Yearning for Miles - Murahi - 魔道祖师 - 墨香铜臭 | Módào Zǔshī (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Chapter 1 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 2: Chapter 2 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 3: Chapter 3 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 4: Chapter 4 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 5: Chapter 5 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 6: Chapter 6 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 7: Chapter 7 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 8: Chapter 8 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 9: Chapter 9 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 10 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 11: Chapter 11 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 12: Chapter 12 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 13: Chapter 13 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 14: Chapter 14 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 15: Chapter 15 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 16: Chapter 16 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 17: Chapter 17 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18: Chapter 18 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 19: Chapter 19 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 20 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 21: Chapter 21 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 22: Chapter 22 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 23 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 24 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 25 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 26 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 27 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 28 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 29 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 30 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 31 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 32 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 33 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 34 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 35 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 36 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 37 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 38 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 39 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 40 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 41 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 42 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 43 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 44 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 45 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 46 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 47 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 48 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 49 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 50 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 51 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 52 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 53 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 54 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 55 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 56 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 57 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 58 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 59 Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 60 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 61 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 62 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 63 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 64 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 65 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 66 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 67 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 68 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 69 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 70 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 71 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 72 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 73 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 74 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 75 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 76 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 77 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 78 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 79 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 80 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 81 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 82 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 83 Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 84: Epilogue Notes: Chapter Text Notes: References

Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian was a lot of things. He had been called shameless, ridiculous, co*cky, arrogant, and more. He was quite possibly every single thing his brother ever said about him—but not this time. This time, he was innocent.

He had just come back from having dinner and was about to remove his outer robe when his arm brushed against a bookshelf. The bookshelf itself fell out and the token along with it. Wei Wuxian had managed to clean up everything, but he kept the token aside. Jiang Cheng had entered the room not long after.

He looked down at Wei Wuxian who was sitting cross legged on the floor with an accusing look. They had been in Gusu for nearly three months and his adopted brother had already found himself in trouble multiple times. Though he had also engaged in some of the foolishness, he could not risk angering a Lan due to theft.

“I said that I didn’t steal it; I’m not a thief!” He huffed and glared at the glowing golden token in front of them. It looked a bit like the common GusuLan token that every Lan cultivator seems to own. Except that it was golden. And glowing.

“Then pray tell, where did this come from?” Jiang Cheng yelled. Then he planted his face in his hands and sighed. “If this belongs to an elder, we are ruined. It won’t be enough to become my mother’s dogs—No, I had no part in this. Wei Wuxian, my deepest sympathies to you henceforth.”

Wei Wuxian gaped at his sworn brother, realising that he’d been betrayed.

“I found this right here in this room when I came back. I’m innocent, too!” He hissed. Slowly, then, his expression became thoughtful. “Though, it looks very important. Perhaps it holds something interesting?”

Jiang Cheng watched as his brother picked up the gold token and started investigating it like a child who had received a new toy. “Tell the truth, Wei Wuxian. You did steal this, didn’t you?” He asked, eyeing the youth in front of him in suspicion.

“If I did do something like that, I would definitely tell you first. After all, who else is there to bury my corpse?” Wei Wuxian grinned wickedly. “And if I were to steal anything, why this? I can skip over to Caiyi town without it, right over the rooftops!”

“And have the second young master Lan catch you at it, again? Spare me.” Jiang Cheng scowled and then sat down opposite Wei Wuxian, who was still examining it. “What do you suppose it is?”

“Can’t be sure, but it contains a lot of spiritual energy. If I didn’t know any better, I would say it contained someone’s golden core.” Wei Wuxian scrutinised. “This would be impossible to make by any one of the cultivators we know.”

“How can you be sure?” Jiang Cheng asked, leaning in. The conversation was starting to pique his interest. “You don’t mean… do you think it’s made by an immortal?”

“That’s what I was thinking.” Wei Wuxian nodded, seriously and continued examining it.

Jiang Cheng was growing impatient as he too, had wanted to take a closer look at it since long ago, yet his brother kept holding it out of reach. He tried two times to take it out of Wei Wuxian’s hand only for it to move further away again.

“Show it to me, already!”

“What–hold on!” Wei Wuxian said as Jiang Cheng grabbed onto the token without so much as a warning.

The moment, his brother touched it though, it flared–the light strong enough to engulf them both in a sea of gold. They felt their sense of reality distort as the room they were in, melted away to create new images in front of them.

Wei Wuxian soon found himself standing in a cave with lanterns keeping it bright.

“Where—“ Jiang Cheng said and only then did Wei Wuxian recognise his presence.

“A-Ning, stop crying, we need to transfer the core quick!”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng turned around hearing the harsh voice of a woman behind them and promptly froze, shock overcoming them.

There, in front of them, lay their bodies, unclothed from the waist up, both of their chests opened to reveal the bloody internal of it. They were lying on two stone beds as a woman stuck her hands in Wei Wuxian’s chest, who was very much awake and looking to be in the worst kind of agony but unable to move as he was gagged with a cloth and his wrists and ankles were tied to stakes that were embedded in the stone.

There was another man standing beside Wei Wuxian, tears flowing down his face.

Wei Wuxian felt bile rise in his throat, but couldn’t bring himself to vomit even as he wanted to for some reason.

“What the f*ck is going on?!” Jiang Cheng raged. “What is that woman doing to us?!”

He ran over to where the man was standing and reached for him. However, both of them could only watch in shock as Jiang Cheng’s arm just slipped right through him.

“What…”

“Jiang Cheng…” Wei Wuxian said through his biting nausea. “This is not real. That token… it’s showing us an illusion.”

Jiang Cheng looked at him, a mixture of relief and confusion on his face. “An illusion…?”

They both flinched as the woman’s voice rang through the cave once more. In a place as bare as this, every breath echoed, and combined with Wei Wuxian’s agonised groans, the man’s constant sniffs and the woman’s desperate voice, it was a picture of torture.

Wei Wuxian watched the woman carefully. She didn’t look like she was attacking him at the very least. Her eyes were too kind.

“Hold on, Wei Wuxian! Just a little… more!” She exclaimed, sweating beading all over her forehead. The man who was with her, dabbed a cloth where her sweat was threatening to be a nuisance.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian watched in horror as she finally pulled her hands out of Wei Wuxian’s chest… because they were not empty. There, in her hands, a small golden ball of light rotated on its own axis.

They watched Wei Wuxian’s illusion look at it, tears now running down the side of his face, a look of immense relief present and it suddenly hit them. This was voluntary. The Wei Wuxian over there was doing it of his own accord.

“Suture him up, A-Ning!” The woman commanded as she quickly moved towards Jiang Cheng and lowered her hands inside his chest the golden orb spinning and shining in them.

The suturing did not take much time and though, the man was crying throughout his work, he didn’t slow his pace. Finally, they watched as the man took out the gag from Wei Wuxian’s mouth, who looked too tired to even grit his teeth anymore.

“Wen Qing…” He gasped, every breath looking more painful than the last.

“Talk later, take your rest! A-Ning, use the anaesthesia!” She commanded once more as she pushed the orb into Jiang Cheng’s chest and picked up her needles.

Wei Wuxian’s illusion seemed to have none of that and was determined to talk, however. He had the face of a man who didn’t know when ‘later’ would come. Or if it even would.

“Do not tell Jiang Cheng… not even if it means my life.” Wei Wuxian croaked, And despite the situation, even cracked a smile. “He has a lot of pride…”

They watched the woman, Wen Qing, as her face softened. “Why bring this up now? I’ve given my word.”

Wei Wuxian turned to the man, now. “You as well, Wen Ning… Swear to me… not a word.”

Wen Ning who had already finished injecting the anaesthesia looked at him with bloodshot eyes, tear ducts seemingly dry now, and nodded fervently. “You have my word, Young Master.”

“...Good… I think I…”

However, no one heard what he said next as Wei Wuxian collapsed into slumber immediately.

“Sister… he fell asleep…”

“Let him sleep. It’s only natural to be tired after being awake for two days straight during an operation like this.” She said as she too, began suturing up Jiang Cheng’s chest.

“Is it…?”

“Mn… it’s complete. The golden core transplant was successful. Wei Wuxian must truly cherish this boy for his golden core to so easily take to this body. The chances were only half when we started, after all…”

They watched as Wen Qing now slumped onto the ground.

“Sister!!!”

“A-Ning… I’m tired. I will rest for just a while. Watch over these two for the time being…”

“...Yes. Please rest.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng felt a wave of dizziness as the images before them began blurring and before they could comprehend the end of the vision, they were back in their room, sitting opposite each other as the token was held by them.

Both immediately dropped the golden object as if it was on fire and backed away from each other in panic.

“What… Wei Wuxian… What the actual f*ck was that?” Jiang Cheng asked, the fear on his face quickly turning into raw rage. “What the f*ck was that???

He leaped over to Wei Wuxian and held him by the lapels, but he stopped his ministrations when he saw the look on Wei Wuxian’s face. He was shocked beyond comprehension, eyes wide with disbelief. Seeing this new look on Wei Wuxian’s face made Jiang Cheng sit back on his heel and calm down.

“Wei Wuxian… tell me honestly… do you think that what we saw was purely an illusion?” He asked through gritted teeth, as patiently as he could.

“I-I… don’t know. I don’t know.” Wei Wuxian shook his head. “It has to be. Why would I need to give you my golden core? It makes no sense. I’ve never even heard of such a thing as a golden core transplant.”

Jiang Cheng looked at him sceptically. If he did indeed think of it as an illusion, then he would not be so shaken.The reason he was so shaken could only be because it felt so real. Like it had actually happened.

He hesitated before asking the forefront question. “Then… if by chance… I would actually lose my golden core… Do you swear that you wouldn’t do such a thing if you could?”

Wei Wuxian looked at him is surprise and opened his mouth to answer, but as soon as he had decided to, he realised that he couldn’t. He couldn’t answer, because he would and Jiang Cheng didn’t want to hear that.

Instead he sat there quietly, for once.

“...Your silence is enough.” Jiang Cheng sighed in frustration. He stood up and looked down at the token. “Keep that thing hidden. Illusion or whatever, it wouldn’t be good if someone else found it.”

He watched as Wei Wuxian looked at the object warily, all his childlike curiosity from a while ago replaced with careful wariness.

“...Why did it only react when I touched it? Nothing happened when only you were holding it.”

“I think… it needs two people to hold it for it to work.” Wei Wuxian answered, and as if to back up his theory, reached out for the token. He hesitated just before his fingers made contact with it and then picked it up.

Jiang Cheng look at him in anticipation. “Well?”

Wei Wuxian flashed him a grin and this made Jiang Cheng relax. It was disorienting to see his brother without a smile. “Nothing happened. My theory is right.”

“It will only be right if I touch it again, and make sure.”

At this, Wei Wuxian stiffened again. “...”

“I won’t if you don’t want me to.”

“...No, go ahead. We need to make sure of what this thing can actually do.” Wei Wuxian answered, because if his theory was correct, then it meant that this object is much more than just a pretty trinket that gives false ideas.

Jiang Cheng nodded at the confirmation and sat down again, crossing his legs. Wei Wuxian held the token out in front of them and readied himself. Jiang Cheng as well allowed himself one, deep breath before he reached out to touch it again.

The golden light flared.

Notes:

Thanks for reading, guys, hope you liked this. Don’t forget to drop a kudos! It’s my first time posting on this site.

Chapter 2: Chapter 2

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng opened their eyes, but unlike last time, this scene made them feel a little calmer. This was because, right now, they were somewhere familiar to the both of them. This was where their sister had comforted them countless times after their petty fights. They ran past this place everyday. They had knelt over here for punishment. Sometimes, they came over here to escape. It was a calm place and always smelt like incense.

The Jiang clan ancestral hall.

They both saw an unfamiliar figure kneeling in front of the stone tablets with joined hands and a bowed head. He was giving his offering very seriously, back straight and posture perfect as if he was taught by the Jiang matriarch herself to do it this way. To whom was he giving his offerings to?

When Jiang Cheng looked up at the shrine, his eyes widened in shock at the names engraved on the tablets.

“J-Jiang Cheng…”

Jiang Cheng looked to Wei Wuxian who was staring at the tablets in the same horror that he feels himself. On the tablets the names were gracefully carved: Jiang Fengmian, Yu Ziyuan, Jiang Yanli.

The names of everyone in their family except the two of them.

“Wei Wuxian.”

The two boys turned and noticed a figure walk into the ancestral hall, and their eyes widened. It was Jiang Cheng, yet he looked much older! His hair was still up in the severe bun that he always wore, but now it made him look rather frightening. His robes were more noble looking and gave off a mature feel.

The biggest difference, however, as Wei Wuxian noticed, was the ring on his right hand index finger—the Zidian, Wei Wuxian noted—which he kept fiddling with in an almost nervous manner. Overall, Jiang Cheng looks more like his mother than Wei Wuxian ever thought possible. It gave him the urge to kneel down as well.

“Jiang Cheng, It’s you. You grow to look even more stern!” He joked.

Jiang Cheng was about to tell his brother to shut up, when a thought occurred to him. “Did he just say ‘Wei Wuxian’?”

The two stared at each other in confusion before turning back to the kneeling figure that turned around to show his face. Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian were even more sure now, that it looked nothing like Wei Wuxian, but the older Jiang Cheng had said his name so assuredly and it wasn’t possible for him to get it wrong.

“Jiang Cheng.” Wei Wuxian smiled.

Jiang Cheng just stared at him. “You’ve been here the entire day. Are your knees not tired?”

Wei Wuxian looked awkward at this. “I had a lot to tell them. The last time I was here, I didn’t properly get to talk to them. Besides, I’m used to kneeling here. Madame Yu used to make me do it all the time.”

Wei Wuxian attempted a laugh, but it only came out forced. At this, even Jiang Cheng grew awkward.

“Without a doubt, that is you.” Jiang Cheng claimed, but cringed at the situation.They were talking like old friends who no longer knew how to hold a conversation. “But why do you look like that?”

Wei Wuxian looked on, seemingly in deep thought.

“Hey,” Jiang Cheng called, irritably.

“Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian said suddenly. “I had came up with this idea for an array which can summon a dead soul into the summoner’s body. I never acted upon it because it was… heretical. It requires the use of resentful energy.”

Jiang Cheng looked at his brother incredulously. Wei Wuxian had always talked about the demonic use of resentful energy, but he never took him seriously. This was because neither of them would abandon their spiritual and approved ways of cultivation for an evil path like that. Had it been any other situation, Jiang Cheng would’ve scolded the youth.

But as it was he had more important things to worry about.

“What are you trying to say…?”

“What if… what if I had succeeded in inventing it? What if someone had summoned me into their body using that array?”

Jiang Cheng’s mouth went dry. “That’s impossible. For that to happen, you would have had to…”

He trailed off, the words too painful to say.

“...be dead.” Wei Wuxian completed for him, gravely.

Jiang Cheng felt like his heart was dropping from his chest. He wanted to scream, but his throat felt closed. Just what were these images that he was made to see a future where he would lose all his most beloved people? He might’ve not been able to hold on much longer had the silence between the two older versions of them in the hall persisted.

“What did you talk to them about?” Jiang Cheng asked, finally.

“About how we made up, firstly. Then about my marriage, because none of them ever thought it would happen like this… About how Jin Ling is more like his father than shijie, but that he looks just like her when he smiles or cries.”

Jiang Cheng smiled. “He does resemble her a lot during his most emotional moments.”

Wei Wuxian chuckled. “I had to apologise to Madame Yu countless times in the middle for breaking my posture or talking about how strict she was and I thanked Uncle Jiang for bringing me into this family. Has it not been for him, I may have never become a cultivator, nor had a family.”

Jiang Cheng, who was smiling while hearing about Madame Yu, lost it as soon as he heard the rest of the sentence. He averted his gaze and glared at the floor, fists clenched on his lap, mouth twisted into an ugly sneer.

“...Why would you be thankful? What cultivator? What family?” Jiang Cheng asked, voice raising with each question he uttered. “You gave your golden core to me and resorted to demonic cultivation, ultimately dying at my hands. You may have been brought into this new body, but what use is it? It’s golden core is too weak to cultivate with. Is this what you are thankful for?!”

Wei Wuxian who was sitting quietly during the tirade looked at Jiang Cheng. For a moment he didn’t do anything, as if he was debating with himself about what course of action would be best to take or if he should take any action at all. Finally, he reached out and took Jiang Cheng’s hand into his, both of them no doubt feeling awkward, but neither pulling away. Somewhere, a bird started singing and it rang clear with the silence between the two brothers.

“Jiang Cheng. The time I was given with cultivation was enough. The core I had given you had not gone to waste. I am proud of what my dear shidi has become. A great sect leader, a responsible uncle, someone who carried the entire burden of the Jiang Sect on his tender, 20 year old shoulders… and I’m proud of you.”

They both sat like that for a while before Jiang Cheng spoke. Just like the distance between them, something in Jiang Cheng broke like a dam.

“I’m sorry, Wei Wuxian.” He said. Wei Wuxian froze as he saw tears now rolling down his brother’s cheeks. “Back then, I should’ve trusted you. I should’ve known… I’m sorry.

Wei Wuxian smiled at his brother sadly and then leaned towards him, engulfing him in a loose but comfortable embrace. Like saying that he could pull away if he wanted to, giving him a choice.

“I forgave you before I was reincarnated into this body, Jiang Cheng. You don’t need to apologise.”

Jiang Cheng hid his face in his older brothers shoulder, but just as he was about to embrace him back, a loud call reverberated through the halls.

“UNCLE, I HEARD THAT IDIOT WEI WUXIAN CAME!”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian were startled into turning around when they heard feet beating against the wood of the hallways. A golden figure soon emerged in the doorway, panting. The boy looked to be around the age they were currently and his eyes widened at the scene before him.

“Uh…” The boy muttered, stiffly, looking as if he stumbled onto something he shouldn’t have.

Wei Wuxian grinned at the boy. “Jin Ling, do you mind? I’m busy being an older brother in this wonderful moment.”

Jiang Cheng, who had long since flinched at the sound of his nephew’s voice immediately put his hand on Wei Wuxian’s face and shoved him off.

“Have the moment by yourself!” He yelled, standing up, face red till the tips of his ears, and the evidence of tears lying in the corners of his inflamed eyes. Humiliation soon turned into insensible anger. Jiang Cheng turned to Jin Ling. “And you, what do you mean by such rowdy behaviour in our ancestral hall?! Why are you always so excited when you hear Wei Wuxian’s name? Show some respect, you brat!”

“Aw, don’t be like that Jiang Cheng. Come back into your Shixiong’s arms!” Wei Wuxian grinned, spreading his arms wide open, which seemed to further darken the colour on Jiang Cheng’s face until it matched his robes.

On the other hand, Jin Ling seemed to sputter indignantly at Jiang Cheng’s words, now somewhat embarrassed as well.

“Save it for that vinegar bottle, Lan Wangji! Report to me before you decide to take your leave!” With that, the man stomped out of the ancestral hall as Jin Ling walked in.

“‘Report to me’ he says,” Wei Wuxian chuckled. “He hasn’t changed.”

“Why do you always insist on teasing uncle, you idiot? One day he might make true on his threat to break your legs.”

“That may have been true once, but now it’s about as likely to happen to me, as it is to happen to you.” Wei Wuxian said as he corrected his posture. “A-Ling, leave Suiha outside and then come in.”

Jin Ling looked at his sword a little doubtfully, but complied, leaving it to lean right outside the door, and then knelt beside Wei Wuxian where his uncle sat previously.

“Will you be staying here for the night?” He asked, haughtily, face turned away from the older man’s direction.

Wei Wuxian smiled at him wryly. “You really look like your father when you use that tone.”

Jin Ling immediately sobered up, and the older man immediately began to worry.

“What’s wrong?”

“...I heard that Dad and you never got along.”

Wei Wuxian looked at him, understanding dawning on his face. “Yes, we never did.” He admitted and Jin Ling’s face fell, but didn’t remain so as Wei Wuxian continued. “But maybe that was my fault.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have always been prejudiced towards Jin Zixuan. He had made Shijie sad so many times. It was intolerable when he had made her cry, and that made me hold a grudge. Even after they married I continued to see him as the boy who had made her cry rather than the man who had made her happy. If I didn’t do that, perhaps we could’ve been different towards each other. Better. I know now that he had tried more than I had.”

“Do you mean that? You don’t hate my father?” Jin Ling asked, eyes sparkling with contained relief.

“No, I don’t, Jin Ling.” Wei Wuxian grinned, but his eyes were glossy with regret. “I lost that right a long time ago. Now, I only hope he forgives me for robbing the time he could’ve had with you.”

Jin Ling straightened up at those words. “Humph! Are you looking down on him? He would’ve been generous enough to do so!”

Wei Wuxian looked at him in amusem*nt. “Would he?”

“Of course. He was a generous enough man!” Jin Ling exclaimed proudly, but then lowered his eyes rather bashfully, cheeks dusted with pink. “But… but the condition is that… that you have to make up the lost time for him, got it!?”

Wei Wuxian gaped at the boy beside him before breaking out into a full blown grin and tackling him to the floor.

“Oh, my sweet, adorable nephew! Why can’t you be more honest! Uncle Wuxian would love to spend time with you!” He said, laughing as an embarrassed Jin Ling struggled in his embrace and attempted to relinquish the hold.

Wei Wuxian’s laughter died down. “I’ll make time to come by the Jin sect soon. I’ll stay for a week or two with you.” He said, smile still lingering on his lips.

Jin Ling just scowled in his uncle's arms. “Won’t Hanguang-Jun miss you?”

“Lan Zhan can come with me, if that’s the case. Sizhui and Jingyi as well! We can all hang out! Maybe come to Yunmeng together.”

Jin Ling looked very happy at this prospect, but seemed to cover it up as well as he could with a self-important attitude.

“You’re the one promising this! You better see it through!”

Wei Wuxian watched what was happening in confusion but his attention diverted when he heard footsteps behind him. He looked at Jiang Cheng who still seemed to be absorbed in the scene in front of them. Wei Wuxian backed away until he was outside the doorway, where he saw the retreating figure of the vision Jiang Cheng.

Before they knew it, the scene melted away and they were back in their room. The token held by them both once more.

Notes:

When I had written this chapter, I really loved it, but I wondered if it was too cheesy. Wouldn’t change it even if you say it is though >.>
This is my closure.

Chapter 3: Chapter 3

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian sat with Jiang Cheng on the floor, both of them unable to cope with the amount of information they were given in such a short amount of time. There had been so many factors to consider in the images they had seen, that it seemed impossible to choose just one to focus on.

“What the hell is this thing?” Jiang Cheng whispered in defeat, and Wei Wuxian had to admit, he felt pretty defeated as well. They both slumped their shoulders, not sure if they should feel angry or sad or whatever .

Wei Wuxian bit his lip.

“I think… Jiang Cheng, what if… it shows the future?”

Jiang Cheng looked up at him, dangerously. “What bullsh*t are you spouting? If this thing shows the future, do you know what that means?”

When Wei Wuxian said nothing, he felt his self control explode. “It means that my whole family died! That you died, and that I was the one who did it! It means that you gave me your golden core and that’s how I repaid you! How can you not be angry?!”

Wei Wuxian did become angry, but not for the reason Jiang Cheng was expecting.

“Because you forgot to mention the important things. The future we saw also means that you had become a great sect leader, a great uncle, a great man! I said so myself that my core did not go to waste!”

Jiang Cheng could only stay quiet at that, frustrated as he was, even though he failed to see how that excused anything.

“Besides,” Wei Wuxian continued. “If it is the future, then it means it doesn’t have to happen the same way. It hasn’t happened yet, after all. It would be good if that’s the future, because despite everything that happened there, we still consider each other family.”

Jiang Cheng was silenced, and Wei Wuxian took this as a sign that he had calmed down. It had always been like this with the two of them. They thought back to the token’s vision.

“....”

“....”

“But, if that’s the future, doesn’t it mean that my sister got married to that peaco*ck?” Jiang Cheng asked, eye twitching.

Wei Wuxian blinked a few times as the thought settled in and his face expressed the horror of eating sh*t.

“We can prevent it!” He said, then promptly, “No, no we can’t, Jin Ling wouldn’t be born if we did that. The fact that shijie will be married to him is frustrating... Wait, do you think Jin Zixuan is dead in the future?”

Jiang Cheng looked at his brother thoughtfully. “Most likely so. He was spoken of in the past tense.”

“...That means it was somehow my fault…” Wei Wuxian realised. “Do you think that’s why the rift between you and me happened? Because I was to blame for the death of Shijie’s husband?”

“I don’t think so. It’s not enough to make me want you dead.” Jiang Cheng said sourly.

“That can only mean… I’ve done something worse.” Wei Wuxian whispered to himself, though Jiang Cheng heard it nonetheless. “Didn’t my future self say that I resorted to demonic cultivation? Such a type of cultivation doesn’t exist and if that’s so then—“

He looked at Jiang Cheng in pure terror and his brother mirrored the look in understanding.

“You must’ve invented it.” Jiang Cheng concluded in barely hidden fear. “You did it because you couldn’t cultivate any other way. You didn’t just make an array that uses resentful energy... you created a whole new method of cultivation.”

They both sat in silence, each to their own thoughts when Jiang Cheng finally made up his mind. He couldn’t allow this to be Wei Wuxian’s future. He couldn’t allow this to be the future of anyone in his family at all.

“We need to find out more than this.”

Wei Wuxian looked at him in amazement. “And you call me crazy.” He said, rubbing his chin. “...But, yeah. I can’t leave it at this, either.”

“We need to know what happened to lead to those two events.”

“They follow the same timelines—I gave my core to you in them both, so it must be.”

Just then they heard a knock on their door. Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian both looked at each other in panic, assuming it to be a senior cultivator or a disciplinary member who heard them make too much noise, but relaxed as soon as they heard the voice on the other side.

“Jiang xiong? Wei xiong? Are you asleep? It can’t be so, can it?” Came the voice of none other than the second Nie brother. Nie Huaisang.

Jiang Cheng watched as Wei Wuxian’s eyes brighten in an ominous way. It was the same way his eyes looked when he was going to do something ridiculous that would usually come back to haunt the YunmengJiang sect heir.

“Just a moment, Nie xiong!” Wei Wuxian called and then lowered his voice. “I think we should make Huaisang touch it.”

“Are you crazy ?” Jiang Cheng whispered, his voice raising an octave.

“I want to do this to make sure I’m not!” Wei Wuxian said excitedly andstood up. He walked to the door and before Jiang Cheng could admonish him further, opened it.

“Huaisang! You came at the perfect time!” Wei Wuxian grinned devilishly.

At this, Nie Huaisang grew suspicious and hid half his face with his fan, eyeing Wei Wuxian warily. Jiang Cheng didn’t blame him for putting up his guard. Wei Wuxian was a troublemaker and that meant he caused trouble. For himself and everyone else, involved or not. “I did?”

Wei Wuxian smiled sweetly at the boy and caught hold of his wrist, dragging him into the room before quickly shutting the door.

“Wei xiong!” Huaisang shrieked, undoubtedly alarmed by this behaviour. “Please tell me what is the meaning of this. You’re scaring me!”

Wei Wuxian simply put a finger to his mouth, to indicate silence before pointing at the gold token. Huaisang followed his finger and his eyes widened as soon as he saw the glowing token on the floor.

Immediately, he knelt down and picked it up. He barraged them with questions. “It’s exquisite! Isn’t this a Lan sect token? Why do you have it? And why is it golden?”

“Since you’ve picked it up already, you now have to swear to secrecy.”

Nie Huaisang immediately put down the token. “What secrecy? I don’t know anything.”

“We know you don’t.” Jiang Cheng muttered in exasperation.

“But you’re about to.” Wei Wuxian continued. “This token seems to show visions when you touch it.”

“Visions?” Huaisang asked, sceptically. “I didn’t see anything?”

“So far, we know that at least two people need to touch it for it to work.” Wei Wuxian explained, “We don’t know what’ll happen if three people do.”

“I see.” Huaisang remarked, now intrigued. “What does it show visions of?”

Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but think that he was too easy to convince. Perhaps it was the charm of an idiot. He and his brother looked at each other and then back at him. Now, he definitely wouldn’t believe them, no matter how much of an idiot he was.

Wei Wuxian, “We’re not sure yet, but… we think... the future.”

Excuse me? ” Huaisang stared at them is complete disbelief.

“Look, we’re not lying. You’ll see when we touch it.” Wei Wuxian told him.

“Wait. What happens if I talk about this to someone?”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian looked at each other once more before looking him and responding simultaneously. “Let’s hope you don’t find out.”

Nie Huaisang felt a chill pass through him and nodded agreeably. “Okay, Okay! I will never breathe a word of it!”

“Good. Let’s start then.” Wei Wuxian said as he picked up the token once more.

“Does it really tell the future?” Huaisang asked one last time.

“We’re trying to figure that out, still.” Jiang Cheng answered and looked at Huaisang sternly. “We have to do this at the same time. Or else it’ll activate without one of us.”

Huaisang nodded and steadied his hand over the token as Jiang Cheng did the same.

“Three… two… one… now!” Jiang Cheng exclaimed as both he and Huaisang touched the token.

The golden light flared once more.

The three found themselves in an office cluttered with paper. It’s walls were decorated with expensive paintings and beautiful sculptures were placed along the bookshelf. It was decorated in rich, elegant colours that complimented it and the room was artistically designed.

“Where are we?” Huaisang looked around, seemingly agreeing with the coordination of the room.

“We’ll find out soon.” Wei Wuxian answered.

“Nie xiong!” The door banged open.

“Ahhh, I don’t know, I don’t know. I really don’t know!”

The three boys turned to see and older Huaisang sitting at a large desk where he attempted to hide himself behind a stack of papers. They watched as the older versions of Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng walked in.

Wei Wuxian burst out laughing. “It looks like you haven’t changed at all, Nie xiong!”

Huaisang scowled at Wei Wuxian and his face behind his fan once more. “Who’s the other guy?”

“Long story short, it’s Wei Wuxian. We’ll explain later.” Jiang Cheng answered.

WHAT? ” Huaisang said looking back and forth between the two Wei Wuxians in confusion.

“Cut out the bullsh*t, Huaisang.” Jiang Cheng’s strict voice came as he followed the unfamiliar body that Wei Wuxian resided in. “Both of us already know your true colours.”

“Oh, it’s you two,” Huaisang straightened up and frowned at them as if every other time that they had met, it was a less than desirable event. “What is it this time?”

“We both met here at Qinghe by coincidence and thought to stop by. Jiang Cheng is here for a case he’s following, and I had official business.” Wei Wuxian answered then looked at the door. “Lan Zhan! What’re you doing? Come in.”

The trio watched as and older Lan Wanji walked in with a calmer air to him than they know of. He now wore the senior cultivator robes and he even looked rather content. He had grown into his face which made him look more masculine than he did in his teenage years. His body had also grown, as he towered every other occupant of the room.

“Wow, Lan Zhan grew so tall!” Wei Wuxian remarked in amazement.

“W-What may I do for you, Hanguang-Jun?”

“Hanguang-Jun? I think Jin Ling had mentioned it. Do you think it’s his title? It suits him.”

“Who’s Jin Ling?” Huaisang asked curiously.

“Just watch, you two!” Jiang Cheng scolded, irritated by the distraction. If he didn’t pay attention to every part of the vision, he’d no doubt miss something important like he felt he had with the previous one.

“The papers for the renewal of our alliance.” Lan Wanji said and handed the papers. “We need the sect leader’s stamp.”

“Ah, ah. Yes, hold on.” Huaisang said and dug out a stamp which he dipped in ink before pressing it on the papers.

“SECT LEADER?!” Nie Huaisang shouted only to be shushed by his companions. He shut his mouth and couldn’t help but think that his companions took this news too readily.

“You could’ve simply sent a messenger. To have the esteemed Hanguang-Jun and well…” Huaisang looked at Wei Wuxian. “The Yiling Patriarch… both come for something like this is…”

“My brother…”

Huaisang quieted down immediately.

“Please do go see him soon.” Lan Wangji said and picked up the papers again before tucking them in his qiankun pouch.

“Lan Zhan, you won’t stay?” Wei Wuxian asked, pouting.

“Mn. Sizhui and Jingyi are waiting. You may take your time. I will pick you up by nightfall.” Lan Wanji answered.

“Lan Zhan! I’ll miss you!” Wei Wuxian cried as he threw himself and Lan Wangji who caught him effortlessly and returned the embrace.

The three intruders watched with gaping mouths as this scene unfolded in front of them. They all thought back to Lan Wangji and that he was not this sort of person. Wei Wuxian in particular, felt two pairs of eyes focused on him. This was because Wei Wuxian as well, was not the type of person to act like this with people who were not family at the very least.

“No… I don’t know what’s happening. And Lan Zhan hates physical contact. He told me so himself!” Wei Wuxian stammered.

“And there you two are looking for all the world like a married couple being forced to separate.” Jiang Cheng commented dryly, even though his head was spinning at the scene.

Wei Wuxian chose not to answer.

“Please spare us the dog food.” Jiang Cheng commented, face in his palm. Nie Huaisang looked as if he wanted to do the same.

“Oh, but isn’t it perfect, since you two are single dogs, anyway!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed in delight.

“WEI WUXIAN!”

“Oh no, Lan Zhan. Protect me!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed and hid himself in the second jade’s embrace. Effectively creating a barrier between him and his sworn brother.

“Mn. I am here.” Lan Wanji said and tightened his arms around Wei Wuxian.

Jiang Cheng sighed. “Sometimes I wonder if you would have the face to do this should you be in your old body.”

“Hmph. Lan Zhan would love me and protect me in whatever body I am, right Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian asked, looking up at the man.

“Mn.”

“Lan Zhan!”

It could only be just recognised as a confirmation, but Wei Wuxian looked at Lan Wangji as if he had just confessed his love to him from the stars and the three young boys who were intruding on this scene couldn’t imagine this being done by the Second jade that they knew. It was such an unexplainably shameless display of borderline cutsleeve behaviour.

“Could you two not ?” Jiang Cheng asked, looking like he wanted to be anywhere else, but also with a resigned dismay of it happening anyway.

“We’re parting, Jiang Cheng. I cannot stay for a whole evening without at least this much. I’d die.”

“Wei Ying. No dying.” Lan Wangji warned.

“Right, right Lan Zhan. No dying. I’ll stay.” Wei Wuxian laughed.

“Mn.” Said Lan Wangji, satisfied with the answer, but then in blatant show of unwillingness, let go of Wei Wuxian. “I will be back. Don’t drink too much.”

“Got it!” Wei Wuxian said as he waved to Lan Wangji until he was out the door and for a little while after he was gone as well.

“Drink?” Jiang Cheng asked, once Lan Wanji was out of sight.

“Well, what did you think was in this basket I brought in? It was supposed to be a gift, but we might as well just have it together.”

And only now did everyone realise that he had, in fact, brought in a basket filled with familiar looking jars of wine.

“Emperor’s smile!” Wei Wuxian said, pulling out a few jars. “Just like old times, eh?”

Huaisang and Jiang Cheng looked at each other in resignation before smiling.

The scene faded and the three boys found themselves back in the room, only the loud croaks of the crickets outside their room daring to make any noise. Then, like the sound of glass shattering—

“What the f*ck ?” Came the bewildered voice of Jiang Cheng.

Notes:

I have the nicest commenters, you guys. I’m glad I decided to post this. I always thought that the mdzs fandom was quite possibly the nicest fandom out there, but y’all have to go and confirm that for me! Hope you liked this!

Chapter 4: Chapter 4

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“So… it does work if three people touch it.” Wei Wuxian stated. “I noticed this before, but it seems that the people who touch the token have to be present in the vision, and now I’ve confirmed it—“

f*ck that!” Jiang Cheng said and glared at Wei Wuxian. “You’re married to the f*cking second jade of Lan!”

“Who said we were married?!” Wei Wuxian squeaked.

You did!” And as he said it, he seemed to realise that that was what he had forgotten about this entire time. The fact that Wei Wuxian had announced his marriage. "In the previous vision we saw, and unless you’re having an affair, you’re married to Lan Wangji.”

“I’m not yet married to him.”

“So you’re admitting it will happen?” Jiang Cheng raised an eyebrow.

“No I– What? No! He doesn’t even like me. In fact, he clearly hates me!” Wuxian exclaimed, heat rushing into his cheeks as he remembered how Lan Wangji had leaned into him without hesitation along with the constant look of adoration.

“Didn’t look like that from where I was standing.” Huaisang commented, face behind fan.

“Nor from where I was.” Jiang Cheng scowled, disapprovingly. Wei Wuxian knew that he was a stickler for tradition and looked down of inappropriate behaviour and background. He was like his mother and thought importantly about appearances. A cutsleeve in the family wouldn’t look good for any of them. “Haven’t you always flirted with women? I’ve never seen you exhibit any cutsleeve behaviour.”

Wei Wuxian shot him a scathing look. “I like flirting with women. They look nice and talk nice.”

The YunmengJiang Sect’s head disciple knew his face was red and couldn’t stand being humiliated like this. He quickly changed the subject to save his face.

“Besides, it could just as easily not be that sort of relationship. And aren’t any of you going to mention how Nie xiong is the sect leader?!”

Jiang Cheng frowned, but allowed the change of topic, it being an important one.

“I don’t know.” Huaisang shook his head, looking somber. “I would never take up the post. Not unless my brother was fatally ill or—“

Or dead.

The word hung between them without being said.

“It’s more likely the latter.” Jiang Cheng said, bitterly. “In the other vision we saw, my entire family died. Including Wei Wuxian later.”

Nie Huaisang’s eyes looked up inquisitively. “That reminds me… why is he in a different body? He died you said? Did he possess it?”

“I would never allow him to do something like that!” Jiang Cheng hissed, but sobered up immediately. Everytime he lost his temper, he wasted a lot of time. “The body was offered to him.”

“...how is that possible?”

“We can’t tell you, because we’re not completely sure yet.” Wei Wuxian answered, as he looked at the token that lay between them. “This token is a mystery. It shows whatever it wants for however long, but the conditions are that the people touching it must be present in the vision it shows and that at least two people must do it together. We won’t get much information that way.”

Jiang Cheng crossed his arms over his chest. “What do you propose we do?”

Wei Wuxian grinned. “We’ll take turns. First it will be you and me again, then you and Huaisang and then Huaisang and me! This way we’ll have more information!”

“I agree with Wei xiong,” Huaisang nodded, looking serious and determined for a change. “I need to find out what happened to my brother.”

They looked at each other and nodded. They had now formed an alliance.

The problem with using the token, as the three soon realised, is that it also uses quite a bit of the users spiritual energy and thus tires them out. Nie Huaisang, having been involved only once, felt only fatigued for the next morning, but Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian who had used the token three times in total were worn out completely and almost missed the next days classes.

After the day was over and the three could retire back to their rooms, they did so as soon as possible, but were too tired to use the token again. This went on for two days until Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng no longer held the threat of falling asleep in class.

During those few days, Wei Wuxian avoided Lan Wangji, unable to be confident that he could keep his usual calm while talking to him. This proved to make him slightly suspicious, according to Jiang Cheng, but Wei Wuxian paid no heed. He needed more time till he’d be able to tease Lan Wangji as normal.

On the other hand, the disciplinary head seemed to realise that something was wrong with Wei Wuxian. More than once, the Jiang Sect disciple caught golden eyes staring at him inquisitively from a distance. He subtly pretended as if he’d not noticed anything out of the ordinary as he continued avoiding the second jade.

On the third day, the trio gathered together again.

“So our limit of use for this while we are here is two times each. We can use it a total of three times every two days between us.” Wei Wuxian explained as he took a brush and paper and started drawing figures to explain himself. “It will go like this: suppose Jiang Cheng and I use the token once, then Jiang Cheng can once more use it with you, Nie Huaisang. After that, you and I will use it. Does this sound doable?”

“You’re so smart, Wei xiong! Yes, this will solve our problem nicely.” Nie Huaisang agreed.

“Alright then, Jiang Cheng.” Wei Wuxian nodded at him and held out the token. Jiang Cheng nodded back at him and then boldly grasped it as well.

Nie Huaisang watched as the golden light encompassed them and pulled them into its own world.

As he had last time been an involved party, he did not think about it, but now sitting as a third person, he watched in fascination as Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng sat there, both holding onto the token, their bodies glowing with the same colour as the token. They looked like such ethereal beings, Huaisang felt an urge to paint them.

Huaisang patiently waited for an incense stick’s time and some. He wondered if it had taken them this long to watch a vision the last time. It certainly didn’t feel so. Finally, they had emerged once more. Their consciousness was regained, and the golden light faded. They now dropped the token and looked at each other one in anger and the other in disbelief, but both in grief.

“Lotus pier… Madame Yu and Uncle Jiang ” Wei Wuxian’s voice broke.

“That’s how they died.” Jiang Cheng whispered to himself, somewhat brokenly. “Mom… she… she just pushed us onto the boat and went into that by herself…” Suddenly, he got inexplicably angry. “Those damned Wens! It’s them! They were the reason everything bad had happened! I’ll kill them all.”

