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this is how the war is won

Chapter Text

Fu You tried to tune out the noises coming from inside the tent. Ma Gui stepped up next to her, a frown darkening his face.

"This isn't right," he muttered. He'd advocated for the prisoner's immediate execution during the council meeting. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.

"It's war," Fu You returned. A scream echoed from the tent, followed by cursing. Fu You resolutely didn't look back. "I don't like it, either."

Ma Gui looked at her with an unreadable expression. "And yet, you argued for this" —his face distorted into a grimace of disgust— "solution."

"It has to be done." Fu You met his eyes steadily. "You know why."

Ma Gui scoffed, then nodded reluctantly. "Pragmatic as always, Lady Fu."

It wasn't a compliment. It wasn't an insult either, so Fu You didn't take offense. She knew Ma Gui was a romantic at heart, that this decision ran counter to his very core. It was why it had to be her, spearheading this arrangement. It was why she was here now, supervising the implementation of the course of action the Alliance leadership had voted on.

“It’s necessary.” Fu You flinched at another blood-curdling stream, followed by a soldier stumbling out of the tent flap. His right arm hung limply at his side, likely dislocated, blood streaming down from a wound at the elbow. Fu You swallowed down her hesitation and stepped up. “You’ve done well, soldier. Please, the medic is in there.”

She ushered him into the medical tent they’d set up right next to the prisoner’s tent, a wise precaution. He wasn’t the first soldier to fail in this assignment.

“Necessary,” Ma Gui repeated, crossing his arms and arching an eyebrow. “Yes, I can see that.”

Slapping the back of her hand against his shoulder guard, Fu You shot him a quick glare. “It’s the perfect opportunity.”

Capturing Heipaoshi hadn’t been easy. He was the strongest of the Dixingren, first to enter a battlefield and last to leave. And yet, despite having to be exhausted after all that fighting, they’d never managed to pin him down. The only one able to match him in fighting capabilities in their own ranks was General Kunlun, but every time he managed to corner Heipaoshi, something happened to allow Dixing's general to escape mostly unscathed.

Fu You had her own suspicions about that.

In the end, his capture came down to pure luck: their scouts learned of an ambush on their food caravan, and the Alliance managed to reverse the trap. With General Kunlun far into Dixingren territory, disrupting their supply lines, none of them had expected Heipaoshi to lead the small advance team. He’d nearly demolished their ambush group before back-up arrived, and still his team managed to escape with a large chunk of their food supply. However, capturing Heipaoshi was worth the loss.

Especially once they found out he was an omega and about to go into heat.

“We both agree that he’s dangerous,” Ma Gui started, and Fu You huffed. “But that’s why we should—”

“You may dislike the methods used all you like,” she interrupted him, her voice vibrating with her agitation. “However, a dead Heipaoshi is a useless Heipaoshi. Put a leash on him—”

“—which isn’t working!” Ma Gui interjected, throwing his arm wide to gesture at the tent. They both turned their heads to stare at the shadows thrown against the walls, the struggle that was visibly taking place inside. Four silhouettes surrounding a fifth, being pushed back again and again.

Fu You took a deep breath. “He can’t fight them all off forever. The further into the heat he goes, the sooner he will submit.”

“Who will submit?” a new voice chimed up, and they turned as one to greet the newcomer. “Submit to what?”

“General Kunlun,” Fu You greeted, trying to keep the displeasure out of her voice. “You’re back early.”

“Ah? I heard the good news, of course I came as soon as possible!” His laughter sounded carefree, but his gaze was shrewd as it landed on her, glancing at the tent behind her. The lines around his mouth tightened before smoothing into a wide grin. “So it’s true then? The Alliance managed to get the better of Heipaoshi?”

“Yes,” Fu You grit out, just as another wail of pain sounded from inside the tent. She watched Kunlun intently, but he didn’t react beyond a quick flick of the eyes.

“You managed to restrain him for torture?” he guessed, brow arching up. Ma Gui scoffed.

