”

As the three laugh and share ideas, Sha Hualing trembles. She hopes the old rumor has been swallowed up by this scoop.

 


 

Even though his fingers rub the guqin, that morning Shen Qingqiu doesn’t play any melody. He is lost in his thoughts, in the peace of that room. Tranquility embraces him and if he closes his eyes he can imagine he is back to Qing Jing Peak. Even if the noise is missing, he doesn’t sicken. Shen Qingqiu sights. Who am I kidding? 

He feels… calm. It's strange and unusual, he doesn't know yet if he likes it. He may get used to it. Anywise, it’s liberating not to have any odious obligation, although he doesn’t know what to do with his free time. There aren’t guards outside his door anymore, but he doesn't want to go anywhere.

Shen Qingqiu still hesitates when someone decides for him.

“Good morning, Shizun.” Ning Yingying greets him as cheerful as always, followed by Liu Mingyan and Qiu Haitang.

Shen Qingqiu looks at them suspiciously, especially the last one. The last time both of them were under the same roof before he was incarcerated, she tried to gouge his eyes out with her nails. And from his expression, she still seems to want it.

Ning Yingying nudges Qiu Haitang without losing her smile. “We are a family now, remember?”

The woman narrows her eyes when she hears it. “Talking about family...”

“No.” Shen Qingqiu interrupts her as he stands up. “I don’t want to… I can’t talk about that.” He corrects himself, his teeth clenched. “I don't hope that you can ever understand or forgive me. It is something that happened and the dead will not return from their graves.”

To his relief. 

Qiu Haitang's breathing is tense and arrhythmic. “Sorry, I...” She runs away, leaving them alone. Ning Yingying and Liu Mingyan exchange a glance before the former follows her friend. Now Shen Qingqiu has been left alone with the sister of his dead enemy, although the environment is less hostile than he expected. She is looking at him with a certain curiosity.

“You look tired,” she muses.

Shen Qingqiu squints his eyes suspiciously. “A bad night,” he responds curtly. And a bad day. 

“I see...” He has the impression that Liu Mingyan is smiling behind her veil. “I don't mean to be rude or jump to conclusions, but perhaps I understand the reason behind your tiredness. A big reason, probably.” She traces with her words a black figure with red eyes.

Shen Qingqiu is not surprised. Of course, that stupid beast is thirsty for attention. Liu Mingyan is looking at him with a strange sympathy he can empathize with. Shen Qingqiu hides behind his fan and the woman's eyes shine.

“What a beautiful fan, a gift?”

“Mn.”

“From yesterday's shopping?”

“Shopping?” Shen Qingqiu raises an eyebrow.

“Demonic traditions, you'll get used to it.” Liu Mingyan clears her throat. “Also to the... other . Although it’s not always so exhausting.”

“I don't want to get used to it,” he growls. “You have it very spoiled. Taking care of him it's not my obligation, where were you yesterday?”

Behind the door, Liu Mingyan thinks while inviting him to walk with her. 

The two leave the room. Although the woman guides him into the gardens, she doesn’t intend to go for a walk. Liu Mingyan suspects that Shen Qingqiu will want to rest and not move too much. That’s why she has prepared some cushions on the lawn to chat (although her original plan was to do it also with her friends). Shen Qingqiu seems suspicious but ends up sitting next to her.

Shen Qingqiu fans himself with calculated disdain. He hides his nervousness with indifference, cause there is a difference between healing the wounds of that woman's husband and sleeping together later. What was that shameless thinking? He is no longer a child! He looks at her suspiciously, wondering if she's upset.

But the concern about his tiredness seems genuine. Shen Qingqiu can’t believe it, no one should worry about him after he has fallen from grace. They didn't even do it before!

“Stop looking at me like that, it’s not a big deal.” He growls. “And it will not be repeated.”

Liu Mingyan laughs. “Well, Binghe can be a little...”

“Clumsy? So cocky that he forgets he's not alone? A mess that stains all the clothes?” It’s liberating to have someone to complain without fear of the consequences.

However, the woman pales. "If you forgive me", she says, getting up.

“Wait...” Shen Qingqiu freezes. “You're not going to tell him, are you?”

“I guess he already knows, right?”

“I hope so.”

“He must know it.” Liu Mingyan takes his hands while looking fiercely at him. “Luo Binghe always listens to all complaints to do it better next time.”

“Luo Binghe will tear me apart if I complain.” He hisses. “And I've already told you that there won't be another time.”

That’s a disgrace! Liu Mingyan thinks. Binghe, how bad have you done it? She begins to understand Ning Yingying's words from the other day. Even so, she is a bit disappointed with Shen Qingqiu. "With your picky personality I was hoping you would be more honest," she rebukes him. “Don't worry, I'll take care of it.”

“What? No! Don’t you dare.”

“Don’t worry”, she is smiling behind her veil. “I know an infallible strategy. It worked for me with some clumsy demoness.”

She leaves before he can hold her.

 


 

Mobei-Jun has a huge problem called paperwork. Unlike the rest of his enemies, he cannot destroy it with his ice. And he tried it. The paperwork is a terrible creature who gets bigger everyday and threats to devour them. Mobei-Jun isn't supposed to be in charge of it, but his lord is busy courting an immortal.

That monstrous and enormous amount of paperwork can sink an empire. The ice demon decides to look for Luo Binghe before it’s too late. He finds his lord in the armory, a strange place because he doesn’t need more weapons than his sword, his blood, and his cruelty.

“My lord.” Mobei-Jun kneels. “I come to speak about...”

“A-LUO!” Yells another voice. The green figure of one of his wives enters the armory like a gale. “Are you going to marry Shizun?”

Luo Binghe blinks, shocked. “Yes… Are you upset, Yingying?”

“Of course I am! Weren't you going to tell me anything? I love planning weddings!” His first wife is strangely supportive of his love affairs. “When? Oh, will you both dress the same?”

“I haven't thought about it...”

“Don't worry, Yingying will take care of everything.” She promises him. 

“That’s not necessary.” Luo Binghe frowns. “Shizun is quite peculiar...”

“You need me.” Ning Yingying crosses her arms, taking a step forward. “Someone will have to tell Cang Qiong Mountain. He is still a Peak Lord.”

“Yue Qingyuan will probably try to kill me and I promised him that I would respect the sect.”

“He won't if I talk to him. It will be like an alliance.”

“And in return, you will be in charge of planning the wedding?” Luo Binghe laughs, unable to deny her anything. “Alright.”

Ning Yingying leaves, happy, and Mobei-Jun tries to get his lord’s attention.

Before he can speak, Liu Mingyan arrives.

“Husband,” she says with a sweet and suspicious tone of voice. “I’ve had something for you.”

She gives him a handwritten book. Luo Binghe smirks upon recognizing one of his wife's porn books. However, this looks like a particular manual on how to have sex between two men.

“Mingyan?” He asks with a dangerous glare.

“I don’t know anything. I just have a feeling that it will be useful to you in the future. That future that hasn't happened yet. That future after the wedding and not before.” She leaves after bowing, serene and elegant.

The two demons have been left alone.

“My lord...”

“Binghe!” Qiu Haitang is screaming and crying when he enters the armory. “I tried. I promise you that I tried. But I can’t forgive him… Are you sure you want to marry him? Did you ever love him!!???”

Luo Binghe doesn’t have an answer so he hugs his wife until she stops shaking. They remain a few minutes and Mobei-Jun waits without making any sound, any movement. When Qiu Haitang is finally calm and leaves, Luo Binghe sighs.

“I’m going to kill Sha Hualing.”

That can be both a vain threat and a promise. Mobei-Jun decides that this is not a good day to talk to him about paperwork.

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu has gotten used to his new life at Luo Binghe’s palace. And he hates it because he likes it. He likes the absence of responsibilities, he likes tranquility and playing the guqin without being haunted by memories, he likes that the past no longer knocks on his door. He no longer cares about the nosy visits from Luo Binghe's wives and Luo Binghe's attitude. This sticky demon is better than the one thirsty for revenge.

He is almost happy and terrified that this peace someday will explode into pieces.

That morning he receives a surprise from an ice demon. Shen Qingqiu stares at Mobei-Jun hiding his curiosity behind his fan. His presence is unexpected and all the anomalies disturb him.

“To what do I owe this honor?” He asks with feigned calm.

The demon's face is as expressive as a wall of ice. He doesn't even blink. Mobei-Jun freezes on the threshold of the door instead of entering the room.

“You’re a scholar.” He finally says, when Shen Qingqiu is about to lose his patience. “Right?”

“Yes.” He nods carefully. Does he also want a teacher? I hope not. I've had enough with one pesky demon.

“Did you handle the human paperwork?”

Shen Qingqiu frowns. What kind of questions are those?

“No. That was An Ding Peak’s job.”

It’s impossible, but Shen Qingqiu would swear that panic and disappointment shine in the demon's eyes. Before he can say anything else, Ning Yingying appears as a green whirlwind.

“Shizun!” She yells, happier as usual. Her voice is sing-song and she dances instead of walking. “We're leaving, shizun!”

“What?”

Shen Qingqiu has accepted that routine in the palace depends on the capricious wishes of Luo Binghe's wives, yet they always manage to surprise him. His former student bows before him, without taking his hand, but encouraging him with her eyes to get up and accompany her.

“A-Luo has permitted us to visit Cang Qiong Mountain Sect today! Aren’t you happy?”

Shen Qingqiu doesn't remember when was the last time he was happy. He receives the news with a grimace of consternation and a jumble of feelings in his stomach. Fear. Anxiety. Insecurity. Longing. Sadness. Nervous.

Mobei-Jun looks pale when they leave.

 


 

Ning Yingying can’t hide her enthusiasm. However, she is not naive and feels there’s something wrong with shizun. She was so convinced that he would like the plan that she is a little disappointed. Ning Yingying walks nervously, marking distances with Shen Qingqiu unconsciously.

“It's true...” Shen Qingqiu mutters as the two leave the palace walls. “We’re leaving.”

“Of course! I would never lie to you, shizun!”

He nods, though he doesn't draw his sword. He seems expectant, nervous like an animal that has spent too long in a cage. His gaze is lost around him as if he is waiting for someone.

“Come on, shizun!”

“What about Luo Binghe?”

“He's shopping with Sha Hualing.”

Shen Qingqiu frowns and silently draws Xiu Ya.

The two fly on their swords towards Cang Qiong Mountain Sect. It's a smooth ride, which Ning Yingying has done a thousand times, but this time it's different. She begins to fidget as they get closer. Despite her enthusiasm for the wedding, she is afraid of the reaction of the other immortals. Luo Binghe may have married almost all female cultivators, but it is the first time that he aspires a Peak Lord. Everything will be fine, she says to herself. Love always triumphs.

And she is sure of Luo Binghe and Shen Qingqiu's feelings.

The two separate upon reaching Cang Qiong Mountain Sect. Shen Qingqiu wants to visit Qing Jing Peak and she has to settle a matter before accompanying him. Ning Yingying tooks a deep breath before heading to Qian Cao Peak.

The rumors come before her. Yue Qingyuan waits for her at the door, affable and smiling as always, but nervous. There is a flash of disappointment in his gaze at seeing her alone.

“Ning Yingying,” he says, bowing.

“Master Yue.” She smiles because she knows the cause of his concern. “He is in Qing Jing Peak.”

“Is he…?”

“He is fine! A-Luo and shizun have reconciled.” Ning Yingying is unable to hide her joy. Her smile widens, bright and contagious.

Yue Qingyuan gestures for her to enter the house. His unease has grown. It is fear that Ning Yingying feels. Fear of losing Shen Qingqiu again.

“He won't stay, will he?” He murmurs with sadness, unable to look at her eyes.

“I don’t think so. We came...” She gulps. The words she has rehearsed get stuck in her throat. “Luo Binghe wants your blessing.”

Yue Qingyuan tenses.

“He wants to marry shizun.”

 


 

Shen Qingqiu is in front of his old bamboo house. He doesn’t dare to enter. How long has it been? He no longer remembers. Too many days in the Water Prison and then locked in a fancy room. He feels his old life so far away that he cannot even touch it with his fingers. He longs without nostalgia, only the rage of having lost something that he had achieved with blood and suffering.

His former disciples are close. He can feel them even though he doesn't see them. Shen Qingqiu sighs, eyes closed. What do I do here? This is no longer my site.

