It was supposed to be a simple mission.
A boring five months journey from outpost to outpost. Doing repairs and ensuring everything was running well with the communities that lived there. They would deliver some supplies before heading towards their next destination to repeat the process.
Once they visited all of their necessary outposts they would make the fly back to earth. Where once again they would wait a month or two until their next mission.
It was supposed to be a simple mission.
It was something that Shen Qingqiu had done hundreds of times.
But, this time…
… this time it was horrifyingly different.
“A-Yuan close your eyes!” Shen Qingqiu shouted, quickly picking up his brother who let out small cries from his helmet. Shen Yuan did as he was told and closed his eyes shut to prevent himself from seeing anymore of the sight before them.
Shen Qingqiu started stepping backwards in a desperate attempt to get away from the site before him. Not even knowing he seemed to be shouting out a certain name in his distress as bodies pushed passed him to investigate.
"Xiao Jiu! A-Yuan! What's wrong?!" Yue Qingyuan shouted, rushing over to them and bring them protectively into his arms. His eyes growing in terror and gritting his teeth as he stared at the carnage before them while other crewmates screamed and shouted around them.
“Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god.”
“I’m going to throw up.”
“Look for survivors! Be on guard for anything!”
“We need all the medics at their stations! I don’t care if you have to drag them out of bed! Do it!”
“Xiao Jiu, get back on the ship with A-Yuan.” Yue Qingyuan whispered, placing a comforting hand on his back and on Shen Yuan’s head. But, his voice was stern and his eyes showed a foreboding look that Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help nod.
“Fine… just… come back as soon as possible.” Shen Qingqiu hissed, getting Yue Qingyuan to smile as the two pressed their helmets together in a mock kiss. Their hands clasping as tightly as they could while they took comfort in the embrace of each other.
“I do anything for Xiao Jiu.”
Shen Qingqiu would learn to fear those words.
They found out it wasn’t just that outpost.
It was all of them.
Each and every single outpost was massacred with only very few survivors. Majority of the survivors were found hauled up in a secured lock room. Breaking down in hysterics when they found them that the majority had to be sedated before boarding the ship.
Getting information from them was nearly impossible and Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help feel frustrated over it. They still had no answers to what the hell happened to all the outposts and the communities that lived there.
Even Yue Qingyuan was little tight lipped when he came back from the first outpost. But, Shen Qingqiu could only imagine what else was in the outpost and decided not to press the subject on the other. He had to admit too that Shen Yuan had taken most of his attention as his little brother had gotten night terrors from just the entrance of the outpost.
And while it was weird that he became a little distant the few days after he helped with the first outpost. He soon jumped back to being the annoying man that Shen Qingqiu was reluctantly attached too. Again, Shen Qingqiu figured his weird behavior was from what he saw at the first outpost. Already Shen Qingqiu shivered at the pieces he saw and hearing the news that Yue Qingyuan saved a child that was surrounded by corpses...
... he didn't feel good bringing that up for him remember.
It wasn’t until they got to the second to last outpost that they were finally able to get some people with a functional mouth and brain.
A scared hamster-like man called Shang Qinghua and his husband.
An Ice block and towering mass of a man called Mobei Jun.
“I don’t exactly know the details… I’m just the guy that does all the fucking paperwork.” Shang Qinghua whispered, his body shaking against the massive bulk of his husband. His eyes were looking down with his expression pale as he played with the water pouch in his hands.
“But… they think it was some sort of alien disease? Parasite? I don’t fucking know! But, it would… it would essentially kill its host and take over the body.” Shang Qinghua whimpered, his eyes going distant remembering all of the horrors he went through. Immediately, Mobei Jun brought Shang Qinghua closer to his person with a strong pull. His cold ice blue eyes boring down at the man while he tighten his gripe on the other's hips causing the man to twitch a bit.
“They would get all of the host’s memories. Study their personality and behavior before killing their host. But… they also become the host themselves. I don’t fucking know! It’s horrifying and terrible! AND I'M NOT A FUCKING SCIENTIST!” Shang Qinghua sobbed, getting Mobei Jun to finally look up from his husband to glare at everyone in the room. Essentially telling them all without words that this interrogation was over.
Shen Qingqiu frowned as he couldn't help notice how uncomfortable Shang Qinghua appeared to be at times when Mobei Jun moved or touched him. Even now when Mobei Jun guided him up towards the exit of the room to get some rest. Shang Qinghua almost seemed afraid to leave with him as his feet seemed to firmly plant into place at times and his whole body shook with violent shakes.
But, eventually the small man seemed to sag against the other as they continued their way to their assigned quarters. Making Shen Qingqiu writes it off as a psychological break down and couldn't help feel pity for the two to experience such an event.
“What are these things called?” someone from the science division asked, right as the two past through the sliding metal doors.
Mobei Jun silently looked back at the man with a grim expression.
“They're called Imposters.”
Shen Qingqiu had been the one to vote for going back to earth.
To not go to the last outpost.
But, of course the die hard heroes and bleeding hearts just couldn’t leave an outpost to their doom. Stating that whatever was happening might not have reached them and if it hadn’t. They still had crucial supplies the outpost would need and they could hold key information they desperately desired.
Which was a load of bullshit since each outpost was built to be self sufficient. This was to ensure that if anything happened to the shipments then the outposts could take care of themselves until someone eventually came.
Shen Qingqiu was glad for the support that Yue Qingyuan, Mu Qingfang, and surprisingly Liu Qingge gave. All of them agreed that the situation was unknown and they still couldn’t figure out what exactly happened to the other outposts. This whole, Imposters, ordeal past the line of risk that Shen Qingqiu didn't want to involve little brother in.
Of course though the creepy old bastard that ran the ship denied them their requests.
“A-Yuan you need to stay with me at all times, you understand? Even if it’s to go to the bathroom you, stay with me.” Shen Qingqiu hissed, getting Shen Yuan to fearfully nod his head.
