Shang Qinghua had regrets. So many regrets. All of the regrets.
An incomplete list of things Shang Qinghua regretted writing:
Why were these a thing? Luo Binghe didn't need six hundred wives! He was happy enough with one Shen Qingqiu. He'd made it very clear to the last group of demons looking to attain a politically advantageous match that Shen Qingqiu wasn't just going to be First Husband: he would be Luo Binghe's only husband.
The only reason the pushiest would-be bride wasn't in several pieces was because Shen Qingqiu had been in residence at the palace that day, and Cucumber Bro had a transmigrator's general distaste for punitary dismemberment—that, or he was still hung up on the original Shen Qingqiu's fate. Either way, Luo Binghe had shown a small sliver of mercy and made it clear that this was all the mercy he had to give. Further attempts would meet with worse than beatings and death threats.
So now there were a bunch of demons in want of a powerful demon husband for a myriad of reasons Shang Qinghua had thought were acceptably clever at the time he'd written them, but recently had come to realize were stupid, terrible, and utterly unnecessary—demons who were willing to set their sights on the next demon down in the hierarchy of power. Demons who had zero compunction in getting rid of the only pre-existing competition, one Shang Qinghua, architect of his own doom. When he was writing harem politics, he hadn't expected to actually have to deal with any of it himself!
It wasn't fair. All he wanted was to live happily ever after with his super hot ice demon dream husband, but he was probably going to be killed before his wedding day.
2. Spider demons
When Shang Qinghua had written the scene where Liu Mingyan was kidnapped by a rival love interest and wife number 412, he'd been thinking about the aesthetics of it all. Pinned in the middle of a web, sticky white strands artfully draped across strategic bits, clothes dissolving in the mild acid, but cultivation techniques keeping her actual body safe, Liu Mingyan was a perfectly lovely and extremely tempting figure to Luo Binghe and her kidnapper both. They'd had a threesome right there on the spider web once Luo Binghe had made it clear that he wouldn't abide future wives killing the competition to make room for more wives. Proud Immortal Demon Way's Luo Binghe was more than happy to add another wife no matter how many he had.
Shang Qinghua did not want a threesome. He didn't think the spider wife did, either. She was speculating about how he would taste, but it didn't sound like the charged innuendo he'd pictured when he'd originally written this scene. Those lines had been great on the page, but not so much in person when he was the person she was talking about consuming.
"I could eat you right up," the spider wife said as she dragged clawed fingers down Shang Qinghua's exposed chest. Blood welled up, and she licked her lips at the sight. Her fangs gleamed in the low light of the cave.
It really stung! This wasn't sexy! Not in the least!
Shang Qinghua's clothes were half gone and he had light acid burns along most of his skin. (Repurposing defensive techniques to fend off acidic spider demon webs was more difficult than it seemed! He was doing pretty well keeping it down to mild burns. Probably he shouldn't have prioritized keeping his hair, but Mobei-jun liked his hair, and it was much more difficult to regrow that than heal minor injuries.) He looked a sorry sight and not at all like an alluring and athletic wife ready to engage in sex right there on the spiderweb. Spider wife looked much better, not a hair out of place, her spider silk robes clinging enticingly to the curves of her body. In a long-term competition between the two (or even a short term one), Shang Qinghua was depressingly certain she would win.
Fortunately, Mobei-jun also did not want a threesome. He didn't wait to hear spider wife's reasons for why she should be First Wife, either. The first indication of his arrival was a shard of ice the width of his fist and length of his arm speared through where spider wife's heart used to be.
Unlike Luo Binghe, Mobei-jun did not care about transmigrator sensibilities vis-à-vis dismemberment. He tore Shang Qinghua's competition into more pieces than Shang Qinghua was okay with witnessing. Shang Qinghua might have been able to keep his hair mostly safe from the acid, but it was going to take so much effort to get out all the spider demon blood. When Mobei-jun pulled him from the webbing, the tattered remains of his clothes stayed behind.
"My king," Shang Qinghua said, pulling a truly pitiful face that didn't seem to move Mobei-jun at all. "I'm cold."
