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Snow white past - blood red future

Chapter Text

Hua Cheng explained about what he’s been doing for the last seven years to get an understanding of how Jun Wu’s organisation worked, how he had spent years building Ghost City, while making sure to have informants in all the places which mattered. He Xuan had spent a long time as the informant in The Heavenly Realm, under a different name, but had been ‘killed’ in an altercation between the Heavenly Realm and another much smaller criminal group. Suspicion had been growing, and it had been easiest to pull him out before it was too late. Now, another member of Ghost City, Yushi Huang, held the position of infiltrator. She had been doing alright so far, and had yet been pushed in a direction which meant she needed to be pulled back.

“She’s a lot more subtle than He Xuan will ever learn to be,” Hua Cheng had explained with a snort. “She’s keeping on the outside of things, in Jun Wu’s peripheral, but gathering strength around her. It’s good. They trust her.”

Xie Lian listened, in awe over the work Hua Cheng had been doing. He knew who was closest to Jun Wu, and Xie Lian didn’t know if he should laugh or cry when he learned it was the man who had once been one of his fathers closest allies, Mei Nianqing, one of the first who had betrayed Xie Lian’s family. Xie Lian knew of course, even then he had known. It still hurt to think about, how someone who had helped raise him had turned with the snap of a finger and helped kill everyone Mei Nianqing had previously worked to protect. 

“There was history there,” Hua Cheng explained, Xie Lian’s chest aching. “He knew Jun Wu’s father, and Mei Nianqing helped raise him too.” Xie Lian nodded, wishing it would make the betrayal hurt less. It didn’t. 

“Jun Wu really thought I was dead all this time?” Xie Lian asked to change the subject, and Hua Cheng nodded, arm wrapped around Xie Lian’s waist. It felt comfortable, safe, even with his heart feeling like it was beating out of pace. Even after all this time, the thought of Jun Wu still terrified him.

“Mn, he really did,” Hua Cheng said, pressing closer. Xie Lian let out a sigh. “I made sure he did. Everyone did. It was for the best, so no one other than me and my most trusted were searching for Dianxia.”

“You and Yin Yu, then?” Xie Lian asked, teasing. Hua Cheng looked at him, a smirk on his lips. 

“Gege is so perceptive,” he said, pressing a kiss to the corner of Xie Lian’s mouth. “Yin Yu and He Xuan, since I wanted him to make sure Jun Wu wasn’t searching.”

Morning spilled into noon, and a servant came with more food for them as they continued to speak. Hua Cheng answered all Xie Lian’s questions, and talked about the infiltration he had in the police force, in the lower levels all the way to the organised crime unit. Tian Sheng seemed to be the one most undercover, working directly for Hua Cheng while in the police force. Others were simply informants who enjoyed being able to come to Ghost City to do what the current law didn’t allow - such as gambling, eating illegal food, enjoy druguse, buy banned video games, books and movies, or watch erotic dancing.

It was darkening outside, when Hua Cheng’s phone lit up. He frowned down at it, and then let out a sigh. Xie Lian’s pulse quickened, and Hua Cheng instantly looked up.

“Gege?” he asked, and Xie Lian felt his cheeks heat, embarrassed. 

“Oh, don’t worry about me San Lang I- has something happened?” he asked, nodding towards Hua Cheng’s phone. Hua Cheng’s brows drew together, and then sighed.

“Nothing surrounding Jun Wu, though his subordinates seem to still be in the capital. There’s business to deal with at the Gamblers Den.” He looked up, and then smirked, leaning on closer.  “Let's go out for a bit, Gege, stretch our legs.” There was something possessive curling in Xie Lian chest, not his own. 

His cheeks flushed, and his gaze darted to Hua Cheng’s bondmark, the fresh one. He wasn’t wearing a high collar today, which was a first because before there had always been something covering the mark. Was he planning on covering it up if they went out, or was he meaning to show it. 

Xie Lian wanted him too.

“Alright,” Xie Lian agreed, a little breathless. He looked up from Hua Cheng’s neck and looked into his eyes, and was met with a mischievous expression. “I might have to change though.” He was in Hua Cheng’s sweater, which was very comfortable but also big on him, as well as Hua Cheng’s pants, which were even bigger. “I think my clothes should be back in your bedroom-”

“Our bedroom,” Hua Cheng said, and Xie Lian felt his chest swell, a sappy smile curling on his lips.

“Our bedroom,” he echoed, leaning forward to press a kiss to Hua Cheng’s mouth. He could feel the alpha smiling against his lips, his scent filled with joy. “I think my clothes that I brought are woven into the nest.” 

“Don’t worry Gege,” Hua Cheng said, looking even more mischievous than before. “I have something for him to wear.”

“San Lang,” Xie Lian said, chiding even before he knew what the outfit was. Hua Cheng was grinning, his arm hooked with Xie Lian as he led them out of the office. 

“Don’t worry Gege,” he assured, and Xie Lian tired too, even if he were still slightly nervous.

