Chapter 1: Amnesia AU
Notes: Timeline does not exist. I’ve only read up to a little before ch900 so far, so please forgive inaccuracies, etc, etc.
For anyone interested in CCG, you can read the manhua at Webnovel , the novel legally also at Webnovel , and the novel pirated here . My suggestion is to read the manhua legally and read the novel pirated (since it’s long and expensive). It’s a very fun modern day cultivation series. Give it a try!
He didn’t recognize the room he woke up. This should have probably been somewhat troubling, but he felt unexpectedly unconcerned, like this was a normal matter. There was also a man he didn’t recognize sitting by his bed. This should have also been troubling, but the man was very, very good-looking.
“Shuhang,” the man greeted him, smiling. There were sparkles coming from that smile. “It’s good that you’re awake. This time, you were out longer than usual. Everyone was starting to worry.”
‘Shuhang’ smiled back, awkwardly. Finally, he really did start feeling a bit troubled.
Because that name was also unfamiliar.
“Sorry to worry you,” he said. “I think I might be about to make it worse.”
“Oh?” the man said, his eyes widening slightly in surprise.
“It’s just that I think I might have lost my memories,” ‘Shuhang’ explained. “So I’m not sure who you might be...?”
The beautiful man’s eyebrows moved slightly, and he smiled again, even more stunning than before. For some reason, Shuhang felt instinctively like he was about to be put through something absolutely ridiculous.
Shuhang didn’t have time to worry about that because the man reached out and clasped his hands over Shuhang’s own. Despite his exceptionally refined looks, his palms were large and his long fingers were graceful without being delicate — very different from a girl’s hands.
So apparently Shuhang had experience holding hands with girls but was also the type to ruminate over the qualities of a man’s hands… He wasn’t sure what this said about him.
“You’ve forgotten even me?” the very beautiful man asked, thankfully only concerned and not tearful. If he cried, it would probably make Shuhang cry too from how beautiful it would be. “Shuhang, I’m your fiance.”
The most urgent thing, Shuhang felt, was to find a mirror.
His… fiance’s... name was apparently Song Bai, but it was fine to call him Senior White. So not only was he stunningly beautiful, he was also an older man. Okay. He additionally had magic powers, it seemed, since he casually summoned up a reflective surface out of an impossibly thin, improbably hovering sheet of water. Okay, okay.
‘Not bad’ was Shuhang’s judgement as he looked at the delicate, gentle features in the water mirror. Not bad, but nothing special either. Turning his head from side to side, Shuhang tried to figure out what part of this face had apparently managed to hook someone like this.
“Senior, are you sure you’re engaged to me?” Shuhang blurted out before he could stop himself.
“Yes,” Senior White said with a smile.
“Are you really sure?”
“Very sure,” he confirmed.
“...I see,” Shuhang said. “Then I guess I’m a very lucky guy.”
He waved away the water mirror, and only realized what he’d done after it had already dissolved into nothing. He stared at his hand for a moment, flexing it and feeling the true qi that he had instinctively moved through it, then shrugged and turned back to Senior White.
“Shuhang’s luck is pretty good,” Senior White agreed. “So I’m sure your memories will return soon.”
He seemed very calm, but it couldn’t have been pleasant to have his fiance forget all about him. Shuhang fumbled, feeling strangely unsure about how to comfort him. Patting him on the shoulder was too distant, wasn’t it? But the thought of something like stroking his cheek made Shuhang’s head swim. In the end, he could only settle for taking Senior White’s hand and lacing their fingers together. Senior White observed the gesture with a mild expression, unhelpfully neither pleased nor rejecting.
“I’ll find a way to remember you, I promise,” Shuhang said staunchly.
Senior White’s smile curled with amusement.
Yeah, that sounded as ridiculous as it felt.
Quickly changing the subject, Shuhang managed to find out a few things. The two of them were both cultivators, and they had a number of cultivator friends who kept in contact through a chat group. One of their friends specialized in medicine and would be coming by to give Shuhang a checkup... eventually. This friend was quite busy.
As for how or why he’d lost his memories, no one knew. Senior White had found him passed out on the couch more than a week prior, with no indication as to the cause.
The unfamiliar room Shuhang woke up in belonged to him.
“We don’t share a room?” he asked Senior White. Since they already lived together, it was a bit of a surprise that they still kept separate bedrooms even after getting engaged.
Senior White, who had been rapidly typing something into the chat, paused and looked at Shuhang. “We can,” he said. “Let’s do that.”
Then, he leaned in and pressed a kiss to Shuhang’s cheek. His lips were very soft, and so was his hair as it brushed against Shuhang’s face and bare chest. Shuhang swallowed heavily, feeling himself flush. Was this how couples felt about even such a small gesture? No wonder they were so fond of feeding everyone dog food.
“....Okay,” Shuhang said vaguely.