Mobei-jun wrapped one of his large, freezing hands around Shang Qinghua's right wrist and passed him spiritual energy that banished the chill of the cave.
"And naked. Anyone could see me like this."
Mobei-jun's left eyebrow lowered the slightest bit. He took off his huge fur-lined robe and wrapped Shang Qinghua up like a cozy wonton, then hefted him in his arms—an outcome close enough to what Shang Qinghua had been angling toward that he was briefly very happy indeed—before tossing him over his shoulder like a piece of luggage—which was much further from the ideal. Shang Qinghua couldn't see, and Mobei-jun's broad shoulder was digging uncomfortably into Shang Qinghua's stomach.
"I can't move," Shang Qinghua said.
Mobei-jun ignored his complaints. Instead of taking Shang Qinghua home for a long, hot bath to wash off all the blood followed by further pampering, Mobei-jun dropped him off in front of Mu Qingfang's doorstep like an unwanted parcel.
"Heal him," Mobei-jun commanded and disappeared before Shang Qinghua had finished struggling to free his head from the cloak's tangled embrace.
"Where are your clothes?" Mu Qingfang wanted to know.
I'm a hack and I didn't even get laid, Shang Qinghua didn't say, because he had a sliver of dignity left.
"Spider demon," Shang Qinghua said.
From Mu Qingfang's calmly condescending expression, Shang Qinghua might as well have admitted to his inability to seduce his own fiancé.
3. Political marriages
In Proud Immortal Demon Way, somewhere in the mid-400s, Shang Qinghua had written about two demon clans who were at odds. They were equally matched in strength and power, so neither was able to gain the advantage over the other. Both took one look at Luo Binghe, half-celestial demon and ridiculously OP cultivator and demon lord, and thought they had their solution. Luo Binghe took one look back and decided the clan's daughters were also equally matched in beauty and sex appeal. It ended in a threeway marriage and … Shang Qinghua forgetting to resolve the political situation.
He'd gotten distracted trying to keep three sets of hands and legs straight throughout 20k of smut, then introduced the next storyline: another kidnapping plot, this time with Ning Yingying and a minor hostile cultivation sect who were upset that a prominent Cang Qiong disciple would betray her sect by marrying a demon. Look, he was trying to be responsible and introduce his new plot hooks early, okay! And he had managed to keep from having to add extra arms and legs in the smut section this time. There were only so many things he could juggle at a time when he was running on three hours of sleep a night and living entirely on ramen.
He had bigger problems now than a lack of sleep and mild malnutrition. The two demon clans had set their sights on Mobei-jun. Worse, they were both Northern demon clans, so this was technically his king's responsibility anyway. In Proud Immortal Demon Way, Mobei-jun's contribution to the situation had been one line: "Let them fight it out."
Fighting it out wasn't working, which was why the clans had moved on to marriage. Shang Qinghua would rather they not move on to marrying Mobei-jun. He had to get ahead of this. There were too many demons who wanted to marry Mobei-jun already. Shang Qinghua was currently meeting with one of them in an inn near the borderlands coming up with ways to keep the numbers down. On the plus side, she was motivated to help, even if Shang Qinghua wanted to keep that number at one, which did not include her. On the minus side, most of her ideas boiled down to murder.
"Just let me marry him first. After he helps me kill my father, I'll spend most of my time as First Wife in another territory entirely. Those with ambition will come for me, I can decorate my shiny new palace with their bones and blood, and we'll all win." Sha Hualing's smile was almost friendly as she refilled her wine cup. It was a trap. She didn't like him, but that wouldn't get in the way of her ambitions. She'd teamed up with Liu Mingyan and Ning Yingying any number of times in Proud Immortal Demon Way when convenience had outweighed animosity.
"Why don't you ask Luo Binghe to help you? Aren't you still his subordinate?" Shang Qinghua's own cup was close to empty, but he was already exhausted, feeling muddled and sleepy. He shook his head when she offered the jar.
"I did. He said if I truly wished to prove myself, I'd do my own father-killing." Sha Hualing pouted. "If I could do it myself, I would have. I need allies."