Nie Huaisang watched with wide eyes the emotional predicaments his two friends were in. The vision he had seen with them certainly was not as impacting, it seems, as the one these two had seen just now. This was truly an important segment they had witnessed.

“Jiang Cheng! Not all of them!” Wei Wuxian warned his brother, shaken as he was.

“What do you mean?! Of course all of them!” Jiang Cheng spat.

No.” Wei Wuxian’s words grew in strength. “Wen Qing and Wen Ning. Did you forget about them?”

Jiang Cheng’s face took on a look of realisation and then, eventually, shame. Wei Wuxian continued speaking.

“They helped us. Not yet, but given the chance, they would. Not all of them are bad. If we punish people who are bad then I’m not against it, but no matter what, let’s not harm the innocent. Let’s keep our conscience clear.”

Jiang Cheng remained silent.

Finally, Huaisang decided to take up the mantle of being the one to initiate the next subject. “So it’s the Wen sect that is responsible for your family? At least we now have a lead. Did you happen to hear anything about my brother?”

“No,” Wei Wuxian answered. “We only saw the fate of lotus pier. You may find out something if you and Jiang Cheng use it, though.”

Nie Huaisang nodded as did Jiang Cheng.

“We should keep a record of what we know so far in order.” Jiang Cheng told his brother.

“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian nodded. “We should also keep a separate list for the names of people we know that have died.”

“I can write them down.” Huaisang volunteered.

“Alright then. Jiang Cheng, here.” Wei Wuxian handed the token to his brother.

Jiang Cheng took and held it out as Nie Huaisang readily took the token.

Wei Wuxian waited.

“....”

“....”

“Wei Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng said. “Nothing happened.”

“What?”

Jiang Cheng turned on him and yelled. “I said nothing happened!”

Wei Wuxian could only blink as the words settled in his brain. “Nothing?” He looked to Nie Huaisang who only shook his head in answer.

Wei Wuxian took the token from their hands. “How is that possible? It was just working!”

“Let me see, Wei xiong.” Nie Huaisang said as he took hold of the token.

Just then, the golden light began to flare up once more.

Notes:

I’m sorry if this chapter wasn’t too interesting, but I just felt like I had to get it out of the way. Thank you to everyone who commented last chapter, you guys are such a joy ❤️

And because someone had asked me for it, here’s my Twitter in case anyone wants to tag me in stuff.
https://mobile.twitter.com/murasaki_hina

Chapter 5: Chapter 5

Notes:

Wow, guys. I was so surprised by how many of you started coming up with your own ideas about how the token works! It was a joy to see. Everything will be revealed in time, so I shan’t confirm anything ;)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“It worked! Why did it work this time? And where are we?” Wei Wuxian asked looking at the large ground they were standing in front of. It was dry and carried few decorative flags by its side.

It was not familiar to him, but that did not seem to be the case for his companion.

“The Nie Sect’s training ground.” Huaisang answered and looked around, seemingly comparing how it looks compared to the one he is used to seeing. “It looks a little different, but without a doubt, this is our training ground.”

“Oh?” Wei Wuxian also scanned the ground looking for what the vision intends to show.

Just then, they heard voices nearby them from a small pavillion kept on the surface of raised ground. The roof was likely olive green while it’s pillars were golden. The pavillion was painted in Nie Sect colours. Or at least, Wei Ying thought it was. He couldn’t quite make out with the sun already being set.

“That’s where brother oversees the training from!” Huaisang exclaimed and rushed towards it. Wei Wuxian followed him.

As soon as they reached by, they saw the familiar figures of their future selves. Nie Huaisang was sitting opposite Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji was once more present besides Wei Wuxian’s future self, eversilent.

“You’ve truly proved to become a more capable sect leader, Nie xiong.” Wei Wuxian remarked, folding his arms behind his head and leaning back in his seat. “Changing the traditional Nie weapon from saber to sword must not have been easy.”

Nie Huaisang picked up his cup and drank its contents. Wei Wuxian did the same. Lan Wangji did not drink.

Wei Wuxian watched in shock as Lan Wangji picked up the jar of alcohol and poured it into a cup before handing it to Wei Wuxian. it was exactly these times where he could only think that this token was playing a prank on him. After all, Lan Wangji had been absolutely livid at him the one time he’d seen Wei Wuxian holding jars of wine and yet here he was, pouring in alcohol for him! The hypocrite.

Even after everything, he still could not bring himself to accept that Lan Wangji could grow to treat him this way. It seemed impossible each time he woke up and sat in class. He’d notice the cold presence of the boy, but also knew that they had nothing to do with each other than the failed attempts at friendship Wei Wuxian had instigated.

Wei Wuxian took the cup Lan Zhan proffered and gave him a wide grin before downing the wine.

“My people could not bring themselves to accept it so easily, but after I had explained that their health was more important than our traditional cultivation methods, they seemed to start agreeing. Soon, we won’t need to have anymore cases of Qi deviation.” Nie Huaisang said eventually. He hesitated for a moment but continued speaking. “I have to thank both of you, Wei Wuxian. Hanguang-Jun. I had visited brother Xichen as you had suggested. I was afraid at first. I had done something unforgivable to him. Even if Jin Guangyao was the reason my brother no longer lives, I had not intended on fulfilling my revenge in such a cruel manner.”

Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji listened patiently.

“I must confess. Jin Guangyao’s death has not brought me much comfort.” He admitted, bitterly. “Perhaps, I too, am a resentful spirit.”

Wei Wuxian at this point seemed to forgo the formality of using a cup and directly took the jar, tipping it over his mouth and gulping down as it poured. Lan wangji sat beside him, indifferent to this behaviour, seemingly used to it. The shorter of the two pulled the jar away and swallowed the last mouthful before wiping his mouth with his sleeve so that he could continue talking.

“I’m sure that even Jin Guangyao, for all his faults, also regretted many of the decisions he had made back then. He had murdered your brother–his sworn brother, his wife and their son. And he had betrayed Xichen-ge. But despite it all, I’m certain that he regretted his actions as well.”

Nie Huaisang could only be thoughtful at this, until Lan Wangji spoke.

“Perhaps, like sect leader Nie, Jin Guangyao had also considered himself to be a resentful spirit.” He said, softly. “Please visit my brother again. He does not want you to never see him again.”

Nie Huaisang looked at him like he truly did hold light in his hands. “Thank you… Hanguang-Jun.”

They drank more until Huaisang brought up another subject.

“Also, congratulations the both of you. I heard that you’ve decided to hold an official wedding ceremony?”

Wei Wuxian who was watching this, choked on air as the exchange took place. It couldn’t actually be….

Huaisang next to him simply looked on in pity.

“Ahahahaha! Yeah, the Lan clan elders were already angry at me for making their precious second jade a cutsleeve and eloping with him.The least I can do is have a proper ceremony! I’m quite looking forward to it. Lan Zhan would look stunning in red robes.” Wei Wuxian turned to the said man and batted his eyes. “Of course, my Hanguang-Jun is always blindingly beautiful.”

“You are more so.” Lan Wangji returned, easily.

Both the versions of Nie Huaisang and Wei Wuxian could only gape at Lan Wangji like fish. To think he could say something like this with such a thick face!

“Lan Zhan! How many times do I have to tell you to warn me before you say those things. And this time in front of someone else, too! My heart may not be able to take it…” With these words, Wei Wuxian placed a hand on his chest dramatically before he slyly leaned into his husband. “Now you must face the punishment of holding me in your arms the entire evening! It’s far too cold tonight.”

Lan Wangji didn’t need to be told twice. He pulled Wei Wuxian—who shrieked in delight—into his lap and wrapped his arms around the smaller man. Wei Wuxian leaned back into him and enjoyed the warmth.

“Truly, Wei xiong. You do realise that the both of you have received the title of the most shameless couple to cross one's path in a lifetime? It has spread far and wide and I must agree.” Huaisang said as he poured himself another cup. “Though, I find more and more couples striving to be like you.”

“It’s a compliment in that case!” Wei Wuxian laughed and puffed his chest proudly. “Have you ever seen a more besotted couple than us?”

“May I never have to come across that.” Huaisang said flatly, holding his cup up in a toast.

Wei Wuxian burst out laughing once more.

The vision ended and the two were back in their rooms. Wei Wuxian fell on his back immediately, not only fatigue, but the shock of being a married cutsleeve overcoming him. He closed his eyes, resigned.

He heard Jiang Cheng shout, “What happened?!”

“We received more information, Jiang xiong, but most of it was just Wei xiong flirting with Lan Wangji.”

What?


“So you’re actually married to him?” Jiang Cheng asked the next day while they were walking in the hallway. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if he wasn’t already asking that same question the entire time since last evening.

“The vision was quite clear. They— I said an official wedding was going to be held. That meant that an unofficial one already was.” Wei Wuxian yawned. His eyelids felt so heavy after using the token, he almost didn’t feel awkward talking about this.

Jiang Cheng gasped, scandalised, “Doesn’t that mean–“

“That Lan Zhan and I eloped? Yeah.” Wei Wuxian said dully, wondering how much longer till the day was over so that he could finally crawl into bed. Just imagining was already quite a joke, that he, Wei Wuxian, would actually want to go to sleep on time for once.

They promptly heard a dull thump from behind them followed by a soft, dainty cry of pain. The two boys turned around only to widen their eyes in horror. The man behind them was none other that the first jade, Lan Xichen, who had walked right into a pillar upon mistakenly hearing their conversation.

“Zewu-Jun!” Jiang Cheng exclaimed and cupped his hands in front of him.

Lan Xichen returned the greeting somewhat dazedly. Wei Wuxian on the other hand had forgotten all about his bed in his shock and was hastily trying to come up with a way to make sense of the sentences they had spoken before.

“I’m extremely sorry… I didn’t mean to overhear your conversation, though I can’t help but ask…”

“A game!” Wei Wuxian blurted.

Lan Xichen looked taken aback.

“In Yunmeng, there’s a game we play where we come up with a bunch of different names and situations, mix them up and read them out to each other. It’s quite fun!”

Lan Xichen’s shoulders relaxed and his smile grew more genuine.

“And in that game…”

“Yeah, Lan Zhan And I ended up eloping. Jiang Cheng laughed at me for ages. Hahahaha…” Wei Wuxian put an arm around his brother.

“I see. It sounds like you both had fun.” Xichen chuckled.

“Yes, we did. Oh, but Zewu-Jun, please refrain from telling Lan Zhan that we used his name in it. I can’t think he’d be pleased to hear the results.” Wei Wuxian said, leaning over conspiringly.

Lan Xichen gave a bright smile. “Do not fret, young master Wei.”

Wei Wuxian returned the smile with twice the width before excusing himself and gave a deep bow. He turned away dragging Jiang Cheng along with him.

As soon as they were out of sight, Wei Wuxian heaved a sigh. He felt a pair of eyes on him and turned to see Jiang Cheng crossing his arms and looking at him, eyebrows drawn down.

“You just lied to the first jade.” He accused.

“Could I have said the truth?” Wei Wuxian mocked. “He would not be pleased to hear of such a future… If it is the future at all.”

“What do you mean by those words?”

Wei Wuxian leaned against the wall. “I just cannot imagine the Lan Zhan I know now to become the Lan Zhan I see because of that artefact.” Wei Wuxian admitted. “He indulges my everyone motion there, but over here ‘this is forbidden’, ‘that is forbidden’, and he silences me! Isn’t it unthinkable to you?”

“He certainly hates you from all I’ve seen.” Jiang Cheng admitted. “He even forced you to take a hundred beatings with that ruler not long ago just for going out past curfew.”

For all that Jiang Cheng joked about it, he couldn’t actually believe his brother would be a cutsleeve. And for Lan Wangji no less. It was unthinkable to all of them. Wei Wuxian had always liked pretty girls that were feminine, looked good wearing flowers and could make the conversation interesting. Lan Wangji failed to fulfil most of that criteria.

“We cannot expect it not to be the future just because of that.”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian swerved their heads to see Nie Huaisang now with them, joining the conversation effortlessly.

“How long have you been there?” Jiang Cheng asked, looking him up and down.

“Since you spoke with Zewu-Jun,” He answered easily and then looked at them with an inculpatory gaze. “You should pay more attention to your surroundings. You could’ve been overheard by anyone.”

At this, Jiang Cheng looked appropriately sheepish, rubbing his neck and averting his gaze guiltily, whereas Wei Wuxian expressed no remorse, choosing to laugh it off.

“Well, it’s okay. No harm done so far!”

Huaisang simply sighed. Jiang Cheng straightened up as a thought came to him.

“I think it’s about time we start archiving the information.”

Notes:

So far, I’ve been trying to reply to all of you guys’ comments, but I’m honestly a little busy lately, so do excuse me if I don’t. I still love reading them though, and it gives me a lot of energy, so please continue writing your thoughts about the chapters!

Chapter 6: Chapter 6

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“So far we know that my entire family died— including Wei Wuxian, though he was brought back. As well as my entire clan.” Jiang Cheng started.

Nie Huaisang was expertly writing down the names of all the Jiang family members and made sure to mention that the whole clan had been destroyed. His brush strokes were fast, neat and pleasant to look at.

“Jin Zixuan is also dead, and it was my fault in some way.” Wei Wuxian added, darkly.

“My brother as well.” Nie Huaisang said as he wrote down his elder brothers name.The names were grim on all of their tongues.

“And the man who led to his death was someone named Jin Guangyao. He must be Jin Guangshan’s son, I’m sure of it. After all, he has many around that he won’t admit to.” Wei Wuxian pointed out. “We had a famous prostitute back in Yunmeng who that bastard slept with, and she waited for him till her death. Her son is still around somewhere.”

“Her son? Could he be Jin Guangshan’s?”

“Who else’s?”

Jiang Cheng grew impatient during this tirade. “Nie Huaisang, are you finished?”

“Ah, yes, Jiang xiong!” He responded immediately as he handed over the paper.

“Alright, then. Now, let’s make a list of the events and try to place them in order.” Jiang Cheng said.

Wei Wuxian also leaned over the table and started giving in his input.

“So far we know that the Wen sect had attacked lotus pier.” Jiang Cheng reiterated.

Wei Wuxian nodded, “This doesn’t happen too long from now, either. We didn’t look that much older. Maybe two or three years at most.”

Jiang Cheng frowned. That already meant that there was not much time. They had to plan their course of action fast, and they still needed more information. Yet doing it with such few people proved to be difficult. Not to mention, Wei Wuxian must be one of the people holding the token…

“Wei Wuxian, have you found out why the token only works if you are touching it?” Jiang Cheng asked. In him, though he tried his best to suppress it, welled a feeling of jealousy towards him, as he had always felt towards his adopted brother. He had always been the exception for a lot of things. The exception for any political influences, any responsibilities, and even for his father’s affections.

Once again, Wei Wuxian seemed to be the exception.

“Maybe it’s because it recognises me as it’s owner? I was the first one to touch it after all.” He replied, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, oblivious to the dark thoughts that plagued his sworn brother’s mind.

Jiang Cheng immediately calmed down. That was plausible. He continued recording the events, shaking out unnecessary notions.

“After this I somehow lose my core which leads to…”

Wei Wuxian understood that it would be too hard for Jiang Cheng to say the words and continued speaking for him instead.

“Because I give my core to you, however, I would have had to be well enough acquainted with Wen Qing and Wen Ning for them to help me with you. That event has to happen before you lose your core.”

Nie Huaisang continued. “Wei Wuxian then dies and reincarnates, but we don’t know when or how.”

“We know that I’m the one responsible for his death, though.” Jiang Cheng grimaced.

The three sat in silence, each to their own thoughts.

“We need more people we can trust.” Wei Wuxian said. This was something that his two companions had also thought, but didn’t say. However, having the suggestion now thrown out there, it was easier to bring up the topic.

“We could ask Lan Wangji.” Nie Huaisang suggested.

Jiang Cheng immediately barked at him, “Are you crazy?”

Nie Huaisang shrank back and used his fan to cover his face, “I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to ask, at least.”

“We could do that.” Wei Wuxian considered.

Jiang Cheng looked at him in disbelief. “Weren’t you avoiding him all this time because of the visions? Now you want to watch them with him?”

“The visions are only about what could happen. If it really is future events, then Lan Zhan and I don’t really need to get married. It doesn’t need to happen.” Wei Wuxian laughed, waving his hand in the air.

Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng just blinked at each other and then stared at him. Wei Wuxian stopped laughing, suddenly feeling like he said something inappropriate. Surely they would’ve considered his marriage to Lan Wangji more inappropriate than anything? Jiang Cheng had looked quite opposed to it when he’d made the first assumption.

“Are you really okay with that?” Jiang Cheng asked, cautiously.

Wei Wuxian blinked in confusion, “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You just looked very happy in those visions…” Nie Huaisang told him. “Would you risk that happiness?”

Wei Wuxian swallowed as he thought for an answer. “I… when I see those visions, I feel like they’re not the future. Just some alternate reality. And won’t it be inconvenient for Lan Zhan?”

“I don’t think that’s for you to decide, Wei xiong.”

Wei Wuxian was now silenced. He had never thought himself capable of it, but he felt slightly ashamed of himself. Yet, being himself, he only thickened his face and stood up, stretching for a while.

“I think I’ll go to sleep.” He yawned.

Jiang Cheng’s jaw dropped. “It’s only nine!”

“I’m feeling tired today. We’ll use the token tomorrow.” Wei Wuxian said as he climbed into bed.

As soon as he draped himself with the blanket, he turned his back towards his friends. Though he said he was tired, he wasn’t actually sleepy. He had just wanted to avoid the conversation about him and Lan Wangji as much as possible. Every time he thought of their relationship (and lack thereof), he would feel an unexplainable discomfort in his chest and stomach.

So he stayed awake, pretending to sleep, while Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng furiously whispered between themselves, probably arguing about something.

He doesn’t know how it happened, but he drifted off into slumber somewhere in between.

When Wei Wuxian woke up next, it was still dark. It was quite possibly before five o’ clock. He tried to go to sleep again, but was fruitless in his endeavour and decided to get up after a quarter of an hour of tossing about.

Quietly, he got dressed into his sect robes and tiptoed out of the room. The dawn was just starting to break, but the sky was dark enough that it still looked like night. Wei Wuxian took a deep breath, feeling rather refreshed at waking up at this time when nobody was awake and about yet.

With nothing else to do to pass the time, he decided to take a walk through the rock garden to pass the time. The Cloud Recesses had a more beautiful rock garden that even the Koi Tower. It had a natural stream passing through it and flowers popped out from in between the rocks. It was colourful and peaceful to look at. As soon as he entered the rock garden, however, he heard a voice.

“Wei Ying?”

Wei Wuxian turned around and saw his classmate Lan Wangji standing behind him. It was too early for him to have woken up, the Jiang sect disciple thought and panicked. This has been the first time since finding the token that Wei Wuxian has had to talk with Lan Wangji.

“Lan Zhan! You’re up early!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, mouth stretching into his signature grin.

“As are you.” Lan Wangji returned, warily, looking as if he wanted to turn around.

“Ah, ah, Lan Zhan. Why are you standing so far away? Let’s take a walk!” Wei Wuxian smiled and motioned for him to come closer. When Lan Wangji looked as if he was about to decline, Wei Wuxian insisted further. “Come on, didn’t you come here to take a walk yourself? I saw rabbits in the forest on the back mountain. Maybe we could see them again if we hurry.”

After some hesitation, he gave in and joined Wei Wuxian on his walk. To Wei Wuxian’s absolute shock, Lan Wangji spoke to him again.

“Were you not avoiding me?”

Suddenly, he realised why the second jade had decided to accompany him.

Wei Wuxian laughed. “Lan er-gege, why would I avoid you? What good does it do me? If anything, isn’t it you who should feel like avoiding me?” He asked, and prayed that Lan Wangji would never be able to see through his lies.

“Did not?” He asked, his eyebrows twitching at what Wei Wuxian called him.

“Of course not! I’ve only been busy.” Wei Wuxian said and then looked at him with a sly grin. “Did you miss me? Based on how you’re questioning me, you did, didn’t you?”

As expected, Lan Wangji glared at him. “Ridiculous.”

Wei Wuxian just smiled, feeling somewhat disappointed at the reaction. He could imagine what would happen if this was the Lan Wangji from the token’s visions.

He thought of the way how Lan Wanji’s eyes would soften slightly, though his face betrayed little to others. He would look at Wei Wuxian unwaveringly, eyes focused only on him, indifferent to his surroundings, caring less about anything that wasn’t him. He would tenderly hold Wei Wuxian and say something like ‘Mn. Missed you.’ Or something like that anyway.

He wanted to hear that.

As soon as he thought it though, Wei Wuxian backtracked. Wait, why would I want to hear this second young master say something like that? Something is wrong with me!

Wei Wuxian saw the forest nearing and in a bout of desperation, ran forward. To his delight, just as he got off the bridge that was built through the garden, he found two rabbits hopping about.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, look!” Wei Wuxian stooped down and picked up both rabbits by their ears. One was white while the other was black. The white one was rather solemn and didn’t care much about being picked up, while the black one seemed to hate being out of control and was restlessly moving about. Wei Wuxian put an arm below their feet to support them. “Look at this white one. Doesn’t he look like you? So stiff! Here, I’ll give them to you. Consider it my apology for making you take the punishment with me last time.”

“Pets are forbidden in the cloud recesses.” Lan Wanji intoned, eyes narrowed. His arms were rigidly placed behind him and his back went ramrod straight.

“You don’t want them? Fine, we can just put them on a stick and start roasting then!”

Lan Wangji seemed to grow even more displeased at this, “Killing is forbidden in the cloud recesses!”

“Then I’ll go to town, find a butcher to do it and then roast them.” Wei Wuxian said offhandedly. “Look at them. Aren’t they fat? They will definitely taste good.”

“...Give. Them. To. Me.” Lan Wangji said eventually, word by word. He was really displeased at the thought of them being roasted, mused Wei Wuxian.

“Oh? You want them now? You keep changing your mind, er-gege. But very well.” Wei Wuxian said, transferring the rabbits into Lan Wanji’s arms who simply held them awkwardly.

It was enough to make Wei Wuxian burst out in laughter, however, he realised that he hadn’t made his bed that morning and should Jiang Cheng wake up and find him gone, it would definitely earn a few punches.

“Sorry, Lan Zhan. I just remembered I had something to do. I’ll see you later!” He said and ran off, laughing.

Lan Wangji simply watched him go and for a while after he was out of sight. Though Wei Wuxian was gone, laughter still rang in his ears, vibrant and youthful.

He wanted to clap his hands over his ears to stop it.

Notes:

I hope you guys liked this chapter. Just a peek into the present now, for a change. We’ll be waiting a while for the flashbacks to start again, but enjoy the plot development. I swear it has much more than what the token shows!

Chapter 7: Chapter 7

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Wei Wuxian, without a doubt, we must use the token today.” Jiang Cheng ordered him as they looked around the Lan ancestral hall together. They hadn’t used the token in quite a few days now and the Jiang Sect heir began feeling anxious.

“Ah, we will, we will. Just stop thinking about it for now and pay attention to the class, okay?” His brother replied, light heartedly.

It might’ve been strange that Wei Wuxian prompted someone else to pay attention to class. This was because for once, today was a class that Wei Wuxian was actually looking forward to. So far, they had been taught boring classes that circled around the GusuLan rules, basic talisman strokes and theories of cultivation. But today, they were to be taught about the history of the Lan Clan and their founder, Lan An. It was a heartbreaking romance and Wei Wuxian was amazed at how his descendants are only unromantic.

Well, not the Lan Zhan of the future, though, Wei Wuxian’s mind thought, traitorously.

As they were taking a look at the four hollowed windows portraying Lan An’s life, the topic amongst the guest disciples switched to that from the history lesson to cultivation partners. They evaluated well known girls from different sects. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng decided not to interfere.

At this point, someone asked, “Zixuan-xiong, who do you think is the best girl?”

As Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng heard this, they both looked toward a boy in the front rows of the classroom. Jin Zixuan stood there, regally.

Another person spoke, “It’s best for you to not ask Zixuan-xiong about this. He’s already got a fiancée, so his answer would definitely be his fiancée.”

Hearing the word “fiancée”, Jin Zixuan’s lips seemed to twitch, showing a slight expression of displeasure. The disciple who asked was quite oblivious, continuing with a cheerful face, “Really? Which sect is she from? She must be extremely talented!”

Jian Zixuan raised a brow, “Forget it.”

Wei Wuxian suddenly spoke, “What do you mean by ‘forget it’?”

Everyone in the room looked at him with surprise. Usually, Wei Wuxian was always grinning. He had never really been angered, even when he was scolded or punished. Yet, at the moment, there was an obvious streak of hostility on his face. Jiang Cheng didn’t criticize Wei Wuxian, either, for making trouble out of nothing, as he usually did. He simply sat beside him with a dark face, like he was physically unable to disagree with his shixiong.

Jin Zixuan spoke in an arrogant tone, “Is the phrase ‘forget it’ too difficult to understand?”

Wei Wuxian smiled sardonically, “The phrase isn’t hard to understand. Instead, it’s hard to understand how on earth you are unsatisfied with my shijie.”

By now everyone discovered that they had accidentally disturbed a hornets nest by bringing up this topic of conversation, for Jin Zixuan’s fiancée was none other than the oldest Jiang sibling—Jiang Yanli.

Jin Zixuan asked in reply, “Why don’t you ask me how on earth I can be satisfied with her?”

Jiang Cheng instantly stood up.

Pushing him to the side, Wei Wuxian walked in front of him and sneered, “You sure think that you’re pretty satisfying, don’t you? Where did you get the guts to be all choosy here?”

At Wei Wuxian’s derisive tone, Jin Zixuan’s blood boiled and he blurted in anger.

“If she’s unsatisfied, then tell her to get rid of this engagement! In conclusion, I don’t care for your shijie. If you care for her, ask her father about it! Doesn’t he treat you better than treating his own son or something?”

Hearing the last sentence, Jiang Cheng’s eyes stiffened. With uncontrollable anger, Wei Wuxian rushed over and sent out a punch. Although Jin ZiXuan was prepared, he didn’t expect Wei WuXian to attack so quick.
But right before he landed the punch, Wei Wuxian stopped.

Later, Jin Zixuan would think he imagined it, because a flash of guilt crossed the other boy’s face for a moment. Yet, as it was, Jin Zixuan was a proud person who hated being out of control. He had a lot of rage and grudges to bare and couldn’t help but taunt the Jiang Sect’s head disciple further in his already risky situation.

“Well? Weren’t you going to hit me? Or is your shijie not worth getting punished for? In that case you’ve proved me—”

Wei Wuxian immediately completed the action that he had paused with before Jin Zixuan could complete his sentence. The punch was impacting, half of his face numbed. He immediately struck back without speaking another word.

This fight startled both of the two prominent sects. On the same day, Jiang FengMian and Jin GuangShan hastened to Gusu from Yunmeng and Lanling.

As Wei Wuxian knelt in the path that Lan Qiren had assigned to him, Jiang Cheng came up to him.

“Kneeling properly, I see.”

Wei Wuxian grinned at his brother. “I’m used to kneeling after all.”

There was a start of a smile on Jiang Cheng’s face before it disappeared quickly.

“Wei Wuxian. There’s trouble. My father has come to take you back.”

Wei Wuxian nodded gravely, and his brother was surprised to see him this serious for once. “I know. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let my anger take the better of me.”

“How will we get information? Shall I withdraw from the training as well? Our sects future is more important than some trivial Gusu education, after all.” Jiang Cheng suggested, but Wei Wuxian shook his head.

“Don’t. Madame Yu would be very upset if that were to happen.”

Jiang Cheng raised his voice impatiently, “Then how do we—“

“I have an idea.” Wei Wuxian interrupted. “And I need your permission to act on it.”

Jiang Cheng looked at him in silence, looking slightly calmer, before nodding.

As they walked back to their rooms for Wei Wuxian to pack his bags, they met Jin Zixuan who had already packed and was beginning to leave. All three present at the scene, glared at each other. Jin Zixuan averted his gaze and made to move around Wei Wuxian, but was caught by the arm just as he was about to pass him by.

“You—!”

“Hey, peaco*ck,” Wei Wuxian interrupted. “It’s okay if you don’t want to get married to my shijie, but mark your words.”

Jin Zixuan was momentarily perplexed at the sudden change in character, but as soon as he gathered his bearings, shook off Wei Wuxian’s hand in disgust. “And why should I do that?”

Wei Wuxian lifted his chin in defiance.

“Because when you realise how wonderful and beautiful my shijie truly is, you will have to beg on your knees in front of all three of us to have her and apologise to her for calling her lacking and Jiang Cheng for your heartless words.” He said, seriously.

Jin Zixuan was amazed he could say that with such confidence. It embarrassed him by just listening to it. “As if my opinion would ever change!”

With that, he walked off haughtily.

Notes:

Yes, a lot of this was canon. I’m sorry. Another chapter put up simultaneously to apologise.

Chapter 8: Chapter 8

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

As the boat Wei Wuxian was on neared the dock of lotus pier, Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but fiddle with the token that hung by a string around his neck, thinking back to how he met Lan Wangji one last time on his way to the harbour back in Gusu.

“Lan Zhan, I’m leaving. Don’t miss me too much!” He laughed and waved as he walked towards Lan Wangji who seemed to be going the direction that Wei Wuxian was coming from.

Lan Wanji, however, stopped walking when he saw Wei Wuxian. This seemed strange and out of character, so the other boy stopped walking as well, in front of him.

“What is it Lan Zhan? Going to give me a farewell kiss? Go ahead.” He winked before puckering up his lips.

Lan Wangji’s eyes widened for a moment, but then narrowed.

“Shameless!” He hissed in clear distaste and then walked away, not looking back again even though it clearly looked like he had something he had wanted to say.

Wei Wuxian chuckled, remembering it. “What a strange guy you are, Lan Wangji. You’re so boring and yet so interesting.”

“A-Ying, we’ve landed.” He heard Jiang Fengmian say.

Wei Wuxian grinned broadly, hearing those words and stuck his head out the side of the boat. There, on the pier, stood his beloved older sister smiling at him serenely.

“Shijie!” He shouted and waved excitedly. Jiang Yanli giggled into her sleeve and waved back.

Wei Wuxian rushed out of the boat and towards Jiang Yanli. As badly as he wanted to glomp her, however, he had to restrain himself for it looked improper in public as they we are not blood related. Even though between themselves, Wei Wuxian and Jiang Yanli were the same as real siblings.

“I missed you, shijie!” Wei Wuxian beamed. “Could you believe how horrible the cloud recesses were? They had over 3000 rules and I got punished so many times but that wasn’t even the worst part! The food there was terrible! I missed shijie’s cooking so much…”

Jiang Yanli smiled indulgently at her brother. “Then let’s hurry into the house. I’ve boiled some soup for you. You can eat it immediately.”

Wei Wuxian followed his sister into the Jiang residence like a dog wagging it’s tail for its master. He cautiously looked around to make sure Madam Yu wasn’t present and seeing that the coast was clear for now, relaxed his tense shoulders.

They ate in the dining hall as Wei Wuxian regaled to her all that he had done in the cloud recesses.

“—And Lan Zhan actually took the punishment! Isn’t it unthinkable, shijie?”

Jiang Yanli smiled at her brother. “It seems like you like him a lot.”

If this was previously, when Wei Wuxian had not yet found the gold token, he would’ve brushed it off and said something like “Everybody likes him! His face is too pretty to not like him!” or something, but as it stands, Wei Wuxian had seen a passionate future shared by the two of them and couldn’t stop the flush that bloomed across his face.

Yanli’s eyebrows shot up at this reaction. “A-Xian…?”

Wei Wuxian broke out into laughter. “Yes, Lan Zhan is truly great. I have never seen someone so boring and honourable. I never knew people could even be like that!” He said and then busied himself with eating the rest of his soup.

Why was it that once he’d finally been able to tease Lan Zhan like normal again, he started acting strangely around other people instead? He tried his best to suppress his facial discolouration and change the subject.

Yanli had still been suspicious and would’ve further questioned her brother had it not been for the door of the dining hall to slam open.

“A-li, What are you doing!?” Boomed the voice of Madam Yu.

So much for not being here, Wei Wuxian sighed mentally, preparing himself for some harsh words.

“Mother… you’re back early.” Jiang Yanli said amicably, while Wei Wuxian stood up to bow in greeting.

“Yes, I’m back early to see you disgrace yourself once more.” She said coldly and then turned to look at Wei Wuxian. “So you will just sit there happily and feed this ungrateful boy?”

Jiang Fengmian has also now arrived at the scene, and sought to calm down the madam. “My lady, please don’t raise your voice. I was the one who made the decision.”

“And who other than this boy could’ve prompted that decision?” She growled at her husband.

At this point though, Wei Wuxian had still been woefully confused. “Pardon my rudeness, Madam Yu, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Madam Yu paused and then turned to him, first a look of disbelief and then one of cold loathing. “And you still dare to say you care about my daughter? You don’t even know what you’ve done, let alone take responsibility for it.”

“Mother, please—” Yanli began.

“Be quiet, A-Li. Let him hear.” She sneered, sweeping back the sleeves of her robes, angrily. “You, boy, had broken your shijie’s engagement in the short time that I had not been there to discipline you!”

It would be an understatement to say that Wei Wuxian was shocked. He stood there trying to comprehend exactly what he’d heard and tried to relate them with the smiling face of Jiang Yanli. His eyes found his shijie who was looking down at her feet and he understood immediately. She didn’t tell him because she didn’t want Wei Wuxian to feel responsible, yet, he knew she didn’t want the engagement to break. And he had done it.

“My lady, it was my decision.” Jiang Fengmian insisted once more and Madam Yu immediate changed her target, lashing out at her husband once more.

“It was not your decision to make!”

“But if the children don’t want to—“

“Are you blind, Fengmian? Of course A-Li wants to. Had you bothered to ask her?” She mocked. When the Jiang sect leader maintained silence, she laughed bitterly, as if just coming to realisation. “Of course. You thought she didn’t want this engagement like how you never wanted ours! Why not, since she resembles you so much?”

“Yu Ziyuan!” Jiang Fengmian shouted.

“Jiang Fengmian!” Madam Yu yelled back. “Do you think anything will change just because you raised your voice? Let me tell you why you aren’t a good father. That boy is more your child than your real children!”

With that, Madam Yu walked away and Jiang Fengmian was left behind unable to say anything back at her and scarcely having the energy to do so. He simply sighed, told the children not to worry too much and walked away as well, in the opposite direction.

Wei Wuxian on the other hand felt too guilty to look at his sister and immediately rushed to his room.

“A-Xian!”

He heard the shout come from behind him as he ran into his childhood room where he and Jiang Cheng slept. He made to his bed and hid his face in the mattress. The door to his room opened again and soft footsteps made their way to him.

“Shijie… I’m sorry.” He said, voice muffled slightly by the bedding.

He felt a hand stroking his head. “Do not feel like you have to be, A-Xian.”

Wei Wuxian sat up. “But you like him.” He said, the words too painful to say, but relevant to get out.

Yanli smiled at him. “Young master Jin is indeed very handsome and I admit I was very taken by him. I’m sure few girls would be unimpressed. But if he does not wish to be wed to me, then I have no wish for it either. Do not blame yourself.”

Wei Wuxian could not help but think of Jin Ling, though. What would happen to him? What if because of this he causes Jin Ling to never be born? No, he couldn’t allow that. Not when he has already seen what the boy would become. Not when he knew that Jiang Yanli could be the mother of a wonderful son and have a chance to be happy.

“Shijie.”

“Hm?”

Wei Wuxian looked to his sister seriously, and she blinked curiously at him, unused to this kind of expression.

“Shijie, do you trust me?”

“A-Xian, why the sudden question? Of course, I do.” She said, surprised, replying with no hesitation.

“Then please listen to me.” He said as he slowly took out the golden token from his robes.

Jiang Yanli gasped looking at the ethereal artefact in his hands. It looked almost holy to her. “A Xian! This is…?”

“Something I didn’t tell you about yet... I found this a few days before I came back. Jiang Cheng, I and one other fellow called Nie Huaisang tested it out multiple times.” He explained. “Shijie, we believe it shows the future.”

“A-Xian, what are you….”

“I know it’s hard to believe. I know you have questions. But only your answer matters right now. Will you use it with me? There are a few things that we have already found out about and if you like, I can tell you about them later.” Wei Wuxian hurriedly said. “I just want you to know that you will be happy.”

Jiang Yanli looked at the token in hesitation. Wei Wuxian noticed this and dejectedly decided to keep the token inside again, when he felt a hand on his knee.

“I trust you, A-Xian.”

Wei Wuxian blinked at his sister before beaming at her. That was all the confirmation he needed. He held out the token to her.

“Just touch it.” He said.

His sister smiled, nodding at him and without hesitation, obeyed.

The golden light flared.

Notes:

These last two chapters were super short so I decided to post them together. I considered combining them into one, but it didn’t work for me.

Anyway, some bad news. I’m going to be writing exams soon, so I won’t be updating as often. I will still try my level best until the end of January to do so (exam in February, yes I study a month in advance).

The story will pick up its usual pace after I’m done with my exams. Thanks in advance for your patience!

Chapter 9: Chapter 9

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Where…?” Jiang Yanli asked as soon as she could stop blinking from the dizziness that came with confusion. She looked around the room that built itself around them.

It was bright and golden and sunlight seemed to filter from every corner of it. The curtains were high quality—silky and translucent, and quite a few toys seemed to be gathered in a chest by the corner. The room was luxuriously decorated with expensive ornaments littering it. It was far from minimalistic yet not overdone.

Wei Wuxian stood next to her, studying her expression.

Both of them, then, were startled by the crying of a baby. They looked at the direction from where it came.

“A-Li, he’s crying!” Jin Zixuan panicked.

Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but think he looked much more mature than he ever thought possible for the peaco*ck. He had grown taller and grew out his hair past his waist. Most importantly, he did not have that look of constant contempt he always wore in the current time.

Jiang Yanli watched with wide eyes and a parted mouth as an older version of herself walked towards Jin Zixuan.

“Why don’t you let him grasp your sword again?” She giggled.

“A-Li,” Zixuan whined. “How could that work twice?”

But just as he finished saying this, the baby started crying even more loudly.

“Okay, okay, Jin Ling!” By now Jin Zixuan was past the point of simple panic and with one hand supporting the baby, he reached the other one to take Suihua from his waist and gave it to Jin Ling.

The baby stopped crying immediately and looked at the sword in wonder. As soon as he grasped it, Jin Ling laughed loudly.

Jin Zixuan let out a deep sigh of relief when Yanli giggled. He looked at her and turned red. “Okay. He loves his mother and even Suihua more than his father.”

“That’s not true.” Yanli smiled gently as she carefully took Jin Ling into her arms. Jin Zixuan let his son go without hesitance. “He simply takes after you. Look at him. The spitting image.”

“And yet whenever he cries or smiles, all I can see is your face.” Zixuan said, looking at his wife lovingly before his expression fell. “I’m sorry I couldn’t persuade father to let Wei Wuxian join the one week celebration. I’ll definitely make sure he can attend the one month banquet.”

Jiang Yanli turned her face and kissed Zixuan’s cheek. The latter put his arms around her.

“I know you will.” She said. “And I know you tried your best. A-Xian is currently loathed by so many, it’s no wonder he refused. I only wish the world wouldn’t be so unkind to him. No matter what everyone thinks of him—demonic cultivator, devil incarnate—even one banner that claimed him as a ‘supreme lord of evil’, yet he is nothing but a kind boy at heart.”

Jin Zixuan looked at her with a rather guilty expression. “...I know. But my father will treat him fairly. I will make sure of it, so please don’t feel sad.”

Yanli beamed at him. “How could I when I have a husband who looks to my every need?”

“It’s the least I could do. I’m sure Wei Wuxian would punch me another time to add to his trophies should I not do this much. I’m glad he did all the other times, else I would never have been able to face you.” He said sheepishly.

They smiled at each other.

Looking at it from this angle, Wei Wuxian could say without a doubt that this was the very picture of a perfect family. If this is who the peaco*ck ends up becoming, then he wouldn’t have anything to say against him. He couldn’t help but think about how it was his fault that Jin Zixuan died, and though he has no idea of how it happened, he couldn’t help his guilt.

He absolutely needs to know what had happened.

While Wei Wuxian was still in his thoughts, the token had finished its vision and he was by now, back in his room, his sister sitting opposite him.

“A-Xian…”

Wei Wuxian was mesmerised when he saw the look on Jiang Yanli’s face. She looked like she had just witnessed all her dreams come true. Her face was glowing and her cheeks were flushed with a happy rose colour.

“Is that—is that really the future? Is this… true?” She asked in wonder, like she couldn’t believe it. Wei Wuxian knew exactly how she felt.

“I haven’t confirmed it yet, shijie. I just need one event to come true and I won’t be able to doubt it. So far, though, I just know.”

Jiang Yanli tilted her head in contemplation. Her eyes widened then, remembering something and she immediately sat up.

“A-Xian. What was that about the public loathing you? Demonic cultivator? Supreme lord of evil?”

