Stickler that it was, the System refused to close out the final quests until Xin Mo was destroyed. It made sense – as long as a nuclear weapon existed, that weapon was a threat. But it meant Luo Binghe had to travel to the Endless Abyss to do it. Tianlang-Jun wanted to go with him – whether Luo Binghe wanted him was another matter – but Su Xiyan put her foot down on Tianlang-Jun’s and declared they were returning to Huan Hua Palace to whip the pathetic remnants of her sect into shape.
The stabbing incident had given Luo Binghe such a fright that he refused to take Shen Yuan, so in the end he headed out with Mobei-Jun. Shang Qinghua got out of it by offering to collect the tents that had been left behind near the Holy Mausoleum.
So when, a few days later, Shen Yuan’s morning was disturbed by a flood of System notifications and quest completes, he knew Luo Binghe had succeeded and would return soon. He rushed to complete his business, but he still didn’t make it back to Qing Jing Peak until the afternoon.
The moment he stepped into the garden of the bamboo house, Luo Binghe rushed him like he’d forgotten all his training. He’d changed out of his dark demon lord’s attire and into something bright, fresh and simple, suitable for an advanced disciple of Qing Jing Peak. Only his demon sigil – and the fact that he was five sizes larger with a chest like a marble god – marked him as different from the fluffy little sheep bleating Shizun! Shizun! for Shen Qingqiu’s attention.
“Binghe!” Shen Yuan snapped, and that was enough to halt him in his headlong rush.
Like a proper disciple, Luo Binghe folded his hands and bowed, though every line of his body hummed with barely restrained energy. “Greeting Shizun on his return.”
“And thanking all heaven that you’re finally back,” Shen Qingqiu grumbled, stepping out of the bamboo house. “I told him that you were aware of his return and would come as soon as you could, but the little beast only listens to you. He’s lucky I didn’t dump another cup of tea – cold this time – over his head to cool him down.”
“Peak Lord Shen is welcome to try,” Luo Binghe said, so silk-smooth that Shen Yuan couldn’t tell if his responding shiver was desire or terror.
Probably a bit of both. It was always a bit of both when the white lotus ducked his head and the blackened protagonist peered out from the shadows.
“Ah. Enough of that or I might become jealous of how well you’re getting along.” Shen Yuan stepped between them to ensure that eye contact was the only thing severed. “Dage, we’ll leave you in peace. Binghe, come with me. This master has something for you.”
Huffing, Shen Qingqiu returned inside.
“This disciple doesn’t need anything but Shizun,” Luo Binghe said. Which was sweet, but not at all conducive to what Shen Yuan had prepared.
“Perhaps, but Binghe was gone for so many days, this master needs to spoil him on his return. Will you deny me that?”
As though Luo Binghe could deny him anything. Mounting his sword, he followed Shen Yuan to the town at the base of the mountain. It was a lovely place, full of friendly people who appreciated their luck at living in the safest place in the world, nestled under the wing of Cang Qiong Mountain Sect. They were happy to help when one of the Peak Lords – there were so many, who could keep them all straight – came asking for their assistance.
Finding a suitable empty house had been a bit of a challenge, but Shen Yuan finally settled on one that suited – three cozy buildings around a charming courtyard, and an oversized kitchen house in back.
The only signs of life came from that kitchen, so that’s where Shen Yuan took them. The air was rich with familiar aromas: steamed rice, roasted pork, fried scallions, fresh ginger. Luo Binghe’s brow furrowed in confusion as he landed beside Shen Yuan and sheathed Zheng Yang.
Shen Yuan laughed. “Since when has this master had any skill in the kitchen? Binghe cooks; I clean. Remember?”
“Then Shizun hired others to prepare—no.” Luo Binghe’s nose twitched. His head cocked in confusion. “This smells familiar…”
Shen Yuan couldn’t find his fan, so he had to use his hands to cover his grin. His heart was racing fit to burst.
“It smells like—”
The woman who stepped out of the kitchen wasn’t an elegant beauty or a powerful cultivator. She had a kind, round face, wrinkles from sorrow, but just as many from joy. The hands she was wiping clean with her apron were reddened and worn from years plunged into washing vats.
Luo Binghe sucked in a breath when he spotted her, and held it like he feared letting it out would break the bubble of this moment.
But he could only hold that breath for so long. “A-niang?”
Binghe’s mother’s smile transformed her face into true beauty. “It is you. Look at you, grown so tall and handsome. Let this old woman look at you,” she said, and spread her arms.
Binghe rushed forward, somehow curling into his mother’s embrace like he was a small bun instead of a powerful demon lord. His mother grunted softly when he hugged her, then laughed through their shared tears.