Yue Qingyuan finds him still frozen in front of the bamboo house.

“Xiao Jiu...”

For once that name does not offend him. Shen Qingqiu accepts it with resignation.

“Long time no see you.” He answers without turning.

Yue Qingyuan walks towards him and stops behind his back. Again, without brushing him, without placing himself at his level. There is still a distance between the two, which time has strengthened rather than destroyed.

“Ning Yingying has already talked to me.” His voice trembles. “It is true?”

Shen Qingqiu shrugs. He doesn’t know what Ning Yingying has said. Probably not that truth agreed within the damp Water Prison walls. The true nature of their pact is a secret between Luo Binghe and him. Nothing prevents him from telling Yue Qingyuan, but he doesn't want the man to do anything rash. 

“Yes.” He nods, convinced that Ning Yingying's words will be better than what he says.

If he turns around, he would discover Yue Qingyuan's expression of horror.

“You can’t!” The man tries to touch his shoulder but retracts before brushing against him. “He was the one who locked you up!”

“And the one who freed me.” And Shen Qingqiu finally turns to look into his eyes with the coldness of years. “Not you. Again. Despite all of your empty promises.”

He hurts Yue Qingyuan. And he doesn’t care. Shen Qingqui is tired and the memory of his old life only makes him feel worse. The absence of positive memories weighs on him and the horrible ones spill over into his head. Liu Qingge’s death. The reproach of all Peak Lords. The accusations. The constant feeling of being judged. The absence of people to trust. Loneliness.

Suddenly, he starts laughing. It's a hysterical and bitter laugh. Yue Qingyuan looks at him worriedly while repeating his name.

“It’s ironic.” Shen Qingqiu huffs. “I have never felt calm here and the annoying wives of that demon are making me feel at home. It doesn’t make sense!”

He has not yet entered his bamboo house and already wishes to return with Ning Yingying to Luo Binghe's palace. Slowly, Shen Qingqiu turns his back on his old house.

“I think I will not return...” He whispers to Yue Qingyuan. “Not because I can't, but because I don't want to.”

And then Yue Qingyuan does something unexpected: he ropes the pact between them by hugging him. Shen Qingqui protests like a cat, but the man grips him even tighter.

“I can not understand you...” He confesses sadly. “But I will support you if it makes you happy. And if you ever change your mind, you'll always have a place here to return.”

They don't talk anymore after that conversation. Yue Qingyuan acts strange and Shen Qingqiu doesn't have the patience to ask him what's wrong with him and why is he looking at him like he's about to lose him forever.

“He won't hurt me anymore.”

It's a lie. Shen Qingqiu has been hurt so many times that he is unable to imagine a future without pain. And even though Luo Binghe smiles at him now and gives him gifts, he still doesn't trust him. He says it to calm Yue Qingyuan, but that seems to worry him even more. In the end, Shen Qingqiu chooses to ignore him.

His fellow Peak Lords approach his peak. All of them give off a poorly disguised curiosity that makes him twist his face even more. Shen Qingqiu feels that he is part of a rumor that he does not control and that makes him feel uncomfortable. Nobody says anything clearly, they just look at him with fear and pity, with inquisitiveness and interest. 

He can't take it anymore and flees with Ning Yingying to a place where he can paradoxically find peace.

To his surprise, Luo Binghe's palace bustles with activity. There are too many voices, too many moving bodies. A celebration is brewing and he doesn’t understand why everyone is looking at them with expectation. He forgets it when Liu Mingyan comes out to greet them with happiness more genuine than he has received at Qing Jing Peak.

The two women greet each other enthusiastically.

“How has it been?” Liu Mingyan asks.

“Very well!”

Shen Qingqiu rolls his eyes behind his fan. However… he is glad that at least his pupil has enjoyed the day.

“What’s going on?” He inquiries, too curious.

“We are preparing the wedding!”

“Yes! Luo Binghe wants it to be a unique show, to eclipse even the heavens.”

He is going to marry AGAIN? Shen Qingqiu is too stunned to be shocked. How many wives he already has?

At that moment some strong arms grab him around the waist. Shen Qingqiu groaned as he slammed his back against another man's chest. He turns angrily to hit Luo Binghe on the head with the fan.

“Shameless!!”

He somewhat forgot the fear of the first days to offend him. And the demon smirks, his eyes narrowed with curiosity and without letting him go.

“How was the trip?”

He also looks at Ning Yingying, whose smile is too huge given that her husband is hugging someone else. Maybe they are used to him being so clingy, but I'm not! Shen Qingqiu struggles until Luo Binghe releases him with a mocking laugh. Although he is no longer holding him, he is still too close to him.

“Great! I talked with Yue Qingyuan and… Well, he is not happy, but he won't get in the way.”

“Perfect.”

Shen Qingqiu is irritated by all that noise. He has returned in search of peace and has not found it. Annoyed, he turns to Luo Binghe with his arms crossed.

“There's something I've wanted to ask you for a long time… Don’t you have so many wives?”

He is surprised by his amused grin.

“Are you jealous, shizun?”

The question catches him so off guard that he opens his mouth not knowing what to answer. Shen Qingqiu clears his throat and looks away.

“So what if so?” He hisses. It is too late to pretend otherwise. He has always envied his loving mother, his talent, and now his future. His envy is a fierce monster dozing on his chest, what's the point of denying it after all that has already happened?

He has finally left Luo Binghe shocked and speechless. Satisfied, Shen Qingqiu says goodbye to them and goes to his room to rest.

 

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu neither enjoys "demon shopping" nor does he understand why Luo Binghe has insisted that he accompany him. The demon is acting strange as the wedding approaches, although Shen Qingqiu understands that he will want his appreciation as a teacher. Or something similar.

However, plundering a palace is unpleasant and boring because Luo Binghe insists that he stays by his side without participating. At least he listened to his advice and now he uses a mixed army. That he appreciated his opinion fills Shen Qingqiu with an odd satisfaction, warm and unusual. People tend to judge him, not value his words.

Shen Qingqiu hides behind his fan, but his displeasure is evident and Luo Binghe notices it.

“Is something wrong?”

Shen Qingqiu narrows his eyes. Even his tone, which almost sounds worried, is strange. Their relationship has evolved too fast. It makes him dizzy to remember that a few months ago Luo Binghe hated him with murderous intensity and now demands his presence, his approval, his affection.

Shen Qingqiu raises his fan to hide his expression even more.

“I don’t understand… your traditions.” He finally says with a hesitant tone. “If you want to buy, let's go to a store, to a market. If you want to fight, do it seriously. This pantomime is ridiculous.”

Also, it reminds him of his time with Wu Yanzi.

Luo Binghe stares at him very intently, not saying anything. He neither smiles nor tries to speak to him as they enter the underground palace, though he doesn't turn away from him either. What's more, he is too close. Their shoulders brush as they pass through narrow galleries that reek of blood. 

“I just wanted to give you something.” Luo Binghe comments a few minutes later. “A very special gift.”

Shen Qingqiu looks at him curiously. Do you think I'm offended by the wedding? You have three hundred women and more, I will continue to be your teacher no matter how many times you get married, he thinks. And the possibility of remaining by his side is no longer so unpleasant. Shen Qingqiu appreciates that it is better to have him as an ally than an enemy. 

Still, selfless gifts make him uncomfortable.

“You don't have to give me anything.” He snorts. 

“But shizun...”

The two of them tense up at the sound of rocks falling apart. The ground splits and the huge head of a monster emerges. Although they both summon their swords, only Luo Binghe faces the creature. The demon moves with the arrogance of one who always wins, without fear or caution. Xi Mo lacerates the flesh and elicits agonized screams. 

Shen Qingqiu frowns. Not only has the floor been broken, but the ceiling is also sinking from the monster's shaking. Quickly, he stops Luo Binghe by the wrist.

"Don't be foolish!" He scolds him. “Find the neck. That’s his weak point.”

Luo Binghe nods. A flash crosses his eyes. Before the monster attacks them, taking advantage of his carelessness, he grabs Shen Qingqiu by the waist and drags him aloof. The immortal hisses and pushes him away.

“I know how to take care of myself.” He protests. Even so, his ears have turned red.

Luo Binghe smiles like a wild beast.

“I know.” He whispers, rubbing his cheek with the thumb, before pouncing on the monster. 

He defeats him with insulting ease. That only fuels his anger.

“You are careless”, he reproaches him.

Shen Qingqiu sheaths his sword, angrily. The skirmish has collapsed much of the ceiling and the tunnel has been obstructed by the corpse of the monster. They are trapped in a tiny corner.

“You can't fight like a brute! Look what you've done!” He is mute. Luo Binghe has collapsed to his knees, enveloped by a sinister aura. “Luo Binghe?”

Shen Qingqiu approaches the demon with cautious steps. He can feel the demonic energy surrounding his body. It’s suffocating and nauseating. Damn! Shen Qingqiu leans down to snatch the sword from him. Luo Binghe grips Xi Mo's hilt so tightly that he has to force him to release it.

"Disgusting sword." He hisses, furious.

Luo Binghe stares at him with surprise.

“Do you know what is happening?”

“Yes, Mingyan explained it to me the other night. Also why you have a disproportionate harem.”

It was a strange encounter. The woman wanted to explain that he shouldn't be jealous and she confessed the great weakness of Luo Binghe's sword. Shen Qingqiu didn’t understand his reasoning, but he memorized that information very carefully.

Xi Mo requires a sacrifice in the form of slaughter or dual cultivation… He frowns. Luo Binghe's breathing has become unstable, his body gives off heat, and his gaze is unfocused. The effects are too fast, he curses under his breath.

Shen Qingqiu stands up and runs to the end of the passage. As he feared, they are blocked and his strength is not enough to push the rocks away without collapsing the tunnel. Fear traps his lungs and leaves him gasping for air. Demon qi can erase Luo Binghe's sanity and unleash his most sinister and primitive desires.

Shen Qingqiu is not stupid. He knows perfectly well what the sword is whispering to him at that moment. He has seen that wild desire many times in their eyes when they were in the Water Prison.

Calming Xi Mo requires dual cultivation or blood. Is evident that the sword cries out for his death.

If he doesn't do anything, Luo Binghe will lose control and try to kill him.

Shen Qingqiu turns around upon hearing a bang. He sees Luo Binghe get up and retrieve the sword from the ground.

“What are you doing!?” He yells, terrified that he's already starting to lose control. 

“I'm going to open a portal to the palace. It is not safe for us to stay together...”

Shen Qingqiu walks up to him and grabs his wrist to make him drop his sword.

“What are you? A beast?” He growls. Shen Qingqiu breathes calmly and looks into those red-tinged eyes. “You can't drag the first of your wives you see to bed.”

Shen Qingqiu takes a step forward and Luo Binghe steps back. He has long been aware that his disciple is a man. A considerably attractive man. Shen Qingqiu slides his fingers over Luo Binghe's face, valuing the second possibility, and the demon pales.

“No.” He protests in a dry voice. “The wedding...”

Shen Qingqiu snorts.

“Since when do you care about fidelity?”

“Of my promises? Forever.”

But what nonsense is he saying? The qi deviation must have affected his brain.

Shen Qingqiu has to stand on tiptoes to kiss him. It is a light kiss, a soft touch. It is a trial to test the limits of both. Luo Binghe gasps in surprise. Not bad, I thought it would be worse… He thinks before the demon grabs his nape and pulls him towards him. His other arm grips his waist so tightly that he can't move.

Luo Binghe's kiss is wild, hungry. Shen Qingqiu opens his mouth in surprise and he takes the opportunity to slide his tongue inside. The demon's lips bite his, devouring him alternating between softness and longing. It's addictive and Shen Qingqiu closes his eyes, letting himself be carried away. A groan escapes him and it's so embarrassing it brings him back to sanity.

Shen Qingqiu grabs his hair and yanks him away. He gasps. His chest and face are burning. At least it works. He gulps, trying to control his breathing. Despite Luo Binghe's hatred, he seems willing to try the second option.

“Don't be so rude.” He scolds him. “Why do you even know how to kiss so well? Is there something you don't know how to do?”

Luo Binghe grins, amused.

“That's a very weird way of praising me... shizun. ” He purrs, licking his lips. Qi deviation makes his gaze look hungry. Shen Qingqiu shivers, but he stands firm.