They had come back to their living quarters to eat. The tension on the ship is getting to be too much for both himself and his little brother. So, they grabbed some food supplies and a plethora of tea before scurrying back to their small living quarters. Shen Qingqiu also didn't like the fact that the old bastard's daughter has been glaring at his brother.
Ever since Shen Yuan had introduced himself to that kid Yue Qingyuan saved. The two had been developing a small friendship that allowed Shen Yuan some social interactions with people his age. While the old bastards daughter was only a little older than Shen Yuan. His brother had already stated how he didn't like her and he practically avoided her like the plague. Something that Shen Qingqiu encouraged as he didn't trust anything that involves with the old bastard.
But, ever since Shen Yuan had started this small friendship the hostility towards him seemed to get worse.
It's because of this that Shen Qingqiu had herded his brother back to their living quarters whenever he saw the small wench.
Their living quarters was essentially a kitchen that was fused with the living space and had one small bathroom connected to it. It was extremely small and to be honest a little too close quarters. But, it was the safest place Shen Qingqiu felt to be with his little brother. Even Shen Yuan had stopped complaining about the small space and had developed a habit burring himself in their shared futon to read under the thick blankets.
As soon as they got back Shen Qingqiu had sat his brother down to tell him the new rules that were to be followed at all times. Shen Yuan just nodded his head as his beautiful eyes held a constant fear in them now. It made Shen Qingqiu constantly worry about his brother.
“We’ll get out of this.” Shen Qingqiu promised, holding his brother close as the child clung back to him. “I swear that we'll make it out alive.”
Beep! Beep! Beep!
“Xiao Jiu, can I come in?”
Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help the sigh of relief that escaped his lips at hearing Yue Qingyuan's voice. Gently picking up his brother who refused to let go as he came to the door. Pressing a few buttons and getting the metal to unlock before sliding open. Revealing the gentle smile of Yue Qingyuan as he held some food in his hands along with their favored snacks.
“I saw that you weren’t at the canteen.” Yue Qingyuan explained, getting Shen Qingqiu to nod his head as he gently ruffled Shen Yuan’s hair.
“I see…” Yue Qingyuan whispered, reaching out to also ruffle Shen Yuan’s hair as well before his hand slid to cup Shen Qingqiu’s face.
“Everything will be okay Xiao Jiu. Xiao Jiu and A-Yuan will be safe.” Yue Qingyuan promised, getting Shen Qingqiu to close his eyes and lean into the warm touch.
“Promise?” Shen QIngqiu whispered, surprisingly himself at the question.
He hadn’t asked Yue Qingyuan to promise anything since… the incidents of the past. It seemed that Yue Qingyuan had the same thought as his breath hitched before releasing deeply.
“I do anything for Xiao Jiu.”
Of course, the last outpost is where shit finally hits the fan.
Once again did they come to an outpost that was completely covered in blood and death. Once again they were finally able to find a few survivors hauled up sealed rooms. Once again said survivors seemed to be too traumatized to give out any useful information.
They were barely able to get any scraps from Shang Qinghua and Mobei Jun. Mu Qingfang had already warned to not push too much or else they could trigger a possible meltdown for them like the other survivors that needed to be detained. Though Shen Qingqiu could see this with Shang Qinghua, he couldn't with Mobei Jun.
When they landed at the outpost Shen Qingqiu had believed that they're just facing another devastated site.
The only thing that was different… was that they found an Imposter.
To say the situation became dire was an understatement. Shen Qingqiu had been on cameras with Liu Qingge and the two watched in horror at the scene that played out before them. Shen Qingqiu was quick to push Shen Yuan’s face into his stomach to prevent him from seeing the carnage. Getting Liu Qingge to quickly mute the sound as they watched their crewmates be killed by the creature before them.
The… Imposter was a monster.
It looked perfectly human before transforming into a horrifying creature. It slaughtered one of the rescues teams and then started… eating some of them. It made Shen Qingqiu want to vomit, but he held it in and radio to start the ship. His hands never leaving his little brother and the constant need to have Yue Qingyuan by his side to know the other was there.
After that it was a madhouse to get out of there without the imposter getting inside. The other rescue teams scrambled to also get back on the ship.
In the end… they had to leave behind seven people of their crew and more than half of the survivors on the outpost.
Shen Qingqiu felt no satisfaction with his fellow crewmates at being right. That they should have just returned to earth and reported their findings so that they could send militarized ships to the outposts to handle the situation. Instead he held Shen Yuan close to his body and leaned against the familiar warmth of Yue Qingyuan when the man came bursting into the security room. Yue Qingyuan thankfully didn't have to leave the ship for this mission and had instantly came for them when shit hit the fan.
“We should have never gone to the outpost!”
“There were survivors! We couldn’t leave them!”
“Well that’s fucking fantastic! Now we left seven of our own in with whatever the fuck that thing was!”
“We should have gone back to earth and got backup!”
Shen Qingqiu watched as the crew became divided. Accusations being thrown at the Old Ship Master and his daughter that disgustingly called herself the Little Ship Mistress. The spoiled brat basically screeched at them making Shen Qingqiu feel a migraine coming on.
The fighting didn’t end for a long time.
But, it was finally decided that everyone would continue doing their tasks as they made a course straight to earth. A few crewmates muttered under their breathes about reporting the Old Ship Master and his spoiled brat as soon as they got back. It was one thing to deal with the idiocy of the leader on the ship and another for said leader to give a CHILD authority as well. Sadly, many of the crew on the ship seemed to be the old bastards brainless goons that followed orders.
Everyone knew the old creep probably bought their loyalty as it was the only way someone would willingly follow that imbeciles orders.
Something that Shen Qingqiu agreed upon.
But, it was late and Shen Yuan was basically asleep in his arms from the exhaustion from the earlier events. Everyone had called it a night except for the night crew and soon everyone disbursed to their living quarters.