“They’re currently trying to pin him down. Unsuccessfully.” Ma Gui crossed his arms. “Despite his mind being clouded by the heat, he seems still aware he’s in enemy hands.”

“Heat,” Kunlun echoed, his gaze sharpening. Fu You pursed her lips, mentally cursing Ma Gui for letting that information slip. She’d been sure— No matter. Kunlun would’ve found out sooner or later.

“Yes. Turns out Heipaoshi is an omega.” Tilting her head, she shot Kunlun an arch look. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, General...?”

Kunlun wasn’t looking at her, his head snapping up at a cry from inside the tent. He brushed past the two of them without another word, his long stride taking him to the tent flap within three quick steps. Fu You hastily followed him, Ma Gui at her heels.

Inside it looked like a massacre took place. Blood splattered over the tent walls and the floor, as did soldiers, lying prone and akimbo every which way. Two of them were struggling to their feet, the third clutching his leg and wailing loudly. Heipaoshi stood tall in the epicenter, his wrists still in chains, but only one of them still connected to its pole, the other snapped in half. The piece of broken pole stuck on the end of the chain was lodged in the stomach of a fourth soldier, who was crawling towards the entrance slowly, dragging a trail of blood behind him.

Fu You bared her teeth. They hadn’t even managed to undress Heipaoshi yet: his belt was ripped off and flung to the side, his robes and underrobes hanging off his shoulders, his undershirt torn to shreds, gaping open to reveal a chest glistening with sweat, but his decency was still preserved. Even his mask remained in place, if knocked slightly askew, his hair dishevelled from the fighting.

Now he lifted his head, a feverish gleam in his eyes, gaze roaming over the newcomers only to snag on General Kunlun. Their eyes met, and some of the tension seemed to flow out of Heipaoshi. Fu You glanced at Kunlun’s face, saw him mouthing something before his lips drew into a frown.

One of the alphas gathered himself, taking a wary step towards Heipaoshi, raising the short dao he was holding. Kunlun’s eyes flashed as his gaze was drawn away from the omega, and with two quick strides he stepped between the soldier and the omega. Within the blink of an eye, the general disarmed the soldier, tossing his sword into the far corner of the tent, out of reach.

“Enough,” Kunlun stated, catching the soldiers’ attention. Heipaoshi’s eyes were wide and hopeful as he stared at him, and Kunlun's gaze was drawn back to him in turn, much to Fu You’s rising displeasure.

One of the alphas growled, bypassing the general, the movement catching Kunlun’s attention from the corner of his eyes. Kunlun’s arm snapped out, coming to rest in front of the alpha’s chest, meeting bared teeth with his own. Their staring match lasted until a small noise from Heipaoshi’s direction drew Kunlun’s attention again, and the alpha tried to use his distraction to his advantage, sidestepping Kunlun’s arm. Except Kunlun immediately whipped around and shoved him back, baring his own teeth in a snarl. “I said, enough!”

“I saw him first,” the soldier barked, actually lunging at General Kunlun. Fu You wasn’t surprised, exactly — the whole tent stunk of omega heat scent and territorial alpha pheromones. To her surprise, however, Kunlun simply reversed the soldier’s momentum, causing him to stumble towards the tent’s entrance. Then again, it put him directly in front of Heipaoshi, who reached out with his freed hand to curl his fingers in the general’s robes.

The alpha wasn’t done yet, however. Shaking himself, he roared and dashed forward, lowering his head to ram his shoulder into Kunlun’s chest. Unable to evade without putting the omega directly into his path, Kunlun took the hit with a grunt, before twisting around and wrapping his arms around the alpha’s head to choke him out.

While he focussed on one alpha, the other circled around and jumped Kunlun from behind. He managed to shove the general and his captive aside, both of them falling to the ground in a tangle of limbs. Having cleared the way, the alpha latched onto Heipaoshi, tearing at his pants and ripping the cloth apart in a bid at access. Heipaoshi struggled out of his grasp, his hand coming up, trembling and shaking. A small ball of dark energy gathered in his palm, and he managed to blast the soldier back. Fu You frowned. Were the energy suppressing drugs already wearing off?