Venerable White: “Also, I told little friend Shuhang we’re engaged. Everyone, please play along.”
Senior White, who had just finished explaining the situation and asking Medicine Master for assistance, casually dropped something scary in the chat.
Third Reckless Mad Saber: “haha, what?”
Island Master Tian Tiankong: “haha, what? +1"
Vice-Island Master Tian Tianwei: “haha, what? +2"
Young Master Phoenix Slayer: “haha, what? +3"
Loose Cultivator Northern River: “Senior White, are you playing a prank on little friend Shuhang? Did he do something reckless recently?”
Venerable White sent a smiley face into the chat. “No, I just felt it would be amusing. I saw a show on TV with this plot.”
Everyone observed a three second silence for Song Shuhang. He had it rough, taking the brunt of both Senior White’s special kind of luck and also Senior White’s infamous, devastating charm. This kind of setup seemed especially dangerous — logically, Senior White was the one who had brought it on himself if Song Shuhang decided to go for a kiss, but would their esteemed senior remember that?
However... no one tried to dissuade Senior White either.
Fairy Lychee: “Senior White, I have a question.”
Fairy Lychee: “Have you ever had a dao companion?”
True Monarch Yellow Mountain hurried to save her from a tragic — for her — misunderstanding, “What Fairy Lychee means is, do you know how to act like someone in love? Otherwise, the joke won’t be as convincing, and little friend Shuhang might even catch on.”
Venerable White: “Oh, I hadn’t considered that. Does anyone have any suggestions?”
Loose Cultivator Northern River: “Well, Medicine Master and Riverly Purple Mist seem to already be offline. Who else has a significant other?”
Cave Master Snow Wolf: “I’m not sure my methods will work for you, since you’re both human.”
“Well, first of all, you should touch a lot, very casually,” Fairy Dongfang Six chimed in. She didn’t have a dao companion, but she had a pursuer, and she knew about romance in general. “Standing so close that you’re touching, holding hands, an arm around his waist, a kiss would be good too!”
Now that it had been said, everyone tried to picture it. ...Imagining Senior White in a romantic way was immediately impossible. Kissing Senior White? You might as well kiss a Buddha. However, if it was just standing close to Song Shuhang, that was something many of the cultivators in the group had witnessed during the infamous disposable sword meteor shower. Mentally, they decreased the distance between the two, bit by bit.
Even when the two figures were completely pressed against each other, it didn’t seem too strange. Everyone nodded to themselves. That could work.
Holding hands was also fine. Everyone nodded again.
An arm around his waist was also… wait. Whose waist would it be? Senior White’s arm on Song Shuhang’s? Song Shuhang’s on Senior White? Although everyone remained unaware, for the moment, the collective hivemind quickly divided into three camps. The nature of intelligent beings is just that every so often someone accidentally invents the gong-shou distinction again.
Venerable White: “A kiss might be a problem. I’ve heard that first kisses are special. It’s just a small joke, I don’t want him to be too angry afterwards.”
Fairy Dongfang Six (4 Wheel Death): “A kiss on the cheek is fine too!”
At this point, Soft Feather logged in. She hadn’t been on for a few days, and the backlog was too much for her to even think of going through. So only scanning the last couple messages, she asked innocently, “Who’s kissing?”
Venerable White: “Shuhang and I.”
Soft Feather sent a wide-eyed emoji.
Venerable White: “We’re engaged.”
And then he added a “senior_white_smile” emote. The emote was very cute and refreshing, but everyone who saw it immediately felt a chill.
Previously, Senior White hadn’t been able to feel satisfied punishing Soft Feather because things like a trip to space or a corkscrew take off and parachute-style landing only made her excited. Now, although it was petty, Soft Feather was about to receive a belated punishment by being left out of the ‘fun joke’ at Song Shuhang’s expense.
[System Notification: Thrice Reckless Mad Saber has been muted by the group’s founder, True Monarch Yellow Mountain, for 1 day.]
Just in case, Yellow Mountain took preemptive action.
Since Thrice Reckless being muted was a semi-regular occurrence, Soft Feather didn’t even notice.
Butterfly Island’s Soft Feather: “I knew it! Congratulations! So which of you finally proposed?”
Soft Feather casually dropped something scary in the chat.
While several members of the group felt there was something off about her reaction and especially her phrasing, Senior White thought over his response. This was a perfect opportunity to start figuring out the backstory, in case Shuhang asked as well.
“Shuhang did,” he decided, pushing the matter off on the other party. Since Song Shuhang wouldn’t remember either way, it was convenient. “He was joking, but I decided to accept. It happened a little while ago, but soon after Shuhang passed out, and now that he’s woken up, he’s lost his memories.”
“Oh no!” Soft Feather sent a worried emoji. “Are you both going to be alright?”
“Most likely,” Venerable White replied. There was a pause. “We’re going to start sharing a room, since Shuhang asked. Also, kiss on the cheek works quite well. Thanks for the advice, @Fairy Dongfang Six.”
