Chapter 1: i.
This chapter opens with Yu Gong's POV probably bc I love Yu Gong :^)))
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There’s the sound of the chair wheels scraping against the tiled floors followed by the tumble of footsteps as a male runs off across the room. Ban Shan watches begrudgingly from his seat, chewing on his snack in indignation as he watches Hao Mei leave his workplace for the eighteenth time for the day. He reaches over to his bag of dried squid, plastic rustling as he tussles another piece out before biting it with too much force. A grimace makes its way to his face as he listens to the younger male talk in excitement over nothing at all. It’s all but the usual “what should we eat later?” “I saw a funny meme online,” “I don’t want to work!” Ban Shan is pretty sure that the younger male had said the exact same thing an hour ago—running from his desk to KO’s before idling for a good fifteen minutes.
He peers over at the two, watching as KO nods once or twice in between Hao Mei’s chatter. If it had been anyone else, Ban Shan would’ve labelled such actions as perfunctory but it’s only strange that the male clad in black seems so concentrated on Hao Mei even when he’s typing away at his computer—eyes fixated on the lit screen in front of him. He lets out a sigh, ignoring Yong Hou’s side glances, as he continues to test out the gaming platform. There’s another storm of footsteps and he doesn’t have to look up to know that Hao Mei is back at his own desk, small smile on his face as he continues where he’s left off.
He ponders vaguely upon the discrepancy in fates and treatment as he remembers the growing shade of kohl beneath his eyes—a stark contrast to Hao Mei’s complexion. He feels as if he’s giving his own energy to the younger male, cheeks hollowing out after days and days of overtime only to find that it’s found its way to the younger male’s cheeks. Ban Shan lets out a groan, tossing the empty packet of squid to the side as he returns to typing sulkily at his computer. Yong Hou looks to his side at the older male, giving a soft sigh as he envisions the storm clouds above their heads. The world, he plaints, is only so cruel to bachelors.
Lunch time comes after what seems to be a decade and Ban Shan looks up to see the workers of Zhi Yi storming around the office door like vultures. It’s only a moment after Wei Wei pays the delivery boy before they’re all fighting to attain their meal of the day. There’s a flash of thoughts that run by his mind before Ban Shan thinks he’s going to be the oriole behind the praying mantis. And so he makes his way away from the crowd, waiting until Hao Mei leaves the horde with two lunchboxes in hand. He walks over with a grin, fox-like features accentuating as he rushes over and grabs the lunchbox from Hao Mei.
“Hey!” Hao Mei yells in retaliation. “Go get your own!”
Ban Shan scoffs, “What’s the point of eating this when you go out to eat good food every day?! Leave this for us poor folks.”
“What do you mean? I eat the same thing as you guys every day,” He replies. “I haven’t gone home for the past three days.”
“Just because you’re in the company doesn’t mean that you suffer the same treatment as us. How many lunch breaks have you spent with handmade lunchboxes from KO?” Ban Shan pulls the lunchboxes tighter in his hold before continuing,, “Mei Ren, it’s only logical for you to leave this MSG filled lunchbox for me.”
“If you wanted, you could just come and eat with us! I’d share!”
Ban Shan glances at the male clad in black across the office before throwing Hao Mei a skeeving glance. He squints his eyes at the younger co-worker. “Mei Ren, are you truly oblivious or do you just want me to die?” Ban Shan pans, stating the obvious. The younger male only throws him a grin, before Ban Shan stalks off with his meal in hand. He hands one to Yong Hou before sitting down to eat his own. He glances up midway while chewing on his food to see Hao Mei sitting upon KO’s work desk, newly attained lunch box in hand as he chats away with the older male. Ban Shan gives off a sigh as he witnesses the corners of KO’s lips slightly upturn.
Those in love are blind--and those who witness those who are in love, are in turn, blinded.
They’re all playing a game of oblivion. Ban Shan knows, Yong Hou knows, Xiao Nai knows, KO knows--Hao Mei pretends not to know. There’s a silent consensus in the office as they all watch with knowing smiles and unspoken epiphanies. Those who aren’t as acquainted with them in the office smile teasingly whenever Hao Mei brings up KO in conversations. Those well acquainted with the raven haired male only exchange knowing glances. Ban Shan rolls his eyes before looking back at Xiao Nai. “The biggest asset about Hao Mei is that you look at his face and truly believe that he’s as innocent as he looks.” He huffs.
