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Excuse Me, I Need to Cough Blood

Chapter Text

[01 - Going back to the past]

Shen Qingqiu's name was sullied.
Shen Jiu was abandoned.
Shen Jiu was forgotten.
Shen Jiu has died.
And so is Qi-ge. And so is Yue Qi.
Liu Qingge's death is a misfortune, Yue Qi's guilt is never-ending, Shen Qingqiu's life is a tragedy.

 

***

 

Shen Jiu died.
And Shen Qingqiu finally died.
Or so he [wished] thought.

 

***

 

The cool dawn showers his delicate face, Shen Qingqiu slowly opens his eyes.

'Alive' was what he thought as he slowly sits straight on his soft bed.

The bed he has always loved, the bed in his dear bamboo house.

'Beast, playing with my dreams now? Good, good.' Shen Qingqiu bites his bottom lip.

The familiar metallic taste of blood, dripping from his rosy lips to his white blanket. He couldn't feel the pain. He has gone through worse.

Shen Qingqiu closes his eyes, tries to trace any demonic energy. Hoping that it's just another torture method of that filthy beast. But he couldn't. He knew too much of how the old dream demon's ways work.

It's not a dream.

He has come back. Shen Qingqiu has come back.

Tears.
Warm tears flow from his eyes, so much, so wet, so pathetic.

Qi-Ge and Yue Qingyuan are foolish. Never good at communication, but they are one person, so it is natural isn't it?
Liu Qingge is a prideful barbarian, reckless in decisions.
Qiu Haitang was once an innocent flower.
Shen Jiu is a slave.
Shen Qingqiu was a slave.
Shen Qingqiu is Shen Jiu, and Shen Jiu is Shen Qingqiu.
Just like Yue Qi who will forever be Yue Qingyuan.

He cries quietly, wipes his tears, but the tears keep flowing fluidly.

Ah, has he always suffered this much?
It hurts. His heart hurts.
Shen Qingqiu cries silently.

"Why can't I just die?"

 

***

 

Days passed like flowing water.
And it was just a few days ago [a week] when Shen Qingqiu came back.

Grumbling, Shen Qingqiu finally leaves his bed.
Shen Qingqiu is a teacher, a peak lord. Naturally, work never leaves him.

"Good morning Shizun!" Ming Fan and Ning Ying Ying bows.

"Mn." Shen Qingqiu responses.

Ming Fan, his favored disciple.
Excellent in thinking, prideful but respects the elders, loyal, and good in leadership.
If only his envious heart could lessen.

 


-----
He followed his teacher's path and died.
He died because of Shen Qingqiu. Because Shen Jiu is Shen Qingqiu and the other way round.
-----

 

Ning Ying Ying.
Kind, friendly, value others, is bright but can be serious when needed to.
A sinless flower.

 


-----
She became one with the beast.
No longer bright and pure. All because of him.
-----

 

Shen Qingqiu taps his fan, "Ming Fan."

"Yes, Shizun?" Ming Fan answers with a brave smile.

"You are the head disciple, someone this master trusts in judgment and leadership..." Shen Qingqiu ties a blue Hanfu waist bell with a black line in his waist belt, "Remember, envy leads to doom, keep your emotion still. Use your mind, not heart."

"Shizun?" Ming Fan stiffens, and within the count of seconds, his eyes redden.

"This master has always favored you the most." was left unsaid, but was written very clearly.

Ming Fan has always been by his Shizun's side.
Cruelty, punishments, fights, lessons. Everywhere and anytime his Shizun calls him, he comes.
He knows, Ming Fan knows very well that Ning Ying Ying is Shizun's apple in the eye, so he keeps his envious heart low. After all, boys are never in Shizun's mercy.
So when he heard Shizun's words, his heart could only cry.

Shen Qingqiu adverts his eyes to the girl, "Ning Ying Ying."

"Shizun?" the girl's heart trembles.

"This master has someone like Ning Ying Ying," Shen Qingqiu covers half of his face behind his fan, "[So please,] understand others' mind before acting. Strengthen that simple mind of yours."

"Don't get hurt."

 


-----
"How dare you! Because of you, Haitang is hurt!" Qiu Jianluo whips the fragile boy.
'She fucking tripped and fell! How's that my fault?!' Shen Jiu curses inwardly, 'Why is it my fault?!'
-----

 

"Don't cause others pain."

 


-----
"A-Jiu, I told my brother to be softer to you!"
"Lady Qiu... there's no need for such thing," Shen Jiu smiles as he wipes his bleeding, trembling fingers, "He was very kind to this lowly one."
-----


 

"Yes, Shizun..." the girl's heart dims as she notices a cloudy shade in her Shizun's eyes.

As she finally notices that it is not her that the man cares for, it is someone else that resembles her. Someone dear to the man. Not her.

"Ming Fan, inform all disciples, today's lesson will be Guqin," Shen Qingqiu snaps his fan, "Now go."
"Yes, Shizun!" the youngsters chirps.

As the little ducklings run, Shen Qingqiu lets out an exhale.

'Some things need to be changed.' Shen Qingqiu closes his eyes.

'Ning Yingying is too innocent,' his mind runs and runs, 'Mingfan has to be improved in cultivation, social, and leading skills.'

'I have to gain trust from others [martial brothers and sister],' Shen Qingqiu brushes his hair to his back, 'Liu Qingge's death...'

The early birds sing their nameless song.

'Yue Qingyuan's unrevealed truths,' Shen Qingqiu's smile is breathtaking [just like a deity and demon lord], 'And Luo Binghe...'

Chapter Text

[02 - Brothers, sister, don't believe the rumors...!]

Days pass by without chaos, yet.
Morning shines, night cools. Students chirp, nature sings.

Shen Qingqiu elegantly pours tea.

 

"How have you been Qingqiu-shidi?" Yue Qingyuan smiles as he sips his tea, something he extremely cherishes. Not once have Shen Qingqiu lets him in and have tea together without a sour face. Not once have Shen Qingqiu welcomes him without throwing poetic insults. Something that the eleven peak lords have always loved and hated to hear.

"Not well." Yue Qingyuan almost had a heart attack.

"Shidi, are you hurt anywhere? This shixiong could help."

"Hn," Shen Qingqiu [playfully] points his fan to his chest, "Here, heart."

Yue Qingyuan's face pales, "Shixiong will call Mu-shidi immediately."

"No need," Shen Qingqiu waves his fan, "This shidi is simply... sad."

Yes, by now, Yue Qingyuan is inwardly screaming, 'Xiao Jiu is sad?! Who dares treat him badly?! Come fight me!'

"Very, very, very sad," Shen Qingqiu plays with his tea.

Yue Qingyuan worriedly places his teacup down, "Qingqiu-shidi can tell this shixion-"

"Why didn't Qi-Ge tell Xiao Jiu about the past three years incident?" Shen Qingqiu cuts in, eyes fixated to Yue Qingyuan's, "Hmn? Qi-Ge, why?"

 

Yue Qingyuan stiffens. The atmosphere thickens. Not a word uttered.

 

"Did you come back?" Shen Qingqiu breaks the silence.

"Xiao Jiu... Qi-Ge is sorry."

Shen Qingqiu drinks his tea, "Did you come back?"

"Xiao Jiu..." Yue Qingyuan's knuckles were gone white.

 

Shen Qingqiu didn't say another word.
He slowly and patiently drinks his tea [something he has practiced for the last few months]. The atmosphere didn't help either [it does, actually, for Shen Qingqiu].

Only after two cups of tea, Yue Qingyuan opens his mouth. Then closed it, then opens it again, only to shut his mouth tight again.
Shen Qingqiu continues drinking his tea. After three more cups, Shen Qingqiu [orders] politely asks Yue Qingyuan to retreat.

 

"There is a lot of work to do." was what the younger reasoned.

And so, Yue Qingyuan left with ears and tail down.

 

***

 

"And this is my fault?" Shen Qingqiu furrows his eyebrows.

 

Twelve days have passed, Shen Qingqiu continues his daily life with no abnormality. As for Yue Qingyuan... he had a very bad atmosphere surrounding him for twelve days nonstop. Even the air is still lingering in important meetings!

 

"The last time Yue-zhanmeng was positive was before having tea with Shen-shixiong," Shang Qinghua sighs, "Everyone is worried, no one could brighten Yue-zhanmeng..."

 

Somehow, Shang Qinghua and Shen Qingqiu had had a good relationship ever since the past life. Shang Qinghua would always amuse Shen Qingqiu with his new handicrafts, while Shen Qingqiu would amuse Shang Qinghua with his tactics.
No matter from which angle, they connect perfectly well. Once one speaks up, no one could stop the two from having a light topic chit-chat about theories, rules, information, spells, and many more that only makes the bystanders dizzy with confusion.

If only the man doesn't betray the sect.

 

"Why me?" Shen Qingqiu grumbles, "Mu-shidi is fun to talk to, he would surely brighten Yue-zhanmeng with ease."

"Shen-shixiong..." Shang Qinghua complains, "We all know that no one can outmatch Shen-shixiong when it's about Yue-shixiong..."

 

-----
"No one is as important as Xiao Jiu." Yue Qi pats Shen Jiu.
-----


 

-----
"No one is as important as Qingqiu-shidi." Yue Qingyuan smiles as he sips his tea.
-----


 

Shen Qingqiu sighs, "Alright, I will talk to him."

Shang Qinghua instantly brightens, "Thank you Shen-shixiong!"

 

***

 

"Yue-shixiong." Shen Qingqiu uses a lighter call as he enters Yue Qingyuan's workplace.

"Qingqiu-shidi?" the cold and heavy tension around Yue Qingyuan instantly turns 180 degrees.

"... May this shidi have tea?" Shen Qingqiu looks at the thick scrolls on Yue Qingyuan's desk, "If Zhangmen-shixiong isn't busy."

 

"I'm having tea, and I don't accept refusals." was what Shen Qingqiu was about to say [and meant]. But due to his patience practices, which has been going on for months, he held it back quite well.

 

"Of course! Of course!" Yue Qingyuan hurriedly cleans his table, "Sorry for the mess."

"Mn." Shen Qingqiu takes out a tea bag and brews it with elegance.

Shen Qingqiu hands Yue Qingyuan a cup, "Ah, thank you shidi."

"Mn." Shen Qingqiu hums.

 

Sensing the younger's unwillingness to have a conversation, Yue Qingyuan shuts his mouth. Only after two cups of tea, Shen Qingqiu finally starts.

"Are you ever going to tell me what actually happened?"

"Ah..." Yue Qingyuan's happy mood instantly dimmed.

"Considering our past relationship, I believe that you wouldn't toss me away like a broken toy," Shen Qingqiu puts down his teacup, "Don't take too long. I am not a very patient person."

 

And with that, Shen Qingqiu left Yue Qingyuan in his workplace.

He could, if he wanted to, force Yue Qingyuan spit the truth out by his irresistible charms. But wouldn't it be too boring? After all, Shen Qingqiu loves drama. And he isn't the type of person to force his way on others.
So wait, he wait. He will wait until Yue Qingyuan is ready.

Three years of waiting was nothing. He had waited for two lifetimes for his Qi-ge to come back. So a little more wouldn't hurt, right?

Shen Qingqiu bites his bottom lip.

 

***

 

"And you didn't tell me this?!" Shen Qingqiu furrows his eyebrows in frustration.

 

Three innocent teacups were shattered. All thrown near to Yue Qingyuan's head. Although the younger never aimed it to the older's head, it was near.

After nine days without sleep, Yue Qingyuan decided that it is time. After all, no matter what, Shen Qingqiu will find his ways to make Yue Qingyuan speak the truth. Either it's with his irresistible charms [after all, Qi-ge is nothing when faced with Xiao Jiu], informants, or using the sneakiest method possible : demanding an answer while calling him Qi-ge.

That would be the most unfair method ever! Absolutely unfair! He was near to blurting the whole three years life nine days earlier, when Shen Qingqiu called him Qi-ge.

If Xiao Jiu were to do it again with a special combo adorable childish needy Xiao Jiu mode...

"Qi-ge!" Shen Qingqiu's cheeks flush red, he pouts as he tugs Yue Qingyuan's sleeve.
Shen Qingqiu's watery eyes look up at Yue Qingyuan's, "Qi-ge tell me please...! Qi-ge...!"

Yue Qingyuan boils in red. But that's just an if, thankfully, Shen Qingqiu didn't do that [or haven't].

Nine days have passed, Yue Qinyuan visits Shen Qingqiu with a bag of tanghulu [in hope that his Xiao Jiu would lessen his fury].

 

Yue Qingyuan's head lowers, "Xiao Jiu..."

"Don't give me those doggy eyes," Shen Qingqiu's blood boils [in worry and fury], "And don't you think that that bribe could stop me from throwing you more teacups!"

 

After throwing two more teacups, drinking three cups of tea, and finishing a bag of tanghulu, Shen Qingqiu finally cools down.

"You're so stupid," Shen Qingqiu pours another cup of tea, "So reckless, empty-brained, and foolish."

"Qi-ge is sorry..."

"It's not entirely your fault, and you did come back," Shen Qingqiu fans himself, "So I forgive you, Qi-Ge."

"..."

"..."

"... hic.. hic..."

"?!"

 

***

 

Later on that day, the whole cultivation sect received hot gossip, as a few Qing Jing disciples accidentally barged into Shen Qingqiu's bamboo hut, for they have heard a loud cry.

 

"The Xuan Xu Sword Master and Xiu Ya Sword Master were in a [one-sided] argument and five teacups were used as Xiu Ya Sword Master's weapon!"

"The outcome was the Xuan Xu Sword Master kneeling and crying at Xiu Ya Sword Master!"

"And the great immortal master Yue Qingyuan was grasping immortal master Shen Qingqiu's robes!"

"Wrong! He was [touching] holding Xiu Ya Sword Master's [slender] waist!"

"What's more is that Xiu Ya Sword Master was patting Xuan Xu Sword Master's back while muttering some words only the two could hear!"

"..."

"..."

"... Somehow, it sounds suspicious..."

"I agree... Could it be..."

"... They were... having a... love... fight...?"

"..."

"Oh my God."

Chapter Text

[03 - Just one stalker is enough, thank you]

"Look, look," Qi Qingqi tweets, "I knew it, their bond is something only them could read."

Currently, Qi Qingqi, Mu Qingfan, Shang Qinghua, and Liu Qingge are [stalking] watching from the shadows of their two shixiongs, who are rumored to be childhood sweethearts, partners, rivals turned to lovers, and other more speculations from the society [disciples, common people, and even the peak lords].

Naturally, Mu Qingfan wouldn't associate himself with such childlike matters. But Qi Qingqi used a rare herbal ingredient as a bribe. As a healer, he can't miss that chance, can't he?

 

'I am innocent, I am innocent, I am innocen-' Mu Qingfan consoles himself.

 

Hiding by the bamboo trees is a childish play, but that's the best option they could come up to. Certainly, Shen Qingqiu would laugh at them if he were to know of his shidis' action, [which he does].

Just a few meters away from them, Shen Qingqiu and Yue Qingyuan coolly walk side by side. Shen Qingqiu tilts his head and Yue Qingyuan pats the younger's head. After some time, Shen Qingqiu takes out some candies from his sleeves and hands some to Yue Qingyuan who then smiles brightly as he happily eats them.

 

"... Shidi, you look troubled..." Qi Qingqi taps Liu Qingge's tense shoulder, "Could it be that you're jealous?"

Liu Qingge's face redden in fury [as what he presumed to be] and shouts, "As if!"

Qi Qingqi hits her forehead, "Stupid!"

Shang Qinghua was ready to flee when Mu Qingfan caught him on time, "The bamboo forest is vast, what if Shang-shixiong get lost? Let us stay together, alright?"

"Mu-shidi...!" Shang Qinghua shed an ugly tear.