Soft Feather sent a thumbs up, which was the last thing Senior White saw before he logged off — leaving the chat group in shock and existential crisis.
When the bright moon appears: “...Did that really just happen?”
Plus ones scrolled through the chat for a while.
Fairy Lychee: “Someone should tell Fellow Daoist White Crane about this in private chat. Just in case.” Or there was no telling how that crazy hardcore fan would react.
When it came to people with amnesia, Song Shuhang felt the normal thing to do would be to take them to places with lots of memories and tell them about the past. Naturally, he didn’t remember why he thought this, but it was definitely his impression.
Senior White did not agree. “I don’t think your memories are lost. You’re just unable to recall them temporarily,” he said. “So when you do, won’t it be boring to remember the same thing twice? It’s better to make new memories instead.”
Since Shuhang had spent a week unconscious, their friends had already arranged an indefinite medical leave from university for him — apparently, Shuhang was a student. His normal, non-cultivator friends had also been given some story to keep them from finding out anything. Thus, he and Senior White were free to go and have fun without any worries, which was precisely what Senior White decided to do.
Things Shuhang found out he and his fiance had done in the past: Take flying lessons, go to space, go to hidden ruins, shoot a movie, spend time on an uncharted island at sea, visit his parents, pick bayberries.
Things Shuhang and his fiance had not done: Go to a soccer game, go to a concert, try every kind of ice cream in three different ice cream parlors, go on a tour of a fitness equipment factory, ride the train to the next city over, go to an amusement park.
...Was there something a little off about this relationship? What kind of dates had they been having?
Was it a cultivator thing? Or...
No, Shuhang wasn’t going to question his perfectly great relationship! Didn’t they hold hands a lot, drink from the same milkshake, and constantly wear cutesy couple shirts, with a selfie for each one? He had somehow scored such a beautiful, talented fiance, why was he doubting such a good thing?
Besides, wasn’t their unique dating history most likely the result of Senior White’s unique character?
The unique character that had them sneaking into an amusement park in the middle of the night.
This was the same park they had visited a few hours earlier. They were even still wearing the silly animal ears with a bow headbands. However, while Senior White had enjoyed the overall atmosphere of the theme park, the mascots, and the junk food, he had found the rides to be not up to cultivator standards. Given the speeds he preferred when flying them around on his sword, that was hardly a surprise.
Shuhang had spent a good thirty minutes convincing him that they could not attach speed boost x10 formations to the rollercoaster, the spinning teacups, and especially not the ferris wheel.
This battle, he won. The battle to not sneak in after hours and modify the attractions then, he lost.
"Don't worry, I'll make sure they run even better afterwards," Senior White assured him, smiling. "And if they don't, Fellow Daoist Yellow Mountain will help reimburse the park owners."
Shuhang wondered if he was indulgent kind of lover, or the long suffering kind. Or was he the enthusiastically enabling kind? Once he gave in and accepted that they were committing at least a dozen crimes tonight, the idea did start to seem a little... exciting. After all, who hadn't dreamed of having an amusement park all to themselves?
"We should reinforce the tracks too, not just the car," he said. "Otherwise, the added stress from the extra speed will damage the rails and the supports."
"Oh, that's a good point," Senior White agreed brightly, digging around to pull out additional reinforcement A4 papers.
This particular park was famous for its rollercoaster, the "Nine Hells Spiral." The tracks were particularly long, boasting that at least half of any group will be puking by the end. Even working together, it took Shuhang and Senior White a while to paste sufficient formations over the structure.
Sometime in the middle, Shuhang heard a splash and turned to see a massive fountain of water splashing up front where the tracks ran over an artificial pond, which always got the rollercoaster riders thoroughly splashed when the car skimmed over its surface — it seemed Senior White had gotten distracted.
Finally, both of them returned to the boarding platform.
A car was waiting there, and the two of them squeezed into the front row. Shuhang diligently pulled the shoulder harness down, and Senior White copied him with a smile. Cultivators like them hardly needed protection for something like this, but Senior White seemed to consider it part of the experience, just like throwing your hands in the air and screaming. With a small gesture from him, the machinery beneath them clanked and started up, moving the car down the track and up the initial climb.
As they rose, Shuhang had a clear view of the empty park under the moonlight. Although it had long since closed for the night, there were still some colorful lights illuminating the outlines of the attractions, so it did not feel desolate or abandoned. The night air was cool and refreshing, with a brisk breeze blowing through. Despite all the speed formations on the rollercoaster, the climb up was the same as normal — this too was apparently an integral part of the experience to Senior White.
When Shuhang glanced at him, he was nearly vibrating with excitement, his eyes sparkling. Shuhang smiled.
They crested the slope, and the car plunged downward.
