There was a strange sound coming from somewhere within the bamboo house.
Shen Qingqiu blinked his eyes open, at first unsure of what it had been that had woke him. Normally, he slept like a stone. Waking like this in the middle of the night was unusual for him. But the previous day had been sunny and warm, and while sitting in a particularly appealing batch of sunlight behind the bamboo house, he’d ended up napping more than half the afternoon away without meaning to.
The end result was that when night came, he found himself sleeping lightly enough that the sound of noises he normally would have slept through without stirring were enough to disturb him.
Now that he’d heard it, he couldn’t just turn around and go back to sleep, no matter how much he might have liked to do just that. Shen Qingqiu lay in his bed, listening intently. All was dark within the bamboo house, the shadows parted only by the stream of moonlight coming through the paper windows. It was obviously still the middle of the night. Outside, nothing stirred, not even a bird.
Just as he was about to dismiss it as a fragment from some half-remembered dream and go back to sleep, he heard it again. It was a soft, half-muffled sound, but nonetheless it rang clearly through the silent air.
It sounded almost like a sob.
And it was coming from the direction of Luo Binghe’s room.
Frowning, Shen Qingqiu sat up. Something checked his first, impulsive instinct to call out Luo Binghe’s name. Without bothering to take the time to pull on an outer robe over the inner garments he’d slept in, he crept in the direction of Luo Binghe’s door.
Was Luo Binghe hurt? Images of Luo Binghe struggling to smear medicine over a pale back littered with bruises flashed through his mind. He’d thought that he’d made it very clear that Luo Binghe should come to him for such things, but maybe the lesson still hadn’t sunk in.
His hand reached for the door. Then he hesitated. For some reason, instead of sliding the door open and confronting Luo Binghe immediately, he found himself leaning in, setting his ear against the thin wood.
He could hear Luo Binghe’s breathing. He was clearly trying to keep quiet, but heavy gasps kept slipping out in time to a strange, wet, slick sound. Was he smearing medicine onto his skin?
That… didn’t seem quite right, though. How much medicine did he have to be using, to make that sort of sound? Luo Binghe, this master thought that he’d taught you to be more frugal than that!
Then Luo Binghe moaned, the sound strangled nearly beyond recognition. “Shi—”
He cut himself off almost immediately, swallowing the word down before he could fully complete the first syllable, but it was enough. Shen Qingqiu took a quick step back from the door, his face ablaze. Suddenly, he was immensely grateful for whatever self-preservation instinct had stopped him from opening that door. Otherwise, he wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t have ended up as a human stick ahead of schedule.
Luo Binghe wasn’t applying medicine!
He was papapa-ing with his shijie!!!!!
Shen Qingqiu stared at the thin door separating them, feeling like he was in shock. Sneaking in Ning Yingying into your Shizun’s house for some discrete papapa? Luo Binghe, how daring!
But wasn’t it much too early for something like this? He’d thought that Luo Binghe’s first time was supposed to have been at the Immortal Alliance Conference… Wasn’t his love for Ning Yingying the sweet, innocent, “wait for marriage” type? What was going on? What had changed?!?
Luo Binghe's voice caught on another one of those muffled sobs. Shen Qingqiu’s fingers twitched, brushing against the thin fabric of his robes.
Why was he being so noisy? He couldn’t hear so much as a peep from Ning Yingying—and thank everything for that; the very thought of overhearing something like that from her made him want to shrivel up and die—but wasn’t that too backwards? True, he hadn’t read very many of the sex scenes in Proud Immortal Demon Way, at least not in detail, but he thought that a stallion protagonist’s prowess was supposed to make him able to wrench screams of pleasure out from his partners while he himself maintained his composure until the very end.
Unless… maybe this was Luo Binghe’s first time? It wasn’t unreasonable to think so; after all, his canonical first time was no more than a month away. And stallion protagonist or not, something like that had to be overwhelming...
Wait, what on earth was he doing?!? What kind of pervert master stood at doors eavesdropping on their disciple having sex??? Why hadn’t he left as soon as he realized what was happening!? Not even the original goods had been that shameless!!!!