"Shidi-men." a cold voice interrupts the peak lord's quarrel.

"Shi- Shixiong!" the three peak lords tensed.

"Mu-shidi, Liu-shidi, Qingqi-shimei, Shang-shidi," Yue Qingyuan smiles, "What a coincidence to meet you here."

Qi Qingqi smiles but as she was about to explain fluidly, Liu Qingge laughs [for the first time in many years] awkwardly, "A coincidence! Truly a coincidence! Hahaha! ... haha... ha.....................................haha...ha......"

"..." Shang Qinghua tries hard not to blacklist the man in his next mischievous-prey record.

"..." Qi Qingqi is surely going to hit that empty brain of her shidi later on.

"..." Mu Qingfan still with his ever-calm-smile, closes his eyes. He noted mentally to make sure that Liu Qingge gets an extremely bitter medicine soon.

 

***

 

"So, the rumors aren't true?" Qi Qingqi drinks her tea.

"No," Shen Qingqiu answers blatantly, "Zhangmen-shixiong and I are only childhood friends."

 


-----
"Stupid Qi-ge," Shen Jiu snuggles between Yue Qi's arms, "My loyalty to you won't waver no matter what!"
-----

 

 


-----
Tears fall from Yue Qi's shaky eyes, "Qi-ge promise to come back!"
"Don't be hasty Qi-ge!" Shen Jiu reaches his small hands to the older boy, "Xiao Jiu will wait for Qi-ge. Now go!"
-----

 

 


-----
"Xiao Jiu..." Yue Qingyuan looks at the aloof student of Qing Jing peak, Shen Jiu, his Xiao Jiu.
-----

 

Yue Qingyuan's eyes sparkle. Never did he dream [well, maybe once or twice a month...] of Xiao Jiu openly speak out even the tiniest bit of their yesterday. Even if it was just the two of them drinking tea, or Shen Qingqiu breaking a teacup.

But a part inside Yue Qingyuan somehow dims at the answer, happy that he is now accepted again, but not... satisfied...? Yue Qingyuan shakes the thoughts away as he sips his tea.

 

Qi Qingqi's predator eyes scan her Shixiongs, and with a huff, she rolls her eyes, "Whatever you say."

 

***

 

Only after reassuring his martial brothers and sister that the rumors aren't true, which takes Shen Qingqiu's free time, everyone finally leaves him.

 

Shen Qingqiu opens his fan, "Now..."

 

The soft morning light welcomes Shen Qingqiu's delicate face. The birds sing their melody and the bamboo leaves dance along with the wind. What a delightful morning.

 

Shen Qingqiu softly laughs as his fingers play with his ice frost necklace, "Luo Binghe..."

 

A delightful morning indeed.

Chapter Text

[04 - Peace of heart? what is that?]

It was supposed to be another normal morning practice routine. Where Shen Qingqiu would once in a while watch over his students' progress twice a week. The routine where all disciples would gather and learn. The days when Shen Qingqiu would furrow his eyebrows and coldly stare at his disciples who didn't perform well.

But not this time.
This time, their Shizun is smiling.
Not snickering or smirking.

He. is. warmly. smiling.

No matter how refreshing it is to watch their extremely rare Shizun smiling mode, their mind could only tremble in fear.

Shizun coldly teaching them? That's a routine!
Shizun smirking at other peak lords in a faulty manner behind his fan? Totally natural!
Shizun kindly smiling at his disciples? The Qing Jing peak disciples fear that spares would fall to their heads by any second.

 

"This master has just recently found out. One of this master's manual is gone." Shen Qingqiu put his eyes on his favorite fan, "It has been sitting by this master's furniture for years, never touched, yet it's gone missing just a few days ago."

Shen Qingqiu looks at his students' eyes as he tilts his head, still smiling, "This master is in a good mood today, so whoever stole this master's manual better come forward while this master still has the patience."

 

The confused disciples look at one another, no one stepping forward, no one to know who the culprit is [except Shen Qingqiu of course...].

 


 

TAKK!

 

Shen Qingqiu shut his fan.
The alluring smile no longer there.

 

With his indifference and cool mask, Shen Qingqiu slightly frowns, "Forget it, take out your manuals."

 

In an instant, every disciple has at least one cultivation manual by their hands.

 

'So this is why!' the disciples cry inwardly, 'Shizun is extremely enraged to the point of smiling! We're doomed!'

 

Shen Qingqiu walks from one disciple to another, inspecting their manuals.
Then he stopped.
And so does every disciple's breathing.
Especially a certain boy, who's currently trembling like a newly born animal.

 

"Luo Binghe." Shen Qingqiu beams.

 

Their. Shizun. beams.
Doom is clearly written as the boy's end.

 

"Care to explain why this master's manual is in your hands?"

"No! No! Shizun! This student!" Luo Binghe stutters, "This student must have taken the wrong manual!"

"Ooh?" Shen Qingqiu opens his fan, "That manual is this master's handwritten manual from this master's disciple's days. Truly precious."

 

The temperature drops instantly.

Shizun's handwritten manual from his disciples' days?! This newly disciple is insolent to the core! Not even Ming Fan dares to read a character from their Shizun's manual!

 

"Shizun! This student's shixiongs instructed this disciple to take a specific manual from Shizun's collection in his bamboo hut!" Luo Binghe tears up, "Shizun, this disciple is innocent!"

'Disciple Luo, don't drag us down! We don't know you!' the older disciples cry inwardly, 'We've never even spoken a single sentence to you!'

"Lying right in front of this master, truly brazen," Shen Qingqiu fans himself, "Did you think that just because this master let you off the hook for a few days, means that this master didn't know?"

"This disciple begs for forgiveness!" Luo Binghe kneels.

 

Shen Qingqiu furrows his eyebrows.

On the outside, it seems that Shen Qingqiu is organizing a light punishing method for the boy. But inside, the man isn't even listening to a word the little boy has just said.

 

'Ah, it's this one,' Shen Qingqiu eyes the cultivation manual's text, 'My very first handwritten manual. Not complete, messy, and disorganized.'

An idea pops into Shen Qingqiu's mischievous mind [after all, the man has always enjoyed causing a dramatic ruckus], "Ming Fan."

"Yes, Shizun?" Ming Fan steps forward.

Shen Qingqiu hands the manual to Ming Fan, "Burn it, it's filthy."

"! Y- yes, Shizun!" Ming Fan burns the poor manual with his qi, not wanting to anger his Shizun further by delaying the action.

"Continue your practice." Shen Qingqiu gracefully walks away, leaving the trembling disciples and the still kneeling, untouched disciple, Luo Binghe.

 

Although the boy's action is truly evil : stealing, slandering, and lying, the disciples still have a speck of pity for him. Beatings are common in the twelve peaks as punishments, but this? Their Shizun didn't even say an insulting word to the boy.

The man even smiled!
Smiled! and! beamed!

And not to mention, this boy is a newly added disciple. His future holds no more light. Once written in the Qing Jing peak master's blacklist, forever despised.

 

'Disciple Luo, sorry but you are on your own!' the boys' words could be heard through the thick air.

The girls not far start to question the boy's innocence, 'Luo Binghe did that? How come?'

 

The still agitated little ducklings stiffly walk back to their morning training positions. Not uttering a word as their eyes fall to the kneeling boy.

 

Luo Binghe lowers his head, face dark, eyes red, 'Shen Qingqiu,' he grits his teeth, 'This life or another, you never learn your lesson...'

 

***

 

Shen Qingqiu walks slowly, using the long path to go back to his beloved bamboo hut.

 

'Trying to take what belongs to this master?' fanning himself, he smiles, 'Go ahead and try. Last life, I concealed my powers, this life, I won't hold back.'

 

Shen Qingqiu is someone with cards under his sleeves, the difference is that his cards are... all Royal Flush cards...

Shen Qingqiu plays with his fingers as an ice frost is suddenly made from thin air. If war were to break, Shen Qingqiu wouldn't be studying the game master's mind. Instead, he would be contemplating which piece he would play on his Guqin as he strums the strings with powerful and elegant blows.

Oh, how Shen Qingqiu would love to watch the white faces of those who looked down on him when they know and see just how very capable, strong, and cunning Shen Qingqiu is.

Chapter Text

[05 - The War God of Bai Zhan is actually a shy maiden!]

"Ah... ah..." Shen Qingqiu moans softly, "Liu-shidi... is cruel..."

"Damn it!" Liu Qingge speeds.

 

Shen Qingqiu did not. No, he did not think that the same event would occur. Just a few days ago, he had asked Yue Qingyuan's permission to cultivate in the Xinling Cave.

On. a. different. time.

Specifically one month away from the original timeline, and yet! Just as he was cultivating and almost, almost! had a bloody peaceful cultivating time, that brute's mind went rampage.

He tried to calm the younger's turmoil, but he missed a footing and ended up getting stabbed in his stomach by the vicious Cheng Luan. He would be fine by the minor attacks from Liu Qingge, but a deep stab?

Shen Qingqiu tries hard not to enter a qi deviation. After all, the past experiences always haunt him deep into his heart.

 

BAM!!!

 

The poor Qian Cao's gate falls as Liu Qingge storms in with a bloodied Shen Qingqiu in his arms.

 

"MU-SHIDI!!!!" Liu Qingge screams on top of his lungs.

Shen Qingqiu complains, "My ears...!"

"..." Liu Qingge lowers his voice down, "Mu-shidi!!!"

 

"..." Shen Qingqiu was [very, very] near to rolling his eyes and grunting. He was near to throwing thousands of piercing insults that the brute would only realize that it was an offense after minutes passed by.

"Liu-shixion- !!! What happened?" Mu Qingfan stops whatever he was doing once his eyes fall to Shen Qingqiu.

"I had a qi deviatation." Liu Qingge put Shen Qingqiu on a bed near with his most care [he tried!].

Shen Qingqiu's body twitched in pain, "Brute, can't take care of your shixiong a little kinder?"

Liu Qingge stiffens, ".................................................................. Sorry."

 

Shen Qingqiu coughs out blood.
The Qian Cao disciples rub their eyes.

 

"Shen-shixiong!" Mu Qingfan's calm expression falls.

"Mu-shidi, I think Liu-shidi is still in a qi deviation," Shen Qingqiu wipes his blood.

 

"For the arrogant brute to say an apology, he must have hit his head too hard." was left unsaid, but was clearly written in the atmosphere.

 

"Shen-shixiong..." Mu Qingfan prays that his clinic won't bear any further damage from Liu Qingge's past drum and soon-to-be rage.

"You...!" Liu Qingge furrow his eyebrows but did nonetheless.

 

To everyone's surprise [the disciples who were in the clinic before Liu Qingge arrived], Liu Qingge just lets out a huff.

 

Shen Qingqiu lets out a soft exhale, "Forget it, Mu-shidi, help this shixiong?"

Mu Qingfan nods, "Of course, Shen-shixiong."

 

Sensing that his apology was taken lightly, Liu Qingge grumbles. The Liu family's rules and norms to respect others have always been strict.

When one helps you, pay him ten times folds!
When one becomes your friend with his pure heart, cherish him until death!
When-
and so on...

And so, Liu Qingge, with his pure heart, can never ignore the norms away, even if the one is Shen Qingqiu.

 

After standing stiff for quite a time, Liu Qingge averts his eyes to the side, "I'm sorry."

 

The Qian Cao disciples choke on air.
Mu Qingfan silently continues his medical task on Shen Qingqiu.
Liu Qingge's face, neck, and palms [even palms?!] redden.

 

"..." Shen Qingqiu freezes, "Mu-shidi, something is certainly wrong with Liu-shid-"

 

BAM!!!

 

The fallen Qian Cao's door broke again, this time, split into two. The 'Fight or Flight!' Liu Qingge, who has always stepped forward with a fight, flies with his sword.

'...' the disciples' mouths were wide open, 'The War God of Bai Zhan has just retreated!'

Chapter Text

[06 - The rabbit's name is Ming [明], bright]

Shen Qingqiu sips his tea.
Elegance, calm, refined, scholarly, and polished from all angles.

Liu Qingge sits.
Sits, stares, stares, and stares. Only drinking his tea once in a while.

 

"Liu-shidi," Shen Qingqiu opens his fan, "This master has a peak to run."

 

"Please leave." was left unsaid, but is clearly stated through the man's piercing eyes.

 

Liu Qingge continues his hostile stare, "Why did you do that?"

"This master doesn't know which action Liu-shidi is referring to...?" Shen Qingqiu closes his eyes. A million words are kept unsaid. Shen Qingqiu is fighting his instinctive urge to spat venom at the younger man. After all, the man died in his previous life [because of him]. A slight kindness will suffice for compensation, won't it?

"Ling Xi Cave, why." Liu Qingge didn't even bother to speak it out as a question.

Shen Qingqiu's index fingers rub against the porcelain teacup, "This master would be in the fault if Liu-shidi were to die."

 

Traces of qi, marks, and Shen Qingqiu's stained reputation. Surely, the public's [everyone's] minds will suspect Shen Qingqiu of killing his shidi out of jealousy.

 


-----
"Qingqiu-shidi, did you... really kill Liu-shidi?" Yue Qingyan's facial expression hides under the darkness of the Water Prison.
Shen Qingqiu remains silent.
Yue Qingyuan shakes his head, "Now that you are here, don't you have the slightest guilt?"
Shen Qingqiu remains sitting still, a faint smile paints his ever fined features, his heart whispers, 'What use of telling the truth? None of you bother to trust me anyway.'
-----

 

"I owe you my life." Liu Qingge states with intrepidity, "I promise to pay you."

 


-----
The older boy cries under the ruthless heavens' watch, "Qi-ge promise to come back!"
-----

 

Shen Qingqiu's index finger twitch lightly but didn't go unnoticed by the younger, "Liu-shidi shouldn't make empty pro-"

"Shizun! Shizun!" a loud voice interupts.

"What an inadequate manner you have," Shen Qingqiu puts his tea down, "Luo Binghe."

Huffing and puffing, the young boy falls to his knees, "Shizun, this disciple is wrong!"

Shen Qingqiu frowns, "Your Liu-shishu is here, yet you didn't greet him? Presumptuous."

"!!! This disciple greets Liu-shishu!" Luo Binghe then abruptly, to everyone's surprise, takes out a small fluffy thing from his robes.

"..." Shen Qingqiu freezes.

 


-----
The once white-furred rabbits are now dyed in red.
The once ever happy rabbits are now swimming in their pool of blood.
The once lively rabbits are now lifeless.
"Shizun," the red mark on his forehead beams, his smile widens, "This disciple accidentally killed these rabbits while practicing Xin Mo in Qing Jing... What should this disciple do?~"
-----

 

Liu Qingge frowns. Not understanding the scene before him.

 

"This... This disciple accidentally hurt one of Shizun's rabbits while practicing! This disciple accepts punishment!" Luo Binghe carefully put the rabbit on the floor.

Liu Qingge, being the most unknowledgeable peak master in all aspects, speaks bluntly, "You have rabbits?"

"... Yes [rabbits which are actually my spies], at the bamboo forest." Shen Qingqiu stands from his seat, "Liu-shidi, this master has affairs to tend to."

 

"Now is the time to leave." is what he actually meant.

 

Thankfully, Liu Qingge still has a speck of logical thinking. Understanding his Shixiong's words, he nods and flies to the sky with Cheng Luan.

 

"Brat." Shen Qingqiu finally speaks.

 

Shen Qingqiu's fine eyes pierce through Luo Binghe's soul.
Cold, indifferent, and relentless.

 

"To enter the bamboo forest and hut without this master's permission, hurt the living, and disrespecting your Shishu and Shizun with your poor behavior," Shen Qingqiu opens his fan, "Run two hundred laps around the Qing Jing peak, then kneel at the Punishment Hall's yard for three days. At last, copy the Life and Death Karma manuscript twenty-five times."

