Shen Qingqiu has always told himself – reminded himself – that he had, quite literally, the rest of time together with Luo Binghe. That there would be ample time to make up for the time that they’d spent in the past struggling over misunderstandings and embarrassing episodes of miscommunication, that they'd be together forever, in every sense of the word – whether they’d both live to see the end of the world, or if they’d both grow to become old men with grey hair...
But it hadn’t been even a miniscule fraction of forever, and Shen Qingqiu was already faced with his biggest hurdle to date, regarding his relationship with Luo Binghe.
To put it quite simply, he was in deep shit.
It had been a quiet morning, and Shen Qingqiu had expected to wake up in their peaceful little bamboo hut to the enticing, mouthwatering fragrance of breakfast as usual, had almost started taking it for granted at this point actually, but what had greeted him was Luo Binghe, face contorted in a conflicting mix of surprise and fear.
Fear? Did Shen Qingqiu do anything wrong in his sleep? Sure, he may have had some weird sleeping habits back in his past life, like kicking his blankets off his bed or grinding his teeth, but he was pretty sure they didn’t carry over when he transmigrated into Shen Qingqiu. Shen Qingqiu was used to presenting himself perfectly at all times, and he had somehow trained himself to have a perfectly composed sleeping state as well. Thankfully, Shen Yuan had adapted, and now enjoys relatively uneventful sleep. So, what could’ve prompted this?
“Shizun...?” Luo Binghe breaks the silence first, brows furrowed as he questions in a soft voice.
Why did he sound like a wounded puppy, what exactly did Shen Qingqiu do to him in his dreams?
“What is it, Binghe?” Shen Qingqiu sighs lightly, turning to face Luo Binghe directly. “Why are you acting all weird so early in the morning, did I do anything to you in my sleep?”
“Shizun, forgive this disciple but...” Luo Binghe pauses, then looks around the room, all with a confused expression on his face. Okay, did he hit his head and lost his memories, or something? Why did he look like he was in somewhere new?
“Where is this...? Why are we...” Luo Binghe looks at Shen Qingqiu, then back to himself, the both of them barely dressed, legs entangled under the blankets.
Oh... Oh, wait, what the fuck?
Shen Qingqiu’s heart starts racing, and he gulps, despite himself. “Binghe, did you just say... you mean, you don’t know where this place is?”
Luo Binghe nods, and Shen Qingqiu’s frown immediately deepens, his heart sinking. How could this be possible...? Was this another gimmick from the cursed System, or had Xinmo caused another weird qi deviation while Binghe was sleeping? Shen Qingqiu can’t gather all of his thoughts at once, so he takes a deep breath, then looks back up at Luo Binghe. “Do you know who you are?” He asks.
"I'm... Luo Binghe.”
“Tell me more about yourself.”
“I’m a... I used to be a disciple of Shen Qingqiu of Qing Jing Peak, at the Cang Qiong Mountain Sect. Now I oversee Huan Hua Palace, and... I’m a half-demon,” Luo Binghe mutters, more to himself than to Shen Qingqiu, then moves his body away from Shen Qingqiu, his gaze downcast as he sits on the opposite end of the bed. “Shizun, aren’t you supposed to be... Shizun, didn’t you return to the sect? Why are you here... with me?”
Shen Qingqiu slowly processes the information, but Luo Binghe continues, his hands clutching onto the sheets so hard his knuckles were turning white. “How is this possible? Shizun... wouldn't have picked me,” he whispers, face paling. “This must be a dream.”
“Binghe.” Shen Qingqiu interrupts, grabbing Luo Binghe’s wrist abruptly, forcing Luo Binghe to look at him. “Stop. Listen to this master.”
Luo Binghe doesn’t listen, of course, and although he doesn’t break away from Shen Qingqiu’s grip, he covers his face with his other hand. “Even if this is a dream, I’m sorry, Shizun... this disciple has truly gotten too bold since we were separated, now he even dreams of spending days with you like this...” he laughs drily, then heaves a soft sigh. “But Shizun, you're rarely so nice to me in my dreams.”
Shen Qingqiu’s heart twinges at the sight of Luo Binghe distancing himself from him, then aches with a kind of bitterness that he thinks he’s never felt in his life before. He can’t even figure out which was the worst part of this all – the fact that Luo Binghe has lost his memories from the point before they’ve clashed over Xinmo’s outburst, the fact that Luo Binghe thinks that this was his dream, or the fact that... Luo Binghe has always dreamed of Shen Qingqiu being unkind to him. It was overwhelming, the kind of sudden sorrow that overcame Shen Qingqiu, that he had to stay silent for a long while, suppressing the emotions so that they don’t show.