Since the distances were very short and full of tight turns, the rollercoaster couldn’t work up too much speed even with Senior White’s formations. But the increased velocity was enough to make the centrifugal forces increase by several times at every turn. Throwing his hands up, Senior White yelled cheerfully, but Shuhang didn’t think he could possibly squeeze out a scream, feeling like a flattened pancake.
The car jerked violently sideways and went into the ride’s famous nine consecutive loops. The harness cracked under Shuhang’s grip.
He was going to puke, he thought with certainty. He was going to puke as soon as his insides stopped being pushed in.
Coming out of the hell spiral, they skimmed the pool. A towering wave swept out, dousing the path among the shore and several empty stands that sold snacks during the day. There was a particularly long almost straight stretch above the water, letting the car pick up far too much speed. The next turn was going to make him puke for real, Shuhang thought.
Here it comes—!
The rails twisted, and the car jerked into the turn... but something was wrong.
There was a piercing screech, and instead of turning, they were suddenly barrelrolling through the air. As they flipped head over heels, Shuhang could see the rail that been completely twisted out of shape until it gave way, behind them.
"Hahaha," Senior White laughed. "I must have forgotten to attach a reinforcement formation to this section, when I got distracted."
Shuhang closed his eyes and accepted fate. Forget it, even this kind of impact couldn't do much to a cultivator of his constitution.
After crawling out of the wreckage — Senior White somehow still immaculately beautiful, while Shuhang looked like an apocalypse movie extra — Senior White said with a smile, "Let's try the teacups next!"
True Monarch Yellow Mountain's minions were going to be very busy.
What was a prank without evidence for later mocking and blackmail?
And evidence Senior White was determined to accumulate.
At a concert! Matching shirts with Shuhang <3 The music was very invigorating!
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Sharing ice cream with Shuhang :)
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Modified the rollercoaster, but had a bit of an accident!
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Yellow Mountain (V): I’ll send someone to clean up.
Returning to their hotel room late at night, Shuhang dropped onto the king bed face down and groaned into the pillow. It had been a long and very full day. In fact, every day on this 'new memory making' trip with Senior White was like this.
But it seemed Shuhang was the kind of person who liked that. Turning his head enough to catch a glimpse of his fiance, he smiled.
Senior White was happily typing away on his phone, most likely posting to the chat again. Although Shuhang's own phone had been returned to him, he didn't log in much. The chat was very chaotic, and he couldn't remember any of the members. Rather than risk offending someone or saying something wrong, it was easier to just keep his distance for a while, until his memories came back. It wasn't as if he was spending his days in boredom, after all.
Propping his head up on one arm, he asked, "Did the others say anything interesting?"
"They're all very jealous and cursing us out for taunting single dogs like them," Senior White said.
"Oh? But what kind of friends would we be, if we didn't share our happiness with them?" Shuhang laughed.
"Exactly!" Senior White beamed. "Shuhang understands me best!" There was something a little strange and deep in his gaze as he smiled down at Shuhang. It was not a casual look, and Shuhang couldn't help wiggling slightly in response. The reason was... not entirely embarrassment. Or rather, it was two kinds of embarrassment.
It was probably not that kind of look. ...Or was it?
"So what are we doing tomorrow?" he asked, changing the topic.
"Fireworks," Senior White said decisively. "And for the rest of the day..." The bed next to Shuhang dipped with his weight, as he moved over from the chair. Levering himself up a little more, Shuhang peered at the phone Senior White held out for him to see.
The corner of his mouth twitched, but he suppressed it quickly. "Sounds good," he said. "Then I'll shower first, and we can turn in for the night." Even though it was closer to morning already.
Given the lateness of the hour, Senior White decided to forego mundane matters and simply cleaned himself off in some cultivator way. He was already in his (matching) pajamas when Shuhang emerged from the bathroom, and he helpfully peeled back the blanket for Shuhang and turned off the lamp switched as he slid into bed.
There was more than enough light coming from the window for Shuhang to see Senior White's face when he turned on his side, facing his bedmate. It was undeniably the most beautiful face in the world.
He still had no idea how he managed to score a fiance like this, and could only send a thumbs up to his non-amnesia self, but he felt a little more accustomed to the idea now.
Being with Senior White felt natural and easy, even when it was crazy. His all memories self had known what he was doing when he proposed.
Realizing that Senior White was looking back at him, Shuhang smiled.
"Sweet dreams," he said, and leaned in to lightly press his lips to Senior White's.
It was a simple contact, and Shuhang think didn't much of it. Laying his head back on his pillow, he closed his eyes and quickly drifted off to sleep.
He didn't notice Senior White staring at him, eyebrows slowly rising, or the way he looked up at the ceiling for a long time, lost in thought. When Shuhang rolled over onto him, mumbling in his sleep, Senior White let him cuddle as he pleased and only absently stroked his hair.
His lips tilted up in a small smile, under the light, thoughtful touch of his fingertips.