“Sit.”

Luo Binghe blinks. Still, he follows his orders. He releases him and sits on the ground, his back against the rocks. Shen Qingqiu leans on his lap and with one hand he holds his hair again to control him and the other pushes his outer robe away. He places his hand on Luo Binghe's heart. The demon gasps, lust gleaming in his eyes. Shen Qingqiu ignores him to focus on his golden core. How ironic, I have his heart in my hand. I could destroy you, beast. But he knows that this wasn’t an option for a long time. They need each other at that moment to survive and being in control makes him feel powerful. He notices the adrenaline bubbling and a different heat in his gut.

Shen Qingqiu smirks wickedly before leaning down and kissing him. Luo Binghe greets him with the same eagerness. He lets him play with his mouth as he tries to connect their meridians. The two gasp as they feel the stream of qi linking them. It is overwhelming and disproportionate. The demon qi is as hungry as its owner.

“What are you doing?” Luo Binghe growls.

“There are many forms of dual cultivation.” Shen Qingqiu closes his eyes. His heartbeat has accelerated and it takes a few seconds to calm down. “Your deviation seems pretty superficial. I will go slowly.”

“I know you prefer to control, but maybe I should set the pace.” He suggests.

Shen Qingqiu laughs.

“Look at you! You are not in a position to make any decisions.”

That seems to offend him. Luo Binghe shakes his hips and his erection brushes against Shen Qingqiu.

“I would say that I am quite capable.” He mocks.

“Stupid beast!” He tugs at his hair and the demon groans. “You can do dual cultivation without ... much detail.”

“Shizun seems like an expert.”

“I have read a few medicinal books.”

“…”

Luo Binghe looks at him with a huge smile, half fun, half wish.

“Have you never dually cultivated with anyone?”

“What do you think?” He rolls his eyes. “I’ve never had a cultivation partner, another stupid question?”

“But the brothels...”

“Dual cultivation involves cultivators. I've changed my mind: no more stupid questions.”

Shen Qingqiu kisses him again and begins to balance their spiritual energies. He notices that Luo Binghe has clenched his fists tightly and has them resting on the ground. He must hate this with all his soul, he guesses. He depends on me and that makes him vulnerable. Although Shen Qingqiu at first had no interest in sleeping with Luo Binghe, controlling the situation is far too pleasant. And his kisses are nice.

(Meanwhile, Luo Binghe needs all his willpower to control himself and not push Shen Qingqiu back to the ground and open his legs.)

They kiss for minutes. There comes a time when it is impossible to ignore Luo Binghe's erection. It brushes his crotch and the demon is starting to shake his hips. Shen Qingqiu lets go of his hair and slides his hand down. He bites his lip before grabbing onto Luo Binghe's cock. Despite the clothing, he can notice its warmth, shape, and humidity. 

“Shizun...” The demon groans. “Please.”

Shen Qingqiu has never touched anyone so intimately. First, he moves uncertainly, then he pretends that he is playing a musical instrument. He concentrates on the transfusion of spiritual energy and forgets the demon's gasps, the cock growing in his hand. 

Luo Binghe comes in a burst that quenches the qi deviation. Shen Qingqiu raises. He quickly looks for a handkerchief to clean himself.

“You should get rid of that sword.” He comments coldly as if nothing has happened and the demon is not looking at him with unsatisfied desire.

Shen Qingqiu turns and walks through the remains of the tunnel. They have bought time to calmly seek a way out. Suddenly an arm goes around his waist. Luo Binghe uses Xi Mo to tear reality apart and create a portal, dragging him.

“Binghe!” Offended, he hisses like a cat. “What did I just tell you about that sword!!?”

“It is faster and more useful.” He responds calmly and mockingly. They have reached his room in just a few seconds. “Also I know that now you're weakened.”

Shen Qingqiu groans without acknowledging that his body is shaking. The transfer of qi has been like an earthquake that is still throbbing. However ... It is the first time that he has tried dual cultivation and he may notice that his meridians glow a little stronger.

Luo Binghe picks him up at bridal style and Shen Qingqiu tries to scratch him.

“What are you doing! Let me go!”

On the other side of the door, in the hall, four wives share a meaningful look.

“Someone should warn Luo that he should pretend better.” Ning Yingying murmurs, worried.

“Or tell Shen Qingqiu that we are all aware of his carnal activities with our husband.” Sha Hualing adds with a laugh. 

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu is pissed because Luo Binghe hasn’t introduced him to his future wife yet.

As the wedding approaches, the chaos in the palace has become unbearable. The days have been reduced to din and gibberish, to a frenzy of servants finalizing preparations. He doesn’t understand why. After a hundred weddings, where does Luo Binghe get so much enthusiasm? Is it always like this? For the sake of his mental health, he hopes this is the last one.

For that reason, Shen Qingqiu decides to accompany Sha Hualing, Qiu Haitang, Liu Mingyan, and Ning Yingying on a night hunt the night before the wedding. His intended to relax but soon turns into a mistake: the four women are too distracted: Liu Mingyan and Sha Hualing flirt with each other, Qiu Haitang cries every few minutes because of him and Ning Yingying is so excited about the wedding that she doesn't say anything coherent.

Disaster is imminent.

Roars. A monster. Shrieking. A sparkling sword. Pain. And the sweet embrace of the dark.

When Shen Qingqiu wakes up, he is leaning on a woman's lap. His head hurts and blood blurs his vision. At first, he hears nothing, not even his thoughts, then he listens to a hysterical voice.

“Luo Binghe is going to kill me. Luo Binghe is going to kill me...”

“Ssshh… Calm down, everything will be fine.” He recognizes Liu Mingyan's voice, reassuring even in a moment like that.

Shen Qingqiu blinks. The world is blurry, a watercolor of stains and shadows. He sees Qiu Haitang kneeling on the ground. She is sobbing and babbling mute words. Liu Mingyan alternates between comforting her and a stressed Sha Hualing. She is the one who discovers that he is awake.

“Shen Qingqiu!” The woman leans beside him. “Are you okay?”

He splutters a growl. He tries to get up, but his head is spinning. Someone is holding him, probably Ning Yingying.

“Be careful, you hit your head hard.” Liu Mingyan speaks softly. Shen Qingqiu raises a hand and discovers that he has blood on his temple. “Do you know where you are?”

“In Bailu forest...” He murmurs slowly, not out of confusion, but because he is still dizzy and the pain is too intense.

“Do you know who you are?”

“Shen Qingqiu, former Peak Lord of Qing Jing Peak.”

There is silence, no one cries anymore. Qiu Haitang looks at him with wide eyes and a relief that reminds him of the past. Sha Hualing seems to have calmed down.

“Do you know who we are?”

He nods before saying their names. His spiritual energy has started to heal him and his head doesn't hurt as much anymore.

“Do you know who your future husband is?”

He froze. Shen Qingqiu stares at them with disbelief.

“What are you talking about?”

That simple question makes all four tremble. Sha Hualing bites her nails as Qiu Haitang gasps. Ning Yingying holds him even tighter. Only Liu Mingyan remains calm when he takes his hand.

“Luo Binghe, did you forget it?”

“Of course I haven't forgotten Luo Binghe!”

“And do you remember that tomorrow you two are going to get married?”

“Is this a joke?” Shen Qingqiu hisses. He is still dizzy and in no mood to listen to nonsense.

However, the women exchange an inexplicable worried look.

“Luo Binghe is going to kill me!” Sha Hualing whines.

Instead of explaining anything to him, the four help him up and take him back to the palace. They don't even let him ride on their sword. Ning Yingying holds him with the strength of a sister despite his questions and complaints.

The palace is illuminated when they arrive. Wedding decorations are everywhere as if it were to be held now and not tomorrow. Shen Qingqiu gulps. He knows that Sha Hualing detests him for his humiliation during the demonic invasion and Qiu Haitang and Liu Mingyan hate him for murdering their families. Maybe they are trying to play a prank on him? But Ning Yingying never would join, right?

The women yell at Luo Binghe, who immediately appears. The demon's eyes widen in surprise and fear upon seeing them. In less than a second, he is in front of him. Luo Binghe replaces Ning Yingying and restrains him despite his protests.

“What happened?”

The four of them speak at the same time, their voices outshining Shen Qingqiu's.

“PLEASE DON’T KILL US.”

“He hit his head...”

“I was distracted and he protected me... Why would Xiao Jiu protect me?”

"He's confused. I suspect he doesn't remember the last few days..."

Luo Binghe’s expression has darkened. His thumb caresses Shen Qingqiu's face as if he wants to cleanse it of blood. He listens silently, although his concern is evident. However, the most disturbing thing is that closeness, almost a hug. Shen Qingqiu tries to back away, but Luo Binghe pulls him harder.

“Call a doctor.” He orders in a hoarse voice.

And he takes him in his arms as he has done other times, but without joking, just genuine concern. That’s wrong and that’s why Shen Qingqiu kicks while trying to make them understand that he is fine.

He's fine, despite the growing fear in his chest.

Luo Binghe takes him to his room (eerily close to his other women's rooms) and gently leaves him on the bed. Liu Mingyan has followed him, but she remains in the doorway.

“I think he's suffering from slight amnesia. Don't put too much pressure on him.” She says before leaving.

Shen Qingqiu is too aware of his memories and he knows that there is nothing wrong with them. However, he is worried about something very different. Shen Qingqiu sits keeping his distance from Luo Binghe, who has also sat on the edge of the bed. He is bothered by his concern, that he tries to touch him with one hand, that he approaches as if they really…

“What’s that nonsense?” He snorts, tired of that uncomfortable silence. “Who are you marrying tomorrow?”

Luo Binghe frowns.

“You.”

Shen Qingqiu notices his throat is dry. 

“Since when!?”

“What is the last thing you remember?”

“Don’t avoid my questions!?” He hits the bed. Fear and anger bubbling in his chest. “What kind of insanity is this? I am your teacher and the person you declared to hate more than anyone in this world… Is it a new kind of torture? Haven't you had enough?!”

Yelling makes him feel good. He has turned all his worries into screams to vent. His chest aches from how hard his heart is beating. But when he looks at Luo Binghe, he freezes in icy fear. There is sorrow in the demon's eyes and sadness and anger and worry and more emotions than they deserve.

Shen Qingqiu stiffens when Luo Binghe reaches out a hand and strokes his cheek.

“I freed you, don't you remember?”

Shen Qingqiu almost nods but decides to remain still. And it turns out to be the right decision.

“We made a deal. You chose to get out of the Water Prison in exchange for loving me.”

WAIT. WHAT? His head hurts again. Shen Qingqiu stares at him with wide eyes, pale, and confused. That's not what happened... That's not what I remember…

He tries to calm down and pushes Luo Binghe's hand away. For the moment, he's going to feign ignorance for his good.

“It's ridiculous! I would never accept a deal like that!”

“I promised you that I would never attack Cang Qiong Mountain Sect.”

“It's not enough! I would never lower myself to be one of your... of your...” Words fail him. “At least without further negotiation!”

Although Luo Binghe speaks calmly, as if he is a badly injured cat and wants to calm him down, that only makes him even more nervous. Shen Qingqiu's fingers twist the sheets. He needs something in his hands. A fan.

“Tell me what happened next.” He demands without breath.

He is scared. Terrified. He doesn't want to keep listening.

But he does.

“I started courting you. I gave you this room and gifts like books.” Even though he speaks in a raspy voice, he immediately smiles maliciously. “You were the first to initiate physical contact.”

“Me????”

“Yes. You rode me while we trained with the swords and hugged while playing the guqin.”

I was literally trying to teach you to fight and play music.

“I also took you shopping. I looked for a gift for Yingying, Haitang, and you. A fan. You loved it.”

Shen Qingqiu pales even more. And Luo Binghe continues narrating the past few days from a chilling perspective. How he sought his affection in bed, how Shen Qingqiu was the one who proposed marriage before any carnal act and how he broke his word during a qi deviation. How Ning Yingying asked Yue Qingyuan’s blessing and how he was jealous of the harem.

Understanding the curious gazes from his sectmates, Shen Qingqiu covers his face with both hands. I thought that my reputation couldn’t be more damaged but I was wrong… Everyone in the cultivation world now believes that I am going to marry my demon disciple! They probably also say it's my fault.