Wei Wuxian immediately found himself wedged between a rock and a hard place.

“Ah… it’s a long story, shijie…”

Wei Wuxian explained everything to his sister and her eyes grew wider and wider at each revelation. He had initially not intended in telling anything to his sister to avoid having her bear the burden of this knowledge, but he had no choice at this point.

Wei Wuxian finished telling her about how their entire clan had fallen to the Wen Sect and How shortly after he’d transferred his golden core to Jiang Cheng which was the reason he invented demonic cultivation. He hesitated before telling her about how Jin Zixuan had died as well as the both of them.

By the end of it all, Jiang Yanli was looking down with wide eyes, her expression full of disbelief and sorrow. Wei Wuxian knew she was too shocked to even cry about anything. It was truly a lot of information to absorb, but he promised himself that he wouldn’t hide anything from her. Not if the future made him owe her so much more than he already does.

“...Jiang Cheng and I agreed on telling you about it before I left. We need some way to get more information and this only works with two people using it. Shijie, I need to know how you die and I need to prevent it.” Wei Wuxian said slowly, and his voice started breaking.

He would feel humiliated to cry in front of anyone else, but he was used to crying in front of Jiang Yanli. She was the only person he knew how to cry in front of. And perhaps that made him feel all the more determined that this artefact really did show the future.

When he was younger, feeling too scared and alone to truly feel welcome in the Jiang residence, it was she who had come to him. She carried him on her back when he was tired, healed his wounds when he was hurt and fed him when he was hungry. She was the only person he could be weak in front of.

If he lost this person, he would no longer have the ability to express his pain and he couldn’t live without expressing it. He couldn’t live without her kind words, her scent or her smiles. He couldn’t live without his shijie.

“I don’t know what I would do without you.” He admitted, hiding his tears in his hands. Back in Gusu, he never showed how much the loss of the Jiang family—especially Jiang Yanli—had affected him and he knew that Jiang Cheng never showed it either. They still had too much ego to express themselves in front of each other. The both of them could only show it to their sister; the only person who would cry for them even if they themselves did not.

Yanli looked up at him with her loving, loving gaze and pulled away his hands to expose his face. She cupped his cheek in her palm, tears in her eyes as well.

“Oh, A-Xian.” She whispered, kindly and stroked his cheek. “It’s okay. I’m here. I won’t leave you. And please, never leave me either. Both you and A-Cheng mean so much to me.”

“And you mean the world to us, shijie.” Wei Wuxian said, smiling through his tears as he covered her hand and held it against his face. They gave a small grin to each other realising the ridiculousness of the situation.

Jiang Yanli giggled, “We must look like quite the pair right now.”

Wei Wuxian in return, gave a laugh. “We most definitely do.”

Jiang Yanli removed her hand from her brothers cheek and settled it on top of his head. He shifted to rest his head in her lap as she continued stroking his head softly. With her, Wei Wuxian always thought that this was how it felt to have a mother. With soft touches and kindness and unconditional love.

“A-Xian, thank you for showing me my future. I was truly feeling a little upset, wondering if It was about time to end my infatuation with master Jin and I realised that I wasn’t prepared to the moment I said I did not desire our engagement. Thank you for this hope.”

Wei Wuxian smiled into her lap. “If he makes you cry, I’ll still punch him.”

“From what I’ve heard, it may be a good idea. Master Jin seems to have been strangely thankful.” She laughed.

“Understandably thankful, you mean.” Wei Wuxian declared. “His eyes were no longer at the back of his head, so he was thankful. I might as well throw in a few extra this time if he’s that thankful.”

“A-Xian.” Yanli warned gently.

Wei Wuxian zipped his mouth.

A few seconds later, both of them burst out into laughter again.

It wasn’t until later that night, when Wei Wuxian was finally in his bed, that he realised that he had watched a vision with Jiang Yanli and yet, he was nowhere to be found in it.

Notes:

Oh gosh guyyyss. It’s been SO busy for me lately, I have no idea how I managed to write this chapter. I hoped y’all liked it! I’m going to try to increase the length of my chapters.
I was actually quite surprised at how many people thought that the vision would be a sad one 😂😂😂
The angst will be starting sometime soon though, just a warning ⚠️ 🙈
Let me know your thoughts about the chapter in the comments!

Chapter 10

Notes:

Finally the tenth chapter! Ngl, I’m ecstatic. I’ve never made it this far in a story before!! Enjoy!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian was staring at the token on his desk obsessively, leaning on his elbows and only broke his line of sight to yawn for the nth time that day.

It had already been three days, yet he was still tired. The reason for this, he theorised, was because Jiang Yanli had a rather weak core. If his sister was a candle flame, then he was a bonfire. In other words, a hungry person would not pay attention to a bowl of soup first (no matter how nice it was) if they could eat a full course meal instead.

The token worked with the same principles, it seemed. And so, it had decided to take a larger amount of spiritual energy from the more promising source; i.e. the full course meal, i.e. Wei Wuxian.

That would also mean that this token had a mind of its own, in a way. He had told Jiang Cheng before, that the object was almost sentient, but as time passes by, it feels even more so. He wrote a letter earlier that morning and sent it to Jiang Cheng and knew he’d have to wait nearly a week till a reply could be expected back. Yunmeng is quite a distance away from Gusu, after all.

He had also thought to pen a letter Lan Wangji, but decided against it. It was highly possible that the man wouldn’t even read past the first two lines before neatly disposing of it. He felt a small stab in his chest at the thought, but overlooked it.

He instead decided to think of why the token would suddenly show him a vision which he wasn’t present in. It confused him. Every single theory he came up with kept being refuted. The only theory they could be complete sure of for now was that it required at least two people to use it at all times.

Wei Wuxian had come up with a few reasons for this.

First, it may not want to tire out the person using the token since it burns quite a bit of spiritual energy. Second, to make sure that if one thought of misusing the knowledge of the future, then there would be another witness to prevent it. And third, Wei Wuxian thought gravely, was that looking into the future would become so addicting, the person may lose track of the present, eventually shattering himself in the process.

Yet, no matter what the reason is, the fact remains that is was intended as a protective mechanism.

Wei Wuxian crossed his arms on his desk and rested his chin on top of them as he continued looking at the artefact lethargically. His sleep has been irregular ever since he’d found the token because he’d feel sleepy at all times after using it. His eyes drooped as he looked at the object.

Slowly, he drifted asleep, thinking of tender, golden eyes and short sentences filled with adoration devoted only to Wei Wuxian.

“A-Xian,” Jiang Yanli called.

They were currently sitting in the lake pavillion as her shidi studied some texts and occasionally underlined something or noted it down. It was such a charming sight to see her brother so concentrated on something. He had always been a free spirit—ever since she’d met him—and hated to sit down to do anything.

Now, with the backdrop of the sun, the water, the lotuses and lilypads, he looked so peaceful and tame.

Of course, Jiang Yanli’s brother was anything but.

Wei Wuxian looked up.

The oldest Jiang sibling held up her latest work for better viewing.

She was currently embroidering a wrist guard for Jin Zixuan. She didn’t plan on giving it anytime in the near future, but perhaps once they were on better talking terms. When she could speak to him with more confidence, she hoped that he would like to receive this gift from her. Wei Wuxian’s eyes brightened looking at it.

“It looks amazing, shijie!” He grinned at his sister, and it truly made her think it was. “He doesn’t deserve it!”

“Is it?” She giggled. “I can’t ever really believe you. You never criticise me.”

“Because there’s nothing to criticise! You’re perfect.” He declared with a finality that wasn’t dared to be challenged.

“What about the embroidery work?”

“As perfect as you.”

Jiang Yanli laughed softly and lightly flicked her brother's head with her fingers. Wei Wuxian’s smile didn’t falter.

His smile isn’t meant to falter , she thought, reflexively and smiled back.

“You’ve been studying so seriously for the entire afternoon. It’s incredibly fascinating to see, but what are you reading?” Jiang Yanli asked.

Wei Wuxian looked at his notes and like he had just realised something, picked up a page and showed it to her. There was a diagram of the token on it labelled with it parts and small theories about it scattered all over the page. She stared at it in awe, understanding that she wasn’t able to truly appreciate the work done on it.

“I was reading up on spiritual energy exhaustion and tried to figure out how many times a week I can use it with you. Fortunately, this artefact doesn’t seem keen on sucking much of your spiritual energy, so at least you wouldn’t be very tired, but that also means that I can not afford to use it too many times. At most, I could perhaps use it two times a week. When Madam Yu is not here, I could push it up to three times. I’d just need to sleep much more often and eat a lot more, too.” He explained.

Jiang Yanli listened raptly. After scanning the notes, she realised her brother watered down the explanation so she could understand him more easily. He came up with a lot more ideas to do it more often than three times, and she could understand his rush.

They couldn’t even reveal this to their parents. Neither of them had much of an idea about how they would react or if telling them would be helpful at all. Until they had enough proof that it predicted the future, they could not act rashly, was what her shidi told her. That meant they could only act on their own for now.

It was certainly a big burden especially to Wei Wuxian, who absolutely needed to be one of the people participating for the token to work.

“Shijie,”

Jiang Yanli snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the voice of her brother. His face was serious and he looked a little apologetic. It was strange to see that expression, but it made her realise that everything he had found out, everything her brother had seen, and everything that was about to happen, will no doubt make him grow up faster than she had expected him to just a few days ago.

And then it dawned on her how fast both of her brothers must’ve had to grow in another universe. About how the boy in front of her—the boy who cried when he looked at a puppy, the boy who never got angry for himself but always for others, the boy with an evergreen smile—died. And about her second brother, her lonely A-Cheng, who had to live on after that. Both of them with no one to lean on when they were grieving the most.

Though she knows it hasn’t happened yet or how exactly it had happened, she knew she couldn’t allow it to happen at all.

“Don’t worry, A-Xian. I do not mind. It doesn’t tire me as much as it tires you. I will help you with everything I can offer.”

“Hm? Why are we still here?” Jiang Yanli, wondered. Her brother was next to her, and he too looked around the room.

It was later that day and they used the token again in Wei Wuxian’s room. Both of them had most definitely touched it and the light had definitely flared, but they were still in the room. Yet, as soon as she asked the question, the oldest Jiang sibling noticed something at the corner of her eyes.

“The Wen Sect truly is shameless.”

Wei Wuxian saw his carbon copy! He was leaning against the headrest of his bed and next to him was Jiang Cheng. Both looked closer to his current age than any of the other visions they had watched together. He listened as closely as he could, taking into account that he always seemed to forget the important things.

“You can say that again.” Jiang Cheng growled. “They were clearly the ones who had done the worst during their own Discussion conference, but demand that we be educated. You cannot get more shameless than this. They hold themselves in too high of regards!”

Wei Wuxian snorted. “They didn’t even make it into the top five during the archery competition. Even Lan Zhan was there and he left early!”

Jiang Cheng elbowed him on his flank. “Because you pulled off his ribbon!”

This confused both Wei Wuxian’s. He’d pulled of Lan Zhan’s forehead ribbon? And he left a competition early because of it? He wondered if that made any sense.

His reflection wondered the same, it seemed.

“You’d think I had not pulled off his forehead ribbon but some part of his body instead.” Wei Wuxian frowned. “It was the angriest I have ever seen him—and I tricked him into looking at erotic art back in Gusu. Did he have to get that angry?”

At this, Jiang Cheng shook his head in resignment and smirked slightly. “He just hates you especially.”

Wei Wuxian burst into laughter. “Maybe, maybe not. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I will follow you to Qishan.”

Jiang Cheng hesitated and then looked away, looking overwhelmed, like a bad memory surfaced. “You don’t have. Dad said so himself, that you can do as you please.”

But Wei Wuxian was relentless and stubborn, he clung onto Jiang Cheng’s back like it was a lifeline. “But I want to go with you. What kind of right hand man stays while his Master leaves for battle? It won’t be so fun here without you and for sure, it won’t be much fun over there without me!”

Jiang Cheng lightly shoved back at his brother without any malice and smiled slightly. “You wish! You just want to show off again.”

They don’t know what happened next as the scene faded and all that was left was the lingering laugh of the virtual Wei Wuxian.

Jiang Yanli kept the token down. “The Wen sect discussion conference…” she pronounced, for that was indeed the point of this vision.

“I’ll write it down.” Wei Wuxian said and read for his notes. As he wrote down whatever he remembered, he couldn’t help thinking about how Jiang Cheng had said that Lan Wangji hated him. He shook the thought out of his head.

If he did hate him, it shouldn’t bother him! He had more important things to worry about.

He just knew that something bad would happen during their ‘education’ at Qishan. It couldn’t possibly be anything peaceful. First of all was the fact that the vision was terribly short. He had been hoping for a short informative one, and that was what he got.

To top it off, shijie wasn’t present in the vision.

He remembered the first time he had used the artefact. He and Jiang Cheng had both, no doubt, expected to find out something important.

And that was what the token showed, thought Wei Wuxian.

The next time, Wei Wuxian at the very least, had wanted to know what became of their relationship after that. And when Huaisang came in, they had expected a vision with all three of them. After that, he and Jiang Cheng wanted to find the cause of the deaths of the Jiang patriarch and matriarch and the last vision was an obvious plea to find out about Nie MingJue, or another major event.

Then, not long ago, he had wanted to show a happy moment to Jiang Yanli. Bingo and bingo, Wei Wuxian mentally checked as he thought of each time he had used it.

He sighed, now able to come up with only one—and hopefully the final—conclusion: This token doesn’t show whatever it wants like he had thought at first. It shows whatever the user wants—or at least vaguely expects—to see.

Wei Wuxian leaned back.

This made things easier.

Notes:

Me:Wei Wuxian is a damn snacc
Token:No, he’s a full course meal.

You guys are the sweetest commenters, I’m beginning to recognise most of y’all in my inbox. Hope you guys liked this chapter ❤️❤️❤️

Chapter 11: Chapter 11

Notes:

For the full experience, read every word.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian held Jiang Yanli as she cried. He felt like crying too, if he was honest, but since his sister was shedding tears on his behalf, he refrained from doing so.

Ah, maybe it really is too much to ask her to do this with me. He thought as he comforted her with soft words.

They had just finished watching the Jiang Sect being destroyed. Though Wei Wuxian had already seen it happen once with Jiang Cheng, he had not been able to pinpoint the actual perpetrators as they had watched it happening from a distance. He had needed to find that out. The token read him perfectly, and gave him his wish.

It was the cataclysm of events.

He would never forget the sight of Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan dead, their corpses hung like trophies in Lotus Pier and the bodies of his shidis piled up like a summer harvest. One on top of the others, the skinny, small body of his sixth shidi left an imprint. That bitch of a woman disrespecting madam Yu flared up unearthly anger in him. The Wen Sect emblem dancing in the background as tongues of fire reached into the sky around them.

Most of all, he would never forget the face Madam Yu made when she told Wei Wuxian how much she hated him. When she said that it was his fault the Jiang Sect got ruined while embracing her son preciously, as she had never done yet.

“So what if he’s not coming back? Can’t I do anything without him?”

Madam Yu’s loneliness and anger kept replaying in his head.

It was for the better that Jiang Cheng hadn’t seen it up close.

Later that night, Wei Wuxian sat outside on the porch, staring at the stars as he occasionally patted the token tucked inside his robe. In truth, he’d felt somewhat pessimistic after watching Lotus Pier burned down. To see Madam Yu and Uncle Jiang dead had been a blow to him because growing up, they were the strongest people he knew. They still were.

He’d written to Jiang Cheng that evening and sent it immediately, unable to bottle the information between just him and his sister. He’d been sure to enclose them in talismans should someone other than Jiang Cheng open the letter by chance. He’d also skipped writing about the gorier details and the humiliation of his mother’s corpse. Madam Yu was too proud a woman to have allowed something like that in life. She never relied on anybody, because of that pride. Not even on her own husband.

But Madam Yu had made Uncle Jiang the second master of the Zidian, Wei Wuxian pondered. That meant that, despite all that she says and all that she does, she did trust him. Her eyes when she had pushed him and Jiang Cheng onto the boat were red at the mention of him. She looked sad, angry and so, so heartbroken. Madam Yu, according to Wei Wuxian, was probably in love with her husband.

He chuckled at the thought. Normally, a married couple were expected to love each other, but it seemed like something groundbreaking all of a sudden when it came to the Jiang couple. That Madam Yu didn’t just hate Wei Wuxian because he was treated better than Jiang Cheng, but because she was hurting for years. Seeing the man that she loved pine after another woman would definitely not have been fun.

On top of that, they bore children together.

“A-Ying…?”

Snapping out of his thoughts, Wei Wuxian blinked and looked up.

Jiang Fengmian was standing there in his sleep robes. For a moment, Wei Wuxian wondered if he was seeing and illusion, but as Jiang Fengmian bent and sat down on the porch next to him, he disposed of that thought.

“Is it difficult to sleep?” He asked, kindly, gently, as soft as the first memory Wei Wuxian had of him. “It does get like that sometimes, doesn’t it?”

Wei Wuxian laughed a little. “Yeah, it does.”

“But haven’t you been quite tired lately? You’ve also not been feeling well lately. Is that why A-Li has also been spending a lot more time with you than usual?”

Observant as always to everything except his own family squabbles .

“I miss Jiang Cheng.” Wei Wuxian said, and it was the truth. With each day that passes, the token hanging on his neck increased in weight. The weight of responsibility;the weight of his adopted family’s lives.

“He will be back soon.” Jiang Fengmian comforted.

“Uncle Jiang, don’t you miss him?”

Jiang Fengmian blinked at him, startled by the sudden question. He pondered his words carefully.

“Of course. He is my son.”

Maybe it was the time. Maybe it was the fact that it was dark and they were partially hidden from each other. Maybe it was the fact that nobody else was about. But Wei Wuxian gained an unfathomable courage to speak out, all of a sudden.

“Then what about Madam Yu? She went to Lanling as soon as you fought. Don’t you feel sorry?”

Jiang Fengmian’s shoulders relaxed and finally took on a look like he knew what was happening.

“Do you blame yourself for A-Li’s engagement being broken? Do not. I do not wish for her to go through a loveless marriage.”

“I don’t anymore, Uncle Jiang. Shijie would never go through a loveless marriage, I wouldn’t allow it. But I can’t say the same for Madam Yu.”

Jiang Fengmian looked at him, the corners of his mouth pulled down in an uncharacteristic frown. He understood exactly what Wei Wuxian was hinting at.

“My lady has never cared for our marriage, only for our union. She has always thought of me as too weak, too mild.”

Hearing this, Wei Wuxian felt indignant on Madam Yu’s behalf. Although she had never treated him kindly and had few good words to say about him, he couldn’t help but think of himself in her place. If he had to get married like Madam Yu to someone she loved yet couldn’t express her love to, he’d certainly not be pleased either. Wei Wuxian imagined golden eyes looking at him coldly, never radiating the warmth that he desired.

Suddenly, everything that she’d ever said and done made sense.

“Madam Yu only feels injustice towards her children when you care more for me. Uncle Jiang, you’ve always treated me well. I’m very thankful that you had picked me up all those years ago but I don’t need you to favour me. My parents gave me all their love when they existed, though I remember little. I don’t want to rob Jiang Cheng of that.” Wei Wuxian said. After he’d started speaking, it seemed like his frustrations wouldn’t stop. “Madam Yu cares for her children. She wants you to care for them as much as she does. And she wants you to care for her as much as she does you.”

Wei Wuxian’s outburst left Jiang Fengmian in a bemused state. Suddenly, the silver eyed boy felt that he’d done something that he shouldn’t have. Yet it felt like the frog in his throat finally jumped out.

“A-Ying… did something happen?”

Wei Wuxian placed his hand on top of the token in his chest. He had considered it before, but wasn’t sure if he should... yet...

“A lot of things happened, Uncle Jiang.” He said, softly. He could feel the confusion radiate from his adoptive father.

Slowly, hesitantly, Wei Wuxian reached into his robe and pulled out the token which he had wrapped up in black cloth. Jiang Fengmian looked at it in discomfit and the younger of the two began unwrapping the cloth.

As soon as it was unwrapped, Jiang Fengmian’s eyes widened at the glowing object.

“A-Ying… what…”

“Uncle Jiang, I found this in Gusu. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, but it shows me… things.”

Jiang Fengmian furrowed his brows. “...What kind of things?”

“...things from… the future, most probably…”

Wei Wuxian almost winced at the look Jiang Fengmian gave him. Almost.

Jiang Fengmian, “Probably?”

“Uncle, I just know. ” He insisted and held it out. “If you touch it, you’d see it, too.”

Jiang Fengmian didn’t move a muscle. “A-Ying. This could be anything. It may even be something evil. No normal object should glow like this. We should give it to the Lan Sect, ideally. They specialise in these things.”

“No heretical object would be golden, either.” Wei Wuxian countered, and then shrunk back. “I can’t give it to the Lan Sect. This is important. Uncle Jiang… please.”

Jiang Fengmian had never denied his adopted son much of anything, and he found it difficult to do so now when he was only asked to do something as simple as touch a random object. He raised his hand and just as he was about to make contact, Wei Wuxian stopped him.

“Wait, Uncle. Before you touch it, I need you to know something.” Wei Wuxian looked right into his eyes. “What you may see won’t be nice or pretty. It’ll be something you need to face.”

Jiang Fengmian could only frown in loss, but nodded. “I understand.”

Wei Wuxian returned the nod. “Go ahead.”

The Jiang patriarch touched it.

The light flared.


Fire.

It was everywhere. It surrounded them like water would for an island.

“Where are we?” Jiang Fengmian asked, as he noticed his adopted son next to him. Then his eyes widened as he began to recognise some things. “It can’t be… this is lotus pier!”

“Yes.” Wei Wuxian replied, gravely.

Then they heard laughter, heinous and evil, filled with a cruel joy. Jiang Fengmian And Wei Wuxian noticed figures, then.

A young man with white robes and red flames decorating the hems stood with an amorous beauty held in his arms. They stood safely at the side, laughing in delight and watched the battle in front of them. By now, Wei Wuxian recognised this young man. He was Wen Chao, the second son of Wen Ruohan. The man he held the biggest grudge towards.

In the middle of the fray was a woman. She blocked all the swords coming her way and fought back magnificently, but no doubt, she was tired and had received too much damage.

“My lady!” Jiang Fengmian exclaimed, recognising his wife.

“Wen Zhuliu, I think it’s about time, don’t you?” Wen Chao cackled, madly. “Just do it.”

The man called Wen Zhuliu nodded without hesitation and sped into the midst of the ongoing battle. Yu Ziyuan who had been holding off very well by herself this whole time only noticed at the last moment when Wen Zhuliu had stretched his arm towards her and placed it on her chest.

She screamed.

“My lady!” Jiang Fengmian cried and rushed towards her. He noticed, though, the moment he stepped in the middle of the battle, that nobody was of substance. Every person he caught hold of, his hand slipped right through. “A-Ying, What is happening?!”

Wei Wuxian, who followed his adoptive father just shook his head. “Uncle Jiang, this is a vision. Nothing is real right now.”

Jiang Fengmian seemed to care least about that. “Who is that man? What is he doing to her?!”

Wei Wuxian blinked, surprised. He had never seen his uncle so distraught before. He looked at the man who his uncle was murderously glaring at.

“His name is Wen Zhuliu. He is known as the core melting hand. He has a disgusting ability to destroy people’s golden cores with his bare hands.”

Wei Wuxian could pinpoint the moment that everything seemed to slot into place in his uncle’s head. He also knew exactly how his uncle was feeling right now. Frustrated and helpless to what was being shown.

“My lady!”

Wei Wuxian turned and saw the vision’s Jiang Fengmian flying towards them on his sword, a few men by his side. His men immediately took the reigns on fighting the Wen soldiers around them while Jiang Fengmian slashed his sword at Wen Zhuliu.

“Get away from her!” He shouted, a fierce expression painted over his normally amiable face as he stood protectively in front of his wife.

Wen Zhuliu unsheathed his own sword. Both men faced each other down.

“Fengmian…” Yu Ziyuan spoke breathlessly, clutching at her chest. “You idiot, why did you come?”

“How could I leave you here?! I won’t!”

“It wouldn’t be the first time!” She panted, trying to shout back but struggling, having just lost her core. “Leave! We can’t win this. Go now!”

Jiang Fengmian played the deaf ear as he charged towards the core melting hand. They both fought, Jiang Fengmian gaining the upper hand slightly and Wen Zhuliu struggling to find an opening.

Then, out of nowhere, two Wen soldiers charged towards a crippled Yu Ziyuan.

Fengmian’s point of focus shifted. “My lady!”

Wen Zhuliu immediately took advantage of the situation and lunged at the Jiang Sect leader just as he had cut down the people running towards his wife. But Yu Ziyuan had been vigilant, she pushed her husband out of the way, only for Wen Zhuliu to catch hold of her again. This time, she did not scream as she no longer had a core to get destroyed.

“Ziyuan!” Jiang Fengmian exclaimed.

“How long has it been since you’d called me by name, I wonder?” She chuckled. Promptly, she gasped.

It was then that Jiang Fengmian noticed the end of a sword sticking out her back, red pooling at the site. He watched in shock as Wen Zhuliu stabbed his wife right in front of him, and he’d been powerless. The core melting hand withdrew his sword. Somewhere in the back, heartless laughter rippled through the air, too far to pay attention to, too worthless to care about.

“Fengmian…” Yu Ziyuan coughed up blood as she spoke. She tried to turn, but instead stumbled backwards into her husband's arms. He caught her easily, shock still overpowering his mind with the speed at how everything progressed.

Wen Zhuliu respectfully stood aside.

“My lady… Ziyuan…” Fengmian choked, his eyes wide an unbelieving.

“Are you going to cry…? I never thought you could shed tears for me…” Yu Ziyuan admitted, one corner of her mouth lifting wryly.

“Don’t talk… don’t strain yourself…” Fengmian sobbed dryly, holding his wife closer to him as he slumped to the ground.

“It… doesn’t matter… I’m dying anyway…”

Jiang Fengmian just shook his head as if blocking that thought would stop it from coming true. Yu Ziyuan lifted a hand to caress his cheek.

“This was the first time I’d seen you so fierce. It doesn’t suit you…” She said, wryly. “You’ve always been too mild…”

“Too weak,” Jiang Fengmian completed for her. “I know… I’m sorry…”

Yu Ziyuan shook her head and heaved out the next words, her voice coming in short breaths. “I… liked that… about you. I wanted you… to love our children… and... I wanted you… to love...”

Madam Yu didn’t complete her sentence. She only exhaled in resignation and gazed at her husband before, extraordinarily, her lips pulled up.

Jiang Fengmian’s eyes widened as his wife smiled brightly at him, eyes in the shape of soft crescents where her cheeks drew up. No one would’ve ever thought that Madam Yu’s smile could look so radiant, least of all Jiang Fengmian who had never seen her wearing anything but derisive sneers.

“You are… such a bad man…” She whispered still smiling, tears now dripping down from her eyes.

He had never seen such an expression on her face before. Like this, they could be the only two people in the world.

One beat… two beats…

Yu Ziyuan’s hand dropped from her husband’s face, now limp at her side. Her eyes stayed half open, empty and staring into nothingness, traces of tears still at their corners. The shadow of her last smile lingered on her lips where the blood started drying.

Fengmian’s breathing stopped, trying to comprehend what had happened.

When his breathing started up again, realising that his wife was no longer part of the world, the tears that didn’t come out before started pouring down his face in an involuntary leak.

“Ziyuan!”

The scene had vanished. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Fengmian were back on the porch of the Jiang residence.

Notes:

I’ll leave it up to you to guess what Madam Yu was trying to say to JF.

I had read up on the many versions of Madam Yu’s death and decided to write up one that seemed most probably in the novels POV.

Did you cry? If you did, same.

Let me know in the comments!

(Also, in the Donghua, JF addresses wwx as “A-Xian”, but I noticed him call him “A-Ying” in the novel. I decided to stick with the novel)

Chapter 12: Chapter 12

Notes:

This is a long-ass chapter compared to usual because I had no idea where to stop it.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Jiang Fengmian stared at the token, eyes wide in disbelief and then jerked back his hand, like he’d touched a hot iron. His pupils shook as he recalled the images he had watched.

“What…”

Wei Wuxian sympathised with his adoptive father. “Uncle Jiang, it hasn’t happened yet. It won’t.”

He’d expected his words to be of some comfort here. He’d been through the same thing as his Uncle after all. Yet, the Jiang sect leader only looked more miserable.

“...But it had happened.” Jiang Fengmian whispered covering his mouth with his hand. “It happened. In another time. My lady had died protecting me somewhere else and I—I could only watch…”

“Uncle…”

Wei Wuxian felt horrible now. He had always thought of these visions as something that could happen. In a way, they were. But it was also what had happened somewhere else, sometime else. Everything that they had seen… And in his rage on behalf of the rest of the Jiang family, he took little consideration on how it may affect his uncle.

“Excuse me, A-Ying. I… I must go.” Jiang Fengmian stated, standing up. He looked tired and stressed. It was understandable. Wei Wuxian almost regretted using the token with him, and yet, this was the best he could do. This was what he was supposed to do.

“Of course, Uncle Jiang.” He nodded, understandingly.

The older man gave a curt nod before leaving. His retreating back was straight as always, but now, there seemed something small about it.


Months had passed since Wei Wuxian used the token with Jiang Fengmian. Madam Yu made herself scarce in Lotus Pier for this period of time. She would come whenever she wanted and leave without her husband knowing, leaving training assignments for the disciples to Wei Wuxian with a sneer.

This left Jiang Fengmian feeling disappointed as he tried to catch her when she’d come, but always failed to do so. She would’ve just left by the time he found out she was even there.

Wei Wuxian, in the meantime, had continued using the token with Jiang Yanli, asking for more harmless tidbits of information from the future.

They found out that it was impossible for Wei Wuxian to use the token more than 2 times per week no matter how much rest he got. It was taxing and replenishment of spiritual energy was not so easy when he was tasked with training the disciples on Madam Yu’s behalf.

At one point he wouldn’t stop sicking up everything he ate due to the severe exhaustion of his spiritual energy. Jiang Yanli had become extremely worried during those days and ordered him to rest up for fear that he would undergo Qi deviation.

It had taken almost a month before he could continue using the token properly again. Wei Wuxian lamented the waste of time.

Jiang Fengmian, during this period, didn’t ask what they were doing, but he definitely knew. He occasionally came up to Wei Wuxian to ask about his health and whether he’d been able to rest enough after finding out that the token used spiritual energy to power itself. He asked no questions outside of these.

As far as the head disciple was concerned, he had the Sect leader’s blessing to continue using the token.

So far, in addition to other things, they had learned that:

1) The cloud recesses had been burnt down by the Wen Sect right before the “re-education” period.

Wei Wuxian watched Lan Wangji as he walked away from the group with a leg that was most likely injured. His apparition began talking.

“His face is worse than usual.” Wei Wuxian said, hands on his hips. “What’s wrong with his leg?”

Jiang Cheng all but ignored his question to rant about how he was paying attention to stupid things. Another disciple spoke up to answer him.

“Of course he looks bad. Last month the cloud recesses were burnt down, didn’t you know?”

“Burnt down?” Wei Wuxian jolted.

“By the Wen Sect?” Jiang Cheng asked, not as surprised.

The disciple nodded and told them about how the Wen Sect had forced the Lan Sect to burn down their own home after accusing them of some ridiculous things. That they’d called it pretty names like rebirthing it from firelight.

“The Sect leader of Lan was heavily injured. He may not even be alive, for all we know.”

Wei Wuxian turned back to his original query. “And Lan Zhan’s leg?”

“The library pavillion was burnt first. Lan Wangji refused to burn it down and was attacked by Wen Xu’s people. They broke his leg. It hasn’t even been healed yet, but they dragged him here. Who knows what they’re trying to do?”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Yanli gravely wrote this down in the records, both thinking about how they weren’t the only ones whose homes had been burnt down by the Wen Clan.

2) His mother’s shidi, a boy named “Xiao Xingchen”, would descend the mountain in a couple of years and that he would later be killed by another boy named Xue Yang (and he’d learned this through his reincarnated body, so it meant he’d already died before that happened).

“Xiao Xingchen was a pupil of Bashan Sanren.” Lan Wangji said.

“So, that means he’s my shishu.” Wei Wuxian hummed, rubbing his chin.

Wei Wuxian could only listen raptly as he heard the story of how Xue Yang had slaughtered an entire clan and about how. Xiao Xingchen had gathered full evidence before dragging him into a discussion conference where he demanded the boy’s punishment.

All the clans agreed, except for LanlingJin.

Wei Wuxian, “Objecting in such a situation would be placing itself against the entire world. Could it be that Xue Yang was a favorite with Jin GuangShan?”

Lan Wangji, “A guest disciple.”

“He was a foreign disciple? Back then, the LanlingJin Sect was already one of the four most prominent sects, right? Why would they have invited a delinquent to be a guest disciple?”

Lan Wangji stared into Wei Wuxian’s eyes, “Because of the Stygian Tiger Seal.”

The phrase was lost on Wei Wuxian as he had no idea what that was supposed to be. But not for long.

3) Wei Wuxian had created an unholy artefact called the Stygian Tiger Seal and used it to defeat the Wens. This was made clear to him by none other than Jin Guangshan.

Jin Guangshan, “Young Master Wei, we’ve brought this up a couple of times with you already. You haven’t forgotten, have you? … During the Sunshot Campaign, you had once used a certain object.”

Wei Wuxian, “Oh. You did mention it before. The Tiger Seal?”

Jin Guangshan, “It is said that the Stygian Tiger Seal was casted from the iron of a sword that you acquired in the cave of the Xuanwu of Slaughter. Back then, you used it on the battlefield once. Its powers were horrifying, causing even a few of our own cultivators to be affected by its residual force…”

Wei Wuxian interrupted, “Please get to the point.”

Jin Guangshan, “This is the point. In the battle, apart from the Wen Sect, our sides undertook great losses as well. In my opinion, such a weapon is quite difficult to be controlled. For it to be in the hands of just a single person might be…”

Before he even finished his words, Wei Wuxian began to laugh.

After a few laughs, he continued, “Sect Leader Jin, let me ask you something else. Do you think that, because the QishanWen Sect is gone, the LanlingJin Sect has all right to replace it?”

All was silent within Glamor Hall.

Wei Wuxian added, “Everything has to be given to you? Everyone has to listen to you? Looking at how the LanlingJin Sect does things, I almost thought that it was the QishanWen Sect’s empire all over again.”

Jiang Yanli, in particular, had been unpleasantly confused as to why her younger brother had such a dark aura surrounding him during this vision. She didn’t like it.

4) On that note, Wei Wuxian had finally seen the face of the man named Jin Guangyao in the same vision. He had tried to appease Wei Wuxian during the ordeal.

5) He had revived a dead Wen Ning into a conscious corpse (something neither Wei Wuxian nor Jiang Yanli ever thought could be possible).

“Wen Ning?!”

“… Young… Master Wei…?”

Wen Qing had frozen. A second later, with a scream, she threw herself toward him, howling, “A-Ning!”

Both of the two fell back from the force. Wen Ning, “Sis… -ter…”

Wen Qing pulled her younger brother into an embrace. With both tears and laughter, she buried her head in his arms, “It’s me! It’s your sister, it’s your sister! A-Ning!”

Wei Wuxian watched as Jiang Yanli shed a few tears at the scene. Whether they were sad for Wen Ning’s death or happy for his return, Wei Wuxian couldn’t make out.

Wei Wuxian himself, felt sorry that Wen Ning had to go through a painful death. He didn’t deserve that. He had to make sure it didn’t happen in this timeline. He definitely didn’t want to see Wen Qing in the miserable state she had been in during this anxious period either. She was a renowned figure in the cultivation world and could not lose her face like that.

On a lighter side, they had also seen,

1) Jiang Yanli in her various stages of motherhood as well as her wedding (She had been very upset to learn that Wei Wuxian wasn’t present at it from another vision afterwards).

2) His sister had seen Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji being excessively clingy (and raised her eyebrows at it, but did not comment). Wei Wuxian had been hoping she wouldn’t find it out for quite some time, but it seemed that was too much to ask for seeing as they were almost always together after he’d reincarnated.

Currently, they were on a part which Wei Wuxian knew to be one of the most important events. He had talked to his sister about it before and couldn’t bear to speak much about it. She stopped him every time, assuring him that no matter what, she wouldn’t think differently of him. Wei Wuxian, however, was still too scared.

Knowing this, Jiang Yanli was the one who forced him to go through with watching this particular vision.

The event of Jin Zixuan’s death.

“A-Li is still…”

They watched as the pale, stiff figure of Wen Ning thrust his fist through the Jin Sect heir’s chest.

Jin Zixuan looked down at his bloodied chest and blinked before looking back up at Wei Wuxian, like it was more important for him to finish his sentence than to think about the gaping hole in his thorax.

To him, it probably had been, as he forced his mouth to form the words through a bloody cough, face completely blank and uncomprehending.

“...is still waiting for you to go to Carp Tower and attend A-Ling’s full-month celebration…” He said and managed to hold himself up for a few moments before dropping to his knees.

Wei Wuxian, who was standing opposite him, wore a similarly blank and uncomprehending expression, unable to believe what had conspired in just a few seconds.

Jin Zixuan eventually fell to the ground, his cheek lying in the dirt, vermillion mark smeared between his brows that lay still above his darkened, lifeless eyes.

Wei Wuxian, after a few seconds of maddening silence and reddening sclera, stumbled where he stood before he too, dropped down into the ocean of blood, screams and chaos that he’d created.

The scene melted away.

The image of Jin Zixuan on the ground would haunt Wei Wuxian for very long.

The boy he knew had been infuriatingly clean and regal at all times to the point that he was almost mysophobic with delusions of grandeur. Yet, in his final moments, he had been lying on the ground, covered in dirt and mud and with hardly any grace at all to his corpse.

In his final moments, Wei Wuxian didn’t even allow him to be what he was in life.

Suddenly, he burst into tears.

“A-Xian!” He heard, and vaguely, he could recall that his shijie had been repeating his name continuously for quite a while.

He didn’t dare look at her.

Wei Wuxian then felt two soft hands grasp his face on either side.

“A-Xian,” Jiang Yanli’s voice was stern. Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but wince at it. “A-Xian, stop biting your lips, now. Before you bite through them.”

It was then that he realised the metallic taste filling his mouth and the scent of iron enveloping his nose. Slowly, he withdrew his teeth from the sensitive flesh of his lips.

“A-Xian, look at me.”

Wei Wuxian hesitated, but from a prompting squeeze at his face, he looked up at his sister.

Jiang Yanli’s face was serious and stoic, eyebrows and lips drawn down in disapproval. He had never seen such an expression on her face. Like this, she resembled Madam Yu much more that Jiang Fengmian.

He almost bit his lips again in anxiety.

“A-Xian,” She said again, eyes red with unshed tears. “Do not blame yourself. It was an accident. I could see it.”

Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but look at his sister in disbelief.

“Shijie, do you know what you’re saying? Didn’t you see what I did? I-I…”

“Didn’t do it on purpose.” She declared. Jiang Yanli drew her eyebrows down further.

“Shijie…” Wei Wuxian tried to sniff, but his tears even flooded down through his nostrils because it wasn’t enough that his eyes kept shedding the fat, ugly drops that it did.

And here his sister was, refusing to cry at all.

“A-Xian, do not forget. We still need to find out about your death… and mine.”

Wei Wuxian jerked his head and pulled away from Jiang Yanli, horrified, “No!”

Yanli simply stayed where she was and spoke calmly, “We have to.”

“No!” Wei Wuxian refused once more, vehemently. “Don’t you understand, shijie? I lost control! Demonic cultivation had killed Jin Zixuan and it was likely what killed you! No, I refuse to see it happen. I won’t cultivate it ever, that stupid, heretic path!”

Jiang Yanli’s face softened. “Demonic cultivation… A-Xian, no matter what it is, what you had done was the best you could’ve done at the time. The path you paved may have been dangerous, but it was the only road that offered you safety in your time of need.”

Wei Wuxian let out a bitter laugh. “Shijie… rather than cultivate that ghostly path, I would die as soon—“

It had happened so fast. A sound resounded in his ear, sharp and cracking. His left cheek stung slightly. The air crackled with tension and the room echoed with the memory of something crisp and curt.

Then it came to Wei Wuxian; Jiang Yanli had just slapped him.

His sister’s eyes which had previously been dry were now brimming with tears, tipping over her lower lashes and rolling down her face. Her cheeks were flushed angrily and now, she was glaring at him.

It was too foreign of an expression on Jiang Yanli’s face for Wei Wuxian to comprehend.

Her voice broke as she spoke to him, sorrow overcoming her features. “Don’t ever say that in front of me again.”

Wei Wuxian could only sit there, looking at her in shock. The slap she had given him had only stung slightly since she had used some amount of spiritual energy. He knew, however, that her hand was probably hurting far more than his face.

He stammered out, “Shijie, your hand…”

Indeed, Jiang Yanli’s palm was now red and looked rather painful. Wei Wuxian was flooded with guilt.

