Luo Binghe had his hand pressed to the door of the bamboo house, about to call out to his husband when a nervous voice from inside made him freeze.
‘Binghe isn’t going to be back for a few days right?’ Shang Qinghua said, voice sounding shaky and strained. Shen Qingqui sighed, the sound of porcelain clinking. He must have served tea in the main room. Binghe drew his qi further inside himself, concealing his presence as much as possible before easing inside the bamboo house and lurking out of sight in the entryway. He trusted his husband, and while he knew it was purely platonic, Binghe freely acknowledged he was jealous of how his always upright husband abandoned his sense of propriety with Shang Qinghua like it wasn’t there to begin with.
Plus, both he and Shang Qinghua always seemed to know things that they wouldn’t share with others, and anything that they didn’t want him around to hear was probably worth knowing. What Shizun didn’t know couldn’t hurt him, Binghe told himself. He could always beg forgiveness later.
‘Yes, he had to see to a few things in the Demon Realm, and so, I believe, do you. Why are you here anyway? While I sympathise ,’ Oh dear, Shizun was being sarcastic already. ‘You have a demon husband back home who would be happy, even enthusiastic, to solve your little problem for you.’
Something Mobei Jun could deal with that he didn’t want Luo Binghe to know about? Interesting.
‘Bro,’ Shang Qinghua predictably whined. ‘You think I don’t know that? I can’t though, you know what could happen if I start babbling the wrong thing? I’ll die Bro.’
‘Didn’t you spend nearly 3 decades literally hugging his thighs? If you go singing his praises now, will he even notice any difference? It's not like you have any face anyway!’ The sound of something wooden striking flesh rang out from inside the room. Luo Binghe swallowed, and then reminded himself that being jealous of someone such as the An Ding Peak Lord was below him. Maybe if he confessed his eavesdropping later Shizun would scold him too?
Shang Qinghua sounded stressed again. ‘I don’t know? Maybe? That’s not the problem though!’
‘Seriously, just go home and throw yourself at his feet in the throne room,’ Shen Qingqui said judgmentally. ‘Oh my king! How may this humble one serve you? My King’s thighs look particularly dashing today!’
Luo Binghe nearly choked, thoughts about finding Shizun’s least favourite fans disappearing as he struggled to remember why he shouldn’t go obliterate Mobei Jun right now. Oh right, because without him he’d actually have to stay in the Demon Realm away from his husband.
‘Seriously, Airplane, you’re disgusting.’ Shen Qingqui continued.
‘I’m not the one coming up with an intro to throne sex porn, bro,’ Shang Qinghua threw straight back.
‘Like you never did that before! I refuse to believe the thought has never crossed your mind in this life either.’ There went the fan again.
This was the sort of conversation two (well one) distinguished peak lords had on their own? What happened to Shizun’s face? He couldn’t talk about things like that with him!
Shang Qinghua whined about being surrounded by violent people before conceding the point.
‘Like I said, disgusting.’
‘You asked, bro, you know I can’t exactly not answer right now. The only reason this has been a conversation instead of an interrogation is because you haven’t been asking me anything outright. Otherwise I’d be promptly spitting out answers to anything.’
Luo Binghe’s focus sharpened as he considered the possibilities this statement presented. Obviously Shang Qinghua had run afoul of some sort of potion or maybe an artifact? Had an enemy thought to interrogate Mobei Jun’s most loyal retainer? It also wasn’t unknown that his husband was close to him either.
His eyes narrowed. This could actually be quite a troublesome situation. But in that case, how was he sitting here, apparently calmly having tea with this one’s husband, complaining like this was any other day? While perhaps compared to the other sects, his cultivation was high level, in his own sect, it was really bare minimum for a peak lord to have cultivated to immortality, and his fighting skills were laughable compared to the others, let alone in the demon realm among the company he usually kept. If this was an intentional attempt by their enemies, then they’d somehow managed to be either ridiculously incompetent or the least cunning people in existance.
Then again, Luo Binghe considered. Somehow he was still alive after betraying the whole secular world and also Luo Binghe himself. If he wasn’t trying to hide right now, Binghe would sigh to himself. He’d somehow managed to talk himself around to begrudgingly respecting Shang Qinghua and the man hadn’t even saved his life before. He lit a candle in his heart for Mobei Jun. Poor bastard hadn’t stood a chance.