 

Cold, indifferent, and relentless.
Luo Binghe does not dare to lift his head to face the immortal [last life or this life, he never dares].

At last, Shen Qingqiu flicks his sleeve. With weak spiritual energy [to not hurt the boy too much], he sends the boy flying miles, miles away.
Closing his bamboo hut door, Shen Qingqiu frowns at the scene before him.

 


-----
Blood, blood, and blood.
So filthy, red, sticky, rich, sickening-
Shen Qingqiu holds back a painful cry as the beast scrapes his eyeball out.
-----

 

With his slender fingers' utmost care, he lifts the feeble rabbit to his soft robes. Inserting spiritual energy to it, slowly, steadily, and patiently. He sits still, not moving.

He still remembers how he came up with such deadly creatures. Among the hundred steps of Qing Jing peak, under the rainy night, Shen Jiu caught sight of an abandoned white bunny. Drenched, forgotten, and pitiful.

Shen Jiu is never not affectionate to soft creatures, so with his slender fingers, he cups the bunny in his embrace. Years later, the bunny became a rabbit... With outstanding skills and knowledge in language, reading, music, and... spying.

 

Shen Jiu was confused beyond words, 'I saved a bunny, not an intelligent rabbit spy that tells me information through music!'

 

It was probably due to Shen Jiu's faults that the rabbit became so.

When his Shizun ascended, which means that he has to teach, Shen Qingqiu practiced his teaching skills to his rabbit. While he was happy that his rabbit sits still, as if listening and understanding his every blabbering, he did not expect that it really was!

That time he was learning how to teach his to-be disciples about the Guqin language, as in communicating through music. After practicing for weeks, his effort is well paid when his disciples understood the lesson well. But who would've taught that the rabbit would understand too?

 

Shen Qingqiu looks at the white rabbit, "What the heck are you?"

 

Of course, the rabbit didn't respond, only slightly smiling which only Shen Qingqiu would know.

 

Shen Qingqiu sighs and pats the rabbit, "From now on, you will be Ming [明], bright."

 

With that, the rabbit excitingly hops into Shen Qingqiu's arms.

A few years later, Ming brought many of its friends, rabbits, and somehow, they all became Shen Qingqiu's spies.

 

'I didn't teach them, it must be that rabbit, damn you A-Ming!' Shen Qingqiu massages his temples.

 

Although it is helpful and cool to have innocent-looking rabbits as spies, it still makes Shen Qingqiu speechless sometimes when listening to their information,

"Ming Fan likes Ning Ying Ying, but he's too shy to confess!"
"Today's lunch is as bland as always, says the senior female disciples!"
"Yue Qingyuan wanted to pet Xiao Jiu, feed him tanghulu, and cuddle together!"

 

"..." Shen Qingqiu's fingers twitch, his calligraphy is ruined.

 

The next time when Yue Qingyuan visited Shen Qingqiu, he was shot with a cold gaze.

 

Remembering the past, Shen Qingqiu faintly smiles.

The next day, the white rabbit, Ming, was finally able to open its eyes. And by the evening time, it hops happily around Shen Qingqiu. As if saying its thanks before skipping to the man's embrace, sleeping composedly.

Warmth spreads. Shen Qingqiu's cold heart melts.

He didn't move, not wanting to ruin the peaceful moments of his new life.

His body lies on the hard floor. Crown thrown to the side, body fully clothed. Ink flowing from the desk to the papers and floor.

Eventually, Shen Qingqiu closes his eyes.
Shen Qingqiu sleeps.

Shen Qingqiu sleeps.

Chapter Text

[07 - He was once a boy]

"Xiao Jiu!" Yue Qi catches the younger boy to his arms, "Careful, it has been raining nonstop for days, it's really slippery here."

"Thanks, Qi-ge," Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu] slowly escapes from Yue Qi's embrace, "... Qi-ge, when we are older and richer, let's buy lots of tanghulu."

Yue Qi smiles warmly, "Of course, Qi-ge will buy Xiao Jiu lots of tanghulu until Xiao Jiu can't eat dinner."

Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu] openly laughs, "And when we are older, Qi-ge should still let Xiao Jiu sleep together with Qi-ge."

"Of course, Qi-ge only has Xiao Jiu anyways," Yue Qi pats the younger's head, "Qi-ge will forever be with Xiao Jiu."

Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu] smiles, then holds Yue Qi's bigger hand, "Wouldn't it be delightful if this is real?"

Yue Qi blinks in confusion, "Xiao Jiu?"

"Qi-ge, trust me, I really want to stay here with you," Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu] cups the older's hand to his face, "Xiao Jiu really do..."

 

Soft sobs and hiccups could be heard. The older boy stood there, dumbstruck.

 

"Xiao Jiu?" Yue Qi embraces the crying boy to his arms, "Did... did someone bully you? Qi-ge will-"

Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu] shakes his head, "Qi-ge, Xiao Jiu has to leave."

Yue Qi stutters, "What? Where to? Xiao Jiu, did Qi-ge do something wrong?"

"No. No. Qi-ge never did," Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu]'s hands tighten around the older boy's, "But this isn't real, Xiao Jiu has to go."

Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu] bites his bottom lip, "Xiao Jiu has to go back, to reality."

 

Yue Qi couldn't utter a single word.

 

"Goodbye," Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu] looks at the older boy's black eyes, and with a smile, Shen Jiu [Shen Qingqiu] lets go of the older boy's trembling fingers, "Qi-ge."

 

cling!

 

Shen Qingqiu wakes up.

Shen Qingqiu wakes up.

He slowly sits, scans the scene before him : his martial brothers and sister's shocked faces.

 

"Shen-shixiong!" Mu Qingfan hurries to Shen Qingqiu's side and checks the man's meridians.

"Xiao Jiu!" Yue Qingyuan follows, "Xiao Jiu, are you hurt anywhere? Qi-ge can make it go away!"

"... Qi-ge?" Shen Qingqiu's voice shakes. When Shen Qingqiu's eyes are finally adapted to the light, Shen Qingqiu is shocked. It's as if someone has just balded his head, his mouth was open wide.

"Qi-ge?! What is the meaning of this?!" Shen Qingqiu cups the older man's face in his palms, "You're so sick! What happe- Liu-shidi?! So much blood!"

"Shen-shixiong... you're awake..." the Ku Xing peak lord falls to the floor.

Shen Qingqiu looks at his shidis and shimei in disbelieve, "You- why are you all so pale?! Mu-shidi why are they-!!! Mu-shidi?!"

"Shen-shixiong!" without a warning, Shang Qinghua hugs Shen Qingqiu, as if the older man was his long-lost brother.

Shen Qingqiu's body stiffens, "Shang-shidi? Your robes is full of ink, how is that even...?!"

"Please don't do that again! We thought that you were going to die!" Shang Qinghua ends up sobbing like a child, "If you die, who's going to have a light topic chit-chat with me?"

 

Although the light topic chit-chat Shang Qinghua said was referring to heavy topics, now, no one paid a mind to retort.

 

As if on cue, Qi Qingqi's eyes redden, "I hate you! You made us worried to death!"

"Qingqi-shimei? Wh- why are you crying?" Shen Qingqiu was horrified at the chaotic sight before him, "Why am I even...?"

Yue Qingyuan holds onto Shen Qingqiu's hands, "Xiao Jiu are you uncomfortable anywhere? Xiao Jiu want anything?"

Shen Qingqiu furrows his eyebrows, after having full consciousness, he fixes his call, "Shixiong, wha-"

"Anything Xiao Jiu wants Qi-ge will give! Xiao Jiu just have to say it!" Yue Qingyuan continues, "Gold, teacups, beasts, disciples, scrolls, hair ornaments, sweets, anything! Qi-ge will give!"

Shen Qingqiu looks at the older man, "..."

The disciples who are in the room silently shout out, 'So the rumors are true!'

 

The rest of the peak masters had a blank face. After all, this isn't their first time watching their oldest martial brother rottenly spoil the second youngest to the core, right in front of their many eyes.

In the past, they would be annoyed by Shen Qingqiu who would coldly say 'no' to Yue Qingyuan. But now, ever since the two made up, the two would scatter dog food and vinegar to those around them.

If only they could, they would've tossed these two out of their sight while screaming, "Go get a room!"

If one doesn't know about the two's brotherly relationship [Ha! Brotherly! The ten peak lords stomp their feet at the dog food packages], one might think that Yue Qingyuan is Shen Qingqiu's glucose papa.

 

Shen Qingqiu clears his throat, "Zhangmen-shixiong don't say that, people's minds are... creative..."

If Yue Qingyuan had tails and ears, they would be down by now, "But that's true, Qi-ge [wants] is willing to be Xiao Jiu's [partner] anything!"

 

The disciples choke on air. Their first time choking on air [literraly pure oxygen!] was when Liu-shishu apologized to Shen-shishu like a blushing maiden.

And now! Behold! Yue-shishu is willing to give himself to Shen-shishu!

The disciples' single heart now understands what it feels like to be given a chunk of vinegar and dog food.

 

"..." Shen Qingqiu lets out a loud sigh [and starts his manipulation technique], "I don't know what happened, but..."

"Gasp! Shen-shixiong!!!" Shang Qinghua cries as Shen Qingqiu hugs his shidi back.

"This is will be the first and last," Shen Qingqiu adverts his eyes to the side, opening his arms for more space, "... Well?"

"... Shen-shixiong!" the peak lords [beside Liu Qingge who is too shy] run to Shen Qingqiu and pounces on each other like a gigantic snowball.

Shen Qingqiu faintly smiles [to manipulate them more], "Geez, how old are you?"

"We're three~!" Shang Qinghua smiles freely.

Shen Qingqiu taps Shang Qinghua's nose as if scolding him, "Oh no... Did my three-year-old shidis and shimei do anything naughty while- wait... Answer my question! What actually happened!"

Shang Qinghua groans, "Shen-shixiong, let us rest first..."

The Zui Xian peak lord lies on the bed, "What Shang-shidi said is very agreeable. We will explain later."

 

Shen Qingqiu complains but didn't push them away. How could he? [How could they throw him so easily yet he couldn't to them?]

Slowly and reluctantly, he let his martial brothers and sister rest on his bed. Even Liu Qingge is now sitting on the floor beside Shen Qingqiu. Well, exception for Mu Qingfan who is currently serving Shen Qingqiu a bitter medicine. Only after making sure that the older man is alright, he retreats to his personal room to rest.

 

"Xiao Jiu, are you really alright?" Yue Qingyuan spoke after his martial brothers and sister have fallen to deep sleep.

"Mn," Shen Qingqiu lets the older man play with his fingers, a sly smile paints his lips, "Qi-ge, later can Xiao Jiu eat tanghulu?"

When was the last time his Xiao Jiu asked him for anything? And so, Yue Qingyuan beams, "Of course. What can't Xiao Jiu have?"

Shen Qingqiu snickers, "Qi-ge is spoiling me, what if I become rotten spoiled, ah?"

"So what? Qi-ge will spoil Xiao Jiu more," Yue Qingyuan cups his face in Shen Qingqiu's palm, "Xiao Jiu is Qi-ge's Xiao Jiu, Qi-ge can spoil Xiao Jiu as much as Qi-ge wants."

"..." Shen Qingqiu is beyond speechless. If Shen Qingqiu is shameless, then Yue Qingyuan is even more brazen!

With his fingers locked in the older man's ["Let me go!" Shen Jiu struggles as he sees white and a trace of crimson blood on the bedsheet.], he fights his natural instincts to cut the man's fingers to chunks ["You're just a weak young master." the boy unsheathes his sword, Cheng Luan.], Shen Qingqiu retreats his hand slowly, "... Alright..."

 

How could he push the man [his dear brothers and sister] away? ['Why do you all hate me?']

 

The day is short, and night is never long. Shen Qingqiu and Yue Qingyuan were but nobodies when their 'once upon a time' sings its melancholy and memorable melodies. Yue Qi was Yue Qingyan when the resonance fades to grief. And Shen Jiu was Shen Qingqiu when the melodies wither like his ice frost.

 


-----
"A-Jiu, want more candy?" the man in white blindfold smiles at the young boy.
"Yes," Shen Jiu faintly smiles as his trembling fingers reach out, "Shizun."
-----

 

 


-----
"A-Jiu, be good, alright?" the man pats the teen boy as he hands him a candy.
Shen Qingqiu holds the candy as if it was his life lantern, his ice frost necklace trembles, "I will."
-----

 

Shen Jiu and Yue Qi were each other's light. One gone, together nowhere to be found.

 


-----
"The Qiu manor was burnt down and not one survived," the old woman said boringly, "Even if they do, they're probably dead by now."
-----

 

They were each other's light. One gone, together gone to dawn.

 


-----
When the fire warms the unforgiving night, Shen Jiu is no more Xiao Jiu.
-----

 

They are each other's light. One gone, together gone to legends.

 


-----
"Yue Qingyuan died from ten thousand arrows piercing through his body," the storyteller continues, "While his most favorite shidi, Shen Qingqiu, died from swallowing Xuan Su's shards."
-----

 

They are Shen Qingqiu and Yue Qingyuan when the tunes faintly hum their bitter-sweet yesterday. Shen Qingqiu is forever Shen Jiu. And Yue Qingyuan is forever Yue Qi. [Yet Yue Qingyuan never sees Shen Jiu as Shen Qingqiu.]

They are but nobodies when they were slaves, and the nobodies are nobodies to the world. But why does it matter? There is no need for the world to know about them, after all, they are each other's world. ['Don't you trust me, Qi-ge? Yue Qingyuan, do you even care of me as your martial brother?']

Just the one is enough for the other. [Yue Qingyuan only needs his sweet Xiao Jiu, not the cold Shen Qingqiu.] Just Yue Qi [or Yue Qingyuan] is enough for Shen Jiu. And Yue Qi needs no one but Shen Jiu [not the ruthless Shen Qingqiu].

 

'...' the ten peak lords who couldn't sleep because of consuming too much glucose silently screams in unison, 'Go get a room already, damnit!'

 

***

 

"You were deaf." Shen Qingqiu covers his face with his fan, ears red. If Shen Qingqiu knew that his martial brothers and sister weren't sleeping, he wouldn't shamelessly talk casually with Yue Qingyuan.

 

Thankfully or not thankfully, Shang Qinghua chokes [due to glucose overdose] on his breathing and that's when he knew that his shidis aren't sleeping. Instead, they were professionally listening! They were quite in A-Ming's level of secretly listening!

Shen Qingqiu shudders.

 

Liu Qingge frowns, "We were not-"

"Yes! We were deaf!" Qi Qingqi shuts Liu Qingge, "Right, Shang-shidi?"

Shang Qinghua nods furiously, "Yes, yes! Shen-shixiong, actually, one of Bai Zhan's disciples played us a song this morning. It was so bad that we became deaf, ah!"

Liu Qingge, with zero brain capability, questions, "How come I didn't know of it-"

Qi Qingqi smacks Liu Qingge's arm, "You were also deaf, idiot!"

Shen Qingqiu watches the scene before him, "... Liu-shidi."

"What?" Liu Qingge lifts his gaze to Shen Qingqiu.

Shen Qingqiu points his fan to the younger, "You were deaf."

Liu Qingge confusedly looks at the older man, "What? But I was not-"

"Liu Qingge," Shen Qingqiu slightly frowns, "You. were. deaf."

"..." Liu Qingge become stupified, "Yes... I was deaf...?"

"How did you all became temporarily deaf?" Shen Qingqiu questions.

"..." Liu Qingge has absolutely no idea where this is going, "My disciple played a song very badly that it... made us deaf..."

"Yes, you were deaf," Shen Qingqiu patiently leads Liu Qingge to the main point of this hilarious conversation, "A deaf person cannot...?"

"... Cannot... hear...!" Liu Qingge looked as if he has just received his salvation, "I was deaf. I heard nothing."