“This isn’t a dream, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu starts first, and Luo Binghe shoots him a skeptical glance. “Let this master explain.” Luo Binghe is quiet, but he nods meekly. “You... it seems that you’ve lost a part of your memories, Binghe.”
At that, Luo Binghe looks up in surprise, then retracts his gaze. “How can I trust you, Shizun? What if this was a trap for Shizun to take me back to Cang Qiong? Shizun, I... I know how Shizun sees me, I don’t want to... I don’t intend to cause any trouble for Shizun...” Luo Binghe pauses, “Shizun has made it clear that he would rather stand with the sect, and this disciple understands, so...”
Shen Qingqiu wants to smack Luo Binghe. He normally already does, out of embarrassment, but this was so infuriating that Shen Qingqiu almost wants to smack Luo Binghe so hard he gets all his lost memories back. When Shen Qingqiu gets his hands on whatever caused this...
“Does this feel like a dream to you?” Shen Qingqiu snaps, “have you lost your progress with manipulating dreams along with your memories? Did I really raise a disciple like you?” He sighs, frowning in exasperation, then inhales slowly. “Do you trust this master, Binghe?”
Luo Binghe is silent, keeping his eyes locked on his own hands, but he nods wordlessly.
“You... this master...” Crap, Shen Qingqiu wasn’t sure on the simplest way to explain all of this to Luo Binghe. How much should he reveal? Where would he even begin? If Luo Binghe had lost his memories before Xinmo had gone berserk, Shen Qingqiu would have a whole book’s worth of development to catch Luo Binghe up with. Not to mention, telling his own disciple that he would be in such a relationship with his master in the future... that they were married, and living together...
Shen Qingqiu clears his throat, and attempts to make sure that his expression doesn’t betray his inner turmoil. Luo Binghe was now staring at him like a wounded, lost sheep, and Shen Qingqiu sits upright. “You’ve lost your memories, Binghe.” Shen Qingqiu explains concisely, then gently taps his wooden fan against Luo Binghe’s lips to stop him from interrupting. “Shh, listen to me. I wouldn’t lie to you.”
Luo Binghe’s eyes widen slightly, then he nods weakly. “...I trust you, Shizun.”
Despite himself, Shen Qingqiu couldn’t hold back the smile that spreads across his face slowly. Luo Binghe watches him silently, like he was in awe, and remains quiet.
Sighing, Shen Qingqiu beckons Luo Binghe closer and proceeds to give him a quick rundown of what happened, deliberately leaving out some of the cruder memories (most notably, the uncomfortable ‘first time’ – if Shen Qingqiu could even call it that), to swiftly mentioning that they were now living outside of Cang Qiong, and away from Huan Hua, just in a place of their own.
Luo Binghe had listened to the whole summary without any interruption or intense reactions, only looking down silently with a constant frown between his brows. After a while, he finally perks up and looks at Shen Qingqiu. “Shizun, this disciple still doesn’t understand... Shizun saved my life again when I lost control over Xinmo, that much is believable – Shizun has always been kind to this disciple.” Luo Binghe smiles, strangely looking a little sad, “but why would we be living together, away from Cang Qiong, at that?”
This stupid disciple really doesn’t have any bit of tact! Shen Qingqiu doesn’t want to be the one to tell him something so embarrassing! Internally, he curses the fact that they didn’t have something convenient to explain their relationship, something like a diamond ring, or... ugh. Come on, Shen Qingqiu, you have to do this for Binghe!
“...Binghe, you... with this master...” Shen Qingqiu hesitates, then almost chokes on his own spit when he realizes how improper it sounds, “I mean, you and I, Binghe, we’re married now.”
Now, Luo Binghe is the one who chokes on air, spluttering illegibly as his eyes widen, body leaning away from Shen Qingqiu. “Shizun,” he says after a long pause, “are you joking around with this disciple?”
Shen Qingqiu stills for a moment, then realizes how incredulous it must sound to Luo Binghe now. From what he remembers, post-Abyss, pre-berserk Luo Binghe had always been unstable and volatile, his moods and emotions strongly influenced by Xinmo, and his fixation towards Shen Qingqiu had been extremely confusing, that it had taken the longest time for Shen Qingqiu to realize that Luo Binghe hadn’t been pursuing him out of hate, instead out of love. He glances at Luo Binghe, whose frown was deepening even further, as if he was hurt that his Shizun would play such a cruel joke on himself, and Shen Qingqiu’s momentarily hit by a weird sense of guilt.