“What about my hand?” She asked as she held it to her chest. “I will use it a thousand times more if I have to. It can go ahead and break if that’s the price!”

Wei Wuxian now felt extremely ridiculous.

Here he was, the head disciple of the YunmengJiang Sect with a golden core and spiritual power most consider very formidable for his age, sitting back and crying his eyes out while his gentle sister, who wouldn’t hurt anyone even if she had the power, threatened him with a thousand slaps with much more strength retained in her heart.

He could only sit silently as his sister continued scolding him.

“Did you think of how I would feel hearing those words? How would you feel if I said that? Would you be happy? Do you think I feel any happier?”

“I-I’m… sorry, shijie.” Wei Wuxian said, softly.

“As you should be.” Jiang Yanli said, eyes softening. She dug into her Hanfu sleeve and pulled out a handkerchief, dabbing it at Wei Wuxian’s bloody lips.

She continued, “A-Xian, I would give my life for you… as would A-Cheng. We know very well that you would do the same for us. Do not hold such little value for your life. Our lives are one.”

Wei Wuxian looked at the ground and nodded slowly.

“I won’t say it again.”

Jiang YanlI pulled back her handkerchief, “We know what happens now, A-Xian. It seems the Wen Sect is not the only sect we have to be wary of.”

Wei Wuxian registered these words in his brain and realised them to be true. He had been so focused on how he’d played such a major role in Jin Zixuan’s death that he’d almost forgotten about the fact that the Jin Sect held an ambush on him. They had been trying to blame him for something he definitely didn’t do. Wei Wuxian knew without doubt that present or future, he would not have used an underhanded method like a curse to kill somebody.

The Jin Sect had tried to kill him.

“Shijie… I’m a hundred percent sure that Jin Guangshan is responsible for the ambush. There is no one more corrupt than him in the Jin Clan.”

Jiang Yanli sighed, “I do wish that wasn’t true. But we can’t ignore evidence. He was truly suspicious when asking you for the Stygian tiger amulet… A-Xian, we don’t have to watch my death if you wish not to. I know I wouldn’t want to watch yours.”

“But what if it’s important?” Wei Wuxian asked, pleadingly.

“Then we have time. Let’s focus on the nearest event.”

Wei Wuxian sat back, confused. “What event?”

Jiang Yanli giggled into her sleeve and Wei Wuxian felt relieved to see her eyes light up again.

“Why, A-Xian, did you forget?”

At Wei Wuxian’s bewildered expression, her eyes twinkled and she decided to take mercy on him.

“A-Cheng is coming back next week, of course.”

Notes:

Just to make it clear, yes, 7 months are almost over, and yes, they had watched more visions than simply the ones I’ve listed above. The time skip was tough for me, too.

This chapter had been the most difficult to write so far, but I hope it turned out fine.

Don’t forget your kudos, first time readers!

Also, hugs and kisses to all my regular commenters whom I haven’t been able to comment back to yet. I still read your comments and smile! ❤️❤️❤️

Chapter 13: Chapter 13

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian was by the pier the entire morning. He’d been pacing up and down the dock excitedly for the better part of the day but eventually tired of it when every boat he spotted didn’t seem to be the one Jiang Cheng was on.

“Well if it isn’t our troublemaking young master. What brings you here?” One woman asked as she was piling up her melons by the street.

“Jiang Cheng is coming.” Wei Wuxian grinned.

A housewife who was browsing the vegetables looked up, “Oh, look at how happy he looks! The young master Jiang has stolen his heart.”

“And he plays with it unapologetically!” Wei Wuxian sighed dramatically, placing a hand on his heart. Then he grinned devilishly. “However, looking at all these pretty sisters today, my soul feels healed.”

All the ladies present—whether vendor, customer or passerby—laughed.

“Look at this sweet talker!”

“I wish I could be that smooth.” One man inserted.

“It wouldn’t work with your face.” A woman, presumably his wife, teased.

The other men then, also laughed along with the ladies.

The docks of lotus pier were always bustling with vendors and children unlike the gates of other esteemed sects who closed the doors to any commoners. Today was no different.

Everyone here already knew the tricks that Wei Wuxian was capable of and simply went along with his teasing and antics. Most simply smiled or laughed at him. This way, he couldn’t last long without needing other distractions.

He was now lounging by the lakeside, a stem of wheatgrass in his mouth as his tongue played with it languidly. He looked up at the bright blue sky and let out a defeated sigh. He was bored, yet he was too restless to do anything but wait here. In the background, vendors continued advertising their products.

Just when he was wondering if he should at least head back to the Jiang residence for lunch, he saw another boat approaching.

Wei Wuxian sat up.

The boat was small, but big enough for a comfortable day journey. As it neared, Wei Wuxian could make out a purple figure standing at the bow. Wei Wuxian’s face split into a large grin. If that wasn’t Jiang Cheng, then thunder may strike him however it pleases!

Jiang Cheng on the other hand had been searching for Wei Wuxian’s figure waiting for him on the pier but, when he found none, frowned. Had his brother forgotten that he’d be returning today? Anything was possible with Wei Ying.

Just then, he saw something large and black floating in the water from the corner of his eye. As the boat floated by, Jiang Cheng looked down and made out a familiar figure.

The Jiang sect heir grab a paddle and poked the floating figure with it.

As he expected, Wei Wuxian shot up from the water immediately, spilling water on both him and the rower.

“Jiang Cheng! I thought you’d never come back!” He exclaimed, smiling brightly. He immediately dragged himself into the boat.

“Don’t come in, you idiot! You’ll get me wet, too.” Jiang Cheng grimaced and moved away from his adopted brother.

Wei Wuxian raised his eyebrows and crossed his arms in mock hurt. “It’s been over half a year since we last saw each other. Shouldn’t you be happier? Or were the girls in Gusu so pretty you didn’t want to come back?”

Jiang Cheng smirked, “On the contrary, without a certain troublemaker, the rest of my stay in Cloud Recesses had been quite fulfilling. I’m not like you, after all.”

Wei Wuxian gasped, “How could you!”

Jiang Cheng ignored him as the boat finally landed by the dock. He immediately jumped out of the boat and was followed by Wei Wuxian. The crowd all burst into welcoming smiles.

One vendor shouted, “Young master, welcome back!”

A man by the docks, securing other boats also turned, “I heard GusuLan is quite strict, but our young master seems to be doing well!”

“Young master Wei has been here the entire morning waiting for you! Take him back!”

“Welcome back!” More voices chorused.

Jiang Cheng looked at Wei Wuxian with a raised eyebrow before smiling at everybody, “Thank you, everyone—for the welcome and for tolerating this idiot. It’s nice to be back.”

Chuckles rippled through the crowd.


As Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng walked into Lotus Pier, they discussed Jiang Cheng’s stay in Gusu, among other things. They had a lot of catching up to do that letters couldn’t convey.

“I’ve got something to show you.” The Jiang Sect heir slowed down his pace as he said this.

“Here.” Jiang Cheng said, taking Wei Wuxian’s hand and placing it in his wrist.

His brother said nothing, only staring at him meaningfully. It took Wei Wuxian a moment to realise what Jiang Cheng wanted him to do and once he’d figured it out, he closed his eyes and steadied his breathing. Concentrating. Sensing.

He felt for the pulse point and finding it, focused on Jiang Cheng’s spiritual energy.

Wei Wuxian eyes shot wide open when he’d felt a strong surge of energy buzzing under his fingertips.

“Jiang Cheng!” He gasped. “In just a few months?!”

Jiang Cheng gave him a large, smug grin and crossed his arms.

“After you left, I couldn’t very well waste my time, could I? I made the most of my stay and visited the cold springs twice a day. I meditated when I wasn’t at the springs and practiced honing my spiritual energy without any excessive emotions clouding my energy when I was in class.”

“The cold springs? They’re horrible!”

“I got used to it after a while.” Jiang Cheng shrugged, like sitting in ice water two times a day and rigorously training himself wasn’t a big deal. “I bumped into Lan Wangji more that once when I was coming out of them, but we ignored each other. I can’t make out what he’s thinking. Thankfully we never had to be there at the same time.”

Wei Wuxian laughed loudly. “I’d love to see that happen!”

“You mean you’d love to be the person there as it happens.” Jiang Cheng snigg*red and shoved his brother with his elbow.

Wei Wuxian’s face wasn’t thin enough to be bothered by this sort of talk anymore, “I’ve done that already. Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun! I had to fight those lose ferocious corpses as soon as I got out.”

Jiang Cheng sobered. That was his least pleasant memory in Gusu. He had slammed Wei Wuxian into a tree after he’d found out and felt unspeakably worried about him for a long time after that. It had been to harsh of him and at the same time, his harshness was the only way through which he could express his concern properly.

“That was when you used resentful energy, wasn’t it?”

Wei Wuxian pursed his lips. He couldn’t help thinking about how he’d invented demonic cultivation all by himself and how it lead to winning a war with the price of many innocents. It still felt like something fantastical.

“I will never use it again.” He muttered. “It’s too dangerous.”

Jiang Cheng only furrowed his brows in response sensing that there was more to Wei Wuxian’s apprehension about it. He would’ve warned Wei Wuxian against it again, but seeing his brother’s expression, deemed it unnecessary.

“A-Cheng!”

The two boys looked in front of them to see Jiang Yanli walking towards them with a spring in her step.

Jiang Cheng grinned and held open his arms. Jiang Yanli jogged the rest of the way and jumped right into them, hugging her brother tightly.

“Sister…”

“A-Cheng, you’ve grown.” Yanli said, pulling away and measuring their heights with her hand. “You used to be slightly shorter than A-Xian, and now you are both the same height.”

“He’ll be left in the dust soon enough.”

“Will not!”

Jiang Yanli giggled as her brothers bickered.

“We’ll be exactly the same height as long as I don’t need to get reincarnated.” Wei Wuxian harrumphed.

As he said the words though, his siblings went silent. He looked at them with a raised eyebrows. Jiang Cheng turned to look at Yanli, as if he wasn’t lost in thought mere seconds ago.

“Sister, you don’t need to use the token anymore. I will continue once more.”

Jiang Yanli pressed her lips into a thin line. “If we are to discuss this, then we should do it inside.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng exchanged a look.

If Jiang Yanli disapproved, then there wouldn’t be a discussion.

Jiang Fengmian walked around in the streets of Yunmeng. As he did, everyone bowed and greeted him, showing him the respect worthy of a major Sect Leader.

After using that strange token with Wei Ying months ago, he hadn’t felt the same since. Before, he only had thoughts about how half his family were uptight and did not smile often. He had always wanted a child like Wei Wuxian who was bright and radiant. Someone who was free and couldn’t be tamed, travelling against the wind. Just like—

“Sect leader Jiang, good morning to you!”

“Thank you for all your hard work as usual!”

Jiang Fengmian smiled amiably at everyone, even as his line of thought got cut off. Because it really wasn’t something he should think about. That person is someone he should stop thinking about.

Unbidden, the image of Yu Ziyuan entered his mind. Bloody, tear stained face and a radiant parting smile.

Guilt.

Shaking out his thoughts, he greeted back his people, “Good morning to all of you, please do not mind me.”

“Master Jiang, our sweet buns are hot and fresh! Please take some back with you.” One man said as he noticed Jiang Fengmian walking by. He stopped by the stall.

“How much for them?” He asked, pulling out his pouch. They certainly had a lovely fragrance. His daughter would love to try it. He remembered Jiang Cheng was coming back today and wondered if his son liked sweet things.

Thinking further, he realised he didn’t have an idea of what his son liked at all.

“Oh no, Master Jiang. I called you here so it’s on the house, of course!” The man said, slightly panicked at the thought of charging his sect leader after offering his products enthusiastically.

“Let me pay, anyway. Going by the delightful aroma, you deserve it.” He smiled.

The shopkeeper relaxed his shoulders and smiled back in defeat. “If you insist, sir.”

With a basket of sweet buns in his hand, Jiang Fengmian walked back to Lotus pier. The general public kept stopping by and bowing at him. He nodded his head in response to every one of them.

His eye then caught onto something sparkling at one particular stall. A woman sat on a woven stool as she sold handmade accessories. There was quite an assortment—bangles, necklaces, crowns, etc. All of them were quite attractive and looked very well-made.

Jiang Fengmian walked up to the stall and stared at a particular accessory. A bright, jade, sea foam coloured hairpin. It was clear, lustrous and looked as if it would very much complement the colours of the Jiang Sect.

“How much for this?” He heard himself ask as he bent down to take hold of the hairpin.

The woman blinked at him. “Why, Sect leader Jiang. For you, I will half the price. One silver piece. I shan’t dare ask for more.”

“And why not?” Jiang Fengmian asked with a smile. “I have the money. I do not mind if you charge me more than you would most people.”

“Ah, Master Jiang. Your generosity is as well known as your stubbornness. I can’t argue with you for anything.” She said, bravely. “Two silver pieces as I would charge for anyone, then.”

Jiang Fengmian laughed as he took out the money.

As Jiang Fengmian walked into lotus pier, he noticed the disciples who were taking a break from their training, talking with each other. They had obviously not noticed him, and therefore their voices carried over with no problem at all. Without his lady there, they were much more relaxed. He didn’t approve of her training methods, but now, he understood her haste.

“I heard that young master Jiang is back!” One exclaimed.

The others all nodded, eager for news. “Yes, Dashixiong was waiting by the docks the entire morning for him. The young mistress was walking with them when I saw them earlier.”

“Dashixiong hasn’t been spending any time with us lately.” Says the plumpest disciple.

Another disciple, “And he’s always tired! I never thought it was possible.”

The rest of them nodded their agreement on this.

“I wonder if dashixiong doesn’t like us much anymore.” The youngest disciple said. He was a small, skinny boy and was incredibly innocent in many ways.

The other disciples exchanged looks of pity, silently accepting that none of them should be negative about the situation for at least one child’s sake.

“Cheer up, A-Xing. I’m sure that’s not it!”

“Yeah, he’ll come see us soon enough.” An older disciple agreed.

The youngest looked up at them with a small thankful smile.

Jiang Fengmian walked away.

Jiang Fengmian walked towards his sons’ room. He knew that if they were anywhere, it would probably be there. As he neared, he heard chatter and a few giggles. The chatter quieted down eventually and took on the form of hushed talk.

Mixed in was the slightly matured voice of his son whom he hadn’t laid eyes on for too long.

He wondered what happened to A-Cheng after that vision took place? Jiang Fengmian knew for sure that he must’ve died soon after his lady. By the looks of it, everyone did. Did his boys leave safely? Had his daughter been okay? His son, as the heir, most definitely must’ve taken up the mantle of sect leader. He wondered how young Jiang Cheng must’ve been at the time. He hoped he wasn’t too young.

But something told him that that was exactly the case.

That, in another life, he had failed to protect his sect. That his son had been forced to become a sect leader through circ*mstance at a young age. That he would’ve had to build the sect again shouldering much of the burden because, like his mother, he had too much pride to share it.

Jiang Fengmian himself could not imagine that kind of pressure.

He opened the door without knocking, thinking himself past formalities at this very moment.

His children swerved their heads to look at him in shock. Out of all the three faces, Wei Ying’s was the only one that relaxed after seeing who it was. This was understandable as the prophetic token Wei Ying had made him use months ago was lying between them on the floor, Wei Ying being the only one who knew of Jiang Fengmian’s knowledge about it.

Jiang Cheng tried to cover it with his body by standing up.

“Dad. I’m sorry I didn’t come see you immediately, but I didn’t find you.” He said, nervously.

Jiang Fengmian looked at his son’s face.

His features were sharp and he looked as naturally strict as his mother, but one couldn’t deny the youth and innocence that still marred his face. Even so, his son looked so much more mature than the last time they’d met. It seemed like only yesterday that he was crying about Jiang Fengmian sending away his puppies and yet, look at him now.

He was growing up, and Jiang Fengmian hadn’t even noticed.

The Jiang patriarch walked towards his son and looked at him long and hard. Jiang Cheng shifted under his gaze almost nervously but mostly looking nonplussed.

Then, Jiang Fengmian did something he’d never done in years, and even then, he had never quite done it like this. He placed a hand on his son’s head and after petting it a few times, let it stay there. His eyes softened as he gave a small smile.

“Welcome back, A-Cheng.”

Notes:

This was mostly a filler chapter, tbh. I’d like to think it was still read worthy. I just kind of wanted to get into jfm’s head for a while.

Not much happens in this chapter, but that’s because A LOT is happening in the next one. I’m more excited to post it than you guys are to read it 😂😂😂

Anyway, drop a comment if you liked the chapter and well... ignore if not 😢

See you guys soon (very soon, I’ve already written the next chapter, just need to edit)

Chapter 14: Chapter 14

Notes:

The long (but not really) awaited—

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Jiang Cheng didn’t know what to do. This, Wei Wuxian could clearly see, and couldn’t help but smile.

In his entire life, Jiang Fengmian had never treated his son this way. It was no wonder that Jiang Cheng was at a complete loss and could only stiffly stand in place, back as straight as a rod with eyes wide open and confusion etched on his face.

“You’ve grown.” Jiang Fengmian said, smiling melancholically. He cupped the boy’s face with his palm before sliding it down, simply intending to pat his shoulder. Then he brushed past the pulse point.

The Jiang patriarch froze. He backtracked.

Bewildered and anticipating, he pressed his finger tips further into his son’s neck and blinked in awe. There was a strong surge of spiritual energy emitting from him. It was almost as strong as Wei Ying’s. In a little while, there may no longer be any difference noticeable between the two.

“A-Cheng…” He exhaled. “You’re cultivation… has improved immensely!”

When Wei Wuxian had said this, all Jiang Cheng had done was snort and throw over a smug smile, but hearing this from his father who had given him very little attention throughout his life, Jiang Cheng couldn’t help feeling bashful.

His face reddened, “I-I worked hard!”

Jiang Fengmian looked at his son in wonder. He had never felt such pride towards Jiang Cheng before, and he wondered if that was because he kept comparing him to his lady. They were both aggressive and uptight and A-Cheng always felt like more like his mother’s son than his father’s. Yet, right now, he felt that though his son was also Yu Ziyuan’s, it didn’t make him any less Jiang Fengmian’s.

“I’m sure the words ‘hard work’ don’t do you justice. You’ve always had it in you after all.” Jiang Fengmian smiled, showing a row of his perfect teeth.

He placed one index finger on Jiang Cheng’s chest, pointing at his heart.

“‘To attempt the impossible’. More than just attempted—you’ve achieved it. It’s something to be prouder about. I am.”

A few beats passed between them before Jiang Cheng burst into tears right on the spot where he was standing.

Jiang Fengmian’s eyes widened, alarmed at the outburst. “A-Cheng?!”

Wei Wuxian was shocked onto his knees and made a move to stand up, but a hand on his arm stopped him. Jiang Yanli, who was sitting next to him, smiled knowingly and simply shook her head.

Wei Wuxian blinked in confusion, but sat back down.

Jiang Cheng placed his forearm over his eyes and cried into it, sniffing loudly. His shoulders shook as he attempted to hide his face.

“A-Cheng, what’s wrong?” Jiang Fengmian asked, shifting from foot to foot as if unsure which direction to approach his own son from.

Wei Wuxian resisted the urge to laugh and clapped a hand over his mouth, swallowing it down. It would be incredibly improper to laugh during this scene, but the way that his uncle looked at that very moment was priceless.

Jiang Fengmian had always been the epitome of serenity. He was never ruffled by anything and only ever raised his voice a few times to other people. He was always seen wearing an amiable smile and spoke tranquilly. To find another who was this serene, you’d have to bring in the first jade of Lan.

Yet here he was, completely unsure of how to comfort his crying son and no prior experience to have any idea. He looked almost panicked.

“Please… excuse me f-for my b-behaviour. I can’t seem to—” Jiang Cheng hiccuped, scrubbing his sleeve furiously over his face. And then, as if speaking to his leaking tear glands, “Damn it, stop…

Jiang Fengmian looked at Wei Wuxian in askance.

His adopted son just gave a shrug, a scheming wink and then motioned for him to hug Jiang Cheng by demonstrating on thin air while his brother’s back was still turned. He waggled his eyebrows as he did this, just because he could.

Jiang Yanli covered her mouth with her hand, probably stifling giggle, as she watched her father awkwardly follow the given instructions.

As soon as Jiang Fengmian had his arms around his son, he relaxed, now seemingly having an idea of what to do. Unfortunately, Jiang Cheng seemed at even more of a loss and kept his head bowed stiffly as his father pulled him in tight.

“Crying is not something that needs to be excused. It is not a weakness.” Jiang Fengmian said, soothingly. “Even the best of us do it, and it shows how deeply we care. That, in itself, is a strength.”

Saying this, he stroked his son’s head. “Cry it out, so that you may be spared another day.”

You may cry today, A-Cheng.

You may cry because you are happy.

You may cry because I want to as well.

Jiang Yanli placed down four cups of tea on a round tea table in Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng’s room. It was just barely big enough to host all of them and incredibly unorthodox for a family as prestigious as theirs. Though it would’ve been okay if it were just the three of them, the fact that Jiang Fengmian was joining them was what actually made it improper.

He had looked awkward for a moment when he saw them get ready for tea, but Wei Wuxian insisted that he had to sit down with them, and he agreed after some hesitation.

“Here are some sweet buns I had bought from the town.” Jiang Fengmian said as he placed a basket on the table.

“Oh, I should go get some plates—“ Jiang Yanli gasped.

Immediately Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng also both got up, chorusing, “I’ll do it—“

They blinked and looked at each other.

Jiang Yanli laughed and Jiang Fengmian gave them a wide smile.

“No need for all that.” He said as he took of the cloth that covered the basket, letting the fragrance of the buns float about the room. “In smaller families, apparently everybody eats from the same basket during these times. I’ve always wanted to try that. Would you three humour me?”

His children looked at him in pleasant surprise and smiled, exchanging a look.

“Of course! Between families, you even feed each other if you’re close. I don’t have many memories of it, but I think that is how I used to do it with my parents—” Wei Wuxian cut himself off as he realised the topic of conversation he brought up and who, exactly, he’d done it in front of.

A moment passed.

“Huh. That’s how you did this? No wonder you have no sense of propriety.” Jiang Cheng shrugged and reached for a bun…

...and promptly stuffed it into Wei Wuxian’s mouth. “There you go. I fed you. Me. The heir of the YunmengJiang Sect.”

Wei Wuxian, still flabbergasted at how Jiang Cheng had been utterly unruffled, couldn’t say anything with his mouth full. He simply ate what was in his mouth in a few chews.

Jiang Cheng puffed out his chest proudly and smirked. “What else do we do?”

A soft sound from Jiang Yanli led to a full blown laugh which was followed by Jiang Fengmian.

And then it seemed like everyone was laughing.

Wei Wuxian held his stomach and slapped his brother’s back. “That’s it! You nailed it! Is there anything you’re not good at anymore?”

“I’m still trying to figure out how to keep you in line. Seeing as that won’t ever happen, it’s suffice to say I’m doomed to imperfection.”

Jiang Fengmian chuckled before reaching into the basket and taking out two buns. He handed one to his daughter who accepted it with a surprised smile.

“A-Cheng, can I take it that you like sweet things?” He asked.

Jiang Cheng was so startled by the question that he stammered out the words, “I guess? I mean, I like the occasional sweets.”

“Jiang Cheng likes spicier food.” Wei Wuxian stated. “But he still can’t eat like me.”

“Yours isn’t spicy,” Jiang Cheng grumbled. “It’s poison .”

Wei Wuxian stuck his tongue out at him and Jiang Cheng’s eye twitched in response, frustrated that he has to restrain himself to hold face in front of his father.

“Hm.” Jiang Fengmian hummed thoughtfully, as he chewed. Swallowing, he spoke, “Were you going to use that prophetic token before I came in?”

Simultaneously, the Yunmeng siblings started choking. Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian on the buns, and Jiang Yanli on her tea. The older brother frantically banged his chest with his fist while the younger one coughed into his. Yanli simply cleared her throat as daintily as a choking person could.

“What…!” Jiang Cheng exclaimed, flabbergasted. He then turned to his brother with an inculpating look.

“Uh… Yeah. You, um, saw…” Wei Wuxian cringed, rubbing his neck as he pointedly ignored Jiang Cheng.

“When did this happen?” Jiang Yanli asked, also staring at Wei Wuxian, but not with quite the same level of accusation as her brother.

“Shortly after I came back.”

Jiang Fengmian interrupted the conversation before it could go anymore off topic. “I maintain that it is dangerous, A-Ying. In the wrong hands, we don’t know what would happen.”

“You don’t have to worry about that.” Jiang Cheng inserted. “The token only works if Wei Wuxian is one of the people using it.”

Wei Wuxian nodded.

Jiang Fengmian frowned, “Then all the more reason to be careful. Do not share this with simply anyone. A-Ying could very easily be in danger. I hope that the four of us are the only ones that know about this.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng exchanged a panicked look. They conversed without speaking out loud, apparently arguing. Jiang Fengmian was a little impressed at this ability. He and Wei Changze had often done the same, but never so comprehensively.

“Uh… Uncle… about that…” Wei Wuxian flinched.

Jiang Fengmian got a bad feeling just by looking at his adoptive son being meek.

“Yes?”

“We might’ve used it with a classmate of ours.”

Silence followed.

“Ah, but!” Wei Wuxian continued, unable to bear the ice he stood on. “He’s trustworthy. Sure, he’s shifty and a little suspicious, but his heart is in the right place.”

Jiang Fengmian, “...”

Jiang Cheng, “...”

Jiang Yanli, “...”

Wei Wuxian offered a nervous grin.

“Dad, it’s okay. He has enough of a reason to remain loyal to us.” Jiang Cheng reassured, and Wei Wuxian all but worshipped at his feet for the save. “The Nie Sect leader is going to die within the next ten years and he wants to stop it.”

“Sect leader Nie?” Jiang Fengmian resounded, thoughtfully. “That is unexpected. I would’ve thought him to live much longer. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise considering the Sects history of Qi deviation. Who is your classmate?”

Jiang Cheng, “The young master of the Nie Sect.”

“Nie Mingjue’s younger brother?” Jiang Fengmian asked, pursing his lips. “The boy certainly does not look dangerous, but there’s more to people than what the eye can see. Be vigilant.”

“Understood.” Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng said in unison.

The Jiang Sect leader nodded back before drinking the rest of his tea.

“I must take my leave now.” He said, getting up. “A-Ying, A-Cheng, if either of you require some help, do not hesitate to ask. That object burns a lot of spiritual energy.”

His sons saluted in response.

He smiled at them, and just before he opened the door, looked over his shoulder, “And do not forget to spend some time with your shidis. They’re feeling quite lonely.”


The three siblings placed the token on the table between them.

“What should we try to find out this time?”

The three slumped their shoulders, unwilling to actually use it. They had found out so many tragedies from it and it had become emotionally taxing for especially Jiang Yanli and Wei Wuxian who had been using it the most.

“Should we try something light hearted, for a change? Watching these dark things really take a toll on you.” Wei Wuxian whined. “Something like Jiang Cheng raising Jin Ling? I’d like to see that.”

“I trust A-Cheng to have raised my son perfectly.” Jiang Yanli beamed.

“Sister…” Jiang Cheng looked touched.

Jiang Yanli took Jiang Cheng’s hand, lacing here fingers over his. “Let’s touch it like this, so that neither of us gets left behind.

Jiang Cheng nodded, with a bemused look.

“Okay then.” Wei Wuxian said, holding out the token.

Right before Jiang Yanli pushed down hers and her brother’s hand though, she said. “I would really love to see what type of relations A-Xian and Second young master Lan have in the future, though.”

And then she pushed down their hands.

The token flared.

The three siblings found themselves in a large and clean room. It had bookshelves and a bed and a screen with a tub behind it. The window was intricate and by the colour outside, it was nighttime. Light talismans and a few lanterns lit up the room to keep it bright.

It looked like a room in the Cloud Recesses.

Wei Wuxian turned to look at his sister in shock. “Shijie!”

Jiang Cheng also looked absolutely dumbfounded at the turn of events. That their sister could be so cunning as to ensure this type of scenario was something neither brother could’ve ever thought about.

She had purposely caught hold of Jiang Cheng’s hand so that he wouldn’t pull away at the last moment and had made them think of a completely different scenario at the same time. To think she was capable of such deceit!

Jiang Yanli gave them an innocent smile.

“Oh! Does this report belong to Sizhui?!”

The three siblings watched as figures began to manifest in front of them. One was no doubt Wei Wuxian in his now familiar future body, and the second one was an older, more mature looking Lan Wangji.

“Mn.” Lan Wangji answered as he read through various reports littered on the table, the mess most definitely done by the other inhabitant of the room.

“I can’t believe this!” Wei Wuxian groaned, rubbing a hand over his face. “My own sister…”

“Stop the melodrama. I have to watch this too, now.” Jiang Cheng said, looking green. He had a foreboding feeling that he was going to see something he definitely didn’t want to witness.

“Oh, I am excited!” Jiang Yanli said, clapping her hands together.

Her brothers looked at her in defeat.

“As expected of our son! He is perfect in every way. Everyday A-Yuan becomes more and more like you.” Wei Wuxian sighs dreamily. “He’s even started to smell like you!”

“You have a son?!” Jiang Cheng screeched,

“And his name is A-Yuan!” Jiang Yanli squealed, delighted. “Sizhui must be his courtesy name.”

Lan Wangji raises one eyebrow minutely at his husband. This action in itself is very expressive in his inquisitiveness as demonstrated by his normally dead facial muscles.

“Smell?” He asked, with the barest hint of loss lining his words.

“Yeah! You know how you always smell like sandalwood?” Wei Wuxian grinned. “The other day I hugged him and the scent just sort of wafted into my nose.”

Lan Wangji nodded in understanding. “Mn, I gave him my incense sticks. He likes them.”

“I like them, too.” Wei Wuxian purred as he draped himself over his husbands back. He rested his chin In the crook of Lan Wangji’s neck.

“Oh no,” Jiang Cheng whispered as he covered his eyes with his hands, obviously forseeing something horrifying. “Tell me when it’s done.”

“A-Cheng!” Jiang Yanli chided mildly, but looked wary as well. It was certainly an… interesting… turn of events.

“But it’s worrying to have my son smell like my husband. Then I can only think about you and how much I want you over me.”

Lan Wangji’s face betrayed nothing as he lay down the papers from his hands. Wei Wuxian knew him better by now though.

“Look at your ears, Lan Zhan! Hahaha!” Wei Wuxian laughed as he held Lan Wangji’s earlobe with two fingers. “So red! Say, Lan er-Gege. Stop this dull thing. Your husband is bored over here and ready for the taking. We haven’t even done our ‘everyday’ today.”

“Shijie, stop watching!” Wei Wuxian shrieked, face red. He had no idea what ‘everyday’ was, but he was a hundred percent sure that he didn’t want to find out right this very moment.

If it was just him and Jiang Cheng, this wouldn’t bother him much, but seeing his older sister watch something this shameless… even Wei Wuxian’s face wasn’t that thick!

Jiang Yanli’s face was also red, but it seemed that she no longer could hear Wei Wuxian over the scene that was playing out in front of her.

“Light-hearted my ass! Wei Wuxian, I f*cking hate you!” Jiang Cheng yelled, his hands now covering his ears, eyes shut tightly to effectively block all his involved senses as well as he could.

Lan Wangji’s restraint did not even last a few seconds before he pulled Wei Wuxian into his arms and then pinned him into the ground.

“Ooooh, is the esteemed Hanguang-Jun finally going to make me his? Or—”

Lan Wangji shut him up by covering the other man’s lips with his own. Wei Wuxian moaned into his husbands mouth. He started moving his hands lower, but the Lan disciple immediately caught hold of them and pinned both the hands over the smaller man’s head.

Lan Wangji ripped of his forehead ribbon and used it to tie Wei Wuxian’s wrists together in short, fluid motions. Motions that suggested he’d done this one too many times.

“Ah! So rough, Lan Zhan! What would our pure hearted students think if they saw you like this? Better yet, what of the elders? They would all surely get a stroke if they knew their Hanguang-Jun was such a beast in the bed!” Wei Wuxian teased, eyebrows waggling. “They think that I’m the one defiling you, yet none of them know that you like to bite me everywhere like a dog while you pluck me like your zither. What an unfortunate habit—”

Wei Wuxian moaned the last word.

Not wanting to know in the least what that moan was due to, Wei Wuxian started screaming over the volume of the vision, “STOP! STOP! STOOOOOPPPP !”

As if hearing his pleas, the scene faded.

Back in the comfort of a familiar room that was blessedly devoid of indecent noises, the three siblings sat together. The token’s glow pulsated mockingly in between them as they each kept their heads lowered, faces red (purple, in case of Jiang Cheng).

From somewhere outside, they heard the loud chirps of the crickets surrounding the pier.

“I f*cking hate Lan Wangji, too.” Jiang Cheng grated.

Notes:

Okay, so this got a little cracked up by the end, but a lot of y’all were seriously looking forward to this ‘everyday is everyday’ token vision and I felt like I had to deliver.

I hope it was what y’all wanted!

We’ll be moving forward with the plot next chapter onwards.

Until then~

Chapter 15: Chapter 15

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“...Congratulations, A-Xian.” Jiang Yanli beamed, looking genuinely happy for him despite the residue of her blush still present on her cheeks.

Shijie …” Wei Wuxian whined hiding his face in his hands. “Why did you do that? I can’t look at you anymore. I have never felt shame like this in my life…”

The sound of his moan resounded in his ears. Thankfully, that was not his own voice, else he’d be burying himself into the ground. A pathetic way to die, if he were honest.

“I need to gouge out my eyes.” Jiang Cheng stated flatly, looking devoid of life. “No longer can I live with the weight of their sin.”

“Now, now.” Jiang Yanli said, gently. “I, for one, am glad to know that despite everything, there had been one person who loved my XianXian unconditionally.”

“And we found out about Lan-er-gongzi’s bedroom habits while we were at it.” Jiang Cheng gagged. “The price to pay was steep. I never want to do that again. Ever.

“Seconded.” Wei Wuxian agreed, tiredly.

Jiang Yanli laughed and Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but marvel at his sister. Her face was thicker than his!

“Alright, alright. I’m satisfied.” She said, placatingly before slowly grinning. “How about we check A-Cheng’s love life next, instead?”

Shijie/Sister.” Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng chorused exasperatedly.

Wei Wuxian was sitting in the Lake Pavilion, staring at the moon as he thought about various things. He came out to clear his head from the load of information he kept receiving everyday, but always ended up thinking more about it.

But unlike usual, his traitorous mind kept supplying Lan Wangji’s face. The thoughts that he’d been suppressing for months started making themselves known now, after seeing the a passionate scene that Jiang Yanli had tricked them into watching. Envy bubbled up in him and then felt rather ridiculous because the other person in the vision was himself, even if it was in another body.

He wondered what the other boy was doing, but almost laughed as soon as he thought it. It was the middle of the night. No doubt Lan Wangji was fast asleep in his bed. Ah, he probably never stayed up thinking about Wei Wuxian like he was doing about the Lan disciple right now.

He wondered when Lan Zhan would fall in love with him.

“A-Ying.”

Wei Wuxian started, hearing his name, all thoughts flying away. He looked over his shoulder, spotting Jiang Fengmian walking towards him with his signature smile. Wei Wuxian grinned back.

“Uncle Jiang!” He waved. “What are you doing here? It’s late. Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

“I could say the same for you.” Jiang Fengmian chuckled. His smile took on a melancholic texture. “I was thinking about a few things and ended up more awake than before I lied down.”

“...About today?” Wei Wuxian asked, slowly.

Jiang Fengmian only smiled tacitly. He took a seat opposite Wei Wuxian.

“Would you tell me?” Jiang Fengmian asked. Just as Wei Wuxian opened his mouth, he continued. “Tell me about A-Cheng. What became of him in the future that you saw.”

Wei Wuxian’s mouth opened in an ‘O’ and he leaned back, crossing his arms.

“Jiang Cheng, huh?” Wei Wuxian smiled wryly. “Well, for starters, he looks and acts like Madam Yu. It was terrifying.”

Jiang Fengmian gave a short, surprised laugh. “Is that so? I hope they aren’t too much the same.”

“No. No, they aren’t.” Wei Wuxian admitted and looked at the moon thoughtfully. “Jiang Cheng had to come to terms with a lot of tragedy. He’d seen a really harsh life in that future and lost almost everyone he cherished. He was only sane because of Shijie’s son.”

The sect leader blinked, “A-Li’s?”

“Oh, yeah. She’ll have a son with Jin Zixuan.They named him Jin Ling.” Wei Wuxian explained, beaming as he thought about the boy. “He’s almost a carbon copy of that peaco*ck, but there’s just something about him that makes you know that Shijie is there in him too. He’s cuter than Jin Zixuan, too.”

Jiang Fengmian was dazed, “A son… I… I’ve really done a disservice to A-Li.”

Wei Wuxian smiled understandingly, “No. From what we’ve gathered, the breaking of their engagement had happened then as well. Jin Zixuan will have his eyes on his face soon enough.”

“That’s what My lady had said as well.” Jiang Fengmian sighed, rubbing his temples. “Should I request to reinstate the engagement?”

“No, don’t. Jin Zixuan has to fight for it. He has to know what he lost.” Wei Wuxian said, resolutely.

His uncle nodded. “And what of A-Cheng? Did he ever marry?”

“No… He… didn’t get the chance.” Wei Wuxian bit his lip. “Some things happened in the future, and… well, he sort of spent the rest of his life hunting me.”

“What?” Jiang Fengmian asked, dumbfounded.

Wei Wuxian sighed. He had done this once before, he could do it again. And so he explained to his Sect leader about the events that befell them after the fall of Lotus Pier. The loss of Jiang Cheng’s core, the transfer of his own and the medic responsible. He told him about how he’d learnt demonic cultivation to survive and how he’d protected the rest of the Wen remnants out of his sense of gratitude and justice.

He still felt awkward and guilty though, when he managed to talk about the events of Jin Zixuan’s death, Jiang Yanli’s and later, his own.

“...So he lost everyone.” Jiang Fengmian said, mournfully. “The future isn’t kind to any of us. What happened to you both? I hope he didn’t hate you forever.”

“No, we… we make up in the end.” Wei Wuxian reassured. “It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t perfect. But we were happy in the end, even though we both missed all of you.”

Jiang Fengmian said nothing this time. He simply looked down, staring at his interlaced fingers as he sat, elbows on knees.

“You’d be proud, Uncle. Jiang Cheng has a great reputation as a strong and strict Sect leader. Everyone’s scared of him. Even Lan Qiren.”

That got a small laugh from him.

As Jiang Fengmian had told them the day before, they went to see the disciples the next afternoon. When they had visited their shidis for training, the group of disciples all but burst into tears at seeing their shixiongs. Wei Wuxian laughed and glomped them as Jiang Cheng held around the back, smiling slightly at the sight.

They eventually lined up, expecting Wei Wuxian to dictate a new training regimen as he had done the past few months, but the head disciple only grinned and told them that they could take a break.

Immediately, they all scrambled to bring some kites and arrows.

“The Wen Sect discussion conference is soon.” Jiang Cheng told his brother as they watched the disciples shoot down the kites by the bank of Lotus lake. “We should start making a move.”

Wei Wuxian nodded in agreement, “The burning of the cloud recesses is something we should stop. Lan Zhan’s father was injured because of the attack and the library was burnt down. It would be a devastating loss for the Lan Sect.”

“How do we do that?” Jiang Cheng asked as he watched his third shidi finally shoot something down and cheer for it.

Wei Wuxian crossed his arms behind his head and lay down on the grass. “While you were away, I was working on copying talismans. Not ones that transfer talisman markings, but actually copy the written document.”

“Copying talismans? Do they work?”

“Of course they do. I spent two months on them.” Wei Wuxian scoffed, “The Lan Sect could easily save their library with those, but the problem is getting them to use it.”

“We can send them an anonymous letter.” Jiang Cheng suggested.

“But will they listen to it?”

“If they don’t, we’ve tried our best. We have Lotus Pier to worry about, and sending a warning is the best we can possibly do while trying to save our own home.” Jiang Cheng told him, “Wei Wuxian, don’t play hero too much. We don’t have the luxury of worrying about another sect on top of our own.”

His brother sighed loudly, “I knew you’d say that. But Qingheng-Jun gets terribly injured during the burning. He may have even died. It would be good if we could prevent at least that.”

“Ah,” Jiang Cheng nodded in mock understanding. “You want to save your father-in-law. Why didn’t you just say that?”

Wei Wuxian looked at his brother flatly.

“I’m just being my usual nosy person.” Wei Wuxian shrugged and got onto his feet, dusting his robes. Then he called out to their youngest shidi. “A-Xing! That’s not how you do it. Here, let me show you!”

Jiang Cheng stared at his brother with a raised eyebrow, realising that Wei Wuxian just ran away very strategically. He shook his head in amusem*nt and went to join them.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian held a competition to see who could hit the kite furthest. The rest of their shidis joined as well. As always, their sixth eldest shidi shot too early and too near, immediately losing.

