There was not a day in Shen Jiu’s life that he did not worry for his younger twin brother, Shen Yuan. Unlike him who was hardened and cunning from their harsh life, Shen Yuan was rather frail and naive. He was too kind for his own good that Shen Jiu often worries that there would come a day that he would be tricked by those despicable adults.
As soon as he became aware of things around them he made it his life goal to protect his little brother. After all, to Shen Jiu, Shen Yuan was the only thing that was good in the rotten world that they live in. They were orphaned and helpless, they wandered without anyone to rely on. Without him there for his younger brother, Shen Jiu could only fear for the worst for his dear brother. His gentle brother whose existence was like the bright sun for him and everyone around them.
The other children in the slums where they lived in learned early on to never mess with the twins especially Shen Yuan. Never touch him if they didn’t want to be beaten to death by Shen Jiu. The older Shen was akin to a ferocious dragon that wouldn’t hesitate to wreak havoc everywhere when it comes to Shen Yuan’s well-being and safety.
No one was surprised when Shen Jiu had presented as an alpha but they were never so wrong to underestimate his over protectiveness. When they thought they’ve seen Shen Jiu’s worst before it wouldn’t even compare how it became when the younger Shen had presented to be as an omega. Being in their presence was almost unbearable when Shen Jiu would literally terrorize and glare daggers at anyone who even looked at Shen Yuan. Other than their Qi-Ge, whom Shen Jiu trusted the most despite also being an alpha, no one was allowed to even approach Shen Yuan within a li after he presented. It was too much of an over-kill in his over protectiveness but to Shen Jiu’s defense it was all for a good reason.
Thankfully after a few weeks of whining from Shen Yuan, Shen Jiu finally conceded and allowed his younger twin some freedom while he and Qi-Ge went out to earn money.
“Don’t talk to strangers while were not around.” Shen Jiu repeated for the umpteenth time. Shen Yuan obediently nodded again.
“If strange men come-“
“I understand Jiu-ge. I’ll go run and find you and Qi-ge.” Shen Yuan cut him off with a pout. Exasperated at his brother’s over protectiveness. They have this conversation every time.
“Stop being cheeky.” Shen Jiu chided, pinching his cheek in annoyance but without heat.
“I’m sorry Jiu-ge!” Shen Yuan cried “Please let go!”
Shen Jiu finally took mercy on him and let go. Fighting a chuckle from escaping his lips from his brother’s cuteness as Shen Yuan rubbed his red cheek with his hand. Instead, he gave him a pat in the head.
“Make sure to behave.” He warned one last time.
“I will Jiu-ge!” Shen Yuan giggled. Without fail, it always made Shen Yuan preen at the simple affection that his strict brother gave him.
Shen Jiu gave his brother and the younger children one last glance before leaving with Yue Qi along with some children.
“They’ll be alright.” Yue Qi assured him when he sense his anxiousness. “We don’t need to go further away if you want.”
“There’s no need!” Shen Jiu snapped and began to pick his pace towards the crowded street.
The only great thing with Shen Yuan’s unconditional (stupid) kindness and fragile-like appearance was that everyone was fond of him. Shen Jiu didn’t know if it’s because of his brother’s dynamic survival instinct or just Shen Yuan himself but he make people around him want to protect him. It was something that Shen Jiu was still conflicted about.
Shen Jiu didn’t worry much for that day. Other than him and Qi-Ge, the other children was still too young to present – the other children who were older than them was already sold to slavery or died from illness. The three of them were the most experienced ones left behind.
One of the things that Shen Jiu was thankful for was that Shen Yuan was usually obedient, never doing anything that would upset him, but there are times that he can be a little shit who would send him in an early grave.
Shen Yuan was nowhere to be found when he woke up one morning with no one knowing where he went. That made a lot of alarm bells ring in Shen Jiu’s head that sent him searching for his twin like a madman. Only for the said missing twin to come back with a sheepish smile on his face later in the afternoon that made Shen Jiu want to beat up Shen Yuan for the first time in his life. Maybe he would have if not for Yue Qi’s interference and only got out of it with severe scolding.
“Do you know how scared we were!?”
“I’m sorry Gege.” Shen Yuan flinched, he trembled, trying his best not to cry. He had always watched his brother being angry but it was never directed to him like this. It made him scared. “I just wanted to help you and Qi-ge.”
Shen Jiu breathed an annoyed sigh and started berating the other “Do you even understand what could’ve happened to you? You’re lucky nothing even happened to you. Do this again and I’ll make sure to tie you in a post.” With finality Shen Jiu walked away before he could really hit his brother leaving Yue Qi to deal with a crying Shen Yuan knowing that the older alpha was better at handling Shen Yuan at times like this.
