To Shang Qinghua’s horror, the mystery ghost (who must be Liu Qingge) pulls out the ghostly form of Cheng Luan (which… how does that work? Didn’t he stop possessing that sword?! ) and begins to swing it at Masters Yue and Shen. Ning Yingying manages to take cover by hiding behind Shen Yuan while Shang Qinghua muffles his own screaming but throwing himself at the nearest person’s shoulder. That person being Mobei Jun. Which he totally didn’t do on purpose.
Masters Yue and Shen, in turn, have their own weapons raised, meeting Liu Qingge’s strikes in flurries of high speed strikes that could make any shounen anime fan weep with awe and fear. Gusts of wind lash out from the sword strikes, knocking tree branches to the ground and splintering the abandoned school walls.
One sword slash even comes close to slicing apart Master Shen’s arm, and Master Yue narrows his eyes, a forboding aura rising up from around him.
“How dare you hurt Xiao Jiu! ”
Cue the ground shaking and flashes of light that even Shang Qinghua can’t see clearly that literally explode.
“Oh shit, a storm!” Shen Yuan cries out, ducking his head down from all the dirt and debris. “Get back in the car!”
“You idiot, you’ll hit our human!” Master Shen roars over all the chaos.
“He was fine. You protected him.”
“Just focus on banishing that brute!”
Red sparks jitter around Liu Qingge’s eyes. “Looks like you’re a danger to him after all,” he murmurs, then continues his attacks… which makes more tree branches fall on unsuspecting grass and brushes. Yup.
“What are you doing?! Stop that!” Shang Qinghua roars. Then pauses, when he sees Mobei Jun and Shen Yuan’s startled stares, and blurts out, “I’myellingatthestorm.”
Both his friends exchange a glance before saying, “Hospital,” and Mobei Jun moves over to scoop him up in his arms.
Shang Qinghua does not go limp in his arms, nope.
Mobei Jun, beautiful and amazing Mobei Jun, actually princess carries Shang Qinghua over to the car, dashing over two stair steps at a time. That’s it, Shang Qinghua has to ask him out at some point. He pledges his loyalty to this man forever.
Behind them, Shen Yuan stumbles down the steps, quickly opening the car doors for them all, making Mobei Jun and Shang Qinghua get in the car first, before they all drive away as if a tornado is chasing them.
Ning Yingying, the only ghost with any sense, hugs Shen Yuan’s shoulders with relief.
“You are the only one I won’t exorcise anymore. You are a good bean,” he says, slumped against Mobei Jun and the steering wheel.
Mobei Jun raises an eyebrow, somehow looking more attractive with that simple yet cute move. “Thank you?”
Ning Yingying, on the other hand, beams at him. It would be a touching moment if her smile didn’t look like a serial killer’s victory smirk before stabbing you in the heart.
Shen Yuan only frowns thoughtfully at him. “Don’t worry Qinghua-ge,” he says after a few moments, “we’ll take you a doctor to have you looked at and then we’ll take you home. I’m sorry our trip ended up with us in a storm… normally, I wouldn’t force everyone into a car to escape a storm but it was either that or take shelter in the abandoned school…”
Yeah. No. Nope. He thanks whatever deities might exist out there that Shen Yuan has some semblance of common sense sometimes and decided not to take shelter from a storm in an abandoned building.
He closes his eyes and curls in closer to Mobei Jun’s chest. At least for now, he can relax, now that the worst ghosts are behind them.
They arrive at the doctor’s clinic within fifteen minutes of Mobei Jun’s very illegal u-turns. Shang Qinghua, content to be carried forever in Mobei Jun’s arms, sleepily looks up at the clinic before he squeaks, “How did you get here so fast?!”
Sure enough, Liu Qingge, Master Shen and Master Yue are all hovering in front of the clinic door, bickering (well shouting at each other while Master Yue smiles as if he’s plotting how to secretly poison and kill Liu Qingge and hide the body later as if ghosts could even be poisoned.) Then they see Shang Qinghua and collectively glare at him.