Well, this was fine too. Venerable White was someone who knew to repay everything properly. He would take responsibility.
Venerable White: Fellow Daoist Yellow Mountain, let's film another wedding scene. Shuhang and I will be the couple. Can you also bring his parents over?
Yellow Mountain is very tired and wants to retire: ...Has little friend Shihang done something to offend you recently, Fellow Daoist White?
Venerable White: No, that’s not it.
Yellow Mountain is very tired and wants to retire: It’s fine if you want to have a little fun with him within our group, but involving his parents...
Venerable White: It’s too much?
Yellow Mountain is very tired and wants to retire: They don’t even know he lost his memories, or about the prank. It’ll be difficult to explain.
Venerable White: I see. The order would be wrong. I understand, thank you for reminding me.
Yellow Mountain sighed as he closed the private chat with Venerable White. This was as much help as he could give Song Shuhang. Hopefully, he’d appreciate it, once he regained his memories.
Song Shuhang didn’t recognize the room he woke up in. This wasn’t particularly troubling, since this was a fairly normal matter for him. Besides, it was pretty obviously a hotel room of some sort.
His head was aching, so he was just about to turn over and go back to sleep, when the balcony door opened and Senior White walked in. Song Shuhang smiled reflexively and was about to say something like, ‘Where did you go so early, did you get breakfast?’
And then, the memories set in.
Song Shuhang had the general impression that he’d been sent to the dreamland for seeing other people's memories again, but whichever memories he connected to this time were apparently too much for him to handle. He couldn’t remember what he’d been shown, if he saw anything at all, and ended up glitching so badly he couldn’t access his own memories for a while.
Now, his brain had finally rebooted, and both sets of memories — his original eighteen years of life and the last two weeks or so while amnesiac — arranged themselves properly.
Right. The last two weeks.
The last two weeks he’d... spent convinced he was engaged to Senior White...
He’d held hands with Senior White. He’d been kissed on the cheek. They shared milkshakes and ice cream. They wore couple shirts. They went on dozens of dates. There were definitely embarrassing selfies of all this.
Song Shuhang kissed him.
True Monarch White Crane was going to murder him.
Naturally, Senior White didn’t miss Song Shuhang’s horrified, green-tinged expression. He smiled. “It’s good that you’re awake,” he said. “You were out for three days. It seems your memories have returned.”
“Y... yes,” Song Shuhang admitted. “Um, Senior...”
Senior White sat down on the bed next to him. They had shared a bed for two weeks. Song Shuhang was a dead man. “There’s something I want you to say to me,” Senior White said, smiling. “You remember when we talked about memories you can’t bear to recall and how you start thinking they’re not so bad?”
Song Shuhang’s hair stood on end. He remembered! He definitely remembered when he sought death, how the world went black and white, and the cultivator-style bungee jump he was punished with!
“Senior White, please,” he teared up. “You can’t blame me for this! I was innocent, completely innocent! You’re the one who lied to me! You practically took advantage of me!”
“That’s true,” Senior White agreed. “That’s why I’m going to take responsibility. Shuhang, go ahead and say it.”
His smile was particularly beautiful, and the pressure it exerted was unimaginable. There was no escaping, no crack to wiggle out through, no matter how much Song Shuhang tried to press himself down into the mattress.
“...L-Little White... when your h-hair... reaches your waist...” he forced out one word at a time, “w-w-will you m-m-m-marry me...”
Senior White beamed. “Okay!”
“Huh?” Snot dripping down from one nostril, Song Shuhang stared at him.
“But my hair is already past my waist, so there’s no need to wait,” Senior White said. And indeed, his hair, which he’d cut during the filming of Apocalypse War, was once more well past his waist. “Shuhang, let’s get married right away!”
At Earth’s End, a certain little white crane had been weeping for over two weeks, and gave no signs of stopping.
Hang in there, Senior White Crane! You’ll find your special person one day!
Chapter 2: Small time travel AU
Notes: Hm. I couldn’t get into the groove of this, even though I like the idea.
Song Shuhang studied the structure in front of him. Then he looked down at the photograph on the screen of his phone.
It was clearly the same place — the beautifully carved stone facade of a great temple, the two thick pillars on either side of the tall, wide gate, even the flagstones with an inlaid taiji symbol. The problem was that the one in the photograph was a ruin, worn down to gray colorlessness by time and weather, while the one in front of him was vivid and bustling with people in ancient robes.
He’d taken the photograph himself a few days ago, when he arrived at the abandoned nameless temple to prepare for his heavenly tribulation.
‘I can’t believe this,’ Shuhang thought, dropping his head in his hands and groaning. ‘Why did it turn out like this?’ The passersby silently gave him a wider berth. They were all cultivators, and his traditional Daoist robe didn't stand out much, but a person having dramatics in front of a temple was someone to keep a distance from, just in case.
He knew why it turned out like this, of course.