Yue Qingyuan escorted both him and his brother back to their own living quarters. But, with everything that was happening Shen Qingqiu grabbed a hold of Yue Qingyuan’s wrist to stop him from leaving.
“Stay… stay with us.” Shen Qingqiu whispered, getting Yue Qingyuan’s eyes to widen before he eagerly nodded his head.
It didn’t take long for Yue Qingyuan to move his meager belongings into their living space. Shen Yuan seemed happy to have another thick blanket and futon to add to their 'nest'. And while it was extremely cramped now, there was a sense of safety in numbers. As well as comfort in being so close to those that you love and hold close to you.
Shen Qingqiu mumbled as he brought Shen Yuan to his chest while wiggling to press his back against Yue Qingyuan's back. Allowing the other man to wrap his strong arms around them both and pull them in. Making Shen Qingqiu sigh in relief as he closed his eyes while reaching out to grip at Yue Qingyuan's hand. Shen Yuan already deep in slumber as his soft snores were like a peaceful lullaby to Shen Qingqiu's ears.
“... Qi-ge… I’m scared.” Shen Qingqiu admitted, getting the arms around him and his brother to tighten just a little more.
“Don’t worry, I’m here. I will always be here.”
Shen Qingqiu didn’t know how.
But, for some reason he was having lunch with Shang Qinghua.
The fidgeting man had seen Shen Yuan reading one of his many downloaded web novels when Shen Qingqiu was working. Getting the other to strike up a conversation with his brother about Xianxia Novels and story developments.
While Shen Qingqiu didn’t exactly want Shen Yuan near any of the survivors. He tolerated it due to Shen Yuan enjoying the company and conversation. Along with thinking that it might be good for Shang Qinghua to have an interaction that wasn’t another interrogation.
Which soon leads to all of them eating in one of the three ship canteens. Shen Qingqiu liked the last one since the majority of the time people ate in the main canteen or the second canteen. Leaving the third to usually be pretty empty or deserted.
Shen Yuan was munching away at his lunch with rare vigor. His adorable brother got plenty of riceballs this time for him to feast on as he put his attention to a movie he had on his tablet. Putting on his earbuds as not to disturb anyone with all the loud action scenes that the movie had.
It was reassuring to Shen Qingqiu to see this as his brother had been having trouble eating lately. Mu QingFang had stated it was due to the situation that surrounded him that caused his brother to loose his appetite. So Shen Qingqiu was always quick to head for the canteen and pile on food whenever his brother told him that he was hungry. Even Yue Qingyuan had started carrying around easy snacks for Shen Yuan to eat whenever he visited them on his breaks.
And his brother tended to eat more when distracted.
Of course, this led to the awkward silence between himself and Shang Qinghua with the child preoccupied.
“So… does your brother always come with you on your explorations?”
At least he thought they would sit in awkward silence.
“He’s been with me since he was a baby.” Shen Qingqiu said, eating a little bit of his stew and twitching at the lack of taste.
“Oh! Ah… your parents allowed that?”
“I have full custody of my brother.”
“... ah… that’s nice?”
The two sighed, knowing how painfully awkward this was. Neither of them helping each other to ease it, but not wanting to signal the child at the table that something was wrong.
“Are you doing better?” Shen Qingqiu asked, looking at the man as his expression went from anguished to pained acceptance.
“I… I… I have to be.” Shang Qinghua whispered, playing around with the noodles that he got. Picking at the vegetables and poor imitations of meat on top of the hot meal. Even the instant noodles at the convenience store had more taste than the crap he was eating.
Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help noticing the bruises on Shang Qinghua’s wrist. Making him frown as he saw how ugly and dark they were. When Shang Qinghua noticed the staring he quickly slid his suit sleeve up a bit more to cover it.
“Sorry! I… had a moment in the med bay. Flashback or something like that.” Shang Qinghua said, his teeth chattering a bit as he stuffed a bunch of noodles into his mouth. Making himself look more like a hamster than he already was with how he was stuffing his cheeks.
“Understandable. You and your husband went through a lot.” Shen Qingqiu said, looking down at his own meal. “At least you both made it out together.”
“Yes.” Shang Qinghua answered, though it was a bit muffled with all the food in his mouth.
Suddenly though, there was an alert that startled everyone at the table as everything flashed red. The intercom blaring out for everyone one on the ship to hear.
“EVERYONE REPORT TO THE MAIN CANTEEN!”
“A dead body has been found!”
Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help be swept in the paranoia alongside everyone else.
The dead body found was of one of the survivors they picked up at an outpost. Honestly, it was completely mutilated and the only way they could ID it was through blood tests. Shen Qingqiu was that that he dropped off Shen Yuan with Mu Qingfang and the other survivor kid before checking the scene. For it was so gruesome and disgusting that Shen Qingqiu actually vomited upon site.
The gruesome death could only be concluded as murder.
It was also concluded that… an imposter was on the ship.
The mass panic consumed the ship as accusations were thrown from one person to the next. It was complete chaos that Shen Qingqiu tried to shield Shen Yuan from in worry since it was causing his stress and anxiety to get worse. Even Shang Qinghua stood before Shen Yuan when a frantic crewmate started spitting accusations towards them. Trying to defend the two from the crazed woman as she wildly spat with fear all over the place.
Thankfully, Yue Qingyuan and Liu Qingge dragged the woman away before she could do anything else.
Everyone's fear settled into everyone's core and distrust was rampant.
What could be a friend… could be a monster.
The Old Ship Master had managed to wrangle the ship back into some semblance of order. Issuing out that everyone was to be monitored and to continue doing their tasks. If they could catch who the imposter was, they would immediately send it out of the ship through the airlock.
As it showed back at the last outpost that guns or knives don't seem to work on the creatures.
Soon, everyone reluctantly left to continue their tasks with frantic looks over their shoulders and quiet frantic mutterings. The crazed look in their eyes made Shen Qingqiu hold Shen Yuan closer as he quickly left the canteen alongside Shang Qinghua.