Jiang Cheng watched as Wei Wuxian kite flew further and further away, very near to the middle of the lake. He did not underestimate his brother’s ability to shoot kites. He was certainly an expert. Jiang Cheng also waited for his kite to fly further.

Wei Wuxian grinned, realising he had tougher competition than usual, but was no less confident. However, Jiang Cheng’s brows began to knit when he saw them flying much further from the arrow range and sighed in defeat.

He drew his bow and arrow.

The white-feathered arrow shot out and hit the kite dead center. The disciples cheered.

Just as he was about to ask Wei Wuxian if his kite hadn’t flown too far, the sound of an arrow being shot made way to his ears. He watched as his brother’s kite fluttered down into the lake, also having been shot dead center.

“Whew, Jiang Cheng! You’ve gotten better. I almost lost!” Wei Wuxian laughed. “I wasn’t even sure that would hit!”

Jiang Cheng snorted, “As if. You knew it would.”

“I’m not modest enough to lie about things like that.” Wei Wuxian countered.

They watched as the other disciples went to collect their kites from the water.

“Ahh, mine’s too far. I don’t want to.” Wei Wuxian complained. He hung his arms lazily.

Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes and unsheathed Sandu, stepping onto it. “I’ll go get them.”

“You will?” Wei Wuxian asked, blinking. “Since when have you been so diligent?”

“Anyone compared to you is diligent.” Jiang Cheng sneered light-heartedly and flew off.

Spotting the kites that were on the lily pads floating on top of the water, Jiang Cheng lowered his sword and stooped to pick up the kites and arrows. He smiled when he noticed how much closer his kite was to Wei Wuxian’s as compared to the past. They were so close that the tip of his kite was touching the bottom of Wei Wuxian’s.

Even though it was only a silly game, he felt just a little more accomplished knowing he was right behind his brother this time.

The horrible training he put himself through was worth it.

Just as he straightened his back, Jiang Cheng noticed a boat not far away. He blinked. He knew that boat. It had the Jiang Sects crest, but the colours of…

...MeishanYu! His mother was back!

Jiang Cheng hightailed back to the banks, but didn’t find his brother or the rest of the disciples. He heard laughter coming from the winding hallway further down and saw everyone there. Literally everyone.

Even his father and sister were there.

“Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng called as he flew directly into the hallway and stepped off his sword. He turned to his father with a short salute. “Father.”

“Whoa, Jiang Cheng. What’s the hurry?” Wei Wuxian asked.

“Mother’s back.” Jiang Cheng told him.

“Ziyuan is?” Jiang Fengmian asked, looking at his son.

Jiang Cheng nodded. “I saw her boat when I went to get back our kites. How long has she been away?”

All the faces of his family suddenly grew awkward.

“She’s been here off and on… since I came back.” Wei Wuxian answered, guiltily.

“What? Why?

“It was my fault.” Jiang Fengmian said, stepping forward. Seeing this, Jiang Cheng felt some resentment brewing in his heart. He had opened up to his father the day before, but as soon as he showed favouritism towards Wei Wuxian, bitter irritation began to bubble up.

His eyes narrowed. “What happened?”

Jiang Fengmian felt a stabbing pain in his chest, seeing his son’s face become so clouded and cold towards him. This was his punishment, he thought, because he hadn’t shown Jiang Cheng the affection he’d needed from a father. If he had waited any longer, if Wei Ying had not shown him a horrific future, he feared that he’d have been too late to mend this damaged relationship.

“Nothing that can’t be fixed.” Jiang Fengmian answered and placed a hand on his son’s face, four fingers at the boy’s jaw while his thumb stroked his cheek. “It really was my fault. I will take responsibility for my own actions. Will you trust me?”

As soon as he said it, Jiang Fengmian felt he was being rather arrogant. Why would his son who hasn’t spent a week’s worth of intimacy with him suddenly place his faith in his ignorant father? Jiang Fengmian’s heart felt heavy.

But his worries blew away as soon as Jiang Cheng’s face softened, warmth making way into his eyes once more.

“Okay.” He answered, looking hopeful.

Jiang Fengmian smiled and patted his son’s head.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Yanli grinned, at the scene and at the gawking faces of his shidis. They were all confused at the sudden closeness of father and son. It was understandable. Before, they had been no more than strangers. Family only in name.

To others this probably looked like an overnight change in character, but Wei Ying knew better. Jiang Fengmian was acting on the regret that had been heaping up in his heart for months.

Wei Wuxian really didn’t regret using that token with his Uncle.

JinZhu and YinZhu raised their eyebrows as they took in the sight of all the people in the long hallway, but said nothing. They only parted to make way for their master, armour clanking as they did so.

Yu Ziyuan walked forward and scanned the group, her eyes catching on her husband. “Sect leader Jiang.” She greeted, coldly.

“My lady…” Jiang Fengmian said. It was less of a greeting and more of a statement.

“Mom.” Jiang Cheng smiled. Jiang Yanli copied him.

Meanwhile, the rest of the boys greeted her with respect, “Madam Yu.”

“What is this crowd here for? Fiddling about as usual? Or is it a family gathering I’m not invited to?”

Jiang Fengmian stepped forward, trying to appease her. “My lady, you know it’s nothing like that.”

“Do I? Since you say so, then I do. I have to.” She said and then turned to the disciples. “But what about these children? And what of you, Wei Ying?”

Wei Wuxian jerked, hearing his name. He looked at Madam Yu, puzzled.

“Didn’t I give you a training regimen for your shidis? As the head disciple, shouldn’t you be making sure they train? Yet what do I find when I come back? My son is collecting your debris from the water while you play about here. Yes, I saw you!”

She turned to Jiang Cheng who had looked at her in surprise when she mentioned him in the middle of her rant.

Madam Yu continued, “Did you think I wouldn’t? You even flew away as fast as you could when you saw my boat. Wei Ying! If you do not seek progress yourself at least do not drag my son into it!”

Wei Wuxian had felt that he had matured significantly after discovering the token, but hearing Madam Yu’s words, he didn’t feel satisfied if he wasn’t to speak back.

“Progress? Don’t I have more progress than any disciple in Lotus Pier?” He asked, looking startled.

Madam Yu’s face blanketed itself with hostility.

Jiang Cheng elbowed his brother, hissing, “ Stop.

Wei Wuxian however, wasn’t done yet. “No, I can only call myself second this time.”

Jiang Cheng froze.

Madam Yu’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

Jiang Fengmian stepped forward and put a hand on Jiang Cheng’s shoulder. Yu Ziyuan’s eyes focused at the point of contact in surprise. Her features softened with the few, rare streaks of loss that marred her brows.

“My lady. If it is progress you seek, then A-Cheng has already proved himself.” Jiang Fengmian pushed his son forward, gently. Jiang Cheng obeyed his father’s wish and went to his mother’s side.

Yu Ziyuan looked at her husband and then at her son, eyebrows knitted.

She reached a hand out and grabbed Jiang Cheng’s arm, slowly giving it a squeeze.

Her eyes widened. “A-Cheng…”

Jiang Cheng looked at her, making unrelenting eye contact. “It will get better. It was tough the first few months when I started. I didn’t know how to improve my cultivation at all, but I did whatever I could, as much as I could. I got here as fast as possible. It will get better—”

Jiang Cheng was cut off as his mother pulled him into an embrace.

He stayed still, not daring to speak any further. In two days, he had been shown more affection by his parents than his entire sixteen years. He still hadn’t gotten used to it from his father, but from his mother? He was even more surprised.

Yu Ziyuan pulled away from her son and grabbed his face with her cold hands.

She looked at him in wonder, as if she couldn’t believe her eyes. “You… My son… finally you’ve… ‘Get better?’ Of course you will… I know you can.”

Yu Ziyuan smiled.

Jiang Cheng looked at her, eyes wide. “Mom…”

As if something clicked in Jiang Fengmian’s head, he went towards his wife.

Yu Ziyuan watched warily as her husband approached her, hand of Jiang Cheng’s shoulder.

“Ziyuan,” Jiang Fengmian said and her eyes widened, hearing her name being said intimately. “We need to talk.”

Notes:

I can’t believe how fast I wrote this chapter and I can’t believe how much I love writing the Jiang family. Omg.

And yes, Jiang Fengmian is going to be the doting father I need and should’ve had.

I thought I would get more sh*t going with this chapter, but I got so side tracked, I— ANYWAY, next chapter we’ll ACTUALLY have sh*t going down. For reals this time.

Chapter 16: Chapter 16

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

They sat at the table in Jiang Fengmian’s office. A servant had come to pour tea for them and was dismissed immediately after doing her job. Even Jinzhu And Yinzhu were made to stand outside. They refused when Jiang Fengmian had asked, but when Yu Ziyuan turned to them, they begrudgingly obeyed.

The Jiang matriarch sipped her tea, “What did you want to talk about?”

Jiang Fengmian frowned and opened his mouth, only to end up sighing.

“I have so much to talk about, I don’t really know where to begin.” He confessed.

Yu Ziyuan raised an eyebrow, “This is new. Shall I speak first, then? Tell me Fengmian, since when have you touched A-Cheng as if he were really your son? Since when have you spoken up for him like you did today? And how long do you think has it been since you’ve called me ‘Ziyuan’?”

Jiang Fengmian was immediately reminded of the vision he’d seen months ago.

“How long has it been since you’d called me by name, I wonder?”

Jiang Fengmian bit the inside of his cheek.

“You have been ‘my lady’ ever since we were married, and even now. First and foremost, however, you are ‘Ziyuan’. My childhood friend whom I rarely ever got along with in my youth.”

Yu Ziyuan knitted her brows. “Do you mean to insult me? Trying to degrade me to a mere ‘friend’? One you didn’t even get along with? What should I say to this?”

“You were my friend then. You are now as well, even if you have more roles to play.”

“What roles?”

“Of course, my wife.” The Sect leader declares, “The Co-leader of the YunmengJiang Sect. The mother of my children. There are too many roles.”

Yu Ziyuan blinked, “You are being strange today, Fengmian. I don’t know what to make of you.”

Jiang Fengmian, on the other hand, felt quite nervous as opposed to his calm demeanour. His heart was beating frantically in his chest and his thoughts were in disarray. He kept worrying that his wife would just get up and run off with the slightest affront.

“A-Cheng has improved immensely.” He said, instead.

Yu Ziyuan hummed, sipping her tea again, “Yes. That boy finally has something to prove himself with.”

Jiang Fengmian frowned at these words, feeling indignant on his son’s behalf. “A-Cheng is A-Cheng. He is our son. Of course I am proud his cultivation had improved so remarkably, but I do not feel you should measure his worth by that.”

Yu Ziyuan glared at him maliciously. “ I measure his worth? A-Cheng always had to live in the shadows of Wei Ying, watching as you picked him up the very first day you brought him, while your own son had been held by you only a handful of times! You dare accuse me of measuring his worth?”

She slammed down her tea cup, startling Jiang Fengmian, “I am only harsh on him because I want him to do better. Because I have to live by seeing him always feel second best and it breaks my heart in ways you would never understand!”

Silence.

The room crackled with tension as Yu Ziyuan calmed herself.

“What mother wants to see her children feel inadequate? I love my children, Fengmian. All I ask is that you love them, too.” She said, now looking uncharacteristically tired. “Aren’t they trying? Isn’t A-Cheng always trying? And look how much he’s improved. Of course I’m proud.”

Jiang Fengmian, lowered his head, feeling ashamed and guilty. For years, the strain in their family had never been Yu Ziyuan, like the outside world had thought. It had been him. It had been him, with his shallow self-pity and selfish actions. It had been him with his ignorance and cowardice.

“I’m sorry.” He apologised. His wife looked at him strangely. “I never knew how much I hurt you. How much I hurt our children. Perhaps I never wanted to see. A-Ying became terribly angry at me after we’d fought on his return—”

“Oh, so that’s it.” Yu Ziyuan scoffed, bitterly. “It’s always Wei Ying, isn’t it? Is that why you’re doing this? Because if it is, then I—”

Yu Ziyuan was about to get up, when she felt a hand grabbing hold of hers, refusing to let her move. She looked towards her husband in surprise. His eyes were trained on her, determined and desperate.

As if hypnotised, she sat back down.

“It’s not A-Ying. It is myself. I don’t want to lose you or our children. A-Ying only made me realise that if I continued like this, then that was the fate that awaited us.” He told her, still holding her hand, afraid that she would try to take off again and who knows for how many months, this time. “Let us talk, Ziyuan. Tell me your worries and I’ll tell you mine. Let’s not go on like this, for our childrens’ sakes and for ours as well.”

Yu Ziyuan hesitated, looking afraid and vulnerable, and Jiang Fengmian allowed himself to mirror that expression. He had no need to hide it. The two of them had been running away for so long and never took a moment to hold each other’s hands like they were doing now.

Gathering all his courage, he slid himself over to the other side of the table, where his wife was. She stared at him with wide eyes, chest heaving. Jiang Fengmian placed a tentative hand on her head and pulled her towards his chest.

They stayed like that, both feeling a little uncertain and unprepared. Like they were teenagers again—too scared to let the other one know how they felt and trembling as they confronted the issue.

But they weren’t teenagers. They were adults that have already married. And it was because of this that they had to move forward.

“Let’s talk.”

A beat passed. Jiang Fengmian felt Yu Ziyuan lean into him, acting as a warm, comfortable weight on his chest.

“Okay.” She breathed, yielding.

“What do you think they’re doing in there?” Jiang Cheng asked, worriedly.

The three siblings were standing a few feet away from the Sect Leaders office, not daring to get any closer due to Yu Ziyuan’s maids guarding the door.

“There was a little bit of shouting in the beginning. I do hope everything is okay.” Jiang Yanli said, fidgeting with her sleeve.

Wei Wuxian strained his ears, complaining. “It’s been ages. The sun’s about to set! You don’t think they killed each other, do you?”

Jiang Cheng slapped him over the head. “Don’t make jokes like that! They aren’t f*cking funny!”

“Ow, ow…” He whined, rubbing his head. “Okay, I’m sorry. You know I’m really just worried.”

He did know. They were all worried. Jiang Cheng hung back, arms crossed as he watched his sister rub a soothing hand over their brother’s head.

The Jiang couple are never alone together for long. Usually they start fighting and his mother ends up walking away while his father sighed and let it go. They could hardly eat a decent meal together. They even slept separately. This was no secret to anyone in Lotus Pier.

“We’re wasting our time.” Jiang Cheng said. “We should be planning, not hanging around here.”

Even as he said it though, Jiang Cheng knew that they would all be too restless to get any work done.

They had tried to do some work, and his brother had talked to him about a few inventions he’d designed in the month he was too sick to use the token. One of them being an alarm.

Wei Wuxian had come up with the idea of placing spiritual bells all over the pier and town so that it would give loud rings during any emergencies. Then they came up with the idea of being able to input people who can be allowed as intruders, such as members of the Lan Sect who posed no threat to them.

They had discussed his ideas for a good shichen*.

(A/N: *An old Chinese measurement of time that spans two hours.)

Soon though, they began to feel nervous when neither Jiang leader came out of the room and moved towards the office. They felt even more alarmed when they saw Jinzhu and Yinzhu still standing there as they had been since the couple entered the room.

They began to seriously worry as the sky got darker. Then the door to the office opened.

The YunmengJiang siblings swerved their heads to where Yu Ziyuan’s maids parted to allow the couple some way to move into the hallway.

Jiang Fengmian looked at them in surprise. “What are you three doing here?”

Madam Yu took to stand beside him. “Don’t you have anything better to do? Did you think we died in there?” She speculated.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian stiffened, hearing this, wondering if she’d heard them speaking while she was inside. They exchanged a panicked glance.

Yu Ziyuan raised an eyebrow at them, but waved it off. She then turned to Wei Wuxian.

“Wei Ying, you are relieved of your duties. I will resume training the disciples.”

Wei Wuxian blinked at her, “Alright… Should Jiang Cheng and I start training again as usual?”

Jiang Fengmian spoke, “We can talk about that tomorrow. My lady is tired today.”

Then, the siblings watched in astonishment as the Jiang Patriarch reaches out and took a hold of his wife’s hand. And if that wasn’t enough, Madam Yu laced her fingers through his and held it tightly.

Jiang Fengmian smiled at her and pulled her away into the opposite direction. She went along with him without a word.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng looked at each other, both gaping and pointing at the couples’ back. Jiang Yanli covered her mouth with her hand and just looked on in surprise.

“Jinzhu, Yinzhu. You do not need to follow us. Take some rest.” Madam Yu told them, dismissively.

Yu Ziyuan’s maids blinked at her, stupefied by the orders. Wei Wuxian’s jaw dropped.

Once the couple was out of sight and Jinzhu and Yinzhu had left after some debating, Jiang Cheng turned to his siblings.

“What the f*ck happened while they were in there?”

The next morning as they sat for breakfast, Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but notice the menu. The Jiang dining hall was a large room that could easily fit thirty people, but the only people that regularly dined in it were the five currently present.

The small square tables were already set out and tea was served along with breakfast.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng sat on either side of Jiang Yanli. As usual, Jiang Cheng sat closer to his parents.

The three siblings stared at their food. It wasn’t that it looked bad or strange, but rather, much more colourful than usual and different as well. Wei Wuxian examined it. There was Baozi in soup, spiced soybeans, and sweet tofu pudding paired with their usual rice. He also noticed that they were drinking ginseng tea rather than their normal green tea.

Each dish was a favourite of everyone in the room. The main dish, the Baozi, was Jiang Fengmian’s favorite. The spiced soybeans were a favorite of both Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian while the sweet tofu pudding was a guilty pleasure of Jiang Yanli’s. The ginseng tea was likely for Madam Yu.

“Fengmian, take more of these. You like them.”

The siblings looked front where the Jiang couple sat. Madam Yu had her bowl in her hand and was transferring one of her baozi into her husband’s bowl. On her hair, a distinct teal coloured hairpin glimmered. It made her over all appearance softer, and therefore none of the other three in the room missed it.

“My lady, you should eat more. You just came back yesterday.”

“Please,” She scoffed, “If I had been feeling unwell I wouldn’t have bothered to get up early just to cook for us.”

The children gawked at her.

You cooked breakfast, mom?” Jiang Cheng asked, mouth hanging open.

“For a change,” She answered as she mixed her soybeans with the spice. “Why, is it not to your taste? I had been careful to include something all of us would like.”

Wei Wuxian gawked at Madam Yu.

“What is it, Wei Ying?” Madam Yu asked him, looking unimpressed. “Spit it out.”

“No… well…” Wei Wuxian cringed as he said the next words. “I didn’t know you could… cook.”

He waited, expecting her to lash out and clenched his hands on his knees. Madam Yu, however, didn’t get angry. She simply looked at him and then back at her food.

“Of course I know how to cook. Why wouldn’t I? Even Fengmian knows how to.” She answered easily.

It seemed like the morning was full of surprises.

“Father as well?” Yanli asked, eyes wide.

Jiang Fengmian smiled at them, “It’s a necessary skill. Why don’t you tell me what you like? Next time, I’ll try my hand at it.”

“Unnecessary. We have cooks.” Madam Yu said, giving him a side glance. “The Sect leader has more important things to do.”

“But I want to do something for you.” He said looking at her, softly. “Do you still like cold noodles? I know how to make them quite well now. And the weather is getting hotter. The season is perfect for it.”

As the couple talked, Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng exchanged bewildered looks with their sister. Wei Wuxian smiled slowly as he saw Jiang Cheng blink rapidly, as if his eyes were deceiving him.

“That’s right, A-Ying.” Jiang Fengmian said. “I saw bells all over the house this morning. Does it have something to do with you?”

“Ah.” Wei Wuxian grinned, remembering how he had spent the entire morning hanging them up. “Yeah. I’ve been working on the design for those bells for months. Those are the first finished ones.”

“Yes, but what is it for?” Madam Yu asked.

Wei Wuxian, still unused to the Jiang matriarch speaking to him without hostility, stammered through the first few words of his answer. “They’re soldier bells. They will ring and inform us if we have intruders on Lotus pier. I’m not sure how well they work yet. I need to test them.”

“Why on earth do you need to worry about intruders at a major sect?” She asked, eyebrows knitting.

The rest of the family looked exchanged awkward glances.

“...In case.” Wei Wuxian answered and looked at the Sect leader. “I wanted to put them over the town as well, with your permission.”

Jiang Fengmian nodded. “Very well. We’ll talk about this after the meal.”

“So far, I’ve placed one in the ancestral hall, one in the lake pavillion, one in this banquet hall and at the gates.” Wei Wuxian explained. These should start ringing immediately when they notice someone from outside our sect coming in.”

He was explaining the mechanism of his invention to his brother and adoptive father as he displayed the bell in the banquet hall.

“We always have people from other sects going in and out of Lotus Pier.” Jiang Cheng inserted, looking unamused.

“Yes, So I need to make it that they only ring when it senses a Wen Sect member.” Wei Wuxian said. “It’ll be okay. I can just tweak it to recognise hostile energies and then, we’ll be set. The sounds of the bells will also vary depending on how hostile the intruders are. If every single one of them start ringing at full volume, then we can be sure that it’s an army of Wen dogs.”

“Language, A-Ying.” Fengmian chided, voice lukewarm. He inspected the large bell hanging on the wall. “They are fixed rather well. It would be difficult for even a strong wind to make it ring.”

“Exactly.” Wei Wuxian nodded, seriously. “That’s why we’ll know. It’ll take a little longer to perfect them.”

“How long?” His adopted father asked.

“Another three days at most. I only have to adapt it to sense hostile energy and adjust the sound accordingly. The rest is already done.”

Jiang Fengmian smiled and patted his shoulder. “Good job. I’ll leave that to you then. A-Cheng, keep him company. I will let Ziyuan know that both of you cannot attend training for a few days.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng nodded, both returning the smile.

Just then, the bells started ringing.

“What the—” Jiang Cheng covered his ears as he covered his ears. Jiang Fengmian also placed one hand over the ear closer to the bell, face scrunching.

“We’ve got visitors!” Wei Wuxian said as he used his spiritual energy to calm the bells down. The sounds of the bells lowered, but still continued ringing. “Come on!”

The black clad boy took off towards the gates of Lotus Pier, Jiang Cheng following close behind.

Reaching the gates of Lotus Pier, Wei Wuxian almost burst out laughing at the sight that greeted him. Jiang Cheng had stopped beside him, soon followed by Jiang Fengmian who stood behind the both of them.

“Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that the intruders would be subject to some electric shocks as long as the bells are ringing.” Wei Wuxian told them, holding in his laughter.

Jiang Cheng and Jiang Fengmian looked on, dumbstruck.

There, in front of them, was the sight of none other than one Nie Huaisang jumping about as he tried to shake off the feeling of pricking shocks zipping all over his body. The men behind him were trying to do much the same, having to go through the same experience as their master.

Wei Wuxian burst out laughing, no longer able to hold it in.

A few seconds passed, and the unfortunate victims of his inventions slumped to the ground.

“Wei-xiong!” Huaisang whined. “What was that? Why did you just stand there doing nothing??”

Wei Wuxian approached his classmate with a large grin. “Because I could do nothing. The effect could only stop by itself.”

“I know you’re the one who is responsible for this.” The Nie Sect disciple accused, glaring at him.

“Ah… well.” Wei Wuxian grinned unrepentantly, as he held a hand out for his classmate.

Nie Huaisang took the offered hand and was shakily pulled onto his feet. He dusted his robes and took out his fan.

Just then, he noticed Jiang Fengmian and cupped his hands in front of him in salute. “Sect leader Jiang.” He greeted, politely.

Jiang Fengmian returned the greeting. “Young Master Nie. I welcome you to Yunmeng. I’m sorry, I can’t stay long, but my boys will keep you company.”

“Ah, no. Thank you for the welcome, Master Jiang. I shan’t keep you here.”

Jiang Fengmian nodded at the boy and gave one last pat on the shoulder to Jiang Cheng before leaving.

“So, Huaisang,” Jiang Cheng said, turning to his friend. “There can only be one reason you’re here.”

Nie Huaisang snapped open his fan, waving it in short twists of his wrists. “Obviously.”

“Is it the token?” Wei Wuxian asked. “We’ve found out a lot more about your brother’s death and alleged murderer. We can go ahead and talk about it inside.”

“Of course, I want to hear about that as well, but I think you need to hear more from me.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but look at their classmate in puzzlement.

Nie Huaisang snapped his fan closed.

“Shall we go inside?”

Notes:

So, cold treatment noodles were apparently popular in ancient China. I found it strange because they had no refrigerators, but I’m stupid lmao.

They just take the noodles, wash it in water and fan them which makes it cold and firm, lol. I took a shine to this dish and made it Madam Yu’s favourite. I feel like it’s something she actually would like.

ANYWAY, I GOT SIDETRACKED AGAIN. lol. But at least I managed to bring in NHS again.

Chapter 17: Chapter 17

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Can you tell me what you know first?” Nie Huaisang asked, as they sat down.

They had decided to grace their guest with some tea. If it were up to Wei Wuxian, he would’ve had some wine on the table, but seeing as that probably wasn’t a good idea during broad daylight, stuck with a safer option.

“Jin Guangyao is the person responsible for your brother’s death. This, we already knew.” Jiang Cheng told him and then jerked his head at his brother. “But this guy found out something strange.”

Wei Wuxian looked at his classmate, “Huaisang, your brother’s death was indeed cleverly done. He died of Qi deviation like everyone else from your family.”

Nie Huaisang blinked, not looking surprised.

“I see. Well, now we know his death wasn’t a simple stab-murder case. I would’ve been surprised if it were. Few can spar with my brother and hope to win.” He said, fanning himself. He looked nonchalant, but Wei Wuxian could see the cold rage underneath it all. “I already knew he died due to something more subtle when I saw him.

It was Wei Wuxian’s turn to blink. Even Jiang Cheng looked surprised. “Who?”

“The man we call Jin Guangyao.” Nie Huaisang told them, and then smiled sardonically. “But that’s not what we know him by. His name right now is Meng Yao. He’s the son of the prostitute you had told me about months ago, Wei-xiong.”

“That one? Is he somewhat small and has a rather mild, harmless look to his face?” He asked.

“Why, yes.” Nie Huaisang said, startled. “How did you know?”

“I saw his face in a token vision.” Wei Wuxian answered. “What’s he doing in Qinghe?”

“He’s a member of our ranks.” Said the young master Nie. “Rumours about him are buzzing all over the city, all throughout our Sect. He’s not spoken well of in a single one. Though, that’s only because of his birth and nothing else. I would feel sorry for him if I didn’t know what he would do.”

Wei Wuxian exhaled through his nose as he thought.

“The son of a prostitute and Jin Guangshan.” Jiang Cheng said bitterly, speaking Jin Guangshan’s name as if it were more foul than the title of ‘prostitute’. “He’s one unlucky bastard.”

“An unlucky, evil bastard.” Nie Huaisang corrected, dangerously.

“Wait, that doesn’t need to be so.” Wei Wuxian said, suddenly.

The other two looked at him curiously.

“What do you mean?” Jiang Cheng asked.

“For all we know, he might not even be planning anybody’s death yet. Something happened in the future to make him do it. We need to know what.”

“You’re not suggesting…” Nie Huaisang trailed off, eyes twinkling understandingly.

Wei Wuxian nodded. “The three of us should use the token again”


“Okay.” Jiang Cheng said as he made sure the door was locked.

They had come back to their childhood bedroom since it was the safest place to be at the moment. They knew from previous experience that their bodies would glow gold in colour whenever they used the token, and right now, in broad daylight where people just kept going around, it would not be difficult to get caught.

“Alright. Are sure to think of a situation where we can find out the most about Jin Guangyao.”

Nie Huaisang looked up, “Why?”

“Ah,” Jiang Cheng blinked. “I forgot to tell you. Apparently the thing shows what we want to see.”

Huaisang’s eyes widened. “How convenient.”

“Indeed.”

“Okay, okay. Can you guys just touch it?” Wei Wuxian hastened.

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang exchanged a nod and placed their hands over the token.

“Three… two… one!”

The token flared.


It was dark and it was raining.

They were in a large hall which was simply lit only by yellow candles. Thunder roared in the background.

“Where are we?” Jiang Cheng asked, taking a look at the ominous surroundings.

“Looks like a temple.” Wei Wuxian answered, noticing the deity statues placed everywhere.

Nie Huaisang’s voice called, “Look over there!”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng turned their heads just in time to see a man whose chest was thickly dotted with ugly holes of varying sizes. The man covered up himself hurriedly, as if trying to hide something. But the damage was done. Everyone had already seen what he’d tried to hide.

“Those markings...!” Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened, recognising the effect of the hundred holes curse.

A curse that Jin Zixun’s cousin had accused him of doing right before Wei Wuxian killed Jin Zixuan! At that time, he had already known that he himself wouldn’t have done such a curse but have nothing to really prove himself on. Yet now he sees the culprit of it!

“Sect Leader Jin, was this also part of the plan to attack Qiongqi Path?”

“Sect leader…” Jiang Cheng said darkly. “I see. Jin Guangshan must also be dead at this point.”

Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang’s furrowed their brows as they watched the scene. There were a lot of people in this vision. Almost every authoritative figure they know was sitting in this hall.

Jin Guangyao, “Why do you think so?”

Jiang Cheng’s was cold, “Is it necessary to ask? If Jin Zixun weren’t cursed, nothing that happened afterwards would have to happen! The attack helped you remove Jin ZiXuan and Jin ZiXun, both of whom were of the same generation as you. It cleared away everything that obstructed your path to the LanlingJin Sect and the position of Chief Cultivator. Su She was behind the curse, and he’s a trusted subordinate of yours. Is it really necessary to ask whose orders he followed?!”

Wei Wuxian realised that there was a lot of information to be gathered from just these words. He watched as his future self laughed viciously. A laugh unlike what he ever does.

“Have I done anything to you? I held no enmity towards you—I didn’t even know you!”

Jin Guangyao, “Young Master Wei, shouldn’t you be the one who knows this the most? Could you be safe just because you hold no enmity? How could that be? In this world, everyone began without enmity. Someone would eventually lunge with the first stab.”

Jiang Cheng’s voice was drenched in hatred, “You insidious scum!!!”

Yet, Su She smiled coldly, “Stop thinking so highly of yourself. Who told you I cursed Jin ZiXun in order to frame you? Back then, I wasn’t working for Sect Leader at all. I cursed him simply because I wanted to!”

Wei Wuxian , “Then do you hold enmity towards Jin Zixun?”

Su She, “Those as arrogant as him—I’ll kill every single one who comes my way!”

The trio watched as Wei Wuxian’s apparition questioned the man on his hatred towards Lan Wangji. The man, in return, seemed to be holding irrational grudges based on impossible intolerance on his part.

Just as the Wei Wuxian in the vision seemed to figure out something, so did the present Wei Wuxian. He remembered seeing this face months ago, back when he was in Gusu.

“It’s you!”

“It’s him!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed with his future self simultaneously.

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang looked at him questioningly.

“He was there studying with us in Gusu, remember?” Wei Wuxian explained. “The guy who lost his sword in the waterborne abyss!”

Jiang Cheng’s eyes widened in realisation. Nie Huaisang still looked confused. This cannot be helped as he was not there when they went to exterminate the ghouls, yet he did seem to roughly recognise the figure.

“I do vaguely remember seeing such a face in Gusu…” He said, dubiously.

Wei Wuxian’s apparition burst out laughing all of a sudden.

As he laughed, Wei Wuxian’s eyes reddened. He mocked, whether at himself or otherwise, “I can’t believe it’s because of someone like you… because of such a ridiculous reason!”

But Jin Guangyao seemed like he knew what he thought, “Young Master Wei, you really shouldn’t think like this.”

Wei Wuxian, “Oh? You know what I think?”

Jin Guangyao, “Of course. It’s quite easy. You’re definitely thinking about how unfortunate you are. In reality, you’re not. Even if Su She didn’t curse Jin ZiXun, Mr. Wei, you’d receive a siege sooner or later, because of some other reason.” He smiled, “Because that’s what kind of a person you are. At best, you’re the untamed hero; at worst, you offend people wherever you go. Unless all those whom you’ve offended lived their lives safely, as soon as something happened to them or someone did something to them, the first person they suspect would be you and the first person they seek revenge on would also you. And this is something you have no control over.”

Somehow, Wei Wuxian smiled, “What should I do? For some reason, I think you make a lot of sense.”

“No, it f*cking doesn’t!” Jiang Cheng yelled. “What the f*ck is wrong with that asshole?”

But even as he said this, Jiang Cheng knew that once upon a time, he would’ve been one of the very people to seek revenge on Wei Wuxian. The token had shown it to him and even he himself had shown it. Only because of how others viewed him.

Jin Guangyao, “And even if you didn’t lose control at the Qiongqi Path, could you guarantee you didn’t lose control sometime in the rest of your life? Thus, someone like you is destined to have a short life. You see? Doesn’t it feel a lot better if you think about it this way?”

Jiang Cheng raged, “You’re the one who’s got a f*cking short life!”

Jiang Cheng felt consoled that his older self was defending Wei Wuxian at this point.

“Jiang-xiong, you look badly injured.” Nie Huaisang observed.

“You’re right…” Jiang Cheng returned as he watched his older self grab Sandu in an aggressive fashion, only to vomit blood. Yet, just like how he’d do in his fit of rage, his older version didn’t stop cursing.

“You son of a prostitute, who bears no shame as long as you can rise! You weren’t the one who told Su She to do it?! Who are you trying to fool?!”

Jin Guangyao froze.

He looked toward Jiang Cheng. After some thought, he began in a lukewarm tone, “Sect Leader Jiang, calm down a bit, won’t you? I understand what you’re feeling right now. You’re in such a terrible mood only because you know the truth behind your golden core. When you think back on what you did all these years, your proud heart feels a tinge of guilt, and so you’re anxious to find a culprit for what happened to Young Master Wei in his past life, a villain onto whom you can push all liability. Then, you’d lash out at him, both in vengeance for Young Master Wei and to ease some of your burden.

“If being determined that everything from the Hundred Holes curse to the attack at the Qiongqi Path was part of my singlehanded scheme would ease your troubles, then feel free to think whatever you please. But what you have to understand is that, for what happened to Young Master Wei in the end, you are responsible too and in fact, you are very much so. Why did so many people crusade against the YiLing Patriarch? Why did they shout their support, no matter if they were involved or not? Why was he one-sidedly condemned by so many? Was it really their sense of justice? Of course not. A part of the reason is you.”

“… Back then, the LanlingJin Sect, the QingheNie Sect, and the GusuLan Sect had already finished fighting over the biggest share. The rest could only get some small shrimps. You, on the other hand, had just rebuilt Lotus Pier and behind you was the YiLing Patriarch, Wei WuXian, the danger of whom was immeasurable. Do you think the other sects would like to see a young sect leader who was so advantaged? Luckily, you didn’t seem to be on good terms with your shixiong, and since everyone thought there was an opportunity, of course they’d add fuels to your fire if they could. No matter what, to weaken the YunmengJiang Sect was to strengthen themselves. Sect Leader Jiang, if only your attitude towards your shixiong was just a bit better, showing everyone that your bond was too strong to be broken for them to have a chance, or if you exhibited just a bit more tolerance after what happened, things wouldn’t have become what they were. Oh, speaking of it, you were also a main force of the siege at Burial Mound…”

Jiang Cheng stood, frozen in place listening to this man speak of his future and his actions in it. Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang turned to look at their friend in concern. Then, a last sentence was spoken.

Wei Wuxian, “Looks like being called the son of a prostitute is really Sect Leader Jin’s weak spot. No wonder you killed ChiFeng-Zun.”

The vision faded.

Back in the bedroom in Lotus Pier, the sun cast its rays through the windows. It was a stark contrast from the dimly lit hall they had just been in and the sound of the rain beating on the ground behind the voices that spoke.

It felt like a nightmare.

And it was a nightmare that had a probability of happening.

Jiang Cheng shakily took his hand off the token. It was not exhaustion that made him tremble, but rather, shock. He didn’t know what his face looked like, but seeing how his friends looked at him in fear, it probably wasn’t even remotely sightly.

“Jiang Cheng…?” Wei Wuxian spoke, and Jiang Cheng flinched. Wei Wuxian’s grey eyes grew increasingly worried and he reached out to his brother.

Jiang Cheng’s eyes widened and he slapped away his hand.

The sound echoed in the room.

Nie Huaisang’s eyes were wide as he looked back and forth between his two friends.

Wei Wuxian stared at his brother in surprise and hurt. It was when he saw this expression that Jiang Cheng realised exactly what he did. His chest felt heavy and throbbed with a dull ache as he saw Wei Wuxian retrieve his hand, expression falling.

“I’m… sorry.” Wei Wuxian said, eventually.

Jiang Cheng felt a flash of shame shoot through him. “Why are you sorry?! Don’t apologise!”

Wei Wuxian recoiled, “But I—”

“Who is the one here who needs to be sorry?” Jiang Cheng cut off. “It’s me. I feel so sorry right now, I can’t even bear to look at you. I feel so ashamed and guilty I don’t even know what to do!”

“Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian started, desperation in his voice. “You haven’t done any of those things.”

Jiang Cheng grit his teeth, wanting to hit someone. Wanting to hit himself, as he bit out, “But I could have. I may have. I had.Even if I haven’t done it here.”

Wei Wuxian was instantly reminded about how Jiang Fengmian had reacted the only time he’d used the token. It was exactly the same. They both felt like they had done injustice and felt guilty.

Jiang Cheng laughed bitterly, “A siege.” He mocked. “That’s How you died, Wei Wuxian. A siege. It wasn’t even a fair fight. It was you against an army. It was you against me. And knowing you, I wouldn’t have been hurt. You would’ve kept me safe even if I was the main force of it.”

“Stop it!” Wei Wuxian yelled. “Jiang Cheng, Stop it! We both know that I had done something bad. You didn’t know about my sacrifices there. You didn’t know if you could trust me. I don’t fault you—in any body, in any life!”

Jiang Cheng had been only slightly placated, but his expression was still sour. Wei Wuxian froze then, realising that his brother was actually not placated. Jiang Cheng’s anger at himself had evolved into sorrow. Wei Wuxian understood this as he watched tears stream down from the other boy’s eyes.

“But you trusted me.” Jiang Cheng said. “You never hated me. You sacrificed so much for me.”

“....I also took so much from you.” Wei Wuxian countered softly, eyes downcast.

Jiang Cheng scoffed, “Maybe.” Then he looked at the other boy, timidly. It was a strange expression on his face. Unfamiliar. “...Don’t lose your trust in me… please.”

Wei Wuxian opened his mouth and closed it a few times, pondering on what to say. Realising he didn’t have to think that much, he spoke.

“Of course. You know I would give my life for you. I would do this because you’d give your life for me.” Wei Wuxian smiled. He took Jiang Cheng’s hands into his and, remembering his sisters words. “Our lives are one, Jiang Cheng.”

Jiang Cheng looked at him, tear streaks on his face, and eyes bloodshot.

“I know… that you’re supposed to be my master. That I’m supposed to be your servant. But, you have always been more to me, Jiang Cheng.” Wei Wuxian told him. “You have always been my brother.”

Wei Wuxian didn’t register when Jiang Cheng had thrown himself at him. One moment, they were holding hands, and in the other, Jiang Cheng’s arms were around him.

They had never hugged more than a few times even as children. And even back then, Jiang Cheng had never been the one to initiate. It was always Wei Wuxian.

Jiang Cheng’s arms tightened around Wei Wuxian as he spoke brokenly, “You’re my brother, too. You weren’t ever a servant to me.”

Wei Wuxian smiled into his brother’s shoulders and hugged him back. “Yeah.”

They stayed like that for a few moments when suddenly, a sniffling sound made its way into their ears.

They broke apart, first looking at each inquiringly and then at the source of the noise.

Wei Wuxian’s face went slack as he saw Nie Huaisang sniffling in his runny nose as he patted dry the tears that were falling from his eyes with a handkerchief.

“T-That w-was… so b-beautiful!” He cried, as a fresh supply of tears ran down his face again.

“N-Nie-xiong…?” Wei Wuxian called, wearing a tentative smile.

He wondered if he should pat the other boy’s back or something. In one life, Wei Wuxian had never expected he’d see so many men crying in the same period of time. Himself included.

He glanced at Jiang Cheng who had his face in his palm, looking exasperated.

“I can’t believe this.” The Jiang Sect heir sighed.

“That was such an enviable scene…” Huaisang said, blowing his nose and tucking away his handkerchief. “Ah, I couldn’t hope of it from my brother…”

He sulked for a few moments, lamenting his brother’s emotionally constipated personality. Suddenly, his eyes lit up as he looked at his friends.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian unconsciously leaned back, both getting a bad feeling.

“How about we three become sworn brothers?” Nie Huaisang proposed, excitedly.

“Hell no.” Jiang Cheng said immediately.

“Ehhh…” Huaisang whined. “Come on Jiang-xiong. Don’t be stingy. You’ve accepted Wei-xiong.”

“He was always my brother, you fool.”

Nie Huaisang, not taking kindly to the rejection, pouted. Then, his face slowly broke into a grin right before he tackled both Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian to the floor.