Shen Qingqiu doesn't know if he wants to scream, cry, or hit someone. He notices Luo Binghe's hand on his shoulder. It is an affectionate gesture, too affectionate for his former torturer, typical of a future husband. Not! This is bad! He hates me! 

He might have accepted a future at Luo Binghe's side, but not like that.

Shen Qingqiu looks at the demon's eyes coldly.

“Do you remember, shizun?”

He decides to be a coward.

“No.”

 


 

For the first time in many years, Luo Binghe is scared. But he always defeats all his mishaps. He’s the most powerful creature in both reigns, human and demonic, he will find a cure for shizun's amnesia.

Chapter Text

The doctor checks Shen Qingqiu’s pulse. His nimble fingers trace his meridians, but he is not going to find anything. The truth beats in his veins, accelerated despite his cold expression. And Shen Qingqiu waits, unable to look at Luo Binghe.

The demon’s rage is in the air. Is evident, almost palpable. Is a fourth presence that grows silently minute by minute. When the doctor finishes, it’s as if the whole world has stopped breathing.

“Physically he is fine,” he explains, sweat marks his forehead. The man, a human cultivator, doesn’t dare to face the angry gaze of the Demon Lord. “The damage seems mental. There is nothing I can do with my abilities… He will surely recover the memories after a few days of rest!” The doctor adds, pale and trembling.

Luo Binghe could destroy entire armies just with his anger and frustration.

A break would be nice, he thinks. But Shen Qingqiu doesn't believe the demon will allow it. Luo Binghe is very insistent when he wants something and they are supposedly getting married tomorrow. He trembles to imagine what would have happened if he had discovered it that same day. Perhaps this was a lucky accident.

The doctor doesn't leave, he runs away. And Luo Binghe's gaze is getting harder to ignore.

“How do you feel, shizun?”

“Why do you care?”

Glancingly, he sees how the demon clenches his fists tightly. He is surrounded by dark qi, raging swirls that revolve around his wrists and arms. It's suffocating. Shen Qingqiu feels like he's running out of air, his lungs burning. Or maybe it's guilt, arid and fiery.

It doesn’t matter now.

Shen Qingqiu wants a fan, but he doesn’t dare to touch the one Luo Binghe gave him. So, his fingers rest on his knees, restless, tense, and rigid. They wrinkle the fabric and then smooth it.

“What will you do now?” He asks without looking for an answer, but because any threat will be better than that oppressive silence. “What will happen tomorrow?” Shen Qingqiu's voice is soft and resigned, fearless, it is the calm of a convict who senses his condemnation.

Luo Binghe takes his time before answering. That indecision is improper of him.

“Would you marry me?”

“Never.”

And Shen Qingqiu finally looks him in the eyes. With coldness and determination, to hide that trembling fear behind his grimace. The fury he sees in Luo Binghe is strange, different than usual. It is a vengeful rage against the world and not towards him.

“Fine,” he snorts. “I will find a way to heal you.”

“Don’t you ever dare!” Shen Qingqiu gets up. “I’m fine. I don't need those useless memories.”

He keeps them. And that's worse. Because he doesn't want to admit that he was happy in those days of ignorance.

“I’ll....”

“Agh! What’s wrong with you!?” This time Shen Qingqiu is not afraid when he approaches Luo Binghe and points his hand at him. “Why would you marry me? You hate me! You told me, yelled at me, and repeated it a thousand times while torturing me!” This illogical enigma makes him feel so confused. Why does he no longer find hatred in those red eyes? “I can't understand it. It's stupid! What do you really want from me?” 

He waits, even when he already knows the answer: revenge. It has always been the same tale as if no other thought could grow in Luo Binghe's head. And this time he has succeeded. There is no worse revenge than making him feel loved for a few days and then breaking the charade. Nothing worse than believing that he has a future. Affection can be much more painful than torture.

Luo Binghe silently turns around.

And he leaves.

Although Shen Qingqiu's room remains the same, it has returned to being an elegant prison.

 


 

Luo Binghe stops in the corridor. He ignores the worried voices of his wives since he only can listen to his thoughts.

What does he want?

He no longer knows the answer.

At first, he wished for the only thing he lacked: the love of his shizun. But he is not stupid. He was always very aware that this is not the sweet and kind shizun from the other world. His is dangerous, a sharp set of cruel words and disdain. Luo Binghe thought it would cost him more to tame him, but Shen Qingqiu had surprised him. He was not the docile lover he had fantasized about, but something different. Something better.

His shizun is like a war and he feels powerful every time he conquers a smile, he wins a genuinely loving gesture. It was an arduous task, although it was getting easier and easier.

Despite what his wives believe, he is not in love. What a ridiculous idea! He will never fall in love with his shizun!

It's just... that his smile makes him happy. That his advice fills his chest with heat and his concern relieves his worst days. Shizun has hurt him so much in the past that he owes him all the happiness in the world.

Luo Binghe clenches his fists. There is cold in his chest, a sticky fear tangled in his vertebrae. 

He can't accept it. He wants his shizun back, the one who smiles, the one who no longer looks down on him, the one who cares about him.

Furious, Luo Binghe walks away from the corridor.

 


 

To Shen Qingqiu's surprise, Luo Binghe neither pressures nor blackmails him demanding a wedding, but instead follows the doctor's instructions and leaves him alone. Of all his gifts, that time to think is the most valuable. For a week, Shen Qingqiu analyzes Luo Binghe's intentions without finding any coherent answer.

Sometimes he dreams of using Xiu Ya to dissect his thoughts.

Of course, the wives don't understand the concept of rest and they visit him every day. The four of them. Ning Yingying always comes first and goes last. She makes his bamboo tea just the way he likes it and talks non-stop about the fabulous days at Luo Binghe's palace. Sha Hualing is mischievous and makes up such blatant lies (like they were once fucking for a whole day or she almost caught them kissing in a conquered palace) that it's even funny. Liu Mingyan gives him a book she wrote about his (wrong) point of view during those last days. Qiu Haitang never says anything, she just looks at him sadly.

Their presence is as annoying as reassuring.

Shen Qingqiu hates it.

He doesn’t want to feel comfortable or that they made him smile, but rather to be abandoned with all their anger, fears, and disappointments. He has already been betrayed once, his frozen heart refuses to hope.

After a week, Luo Binghe finally enters his room.

Shen Qingqiu greets him with an icy look and no words of welcome. His wives greet him cheerfully like birds, but the demon seems disgusted to see that the amnesia is still not healed.

“Useless doctors,” he growls. “Have you remembered something?”

Shen Qingqiu drinks a cup of tea, lengthening the moment not to reply.

“Not sure. They have told me so many things that I no longer know if they are real.”

Luo Binghe's gaze is dark and inscrutable.

“Come with me,“ he orders while cutting reality with his sword. Shen Qingqiu sighs, but he doesn’t dare to refuse. Followed by the wives, he walks towards the demon. Luo Binghe holds him by the waist. It is a warm gesture, full of affection and concern. He grips him firmly but harmlessly as if Shen Qingqiu were made of glass. Shen Qingqiu huffs, annoyed, but decides to tolerate it.

He prefers those touches to the cruel damage.

Luo Binghe takes them right to the entrance of Qiong Ding Peak. Shen Qingqiu frowns. He doesn’t expect to see Yue Qingyuan or Mu Qingfan.

“Shen-shixiong!”

He ignores them. Shen Qingqiu almost regrets it for Mu Qingfang. No matter how good a doctor he is, he will never find a cure for a non-existent disease.

Mu Qingfang guides him inside while Luo Binghe tells him about the accident. From the way he expresses himself, it seems that it is not the first time he has told him. 

Shen Qingqiu sits on a chair (and his sticky demon stays behind, his hands resting on his shoulders) and waits patiently for his meridians to be checked again. Mu Qingfang asks him questions and he is cunning enough to fool them. With a deep sigh, the doctor crosses his arms.

“It's strange, Shen-shixiong doesn't have any bruises and his meridians are fine. He should have recovered his memory by now.”

Shen Qingqiu notices Luo Binghe is tensing. Demon qi surrounds him again. With a sigh, he holds his former disciple's sleeve to calm her down.

“Getting angry is useless,” he scolds him. “Like your pathetic efforts. I told you I'm fine.”

Luo Binghe growls. He looks at Mu Qingfang with an intensity capable of destroying worlds.

“Is there a remedy? I'm tired of waiting. Is there any medicinal grass? Any monster that I can kill?”

The simplicity of his questions makes him snort.

Mu Qingfang shakes his head.

“I dare not give him anything without knowing the exact causes of his amnesia. However...” He clicks his tongue. “Shen-shixiong may have forgotten the last few days, but memories and feelings are two different things.”

Shen Qingqiu frowns.

“What do you mean?”

“Perhaps you are confused because you do not remember the last days, but your feelings are the same.”

Shen Qingqiu laughs bitterly, as Luo Binghe stiffens furiously.

“That’s not true! Shizun hates me again!”

“Right. I hate this beast more than ever.”

Mu Qingfang clears his throat, awkwardly.

“Well… Shen-shixiong, I never imagined that I would see you arrive hugging Lord Luo. Nor that you would allow him to stay by your side while I check your meridians or that you would seek to touch him.” Shen Qingqiu blushes as the doctor speaks. “I would suggest you be more sincere. And if you need help recognizing your feelings, you are not alone...”

Shen Qingqiu stands up abruptly, flushed and furious, his fists clenched and his eyes narrowed.

“That’s ridiculous!” He splutters. “Nonsense!”

Behind him, Luo Binghe’s eyes widen. And then, he smiles, victorious.

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu shivers. Too many eyes are watching him and he doesn’t dare to face any. For a few seconds, Shen Qingqiu wonders if Mu Qingfang is also in league with Luo Binghe and his harem. He shakes his head. It can't be, it's too ridiculous. Like the idea of falling in love with the demon.

“Shizun...”

“Shut up!” He demands with a hoarse voice. Shen Qingqiu pinches the bridge of his nose. He notices the onset of a shrill, dizzy headache.

Very slowly, he turns to look at everyone gathered in the room. There are too many people: Yue Qingyuan is behind Mu Qingfang, his expression betrays that he is wishing he would get away from Luo Binghe, while Ning Yingying seems happy at the idea of him keeping his feelings . Beside her, Liu Mingyan rubs her hands together and Qiu Haitang clings to her friend's arm. And away from all of them, Luo Binghe is a dangerous mix of anxiety, anger, and longing.

“I need...” His voice falters. He desperately needs a solution, to understand the intentions of his disciple, tranquility, that they leave him alone… “I need time.”

A plea escapes him, too tired to keep his aloof attitude. Shen Qingqiu seeks Luo Binghe's gaze, willing to tempt again the beast's feelings and discover the limits of his new cage.

“Show me,” he challenges him. “Let me stay at Cang Qiong Mountain Sect. One week. Alone.” Shen Qingqiu mumbles each word slowly, fearful of a refusal and keeping an eye on the reactions of others.

As he expected, Luo Binghe frowns. His expression is dissatisfied and for a few seconds, he doesn't say anything.

“Just a week.” He reluctantly nods. “And then you will return to my palace, regardless of whether you regain your memories.”

He accepts so quickly and that surprises him. Shen Qingqiu is unable to relax. He senses a trap, with Luo Binghe there is always one. If he doesn’t know him that well, he would even believe his concern. But it is a lie. It is always a lie.

“Of course,” Luo Binghe adds. “If I find a cure during this week, I will be able to visit you. With Mu Qingfang.” He mentions the doctor's name belatedly as if he forgot or wanted to emphasize his innocent intentions.

“No.” Shen Qingqiu crosses his arms. “I want a week of tranquility without seeing absolutely anyone.”

“Not even your doctor?”

“NOBODY.”

“I cannot grant it to you.” 

I knew you wouldn't give in so soon! 

“You are still hurt. Mu Qingfang will visit you every day.”

“Every two days or nothing.”

“Fine.” Luo Binghe smiles showing all his teeth. There is a dangerous glint in his eyes. ”And my wives can visit you if they wish.”

“Just those three.” He quickly adds, pointing at them with a sleeve. Liu Mingyan clears her throat. “And Sha Hualing if she keeps quiet. And nobody else.” He says it looking at Yue Qingyuan, who he still hasn't forgiven for accepting that wedding pantomime.

Luo Binghe seems annoyed that he stopped paying attention to him. He takes a step forward to stand in front of him. Shen Qingqiu sighs to himself.

