Luo Binghe was seething, inwardly of course since he wouldn't dare show Shizun the ugly expression that threatened to appear. Not that Shizun would've noticed with the way his eyes were focused on Liu Qingge as the other sat down across from him.
Not for the first time, Luo Binghe wished he was strong enough to cleanse Shizun's meridians so the other peak lord wouldn't have an excuse to keep coming over and spending time with Shen Qingqiu.
"I'll make tea." Luo Binghe only offered to try and get Shizun's attention even for a few seconds but was surprised when all he got was a dismissing hand.
"I'll do it, you can go now, Binghe"
Luo Binghe was about to complain and find any excuse to stay but a look from Shizun made him stop and bow respectfully. He made sure to send a glare at Liu Qingge, hoping to intimidate the man so he wouldn't dare be disrespectful towards Shizun but the other was staring at Shizun shamelessly.
He had no choice but to leave grumbling under his breath. He even tried to find some ways to interrupt the pair during their usual poison cleaning sessions, but Ning Yingying kept stopping him from going to the bamboo house.
"Have more tact A-Luo!" She scolded after the third time she found him trying to sneak his way to the house. "Shizun enjoys Liu-shishu's visits a lot! We need to give them space!!"
Luo Binghe sat down, unable to argue against her. He wasn't convinced that Shizun particularly enjoyed Luo Qingge's company and knew that Shizun was only glad to be relieved of Without A Cure's effects. Ning-Shijie was just as delusional as the rest of the Qing Jing Peak disciples who kept whispering about how good Shen Qingqiu and Liu Qingge looked together.
Wrong. They were all wrong! Shizun looked way better than that brute! How dare they even think that.
Luo Binghe huffed and started counting the time until his Shizun would be free again and give him the attention he deserved.
After a few years of living in the world of the Proud Immortal Demon Way, Shen Qingqiu was proud to announce that he was more or less accustomed to the world. By some miracle, he never made any major slip up and managed to fool everyone into thinking he was the original goods. He was impressed by his acting skills sometimes. But, there were still some differences between this world and the one he grew up in that he wasn't able to notice immediately.
That was exactly why Shen Qingqiu wasn't able to tell that he was being courted. He wasn't exactly dense or oblivious, but it took him a long while to notice because he just wasn't familiar with the process. He just assumed the random gifts he kept getting were just that, random gifts. However, several incidents made him come to the conclusion that Liu Qingge was courting him.
He shifted nervously in his seat as he held his wrist out for Liu Qingge to do his usual meridian cleansing. He had freaked out over the revelation a few weeks ago and accepted his own feelings after finally admitting to himself that he was certainly NOT as straight as he thought he was and that YES he was very much into Liu Qingge. This was his first meeting with the peak lord after coming to terms with how he felt and he wasn't sure what to do or how to act.
Obviously, now that he was aware, he couldn't go on ignoring their situation. He was going to address it because he wasn't in a stupid romance novel filled with pining and misunderstandings. The only thing making him hesitate was that he didn't want to continue lying to Liu Qingge. He didn't want to build their relationship on a lie.
In the novel, it was briefly mentioned how much the two peak lords couldn't stand each other. Liu Qingge hated Shen Qingqiu's guts and for very valid reasons. This meant that either Airplane shooting towards the sky lied or didn't see it fit to include Liu Qingge's feelings in the story since he died in the first few chapters. Or.... or Liu Qingge had feelings for him, as in Shen Yuan, not Shen Qingqiu. The thought sent warmth to Shen Qingqiu's chest.
He spent years pretending to be Shen Qingqiu, he even fooled Yue Qingyuan, who was the person closest to Shen Qingqiu, and yet Liu Qingge saw the change and liked him.
Shen Qingqiu knew that if he didn't tell the truth now, he would never be able to do it. He was going to confess everything, tell Liu Qingge about himself, about his feelings. He was so nervous and only hoped that his mastered poker face was still in place.
"What's wrong?" Liu Qingge broke the awkward silence after releasing Shen Qingqiu's wrist.
He glanced up and found the other already looking at him intensely. Shen Qingqiu brought his fan up quickly to hide his flushing cheeks. Liu Qingge had no right to look that pretty just by existing.
"Nothing," he replied a bit too quickly and got a raised eyebrow in return. "I wanted to talk to Liu-Shidi about something."
"Go on. I'm listening" Liu Qingge took a sip of his tea and Shen Qingqiu grimaced, the tea must've gone cold already.
"I must apologize to Liu-Shidi. I was a bit dense and didn't realize that I was being courted until recently" Out of every reaction Shen Qingqiu expected, he didn't imagine Liu Qingge choking on his tea and flushing a deep red.
"You! You didn't know?"
"It's not like Liu-Shidi made it easy for me to notice" Shen Qingqiu defended weakly.