“Come on, please.” He pleaded, hugging both of their waists.

“Get... off!” Jiang Cheng said as he tried to pry Nie Huaisang away from him, but being pinned to the ground by a growing boy the same age proved to be difficult.

Wei Wuxian burst out into laughter.

That night, Wei Wuxian, Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng (despite his initial opposition) took an oath to be brothers in all but blood. They sealed the deal by having a toast with the wine Wei Wuxian hid under his bed.

Notes:

I swear, I didn’t plan on how this chapter turned out, but there you go. They’re sworn brothers now. I’m focusing so much on mending relationships because that’s the reason I started the story, but I can’t stop the heart warming scenes lmao.
Help.

Anyway, at least 500 words from this chapter was because Jin GuangYao just doesn’t know how to shut up, but whatever. Our boys got a lotta info because of him.

Hope y’all enjoyed this as much as I did.

(Pray that I move on with the plot at some point)

Chapter 18: Chapter 18

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Come on.” Wei Wuxian urged, nudging Jiang Cheng closer towards the training grounds.

Jiang Cheng was as unprepared to go as Wei Wuxian was eager to get him there.

“If this is so important, why don’t you go?” He barked, pushing back.

“Is your brain leaking out of your head?” Wei Wuxian countered, “She’ll run me through as soon as I ask.”

Nie Huaisang, their new addition of ‘brother’ stood behind them, mouth behind fan, as they continued this tug-of-war.

The young master Nie had come to Yunmeng despite his brother’s apprehensions, insisting that it was for training. Huaisang had been planning to rent a room at an inn, but as soon as the Sect leader heard about this, insisted that he’d have to stay at Lotus pier with them. Jiang Fengmian, knowing that the three of them were up to something, sent a confirmation letter to Nie Mingjue and urged them not to squander their time.

That morning, they had immediately gone to work. Jiang Yanli had come into the room with some tea and pastries in between, and greeted Nie Huaisang as they discussed. When they’d told her about the oath they’d taken, she looked surprised but delighted and told Huaisang to also call her ‘sister’. He’d blushed through the words for the first few times.

The entire morning thereafter, they had gone through Wei Wuxian’s notes on his inventions and had been spinning ideas to refine them further.

Wei Wuxian realised that Nie Huaisang could have very helpful ideas when he wanted.

As they talked about the shock effect the bells have on intruders in Yunmeng, Nie Huaisang told them that it was barely torturous and just irritating at most. He’d suggested that they increase the electric effect it produces by studying the Zidian.

Hence the situation right now.

“The longer you two take, the more time we waste.” Nie Huaisang said, mildly.

“I got it!” Jiang Cheng shouted, irritably.

He shoved off Wei Wuxian one last time before stomping off towards his mother who sat in her pavillion as she watched the disciples train.

A short while later, Jiang Cheng returned, looking rather curious.

“What happened?” Wei Wuxian asked, urgently. “Did she not give it?”

“It’s right here.” Jiang Cheng said as he held up his finger. Indeed, Zidian was there, glinting proudly.

Wei Wuxian looked at it in surprise. “Uh… is it okay for you to wear it?”

“Mom’s the one who put it on.” His shidi said, still looking curious. “When I asked her for it, she just looked at me and nodded. Then she took off Zidian and put it on my finger and said ‘You need not return it. It’s yours.’”

“Huh. But doesn’t she always need a whip?”

“She has another one.” Jiang Cheng answered, blankly. Apparently this was a life altering revelation. “It’s not as powerful, but it’s a spiritual whip in any case, so it does do a lot of damage.”

His brothers blinked at him, also perplexed by the news just as he was.

“What matters is that we have it now.” Nie Huaisang said, finally. “Let’s go back.”

“I see!” Wei Wuxian shouted, enlightened. “Okay so this is the spiritual energy that Zidian uses to create burns. If I can copy this, I can easily manipulate the strength of the shocks and the sounds of the bells!”

He continued writing down his notes as Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang watched on. Jiang Yanli smiled at him, sitting by the desk as she worked on some embroidery. She had taken to simply watching them do their work.

If this was before, Madam Yu would’ve had some words to say about her daughter in a closed room full of boys, but ever since Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan had talked, her temper seemed to have become easily controlled by a few words from her husband. At the very least, this helped ease a lot of tension between Wei Wuxian and the Madam who simply took to only exchanging greetings and not much more than a few extra words every meal time.

“Okay. I’ll keep this aside for now.” Wei Wuxian said, once he was satisfied with the new design. “Jiang Cheng, I’ll need your help with setting up the shock field.”

His brother gave a nod.

“So, Da-ge, didn’t you have something you wanted to ask?” Wei Wuxian teased.

Nie Huaisang looked at him, managing to look nervous and unimpressed at them same time. “Wei-xiong, you really don’t need to call me that. I feel an unnecessary weight of responsibility.”

“Ah, but where’s the fun in that?” Wei Wuxian laughed. “Come on, speak up!”

“Oh, yes. I wanted you to help design a weapon for me.”

At this, both Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian jerked, backs straight in attention.

“A weapon?” They chorused.

Nie Huaisang hummed as he took a paper from Wei Wuxian and a brush. He began drawing on it.

“I want a war fan like the ones they use in Dongying*. It needs to be able to filter spiritual energy just like swords. It should be about this big.” Nie Huaisang said as he showed his diagram to his brothers.

(A/N:Japan)

The war fan he talked about was long enough to be mistaken as a short sword, but opened, it would definitely be quite large. It could easily cover most of a person’s body and attached with wind talismans, would be quite destructive, even.

“This is quite interesting!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, eyes sparkling. “This kind of weapon would very much suit you! You could even use it as a shield!”

Nie Huaisang showed a little bashfulness at being praised. “I’ve brought the material I’ll need for it. What do you think?”

Wei Wuxian grinned, “Do you even need to ask?”

With the Wen Sect discussion conference less than three weeks away, the trio began to rush through their work. While Wei Wuxian worked on the weapons and improving the alarm system, Jiang Cheng trained with the Zidian. Nie Huaisang decided on splitting his time between the two of them.

With three people who also have a completely formed golden core and regularly use spiritual energy, it was also easier to push up the times they could use the token. Due to Jiang Cheng’s improved core, they could easily use it four times a week.

With this, they had used the token to mostly inquire about Jin Guangyao.

They had seen his worst parts once they’d arrived to the confession of two women. One named Sisi and the other, Bicao.

Sisi spoke to a room full of cultivators, “I finally realized that this man had been sitting behind the curtain the whole time. When he laughed, the man in the bed suddenly struggled, pushed me away, and rolled off the bed. The person laughed even harder, talking as he laughed. He said, Father, I brought you your favorite women. There are so many of them. Are you happy?”

Wei Wuxian felt his stomach churn. He knew the evils Jin Guangshan was capable of—knew that he was far from a good man, yet hearing about such a death would make anyone uncomfortable.

Once Sisi had finished speaking, the other woman did. She explained how she was a maid in the place Jin Guangyao’s wife, Qin Su, grew up in. And then, she said something shocking.

Bicao said as she cried, “LianFang-Zun, Jin GuangYao and our maiden, they never were wife and husband—they were brother and sister…”

“What?!”

The trio almost emptied the contents of their stomach after watching such a nasty vision. With this, they thought they were certain that Jin Guangyao was an unmendable evil in the world. They had thought this was all to him, but the impression only stayed until they watched another vision.

“Why is it that even if I face everyone with a smile, I might not even receive the lowest form of respect, while even though your father was extremely arrogant, people flocked to him? Could you tell me why we were born from the same person but your father could relax at home with the love of his life playing with his child, while I never even dared to be alone for long with my wife, shivering out of fright at first glance of my son? And I was ordered to do such a thing by my father as if it was natural—to kill an extremely dangerous figure who could flip out and conjure up a bloody massacre with his corpses anytime!

“Why is it that even though we were born on the same day, Jin GuangShan could host a grand banquet for one son, and watch with his own eyes how his subordinate kicked his other son down Koi Tower, from the first stair to the last!”

It was easier when they believed that Jin Guangyao was an evil psychopath, but listening to his story and finding out the truth, the three realised that they couldn’t classify what was black or what was white anymore.

It was eye opening, hearing such a coldly composed man suddenly break down in desperation like this.

The most eye opening thing however, was that the oldest of their trio was much smarter than they looked.

“It was you who planned it.” Wei Wuxian said,

It was the last vision they would watch with Jin Guangyao. One where Jin Guangyao has been stabbed in the chest by Lan Xichen after Nie Huaisang had misled him into believing a false idea.

They were also shocked when a man so supposedly remorseless pushed away the first jade from harm's way when he’d had him in his grasp so perfectly. He had obviously been trying to kill Xichen prior to that, but changed his mind at the last moment.

The sickening crunch of Jin Guangyao’s neck breaking was haunting enough to have them sit in silence for half an incense stick’s time.

Nie Huaisang had been particularly shaken by that vision. Seeing his brother as a fierce corpse would’ve already been enough to make anyone ill, but seeing himself as the mastermind of the plan was apparently overwhelming.

“I could clearly see that that Jin Guangyao had no strength to do anything else.” Jiang Cheng also spoke. “Nie Huaisang, you’re truly frightening. That must be why you and Lan Xichen seemed to have a weird relationship in the future.”

The said young master looked more confused than his sworn brothers. “But… I don’t know. How could I? I don’t have the guts to do such a thing.”

Wei Wuxian looked at the token. “True, you may not have the guts now. But the future you is somebody who lost his older brother and was forced to take the seat of a sect leader. Then finding out that the people you once trusted were not who they seemed… It’s enough to change any person.”

This, the Yunmeng brother’s knew well. They saw how Wei Wuxian had been corrupted. They’d seen Jiang Cheng’s darkness. They watched white become black. It was not so surprising to them anymore.

“It’s a good thing we have such a person on our side.” Wei Wuxian said, just as tensions started growing thicker between them.

“Wei-xiong…” Nie Huaisang said, touched. “I promise I won’t betray you or Jiang-xiong!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jiang Cheng waved off. “What’ll you do without us anyway? We already know everything about you at this point. We’ll just keep letting others believe that you’re pathetic for now. This works in our favour, because you actually are.”

“Jiang-xiong…”

“You can’t dare say you don’t know anything, anymore. We clearly saw that you can know everything if you put your mind to it!”

Jiang-xiong.”

After more than a week of relentlessly using the token, forging weapons and training, they had already managed to get a lot done.

“The alarm system is complete!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed proudly. “Now, if anyone with hostile energy towards us enters Lotus Pier, they won’t be suffering from just state shocks anymore. They will be electrocuted.”

“What if we need them alive?” Jiang Cheng asked, dubiously.

“They won’t die.” Wei Wuxian gasped, mockingly appalled. “They’ll just faint from the shock at worst and suffer external burns.”

Wei Wuxian, during this week, had come up with other designs he can use on different weapons. Perhaps improvements he could make of Madam Yu’s current whip. He couldn’t afford to slack off in anyway, and made the most creative use of his brain that he could.

“Jiang Cheng, how about we charm our swords to be able to use elemental energy?”

Jiang Cheng looked at him, amazed, “Elemental energy?”

“Nie-xiong’s fan will be embedded with the likeness of wind talismans to increase its destructive power when used as a fan.” Wei Wuxian said. “I’ve already figured out how to do this much. Tweaking our swords won’t be much different. I can make your sword use the likeness of thunder, just like Zidian. I’m already well-equipped with the knowledge on how to do that from the whole alarm bells system.”

“Wei-xiong, does this mean my fan is done?” Nie Huaisang quipped.

“Almost. I just need to put on some blades at the top, and then, you could even use it in close range combat.” Wei Wuxian said, winking at him. “I must admit, I’m quite proud of it.”

“Wow. I knew you were smart, Wei-xiong, but this is just scary.”

“But what about your sword?” Jiang Cheng asked, not paying attention to the oldest. “Won’t you be doing anything for suibian?”

“Of course I will!” Wei Wuxian grinned, widely. “What is the element closest to thunder? Fire! So of course if you are using thunder, then I should use fire. I will easily be able to upgrade our swords in this manner. We can even finish by the time the discussion conference comes.”

Jiang Cheng grinned back, excitement bubbling inside of him as he thought about the weapons they would be able to use in battle. The three of them would definitely make it far above their peers using these means. But nevertheless, they’d have to feign being normal for the sake of taking their enemies off guard.

The next day, Nie Huaisang woke up to some startling news.

“He what?”

Nie Huaisang’s men stood by the gate of Lotus Pier, backs straight in attention as they relayed the news to their master. The one in front who was tasked to be the one to speak out, spoke slowly.

“Meng Yao has left Qinghe, young master. He was last said to be heading in this direction, but we know nothing else.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng stood at the back as they watched Nie Huaisang rub his temples in irritation.

“How long ago did this happen?”

“A week ago, sir.”

“Why is this news coming to me so late!?” Nie Huaisang shouted and his men recoiled in shock.

It really must’ve been a shock. These men must never have seen such an aggressive expression on their masters face before. Nie Huaisang paced up and down, biting his thumb as he mumbled to himself.

“What do I do… who knows where he’s gone…?”

“Nie-xiong, calm down.” Wei Wuxian said, catching hold of his sworn brothers shoulders so that he’d stop pacing around nervously. “They said he was heading in this direction.”

Jiang Cheng stepped forward also placing a calming hand on his shoulder. “Yeah, and if that’s the case, there’s only one place we think he would be going to.”

Nie Huaisang looked in between them for a moment before his eyes brightened in realisation. “His mother’s brothel…”

Wei Wuxian nodded, “I was already planning on making a trip there, but I suppose we can do it a little earlier.”

“Do you know where it is?”

“Of course we do.” Jiang Cheng snorted. “His mother was famous around here and Yunping is not far. We don’t know the exact location, but we could always ask someone.”

Nie Huaisang nodded, “You’re right.”

Wei Wuxian smiled crookedly.

“Guess we’ll be departing to Yunping city, then.”

Notes:

I actually managed to cram a lot into this chapter. I didn’t want to drag out this whole process and here’s the finished product!
And GUYS, like, I’ve read mo dao zu shi before and all, but was honestly too sad about the love story to pay attention to JGY, but I just read it again and omg 😭😭😭
His life is just too f*cking sad! Like, no wonder he went psycho, you know? I’d have been a psychopath from just growing up in a brothel.

Anyway, shout out to all my readers who leave hearts and smilies in the comments when you don’t know what to say.
I see you guys and every comment is appreciated!
I hope this chapter didn’t feel too lazy 😣😣😣

Chapter 19: Chapter 19

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“It was around here.” Wei Wuxian said as he searched.

They were in a crowded street, bustling with all kinds of people. Even though it was supposedly a street having brothels, not only old men, but young men and even young women wandered the streets, buying tirinkets from different stalls set up on either side of the road.

“Hey, older brother, over there!” Wei Wuxian called.

His sworn brothers looked at the man he had called out to and grimaced. Though Wei Wuxian had called him ‘older brother’ the man already looked to be well into his forties. Being a normal citizen, he looked quite old as compared to the faces they were used to, each being from cultivational sects.

“Wha’ is it?” The man slurred, gruffly. He had been irritated when Wei Wuxian had raised his voice, but answered, being pleased at having been called ‘older brother’ and also noticing that these three young men seemed to be of higher standards.

“Do you know any brothels around here? Where one of the women had a son? Her name would start with a ‘Meng’.” Wei Wuxian asked, smiling pleasantly.

The older man raised an suggestive eyebrow, face leering. “Ah, to be young. I s’pose those urges are hard to control at this age. Unfortunately, the bitch that you wan’ died a while ago. Jus’ as well, really. She did weird things like read an’ thought she was somethin’ great. She was starting to age anyway. Don’ need rotting meat around. Her son was a piece of work, too. Always smilin’ and lookin’ meek. Disgusting.”

The trio all simultaneously felt a flash of anger shooting through them. Jiang Cheng did not bother to hide his murderous glare, while Nie Huaisang hid his disgusted expression behind his ornate fan.

The man, realizing he was being glared at by one of them, got irritated. “What’re you gettin’ all worked up about, ah? It’s jus’ a bitch and her bastard! Tell yer friend there to respect his elders, boy.”

Wei Wuxian’s smile became strained as he continued speaking, “I take it you know where it is?”

“Righ’ down the road. Has a flashy signboard. You can’ miss it.” The man said, irritably and staggered away.

Wei Wuxian cursed under his breath as soon as the man was gone, “Drunkard.”

Nie Huaisang scrunched up his nose, “What an unpleasant encounter.”

It was, but all three of them knew that that was the type of person who knew where brothels would be, without a doubt.

“Come on.” Jiang Cheng bit out and walk forward, sworn brothers following after him.

As they neared the site of the brothel, the amount of shady men on the streets increased a well, the streets were getting darker and the streets dirtier. All three of them knew that this meant they were getting closer to their destination.

As the man had said, they soon came across a large building with a garishly painted sign board that had a small entryway.

“Ugh,” Jiang Cheng said, nauseous at the thought of going in.

Wei Wuxian didn’t waste time and walked inside confidently. The inside was larger and decorated with mismatched showpieces. It had cobwebs at the corner of the ceilings that could easily be ignored by lower town folk. Wei Wuxian himself, wasn’t feeling all that queasy, having lived on the streets before.

But the two young masters with him who were accustomed to finer surroundings felt helpless in this new situation.

“Hm? These are some new faces.” A sultry voice spoke from somewhere.

Wei Wuxian noticed a woman behind the counter, wearing skimpy clothing and dark lip colour. She had long black hair that she simply let down without using any sort of accessories. Her face was superbly gorgeous and her lips curved seductively.

“What are three fine, young, gentlemen like yourselves doing inside a place like this?” She asked coming out from behind the counter and sauntering towards them, hips swaying.

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang shifted to stand behind Wei Wuxian, slightly afraid.

This couldn’t be helped as they were always used to looking at decent, meek young women who smiled shyly and talked softly. Not an intimidating woman with no shame for how she dressed or how her breasts bounced with each step she took.

“I’m Sisi.” She introduced, hand on her chest. “How may I help you? If your looking to lose your virginity, I can bring a few girls down. Or if you like them older, I’m a good choice.”

She winked at them flirtatiously.

Jiang Cheng grew increasingly flustered, but Wei Wuxian immediately recognised this woman from one of the visions. Sisi! In the vision, her face had been cut up and left with gruesome scars. As a prostitute, this was incredibly tragic and had eventually left her with no work. She was one of the women called forward to talk about Jin Guangyao in a future discussion.

“Do you know someone named Meng Yao?” Wei Wuxian asked, knowing that she was the right person to talk to.

Sisi’s eyes narrowed, hearing the name. “Why do you want him?”

“We just wanted to know if he stopped by. No need to make that face, sister!” Wei Wuxian consoled. “You’ll ruin your pretty face. Do we look like bad people?”

Sisi’s glare softened with doubt, but she didn’t let down her guard. “Most people aren’t what they look like.”

“Ma’am,” Jiang Cheng spoke up, this time, face red as he directed his eyes at anywhere except the woman before him. “Before we continue talking, would you mind covering yourself? Perhaps wear another robe? The one you’re wearing right now has a large tear.”

Sisi blinked at him in surprise and then looked down at her garb. Her robe indeed had a large tear that extended from her hip to her ankle, leaving the entire of her left leg exposed. Unknown to Jiang Cheng, this was actually done on purpose.

She then burst out laughing in the most unladylike fashion. “Ahahahaha! Okay, okay! I believe you now! No one’s ever told me to ‘cover up’ before and in no universe has one ever called me ‘ ma’am ’ or even ‘ sister ’, either!”

The three boys waited for her to stop laughing, faces expressing various degrees of confusion, embarrassment and exasperation.

“Alright, I like you boys!” She said, wiping the tears at the corner of her eyes, and looked at all of them brightly, her seductive features now looking child-like in her amusem*nt. “Come on, follow me.”

The trio exchanged confused looks, but shrugged and followed her without questioning it. It was a brothel, after all, where only women and old men were. Of anything happened, they could easily take care of themselves.

She lead them further into the building, through a dusty alleyway where cheap paintings were hung on the walls. Nie Huaisang grimaced looking at them, unable to tolerate such terrible artwork.

Soon, they reached a door at what must’ve been at the very back of the building. Sisi threw open the door.

“A-Yao!” She called, “You have guests!”

The trio were startled to say the least. The sky was once again over them as they walked out of the building, sun shining down. They were on a well sized plot where numerous graves lay. It was a burial ground.

At one of the graves in the corner, a boy was squatting, cloth in hand as he cleaned a headstone. He looked up when Sisi called him, eyes wide in surprise.

Meng Yao’s face was indeed meek and harmless—almost feminine. Right now, however, it also held an undeniable innocence that his future face had lost. No wonder Sisi from the visions couldn’t recognise him. He’d certainly looked far from what she remembered.This boy is one who hasn’t been corrupted and it left him looking like a timid young man, similar to Wen Ning.

As Wei Wuxian had suspected, if they act now, they could prevent a lot of disaster.

“Guests?” He asked, blinking. When he noticed the young masters behind the woman, he got up immediately.

“Young master Nie!” He exclaimed and cupped his hand in front of him, bowing deeply. “It’s an honour.”

Nie Huaisang felt incredibly uncomfortable now, having someone older than him bow like this. He awkwardly returned the greeting.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, brother Meng Yao.”

Meng Yao’s eyes widened. “No need to be so formal with someone like me, young master. As you can see, I’m from less than humble beginnings.”

Nie Huaisang said nothing to this.

“My name is Wei Ying, courtesy, Wuxian.” Wei Wuxian said as he too, gave a greeting. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Jiang Cheng,” his shidi followed, also giving a greeting. “Courtesy Wanyin.”

“You are the young masters of Lotus Pier!” Meng Yao stated in awe.

“Indeed.” Jiang Cheng said, arms crossed.

A moment of silence, then, the oldest of the trio spoke, “Why did you leave Qinghe?”

Meng Yao looked at him, curiously, “Young Master, as the son of a prostitute, it gets rather difficult to receive work once people know about you. I had gone to Qinghe only to make enough money to afford a good headstone for my mother and perhaps a little lodging somewhere else. I may return after, but not currently. I was only a servant so I hadn’t realised anyone would notice my absence. Least of all you.”

Huaisang pursed his lips.

Meng Yao gave them a mild mannered smile before he took out some incense sticks. He kept stuck them down on a holder before proceeding to light one with a fire talisman.

For a commoner to be able to use a fire talisman so easily was already quite impressive.

“Can I light one too?” Wei Wuxian asked, in the spur of the moment.

Meng Yao looked up at him in surprise, “Why?” He said, then flushed, realising his rudeness. “I mean, of course, but…”

“Great!” Wei Wuxian said as he also squatted down and took an incense.

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang looked at each other and shrugged, following their brother’s actions and also taking an incense to light. All of them squatted down in a line as they joined their hands in prayer.

During this time, none of them saw the tears that formed in Meng Yao’s eyes as he stared at them or the grateful look on Sisi’s face.

As soon as they’d finished gracing Meng Shi’s grave with flowers and prayer, the four boys were led by Sisi into one of the halls of the brothel which was the only place where they could sit and talk.

“Why did you come looking for me? I beg your pardon, young masters, but I’m hardly worth any attention.” Meng Yao told them, eyes downcast.

The three exchanged looks, realising that Jin Guangyao and Meng Yao, though being the same person, were also different people. They could only treat this one differently from the one they call ‘Jin Guangyao’.

Wei Wuxian realised he’d have to be the first one to speak.

“You are the illegitimate son of Jin Guangshan, aren’t you?” He asked.

Meng Yao’s expression immediately changed, “How did you know that? Who told you?” He asked, desperately, and then hopefully, “Did my father send you?”

Wei Wuxian felt pained as he said the next words. “...I’m afraid not, Yao-xiong. Jin Guangshan is not who you think. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

Meng Yao’s face became blank, “...What do you mean?”

Nie Huaisang, “Deep down, don’t you know it too, Yao-xiong. That man is corrupt and evil. Your mother isn’t the first of her kind. Many women had been promised a fine future only to be abandoned—”

“That’s enough!” Meng Yao shouted, and stood up. “I don’t want to hear anything more. Thank you.”

Jiang Cheng also stood up, “You idiot, can’t you see we’re trying to help you?”

Meng Yao looked at the Jiang heir, eyes cold, “No, I can’t.”

“Why you—”

Wei Wuxian held Jiang Cheng down by grabbing holding of his waist. “Jiang Cheng, don’t!”

But Meng Yao was not done. “Why would you be trying to help me? I’m nobody to you. I’m nobody to anyone. The only one who can accept me is my father. He’s the only one left!”

With each word he spoke, Meng Yao’s voice raised in volume.

The trio froze as they saw Meng Yao’s face blanket itself with raw anguish. His shoulders shook as he held himself together. Older though he was, Meng Yao was painfully small. He could easily be mistaken as younger than the three of them. He was pitiful to look at.

“I need to go.” Meng Yao said, suddenly. “Thank you for lighting the incense and praying at my mother's grave. I deeply appreciate it.”

He then bowed to them and took hold of a large sack that he swung over his shoulder. He made to turn around when Wei Wuxian stopped him.

“Wait!” He said and moved towards Meng Yao.

The older boy looked on warily as Wei Wuxian took out a small pouch from his robes.

“Take this.” Wei Wuxian told him. “It’s a qiankun pouch. You can fit all of your things in here and carry it around more easily.”

Meng Yao hesitated, but Wei Wuxian was insistent. He opened the pouch and took Meg Yao bag from him before stuffing it in easily. Meng Yao watched in awe as the large bag he was just carrying easily went into a small space like that.

Wei Wuxian then stuck his hand into the pouch and pushed it further and further until more than half of his arm was inside and grinned.

“See? It holds a lot. I’ll give it to you!” Wei Wuxian said and took out his arm.

“...Thank you.” Meng Yao said, sincerely before leaving the room.

Wei Wuxian looked at his brothers.

“Well, That was a waste of time. We didn’t accomplish anything.” Jiang Cheng said, arms crossed.

“Not necessarily.” Nie Huaisang said, and the other two turned to look at him questioningly. “Jin Guangyao has only ever wanted to be approved of for who he was. I think Wei-xiong’s idea of being kind to him was the best we could do right now. We can only hope that this changes something in him.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng nodded, mouths drawn down.

Then, “Meng Yao! If it isn’t Meng Yao! When did you come by?”

A high pitched voice spoke derisively and the trio looked at each other, perplexed, before rushing after the boy who left, using the general direction of the voice as a compass.

In the main hall, another prostitute stood, a man at her side continuously roving his hands over her. She didn’t seem to care much, however and stood there as a normal person would while holding a conversation.

“Anxin-jie.” Meng Yao greeted, smiling.

The trio could immediately make out that the smile was fake. Anxin, however, cared less about that and let out a laugh.

“Remember that prostitute who died? This is her son.” She said, talking to her customer and waving at Meng Yao, who stood still. “Are you still doing that?”

“...what?” Meng Yao asked, cautiously.

“You know,” She spoke, eagerly. “ Cultivation.

Her customer stopped groping her rear and looked at her in surprise. “He’s a cultivator ?”

“Please!” She laughed, hysterically. “His mother tried her best, bless her soul, but in the end, the son of a prostitute is the son of a prostitute and a bastard is a bastard, right, Meng Yao? I told you your father wouldn’t take you in, didn’t I?”

“Hey, you bitch! Why don’t you learn to shut up before I pull off all your hair, hah?” Sisi said, pulling Meng Yao behind her. “Disgracing my deceased friend and her son like this—have you no shame?”

“Disgracing?” Anxin asked, startled. “Why, aren’t we all a disgrace already? We live in brothels. Meng Shi knew how to read a bit, but that was it. Sending her son to school? Buying him pamphlets? Teaching him? What’s the use? He’s still someone nobody wants and all she accomplished was dying in vain waiting for a man who never came!”

Sisi growled at Anxin and Meng Yao stood behind the older woman, helpless but clearly furious with the way his fists clenched at the side of his robes.

Unable to handle this much slander, even if it was not towards any of them, Wei Wuxian spoke without thinking.

“You’re wrong.” He said and stood in front of Sisi. His brother went to stand with him. “Who said it was useless? Meng Yao is smarter than many cultivators I have seen!”

“Thank your stars that the only idiot you know is yourself.” Jiang Cheng also said, and his brothers couldn’t help feeling amused by how fast he got over flustering about exposed skin,

Excuse me ?” Anxin asked, shocked.

Yet, she couldn’t say anything, because in front of her stood three young men with expensive clothing and who clearly looked like they were famous young masters. She couldn’t hope to speak out loud now.

“She was right about one thing though,” Nie Huaisang turned to Meng Yao, who was looking at them with wide eyes. “Your father won’t accept you. Even if he accepts you on the surface, he will never in his head.”

Meng Yao’s face immediately soured.

“But,” Nie Huaisang continued, walking towards the older boy. “The Nie Sect… we will take you in. If you come with me, if you swear loyalty to me, you will have a place in the world. I will make you into a cultivator.”

Meng Yao stared at him, no longer able to feel sour. Not when someone was showing him goodness.

Sisi looked at him, “What’re you waiting for, A-Yao?” She barked, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You could have a life . This is all Meng Shi ever wanted for you. Go with him!”

Meng Yao, however, couldn’t help hesitating. “I…”

Huaisang and his brothers waited with bated breath.

“I’m sorry.” He said finally, and four pairs of shoulders deflated. Yet he continued talking. “But thank you. Thank you for telling me this. I… I’m very happy. I know this is an opportunity that may never come again, but I…”

Huaisang looked at Wei Wuxian in askance. His sworn brother shook his head defeatedly.

It couldn’t be helped. Meng Yao wasn’t a person who could change his mind so fast. He had run after his father for years. He had held a grudge till his grave. Despite trying to lure Lan Xichen to an early death, he had pushed the man away at the last moment, the residue of his affection not permitting to go through with the deed. He was stubborn by heart. This, they already knew.

Nie Huaisang bit his lips and then dug into the pocket of his robes.

“At least take this.”

Meng Yao looked at what Nie Huaisang was holding out, quizzically. It looked like a small medallion of sorts. On it, the head of beast was carved with intricate designs.

“It’s the Nie Sect seal.” He explained. “This is not like any simple trinket you can find by the road. This is an official seal. If you show this to anybody in Qinghe, they will lead you to either myself, or my brother.”

Huaisang took hold of Meng Yao’s hand and placed the seal in it. “Take this with you and keep it safe. If you change your mind, come back to Qinghe and ask for me. My offer will still stand.”

Meng Yao closed his finger around the seal and brought it towards him, treating it preciously.

“Thank you.”

Shortly afterword, Anxin huffed and walked away, the customer questioning her relentlessly about why three young masters were there in their brothel. Meng Yao bowed to the trio and then to Sisi before tucking the seal in his robes and taking off.

“That stupid, boy.” Sisi sighed. “He’s smart, but he’s f*cking stupid, too.”

The trio looked at her. They stood at her side long enough for her to start questioning them.

“What? Aren’t you three going?” She asked, eyebrows raised.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng shared a look.

“Sister, won’t you come with us?” Wei Wuxian asked.

Sisi looked at them in surprise. “What is this? Do you three own a charity? A home for the unfortunate? Why’re you going around offering help to everyone?”

“It’s not that .” Jiang Cheng grumbled. “Do you think this is your place? My brother is asking if you want to do anything else.”

“And what can three kids like you do for me? These people won’t let me off that easy.” She asked, hands on her hips. “My freedom comes at a cost.”

“I may not be able to right now, but eventually, I’ll be the Sect leader of Yunmeng. We can easily buy your freedom and get you a job back in Lotus Pier.”

Sisi’s eyes widened. “You’re an heir? No wonder you all look like young masters. I’ve been hosting some big shots today, haven’t I?”

“Come on, Sister!” Wei Wuxian urged. “If you stay here, who knows what will happen to you? Don’t worry about these people, we’ll send them the money by morning. We’re telling you to come with us because we like you and you’re a good person.”

And it was true. She was a strange and spunky woman with a heart of gold. She treated her friend’s son as her own and stood up for what she thought was right. Wei Wuxian had a soft spot for people like that.

Sisi laughed. “You have a silver tongue, young man.”

Just as Wei Wuxian was about to prod further, Sisi relented.

“Alright. I’ll come with you! Who wants to go stay in this hellhole anyway?” She said and walked in front of them.

The trio hung back, speechless. Sisi turned to look at them. “Well? Aren’t you coming?”

Jiang Cheng looked at her strangely, “Don’t you have to pack? Or tell someone where you’re going?”

Sisi took one look at the brothel and then at Jiang Cheng. “I have nothing of mine there, anymore. I’ve got nothing to lose. The only things I’ve got now are my personality and beauty.”

She flipped her hair as she said this.

“Come on then. Lead the way to your Lotus Pier!”

The three sworn brothers looked at each other and broke out in various types of smiles. Wei Wuxian, widely, Jiang Cheng, exasperatedly and Nie Huaisang, wryly.

As they walked back to Lotus Pier, that evening, Wei Wuxian couldn’t help asking the oldest brother, “Did you give him that seal out of kindness? Or was it to ensure that he would be under your control?”

Nie Huaisang looked forward. In front of them walked Jiang Cheng who was being relentlessly bothered by Sisi, and he smiled.

“Perhaps it was both. But mostly, it was pity, I guess.” Huaisang said. “Wei-xiong, I’m still pretty pathetic and not the great mastermind from the visions, and though I’m trying to be, I don’t want to denounce people who haven’t done anything to me. Meng Yao, is still pitiful, but the moment he shows me a different side, I will not hesitate to condemn him.”

Wei Wuxian looked at his friend, and understood his caution.

He didn’t want to show the Wens mercy either, but he wouldn’t harm those who haven’t caused him grief yet.

However, Meng Yao and the Wen family were two different types of people.

Notes:

This chapter was really long. I really didn’t want to drag it out XD

And OMG you guys, the response for the last chapter was overwhelming. I seriously can’t keep up with replying to your comments, no matter how much I want to. But please keep them coming! It fuels me!

Also guys, I mentioned many chapters ago that I would be having exams, but like a good procrastinator, I spent my time on this story instead lol. Since I’m running out of time, I won’t be updating as regularly as before. There will still be a few chapters in between this month, no worries! But not daily or such.

Thank you guys in advance for EVERYTHING. I will resume my regular updates again after my exams are over.

Love ❤️❤️❤️

Chapter 20

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

When the came back to Lotus Pier, they had first went to Jiang Yanli and asked her for some clothes. They had snuck Sisi in through some less common entryways so that they wouldn’t be spotted. If any of the maids were to see their two young masters sneaking in someone who was obviously a prostitute,the entire pier would know of it in no time.

When they told Jiang Yanli the whole story, she’d come with them and dressed up Sisi with some of her spare clothing. They knew however, that they couldn’t just keep sneaking her around and so, went directly to Jiang Fengmian’s bedchamber.

“You have a request?” He asked, when he’d opened the door to find them there. His hair was down and he was already in his informal robes.

“Well, whatever it is, tell them to spit it out!” Madam Yu’s voice came from within the room.

Jiang Cheng gawked. “What’s mom doing in there?”

Jiang Fengmian smiled at his son. “We’ve decided to room together. She moved in this afternoon. Why?”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian didn’t ask any further question on that topic. It made sense if they roomed together—that’s what married couples usually did anyway. Instead of thinking about it, they decided to proceed with their request.

“We want to give a job here to somebody.” Wei Wuxian said.

“Oh, for the love of heaven—” In seconds, Madam Yu was also by the doorway, looking down at them in obvious impatience. Her hair was down, but other than that, she was dressed as usual. “Let’s go see who it is.”

And she stomped away. Jiang Fengmian sighed, exasperation and adoration blanketing his face in equal measure as he followed after his wife, his sons right behind him.

When they’d reached the hall, Sisi was already sitting down, decently dressed and animatedly talking with Jiang Yanli who was opposite her. Like this, they looked like two young ladies simply having a pleasant talk over tea.

“Oh, mother.” Jiang Yanli smiles, at Madam Yu, noticing her in the doorway.

“A-Li,” Yu Ziyuan smiled back. Then she turned to look at the new face. “You must be the person my son wants to give a job to?”

Sisi stood up and bowed, “Hello, Madam, Master. My name is Sisi.”

“You may call me Madam Yu. I am the co-leader of the Jiang Sect.” Madam Yu said.

Jiang Fengmian stepped forward, “I am Jiang Fengmian, the Sect leader. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Madam Yu stared her down, taking in her features. “Where are you from?”

Sisi looked up and smiled, “I’m from a simple brothel in Yunping.”

Jiang Fengmian gaped and Madam Yu’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “A prostitute?”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng grimaced. For a moment, they were sure that Madam Yu would immediately whip her till she scarred.

“Not anymore.” She grinned. “Your boys there took a shine to me and made me come back with them. You’ve got lovely children, by the way. A gem of a daughter and two handsome boys! You’re lucky, if you don’t mind me saying, Madam.”

Madam Yu’s face softened at the compliment, and Jiang Fengmian looked pleased as well. No one missed the fact that Wei Wuxian had also been included in the compliment.

“Indeed.” She agreed, and Wei Wuxian blinked at her. She hadn’t denied him as part of the family.

“The Jiang Sect always keeps their promises.” Jiang Fengmian said, pleasantly. “If you were promised a job, then you will get it here. I assume your freedom was promised. Your brothel will have their money by morning.”

Sisi beamed at them.

“My daughter requires a handmaiden.” Madam Yu told her. “Since you are already acquainted, you may start immediately. Your duties include dressing her, assisting her and accompanying her wherever she goes.”

“Understood.” Sisi said with a salute.

Madam Yu nodded at her and then caught hold of her husband’s arm before pulling him away. Jiang Fengmian stumbled after her as she tugged at him.

“Whew!” Sisi sighed, once they were gone. “We’re lucky that she was in such a hurry! You guys must’ve stopped them on the good part.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng groaned, not needing that image.


“Shall we try it out, then?” Wei Wuxian asked.

It was already a week before the discussion conference. He and his brothers were on the training grounds, each carrying their new an improved weapons.

Huaisang’s fan had been forged from an expensive metal he’d brought from Qinghe that was tough in consistency, but light in weight. It was the perfect material to create a folding battle fan from.

Jiang Cheng’s Sandu sizzled as he got excited to try it out.

Nie Huaisang on the other hand, was trembling. It was no secret that he was woefully untalented with weapons. He could hardly hold his saber without tripping over his feet and cutting himself, somehow. Yet here he was, displayed to the public, as he used a new type of weapon for the first time.

The Jiang disciples remained by the side, watching their shixiongs on the ground. Madam Yu and Jiang Fengmian were in the pavillion along with Jiang Yanli and Sisi as they too, observed the goings on.

“Alright then,” Wei Wuxian grinned. “Go!”

Immediately, Jiang Cheng slashed his sword towards the water and thunder shot out from it, bright and crackling. The colour was purple, similar to the lightening induced by Zidian as that was the model used for it.

Wei Wuxian laughed as he copied his brother’s motions more flamboyantly, spinning around before giving a slash of his own. He watched as his Suibian spat fire out to entwine with Jiang Cheng’s thunder.

Nie Huaisang, with shaky hands, steeled himself and opened his fan, then. With one swipe of it, a burst of wind swept the grounds and accompanied the braid of lightning and fire as it made its way towards the lake.

The destructive force of this combined attack was more than they perceived as it dived straight into the water and the impact could be likened to that of a medium sized explosion.

Water erupted from the lake and flew towards the grounds, wetting the sun-baked dirt.

The disciples stayed for a moment, shell-shocked. Beats passed between them. And then:

They cheered.

“Dashixiong, what was that?”

“That was amazing!”

“How did you do that??”

The trio looked at each other, chests heaving as they panted. Adrenaline coursed through their body, the memory of what they just did still fresh in their mind. Their skin buzzed even with the sweat that stick to their clothes. Each slowly felt a grin take over their face.

“It worked…” Jiang Cheng said, the corners of his mouth pulling up to reveal his teeth.

Wei Wuxian beamed back, “It worked!”

Nie Huaisang, being the most ecstatic, also joined in and threw his arms around both of their necks. “It worked! I could use a weapon!!!”

Wei Wuxian hugged his brother back, laughing, and for once, Jiang Cheng was too delighted to have any qualms about the situation.

In the pavillion, Yu Ziyuan looked towards her husband disbelievingly. Jiang Fengmian mirrored the expression. They had both come out when they’d heard from the disciples that these three were doing something interesting. They’d realised that the boys were up to something these past two weeks, but who would’ve thought...

An impressed whistle came from beside them, and the Jiang couple looked at the former prostitute.

“Wow, those kids are really something!” Sisi exclaimed, hands on her hips. “I’ve never seen anything that colourful and dangerous at the same time. Is this normal with cultivators?”

Jiang Yanli smiled and shook her head. Out of everyone, she seemed to be the one who was least surprised—but the most proud—of their accomplishments. “No, my brothers are special.”

Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan couldn’t help but agree.