Xiao Nai smiles softly before shaking his head, “That’s because you don’t understand the pleasure of ambiguity.”
“Lao San, were you and Wei Wei like this? Watching each other through a veil of mist?” He leans over the desk, resting his head on his hands.
“They’re watching flowers through the fog,” Xiao Nai cocks his head to the side, ”But it’s so that there’s beauty in its haziness.”
Ban Shan scoffs, shaking his head as he leaves Xiao Nai’s office. “You’re all walking around holding the evident and still pretending to be lost. The world is indeed an insidious place.”
But then again, when he ponders upon such thoughts later, he figures that what applies to Hao Mei can only apply to KO. Ban Shan isn’t foolish enough to truly believe that all of KO and Hao Mei’s meetings had been due to fate. Nor does he believe that with KO’s skills, he would’ve lost to Xiao Nai. The thought of it bothers him more than he thinks it should--brows furrowing as he wonders how much of their interactions had been calculated. Perhaps it’s the subconscious responsibility of being the oldest of them four, but the weight of it sits heavy on his shoulders. He looks up across the room at Hao Mei and then to KO. Yong Hou peers up at him. “Yu Gong,” he calls. “Let the course take its flow.”
“But we just don’t know whether this course is a product of nature or man.” He replies. “The human heart is rarely straightforward.”
“Your façade is disappearing,” the short haired male muses. “I haven’t seen you this serious for a while.”
“Hmm,” Ban Shan hums perfunctorily.
【1】Reference to the Chinese idiom “螳螂捕蟬黃雀在後“ which translates to “The praying mantis preys on the cicada, but is unknowing to the oriole that preys upon it.”
Ban Shan pulls Hao Mei to the side one day, pressing a cup of hot tea to the other boy. “Hao Mei,” he says, not calling him by his nickname for once. “Mmh?” Hao Mei hums, sipping slowly. “How are you and KO?” Ban Shan asks.
“Are you just here to gossip?” He asks, eyebrows raising jokingly.
“I’m being serious!” The older of the two whispers harshly, wary of people outside the pantry overhearing. “I’m concerned.”
“Of?” Hao Mei settles the mug on the counter, a short solid thud filling the small room. “Our sexual orientation? Societal pressure?”
Ban Shan looks at the younger male with a frown. “Hao Mei,” he calls out again. “I’m not saying KO is a bad person. I’m just saying he isn’t a simple person.” There’s a softness in Ban Shan’s voice as he looks intently at the boy in front of him. It’s scarce moments like this which remind Hao Mei that behind the constant banter of their dormitory, Ban Shan--as with Xiao Nai and Yong Hou--are truly people that care about him. He lowers his voice as well, tracing invisible circles on the pantry counter before letting out a soft; “I know.”
“You know?” There’s a harshness that rings in such a simple sentence but Hao Mei overlooks it as he continues speaking. “Someone with KO’s skills wouldn’t lose to Xiao Nai. Neither would it be in his disdain to come to a company like this. He’s a hacker not a programmer.” Hao Mei lets out a small smile, comforting Ban Shan. “Besides, just the thought of someone like him willingly working with a team is already strange enough.”
Ban Shan blinks slowly, processing what the younger male is trying to tell him. He’s trying to read in between the lines but failing as his vision blurs and everything simply looks like an obscure haze of black on white. “If you know then…” He hesitates, words stuck at his trachea--unwilling to be let out of his larynx. There’s a strange sense of trepidation that hits him, heartbeat racing as he looks at the boy in front of him. Where the little brother he’s known for the past four years seemingly fades in and out of familiarity.
“Yu Gong,” Hao Mei calls out to him. “Someone like KO isn’t the type of person that should have intersections with my life at all. So if he were truly approaching me with any motives; do you really think that he’s able to come close unless I also take steps forward?”
There’s a silence that falls in between them as the clock on the wall slowly ticks away. Ban Shan looks at Hao Mei worriedly despite the younger male’s reassurance. He wonders if it’s truly those in the maze that are lost and those observing from afar that see things through. He had self-righteously determined that he'd been watching the two view flowers through the fog. But is it rather, that he’s been the one blinded by the veil of mist?
The world clouds up into a blur that reminds Ban Shan of his youth--where he’s running inside his house coming home from school. The warmth of his home replacing the winter winds outside and he pants softly while the air condenses upon the glass of his spectacles. Room blearing into orbs of colour that remind him of a kaleidoscope.