Song Shuhang was a small cultivator of the Fourth Stage. He had traveled to a remote ruin in order to face his tribulation and hopefully become a medium-sized cultivator of the Fifth Stage.
He failed. Something went wrong, and the whole thing turned into a mess. The divine energy of the tribulation combined with his formations and techniques to send him to the past.
It wasn’t quite as improbable as it sounded — Song Shuhang’s cultivation was founded on the power of time to begin with. The power of time could be considered on par or even the matching equal to the power of space, so just like teleportation, time travel was something only a Ninth Stage Tribulation Transcender could hope to use… intentionally. But it wasn’t out of the question to end up causing something like that unintentionally by 'borrowing' the power of a heavenly tribulation.
Since this was a matter of his specific cultivation method, Shuhang wasn’t actually panicking. It wasn’t even something he’d never considered — who would get time powers and not consider time travel? — and he knew there was no need to worry about time paradoxes or anything like that.
The reason for his moaning and groaning was simply annoyance.
His cultivation had dropped a small realm as a result of failing his tribulation, and now he was stuck in the past, where (when?) he didn’t even know anyone to go to for help. He didn’t even have any money! He didn’t even know how to write traditional characters .
After making a spectacle of himself in the corner of the temple plaza for a while longer, Song Shuhang straightened out his expression and began to think for real.
But seriously, now what?
The simplest solution for returning to the future would be to just take the slow way and wait until the 21st century rolled around again. Song Shuhang could either raise his cultivation level and increase his lifespan enough to wait it out, or he could directly place himself into a state of suspended animation somewhere hidden away from the outside world.
Alternatively, he could try to make lightning strike the same place twice — attempt to face his tribulation for advancing to Fifth Stage a second time with the same formations and protections, and hope it would mess up in exactly the same way, except sending him to the future instead of further into the past.
Song Shuhang had originally been a normal person, who lived an unremarkable, normal life for eighteen years. But despite that, he had cheerfully jumped into the world of cultivation when given the opportunity, embracing the risks and the difficulties. Naturally, his disposition was not one prone to valuing the safe, boring way of doing things.
So he was going to become possibly the first cultivator to purposefully aim for failing his tribulation.
“I wonder what the seniors in the group will say when I tell them about this,” Song Shuhang muttered to himself, smiling a little.
Probably, he would receive a long column of face-palming emojis.
When preparing for his tribulation, Shuhang had chosen a remote location — a nameless temple in the desert. This land had once been overflowing with spiritual energy, before the spirit vein beneath the earth shifted, but some of that blessing had still lingered even in the future, so it remained a location with ties to cultivation. Although Song Shuhang hadn't seen anyone else there, he had found traces of other cultivators who had put the area to the same use, whether for tribulations or for seclusion or simply an empty place to test and refine their techniques.
Now in the past, the temple was still surrounded by green plains, and the spiritual energy was abundant in the air. Its name, it turned out, was simply Waypoint Temple, and it had already been abandoned by whichever sect or group had built it. However, it remained in use as precisely that — a waypoint for streams of ancient cultivators coming to meditate on the spirit vein.
Or to train in the nearby desert, just as they would centuries down the line.
Shuhang too headed for the desert that was a pale strip on the horizon.
Fortunately, regaining cultivation that had been lost through some mishap was far easier than advancing in the first place, and his realm had only dropped a small amount. A bit of meditation in the plentiful spiritual energy, and he would be back at the peak of Fourth Stage.
He just needed to find some nice stone crag or better a cave and settle down like a proper daoist detached from earthly matters…
There was only one problem.
Every single rock outcropping, ridge and hole he came across was already occupied by some other proper fellow daoist.
“Occupied,” a scholarly-looking uncle with a nice goatee called out without opening his eyes, before Song Shuhang even had a chance to step into the shade of his little stone alcove.
“Get lost, I was here first!” a large purple python hissed when Shuhang tried to duck into the small space under a pile of boulders.
“Amitabha,” a buddhist monk greeted simply from his place in the shadow of a large stone.
In its heyday, this place was really popular, huh?
He just wanted to find a place to meditate. Was that so much to ask for? In this wide desert, was there nowhere even slightly shaded where he could sit down? Song Shuhang might have been a cultivator of the Fourth Stage, but that didn’t mean he wanted to sit out in the blazing sun. Maybe he’d be more or less alright physically, but mentally he’d fry up like an old sardine.
Sighing for the thirty fifth time since arriving in the past less than a day earlier, Song Shuhang gave up and dropped onto the top of a sand dune.
However, even giving up wasn’t enough. Just as Shuhang crossed his legs and closed his eyes, ready to meditate out in the sun like a stinky old sardine, someone called out to him.
“Fellow daoist! Fellow daoist!” a cheerful, spirited voice sounded across the desert, accompanied by the ting-a-ling of bells.