"Allies you can only get through marriage." Shang Qinghua had a sudden brainstorm. It was a good idea. It was the best idea. "What if you could get two clans allied with you at once?"
After all, if the two clans were busy fighting Sha Hualing's father, they'd be too busy to fight each other. Worst case scenario, they all killed each other, and Sha Hualing ruled over her new, empty territory with her two new wives who'd channel their competitive drive into who could give the best orgasms.
"I think you mean best case scenario," Sha Hualing said, a shine in her eye that indicated she was already mentally redecorating her throne room.
Excellent! Good job, Shang Qinghua! Another wife plot successfully wrapped up. He left after Sha Hualing, stumbling a little against the lintel of the door on the way out. He felt like he was forgetting something.
4. Kidnapping plots
Why were there so many of them! Why did they keep landing on him when Shen Qingqiu was the one who had married the protagonist! Why!!!
Shang Qinghua's head throbbed. His mouth was dry. He felt like his skull was stuffed with cotton balls where his brain should be. Thoughts drifted by slow and uncertain. He was lying on the dirt floor of a shed. Dim light filtered through poorly fitted wooden slats. A rock was digging into his cheek. Rough rope bound his hands and arms. It formed a halter around his neck. He choked himself again and again trying to move before he realized it was all a piece and he couldn't move his arms without cutting off his air.
"You shouldn't be awake yet," a young man said. He didn't look concerned. He sounded bored. He had a sword at his hip.
"I only had one cup of wine," Shang Qinghua slurred.
That got him a smile. "Yeah. That was drugged." The young man leaned against the wall next to the flimsy looking shed door. "Only works on humans. I'm sure we'll get your demon friend later."
"Not friends," Shang Qinghua protested, certain Sha Hualing would appear to murder him if he let the misconception stand.
The smile disappeared. "You really will take anyone that'll have you, won't you?"
Shang Qinghua had no idea what they were talking about. He wanted to go back to sleep. Other than the rock, the rope, and the way he felt like he'd taken a full body beating, he was surprisingly comfortable. The world wanted to slide away.
He couldn't go back to sleep. He'd been abducted. Mobei-jun wasn't expecting him back for three days. Shang Qinghua had claimed he was drowning in An Ding paperwork (entirely too true) and was going to spend the whole time in his office catching up (a flagrant lie), then had snuck out to take care of the latest wife plot threatening his future happiness. His usual demon protection squad was taking some well earned rest. Shang Qinghua had only himself to rely on. He could do this. He was going to do this. One escape coming right up.
Shang Qinghua tried to lift his arm only to choke himself again.
Right. The rope. The rope that was looped around his neck.
The young man acting as a guard didn't try to hide his laughter. It was unexpectedly gratifying to have it cut off. A petite hand was wrapped around his throat.
"He is a funny little man, isn't he?" Sha Hualing's voice dripped with malicious amusement. When had she gotten here? "He grows on you."
Sha Hualing dropped the body. Shang Qinghua blinked, and she was crouched next to him. She frowned as he tried to jerk away and choked himself yet again.
"If you think you're allowed to get yourself killed by pathetic human cultivators after meeting with me and get me killed by an angry Mobei-jun, you're even stupider than you look." Sha Hualing shredded the rope with her nails. "And you look very, very stupid."
"Do you think this makes us friends?" Shang Qinghua asked. Life-saving seemed like the sort of activity that made you friends.
Shang Qinghua let himself pass out again instead of continuing to stare at Sha Hualing’s disbelieving and judgmental face.
When Shang Qinghua came to, snugly tucked into Mobei-jun's bed in the heart of his seat of power, Shang Qinghua discovered that all of the plot threads were taken care of for him.
Apparently the two women Sha Hualing had offered to marry had had their own galaxy brain moment and decided to marry each other. ("The Xibei and Dongbei clans are no longer a problem," Mobei-jun said.) Sha Hualing had wiped out the kidnapper cultivation sect with Mobei-jun's belated assistance, and he'd pledged his own assistance to help with her father in gracious recognition of services performed. ("Sha Hualing was surprisingly useful. She will be repaid," Mobei-jun said.) Mobei-jun had made it clear that, like his liege lord, he only wanted one (1) human peak lord to marry and would accept no others. ("I will kill anyone who tries to threaten your position," Mobei-jun said.)
