Ever since he was a child, Luo Binghe can see the strings of fate that bind fated souls together. It is not necessarily romantic. Luo Binghe’s mother’s soulmate was her aunt. Liu Qingge’s soulmate was Liu Mingyan. Shen Qingqiu’s soulmate was Yue Qingyuan. Yue Qingyuan.
Shen Yuan’s world doesn’t have soulmates in it. Luo Binghe in Proud Immortal Demon Way having the soulmate vision was one element he actually liked. Luo Binghe’s sword Xin Mo has the OP ability to cut the strings of fate that tied his wives to others, with permission. And, as par, a stallion protagonist Luo Binghe doesn’t have one. Readers speculated that it’s either Luo Binghe simply cannot see his own or he really doesn’t have one.
Shen Qingqiu’s soulmate was Yue Qingyuan. The not-yet-blackened version of the protagonist longed for a soulmate and yet from watching how Yue Qingyuan enabled the original good’s abusive behavior he learned that soulmates are more like shackles.
Which just means . . . every damn interaction with Yue Qingyuan left him feeling a terrible mix of scummy, awkward, and guilty! Whatever it is he has—had with the original goods, it’s not this version’s own. This version can’t handle your loaded gaze, Zhangmen-shixiong. This version is also never gonna end up as a pickled cucumber if he can help it.
Shen Qingqiu wonders what Luo Binghe sees when he looks at him. Maybe the reason why his white lotus was so sticky was that he thought Shen Qingqiu was like him? Empty-handed. Are the strings still there wrapped around his pinky? Or maybe the original goods took his string with him to the next life. He hopes so because if not he’s gonna constantly feel like there’s a string like a rotten intestine tying him to Zhangmen-shixiong. What did it look like when he transmigated into his body? Did the red strings slowly pale into non-existence? Drained of color? Oookay! That’s enough of that line of thought. Too morbid!
Why the fuck did Airplane even add the soulmate trope when it wasn’t gonna go anywhere except to make the protagonists’ backstory even more pitiful and OP at the same time? Shen Yuan thought it could have been used to add spice and originality to the harem but no! Xin Mo can just cut through the strings of fate like butter! Fucking Airplane and his authorial choices that don’t go anywhere!
Speaking of soulmates . . . Yue Qingyuan came by again to give him an expensive-looking lacquered box. Undoubtedly, inside is another fan. Just sitting across him is making Shen Yuan want to pass away.
Yue Qingyuan smiled at him, a touch too hopeful. Shen Qingqiu, decidedly not the Shen Jiu version, unfurled his fan to hide his grimace.
Heavens, let him passed away, right now.Why does he feel like he just became the unwelcome scheming third party in a soap opera relationship?! Zhangmen-shixiong stop smiling like that! Your Shen Qingqiu was long gone and nope! Not thinking about the fact that he’s in a body that was not his. A body whose soulmate is this person.
Luo Binghe sets the tea between them. Shen Qingqiu spares him a smile. Luo Binghe’s grip on the teacup slipped. The tea spilled on the table and dripped onto Yue Qingyuan’s lap.
His white lotus bows immediately, though the bow is not low enough for someone of Yue Qingyuan’s station.
“This disciple apologizes to Sect Leader Yue,” Yue Qingyuan was already waving off Luo Binghe. Shen Qingqiu fishes off a handkerchief from his robes and stretches his hand out to dab at the tea splotches at Yue Qingyuan’s torso.
Why did it suddenly go so quiet?
Luo Binghe hoped it wasn’t romantic but one look at Yue Qingyuan and he knew it very much was so, and fate dictates that Shen Qingqiu must have reciprocated it. Luo Binghe was carefully neutral towards the Sect Leader, not that the Sect Leader notices it. Inside is a different story as Luo Binghe’s heart was pleading for Shen Qingqiu.
Yue Qingyuan was intolerable. Calling his Shizun Xiao Jiu when his Shizun was so clearly irritated by it. Even more intolerable was the unbearable grip somewhere in his chest. He was not pleased by their shared history. Luo Binghe was nothing in status. Yue Qingyuan was the sect leader, with plenty of reach, and is known to be soft to all of his Shizun’s whims.