 


 

The outfit was not so bad, even if it reminded him a little more of the clothes he used to wear as the heir to Xianle than he did now. It made sense however. He was now the mate of Lord Chengzhu, of course he should look nice. Hua Cheng always looked impeccable, as did he now, dressed in a set of traditional red robes, his neck exposed to show off both bond marks. It made something possessive and embarrassed curl at the pit of Xie Lian’s stomach all at once.

Xie Lian were in traditional robes too, one layer of lace and two of fine silk, embroidered with silver butterflies. Xie Lian had worn white for most of his life, and did so still even if it were inconvenient. Hua Cheng had presented a set of white robes to him as well, along with the current set Xie Lian was wearing.

Maple red. 

Xie Lian had felt something hot in the pit of his stomach as he saw the robes, the color now associated with Hua Cheng, with Paradise Manor and Ghost City. Xie Lian had found he wanted to wear it. Wanted to be dressed in Hua Cheng’s colors as he greeted Hua Cheng’s people. As they stood side by side.

Hua Cheng did not cover his scent glands, and neither did Xie Lian. Yin Yu appeared with the car as they stepped out of Paradise Manor, and then they drove down, fingers laced together during the short drive. Hua Cheng kept looking at him. Xie Lian could feel his eyes leaving heavy trails down it body, and it made him flush and ache all at once.

“Gege looks so beautiful,” Hua Cheng whispered, just as they pulled to a stop outside of the Gamblers’ Den. Xie Lian looked over, lashes lowered. It was hard to look at Hua Cheng fully when he said such shameless things.

“Ah, San Lang is the handsome one,” he said, pulling his lower lip in between his teeth. He could feel Hua Cheng’s adoration rush through the bond, lacing insistently with need. “Come, let's get inside so San Lang can have his business done.”

“Oh, does Gege want to have me all to himself already?” Hua Cheng asked, a smirk on his face as he leaned closer. “Even after having almost a full day? This San Lang was sure Gege would tire of him by now.”
“Never,” Xie Lian said, leaning in too. He pressed a kiss to the corner of Hua Cheng’s mouth, feeling his heart hammed in his chest. “I wish to spend all my days by San Lang’s side.”

“Gege,” Hua Cheng breathed, and then he pressed forward in a rush, his hand coming to curl around Xie Lian’s neck. Their lips crashed together, and Xie Lian let out a gasp, the rush of breath an invitation to deepen the kiss. Hua Cheng did, and Xie Lian melted into him, heart pounding and hands grabbing into Hua Cheng’s robes. Hua Cheng’s breath trembed, and Xie Lian pulled back just so he could look at him, take in his flushed nose and the darkening of his eyes. 

“San Lang,” Xie Lian said, and Hua Cheng sighed, leaning forward to press a kiss to the still tender bond mark. Xie Lian let out a soft whimper, his grip tightening.

“Should we go back?” Hua Cheng asked, and Xie Lian sighed, so tempted. 

“No, let's just- I can wait,” Xie Lian said, and Hua Cheng growled.

“Maybe I can’t,” he said, and Xie Lian was melting, want spreading through his body rapidly. “This San Lang has waited so long, Dianxia,” he said, and it made Xie Lian ache and need all at once. “I want you so fucking much.”

“Mmh,” Xie Lian breathed, head tipped back fully. Hua Cheng lapped at the scent gland, and Xie Lian gave out a small mew. “Ah.”

Hua Cheng pulled back from his skin, but just enough to speak. “Drive us back, Yin Yu,” he said, voice firm. “Tell them I’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

“Yes Lord Chengzhu,” Yin Yu agreed, and turned the car back towards Paradise Manor.  Xie Lian felt his cheeks burn hot with embarrassment, but as Hua Cheng kissed him again Xie Lian forgot about his shame from the heat surging in his body. The car moved quickly back to Paradise Manor, as they kissed deeply. As soon as the car stopped Hua Cheng pulled back from his mouth. He opened the car door and hurried inside, holding onto Xie Lian’s hand. 

The front door had just fallen closed behind them when Hua Cheng pressed Xie Lian up against it, and Xie Lian let out a deep whine, urgency rushing in his veins. Hua Cheng groaned against his lips, and Xie Lian pressed himself closer, hooking one leg around Hua Cheng’s hip. His robe slipped up, and Hua Cheng reached out to grab his thigh. Another moan fell from his lips as his finger sunk into Xie Lian’s skin, pushing his groin into Xie Lian’s more instantly.

“Gege,” he moaned, and Xie Lian trembled, fingers tangled into Hua Cheng’s hair. “Gege, you're not even wearing pants. Fuck.”

“San Lang,” Xie Lian whined, feeling himself grow wet. “San Lang, San Lang please.”

“Dianxia,” Hua Cheng moaned, his hand moving even further up Xie Lian’s thigh. Xie Lian rutted helplessly against him, his cock so hard. Hua Cheng pressed his lips to his neck, sucking marks there. His other hand started parting Xie Lian’s robes, belt quickly untied. “I want Dianxia so much, I’m going crazy.”