“This is A-Yuan’s doctor. She always comes to do house visits for him when he’s ill. What kind of guardians would we be if we didn’t know everything about him?” Master Yue smiles as serenely as a horror movie soundtrack before a jumpscare.
“Where our human goes, we go,” Master Shen adds.
“He holds the fan,” Liu Qingge says as if it’s enough explanation.
With a squeak, Shang Qinghua feels like his soul will ascend from his body and never escape fast enough to get to heaven.
“Qinghua-ge, are you alright?! Do you know where we are? How many fingers am I holding up?!” Shen Yuan waves his hands around. “Do you think he forgot that we drove here?” he asks Mobei Jun.
Silently Mobei Jun only squeezes Shang Qinghua tighter. “The doctor.”
“Right, right! I’ll go get Doctor Qingqi right away!”
As Shen Yuan rushes into the clinic full speed, Mobei Jun follows after at a slower pace, still holding Shang Qinghua in his arms. Shang Qinghua could die happy.
If not for Liu Qingge staring at him mere centimeters away from his face.
Shang Qinghua yelps, probably cutting off Mobei Jun’s blood circulation with how tightly he holds on to him.
“You…” Liu Qingge glares. “You keep trying to separate me and my human.”
The sparks from before fly on Shang Qinghua’s face and he whimpers. He almost has a heart attack when Mobei Jun begins awkwardly petting his head. If only he could enjoy the moment.
“ Your human?! He’s ours! ” Master Shen bellows. “And I’ll be damned again if I let some brute like you go near him! You’ll dirty his air!”
Liu Qingge’s eyes glow blood red. “ What did you say. Do you want to meet my blade again, you pouncy--”
Master Yue steps in front of Master Shen, his smile like something monstrous carved into flesh. “And do you want to meet mine , lowly one?”
“Argh, just stop talking! ” Shang Qinghua hisses, just as Mobei Jun steps into the waiting room. The poor patients waiting there, a little old lady and another elderly couple, gasp in shock. “Ah! I, uh, don’t mean you! I meant, well, oh ow, my ears hurt so much, everything is SO loud!” Shang Qinghua glares at the ghosts. “If everyone could be quiet please , this visit will go much more SMOOTHLY .”
“Well, how rude. Young people these days don’t have any filial piety at all,” the elderly couple whisper to each other, turning their chins up.
The little old lady, bless her, only tears up and nods in understanding.
Abruptly, Mobei Jun plops down on one of the chairs and positions Shang Qinghua close to him. Then, before Shang Qinghua can say anything, he cups his hands over Shang Qinghua’s ears as one might hold a cute little creature. Shang Qinghua finds himself blushing, unable to look away, before he murmurs a “Thanks,” and a quiet sorry for lying.
“I don’t need to look at this love drama,” Liu Qingge crosses his arms. “I’m going back to protect Shen Yuan.”
Shang Qinghua huffs. Good riddance!
“Get back here, you brute!”
“You are absolutely not allowed to go within 100 li of A-Yuan!”
Was that a crash?!
Shang Qinghua shoots out of Mobei Jun’s lap, not noticing Mobei Jun’s widened eyes or lingering outstretched hand. He can’t let those ghosts damage this clinic, which they will , if they keep battling like they did in front of Bai Zhan school! He rushes over to the receptionist and blurts out, “Do you know where my friend went?! He was supposed to get a Doctor Qi or something?!”
Please let Shang Qinghua through before those ghosts try to stab each other with needles or something and/or accidentally maim his friend.
“Yes, I know little Yuan! They should be here shortly…”
“It’s an emergency! I’m in pain! I need them right now! ”
“Oh! Then I’ll give them a call right now…” The receptionist grabs the phone, just as Shang Qinghua sees an entire wall of needles pointed towards Liu Qingge courtesy of Masters Yue and Shen.
