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curses, new tricks and old practises.

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Hua Cheng had been spending far too long dealing with the morons of his people. Really, he did not care about the petty fights and claims which the ghosts had, and he was really outraged that they even deemed their problems worthy of his time. They weren’t. Hua Cheng gave a sharp glare, and the current sputtering ghost, something about the line between their food tent and the one next to theirs, gasped and then scrambled out the door, bowing profusely as they thanked Hua Cheng for his time. 

Pathetic.

Usually, he let  Yin Yu deal with the likes of these. Hua Cheng really didn’t need to dignify the idiocy, but Quan Yizhen had come in moping this morning, and he had caught Hua Cheng at a sentimental time… so he had let Yin Yu have some time off. Clearly a mistake. He was never doing it again.

The thing was that Dianxia had been away for over a day. He hadn’t even slept at Paradise Manor last night, which was terrible. They didn’t always sleep there, Hua Cheng could sleep anywhere as long as it was with Dianxia, but his husband had been picked up by idiot one and idiot two, who for some unfathomable reason thought they had claim to Dianxia’s time and expertise. Hua Cheng could come of course, their idiocy had never stopped him before but well… Dianxia had kissed his cheek and said he would be back soon. Hua Cheng had believed him, of course, and let him go. Dianxia was extremely skilled. There was nothing he couldn’t handle. 

Stupid incompetent gods. It was certainly their fault his beloved had yet to return home. Maybe he should burn some of their temples, or ask some of the ghosts to make some trouble in their regions, just to make sure they understood the indecency of their actions. 

He had spoken to Dianxia the night before, but hadn’t received an answer all through the day today. He missed him fiercely, which was why he had let Yin Yu go off and be… romantic or whatever he and Quan Yizhen did. Then, he had been stuck doing this, and all other attempts of communicating Dianxia had gone unanswered. Worry sat in the pit of his stomach.

“Lord Chengzhu,” one of the ghosts Hua Cheng knew Yin Yu had in his network called, standing in the door to Paradise Manor. Hua Cheng answered him with a raise of his eyebrow. “There are visitors by the gate.”

“Visitors?” Hua Cheng asked, tone flat. That was never good.

“Heavenly officials,” he clarified. He looked conflicted for a moment, which was even less promising. “They… have a child with them which I must admit resembles Lord Chengzhu’s husband.”

“What?” Hua Cheng asked, but was out of his seat the moment the word was said. He tossed his dice into his other palm, and then opened the door to the manor, stepping out through a door next to the gate.  

His stomach dropped. 

By the gate stood idiot one and two, and in the arms of the second one, was indeed Dianxia. Hua Cheng had never seen him at this age, not with his own eyes, yet he knew it to be him. His features were softer, his cheeks rounder. His hair was long, up in his usual style. He was in a set of small dark robes, which felt odd. Hua Cheng had only ever seen him in white, and in red. Small Dianxia was looking around, eyes blinking slowly. He was so cute, Hua Cheng felt like he had never seen anything as precious in his life.

“Dianxia,” he said, stepping forward in a hurry. The three of them looked over at him, and Dianxia’s expression lit up, lips spreading into a wide smile. Hua Cheng could not say he was an expert in children’s ages, but he would guess that this version of Dianxia was about five. 

“San Lang-gege!” he said, and his hands reached out for him. Hua Cheng opened his eyes easily, and felt himself relax as Dianxia slipped into his arms. He was so little. There was resentful energy swirling under his skin, but there didn’t seem to be a mark. Rather, the energy seemed to be all over him, clearly keeping him in this state. “San Lang-gege I’m so sleepy.”

“Of course you are, you must have had a big adventure,” Hua Cheng said, looking at him with a smile. Dianxia smiled back, leaning in to rest his head on Hua Cheng’s shoulder. 

“We did! There was a big monster, but we didn’t catch it,” he said, and Hua Cheng looked over at the two idiots, who were looking at the two of them. When Hua Cheng gave them a pointed glare. Both of them scowled. 

“Before you start burning temples,” Idiot one started with a roll of his eyes. Hua Cheng vowed to have that done immediately. “It wasn’t our fault.”

“Not your fault?” Hua Cheng said, keeping his tone light. “How is this now your fault?” he asked, eyes narrowed. He held Dianxia in a solid grip against him, feeling him cuddle close. The resentful energy wasn’t strong, but it was harmful. Like this it couldn’t have hurt Dianxia by much, but a curse was a curse regardless. 