“Where did you go?” Wei Wuxian asked, the next afternoon.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian we’re sitting in their room as usual and going over the records. They had decided to pen a letter to the Lan Sect and would sneak it in with them after the discussion conference. In the envelope, Wei Wuxian also decided to include a qiankun pouch with a surprise for them.

Nie Huaisang during this time, had been missing, with only a note left behind to let them know that he would be returning before sun down.

Right now, he stood in front of them, beaming stupidly.

“Why’re you smiling like that?” Jiang Cheng asked, peevishly.

Nie Huaisang began giggling, “Behold!” He proclaimed, pulling out his fan from behind him and showing off the side. “My fan has been baptised!”

His brothers were taken aback. They looked closer at the fan and noticed the elegant inscription on it.

XiFeng

“Huaisang! So you went to the blacksmith to inscribe it? That name is great!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, looking at his brother. “The west wind. It suits your image.”

“You think so?” Huaisang asked, bashfully.

“It does.” Jiang Cheng said, and smiled. “The name is very elegant.”

And it was. The word ‘Xifeng’ indicated the autumn wind which blows from the west. It signifies the ending of years and brought into thought of the days one had remaining in their life. It was perfect because the weapon was created to help protect those years.

“So you got your fan named?” Wei Wuxian grinned. “Now it’s a real spiritual weapon! You’d be the first to start cultivating with a fan.”

“That sounds like higher praise than I deserve.” Huaisang said, smiling wryly. “I still need to learn how to fight with it. Even though it’s not as heavy as my saber, it’s rather difficult to use it because of the force of its attack.

“You’ll get used to it.” Jiang Cheng declared.

Nie Huaisang gave their youngest brother a grateful smile. He then put away Xifeng and came to sit down with them, joining their discussion.

“We can use the token a few more times.” Wei Wuxian said, as they discussed their next steps of action. “We have to go to Qishan soon, so we’ll push it down to two.”

Nie Huaisang nodded. “What should we watch this time?”

“Since we don’t need to worry about Meng Yao for now, we’ll focus on the Wens.” Jiang Cheng said. “As far as we know, it started with the indoctrination period. I think we should go with that.”

“Shall we use up our two times today?” Wei Wuxian asked. “We can spend the rest of tomorrow recuperating and then the next few days to get ready to go.”

Nie Huaisang nodded, “I agree with you, Wei-xiong.”

“At this point, we don’t know what else we need to know.” Jiang Cheng said. “We pretty much know majority of everything.”

Nie Huaisang tapped his fan on his chin, “How about we let the token decided? Surely if none of us know what we want to see, the token will decide something for us. Didn’t you say that it’s almost sentient, Wei-xiong?”

Wei Wuxian started, “Yes. Perhaps we should try that after all.”

The second oldest held the token out in front of him. No matter how many times he looked at it, he still wondered how such a powerful object could come into existence. Or why it was compulsory that he’d have to be one of the people to use it, for that matter.

“Go ahead then,” Wei Wuxian said.

His brothers touched the token that was held out and closed their eyes as the light washed over them.

The token flared once more.


The three opened their eyes to find themselves in a large lavish hall. It looked like some kind of celebration was happening. The hall was decorated with light and sparkles with fancy decorations. People were everywhere they turned.

Then they finally found the three of them standing at the corner of the hall, trying to stay out of sight. The apparitions of Wie Wuxian, Jiang Cheng Nie Huaisang.

“To think the head shaker has become the chief cultivator.” Wei Wuxian shook his head. “It’s just another thing for the cultivation world to gossip about.”

“The head shaker, indeed.” Jiang Cheng said, staring at the new chief cultivator. “Well, this does bring some convenience to the Jiang Sect at the very least.

“Jiang-xiong, I don’t like how you’re saying that.” Nie Huaisang said, fanning himself nervously, and turning his head away whenever someone passed by them. “I won’t be the same as the Wen Sect or the Jin Sect.”

The three watched as their future selves conversed.

“Nie-xiong. I’m glad you suggested that we become sworn brothers!” Wei Wuxian laughed. “It seems you’ll be our chief cultivator after everything!”

Jiang Cheng smirked, “They call you the ‘head shaker’. I wonder when you get that title?”

Nie Huaisang looked between his brothers exasperatedly, “Right now it’s more advantageous for me to be your sworn brother. I don’t even want to be chief cultivator!”

“We know.” Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian nodded, simultaneously.

“But I’ve got to admit, I think you’ll be good at it.” Wei Wuxian winked.

“Wei-xiong...”

By now, the topic between their older selves had changed to something of the far past.

“My blood still boils thinking about how they’d forced us to train under Wen Chao of all people.” Jiang Cheng said, darkly.

“The Wen Sect was very unfair to confiscate all your swords right before you went to hunt the Xuanwu of slaughter of all things!” Nie Huaisang agreed.

“If I think about it, that’s when things really started to go bad.” Wei Wuxian said, face unchracteristically cheerless.

Jiang Cheng looked at his adoptive brother and opened his mouth, but thought better of it. In the end, he didn’t say anything.

The vision ended.

Wei Wuxian’s brow furrowed, realising they were back in their room.

“Jiang Cheng, didn’t it look like you wanted to say something?” Wei Wuxian said.

Nie Huaisang snapped his fan open, speaking behind it, “Your relationship is much closer in this life than in that one it seems.”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian looked down, knowing that he was right. The things that the token had shown them drew them closer. It had given them immeasurable courage to attempt things they wouldn’t have done otherwise. But if that day, Wei Wixian hadn’t found it, the images of the future they watched would’ve no doubt become reality.

“Wei Wuxian…” Jiang Cheng said suddenly.

His brother gave him a withering look, “Jiang Cheng, aren’t you going to start calling me ‘Wei Ying’? Haven’t we established our brotherhood?” And then dramatically, “Or is it that I mean that less to you? My heart is hurting…”

The air lifted immediately.

“Idiot…” Jiang Cheng laughed and shoved his brother. “Okay then, Wei Ying. Didn’t you notice something else important?”

Wei Wuxian stared at him for a moment, and then his eyes lit, “He said something about a Xuanwu of slaughter!”

“Could it really be the Xuanwu?” Nie Huaisang asked, eyes wide.

Wei Wuxian smirked, “Only one way to find out.”

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang exchanged a glance. They didn’t yet feel the exhaustion from using the token, but knew they’d be queasy after this second time. Steeling themselves, they nodded and reached out.

The room was once more engulfed in gold.

They were in a dark place. There was the dimmest amount of light that bounced off the water that allowed them to take a look at their surroundings. Even without being able to feel the sensations of the vision, it was clear that it was cold and damp. They were underground, without a doubt.

“Thank you.” A voice said.

The three saw a fire a distance away from the pool, coming from a hole within this cave.

The voice spoke again, “Thank you.”

“Hm?” Wei Wuxian mumbled, “That’s Lan Zhan’s voice!”

He then ran over to the hole. His brothers followed him.

Inside, they saw two figures. One was of Lan Wangji, shirtless and injured, leaning against the stone wall. The other was Wei Wuxian, who was also shirtless, revealing an injury on his chest that was covered in medicinal herbs, and an arm that was bandaged tightly.

“What happened to you two?” Jiang Cheng yelled. Their voices did not echo because they were not part of this vision.

“You are both badly injured, Wei-xiong. The situation looks bad.” Nie Huaisang said, looking at his brother.

Wei Wuxian nodded, brows furrowed.

Wei Wuxian spoke, looking uncomfortable, “There’s no need, there’s no need. There’s a problem with me that I’m unable to stand it when others thank me, especially when people like you thank me so seriously. It’s so creepy that I’m even getting goosebumps. Kneeling worship, of course, is even more so unnecessary.”

Lan WangJi replied with indifference, “You are thinking too much. Even if I wanted to worship you, I would not be able to move.”

“Ah, his leg looks to be in terrible shape!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed. “And look at his face. Doesn’t it look very pale?”

“How can you even make out?” Jiang Cheng barked. “Both of you look orange because of the fire.”

Nie Huaisang bit his lower lip, “But you two have lost a lot of blood by the look of those wounds, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were pale.”

Seeing that a side has been chosen, Wei Wuxian stuck his tongue out at Jiang Cheng, who simply crossed his arms and huffed.

For a moment, it looked like the Wei Wuxian in the vision wanted to move beside Lan Wangji, but held himself back. This confused all three of the people present.

“Now that Jiang Cheng and the others escaped, it’d take them one or two days to go down the mountain. After they get down, they’d definitely return to wherever they live instead of reporting to the Wen Sect. But since their swords were taken, I don’t know how long it’d take for them to find help. I’d say that we’ll probably have to stay here underground for quite a while. We’d need to search for ways to solve a few issues.”

“It’s underground after all!” Nie Huaisang exclaimed.

After a pause, Wei Wuxian continued, “The good thing is that the monster stays in the pool and doesn’t chase after us. But the bad thing is that it doesn’t come out. With it guarding the hole under the pool, we won’t be able to get out either.”

Lan WangJi, “It is perhaps not a monster. What does it look like to you?”

Wei WuXian, “A tortoise!”

Lan WangJi, “There is one divine creature that takes on such a form.”

Wei WuXian, “The divine beast Xuanwu?”

The trio watched as the vision Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji tales. They discussed about how the Xuanwu was not a divine beast but rather a deformed one that had transformed into a yao.

Wei WuXian, “The creature that Wen Chao led us to hunt is a four-hundred-years-old beast—the Xuanwu of Slaughter?”

Lan WangJi, “Its size appears larger than what is recorded in the text, but it should be the one.”

Wei WuXian, “It’s been four hundred years already, so of course it has grown. Hadn’t the Xuanwu of Slaughter been killed back then?”

Lan WangJi, “No. A few cultivators had joined alliance and prepared to kill it, but on one winter day that year, there happened to be heavy snowfall, and the weather was unusually cold. Then, the Xuanwu of Slaughter disappeared and was never seen again.”

Wei WuXian, “It was hibernating.”

The images began to distort as soon as this was said and soon, the vision melted away.

They were back in their room.

“Write this down!” Jiang Cheng barked as soon as they got their bearings.

Nie Huaisang immediately took the record and began to note down everything they had heard.

“Xuanwu. Wen Chao led us to such a horrid creature.” Jiang Cheng moaned. “And you two were left behind because of your injuries. We have to be ready this time.”

Wei Wuxian nodded, “We almost missed this tidbit of information. But this is the last time we can use the token. As soon as the discussion conference is over, we’ll have to use it again.”

Nie Huaisang paused. He looked at his brothers, guiltily. “What should I do? My brother will definitely not send me here again after the conference.”

Wei Wuxian furrowed his brows. “I will think of something, Nie-xiong. I had an idea to make communication bracelets or something of the sort.”

“What’s that?” Jiang Cheng asked.

“Something that will allow us to talk over large distances by using our spiritual energy. But… I haven’t started on them yet. It will surely take at least a few weeks.”

“How many ideas do you have? Can you make anything?” Jiang Cheng asked, looking at him incredulously.

Wei Wuxian gave him a withering look, “Of course not. I’ve been thinking about these kinds of things for years. I just never acted on them until now.”

Jiang Cheng scowled, “Well, we can’t do anything about this now. We can only use letters as we have always done.”

The three agreed that they would stay in touch as much as possible when they were not together.

By the end of the week, they made their way to Qishan.

Notes:

It’s been too long. Not sure how I’m surviving without posting a chapter everyday, but I’m doing it.
And sh*t is FINALLY going down in the next chapter YES, QISHANWEN! And finally Lan Wangji too 😭😭😭 I missed him.
I didn’t like this chapter much, but I needed to get it out of the way, so here we are.

Also, if anyone’s interested, check out my pencil sketch of Sisi HERE

Chapter 21: Chapter 21

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian looked around him. There was nothing but rocks, trees, land and—no, just more rocks. He had gone out this morning to explore the Nightless City as the archery competition wouldn’t be happening till that afternoon, yet, it came back to bite him when he realised he had no idea where he was and that no one was around either.

Jiang Fengmian would be busy exchanging pleasantries and discussing politics with the other sects leader. He was incredibly bored at the banquet held the day before and was no doubt bored now. Sisi—who had come with them as Jiang Yanli had decided to accompany her brothers—leaned over and excitedly explained to him that the Sect leader was most likely missing his wife.

Wei Wuxian immediately discussed this delightful topic with her until Jiang Cheng smacked him over the head.

Speaking of Jiang Cheng, his adopted brother was probably already on the grounds, cursing his name while pacing around. Wei Wuxian was going to get an earful when he found his way, no doubt. If he found his way.

He walked until he came across a small garden. There were dull thudding sounds coming from within. It sounded very much like archery practice.

Wei Wuxian brushed aside the shrubs and leaves to reveal a young man. He was drawing a bow and was concentrated on the target. The side profil revealed him to be delicately handsome.

‘What beautiful posture!’ Wei Wuxian thought, grinning. Then, the grin slid off his face as he started recognising that face and profile.

He remebered seeing this version of this body only once—the very first time he used the token with Jiang Cheng—and from the moments that followed, he had always been a concsious corpse.

It was Wen Ning!

Wen Ning shot the arrow and it hit the middle of the target. None of the shots he had made were off center. He could easily be one of the top four archers Wei Wuxian knew.

“Bravo, that was marvellous!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, clapping his hands.

Just as Wen Ning had been taking out another arrow from his quiver, he heard the unfamiliar voice. His hands immediately lost their strength and the arrow fell from his grasp.

He turned around, surprised.

Wei Wuxian came out and took in the sight of Wen Ning, alive. He couldn’t stop grinning!

“That was amazing!” Wei Wuxian said. “None of your hits were off target. Are you going to participate in the competition? I thought that the Wen Sect would definitely come last again, but with you, they could save some face!”

Wen Ning’s face grew a darker shade of red each time he spoke.

Wei Wuxian pressed his lips together to stop laughing. It looked like Wen Ning wanted to run away.

“I’m Wei Ying, courtesy Wuxian. May I know your name, young master?” He asked, although he already knew who this was.

Wen Ning looked up, eyes panicked. “I-I…”

Then he turned around, attempting to flee, but in his panic, he stumbled over the fallen arrow and tripped over his own foot. With a thud, he fell to the ground, dust scattering around him from the force of his fall

Wei Wuxian blinked, startled, and immediately rushed to help him up. “Are you okay?”

Wen Ning pushed himself off the ground, blinking and rubbing his eyes due to the dust on his face.

Wei Wuxian smiled fondly at him and used his sleeve to wipe the other boy’s face.

“Why are you running away from me? Am I so charming that it’s frightening?” He asked, laughing loudly.

Wen Ning stared at him, eyes wide and face red. “I-I’m sorry…”

“Why apologise? Just tell me your name! We’ll be facing each other off in the competition after all.”

Wei Wuxian stood up and pulled Wen Ning up along with him. The Wen Sect disciple stumbled a little as he stood.

“Wen N-Ning… c-courtesy Qionglin…” He stammered out, head lowered. He cupped his hands and gave a polite bow.

“Ah, no need, no need for all this.” Wei Wuxian said. “You can treat me informally. I want to be friends with you!”

Wen Ning jolted, “F-Friends…?”

“Yeah! Why, don’t you want to be friends with me?” Wei Wuxian asked, teasingly.

“N-No!” Wen Ning said, and then looked horrified as he realised it could be misinterpreted, “I-I mean… nothing of-of that sort! But… I…”

“You’re wondering why?” Wei Wuxian asked.

Wen Ning looked at him, nervously. Wei Wuxian pretended to think.

“I think you shoot well and you look nice. Is it not enough reason?” Wei Wuxian beamed.

For Wen Ning, this was a sudden approach from a stranger, but for Wei Wuxian, it was like meeting an old friend. He had seen Wen Ning with him in so many visions, accompanying him everywhere he went. He wanted to talk to Wen Ning about many things just as he did in the visions he had watched.

Wen Ning shook his head. “I-It’s enough… nobody usually wants to…” He looked pained as he spoke the next words. “I stutter… so...I-I am not good at talking...”

“Ah, no problem! I talk a lot!” Wei Wuxian declared. After all, he already knew this, but as a corpse, Wen Ning didn’t have his stuttering tendency and he’d almost forgotten. “By the way, can you take me to the grounds? I lost my way.”

Wen Ning blinked at him, and then, with a small, shy smile, he nodded.

The entire way back to the square, Wen Ning and Wei Wuxian talked about archery.

“Ah, there he is!” Nie Huaisang said, pointing with his fan.

Jiang Cheng looked over his shoulder and saw Wei Wuxian walking towards them. He scowled. He and Huaisang had been worried about where he might’ve gone because he had been missing the entire morning. Not even a note left behind for reassurance!

He was about to scold his older brother, when he noticed another figure behind him. A familiar one. Jiang Cheng’s eyes widened in recognition.

“A-Cheng, A-Sang, there you are!” Wei Wuxian grinned.

Jiang Cheng narrowed his eyes at him and slapped his back hard when he reached them. Wei Wuxian stumbled forward.

“Who are you calling ‘A-Cheng’?! Where were you the entire morning? At least leave a note so that I can know where to find your corpse if you die!”

“Ah… ah…” Wei Wuxian reached behind and rubbed his back, groaning in pain. “I got lost. But look, Wen Ning here helped me find my way!”

Jiang Cheng tutted, “Always inconveniencing people.” He looked at Wen Ning and his face softened. “Thank you for bringing back my idiot brother. I hope he didn’t do anything untoward.”

Wen Ning leaned back in shock and shook his head vehemently. “N-No! Young master Wei was v-very courteous to me!”

Wei Wuxian, in response, stuck his tongue out at Jiang Cheng.

“Sang-xiong,” Wei Wuxian called looking at his brother in amusem*nt, “Are you going to participate?”

Huaisang shot him a scathing look, “And make a fool of myself? I’m waiting for the rites and calligraphy competitions. I’ll be in the audience with sister, today.”

He jerked his chin towards the viewing seats. Wei Wuxian saw his sister in the reserved seats where she waved at him, smiling. Sisi was sitting next to her, large fan in hand that was meant to be be used for Jiang Yanli if she felt hot. The older woman gave them a wink and punched a fist in the air to motivate them.

“Sisi-jie is wishing us good luck!” Wei Wuxian laughed and copied the motion. Jiang Cheng sighed and muttered something about ‘peas in a pod’.

Then, from the corner of his eye, a flutter of white and red caught his attention. Wei Wuxian’s heart skipped a beat and his eyes lit up.

“Wangji-xiong! Lan Wangji!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed as he saw the boy walking past them some distance away.

It had been a long time since Wei Wuxian had laid eyes on this Lan Wangji. In the visions, he was taller, broader and calmer. There was no doubt that this one was very different. Though they both wore the same face and expression, one could not deny the immaturity on the face he saw now.

Well, Wei Wuxian couldn’t. To anyone else, Lan Wangji probably looked to be one of the more mature youths.

Seeing the other boy in the red robes provided by the Wen Sect, Wei Wuxian felt his stomach flop. Lan Wangji was always handsome, but in such bright colours, he looked especially good. Red really was stunning on him.

“Lan Zhan~” Wei Wuxian grinned as he darted in front of him, blocking his way to join the rest of his sect.

Lan Wangji stared at him impassively for a moment before making to move around him. Wei Wuxian side stepped into his path once more.

“Ignoring me?” Wei Wuxian pouted. “Say what you may, but can’t we call ourselves familiar by now at least? We had spent an entire month in the library pavillion together! Don’t I deserve some courtesy?”

Lan Wangji closed his eyes and took a deep breath, seemingly calming himself.

“Excuse me.” He said, coolly. “May I move through?”

“No, you may not!” Wei Wuxian answered, flippantly.

Lan Wangji’s eyebrow twitched minutely. He grit out, “Wei Ying.”

“That’s me!” Wei Wuxian said, delighted to hear his name. “Ah, Lan Zhan. I did miss you quite a lot. Did you ever think of me after I left Gusu?”

Only once he’d said the words, did Wei Wuxian realise how much he sounded like a young maiden who had been separated from her betrothed for too long. Yet, he couldn’t help it since this had been the one question that plagued his mind every time he thought of the second jade.

He waited patiently for the answer.

Lan Wangji, on his part, looked to be at a loss for words. He seemed to be contemplating his answer when, as if realising something, he sighed.

“Do not tease. Let me through.” He said.

Wei Wuxian’s heart bore the weight of his disappointment as Lan Wangji said these words. He did not believe him. He thought Wei Wuxian was teasing.

‘It’s all for the better! At least I can save some face this way.’ Wei Wuxian thought as he stepped aside.

Lan Wangji didn’t spare him a single glance as he walked past him.

Suddenly, Wei Wuxian felt a spark of irritation and couldn’t help but call out.

“Lan Zhan! Your forehead ribbon is crooked!”

Lan Wangji stopped in his tracks and put a hand to his head. He then glared at Wei Wuxian over his shoulder after confirming that his ribbon was firmly in place and nothing was amiss.

Wei Wuxian dissolved into a fit of giggles as Lan Wangji swept himself away.

‘Serves you right!’ He thought.

By the time Wei Wuxian returned to the YunmengJiang side, Nie Huaisang had already left for the stands and Wen Ning to his own Sect.

“I can’t believe you’re still bothering Lan Wangji.” Jiang Cheng said, making a face. “I have no idea how you end up… well, I’m not saying it.”

Wei Wuxian stiffened, blush creeping up his neck. Now that his brother had mentioned it, he remembered that shameless vision the token had shown them a month ago. He had put it at the back of his mind, trying to suppress it, because…

Wei Wuxian’s heart sunk thinking about it. He tried to suppress it mostly because he… he yearned.

And Lan Wangji didn’t.

“He’s not the same.” Wei Wuxian said, forcing on a grin as he remebered how the second master of the Lan Sect walked by him without sparing a glance. “...He can’t even stand the sight of me.”

Jiang Cheng’s looked at him, his confusion slowly morphing into anger. No doubt he was thinking of a bad scenario.

“What’s with that face?” Jiang Cheng hissed and then turned to glare towards the GusuLan Sect. “Did he do something to you?”

Jiang Cheng made to stalk over to that side, but Wei Wuxian grabbed him by the arm and held him steadfast.

“Let go of me so I can break his legs! Or do you want me to break yours instead?!” He yelled.

Wei Wuxian at this point, couldn’t help bursting out into laughter.

Jiang Cheng stilled, “What’s wrong with you? First you look down and now you’re laughing.”

“Nothing!” Wei Wuxian guffawed and then hugged his brother. Jiang Cheng struggled in his shixiong’s embrace, face red in embrassem*nt and indignance. “Ah, my baby brother knows how to make me feel better.”

Jiang Cheng himself, wouldn’t have minded the hug if they weren’t currently standing in the middle of a large training ground where everyone had the freedom to look at them. He was just about to push Wei Wuxian off when his eyes caught on the second jade of Lan staring at them.

Jiang Cheng paused his actions. Lan Wangji was still staring at them even though Jiang Cheng was making eye contact with him. He even had the gall to look disgusted.

The younger brother felt irritation spike within him. His face darkened and instead of pushing away Wei Wuxian, he returned the embrace, hugging him tightly while his eyes shot daggers at the second jade.

Lan Wangji’s eyes widened for half a moment before he placed on a cold mask. His face was just as dark as Jiang Cheng’s now and they both glared at each other before the Lan disciple turned to face away from them.

Jiang Cheng smirked, feeling satisfied at this reaction.

“...Jiang Cheng? Not that I mind it, but I thought you would.” Wei Wuxian said, cutting into his thoughts.

“What do you mean?” Jiang Cheng grumbled.

“Nothing, nothing!” Wei Wuxian said. “Just that everyone’s sort of staring at us.”

Jiang Cheng blinked, tearing his eyes away from Lan Wangji and realising that, yes, everyone was, in fact, staring at them.

He jumped away from his brother, face red. “Push me away!” He looked up at the stands where his sister, father, Sisi-jie and Huaisang were sitting, looking at them in various amounts of amusem*nt and surprise.

“Why would I?” Wei Wuxian huffed, crossing his arms. “I’m shameless anyway.”

Jiang Cheng scowled at him. He wondered though, what was wrong with Lan Wangji. He doesn’t care about much of the worldly matters and doesn’t pay attention to things that don’t concern him, but why is that he keeps expressing such disgust and intolerance towards Wei Wuxian?

Jiang Cheng decided that this would remain a mystery for a while longer.

The attention was shifted from them soon as, over on the Wen Sect’s side, there was much clamor.

Wei Wuxian glared in Wen Chao’s direction. He seemed to be the cause of the chaos. He grit his teeth thinking about how this boy was a waste of space.

Wei Wuxian asked Jiang Cheng, eyes cold, “Wen Chao is always doing something and making a big deal. What’s happening now?”

Jiang Cheng sneered in the general direction of the Wens, “What do you think? The spots are limited. They’re fighting over the people to let into the arena.” After a pause, he continued with disdain, “These Wen Sect’s archery skills are the same level of bad. It would be the same no matter who goes. We can only hope they are bad enough to shoot Wen Chao by mistake.”

Wei Wuxian snickered as he imagined this happening.

Wen Chao shouted from the side, “Another one! Another one, we’re still short one! The last one!”

Amid the crowd beside him, Wen Ning was also there. Looking left and right, he finally raised his hand. But his hand wasn’t raised tall enough. He didn’t dare shout his name like the others did either. After a while of pushing around, somebody finally noticed him, musing, “Qionglin? You want to participate as well?”

Wen Ning nodded. Somebody else laughed, “I haven’t even seen you pick up a bow. Why do you want to participate?! Don’t waste the spot.”

Wen Ning seemed as if he wanted to protest for himself. The person said, “Alright, alright. Don’t be so curious. The rank is recorded. If you go up there and lose your own face it wouldn’t be my problem.”

Wei Wuxian scoffed, “Lose face? If anyone can find some face for the Wen Sect, it would be him.”

Jiang Cheng raised an eyebrow, “He can shoot?”

Wei Wuxian nodded, “Quite well, in fact.” And then, as if inspired, Wei Wuxian raised his voice. “Hey there, who said he hasn’t ever picked up a bow? Wen Ning shoots quite well! He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen!”

Everyone looked at him, somewhat surprised. They then turned to look at the boy. Wen Ning’s face was rather pale to begin with. Because of how everyone’s eyes centered on him, it immediately became bright red. Those pitch-black eyes stared at Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian walked over, hands behind his back, “Back then, weren’t you doing quite well in the garden? Didn’t you tell me how much you’ve practiced?”

Wen Chao turned around as well, doubting, “Really? You? Good at archery? Why haven’t I ever heard of this?”

Wen Ning’s voice was low, “… I… I only started practicing recently…”

His voice was not only low but also staggering. Wen Chao interrupted impatiently, “Alright, there’s a target over there. Quickly shoot an arrow for us to see. If it’s good then go, if it’s not good then don’t.”

The area around Wen Ning was immediately emptied. The hand that he clutched the arrow with tightened as he looked around, seemingly looking for help. Watching how unconfident he looked, Wei Wuxian patted his shoulder.

“Relax. Remember how I said you were one of the best? You’re almost as good as me. And didn’t you practice a lot? Go on.”

Wen Ning looked at him, still nervous. “If I miss?”

“Even if you miss, it’s not a big deal because you’ll still be good, in reality,” Wei Wuxian shrugged.

Wen Ning blinked at him. He looked lost for a moment but titled his head, as if considering this. Then, he gave a grateful smile to the Jiang Sect disciple.

With a deep breath, he drew his bow.

Wei Wuxian stood back, grinning. The posture was beautiful, as he thought.

The white feathered arrow shot out and hit the target right in the center. The sound echoed through the quiet square.

There was a stunned silence, and then,

Wei Wuxian whooped, “See! My eyes are never wrong!”

Following Wei Wuxian’s lead, other disciples also cheered and so did a few people in the stands. Hesitantly, more people began clapping.

It was a rather unenthusiastic applause all in all, but was still a big deal to one boy. Wen Ning just stood there, shocked at his own achievement, eyes sparkling with excited disbelief. He felt proud despite the crowds dying cheers.

Wei Wuxian glomped him from the back and put an arm around his neck, the only other person who was just as excited as him, “I told you!”

Wen Ning beamed at him, “Yes!”

Wen Chao, who had been expecting the timid boy to fail, gaped.

Wei Wuxian looked up at him, eyes challenging. “Well? He can join now, can’t he?”

Wen Chao’s face reddened. He could not refuse now or else he would lose his face. And anyway, if Wen Ning could shoot, then it wouldn’t be any loss for him.

“Fine, fine!” He agreed, waving his hand dismissively. “Wen Qionglin will be filling up the last spot.”

Wei Wuxian smirked, satisfied.

Notes:

I just want good things for Wen Ning, and really, who doesn’t?

This chapter mostly came because I couldn’t study at all today and I fought with my sister so I needed something to take my mind off it.

So this was a lot of canon incorporated stuff, but with a few changes. Next up, the forehead ribbon incident! Or can we still call it that? Soon, we are going to have only the main events remaining to use from canon. We are rapidly moving into open AU territory.

Chapter 22: Chapter 22

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian grinned as both he and Wen Ning managed to shoot down more mannequins. Jiang Cheng was behind them, also having made another successful shot. None of them had missed even once.

More and more disciples began to filter out as the competitions progressed, having hit normal mannequins instead of possessed ones.

Wei Wuxian was in the lead, having shot 18 mannequins. Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning weren’t far behind him, having shot 15 and 16 respectively. Wen Ning leaped away from Wei Wuxian as he shot another one.

Wei Wuxian whistled, “You’re catching up to me, Wen Ning! I’m not losing.”

Wen Ning smiled brightly at him, “Of course, young master!”

During the competition, he, Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning had spent most of the time participating together, and so, Wen Ning had rapidly begun to lose his stutter when talking to them, although his voice was still quite low when he spoke.

Wei Wuxian slotted another mannequin fluttering above them, but just as he drew his bow, another arrow scraped past him. It wobbled towards the mannequin, and hit, although barely.

“It’s been hit!” Wen Chao boasted from behind Wei Wuxian. “Wei Wuxian, since I’m here now, I won’t allow you to run rampant.”

Wei Wuxian seethed. The fact that someone stole his prey wasn’t as bad as the fact that the person standing in front of him was Wen Chao.

“Whatever.” Wei Wuxian scoffed, walking away. It didn’t matter if Wen Chao stole another ten targets from him as this was the first time he made a shot since the competition started.

Resentful energy radiated from nearby and Wei Wuxian found another feral mannequin. He drew his bow.

Again, Wen Chao shot his arrow before Wei Wuxian could. This time however, it missed. The possessed target flew away quickly.

Wei Wuxian pressed his lips together to stop himself from laughing. Jiang Cheng was looking on from the other side, looking smug. They both made fun of him in their heads. Wen Chao let out a frustrated sound and took another arrow.

Wei Wuxian frowned. Since he missed, he should’ve step out of the competition, but instead, he drew his bow again, pointing it at another mannequin.

He shot. Unfortunately, the flare of the Wen Clan did not shoot up, as it did every time a feral ghost target was shot, but instead a white flare went up, indicating he had failed.

This time, he had to leave, but instead, he took another three arrows from the quiver and pointed it at a pair of mannequins that danced around a distance away.

“What is the meaning of this, young master Wen?”A disciple from a nearby group asked. “Are you trying to break the rules set by your own clan?”

Wen Chao jeered, “Rules? I am the rules.”

“How unreasonable.” Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but hiss.

The group of disciples walked away, whispering and shooting scathing looks at Wen Chao, no doubt bad mouthing him.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng also chose to walk away. Further from Wen Chao, Wen Ning stood, as he followed another feral mannequin. Jiang Cheng also began to draw his bow again.

Wei Wuxian moves towards one that was hovering behind some large rocks. The competition began getting monotonous, and Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he shot with his other hand. Would he still hit?

Just as he was about to try it out, he felt something brush by his face, softer than a flower petal.

He turned around and saw Lan Wangji, back facing him, forehead ribbon flittering towards Wei Wuxian. During the time Wei Wuxian had been pondering different things, the GusuLan disciple had made his way nearby him. His forehead ribbon was loose, leaning down on one side.

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wixian called.

Lan Wangji stared quiet for a moment, and after some hesitance, he asked, “What?”

“Your forehead ribbon is crooked.”

This time, Lan Wangji refused to believe him. “Ridiculous.”

Wei Wuxian felt frustrated. “It’s true this time! Come, I’ll fix it.”

Before Lan Wangji could say anything back, Wei Wuxian caught hold of the tail of the ribbon, but just as he did, he remebered a memory from a vision he’d watched. Lan Zhan had been incredibly angry at him for touching the ribbon, according to it.

He didn’t pull on it, but lost in his thoughts, he did not take his hand off it either.

Lan Wangji turned around to look at him over his shoulder, eyes widening at the strip of cloth held in his hand. After a appalled pause, he tried to snatch back the tail, but Wei Wuxian had a firm grip on it. He got pulled towards the other boy and tripped over a stubbornly cemented stone on the ground.

“Whoa—” He could only let out a sound as he stumbled into Lan Wangji, tackling them both to the ground.

Dust collected around them as Wei Wuxian landed right on top of Lan Wangji. As soon as this happened, Wei Wuxian felt his lips crash onto something soft. The texture was unlike anything that he should be feeling. He opened his eyes, and stared in shock at the golden eyes in front of him, closer than they ever were. Those eyes were wide in horror.

Wei Wuxian tried to pull himself off, but before he could, he was shoved away, tactlessly.

The YunmengJiang disciple rolled off the other boy and could only sit up half way as he watched Lan Wangji stand up, his forehead ribbon which had come off was held in one hand.

The younger twin jade looked blank, almost soulless as the hand that wasn't holding the ribbon reached up to his lips. He covered his mouth with his hand and slowly looked down at Wei Wuxian, face morphing into a furious expression. His eyebrows were drawn down more than Wei Wuxian had ever seen and his sclera took on a terrifying red tinge.

Lan Wangji glowered at Wei Wuxian as if he was his worst enemy. What was left visible of his face looked as if a dark cloud hung over it.

He turned and briskly walked away from him.

Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning, who had been nearby rushed to help Wei Wuxian stand up.

“What happened? Were you teasing him again?” Jiang Cheng asked, accusingly.

“His… ribbon was crooked. I…” Wei Wuxian was still dazed, unsure if what just happened was real or a figment of his imagination. If the lingering softness on his lips was just an illusion. “...Did you see what happened?”

“Yes, you fell, right on top of Lan Wangji.” Jiang Cheng scowled. “It looked like your head hit his.”

So that was what it looked like to other people. Wei Wuxian felt relieved. At least he didn’t make Lan Wangji lose face by having him kiss a man in public. Even if it was by accident, it would bring about a whole bundle of rumours.

As his thoughts formed a word for the action, Wei Wuxian felt more conscious. His face felt unbearably hot and he knew he was blushing all the way to the roots of his hair. His chest felt tight and uncomfortable as his mind kept supplying to him one thing: he had kissed Lan Wangji.

He watched as the Second jade was surrounded by others from his sect. Lan Xichen came forward and put an arm around his brother. All of them spoke to him in what looked to be a consoling manner.

Wei Wuxian caught a few words like “accident”, “man”, “worry not”, etc. Lan Wangji’s head was lowered. Lan Xichen whispered one last thing to him and Lan Wangji slowly nodded.

He tore himself away from his sect, walking past them. Wei Wuxian caught his eyes while he walked. Lan Wangji shot him a murderous look as he stepped outside the the range of the competition.

“Did he just leave?” Jiang Cheng asked, brows furrowing. “Isn’t that making it an unnecessarily big deal?”

No, Wei Wuxian thought, suddenly feeling nauseous. It wasn’t unnecessary. While he was here feeling butterflies in his stomach and internally ecstatic, he had forgotten that Lan Wangji held no feelings for him at all. He was someone who’d never even looked at anything even slightly perverse before. He prioritised self restraint and rules above all. Yet, Wei Wuxian took something sacred from him.

And that made him see how heartless he truly was.

Wei Wuxian stood behind Jiang Cheng as they lined up to hear the announcement of the winners.

“First place,” And old man’s voice rang around the ground, volume intensified with the help of sound charms. “From the YunmengJiang Sect with 28 consecutive points, Wei Wuxian!”

Wei Wuxian blinked, hearing his name.

“As expected of our dashixiong!” His shidis surrounded him and his second shidi, who was a rather plump boy picked him off the ground and twirled him around. Wei Wuxian grinned, the excitement of his shidis being contagious.

From the Wen Sect side, Wen Ning smiles, watching this display.

“Second place, with 26 consecutive points from the GusuLan Sect, Lan Xichen!”

Cheers came from the side of GusuLan as the first jade smiled at everyone who offered him a congratulations.

“Third place with 25 consecutive points, from the LanlingJin Sect, Jin Zixuan,” The host announced again, but wasn’t done. “and from the the QishanWen Sect, Wen Qionglin!”

This time, everyone turned to stare. They goggled at the the timid boy who jumped by hearing his name in the announcements. His face went bright red as everyone stared at him.

Wei Wuxian laughed, “Wen Ning, you’re amazing! You tied with the peaco*ck!”

From across the ground, Jin Zixuan heard this and glared at Wei Wuxian, who paid no attention to him. Nobody in his Sect seemed surprised that he’d made it into the rankings,

The Wen Sect disciples, on the other hand, looked upon Wen Ning with malice and jealousy, none of them having come near to scoring as high and none of them having expected him to manage it. He had tied with the Jin sect heir and with one more point, he would’ve tied with the first jade of Lan.

Wen Ning kept his eyes on the YunmengJiang Sect, refusing to look at his own as the fourth place began its announcement.

“Fourth place, with 23 consecutive points, from the GusuLan Sect, Lan Wangji,” As he said, this people were getting ready to cheer, but paused when the heard the announcer continue, “And from the YunmengJiang Sect, Jiang Wanyin!”

Wei Wuxian started, hearing this, as did his brother.

The crowd broke into cheers.

“There are two ties!!” Someone piped up.

“Both GusuLan and YunmengJiang have two people up on the rankings!” Another cheered.

The stands broke out into excited chatter.

“Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian pounced on his brothers back. “We’re both in the top four—well, six.”

“Get off me, I know!” Jiang Cheng exclaimed, exasperatedly, despite the large grin on his face. He knows that the only reason he had placed the same as Lan Wangji was because the former left early, but he still couldn’t help celebrating this small victory internally.

Their shidis celebrated the talent of their shixiongs as the remaining disciples looked at the winners in distaste.

The next day, a mathematics competition had been held in which Lan Xichen, Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian and Jin Zixuan had placed the top four ranks respectively. Jiang Cheng had missed the fourth rank by just a little, and was only slightly disappointed. Nie Huaisang was hopeless as usual.

Just like that, the competitions began filtering out per day with each art they were made to compete in. The Wen Sect had no more participants that came in the top ranks. Wen Ning did not participate in any others, but met up with Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng often enough in between.

In all the competitions, the esteemed young masters of each sect seemed to take up the top spots. Nie Huaisang himself, had come first in calligraphy, although his rank in rites had dropped down to a third. Nevertheless, it was still impressive. Nie MingJue, however, was not impressed. He wanted his brother to have excelled in more muscle involved tasks.

The musical competition had been saved for the last day and it came as a surprise to absolutely no one when all the ranks had been filled up by the GusuLan Sect cultivators. With their superior skill in music cultivation, no other sect stood a chance.

That evening, as they spent their last night in Qishan Wen, Wei Wuxian spotted Lan Wangji walking in an open corridor.

Every time they seemed to be within range of each other, Lan Wangji would either ignore him or walk away. This gave Wei Wuxian absolutely no chance to speak or apologise to him.

Wei Wuxian felt the guilt eating him up from inside, and, making his decision, walked towards the other boy resolutely.

“Lan Zhan.” He called.

Lan Wangji turned to look at him. His face was blank as usual, but Wei Wuxian saw how he warily took a step back.

“Do not talk to me.” He said.

Wei Wuxian’s bottom lip trembled as he continued talking. “Just listen to me. Look at me. Please.”

Hearing this sincere tone of voice, Lan Wangji complied, looking up at the YunmengJiang Sect disciple. “...What is it?”

“That…” Wei Wuxian started, rubbing his neck awkwardly and sighed, “During the archery competition… I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to do any of that. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’ve been properly regretting it.”

Lan Wangji eyebrow twitched minutely when he’d heard the words ‘archery competition’, but listened to what he had to say. By the end of it, he decided there was no fault with the apology and pursed his lips.

“It is fine. Don’t mention it again.”

Wei Wuxian, “I won’t, I won’t! Nobody saw the kiss anyway, so it’s okay. You’re reputation as the untouched jade is still intact.”

Hearing the word ‘kiss’, Lan Wangji’s bad mood started up again. “A reputation means little. One’s actions will always mean far greater. Excuse me.”

Wei Wuxian, by now, was familiar with Lan Wangji’s body language. He panicked the moment he saw the other boy’s face become frosty again. Without thinking, he grabbed hold of Lan Wangji’s wrist.

Lan Wangji looked at him in shock and Wei Wuxian mirrored the expression. The second jade felt so uncomfortable, he couldn’t even manage to say any words. He contemplated pushing away Wei Wuxian again when a voice boomed from behind them.