"I thought..." Liu Qingge sounded flustered. "I thought you were just ignoring me"
Shen Qingqiu was barely able to stop the undignified gasp he almost let out. Liu Qingge thought he was ignoring him?? The Perfect, considerate, beautiful, reliable Bai Zhan Peak Lord thought Shen Qingqiu was trying to ignore his advances? How could he even suggest such a thing? Shen Qingqiu doubted that anyone in their right mind would be able to refuse Liu Qingge.
"I will stop if you want me-" Liu Qingge stopped once Shen Qingqiu held up his hand.
"That's not why I brought it up," Shen Qingqiu swallowed his pride, he had to say it, "I am not opposed to a courtship. Liu-Shidi's feelings are mutual."
Shen Qingqiu patted himself on the back for his successful confession. He could feel his face heating up and he was very grateful for his fan hiding most of his face. He peaked at Liu Qingge and almost cooed at how adorable he looked with his wide eyes and flushed cheeks. He internally sighed at what he had to say next.
It's for your own good, Shen Yuan, He kept repeating in his mind ignoring the happy notifications the system kept sending him.
At first, Shen Qingqiu thought that he wouldn't be allowed to tell anyone the truth about his existence in this world. Especially to a fellow peak lord who knew Shen Qingqiu enough to notice a change. He was pretty surprised when all the response he got from the system was a congratulation and a message about his actions not mattering as long as they didn't affect the main plot. It didn't matter as long as Luo Binghe fell into the abyss during the Immortal Conference. Liu Qingge wasn't even supposed to be alive, which meant that whatever Shen Qingqiu did with him didn't matter to the story.
"However, before we take our relationship any further," Shen Qingqiu's hand clutched his fan tighter, "I must confess something. Hopefully, Shidi can listen and then decide what he wants to do."
To his credit, Liu Qingge nodded immediately and remained quiet. Shen Qingqiu took a deep breath. This was it. The first time he would tell someone the truth. He was beyond scared of Liu Qingge rejecting him after knowing that he was an imposter, but he had a feeling that it wouldn't happen. Liu Qingge didn't like Shen Qingqiu before, right? The pair only got close after Shen Yuan took his place.
"I must apologize, I have been deceiving Liu-Shidi and everyone else for a long time. This one comes from another world, where he died and woke up one day as Shen Qingqiu."
Shen Qingqiu looked down at his teacup as if it was the most interesting thing in the world, his fan long forgotten.
"Since when?" Liu Qingge didn't sound surprised, but his voice was so soft that Shen Qingqiu almost missed it.
"After Shen Qingqiu had a Qi deviation and a fever. A short while before Liu-Shidi had a Qi deviation in the caves."
Shen Qingqiu waited for a few beats, but Liu Qingge remained silent. He looked at the other Peak lord and found him already staring. Liu Qingge was staring, but he wasn't looking at Shen Qingqiu any differently, he wasn't scowling or disgusted or scared.
"Isn't Shidi concerned that I possessed this body?"
"We already checked for possible possession once you woke up and acted too differently. Wei Qingwei used Hongjing multiple times and nothing happened. Did you really think you were so smooth to fool us? All peak lords had a meeting about how weird you got after your deviation and decided to just ignore it, since it was a change for the better."
Shen Qingqiu opened his mouth but nothing came out. He honestly was not expecting that response at all. They really used Hongjing? Was he that obvious?
"You said that you came from another world?" Liu Qingge was either unaware of Shen Qingqiu's internal meltdown or chose to ignore it. All Shen Qingqiu could do was nod.
"What was it like?"
"There was no cultivation or ghosts or demons," Shen Qingqiu wanted to laugh at the incredulous look on Liu Qingge's face. Knowing the person he liked was a fraud didn't even faze him, but imagining a world without cultivation was where he drew the line?
"What...What should I call you?" Liu Qingge locked eyes with him and Shen Qingqiu swallowed thickly. How could anyone survive that intense look, please have mercy on his soul.
"My name in my previous life was Shen Yuan..." Saying the name out loud felt strange. It has been years since he referred to himself as Shen Yuan instead of Shen Qingqiu, "Shidi can call me whatever he wants."
"Shen Yuan" Liu Qingge said slowly as if testing the name before nodding to himself. "May I call you that when we're in private?"
Shen Qingqiu nodded and tried to ignore how fast his heart was beating. Did this mean Liu Qingge accepted him? How come it was so easy?
"Stop looking like that" Liu Qingge rolled his eyes, "Did you really think I'd start courting you without foreseeing the possibility that you weren't Shen Qingqiu?"
"I...I did not expect Shidi to accept my explanation that quickly," Did he just stutter? He tried to reach for his fan to hide behind when Liu Qingge grabbed his wrist.
"You don't need to hide and keep up appearances with me, Shen Yuan."
"I..will try..." Unable to hide his flushing cheeks, Shen Qingqiu settled for looking down to avoid further embarrassment.