Ah, his heart hurts.
He’ll make sure the System has to pay for this.
Deciding that more persuasion probably wouldn’t yield any desirable results, Shen Qingqiu huffs impatiently and tugs on Luo Binghe’s robes, pulling the taller man to himself. He inhales deeply, snaps his eyes shut, and leans in to kiss Luo Binghe on the lips, stopping Luo Binghe from making any sort of refusals. “Didn’t you say you trusted this Shizun? You wound me, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu breathes.
Luo Binghe freezes on the spot, looking like he just got struck by lightning, then looks at Shen Qingqiu, entirely flabbergasted. “Shizun, you were serious?”
“Have I not done enough?” Shen Qingqiu snaps, attempting to hide his embarrassment behind his fan. “Now stop fooling around and listen to me.”
Fingers still lingering on his own lips, Luo Binghe sheepishly nods, his cheeks flushed a soft pink. Shen Qingqiu does not want to know what was running through Luo Binghe’s mind at this moment. He clears his throat again. The best way to find a chance at recovery was obviously to bring him to Mu Qingfang, the almighty human form of medical Wikipedia in this world, but Luo Binghe has never been fond of returning to Cang Qiong Mountain, much less having to relying on a Peak Lord there. Needless to say, in this current state, who knows what Luo Binghe might unleash if Shen Qingqiu suggests this to him.
So, channeling all of his pitiful medical knowledge from the dramas and novels he’s read before, Shen Qingqiu decides that his best bet at getting Luo Binghe’s memories back was to do the cliched thing of talking about their shared happenings in hopes that they’d jog some memories in Luo Binghe's mind.
Although... admittedly, Shen Qingqiu had a thin face, and throughout their relationship, even long after they've gotten married, Luo Binghe was still the one who takes the initiative, and was far more outwardly affectionate than Shen Qingqiu. Shen Qingqiu had always felt a little bad about being bad at reciprocating, although Luo Binghe has never had any complaints.
Right now, facing a Luo Binghe from an earlier time, it made Shen Qingqiu realize how unbalanced their relationship had been, that he isn't even able to properly express his feelings towards Luo Binghe when he clearly needed it.
The bitterness weighed on Shen Qingqiu's heart like a heavy rock. For the first time, Shen Qingqiu's heart aches at the realization that he wouldn't be able to ever fill the void in his life if he's ever to lose Luo Binghe now.
Of course, a huge part of their life together was still too embarrassing to be recounted out loud, so Shen Qingqiu only picked the acceptable parts, all while Luo Binghe listened quietly, looking at Shen Qingqiu almost reverently as his admired Shizun talked about their days spent together.
It was too embarrassing.
Shen Qingqiu didn't hold out for long, and quickly chased Luo Binghe to wash up and get dressed so they could have breakfast. Naturally, Luo Binghe had offered to prepare breakfast, so Shen Qingqiu took a moment alone in the bedroom to fume in sheer embarrassment, before climbing off the bed to get ready to face the rest of the days indefinitely with the current Luo Binghe.
At least... one thing stayed true – they did still have forever ahead of them.
Strangely, Shen Qingqiu had felt like he was in his element while rambling about their many adventures experienced together after they've left Cang Qiong Mountain. Call it old habits die hard, or something like that - Shen Qingqiu feels like briefly, he could ease a little into his old self of... well, basically not having to act like Shen Qingqiu.
Like Shen Yuan.
He hasn't thought about his old self, or his own name, in a while, and the mere thought of it almost makes him forget what he was doing, words pausing in mid-sentence. Luo Binghe tilts his head quizzically, which finally makes Shen Qingqiu snap out of his rare moment of introspection.
“...and that was how we managed to defeat the Ravine Black Widow,” Shen Qingqiu concludes in a rush, blinking the memories away. “Although it was a formidable beast, you wanted to bring its carcass back so we could test the flesh for medicinal purposes for Without-a-Cure.”
“Did it work?” Luo Binghe asks.