The effort left Heipaoshi panting, slumping in his chains. It didn’t matter, however, as General Kunlun regained his footing, kicking the downed alpha in the side, then hastily got between the bound omega and the pissed off second alpha.

“Don’t touch him,” he growled, catching the man’s wrist as he reached out. With a harsh snap, the bone broke, the alpha screaming in shocked pain. He scrambled back, staring at the general with wide eyes, heat haze clearing from his gaze. The other uninjured alpha returned with a battle cry, aiming to sweep the legs out from under General Kunlun. Kunlun simply blocked the leg with his own shin, then drove his knee into the stomach of the attacking alpha, his elbow coming down on the back of his head for good measure.

The soldier fell to his knees at Kunlun’s feet, retching.

“Get out,” he snarled, grabbing the man by the throat and hauling him up only to shove him in the direction of the entrance flap. “All of you! Out!”

The alpha growled and whirled around, only to catch Kunlun’s fist in his face, patience wearing thin.

“You heard the general,” Ma Gui stated, helping the limping soldier up. “Go find medical treatment for your injuries. You’re dismissed.”

“But—!” one of them protested, only to fall silent at the glare General Kunlun sent him. Fu You waited until the tent emptied to address him.

“Was that truly necessary, General?”

“Yes,” Kunlun replied shortly, shooting her a dark look. Then he turned his back to them, stepping up to Heipaoshi. The omega bowed his neck, forehead coming to rest on Kunlun’s shoulder. Kunlun cooed to him, words of comfort judging by his tone, spoken too quietly to be understood from across the tent, but Fu You was wary of stepping closer after the earlier display of violence.

Instead, she cleared her throat. Kunlun cocked his head to show he heard her, but it took him a moment longer to glance back at them, too busy carding his fingers through Heipaoshi’s dishevelled hair.

“Ma Gui,” he finally said, “What’s going on?”

It rankled that he chose not to address her, but perhaps giving them both a moment to cool off would help. Fu You’s lips curled in distaste as she watched him put a steadying hand on the Dixingren’s hip, his body still turned more towards him than the heads of the Alliance.

“The council has decided to force a bond on Heipaoshi,” Ma Gui answered, his tone clipped and dripping with disapproval. “For the greater good of Haixing.”

General Kunlun froze.

“Heipaoshi is the reason why Dixing is close to winning this war!” Fu You snapped defensively, putting her hands on her hips. “With him on our side, we don’t need the Hallows to win.”

“Force a bond,” Kunlun repeated slowly, his gaze shifting from Ma Gui to her, pinning her in place with his intensity. “Since when does the Alliance ignore the omega’s right to their own choice of mate?”

“Things are different in wartime, General Kunlun,” Fu You defended, raising her chin. “Needs must.”

Kunlun spit on the ground. “And who do you intend to force next? What if it’s your own head on the chopping block, huh?”

Fu You pressed her lips into a thin line, crossing her arms, unable to answer in any way he would find satisfactory. Ma Gui was watching her, and a part of her knew his vehemence in protesting this decision had to do with her own status as omega and his courtship of her. It shouldn’t matter. She wasn’t the enemy — Heipaoshi was.

“General, this matter has already been decided on by the council. Either Heipaoshi is bonded by one of our own during this heat, or he is executed after the failed attempt.”

Kunlun set his jaw, shifting to stand protectively in front of Heipaoshi. “Who agreed? I wasn’t even there.”

“It was an emergency meeting,” Ma Gui admitted, glancing at her and raising his hands in a gesture meant to soothe tempers. “We didn’t have much time to decide, nevermind waiting for all members to arrive. If we waited too long, the rebels might stage an attack to free him.”

"So instead, you chose to force an unwilling omega into a bond." Kunlun's tone was harsh, his face drawn into a sneer. "To what end? Use the bond to force him to fight for us? How can you trust he won't turn on you?"

You, not us, Fu You noted with resigned alarm. She'd been right to be suspicious, then.

