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The Life and Times of Luo Binghe, Semi-Competent Witch and Deeply Incompetent Seducer

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Luo Binghe felt what little was left of his dignity wither and die away as he typed sex magic in the search bar of his computer.

It was a sad, desperate measure, but he was done with the entirety of Shen Yuan’s beginners’ course, and halfway through the intermediate level, and had, in all this time, obtained exactly one gulp (when Luo Binghe had “lost” control of the leaves-blades spell and artfully shredded his clothing), eighty-seven praises of his cooking abilities and five-hundred and sixty-one smiles.

Clearly, such times called for sad, desperate measures.

The first results of his search were all variations on lust spells, which were disgusting and not at all what Luo Binghe was looking for. He didn’t want to coerce Shen Yuan into his bed. It would be a hollow victory, and an horrible thing to do to anyone, let alone the love of his life.

Wincing, he clicked away from the site and added rituals to his search.

That was more like it.

Sure, there were rather more candles and blood than what he had envisioned for their first time (if Luo Binghe was being honest with himself, he had imagined their first time would feature a discreetly placed string quartet and heaps of rose petals). However, this was nothing but a secondary concern. The only thing that really mattered was that Shen Yuan would, in the name of learning, be exposed to Luo Binghe’s amazing (and, most importantly, addictive) amatory abilities.

He printed out the most likely-looking results and brought them along to his next lesson. Shen Yuan’s nose twitched adorably as he read through them, and the lightest dusting of pink bloomed across his cheeks. “Binghe,” he said once he was done, delicately fanning himself with elegant motions of his fine-boned wrist. “Are you interested in the theoretical foundations of this sort of spell?”

“I was hoping for something a little bit more… practical,” said Luo Binghe, suavely. Almost suavely.

It would’ve been suave if the collar of Shen Yuan’s shirt hadn’t been shifted by the breeze, exposing the exquisite jut of his collarbone, and Luo Binghe’s voice hadn’t gotten a little strangled, there, in the middle of the sentence.

The fanning motions increased in speed. “Most of these are absolute nonsense, of course. The ones that do work are for summoning demons to this plane.You could accomplish that with just a phone-call.”

“There’s no reception in hell,” Luo Binghe tried, feebly.

“Oh.” Shen Yuan frowned. “Someone ought to do something about that. You shouldn’t be forced to have sex with random people whenever you want to have a chat with one of your cousins.”

“It is very kind of Shizun to worry,” said Luo Binghe, forcing a smile.

“Of course.” Shen Yuan patted his arm. With his actual hand, rather than with his fan, so at least the debacle hadn’t been a total loss.

***

One morning, Luo Binghe found Mobei Jun in Shen Yuan’s kitchen, bare-chested and scowling at the coffee-maker like it had personally offended him. “I’m making Shang Qinghua breakfast in bed,” he said gruffly, by way of greeting. “If I don’t, he’ll just eat instant noodles.”

“That can’t be healthy,” Luo Binghe commented, somehow managing to sound neutral despite the soul-crushing realization that Mobei Jun officially had more game than him.

***

When Luo Binghe walked into the bamboo grove to find Shen Yuan lounging on his stomach, naked from the crown of his head to the tip of his toes, he almost fell to his knees and wept in gratitude.

It took him a few moments to notice the markings rippling across his back, mostly because he hadn’t been looking at his back.

“Oh,” Luo Binghe said, “it’s you.”

The prone figure pushed himself up in a sitting position. Looking at his face, it was easier to tell he wasn’t human; his lids were crimson, the stain extending back towards his temples, and his eyes glittered unnaturally.

Of course, Luo Binghe thought, of course, Shen Yuan was powerful enough that his familiar could take on a human appearance.

Xiao Jiu’s lips curved. He had a uniquely punchable smile, which was odd, because, beneath the odd coloring, his features were identical to Shen Yuan’s. And Shen Yuan, of course, had the gentlest, most beautiful smile in the world. “You should be grateful. Didn’t I get you a glimpse of your most cherished dream?”

Luo Binghe scoffed. Pointedly, he fixed his gaze to the strip of grass above Xiao Jiu’s bare shoulder.

“It’s been painful, watching your fumbling attempts at seduction. This is me taking pity of you. I’ll lend you a hand.”

“And why would you do that?”

“For a price,” Xiao Jiu specified.

“No, thank you,” said Luo Binghe primly. “I don’t need your help.”

Xiao Jiu scoffed. “Keep telling yourself that.” A flash of wings, and he was gone, somehow managing to dig out half of the earth he’d been standing on, showering Luo Binghe in gravel and bits of grass.

***

Soon, something terrible happened.

Shen Yuan started talking about some person he called Liu-shidi, who would be coming to visit. He spoke of this man with obvious fondness, with this soft, gentle look on his face. It made him look even more wonderful than usual, but it was awful, because this Liu-shidi had no business making Shen Yuan look like that. That was Luo Binghe’s job.

It was fine, he reasoned. Maybe Liu-shidi was bald. Maybe he didn’t have any of his teeth. Maybe his body was entirely covered in warts.

***

Liu-shidi wasn’t bald. He had all his teeth, and his skin was as smooth and flawless as marble. Liu-shidi was, in fact, unfairly gorgeous. He was, possibly, almost on par with Luo Binghe in terms of looks, something that had never happened before.

He was also an actual combat witch. He had a sword, and everything.

“Do you think Shen Yuan would like me better if I had a sword?” Luo Binghe asked. His family had a sword. It was supposedly cursed and would suck its wielders’ souls out bit by bit, but that was just a minor drawback in the face of true love.

“That wall is collapsing,” replied Sha Hualing.

Uh. Yeah, it was. He put a stasis spell on it, and it stopped, for the most part. A fine dust still drifted gently from the suspended fragments of concrete. “So?” he prompted. “Sword? Yes or no?”

“I don’t think it’ll help you,” said Sha Hualing. “This Liu-shidi guy hasn’t managed to get in his pants, either, as he?”

Luo Binghe frowned. “I don’t think so.”

“There,” replied Sha Hualing, ducking to avoid a handful of flaming debris. “No point copying him, then.”

“Do you two mind?” asked the woman slung over Luo Binghe’s shoulder, rather rudely - though, to be fair, having been stuck in a burning building was enough to put most people on edge. Not everyone could be as amazing as Shen Yuan.

***

Such times called for sad and desperate measures. This was why Luo Binghe was standing in the depths of Shen Yuan’s enchanted bamboo grove, a sweet in the palm of his hand, trying to entice Xiao Jiu down.

He had even resisted to the temptation of baking a stone into the treat.

This time around, anyway.