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The Quest to Happiness

Chapter Text

When Shen QingQiu opened his eyes in the morning, he was greeted by the sight of sunlight streaming into his little bamboo hut. Nothing looked amiss, but Shen QingQiu was struck by a strange soreness in his heart and throat, and the phantom feeling of something being wrong with his limbs.

These limbs... Why did he feel like they didn’t belong to him and shouldn’t be there?

They disconcerted him – these inexplicable feelings. Shen QingQiu didn’t like it. They made him feel vulnerable and Shen QingQiu had sworn years ago since that (hot, terrible, bloody) night that he wouldn’t be weak or pathetic enough to be vulnerable again.

Shrugging off his strange thoughts, as nothing would come out of them, Shen QingQiu prepared himself for the morning.

A bright voice greeted him. “Good morning, Shizun,” Ning YingYing chirped, “This disciple arrives with breakfast!”

Shen QingQiu waved her in and had her set down the congee on his little desk. He moved over and began to eat.

“Shizun, shizun,” Ning YingYing said happily as she hovered around Shen QingQiu, making no move to leave for some reason today. “Aren’t you excited? Today is the day when A Luo will enter the Sect officially!”

A Luo…? Shen QingQiu wondered for a moment.

Ahhh, that brat he picked up yesterday at Ning YingYing’s insistence. And to spite Liu QingGe, of course.

It had barely been a day, and she’s already so close to that brat? This girl, she really had no sense of caution. She was a naïve little flower, not quite unlike the girl he found safety in many years ago. A little flower who had only been treated kindly by the world, and saw none of the bad.

But it’s ok. Girls are allowed to be softer and sweeter. Nicer.

They don’t hurt people.

But the world had a habit of trampling on softer, sweeter people and Ning YingYing, Shen QingQiu knew from the start, had the survival instinct of a gnat.

Softer, sweeter people with the survival instinct of a gnat tended to get exploited. And of all things, to become close to a pathetic piece of thrash who held no value whatsoever.

(Who had not even entered the Sect such that Shen QingQiu can scare the fear into that brat that some people are untouchable. Watched over.)

Shen QingQiu found the apathy he held toward the newest brat he picked up morph into something closer to suspicion and distrust.

 “Ah, I think I hear Ming Fang shixiong bringing him along now,” Ning YingYing looked up from where she had been beaming at her Shizun. She darted out of the room.

Soon, Luo BingHe entered the room, struggling with the tea he balanced delicately in the tray as Ning YingYing tugged at his arms. “Shizun, I’ve brought A Luo in!”

A faint blush was on Luo BingHe’s face the moment he met Shen QingQiu’s gaze – a sure sign of guilt. Shen QingQiu watched cold as Luo BingHe gently disentangled himself from Ning YingYing.

With a small flip of his fan, Shen QingQiu said, “Ning YingYing, return to your studies. Don’t slack off.”

A bright “Yes, shizun” was returned and Ning YingYing was sent out of the room, with a stern MingFang replacing her presence.

“From now on, you will stay at Qing Jing Peak,” MingFang announced.

Luo BingHe glanced at Shen QingQiu again, and his flush deepened.

At least the brat knew he was caught red-handed. Shen QingQiu despised men who took advantage of others. He especially hated those who tried to take advantage of what was his.

Luo BingHe approached Shen QingQiu and quickly poured a cup of tea, before kneeling down and proffering it to the silent master.

“This disciple pays his respect to Shizun!” rang a loud and clear voice.

Shen QingQiu felt the vague sense of unease he experienced in the morning rapidly skyrocketing at this motion.

This brat--! There’s something wrong with this brat.

(And he was most definitely taking advantage of Ning YingYing’s trustful nature earlier—look at that guilty flush!)

Acid clawed up the back of his throat and Shen QingQiu’s head pounded. The brat was still going on about something in the background with MingFang, but Shen QingQiu could not hear it over the pain in his head—

<< System initialised! Hello, hello! That took a while, sorry to keep you waiting, my dear customer!>>

Shen QingQiu’s eyes widened. That was the only visible difference that can be seen, as he immediately picked up his fan to hide his face.