“There was an array,” Idiot one explained. “Feng Xin wasn’t looking, like usual, and-”

“Don’t blame this on me!” Idiot two bristled, as expected, and Hua Cheng clenched his jaw. 

“Well it’s true, you never look where-” Idiot one started, and like expected, Idiot two took a deep breath as if to yell over Idiot one and Hua Cheng didn’t have the time, energy or frankly, the shits to give about their fucked up dynamic.

“I don’t care,” he said pointedly. “An array.”

The two of them glared at each other for a moment. “A curse array,” Idiot two said, not breaking the stare off. Pathetic. “Apparently the demon was being controlled by cultivators.” 

“I see,” Hua Cheng said. “A curse array which made Dianxia into a child by stepping into?” he asked, to make sure. 

“Yes,” Idiot one said, his gaze slipping down to Xie Lian, and then away. “He seems to know most things, but he’s acting like a child.” Idiot one sighed, like it pained him to speak this next part. “He asked for you immediately.”

“Of course he did, he’s so clever of course he knows he wouldn’t be safe with you,” Hua Cheng said, and saw both of them bristle again. Morons. 

“Hey!”

“Where was the array?” he asked, because he had no fucks to give about them and their insecurites. 

“We couldn’t solve it, so I doubt you could,” Idiot two groubled, which was ridiculous, beyond so even. Hua Cheng didn’t dignify them with speaking again, only raising an eyebrow to indicate he expected them to go on. Idiot one didn’t, but Idiot two sighed and gave him the location. It was of course right in the middle of their two territories. They two of them still hadn’t grasped that it was their followers which kept stirring up shit like this in the first place. The array was probably made to harm cultivators who worshiped the other god. 

“Gege,” Dianxia called, and Hua Cheng looked down at him. His eyes fluttered, his gaze a little dazed. A yawn fell from his lips. “Sleepy.” He was so sweet. Hua Cheng was going to burst into butterflies. 

“Of course Dianxia,” Hua Cheng said, holding him a little closer. The resentful energy drummed under his skin, and Hua Cheng hated it, no matter how cute Dianxia was. “Are you hungry too?”

“Mmh, want steamed buns,” Dianxia said with determination, and Hua Cheng grinned.

“Of course Dianxia,” he said, and then turned to walk them back up to Paradise Manor. He let loose a couple of butterflies, who immediately started circling Dianxia. He giggled, opening his palm to them. He was so sweet. It wasn’t fair. Hua Cheng had never seen a more perfect child. This was no surprise of course. Dianxia was always perfect. 

“Hey!” Idiot one called behind him.

“Hey what about-” continued, and Hua Cheng simply held up his hand to quiet them. He didn’t look back.

“What Dianxia wants, he will have,” he said, just loud enough to be heard. “Scram or I’ll let the citizens loose on you.”

“Bye!” Dianxia called, craning his neck up to wave. Hua Cheng smiled. It was more than the idiots deserved.

“Where did Dianxia get his robes?” he asked as they walked up, and Dianxia giggled as another butterfly landed on his nose. He waved it away, scrunching it up like a little bunny. 

“Tickles,” he giggled, and Hua Cheng was sure that if he still had a beating heart, it would have clenched. “Mu Qing and Feng Xin bought them. The ones I had were so big. So bing San Lang!” he said, gesturing out with his arms. Hua Cheng hummed in understanding. “We bought these on the way here! They fit me much better.”

“I see,” Hua Cheng said with a nod. “Dianxia is cute in everything.”

Dianxia giggled again, and Hua Cheng grinned. He continued to ask questions about the journey, scoping out Dianxia’s mind. It did seem he was equally sharp, and he recognised Paradise Manor as home. He had the logic of a smaller child however, and Hua Cheng was deeply amused by the chatter spilling from his lips. This was a more free spoken version of Dianxia, with the stubbornness of one who was used to having his way. It must have been how he was more as a child, a small prince dictating the Xianle palace. The idea made Hua Cheng grin again.

He walked them into the palace kitchen, and demanded them to make steamed buns. Dianxia got to decide the fillings, which he did in a sure and clear tone. The cooks looked a little sceptical, but with one pointed glare from Hua Cheng, they scattered to work, promising to hurry. 

“San Lang-gege,” Dianxia whined as they stepped out of the kitchen back into the hallway. “I’m hungry now!”