Later that night when Yue Qi assured Shen Yuan that Shen Jiu was calm enough for him to be able to approach, the three of them huddled closer and scented Shen Yuan. While the younger Shen liked the warmth of his brothers close to him this was mostly to satiate the two alphas instinct to keep him protected.
But the surprise for them was not over yet.
To their astonishment and horror Shen Yuan took out a coin purse made out of the finest materials they usually see nobles carrying around in the street containing gold coins enough to keep everyone fed for a month. And the naive omega happily gave them all the contents of the purse except for the purse itself.
The two were too pre-occupied with worry as Shen Yuan told them how a young master who helped him earlier and gave him the money that they didn’t find how Shen Yuan cling to the purse so uncharacteristically possessive. Yue Qi and Shen Jiu looked at each other as if they were communicating with their eyes, they worry that Shen Yuan might have attracted some unwanted attention that could be dangerous for them and are seriously considering moving somewhere else.
Shen Jiu should have really paid attention...
He knew that Shen Yuan was in heat, this was the third time already since his brother had presented. As always he would lock them in a sorry of an excuse room and stood on guard, never leaving his brother’s side and not letting anyone close. He didn’t know what it was but something was different compared to the first two heats, as if something screaming at him that there was something wrong with his brother but he couldn’t figure it out.
He looked over his brother. Everything seemed to be normal. Shen Yuan was still feverish and he was still as clingy as ever. Nothing seemed to be different.
Thud thud thud.
Shen Jiu flinched when he heard the knock on the door, squaring his shoulder preparing to intercept whoever was intruding.
“Xiao Jiu” Yue Qi called out form the other side of the door making him relax a little but still on his guard. “I heard Xiao Yuan isn’t feeling well, are you two alright?”
“We’re fine! A-Yuan is in heat right now so don’t come close!”
“Huh? He’s in heat?” Yue Qi sounded almost surprise making Shen Jiu want to roll his eyes. Yue Qi should know more than anyone because he could tell by the scent. Because their bodies knew that their blood was very close, even as an alpha Shen Jiu would never react to the changes on A-Yuan’s scent. But that’s a different story for Yue Qi and other alphas.
“Xiao Jiu… Calm down, okay?” Yue Qi’s words trailed almost as if uncertain. It was supposed to make him remain calm but his words only made Shen Jiu panic even more with the confirmation that there was something really wrong and he wasn’t just him being paranoid.
“I can’t smell any of the usual sweet scent from Xiao Yuan when he’s in heat.”
Shen Jiu immediately turned white as a sheet of paper. He felt dread and panic as he scrambled towards his sleeping A-Yuan. There was only one reason why an omega wouldn’t give off sweet scent during heat…
He heard from the people in brothels that omegas went into heats during their early years, an indication their bodies are developing. Their sweet candy scent turned into something more like honey, sweet but sticky now, something new clinging. Once they reach fifteen. After that one lingering fever an omega’s body would be done growing. That sticky sweet smell no longer faded away, instead, it settled on an omega permanently. A signal to alphas that an omega was ready to mated, to be covered in their own scent and carrying their babies. It was an information he gathered in preparation in the future but he had also heard cases of omega being marked early on.
Shen Yuan was startled awake when Shen Jiu flipped him over and pulled his robes to reveal his neck free of anything he feared.
“Jiu-ge?” Shen Yuan asked in confusion.
“No marks…” Shen Jiu muttered. Relief washing over him like a cold spelch of water on a hot summer day. It was still alright, no one touched his brother. Nothing was wrong.
Shen Jiu shook his head. “Nothing, sorry for waking you up.” He patted his brother’s head in assurance and tucked him back to sleep. He was a bit in daze as he did so. He peered over at him to make sure he was asleep again.
The alpha opened the dilapidated door making Yue Qi, who was still standing there in concern, jump in surprise, but before he could react Shen Jiu had grabbed him by the collar and drag him inside before closing the door shut.
“You really can’t smell anything?” Shen Jiu demanded.
Yue Qi was taken in surprise that he was dragged inside but understood that Shen Jiu was probably desperate that he’d even take this risk. He took a whiff in the air and shook his head “There’s really nothing.” He confirmed.
The grip on his collar loosen as Shen Jiu wobbly sat down on the floor.
“There was no marks.” Shen Jiu repeated to himself. He looked confuse and scared. Yue Qi’s heart clench at the sight of his friend that always looked strong being so vulnerable, he was also concerned for their Xiao Yuan’s and his condition.
The younger alpha looked up at him for answers “A-Yuan’s not bonded with anyone… What’s going on Qi-ge?”
Yue Qi knelt in front of him, holding his hand that had turned cold and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “I don’t know but we’ll figure it out.”
