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equal and opposite

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before xian le's first ascension to godhood

Feng Xin is a heavy weight on top of Mu Qing’s body, pressing him down into the earth with enough pressure that he’s sure there will be bruises on his chest tomorrow. He wants to scream, but instead he twists his torso around, grabbing onto Feng Xin’s hair close to the root and tugging with all his strength.

Feng Xin does scream, a hoarse shout that tries to form itself into a curse but fails. In retaliation, he grabs the back of Mu Qing’s neck and forces his face down into the dirt, one knee still pressed against Mu Qing’s back.

But he’s not going down so easily. Feng Xin has momentum behind him, but Mu Qing is just as strong. He uses his grip on Feng Xin’s hair to yank his head backwards, tears blooming like flowers in the corners of Feng Xin’s eyes. His neck forms a graceful curve, the apple of his throat bobbing, and he lifts his hands to scramble at Mu Qing’s grip, trying to pry him off.

It’s just the opening Mu Qing needs. He turns himself fully, so that his back is to the dirt instead of his face. He pulls his knees in close to his chest, then kicks out with all of his might. Feng Xin goes sprawling, landing backwards on his hands.

“Fuck you!” he spits.

Mu Qing pushes himself up onto his knees, shrugging off Feng Xin’s filthy mouth. They’ve said worse to each other, but right now Mu Qing isn’t interested in verbal taunting.

Feng Xin finds his footing faster, coming at Mu Qing with impossible speed, his punch landing with a resounding sound against Mu Qing’s face.

Bells ring in his ears, and Mu Qing turns to the side to spite blood and spittle into the dirt. When he looks up, his head spinning, there are three or four Feng Xin’s standing over him, their dark hair pulled entirely loose from his usual pristine knot, all of his eyes blazing with fury and fire.

Dazed by the punch, but equally incensed, Mu Qing pushes forward, strong hands going for Feng Xin’s throat. They toppled back against the ground, and this time Feng Xin’s back hits the dirt. Mu Qing is braced over him, hands tightening around Feng Xin’s neck.

“I’ll kill you,” Feng Xin promises, hissing in pain when Mu Qing chokes the rest of his words.

“You wouldn’t dare,” Mu Qing taunts. Neither of them will actually do it, because despite everything else they’re both affiliated with the righteous path, with this holy temple, with—

“What are you doing?” The voice is like the scent of spring blooms carried on the wind— something so natural, yet awe-inspiring.

Mu Qing and Feng Xin freeze, but have no time to scramble into a less telling position. Mu Qing doesn’t even have the presence of mind to let up on the pressure, Feng Xin gasping for breath like a fish gasping for life at a monger’s stall.

“Feng Xin, Mu Qing— not again.” Xie Lian— Taizi Dianxia, Mu Qing corrects himself sourly— walks onto the training field and immediately stops up short. His gods-blessed features pull into a look of concern, though never frustration or anger. He’s disappointed, still above them, worthy of more than them.

“Get— off—” Feng Xin is still struggling for breath, and it’s only when he rocks himself upwards from his knees and sends Mu Qing tumbling back does Mu Qing remember to let go. Now, they’re both down in the dirt, dust covering their robes, hair askew.

“If you want to fight, shouldn’t you at least use that energy to practice?” Xie Lian holds his elbow in his other hand, resting his knuckles against his chin. “You’re not even using weapons.”

Mu Qing has no interest in being pelted with even the blunt heads of training arrows. He pushes himself to his feet and reaches up to tighten his ponytail, even as his head is still ringing from the punches, from falling hard against the ground.

Feng Xin gets up a half-second later, bowing his head towards Xie Lian in a more deferential show than Mu Qing was willing to put on. Though Feng Xin’s deference tends to be genuine, since he’s blunt and simple-minded in a way that lets him give his loyalty freely and absolutely.

“What are you fighting about this time?” Xie Lian asks, walking towards them. His dark eyes narrow as he assesses them for damage. No doubt Mu Qing’s jaw and Feng Xin’s neck will be bruised tomorrow, but for now they just look ragged and out of breath.

Both of them open their mouths to answer and start speaking at once, then cut themselves off and glare at each other. Whatever explanation they’d been trying to give is lost like dissipating smoke into the night air.

Xie Lian presses a hand to his forehead. He should look foolish, preparing to chide them like their master would or to dole out punishment like a disappointed father. Instead, he wears authority with elegance and grace, straightening up and letting out a soft sigh of decision.

“It probably doesn’t matter,” he tells them. “But you can’t just beat each other bloody every time you disagree on something. Come on— recite sutras for two incenses’ time, if you can’t calm down otherwise.”