And as Hao Mei walks out of the office pantry, he thinks back to what Xiao Nai had told him before. Was it true that viewing flowers through the fog that allows one to find beauty in its haziness?
He looks up to find Yong Hou leaning against the doorframe--since when had he been standing there, Ban Shan doesn’t know. Neither does he know how much of their words had been overheard. “Hou Zi,” He starts, “I feel like I’m the one that’s walking within the maze now.” The other male simply gives a low laugh, walking over and slinging his arm over Ban Shan’s shoulder. “Sometimes, people don’t have to live so unequivocally.” He says.
Ban Shan rolls his eyes, nudging the younger male. “You, Hao Mei, and Lao San are all the same. All of you finding pleasure in ambiguity.”
“Why don’t you just admit that you’re the odd one out.”
“Scat!” He hisses.
Hao Mei doesn’t return to his desk, walking over to KO’s desk instead. He ignores the apparent glances from coworkers as he hands his mug to the other male. “Tea?” He inquires. KO only shakes his head, hands still typing away at his keyboard. Hao Mei watches as the screen slowly fills with lines and lines of text, typing cursor blinking slowly as if talking in Morse code. He settles on the side of KO’s workspace, shifting his gaze back and forth from the screen to KO’s figure.
He thinks back to the previous conversation with Yu Gong. “I’m not saying KO is a bad person. I’m just saying he isn’t a simple person.” Yu Gong had said. Hao Mei scoffs on the inside, he obviously knows that KO isn’t a simple person. No one coming with the background and experiences of KO could be simple. Similarly, he thinks back to his own childhood. As much as he preserves his naivety, no one from his own class and socialization can really truly be naive. It’s more that they overlook the tangles of the world and choose to focus on the simple things of life. Yu Gong and Hou Zi are the same. It’s not like Hao Mei doesn’t know that the two oldest members of their dormitory are the ones who see things the clearest. But he also knows that they both choose to interact without dwelling on worries and burdens.
“What are you thinking about?” A deep voice breaks his train of thought and Hao Mei abruptly turns to look at the owner of said voice. He breaks into a grin, eyes upturning, “I’m thinking what I want to eat after work.” KO doesn’t respond, only continuing to look at him. Hao Mei doesn’t break the gaze, wondering whether the burn he feels from the other’s eyes comes from ice or fire. Whether, the solitary aura that KO exudes is like the harsh snow that cuts through skin or fire that scalds. He doesn’t bother to fabricate this time, looking back at the other’s kohl eyes.
“I’m thinking about you.”
I just realized that I might have to put a chapter of just character descriptions later on and lmao that depleted all my motivation............................ _(:зゝ∠)_
“I’m thinking about you.”
There’s a flash of shock that passes through KO’s eyes but with a blink, the surprises diffuses within the black of his irises as if it had never been there in the first place. Hao Mei doesn’t fail to catch it though, and he turns his head slightly to the side. “I’m thinking about your past.” He waits to hear the subtle instability in the other’s voice only to find that it doesn’t exist. When KO responds, it’s the same steady tone as he always speaks in.
“My past?” The older male asks. Hao Mei hides his frown, picking up his mug for another sip of tea. “Hmm.” He hums. “What you’ve been doing before you came to Zhi Yi.”
“And before that.”
“Everything?” Hao Mei asks, shifting closer to KO.
The older male nods, gaze shifting down. Hao Mei looks as the other’s eyelashes casts soft shadows on his face. “I was just doing all sorts of odd jobs.” KO says. It’s not like Hao Mei doesn’t hear the reluctance in his voice; but he pries on. In a world where KO seems to know so much about Hao Mei, he can’t help but find the other an enigma. Where each step they take closer to one another, Hao Mei reaches out to find that such an existence is simply an illusion. And so he leans closer, one step at a time. “When did you become KO?” He asks softly.
“Since when….” KO shifts his gaze, leaning back into this chair. “Since a long time ago.”
“I needed to.”
For what? Money? He doesn’t elabourate, neither does Hao Mei try to push any more boundaries. Their conversation falls into silence and Hao Mei looks at KO looking back at him. There’s a suffocating feeling that fills him from within, as if someone has taken their hand and clenched it over his heart. He thinks back to the time after he passed out at the restaurant. He remembers the small bed, creaking even if he so much as shifts an inch. The night wind sifts through the flimsy doors, dim lighting of the restaurant illuminating shadows on the both of them.