Liu Qingge did not let go of his wrist and Shen Qingqiu was hyper-aware of where their skin was touching.
"You said my feelings are returned." He didn't expect Liu Qingge to lean in and stop a few inches away from his face. Shen Qingqiu felt his face heat up even more and nodded. He was rewarded with the most beautiful smile he's ever seen. "May I kiss you?"
"Yes," Shen Qingqiu closed his eyes and leaned in a bit.
The kiss was chaste, their lips brushing together. As embarrassing as it was to admit, Shen Qingqiu never kissed anyone before. All of his knowledge came from the long list of novels he read and dramas he watched. He hesitantly moved his lips against Liu Qingge's, the other quickly following his lead.
Liu Qingge pulled back too quickly for Shen Qingqiu's liking. He opened his eyes and couldn't help smiling at the sight greeting him. Liu Qingge's neck and cheeks were flushed a deep pink. Knowing that the Bai Zhan Peak lord was flustered from an innocent kiss made Shen Qinqiu's smile turn into a teasing smirk.
He opened his mouth to tease him when Liu Qingge claimed his lips once more, Shen Qingqiu's eyes fluttered shut and instantly kissed back. He felt a hand cupping his face and tilting it to deepen the kiss, making him feel lightheaded.
They only separated long enough for Shen Qingqiu to move around the table and straddle Liu Qingge. He threw his arms around Liu Qingge's neck. With their foreheads pressed together, lips barely brushing, they were breathing each other's air. Shen Qingqiu licked his lips in anticipation.
"I love you, A-Yuan," Liu Qingge whispered against his lips, sending a jolt of pleasure through Shen Qingqiu's body.
"I love Liu-Shidi to-"
Shen Qingqiu's words got swallowed by Liu Qingge's mouth, the other taking advantage of his surprise to shove his tongue between his parted lips.
"Qingge," Liu Qingge managed to say in between kisses.
"Mn?" Shen Qingqiu murmured absent-mindedly, too busy leaving open-mouthed kisses along Liu Qingge's jaw.
"Call me Qingge," Shen Qingqiu smiled proudly at how breathless Liu Qingge sounded.
"Qingge, I love you," Before he could feel embarrassed, Liu Qingge was kissing him again.
Luo Binghe almost dropped the tray with Shizun's dinner in surprise. He, like everyone else on Qing Jing Peak, thought that Liu Qingge already left. They didn't see him on the rainbow bridge but the Peak lord usually left to his peak on his sword directly from Shizun's bamboo house. That's why, when it was time for dinner he volunteered to take Shizun's dinner like he usually did. The disciple in charge of Shizun's meals knew better than to argue with Luo Binghe on that matter and simply handed him the tray.
He did not expect to hear voices from the house. Especially not Liu Qingge's. His smile dropped and his hold on the tray tightened.
What was that brute doing with Shizun this late? Taking care of Without A Cure never took that long. Unless...Shizun's state was getting worse? Dread filled Luo Binghe and he slowly made his way to the door. He did his best to make absolutely no sound, keeping his breathing silent. He wasn't spying, he was just worried about Shizun. Knowing him, his teacher would never tell them if his condition got worse, he wouldn't want them to worry about him.
"I probably should get going" He heard Liu Qingge speak, followed by the rustling of clothes. Luo Binghe assumed that the Peak Lord was standing up to leave and swallowed thickly. He had to hide or else he would be discovered eavesdropping.
Before Luo Binghe could move, he heard a whine and a few muffled sounds. He froze in place, holding his breath.
"Qingge should stay," was that Shizun? Luo Binghe never heard him talk in that tone before.
"As tempting as that is, I still need to go to Qiong Ding to report my mission."
"Zhangmen Shixiong can wait until tomorrow," Luo Binghe was positive that Shizun was whining.
"My disciples will wonder about my whereabouts!"
"You're never at your Peak anyway, they won't notice your absence."
Luo Binghe unconsciously walked to the closest window. He refused to believe what he heard, he had to confirm that he was just hearing it wrong. He peeked inside and instantly regretted his decision.
He placed a hand on his mouth, preventing any sound from escaping as he felt his eyes prickling from tears.
why why why why why
He blinked, willing the nightmare away yet the scene didn't change. Shizun was still in Liu Qingge's arms, kissing Liu Qingge.
Luo Binghe took one step back, then another before sprinting away from the bamboo house. He rubbed his eyes, chasing the tears away. His mind refusing to process what he just saw.
Looks like Ning-Shijie was right, after all, he thought bitterly. Shizun did enjoy Liu Qingge's visits. Shizun chose Liu Qingge, Shizun didn't choose Luo Binghe.
He just had to work harder, to show Shizun how wrong his decision was.
For now, he would allow himself to cry for the last time before working on becoming someone worthy of Shizun. Someone able to challenge Liu Qingge.