Feng Xin’s expression curls into something sour, while Mu Qing’s flattens into forced ambivalence. When neither of them moves immediately, Xie Lian dares a little smile.

“Unless, you want me to get Master involved?” His tone is completely guileless, as if he’s not trying to manipulate them.

“Fine,” Feng Xin scowls, stomping off towards the chamber off to the side of the training grounds.

“He needs the practice more than I do,” Mu Qing sneers, but he follows suit.

Xie Lian lights the incense for them, and when they’re both kneeling on the wooden floor he nods his head approvingly. He isn’t such a disciplinarian that he’ll insist on staying with them to ensure they complete their task; he probably believes that if they skive off, they’ll only be hurting themselves.

Shrugging his white robe back into place on his shoulders, the prince turns back to them with a kind smile. “I’ll see you both back in our chambers, when you’re done, then.” He hides a yawn behind his hand, and Mu Qing is struck with the sudden possibility that Xie Lian had roused himself from sleep to find them, when they hadn’t come into sleep at the usual hour. In that moment, yawning, with a bit of dark hair askew across his brow, he looks less like the gods’ favored prince and more like just another young man, someone Mu Qing might come to respect and even like.

He shudders and forces his mind back to sutras. No matter what Xie Lian seems in the moment, he will always be the crown prince. He will always be that person who everyone assumes is destined to ascend to the heavens. He will always be considered far and again above someone with origins as humble as Mu Qing’s.

Eyes half-closed, Mu Qing goes through his mental chant with strict discipline. He may not be divinely-favored, but he’s no slouch in his own cultivation. If he can clear his own mind, and build his focus, then his cultivation will—

Rustle, rustle. The shift of fabric against fabric, against wood, against skin cuts into his concentration. Mu Qing scowls and recenters himself, taking a deep breath in and out. He counts off before beginning again, finding his place among the lines.

Rustle, rustle, thud. Fabric brushing against hard surfaces again, and a smack not unlike the one Mu Qing heard when his head cracked against the training grounds. He doesn’t know what Feng Xin is doing, a pace away from him, but it’s getting annoying.

But Mu Qing can be as peaceful, as imperturbable as Taizi Dianxia. He will be. He takes another deep breath, and when he can’t find his place in the sutra he starts over. Inhaling the scent of the incense, he tries to center his mind and—

“Gods— dammit—”

Mu Qing blinks open his eyes fully and glares at Feng Xin, who’s also kneeling but in a decidedly more awkwardly position than Mu Qing’s studied form. His knees are bent apart, and his hands are clenched into fists against his thighs. His face is scrunched in concentration, and he never bothered to retie his hair. He bites down on his lower lip, hissing.

“What are you doing?” Mu Qing asks, annoyance lacing his words.

Feng Xin snaps his knees together and straightens up, posture decidedly tense. “Fuck off,” he snaps. “Focus on yourself.”

“How can anyone focus on anything when you’re making so much noise?” Mu Qing spits back, tossing his head. Still, he lifts his chin and pointedly shuts his eyes, mouth moving through the silent words of the sutra as he forces himself to concentrate.

For a few moments, it works. He lets calm flow over him like water, reaching deep down to his inner self for peace and strength.

A rock falls into his river of peace, sending rippling waves through it and upsetting his careful balance.

“Damn it, damn it— fuck.”

Mu Qing barely resists the urge to get to his feet and slam Feng Xin’s stupid face down into the floorboards. This time, when he looks over, Feng Xin has his knees apart again. His wheat-colored skin is lightly flushed red, moisture glowing against his brow in the flickering lamplight.

“What is wrong with you?” Mu Qing demands.

Feng Xin looks up, dark eyes wild and glassy, and Mu Qing recognizes the signs with a clinical precision— Feng Xin is aroused. He immediately wrinkles his nose at the idea, he hardly ever wants to think about sex and never in the same context as Feng-fucking-Xin, but the proof is undeniable.

Feng Xin favors darker clothes, and today he’s dressed simply in linen trousers and a loose tunic. His strange posturing against the floor has rucked his tunic up past his hips, leaving everything below his waist covered only in the thin layer of his pants. And through that thin layer, the outline of his cock is just barely visible.

Mu Qing shifts back, jaw clenching tight as he swallows back his immediate reaction.

Feng Xin glances up at the movement, and a dusting of blush adds to the redness of his skin. “Shut up,” he says, immediately.

That gives Mu Qing enough excuse to scoff, “Don’t say anything to me when you can’t even control yourself.” Feng Xin doesn’t follow the same cultivation path as Xie Lian and Mu Qing, but really? What, in all the heavens or earth, is there to be aroused about at this moment?

