It’s quite understandable that, after such a traumatic experience for both of them, neither Shen Jiu nor Wei Ying are very fond of outsiders. While Shen Jiu still has to meet up with people sometimes for work, Wei Ying doesn’t, so he spends most of the time in the house or around in the garden. Shen Jiu also notices that Wei Ying has stopped wanting to explore the forests around their home, and attributed that to how badly scarred the little fox was after the incident.
Wei Ying is also noticeably more clingy now, treating Shen Jiu more and more like a parent and less like a mentor or a teacher. It’s a weird thing to get used to, Shen Jiu thinks, but it’s not something he’s uncomfortable with.
“Wei Ying,” Shen Jiu calls, knowing that the boy is probably hidden somewhere in his bedroom, “Come here, I need to tell you something.”
In an instant, Wei Ying is there, giving him one of his curious looks. “I’m going to Yunping soon, and I’ll have to pass by Lanling on my way there.”
Before he can even end his thoughts, Wei Ying is already making a displeased face and opening his mouth, “A-die, what if you get hurt when you’re in Lanling? Aren’t there a lot of cultivators around that area? What if one of them remembers you from that time?”
“I know it’s a risk, and I wish I wouldn’t have to, but it’s the easiest way to find the products I need for work.”
“Then, can I come with you to make sure you’ll be okay?”
“A-Ying, as much as I wish I could agree, you’re still a child who isn’t able to fight properly. Bringing you with me would make it even more dangerous, because they know you’re still a cub and weaker than a grown fox.”
Wei Ying still doesn’t look happy at the idea of Shen Jiu going alone, but nods and doesn’t ask about it anymore.
The next week, he tells A-Ying bye, before starting his journey to Yunping city. He hopes that this time it’ll be much calmer than the last one.
Shen Yuan is, decidedly, not the best person to transmigrate into a fantasy world: he has no idea of how this world works, and no idea of what on earth he’s supposed to be. He’s not human, for sure. He figured that out when he tried moving his legs, only for something else to move instead. He can assume, however, by the stares people around him are throwing at him, that he’s at least something vaguely resembling a human.
You see, he has barely any idea of how he ended up here either. All he remembers is eating something, feeling nauseous, and passing out. And then he woke up, in the middle of a busy city, with no memories of how he got there, much less who he transmigrated into.
After a few seconds spent trying to remember who the original person was- which resulted in no memories or explanations - he decided to walk around, trying to see if he would find something he knew, or someone who knew him.
Soon enough, as he crossed the wrong street and reached a particularly empty alley, he was met with a group of people dressed in yellow robes. Shen Yuan, having read some Wuxia and Xianxia novels, guessed that they were cultivators. Maybe the original guy was a member of a sect?
It soon didn’t seem so, as one of the cultivators yelled to the others to “go grab him” and, soon, they all pulled their swords and nets out.
To his credit, Shen Yuan did attempt to put up a fight, but soon found out that he had no idea how this body worked. He wasn't fully human, so the novels he read about cultivation seemed to not help at all. Due to his terrible fighting skills, he was easily captured and bound.
Not being able to change his fate, he sighed to himself about his unfortunate second ending, hoping that it would at least make him return back to the modern world. If he has to be buried, he wants it to at least be in his actual body, not in this new, foreign body where he still struggles to get his tails to stop moving at random.
He’s busy trying to figure out his last words when there’s suddenly a commotion, caused by a fox- a stronger, larger fox than he is- barging in and beginning to fight the cultivators. He finds himself brimming full with hope once he realizes that this fox is there for him, to help him. Or well, whoever he used to be.
The fox, he notes, is a seven tailed fox, signaling that it’s most likely very powerful and old. Shen Yuan has read some novels where fox spirits existed, but ones like the one in front of him were said to be rare and elusive.
Although the cultivators were quite strong in fighting him, they had almost no way of going against the seven tailed fox, who finished all four with only a small injury on his leg. Shen Yuan decided then and there that, no matter what happened to him, he would make sure to hug this fox’s thighs as best as he could.
