"Garbage." Shen Jiu tears the paper in two, then four, then eight pieces. Useless. As always, a piece of filth like him would only be able to make more filth, he doesn't know why he even bothers sometimes.
"Hey, I was reading that!" he hears someone say and instinctively throws a punch at the person behind him.
The stranger ducks, then lunges towards him. Shen Jiu rushes to unsheathe his sword, his hand barely touches the hilt when the person jumps backwards.
A young man stands some distance away. His black robe is plain, but clearly made of good silk, and his hair, although filled with knots, is decorated by a fancy looking headpiece. Shen Jiu only realizes what happened when the man holds up the pieces of torn paper, put together again.
"You shouldn't throw this away, the story was just getting to the good part!"
Shen Jiu clenches his fists and bites his lower lip. He knows his face's turned red, both from rage and shame.
How dare this fucking asshole to make fun of him like this?! He knows he has no talent! That's why he only attempts to write or draw during the few moments he has when Wu Yanzi isn't around, far away from their camp, and then destroys whatever he clumsily made long before his master returns.
The guy makes a show of carefully reading the collected paper and Shen Jiu can't stand this disrespect any longer, "What the fuck is wrong with you?!" he yells as he grabs his sword and attacks.
Instead of being cut in half, like Shen Jiu wants to, the stranger takes a step to the left and easily dodges right before the sword connects. He tries once more and his attack is, again, easily avoided.
This keeps on for a while, Shen Jiu's movements becoming more erratic and desperate as the stranger, (all the while reading from the papers), effortlessly sidesteps his attempts at killing him, until soon enough Shen Jiu just throws the weapon aside and tries to grab him, kick him, bite him. This proves to be about as effective as slashing with the sword, and eventually he's left down on one knee, sweating and gasping for breath, while the guy stands there, perfectly rested and pristine.
"Yes, indeed, this is very good," the guy nods, flicking the torn sheets, and then has the fucking courage to lean down and tuck the papers insiste Shen Jiu's robe. He tries to bite him, but the stranger retrieves his hand in time to avoid it, "you should keep writing it, I would love to read the continuation! Who knows? You could even end becoming a famous author!"
The man leaves after mocking him a bit more, and Shen Jiu hurries to collect his things after regaining his breath. The ink bottle was spilled at some point during the confrontation, but he manages to rescue about half of its contents. Some of the clean paper got wrinkled, but that's hardly a problem.
Back at the campsite, he gets to work washing dirty clothes and boiling some meat. Yesterday his master said he was leaving him to attend some urgent business, which means the fucker went to a brothel, which means he will be gone for anything between two days and a week.
Shen Jiu eats an unappetizing meal and reads from the pile of trash books they weren't able to sell after stealing them, and only when he takes off his outer robe to go to sleep and the pieces of paper fall off does he remember the stranger's mockery.
"Talent my ass!" he swears, the humiliation from earlier coming back to the forefront of his mind. He grabs the pieces of paper, rips them apart into pieces about the size of a nail, and then stuffs his mouth with them just so he can spit them and step on them. That fucking asshole, "I'm definitely going to kill him if I am to ever see him again!"
Despite having cursed him and sworn revenge, Shen Jiu forgets the man pretty easily. There are too many imbeciles in the world and he has no time nor energy to waste thinking about unimportant people. He doesn't spare a single thought towards him until around four months after, when destiny joins them once more.
Wu Yanzi sets his eyes on two lone travelers on the road that goes through the mountains, a man on black robes accompanied by a child around She Jiu's age, and it's only as they're approaching from the forest, close enough to see their faces, that Shen Jiu remembers him.
The recognition makes him slower by half a second, but half a second is all it takes. Wu Yanzi moves first, his sword aimed at the man in black, and half a second later he's lying in a pool of his own blood, his limbs torn apart and half of his head just gone. Over him stands the kid, holding the missing other half, his hands covered on green scales.
The demons, because that's what they have to be, turn their gaze towards Shen Jiu, still hiding in the foliage. He turns to run, but before he can escape he's dragged by the back of the neck, thrown next to Wu Yanzi's corpse.
"Oh, it's you!" the man exclaims, retiring the clawed hand he just had pressed against Shen Jiu's neck, "Have you advanced on your story?"