“I know, but how about we play a little while we wait, hm?” Hua Cheng said, putting Dianxia down on the floor. “We could race?”

“But Gege has such long legs!” Dianxia protested. “It would be cheating!” Hua Cheng hummed, seeming to consider very deeply. Then, he snapped his fingers, as if having thought of an idea. He grinned at Dianxia, and then he shrunk himself into a smaller version of himself, the eye patch disappearing. Dianxia gasped in delight, and then giggled.

“Is this better?” Hua Cheng asked, putting his hands on his hips, leaning forward. It was a different experience, seeing small Dianxia like this. They were of equal height now, and Hua Cheng could really appreciate how incredibly cute he really was.

“Yes!” Dianxia cheered, and then took off down the hall. “Come on San Lang!”

They raced and raced, climbing and jumping, Dianxia’s sleepiness seemingly forgotten. Dianxia laughed more than Hua Cheng had ever heard him do before, and it made joy surge up his chest. Afterwards they sat down to build gold foil palaces, racing to see who could build the highest. Hua Cheng tipped his over every time, to the shock and outrage of Dianxia, who puffed his cheeks out angrily. Then, they had to race some more.

By the time the food was done, Dianxia was flushed and panting, eyes shining. Hua Cheng changed back into his larger form, and then grabbed the tray and Dianxia, carrying both into their even more private part of Paradise Manor. No one but them ever came in there.

They sat down at the low table, and Dianxia kneeled with perfect posture as he reached over and took a bun, digging in. Hua Cheng took one too, watching as Dianxia ate. He asked more questions about the demon then, how it looked, smelled, what it did. Dianxia gave vivid descriptions about it, and Hua Cheng grinned widely at each new gorey detail explained in that soft light voice. Dianxia ate three buns, and then he was quickly tiring, eyes blinking slowly. Hua Cheng smiled, and lifted him up, before getting him ready for bed. 

He tucked Dianxia, already sleeping, into their large bed, curling the sheets around him protectively. The resentful energy was growing stronger, and Hua Cheng sighed. He needed to do something about this now, before any real damage was done. Regretfully he pulled back, tossed his dice, and took the bedroom door out into a dense forest.

__________________

The sun did not rise in Ghost city, but the forest was being illuminated into soft light as Hua Cheng stepped back through the bedroom door. The demon had been a challenge, he had to admit, mostly because of how the curse was formed. He had needed to make sure that it’s life was not tied to Dianxia, nor the cultivators who had designed it. Now, it had all been settled. It had probably earned Dianxia some new followers as well. Hua Cheng didn’t care too much about that aspect, but having followers convert from either of the Idiots' always felt like a triumph.

Dianxia stirred on the bed, and Hua Cheng sighed in relief as he saw him back to his usual size and appearance. He had been adorable as a child, but this way Hua Cheng knew he was safe. Dianxia blinked, sitting up to rub at his eyes. He was still so cute. “Ah, San Lang,” he said, licking his lips. Hua Cheng smiled, letting his outer robes disintegrate, leaving him only in his sleep robes. “You’re back.”

“So is Gege,” Hua Cheng said as he strode over to the bed, crawling onto it. “How is my beloved feeling?” He sat down by Dianxia’s side, facing him.

“Tired,” Dianxia said, and Hua Cheng reached out, placing a hand on his arm. The resentful energy was gone, but his spiritual powers were low. “Nothing has drained my spiritual power this much in a long time. I had forgotten how much energy it gives. When I was without it all those years, I did not think of it.” Dianxia leaned forward, and Hua Cheng did as well, offering his shoulder to rest on. Dianxia sighed, leaning against him.

“Mn,” he agreed, using his free hand to run up and down Dianxia’s back. “Gege is so handsome, but he was so cute as a child. I wanted to bite his little cheeks.”

“San Lang!” Dianxia chided, even as his voice was still low, still sleepy. Hua Cheng laughed, and Dianxia sighed fondly. “You were sweet to me, this one appreciates it. Although San Lang really shouldn’t tip over foil palaces like that.”

Hua Cheng laughed, leaning forward to press a kiss to Dianxia’s sweet mouth. Dianxia sighed, kissing him back as he fell down into the soft bedding. “Would my beloved want some of my spiritual energy?” Hua Cheng asked, letting his voice dip low. Xie Lian shivered. “It has been so long since I supplied him, since he can use his own now.”

“Only a little then, San Lang,” he whispered, and Hua Cheng grinned, and leaned in to claim his lips once more.