The realization strikes Song Lan like a bolt of lightning: Xiao Xingchen laughs, and he wants with a sudden, stunning desperation to kiss the mirth from his beautiful mouth. How, precisely, he is meant to manage that—that, he has no idea at all.
Song Lan has been waiting for thousands of years for Xing’s soul to reincarnate, protecting the world from Hell spilling over as best as he could. He waited, he grew tired.
Then a fake priest nearly fell out of a window, and while saving him, Song Lan came face to face with one Chief Xiao.
Every so often, he would naturally find his gaze falling back onto his hunting partner. Song Lan hesitated to use the term ‘cultivation partner’, even mentally. It felt too intimate. They were close, closer than he’d been with anyone before. That twist in his core would haunt him at the oddest moments, like when he’d make a particularly dry remark and Xiao Xingchen would laugh so free and gleeful. And like now, as he watched those warm eyes slip his way and a reassuring smile meant only for him graced those soft features. But, despite their closeness, it still felt like a step further than where they were. A sacred title for those connected on a soul-deep level. Ah, but perhaps he was being too stringent about the terminology.
Song Lan doesn’t care for any of it.
He likes his job, he likes his books, he likes his calligraphy.
He likes his solitude.
All is well.
And then another detective is transferred into their precinct, and Song Lan’s whole world slams out of orbit.
Song Lan wondered, because even after two years in a relationship with the beautiful creature currently writhing in his arms, he still couldn’t figure it out. He had expected, quite frankly, to be dumped the moment he told Xingchen he could not have sex. He had expected to be slapped when, upon further inquiry, he revealed it was because he really couldn’t stand to be naked with Xingchen in that context.
Instead, Xingchen had surveyed his miserable expression from behind those glasses, and asked, so would you want to have sex without undressing, or are you not interested in sex at all?
Then he’d grinned, an uncharacteristically self-satisfying expression for Xiao Xingchen, when Song Lan went tellingly red.
Days turned to weeks turned to months, and one morning, Xiao XingChen woke up in a flood of vicious, furious guilt. These weren’t feelings he would ever truly birth to the world, he knew, but they still had to be felt. So feel them he did. He felt them like a spray of necrotic blood.
You’ve started a family without him.
Song Lan gets to Yi City just a bit earlier, and A-Qing asks her Daozhang some very pressing questions about the Stranger. This changes everything.