"Ooh?" Shen Qingqiu hides his smirk behind his fan, "How are your ears now, shidi?"

"Fine." Liu Qingge nods.

 

Yue Qingyuan is currently holding his laughter at the corner of the clinic, 'Xiao Jiu is so cute!'

 

He didn't know that holding laughter could be so torturous. He finally knows now.

Chapter Text

[08 - Five days, one dream]

Shen Qingqiu sips his tea, "I see..."

 

After being told of what had happened to him, Shen Qingqiu could only frown [and secretly smile].

Yue Qingyuan wouldn't need to be questioned about his worries. But who would've thought that his shidi and shimei cares about him? Even if they do [they didn't and they never care], maybe a little.
But he never thought that his nine shidi and shimei would throw their responsibilities for five days to personally take care of him.

Shen Qingqiu's heart slightly melts ["How disgusting."].

 

Five days ago, Liu Qingge came to visit Shen Qingqiu only to find the older man lying unconscious on the floor.

Ink dripping from the table to the floor, musical scores scattered everywhere, and Guqin by his side. To the barbarian, this looks like a tidy Bai Zhan warehouse. But not in the scholar's peak. The scholar peak is disciplined to be organized in manners, schedules, and objects. Even their warehouse is neater than Bai Zhan's kitchen.

But this? The scholar would have commented, "Did spears fall from the sky? A hundred-year battle camp is slightly better to look at. Why can't even a soul clean this calamitous mess?"

Liu Qingge has always wondered how his Shixiong could make an insult sound like poetry.

Mu Qingfan was immediately alerted of the situation while Liu Qingge flew with the unconscious Shen Qingqiu in his arms. But after a short examination in the Qian Cao Peak, the healer couldn't figure what had happened to Shen Qingqiu.
There was no sign of qi deviation. Or a fight, as some thought after visiting the messy bamboo hut. No poison, no demonic qi, nothing.

That night, Shen Qingqiu came with a very high fever. Countless blankets and heating talismans were drawn but nothing could warm the man. On the second day, he was whimpering and curling like a ball, no matter how many times he was positioned back again. On the third day, Shen Qingqiu's breathing slows down.

It was very slow. Only an inhale and exhale every six or seven seconds. It was as if he was near to death. Shen Qingqiu didn't whimper, didn't tremble, didn't respond to anything.

On the fourth day, his qi was gone.

This leads to a huge uproar.

No matter what the peak lords did, Shen Qingqiu's condition didn't improve.

During those five days, Shang Qinghua, with his wide [and shaddy] social network, helped Liu Qingge list a long scroll of beasts and plants that could increase a master cultivator's constitution. Liu Qingge, along with his wild nature, was able to hunt them all down in three days.

Yue Qinyuan didn't close his eyes since the first day Shen Qingqiu fell ill. His face pales in frustration, fear, and low energy. While Shen Qingqiu was unconscious, his qi was draining. Thus, Yue Qingyuan, being the strongest, had to insert his spiritual energy continuously into the sick man's meridians.

Mu Qingfan was no better. The healer was near to a breakdown on the fourth night.

The night when Shen Qingqiu's heart stopped beating.

 

-----
On the fourth night, in the bamboo hut...

 

thackk!

 

The Qian Cao's disciple who was holding a tray of herbal leaves lost his grips. Yue Qingyuan's eyes widen in shock.

Mu Qingfan trembles, "Impossible..."

"Mu-shidi? Am- am I hallucinating?" Qi Qingqi didn't believe her cultivation senses, "Did- did Shen-shixiong's heart just... stopped...?"

 

Yue Qingyuan tries to stand from his kneeling position. He stands, he falls, he staggers, he kneels.

 

"Xiao Jiu? Xiao Jiu this isn't funny. Xiao Jiu, Qi-ge is begging you... Xiao Jiu...!" Yue Qingyuan's fingers trembles, "Mu-shidi, Mu-shidi, there must be a way right? Xiao Jiu is strong, there's no way... right?"

"This..." Mu Qingfan frowns and fastens his medicinal skills, "Once this medicine is finished, we will insert it to Shen-shixiong's meridians. But since this happened... the outcome is..."

 

BAM!!!

 

"What's wrong?" Liu Qingge, who had just thrown another pile of beasts he hunted to the front door of the clinic, enters. His every step becomes heavier, his breathing fastens, sweat and blood drip from his robes and body.

Liu Qingge's frown deepens, "Why isn't his heart beating?"

"That... we don't know..." Shang Qinghua stopped his brushstrokes, "But we are proceeding to the next plan."

Liu Qingge falls to the hard floor, his tired body disobeys his alert mind, "Which plan?"

"The last..." Shang Qinghua almost breaks his thousand years old brush which his master fined from the hardest wood found for him back in his disciple's days.

"Let us proceed." Yue Qingyuan forces his eyes open and focused, "The last option, we must. We must..."

 

The morning of the fifth day came, but even after inserting the medicine to Shen Qingqiu's meridians, nothing worked.

With disappointment, Mu Qingfan furrows his eyebrows. It wouldn't worry the peak lords if they could come up with another plan, but the medicine Mu Qingfan has just made and inserted into Shen Qingqiu's meridians was the last. And it shows no improvement.

After a long silence, Yue Qingyuan, who was resting to recharge his spiritual energy, kneel beside Shen Qingqiu. Not wanting to fall back, he continues to insert his spiritual energy.

The peak lords went to complete silence. No one moved, no one did a thing. No matter what, they had to rest. If they also fell ill, the situation will only worsen. And besides, the medicine requires time to fully flow in the sick man's body.

So rest they rest. But with their hearts and mind in turmoil, their tense shoulders couldn't relax.

But when it was near night, when they were getting ready to work again, when their mind spins in complexity.
Shen Qingqiu wakes up. Shen Qingqiu slowly sits. And they could only stare in shock.

Shen Qingqiu woke up.

Alive and well.
-----

Chapter Text

[09 - He too]

"That does not justify you staying in this master's bamboo hut, especially when it's all of you." Shen Qingqiu grumbly fans himself.

Shang Qinghua pouts, "Shen-shixiong, aren't we close already?"

Shen Qingqiu furrows his eyebrows, "We are not close."

 

It was three days ago when Shen Qingqiu woke up. The day he hugged [blood, blood, and pain.] his martial brothers and sister for the first time [exception to Yue Qingyuan who will and has always get a VIP room in Shen Qingqiu's arms].

And it was two days ago when Mu Qingfan scolded his martial brothers and sister about their barbarous act to a patient, which is hugging, for three hours straight. Today, his martial brothers and sister decided to behave like a three-year-old. Sleeping and lazing in Shen Qingqiu's bamboo hut, that is.

 

Qi Qingqi sips her tea, "Shen-shixiong, we took care of you for five days, yet not a bit of kindness is given to us."

"... Fine, you can stay if you give this master a fan," Shen Qingqiu smirks behind his fan, "However, if it doesn't satisfy this master's qualifications, then you won't be given even a cup of tea."

 

Liu Qingge rolls his eyes and takes out a fan from his robes.

 

Shen Qingqiu couldn't hide his suspicion, "You..."

"Shen-shixiong is a fan of fans." Shang Qinghua grins.

 

Shen Qingqiu didn't answer, he inspects the fan like an experienced craftsman. Black fan, with white sharp painting strokes of bamboo leaves. Behind it, artistic white paint splatter decorates the heavy fan.

 

Shen Qingqiu was about to throw dozens of poetic insults [despite liking the fan's art theme] when Qi Qingqi began, "Zhangmen-shixiong was the one to make it."

"..." Shen Qingqiu closes his mouth, then opens, and closes again.

After battling his inner thoughts and emotions, Shen Qingqiu lifts the black fan, "Well, since Zhangmen-shixiong made it for this shidi, wouldn't it be rude to say no?"

Yue Qingyuan radiates golden rays, "So we can stay?"

"..." Shen Qingqiu shuts his mouth tight.

Qi Qingqi smiles and looks at her brothers, "He said yes."

'I did not!' Shen Qingqiu stands from his seat, "... Do not mess this master's hut."

 

And with that, he left his brothers and sister in his bamboo hut [with the new black fan in his belt].

He would, if he had a belief, pray to any God, make offerings to the deities, and ask for the Qing Jing peak ancestors' blessings for his bamboo hut's safety from his brothers and sister's destructive fingers.

If he had a belief, but Shen Qingqiu doesn't, so he can't. And it's not like he had not prayed to them before. He had once believed for a heavenly divine to be slightly merciful to him, he had once prayed so hopefully only to be blessed with more miseries. And so, he gave all of him to Yue Qi, only to be discarded like a foul thing he is.

Shen Qingqiu walks gracefully in the bamboo forest. The wind sings its soft melody as the bamboo leaves dance along while the rabbits hide and peek their heads out from their hideouts.

 

Shen Qingqiu lets out a soft exhale, "The heavens must be laughing at me."

 

Not far from Shen Qingqiu, Luo Binghe smiles with his Xin Mo in his hand, sheathed. The boy, in his young body, is nothing to the peak master, but the voracious sword plays its role quite well.

Shen Qingqiu has been informed by Ming of the boy's old metal, that the boy had sneaked out, and that he had been playing with other disciples' dreams, including his' too. The angered white rabbit hopped around Shen Qingqiu, saying that Luo Binghe had put a sleeping spell on the rabbit. A spell that if touched by other people, would cause them to fall to slumber too.

The boy had seen his past.

In Shen Qingqiu's previous life, he had shut his dream and memories tight, he had sealed his powers for the better good, and he had kneeled before the boy for Cang Qiong's mercy. But what did he get in return? Fire and crimson blood. So intoxicating and horrifying at the same time.

In this fierce world, the only mercy the Gods gave him was when Yue Qingyuan gave him Xuan Xu.

Looking back at his past, Shen Qingqiu laughs at himself.

In the second life, what could he do? He could crush the boy to dust, he could make the underworld kneel before him, he could kill the old palace master with ease. But he promised.

Shen Jiu promised to use his power for the good. And besides, if he were to stop him now, wouldn't it be a boring play to the heavens somewhere up there?

 

"Shizun," the boy walks closer, "You came back [to the past] too."

"Mn." Shen Qingqiu coldly replies, just like how it has always been [in both lifetimes].

Luo Binghe frowns, "Why won't you ever look at me, Shizun?"

 

When was fate ever kind to any other person besides the Son of Fate [Luo Binghe]? Gold, adventures, woman, flesh, power, and beauty were gifted to the Son of Fate [Luo Binghe], yet he decided to be selfish.

 


-----
"Leave Cang Qiong alone," Shen Qingqiu's cold voice echoes in the Water Prison.
Luo Binghe smirks, "Everything comes with a price, Shizun."
Shen Qingqiu frowns, "Take... me instead.
Luo Binghe's smile widens, "Gladly."
"Do not touch Cang Qiong," Shen Qingqiu reminds the boy, "Remember our deal."
"Of course," Luo Binghe hums, "Of course..."
-----

 

 


-----
"Shizun, this disciple found a good game," the demon's black robes fall to the cold floor, "Shall we play?"
-----

 

 


-----
"We had a deal!" Shen Qingqiu's aloof image breaks as his ears capture the pitiful cries from his Qing Jing.
"Shizun, this disciple is but a demon, a beast," Luo Binghe cups the man's face in his hand, "A beast never listens, moreover, promise a promise."

-----

 

Shen Qingqiu bites his bottom lip, "How sickening."

Chapter Text

[10 - Crimson red, why paint the word more?]

The rabbits run and hop away.

 

"You will die [I will kill you]," Shen Qingqiu cooly fans himself with the black fan, "That sword is eating your consciousness."

Luo Binghe hums a tune, "Shizun isn't afraid that this disciple might destroy Cang Qiong?"

Shen Qingqiu's index finger rubs against his black fan, "Would [could] you?"

Luo Binghe tilts his head, "If I'm in the mood to do so."

One step, two steps forward, "Shizun is as cold as always~ This disciple can't help but feel sad."

Shen Qingqiu becomes more indifferent, he was cold in his first life, second life only makes him even more aloof, "You did your wrongs with full consciousness and no regret."

 


-----
"Luo Binghe how could you?!" Ning Yingying cries at the Qing Jing peak master's cold body, "Cang Qiong did nothing to you!"

 


In the cold and dark prison, Shen Qingqiu swallowed the shards of Xuan Su. He was near to death, he was finally going to be free, he was given mercy. But Lady Fate wants more play.

Ning Yingying visits the dungeon. Shock, grief, and anger were written on her delicate face.

Ning Yingying didn't know about the fall of Cang Qiong. And Shen Qingqiu is more than glad that she knows now. Glad that she finally knows the true form of the Son of Fate, Luo Binghe, a beast.

 

"Yingying is siding them?" Luo Binghe grins, "But it was also Yingying who turned her back to Cang Qiong and Shizun, why is it this husband's fault?"
The girl sobbed and holds the dying body with her shaking fingers, "Shizun, Shizun, Yingying is sorry. Yingying has been bad, Shizun was right, A-Luo is a beast-"

 

kretreak!

 

Her head falls.
-----



 

"It must have been a sight to see Shizun's favorite disciple die right in front of Shizun." Luo Binghe smiles.

"She is not this master's favorite." Shen Qingqiu answers almost immediately, 'Ming Fan is.'

 


-----
"But the late head disciple of Qing Jing, Ming Fan, was even more tragic!" the storyteller drinks his wine, "He was thrown into an ant pit until he died from the bites!"
-----

 

Luo Binghe clicks his tongue, "Shizun, Xin Mo has always been powerful. In ten or so more years, this disciple would be as strong as he had been in the previous life."

'You mean as weak as you have always been?' Shen Qingqiu keeps his mouth shut, humming an 'mn', he walks towards the boy.

 

Shen Qingqiu passed the boy.

 

"?!" Luo Binghe stood dumbfounded, "Shen Qingqiu!"

 

Shen Qingqiu continues his steps, not caring about the teenager's vexatious voice and fury.

 

"Shen Qingqiu, don't you dare ignore me!" Luo Binghe's face redden in anger, "Shen Qingqiu!"

 

Shen Qingqiu draws a seal and walks away.

 

"Shen Qingqiu! You- !!!" Luo Binghe was about to run to the man, but he couldn't move his body.

"Luo Binghe, for disrespecting your teacher," Shen Qingqiu grins behind his fan, "You are punished."

"..." Luo Binghe was so mad that he couldn't utter a word. He stood where he was for three hours, not moving, not grumbling. Only standing like a statue, while Xin Mo in his partial fake replica Guanyin jade [something one of the wives made for him], save from other's eyes.

 

***

 

'So what if you have Xin Mo? So what if you're a heavenly demon?' Shen Qingqiu idly fans himself, the walk to his now empty bamboo hut feels shorter, 'In this life, I'm going to show the world my true powers.'

 

The white rabbits hop and pop their heads out. The warm light paints the handsome man's features.

 

'And besides,' Shen Qingqiu smiles, 'I have Cang Qiong by my side.'

 


-----
"Street rat."
"Pampered young master."
"Leecher."
"Murderer."
"Villain."
"Shizun."
-----

 

Shen Qingqiu softly smiles [cries quietly].

Chapter Text

[11 - And he finally shows the world his power]

Shen Qingqiu could be categorized as a God. A God knows everything. A God knows a person's deeds within a single look into their eyes. And a God understands a person's mind within a glance at their body language.

So when he went back, when he looked at the beast's moves and eyes, Shen Qingqiu knew. Oh, how Shen Qingqiu knew very well. Those eyes, the eyes that tell a story the future holds.

Luo Binghe went back too.

God helps His children live a good life. But Shen Qingqiu is no God. Shen Qingqiu is an immortal. Immortals make sins, God doesn't.

So walk, he walks. Shen Qingqiu walks on the bloody red string of Fate. Bearing the pain of being a God. Bearing the responsibility of someone who came back to defy Fate.