“Mu Qinfgang every two days and your wives, no one else.” He reminds him severely. “Not even you.”

“Except when I find a cure.”

“You won't.” But he knows Luo Binghe's tenacity and his disgusting luck in finding strange objects. “But in case you find something... You can try it. And then you will leave without wasting any more time.” From his attitude, more resigned than annoyed, Shen Qingqiu suspects that he will make all possible traps. “And the week starts tomorrow.”

This second deal takes more time to accept and has more nuances, but they seal it like the first. Did you not suspect anything? Shen Qingqiu thinks. Didn't it seem strange to you that I accepted unconditionally? At least with this one he feels better.

He longs for the moment to get away from everyone. After agreeing on the final details, Shen Qingqiu flees from Qiong Ding Peak to return to Qing Jing Peak. His steps falter as he approaches the bamboo house. He remembers that the other day he was unable to enter, now he has no choice.

His old home is cold and soulless and is missing something that he cannot locate, that same unknown item that he has in Luo Binghe's palace. But it doesn't matter, because he's finally alone and calm, with plenty of time to collect his thoughts.

Even so, that night Shen Qingqiu cannot sleep. The immortal takes refuge in his guqin to remove with music all those horrible doubts that don’t allow him to rest.

On the first day, Ning Yingying arrives in the morning.

She brings conversation, sweets, and tea. She doesn’t move away from his side and he doesn’t expel her either. Luo Binghe appears in the afternoon, covered in wounds and with a grass that only grows once every thousand years and can clear confused minds.

(Shen Qingqiu is sorry to waste the grass, so he pretends to drink it when he actually keeps it.)

On the second day, Liu Mingyan accompanies Ning Yingying. The woman gives him a book with such descriptive homoerotic content that Shen Qingqiu blushes with fright. He sets it on fire without blinking. Mu Qingfang arrives at noon to check his meridians and then Luo Binghe. This time he brings a gem that is only found inside the seventh volcano of the eighth ghost kingdom. Shen Qingqiu orders him to bathe, disgusted by the smell of soot, and lends him his green clothes. 

It's strange to see him dressed like this. He looks less aggressive and intimidating.

(Of course, Shen Qingqiu hides the gem instead of wasting it with a spell.)

On the third day, Sha Hualing joins the other two. The demoness keeps her word. She remains quiet and sits on Liu Mingyan's lap, although her expression is quite eloquent. She participates in the conversation by nodding or tapping the table with her nails. This time, Luo Binghe brings a legendary beast at noon.

“Its meat is used to treat internal wounds,” he explains, happy despite his past failures.

“You're staining my peak with blood!”

“I'll cook it for you, shizun!”

“Stupid beast! Don't even think about dirtying my house!”

The Demon Lord's cooking is... insanely good. Is it possible that he does everything right?, he laments. But he doesn't protest much either and allows him to stay and eat. Just for the quality of the food. In the afternoon he ejects him from his hut without hesitation.

On the fourth day, Ning Yingying arrives followed by Qiu Haitang. And then Sha Hualing and Liu Mingyan, hugging each other around the waist. Then Mu Qingfang, who brings back memories of Yue Qingyuan (and the silent request to visit him). And lastly Luo Binghe. It’s not yet noon and the demon has already found the Flower of the Eight Remedies.

Shen Qingqiu can't take it anymore and on the fourth day he flees from his house to seek silence elsewhere.

(Of course, he saves the flower first. Those barbarians are able to crush it into medicinal tea.)

Chapter Text

Luo Binghe didn't expect Shen Qingqiu to run away, but he wasn't surprised either.

The demon gazes inside the bamboo house lost in thoughts. The situation is so strange that he still hasn't gotten used to it. Behind him, his wives chat animatedly. Luo Binghe brushes the guqin with his fingers, examines the brushes and the exquisite handwriting exercises. When he is exploring some books, he discovers hidden in them the flower and the grass that he had found for his shizun.

At first, he feels confused and cheated. Afterward, he starts laughing.

“Is something wrong, A-Luo?” Ning Yingying asks.

“Shizun seems to like my gifts.” He puts them back in place.

He is not angry. Because he knows that even though he has forgotten the past few days, Shen Qingqiu's feelings haven’t disappeared. These treasured gifs are proof of that. Or that he hasn't kicked him out of his home despite all his threats or sometimes he even scolded him for being hurt.

Shen Qingqiu claims that he hates him, but Luo Binghe has tasted his hatred and he can recognize it. He smiles to himself, entertained by his shizun's curious care.

“I'll have to find him better gifts...” He looks at Qiu Haitang. She is the best at giving ideas.

An ice blast is heard and Mobei-Jin appears. The demon kneels before him.

“My lord...”

Luo Binghe sighs. His loyal subordinate lately only appears to bring him bad news, such as rebellions, internal fights in his harem (perhaps Shen Qingqiu was right when he complained), or subtle hints about pending paperwork. And perhaps it’s true that he has been distracted a bit looking for a cure for Shen Qingqiu.

“What do you need?” Luo Binghe strokes Xi Mo's hilt instinctively.

“Master Shen asks if he can give me orders given his new status. He has mumbled the last word with disgust, I think.”

Luo Binghe opens his eyes in horror. Giving power to Shen Qingqiu is a terrifying idea and he's not stupid enough to do it (even though the immortal has already conquered his thoughts and time).

“No.”

Mobei-Jun disappears and reappears after a moment.

“My apologies, my lord, but Master Shen has called you naive. He says you are delusional if you think he would marry you for nothing.”

“Wait!” Luo Binghe blinks. “Is he evaluating the wedding?”

“I'll ask him.”

It was a question to himself, arisen from astonishment, but Mobei-Jun interprets it literally and disappears again. He comes back right away.

“His first response has been without words. He looked horrified. Then, he has shouted never . But, after that, he added very slowly and with a coldness typical of my clan that in the hypothetical case that happened he expects a good deal.”

Luo Binghe laughs. In the blink of an eye, Mobei-Jun disappears again. Probably to convey his answer to Shen Qingqiu.

“Your future consort has looked at me with hatred,” he informs when he returns. “Also, he has added that he will not forget it and that he wants a better proposal the next time you mention this topic to him. He also muttered something about a stupid beast, but I think it was to himself.”

Luo Binghe nods thoughtfully. He cannot ignore the fact that Shen Qingqiu is evaluating his marriage proposal. And that's good news. He smirks.

“Out of curiosity, how did you two end up talking?”

Meanwhile, in the bamboo forest, Shen Qingqiu hears Shan Qinghuan's lamentable cries. His martial brother had approached him when he had finally found a quiet moment. Of course, Shen Qingqiu considers everything that has happened to Shan Qinghuan is his fault for his poor decisions. However, the spy has provided him with some very interesting information.

Shen Qingqiu crosses his arms as he thinks. Luo Binghe is a conqueror, not a ruler. His skill resides on the battlefield, not drafting laws. He grins, remembering the disastrous attempts of his disciple to master the four arts. Perhaps he has found a way to survive in Luo Binghe's empire successfully without marrying him.

Shan Qinghuan has asked him for help in escaping from Mobei-Jun, who is hell-bent on him solving the paperwork. In other circumstances Shen Qingqiu would mock him, it’s his fault for betraying them in the first place, but perhaps today he can get a new ally.

They speak while the demon has disappeared to inform Luo Binghe.

“Maybe I can help you...” Shen Qingqiu talks slowly. “But you have already betrayed us once, how can I trust you?”

Maybe he's getting a bit of revenge by torturing him like that. Shen Qingqiu can't help it: he has a lot of rage and needs to vent it.

After hearing him babble empty promises, Shen Qingqiu raises a hand and Shan Qinghuan falls silent.

“I can protect you today, but I need you to do something for me. If you fail, if you betray me, I will hand you over to the ice demon. It is clear?”

His martial brother nods.

“What do you need, Shen-shixiong?”

“Help me avoid my wedding with Luo Binghe.”

And Mobei-Jun returns.

“My lord reminds you that no one else can visit you this week.”

“Remind him that he should go now that he has given me his new cure .” Shen Qingqiu lifts two fingers, wagging invisible quotations. “And as long as he parasitizes my house, I will be obligated to help my esteemed martial brothers.”

Shen Qingqiu doubts that the demon can distinguish sarcasm.

“My lord is not pleased with your answer.”

“Fine. Tell him that I will only help Shan Qinghuan. My shidi has a lot of work here at An Ding Peak.”

Mobei-Jun looks upset, although his expression is stiff as an iceberg. He comes back right away.

“My lord agrees, but insists that you return to take a meal.”

“I'm not going back while he...”

“He has also said that he has been in charge of cooking.” His voice sounds annoyed as if he is offended by the Lord Demon wasting his time in the kitchen.

Shen Qingqiu swallows his answer. The memory of Luo Binghe's food is too tempting.

“I'm going,” he grumbles. “Let him know that I want him to be gone by the afternoon.”

Mobei-Jun nods before disappearing.

Both keep their word: Shen Qingqiu returns to eat and Luo Binghe leaves when they finish. Although the treacherous wives try with excuses to make him stay a little longer. However, Shen Qingqiu is adamant. 

Even so, Luo Binghe looks suspiciously animated when he leaves the bamboo house.

He returns that same night.

“I've found another treasure, shizun!” He exclaims, cheerfully. The demon enters with self-confidence and stops to greet all of his wives and then Shen Qingqiu. Unlike other occasions, he hasn’t new wounds or is stained with blood. “The wood of the Tree of Infinite Eyes balances the mind, the ink of the Wise Spider protects good memories and the paper of the Isle of Doom enhances meditation.”

Shen Qingqiu approaches, curious. Luo Binghe gives him a smile first and then... a fan.

He refuses to accept it out of distrust and principles. Although it is a beautiful fan. Shen Qingqiu watches over Luo Binghe and his suspicious smile and the suspicious gleam in his eyes and his suspicious attitude.

“This treasure is very curious,” he appoints.

There is a clatter of nails against the table and someone clears their throat.

“Sha Hualing says this is a traditional cure among the demons of the east,” Liu Mingyan explains.

As if I could trust any of you. Shen Qingqiu rolls his eyes but he takes the fan reluctantly.

“All right, I guess we'll see each other tomorrow.”

Luo Binghe's smile widens, maliciously. From a pocket, he takes out an orange fruit that smells like honey.

“I have also brought you the Fruit of the Divided Moon. They say that it is deliciously sweet and that it erases any bad memories. But only if it is cooked in a certain way, otherwise it is bitter and harsh.”

Shen Qingqiu hisses as he glares at him.

“Fine… You can stay for dinner.”

Chapter Text

On the fifth day, Luo Binghe is not surprised to find that Shen Qingqiu has run away. Again. He sighs before entering the bamboo house. Ning Yingying is the only one inside. She stops playing the guqin when she hears him.

“Good morning, A-Luo.” Her smile is as radiant as always.

“Where is shizun?”

“He said he had to do something.” Ning Yingying gets up. “He has also told me that you should wait for him here.”

It's ridiculous how a few words make Luo Binghe's eyes shine. He is thirsty for shizun's validation, in all the ways of his affection. He never has enough: he wants more, he needs more. That tiny hope makes him happier than many of his treasures. Luo Binghe places his new gift (disguised as another therapy) on the table before approaching his wife.

“He wants to see me?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

However, Shen Qingqiu doesn’t come during the morning. Anxious, Luo Binghe locks himself in the kitchen and starts cooking. He knows his shizun's favorite food and also his secret predilection for sweets. He makes too many cookies for one person, tanghulu, and osmanthus cake. Luo Binghe kills time while fantasizing about seeing Shizun again, but Shen Qingqiu doesn't return. And his happiness quickly soured.

Although Ning Yingying tries to reassure him, that rage that accompanies him since the Abyss grows like a storm. His patience is also extinguished and only Ning Yingying's words prevent him from going out to find Shen Qingqiu.

Shen Qingqiu arrives with the elongated shadows of the afternoon, with his icy tranquility of the past, and that indifferent face that doesn’t react to Luo Binghe's growls. He raises an eyebrow at his silent complaints and listens to Ning Yingying's verbiage, who tries to ease the accumulated tension in the bamboo house. It doesn’t work.