Shen Qingqui had lost all pretence at sympathy while Binghe was contemplating. ‘You know I think you deserve this, right? Why did you make dual cultivation the cure-all to everything? At least the system’s released you so you won’t get smited if you talk too much,’ he finished bitterly.
What did Shizun mean by that?
‘Yes, yes, everything’s my fault, and I got less money when the plot got too in depth, that’s why,’ Shang Qinghua said automatically before pausing. ‘Wait, is it still bothering you? I thought you’d achieved the ‘happy ending’ like me.’
‘It still pops up if I ever say anything it doesn’t like.’ This time the porcelain sounded like it was going to break as it was slammed down on the table. ‘You think I like living like this? We accepted new disciples the other day, and Binghe spent the entire tea ceremony standing stiff as a board. He looked like he was ready to swoop in at any moment, but at the end it was almost like he was betrayed by the fact that I accepted their tea.’
His shizun’s voice shook, but Luo Binghe was frozen where he was still concealed in the entryway, remembering that day. He thought he’d hidden his reaction, but it seemed he’d underestimated his husband. He didn’t know whether he should be happy that Shizun obviously paid attention to his feelings, or guilty that he hadn’t done the same and was now only finding out through unscrupulous means.
‘Cucumber bro,’ Shang Qinghua’s voice was soft and sympathetic. What did he understand that Binghe did not?
‘Do you know what it feels like that my husband thinks I’m the kind of person who would throw hot tea over a child? Would lock one in the woodshed? I can’t even tell my own husband my feelings half the time. Well, not that I’m into PDA anyway, but still.’ It was quiet for a moment, the air tense too tense to be truly contemplative but then he continued with a bitter laugh. ‘On the other hand, this way I never have to see my husband’s face when he finds out I valued my own life over the suffering he would face in the Abyss.’
Luo Binghe couldn’t breathe. He didn’t know what was going on. Shizun was talking as if he hadn’t done those things, but Binghe knew he had. He felt like he would explode, but at the same time like he was very small, like that day Shizun had been poisoned protecting him. Had Shizun been threatened? Who was even powerful enough to do that? What reasoning could anyone have had before the Tournament to get rid of Luo Binghe? His mind swirled with confusion, and his hands were digging gouges into the wall behind him.
In the main room, Shang Qinghua didn’t seem to know what to say, because he just called out to Shizun with that strange nickname again, still uncharacteristically quiet. Shizun made a noise like he had woken from a strange daydream, before the sound of a fan unfurling reached Luo Binghe’s ears.
‘Go home, Airplane. Say whatever you like to Mobei Jun. You haven’t done anything he wouldn’t forgive you for, and frankly you’re a danger to everyone’s safety running around uncured.’
‘What, not even giving him the worst uncle in existence?’ Shang Qinghua asked shakily, obviously trying to relieve the tension, but Shen Qingqui didn’t seem to be in the mood.
‘I’d like to be alone for a while,’ was all he said.
‘Of course,’ Shang Qinghua cleared his throat. ‘I’ll go straight home in that case, um, I’ll see myself out.’
Luo Binghe’s emotions were running riot, and his head was swirling with all he had overheard. When the small man walked around the corner looking at the floor, it was an easy decision to grab him. He effortlessly hooked an arm around his waist, pulling his back to his chest while covering his mouth with his other hand. He used the hand on his face to hold Shang Qinghua against him long enough to whisk the man outside, gently closing the door to the bamboo house behind him with his free hand.
Looking around he quickly moved them both off into the bamboo forest, making sure to go around the side of the house where Shizun wouldn’t see them from the main room. He bit his finger and drew a paralysis talisman on Shang Qinghua’s neck, although to the man’s credit he hadn’t struggled or even tried to speak since he was grabbed. He must have realised the list of people able to take him from the bamboo house was very short indeed. Now that they’d stopped moving, he turned Shang Qinghua around so he could make eye contact with his captor. Shang Qinghua’s eyes were blown wide with fear. Luo Binghe smiled sweetly as he pulled out a transportation talisman.
‘Shang-shishu, I think we should have a talk.’