Shen Qingqiu [silently] cries in madness.

In the past, no one believed that Shang Qinghua was a traitor. Back then, no one cared about Shen Jiu's untold truths [, Qi-ge does, but he didn't believe Shen Qingqiu. So why bother caring if one does not believe?]. In his disciple days, everyone points their fingers at him, eagerly listing down his flaws. At his young age, Shen Jiu starved for days, rises from beatings, and fights.

All for Qi-ge. Everything was so easy. Shen Jiu would do anything to live another day with Qi-ge.

Everything was so easy.

 

"Shizun, how did you find out that this disciple came back too?" Luo Binghe squats in front of Shen Qingqiu's bamboo hut.

 

Oh, how easy it is to plan an early death.

 

"Questioning this master's skills?" Shen Qingqiu continues his brushing.

Luo Binghe pouts, "Shizun, let this disciple enter please?"

 

Shen Qingqiu didn't reply and continue his peak lord duties. If not for Shen Qingqiu's instincts, Luo Binghe would be disturbing him by now.

Three hours ago, after putting Luo Binghe under a seal, Shen Qingqiu's heart stays unsettled. Knowing how shameless the boy could get, Shen Qingqiu puts a barrier in his bamboo hut. The heavens must have jinxed him, for just a few minutes earlier, Luo Binghe came running to his bamboo hut. Only to be knocked in the head by the barrier [, truly a shameful sight].

 

"Shizun, why are you like this?!" Luo Binghe cries out, "It's not like this disciple would eat Shizun or something!"

 

sling!

 

"Y- You!" Liu Qingge stutters, "How dare you to say th- that to your own master!"

 

The poor bamboo tree which was split into two by Liu Qingge fall an inch beside Luo Binghe's sides. If the boy had moved to his right or left, he would've got scars all over his body.

 

Luo Binghe abruptly looks to his back, "Liu- Liu-shishu...?!"

Shen Qingqiu smiles, 'Stupid brat, now eat your blood!'

 

A God knows everything that has happened and will happen. And Shen Qingqiu could be categorized as a God. But he isn't a God. Shen Qingqiu is more farsighted and more wicked than a God. With his skills and knowledge [to create chaos], everything and anything could be planned with ease, this one too.

 

Shen Qingqiu opens the door, "Liu-shidi, ignore him."

Liu Qingge reddens in anger, "You should teach him a lesson!"

"This master have, yet he didn't learn," Shen Qingqiu smiles behind his fan, "Come to think of it, this shixiong heard that Liu-shidi is sending his disciples for a mission?"

Liu Qingge rolls his eyes, "They've left."

"Mn. This shixiong will need Liu-shidi's help to teach disciple Luo a lesson," if a fox is sly, then Shen Qingqiu's slyness is beyond remedy, "Do Liu-shidi mind if disciple Luo run to his disciples to join them?"

 

At that, Luo Binghe's face reddens in fury, pales, and turns red again before composing his image. Though that didn't go unnoticed by the two peak lords.

 

"Whatever." Shen Qingqiu slightly smiles at Liu Qingge's approval.

"You heard your Liu-shishu," Shen Qingqiu shoots the boy a cold gaze, "Pack your things within five minutes, run to Liu-shishu's disciples, and finish the mission. Dismissed."

 

Swallowing his rage, Luo Binghe bows before running away like a duckling.

 

"You don't whip or beat him up?" Liu Qingge looks at Shen Qingqiu questioningly. After all, the man is well known for his ruthless punishments. 'For disciplines' the older usually said.

"No need, he's beyond saving [I'm tired of looking at him]," Shen Qingqiu gestures his hand, "Come on in."

 

***

 

"This master isn't a doll," Shen Qingqiu pours Liu Qingge tea for the second time, "No need to worry." [You've never cared, why only now?]

Liu Qingge scoff, "Talk about what happened days ago."

"..." Shen Qingqiu puts his teacup down, "Let's fight."

Liu Qingge frowns, "Are you crazy?"

"Come on, it's not like we never did it before," Shen Qingqiu pulls Liu Qingge to stand, "So? Want to see this shixiong's old techniques?"

Liu Qingge grudgingly steps out of the bamboo hut, "You mean dirty techniques?"

"No dirty tricks," with a brave smile, Shen Qingqiu lifts Xiu Ya, "Draw your sword."

 

Liu Qingge does.

 

TRING! BAM! TCHICK!

 

The fight starts. Shen Qingqiu, for the first time in many years, fights like a master cultivator he is. Just like one of his masters, Xiao Xingchen.

Liu Qingge attacks, Cheng Luan shines. Liu Qingge steps forward with bravery, just like his title, War God of Bai Zhan.
With grace, Shen Qingqiu twirls and jumps and fights back. Xiu Ya Sword, Elegant Cultivating Sword, just like his and Xiu Ya's name.

Shen Qingqiu's first attack [show off] brought open damages. The clouds scatter, leaves fall and turned to ice, and the ground shook hard as ice frost falls from the heavens.

Not expecting the intensity, Liu Qingge was brought backward.

 

"Heh," Liu Qingge smirks, Cheng Luan trembles in excitement, "Fight me!"

Shen Qingqiu grins as he twirls with the wild Xiu Ya in his hand, "I won't hold back this time!"

 

And they continue. And the Qing Jing peak suffers. And so the students who watch the fight [as their hearts shiver]. After all, they've never seen the Bai Zhan and Qing Jing peak masters fight for real. Now that they've seen it, their poor hearts dim.

 

'How weak!' they spat at themselves, 'No wonder Shizun never look at us with pride!'

 

Liu Qingge jump, fight, and attack. Shen Qingqiu twirl, attack, and dance [as what it looks like to the others' eyes]. Cheng Luan and Xiu Ya shine brightly under the snowfall. Each sending waves and tremendous energy that reaches the twelve peaks.

Liu Qingge, courageous, fierce, savage, and monstrous. A true warrior.
Shen Qingqiu, refined, elegant, polished, and stunning. A sophisticating immortal.

The fight is so wonderful that the peak masters who arrived to stop the fight could only stare at the glorious scene before them.

When Shen Qingqiu and Liu Qingge lands on the ground again, they charge at each other. Their swords clashed, and an even more enormous energy burst. Cheng Luan and Xiu Ya sing their battle harmony.

As Liu Qingge swings Cheng Luan to the ground, the earth cracks and flies and floats, creating small floating islands. Liu Qingge jumps from one land to another. With his sword in his hand, he burns in his spiritual energy. A beastly war God.

Shen Qingqiu lands his feet on the land beneath them, and a large ice frost was drawn as tiny crystal particles float upward. His ice frost necklace shines so brightly with spiritual energy. An untouchable immortal.

As another attack strikes, water dances around them like a waltz. And when another comes, water scatters as they instantly become frozen in a flower sword-cuts shape.

The battle goes on, only to stop when Yue Qingyuan finally snaps out of his thoughts [about how powerful and gorgeous Shen Qingqiu is] and told the two to end their hatred. But when told so, Shen Qingqiu chuckles [illegally stunningly] while Liu Qingge snickers [with his forbidden lips].

Yue Qingyuan boils in red.

Other peak lords thought [or so they thought] that this would be the breaking point of him spoiling the second brother. After all, they've never seen the oldest boils in fury.

 

"Ah..." Shen Qingqiu stops his [illegally stunning] chuckle when he sees the older man's reaction [, a mischievous idea came up to his mind], "Zhangmen-shixiong, we were just playing around..."

 

Yue Qingyuan didn't say a word.

 

"Yue-zhangmen," Shen Qingqiu looks at Yue Qingyuan [with his irresistible charms] guiltily, "This shidi knows he is wrong."

 

Yue Qingyuan's ears redden. The other peak lords somehow sense a deja vu...
It's... It's like the smell of...

 

Shen Qingqiu bites his bottom lip, and [with pure sinful intentions,] multiplies his irresistible charms, "Yue-shixiong, please don't be mad... This shidi is sorry..."

Yue Qingyuan instantly pats the younger, "Ah, Qi-ge can never be mad at Xiao Jiu. Never, never."

 

Dog food! It's the smell of dog food!

 

The peak lords suffer from glucose overdose, 'Enough! Enough!'

The [once-straight innocent] disciples nearby lost their breathing at Shen Qingqiu's irresistible charms [which was actually aimed for Yue Qingyuan], 'Must go to Qian Cao! Must've gotten an internal injury!'

While the single-hearted disciples choke on a large portion of glucose, 'Mercy! Mercy! We are but lonely souls! Mercy!'

In the midst of the chaotic scene, Yue Qingyuan's brain went crazy, 'Oh my God, I'm patting Xiao Jiu, Xiao Jiu called me Qi-ge, Xiao Jiu is so cute, I need oxygen-'

And without his complete brain consciousness, his mouth plays its foolish role, "Ah, first of all, let's have tea. Playing so long must be tiring."

"..." the peak lords hold themselves from slapping their face, 'Zhangmen-shixiong! Are you bewitched?! What has he done to you to be like this, ah!'

 

***

 

Later on that day, the Qian Cao peak was overwhelmed with [innocent] male disciples who claimed to have unknown serious injury symptoms : skipping heartbeats, loud pulse, nosebleed, and hot cheeks.

 

"..." the Qian Cao disciples had a straight face, "That's not an injury, that's love at first sight!"

"What?!" the injured disciples were shaken to death, "Impossible! It must be an injury!"

"Go back! Go back! We know this injury very well and let me tell you," one of the Qian Cao disciples pushes the injured disciples away, "It's incurable!"

 

The injured disciples pales.

 

***

 

"We should fight again sometimes." Liu Qingge drinks his tea.

"Mn." Shen Qingqiu hums.

 

A thick scroll by his hand and a cup of tea in another is enough to portray an immortal sight at the man.

 

Liu Qingge puts his cup down, "The technique isn't from Qing Jing."

"Yes," Shen Qingqiu rubs his index finger to the cup, "It's from someone outside Cang Qiong."

 


-----
"A-Jiu," the man smiles under the fierce winter, "Do you want more candy?"
-----

 

Chapter Text

[12 - The ice has melted, but not gone to spring]

Years, years, and years ago...

 

Shen Jiu jumps. Shen Jiu falls. Shen Jiu lands.

Lands in someone's embrace.

The great mountain and walls can never go against the mad child. The green bamboo leaves dance of the boy's day and night to the lost wind. No one knows of the wild boy's life.

 

"Could you be the heaven's child?" the man in white robes holds Shen Jiu. A white blindfold covers his eyes and a beautiful sword by his back.

The man smiles, "If so, then I must be blessed." the mysterious man's warm spirit sings its goodness.

Shen Jiu frowns, "Who are you?"

"Xiao Xingchen," Xiao Xingchen puts the boy down, "And this brave child is?"

Shen Jiu studies the man before him, "Shen Jiu."

 

***

 

"Why aren't you part of Cang Qiong?" Shen Jiu eats his fifth candy, "You're really strong, you know."

"The world is vast, full of the good and evil," Xiao Xingchen pats the boy, "I'm devoted to the betterment of the world."

 

The chilly night breeze sings its faint lullaby. The dark, starry night lights up everyone's eyes.

 

Shen Jiu hums, "Is there a place out there, somewhere that's stronger than Cang Qiong?"

"About power, I'm not sure," Xiao Xingchen's fingers play with Shen Jiu's inky hair, "But from where I was, yes, it is a place of strong ones."

 

Shen Jiu slowly snuggles deeper into the man's arms. The terrible night shows no mercy. But can there be a warmer place besides being with someone you trust?

 

Like a cat, Shen Jiu smiles in curiosity, "Tell me about it."

 

***

 

"How come I've never heard of it," Shen Jiu, being a bookworm, cannot accept the fact that something big was unknown to him, "Such powerful sects, not even recorded in the scrolls of Cang Qiong."

Xiao Xingchen smiles, "Well, you see, you and I come from a different dimension."

"Dimension?" Shen Jiu's complex mind starts operating, "So, you don't come from this, my dimension? The dimension where Cang Qiong reigns?"

"Mn," Xiao Xingchen nods, "There are many dimensions of this world. There is a dimension where Cang Qiong stands, and another of Dafan Mountain."

Shen Jiu's curiosity strikes in, "That's just two of the many dimensions, is it?"

"Mn," Xiao Xingchen nods again, "There are more unknown dimensions of the world."

Shen Jiu's fingers stop at the brush strokes, "Interesting..."

 

***

 

"Why are you kind to me?" Shen Jiu lifts his sword.

"Why do you let me get closer?" Xiao Xingchen lifts his too.

 

The early morning light shines cooly. Birds gossip in the deception of a lovely song.

 

Shen Jiu bites his candy to pieces, "Because I trust you."

 

It will always be warm when you're with someone you trust.

 

***

 

"Shizun."

 

Robes wet, face with sweat, a sword by his hand, and ice frosts dance around the handsome youth.

 

"Well done," Xiao Xingchen pats the boy, "With this progress, you'll be able to master the technique within a few months."

 

Winter, cold, and freezing.

 

Shen Jiu smiles in satisfaction, "All thanks to my great Shizun."

Xiao Xingchen giggles, "A-Jiu is flattering me?"

 

Even the day is unforgivingly cold.

 

The younger boy giggles, "But that's the truth!"

 

In winter, the warmest place is in your trustest most's arms.

 

***

 

"My name is Shen Qingqiu." Shen Qingqiu tries his best to keep his voice steady.

Xiao Xingchen smiles, "Your master gave you a name?"

"... Yes."

 

When spring comes, summer follows, and come autumn, ended with winter.

 

Xiao Xingchen gave the boy a piece of candy, "What do you want me to call you then?"

"My name is Shen Qingqiu." Shen Qingqiu repeats.

"That is your name," Xiao Xingchen warmly smiles, "What do you want me to call you?"

 

Spring welcomes, winter ends. Warm [Qiu Haitang smiles] and cold [Qiu Jianluo laughs].

One, two, three. Count [three years] and count [just a little more].

Spring falls, autumn rises. Shen Qingqiu is born ["To you, I give a name, Shen Qingqiu."].

 

"Shen Jiu," Shen Qingqiu's grip on his sword tightens, "A-Jiu."

 

A person's most trusted one's call is the warmest.

 

***

 

"I have to go back," Xiao Xingchen sighs, "They called me."

Shen Qingqiu twirls his index finger, "When are you going?"

 

Summer, summer, summer.

 

"In three days," Xiao Xingchen pats the boy, "Let's play?"

 

Warm, hot, burning.

 

"No, we're partying crazy," Shen Qingqiu pulls Xiao Xingchen's hand, "We don't have much time, let's go."

 

It's [still] warm.

 

***

 

"A necklace?" Shen Qingqiu touches the blue ice frost, "I have to say, it looks artistic, though I prefer a ring."

Xiao Xingchen smiles, "You don't want this?"

"Want!" Shen Qingqiu pouts, "It's from you..."

 

The blue ice frost. As small as a marble, as blue as the winter sky, so crystal clear. A black thin leather cord as its perfect touches, so thin and strong and flexible. Simple yet beautiful.

Shen Qingqiu loves it.

 

Shen Qingqiu touches his necklace in adoration, "Will you... come back?"

Xiao Xingchen softly sighs, "I'm not sure, there is a big possibility that I won't. It takes too much spiritual energy, I can't afford it."

 

Shen Qingqiu stays silent.

 

"A-Jiu," Xiao Xingchen kneels before Shen Qingqiu [for the boy is still much shorter than he is], "Promise me to continue living to become the peak lord of Qing Jing, the responsibility of Shen Qingqiu. Promise me to use your powers for the goodness."

 

Silent and silent.

 

"I promise," Shen Qingqiu finally nods after a long pause, "I'll make you so proud that you'll talk about me to your friends for hours!"

Xiao Xingchen laughs, "That's the spirit."