Someone like KO doesn’t belong here, Hao Mei remembers thinking. It was after that night that KO officially entered Zhi Yi. He thinks about the moment he looked up to see KO walking through the glass doors towards them--towards him. Yu Gong’s words then had perplexed him. KO, a national level hacker, shouldn’t be working in a dingy restaurant until the wee hours of the night. Shouldn’t be sleeping in a bed that’s barely big enough to accommodate Hao Mei. Shouldn't be spending the loneliest hours of the day in a room that reeks of the oils and liquor of the restaurant. KO, someone that’s capable of hacking into the official government system, shouldn’t be here working designing a measly video game without pay.
“You’re not angry anymore, are you?” KO had asked him that night. When he thinks back, Hao Mei can only shake his head with a laugh. He should be the one to ask; Why aren’t you angry? He looks at KO, letting the figure in his dreams overlap with the man in front of him. He wonders where the guy who reeked of nobility and confidence has gone. Does he remember, he wonders. He should, Hao Mei concludes. For if not, why is he here in front of him. Why else would KO be willingly trapped in a life that he doesn’t deserve.
But what if? What if?
What if KO truly doesn’t recall anything. It’s unlikely, and Hao Mei refutes this thought as he remembers the name that the other muttered that one night. But what if it’s rather that KO doesn’t want to recall anything. Is this karma for Hao Mei having forgotten for so long? But why then? Why would KO still come and approach him? He doesn’t understand and Hao Mei can only ponder, the hold around his heart tightening.
“Hao Mei,” KO says, bringing Hao Mei out of his thoughts. “Breathe.” The older male says worriedly. Hao Mei lets out a deep breath, shoulders relaxing. He inhales slowly, fists tightening.
“Have we…” there’s a waver in his voice but Hao Mei continues. “Have we met before?”
KO’s voice is a contrast to his--stable and upright. There isn’t a moment of hesitation before KO replies with a short “no.” Hao Mei feels as if his heart could explode, pressure building up in his chest cavity until he can’t breathe. He hears his palpitations but at the same time, Hao Mei thinks his heart isn’t actually beating at all.
“Have we really never met before?” He asks again, teeth clenching as he enunciates his words.
“No.” KO replies without a slight change in tone, gaze as steady akin to a vast pond of water--unmoving, bottomless. Maybe this is what it feels to have hope crashing to the ground, he reckons. There’s a subtle anger that rises in him; though, he isn’t sure whether it’s directed towards KO or himself. Closing his eyes, Hao Mei wills himself to calm down.
“KO,” he says after a while. The other male looks at him with a look that Hao Mei doesn’t bother to read. “Let’s go to the restaurant by the flower shoppe later, I want to eat dessert there.”
“Okay,” KO replies with a curt nod.
“Make it for me next time.” Hao Mei says with a smile, the tension in the air from before dissipating. For a moment KO wonders if the conversation prior had just been a dream. A hallucination stemming from the countless days and nights he’s endured to see the other boy.
It’s not as if he isn’t curious--isn’t dying to know--whether Hao Mei is the same as him. But even then, he’s simply someone that’s grasping to fragmented shreds of what once was. Though he isn’t even certain if ‘once was’ truly existed. KO feels as if he’s trying to catch on to falling sand, holding on and yet still watching as the particles slip through his fingers.
He nods again with an affirmative hum. “Tomorrow,” he promises. “I’ll make it for you tomorrow.”
“All right,” the bright eyed youth says, smile blinding his vision. KO reciprocates with a small smile, the usual sharpness of his gaze softening. And as the setting sun casts the office in a flood of sepia, Hao Mei admires the rare moments in which KO lets down his usual solitary demeanor. It’s moment like this where Hao Mei remembers the blood that runs through his and KO’s veins are warm. The shackles of the past have long been removed from their wrists. He gives a soft sigh, “Li Jing. Do you like lying to me?”
So I was skimming their cuts only to realize how OOC my writing is...let's just pretend that this is a parallel dimension........
Chapter 4: Character Overview; Past Lives
me going over what their past lives are because i'm too lazy to write it in-depth and only want to make vague references....
Not A Chapter Update
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Okay this is when being Too Ambitious with plotlines is going to overwhelm me because I realize that I can’t just make vague references to their characters because not everyone has seen or knows of them. But I'm also too lazy to write about this in-depth especially with the large amount of terms that I think don't translate well in English. So here it is!!! An author’s notes and character description post.
