Shen Kaixun was an ass. He was also a young master of the Shen family, whose matriarch was the governor of the city of Liuli. One would expect his vices to stem from his lofty social status, but that was not the case. He held no interest in acting the part of a stereotypical spoiled young lord with peacock tendencies and a pack of simpering cronies behind him; he found no joy in beating commoners up or forcing himself on pretty young men or women just because he could.
But lest he appear too virtuous, it was imperative to restate that Shen Kaixun was an ass. A frigid person who greatly preferred his own company to that of his peers, whose opinion of others was often coloured with bored nonchalance (at best), disdain, or disgust.
It didn’t help that he was calculating and utterly ruthless, as one buffoon of an official found out. The man had sought to discredit Shen Kaixun in the eyes of his mother so that one of his younger brothers, with whom the official was in cahoots, could stand a better chance at becoming the next head of the Shen clan. False rumours of Shen Kaixun’s illicit affairs in the red-light district had abounded, accompanied by attempts at putting Shen Kaixun in compromising positions in said district. They were so pathetic that they did little harm to his standing. Plus, he didn’t particularly covet the positions of clan head and governor. But the shenanigans caused him much annoyance and it was the thought that counted, so Shen Kaixun paid the man’s shady intentions back thousandfold.
He didn’t harm his brother. The poor sod was already quaking in his boots; he wouldn’t try anything funny again any time soon. That didn’t mean family members were much more privileged than strangers when it came to Shen Kaixun’s almost-nonexistent generosity. More than once, Lady Shen and her husband had rebuked him for doing things at his own convenience, for lacking care towards them and his younger siblings.
“Sometimes I wonder if you have any love at all for me/your sisters/your brothers,” said his parents from time to time, disappointment leaking from every pore. It was clear that they were of the opinion that Shen Kaixun’s heart was made of stone, and looking at the evidence, he could find no shield which he could use to defend himself. No one had ever slipped in deep enough for him to prioritise them over himself in day-to-day life. Touched him, yes. Made him feel affection, even guilt, yes. But hardly ever enough for him to wholeheartedly accommodate them at his expense, however slight the expense might be.
He was like a lone street rat, distrustful of its brethren, greedily seizing the best it could for itself—though this greed was tempered by a veneer of high-society upbringing.
He didn’t know why. Maybe some people were just rotten at the core. But once in a blue moon, he entertained the thought that perhaps it was because he had given away things he shouldn’t have given away in his past life. Maybe they had come back and bitten him, so even though he remembered nothing now, the instinct to take rather than give was burned in his soul. It was an utterly ludicrous notion, an excuse he made up to soothe any vestiges of guilt. Shen Kaixun may be heartless, but he wasn’t delusional.
And then he crossed paths with a man with kind eyes and a sheathed sword that radiated power.