Note: This is the second installment of Scum Villain’s Self Saving Systems series, which is not meant to be read without having read the first book. Rather than being a series of stories broken into four parts, Scum Villain is one story cut into four books for easier reading. And if you haven’t read the first book yet, I urge you to go back and get it because it’s just that good, that funny, and I love it that much.
Three years have passed since Shen Qingqiu cast Luo Binghe into the Abyss, three years of mourning the boy he helped train, mourning the young man his student was becoming, and — because this is Sen Qingqui — preparing for what happens next. In the book (Proud Immortal Demon Way), Luo Binghe returns five years after his supposed death, full of righteous anger and rage. Five years of fighting off monsters and demons, five years of learning new skills, of finding the S-tier sword Xin Mo, and, having fermented in all his hatred at his teacher for trying to kill him, ready for revenge. Fortunately, Shen Qingqiu has a trick up his sleeve.
In Jin Lan City, a strange plague is taking the lives of mortals and cultivators alike and Shen Qingqiu has no choice but to volunteer to help. After all, ever since being cursed with Without a Cure (stupid Airplane and his stupid names), Shen Qingqiu’s qi is unstable. With both the man who makes his medicine and the man who regulates his chi when he’s having a flare-up gone, he’ll be helpless. So, better to follow them along so they can continue to take care of him.
The plague is bad. The demons are worse. But the absolutely horrifying part of this — aside from the fact that the disease (which he somehow managed to catch) rots away the flesh and leaves its victims little more than skeletons — is that Luo Binghe is here. In Jin Lan. It’s two years too early! Shen Qingqiu isn’t ready for this, isn’t ready to be killed. His plan B plant hasn’t grown, yet! So he must run (which he does.) But when you’re trapped in a city, cursed twice over, how far can he actually run?
Shen Qingqiu is, in essence, the damsel in this story. He’s the one constantly getting into trouble — see the Without a Cure curse, the plague (which he gets twice!), the way he is either hated or loved, the source of every conflict and every bit of drama … and he’s also absolutely blind to it. Shen Qingqiu fancies himself to be little more than an NPC, sitting to the side and watching the drama, turning adoring eyes to Luo Binghe, who he presumes to be the protagonist of this story. For all that he’s clever, a keen observer and as vain as a peacock about his image, Shen Qingqiu is also an idiot. And I love him for it.
Watching Shen Qingqiu make assumptions based on what he thinks he knows while the action around him — and the reaction of other characters — implies something altogether different is just fun. His internal monologue is chock full of personality with his his scathing commentary, his absolute obliviousness, how he excuses the best of his actions as being necessary to the plot, and his inability to see himself as the person he is, or to see how his actions have won his disciples, his martial brothers and sisters, and even his enemies respect.
His unending obsession with Luo Binghe seems to be returned in equal measure. His young disciple is now a grown adult (albeit a young one) who is as focused on his shizun (teacher) as his shizun is on him. He follows him, watches him, refuses to let others hurt him. And when they do, his rage is incandescent. When his shizun is kind, he melts; when his shizun is cold, he bristles. But as long as Shen Qingqiu is watching him, talking to him, arguing with him, it’s acceptable. When another handsome young man does it? Or a beautiful woman? Oh no. No, absolutely not. He will destroy the world rather than see someone, anyone, take shizun’s attention away from him.
There are some truly funny moments, such as Shen Qingqiu’s reaction to finally figuring out Luo Binghe is gay (which is to despair because he broke the protagonist of a perfectly acceptable stallion novel), or when Shen Qingqiu has to escape an overly friendly snake demon. Or when he tries to come up with a fake name (Peerless Cucumber, his internet handle, doesn’t translate as well as it could … ), or even when the System, that annoying hall monitor that insists he fix the story he so bitterly complained about, finds him again and again. There is no escape from the System!
Public perception, personal bias, and mob mentality are themes often explored in MXTX’s (the fan abbreviation for the author) works. Shen Qingqiu constantly tries to be ‘cool,’ to be a refined and immortal cultivator, refusing to let anyone see the human heart beating inside, a heart that bleeds for Luo Binghe, and even for the poor canon fodder characters on the sidelines. More and more, he’s having to see these characters, all of them, as people as they grow and develop past being lines of text in a book and become the family that surround him.
This book is my favorite of the author’s three published works, and I am so happy to be able to review the English translations (thanks in large part to the work of Faelicy and Lily). If you enjoy satire, comedy, bumbling main characters who mean well, but can’t tie their own shoelaces, and love interests who would destroy the world for the one they love, for found family, dramatic speeches, and even more dramatic fights, please give this book a try!