Luo Binghe. Shen Qingqiu’s youngest disciple.
Yue Qingyuan. Shen Qingqiu’s soulmate.
Luo Binghe is thinking of hanging himself with the string connecting the both of them.
But the dream is futile. What could Luo Binghe aspire more than to be a cultivator? Maybe even a Peak Lord but he’ll never exceed Yue Qingyuan in anything except love. Binghe is sure no one has this big of space full of Shen Qingqiu. How could anyone match when Luo Binghe was ready to tear himself open for him?
Whenever he was sent away on missions the only thing he looked forward to was returning to him. When he’s alone, he spends a lot of his time staring at his hand, imagining a blood red thread leading him home. He wished, he wished, he wished.
At home, there is Luo Binghe and his hunger. He doesn’t remember a time where he does not want Shen Qingqiu.
Keep him, it says. He keeps the dishes washed, the food on his table always warm, and his rooms always clean.
Shen Qingqiu calls for him for his calligraphy lessons. Luo Binghe will pretend to be clumsy and spill ink on his hands and hold the brush wrong.
When they’re alone together, he’ll think:
Shizun, we can board up the windows and keep the doors latched. Just you and I.
As he grows older he grows more scared that Shen Qingqiu will be swept off his feet and taken away from him. After all, it is only by the grace of Shen Qingqiu that he gets to stay at all. Luo Binghe will always be grateful for that. H-he just wants something to tie him to him. Lust, love, wealth, chains — something he can grip at to prevent Shen Qingqiu from straying too far away. When he wears red for Yue Qingyuan then Luo Binghe can warm his bed when his husband is away.
Desperate schemes for the future form inside Luo Binghe’s head — poison, beasts, catastrophe’s he’ll find a way to orchestrate it all so the sect leader can be occupied longer and Luo Binghe can have Shen Qingqiu as his own for longer. His whole heart is willing to live like that, a slave to his desires.
All for a chance to have him (love him forever and ever), even just a fraction is enough (never enough).
He also wants Shen Qingqiu to hurt him again. He didn’t appreciate it when he was younger but he knew better now. Marks from him are to be treasured. Bully the bruises. Dig nails into open wounds. He’ll keep them longer (forever).
【The Legend Begins: Luo Binghe’s Fall and Rebirth】
These days Luo Binghe feels more animal than human. Something demonic. The acid rain had not let up. It burns his skin off but his blood mends the burns immediately. none of the burns last longer than a minute. He tilts his head up to catch the acid in his eyeballs. The pain doesn’t feel real.
“Binghe,” says a voice he knows more than his own. He feels his heart tremble at the sound.
He whips his head around, blinking the corrosive acid out of his eyeballs.
And there he is. The owner of his heart, soul, and everything.
What must Binghe do so Shizun can love him again?
He kowtows. Much as it deprives him of the sight of a lovely form, he needs to beg.
“This disciple is sorry for harboring impure intentions towards Shizun. This one knows he has been ungrateful.” he’s choking on the words. “I’m sorry. Please, begging Shizun to take this lowly disciple back.”
The tears do a much better job at impairing his sight than the acid ever did. He glances up and there is no one.
He’s not made to be away from him for too long.
What if Shizun was in Yue Qingyuan’s arms right at this very moment where Luo Binghe was so close to getting out? It only spurs him harder, the head of the Silver Spider Weaver explodes like a firework.
Yue Qingyuan has gifted Shen Qingqiu with many exquisitely painted fans and foreign delicacies. Luo Binghe can only serve congee on holidays.
Yue Qingyuan has a red string in his middle finger and Shen Qingqiu at the end of it. It makes Luo Binghe want to scream.
In the Abyss, there is a hill made of bones. On top of it, a wide gleaming black sword. Binghe can use that. He climbs up the hill of bones, the armors and robes of the dead demons and monsters proving to be an unstable foothold. The tatters of his white robe catch on one of the spikes.
He reaches up and grips —
[I know what you want.] the sword — Xin Mo — says and shows him exactly that.