“Have me,” Xie Lian panted, head tipped back for Hua Cheng to mark him even more. “San Lang please.”

Hua Cheng growled, his teeth nipping at Xie Lian’s skin. His other hand moved into the robes, caressing over Xie Lian’s heated skin. Xie Lian’s hands grabbed for Hua Cheng’s robes too, hands trembling as he untied the sash. Hua Cheng’s hand found his nipple, and Xie Lian moaned again, hips rutting helplessly to gain some friction. The bond was filled with need, and so were their scents, filling the air around them.

“San Lang aaah,” Xie Lian moaned, and then even louder, as Hua Cheng started pushing his underwear to the side. “Please, please.”

“Gege is so wet for me,” Hua Cheng breathed, wonder in his voice. One of Hua Cheng’s fingers sunk into him, and Xie Lian rutted against it, pulling Hua Cheng’s face back up to his own and licking into his mouth. Hua Cheng stretched him, one finger becoming two, and then three. Xie Lian pushed Hua Cheng’s pants down, and then Hua Cheng’s fingers slipped from him, before he lifted Xie Lian off the floor, pressing him against the door.

“This San Lang going to fuck his mate now,” Hua Cheng said, and Xie Lian’s cheeks were so red, his heart hammering hard.

“San Lang aaaah,” Xie Lian moaned, because Hua Cheng was pushing into him, and Xie Lian was stretched even further, to the point of feeling breathless. Hua Cheng filled him so well, and the bond sang with how perfect it was to be connected like this. 

“Gege feels so good, so wet and so tight aaah,” Hua Cheng moaned, sharp thrusts into Xie Lian’s body. Xie Lian scrambled, nails digging into Hua Cheng’s shoulders where the robes had slipped off his shoulders. He was holding Xie Lian up, pinning him to the door.

“Ha, ha,” Xie Lian moaned, Hua Cheng’s cock hitting just right with each roll of his hips. Xie Lian wrapped his thighs tightly around him. Hua Cheng was gripping him hard, fingers sinking into his things. Xie Lian was sure there would be marks in the morning. “San Lang.”

“Dianxia is so good to this lowly servant, so good,” Hua Cheng moaned, his lips finding Xie Lian’s once more.

“Mmh,” Xie Lian moaned, and lost himself in the pleasure of their bodies. 

“Touch yourself Gege,” Hua Cheng urged, and Xie Lian reached down, wrapping his hand around himself as the other tangled in Hua Cheng’s hair. He could feel Hua Cheng’s knot swelling at the base, and he was sure he was close. “Yes, yes like that.”

“San Lang aaah,” Xie Lian moaned, and Hua Cheng fucked him even faster, knot pressing against his rim. Xie Lian moaned, pleasure increasing and increasing, and then he fell over the edge, spurting come between them. Hua Cheng groaned, and then he was coming too, his come filling Xie Lian. It made warmth swirl in Xie Lian’s stomach, but he soon realised that Hua Cheng hadn’t knotted him. He frowned as he pulled back, meeting Hua Cheng’s gaze.

“No knot?” Xie Lian asked in what was almost a whine, and Hua Cheng chuckled.

“Don’t look so offended Gege,” he said, pressing a kiss to Xie Lian’s cheek. “It was just so I can carry you to bed, and knot you there.”

“Oh,” Xie Lian said, and felt arousal spike again. His cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and Hua Cheng laughed, pulling Xie Lian away from the door to fulfill his promise.

 


 

The next day Xie Lian and Hua Cheng were seated in yet another room of Paradise Manor which Xie Lian hadn’t seen before. There seemed to be an endless supply of them. He should really ask how many rooms there were. This one looked like a conference room, with a large table, surrounded by chairs. Hua Cheng was seated at the head, as was customary, but Xie Lian was sitting right beside him, looking out over the group before them. It reminded Xie Lian of his life before his presentation, when his father expected him to sit in on the meetings and learn, so he’d know how to handle everything when Xie Lian took over. 

The faces around the table now were growing familiar. They had become more and more known to him, since he had started coming to Ghost City, even if he had most seen Yin Yu and Pei Su when doing so. 

The morning had been spent with Hua Cheng showing Xie Lian around Paradise Manor and asking if he wanted to change anything about it. He was too sweet. Xie Lian’s heart swelled more and more as the bond settled and he grew more in tune with the nuances of Hua Cheng’s feelings. How fondness blossomed every time he looked at Xie Lian, the anger rising whenever news came of Jun Wu, annoyance when any work disturbed them.

Paradise Manor still felt as empty as it had when Xie Lian had first set foot there, but more and more people were making themselves known. Hua Cheng only let his most trusted members into the manor, which actually expanded beyond just Yin Yu. The ones currently sitting before them. 

Yin Yu, Banyue, Pei Su, Shi QIngxuan and He Xuan, who Xie Lian had met before, but also Yushi Huang, who he met for the first time today. Xie Lian didn’t know much about her except that she was the current infiltrator in the Heavenly Realm. The mere thought of it made Xie Lian’s stomach swirl with nerves.