The bells were attached to the bridle and saddle of a lovely white horse steadily trotting across the sands. Astride it was a youth of about fifteen or sixteen, precisely the ‘fellow daoist’ who had called out to Song Shuhang. Beaming, the young man waved, as if he had found an old friend.
Obviously, Song Shuhang had no idea who he was, and there was even less possibility of this young man knowing him.
“I was just hoping to find a fellow daoist, and here you are!” the young man went on, dismounting smoothly as he drew near. “Say, how about we train in some hand-to-hand combat techniques together?"
The excited way he held up his fists — still small and very elegant — reminded Song Shuhang of Soft Feather. Even in just a few moments and three sentences, he felt like their demeanors were somewhat similar. However, this young man was quite a bit weaker than Shuhang’s friend, and he did not seem to be carrying the sort of veritable treasure house and armory that Soft Feather’s doting father tended to equip her with.
In other words, this young man felt like a person who was always accompanied by chaos and a headache.
“Sorry, little brother, but I’m not really in the mood to exchange pointers,” Song Shuhang said. “Why don’t you try one of the others around here?”
Most likely, none of the people mediating out here in the desert would be interested either, but that wasn’t Song Shuhang’s problem. He was usually a friendly, helpful sort, but he had his own troubles at the moment, and he had no interest in playing around in the sand under the scorching sun.
The young man’s beautiful but still slightly soft featured drew into a pout. Although he would perhaps not have liked this description, it was definitely the kind of expression that made hearts flutter with an instinctive desire to coax and pamper.
Yeah, very much like Soft Feather, Song Shuhang thought, his expression blank and unmoved.
Seeing that the friendly, outgoing act wasn’t working, the young man changed his approach. “Begging Senior’s indulgence,” he said, ducking his head and peering at Song Shuhang through his long, thick eyelashes. “This junior has no master or senior disciples to guide him, so meeting such a skilled senior is like a blessing from the heavens…”
Song Shuhang mentally gave him a thumbs up. His acting skills were definitely a notch about Soft Feather, who was too spoiled to have ever needed this level of ability in acting loveable.
“Still no,” Shuhang said, but he couldn't help smiling a little.
This was a mistake. Seeing that this senior was amused and indulgent, the young man smiled back and decided to be stupid in the way of the young and very lucky.
“I understand…” he started to say, half turning as if accepting that he wouldn’t get his way — only to suddenly spin back around and lunge for Song Shuhang, true qi gathering in his hands and fingers. “Please pardon me, Senior!” he called out cheerfully as he swung his claws with the aim of ripping Shuhang’s head off.
It wasn’t possible, of course. They were nearly two full realms apart, and this kind of move was just asking for a beating — or worse, if the senior he offended was not the forgiving sort. Begging forgiveness after failing to get permission… Kids these days, Song Shuhang thought.
He already said he wasn’t interested in playing around.
“Hehe,” he chuckled dryly. “Time Stop.”
And, indeed, time stopped.
The extremes of dark and light leached out of the world, leaving only a monotone sort of dull beige. Simultaneously, the young man was left hanging frozen in midair. Behind him, even his horse had stopped, its long white mane mid-flutter. The only one still moving was Song Shuhang, who climbed to his feet with a sigh.
Since the young man had been nearly on him, Shuhang reached out to lightly flick him on the forehead. “You’re lucky I’m a nice senior,” he said.
His lips twitched — this was his first time being a real senior, in fact. Within the chat group, everyone had been cultivating far longer than him, so even when he caught up with some of them, like Soft Feather and Su Clan’s Sixteen, he couldn’t be considered senior to them. He had also received his share of tasks to mind the child disciples of some members, but that had been more babysitting in his capacity as an adult, unrelated to his cultivation level.
This was different. He was both older and stronger than this young man — a senior in every sense.
Smiling, Song Shuhang flicked him on the forehead again.
It was a pointless action, of course. With the level of technique Shuhang was using, he couldn’t affect anything, whether people or objects. Even when he moved across the sand dunes, there were no footprints left behind. This ‘Time Stop’ was purely for running away.
Which was exactly what he did. Turning on his heel — and nearly losing his balance because the texture of the time-frozen dunes was quite strange — Song Shuhang quickly beat a retreat.
When the world returned to normal some time later, the young man in the green robe found himself pouncing onto nothing but sand. That was fine and somewhat within his expectations, after all, the senior he’d decided to play with was quite a bit stronger than him. However, when he spun around, ready to pounce again, there was no sign of his impromptu sparring partner.
Rather than dodging, the senior had completely disappeared?
The young man pursed his lips sulkily. But a moment later, his eyes glittered with determination and renewed excitement.
Wasn’t a chase fun too?
He didn’t have a tree branch to use, but the plain sword he pulled from his horse’s saddlebags would do just as well. Closing his eyes, the young man threw threw it into the air. The sword spun end over end, gleaming under the burning sun. When it landed, pointing in a seemingly random direction, the young man smiled.