 

Summer, hot and scorching.

 

"Goodbye, A-Jiu, Shen Qingqiu." Xiao Xingchen gives Shen Qingqiu [his last] candy.

Shen Qingqiu eats his [favorite] candy, "Goodbye, Shizun, Xiao Xingchen."

 

Summer is warm and scorching. Yet it's cold.

 

***

 

"What's his name?" Liu Qingge questions.

"Xiao Xingchen," Shen Qingqiu sips his tea, "He was a master cultivator, his sword, Shuanghua, Frost Splendour, is the most beautiful."

Liu Qingge frowns, "I've never heard of him."

"Mn. He stays away from publicity," Shen Qingqiu's finger twirls, "He's blind."

"Then it's near impossible." for a blind man to cultivate, rocks and pebbles will never leave the person's succeeding path, everyone knows that.

"He wasn't, then he was," Shen Qingqiu put his scrolls down, "He's gone somewhere else now, devoted himself to the betterment of the world,"

Shen Qingqiu opens his fan, "A truly noble man."

 

The evening sun gleams warmly. Shen Qingqiu's ice frost necklace shines like a crystal.

[It's cold.]

Chapter Text

[13 - Qiong Ding isn't a festival, demons, go away!]

"Shizun..!" a not-so-loud voice interrupts Shen Qingqiu and Liu Qingge's tea time.

Nodding, Shen Qingqiu shuts his fan open, "Ming Fan, why the hurry?"

 

Ming Fan, Qing Jing's head disciple. The most well-known polite and responsible disciple of Qing Jing. His looks may not be Heavenly, but his value? Shen Qingqiu would proudly bid a thousand spirit stones on the boy for any competition.

Not only that he is favorable and has a leader's firm tone of voice, but his cultivation and four arts skills and knowledge are the top among the Jing Qing disciples.

 

"Greetings Shizun, Liu-shishu, Ming Fan reporting, there is a demon invasion happening in Qiong Ding. The sect master is currently away for sect matters and the Rainbow Bridge had been destroyed by the demons." Ming Fan professionally reports, "There is no death in our side, only a few injured disciples, but that had already been taken care of."

 

Shen Qingqiu nods, proud of the boy's mannerism and leadership, truly a Qing Jing disciple. Unlike a certain brat who only knows how to collect hundreds of bed warmers.

 

"Call your shixiong, bring as many demon trapping talismans as you can, and fly to Qiong Ding in secrecy," Shen Qingqiu stands from his seat, leaving his bamboo hut with the utmost elegance, "When the signal comes, proceed to trap the demons."

"Yes, Shizun!" Ming Fan bows before flying to the sky.

Unsheathing his sword, Liu Qingge looks at Shen Qingqiu judgingly, "Dirty tricks."

Shen Qingqiu snickers, tired of the man's critics, "If Liu-shidi wants to fight demons then go ahead, but this shixiong is not risking more casualties on our side."

 

And with that, he flies to the vast sky, leaving his shidi behind a few li away.

 

***

 

"What a sight," Shen Qingqiu lands with his utmost grace, "This is Qiong Ding, not a Zhong Qiu Jie Festival."

 

If Shen Qingqiu had always been cold, then this time, he is beyond frost. Adding his aloof image, it's as if small ice frosts are falling on him as the soft wind blows his inky hair.

 

The disciples let out a dreamy exhale, 'Shizun, do you need another rabbit? Let this disciple be one...'

 

It has been well known that the aloof Qing Jing peak lord has and is warm to his dear white rabbits, and only to his white rabbits. If Shen Qingqiu is beyond ruthless to his disciples, then the same person is beyond affectionate to the white rabbits.

 

'How lucky,' the youngsters thought, 'This disciple would be more than willing to be turned into a rabbit. Shizun would pat me by then!'

Not knowing of his disciples' dreamy thoughts, Shen Qingqiu snaps his fan open, "Demon, leave before you regret."

 

The demons laugh at him. After all, what can a scholar do to demons? Especially when it is only one against many.

 

"This must be the esteemed peak lord of Qing Jing, Shen Qingqiu," a demoness walks her way to the center, "Greetings, this one is Sha Hualing."

"Mn," Shen Qingqiu nods as small blue particles float around his twirling fingers, "So you have chosen death."

 

SLING!

 

Sharp, blue, icy bamboo leaves fly to the demons as it cuts them from ear to ear, causing so much pain that they could do nothing but kneel or screech like a madman.

Suddenly, a transparent blue barrier surrounds the large pack of demons, trapping them inside like fish in a net.

 

"Retreat!" Sha Hualing burns in fury and shame.

 

Hearing the word from their leader, the demons launch themselves against the barrier. Some managed to break a small opening and escaped, including Sha Hualing, while most are unfortunate.

 

"Shizun!" Ning Yingying calls from the crowd as she draws a seal on a talisman using her qi as ink.

 

Shen Qingqiu nods and an instant, the broken barrier is covered by a lower level barrier by the Qing Jing disciples present.

Shen Qingqiu smiles behind his fan, proud of his disciples' quick response. Any normal disciple [literraly every other disciple beside Qing Jing's and a certain half-demon brat] would take out their swords and chase the fleeing demons. But as the Qing Jing peak's disciples, the peak of tactics and four arts, his disciples are taught to be bright, especially in unexpected situations such as this.

 

"Shizun," Ming Fan, followed by other QingQing Jing disciples, jogs to Shen Qingqiu, "Ming Fan reporting, around thirty lower ranking demons, eighty higher ranking demons, and their leader managed to escape back to the demon realm. And about two hundred demons are captured inside the barrier."

"Mn," Shen Qingqiu nods and averts his eyes to the sky, "Liu-shidi doesn't mind taking care of them, does he?"

 

Liu Qingge, who had finally managed to follow the older man's fast pace, steps down from Cheng Luan and nods in response.

 

'Still not much of a talker, mn?' Shen Qingqiu averts his gaze to Ming Fan, "Ming Fan, inform the disciples to not say a word concerning this master and Liu-shishu's previous fight, anyone who dares to speak a word will be heavily punished, even if they are female disciples."

 

Who doesn't know that Shen Qingqiu has always doted on his female disciples even if they are naughty to the core? Only a blind and oblivious child would. But now that the same man had said that no exception occurs to the case, no one dares to defy him. If even the females would be punished, then the male would be heavily punished if dare to oppose!

 

"Yes, Shizun." Ming Fan composes his image before bowing and jogs to his martial brothers and sisters.

Shen Qingqiu was about to unsheathe Xiu Ya when Liu Qingge stops him, "Why not."

Adapted to the man's lack of words, Shen Qingqiu could only complain, "Liu-shidi must work on his communication skills, this master hardly understands what Liu-shidi is referring to."

"Our fight, secret."

 

Shen Qingqiu massages his temple. Even Ming wasn't so bad at communicating when he was learning through music!

 

"Rumors are troublesome," Shen Qingqiu shoots Liu Qingge a meaningful look, "They tend to be overly exaggerated and misleading."

 


-----
"Lecher," the dull boy looks at the disciple in blue in disgust as he unsheathes his sword, "Cultivators don't seek pleasure!"
-----

 

"..." Liu Qingge may be dull, but time has covered it and the world told him stories that he slowly understands, "I'm sorr-"

"No, you aren't," and with that, Shen Qingqiu leaves the man as he files in the soaring sky alone, as always.

Chapter Text

[14 - His loyalty-intro]

Months after the Ling Xi Cave incident, Shen Qingqiu's sudden illness, Luo Binghe's ongoing mission with the Bai Zhan disciples, Shen Qingqiu and Liu Qingge's fight, and the demon invasion, everything went back to how it was.

 

'How odd,' Shen Qingqiu tugs his fan inside his belt, 'The demon invasion happened only just recently.'

 

In Shen Qingqiu's previous life, when he came out from the cave full of blood and alone, when a life is killed by his own hands [again], demons attacked Qiong Ding. But now, they came approximately a month later.

 

'It can't be the beast's doing,' Shen Qingqiu's mind starts to run in speculations, 'That child is still too weak to be recognized in the demon realm. Could someone have interfered...?'

 

"Shizun," Ming Fan knocks Shen Qingqiu's bamboo hut, bringing the man back to reality, "Shizun called this disciple...?"

Nodding, Shen Qingqiu snaps his fan open, "Enter."

 

The door slides open to reveal a bright youth.

Smiling, Ming Fan greets his Shizun. No matter what, the boy can never conceal his happiness when he meets his Shizun.

The soft evening wind brushes against Shen Qingqiu's fine features. White rabbits hop here and there inside and outside the bamboo hut, accompanying the man in this world of immorality.

 

"Ming Fan," Shen Qingqiu begins after sipping his tea, another new tea that Ming Fan's servant, Di Er, sent him, "You don't go back to meet your family?"

 

It has been a tradition to the peaks to let their disciples go back to their household once in a while.

 

Ming Fan flinches before he quickly composes his image, "This... this disciple..."

Eyeing the boy, Shen Qingqiu could only sigh, "Ming Fan, no matter what, they are your flesh and blood, have a cup of tea with them is more than enough, if you insist."

At that, Ming Fan's knuckles slowly pale, "That... Shizun knows very well why this disciple..."

 

Days in this cool mountain pass with the blowing wind, yesterday is nearly forgotten, but the years of the past are crafted in the young boy's heart.

Ming Fan is a noble child, he has wealth, power, cultivation, and a good name. But when has gold ever been good?

The master and disciple drink their tea in silence.

The past is always either lovely or tragic. Yet why must the shining days be short in this heartless world?

 


-----
"My loyalty," the young master bows to the immortal, not caring of the ice that slowly pierces his body, "Is to you only, Daozhang."
"And your heart?" autumn, autumn, autumn, how warm [cold].
"This one's heart...!" the child shivered as other bits of ice cut his skin, "This one's affection is to him!"
-----

 

Chapter Text

[15 - His loyalty-interlude]

Summer, even the night is as scorching as to how it has always been.

 

"Gongzi, please...!" a young man in his twenties looks at the young boy in a worried expression, "It is so late already, not a Shi Chen later, the sun will rise...!"

 

Black ink, scrolls, and light manuals are scattered throughout the red carpet. In the middle of the mess, a boy pops his head upwards before focussing back on his calligraphy.

 

"Gongzi...!" the servant falls to his knees, "Gongzi, Gongzi may be not worried if Gongzi were to fall sick, but this servant will receive beatings if anything happens to Gonzi...!"

Lifting his black brush, Ming Fan snickers at his poor servant's misfortune, "Are you not my servant? Servants are to follow their master's shadows, not ask for gold and chicken sticks."

"Gongzi..." the servant lowers his head in shame, "Gongzi, please..."

 

Seeing the poor servant trembling like a poor lamb, Ming Fan couldn't refuse any longer. So with a hand full of scrolls, and another of his black brush, Ming Fan stands.

A noble child has always wanted sweets and games, but Ming Fan yearns for education and cultivation. At his current age, seven, he had already mastered the basics of every subject.

"Preparing myself before entering a sect." was what the boy said when the servant asked one day.

 

Tugging the seven-year-old young master under a soft blanket, the servant lets out a relieved sigh.

Other young masters would be sleeping at this late of time, while the naughty ones would sneak out and go about to who knows where doing who knows what. But look at his master, Ming Fan! Not only does he stays so late at night only to improve his calligraphy, but he also wakes up early to practice basic exercises to strengthen his stamina.

If the childhood life of Bai Zhan peak lord is full of fights and sword practice, then this master of his is full of scrolls and ink!

 

"Di Er [第二]," Ming Fan's eyes slowly dims, "Am I not good enough?"

 


-----
"Look! It's the useless fish!" Ming Lei [明雷] points at Ming Fan, "Only knows how to stick his nose to scrolls and ink. With ordinary cultivation, what can he do?"
"Da-ge, don't say that, who knows, he might run and cry to his servant," Ming Yu [明宇] tugs at Ming Lei's robes softly, "If word were to get out, wouldn't that embarrass our Ming family?"
"Hmph!" Ming Lei stomp his feet to the ground, "Annoying prick!"
"Eh, Da-ge, what if..." a soft smile paints Ming Yu's foxy face, "What if we teach him a little lesson? If he doesn't know his mistakes, we are the ones that will be mocked..."
Smiling, Ming Lei eyes Ming Fan with maliciousness, "Sounds good..."
-----

 

Clenching his fist, Ming Fan forces his eyes to shut as another bubble of anger boils in him.

When was gold ever good?

A child of a noble family, with merciless brothers, and a mother and father who doesn't even remember his name. What a curse.

 

"Gongzi, don't listen to them," Di Er sits on the silky bed, "They can only talk and brag, this servant bet that they can't even recite Chang Ge Xing!"

 

A boy with a kind servant by his side. A blessing it is.

 

"Di Er," slightly smiling, Ming Fan throws his pillow at the servant, his mood lightens, "Careful of your mouth...!"

 

Summer has always been hot and scorching, just like a mortal's wavering heart.

 

***

 

"Gongzi! Gongzi!" Di Er runs to the young boy, "Gongzi! This servant has good news!"

 

At the end of summer, autumn welcomes. The great sun softens and the leaves start to fall.

 

Putting his brush down, Ming Fan looks at his servant, "What is it?"

"The Ming children are invited into a poetry composing competition, Gongzi too!" Di Er hops like a playful rabbit, "The winner is given taels and many gifts!"

Like a lazy cat, Ming Fan stretches his seven-year-old body as he smiles radiantly, "Tell me more about it!"

 

Summer has passed, autumn greets.

 

***

 

Small colorful paper strips fall from the sky, a boy holds his scroll with pride. Ming Fan won the poetry composing contest.

Gold and praises, envy and critiques. When was gold ever good?

 

***

 

"Trash!" Ming Lei kicks the youngest brother down to the river, his face redden in fury, "You should know your place! I am the oldest, the best! How dare you!"

 

Autumn, autumn, autumn, the river has gone cold.

Ming Fan swims to the shore only to be drunken his head back into the water.

 

"Gongzi-" Di Er falls to his knees as another slap lands on his face.

"A servant shall not meddle himself to a master's affairs...!" Ming Yu pulls the servant's hair and kicks his stomach.

 

When was gold ever good?

 

Di Er coughs crimson blood. He wobbles and crawls on the filthy ground before standing mighty and proud, "Gon... Gongzi... run...!"

 

And with that, he lunges himself to the two little Ming brothers only to be kicked even harder by the eldest Ming.

 

"Di Er!" Ming Fan tries to lift his heavy, wet body to the bleeding servant, "Di Er...!"

"How affectionate!" Ming Yu giggles, "Since you really look like lovebirds, then why not just die together-"

 

sringg!!!

 

Large ice frosts draw the ground, freezing it as if it were ice cubes.

 

"Wh- what?!" Ming Yu was taken aback, "Who dares interrupt us, the Ming family?!"

 

Autumn is warm, yet it's freezing.

 

"Know your place." his inky hair dance with the night autumn wind, and his piercing green eyes are nothing but alluring. The man's delicate, jade, fingers twirl as the river water floats to the air, and his robes sway so elegantly in the nighttime of fall, "Mortal brats."

 

Autumn, autumn, autumn, so warm [cold].

Ming Fan shudders.

Chapter Text

[16 - His loyalty-outro]

The ground shook as water dances in the autumn night sky, forming countless icy bamboo leaves flying to the depth of the deep river.

 

"Mortals," the man continues to twirl his fingers as if casting multiple spells, and a beautiful, blue sword cuts the river into two, "Run if you wish to live."

 

SCREEEEECH!!!!

 

A giant black-scaled serpent twirls its bloodied body from the river.

 

"Tch," Shen Qingqiu clicks his tongue, and in an instant, countless ice chains shackle the serpent, "Leave, you fools!"

Coming back to his senses, Ming Fan hurriedly drags his frigid body to Di Er, "Di Er! Let's go!"