“Where were you?” Luo Binghe approaches threateningly, willing to corner his shizun, to break his facade until he apologizes. “This wasn’t part of the deal.”

Shen Qingqiu disdains the sanguinolent sparkle in his eyes and forehead mark, his thirst for blood, and the threat he detaches. He just hides behind his fan and seeing that he is using the fan he has given him is enough to make Luo Binghe calm down.

“Your presence here wasn't part of the deal either.” He fights back before handing him a cloth-wrapped package. “For you.”

Luo Binghe unfolds the package curiously. He doesn’t want to have any illusions, because he expects a gift and is afraid that it’s not. The demon opens his eyes and mouth when he discovers Zheng Yang reforged. His fingers caress the edge with fear that it will break again. That piece of his past fits into his hands as if he had never lost it.

When Luo Binghe raises his head, he discovers that Shen Qingqiu is watching him with his face still hidden behind the fan.

“Is it a gift, shizun?” Luo Binghe's voice is mocking and hides all the emotions that strangle his neck.

Shen Qingqiu fans himself impatiently as he always does when he is nervous.

“It’s not.” His gaze contradicts his words: soften, without malice, a little proud. “As your shizun, I consider that Zheng Yang suits you better than that monstrosity called Xin Mo.”

“Reforging a spirit sword is very complicated and takes a lot of effort.” Luo Binghe approaches, still intending to corner him, although his motivation is different. More naughty and mischievous. “Thanks, shizun...” He purrs, savoring each letter while looking into his eyes.

Shen Qingqiu raises his fan as if it is a wall between them.

“It's nothing important,” he babbles very loudly.

Shen Qingqiu has backed down until he hits his back against the wall and has nowhere to run. Luo Binghe tilts his head as if he is going to kiss him, even though he is only teasing him.

“It's nice that you care about me.”

“I’m not!” He affirms vehemently. “Your demon sword is dangerous...”

“Like I said, thank you for caring about me.”

“I'm worried about your wives!” Despite his stubbornness, Shen Qingqiu doesn’t meet his eyes and has slightly flushed ears. “Some are good people. They deserve something better than a sword that causes you to qi deviate .”

“Oh.” Luo Binghe smirks, his voice turns into a honeyed purr. “Did Shizun remember our meeting? My qi deviation and our dual cultivation?”

“That never happened!” Completely red, Shen Qingqiu tries to hit him with the fan without noticing that nothing hides his face anymore. “Don't get strange ideas! Liu Mingyan told me, nothing more.”

Luo Binghe's strange ideas are deeply ingrained in his mind and are not going to disappear anytime soon, precisely. The demon laughs as he pulls away. It's tempting to keep pushing Shen Qingqiu, but he doesn't want to cross an impassable line that takes him further away from his goal.

“Thanks, shizun,” he says while tying Zheng Yang to his belt. “I can’t put aside Xin Mo, but I will also use your gift.”

“It’s not a gift! Do whatever you want.” He growls. “I will laugh when you die.”

Luo Binghe wants to tease him and tell him that if he cares so much about Xin Mo, he can help him instead of his wives. Or that if they marry he will be able to inherit an empire in the hypothetical case that he dies (which will never happen). Instead, Luo Binghe flashes a sweet smile and grabs his hand guiding him towards the table.

“I also have a gift for you.”

Shen Qingqiu hisses, but he doesn’t reject him, push him away, protest, or scold him. He's being surprisingly nice. And Luo Binghe understands that this is the kindness of someone who is not used to being so. For shizun to try so hard for him, makes his heart race. Shizun showing him a facet that he hasn't displayed to anyone else makes him feel even more special.

When he realizes, Ning Yingying has long since disappeared. It's just the two of them and a mountain of sweets.

Chapter Text

He has two days left before returning to Luo Binghe's palace.

Shen Qingqiu is playing the guqin as he ponders his options. Music has always relaxed him even in the most stressful moments. And he needs to keep his mind calm before making another mistake (like marrying Luo Binghe).

Luo Binghe still hasn't come to visit him that morning, and Shen Qingqiu waits tensely. Because he knows that he will come. Luo Binghe will appear at any moment and will ruin his day. And perhaps he will bring another trophy to cure his imaginary disease or insist on preparing their meal.

However, at the moment Ning Yingying and Qiu Haitang are the only ones visiting the bamboo house.

Ning Yingying hums in time to his melody while Qiu Haitang watches him with narrowed eyes, pursed lips, and clenched fits on the table. She hasn't said anything since she walked in. Honestly, Shen Qingqiu doesn't understand why she insists on torturing herself like that. It is too late to fix a past turned to ashes and because of Luo Binghe's latest change of mind, Qiu Haitang has lost her revenge.

Shen Qingqiu prefers it. He is tired of a lifetime of pain and doesn‘t want to hate the one who saved him in hell. If he spared her life, it was because of those good memories during his nightmarish past.

“I like that song, shizun,” Ning Yingying says when he finishes playing. “You don't remember it, but you used to play very sad songs.”

“In Luo Binghe's palace? Normal. I was his prisoner,” he explains in a dry voice.

However, Ning Yingying shakes her head. Her expression is melancholic although she smiles.

“Before too.”

Shen Qingqiu's fingers tighten on the guqin and one of the strings scratches his finger. He prefers not to remember. And although he may ignore some of his thoughts, not the feelings that bubble in his chest. The loneliness of Qing Jing Peak, the door that he didn’t dare to open when he returned. The frustration in the Lingxi Caves, his rage during the Peak Lords meetings.

That feeling of peace in that room in his enemy's palace.

His room. Luo Binghe’s palace.

Shen Qingqiu stands up with the firm intention of making tea and stepping away from the instrument. It's stupid and he knows it, but he gives a hateful look to the guqin who has betrayed his feelings.

“I’ll help you!” Ning Yingying offers herself, cheerfully as always. Behind her, Qiu Haitang mutters something and also stands up.

They are too many to make tea, Qiu Haitang is too tense, and Ning Yingying is as clumsy as ever. Shen Qingqiu begins to stress, as the two of them are bothering him more than helping him.

Unconsciously, he turns to face the door, confident that Luo Binghe will arrive.

But Luo Binghe doesn't come.

As they try to prepare a tea that is surely undrinkable, Qiu Haitang twists her fingers and opens her mouth without saying anything. Her nervousness is contagious and Shen Qingqiu is beginning to feel it as well.

“You wanna tell me something?” He tries to control himself so as not to release all the venom in his voice. She hasn't done anything to him.

“It’s nothing,” she mutters, but her gaze betrays her.

“If it disturbs you, it’s something.”

Qiu Haitang lowers her head. When she speaks again, her voice is almost a sob.

“You probably don't remember, but during the incident where you lost your memory, you protected me. And I don’t understand why. You killed my family!” She clenches her fists as she screams, her eyes wet and angry. “Why, Shen Qingqiu? Why did you do that?”

Shen Qingqiu no longer knows if she is referring to the past or the incident. So he shrugs it off.

“I don’t remember. And I already told you, I prefer not to talk about the past. It's done.”

“No! I need answers!” She screams as she grabs his sleeve. By pushing him, they hit the kettle by mistake and the boiling water soaked Shen Qingqiu's hand. 

He hisses. The pain is tolerable but annoying. Qiu Haitang has been left paralyzed as Ning Yingying quickly offers to heal him.

“I… I didn’t want to hurt you,” Qiu Haitang mutters before she breaks down to cry.

Shen Qingqiu is tired and burdened by too much trouble, Luo Binghe's absence stuns him, and his hand, head, and heart hurts. Even so, he sighs before hugging Qiu Haitang as she hugged him in the past.

“I’m sorry,” he says with an exhausted sigh. “I was the one who broke everything. And that is why I prefer not to tell you anything. I've already done too much damage to you. Hate me. I have never asked you to forgive me. Hate me if that makes you feel better.”

Because he will never regret killing her family.

Shen Qingqiu sighs. With his bad luck, Luo Binghe surely arrives now. Right?

Or not.

Where is Luo Binghe? Is he ... fine? He didn't get in trouble for one of his stupid adventures, right?

 


 

After failing his plan to catch An Ding Peak's Lord to resolve the paperwork, Mobei-Jun has no choice but to confront Luo Binghe. He is a loyal subordinate, but he is not stupid either. And the empire needs a ruler who worries about it rather than courting another immortal. 

Of course, Luo Binghe tries to sneak away when Mobei-Jun reminds him of his obligations.

“Today I’m busy,” he says. “I'm going to the seventh island in the Enchanted Sea. I have heard that I can find the leaves of a unique tea. Shizun will love it!”

Today he can’t and neither could all the previous ones, nor he will be able tomorrow. Mobei-Jun is tired, but this time he has an infallible plan.

“Can I give you some advice that has worked in my family for centuries?” With those words, he immediately catches Luo Binghe's attention. “Give him some time. You have been visiting him every day. Don't go today.”

Luo Binghe frows.

“I don't understand how that can help me.”

“It will work. You see, he has gotten used to your presence. If you don't go today, your beloved will miss you. It is another way of testing his feelings.”

Luo Binghe smirks mischievously upon understanding what he is saying.

“It’s not a bad plan, I can try.”

“Meanwhile...” Little by little, Mobei-Jun manages to push the Demon Lord to his office to face his worst enemy: paperwork.

 


 

At night, Ning Yingying and Qiu Haitang finally say goodbye. It has been a strange day and Shen Qingqiu is exhausted, but he doesn’t regret spending more time with his favorite disciple and helping Qiu Haitang's wounds start to heal.

Still, Luo Binghe's absence worries him and when he is finally left alone, his thoughts fly to the Demon Lord. Nothing and no one can hurt him, he is annoyingly powerful. But what if it had happened? No. That’s impossible. What if Luo Binghe has had enough of him? What if he is tired of that game of giving him gifts, cooking, and visiting him every day in exchange for complaints? 

Shen Qingqiu clenches his fists, even though the pain in his hands and fingers, as he tries to control his breathing.

Although it has been so many years, it still hurts to be abandoned. It shouldn't disappoint him, but it does. Shen Qingqiu closes his eyes and tries to forget all those sticky and dirty feelings that contaminate his inside.

Then someone knocks on the door.

He sighs. It won't be the first time Ning Yingying forgets something or maybe it's Qiu Haitang still wanting to talk or Yue Qingyuan who gets a little closer to his house every day or…

Shen Qingqiu blinks. Because it's Luo Binghe.

“You!” He hisses, furious at his innocent smile, the familiarity with which he tries to enter his house after ignoring him all day. “Either you come every day or none at all!”

“Oh,” Luo Binghe purrs, smirking, while one hand holds Shen Qingqiu's chin. “Did you miss me, shizun?”

Then he realizes that Luo Binghe has purposely ignored him and yes, he may have missed him a bit. A mixture of anger and shame blushes his cheeks. Shen Qingqiu sputters for words, too confused to articulate.

“Shameless!” He blurts out, pushing his hand away with a slap. “No one would miss you.”

But Luo Binghe enjoys his reaction. His smile grows, like a wild animal, and his eyes twinkle red. He takes a step forward and Shen Qingqiu steps back. Before he can flee, Luo Binghe envelopes him with a hug that pulls him against his chest. One hand clings to his waist while another caresses his cheek, preventing Shen Qingqiu from looking away.

 

 

“I also missed shizun,” he whispers into his ear.

The demon's breath tickles him. Shen Qingqiu's breathing has accelerated and he doesn’t know if it is because of nervousness or because he is still angry. He raises an arm to push Luo Binghe away, but he catches his wrist. Luo Binghe frowns upon discovering the collection of wounds and burns on his hand.

“What happened?” His voice is soft but threatening. As he speaks, his fingers gently caress his skin. “Who has hurt you?”

“No one,” he tries to break free, but Luo Binghe's grip is firm.

Shen Qingqiu blushes even more from the humiliation of admitting his clumsiness. He has burned his hand while making tea, has cut himself with one of the guqin strings and when he was trying to cook, then he broke a vial and stuck the shards in his fingers. His accidents continued until Ning Yingying forbidden him to do anything for the rest of the day.

Gently, Luo Binghe lowers his head and kisses his injured hand. Although it doesn't hurt, Shen Qingqiu feels a chill run from his wrist to his entire arm. He feels warmth in his chest and a nameless discomfort. Dizzy, he is barely aware that his pulse has quickened when Luo Binghe kisses the back of his hand and then the palm with an unbelievable delicacy from a Demon Lord.