After making sure that none of the cultivators would come back up, the seven tailed fox approached him, first cutting the rope that bound him, and then transformed into its human form and proceeded to check him for injuries. Shen Yuan did have some, but they were mostly scratches, and thus could be allowed to heal on their own. One of the injuries however, made the other shake his head a little, before turning to him
“What’s your name?” The fox asked, and Shen Yuan was caught off guard. This entire time, he expected the fox to know who he used to be, yet he genuinely sounded like he had never seen Shen Yuan before.
“My name is Shen Yuan, I’m new to this region. I didn't know the cultivators around here hunted foxes, so I got caught off guard by those guys.” He explained, hoping that the fox would take his explanation and not ask any difficult questions.
“I see, so you’re an outsider too, huh? Well, this zone right here is called Lanling. Here, fox hunting and breeding are considered legal, and even encouraged. If you want to live peacefully around here, you should avoid this area, and Qishan as well. Qinghe isn’t bad, but they do accept fox pelt, so hunters will just wait until you’re out of the protection zone to attack. Yunmeng, Yiling, and Gusu are the three places where you want to go, but especially Yiling, since the entire city is a fox zone.”
As Shen Yuan carefully listened to the explanation, a little voice in his head told him that some of those names sounded familiar. Maybe the original goods lived in one of those places.
“I have checked you over, and you seem to have had some sort of qi deviation, because your qi looks out of balance. You’ll probably not be able to be by yourself in those conditions, so I’d recommend you to go get treated at one of the sanctuaries around Gusu. I can also try to treat you, but I’m not as good at dealing with Qi deviations as they are.”
“If it’s possible, I’d like to stay with you. I’m still a little scared of the same thing happening to me on my way to Gusu, and I also don’t know how exactly I’d get there.”
Shen Jiu nodded, “Then we’ll go to Yiling for now.”
They then began walking to Yiling, where Shen Jiu lived. According to what Shen Jiu had explained, Yiling was almost a full fox town, with the only humans there being tax collectors and merchants. It was also a city where foxes had rights, so he wouldn’t have to worry about getting kidnapped or sold to a breeder.
“By the way, I forgot to mention something,” Shen Jiu started, and Shen Yuan froze for a second. What if he asked for payment or wanted him to do something weird?
“I don’t live alone, there’s an eight year old living there too. Because of something that happened recently, he’s quite wary of newcomers, so if he acts defensive, don’t worry. He’ll get used to you after a while”
“Is he your child?” Shen Yuan asked before he had the chance to stop himself.
“You could say that.” Shen Jiu said. Shen Yuan blinked, confused by what he said. “He’s not my blood child, but I’m his father figure,” he explains, and Shen Yuan nods. “His name is Wei Ying. I met him a few years ago when I was going to Gusu. From that day since, I’ve started to take care of him.”
After Shen Jiu’s explanation, they both walk in silence, Shen Yuan taking his time to look at the stunning scenery around him. This world, although similar to his own, wins easily in terms of beauty.
It takes them one shichen to reach Yiling. The city is much different from what he had initially expected. It’s beautiful and lively, with fox spirits of all sorts and levels of strength walking throughout the city. There’s all types of commerce around, and besides the fact that most of the inhabitants seem to be foxes, there’s almost no distinction between this city and Lanling.
“Do you live here?” Shen Yuan asks, enchanted by the beauty of the city.
“Me and A-Ying don’t live in the city. It’s too noisy and it would interfere with my work. We live in a house not too far away from here.”
The house, like Shen Jiu had explained, really wasn’t very far from the center of the city. It only took them another 20 minute or so walk to find the little house, surrounded by trees and with a beautiful garden next to it.
“I’m going in first, I need to prepare Wei Ying. If he sees you without an explanation first, he’ll end up getting upset and attacking you.” Shen Jiu explains, and Shen Yuan nods before patiently waiting for Shen Jiu to tell him it was okay to come in. It took around ten minutes for Shen Jiu to come out, looking visibly tired.
“A-Ying wasn't happy when he saw the injury, so he might be a little angry at you. Don’t worry, he’ll get better once he sees you’re not a threat.”
Shen Yuan knew there was a chance A-Ying wouldn’t like him- Shen Jiu had told him so, had said that he had a child with him and that the child was very protective of him.
Shen Jiu just never told him how protective Wei Ying actually was.