"Gongzi!" being in a life or death situation, the bloodied servant instantly runs with the child.

"We have to go! It's a mutated demonic serpent!" said the bookworm, "Normal demonic serpent does not grow that big, this one has mutated!"

"Mutate-?!"

 

SLING!!!

 

The refined blue sword cuts the mutated demonic serpent's flesh from head to tail, causing a heavy rain of crimson blood to fall from the mighty skies.

 

"It has devoured too much dark energy that it lost control of its consciousness," Ming Fan looks at the floating man in green, "What's so dangerous of it is that it no longer has stimulus to pain or fear, its goal is only to feed on flesh and blood!"

"Gongzi!" Di Er sheds an ugly tear, "Stop talking! Focus on running!"

 

SCREEEEECH!!!!

 

The bloodied serpent lunges to Shen Qingqiu, not caring of its torn flesh and scales.

On this warm autumn night, it is strangely piercing.

Snow frosts fall from the sky, the ground shook, and the river water dances so magnificently. A blue sword swings along with the black serpent, creating a gorgeous view in the pitch gloom of Autumn.

Ming Fan inhales a long breath.

 

"Gongzi! The brothers!" Di Er who had just remembered the two Ming children panicked, "We left them! This servant has to go back!"

"No need!" Ming Fan pulls Di Er's hand as he forces the servant back on running with him, "I've teleported them back to the manor!"

"Teleported? Then why are we still running?!"

Face red, Ming Fan shouts, "I've... I've run out of talismans...!"

"..."

"..."

"... Gongzi...!" Di Er sheds an ugly tear.

 

Ming Fan doesn't know whether to pity or laugh at his servant's helplessness.

 

SCREEEECH!!!

 

Countless ice chains pierce through the serpent's head and heart as blue spells are drawn around it, trapping it inside a barrier. After a few talismans are drawn, the serpent shrinks in size, and eventually, it becomes as small as a human man's leg.

As the immortal slowly descends from the sky, the river water turns to rain, and the rain turns to a beautiful snowfall on the Autumn night.

Suddenly, Di Er falls to the icy ground, and the ice frosts covering the earth evaporates into the air.

 

"Di Er...!" Ming Fan runs to the servant only to fall like the man.

 

Eyes heavy, body full of bruises and blood, Ming Fan tries to comprehend the situation. But his mind is clouded and his body aches, Ming Fan couldn't move.

As the freezing night slowly warms back, steady footsteps could be heard, and eventually, it stops in front of the seven-year-old boy.

 

"Brat," green-blue robes paints Ming Fan's unfocused vision, "You have a good potential. Do you seek immortality?"

Black, green, and red. Ming Fan lifts his head, "Yes...!"

"This master will bring you to the path of immortality. Power, name, home, and education, this master will grant. Qing Jing provides while Cang Qiong protects," the immortal's voice is so clear in this autumn night, "But what will you give in return?"

"This one..." Ming Fan bows his head and body low, not caring of the remnants of ice shards that cut his already bloodied body, "This one will give Daozhang his loyalty!"

"And your heart?" autumn, autumn, autumn, how warm [cold].

"This...!" Ming Fan averts his eyes to Di Er, making sure that the man is not conscious, "This one's affection is to him!"

"..." somehow, the cold increases, "Not affection, but heart. As in heart of loyalty of life and death."

"..." Ming Fan burns in red.

"Forget it, go back and treat your wound. Prepare to leave within three days," the immortal walk away from the boy before stopping midway, "This master had once tried your servant's tea, there is a small house on the top of the mountain, your servant can use the land for tea harvest and send it to the sect. After all, just your loyalty is not enough to pay this master."

Ming Fan lost his breathing for a while before beaming rays of joy, "Thank you so much Daozhang! This one-"

"Noisy," the immortal clicks his tongue, "Leave already."

"Y- yes!" Ming Fan hurriedly lifts his servant's body and runs back to his manor like a little duckling.

 

The autumn night, painted in snow frost and blood.

So cold [warm].

Chapter Text

[17 - Drama play? Wait let me call my shizun.]

"Shizun," Ming Fan finally breaks the silence, "Di Er has sent Qing Jing another batch of tea leaves."

Shen Qingqiu nods, "Mn."

"Shizun," Ming Fan twirls his fingers on the porcelain cup, "Disciple Luo and the Bai Zhan disciples will arrive at Cang Qiong approximately next month."

Shen Qingqiu slightly smiles, glad that no peasant will disturb his tranquility in the meantime, "Mn."

"Shizun," Ming Fan holds his breath, his shoulders tense as he speaks slowly, "This disciple... would like to learn the secret techniques."

Lifting his gaze, Shen Qingqiu eyes his head disciple, "Techniques?"

"The Lan clan techniques."

 

Instantly, the air tenses and the atmosphere thickens. Snowflakes dance along with Shen Qingiu's twirling fingers as his ice frost necklace shines in blue.

 

"Ming Fan," Shen Qingqiu puts his cup down, "Do you realize what you are asking?"

Ming Fan nods in certainty, "This disciple knows, begging Shizun to punish this disciple."

Shen Qingqiu softly sighs, "Every Qing Jing head disciple, seniors, and master knows this, only that we keep it shut as it is the secret, forbidden technique of the long lost Lan clan."

 

Rabbits hop here and there, softening the tense atmosphere inside the bamboo hut.

 

"The founder of Qing Jing once saved a Lan clan master who was on the journey from one dimension to another," Shen Qingqiu speaks, his voice smooth and firm, just like a scholar he is, "Through good and bad, they became sworn brothers."

"To exchange pointers [which is the crucial information of each other's sect secret techniques], the founder of Qing Jing thought the Lan clan master our forbidden incantations."

'That are not forbidden at all, just that the cultivation world fears of its power and decided to name it forbidden.' Shen Qingqiu lets out an angry sigh inside his heart as he quietly curses the weak cultivation world.

"On the other side, the Lan clan master thought Qing Jing theirs," Shen Qingqiu fans himself idly, "Chord Assassination Technique, Evocation, Inquiry, Rest, Song of Clarity, Sound of Vanquish, and the silencing spell."

"These techniques are only thought to the future Qing Jing peak master and some seniors that the master believe are competent enough. Whereas you," Shen Qingqiu averts his piercing green eyes to Ming Fan, "You."

 

The great sun warms the doomed world with light, and the evil lurks in the dark corners.

When the uncountable bamboo leaves fall, forgotten and disregarded, Shen Qingqiu watched his disciples walk through the stairs of Qing Jing, ready to leave the mountain for missions and the unknown. With a fan to hide his thin smile, and a pair of piercing green eyes to deceive, he had once again secretly bid goodbyes to the lively children.

 

"You are both." Shen Qingqiu had once gifted Ming Fan a blessing of misfortunes [be strong, don't die again, I beg you].

 

Ming Fan jolts his head up in shock only to be more bewildered with a smiling Shen Qingqiu.

 

"Ming Fan, this master will teach you of the Lan clan techniques, but only you and this master will know of this," Shen Qingqiu's drama king brain starts to draw juicy scenarios after another, "When the time comes, show the world just how weak [that beast and the so-called great cultivators] they are."

 

Ming Fan has been living with Shen Qingqiu for years, and the boy is quick at reading people's intentions, so with just a few sentences, Ming Fan knows very well what his mischievous master is formulating.

 

Fanning himself, Shen Qingqiu said, "We will start in three days, get yourself prepared."

And with a brave smile, the boy pours his master tea, "Yes, Shizun."

 

***

 

"Shizun," Luo Binghe peeks from the bamboo hut's window, "This disciple has come back."

 

The cool mountain wind blows the green bamboo leaves. White rabbits decorate the calming scenery of Qing Jing under the scorching summer.

 

Shen Qingqiu lets out a long, tired exhale, 'Heavens, what curse have you brought upon this lowly one?'

"Shizun, don't make that expression," Luo Binghe's handsome features slightly wrinkles, "Not. to. me."

"Brat," Shen Qingqiu idly fans himself as he averts his lazy gaze to the boy, "If you hold affection towards this master, then don't give this master trouble after another."

 

Shen Qingqiu was Shen Jiu who could read a person's pure intentions by just looking at their eyes. Now, looking at the boy's eyes after many years, Shen Qingqiu feels like vomiting rainbow fluid.

 

Luo Binghe frowns for a moment before a playful smile paints his fine look, "Shizun, you are so cold that this disciple could become an iceberg."

Shen Qingqiu tries hard to not roll his eyes, "Report your mission to Ming Fan, scram."

"Shizun..." Luo Binghe's demonic mark glows in red, "Have you not learned your lesson?"

 

The scorching day is as hot as a child's hateful heart.

 

"This master has," Shen Qingqiu smiles thinly, "Shang-shidi gifted this master an old scroll about an artifact, truly educating, disciple Luo can find it in the peak's library if he is interested."

"..." Luo Binghe doesn't know whether to laugh in humor or rage. Never once in his two lifetimes did he imagine a Shen Qingqiu with playfulness. A kind Shen Qingqiu? He can manage. But a sharp-tongued humorous Shen Qingqiu? Luo Binghe holds himself from mincing the man to pork soup.

 

Shen Qingqiu gives Luo Binghe a questioning look, "Well?"

'Well, I really want to chain you up!' thankfully, Luo Binghe smartly shuts his mouth before leaving to who-knows-where doing who-knows-what.

 

***

 

"Qingqiu-shidi," Yue Qingyuan beams rays of golden light, "How have Qingqiu-shidi been?"

Shen Qingqiu snaps his fan open, 'Too bright!'

"This shidi is well, thank you for Yue-shixiong's care," Shen Qingqiu walks alongside Yue Qingyuan, "What brings Yue-shixiong to-"

"Qingqiu-shidi!" another familiar voice rings not far from the two's backs.

"...?" Shen Qingqiu looks in horror as another Yue Qingyuan jogs to the two.

Shen Qingqiu pales as he eyes the Yue Qingyuan beside him and the Yue Qingyuan in front of him, "What in the world is going on-"

"Qingqiu-shidi!"

 

Shen Qingqiu jolts his head to the sky, Liu Qingge, Shang Qinghua, and another Yue Qingyuan fly to him.

 

'Heavens, have this lowly one anger you?' Shen Qingqiu could feel his head feeling faint.

"Shen-shixiong! Get away from him!" Shang Qinghua throws needles at the Yue Qingyuan beside Shen Qingqiu.

"Tch." Yue Qingyuan 1 clicks his tongue and in an instant, his heart-warming smile falters.

 

With a strong flick of his sleeve, the needles spread away from him. Yue Qingyuan 1 suddenly grabs Shen Qingqiu's wrist and pulls him to his embrace.

 

"Qingqiu-shidi!" the Yue Qingyuan who was behind Shen Qingqiu, Yue Qingyuan 2, steps into the messy scene, "Don't hurt Xiao Jiu!"

 

Unable to process this information, Shen Qingqiu is taken aback. His stepping missed and he clutched to Yue Qingyuan 1's robes for support, creating a cliche fallen maiden into her man's embrace image.

Yue Qingyuan 1 suddenly became stiff, and somehow Shen Qingqiu smells more trouble.

 

In the blink of an eye, Yue Qingyuan 1 lifts Shen Qingqiu like a sack of potatoes, and it's as if three Yue Qingyuan isn't big trouble to Shen Qingqiu, Yue Qingyuan 1 said, "Forget the marriage ceremony, I'm fucking you hard."

"No!" Yue Qingyuan 2 pulls Shen Qingqiu from Yue Qingyuan 1, "Xiao Jiu is pure! Don't taint him!"

 

Shen Qingqiu's head feels faint, and he has the will to die again, but before any poetic insult could come out of his rosy lips, Yue Qingyuan 1 gently smacked Shen Qingqiu to unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

[18 - Three Yue Qingyuan]

The first time Shen Qingqiu woke up, he was dressed in red wedding robes with a red wedding robbed Yue Qingyuan who was lying on the bed, beside him.

Beside. the. sleeping. now-awaked. Shen. Qingqiu.

 

"Xiao Jiu." said the older man as his hand reaches to cup Shen Qingqiu's face.

 

Thankfully [or not thankfully], Shen Qingqiu had mastered the art of fainting on command, thus faint he did. Not knowing or hearing what happened after black paints his vision.

 

The second time he woke up, he was bridal carried by Yue Qingyuan who was rattling about his health conditions... while flying on Xuan Xu.
Shen Qingqiu could feel his qi flaring like wildfire.

 

"Qingqiu-shidi, please be careful!" Yue Qingyuan tries to calm the younger.

'Me? Careful?' Shen Qingqiu rubs his temples, 'The one carrying is you! The one flying is you!'

 

BAMMM!

 

"How dare you!!!" a familiar voice shouts behind them, a red wedding robed Yue Qingyuan, who Shen Qingqiu named Yue Qingyuan 1, clutches Xuan Xu, "Give Xiao Jiu back!!!"

Yue Qingyuan 2 speeds up, "Over my dead body!"

 

As Yue Qingyuan 2 flies with Shen Qingqiu in his arms, Yue Qingyuan 1 throws blows of qi to Yue Qingyuan 2 who was able to avoid them with ease.

Seeing the scene before him, Shen Qingqiu decided to perform the art of fainting once more to run from trouble. Who knows, maybe he would wake up in Qian Cao peak with a tang of bitter medicine in the air [, hopefully]. So, faint he did.

 

The third time Shen Qingqiu wakes up, he is greeted with a concerned Shang Qinghua.

 

"Shen-shixiong," Shang Qinghua gives Shen Qingqiu a cup of water, "Good news or bad news first?"

 

Shen Qingqiu didn't know how it began, it even had started from the previous lifetime. When Shen Qingqiu and Shang Qinghua met, it was out of their masters' will. But as they began to go to missions together, they had somehow formed a bond.

Friends.

When Shang Qinghua met Shen Qingqiu in the red pavilion, they ended the night with contempt smiles and juicy information that the girls happily told them as the two cultivators drink their tea.

The time when Liu Qingge had accused Shen Qingqiu of trying to kill him on a mission, Shang Qinghua kept silent. But the two's bond is thick already, so with his sly concept of thinking, he was able to secretly create troubles for Liu Qingge a few days after the said mission.
The next time they met, Shen Qingqiu gifted Shang Qinghua a tray of tanghulu with a thin smile.

Shang Qinghua has always been clever and resourceful, while Shen Qingqiu is sly and tactful. With many hobbies, likes, and minds in the same boat, what bond couldn't thicken?

 

Shen Qingqiu stands from the bed, "Good."

 

Shang Qinghua nods.

 

After two cups of tea, Shen Qingqiu learned that Yue Qingyuan had found an artifact. Stupid Yue Qingyuan and his stupid brain did their role remarkably well.

Not only did he does not ask for help from other peaks about its origin or power, but he had also tried the artifact by himself.

The unknown artifact, after being checked by other peak masters, is a dark and light soul splitter artifact.

When one activates the artifact, his soul will be split into two, bad and good, and then forms a body. However, the original person who activated it will not receive any drawbacks or benefits.

This artifact is simply a tool in the past that is used to know a person's bad and good side.

In this case, Yue Qingyuan is the said activator who did not intend to activate the artifact but activated it anyway.

Just one Yue Qingyuan is enough to make Shen Qingqiu have headaches and roll on his bed at night. Now, given a good, evil, and normal Yue Qingyuan? Shen Qingqiu feels like he needs to ask Mu Qingfang for painkillers.

And did the evil Yue Qingyuan just asked [forced] him for marriage?

 

'I was deaf, I was blind.' Shen Qingqiu wraps himself inside a lie.

"Shen-shixiong, it's best if we hurry to Qiong Ding," Shang Qinghua helps Shen Qingqiu get ready, "The evil Yue-shixiong is... making a mess."