Too stunned to think of doing anything else, he answers honestly, "...I scraped it and started another one instead."
"Huh, a pity, I liked that one," he says, looking genuinely sad, "Oh well, good luck with this one!, Zhuzhi, let's go!"
With that both of them just… walk away, uncaring of Shen Jiu nor the corpse that used to be his master.
What a fucking piece of shit!
"You two, where do you think you're going?!" he exclaims, before he can think better of it, "You just killed my fucking teacher! How am I supposed to learn cultivation now?!"
The man stops, turns towards him, looks at Shen Jiu, then the corpse, then back at him, "How long has he been teaching you?"
"About seven months."
"Then clearly he wasn't a good teacher, hardly any loss," with that casual insult against his cultivation, the man turns around and resumes walking.
Oh, he's going to fucking kill this person if that's the last thing he gets to do. "Wait!" he hurries forward, moving to stand on the demons' path "You attacked and killed my master! You have to compensate me for it!"
"It seemed like he was the one attacking us," the demon answers, walking around him, "besides, it wasn't me who killed him but my nephew."
"If he's your nephew it's still your responsibility, and he killed him as soon as he left the trees, you can't prove he was going to attack you," Shen Jiu argues, "He might as well have been trying to say hello!"
"Really? Humans really have the weirdest ways to greet each other," the demon comments, clearly not buying it.
"Whatever, you have to compensate me somehow. If not for my shit master at least for my robes!" he gestures at his clothes, drenched in blood from when he was thrown to the gory mess that was once Wu Yanzi, "this is going to leave a hell of a stain, you have to pay for a new set!"
The demon looks at the red splotches, then tilts his head from side to side, considering, "Do we have any money left, anything at all?" he asks the younger demon.
"I- I d- don't think so, Junshang."
Shen Jiu feels his eye twitch. Of course, of course his scum of a teacher would manage to get gutted by such a worthless pair of demons they don't even have cash. Of course.
"Well, you have to compensate me somehow!" he insists, because so far it doesn't seem like they have any interest in killing him and that just means he has to take the chance to get something out of this, "You can't just kill my teacher, ruin my clothes, and then go away without even paying for it!"
The demon blinks, then smiles. "Oh, you're an amusing person," he says, sounding oh so fucking full of himself, "Very well, since we killed your teacher I'll teach you how to cultivate!"
"Eh, really?!" the demon gapes at him, "I'm actually offering to teach you! Me, a heavenly demon! Do you know how rare of a chance that is?!"
"Heavenly demon my ass, you're annoying so no thanks, just pay me up and we're done."
"Junshang i- isn't annoying," the kid demon mutters, they ignore him.
"Are you sure? You would really flourish under my tutelage!"
"Do you even know about human cultivation? Demons' and humans' power don't work the same."
"You'll come to learn I'm very knowledgeable," he brushes the concern off, "Let me teach you, I promise you'll learn more in one week than you have with that useless teacher in months!"
Shen Jiu has half a mind to keep rejecting the offer. After all, he's always been very prideful for someone with no pride, lowering the head and learning from this person that's humiliated him time and time again, it sounds like the ultimate defeat to his ego. Not to mention, who would trust such a suspicious looking man?
On the other hand, he can't think just of himself. He must become powerful, twice as powerful as the average cultivator at the very least, to make up for Qi-ge's lost potential. It's not only his own wishes he's carrying here. He knows he won't get far by himself, and he doubts there's any sect that would take in a piece of shit like him, not if they didn't even give someone as great as his brother a chance.
So… better to risk it with this demon, than to set course for a sure defeat. He can't be worse than Wu Yanzi anyway, so really what is there to lose?
"Fine, but if I change my mind at any point I will just leave."
"Ju- Junshang, a- are, are you sure it's a g- good idea?"
"You won't regret it!" the demon, again, ignores the kid, "Ah, but in exchange for my lessons I have one condition!"
"Aren't you the one repaying me?! Are you really in a position to demand anything in exchange?!" he scowls, "Fine, whatever, let's hear it out, what do you want?"
"You have to let me read your writing!"
"LIKE HELL I WILL!"