“NO DON’T!” Shang Qinghua shouts, just as the needles fly.
“Huh? But it’s just a quick call--”
The needles fall in a crash.
“What the heck?!” The receptionist jumps in her chair, narrowly missing being hit. “I thought those needles were sterilized in plastic. How did they all end up here?! The janitor must have been careless… excuse me… Oh, this is a mess…”
“Stop doing this!” Shang Qinghua hisses at the ghosts, “Look at the poor lady!” He points at the poor lady rushing about, trying to find a pan and rubber gloves to use for needle disposal. “What would Shen Yuan think?!”
Liu Qingge’s defensive stance actually falters at those words. Good. Feel the guilt . Feel it ALL . He’s not surprised that Masters Yue and Shen don’t seem that bothered at all.
Urgh, he wishes he could use his salted holy water spray bottle without looking like a lunatic in public.
“Shang Qinghua!” Mobei Jun shouts, spinning Shang Qinghua around. “What was that noise?! Are you alright?”
And…. goodbye brain. Shang Qinghua’s brain chooses this very moment to shut off all intelligent function. The only thing that comes out is a very articulate “Uhhhh…” which accurately translates into You are so beautiful and perfect, and I don’t know why you care about me, but please go out with me. Also this is the first time I’ve heard you speak more than three words at a time. Slay me.
“Qinghua-ge, Mobei-Xuezhang!” Shen Yuan comes running with a well dressed lady that looks like she steps on people for a living. “This is Doctor Qingqi. She’s looked after me ever since I was little. She should be able to help you, Qinghua-ge. Come on.”
Yes, an excuse to leave this very awkward situation! Go!
Shang Qinghua latches onto Shen Yuan’s side, leaving Mobei Jun to stare at him with a complicated expression.
Liu Qingge grips his sword tightly but murmurs, “Truce. Temporarily.”
Master Shen narrows his eyes. Master Yue plots. Ning Yingying benefits the most out of all them, unnoticed while she braids more of Shen Yuan’s hair.
“I’m fine,” Shang Qinghua says for the thousandth time since he stepped foot in Doctor Qingqi’s room. She’s checked his temperature, weight, height, pupils, blood pressure, pressure points, and more. She’s painfully thorough, telling him from the pressure points on his pulse and state of his tongue that his liver isn’t producing enough energy and he needs to drink more water and eat more vegetables. Who knew.
“His immune system might be a bit weaker than others. Tell his auntie to feed him more vitamin rich foods. You need more sleep too.”
“I sleep just fine. Better now actually.” Before, he used to get nightmares about spirits. Before meeting Shen Yuan and Mobei Jun, he didn’t sleep very much at all.
“Hmmmm,” Doctor Qingqi frowns, still not convinced. “In any case, take these vitamin tablets and come back in a month and I’ll check on you.”
“Thanks doctor,” Shen Yuan bows.
For the first time in their visit, Doctor Qingqi’s face breaks into a smile. “Don’t bow so low, brat. I’m not that old yet.” She ruffles his hair. “How about you? Are you taking your medicine? Did you have anymore episodes?”
“Ah, yes, yes, I’m fine. I’m in perfect health,” Shen Yuan waves her off. “And speaking of health, for Qinghua-ge’s continued health we should get going so he can sleep.”
“Fine, fine, take your friend home. But don’t think you’re off the hook. I’ll be seeing you for our regular appointment this week, alright? And don’t forget to visit Luo Mei! He misses you.”
“Of course, doctor,” Shen Yuan says politely, his smile a bit too bright.
Masters Shen and Yue even bow their heads to the doctor as they leave. Strange.
“...Are you sure you’re okay?” Shen Yuan asks in the car. Somehow, Shang Qinghua has ended up back in Mobei Jun’s lap. Not that anyone is complaining. Absolutely not.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. Sorry for worrying you. I don’t want to be a burden…” He’ll never be a burden on these two. Not if he can help it.