"His bondmate will assert control—"

“—until Heipaoshi rips the poor sod to shreds! Even if he can’t” —and General Kunlun sounded like he didn’t doubt Heipaoshi’s ability nor determination— “he’ll take as many of our people with him as he can!”

“You think he’ll kill himself?” Fu You frowned. That didn’t sound like Heipaoshi to her. He was a cockroach, the scourge of Haixing, the indomitable warrior single-handedly winning Dixing the war.

Kunlun scoffed. “If you leave him no choice? Yes.”

Fu You pursed her lips. She wanted to call him a soft-hearted fool, but General Kunlun was the one who’d gotten closest to Heipaoshi, whatever kind of relationship they had at this point. She couldn’t dismiss that he knew him best, would be able to predict his actions better than any of them.

Even so, every self-preservation instinct inside her bristled at the mere thought of taking her own life, no matter what hardship thrown her way. An omega might be officially allowed an opinion on their future mate, but in reality the practicalities of the arrangement were often different. She herself would have to choose someone not because of sentimentalities, but because they could offer her tribe the best future.

“Kunlun.”

The word was said so softly, it took Fu You a moment to place the speaker. It wasn’t until Kunlun turned his head to meet Heipaoshi’s eyes that she realized.

“I’m here, xiao-W—” Kunlun broke off, shooting both her and Ma Gui an inscrutable look. “I’m here, xiao-Hei.”

And that, she supposed, was the final confirmation of her suspicions.

Whatever Heipaoshi said next was too quiet to reach her ears. She watched Kunlun’s expression grow soft, then harden in determination.

“I won’t—” he objected, falling silent as Heipaoshi whimpered. She hadn’t ever heard the fearsome creature make such a pathetic noise, but it stopped Kunlun short, so she supposed it worked. She watched as Heipaoshi buried his face in Kunlun's chest, watched as Kunlun wrapped a steadying arm around the omega’s waist, protective, possessive.

“Please. Kunlun… I don’t want anyone else.”

Fear lanced through Fu You’s heart. Without second thought, she stepped to the middle of the tent.

“It can’t be you, General Kunlun.”

Kunlun’s expression darkened as he turned to face her. “And why not?”

A hundred and one reasons raced through Fu You’s quick mind. At the top of the list, the niggling suspicion that Kunlun let Heipaoshi escape all their encounters on purpose, that his loyalty was not nearly as firmly with the Alliance as she would like it. He kept secrets from them, knowledge he'd gained from Heipaoshi that could've given the Alliance an edge in this war. For another, he was too much like Ma Gui, too soft at heart. The risk of losing General Kunlun and his faction to the enemy was too great.

A bond, a true one, went both ways. Heipaoshi only had to bat his eyes, and Kunlun’s army would be his.

She eyed the chained omega. On the surface, he didn't look like the scourge of Haixing, yet looks could be deceiving. Not many took her seriously at first glance, either, not until she pulled out the claws. Heipaoshi was tricky. She'd faced him, both on the battlefield and off, and she knew his silver tongue. If General Kunlun took him as his bondmate, he would give him his heart as well, and Heipaoshi was the type to take advantage of that, she feared.

"You're of too high a rank, General," Fu You objected instead, knowing better than to bring up her true concerns. No need to alienate Kunlun — they did indeed need him and his forces if they wanted to stand a chance in this war. "We cannot risk losing you."

"Aiyo, Heipaoshi won't hurt me," Kunlun assured her, his tone forced joviality. His eyes, which glittered dangerously as he watched her, grew soft the moment he turned back to the omega. "Will you, xiao-Hei?"

"Never," Heipaoshi croaked, his voice rough and breaking.

"See? No risk involved," Kunlun said easily, only shortly glancing at her. His fingers brushed a loose strand of hair behind Heipaoshi's ear, before trailing down the long line of his throat in an intimate caress.

"He could be lying," Fu You protested, looking back over her shoulder to Ma Gui for support. Ma Gui shrugged.

"It would be easier for all involved if Heipaoshi deigns to choose from the Alliance's ranks," he offered, giving her an apologetic grimace when she glared at him furiously.