And what was worse—
Shen Qingqiu's body was… actually responding.
He buried his face in his hands, torn between panic and horror. He wanted nothing more than to flee, but his feet felt weighted to the ground. What the fuck! What was wrong with him??? That was Luo Binghe! His cute, innocent disciple! Well, maybe not so innocent anymore, all things considered, but he was still his disciple! And a man, at that! How could he actually be getting hard to the sound of his voice?
Luo Binghe's voice cracked, those slick noises getting wetter and faster. "Ah, ah, ah—"
An image of what Luo Binghe must look like at that moment—his face flushed, his starry eyes dark with desire, sweat beading against his skin—flashed through Shen Qingqiu’s mind. He bit back a whimper, his eyes squeezing shut.
That… that definitely hadn’t made him throb. Definitely not. And if he had, that didn’t mean anything! It was just… sex. Yes, that was it. Hearing someone papapa in such close quarters, of course his mind would start turning in a certain direction, and of course his body would then automatically start to respond to those sort of thoughts! It had nothing to do with who was actually involved or whose voice he was hearing!
“Please, ah—please,” Luo Binghe panted, and Shen Qingqiu bit down on his lip hard enough to bleed. “Please, Shizun, I need—”
Shen Qingqiu jerked his head up, eyes wide as he stared at the thin door separating them. Had Luo Binghe really just—But that was impossible! Why… at that kind of moment, why would he be thinking of—
He didn’t realize that he’d made a sound. Not until the room suddenly went horribly silent and still.
If there was ever a time to run away, it was now. Yet he still couldn’t force his limbs to move. Frozen in place, he watched as the door separating them slowly slid open.
Luo Binghe looked…
Even through the horror of the moment, Shen Qingqiu felt his mouth go dry. There was no denying what his disciple had been doing—he looked thoroughly debauched. His robes were tousled, his hair loose and mussed around his shoulders, the moonlight illuminating his flushed skin… even the remnants of what looked like tears clung to his eyelashes. If that wasn’t enough, the bitter scent of precome hung heavy in the air.
With the door open, Shen Qingqiu could see the room behind him clearly… including the empty bed.
That was why he’d only heard Luo Binghe’s voice. Because the only person who had been in there, was Luo Binghe himself.
His face was burning, he was still humiliatingly hard, and he wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole somewhere and die, but at the same time, Shen Qingqiu still found it in him to feel a swell of pity rush through him. Someone like Luo Binghe shouldn’t have to resort to using his hand for pleasure! Didn’t he know how devastatingly handsome he was? With his looks, personality, and talent—didn’t he realize that all he had to do was ask, and every maiden in the world would be ready to swoon at his feet?
Luo Binghe swallowed. “Shizun, you… heard?”
Shen Qingqiu wished he'd thought to grab his fan from his bedside. He couldn’t exactly hide his face in his hands again—that would definitely shatter his image beyond repair—but nor could he keep his own embarrassment off of his face.
At least the humiliation on Luo Binghe’s face mirrored his own. Shen Qingqiu really wanted to say, I’m embarrassed, you’re embarrassed, so why don’t we just drop this whole subject and pretend that it never happened? But the words stuck in his throat.
Luo Binghe’s expression wavered. “Shizun, please forgive this disciple his impudence!”
Before Shen Qingqiu could stop him, Luo Binghe flung himself onto his knees before him. His eyes wet, more apologies already beginning to bubble on his lips, Luo Binghe raised his head—putting him at the perfect angle to see where Shen Qingqiu’s erection tented his robes.
Shen Qingqiu hurriedly turned away, his robes fluttering around him, but it was too late. There was no way that Luo Binghe hadn’t seen! Binghe’s face had been right there!
His! Dick! Had! Been! Right! In! Luo! Binghe’s! Face!
He knew! He knew!
Death couldn’t come fast enough.
He heard Luo Binghe rise back to his feet behind him. A hand tugged cautiously at his sleeve.
Leave this master alone so he could go find somewhere to die of humiliation in peace!