Stroking Luo Binghe’s unruly curls, she said, “Ah, how can I see anything like this but the top of Binghe’s head? And all I can see here is that he neglected to brush his hair again.”
But she didn’t pull away. Not even when tears had subsided and the afternoon turned golden and mellow.
“How,” Luo Binghe asked finally, the question muffled by her shoulder.
“I don’t know. You’ll need to ask Master Shen. I found myself by a grave on the Luo River, with him nearby waiting for me. He explained that you were grown, but that you were safe and well, and that he could bring me to you.”
“Sh-shizun?” Binghe pulled away just far enough to look at Shen Yuan. “But… how?”
【User OP is a dirty cheater who cheats, that’s how,】the System grumbled in Shen Yuan’s head. It was still snarked off that he’d won this argument by rules-lawyering the fuck out of it.
“It’s thanks to the spiritual item that I used to bring back Su Xiyan,” he said. “Because I was vague in stating what I wanted, it brought back both of Binghe’s mothers.”
【You mean you cheated and said ‘mother’, knowing it was vague because you planned it that way because you are a dirty cheater who cheats!】
Suck it. You should be more careful with your semantic tagging. Shen Yuan refused to feel bad. Not when Luo Binghe’s face was streaked with happy tears.
Oh, and just out of curiosity, let me see my log.
Slowly, as though the System begrudged him even this, the log scrolled.
【User OP Point Log
- Revising Protagonist Plot Points: 9999 – COMPLETE!
- Heartbreak Points: 0 – COMPLETE!
- Filling Plot Hole Progress: 100% – COMPLETE!
- Secret Stash: Empty
- Co-op Mode Points: 1500】
Ah. Finally that last heartbreak point was gone and Shen Yuan could relax!
A touch on his shoulder shook Shen Yuan from his mental victory dance.
“Is this another of A-Yuan’s unanswerable questions?” Luo Binghe asked. He’d pulled himself away from his mother’s arms, though she stood at the kitchen door, watching them both with a fond smile.
“Ah. Yes? I hope Binghe doesn’t—”
“I don’t!” Catching Shen Yuan’s hand, Luo Binghe pressed dry kisses to it. “How could I ever?”
Ah, don’t look at this poor transmigrator like that, Binghe! I haven’t had a chance to see Mu Qingfang about my heart issues yet.
Though, if Shen Yuan was being entirely honest with himself, he knew there was no cure for what ailed him. At least, nothing he was willing to do in front of Luo Binghe’s mother. He tugged his hand free and pretended like the architecture of the main house was very interesting.
“I think something is burning,” Luo Binghe’s mother said, even though there was nothing but delicious, savory smells filling the air. “Binghe, why don’t you and your husband search the storeroom for a jar of wine. It’s hard to think of you as old enough to drink, but it’s a special occasion.”
Wait! Husband?! Why did all of Luo Binghe’s parents think he’d already bowed to them? Wouldn’t they have noticed if something like that had happened?
“But…” Luo Binghe glanced between them, looking deeply torn.
“Go on,” his mother said, patting him on his head, even though she had to rise on her toes to do it. “I’ll be here when you get back, and the food will be ready.”
Shooed off, Luo Binghe followed Shen Yuan into the dry storage room at the rear of the kitchen house.
“A-Yuan.” Pulling him to a stop, Luo Binghe framed Shen Yuan’s face with warm hands. “Why didn’t you correct her when she said husband?”
Ah. Please let this master hide! Where the hell had he left his fan? Why wasn’t Liu Qingge swooping in to return it and interrupt this shameless moment.
“Why didn’t Binghe? She’s your mother.”
“Why would this lowly one correct what he wants to be true,” Binghe asked. His thumb brushed Shen Yuan’s lower lip, his eyes fixed on the path it took. “Would A-Yuan want it?”
He couldn’t answer that. He really couldn’t. Not with Binghe ready to kiss him the moment he gave his answer. Which meant Shen Yuan knew what his answer was. He just wasn’t ready to admit it yet.
“Perhaps,” he equivocated. Before Luo Binghe’s smile grew too wide, he said, “But only with dage’s blessing.”
Groaning, Luo Binghe rested his brow against Shen Yuan’s in defeat. “He will never agree to that.”
“He will when I tell him to.”
That perked Luo Binghe up. “Then really, it’s A-Yuan I have to convince?” He backed Shen Yuan into a shelf, rattling the contents on it. “I should start right away.”
They didn’t emerge until Luo Binghe’s mother rapped on the storage room door to tell them if they took any longer, she was going to eat the entire meal herself. And by then, Shen Yuan had been thoroughly…