The little fox frowned at him as soon as he noticed him coming in, unhappiness clear in his silver eyes. Shen Jiu, observing the interaction, merely sighed, as if he had already resigned to it.
“Baba,” the child called, and Shen Jiu immediately turned to him, “Are you sure there’s no other way? What if he gets you hurt again? What if you meet cultivators because of him?”
“A-Ying, it’s okay, I promise you that you can trust him.” Wei Ying nodded, still frowning. After a moment of deliberation, he left his place beside Shen Jiu, and came in front of Shen Yuan. Suddenly, his expression had gone from unhappy to somewhat angry and annoyed.
“Baba got hurt because of you!” The eight year old exclaimed, fury evident on his little face. Shen Yuan has to stop himself from cooing at the sight. Baby foxes are truly adorable.
“Wei Ying,” Shen Jiu tries, “It wasn’t his fault, it’s because of the cultivators that I got hurt, not because of Yuan-ge.”
Shen Yuan blushes a little at being called Yuan-ge, even though he knows it’s Shen Jiu’s way of trying to get Wei Ying to stop seeing him as an outsider. Upon hearing the nickname, A-Ying’s scowl only deepens, and he gives him yet another glare.
“If it wasn't for him getting into trouble, you wouldn’t have gotten hurt, a-die.” Wei Ying explains, and Shen Jiu sighs, before gently picking up the child.
“A-Ying, Yuan-ge is like us, but he doesn’t have family and no one else could help him, which is why I saved him and took him in, okay? I know I ended up getting hurt and that’s why you’re worried, but it’s because I was the only one who could help him, just like I was the only one who could help you,” he reasons. The little fox doesn’t look the least bit happy about his explanation, but still nods, and fixes Shen Yuan with yet another glare:
“If you ever hurt or get a-die hurt again, I’ll personally make you pay.” he says, trying his best to sound and look threatening. After saying those words, the little kid turns back to Shen Jiu, and immediately latches onto him. Shen Jiu looks awkward, but quickly returns the hug.
It’s like this that the first week with Shen Jiu and Wei Ying passes, with Shen Jiu always busy at work and A-Ying making it a point to ignore Shen Yuan’s existence whenever he can. He has stopped complaining to Shen Jiu, but he makes the fact that he’s not pleased with Shen Yuan at all very clear.
It only starts to get a little better once he’s allowed to practice for the first time to try and get his unstable Qi fixed.
Shen Jiu had decided that it would be best to have him first try and use talismans, because those would be easier for him. He had also brought Wei Ying with him who, despite having an age similar to a small child in human years, was quite good at managing talismans.
Now looking at all the talismans in front of him, Shen Yuan realized that this was his best chance to explain to Shen Jiu that he had no idea of what he’s doing.
“Jiu-ge” he tried, immediately feeling a stare full of judgment coming from Wei Ying nearby, “I don’t remember how to use my Qi.”
Wei Ying, who had been annoyed up until now, immediately started laughing. “How are you an adult yet you can’t use qi?” He questioned, still in between laughs. Shen Yuan turned to Shen Jiu who, to his credit, was trying his best to not laugh at him.
“I must have known how to use it, that’s why I have three tails. But ever since I got captured, I’ve forgotten how to do it.” he explained, and the other two foxes immediately stopped laughing. Shen Yuan realized, belatedly, that the way he said it might not have sounded like he expected it to.
“It’s okay. You’re young, and since you’ve already formed a golden core, all you need to do now is remember and practice. Soon, you’ll be back to where you used to be.” Shen Jiu said, trying to soothe him. He was already aware of the possibility that, due to Shen Yuan’s Qi deviation, he would end up forgetting at least some of his cultivation techniques, but he wasn’t expecting this to be severe enough for Shen Yuan to forget even the most basic of principles.
“A-Ying, since we won’t be able to practice talismans today, you’re free to go and play for a while, okay?” Shen Jiu suggested. The cub, in a very uncharacteristic manner, simply nodded and left instead of whining or accusing Shen Yuan of bothering his baba.
After that incident, A-Ying seemed to be less judgemental of him, now merely ignoring him instead of throwing annoyed looks and accusations at him.
It was nothing to celebrate or write home about, but it made him feel like he was at least a little more welcomed by the child than before.