<<Hello, hello! My dear customer, can you not hear me? System 52088 greets his dearest customer! (*^3^)/~♡>>

Shen QingQiu’s eyebrow twitched.

<<Hmm, did system initialise wrongly? This is Shen Jiu, right? My beloved customer, please respond if you can hear system! System cannot bear to not hear the dulcet voice of his dearest customer any longer! (っ˘з(˘⌣˘ ) Here you go, a kiss to wake system’s sleeping beauty!>>

Who are you? Shen QingQiu raged in his mind, his breathing deliberate and slightly laboured.

<<I’m system 52088, here to assist in my dearest daugh—customer’s quest to happiness!>>

Are you a spirit here to possess me? What are you doing in my mind! Get the fuck out! Saying so, Shen QingQiu began circulating his qi as he tried to find hints of foreign energy. But nothing was amiss, his body was fine and meridians intact and healthy.

<<Customer saddens systeeeeeeeem. ಥ╭╮ಥ Why is Shen Jiu so mean as to accuse system a spirit! System is not a spirit. System is his dearest daugh—customer’s guardian angel. System is here to ensure Shen Jiu’s happiness!>>

You fucker! Get out!

<<System cannot get out! System has gone to great lengths to bring customer back to when—ahem… System loves customer! ♥‿♥ Please don’t kick system out! System 52088 only sincerely wishes for Shen Jiu’s everlasting happiness and is here to ensure that customer doesn’t deviate to the wrong path anymore.>>

What deviate? What nonsense! What is this stupid voice in his head! Shen Jiu could feel needles jabbing into his body as the onset of a particularly vicious qi deviation.

<<Ahhhh, careful with your spirit please! Please don’t be mad, dearest Shen Jiu! ლ(ٱ٥ٱლ) Your cultivation, while strong, is still very prone to qi deviation! Be careful with that teacup in your hand too!>>

Shen Jiu gritted his teeth.

<<Ah, careful, careful! Shen Jiu, Shen Jiu, to your right please. System is to your right! Yes, yes, throw the tea at system—ok fine, you may throw your fan—ah, even the table? (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻  What a waste of all that food—ok ok, Shen Jiu can throw whatever he wants, but please throw it a few feet further to your right! System is right here! Here, throw here!>>

This was truly a troubling qi deviation, Shen Jiu admitted to himself even as he continuously cursed this ‘System’ non-stop in his mind.

Eventually, his qi could no longer run through his misaligned meridians and Shen QingQiu succumbed to darkness.

<<Shen Jiu! Shen Jiu, are you alright! Ahhhh, what went wro-->>

Luo BingHe didn’t really know what to expect when he went to first meet his new Shizun.

His Shizun was truly the epitome of an immortal cultivator, Luo BingHe could only flush in awe when he drank in the sight of his new master sitting elegantly in his bamboo hut. Those long tresses of hair caught the morning sunlight and the white and green robes that his Shizun was wearing only added to the image of a strong, lofty cultivator.

So cool! So beautiful! Luo BingHe would be happy if he could just remain close to his Shizun!

However, things went wrong shortly thereafter.

His Shizun entered into a terrible qi deviation that even had MingFang, the head disciple trembling in fear, as Shizun rampaged, throwing all sorts of things around.

What did Luo BingHe do wrong? Was he the one who had triggered his Shizun?

Luo BingHe wanted to cry, but he couldn’t as he now stood frozen to the spot and tried (uselessly) to ensure that his Shizun didn’t hurt himself in his qi deviation. MingFang had ran out of the room earlier, commanding him to look after Shizun as the head disciple left to get help.

Luo BingHe just entered his Shizun’s tutelage, but he would do his best to watch over Shizun to the best of his ability.

So what if Shizun was frightening now? Luo BingHe would be a good, loyal disciple! And even in his rage, look, Luo BingHe… wasn’t harmed at all? Shizun was throwing things everywhere, but he was still… somehow staying clear of Luo BingHe? Keeping Luo BingHe safe?

Shizun was so kind! Even when he was at his most vulnerable, Shizun still protected others!

This Luo BingHe would do his best to return this protection!

Luo BingHe wept tears of gratitude as his tiny voice tried to calm his Shizun down.