“I’ve had confirmed that he’s going to send the group which were snooping around Xie Lian’s shop to Nacheok, and that Jun Wu means go there as well,” Yushi Huang explained. “The official intel in the Heavenly Realm is that he’s looking for Lord Chengzhu to strike a deal about territories.” 

They were discussing strategy in taking Jun Wu’s and the Heavenly Realm down, something which Xie Lian had understood to be an ongoing discussion with the members of the table. He wasn’t sure, but he got the feeling that since he and Hua Cheng had mated, the alpha had become more adamant to make sure it was done soon. Perhaps the fact that he had come close enough to find Xie Lian’s shop played a role as well. Xie Lian hadn’t been back yet, but he hoped to be able to soon.

“What did they do when they were here?” Hua Cheng asked, looking incredibly bored. Xie Lian squeezed his hand under the table.

“They asked around here when they visited the capital, and the fact that Dianxia was missing for a week a couple of months ago seems to have thrown them off a bit,” Yushi Hunag explained. “There has been an informater, but I don’t know who. Perhaps Qi Rong went to Jun Wu and mentioned Dianxia, and that he gave him to Lord Chengzhu before being shot?” She looked over at Xie Lian with a soft smile, and Xie Lian nodded. It was possible. 

“We don’t think he did right away?” he asked, and some nodded, while He Xuan shook his head.

“I think he’d try not to, simply to avoid getting on Lord Chengzhu’s bad side even more,” he said, leaning back in his chest. “If he didn’t know Hua Cheng was important for this, he might have tried to hide that he gave you to Lord Chengzhu, since Jun Wu would not like that.”

“That’s true,” Xie Lian agreed. He could feel Hua Cheng’s unsettled feeling through the bond, and tightened his grip on his hand. He wanted him to know that Xie Lian was there. That he was fine.
“We’ve continued to push out information about you going to the residence in Nacheok,” Banyue said. “So hopefully they think you left and took Dianxia there.” 

“We might have suggested you took the harem in our rumors,” Shi Qingxuan said, winking towards them. Beside her, He Xuan rolled his eyes. “Just to make sure.”

“The harem,” Xie Lian echoed, feeling his cheeks flush. He turned back to his mate, who was looking slightly annoyed. “Is that me, San Lang? Am I the harem?”

“No,” Hua Cheng said with finality. He turned away from the table, leaning into Xie Lian’s space. “You’re my soul, my light, the only reason to keep breathing.” His eyes were gleaming, the back and red so intense. Xie Lian’s breath stuttered.

“San Lang,” he whispered, trying to steady his racing heart. Hua Cheng was just too much. He was so handsome, and he had such a way with words. It left Xie Lian’s mind spinning.

“Aaaw,” Shi Qingxuan cooed, snapping Xie Lian out of his daze. His cheeks flushed bright red. “They’re so cute He-xiong.”

“Disgusting,” He Xuan mumbled, and Xie Lian felt Hua Cheng’s attention leave him, his mood souring. 

“Every time you say anything remotely rude, I’ll add to your debt,” he said sharply, and Xie Lian glanced up to see He Xuan let out a deep sigh, before he looked over at Shi Qingxuan.

“So cute, A-Xuan,” he agreed flatly, and Xie Lian had to cover his mouth with his free hand to hide his giggle. Shi Qingxuan didn’t seem like he was prepared for the nickname, and his cheeks flushed red too. 

“Anyway,” Yin Yu said, clearing his throat. “We might do best to go to Nacheok, and see if we can handle him there. He’ll have less power, since it will be out of his jurisdiction.”

“It’s out of our major territory too, even if it is ours,” Hua Cheng said slowly, and the members around the table hummed. “Gege, what do you think?”

“About what?” Xie Lian asked. “Going to Nacheok and facing off with Jun Wu there? Would he go there if he thought there might be a risk? I don’t think he could.”

“He probably thinks Hua Cheng has you in his harem, or that Lord Chengzhu sold you,” Pei Su said, and a shiver raced down Xie Lian’s spine. Hua Cheng’s grip on his hand tightened. “So chances are he plans to bargain with Lord Chengzhu for you.”

“I agree,” Yushi Huang said. “From my sources, Jun Wu doesn’t seem to have noticed that we’ve been hollowing out the Heavenly Realm little by little. His focus seems to be fully on making this deal with Lord Chengzhu currently. His focus has been much more single minded than before.”

“So, we go to Nacheok?” Xie Lian asked, and Hua Cheng glanced over with a look that made him pause. “No?”