“... Was it like this?” Shen Qingqiu whispered, holding Shen Yuan’s hand tightly as if afraid he would disappear if he let go. Shen Yuan didn’t say anything about as he stuck close to Shen Qingqiu his eyes trained to the floor and his small shoulder shaking.
Shang Qinghua at first didn’t say anything as they walked. But, Shen Qingqiu could see the tremor in the other’s hands as he walked beside the man.
“... Yes.” Shang Qinghua admitted, bringing his hands to chest as he held them there.
“Sometimes… the other crewmates… killed people… who weren’t even the Imposter.” Shang Qinghua whimpered, tears rolling down his face as he remembered the time.
“And… the Imposters… wanted that…”
Dead Body Reported!
Dead Body Reported!
Dead Body Reported!
As the days went on more bodies had piled up and more people were dying. It seemed like they couldn’t go more than two hours before another victim was found. And it was slowly driving everyone to insanity.
Shen Qingqiu had watched with horror as people were forced into the airlock. Some, he definitely knew were innocent and not the imposter. Get shot out into the cold and unforgiving space with anguished screams. Watching with horror as the ship continued to sail farther and farther away from them.
Leaving them to die alone.
What made things worse was that the imposters were getting smarter with their killings.
Some of them started murdering like humans usually murdered humans.
Making accusations if someone was an imposter or a lunatic that much harder. More than once Shen Qingqiu had come to Mu Qingfang for something to calm his nerves and his brother. Even going to the medic for heavy sleeping pills so that neither of them would get any night terrors. He was unbelievable thankful for Yue Qingyuan at the times. For the other was a constant support of the two and didn't mind helping either of them when they woke up screaming.
Shen Qingqiu was also grateful that Yue Qingyuan didn't seem to letting any of this affect him too badly. For the man didn't get any night terrors like they did and continued to have a calm prescence about him.
It showed how the stress was affecting everyone when Mu QingFang didn’t look at how many pills he was giving Shen Qingqiu. Heavy bags under his eyes and his body pale as he sat at his desk with a mountain of files scattered about.
Shen Qingqiu didn’t say anything as he took the medication and thanked Mu Qingfang. Only nodding to Liu Qingge as he left the medical bay while the other slowly nodded back to him. With everything that has happened Liu Qingge had been sticking close to Mu Qingfang.
Especially… after his sister was shoved out the airlock just two weeks ago.
That night, when they took the sleeping medication to help them rest. Shen Yuan had looked to Shen Qingqiu and Yue Qingyuan with an exhausted look and whispered quietly to them.
“Gege… Qi-Ge… I… want to go home…” Shen Yuan sobbed, earning Yue Qingyuan to bring the two brothers into his embrace. The littlest of the group sobbing quietly as they waited for the medication to slowly lull him to a restless sleep. Shen Qingqiu kissing his brother's head and stroking his hair as the child continued to plead with them.
“...I… want to… go… home…”
Shen Qingqiu couldn’t shake off the feeling that there was something off about the child. He tried to council himself that it was just all the paranoia that he was overwhelming him. Especially since it was stated from Shang Qinghua that whatever imposters were. They couldn't take a child as a host making Shen Qingqiu relieved at the information.
And yet… there was just something off about Luo Binghe.
He was the only survivor child found in one of the outposts. One who was apparently known by The Old Ship Master as he seemed a little too overjoyed for the child to join them. It was extremely creepy how the old man seemed to stare at the child. It was found out that the child's mother used to be apart of the Old Ship Master's crew before she resigned and moved with her husband to an outpost.
Rumors had it that she left due to the unwanted attention from the Old Ship Master.
Causing all eyes to cautious watch the elderly man as he attempted to get the child to like him and his daughter.
Honestly, it was probably why the Old Ship Master hasn’t done anything yet side trying to chat with Luo Binghe. With all eyes watching every single one of his moves it would be impossible to hid any ill intentions. It still made Shen Qingqiu steer Shen Yuan clear of the perverted old man as he considered the bastard a threat since day one.
Which was getting a little hard since Luo Binghe seemed to have sort of sticky attached to his brother.
Shen Qingqiu could first understand the attachment at the beginning. Shen Yuan had felt sad for Luo Binghe and wanted to help cheer him up when the kid was still being monitored in sickbay. So Shen Yuan would come visit to talk with him or even play games. Eventually sharing his stories and watching the movies he downloaded on his tablet.
Mu Qingfan had stated that Luo Binghe seemed to postively absorb Shen Yuan's attention. Slowly coming out of his shell and talking more with Shen Yuan's prescence around. It was too the point where Luo Binghe would actively ask for Shen Yuan's company or personally seak him out.
Shen Qingqiu would admit the friendship has been a good distraction for Shen Yuan with everything happening on the ship. Especially when Shen Yuan started teaching the kid stuff about Xianxia and his web novels. Making Luo Binghe call his brother Shizun after his first lesson when Shen Yuan went into details about some of the monsters in his favorite novels.
What was a little satisfying was that Luo Binghe seemed to hate the Old Ship Master and the Little Ship Mistress. Completely ignoring them when they tried to interact with him and refusing to be under their care when Luo Binghe was cleared from sickbay. Instead, Shang Qinghua and Mobei Jun had taken the role of his caretakers for the time being. Since Shang Qinghua worked pretty closely alongside Shen Qingqiu allowing Luo Binghe to play more with Shen Yuan.
In fact, there was one famous scene on the ship where Luo Binghe shouted 'Shizun' over and over before tackling Shen Yuan to the ground. Sobbing about how long it's been since he last scene the other and asking if he needed anything. Luo Binghe had only been seperated from Shen Yuan for a full hour before that happened.
To others it may seem cute.
But… Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help notice something... off.
It happened only a few times and Shen Qingqiu had constantly made excuses about it. Trying to ignore the glaring warning that was in front of him. He written it off as his mind playing tricks on him and that the whole situation was really breaking his mind.