So like the tags say for this fic, this is a Reincarnation!AU so obviously I have to tie in their past lives. Hao Mei’s past life is Nan Xian Yue and KO’s past life is Li Jing. :’) But if I say just this then no one knows what in the world I’m trying to express.......a h h ha ha h a. Also kill me because translating these fantasy/mythological terms into English is always so difficult I’m dying.
Nan Xian Yue
(Zheng Ye Cheng’s Character in Journey of Flower)
Originally the ruler of the Qi Sha Palace who attained the Prehistoric Power and became the Demon God. His existence threatened the balance of the six realms and in the end he was sealed into a solitary dimension where he still attained the power but was reborn without memories. He lives in a timeless dimension and it isn’t until a battle between the six realms that lets Hua Qian Gu into the realm where he resides. She gives him the name of Nan Xian Yue after where he resides and the crescent moon that night. She eventually leads him to promise that he won’t turn to the face of evil and he transfers his powers to her to protect her.
When Hua Qian Gu’s master brings both of them out of the dimension, Bai Zi Hua hides the fact that Hua Qian Gu now has the Prehistoric Power. The six realms then attack Nan Xian Yue thinking that he still has the power. Feeling indebted to Hua Qian Gu as she was the only one that showed him kindness, he takes on the blame and is eventually sentenced to death. Xian Yue’s character is a factor that leads Hua Qian Gu to become the Demon God because he was killed in the name of “righteousness” despite him having never turned evil and only being a “potential” crisis to the world.
(Zhang Bin Bin’s Character in Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles Peach Blossoms)
The Second Prince of the Ghost Clan, who was first in love with Si Yin unknown of the fact that Si Yin was Bai Qian pretending to be male. However, he projects his affections to Xuan Nv who has similar features as Bai Qian. He later regrets his betrayal of Si Yin when he realizes that Si Yin is Bai Qian. When his father is sealed into the East Royal Clock, he starts a revolt and becomes the new Ghost Lord.
O V E R V I E W (TL;DR Version)
For the most part I’ll be building up their past life on the basis of Journey of Flower because a) I’ve watched the whole thing and read some of the novel b) Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms hasn’t aired yet and I haven’t read the novel c) Let’s be honest Li Jing is a prick and I don’t like his actions so let’s just acknowledge his identity as the prince of the Ghost Realm.
tbh if Rong Ruo wasn't from the Qing Dynasty I'd put him here I love Rong Ruo I'm crying There’s also not a lot on him because he’s mostly a side character and the plot line of the novel is so complicated. I’m not sure how they’ll be changing things in the drama though.
So basically they’re both leaders or royalty of the Demon and Ghost Realms, and Li Jing has always known Nan Xian Yue even before he was the Demon God. When Nan Xian Yue is banished into the other dimension by the Chang Liu Sect, Li Jing tries to find a way to break the seal but countlessly fails to do so. He eventually forces his way to the throne and becomes the lord of the Ghost Realm.
He finds that Hua Qian Gu is someone capable of accessing the dimension and using his power as the Ghost Lord manipulates her into collecting the ten ancient weapons to open the dimension. However, he’s unable to save Xian Yue and after the latter’s death he gives up his identity as an immortal and falls into the circle of reincarnation and becomes human. Span this over the 140,000 years that Li Jing has lived for and it's basically enough angst to fuel the Prehistoric Power Xian Yue has. In this life (Love O2O Verse) KO still possesses some of his memories and so when he finds hints of who Xian Yue is in this life, he makes his way to find him.
Honestly this is probably me No Zuo No Die because why didn't i just write a simple fluff fic..........
Sometimes Li Jing forgets how long it has been, the skies above perpetually in a state between dusk and dawn. There are no seasons upon the Ghost Realm and he looks at the barren trees and empty lands of the palace. Perhaps the only way to tell that time has passed is if he stops to count the annual rings--reminding himself that the days aren’t stagnant. He’s long forgotten how long he’s lived--if he could count his existence as “living.” There’s little meaning in the passing years when you have no finite end. Li Jing reaches out to the barren soil in front of him, watching as a solitary flower blooms from the empty ground. Bright coloured petals contrasting the muddy hues of blues and greys around him. He gives a small frown before waving his arm, flower wilting into ashes as the silk of his robes flutters slightly in the wind.