“It’s not something I can help,” Feng Xin retorts. “I’m not like you, cold-blooded as a fish.”

Mu Qing does, in fact, have a cock, and as far as he knows it’s in perfect working condition. He just tends to get hard at normal times, like when he’s woken up from a particular sort of dream. Sometimes when a group of disciples is out on the training field and they all work up a sweat he feels something, and sometimes Xie Lian will land him in the dirt with a particularly elegant maneuver and his pulse will pound, blood hot as molten steel in his veins, but—

“What?” Mu Qing scoffs. “Your Taizi Dianxia scolds you, and that’s what makes you run hot?” If that is the case, Feng Xin must always be hard, since when the two of them are together they’re nearly always doing something that warrants a scolding.

Feng Xin looks away from him, knees spreading further apart against the wood floor. “Hardly.”

His body is too honest for his tongue to bother with lying, so Mu Qing assumes that is the truth. Then what had set him off? Before Xie Lian has arrived, it was only the two of them tumbling in the dirt.

“We spar all the time,” he insists, though both of them know what they do isn’t sparring. Sparring implies that there’s something fake and measured about the way they fight.

Feng Xin lowers his head. “Shut up,” he orders again. “What does it even matter?”

Mu Qing is meant to be focused on something, and Feng Xin has sent all thought of sutras fleeing his mind. This is what he has left to focus on.

“Was it me?” He wonders aloud. The very thought is disgusting. He tilts his head, thinking back through their fight. “It couldn’t be…”

“Mu Qing,” Feng Xin says hoarsely, “I really will kill you.”

“I put my hands on your neck,” Mu Qing says, “I strangled you, and that—” He can’t help it; he starts to laugh. The whole situation is ridiculous. There’s a darkness to his laughter he’s never heard before, a bitter triumph.

Feng Xin shudders bodily. With another curse spat towards the ground, he gives in and runs his hand over his clothed erection.

“You’re pathetic,” Mu Qing tells him. “You can’t even control yourself for two incenses’ time, until you’re alone?”

Feng Xin looks up at him, madness and lamplight reflected in his dark eyes. The amber light glows bronze against his skin. “What’s the point?” he spits derisively. “Who’s there to be ashamed in front of? You? You hardly matter.”

No, Mu Qing agrees silently, he’s not Xie Lian, who Feng Xin would never think to debase himself in front of. To Feng Xin, Mu Qing is nothing. The plain realization runs through his veins like lightning, and Mu Qing wishes he had a knife that he could use to cut into Feng Xin’s skin, to pay back his insults with pure pain.

“And you do?” Mu Qing taunts. “Go on, then. Fist yourself in front of me, rut against the ground like a beast. You have no mind for anything else, do you?”

Feng Xin freezes for a moment, eyes wide like an animal caught in a hunter’s gaze. He rubs against his erection, more frantically than before, knees slipping against the sleek wooden floor.

Feng Xin listened to his words, disdainful and poisonous as they were. The lighting flashes in Mu Qing’s veins, filling his mind with a triumphant static. He laughs again, short and bitter.

“What are you being shy for? Is there anything else to hide from me?” Instinctively, his voice goes low, and he leans forward. “I know what you’re doing. Why are you still playing at having any shame?”

Feng Xin digs his teeth into his lower lip and shakes his head. But it’s clear that he’s doing nothing but winding himself up further, with no hope of release. He steals a glance at Mu Qing before reaching into his pants, freeing his cock from the dampened linen.

For a moment, Mu Qing forgets his savage vengeance. Feng Xin is— well-blessed by the gods, in this regard. His cock is both longer and wider than Mu Qing’s, the brown of his skin just slightly softer here, flushed with blood.

At the sight of it, Mu Qing’s mind goes blank for long moments. He’s never seen another man erect, before. The sheer presence of it is powerful, fills the room with a smokey, tense atmosphere.

“I always knew you were more a beast than a man,” Mu Qing taunts. “Do you think Dianxia has noticed, too? He’s closer to the heavens than the rest of us, and you’re farther away.”

“And who are you, then?” Feng Xin demands.

Mu Qing rolls his eyes. “Well? Get on with it, if you’re going to. Or can you not even manage that?”

“You’re the one who’s celebate,” Feng Xin retorts.

“So?” Mu Qing sneers. “That is a choice. If growing hot for someone, anyone, is so natural, then why are you so bad at this? Go on, take yourself in hand. Get on with it.”

Feng Xin tenses, trying to suppress the shudder than runs through him. But at the end of it, he fists his cock in his hand.