...Shen Qingqiu swore that during certain times the kid’s eyes turned red.
“It's Shen Qingqiu! I just know it!
“Why would you accuse me?!” Shen Qingqiu demanded, slamming his fist on the table and making it shake with the force. Pushing Shen Yuan behind him as the Little Ship Mistress pointed an accusing finger towards him with hatred in her eyes.
“Out of everyone you're the most withdrawn! Which is pretty suspicious to me!” the brat scoffed, flicking her hair over her shoulder and smirking. As if she thinks everything she says is law and had to be followed. Which pissed Shen Qingqiu so much that he wanted to slap that expression right off that kid's face.
Once again, they were in the canteen for another meeting as another dead body had been reported and their numbers were dwindling fast. Dead bodies keep piling up and innocent people keep being shoved into airlocks. All the survivors they saved from the outposts were gone now since majority of the crew blamed them for being the imposters.
It makes it worse that they have yet to find any Imposters.
“How can that be evidence you stupid brat! Stop treating this like this is some game!” Shen Qingqiu shouted, forgoing any pleasantries as he done with the stupid demented kid in front of him. In fact, many others around him were also getting disgruntled by the Little Ship Mistress. The young teen having stepped on way too many toes and even causing a few unnecassary deaths when she carelessly accused people.
“How dare you?! I am not a brat! I am your superior! You’re getting so defensive even though you say you’re not an imposter!”
“I’m furious! Not defensive you little wench! Because some shitty spoiled brat is making accusations like she owns this damn ship! And like hell you're my superior!”
“Well I am a superiror you low class peasant! You and your filth of brother should know you place! Answer the question! Where were you during the murder?! Huh?!”
“Shen Qingqiu and Shizun were in the third canteen.” came the calm voice of Luo Binghe. Forcing all the shouting to stop as he came over to Shen Yuan’s side and comforting his friend as he glared at the Little Ship Mistress. His eyes were so cold that it made Shen Qingqiu startle at the expression on the shoulder. His eyes making the Little Ship Mistress step back a bit to stand beside her father as she stared at Luo Binghe with slight fear only to be quickly replaced with jealousy.
For Luo Binghe was checking over Shen Yuan like he was physically striken by the other girl. Before quickly hugging Shen Yuan and reassuring him that everything was going to be alright. Which was a ltitle awkward for Shen Qingqiu as Shen Yuan was hugging his thighs and so Luo Binghe was hugging them both.
Something that seemed to enrage the spoiled brat as she glared at Shen Qingqiu and Shen Yuan harder. Even the creepy Old Ship Master was giving them a disgruntled look at how close Luo Binghe was to them.
“I saw them eating there while I was with Mobei Jun and Shang Qinghua.” Luo Binghe said, his tone calm and yet there was underlining danger to it as he continued comforting Shen Yuan. Shen Qingqiu which he could pay attention a little more to the weird kid. But, right now he needed to protect his brother from the lunatics in front of them.
“It’s true! Ah! We peaked in the canteen before going down to electrical!” Shang Qinghua stated, rushing into the room with Mobei Jun silently following him
Yue Qingyuan had also come in with them and immediately stepped towards the crazed group with a dangerous smile and dark eyes. The smile was something that struck fear on the other side and caused all the accusations to dry up like a puddle in the hot sun.
“Shen Qingqiu and A-Yuan usually take their meals at this time. That is how Shen Qingqiu's schedule works with the tasks he is given everyday.” Yue Qingyuan stated, getting more of the crew on their side to agree.
It made Shen Qingqiu sigh in relief when they were finally left alone.
Later that night, when Shen Yuan was asleep.
Shen Qingqiu gave Yue Qingyuan a deep and thankful kiss. Only breaking apart to break down on the man’s chest as he clutched onto the other. Yue Qingyuan just held him close and brushed his hair as he whispered a few simple words to him.
“I would do anything for you Xiao Jiu.”
Shen Qingqiu found out by accident.
He didn’t think that… it wanted him to know.
But, he found out.
He had left Shen Yuan with Mu Qingfang and Luo Binghe again. Shen Qingqiu had needed to deliver something to Yue Qingyuan and didn’t want to bring Shen Yuan since the other man worked in the reactors that day.
It was the one place that Shen Qingqiu thought was a little too dangerous for Shen Yuan and was reassured with Mu Qingfang to protect his brother. The healer was also found of Shen Yuan and Shen Qingqiu had always considered him a good friend. He was also the only doctor Shen Qingqiu allowed to check on him and his brother.
And while he felt bad for troubling Mu Qingfang, the healer was understanding, and quickly brought the children into his medbay. Surprisingly Liu Qingge wasn’t with him, which was a rare sight, as the other man had really taken to staying by his side. Shen Qingiqu had often seen them eating together and at one point Shen Qingqiu saw the other walked into Mu Qingfang's livng quartes at night. But Mu Qingfang had stated that he took on more patrols with how their numbers seemed to growing fewer by the day.
Though… Mu Qingfang had an unsure look on his face when he said this.
So Shen Qingqiu left his brother in the man’s care before going to find Yue Qingyuan. Having to hold himself from snatch Shen Yuan from Luo Binghe's octupus arms as the other boy immdiately pulled Shen Yuan into a hug and demanded another lesson on some of the monsters in the new novel his brother was introducing to him.
It was just a simple folder of all the tasks he needed to do that day. He was surprised that Yue Qingyuan had forgotten it.
But… when he came down to the reactors.
He saw Yue Qingyuan...
... no he saw... the Imposter.
His eyes were red.
His left arm was no longer human as it was a massive claw of flesh, tentacles, and claws. His back had several tentacle appendages coming out of it with sharp dagger-like spears at the tips that looked like teeth. Blood covering all them as they widly flicked around as if searching for more prey to kill.