They didn’t figure it out, how Shen Yuan’s scent had become muted out of nowhere, but to Shen Jiu it was a blessing in disguise. Especially when they were taken to the Qui’s.
Since Shen Yuan no longer gave off the sweet scent of a developing omega, people around them thought that he was a frail beta. His heats was dismissed as a normal fever because of his weak constitution. It made things safer for Shen Yuan. Though it was still too soon to relax. They didn’t know how long his weird condition would last, hopefully until Qi-Ge comes back for them.
Thankfully Qui Jianluo found it no fun to mess with weaklings and just dismissed Shen Yuan’s existence as Qui HaiTang’s new doll. Unfortunately for Shen Jiu, that fucker found him amusing and kept beating him. Of course, he hates getting kicked around and harassed by the Qiu fuckers but he’s considered his chances in leaving but how could he while ensuring A-Yuan’s safety.
After a year during their stay at the Qui household, for some reason - which he had a gut feeling that was not good in anyway - Qui Jianluo arrange his engagement with his sister, HaiTang. He’s seen the eyes of the Qiu household heir when they pass by him when he was talking with HaiTang and he knows obsession when he sees one. He was used to seeing it when people eyed his little brother in the past. That was when he realize JianLuo’s immoral feelings towards his own sister and he can’t help but sneer at the man.
After another round of beating from Qui JianLuo, Shen Jiu limped as walked in the halls and opened the door as quietly as he can that lead to a small room with the most minimal of things and walked towards the bed. The room was far cry better from when they lived in the slums but still lacking in a lot of things. He sat down on the edge of the bed and looked at the asleep figure of his brother. He carefully placed a hand on the fevered forehead, Shen Yuan nuzzled at his touch and opened his eyes to look up at him.
“Ge…” Shen Yuan mumbled sleepily.
“How do you feel?”
“Better. I already drank my medicine and my heat should be over by tomorrow.”
“How about you?” Shen Yuan asked in concern. He wasn’t blind. As much as Shen Jiu tried to hide it he knew what was happening behind lady Qui’s back.
“Nothing for you to be concerned about.” Shen Jiu shrugged.
“It’s fine!” Shen Jiu frowned wanting this conversation to be over.
Shen Yuan sighed in defeat. His brother was just too stubborn to admit things that he was going through. No matter what hardship and humiliation he suffered he refused to be comforted and coddled. He won’t rely on anyone. No… that was wrong. He was afraid to rely on someone again.
Shen Jiu watched A-Yuan take an old coin purse from under his bed. It used to be a beautiful purse but now it was worn out with patches. What used to contain coins was now used as a container for suppressants that Shen Jiu would sneak in. Shen Yuan took out a packet of medicine and a salve and handed it to him.
The alpha took it without words and began to apply the salve on his bruises. From the first time he didn’t accept any help that Shen Yuan offered in the past the omega just watched his brother silently, holding onto the hem of his robes, a silent message to him that he won’t leave.
They both knew that they can’t stay here any longer but they can’t help but held onto the hope that Qi-Ge would come for them.
They were twelve when they finally left everything behind. The Qui’s and the unfulfilled promise. And it happened in a way that Shen Jiu could have never imagined.
It happened during one of Shen Yuan’s heat.
Shen Jiu had just come back from an errand by that Jianluo. Also making a deal with cultivator that he met by chance. Unfortunately that took an entire day but it was worth it because he finally made plans to leave. It was already late but his brother was not in his room.
There was only one emotion he felt. This was the second time in his life he truly felt it.
It was fear.
A-Yuan knew better than anyone to leave the safety of that little room especially when he was in heat, he would never willingly leave that room. Shen Jiu ran around the house frantically looking for him. And the first place that he automatically think of was that man’s room.
He was never going to forget what he saw there.
A lot of blood. The once exquisite room filled with riches was stained in the gore of red. Qui Jianluo was lying on the floor with his own blood pooling around him, heaving his last breath along with two male servants that he recognize was Jianluo’s lackeys. Shen Yuan stood in the middle of it all, sword in his hands and his clothes stained in blood.
He didn’t need to ask what happened judging from Shen Yuan’s dishelved and ripped robes. Rage and anger welled up inside of him but he was frozen on the spot seeing his normally gentle brother who can’t even hurt a fly to suddenly become this violent enough to kill people.
“Jui-ge…” Shen Yuan called out, his voice was low almost as if it was a whisper, his body trembling as his eyes showed clarity, realizing what he had done. “I… I…”
Shen Jiu rushed to his side and take the sword from him gripping on his shoulder with the other the hand “Listen to me A-Yuan!” he said making his brother look at him in the eyes. He was just as confused with the situation but his priority right now was to get Shen Yuan out of here “What happened here, you didn’t know anything. It was me who killed Qui Jianluo. Understood?”