Mu Qing sighs exaggeratedly. “Go on. I can’t keep looking at you, like this. Or did you forget to give yourself friction?”

Feng Xin runs his hand over his length, then pauses. Almost like— like he’s waiting for further instruction.

“Rougher,” Mu Qing commands, before he can think about what he’s doing. “You started thinking about it when I hand my hands around your throat, didn’t you? I wasn’t holding back. So, rougher, tighter. You don’t deserve anything better.”

Feng Xin clenches his hand tight at the sound of Mu Qing’s voice, knuckles going white. His strokes are erratic, his face pinched in concentration.

“Would it be better if I was holding you down?” Mu Qing wonders. Feng Xin is shaking, chasing after his building pleasure. “But why would I bother? You riled yourself up, and you can get yourself off yourself. Can’t you?”

Feng Xin nods, then shakes his head, then shudders. His hand keeps moving at a frantic pace.

“How are you ever going to please anyone,” Mu Qing wonders. What unfortunate woman is going to end up shackled to Feng Xin for a lifetime? “Use your other hand, then. Don’t you know what you like?”

Mu Qing wonders if Feng Xin does much more than rut against his bedsheets, or rub himself off to quick completion. That’s normally what Mu Qing does, himself, so he’s at a bit of a loss when Feng Xin rocks forward and back on his knees, letting out a rough whine.

His heartbeat hiccups at the sound, blood rushing through his own body and heating his skin.

“Mu Qing…” Feng Xin starts to say.

“Keep my name out of your mouth,” Mu Qing snaps. “You know where you’re sensitive, don’t you? Where is it? From behind, or your chest? The head?”

Feng Xin’s hand clenches spasmodically, and then he takes the other and rubs it in slow circles over the tip of his cock. His breathing comes shallow, his eyes unfocused.

“Oh,” Mu Qing breathes out, the realization striking him almost as hard as it does Feng Xin. “That’s it, is it? Keep going, then. Punish it.”

Feng Xin squeezes down, his other hand running roughing up and down, and Mu Qing can feels the contrasting pressures and rhythms as if they’re being pressed into his own skin. His throat goes dry, and it takes a conscious effort to push the next words from his mouth.

“The incense is almost run out,” he says. “Will you be sitting here by yourself, after that? Go on. Come.”

Feng Xin groans, and the sound is dark and deep and falls over Mu Qing like a heavy cloak. Feng Xin tenses, trembling, and then his cupping his hands around himself, eyes squeezing shut as he crests like a wave breaking over the shore.

In that moment, when nothing derisive or filthy can spill from his stupid mouth, he looks almost beautiful. The way every sensation goes through his entire body, the way his neck arches upwards and his chin points to the sky, the tension of his muscles growing taut as a bowstring before releasing all at once. And, like an arrow that has missed its target and fallen from the sky, Feng Xin collapses in on himself, head against his knees as he pants for breath.

The last smoke curls up off of the incense stick, the remaining ashes blown out by Feng Xin’s heavy exhale and the movement of his body.

“I can’t believe you,” Mu Qing sneers, getting to his feet. He dusts off his robes, as though merely speaking to Feng Xin while he pleasures himself has left them stained. His knees ache from kneeling on the ground; he refuses to acknowledge any other sensation in his body.

Feng Xin turns his head to look up at Mu Qing, flashing a feral grin. “What’s more pathetic?” he wonders aloud. “That I wanted to get off, or that you stuck around to watch?”

Mu Qing’s cheeks burn. “Unless you’re planning to ask someone else, you’ll have to judge that for yourself.” He turns abruptly, long tail of hair flicking out behind him like a cracking whip.

He hears Feng Xin chuckling behind him, drunk off his own hormones and endorphins. Mu Qing’s face pinches, and he scurries away as quickly as he can.

There’s no privacy in shared chambers, and he can’t be sure Feng Xin won’t go to the baths to clean himself off. He hates himself, but the one place he can think to go is the closet where the brooms are kept. Shoving them aside, Mu Qing shoves a hand into his own pants, screwing his eyes shut.

Don’t think of him don’t think of him don’t think of him—

But how can he not, when Feng Xin was at his mercy, like a fly caught in a spider’s web? All the pent up force of his arousal had gathered together, and at his crest he looked a storm about to break. Mu Qing sees the arch of his throat, the flutter of his eyes, and the hard, heavy length of his cock in his mind’s eye.

He comes with much more than the functional efficiency he’s used to, sinking to the ground and hugging his knees to his chest as he tries to catch his breath.

If Xie Lian hadn’t interrupted that fight, Mu Qing thinks, he could’ve knocked Feng Xin out and saved them all this mess.