Luo Binghe wakes up surrounded by corpses, shaking down to his bones, torn away from dreams of something lovely and green-eyed and all his. He dreamt of a world where he was chosen . . . Fate? What fate? I-If Shen Qingqiu chooses Luo Binghe then who can refuse him? Not him. If Shen Qingqiu allows it then Luo Binghe would gladly cut the strings tying him to Yue Qinyuan with Xin Mo—Shen Qingiu’s mark on his body for anyone with eyes to see.
He adjusts his tattered robes so that it gapes and proudly showcases the scar he got from Xiu Ya. There. Better than any intangible things only he could see. Here in his chest, part of Luo Binghe’s body and visible
The light in the human realm that he came from is bright. Luo Binghe closes his fist around a leaf that the wind blew away. Luo Binghe returns on one autumn afternoon, Xin Mo in his hand, dark and tempting with the dream of Shen Qingqiu with the cut thread and hand on his --
Luo Binghe breaths out.
First, he needs to equal Yue Qingyuan if he ever thought of having a chance.
Shen Qingqiu is not having a good time in Jinlan City.
His blackened lotus slams the door open, eyes blazing.
“Shizun,” Shen Qingqiu shivered, equal parts terrified and despairing. No more white lotus Binghe.
Luo Binghe took a step forward.
Shen Qingqiu yeeted himself off the window while still in the xianxia equivalent of underwear.
“Liu-shidi!” Shen Qingqiu screams. A hand shot up from behind and clawed roughly at his throat. Luo Binghe pulled him so his back was pressed into the protagonist’s torso. Shen Qingqiu feels Luo Binghe’s body shiver with anger. The hand at his throat loosened but did not let go.
Luo Binghe exhaled harshly. “Shizun would call for Liu Qingge. Why are you always so desperate to run to others? But when it is this disciple, he could not even stand to be in the same room?”
That’s because Shen Qingqiu is very much attached to his limbs, thank you!
Luo Binghe’s other hand pressed at his mouth. Shen Qingqiu chokes down the demon blood.
Liu Qingge finally appeared flying over to them. Cheng Luan, drawn and ready to cut. Luo Binghe snarls, shoving Shen Qingqiu behind him, a hand clamped on his wrist. The clash of steel rang loud in the night. Shen Qingqiu took advantage and pulled free from Luo Binghe’s grip.
Only to slip off the roof. So fucking embarassing!
Liu Qingge caught him just before he crashed into the ground. Liu-Jiujiu! So dependable it makes this master want to buy merch of you!
Liu Qingge dashed away from Luo Binghe with Shen Qingqiu cradled in his arms. While running on the roof, a strange shimmer of black appeared in front of them. He feels Liu Qingge’s arm tighten.
Is this master a toy to be fought over and tossed around?!
“Liu-Shidi, that sword of Luo Binghe can cut through distance.” he warns. Liu Qingge nods and almost too gently lets him down on his feet.
Liu-Shidi! This scene is too much of a reminiscence of beauty and a hero.
“Run!” Liu Qingge shouts and readies Cheng Luan for another fight. Shen Qingqiu jumps down the roof only . . .
Only . . .
To land directly into a mouth of a gigantic snake.
. . .
Here’s the thing. Shen Qingqiu knew all the plot that got dropped from Airplane’s first draft. There’s not much to talk about but PIDW and shared loss of modern comforts while they were tending to their body garden.. So yes, Shen Qingqiu knew of Shen Jiu’s past and more relevant to the situation at hand, the story of Luo Binghe’s parents.
It’s so damn frustrating! Airplane got all the ideas for a goddamn epic narrative axed in the first draft in exchange for mediocre repetitive porn! It could have been so great! The parallels!
Su Xiyan and Tianlang-jun are not soulmates.
Parents who are not fated but chose each other only to end in tragedy. A son who can hack away at fate’s design only to end up with a harem he needs but didn’t want. Both are tragedies, but in very different ways.
And the kicker? Airplane made the demons not have soulmates at all but can see it. It was meant to further demonstrate the lack of humanity in them in-story but Airplane’s first draft made it very clear that it was meant to demonstrate that having a fated or not, they are still very much as fucked up and as much of a person as one another.
What an unlucky world to have a cruel and careless god. A God who stuffs his mouth full instant noodles and coffee 24/7.