“Enough!” Shen Qingqiu splutters before regaining his arm and freeing himself from his grip. “Leave! You are late.”

Luo Binghe smirks even when he closes the door in front of him. Shen Qingqiu remains restless when he leans against the door and tries to understand what just happened.

But that strange heat is still under his skin and it doesn't go away even when he lies down and tries to forget Luo Binghe.

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu didn’t imagine that on his last day in Cang Qiong Sect he would end up in the city at the foot of the mountain. Strolling through a market. Accompanied by Luo Binghe and the rest of the harem.

He hadn't accepted that when he made a deal with Luo Binghe.

Although, honestly, it's nice to leave the sect for once. Perhaps Shen Qingqiu doesn't mind that Ning Yingying tricked him into going shopping and neither did the rest of his company. Maybe he just feels embarrassed.

Shen Qingqiu hides behind his fan and tries to ignore his companions. Luo Binghe acts like a Demon Lord and he is enjoying it. Everyone walks away from his shadow and no vendor dares to say anything about the presence of demons. His facade is arrogant as if that city also belongs to him. And, at the same time, he acts like a child discovering the world for the first time. Luo Binghe stops at each stand to admire the jewels, swords, or food. 

And he is not the worst: Sha Hualing is a wild creature who advances without education or respect for others. At times she disappears, but her laugh warns that she hasn’t gotten far. Liu Mingyan should keep an eye on her, but they keep losing her at the book stands. Ning Yingying is another who walks away, sometimes with Luo Binghe, sometimes with Sha Hualing.

Shen Qingqiu feels that he is in charge of a playgroup.

Qiu Haitang is the sole responsible adult. And after the other day, the two of them can walk together without any awkward tension. They don't speak, they don't know what to say to each other, but at least their company doesn't hurt anymore.

Qiu Haitang is also the one who carries the money. Because a certain demoness has a habit of looting, so every time they hear angry screams, the woman sighs in resignation and disappears to pay whatever Sha Hualing has taken. That happens at least eight times before Shen Qingqiu is left alone again. Although his loneliness doesn’t last long: Ning Yingying quickly grabs his arm to lead him to a stand.

“Look, shizun!” She says to show him some lovely fans.

Shen Qingqiu rolls his eyes when he notices Luo Binghe approaching them with an interesting look.

“You know that this teacher has more likes, right?” Shen Qingqiu sighs as he remembers all the exquisitely beautiful fans that Luo Binghe has already gifted him with. He doesn't complain either, but perhaps his collection is starting to saturate.

“So what does shizun want?” Luo Binghe asks, standing next to him. His shoulder brushed against him and Shen Qingqiu feels a chill.

He fans himself frantically.

“Nothing,” Shen Qingqiu mutters, looking away. “Find something for Yingying and the others.”

He doesn't want more gifts, much less romantic gifts. Luo Binghe pouts unsuccessfully and Shen Qingqiu taps him on the head with the fan to make him stop behaving like a puppy. What will others think when they see the dreaded Demon Lord acting like this? As someone who has taken care of every detail of his appearance, Luo Binghe's carelessness it’s stressful.

Shen Qingqiu follows Luo Binghe and Ning Yingying. And he rejects all attempts to give him something. Ning Yingying comes up with different ideas, but Shen Qingqiu twists them into gifts for her. It starts as a way to deceive them, but Shen Qingqiu has always had a soft spot for his favorite disciple. He may not be as irritatingly rich as Luo Binghe, but he is a Peak Lord and he doesn't mind buying some nonsense for her.

Even though he feels neither tired nor hungry, he ends up buying tanghulu. It's a delicious whim and maybe that's one of those days when he allows himself to act more freely. Turning around, Shen Qingqiu discovers that Luo Binghe is sulking. The spoiled brat has taken offense as he paid more attention to Ning Yingying than to him. Shen Qingqiu sighs as he walks towards him.

“Try this,” he says, handing him one of the tanghulu.

Luo Binghe blinks in surprise. His expression quickly lights up and his fingers brush against Shen Qingqiu's when he accepts the tanghulu. He tentatively licks the candy while looking into his eyes.

“Hmmm... ” Luo Binghe grins while sucking the tanghulu. “It’s as sweet as shizun’s lips.”

“Shameless!” Blushed, he scolds him while hitting his head with the fan.

“Why? It is an objective fact.” Luo Binghe's smile grows as he squints his eyes. “Although I should taste you first.”

On the seventh day, Shen Qingqiu nearly broke the deal by trying to assassinate Luo Binghe.

“Shizun, relax.” Ning Yingying sighs without hiding her disappointment at seeing them fight. “A-Luo was just kidding.” 

Luo Binghe looks at his wife with one of his mischievous smiles. He was holding Shen Qingqiu's wrists with both hands, keeping him from skewing him with the sword. "No. I'm not."

Probably what prevented the bloodshed was the deranged laughter of a demoness and a lot of screams of panic and anger. Then, a sound of wood breaking and several steels striking.

“You two, better start behaving now, understand?” Ning Yingying scolds them with a severity that makes Shen Qingqiu even more upset. Then she runs into chaos.

He stumbles when Luo Binghe releases his wrists to grab his waist with one hand to drag him in the opposite direction. His complaints are useless, so he chooses to cross his arms and growl through his teeth.

That incident ends up being forgotten as the two walk around the stands. Shen Qingqiu doesn’t understand why he is more concerned about Luo Binghe's barbaric wives than the demon himself, but in the end, he manages to forget about them. Not because the distant screams disappear, but because Luo Binghe has the curiosity, enthusiasm, and arrogance of the four. And ignoring him it’s hard, especially when he insists on holding his hand or pushing him to see an exhibition.

Shen Qingqiu stops at a stand that he almost ignores. He wasn't planning to do it, but he feels the urge to rest and take a better look.

“Shizun?”

Shen Qingqiu pretends not to hear that attention-demanding voice and runs his fingers across different tassels and sword pendants. In the end, he picks up a black one inlaid with green jade. Its manufactory is magnificent and Shen Qingqiu admires the smoothness of the design.

“I want this,” he speaks looking at the seller, ignoring Luo Binghe's greedy gaze. Shen Qingqiu has enough pride to prevent him from interpreting each of his gestures as an excuse to spoil him. He is not one of his lovers, spouses, not even his cultivation partner, so Luo Binghe doesn't need to give him anything else.

“Is it for Xiu Ya?” The demon asks, his gaze focused on other similar sword pendants, perhaps to look for a complimentary one to Shen Qingqiu's.

“No.”

“It's another gift for Ying’er?”

“No.”

“Yue Qingyuan?”

Shen Qingqiu frowns not understanding Luo Binghe's logic or the bitterness of his words, drenched in sour envy.

“Of course not,” he growls, fanning himself with disdain. “It’s for Zheng Yang.”

“For… me?”

“Zheng Yang,” he insists. 

Since the sword was fixed, Luo Binghe has worn it around his waist alongside Xin Mo. Shen Qingqiu still doesn't know if he has ever used it or is just an extravagant accessory in his demonic outfit, but he appreciates that Luo Binghe treasures his old sword instead of denying all his human roots.

And the sword pendant fits perfectly on Zheng Yang's hilt. Shen Qingqiu immediately checks it. He smiles behind the fan, savoring the image of his success. And trying to ignore Luo Binghe's happiness, resplendent than all the jewels of his palace.

“I hope that from now on you require more Zheng Yang.”

“Sometimes I feel like Shizun is trying to disarm me.”

“Hmn.”

Their walk becomes quieter as the afternoon lengthens and the presence of the rest of the wives turns anecdotal. Hours later, the horrified screams have completely disappeared and they don't see their silhouettes either. Although that has been a day as stressful as it is entertaining, Shen Qingqiu feels cold in his veins as the deadline ends.

The deal is over.

“We should go back,” he comments, his gaze turning towards the mountains where Cang Qiong Sect stands.

Suddenly, two arms hug his waist and push him back, until his back rests against Luo Binghe's chest.

“We should go back.” He nods, but he speaks of another place, one that Shen Qingqiu reluctantly calls home .

“Now? It's too late to fly to your castle.”

That is a desperate excuse to postpone the return. Luo Binghe shrugs before drawing Xin Mo in an eloquent gesture. Shen Qingqiu slaps his hand with the fan.

“I gave you back Zheng Yang to stop using that thing,” he reminds Luo Binghe with a cold gaze and threatening voice.

And this is how they end in front of an inn.

Although they choose the richest inn in the city, the innkeeper greets them nervously.

“I'm afraid that we are full,” he explains, rubbing his hands. “I only have one room left. You will like it, dear guests. It is spacious and very bright.”

Shen Qingqiu grimaces behind his fan, but he doesn't say anything even though he's muttering complaints in his thoughts. Although it’s a luxurious inn, Shen Qingqiu finds it too ostentatious. The decorations are ornate and it’s exaggerated with the golden color. The stairs creak as they follow the innkeeper and Shen Qingqiu's sharp gaze discovers dust in the corners and damp spots. He clicks his tongue, confirming that this place is worse than his bamboo house.

The room is spacious and clean, from the window they can see the city, and the decorations are more pleasant than the rest of the inn. However, Shen Qingqiu closes his fan with a sharp blow.

There is only one bed.

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu hasn't looked at the bed since the two of them entered the room. He's doing his best to pretend that it doesn't even exist.

“Shizun,” Luo Binghe has taken care of ordering a few dishes for dinner. “These are the specialties.” He talks like he is an expert and not a stranger in this land. Shen Qingqiu nods while contemplating the food. There are noodle tops with delicate minced green onions, dumplings, marinated beef, and congee.

He hesitantly holds the chopsticks before starting to eat. To his surprise, the food is excellent. The flavors melt in his mouth and Shen Qingqiu has to cover his face with his sleeve so that any embarrassing expression escapes him. Luo Binghe's eyes widen when he sees his reaction and the smile stretching across his lips is unstoppable. Shen Qingqiu growls before handing him a bowl.

“Eat,” he orders. “The food is fine.”

“Just fine?” He probes. “It's supposed to be the best food in this kitchen.”

“Try it and decide for yourself.” Shen Qingqiu continues to eat and Luo Binghe tilts his head curiously.

“But I'm just a half-demon with no palate or sense of taste. I want to hear shizun's opinion.”

“I told you: it's fine.”

“Better than Cang Qiong Sect's food?”

“Better than the Water Prison.”

Luo Binghe ignores the acidity of Shen Qingqiu's words and continues to watch over him without touching his chopsticks. In another context, Shen Qingqiu would suspect that he was scheming something evil, but this time his intentions are very evident. He sighs.

“It's quite pretentious to present your food as the best.”

A huge smile breaks out on Luo Binghe's face.

“So shizun knows? Since when?”

“The first bit.”

Luo Binghe leans across the table while looking into his eyes without blinking.

“Shizun's recognition makes this disciple very happy," he purrs.

Liar! You want more than recognition, you greedy demon! Shen Qingqiu bows his head to continue eating with the hope that Luo Binghe won't be aware of his embarrassment. Pink tinges on his cheeks when he thinks again about the only bed in the room.

They already slept together once, but the circumstances were very different. At least on Shen Qingqiu's side. Luo Binghe's have not changed and that makes the memory of those arms surrounding him, of that awakening embraced, take on a different importance. Shen Qingqiu almost chokes.

Is it too late to run away?

"You are quite aware of your culinary skills, but how about the tea?" Shen Qingqiu tries to speak with his usual coldness.

"This disciple will not disappoint you."

 


 

Luo Binghe is not surprised to find that the door to the room is sealed with talismans when he returns with the tray of tea. He laughs, leaning his forehead against the door. Shen Qingqiu's energy fluctuates through the wood and caresses his skin.

“Really, shizun?”

“I know you can probably break through my barrier effortlessly, but if we speak like two civilized adults I will open the door myself." Shen Qingqiu pauses before adding in a more hesitant tone. "I suppose you prefer that.”

“True. I'd rather have shizun open the door for me than force it.”

But he will if he has no other choice.

Luo Binghe hears Shen Qingqiu clearing his throat. Although he cannot see him, he can recognize his discomfort, perhaps that he is blushing. He has been missing an opportunity where shizun's icy facade falls apart and he hates it.

“We're just going to sleep. Understood? And you’ll sleep on the floor.”