“What’s the point?” A voice sounds behind him, “Conjuring up something that you can’t bear to see.” There’s the rustling of fabric before the other male steps beside him. “Li Jing, you shouldn’t stay here too much. I’m pretty sure your surroundings is what makes you so emotionless.” Xian Yue peers to the imperial gates, “Even the palace is lifeless.” He says as if proving an evident point.
Li Jing looks at him stoically, “This is the land of the dead afterall.”
“I have an idea,” Xian Yue says with a smile, reaching out to smoothen a lock of Li Jing’s hair. “Let’s go visit the human realm.”
Li Jing only laughs, “The ruler of the Demon Realm and the prince of the Ghost Realm visiting the Earth Realm together? You really think that Chang Liu is useless?”
“You talk like they aren’t useless. Besides, don’t you want to change your surroundings for once?”
“I have affairs to attend to.” He says though they both know it’s an excuse. Xian Yue doesn’t bother to voice the obvious, walking back to the stone table. He picks up the zisha teacup, taking a small sip of the freshly brewed tea before starting another conversation. “Li Jing, how long have you lived?”
“I don’t remember. It’s been too long.” The other settles into the chair next to him, reaching for another teacup.
“And you’ve always been here? Don’t you want to see the world outside?”
Li Jing pauses for a moment before looking at Nan Xian Yue, eyes darkening with a glint of red. “One should know one’s place. I don’t have the ambitions you have.” Xian Yue hums, nodding as if they were talking about the passing wind. Li Jing gives a soft sigh, “You’re playing with fire,” He warns. The steam from the tea rises into the air, swirling in scattered directions before dissipating in thin air. Xian Yue reaches out in attempt to catch it, tightening his grip but opening it a second later to hold nothing at all. He doesn’t give Li Jing a response, and his words--as with the water vapours--also dissipate into the cold air.
The tea within his cup is no longer scalding hot and Hao Mei holds onto the porcelain surface, warmth traveling from the cup to the palm of his hand. KO looks at him with wide eyes, sunlight turning his eyes a golden shade of hazel that reminds Hao Mei of hidden embers. For a moment he thinks back to crimson eyes, a dark shade similar to the blood that now runs through his veins. The clock ticks softly in the background, office scarce of workers as they head home one by one. There’s no one around them and Hao Mei doesn’t bother to lower his voice. He gives a soft smile to the older male, “That day at the restaurant, you called me ‘Xian Yue.’”
“You...remember?” There’s a hesitance in the other’s voice that reminds Hao Mei of strained threads threatening to break. He shakes his head, “Bits and pieces, I can’t remember everything clearly.” KO nods, relaxing his shoulders as he leans back in the computer chair. “Sometimes I think it’s all a dream,” He starts, “But then there’s something that tells me it can’t be.”
Hao Mei takes a deep breath, searching for the right thing to say as he tries to piece together incomplete recollections. He reminisces blurred visions, rusted gears slowly turning as he tries to make sense of the countless dreams he’s had. “I think I drank only half of Old Lady Meng’s soup.”
“Well she’s always taken a liking to you.” KO tells him, a glimpse of a smile passing his lips. “If it had been anyone else, she would’ve never let them pass the Nai He Bridge.“
“Of course she liked me, I was the only one that brought life to that place--” He pauses as his mind goes on tangential paths, “Wait, why are still such a block of ice? Haven’t you experienced the emotions of the human world?”
“I didn’t drink much of Lady Meng’s Soup either.” KO lowers his gaze, “Besides, my fate this life is repentment for all that happened in the past.” It takes Hao Mei a while to connect the unspoken words, coming to conclusions with fragments. A sense of anger flares from within and he directs it to the male in front of him. “You told Dong Fang Yu Qin that Xiao Gu-Jie Jie could help him, didn’t you?” Flashes of the bright eyed girl travel in his mind, from the time they first met to the their last. KO doesn’t answer, silent tension building up in the air as it lays upon their shoulders. The setting sun filters through the cityscape, cascading shadows on the two of them. Hao Mei thinks the light is like the flickering flame, “She never did anything wrong.”
“I only wanted to see you again.”
“I didn’t care for anything else.”
【1】Old Lady Meng is a figure of the underworld where before one reincarnates, they must drink the soup she prepares to erase any memories they have of their past life.
【2】The Naihe Bridge (translated literally to Bridge of No Avail) leads to the opening of Hell, constructed over the Nai River (Homophone for "No Avail"). As the deceased walk across, the bridge symbolizes the regrets and helplessness they feel towards their life.