“You are never a burden,” Mobei Jun says bluntly. Wow. Shang Qinghua’s heart practically stops. He can’t look Mobei Jun straight in the eye when he says something like that, not that Shang Qinghua was very good at looking Mobei Jun in the eye before.
“Listen to Mobei-Xuezhang. We’re with you. If you need a break before we do the next shoot, just say the word.”
“Um…” Shang Qinghua glances over at Masters Shen and Yue who shake their heads and scowl (Master Shen) and murmur, ‘it will be fine,’ (Master Yue.)
“Tell him to get rid of that fan!” Master Shen hisses.
“No, absolutely not,” Liu Qingge’s eyes glow again.
“Urgh,” Shang Qinghua groans. “Um, Yuan-er… do you think you could give that fan back to me? I meant it when I said that one is shoddy compared to the one I was going to give you…”
He’ll have to order another fan, something fancier but with the same rumoured level of spiritual power.
“Oh that’s fine, Qinghua-ge. I’m happy with this fan.”
Liu Qingge nods, looking irritatingly smug. Inwardly, Shang Qinghua cheers when Master Shen kicks Liu Qingge.
“But I insist. It won’t offend me if you let me just switch the fans!”
“And I insist that it’s fine. It’s the first gift that I’ve received from a friend after all. So I’ll be keeping it!” Shen Yuan beams.
Shang Qinghua splutters. “No way. It can’t be your first gift from a friend! What about Mobei Jun?!”
“We give each other food,” Mobei Jun answers.
“Yeah we’re foodie buddies.”
For some reason, he can’t help but imagine Shen Yuan dragging a blank faced Mobei Jun to every restaurant in town and both of them scarily rating each restaurant on a foodie website with a slightly demonic smile (Shen Yuan) and icy indifference (Mobei Jun). Suddenly Shang Qinghua wants very much to know what kind of food would make Mobei Jun smile…
“But you had to have had friends when you were in elementary school? Or high school?”
“Hmmm. Not really. I was sick a lot as a kid so most people avoided me.”
Shang Qinghua has a feeling it wasn’t the illnesses but the two ghosts stalking him. He gives a considering gaze to Masters Yue and Shen. He really needs to figure out how to get rid of them soon. And safely. And without risking himself.
Both Masters, unaware of Shang Qinghua’s thoughts, move to put their hands on Shen Yuan’s shoulders. They look so alike, like a family, that Shang Qinghua almost forgets they’re ghosts.Still, he reminds himself not to be fooled. Them being around Shen Yuan 24/7 can’t be good for his friend.
Why can’t they just be content with trying to make ghost flowers like Ning Yingying why.
“It’s fine,” Shen Yuan interrupts his thoughts, “I never really felt I was alone. It’s going to sound silly but… I always felt like something was watching over me. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but when I’m alone, I feel like something’s with me. And it’s… warm. It’s… safe.”
Huh. Shang Qinghua’s mouth almost falls open. That almost sounds like Yuan-er might be able to sense Masters Yue and Shen… He’d forgotten about it but Shen Yuan did mention being able to see ‘shadows’ sometimes. Was that seriously true?
“Still…” Shang Qinghua speaks up, thinking of his own childhood, of taking refuge in stories and burying himself in comic after comic until they couldn’t satisfy him anymore, until he had to write his own or he’d explode. “You’re still alone.” There’s no one to talk to, no one to share things with.
Shen Yuan stares out the window, at the passing buildings and shops, at the reflections of ghosts he can’t see. “Maybe so,” he admits, “but I’m not alone now. I have you. And this fan.” He brings the fan up to his face. “When I carry this around lately… I feel safe. So please,” Shen Yuan snaps the fan shut, “let me keep it.”
Well, Shang Qinghua thinks, when you put it like that, how can I say no?
“Good,” Liu Qingge huffs needlessly later, after the car has gone silent. “Otherwise, I would have just possessed his glasses or something instead.”