Shen Qingqiu smiles softly, reaching out his hand to pat Luo Binghe on the head, ruffling his thick, soft curls. Luo Binghe flinches slightly at the touch, and Shen Qingqiu's smile falters, but he continues, nevertheless, ignoring the stab in his heart at the prudent rejection. “It didn't,” Shen Qingqiu answers, quietly moving his hand away awkwardly as he speaks, “the demons didn't lie when they said there wouldn't be a cure for that.”
Despite just turning away from Shen Qingqiu's affections, Luo Binghe blinks, eyes following Shen Qingqiu's hand as it returns folded elegantly on Shen Qingqiu's lap. “Then, this disciple has still failed Shizun, even in the future.” Luo Binghe laughs lightly in self-mockery, “Shizun said it had been years since we left Cang Qiong, but he... I... still wasn't able to cure it?”
“We didn't search very actively,” Shen Qingqiu explains patiently. “It's not that important, actually. It's been rather peaceful, and Zhangmen-shixiong tries his best to keep me out of the frontlines if I do have to offer my strength to the sect.”
Luo Binghe doesn't reply, only nodding in silence as he takes in the stories so far. He's been quiet, and although Shen Qingqiu often prides himself for knowing Luo Binghe like the back of his hand, this Luo Binghe... the post-abyss Luo Binghe was a difficult time for the both of them, riddled with misunderstandings, and to put it bluntly, Shen Qingqiu didn't have many fond memories of that period of time. To make things worse, he also didn't really understand what Luo Binghe was thinking about, at that point of time, so despite his efforts, Luo Binghe had barely budged, probably because of his internal aversion against Shen Qingqiu and his motives.
Shen Qingqiu isn't able to hold in a sigh, prompting Luo Binghe to look over at him.
“Look, we've chatted for so long, it's almost time for lunch.” Shen Qingqiu musters all of his composure, but his voice comes out a little weaker than intended. “Let's go outside to get the fish you left out to dry yesterday, hmm?”
“Ah, yes – I originally wanted to prepare some fish congee for today,” Luo Binghe says, then he freezes for a moment when he realizes what he just said. “Fish... congee?” He continues, the question more to himself than to Shen Qingqiu. “Shizun, what...”
Shen Qingqiu's heart lurches as he rushes to Luo Binghe, clasping Luo Binghe's hands in his own. “You remembered!” He exclaims, a little too excited despite himself, a wide smile on his lips as he tries to rein in the waterworks.
Stop, stop! He didn't want to cry – that would be some astronomical OOC! The System hadn't been bothering him much in recent days, and Shen Qingqiu would like it to remain like that, please!
But for a moment, his chest had squeezed with the real possibility that Luo Binghe might never recover the memories he lost, might never remember their past trials and tribulations, might forever never return to the Luo Binghe that Shen Qingqiu had grown to love so dearly. Sure, it's still the same Luo Binghe, and they did have plenty of time to fill in the gaps where the memories had been lost, but...
But, what if Luo Binghe never gets there again?
What if Luo Binghe decides, before Shen Qingqiu can finish explaining, that he no longer wanted to stay with Shen Qingqiu? What if even after Shen Qingqiu exhausts all of his methods and painstakingly went through their whole memoire of adventures, Luo Binghe still remained unconvinced, and the memories still don't return? What if, in the worst-case scenario, his trustworthy Mu-shidi wasn't able to pinpoint a cause either, and they had to stay in this weird limbo indefinitely?
Luo Binghe might leave him, deciding to seek his own cure, or... heck, he might even decide that getting a fresh start was something fortunate, and leave to live his own life by himself?
Shen Qingqiu gulps, averting his eyes from Luo Binghe suddenly.
That... that wouldn't be good.
His eyelid twitches, and his heart lurches once more.
Shen Qingqiu doesn't know if he'll be able to handle that, if it really happened.
If Luo Binghe left him, what would he do? Would he remain in this little hut, custom-made by hand by Luo Binghe, just for the two of them – and wait – wait forever, for someone who would never come back? Would he return ashamedly and empty-handed, moving back in to Cang Qiong Mountain Sect, where he might next meet Luo Binghe again, as an enemy, like they did before? Or would Luo Binghe wander far enough, physically and emotionally, that the System decides the power source no longer wants to keep Shen Qingqiu around, and send him back to his original world, cold and dead?
In the heat of the moment, spurred by panic, Shen Qingqiu briefly thinks that all of these outcomes pretty much feel the same to him.