"Mn," Shen Qingqiu sighs and unsheathes Xiu Ya, "Let's go."

 

***

 

"No!" the good Yue Qingyuan pulls Shen Qingqiu into his embrace for the nth time as he pats the younger as if coaxing, "You're hurting him!"

"Unlike you, I know what's best for Xiao Jiu," the evil Yue Qingyuan pulls Shen Qingqiu into his embrace and points Xuan Xu at the good Yue Qingyuan, "So don't even try taking him away from me."

 

Shen Qingqiu wants to faint again. Even after giving the two deadly glares, poetic insults, and physical push, the two Yue Qingyuan wouldn't back away. They even become more eager at getting him!

When Shen Qingqiu and Shang Qinghua arrived in Qiong Ding, the hall used for their private meeting is destroyed and they were given an awkward sight of eleven peak lords [the normal and good Yue Qingyuan are included] circling the evil Yue Qingyuan who was giving them dark glares, something that has never been given by the [normal] man in his whole life [or at least not in public].

 

"Enough," Shen Qingqiu rubs his forehead and lets out a soft exhale, "Your fruitless bickering is sending this shidi to death's door."

 

Instantly, the two Yue Qingyuan stop their bickering. No one moved, a good thing, but Shen Qingqiu somehow smells more and more trouble...

 

Suddenly, the good Yue Qingyuan takes out a small jade bottle from his storage ring, "Qingqiu-shidi, this is a refined elixir, it could cure muscle tension, meridian damage, and many more in just a moment after drinking it."

 

See! Shen Qingqiu just knows when trouble comes, it's always him who knows [gets or is the source of the trouble]!

 

As Shen Qingqiu was about to speak poetic refusal with slight insult, the good Yue Qingyuan reaches his hand and pushes the jade bottle to him, "Qingqiu-shidi doesn't have to worry about its quality. It's refined for one hundred and seventy days by the finest alchemist in the peak not far from Cang Qiong. It had been tested by three high cultivators. If Qingqiu-shidi is still not convinced, this shixiong will drink it first to show shidi-"

"Useless," the evil Yue Qingyuan puts his hand on Shen Qingqiu's shoulder, and with just a slight pull, Shen Qingqiu is taken steps away from the good Yue Qingyuan, "Mu Qingfang, heal Xiao Jiu if you still want to live."

"Zhanmeng-shixiong...!" Shen Qingqiu pales at the threat, when had Yue Qingyuan learned how to threaten others so blatantly? Shen Qingqiu gathers his composure before stepping away from the two Yue Qingyuan, "You are going overboard."

"Overboard?" the dark Yue Qingyuan darkens, "Xiao Jiu, what's overboard is how Liu Qingge kept bothering you. Let's not forget how Qi Qingqi used to treat you, even Mu Qingfang too. Xiao Jiu didn't push them, yet you push your Qi-ge?"

 

The atmosphere thickens more.

 

Of course, Shen Qingqiu hadn't forgotten. How could he [they change so easily and think that he would accept their 'kindness']?

In his past life, Liu Qingge had spread rumors without evidence. The young master loathed him for his weakness [which Shen Jiu hated too]. Liu Qingge hated him but kept on asking the older for a fight, yet said that the older cheated when Shen Qingqiu won.

Mu Qingfang had treated him and his disciples, but the bias of hatred towards the older is seen clearly from how the healer would sometimes delay sending medicines to the peak. Let's not forget after Liu Qingge's death, when the Qian Cao peak cut its ties with the Qing Jing peak completely, sending troubles after another to the already broken Shen Qingqiu.

Xian Shu peak labels Shen Qingqiu as a taboo, banning him from communicating with any of Xian Shu's disciples and from walking a step at the peak.

Other peak watches and adds more fuel to the raging fire. And the raging fire eventually burns the peaks down to ashes ["Shizun." Luo Binghe smiles].

Yet when Shen Qingqiu came back through time, when he had shown the world his weakness and power, only then do they stroke his hair as if it were gold leather.

 

Shen Qingqiu's heart bubbles in wrath and gloom. Shutting his fan open, Shen Qingqiu walks away, leaving the meeting hall in a thick, awful atmosphere.

Chapter Text

[19 - Never mess with Yue Qingyuan]

"Shen-shixiong," Shang Qinghua peeks from the bamboo hut's window, "It's been three days."

 

Three days ago, Yue Qingyuan found an artifact that split him into three : the good, bad, and normal Yue Qingyuan.

The same day when the evil Yue Qingyuan kidnapped Shen Qingqiu in the middle of the day, dressed him in wedding robes-

 

'I was not awake, I was drunk.' Shen Qingqiu wraps himself inside a lie.

 

"This shidi won't ask shixiong to accept their kind attitude," Shang Qinghua lets himself into the hut, "After all, what they had done to shixiong [us] is unforgivable when compared to their current little apology [guilt and pity]."

 

Shen Qingqiu smiles.

Oh, how long has it been since he had had a conversation with Shang Qinghua? The man was killed in the previous life, with nobody to rely on, Shen Qingqiu shuts himself inside a cacoon he made.

 

"Shixiong should guilt-trip them instead." Shang Qinghua smiles so handsomely under the summer light. It's no wonder Shang Qinghua and Shen Qingqiu are friends.

"Shang-shidi knows this shixiong too well," Shen Qingqiu pours tea for Shang Qinghua, and with a sly look, he said, "We should start from that brainless monkey."

 

In the darkness, there is always light.

 

"Liu Qingge."

 

In a disaster, there will always be a slight chance for a better tomorrow [to create drama].

 

***

 

"Qi-ge," the evil Yue Qingyuan's eyes immediately lit like a burning fire.

'Good.' Shen Qingqiu thought, 'Proceed to the plan.'

The spring evening colors the skies, using the chance, Shen Qingqiu uses his irresistible charms, "Xiao Jiu wants tanghulu."

 

Shen Qingqiu was once a low street child Shen Jiu. He was once Shen Qingqiu who had gone to the lowest of the lowest on the bed ["Shizun," the beast's pleasure smirk paints his cursed face].
Adjusted to being the lowest of the lowest creature he is, manipulating others using himself as the bait is no longer surprising.

 

"Xiao Jiu wants to go with Qi-ge? Or want to wait here?" the evil Yue Qingyuan's hand reaches to Shen Qingqiu's, a habit that Shen Qingqiu had weirdly noted in his memory.

"Here." Shen Qingqiu answer shortly.

"Alright. Then..." the evil Yue Qingyuan takes out a chain from his storage ring and before Shen Qingqiu could grasp why in the world of rebirth the older has a chain that exactly matches his neck measurement, the evil Yue Qingyuan puts his forehead on Shen Qingqiu's and said, "If Xiao Jiu stays, Xiao Jiu must stay, so don't try to run away."

"..."

 

That very same day, the Qing Jing peak is filled with disciples pointing their swords at the evil Yue Qingyuan who is holding a collared Shen Qingqiu.

Let's not forget how Liu Qingge tried to take Shen Qingqiu a meter away from the evil Yue Qingyuan for the nth time. Also, the pale face of the normal Yue Qingyuan when he arrived at the commotion is extremely memorable.

Last but not least, the exceptional scenes of the good Yue Qingyuan who almost, literally, almost takes his heart out from his body.

"At least Xiao Jiu will have my heart when he is kept!" was what the good man reasoned.

Chapter Text

[20 - The damned 'drawback']

The summer daylight paints the mountains with beautiful orange glitters. White rabbits hop round and round, busying themselves on searching and collecting pieces of information, important or not, to their dear master, Shen Qingqiu.

 

"Shen." Liu Qingge enters the bamboo hut without any invitation whatsoever.

"This shixiong doesn't remember allowing shidi to enter." Shen Qingqiu doesn't spare the younger a glance, after all, his and Shang Qinghua's plan [game] of guilt-tripping Liu Qingge is starting.

 

Guilt-tripping Yue Qingyuan won't be fun. The older would do anything for the younger, and it's not like Shen Qingqiu hadn't guilt-tripped the man.

Actually, Shen Qingqiu and Shang Qinghua had planned on guilt-tripping Liu Qingge days earlier by using the evil Yue Qingyuan as a medium. But who would've thought that Yue Qingyuan would chain him up?

How Yue Qingyuan has a chain that matches Shen Qingqiu's neck measurement in his storage ring, how he has that mind, and put it into action, Shen Qingqiu doesn't want to know [well, maybe a little].

Liu Qingge scoffs before throwing Shen Qingqiu a fan, the fan that he had lost during the kidnapping.

 

"Don't lose it, stupid." and with that, the War God of Bai Zhan walks away before flying on Cheng Luan to the soaring skies of Heavens.

"..." Shen Qingqiu doesn't know whether to spit venom or pity the young man for his lack of communication skills.

 

Birds chirp so warmly in the deception of sickening gossips. Disciples busy themself with scrolls, music, and chores. While the white rabbits hop here and there looking innocently to eavesdrop to gather information.

In this Qing Jing peak, what lies on the surface is but a cover to hide the peak's secrets that only the loyal ones know.

Qing Jing peak teaches only those who are skilled at tricks, understanding a situation with ease, and able to use a circumstance for their benefit.

 

Shen Qingqiu looks at the fan, and a sly smirk paints his fine, rosy, lips, "Oh~?"

 

One of the best products of Qing Jing is Shen Qingqiu.

 

Shen Qingqiu scoffs lightly, his ice frost necklace twinkles in blue, and his smile is nothing near warm, "Hypocrite."

 

***

 

"Qingqiu-shidi," the good Yue Qingyuan smiles oh-so-ever-brightly, "Please don't mind the other me, he is just a little stubborn."

The evil Yue Qingyuan chuckles, "I remember Xiao Jiu complaining about a certain sticky dog that keeps pestering on him like glue, I wonder who."

 

Summer is near to end, Autumn would soon follow.

 

Shen Qingqiu rubs his temples, 'Yeah, right, I wonder who. And correction, two sticky, large, dogs. One whines all day long, asking for just a glance or a word from me while the other bites, as if marking me his.'

 

It's been weeks since Yue Qingyuan split into three, and it was just days ago when Shang Qinghua, with his [dark and shady] knowledge and connections, finally found the remedy. But instead of telling the problem solver, the young man said that it's best to know it on the D-day.

 

"This shidi is worried of the dark Yue-shixiong," said Shang Qinghua in the peak lord's previous meeting, "The dark Yue-shixiong... well, he is... unpredictable [problematic]."

 

Thus, here he is, days after the meeting, walking to Qing Ding while getting stuck between evil and good. Shen Qingqiu thanks the Heavens for letting the normal Yue Qingyuan confined in his peak, to fulfill his sect duties was what the younger [Shang Qinghua and Shen Qingqiu] reasoned.

 

"Qingqiu-shidi, Autumn is near, Qingqiu-shidi should take care of himself more," the good Yue Qingyuan peels his outer robe off and proceeds to wrap the younger in black without permission what-so-ever, "This shixiong is worried of Qingqiu-shidi."

"Useless," the evil Yue Qingyuan scoffs and averts his gaze to the younger, "Is Xiao Jiu cold?"

"..." no, Shen Qingqiu rather not answer. Who knows if the older would burn the rainbow bridge just to warm him?

"... I'll take that as a yes." and before Shen Qingqiu could mutter any empty, Heavenly, prayer, the evil Yue Qingyuan focuses his qi on the rainbow bridge just behind them, and burn it does. The evil Yue Qingyuan then looks at Shen Qingqiu with doggy eyes, as if asking its master to say 'Good boy! Well done!', and holds Shen Qingqiu's hand in his, "Is it warmer now, Xiao Jiu?"

"..."

Shen Qingqiu cries inwardly, 'Just a demon brat is enough to drive me crazy, two overprotective bears are on another level [though I don't mind...]!'

 

***

 

"Shen-shixiong," Shen Qingqiu nods and enters the meeting room with two Yue Qingyuan.

 

After putting the fire off, making sure that the Rainbow Bridge is safe and sound, and scolded the evil Yue Qingyuan, Shen Qingqiu decided to fly to Qiong Ding. No, he does not want another heart-warming intention to be a disaster.

 

Shen Qingqiu asked, "Will Shang-shidi explain the treatment from the artifact?"

Nodding, Shang Qinghua puts the artifact on a large, round table, "The procedure is easy, but there might be a drawback to one of us present here."

Shen Qingqiu snaps his fan open, and a curious and calculative look paints his phoenix eyes, but before he could mutter a word, Shang Qinghua said, "It's not life-threatening or disadvantageous at all, but the fact that the drawback is unknown is concerning."

"Then what are you waiting for?" Liu Qingge, being a reckless barbarian he is, said impatiently, "Well?"

"..." Shang Qinghua and Shen Qingqiu share a thought, 'You did nothing, I [Shang-shidi] did it all. Show some respect!'

The normal Yue Qingyuan coughs awkwardly to warm the atmosphere, "Thank you Shang-shidi, this shixiong will have to trouble shidi."

"It's no problem at all," Shang Qinghua nods and pours wine to the artifact, "Then, let us begin."

 

Suddenly, white light paints the room, and in an instant, the three Yue Qingyuan were pulled together and a barrier surrounds them, locking them inside the white light.

 

"This...?" the good Yue Qingyuan looks at Shang Qinghua in confusion.

"Yue-shixiong, please put your hands on the artifact," Shang Qinghua ordered the three men, "Now insert your qi to the artifact."

 

The three Yue Qingyuan does what the younger said, and suddenly, black light explodes from the artifact and after a moment, white smoke fades away, revealing one, living, Yue Qingyuan.

 

"Alright," Shang Qinghua clasp his hands, "It is done."

Slowly, but firmly, Yue Qingyuan walks out of the white, fading, smoke, and with his ever-warming smile, he said, "Thank you Shang-shidi."

Shang Qinghua nods and smiles thinly, "It's no problem at all."

 

'Good.'

 

"?!" instantly, all the peak lords shoot their heads upwards.

 

'Huh?'

 

The very noticeable voice rings in the eleven peak lords' heads again. Yue Qingyuan looks at Shen Qingqiu with a questionable look.

 

'Wait, why are they looking at me?' Shen Qingqiu thinks inwardly, a memory flashes into his head, 'Drawback? Me?'

 

Shang Qinghua did say that one of the present would get a drawback. Shen Qingqiu looks to his back only to find no one, so it's him?

Shen Qingqiu is a tactician. And just like any tactician, he could read the atmosphere and a person's facial expression easily [though, he is very, very, blind towards pure love].

 

Shen Qingqiu was about to ask Shang Qinghua what drawback he received but the younger voiced first, "Now that everything is settled and nothing life-threatening situation has happened, this shidi will retreat."

The other peak lords soon follow and leave the room, even Yue Qingyuan left hurriedly after speaking a few words to Shen Qingqiu.

 

"..." Shen Qingqiu steps out from the room and flies to Qing Jing, 'Suspicious...'

 

***

 

meanwhile, in the Qiong Ding meeting room...

Shang Qinghua looks at the artifact with curiosity. After pretending to leave the meeting, he had sent an individual message to other peak lords [exception to Shen Qingqiu] to come back in secret.

 

"You heard that, didn't you?" Qi Qingqi ask her martial brothers, "I heard, no, Shen's voice is in my head."

Yue Qingyuan nods, "That seems to be it..."

"Shen-shixiong received the drawback," Shang Qinghua, carefully but certainly, said, "His thoughts will be said into our heads, and we can't shut it down-"

 

'I want tanghulu.' Shen Qingqiu in his bamboo hut, unaware of the detailed situation, thought to himself as he imagines a tray of sticky and sweet hulu, 'Yum yum, now I'm craving it...'

 

"..." the eleven peak lords becomes as stiff as board and the atmosphere turns awkward.

"Uh," Shang Qinghua finally breaks the silence, "Let's not tell him about this..."

 

The rest of the peak lords nods in agreement.