“Either they go,” Hua Cheng said, motioning to the table. Xie Lian’s gaze swept over them, and then back to Hua Cheng. “Or I go with them, and leave some for Gege’s protection. Gege can come of course but…”

“If Jun Wu’s there, it’s a security risk,” Xie Lian said, and Hua Cheng hummed as he nodded. Xie Lian frowned. He fully understood this. He really didn’t want to part from Hua Cheng, and he didn’t want to send all of those who were so loyal towards his mate into bloody battle, but what could he do? Hua Cheng was right. Keeping Xie Lian away from Jun Wu would ensure there would be no risk of him managing to take Xie Lian. Still Xie Lian didn’t like the idea of sacrificing others for himself. So many had already died trying to keep him away from Jun Wu. Xie Lian didn’t want there to be any more. He looked over at Hua Cheng and his heart ached. He knew that Hua Cheng would risk it all to retrieve him if he were taken.

It was as frightening as it was wonderful. 

“What does San Lang want to do?” Xie Lian asked, turning fully towards him. Hua Cheng did the same, and soon the rest of the world seemed to melt away. 

“I want to be the one to put a fucking bullet through his head,” Hua Cheng said, a low growl in his voice. “I want to make sure he knows he should have never fucked with me, or thought he could be good enough for someone as gracious, as beautiful as Dianxia. I want to keep Dianxia safe. I don’t want to go.”

“San Lang,” Xie Lian said with a sigh, and leaned forward to kiss him. How could he not, when he said such beautiful things? Hua Cheng kissed him back, the growl still vibrating through his chest. Xie Lian placed a hand over it, just to feel it too.

A cough interrupted them, and Xie Lian pulled back with a gasp, eyes wide as he looked sheepishly back over at the table quickly, before staring down at his lap. “Sorry,” he said, unable to hold back the smile curling on his face. Hopefully no one saw.

“A group of us could go,” Yin Yu suggested. “You’ve just- just bonded and well it makes sense that you don’t want to be apart. Me, Banyue and He Xuan can take a group.”

An echo of agreements came from around the table, and Xie Lian looked back at Hua Cheng to see what he decided. “What does Dianxia want?” Hua Cheng asked again, and Xie Lian leaned forward to caress a piece of hair behind his ear. “Does he want to put a bullet in Jun Wu’s throat? I’d happily watch.”

“I want to make him pay too,” Xie Lian admitted. He had known this to be true for a long while. “I want to hurt him, because of how he hurt you.”

“Gege,” Hua Cheng said, looking like he was going to kiss him again, and maybe order everyone out of the room so he could have Xie Lian on the table. They were useless in each other's presence. If they went to Nacheok and continued like this, they would surely get killed. Xie Lian wasn’t sure if they would be of much use separated either.

“Perhaps they should go,” Xie Lian suggested, because he realised that they were getting nowhere like this. “And if need be, we’ll go too?”

Hua Cheng gave one nod, and then turned back to the table to give the order. 

 


 

“What the fuck is that?”

Feng Xin sounded slightly faint, but his usual brand of anger was shining through as well. His scent was confused, and slightly embarrassed, maybe? Xie Lian wasn’t sure. He was on the other side of the register after all, and Hua Cheng was standing much closer, his scent, their scent , filling Xie Lian’s nose. Hua Cheng smelled very smug. Xie Lian resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the blatant possessive behaviour. He was pretty sure Hua Cheng was exposing his neck, where the new bondmark was still healing. Since they bonded Hua Cheng had worn the two marks proudly, open for anyone to see. It made sweet possessiveness curl in Xie Lian’s chest. It did so now too. 

Feng Xin’s jaws were clenched, and his gaze flickered between the two of them, as if hoping that if he looked long enough, something before him would change. Xie Lian was in one of Hua Cheng’s turtlenecks, and he pulled it down to show the mark. Feng Xin’s eyes widened, his face turning more and more flushed too. He wasn’t shouting, so Xie Lian wasn’t too worried. It was worse with Mu Qing, who looked about as pale as a ghost. His eyes were locked to Xie Lian’s neck. Xie Lian buried his face into the turtleneck. It just smelled so comforting, having Hua Cheng’s scent on him this way too.

“Have the idiots never seen a bond mark before?” Hua Cheng asked, slinging his arm over Xie Lian’s shoulder, pulling him back against his chest. Xie Lian felt his heart start to beat faster. This was the first day back at the shop since they bonded. The group from Ghost City had left for Nacheok the night before, and Xie Lian had felt anxious all night. Hua Cheng had suggested going to the shop to keep busy, and Xie Lian had happily agreed.

“Of course we fucking have!” Feng Xin shouted, and from the corner of his eye Xie Lian saw another customer startle, and then hurry out the door. Xie Lian’s business really wasn’t benefited by having angry police officers in his shop this often. 

“Didn’t we say you should stay away from him?” Mu Qing said, and he sounded just as angry as Feng Xin, even if he wasn’t screaming. He seemed to have composed himself enough for now, even if he kept his arms crossed, his expression sour. 

“Ah, guys,” Xie Lian said, raising his hands in a placating movement. “It’s fine. San Lang is the sweetest. I couldn’t be safer.” It was true too. He was probably much safer now than he had been before meeting Hua Cheng again, with how Jun Wu was still out there searching for him. He wasn’t going to tell his cop friends about his mate’s criminal organisation however, or the freaky stalker which had been obsessed with him for almost a decade. 