Still holding onto Shen Qingqiu’s sleeve, Luo Binghe moved to stand before him. Shen Qingqiu tried to turn away again, but found that once more, his limbs weren’t cooperating. Luo Binghe’s eyes searched Shen Qingqiu’s face, and Shen Qingqiu felt stripped bare.
“Shizun’s bleeding,” Binghe murmured, and Shen Qingqiu lifted his fingers to touch his bottom lip. In the chaos of Luo Binghe’s discovery, he’d nearly forgotten how he’d bitten through it in an effort to keep quiet—not that it had done him any good in the end. His lip throbbed with a dull pain at the touch, and his fingertips came away wet with blood.
Luo Binghe touched his wrist. When Shen Qingqiu didn’t resist, he tugged Shen Qingqiu’s hand closer to him.
“This was… because of me?” His eyes flickered between Shen Qingqiu’s fingertips and—oddly—downwards, before looking back at his mouth. “Because of what Shizun heard?”
Shen Qingqiu couldn't speak. What could he say? Denying it, admitting to it—both were impossible! One would be the most obvious of lies; the other would be a death sentence!
Luo Binghe brushed Shen Qingqiu’s bloodied fingertips across his surprisingly soft lips. Before Shen Qingqiu could do more than suck in a surprised breath, he put Shen Qingqiu’s fingers into his mouth. Holding Shen Qingqiu’s hand firmly in place, his tongue swirled around Shen Qingqiu’s fingers, licking and sucking at them.
“Binghe!” Shen Qingqiu snapped. To his horror, his voice actually cracked. “What do you think you’re doing!?”
Luo Binghe didn’t answer straight away. His cheeks hollowed as he worked Shen Qingqiu’s fingers, allowing them to plunge in and out of his mouth like they were… Like he was...
Luo Binghe dragged it out a little longer, then finally pulled Shen Qingqiu’s fingers out from his mouth with a pop. Not a trace of blood remained on his skin.
“This disciple was simply cleaning up the mess he caused.”
Shen Qingqiu meant to scold, but somehow, his voice came out breathless instead. Something sparked in Luo Binghe’s eyes, and he decreased what little distance remained between them even further. His grip on Shen Qingqiu’s wrist tightened.
“Might this disciple… might this disciple also be allowed to clean up the rest of the... mess he made?”
For a moment, Shen Qingqiu thought that he was talking about his mouth—of the blood still smeared there. A fresh wave of heat flooded his body. While he was distracted by the thought of Binghe licking at his lip and sucking it into the heat of his mouth, Luo Binghe sank down onto his knees. His eyes locked onto Shen Qingqiu’s, he leaned forward and mouthed at the head of his cock through the thin cotton of his robes.
The most undignified sound Shen Qingqiu had ever made in his entire life escaped from his mouth. He scrambled backwards, stumbling, as his voice went high.
Luo Binghe looked lost. “Did this disciple do something wrong?”
What kind of question was that!
Shen Qingqiu opened his mouth, a thousand reasons why he shouldn’t be lowering himself like that ready to pour out of his mouth. They were both men! Worse, Luo Binghe was his disciple! He was still under his protection! Wouldn’t that just be taking advantage of him? He wasn’t the original goods—he didn’t have those sort of perverted hobbies!
Yet before the first word could pass his lips, he happened to glance down at Luo Binghe’s lap. It was hard to see it clearly through the dim moonlight illuminating the room, but the fabric seemed wet where it strained against his tip.
That’s right. Earlier… earlier, Luo Binghe had been interrupted before he could come, hadn’t he?
Thinking about Luo Binghe going back to his empty bed—of him taking his cock in hand, alone and lonely, trying to silence his cries into his pillow as he desperately chased after his pleasure—Shen Qingqiu felt himself weaken.
Wasn’t that… wasn’t that just too pathetic?
He had no idea how it had happened, or why—and that thought was definitely being shoved into a corner so he could panic about it later—but… Luo Binghe was in this state because of him. Of course, allowing the protagonist to do… that for him was absolutely out of the question, but… shouldn’t he take some responsibility for this?