"How can we let him choose?" Fu You closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. Men. Never thinking things through. She tried again to convince them. "It could be a trap—"

"Doesn't matter," Kunlun declared, cupping Heipaoshi's cheek and lifting his face until their eyes met. "If I claim you as my omega, will you submit?"

Heipaoshi licked his lips, and Fu You's stomach dropped.

"I submit."

Fu You gnashed her teeth, shooting Ma Gui another look. It was no use, though. She knew she was overruled.

"Fine, then. On your heads shall it be."

 

 


 

 

The first time they kissed was right in the middle of a battle.

Fighting Kunlun always took all of Shen Wei’s concentration, their skill in sword forms evenly matched. Especially when Shen Wei was saving his dark energy for the eventual retreat, limiting the use of his powers in the midst of battle to only the necessary moments of healing or quick interventions of some ice for an Alliance soldier to slip on. But with Kunlun, Shen Wei was forced to use his powers more freely to stay on even footing, regularly enhancing his strength or speed to keep up.

It was exhilarating.

Kunlun was smart about it, too, which made their bouts the closest to fun Shen Wei had come to in years. He almost allowed himself to enjoy them, if the number of the dead and injured didn’t weigh as heavily on his shoulders. How could he enjoy himself, when his people counted on him, on his protection to get them out alive?

He realized Kunlun was intentionally luring him away from the battlefield, but decided to chase him regardless. A part of him thrilled about not having to worry about his fellow soldiers, of being able to concentrate whole-heartedly on his sparring partner opponent. Mostly he wanted to follow up on the intel they had about Kunlun having found one of the Hallows, the reason they engaged in this battle in the first place. There was a slim chance he would’ve entrusted it to someone else, if they found it at all, but the likelihood of that was small enough for Shen Wei to choose this path.

Taking the calculated risk led them on a merry chase through the woods, until they reached a clearing. Another risk, another opportunity: Shen Wei pulled from his dwindling reserves of dark energy to flash-step in front of Kunlun, his surprise attack breaking through the general’s guard.

But Kunlun was his match for a reason; he quickly recovered his poise and met Shen Wei hit for hit, dodging under his strike and lunging forward to land his own. They danced across the clearing, the clang of steel and their heavy breathing the only noise in the otherwise quiet forest. Blood was thundering through Shen Wei’s veins, making him feel more alive than ever before.

And then Kunlun stepped into his guard. With a twist of his sword arm, he disarmed Shen Wei, hitting the pommel of his own dao against Shen Wei’s wrist to ensure he dropped it.

Their rhythm changed. Now it was Kunlun chasing Shen Wei across the clearing, in between the trees. Shen Wei feinted going for his sword, then actually went for it, but Kunlun seemed to anticipate his every move, always a step ahead. Shen Wei was forced to catch several sword slashes on his arm guards, healing tiny nicks that managed to punch through his armour. His heart was beating faster, anxiety rising in his chest. He tried to remember his lessons: kept an eye on Kunlun’s footwork, kept dodging his strikes, and then—

There.

With a quick use of his ice powers, Kunlun slipped, overbalancing. Shen Wei stepped into his guard, grabbed his arm and twisted it around, forcing the man to drop his sword as well. Kunlun’s eyes flashed — with anger or excitement, Shen Wei couldn’t tell. He let go of Kunlun’s arm, but Kunlun tightened his grip on him, still off-balance, and then they were both falling to the ground. Shen Wei barely managed to gather enough wits to kick the sword further away from them, and then they were rolling through the grass, grappling.

There were daggers strapped to Kunlun’s waist, easier to reach for than the ones Shen Wei was carrying. He fumbled with the sheath for a moment, and Kunlun’s eyes lit up as he realized what Shen Wei was doing, rolling them over and trying to pin him down with his weight. Shen Wei abandoned his task to drive an elbow into Kunlun's stomach, forcing him off, but Kunlun simply dragged Shen Wei with him, pulling his back flat against his chest. It gave Shen Wei the angle he needed to open the sheath on Kunlun's belt.