“I still don’t trust him,” Mu Qing said, and Xie Lian nodded in understanding.

“I don’t trust you either,” Hua Cheng said with a shrug, and Xie Lian could hear the smugness in his voice.

“Like I care?!” Mu Qing sputtered, heat rising in his face too. Feng Xin was gritting his teeth loudly, and soon the entire shop was going to smell like angry alpha. Xie Lian really needed to stock up on scent neutralizer if this was going to continue. 

“Like I care if you trust me or not,” Hua Cheng said, sounding nonchalant. “The only opinion that matters is Gege’s.” He held Xie Lian tighter at that, and Xie Lian rested back fully against him. It was nice. He was so warm, and solid behind him. 

“Clearly he has terrible judgment,” Mu Qing mumbled, and Xie Lian let out a deep sigh. Feng Xin nodded in agreement. Well, Xie Lian did not like that at all. 

“I don’t,” he said. The words weren’t sharp, but they were said with determination. “It’s alright if you don’t like San Lang, but don’t say that it was bad judgment on my part to become his mate. He’s a wonderful alpha, and I’m very lucky to be his.”
“Dianxia,” Hua Cheng breathed, and Xie Lian felt his cheeks flush bright red, turning to look at him.

“Ah, was that embarrassing? I’m so sorry San Lang, I spoke too much.” Xie Lian always did this, letting his mouth run away from him and then he just kept blabbering and saying such shameless embarrassing things. Terrible. 

“No, Gege is so cute, so sweet to this San Lang,” Hua Cheng said, and then pressed a kiss to the bridge of Xie Lian’s nose. Xie Lian relaxed a little, smiling up at him.

“Oh, god,” Mu Qing groaned, followed by gagging noises. Xie Lian was pretty sure he was rolling his eyes too. “Why are you calling him Dianxia?”

“Because he’s royalty,” Hua Cheng said easily, as if that was a real answer to anything.

“No he isn’t?!” Feng Xin said, but Hua Cheng wasn’t even looking at them. He was looking at Xie Lian with a tender gaze on his face. 

“Hm,” he said, as if considering. “Uneducated idiots.”

“Excuse me?!” Mu Qing gasped, clearly offended. Xie Lian let out a sigh, and then turned back to them.

“Alright,” he said, clapping his hand to get everyones’ attention back to him. Hua Cheng was as relaxed behind him, but Mu Qing and Feng Xin looked as tense as ever. “Mu Qing, Feng Xin. San Lang is my mate, and I would appreciate it if you were kind to him. He makes me very happy.”

For a moment no one said anything. Mu Qing glared, and Feng Xin scowled, but Xie Lian kept their gaze, waiting. After a moment, they both faltered. 

“Fine,” Feng Xin said with a grumble.

“Fine,” Mu Qing echoed with another roll of his eyes.

Well. That was probably as good as it was going to get, Xie Lian assumed. 

“Good,” he said with a smile, seeming to have thawed the frosty mood slightly. “Now, how have you guys been? Any interesting work?”

Just then, Hua Cheng’s phone got a notification. Xie Lian felt him tense, and glanced over at his mate, as Hua Cheng pulled his phone out of his pocket. Feng Xin was speaking about what they had been working on, but Xie Lian was only half paying attention, even if his gaze turned back to the alphas before him. Hua Cheng seemed to be reading something, scrolling quickly. 

“Fuck.”

“San Lang?” Xie Lian asked, turning from Feng Xin and Mu Qing, who were now bickering as usual. Hua Cheng’s gaze was dark, his jaw clenched.

“I have to go,” he said, looking back up into Xie Lian’s eyes. Xie Lian nodded slowly. He suddenly wished that there weren't two police officers sitting right beside them, so they could talk more freely. 

“What’s-” he started, but didn’t know how to continue without exposing them. He licked his lips, shuffling on his feet. “San Lang,”

“He’s at Ghost City,” he said, pressing a kiss to Xie Lian’s brow. Xie Lian’s hands came up to curl around his hips instinctively, as if he could keep him there. “It will be alright, beloved. This San Lang is strong.”

“Mn,” Xie Lian agreed. He knew he was. It didn’t mean he wouldn’t worry.  “You want me to come?” Hua Cheng paused, and looked like it was physically painful for him to say what he was thinking. Xie Lian felt it too, the ache and the disappointment. He wasn’t sure what was worse.

“I think it’s safer here,” Hua Cheng said, and Xie Lian swallowed.

“San Lang,” he said, even though he wanted to say that he felt safest with Hua Cheng, no matter where they were. 

“You’re my everything,” Hua Cheng said in answer, and Xie Lian adored him so much he barely knew what to do with himself.  

“You’re my everything too,” Xie Lian said, looking at him pointedly. “Please remember that.”