"You will take your guards with you everywhere," Mobei-jun said at the end of his update. The claws of his fingers were incredibly gentle carding through Shang Qinghua's hair. "Do not rely on outsiders again."
"Yes, my king," Shang Qinghua said sleepily. He turned his head to nuzzle into Mobei-jun's palm. "I'll be more careful."
With his other hand, Mobei-jun traced the raw, red rope burns along Shang Qinghua's throat. "I will be your husband. Rely on me."
"Does this mean I can give you my An Ding paperwork?" Shang Qinghua said, because he was still a bit loopy. Mobei-jun's lips curled slightly in what might be mistaken for a smile, but which Shang Qinghua knew represented a threat to the sanctity of his office's current state of tamed chaos. "I'm joking! I'm joking! Please don't try to help with that." Shang Qinghua peered up at Mobei-jun through lowered lashes, hoping it looked more seductive than ridiculous. Unfettered optimism suffusing his voice, Shang Qinghua said, "I do have something I'd like your help with."
This time, his seduction attempt post-rescue was a rousing success.
5. Demon weddings
Why had he decided to include public challenges in demon weddings? Look at all those would-be wives and a few would-be husbands among the wedding guests, practically sharpening their claws.
Shang Qinghua didn't have claws! Most days, he didn't have a sword. His specialties were minor tricks and playing dead. The sleeves of his wedding robes could only hold so many talismans. He'd managed to hide a few protective and offensive artifacts among his jewelry—a shield bracelet that dampened physical force, a hair pin that absorbed fire, a ring that spit lightning, a few other tricks literally up his sleeves—but there was no way they'd be enough to see him through the ridiculously long list of people who wanted to marry his king over Shang Qinghua's dead body.
"Does anyone have any objections?" the woman officiating asked in the same disinterested, droning voice she'd used to ask if Mobei-jun was sure he wanted to take this squirrelly human cultivator into his household.
There was a literal line. Of course there were objections! But for some reason, the crowd was oddly silent. They stared past Shang Qinghua, squirrelly human cultivator who was very objectionable, at his new husband. When Shang Qinghua followed their gaze—because yes, that was the best view in the room, forever and always—Mobei-jun's face shifted out of whatever previous expression it held into something softer, warmer, a snowflake instead of a jagged glacier. It was such a good face. Shang Qinghua would be happy to look at it for the rest of his life.
The silence stretched out until the officiant said in that same dead voice, "In the absence of further challenges, I wish you a joyful union."
Speaking of dead things … when Shang Qinghua turned back, three demons lay on the floor in a spreading pool of blood. The crowd of the rest of the people Shang Qinghua had expected to claim challenge shuffled away like they were ignoring a scattered bit of litter and headed for the tables where the wedding feast and wine had been laid out under groaning tables.
Shang Qinghua abruptly decided that it was none of his business and, placing his hand on Mobei-jun's arm, said brightly, "Look, my king! There's abalone. And noodles! Where did they get noodles?"
Demon weddings weren't so bad after all. He ate a lot, drank even more, and had to be half-carried back to Mobei-jun's rooms, he was that full. He felt like he was floating, and it was only partly the several jars of wine he'd claimed for his own.
"They're our rooms now," Shang Qinghua said happily as Mobei-jun opened the door. "This is our bed," Shang Qinghua said as Mobei-jun laid him out upon it. "Our pillows," Shang Qinghua said, patting one of his new pillow friends. Mobei-jun grabbed that hand and pressed a kiss into the palm, though he had nothing to be jealous of. With pleased sincerity, Shang Qinghua told him so: "You, my king, you I love best of all."
Mobei-jun was laughing at him. It didn't show on his face or in his voice, but it was seeping through in his—his aura or something. Shang Qinghua didn't mind, because Mobei-jun was here, right now, in this bedroom together to laugh at him as his husband.
"My husband," Shang Qinghua said with no little wonder, because it didn't feel like it could be real, that he could have this. This belonged to him. This was his happily ever after, and he was living it.