The days resume as usual, as Hao Mei runs off to KO’s workspace for another round of mindless chatter. If it weren’t for Hao Mei occasionally calling him by another name, KO would have thought that their conversation had never happened. There’s an unspoken consensus between them to bury the past into the back of their minds, starting anew as the hourglass is flipped upside down.
Hao Mei isn’t Nan Xian Yue, neither is KO, Li Jing. He wipes away the underlying meaning to their interactions and KO, as usual, only responds with occasional hums and sentence fragments. He finds it ironic, having existed for over a hundred and forty thousand years and only having learned how to “live” for the past twenty six. He’s yet to have meld into this realm, heart still untouched by the red soil that dyes the world into a shade of vermillion.
He seems to be used to solitude, having grown too used to the lifeless world of the dead. And even then, the Ghost Realm had been seemingly different from the other five realms. All lives had begun and ended in the Ghost Realm, as their spirits walk across the gates whether to hell or to reincarnation. But of those who had come and gone, the Ghost Realm remained merely a portal from one life to the next. He remembers his parent’s funeral, the townsfolk overlooking as he kneeled in front emotionlessly in front of their plaques. Sadness had overtaken him then, but not pain--somehow understanding the notion that they’ve simply reached the end of their fates. He hadn’t dreamt of Hao Mei before then, only understanding years later why he never cried over his parent’s death. He reckons they have both crossed the gates of the six world by now, falling back into the circle of reincarnation. The thought gives him a sense of comfort, and he thinks back to his last words to Lady Meng.
“If you want to keep your memories then what is the point of passing through these rituals.”
“If Xian Yue had lived forever, then so would I. But if his name now enters the Book of Life and Death, then I can only write my name next to his.”
At least, he thinks, they had gone together. He pulls out his wallet, flipping it open to see the sepia tinted photograph within. They all say it takes five hundred unintentional glances in your past life to attain a chance of grazing past one another in this life. He wonders how many lives of non-interaction it takes before two people are able to come together. His parents must’ve gone through the same path.
“What are you looking at?” A voice sounds by his ear and KO turns to see Hao Mei glancing over his shoulder. “My parents.” He replies curtly, passing the wallet over to the younger male.
“--They’re not here anymore.”
Hao Mei halts his motions but only for a short while before he runs back to his desk to reach for his own wallet. He takes out a small photograph of a young child and transfers it in KO’s wallet instead. “My baby picture,” he explains, “I’m still here.”
“Mmh,” KO nods.
“Your eyes are lucky,” Hao Mei says with a bright smile, “I’ve been good looking since young.”
The last half of his words fall upon Ban Shan’s ears as the older male was making his way to his desk. “Mei-ge!” Ban Shan taunts, “Where does the basis of your ego come from?”
“It comes from the truth!” Hao Mei yells back. “You’re just jealous that I’m more handsome than you, right KO?” KO nods in reply, to which Hao Mei only smiles wider. Ban Shan pinches his nose bridge in annoyance, eyes blinding from the sight. He suddenly feels empathy for Ah Shuang who suffers megawatt public displays of affection everyday.
“In what world, are you more handsome than me?” He retaliates.
“In every world!”
Ban Shan tsks, “With your baby face? All you could ever be is cute, little kid.”
“You old man!”
“If I’m old then what’s KO?”
Yong Hou watches as the rambunctious banter between his ex-roommates halt with a deafening silence. This is it, he figures, today marks the final day for Yu Ban Shan. And with this, he’d finally be the oldest one of their dormitory. Yong Hou shifts his gaze between the three men across the room, wondering if he’s far enough to not be collateral damage.
“KO, I-I-I never said anything,” Ban Shan stutters with an appeasing smile, slowly backing away to his own work desk. Hao Mei watches in triumph, waving a small victory sign to KO.
“He was right.”
“You have a baby face.” KO doesn’t voice the second half of his sentence, but Ban Shan’s earlier words still ring in Hao Mei’s memories. He throws a glare at KO, “Don’t think that just because you have this face that I’d forget you’re a hundred thousand year old demon.”
“Weren’t you the demon?”
“You’re an old ghost!”
Two chapters since I've been busy and will be busy with midterms during this period!
But I've truly lived up to the name of Inconsistency as I fail to settle on a mood for this fic, ah....