Ever since his transmigration, Shen Yuan had been hardworking in clinging to his protagonist's thighs, getting into Luo Binghe's good books, taking care of him to make sure that he didn't land too cruel a death. He didn't really know where he had started to develop personal feelings beyond his simple mission, or where Luo Binghe had also started to develop feelings for himself. Admittedly, it had been an extremely long journey of discovery and realization, but Shen Yuan now realizes that he wouldn't swap that for the world.
With what kind of face should he face Luo Binghe like this – a Luo Binghe who had none of what they had gone through together?
Shen Qingqiu's hands shake at the thought, before he can stop himself.
“Shizun?” Luo Binghe asks cautiously, his hands still in Shen Qingqiu's tight hold, “are you alright, Shizun?”
“Yes,” Shen Qingqiu breathes, collecting himself into his usual calm demeanor before continuing, “it's a good sign that you remember something – that means your memories aren't gone for good.” He stares at Luo Binghe for a moment, then decides to commit to it. “Get ready, we'll pay a visit to Cang Qiong now.”
“Cang Qiong?” Luo Binghe repeats, frowning. “Shizun, I... they... this disciple wouldn't be welcome there.”
Hmm. In general, neither of them was particular welcome lately, when they arrived together. The disciples of Qing Jing Peak are now aware enough to make themselves scarce whenever the Peak Lord returned with his favorite disciple, and Ning Yingying would purposely keep the younger, more busybody disciples occupied so they wouldn't bother her Shizun, so within his own zone, Shen Qingqiu still had some degree of comfort, but...
The rest of Cang Qiong Mountain Sect still was not as welcoming to Luo Binghe, which – fair, Luo Binghe did have a very long-running feud with most of the Peak Lords, and a long history of mutual destruction (although, when it came to magnitude, Luo Binghe's record would be peerless), so by association, most of the current disciples didn't have a good opinion of him either.
But that aside, Shen Qingqiu is aware that the current Luo Binghe had just started exacting his revenge, and unleashing his personal vendetta against the sect for the grievances he had received from them, and from Shen Qingqiu, particularly. It was a no-brainer that he would be reluctant to head there now.
Unfortunately for him, Shen Qingqiu needed him to go and get his magical diagnosis from Mu Qingfang, so that Shen Qingqiu can speed up this recovery process (there had to be one, right?), so that he could be free from all of these messy what-ifs and fantasizing over worst-case scenarios.
“Things have changed, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu just says, which isn't entirely a lie, “we're no longer on bad terms with them, so it'll be alright to go back for a short while.” This is a lie, and the Peak Lords tend to pretend-chase Shen Qingqiu out whenever they were back (Shen Qingqiu thinks Liu Qingge means it for real), because they couldn't stand the pair being overtly lovey-dovey (in Shen Qingqiu's defense, this was all Luo Binghe).
“Then, this disciple will trust Shizun.”
Luo Binghe slightly bows his head to Shen Qingqiu, and rushes away to get properly dressed for visiting the home of his old nightmares, although not without also preparing Shen Qingqiu's set of clothes.
The sight of his smoothened robes, folded neatly on the stool, in an empty room without Luo Binghe fussing around to personally dress him up, made Shen Qingqiu's heart ache for about the tenth time today, and it was barely noon.
Could cultivators die of heartbreak?
Shen Qingqiu feels like he's about to find out.
Mu Qingfang was seated across a very reluctant Luo Binghe, and watched his face closely while taking his vitals, and monitoring his inner qi flow. Luo Binghe had refused to speak to anyone after they had stepped into the sect compounds, and Shen Qingqiu had let him be – not like he had any way of persuading him otherwise, for now.
This was really how it was like back then, huh? Shen Qingqiu huffs internally, now belatedly discovering Luo Binghe's little cues and changes in his body language, which he'd gotten inevitably used to, after all their time spent together. Back then, Luo Binghe didn't think it was appropriate to voice his intentions towards Shen Qingqiu, but knew no other way to approach Shen Qingqiu except the way that he did, all while Shen Qingqiu thought he was out to seek his bloody payment from his debtor.
Now, Shen Qingqiu sees, and knows Luo Binghe's pain and struggle, but as with many things, he didn't know how to best solve the problem, or get through to Luo Binghe.
He only watches Luo Binghe silently, a little but steady frown on his forehead.
“It's a qi deviation,” Mu Qingfang says after a while, as Luo Binghe hurriedly steps away from the bed, leaving the room without a word.