“That way, huh?” he said. “Alright! Senior, here I come!”
'How does he keep finding me??' Song Shuhang wondered helplessly, as the increasingly familiar ting-a-ling of bells pulled him out of his attempts to meditate.
This was already the fifth time. Shuhang had thoroughly checked his body for any spiritual imprint or other tracking method, but he found nothing. He really had no idea how the young man with the horse kept following him — and so quickly, too. Did he put speed formations on that horse...?
Standing and turning to look at the quickly approaching rider, Song Shuhang considered whether to run off again.
He had to admit that he was impressed by the young man's perseverance, as well as curious about his methods. It was fine for Song Shuhang to run around the desert, but it was different for a cultivator of the Second Stage. The young man was obviously tiring, his pretty face flushed and sweaty as he excitedly waved to Shuhang.
"Senior! Senior, I finally found you!" he called out just like he had the last four times.
Probably, he's last another two times, but not more. Song Shuhang considered running off again... but in the end, he couldn't harden his heart enough. His mood to cultivate had been somewhat ruined as well.
Well, it was fine. He wasn't actually in a rush. Spending an extra day or two in the past wouldn't make a difference, right?
"You did," he agreed with a wry smile. "So you want to train, right?"
The youth's eyes glimmered with excitement and also satisfaction at getting his way. "Yes! Thank you, Senior! What shall we train? Hand to hand techniques? Sword techniques? Saber? Hammers?"
This kid... he was this young, without a master, and he was learning all those?
"Saber," Song Shuhang decided. Out of the options given, this was what he considered himself most skilled as — his sword techniques were non-existent, he'd never so much as picked up a hammer, and his hand to hand skills were rather limited and hodgepodge.
"So Senior prefers sabers despite having two swords?" the young man asked, already pulling out his own weapon from the horse's packs.
Song Shuhang reflexively reached down to pat the two swords strapped at his waist. “If you do well, maybe Senior will tell you the story,” he said, smiling as he instead drew the long saber on his back.
To a young cultivator, the promise of an exciting story from a senior was exceptionally appealing. Song Shuhang clearly remembered his own fascination with hearing the seniors in the group talk about their adventures, even in passing, so he easily recognize the extra gleam of anticipation that appeared in the young man’s eyes.
“This junior, White, asks for Senior’s instruction!” he said, hefting his saber and springing forward.
So his name was White…?
The surprise was almost enough to give him an opening, but the gap of two realms was not quite so easily overcome, and Song Shuhang parried aside his strike, even if with less grace than he would have liked. The young man’s skills were exceptional, especially if he was really self-taught.
“Alright then, show me what you’ve got, Little White,” Shuhang said, smiling.
Afterwards, when it had already grown dark and they finally settled down to rest in a small oasis they stumbled on, Song Shuhang did indeed tell him the story.
How, when he had just discovered cultivation, an unknown benefactor sent him the manual for his exceptionally rare, special cultivation method, and how the flying sword that it was delivered on still remained with Song Shuhang, a plain but very useful weapon and, later, method of transportation.
How, when his last tribulation went out of control, another flying sword appeared to help him, this one a one-of-a-kind treasure but bearing traces of the same sword qi as the small delivery sword.
Neither sword belonged to Song Shuhang, who had a near zero aptitude for sword techniques anyway. He was just… borrowing them, until he could return them to his unknown benefactor.
“It sounds like you have a powerful backer. But you really don’t know who it is?” Little White wondered, laying his cheek on his knees and watching Song Shuhang with great interest.
“If I’ve met them, they never let me know it was them that gave me this cultivation method,” Shuhang said. “But… I think I might have a theory.”
From the beginning, when he understood what kind of cultivation method he had so mysteriously received, Song Shuhang had something of an inkling. Now that he knew time travel was very much possible, he was almost certain. It was one thing to receive good fortune, or the casual benevolence of the seniors in the group. It was something else entirely to be helped by someone intentionally from the shadows, to this degree and extent. Shuhang had no illusions about the kind of boring life he’d lived until that point or accidentally earning that kind of assistance without knowing.
No, far more likely… he’d earn it in the future, but also in someone’s past. For this, and for the Scholarly Faction’s strangely excessive regard, it was all things he would have to repay down the line.
After all, with his cultivation method there was no need to worry about time paradoxes precisely because it could only create steady time loops. Everything that he would do in the future that might interfere with the past was already part of the timeline.
In the group, there was a senior also called just White. But Shuhang had not seen him post even once since he joined, even though Senior White was still privately in contact with others. This person was described as exceptionally beautiful, exceedingly lucky, and obsessed with cultivation.
Looking at Little White, who was smiling slyly, with the demeanor of someone who wanted something and was quite sure in his ability to weedle it out, Song Shuhang wondered if maybe, when he returned, he would finally be able to meet this mysterious senior.
Or rather, having met him, they would be able to finally have a reunion.