“Yes,” Hua Cheng said with a nod, and then pressed a kiss to Xie Lian’s lips. “Of course, Dianxia.” He slipped from Xie Lian’s arms then, and hurried out the door.

“What was that about?” Feng Xin asked, and Xie Lian startled, letting out an embarrassed little laugh.

“Ah, just a family emergency, nothing to worry about,” Xie Lian assured, fighting the impulse to turn and look after Hua Cheng again. Through the bond he could feel the stress and anger rising in Hua Cheng, and he wished he could be beside him. 

“You guys are too much,” Mu Qing said with a pointed glare. “It’s not like he’s going off to war or something.” Xie Lian laughed at that again, trying to come off as aloof as his heart clenched violently in his chest with worry. 

Feng Xin and Mu Qing stayed for a while to chat, but after just a few minutes they got a call on the radio about a disturbance and had to leave. Xie Lian waved them off, and then felt incredibly restless. Pei Su came soon after Mu Qing and Feng Xin left, but he had no answers for Xie Lian, seemingly as anxious as he was. They paced around the shop together, pausing to speak a little before both of them seemed to get lost in thought. 

Pei Su stepped down stairs to use the bathroom, and Xie Lian walked to his phone behind the register, just to see if Hua Cheng had sent him anything. The bell over the door chimed, and Xie Lian looked up, his nose filling with the scent of an alpha. He was wide shouldered, moving gracefully. A charming smile curled on his lips, and Xie Lian straightened.

“Hi can I-”

“Well, I can see what the fuss is all about,” he said, coming to a stop before the desk. Xie Lian blinked, a frown forming on his face. “You’re gorgeous.” 

“Fuss?” Xie Lian asked, and the man continued to grin. He looked over Xie Lian approvingly, and Xie Lian took half a step back. He was feeling uncomfortable, his senses on edge.

“See, I need you to come with me,” the alpha said, resting his elbows on the counter, eyes fixated on Xie Lian. “I wasn’t expecting for you to truly be here, so I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.”

“I’m sorry?” Xie Lian asked, still very perplexed. Was this some type of flirting technique? It wasn’t very good if it was. “Are you here to look at something at the shop, otherwise I would have to ask you to leave.”

“Sweetheart, don’t be so cold,” the alpha said, grinning as he straightened. “We can do this the easy way or-”

The sound of the safety of a gun clicking cut the alpha off, and Xie Lian snapped his head towards the sound, seeing Pei Su standing there with his gun raised. The alpha straightened, the grin falling off his face. Xie Lian’s heart was hammering, the discomfort in his chest having turned to fear now. Pei Su must know the alpha, or he wouldn’t have pulled his gun out so carelessly. It was the middle of the day. Anyone could walk in.

“I think we prefer the hard way,” Pei Su said coldly, his expression more serious than Xie Lian had ever seen it before. It only made the fear worse. Xie Lian swallowed, looking between the two slowly. 

Think, think of something. 

“Cousin,” the alpha said, and Pei Su’s expression tightened even more. Okay, so they knew each other personally. Was this a personal grudge then? “So he had not been left unguarded then.”

“It was a diversion? At Ghost City?” Pei Su asked, gun still raised. Xie Lian looked over the alpha, who was still standing very relaxed before him. He was turned towards Pei Su instead of the counter, but he hadn’t stepped away from it. If he were in organised crime too, surely he was armed as well.

“I wouldn’t say so,” the alpha said, waving his hand dismissively. “More like, we really thought that Dianxia would be at Ghost City, but we wanted to cover all our bases and low and behold, here he is all alone…” the alpha looked over to Xie Lian and grinned again.  “Or almost anyway.”

“Pei Su,” Xie Lian said, still looking at the alpha before him. He wanted answers. He needed them to be able to think, to try to plan for what to do next.

“My Lord this is Pei Ming, he works for Jun Wu, he’s my cousin,” Pei Su explained.

“My Lord?” Pei Ming echoed, looking between Pei Su and Xie Lian. “What a formal way to address a concubine.” 

“Pei Ming,” Pei Su all but growled, and Xie Lian let out a slow breath. So the attack which Hua Cheng had left to face had been real. His mate was truly in danger, with surely more of Jun Wu’s people than Xie Lian were currently facing. Had Nacheok only been a diversion? Was Jun Wu sending no one there?

“You know, Jun Wu sent Ken Mo to Nacheok, because he heard that Banyue went with the group there,” Pei Ming said to Pei Su, as if answering Xie Lian’s internal questions. So there were attacks on three fronts then. Jun Wu really wanted to find him, it seemed. “I’m sure they’ll be happy to reconnect.”

“Fuck off,” Pei Su snapped, and Pei Ming let out a sigh. Xie Lian took a step closer to the counter. If Pei Ming noticed, he showed no signs of it.

“Let’s just,” Pei Ming said, his voice suddenly much softer. Xie Lian reached below the desk, grabbing his phone and keeping it and his hands out of sight. “Pei Su just come back to the Heavenly Realm. Let her go and come back. She’s just one omega.”