“Why you dirty and lecherous brute! ”
“Xiao Jiu, not in the car! Think of A-Yuan!”
“Should I just push them onto the ceiling?” Ning Yingying wonders quietly.
“Please do,” Shang Qinghua mutters.
“Sorry what?” Shen Yuan asks.
“Uh, I meant, please do keep the fan, I am so touched to be your friend.” Yes nailed it.
He does not shrink towards Mobei Jun when Master Shen starts throwing Ning Yingying’s flowers at him, nope.
Interlude: Life of a Ghost
Liu Qingge follows Shen Yuan towards a big estate. He’s not sure of much in this new century, but he doesn’t think ordinary people live in houses this big. His Shen Yuan’s family must be wealthy. Quietly, he and the other ghosts hover along as Shen Yuan enters an empty hallway.
Shen Yuan doesn’t say anything, only goes to the kitchen to grab some snacks (that make the Shen Jiu person scoff, “I thought I told you to hide the cup ramen, Qi-ge.” “But he’s hungry, Xiao Jiu!”) and walk up long winding stairs into his room. If the rest of the house feels like an empty tomb, Shen Yuan’s room is vibrant with life--papers and scrolls strewn across the floor about various spirits and creatures, sketches of local wildlife, scattered paint jars, and books.
“Ah,” Shen Yuan flops on the bed like a spoiled kitten. “I’m so tired…”
“Then you shouldn’t have gone out so late,” Shen Jiu tisks.
“He’s still young. He should enjoy life with his friends. We both know he didn’t get to before,” Yue Qingyuan, the seemingly more diplomatic one says. Liu Qingge keeps a wary eye on him. The amount of power from Yue Qingyuan’s aura alone is overwhelming… almost as strong as Liu Qingge’s.
“Why do you talk to him when he can’t hear you?” Liu Qingge asks. He doesn’t see the point. Shouldn’t they just watch over and protect him like the ideal bodyguard would?
“Shut up brute,” Shen Jiu glares. “We may have decided to tolerate your presence for now, but you aren’t allowed to speak to him like we do.”
I never said I wanted to, Liu Qingge thinks. There’s little point in conversing with someone will never talk back to you. Even if that someone feels warm.
“You only say that because the two of you are evenly matched with me.” The three of them know very well that if Liu Qingge was stronger, he’d banish them and vice versa.
Shen Jiu looks ready to throw another fit, but Yue Qingyuan only puts his arms around Shen Jiu and whispers intently in his ear. After a few moments, Shen Jiu abruptly turns away, dragging Yue Qingyuan with him so they can sit by Shen Yuan.
“You know, just because he can’t hear us, doesn’t mean he doesn’t try talking to us,” Ning Yingying suddenly appears beside Liu Qingge.
He nearly jumps, wary of this small spirit with barely any aura…
“How can he know we’re here?” It’s enough just to be by this warm person’s side. He doesn’t need anything else…
Ning Yingying smiles. “Just listen,” she insists.
As if hearing Ning Yingying’s cue, Shen Yuan rolls on his back and murmurs, “I hope that spirit isn’t angry anymore. I hope he’s happy with Liu Mingyan. I hope I did the right thing...”
Liu Qingge blinks in confusion. “Who is he…”
“Sh!” Ning Yingying clamps his mouth shut.
“Maybe I should send up a prayer for Liu Qingge? I’ll ask the spirits at the Qiu estate later. Maybe Shen Jiu might reveal himself! A sword mound might work as a good monument to him, like the flowers I got for Ning Yingying… but I don’t have the sword anymore. I wonder what I could use a symbolic substitute? Oh well…” Shen Yuan closes his eyes, looking suddenly very faraway, as unattainable as a celestial being, or as distant as an immortal cultivator. “As long as they’re at peace…”
Shen Jiu and Yue Qingyuan, looking the most relaxed since Liu Qingge has met them, both smile. “We are.”
Oh, Liu Qingge’s heart, if it still exists, could ache.