Shen Qingqiu wavered, then sighed. Gesturing at Luo Binghe, he said, “Come here.”
Luo Binghe obeyed, looking nervous as he stood. Shen Qingqiu, trying not to think too deeply about what he was about to do, took him by the hand and led him back into the room Binghe called his own.
The thick smell of precome still hadn’t fully dissipated from the air. Shen Qingqiu couldn’t meet Luo Binghe’s eyes as he settled onto his bed.
Luo Binghe’s voice sounded awed.
“Close the door.”
Maybe if it was darker, this would be less embarrassing.
Luo Binghe obeyed, and the stream of moonlight cut off into a mere trickle, poking through the cracks in the door. He could still see the general outline of Luo Binghe’s body, but the details were obscured by the dark.
Shen Qingqiu swallowed. “Come here.”
The mattress bent under Luo Binghe’s weight. His heart pounding, Shen Qingqiu slipped a hand through the fold of Binghe’s inner robe, setting his palm against Luo Binghe’s bare chest.
His skin felt… firm. Firm and warm.
Again, Shen Qingqiu swallowed.
“This is… this is just this once. Do you understand, Binghe?”
Even through the dark, he could see Luo Binghe’s nod. “Yes, Shizun.”
Shen Qingqiu stroked down the line of his chest. Luo Binghe shifted, and the ties of his robes fell open, easing Shen Qingqiu’s way. His fingers brushed against the hem of Luo Binghe’s pants.
A handjob. All he had to do was give a handjob. That wasn’t too much, right? No one could say anything against that. He was just helping his poor, mixed-up disciple out with the sad state he was in. Then next time, Luo Binghe could find a proper sister to take care of things with.
...Though hopefully not in the bamboo house. The thought of that bothered him for reasons that he wasn’t willing to examine.
But… how was he going to do this? He couldn’t make Luo Binghe come in his pants—that was just too undignified—but the thought of undressing his disciple in this sort of situation felt too…
He cleared his throat. “Binghe, could you…?”
Thankfully, Luo Binghe didn’t need him to spell it out for him. He shifted, and Shen Qingqiu felt the muscles under his hand bunch as Luo Binghe took off his pants before settling back down against the bed.
The scent of precome in the air grew stronger. It… wasn’t all Binghe’s. Shen Qingqiu shifted, trying to ignore the heavy, insistent weight of his own arousal. It was just a natural biological reaction! It didn’t mean anything!
His hand travelled lower, his knuckles brushing against hot, silky skin.
Shen Qingqiu let out a shaky breath. That was… That was Luo Binghe’s…
If he kept swallowing like that, Luo Binghe was going to think that he was in desperate need of some water. Steeling himself, he closed his fingers around Luo Binghe’s cock.
Or, he tried to.
His hand… didn’t fit all the way around it.
Shen Qingqiu felt his brain fizzle out.
What was this?!?!
He knew that Luo Binghe had to be big, of course—Proud Immortal Demon Way had been very, very, very clear on that point—but this was more than just “big”! No wonder Luo Binghe was brought to tears trying to get this thing off! It was just unnatural!
He slid his hand upwards, morbidly curious if Binghe’s cock was just as ridiculously long as it was wide.
Fuck! This really was too ridiculous! How did anyone ever survive having this thing jabbed inside of them?! And how was he ever going to be able to look his disciple in the eyes again after this, now that he knew that he was carrying this sort of weapon between his legs!?!?!?
Luo Binghe made a stifled sound. “Shizun…”
Shen Qingqiu’s face flamed. Hearing Binghe call him “Shizun” while he was holding his cock in his hand, that was just too—too—
He couldn’t take it!
“Hush,” he said desperately. Gathering up precome from the head of Binghe’s cock to slick up his hand, he began to stroke up and down that ridiculous length. He shifted closer, his leg pressing against Binghe’s.
It wasn’t long before Shen Qingqiu found himself ready to cry. His wrist was starting to ache, but Luo Binghe didn’t seem to be anywhere close to the edge. Each stroke provoked a new noise, a new twitch or shudder from Luo Binghe; he was even noisier than he had been when he’d been doing this alone, but his cock remained as hard as steel. Please, Binghe, hurry up and come already!