He managed to grab one just as Kunlun put him in a chokehold, arm pressing down on his throat while Shen Wei pressed the tip of the dagger to Kunlun’s inner thigh.

They froze like that, Shen Wei practically in Kunlun’s lap, neither of them daring to move. Shen Wei could feel Kunlun's chest heaving against his back, hot air brushing over his ear as Kunlun panted. His own breathing came in quick and shallow in the rhythm of his rapid heartbeat.

Kunlun broke their stalemate first, loosening his hold on Shen Wei enough to no longer choke him, but not enough to let him go. His sudden burst of laughter made Shen Wei flinch, and he hastily pulled the dagger back before he could think about it twice.

“Nicely played,” Kunlun praised, lifting his hand from Shen Wei’s shoulder to ruffle his hair. And Shen Wei… Shen Wei held still, feeling his face heat up, eternally grateful for the fact he was facing away from Kunlun and the fact that his mask was in place to hide behind. The hood of his cloak had fallen during the melee, and Kunlun’s hand felt rather… nice in his hair, when he wasn’t tugging on it to gain an advantage in a fight.

Shen Wei shifted, then froze as he felt something hard and hot press against his back. It took his brain a moment to work again, to put the pieces together and realize what he was feeling.

“Ah, sorry about that.” Kunlun laughed again, though he sounded a little flustered now. “Heat of the battle, you know? Gets your blood pumping.”

Shen Wei glanced at him over his shoulder, mouth going dry. He didn't know, exactly, but he also actively suppressed his hormones to not give anything away to his enemies. Now he felt a thrill shoot through his spine, and he shifted, Kunlun's hard length rubbing against his ass. Kunlun groaned, hand dropping from Shen Wei's chest to grab his hip, holding him in place even as Kunlun jerked his own hips up to press closer. Shen Wei licked his lips, meeting Kunlun's dark gaze over his shoulder, shivering as those eyes followed the flick of his tongue before rising to meet his own again.

Slowly, experimentally, Kunlun wrapped his arm around Shen Wei's waist and pulled him closer, rutting against his ass.

Shen Wei gasped, his eyes fluttering close. He dropped his head on Kunlun's shoulder, felt that tell-tale trickle of wetness spread around his hole. Instinctively, he hooked his leg over Kunlun's thigh, rubbing back against his erection. Kunlun's breath brushed hot and heavy over his cheek, turning to nuzzle and mouth at Shen Wei's jaw. Shen Wei craned his head, baring his neck, gasping as a hot tongue darted out to trace a wet, burning path down his throat.

Then Kunlun froze, inhaling sharply.

"You…"

Ice crashed over Shen Wei in a wave, dousing the flames of arousal. His eyes widened, and he struggled free of Kunlun's grasp, his alarm giving him a sudden burst of energy.

To his surprise, Kunlun let him go without a fight.

They stared at each other. Shen Wei cursed himself for letting his control slip. His omega scent wafted around him, suffusing the air to mingle with Kunlun's alpha pheromones. Shen Wei couldn't tell if the smell had made him drop his guard or if his own scent had triggered Kunlun's arousal. Regardless, Kunlun knew. Kunlun, who was his equal in many ways, but still his enemy. An enemy who had nothing to lose and everything to gain from this knowledge.

Kunlun, who was staring at him, his shocked expression gentling with understanding.

"Your secret is safe with me," Kunlun promised, his voice rough and sincere. Shen Wei's gaze darted over his face, but he could detect no falsehood in his soft expression. Then the corner of his mouth tugged up into a smirk. "Under one condition."

Shen Wei braced himself, raising his chin defiantly. He didn't want anyone to find out, especially not Zei Qiu, couldn't risk it, but if he had to sacrifice his own well-being for the sake of his people…

"Which is?" he asked coldly. Kunlun arched an eyebrow, his sharp gaze turning thoughtful. His grin remained, fixed and playful.

"A kiss," he demanded lightly, and Shen Wei blinked, taken aback. He stared at Kunlun, his mind trying to wrap around the request, while Kunlun tilted his chin up, tapping the corner of his mouth. "Right here, beautiful."