The things… the stomach area had opened up with what looked like a giant mouth with sharp teeth. Several long tongues spilling out of it as it consumed the crew mate that hung in his gripe with what Shen Qingqiu could only descripe as satisfaction.
Shen Qingqiu recognized the crewmate in his hand.
It was the one that sided with the Little Ship Mistress and Old Palace Master about him being an imposter. The one who started making snide and crude comments when the Shen family walked past him. Shen Qingqiu could remember the on incident where he saw the man purposefully trip Shen Yuan over when he was running past him. Making Shen Yuan take a bad tumble that caused him to go to the medbay to patch up both his skinend knees.
Shen Qingqiu had almost killed the man when that happened. But, he care more for Shen Yuan's health as he rushed his brother to Mu Qingfang and fussed over him the rest of the day. Never noticing the look of fury in Yue Qingyuan's eyes when he saw the entire incident unfold nor the look of murder on Luo Binghes face when he saw Shen Yuan bleeding.
That night Shen Qingqiu had confessed to Yue Qingyuan abou the man's comments and remarks he'd been throwing at them. Guilt festering inside his heart for allowing this to get as far as it did and hurting Shen Yuan. How he told Yue Qingyuan that he wished the other would just...
The things with Yue Qingyuan’s face turned to look at him and smiled.
His red eyes seemed to glow with possessive delight.
“Like I said… I would do anything for Xiao Jiu.”
“So… you know now.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Shang Qinghua whispered, fiddling with the wires beside Shen Qingqiu. The two were in the electrical room trying to repair the lights after they mysteriously malfunction again. Of course, Shen Qingqiu knew now how much bullshit that was now.
Shen Yuan was in the other part of the room close by and yet far enough to have a conversation with Shang Qinghua in private. Luo Binghe and Mu Qingfang were with him as the other child wanted to spend time with Shen Yuan. While Mu Qingfang, even though he was now the only medic on board, also fixed some of the switches and panels.
With how more dead bodies were found and more people getting voted to death, all hands were needed.
“Who else…” Shen Qingqiu whispered, tears running down his face.
Shang Qinghua sighs as he connects the blue wire together.
“I’ll let you figure it out.” Shang Qinghua whispered, as he finished up the wires before him. A part of Shen Qingqiu grew furious as why the man wouldn't tell him when the realization hit that he probably... couldn't tell him.
“... He won’t.. He isn’t…”
“No… the person you knew is dead… all that left is… an Imposter.”
It finally came all crumbling down.
They were ambushed while heading to the canteen.
Shen Qingqiu held his brother tightly with Mu Qingfang and Shang QInghua by his side. All of them were huddled together on the floor as guns were pointed towards them. The remaining crew spit venom and hatred towards them as their minds were already set in their fracture thinking.
There was no logical reasoning left in their minds anymore.
No matter what they said they wouldn’t listen.
The Old Ship Master and the Little Ship Mistress stood side by side smirking. Standing with absolute glee at the domination they had. It made Shen Qingqiu feel sick as he hid Shen Yuan in his arms and tried to think how they were going to get out of this.
The accusations thrown at Shen Qingqiu was maddening.
It was one thing to accuse him as an Imposter.
It was another to accuse him as some sort of pervert.
But, the Little Palace Mistress and her actually perverted father had spun the tale that Shen Qingqiu was the true perverted individual. Throwing how weird it was to keep his brother so close and how he used him to get Luo Binghe too.
It was something that made Shen Qingqiu furious along with Mu Qingfang and Shang Qinghua. The two shouting their rage over towards them and Mu Qingfang even managing to punch the Old Ship Master in the face before he was shoved to the floor withthe others. All of them fighting for Shen Qingqiu along with little Shen Yuan who spouted curses towards the old man and his daughter as well.
But, the crowd before them was too much for them to handle.
When the Old Palace Master ordered Shen Yuan to be taken and the three of them to the airlocks. Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help scream and wish death upon all of them. Shen Yuan distress cries echoing with his screams until…
[OXYGEN LEVELS DEPELENTING! OXYGEN MALFUNCTION!]
So many things seemed to happen at once that caused the mad crowd to disburse. Crewmates frantically ran towards the areas malfunctioning to prevent the ship and them from going down. Especially towards the reactors as they scrambled to stop the immediate explosion of the ship.
“Lock them in the room! We’ll be back for them later!” The Old Ship Master ordered, leaving the room with this daughter and the others. Sliding the metal doors with a flashing red at the panel to show it was locked.
And just as the door locked and closed another announcement was made.
With that they were plunged into almost complete darkness except for the dim flashing red lights to show the chaos happening all over the ship.
“Quickly! Can you find any helmets?” Shen Qingqiu asked, hearing the warning for oxygen levels again.
The original helmets they had were taken away by the Old Ship Master’s goons. For they wanted to shoot them out of the padlock as painfully as possible to 'punish' them for their 'crimes'.
Mu Qingfang and Shang Qinghua stumbled in the dark to find helmets. Shen Qingqiu was also looking while keeping Shen Yuan by his side. They were about to give up hope when the warning for the oxygen stopped alongside the reactor malfunction.
Sadly, the lights were still out.
“That at least takes care of one problem?” Shang Qinghua said, trying to lighten the situation and yet failing miserably.
“Hang on! I think I found… yes!” Mu Qingfang cheered, and the room they were in lit up with the small flashlight Mu Qingfang seemed to find.
“We need to get out of here before they come back. Send out a distress message or take an escape pod.” Mu Qingfang explained, making Shen Qingqiu nod his head.
He wouldn’t allow those slimy hands to get to them again.
“Gege.” Shen Yuan whispered, getting Shen Qingqiu to snap out of his thoughts.
“Gege, I don’t want to go with them.” Shen Yuan sobbed, getting Shen Qingqiu’s heart to break. Shen Yuan’s eyes showed exhaustion and fear that was overflowing with the long months they were out in space. His complexion had grown pale and his brother had been having trouble eating from all the stress. He was so much thinner now that Shen Qingqiu was afraid he break with the smallest of pressure.