Maybe… maybe it would go faster if he used his mouth?
As soon as the thought crossed his mind, embarrassment rushed over him. What was he thinking! A handjob was one thing, but a blowjob—! There was nothing straight about giving a blowjob!
But… if it made Binghe come…
It wasn’t… it wasn’t that he wanted to! But… For Binghe, maybe… it wouldn’t be so…
His heart thudded faster. He looked down the length of Luo Binghe’s body, towards where he lay with his head against his pillow. His hair spread over the pale sheets, an inky patch of darkness set against the room’s dark shadows. Again, he thought of how desperate Binghe had sounded earlier—the way he’d whined and sobbed as he’d ground into his own hand.
Please, please, Shizun, I need—
Shen Qingqiu shook his head, trying to chase away the memory of Luo Binghe’s pleading voice. He shifted closer, leaning over Luo Binghe, and felt some of his hair slip over his shoulder. Tucking some of the stray locks behind his ear, Shen Qingqiu bent over and gave the slit at the head of Binghe’s cock a tentative lick.
Luo Binghe’s hips immediately thrust upwards, a strangled sound escaping his throat. “Shi-Shizun!”
The momentum shoved his cock inside of Shen Qingqiu’s mouth. He choked, his teeth scraping over the head in a way that made him wince in sympathy, but somehow only made Luo Binghe’s cock pulse in his hand.
He pulled back, trying to ignore the obscene pop that Binghe’s cock made as it left his mouth. “Binghe! Behave yourself!”
Binghe’s cock twitched.
...Was that… because he’d scolded him?
No. Definitely not. That couldn’t be it. The protagonist couldn’t be an M! That just wasn’t possible!
Besides, wouldn’t that imply that each time he scolded him, Binghe was actually...
No. No, no, no. Just thinking about it made Shen Qingqiu want to explode from embarrassment. Scrubbing that thought from his mind, starting now!
“A-apologies to Shizun…”
“It’s fine. Just…”
Hold still, he’d wanted to say, but he couldn’t bring himself to finish his sentence. Despite everything, his sense of shame hadn’t gone away. He dropped his other hand against Luo Binghe’s thigh, pinning him down, and hoped that Luo Binghe would understand what he meant.
Beneath his hand, he could feel Luo Binghe’s muscles tremble and tense as he lowered his mouth back down to his cock. The tip was soaked with precome, and more came spilling out as he licked at the head.
The taste… wasn’t actually that bad.
He did that a few more times, running his tongue up and down against Luo Binghe’s slit, before bending further to take it into his mouth. He couldn’t fit much; it was just too big, and his mouth stretched obscenely wide as he tried to take it in.
He tried to run his tongue over the sensitive base at the head, but failed. It was all he could do to just fit the top of Binghe’s cock into his mouth, and its heavy weight pressed down against his tongue, holding it firmly in place. There was just no room to maneuver.
Also, his jaw was already starting to ache.
...This wasn’t going to work either, was it.
He found himself absurdly grateful for his foresight in asking Luo Binghe to close the door. If Luo Binghe had been able to see him clearly—see how he must look at that moment—there was no way he’d ever be able to keep his old face.
With another one of those horribly obscene pops, he pulled back. At a loss, he went back to licking at the head of Binghe’s cock, since he’d seemed to have liked that, while his hand stroked firmly up and down the rest of its length.
Finally, he’d seemed to have found something that worked. It wasn’t long before Binghe was again squirming beneath him, incoherent whimpers spilling out from his mouth. The air filled with the sounds of his shuddering breaths, and every single one of those gasps and moans sent a new shot of heat to Shen Qingqiu’s throbbing cock. He could feel the precome leaking from its head, making a mess of his robes.
He refused to acknowledge it! He refused!
"Shizun," Binghe gasped, his voice a strangled whine. "Shizun!"
Shen Qingqiu rapidly drew back. He drew the line at having the protagonist come in his mouth! With a shudder, Luo Binghe began spilling all over his hand.