“I'm unfortunately not too well-versed with demonic cultivation, but it is written in some books that at a certain point of cultivation, demonic energy can become rather erratic and hard to control.” He regards Shen Qingqiu for a while, and shakes his head. “The existing studies are too limited – Shen-shixiong, you'll have to forgive this one for not being able to provide you with much assistance.”
“No need for formalities, Mu-shidi, you've helped plenty,” Shen Qingqiu replies. “Earlier, Binghe seemed to subconsciously remember something he did yesterday – does that increase the chance of getting his memories back, in any way?”
“Shixiong... I'm sure you understand yourself, as well-read as you are – practices of demonic cultivation are rarely recorded, and hasty conclusions cannot be trusted.” Mu Qingfang sighs, walking up to Shen Qingqiu to pat his shoulder softly. “But your disciple is stubborn, and you... care for each other, don't you? Maybe it'll help to take it slow.”
Take it slow, my ass! Shen Qingqiu can't handle this cold Luo Binghe much longer!!!
They were back in the original bamboo house of Qing Jing Peak, and as expected, no one was there to disturb them, so it was quiet and peaceful, the way Shen Qingqiu likes it.
But this was way too quiet.
Luo Binghe sat, unmoving, in his side room, while Shen Qingqiu had panicked for about three minutes whether he should go in and talk to Luo Binghe, or leave him to his devices. Why was this so scary?! And, what should he even talk about if he went in? Luo Binghe didn't seem very receptive to all the recounting he had done in the morning, and it had taken a lot of effort to talk for so long, alright?!
“Shizun, please come in if you wish.” Luo Binghe's voice comes through the thin sliding door.
Fuck. Shen Qingqiu clears his throat, and does as told.
Before Shen Qingqiu can fret over what to talk about now, Luo Binghe unexpectedly asks, “Shizun, if I may be so bold... where is this disciple's sword? Xinmo, I mean...” Luo Binghe frowns. “This disciple is bound to Xinmo by blood, but I don't sense it anywhere – there are some faint traces, but...”
“Xinmo was partially destroyed... a while ago,” Shen Qingqiu takes a seat beside Luo Binghe, and begins recapping the... as he would consider it, the finale of a canon-divergent Proud Immortal Demon Way , where neither Tianlang-jun nor Luo Binghe achieved the goal of combining the three realms, and Luo Binghe had gone berserk on his own. “Although Xinmo had been rather tamed after that, it wasn't safe, so we both agreed to have it completely destroyed. The shards are buried in the backyard outside.”
Luo Binghe purses his lips, like he was starting to seriously consider the preposition of him actually losing his memories for real. “Can I see it, Shizun?”
So here they were. The sun had set not long ago, and the moon painted the backyard in a muted light, soft wind rustling against their clothes as they move out from the house.
It was a funny sight, actually – there was not one – but two gravestones erected on the grass in the small yard, on one of them was a neat line of inscription that read ‘Zheng Yang’, and the other one being ‘Xin Mo’.
“Shizun, why is Zheng Yang...” Luo Binghe's question trails off into silence as Shen Qingqiu meekly feels himself blush in embarrassment, having to explain this all over again.
“I've told you before...” Shen Qingqiu sighs, but accepts that he can't escape this – having to give a quick summary to save his face as much as possible. “After you fell into the Abyss, this master took your Zheng Yang back... and buried it. That's all.”
Luo Binghe gently runs his fingers across the inscription on the characters of Xinmo, and unexpectedly smiles. “This is my writing, isn't it, Shizun?”
Shen Qingqiu thinks back on the memory fondly, and smiles back. “Mm. You said it wouldn't be fair for Shizun to write on both, that it would look lonely, so you wanted to be the one to write it.”
Momentarily, Luo Binghe looks stunned, eyes transfixed on Shen Qingqiu's face, then blurts, “Shizun, you're smiling.”
Shen Qingqiu's at a loss for words. “Does Binghe think it's weird?”
“...Shizun never smiles when he's with me,” Luo Binghe replies sourly.
“Then, do you want to know why this Shizun was smiling?”
Luo Binghe nods.
“It's because I'm with you, Binghe,” Shen Qingqiu replies, the words slipping out easier than he thought they would be, and this time, the reddening of his cheeks comes faster than the embarrassment hits. It was... true, he had meant them, he...
He really means it.