It seemed like his brother couldn’t take it anymore as he collapsed in his arms. Sobbing about how he was terrified of the others and that he wanted to stay with him. His cries made the other two men flinch from where they stood.
“I won’t let them take you.” Shen Qingqiu promised, picking Shen Yuan up and getting him settled.
“The vents… we might be able to wiggle through the air vents.” Shang Qinghua offered, looking towards the air vent in the room.
“Would they be able to hold fit us?” Mu Qingfang questioned.
“Yes… they’re… much bigger than you think and… there are vents all over the ship.” Shang Qinghua mumbled, a distant look on his face.
“Let’s go then, before they get back.” Shen Qingqiu urged, making them scramble to the vent. They were able to quickly lift the large grates up and with some wiggling they were able to get inside without much trouble.
It was agreed that Shen Qingqiu would be in the middle with Shen Yuan. While Shang Qinghua led from the front and Mu Qingfang stayed behind all of them. Their journey was slow and tedious as they quietly made their way through the long metal tunnels. They had to be careful unless they wanted to get caught by one of the other deranged crewmates.
The hard part was that it was still dark and they couldn’t use the flashlight in fear that it would signal someone. So, they were forced to just quietly make their way through and check every vent opening to see if they were at the destination they wanted.
Suddenly… there as a loud noise in front of them.
Shen Qingqiu pressed Shen Yuan down and covered his body as much as he could. Mu Qingfang gripped onto his ankle making Shen Qingqiu do the same for Shang Qinghua. The man in front seemed to shake where he was as the loud noises rabidly got louder and louder.
Before… it stopped… right in front of them.
‘Go away. Go away. Go away. Go away.’ Shen Qingqiu thought, trying to cover Shen Yuan’s mouth to prevent him from screaming as heavy breathing could be heard in front of them.
“ ... Aaahhh… So.. this… where… you were… ” spoke a monstrous and distorted voice. It made Shen Qingqiu gripe Shang Qinghua's ankle so hard that the other man winced a bit.
Though Mu Qingfang did the same to his own and almost broke Shen Qingqiu when he felt something caress his cheek before pulling away. The healer quietly reached out to check on Shen Yuan as the child was shaking so bad that the faint sound of his teeth rattling could be heard.
Then, the creature in the darkness left with another series of loud noises as it quickly made its way through the vent. Leaving the four terrified humans to sag in relief for only a moment.
“They use the fucking vents?”
“It could be how they were able to murder without detection.”
“Escape now. Talk Later.” Shang Qinghua whispered, getting the other two men to agree.
It took a few moments for them to move again. Shen Yuan was too terrified to move and had to be encouraged to make a few little crawls. Eventually though, they were able to go back to their moderately slow pace.
Suddenly, the lights flickered back on and for a moment all of them were blinded a bit as the small blinking lights in the vents came on. While this made it easier to see it also showed them the blood trail left by the Imposter.
Shen Qingqiu was quick to prevent Shen Yuan from seeing it. Hissing at his brother to close his eyes and telling him to keep it closed until he told him to open. All of them winced as they had to crawl through the trail of blood that made their stomach want to hurl at the smell.
Soon another vent opening appeared and the group stopped for Shang Qinghua to investigate.
Only for all of them to duck down again when they heard screaming coming from the room. The scream didn’t last long though as a distinct sound of flesh being ripped off could be heard. Before the loud sound of a thunk could be heard echoing into the vents.
All of them held their breath again as he heard the heavy footsteps move around in the room. Waiting until they knew whoever was in the room left and forcing them to continue on.
They didn’t bother checking that room.
Finally, they came to the main canteen and with a quick sweep of the area decided to make a break for it. Each of them quickly crawled out of the vents and started rushing their way to the escape pods.
“Almost there!” Shang Qinghua shouted, only to yelp as a small figure blocked their escape. It caused all of them to slam into each other a bit to prevent themselves from crashing into the person before them.
“Binghe!” Shen Yuan called, looking over at his friend who gave a bright smile back.
“Shizun!” Luo Binghe cried, running over to Shen Yuan and immediately hugging the boy. Shen Qingqiu grunted at the impact, but allowed Shen Yuan the comfort of his friend as his brother was worried for his friend when they were captured.
“Hurry, we have to get to the escape pods.” Mu Qingfang urged, getting Shen Qingqiu to nod as he was about to say something when Luo Binghe interrupted.
“It’s okay! All the bad people are gone now.” Luo Binghe explained, causing the mood to crash so hard that it caused Shen Qingqiu to jerk Shen Yuan out of Luo Binge’s grasp and press them against the wall.
Mu Qingfang also stepped away from the other child while Shang Qinghua stumbled onto the floor before scurrying back. All eyes were on the bright smiling child as he looked at Shen Yuan with…
… red eyes.
“The bad people scared and hurt Shizun! So we made them go away!” Luo Binghe explained, his smile growing wider and wider. His teeth turned sharp as tentacles emerged from his back as he looked at Shen Yuan with glee.
“I do anything for Shizun!” Luo Binghe cheered.
“RUN!” Shang Qinghua screamed, and with that they all bolted down the hallway as fast as they could. Their hope brimmed when they saw the doors to the escape pod room. Only for every single one of them to crash into a cold hard metal door.
“What the!” Shang Qinghua cried, smashing his fist into the panel and yet getting errors on the screen. They all screamed as they pounded the door to be let open. But, nothing they did got them to even shift as they heard footsteps heading their way.
Shen Qingqiu felt tears rolling down his eyes as he held onto his brother. Watching four figures step towards them with an eerie calm.
Each one had red eyes.
Shen Qingqiu could only sob in defeat as the tallest figure stepped towards them.
“Oh Xiao Jiu, didn’t I say I do anything for you?”