Shen Qingqiu moved to wipe his hand on the sheets. As he did, frenzied hands reached for him; a mouth pressed against his own. Shen Qingqiu made a muffled sound of surprise, tipping backwards, and Luo Binghe followed after, his body covering Shen Qingqiu's.
He caught Shen Qingqiu's bottom lip between his teeth, sucking it into his mouth. His teeth sank in too deep; the kiss was clumsy and eager and painful and had absolutely none of the skill a confident stallion protagonist was supposed to have—but it was still undeniably a kiss, and Shen Qingqiu’s mind went blank because that was Luo Binghe kissing him.
Luo Binghe pressed him into the mattress, his hands fisting into the cloth at Shen Qingqiu’s shoulders as he tried his best to devour Shen Qingqiu’s mouth. What was with this technique! This master wasn’t a snack! He gasped, and Luo Binghe actually pulled back, though not by much. As he tried to catch his breath, Shen Qingqiu stared up at him, trying and failing to make out the details of his expression.
“Did this disciple go too far?”
Shen Qingqiu wanted to shout. Did he really need to ask? Of course he had! He’d kissed his master! His master! Not one of the hundreds of sisters waiting for him, but his very clearly male master! True, he’d been doing something much more intimate to Binghe only moments ago, but that was different! That was just giving a helping hand, from one man to another!
...But did Luo Binghe realize the difference? He was still pretty innocent, after all. Now that Shen Qingqiu thought about it, doing such things for him, it… it wasn’t impossible that it had crossed some wires.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
What had he done? He couldn’t even blame the System for this one—he’d fucked it up all by himself!
Luo Binghe’s grip on his robes tightened. “Is Shizun angry?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Shen Qingqiu said swiftly. He reached up, smoothing his hand over the back of Luo Binghe’s head. “Binghe is this master’s responsibility. If Binghe has done wrong, then the blame for that would lie with this master, not Binghe.”
The finest of tremors went through Luo Binghe’s body. If they hadn’t been pressed so closely together, Shen Qingqiu never would have noticed it.
Luo Binghe repeated the word quietly to himself. Suddenly, he chuckled, but there was a bitterness to the sound that Shen Qingqiu had never heard from him before. “That’s right. For a disciple to desire his master… that would be wrong, wouldn’t it?”
Wasn’t that a little dramatic? Luo Binghe, aren’t you being too hard on yourself? Hormones just got the better of you for a moment, that’s all! It was normal, especially at that age! It didn’t mean that he actually wanted Shen Qingqiu. There didn’t have to be any deeper reasons for it; there was no need to castigate yourself like this! The only one who should be blaming himself here was this master!
“Binghe,” he said, helplessly.
Binghe didn’t seem to hear him. He went on, saying, “But, Shizun. This disciple has to wonder. If it’s wrong, then why did Shizun come to this disciple’s bed?”
Please don’t phrase it like that!
Once more, Shen Qingqiu’s face burned. “That’s different.”
“How? This disciple requests an explanation.”
“It’s… that was simply giving you a helping hand.”
“Then, would Shizun have done this for anyone?”
What the hell!
“Of course not! Who do you think this master is?”
Luo Binghe pressed, “Then who else would Shizun have done this for? Perhaps Ming Fan?”
Shen Qingqiu did an instinctive, full-body recoil, unable to disguise the horror in his tone. “Binghe! What are you saying! He’s my disciple!”
Luo Binghe’s breath caught as, seconds too late, Shen Qingqiu’s brain caught up to what he’d just said.
“Does… does Shizun not look at me as his disciple?”
He’d never heard Luo Binghe’s voice sound so small. Shen Qingqiu felt his heart break. What was he doing! How did he keep misstepping so badly? Cursing himself, he reached out and pulled Luo Binghe down into his arms, for once uncaring that technically, Binghe was now too old for such things.
Running his hand over the back of Binghe’s head, he said, “Of course this master views Binghe as his disciple. Would I allow you to call me Shizun if I did not? It’s simply that, Binghe is different from Ming Fan.”