“A kiss,” he echoed. His eyes dropped to Kunlun’s lips, tracing the curve of his smirk, and he swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. Hesitantly, he crawled forward, back into Kunlun’s lap, mortified there wasn’t a more dignified way to move, what with both of them on the ground. Kunlun’s hands settled on his hips, steadying him, his grin dropping into a more serious expression.

“If you want it.” The movement of Kunlun’s Adam's apple bobbing in his throat caught Shen Wei’s attention, and he leaned forward. This close up, Kunlun’s alpha scent was even stronger. “Then take it.”

Shen Wei lowered his eyes, leaning in to brush his lips to the corner of Kunlun’s mouth.

A part of him expected Kunlun to turn, to capture his lips. To roll them over and pin Shen Wei down, to take what he clearly wanted. The spike of arousal in Kunlun’s natural spruce smell was all too obvious. Yet as Shen Wei hovered there with his lips pressed to Kunlun’s cheek, heart in his throat, Kunlun pulled back first, then turned his head to meet Shen Wei’s gaze. Shen Wei opened his mouth to demand answers, then closed it when no words would come forth.

Kunlun’s eyes dropped to his lips, and this time Shen Wei licked them on purpose, thrilling at the way Kunlun’s pupils dilated, his eyes turning dark and hungry with desire.

His gaze rose to meet Shen Wei’s, his mouth curving into a smirk.

“Take it,” he whispered. A challenge, a dare.

Shen Wei surged forward, pressing their mouths together, his hands coming up to clutch at Kunlun’s robes, pulling him closer. He didn’t know what he was doing — at first their noses got squashed together awkwardly, but then Kunlun tilted his head, and oh, oh. That was better. Shen Wei followed Kunlun’s lead, allowing him to take charge. Teeth nipped at his lower lip, before the sting was soothed by a quick dart of tongue, and Shen Wei gasped, his lips falling open, and then Kunlun’s tongue was inside his mouth, warm and wet and perfect.

He’d never kissed anyone before, but now that he knew what it was like, Shen Wei couldn’t get enough. He pressed closer, only barely aware of how his hips jerked forward to seek friction, rolling together with Kunlun’s, meeting him halfway. Kunlun’s hands dropped to cup his ass, fingers digging into the flesh, and a jolt of arousal so sharp shot down his spine to pool in his groin, Shen Wei would swear he soaked through his pants. His hole felt slick and empty, and he wanted—

The noise of a twig snapping tore him out of his lust.

Shen Wei froze, Kunlun stilling under his hands, too. Then Kunlun pulled back, and they both listened closely, not moving. Shouts could be heard in the distance, and Shen Wei tensed, meeting Kunlun's eyes. They scrambled up together, Kunlun's hand steadying him, then moving to straighten his robes. Shen Wei slipped the dagger back into its sheath on Kunlun's belt, catching him watching Shen Wei with an odd expression on his face.

Then Kunlun turned his back, walking over to Shen Wei's saber and picking it up. Shen Wei stiffened, rolling his shoulders back, shifting his feet into a ready stance. Kunlun glanced between him and the sword, huffing, before throwing it in an underhand toss Shen Wei's way.

"Here." Kunlun cleared his throat, averting his gaze. Scanning the treeline. The shouting was closer, more distinct. A Haixingren scouting party, looking for General Kunlun. "You should go."

Shen Wei ducked his head, pulling up the hood on his cloak. His body screamed at him to step up to Kunlun, to rub his scent all over him, to make his claim clear to any omega daring to approach him. Instead, Shen Wei shoved those instincts back down with an iron fist, smoothing his dark energy over the pheromone glands and stifling the production. He had his duty, and no time for frolicking around with some alpha. He needed to check on his troops, count his dead, see to the injured.

Raising his head, he gave Kunlun a nod.

"Until we meet again," he said in his best approximation of an even tone. Then he called up a portal just as the first Haixingren soldiers burst through the treeline and stepped through.