Luo Binghe raises an eyebrow, amused.

"We thought we were equals now."

“Our intentions are NOT the same.”

"How do you know that, shizun?" Luo Binghe rests a hand on the wood and thinks it is Shen Qingqiu. "We've already slept together once. I liked that. I liked the warmth of shizun against my body. You have the ideal size to hug you." He can hear strangling noises as if Shen Qingqiu has been choking on his anger. "I want to sleep with shizun for the rest of my life and be the first thing you see when you wake up. That's what I want. Just sleep." His grin gets more wicked. "What is shizun thinking to say so bluntly that our intentions are different?"

“You...” He splutters. “Shameless!!! I know you have other intentions!”

“Does Shizun think about this disciple so much that he can imagine his thoughts? Don't worry, shizun, you've already confessed your jealousy to me once. This disciple intends to offer you the same affection as the rest." And he adds. "Whenever you want it, of course."

“You'll be lucky if I let you sleep on the floor,” he hisses, visibly furious. And Luo Binghe hopes he's blushing.

Luo Binghe used to receive Shizun's wrath in his flesh. And he wants more, but different. He wants another anger, more intimate and hot, that marks his skin with nails and teeth instead of a whip. And get that sharp tongue shut up with kisses and moans.

To his surprise, Shen Qingqiu opens the door after a few seconds. In that time the immortal has calmed down since he receives him with the same distant facade that he had in the past.

“You’re not going to sleep on the floor, are you?”

“No,” he recognizes. If he wants to improve his relationship with Shizun, both of them must be sincere.

“I imagined. I hope the tea you brought is drinkable.”

Shizun drinks, sitting in front of the table, while Luo Binghe watches him, marveling at his beauty and elegance. Maybe it all started as a whim because of the other world, but shizun has turned into a long battle, his most satisfying war. It's extremely pleasant to watch shizun's surly character melt away, even despite the amnesia.

It's just a whim, he reminds himself, but perhaps shizun is meant to be more than just a number in his harem.

“Go to the bed,” Shen Qingqiu orders him when he's done.

Luo Binghe removes his crown and a tangle of black curls falls on his back. When he begins to undress, he notices Shen Qingqiu glancing at him sideways. Luo Binghe smirks, satisfied, but unvoices teasing him.

Do you like what you see, shizun? He would like to ask him. But he remains quiet.

“Enjoy your bed,” Shen Qingqiu comments, turning his back on him fully clothed. "If you don't want it, the floor is for me."

Perhaps Luo Binghe has belittled Shen Qingqiu's pride once again.

Puzzled, he watches Shen Qingqiu go to a corner to meditate after turning off the lights. It shouldn't surprise him, Shen Qingqiu never jokes, yet Luo Binghe is so stunned that he freezes for a few seconds. He goes to bed very slowly and lies down still waiting for Shen Qingqiu to change his mind, but when did he? Shen Qingqiu ignores the bed and meditates with the same pride with which he confronted him in the Water Prison.

“Shizun, the bed is much more comfortable.”

“Shizun, the bed is too big without you.”

But Shen Qingqiu ignores even his shameless jokes. Luo Binghe purses his lips before getting up to sit on the ground as well. Finally, Shen Qingqiu opens one eye and looks at him.

“What are you doing?”

“I also chose the floor. The bed is cold without shizun.”

“There is a lot of space, find yourself another corner!”

“But this is the best.”

And it is true. Luo Binghe can lean his back against the wall and that area is warm. Furthermore, he has Shen Qingqiu by his side. The immortal sighs, though his posture remains rigid.

“Why?” He mutters. Luo Binghe looks at him without understanding the mixture of emotions hidden in his voice. Tiredness. Bewilderment. A bitter sadness. “Why did you change your mind? You hated me. I remember that: I will never forget your hatred when you returned. Is it another kind of revenge? You plan to humiliate me?”

“After I released you, I never intended to humiliate you.” Luo Binghe erases the ghost of his smile. Between them, there are many scars and some open wounds. And in the darkness of that night, the past is almost consistent.

“Then why? What do you really want from me?”

“I already told you.” Luo Binghe extends an arm to catch his hand. He strokes his long, delicate fingers, the same fingers he once dreamed of tearing off with the entire limb. And he remembers the other shizun. “I want your kindness. I want you to braid my hair. I want you to take care of my worst wounds and wake up with you by my side. I want you to smile at me and stop being a beast in your eyes.” Luo Binghe speaks without realizing that he is no longer pursuing the echo of the other shizun, but a goal that is born from his heart. His fingers intertwine with Shen Qingqiu's. “I already knew your hatred, now I want your love. Because in the past you were the most important person to me.”

Shen Qingqiu sighs but doesn’t remove his hand. Despite the darkness, Luo Binghe feels a gloomy and ancient sadness engulf the immortal’s body.

And then, Shen Qingqiu rests his head on his shoulder. It's an intimate gesture, a gentle touch, but it's enough to make his heart tremble.

“A long time ago..." He whispers. "There was a very important person to me. And I thought I was important to him too. But he abandoned me. He left me behind. He threw me away just as he erased his less glorious past." Shen Qingqiu takes a deep breath. "I have forgotten how to love, Luo Binghe. Hate is very easy and addictive, but I have grown up as the worst of bad weeds. Only wicked feelings grow inside me. I’m cruel, selfish, and envious."

Luo Binghe leans over to him and kisses his forehead.

“That's a lie, shizun. You have made me very happy these last few days.”

Slowly, so as not to startle him, Luo Binghe envelops Shen Qingqiu in a hug. And he slides down to rest his head on his chest.

It's curious. At first, he also believed that hatred was his strength to survive, that revenge would make him blissful. But during his trip to the other world, he discovered that he wasn’t happy. Luo Binghe has understood that hugging Shen Qingqiu (loving him) until he falls asleep is much more pleasant than torturing him.

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu finds the four wives gathered in the garden enjoying a selection of sweets and cakes. Ning Yingying is the first to see him and, as effusive as ever, she beckons him with a smile to come closer to them. And Shen Qingqiu does it with an expression less friendly. Ning Yingying is the only one who doesn't tense up when Shen Qingqiu sits down. The other three pale, look down, or pick up a piece of osmanthus cake under Shen Qingqiu's sharp, inquiring gaze.

“So,” he starts, leaving the fan (one of Luo Binghe's gifts) on the table. "Can anyone tell me why Luo Binghe suddenly had a change of heart with me?"

After much thought, Shen Qingqiu has decided that there is something fishy about Luo Binghe's attitude. Perhaps being a half-demon makes his feelings more intense than normal, but in a very brief lapse, he has turned his hatred into love. It’s absurd, abnormal, and incoherent. Shen Qingqiu refuses to believe that there is no justification. Something happened between the last time Luo Binghe visited him in the Water Prison corroded by hatred and when he released him after making a pact. A pact that wasn't entirely sincere considering that Shen Qingqiu has taken so many days to discover his intentions. And he still doesn't understand Luo Binghe, even though he finally knows that his feelings are real in some way. At least, Luo Binghe believes they are real, although Shen Qingqiu considers love a fleeting fantasy. 

“What happened?” He demands. They know something. Thanks to her veil, Liu Mingyan manages to appear indifferent, but Sha Hualing's smile is even more false than usual, and Qiu Haitang has never been able to hide a secret. Shen Qingqiu's intuition has led him to them after realizing that Luo Binghe prefers to focus on the present rather than the past.

But he needs to know what happened because just as he loves him now, can he hate him again? Are Luo Binghe's feelings so volatile that they can disappear? Shen Qingqiu is afraid to get used to another love , to open up his heart of stone to be forgotten again.

He probably couldn't survive another betrayal.

They cling to their ignorance, so Shen Qingqiu speaks while drumming his fingers on the table.

“Luo Binghe loves adventures and facing legendary monsters. Some succubi tricked him? Was it poison?” He muses. It is not unreasonable that he suffered an accident that affected his feelings. Very intense love can turn into hatred because of curses, perhaps the other way around is also possible. “A love potion? Was it the consequence of your harem intrigues?”

Shen Qingqiu looks into their eyes. Sha Hualing arrogantly holds his gaze, Liu Mingyan remains undaunted, but Qiu Haitang is becoming more and more nervous. However, his target is Ning Yingying. She has never been able to lie to him and after a few minutes of awkward silence, she ends up giving up.

“A-Luo came back one day wounded and bloody.”

“Yingying!!!!” The others protest.

“What? He has the right to know! Now he is part of the family!”

Shen Qingqiu trembles, because that possibility no longer seems so remote to him. It has turned from being something impossible to a treacherous thought.

Ning Yingying clears her throat before giving an apologetic smile to her shizun.

“We don't understand what happened either. A-Luo appeared in the palace very altered and shouting your name. We barely managed to convince him to rest and heal his wounds. The next morning, he disappeared.” Ning Yingying crumbles a piece of cake between her fingers. “He returned the next day even more wounded, with broken bones and a devastated expression. We don't know what he faced, but something in him changed after that.”

“He took a few days to heal,” Liu Mingyan continues. “After that, he became melancholic. Luo Binghe went from fury to sadness in no time.”

“It was clearly lovesick.” Sha Hualing shrugs with a mischievous smile. “We all believed that he would soon invite another woman to the harem, however... he decided to release you.”

Shen Qingqiu finally reaches his arm to pick up one of the cakes on the table. These answers have left him a bit more confused since not even they know the exact cause behind Luo Binghe's disorder. Potions lose their effect, curses heal, but can feelings change forever? Shen Qingqiu has experienced how real and beautiful affection rots into hatred. How the indifference of a stranger burned with rage. How a familiar appreciation was forgotten. But this is the first time that someone who hated him with cruel and murderous intensity now says that he loves him.

However... Qiu Haitant, who hated him desperately, the other day cried in his arms. Liu Mingyan's anger has appeased and Yue Qingyuan hasn’t forgotten him again.

People can change.

Shen Qingqiu blinks, realizing that he has been wrong all along. He is sitting next to the same demoness who once faced Liu Mingyan during a demonic invasion and now the two share the same chair and bits many times. Qiu Haitang will never return to be the girl who loved him, but at least she no longer wishes for his death.

A faint blush covers his cheeks as Shen Qingqiu accepts that Luo Binghe's feelings are versatile and grow according to his experiences. Shen Qingqiu only knew hatred and instructed him with punishments, beatings, and a betrayal that sent him to hell. And perhaps thanks to his colossal harem he has been taught to love again.

Although Shen Qingqiu reduced the Qiu mansion to ashes, a part of him remained locked in his basement forever. All around him, everyone else has moved forward, while he dragged the shadow of his past.

He has made the mistake of allowing hatred to mark so many years of his life.

 


 

Shen Qingqiu is in his room when a servant announces that he has a visitor. Shen Qingqiu abandons the book he was trying to read and stands up. Despite his reluctance to return, he finds himself even more comfortable in his room in Luo Binghe's palace than in the bamboo house. There are fewer unpleasant memories and he has a chance to start over from the beginning.

The servant guides him to a courtyard where Shang Qinghua is waiting for him. His martial brother looks just as rushed as the last time they met. Shen Qingqiu sighs since it’s inevitable to watch that parody of Peak Lord with anything less than contempt after his betrayal.

“Shen-shixiong!” He greets him with an exaggerated bow. “I received your message. I've been thinking about plans and perhaps I've found a way to avoid...”

“I have changed my mind.” Shen Qingqiu interrupts him with a wave of his fan.

Shang Qinghua blinks without understanding his intentions.

“Have you changed your mind?" He mutters. "Do you plan to marry Luo Binghe then?”

"I didn't say that," he responds acidly.

“So what did you call me for?”

“I don’t need you anymore.” Shen Qingqiu draws a smirk upon recognizing an icy shadow behind Shang Qinghuan. “But I've heard that someone needs an extra hand for some paperwork.”

He doesn't stay to see what happens between the Peak Lord and the obvious presence of Mobei-Jun. Shen Qingqiu returns to his room as he hums to himself with his ideas more determined than before. He doesn’t plan to marry Luo Binghe, it has never been his intention, but keeping his distance only serves to make his head ache. Luo Binghe is stubborn and capricious, so Shen Qingqiu will allow him to court him for years.

If his feelings end up extinguishing, then nothing will happen. They weren’t real.

If not…