“No,” Pei Su said immediately, as Xie Lian unlocked his phone and opened Hua Cheng’s contact, starting to type out a message. His eyes darted up from his phone every now and then, watching them. Pei Su tilted his head to the side, showing off a fully healed bondmark. Pei Ming sighed.

“So you really did it,” he said, shaking his head. Xie Lian glanced down to his phone again, fingers moving quickly over the screen. He wasn’t sure if Hua Cheng would have time to look at his phone, but he had to do something. 

“I’m not like you,” Pei Su snapped. “I love her. I can’t- I know you wanted something else for me but…”

“I can see it’s a lost cause,” Pei Ming sighed, and Xie Lian glanced down at his phone at the messages sent, trying to figure out what to do next. 

 

Me

Alpha at the shop

Works for JW

Pei Ming

You okay?

 

San Lang

Fuck

I’m on my way

Gege please stay safe

I’ll be there as soon as I can okay

 

“Nothing more to be done then I guess,” Pei Ming said with another sigh, and then he pulled out a gun, seemingly tucked into his pants behind his jacket. The movements were quick and smooth, and Xie Lian felt fear rush up into his throat. He couldn’t let Pei Su be injured because of him. He couldn’t. Xie Lian acted on instinct, his old training as well as the training with Hua Cheng had clearly strengthened his reflexes. A hiss left his lips before he had time to think, his hand on the counter as he pushed himself over. Both alphas froze, and Xie Lian had just enough time to push a knee into Pei Ming’s gut, catching him as the air rushed out of his lungs. Xie Lian kicked his legs out from under him, threw the gun away, and gripped Pei Ming’s hands behind his back, knee pressed between his shoulder blades.

“Fucking shit!” Pei Ming cursed, voice muffled against the carpet. Xie Lian didn’t dare look up, his full focus turned down.

“Pei Su are you okay?” he asked, his muscles straining from how he was trying to keep Pei Ming down. Pei Su was by his side a second later, grabbing a hold of Pei Ming’s hands to help Xie Lian keep him down. 

“Good work,” Pei Su said, and Xie Lian hummed, feeling himself relax slightly now that they were both holding onto Pei Ming. He still kept seated on him, he didn’t want to risk anything.

“What do we do now?” Xie Lian asked, adrenaline rushing in his veins. “I have- I have rope somewhere but one of us has to let him go to grab it.” 

“You go,” Pei Su urged. “I keep keep him down like this for a moment and you know where the rope-”

The bell over the door chimed, quick steps rushing into the shop. Xie Lian didn’t even have time to look up before a shot rang through the air. Xie Lian looked up to see Pei Su’s eyes widen, before he slumped to the side with a groan. Xie Lian snapped his gaze from him to the door, and felt his heart pound up into his throat.

The sight of him was familiar, as if he hadn’t aged at all in the past seven years. Xie Lian felt anger, and fear and so tired all at once. 

“Dianxia,” Mei Nianqing greeted. Suddenly the world was turning, Pei Ming pushing Xie Lian to the side. In an instant Xie Lian was on his back, his hands grabbed and a hand over his mouth. All the fight returned to him as his back hit the floor, but it was too late, Pei Ming’s grip vice like. Xie Lian bit down on his hand, and Pei Ming clenched his jaw, but didn’t let go.

“A lot of fight in this one,” Pei Ming grunted between clenched teeth, and Xie Lian could hear Mei Nianqing stepping closer. He tried to turn to look at him, or to Pei Su to the side, but Pei Ming held him still. Xie Lian wanted to know how Pei Su was doing, wanted to see if he was still alive. He had to be. Xie Lian couldn’t bear it if he wasn’t. 

“I told you,” Mei Nianqing said, and then he appeared above Pei Ming, peering down at Xie Lian. “Dianxia was always incredibly resourceful and strong.” 

Xie Lian glared at him, trashing under Pei Ming’s

“I can tell,” Pei Ming said, looking down at Xie Lian. He could feel Hua Cheng’s anger through the bond, a rage he had never experienced before himself. There was fear there too, and Xie Lian didn’t know what to do. He wanted to soothe him, but he didn’t want him to think everything was resolved. “He’s very beautiful. I just didn’t think a fighter was the Emperor's type.”

“We should not discuss such things,” Mei Nianqing said, looking at Xie Lian for a moment longer before looking away. “Get him off the floor and let us go to the car.” 

Pei Ming nodded, and then glanced to the side. Xie Lian’s heart ached. He hadn’t heard Pei Su make a sound since he fell over, and that was in no way a good sign. 

“What about…” Pei Ming trailed off. A pause followed, and Xie Lian thrashed in the grip again. Pei Ming cursed, grip tightening.

“Leave him,” Mei Nianqing said finally. Xie Lian wanted to cry. Pei Ming only sighed and stood, his grip on Xie Lian’s wrist tight as he pulled him up. His hand were around Xie Lian’s mouth as he was pulled out of the shop, and pushed into a sleek white car.