[News Anchor: And in other news the man commonly naming himself the Old Ship Master is still being interrogated with the massacre of the outposts, the murders of his own crew, and his actions against children. Though, reports have been issued questioning the man's sanity.]
[News Anchor: The world is still facing grief and hardship over the massacre of several outposts. Relief ships and military support are quickly being sent their way to investigate what happened to those people and to collect the dead for families to bury. Hope is still sparked though for the people left behind at Outpost HHP-00]
[News Anchor: Currently the Old Ship Master’s daughter is also in custody for evidence of murdering several crewmates on the ship. Investigations on her are still ongoing though the public is horrified by the lack of remorse from the teen.]
“A-Yuan, change the channel it’s giving me a headache.”
“Okay.” Shen Yuan mumbled, not taking his eyes off his tablet screen as he pressed the remote with his toes. Making Shen Qingqiu sigh at the action and yet satisfied when the channel switched to some cooking channel about desserts.
Shen Qingqiu held a grumble and yet he ruffled his brother’s hair affectionately. Making the other grumble in the same way and yet lean into the touch. His eyes absorbing the new novel he was reading as he gently reached out for his elder brother to hold his hand for a bit.
“Is Qinghua’s novel good?”
“No it’s trash.”
“Be sure to tell him that when he comes over next friday.”
“Oh, I will!”
“And don’t forget Mu Qingfang is coming over then as well. So I don’t want you to mess up the house too much.” Shen Qingqiu warned, making Shen Yuan give him a big grin before going back to his novel and finally letting the other man go.
“Why do I love you again?” Shen Qingqiu asked, getting Shen Yuan to roll his eyes.
“You brat!” Shen Qingqiu laughed, pouncing on his brother and getting into a small tickle fight with the other. Shen Yuan shrieked with laughter as he dropped his tablet onto the big couch he was sitting on. Trying to fight back against his brother and yet failing miserably.
The two continued their playful wrestling and tickling until Shen Yuan showed his exhaustion. Making Shen Qingqiu stop and give a soft kiss to his brother’s forehead.
“Do you want to take a nap before dinner?” Shen Qingqiu asked, already knowing the answer as he gently covered his brother with a soft blanket.
“Yeah.” Shen Yuan mumbled, already feeling his eyes close for a short nap.
Shen Qingqiu sadly smiled as he gently brushed a few strands of hair away from his brother’s face. He made sure to cushion his brother's head with a soft throw pillow nearby before finally leaving his side.
He couldn’t help being thankful for the fact that the living room and kitchen were in the same area. Allowing him to constantly look up and check that his brother was there before looking back down at his cooking.
Shen Qingqiu knew his brother would be falling asleep again once dinner was over.
His body wasn’t as strong as it used to be.
Then again neither was his.
Twenty minutes later the front door to the house opened and two footsteps could be heard heading their way.
“Welcome Back. Please be careful, Shen Yuan is taking a nap.” Shen Qingqiu greeted, walking over to the two figures that gave him big smiles.
“I’m home.” Luo Binghe chirped, before rushing off to where Shen Yuan was. Being careful as he got on the couch with him in order to join him for a short nap.
“I’m Home, Xiao Jiu.” Yue Qingyuan greeted, kissing Shen Qingqiu on the lips. Shen Qingqiu kissed the other back before swatting him away.
“None of that now. We have dinner in a few minutes.” Shen Qingqiu informed, getting Yue Qingyuan to pout before nodding his head.
“You’re home a little later than usual.” Shen Qingqiu added, turning off the stove and oven when he saw the food was done. Watching at the side as Yue Qingyuan started taking out the plates and glasses for the table.
“I’m sorry about that. We actually encountered Liu Shidi and Mobei Jun while we were out.” Yue Qingyuan explained, getting a hum from Shen Qingqiu as he pulled out the cooked salmon in the oven. “We chatted for a lot longer than we thought before we all headed home.”
“They were in the same area?”
“Yes, Liu Shidi was getting some supplies for Mu Shidi. And Mobei jun was getting Shang Shidi his usual supply of noodles.”
“I’m honestly surprised that man is healthy.”
“So is Mu Shidi.”
“A mystery.” Shen Qingqiu said, getting Yue Qingyuan to chuckle at the joke. Shen Qingqiu signaled to Luo Binghe that dinner was ready prompting him to wake Shen Yuan and help him get set at the table.
His poor brother seemed to be a little more tired than usual today. Shen Qingqiu made a note to get a checkup with Mu Qingfang soon and maybe get Shen Yuan a few of his favorite treats.
For now, he watched as Luo Binghe cheerfully help him into his chair before pushing him in. Making sure that Shen Yuan was all set before sitting down beside him in his own chair. Luo Binghe of coruse made sure his chair was as close as to Shen Yuan as was allowed at the dinner table. Holding the other boy's hand as he told him about some of the new snacks he sat while heading home with Yue Qingyuan.
Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help the sigh of relief when he sat down. Looking over at the open hand offered to him at his side and letting out a huff of air as he gently placed his own hand ontop. Their hands clasped and fingers intertwined as they started to eat the food on the table.
“Ah, we left the TV on.” Shen Yuan mumbled, stuffing his mouth with white rice as he looked over to the large screen.
“Don’t worry I got it!” Luo Binghe said, as his eyes suddenly turned red.
With that one lone tentacle came out from the child’s back as it quickly went over to the remote before pressing the off button. Making sure that the television was off before going back into the small child.
“Oh before I forget, can you tell that neighbor down the street to stop coming to the house? Qiu Haitang has been coming almost non-stop and it’s becoming a bother.” Shen Qingqiu asked, looking up at Yue Qingyuan and watching as the other man's eyes turn red.
Yue Qingyuan gave Shen Qingqiu a loving smile before leaning towards him. Pressing their lips together again that made the boys at the table groan and the adults laugh when they broke apart.
“Of course, I would do anything for Xiao Jiu.”