Shen Yuan could only nod his head dumbly. His body couldn’t stop trembling despite the pain from the death grip of his brother in his shoulder. Everything from when he entered this room and from the severe pain he felt when those people touched him was a blur. What he knew was that he was standing in a room filled with blood and Shen Jiu looking at him with a horrified expression.
From there everything happened too fast. Shen Jiu didn’t know who they were killing, how Shen Yuan could manifest spiritual energy like Shen Jiu and Yue Qi did, how they burned they burned that damned house and how they escape leaving everything to ashes. All they know was they were clinging to each other, the warmth shared with their joined hand was the only thing that kept them grounded.
They never talked about what happened that night since they escaped.
Thankfully Shen Jiu had enough sense that time to steal some money along the way of their escape and use it to secure a room in at some cheap inn where he could wait until Shen Yuan’s heat was over. It was enough time for Shen Jiu to calm down and organize all his thoughts.
After Shen Yuan was well enough he took him to the cultivator he made a deal with, hoping that under Wu YanZi’s tutelage things would be different.
The man looked pleased to see him, even more so with Shen Yuan in tow. He gave them a welcoming smile but Shen Jiu had easily seen through that façade. His eyes gave away that glint that Shen Jiu knew so well.
A chill crawled up Shen Jiu’s spine. Was it because he was a cultivator? But this man knew!
As if sensing something wrong Shen Yuan immediately hid behind his brother and held his hand out of a habit. Shen Jiu looked back at him and gave him a reassuring smile as he squeeze his hand. The gears started running in his head.
He wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. What was one more man to Shen Jiu compared to his brother’s safety?
It was going perfectly. Wu YanZi had lead them in a secluded alleyway. Shen Jiu gave another glance to his twin brother and Shen Yuan nodded and let go of his hand. Even if the man was an experienced cultivator he still let his guard down. Enough for Shen Jiu to sneak up on him
Using the old trick that had them end up with the Qui’s in the first place, Shen Jiu morphed metal into a sharp blade and stabbed it into the cultivator repeatedly, not stopping until he was sure that he was dead. All of this, Shen Yuan watched calmly with an unreadable expression. Only approaching his brother when he knew it was safe.
Placing a hand in Shen Jiu’s back he wanted to say: ‘I’m sorry you have to dirty your hands because me.’ But he didn’t. He knew his brother wouldn’t accept it. All he could do was pull his brother away from the corpse that was already turning cold.
They stood there in silence, etching onto their minds what had become of them.
“I can’t believe someone beat me from hunting down my prey.” a cool voice from behind said.
It made the twins jump in alarm as they turned around to see who it was. A woman who seemed to be the embodiment of all elegance and beauty stood beneath the moonlight. The bluish-white radiance of the full moon night played across her body. It was as though a goddess had descended from the heavens to grace the earth with how her hair and long green robes swayed smoothly against the wind yet no matter how ephemeral she looked the twins remained guarded.
“Who!?” Shen Jiu growled at the woman. Pulling Shen Yuan behind.
“Oh, where are my manners?” The woman chuckled “I’m An YueXi. Peak lord of Qing Jing Peak of the Cang Qiong Sect.”
The twins eyes widened in surprise. Because who haven’t heard of the renowned Cang Qiong Sect? And a Peak Lord no less!
“It’s certainly a surprise that Wu YanZi was done in such way.” she noted.
Before Shen Jiu knew what had happened An YueXi was suddenly behind him and right in front of Shen Yuan “This is certainly another surprise.” She looked at Shen Yuan as if she was inspecting a rare animal making Shen Yuan take a step back instinctively “I’ve read about this before but I never knew I’ll ever encounter an omega in this state.”
Shen Jiu acted on reflex towards a potential danger and swung the makeshift blade at her which An YueXi evaded with ease and grace.
“Forgive this Master. That was very rude of me to suddenly approach you but I can’t help but be fascinated.”
“What do you want from us!?” Shen Jiu growled at her and pulling his brother closer to him.
“Calm down child.” She stated in a placating tone. “I meant no harm.”
Shen Jiu didn’t know why or what she did but for some reason he was starting to calm down. From the sweet scent, he could tell that the woman before them was an omega, but that doesn’t mean he should let his guard down. He knew he shouldn’t relax. He knew that this person was on a whole lot different level from Wu YanZi.
“You two seemed just at the right age and both have good spiritual aptitude as well.” She mumbled to herself. “Do you two want to come with me to Cang Qiong Sect to be my disciples?” She looked at them with a grin, she wouldn’t accept no as an answer.
The twins looked at her in bewilderment. Just where is their life taking them now?