“Binghe, this master isn't too good with words, and so I'm not too sure how I can get you to believe me.” Shen Qingqiu smiles again, this time moving closer to Luo Binghe, placing a cool hand on Luo Binghe's cheek. “It hurts this master a little to see you like this,” he breathes, shaky voice barely above a whisper, as he finally lets his honest thoughts tumble out, “I don't know what will happen to you, and to us. All I wish for is...”
After a long silence, Shen Qingqiu doesn't manage to finish his sentence.
Although Luo Binghe had compromised and agreed to sleep on the same bed, Shen Qingqiu didn't let him go before helping him to regulate his spiritual flow, and made sure that he checked on his meridians and vital signs before Luo Binghe fell asleep.
If Mu Qingfang didn't know the way to reverse demonic qi deviation, Shen Qingqiu doesn't think his experiences on PIDW forums back in the day would do much to help. The most he could do was to ensure that Luo Binghe gets a good night's sleep, and to check for any unusual signs while Luo Binghe was sleeping.
Shen Qingqiu tiredly stares at the sleeping Luo Binghe, and quietly presses a soft kiss to Luo Binghe's forehead mark. If this kept up, Shen Qingqiu isn't sure how long he can hold out for, but... but, Luo Binghe had once also held his cold corpse for five years without a day short, hadn't he?
Didn't they turn out just fine, despite that?
Shen Qingqiu exhales, mentally exhausted, then worms his way into the covers.
Mornings on Qing Jing Peak are always pleasant, breezy, and comfortable, a treatment worthy of a Peak Lord indeed.
Instead, Shen Qingqiu sits up abruptly in fear, the events of yesterday rushing into his mind accompanied with a flood of panic. The space beside him was empty, and the sheets had already gone cold.
“Shizun, you're up?” The familiar voice comes from outside as Luo Binghe walks in with his usual fare of breakfast – toned down to fit the dietary habits here in Cang Qiong – a plain bowl of congee with stewed mushrooms, and a side of vegetable soup. “This disciple prepared breakfast for you.”
Luo Binghe was... smiling.
Was this what Luo Binghe had felt yesterday?
Luo Binghe sets the food tray by the bed, then shuffles closer towards Shen Qingqiu, grabbing Shen Qingqiu's hands firmly. “This disciple apologizes for causing Shizun so much worry yesterday...” He mutters, kissing each of Shen Qingqiu's knuckles as he frowns, “there were indeed some problems with my cultivation, but since Shizun had so carefully watched over me last night, I'm recovering just fine.”
“...You're... back?” Shen Qingqiu gulps, eyes still wide in surprise.
“Yes, Shizun's Binghe is back,” Luo Binghe affirms with a goofy grin, then snuggles up next to Shen Qingqiu on the bed to pull Shen Qingqiu into a tight grip. “It looks like I don't have to ask this time, but Shizun really did miss me, didn't he?”
Shen Qingqiu's throat constricts, feeling both comfort from the relief, and heartache from all the pent-up frustration he's had to face the day before. This infuriating disciple – he'd almost made Shen Qingqiu pre-emptively weep for his future like a widow, and all this was solved overnight?!
“Shizun, you...” Luo Binghe whispers, and it’s only when Shen Qingqiu feels Luo Binghe's hands on his face that he realizes that he's crying. “Shizun...”
Shen Qingqiu quickly blinks his tears away, embarrassed, and turns away from Luo Binghe. “It's good that you're back.”
Luo Binghe exhales shakily, and forcibly turns Shen Qingqiu around, wrapping his arm around Shen Qingqiu's waist to pull him into an easy kiss, tears mingling between their lips. The sudden proximity and the body heat from Luo Binghe made even more tears fall from Shen Qingqiu's eyes, and this time, Shen Qingqiu didn't have the energy to hold it back, letting Luo Binghe swallow all of his soft sobs.
“I'm really sorry, Shizun...” Luo Binghe tries apologizing again once he's sure Shen Qingqiu had stopped crying. “This disciple promises to never let this happen again... if it does, Shizun should whip me until I'm back to my senses!”
And where will Shen Qingqiu find the heart to do that?
Shen Qingqiu only clicks his tongue in reply.
“Please, Shizun, don't be mad anymore?”
“...I'm not mad.”
"Then, here, breakfast is ready - it's been a while since we came back, the kitchen was in such a mess... I'll have to talk to Ning-shijie..."
As Shen Qingqiu listens to Luo Binghe ramble on about literally the most inconsequential things in their lives, he can't help but feel his heart squeeze again, although this time slightly less painful than before.
They would have forever together.