After all, he’d skimmed over so many sex scenes starring Binghe. Of course he couldn’t view him the same way as his other disciples!
Luo Binghe went silent, his face pressed fully against Shen Qingqiu’s chest. Shen Qingqiu continued to run his hand over the back of Binghe’s head and down his spine in slow, soothing strokes.
After a few, long moments, Shen Qingqiu sighed.
“This master recommends that Binghe… set this incident aside,” he said carefully. Luo Binghe twitched, as though he meant to protest, but Shen Qingqiu pressed his head back down as he continued. “Better to focus your attentions on any of the hundreds of beautiful young women who’d be willing to have you, instead of…”
Well. Instead of allowing his sense of honor to force him to focus his... attentions on Shen Qingqiu (he couldn’t quite repress a shudder at the thought) over what was, in the end, nothing more than a brief, hormonally-driven lapse of judgment!
“Hundreds…?” There was something strange about the way Luo Binghe said it. Shen Qingqiu couldn’t quite place what it was. Doubt, maybe?
That didn’t seem quite right, but when he thought about it, it was what seemed to make the most sense in this situation. After all, he’d only met about dozen of his future wives so far! Shen Qingqiu probably should have taken that into consideration before speaking. This innocent white lotus before him—right now, he had no way of knowing how large his harem would grow.
“Of course,” he said firmly, hoping this would put an end to it. “Binghe shouldn’t underestimate his appeal. Any woman would feel fortunate beyond measure to have the honor of catching Binghe’s eye.”
Luo Binghe was silent for another moment. Then he said: “I understand.”
His tone was still a little odd, but Shen Qingqiu couldn’t bring himself to care about that as relief swamped over him. He’d actually managed to escape this mess! Maybe, if he were really lucky, the future Luo Binghe would only semi-mutilate him for this instead of entirely!
“Good,” he said. He gave Binghe one final pat on his head, then pushed at his shoulders, gesturing at him to let him up. Luo Binghe obeyed, as quick as ever in understanding his meaning. Shen Qingqiu swung his legs over the edge of the bed, preparing to leave, but before he could stand, Luo Binghe caught his hand up in both of his own.
Shen Qingqiu glanced at him, a silent question.
Luo Binghe’s grip on his fingers tightened. There was a brief pause, and then, in a sudden rush of words, he said, “Shizun should know, this disciple… this disciple values Shizun above all others! In this world, no one else can compare!”
That was... nice? Shen Qingqiu felt a little embarrassed. He had no idea what he’d done to prompt this sudden flattery—especially after all the mistakes he’d made this evening—but, well, no one disliked being praised.
Everything clicked into place. Oh. Oh.
The small, tiny, unacknowledged part of him that had still felt anxious and confused over why Luo Binghe had been in bed thinking about him in the first place, the part of him which hadn’t been fully convinced by his own brainwashing, finally relaxed.
He’d had no idea that Luo Binghe admired him so highly (or, for that matter, what he’d done to deserve it, though that didn’t stop a strange sense of joy from bubbling up in his chest at the thought), but with this new knowledge, it explained everything! It was just hero worship, plain and simple. That kind of feeling could be pretty intense! Shen Qingqiu should know—he’d felt something similar towards the Luo Binghe in the original novel. And when one added youthful hormones into the mix…
It made perfect sense, how Luo Binghe could have gotten so mixed-up.
Shen Qingqiu absolutely did not deserve this sort of halo—the protagonist! looking up to him! of all people!—and there was a decent chance that it was going to backfire on him horribly once the Endless Abyss happened, but for now, he allowed himself to indulge in the satisfaction and relief of this new knowledge. Gently disentangling his hand from Luo Binghe’s grip, he reached out to pat Luo Binghe on the head again.
“This master,” he told him, “is honored to have such a talented, obedient disciple.”
“Shizun…” Luo Binghe made a stifled noise, sounding overwhelmed—in a good way. Shen Qingqiu couldn’t help but smile.
This evening might have been an absolute disaster in so many ways, and he was definitely going to be shoving into into the depths of his memories as soon as possible... but at least it’d ended well enough.