"All I have is yours," Mobei-jun said quietly. His hands were pleasingly cool against the hot flush of Shang Qinghua's cheeks. "And everything you are is mine."
Mobei-jun spent the rest of the night very thoroughly proving it.
So yeah, demon weddings: actually a great idea. Good job, Airplane. Would write again.
5. Male pregnancy
"What do you mean I'm pregnant? I can't get pregnant. I'm a man. It's physically impossible." Shang Qinghua had thought he had some sort of stomach bug or—more likely—had worked himself into a state of exhaustion and ill health between his An Ding duties and his duties as Mobei-jun's loyal right hand man/husband. "Where would it even come out?"
"I think you'll find that with some types of demons, it's not only possible, but normal," Mu Qingfang said. He was putting together a tincture to help with the lethargy and nausea. "Ice demons, fire demons, celestials—"
This was actually starting to sound kind of familiar. Terribly, horribly familiar. This wasn't even from a wife plot, just a tiny bit of flavor text masquerading as worldbuilding!
"Cucumber Bro is going to kill me," Shang Qinghua blurted out. He took the tincture quickly. He needed to get off this mountain before he ran into anyone else and go into hiding right now. "Thanks for the help! Gotta go!"
Shang Qinghua did not make it off the mountain before running into anyone else. Shen Qingqiu was outside with many of the same complaints as Shang Qinghua, from what was probably the same cause. Shen Qingqiu didn't kill him, but only because Shang Qinghua panicked and activated the summoning talisman Mobei-jun had given him to use in case of extreme danger.
Shen Qingqiu was extremely dangerous. Shang Qinghua stood by his decision.
"How do you feel?" Mobei-jun asked, unruffled despite finding his husband fleeing for his life from an angry peak lord and subsequently whisking away said husband to their palace home.
"Did you know you could get me pregnant?" Shang Qinghua demanded.
Both of Mobei-jun's eyebrows went up slightly. The slight curve to his lips would've been a full-blown smile on anyone else. He picked Shang Qinghua up and, holding him like the most precious of cargo, dragged him back to their rooms.
The answer was apparently yes, and that this was one of Mobei-jun's favorite Airplane authorial choices. He had enough enthusiasm for both of them.
Oh, well. It wasn't like Shang Qinghua could get twice as pregnant.
"What do you mean," Shang Qinghua said later, "that I'm carrying twins now?! Does that mean I can carry more? How many kids can you put in me?"
Mobei-jun spread a hand across Shang Qinghua's currently flat belly, his expression bordering on smug. "More than two is dangerous. Two is fine. For now."
This author did not write Mobei-jun to have an impregnation kink! He just was supposed to have childhood dreams of a big family! He'd wanted brothers before his uncle turned out to be a scheming asshole. Shang Qinghua had not intended Mobei-jun to try to make up for it with the spouse he'd never written him as having!
… Shang Qinghua knew one person he did write as wanting a large family. Someone who, in another universe, had dozens of children with his hundreds of wives. Someone who only had one husband to accommodate those aspirations now.
Weepingly, Shang Qinghua said, "Shen Qingqiu really is going to kill me."
Mobei-jun dropped a kiss against Shang Qinghua's temple. "I will protect you."
"No one can protect me from my past choices. No one," Shang Qinghua mumbled. He put his hand on top of Mobei-jun's. Despite himself, he started smiling, stretched wide across his face. He couldn't help it. He was picturing tiny Mobei-juns with cold little hands. Itty bitty icicles he was going to have to baby-proof the palace against before they could walk. What was he going to do when they learned to teleport? He had another thought regarding his authorial choices. Specifically, one of his biggest challenges as an author, a challenge he would gladly avoid now, no random generator from the internet necessary. "You name them." He rethought it. He knew what demon naming culture was like. He was responsible for it, after all. "We'll make Cucumber Bro name them."
"I'll name them," Mobei-jun said.
Their poor children. A terrible fate awaited them.
Shang Qinghua couldn't wait.
Shang Qinghua had regrets, but the truth was: he wouldn't change a thing.