“Wangji!”

It was Lan Qiren! He walked towards the two of them, face red and furious. He pulled Lan Wangji towards him. Wei Wuxian let go of his hand the moment Lan Qiren pulled Lan Wangji.

“Wei Ying, what is the meaning of this?!”

“Nothing!” Wei Wuxian responded immediately. He was used to saying this since he often got into trouble, but this time, he truly didn’t know what he was doing.

“You… Stay away from my nephew.” Lan Qiren said dangerously. “I heard you had carelessly touched his forehead ribbon during the archery competition. Wangji has not been able to eat a decent meal since! Do not cause trouble for people who don’t want anything to do with you. To make him take punishment with you in the cloud recesses was already a stain for him. Now you want to corrupt his good name?”

Wei Wuxian’s heart twinged, hearing the last sentence, and for once, his smart mouth couldn’t help him at all. His heart lightened when he heard another voice call out from behind him.

“Who the f*ck do you think you are!?”

Wei Wuxian turned and saw Sisi walk towards them, fuming. She took large steps and pulled Wei Wuxian to stand behind her.

“If anyone will corrupt that boys good name, it’ll be the fact that his uncle is an ignorant fool!” She pointed one dainty finger accusingly at Lan Qiren.

Excuse me?” Lan Qiren asked as he took in her appearance.

Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but smile a little when he saw Lan Qiren’s scandalised expression. He likely had never laid eyes on a woman like Sisi. Even though she no longer worked at the brothel, she felt uncomfortable wearing heavy clothing and covering up too much, and so, her robes were always low cut and never more than two layers, displaying her cleavage. The sash around her waist was also flimsy and only served to accent her figure.

The way she spoke didn’t help her case either.

“You heard me. I don’t know what the f*ck is up with you, but A-Ying was only trying to apologise. I was watching the entire time. Do you know this boy? He hardly takes things seriously, but he has a good heart. He only wanted to make up with that kid but you go and f*ck it up! Not even having enough respect to allow him to talk—who the f*ck do you think you are?”

Lan Qiren looked down at her, face almost purple in his indignation. He had never been talked to with such disrespect since Cangse Sanren. His beard quivered as he spoke his next words.

“And who might you be? Who are you to speak of respect when you don’t even seem to have any for yourself?”

Sisi’s eyebrows flew up and her full lips that were usually smiling and ever-pleasant, twisted into a sneer.

“Seriously?” She spat, “You take one look at me and think I don’t respect myself? You think that by looking at my body you can discern my mind? I can bare my entire chest to you and still respect myself. I have bared myself to countless men. I’ve sold this body many times before and still knew my worth.”

“What? You-You are a…” Lan Qiren stepped back, disgusted.

“A prostitute.” Sisi completed for him. “I was one, anyway. I’m out of that business now, but I will not be ashamed of it being my past. I had to find a way to survive. I lived however I could. I know how people talk about women like me, yet, no matter what you or anyone says, I respect myself. And because I truly know what respect is, I can tell you that you don’t have it!”

By this time, a lot of the disciples had come out to see what the commotion was all about. They were peeping out from behind the walls and various doorways.

Lan Qiren, noticing this, stepped further away from Sisi, as if embarrassed to be seen with her. Wei Wuxian wouldn’t be surprised if that was exactly the reason. Sisi, noticing this, only took a step closer.

“Running away?” She asked. But now, her attention was no longer on Lan Qiren. She instead looked at Lan Wangji. “Young Master over there,”

Lan Wangji looked up, his eyes flitting between Sisi and Wei Wuxian.

“A-Ying is a good boy. He likes you. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t try so hard to talk to you. If you don’t see the friend you have now, you may never have him again.” She told him.

Lan Qiren covered Lan Wangji with his body, despite how disturbed he was at the lessened distance between Sisi and him.

“My nephew will not be associating with him.” Lan Qiren said, curtly. “That is final.”

“Let him decide for himself, and if it’s the same as yours, then it’s his loss.” Sisi shrugged. “But do not put words in his mouth. Whatever happened between these two has to be resolved by them. You cannot finalise a decision he hasn’t made.”

Lan Qiren chose to simply glower at her, not being able to refute her statements. Yet, he didn’t move aside.

“Sisi-Jie.” A mild voice called out, fluttering to their ears pleasantly. “Let it be.”

Everyone watched as Jiang Yanli approached them, her face not wearing her usual smile. Sisi stepped to the side, allowing her mistress through.

“Master Lan.” Jiang Yanli greeted with a bow. “May I speak?”

Lan Qiren simply stood, eyeing her warily. He gave her a nod in return.

Jiang Yanli gave a smile, then, “I apologise on behalf of my brother.”

Wei Wuxian looked up at her in surprise. Lan Qiren looked pleased by the apology, but then she continued.

“But do not assume he’s bad company. Many say unpleasant things about him because he didn’t have proper parents to raise him, but they are wrong. I have watched him grow up. I have raised him. I realise that your forehead ribbon is truly significant in ways we may not know, but A-Xian meant no ill will. This is clear to me, and I hope that now, it is clear to you.”

Once more, Jiang Yanli bowed to Lan Qiren. “Please do not write him off as a bad influence.”

Wei Wuxian could not bear to see his sister bow like that because of him and stepped up. He hardened his heart as he said the next words.

“Lan Zhan, I really just wanted to apologise. It’s ridiculous to make it such a big deal, don’t you think? I won’t bother you again, really.”

Lan Wangji, having been quiet and observing the entire time, looked at him blankly.

Wei Wuxian gave a final bow and took his sisters hand. Sisi held him by his other arm and threw a nasty glare at Lan Qiren over her shoulder before turning around and pulling the two siblings away.

As they walked away, Wei Wuxian vaguely noticed Jin Zixuan also looking at them from among the gathered crowd of disciples. He wondered if Lan Wangji was looking at them, too.

Notes:

Yeah, it’s a fast update. This story addicts me. I don’t know how this chapter turned out. I had to think about a lot of things while writing this one, mostly because of the archery competition rankings.
This is how it ended up!

My story mainly follows the events of the novel, but I do incorporate some things from the Donghua as well.

Hope you enjoyed it, I was itching to write Sisi again, so I had to put her in, lol.

Next up: The QishanWen Sect discussion conference is now over. It’s time to use the knowledge that they have been archiving for a year.

Chapter 23

Notes:

TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of abortion.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Wen Ning did not take well to Wei Wuxian’s and Jiang Cheng’s departure, having become very attached to them during the discussion conference. He had even been able to start speaking to Nie Huaisang and Jiang Yanli without stuttering at this point and was disappointed at seeing them go.

Wei Wuxian had promised to write him letters and told him that they would definitely meet again. Yunmeng and Qishan weren’t far, after all.

Nie Huaisang himself had been sour about the fact that he’d have to go back to Qinghe and stunt his progress with being able to use Xifeng. He wasn’t prepared to tell his brother about it until he was able to perfectly wield the battle fan as a proper cultivational weapon. Nie Mingjue would go into an absolute fit.

Even while they were leaving, it seemed that fate was trying to play with Wei Wuxian, as the GusuLan boat and the YunmengJiang boat were right next to each other at the harbour. Wei Wuxian, however, made good on his word and did not try to catch Lan Wangji’s eye as he would usually.

Now, back in Lotus Pier, Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng collapsed onto their own beds, glad to finally be home.

“So, did you manage to do it?” Wei Wuxian asked, sitting up from his bed as he remembered something.

Jiang Cheng smirked at him from his own bed, “What do you think? I had Huaisang with me. He’s so damn crafty. He pretended to push me right into Lan Xichen while he was walking. I slipped it in then.”

Wei Wuxian grinned, “What did he do?”

“Oh, just what you’d expect of the young master ranked number one.” Jiang Cheng snorted, “He asked if I was okay and told us to be careful. I don’t think he noticed.”

Wei Wuxian let out a loud sigh of relief, “With this, we don’t have to worry about the cloud recesses anymore.”

They flopped their backs on their beds again.

Wei Wuxian, “Where is Uncle Jiang?”

“Where do you think? He and mom will not be apart for the next few days. If they could get along so well, they should’ve done so from the beginning.” Jiang Cheng tutted.

“Better late than never.” Wei Wuxian smiled. He was glad that they were at least getting along better in this world than the one he’d witnessed.

“What should we do now?” Jiang Cheng asked, finally. “We have no idea when the indoctrination will happen. A few weeks? Months?”

“The cloud recesses has to be attacked first.” Wei Wuxian thought out loud. “We’ll know that the indoctrination will be soon after that.”

“Then we have to use the token while we can.” Jiang Cheng exhaled, already foreseeing the exhaustion he’ll be feeling soon.

It would’ve been easy to ask Jiang Fengmian for help, but as the sect leader, he was always busy, and being tired could affect his duties.

“Well, we might as well do it now.” Wei Wuxian announced.

Lan Xichen stared at the letter and qiankun pouch in his hands. He had found them when they’d returned to the cloud recesses and hesitated to open it. He refrained from showing it to his uncle as Lan Qiren would immediately suspect foul-play and by the handwriting on the front of the letter, it didn’t seem like it was so.

Still, the first jade had played Cleansing and even Evocation, just in case it was cursed or possessed.

After determining that it wasn’t particularly evil, Lan Xichen opened it.

He skimmed his eyes over the letter, and eyes widening, he began to read it once more, more slowly.

Young master Lan Xichen,

We write to you in hopes that you will listen to us. The Cloud recesses will be attacked by the Wen Sect very soon. Our reason for informing you of this is none but the fact that we have this knowledge and that we can.

Enclosed in the qiankun pouch are certain items.

The first are forewarning bells. These bells are to be placed outside the entrance of the cloud recesses and will inform you of any intruders as soon as they are present within range. In addition, they have a function to electrocute their victims which can be adjusted with spiritual energy.

The second are duplication talismans. They will duplicate any and all written documents if provided with paper. Use them to duplicate as many of your works in the library pavillion as possible. The Wen Sect is looking to burn down your mountain of knowledge. The Sect leader will be grievously wounded after this.

Use these to aid your clan. If you do not, we will at the very least have tried to do the right thing. If you do, we hope that you and your clan members will survive the tragedy unscathed.

P.S. There will be an indoctrination held by the Wen Sect under Wen Chao soon after the attack. Make sure to send your disciples without any swords. Trust us.

Wishing you well,

Your friends

Lan Xichen lay the letter down on his table. He massaged his temples with two fingers and bit the inside of cheek, contemplating its contents.

The letter could very well be a prank. To leave a cultivator without their weapons… How could they do such a thing? It must be a prank.

But what if it wasn’t?

Even if it were a prank, it felt like an omen now. He could not simply ignore its warnings. Lan Xichen took the nearby kettle that contained freshly brewed tea and poured the fluid into his cup, feeling restless and requiring something to do as he thought.

While he sipped his tea, he read the letter once more.

There were items in the qiankun pouch. After playing Cleansing and Evocation in this very room, Lan Xichen forewent his previous doubt and opened it, summoning the objects within.

As they levitated out of the pouch, he pursed his lips.

Indeed, there were a number of large bells that revealed themselves and many sheets of talismans. Looking at the number however, he determined that just these many would not be enough to save their entire library. He would have to employ the help of some trustworthy disciples to make some more.

He knew he couldn’t keep this from his uncle for long, but he couldn’t talk to him about it either. He needed someone calmer and more powerful.

Resolutely, Lan Xichen stood up.

It was time he forced his way into his father's seclusion.

“Chord assassination.” Wei Wuxian whispered. “That’s how we manage to survive.”

Over the past three days, they had slowly used the token to find out more about the Xuanwu of slaughter. Consequently, they had found out exactly the course of action they must take.

“The Wen Sect will definitely not let our sect inside Qishan if we were not invited. Father will have to keep the rescue on the border. It will take three days to reach you once we do that.”

“The question is, should we still kill the Xuanwu of slaughter?” Wei Wuxian pondered. “What may change if we don’t?”

“You can think about that later.” Jiang Cheng said, seriously. “If we are forced into that situation, focus on staying alive.”

Wei Wuxian nodded.

Suddenly, sounds of chatter from outside their room began filtering into their room. Many hurried footsteps and excited noises were being made.

The two brothers frowned at each other and peeked outside their room.

Indeed, it seems that chaos had descended upon Lotus Pier as all the maids were in panic and cheer at the same time.

“Fetch some water for the madam!” One said.

“She wants watermelon! Do we have watermelon? Tell someone to buy it from the vendors by the gates!!” Another cried.

“Girls! Do not panic and follow procedure.” One of the older maids exclaimed happily as she carried a tub down the hallway towards the Jiang couples’ room.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng stepped out when they saw Sisi and Jiang Yanli walking towards them.

“What’s happening?” Jiang Cheng asked, baffled. Wei Wuxian was feeling much the same.

“What does it look like?” Sisi smirked. “We’re getting ready to receive a baby. Though, truth be told, they’re overreacting to be so excited this early in the game.”

Jiang Yanli laughed at this and cheerfully spoke, “I’m truly thrilled, though.”

“A baby?” Wei Wuxian and Jiang chorused. They looked at each other and then back at the two women in front of them. “ Whose?

As it turned out, it was Madam Yu and Jiang Fengmian who were having a baby. They had a hunch it was as such when they saw the maids panicking, but to have it confirmed still rendered the two boys speechless. Well, one was more speechless than the other.

“We’re getting a baby !” Wei Wuxian laughed, incredulously. The past week had been unpleasant to him and receiving news of new life was made him feel lighter.

“A younger sibling…” Jiang Cheng whispered, giddily.

Wei Wuxian turned to the Sect heir, eyes sparkling. “We’re going to be older brothers!”

Sisi laughed, “Well, you’ll have to wait at least another seven months!” Then her eyes grew sad. “Back at the brothel, a pregnancy was never celebrated. Rather, everyone would express their sympathy towards the woman and many would even suggest that the baby should be… well, it doesn’t matter now. I’m just happy to see it finally being a good thing.”

Jiang Yanli turned a worried gaze to Sisi. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng also looked at her suddenly realising something. “Sisi-jie… have you…”

Sisi looked at them, sadly. “It’s alright. I’ve been pregnant before, I’ll admit. At the time, I was too focused on my survival to think about a child. But… after Meng Shi gave birth… I just couldn’t help but wonder.”

Jiang Yanli took her hand and sincerely spoke, “You’d be a wonderful mother or wife.”

“Yeah, you would.” Wei Wuxian agreed and Jiang Cheng nodded.

Sisi looked at them gratefully, “Thanks, but I’ve discarded the thought of a happy family long ago.”

Wei Wuxian, “Why?”

Sisi snorted, “Now that I’m out of the brothel, I want to be more than just a womb and hole to stick things into, but who’ll take a prostitute seriously? You saw how that horrible Gusu man looked at me. Like I was contaminated.”

“Who cares what he thinks!” Wei Wuxian cried. “He hates me, too!”

Sisi took a look at the faces of the three before her, worried because they care about her. She realised that she’d never really been bothered about the way people looked at her before these kids were involved. She wanted to be better because of them.

“Yeah, who cares?” Sisi said laughing, and wrapped her arms around the three siblings, pulling them close. “Who cares as long as I have you three?”

Wei Wuxian grinned, even as he was squashed into her breasts. Jiang Cheng was red-faced and spluttering, suffering through the same position, while Jiang Yanli looked surprised. She slowly smiled at her brothers as she leaned into Sisi’s embrace.

“So what happened with you and Lan Wangji?” Jiang Cheng asked that evening.

They sat in their room with Jiang Yanli. It had been a while since it was just the three of them.

Wei Wuxian averted his eyes, “Nothing.” He said waving his hand.

Jiang Cheng, “Bullsh*t. You’ve been down ever since Qishan. Sister already told me about Lan Qiren. I know you aren’t down because he’s not giving you permission for friendship. Since when does that stop you from doing what you want?”

“A-Cheng,” Yanli warned, gently, and then turned to Wei Wuxian. “You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to, A-Xian, but we’re here for you.”

Wei Wuxian bit the inside of his cheek and tried to keep a sorry expression away from his face.

“I just think he really doesn’t like me.” Wei Wuxian said.

“How could that be?” Jiang Cheng asked. “The archery competition happened on the first day just like the token showed. We even found Meng Yao because of the token, and his life is just like how we were shown. How could Lan Wangji’s feelings be different than what we saw?”

“Perhaps… perhaps he just hasn’t fallen in love with you yet, A-Xian.” Jiang Yanli told him.

She thought about Jin Zixuan as she said this. His eyes were still cold whenever he looked at her and he tried his hardest to stay away from her. There was none of the warmth that the token showed. To have herself go through this painful unrequited love was enough. She couldn’t bear it if her younger bother had to go through it as well.

“He will fall in love with you. There isn’t any way he could not.” And as she said this, Jiang Yanli completely believed it. She believed that both her brothers were worthy of love that conquered the heavens and so, they would have to get it from anyone that they fall in love with.

Wei Wuxian could see through her thoughts, and smiled at her thankfully. He also knew that she was even more empathetic because they were in the same position.

“Thank you, sister.” Wei Wuxian said. “Jin Zixuan should definitely fall in love with you one day. When that happens, neither Jiang Cheng nor I will make it easy for him to have you.”

Jiang Yanli smiled, her mood improving by hearing this. “Of course. The same goes for us.”

“Damn straight.” Jiang Cheng growled. “I don’t know what the f*ck those two are doing, but I’m going to guilt their asses for years.”

Wei Wuxian laughed and waved his hand dismissively, “Lan Zhan is not going to fall for me!”

His siblings looked at him in concern.

Jiang Cheng, “Like I said, why the f*ck are you being so negative?”

Wei Wuxian smiled bitterly at them, “Remeber when I fell on top of Lan Zhan during the archery competition? Actually our heads didn’t hit. Our lips did.”

Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng gawked at him. His brother’s face flushed and Jiang Yanli covered her mouth with her sleeve, blinking at him.

“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian sighed. “He was totally grossed out. I’m doomed with an unrequited love for the rest of my life. I can no longer give my heart to anyone else.”

He said this with a dramatic flare, just so that he could hide how much his own words really cut into him. However, nothing he did could fool his siblings. They looked at him in the type of worry that was expected for a crying maiden.

“Why don’t we use the token to find out how he falls for you?” Jiang Cheng suggested.

“No!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, and his brother recoiled in surprise.

“Why not?”

This time, Wei Wuxian could not stop the sorrow from leaking onto his face.

“Because… because in every single vision where I’m happy with him, I’m in another body!” Wei Wuxian confessed, desperately. “What if he likes that body? Worse, what if he used to have some sort of relationship with the previous owner of that body? It’s completely different than mine! That one is thinner, fairer and the face is cuter. I’m muscular and tanned and my face is manlier. I can’t see it!”

Wei Wuxian put his face in his hands. He had never had an inferiority complex about his looks before, but ever since he’d developed these damned feelings for Lan Wangji, his mind has been in chaos. What does he think about me? Maybe he secretly likes me? Is he looking at me? All these types of thoughts would flit through his mind and the dismay that followed each time was crushing.

He felt arms around him then. One was thin and light as it lay a comforting hand on his back. The other was heavy and strong, wrapped around his shoulders.

“I’m going to break Lan Wangji’s legs.” Jiang Cheng grit out, because he could not say anything else that might be comforting.

Jiang Yanli simply laid her head on her brother’s shoulder.

“It will be okay, A-Xian.” She said, soothingly. “It will be okay.”

The days after that passed by in a blur. The topic the three siblings talked about was not brought up again. Wei Wuxian forced himself to stop thinking about Lan Wangji completely and focused on developing useful inventions as they could not night hunt around due to QishanWen hogging all the land and prey.

He shot kites with the other disciples on the banks of the lakes and used the token to find out more about what will very soon be called the ‘Sunshot Campaign’. The slaying of the Xuanwu is the first event that would lead up to it, and Wei Wuxian, of all people, could not afford to slack off.

Before this, they had contemplated telling Madam Yu about the token, but after hearing about her pregnancy, they decided it was best not to mention it. Madam Yu had a rather delicate disposition in her pregnancy and would end up crying or smiling at the slightest thing. She got angry less often, but when she did, it was almost as if time had reversed and she was back with all the resentment her heart had bore in the years before.

Those moments were so few and far between though, that none of them worried much. Jiang Fengmian would always show up to placate her and it worked like a charm every time.

Wei Wuxian began to develop a talisman which had already been created by him in the future. He would call it the ‘spirit-attraction flags’, which would draw out evil creature of all types within its range. With this, they could end up defeating a lot of the Wen army.

But he still had to find a way that he could win the Sunshot campaign without the use of the Stygian tiger amulet. He could not risk using resentful energy again.

Aside from the times that he and his siblings would use the token to find out more from the token about the Sunshot Campaign, their days passed by peacefully enough.

It was a normal day when they were all sitting in the dining hall again, eating their afternoon meal. Jiang Fengmian had decided to cook and made well on his promise of making cold noodles for Yu Ziyuan. Since she had been vomiting for most of the morning, she could not stomach anything that was hot.

Most of the time, this meant that she would eat more watermelon, but this very day she craved her husbands cooking. She ate it looking as happy as she would ever allow herself to look.

“My lady, how is it?” Jiang Fengmian asked, smiling warmly.

“How could I dare to be displeased when you’ve made it so well?” Yu Ziyuan smiled back. Then she put a hand on her stomach. “This child is satisfied as well.”

Jiang Fengmian’s smile widened as he too, put his hand on her stomach. “We’ll have to start thinking of names. How about Jiang Zemei? ‘Ze’ to fit the MeishanYu Sect’s prefix for this generation, and ‘Mei’ so that she may inherit her mother’s features.”

Yu Ziyuan looked at him strangely. “You’ve only thought of a girl’s name?”

“I think it will be a girl. Don’t you?” Jiang Fengmian said, resolutely.

Yu Ziyuan’s face softened, “Curiously… I do. I like that name.”

The dining hall was light in its atmosphere.

“If it’s a boy, can I name him?” Wei Wuxian asked loudly, raising his hand high.

Yu Ziyuan shot him a warning look. “Wei Ying, you’ve been very bold these days. Have I been too lenient on you lately?”

“Yes, ma’am!” Wei Wuxian grinned, shamelessly. “How else would I have the courage to speak to you like this?”

Jiang Cheng put his face in his palm, exasperatedly. It was not just him, but everyone present had expected that he would receive at least a verbal thrashing.

Yet, incredibly, Yu Ziyuan laughed, leaning towards her husband and slapping his chest lightly. “This boy is impossible, Fengmian! Do not blame me if I should send him to kneel in front of the ancestral hall for an entire day!”

Jiang Fengmian laughed, putting an arm around her, their food now forgotten. Ever since the beginning of their meal, he’d not taken his eyes off her for more than a few seconds and now, it seemed as if he would never again do so.

Yu Ziyuan’s joy was astonishingly contagious. Wei Wuxian’s grin widened and he looked at his brother who was also smiling widely. Jiang Yanli laughed along with her mother.

Less than a year ago, this kind of situation would’ve been unthinkable—impossible, and that was truly what made it such an important moment.

However, the three siblings already knew what was coming soon. And later that week, when they heard the news of Cloud Recesses having been attacked by Wen Xu and his men, they were no longer able to pretend that everything would be fine.

Notes:

Teenage romance angst and wholesome moments. What can I say? I’m a sucker for them.

And OMG you guys!! The response for the last chapter was OVERWHELMING. I literally don’t know how to reply to all of y’all. The only thing I can tell you is that I sincerely read all of your comments and every single one makes my day. Although I do favour some of yours more than others lmao sorry.

I hope you liked the chapter! We’re getting closer and closer to the angsty parts, but fear not. I am here to make your experience. Not break it.

Ciao!

Chapter 24

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng sat in front of Jiang Fengmian. They were in his office, and prepared themselves for the following discussion with heavy hearts. The tea that had been poured into each of their cups was now cold and forgotten.

“Lan Xichen is on the run.” Jiang Fengmian said. “And his father is with him.”

“Qingheng-Jun?” Jiang Cheng asked, puzzled. “Wasn’t he in seclusion?”

“We don’t know much of what is happening right now,” Jiang Fengmian admitted. “Just that the Wen Sect had been attacked when they reached the cloud recesses and in retaliation, burnt it down.”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian felt dread fill up their hearts. The bells had definitely done their job, but what was the cost? Then, Wei Wuxian realised he was being ridiculous. Last time, the situation had turned out much worse. Qingheng-Jun’s injuries caused his death . This time, the sect leader was alive and out of his seclusion. Their mountain of knowledge should also be safe.

No matter what Wei Wuxian had tried, this was the extent at which he could go when he couldn’t personally be somewhere. Then, something nagged at his brain.

“What about Lan Zhan?!” Wei Wuxian asked. He lifted himself halfway off the ground, leaning on the table with his palms. “Is Lan Zhan okay?”

Jiang Fengmian blinked, “The second young master? Word is that he was injured, but not anything that was life-threatening.”

The fact that it was not life-threatening did nothing to appease his worry. The fact that he was injured at all sent Wei Wuxian into a whirlpool of anxiety and he wanted to rush to wherever Lan Zhan was to make sure he was fine and looked-after.

“But I hope you know what this means,” Jiang Fengmian said, bitterly. “The Wen Sect has already sent a letter demanding your presence to undergo education under Wen Ruohan’s youngest son, Wen Chao.”

Jiang Cheng placed a mollifying hand on his brother’s arm and Wei Wuxian calmed down.

“We have to go.” Jiang Cheng said, eyes determined. Wei Wuxian nodded along with him, seriously.

“I will make sure I protect Jiang Cheng, uncle.” Wei Wuxian told him. “Tell Madam Yu not to worry.”

Madam Yu had gone into a fit when the letter had arrived the day before. She had first become red faced with anger and when Jiang Fengmian tried to calm her down, she started crying and continued shouting at all of them. Before her pregnancy, she would be overcome with a cold type of anger and simply end up walking away, but being in a delicate state, the fear that she felt leaked out of her in tears. She was absolutely against sending them.

“Why do we have to send them? How wonderful is it that they expect us to send our children to study under a boy who has less talent than a rock!” She had hissed. “Both of them will starve and Wen Ruohan’s spawn will no doubt hang them up as flesh shields the moment they run into any danger. Why not let me just incapacitate these boys right now before that happens? At least we will have the excuse that they are too injured to go. Else, I’ll go to Qishan myself and bury them all!”

Whatever she had prophesied had been so precise that it was frightening. It was almost as if she had watched the token visions along with them. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng panicked seeing her in this state because it really seemed like she was going to march into the Nightless City and whip Wen Ruohan and both his sons.

After much placating, Jiang Fengmian managed to calm her down by telling her that he and his men will be camping out near the border of Qishan so that if anything were to happen, they’d be able to make it on time for the rescue. Madam Yu still looked displeased, but she had stopped shouting and instead went into their room and immediately lied down. She probably hoped that when she woke up, everything would be a dream.

Jiang Fengmian now, looked at his sons and felt pride swell in his heart. Here they were, so young and inexperienced, and yet, look at how they’re carrying such responsibility.

“Yes.” He said, “Watch out for each other.”

He reached out and placed one hand on Jiang Cheng’s shoulder, and the other on Wei Wuxian. “Stay strong, be virtuous, and always remember what you have been taught.”

Jiang Cheng nodded, “To attempt the impossible.”

“Do not worry about us, Uncle.” Wei Wuxian smiled. “Just remember what I gave you.”

Jiang Fengmian retrieved his hands and nodded. “The escape routes. While you are in Qishan, I will make sure the disciples teach our citizens to run as soon as they hear the bells ring.”

“And mom?” Jiang Cheng asked, concern seeping into him. “The baby?”

“The Wen Sect will be attacking after you come back, isn’t it?” Jiang Fengmian smiled. “Leave with your hearts light. I will protect our family no matter what.”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian relaxed immediately.

“Uncle Jiang.” Wei Wuxian said as he dug out a ring. “Please give this back to Madam Yu.”

“This is Huayin*”, Jiang Fengmian stated as he recognised it. Huayin was Madam Yu’s new whip and Wei Wuxian had taken it to improve its strength and to add new features. “Is it done?”

(A/N: ‘HuaYin’ means to ‘digest evil/negative energy’)

Wei Wuxian nodded. “It is a spiritual whip after all, so it is already strong. Just in case though, if Madam Yu comes under any danger, it will protect her.”

Jiang Fengmian did not ask any further. “Thank you, A-Ying. I will make sure she gets it.”

Wei Wuxian smiled gravely.

They were to leave for Qishan by the next morning.

Nie Huaisang narrowed his eyes as he read the letter his brother had given him. He tapped his closed fan against his chin, his mind working with speed that could rival the wind.

“Huaisang,” Nie Mingjue’s deep voice rumbled. “Don’t tell me you don’t wish to go.”

“No,” Huaisang said, and Nie Mingjue looked at his younger brother in surprise. “I know I have to. When should I leave?”

“By dawn.” Nie Mingjue answered, perplexed. “How many men should I send with you?”

“None.”

Now, the Nie Sect leader allowed himself to look impressed. “None? Really? You’ve grown up quite a lot ever since I sent you to Yunmeng. I regret not sending you earlier!”

Nie Huaisang smiled at his older brother indulgently. The reason he didn't want any disciples to accompany him was not because he suddenly became braver, but because there was a large possibility that they would become hindrances for him.

“Your saber.” Nie Mingjue said, as he tossed the weapon onto Huaisang’s table.

Nie Huaisang smiled wryly, looking at it. “Thank you.”

Nie Mingjue left the room, a pleased expression on his face.

Nie Huaisang stroked the saber. He had never liked it from the beginning, and unlike his two sworn brothers, he was not afraid to lose it. This indoctrination was the perfect chance for him to finally let go of the Nie Sects teachings once and for all.

He glanced to where Xifeng was, leaning against his bookshelf. And reached for it. He opened his battle fan and smiled as he saw its folds, firm and strong and made for fighting.

It didn’t matter to him if his brother was no longer pleased with him after finding out about this weapon. All he needed to do was make sure everything went according to plan.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian looked at their swords. They were both feeling uncomfortable to leave their swords in Lotus Pier while they got to Qishan, but they knew it was necessary.

“Sandu now works so well for me and with Zidian.” Jiang Cheng said. “At least we managed to practice enough with it.”

Wei Wuxian nodded. “Yeah. Once we return from Qishan, at most, we’ll have half a month more before we’ll have to use them for real.”

Jiang Cheng scoffed, “Very well then! I’m looking forward to it. I’ll destroy every single Wen that dares cause a ruckus in Lotus Pier!”

Wei Wuxian smiled at his brother, even as they both knew that this was only a farce. They were both scared and anxious, but they have been preparing. If not for this moment, then for what? They would definitely save their family this time.

“Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian said, softly, and his brother looked at him. “Can I ask for a favour? It’s a little selfish.”

“What is it?” Jiang Cheng asked, bemused.

“I want to use the token to see something specific.”

“That’s it? What about?”

Wei Wuxian took out the token that hung by his neck and unwrapped the black cloth around it. “A-Yuan.”

Jiang Cheng looked blank for a moment before his eyes lit up in understanding. “Your son?”

Wei Wuxian nodded, allowing a small smile. “He’s supposed to be both mine and Lan Zhan’s. No doubt he’s adopted. Just in case something happens this time… in case his parents are still alive, or we don’t manage to find him… I want to know what he looks like.”

Jiang Cheng exhaled, leaning back. Seeing his brother so somber was difficult for him and he wanted this damned Campaign to end as soon as possible. He wanted Lan Wangji and Jin Zixuan to get their acts together. For now though, he was the only one his siblings could lean on.

“Okay, then.” Jiang Cheng agreed.

Wei Wuxian looked at his brother thankfully and held out the token. Jiang Cheng nodded and placed his hand over it.

The token flared.

Looking around, they found this room very familiar. It was the same room where they saw Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian… correcting disciple reports.

“Ah… look at how cute you used to be!”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng watched as the future Wei Wuxian squealed looking at a brush painting. He turned to show it to a teenage boy that was sitting in front of him. Luckily, this also meant that Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng could see it.

It was a simple painting that depicted a laughing young boy in white clothing. The boy had large, round eyes and chubby, rosy cheeks. The teenager who sat in front of Wei Wuxian leaned back and smiled somewhat exasperatedly.

“Senior Wei… where did you get that?” The boy said.

“Brother Xichen gave it to me, why?” Wei Wuxian grinned, happily. “How was Sizhui while growing up, Lan Zhan?”

It was then that the two brothers noticed an older Lan Wangji in the room. He walked over with a tray holding tea on one side and alcohol on the other and set it down on the table before gracefully descending into a sitting posture next to Wei Wuxian.

At the question Wei Wuxian asked, Lan Wangji tilted his head, as if thinking, and after a pause, answered, “Loud.”

Wei Wuxian burst out laughing and Sizhui turned bright red.

Lan Wangji, however, was not finished, “Clingy, emotional, stubborn…”

“Ahhh, Hanguang-Jin, please!!!” Sizhui shrieked.

Wei Wuxian was now rolling on the floor in laughter. “I get that, I get that!” He wheezed, “Back when we were on the burial mounds, he’d cry so loudly whenever I wasn’t around and then go catch hold of anyone’s leg! And then one day you came along and he started screaming ‘Dad! Dad!’.”

Wei Wuxian dissolved into another puddle of giggles.

“I already apologised for that, Senior Wei… Why do you keep bringing it up…” Sizhui’s face was in his hands, too embarrassed to show it.

“Aiyo, my A-Yuan. Why do you have such a thin face when you’re my child?” Wei Wuxian asked, grinning. “And why do you call me Senior Wei when we are in the Jingshi? You must call me ‘dad’ and Lan Zhan should be ‘father’!”

Sizhui looked even more embarrassed. “I-I…”

“Sizhui,” Lan Wangji interrupted, sipping at his tea leisurely. “300th rule from the wall. Respect the word of your parents.”

The boy bowed his head, defeated. “Of course, father… Dad.”

Wei Wuxian was ecstatic. “That’s it, that’s it! I’m dad! Where’s Jingyi? We should bring him here too. That boy is even more fun to tease then Sizhui.”

Senior Wei.” Sizhui said, pointedly.

The vision faded, the echo of the future Wei Wuxian’s laughter still ringing around them.

“...So that is A-Yuan…” Came the voice of Wei Wuxian. “He’s so well-mannered.”

Jiang Cheng took his hand off of the token and looked at his brother. Wei Wuxian’s face was peaceful, more so than Jiang Cheng had ever before seen. It was like he had received some kind of closure.

“The burial mounds…” Jiang Cheng echoed and his brother looked at him questioningly. “You lived with your son on the burial mounds in the vision. Isn’t that during the time you are supposed to receive the title of ‘Yiling Patriarch’?”

Wei Wuxian blinked, “You’re right.”

Jiang Cheng nodded, “Arent you supposed to be sheltering the Wen remnants during that time?”

Understanding dawned upon Wei Wuxian, “A-Yuan must be a Wen sect member.”

“The war won’t be easy even with the help of this token.” Jiang Cheng said, face darkening. “We have to find a way to rescue the innocent Wen Sect members.”

Wei Wuxian smiled. The Jiang Cheng from the visions was a jaded man with a bitter heart and cared little for people unrelated to him. The young Jiang Cheng was not that philanthropic either. But slowly, that seemed to be changing. They were all changing.

“Yeah,” Wei Wuxian grinned. “Who else to help with that than Nie Huaisang?”

“Ah, thank you for your help. We won’t have any more customers for the day, so you can go take some rest.” And old man said, smiling at the boy who came out of the archive room. “Thank you as usual, Meng Yao.”

“Oh! Then let me help keep those books back in place.” Meng Yao smiled and walked over to where the old man was. He took the crate of book and began to shelf them. “Uncle Wang, you should really not overwork yourself. You’re not at the age to do so.”

“I can still go on for a while longer!” Uncle Wang laughed. “And with you, I’m glad I can keep this old place running.”

Meng Yao grinned at the old man as they organised the bookshelves.

When they were done, Uncle Wang closed up the shop and bid goodnight to the boy. Meng Yao gave a courteous bow, returning the greeting before walking away.

The pay that he received from being a bookseller’s bookkeeper was not much, but it let him get by. He thought to keep himself on Lanling’s border being extremely content with the life here, but he’d then think of his mother who painstakingly educated him and he’d have a renewed resolve to get in his father’s good graces.

Often, though, he just wanted to go back to Qinghe to take up the Nie sect young masters offer.

On the way back to his lodging, Meng Yao stopped beside a vendor to buy some vegetables. The sellers always tried to scam him, but he’d never be fooled. He would get his money’s worth.

Finally reaching the dark, narrow road that led to his barely decent housing, Meng Yao began taking out his keys.

However, just as he reached outside the damp alleyway, he noticed two figures slumped on the ground. They were covered in dust and grime but looked different than your everyday beggars. The clothes looked to be of good quality despite the dirt that covered them. Still, it made for a frightening sight.

Meng Yao’s heart jumped as he tried to walk past them. If he ignored them, maybe he could reach his room in one piece.

Then, a hand reached out and caught at his leg. Meng Yao surpressed a yelp as the blood completely drained from his face. He stayed still.

“...ease…” The man holding his foot whispered.

Meng Yao relaxed, noticing that neither of these men had that much strength. One was completely unresponsive.

“Yes…?” He asked, straining his ears.

“Please help… my father is…” The man slumped.

Meng Yao immediately moved, catching hold of his shoulders. The man however, was much bigger than him, and he had a hard time holding him upright.

“Hey, hey!” Meng Yao called. “Stay with me. I can’t help you if you lose consciousness.”

Ever so slightly, the man nodded, indicating that he was listening.

Meng Yao took a deep breath, “Okay, okay. That’s good. Don’t fall asleep. Stay awake. Come on, tell me your name first.”

The man took a shuddering breath as he pulled himself somewhat upright, eyes tired and unfocused. “My name… is Lan Xichen… Please help us.”

Notes:

Oh gosh guys. I swear I’m going to reply to all of you one day, but for now... CHECK OUT THIS BEAUTIFUL ART by @ RYMF Of SISI PROTECTING WWX HERE

I CRIED WHEN I SAW IT NO JOKE.
I rushed through writing this chapter because I wanted y’all to see it so badly lol 😂😂😂

I hope you guys liked this chapter! The last part was the whole point of this one tbh. Also gratification, because I missed Sizhui.

Chapter 25

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Lan Xichen opened his eyes to an unfamiliar surrounding. He’d never seen such meagre living conditions, and for a moment, wondered if he’d taken shelter in a stable. The rational part of his brain, however, noticed that this was definitely housing for a human being as it contained a desk, a bedding—on which he was currently lying down on—and a clean floor.

Resisting the urge to groan, he pushed himself up and placed a hand on his forehead which had consequently begun throbbing.

“Oh, you are awake. How are you feeling, young master?”

Lan Xichen noticed a boy who was on the other side of the room—which was quite close, considering the room was not very large—squeezing a damp cloth in a basin of water and moved towards his father—who was currently unconscious—before placing it on his forehead. Flashbacks of last night came to him in a series.

“You are—the boy from yesterday?” He asked, his memories quite hazy considering he wasn’t in the best position.

“Yes,” the boy smiled amiably. “I am Meng Yao.”

“Lan Huan,” Xichen returned, dazedly. “Courtesy, Xichen.”

“Ah, you told me your courtesy name, yesterday.” Meng Yao said, as he pulled on the blanket that covered Lan Xichen’s father so that it pulled more properly cover him. “You must be the young master from the GusuLan Sect?”

“I—yes. I was not aware that citizens would recognise me.” Lan Xichen said, feeling slightly wary.

Meng Yao smiled knowingly at him, “You may relax, young master. I will not disclose your location to anyone. I have already brought you here, haven’t I?”

Lan Xichen did indeed relax at that. Then, he noticed that light was filtering out from the windows and straightened up.

“How long have I been unconscious for?” He asked.

Meng Yao tilted his head contemplatively, “About a day.”

“A day…” Lan Xichen exhaled in disbelief. He gathered himself and stood up before offering a deep bow to the boy in front of him, clasping his hands together. “I am very thankful that you took us in and cared for us. I know we must not have been easy to carry.”

He heard a gasp and looked up. Meng Yao was utterly shocked and rushed to speak.

“Please raise your head, young master! I will accept your thanks now, but never bow to me again.” Meng Yao spoke in a very distinguished manner despite how he looked, and any normal citizen may have spluttered when faced with an unfamiliar situation like he evidently was.

Lan Xichen felt confused, “Why not?”

The boy’s face darkened and for a moment, he didn’t speak. Then, “Young master, I am from rather sordid origins. I should not sully your ears with it, but I am a bastard. Not just that, but my mother used to work in a brothel.”

Lan Xichen was taken aback, but his confusion did not cease. “But why does that mean I should not give you respect? You have saved my life and my father’s. I am very grateful.”

Meng Yao blinked at him, eyes wide in surprise. Then, he smiled. Not like the amiable smile of before, but a warm smile that could lift anyone’s heart.

“You are a noble man, young master. Unfortunately, the majority of the population does not think like you and would be scandalised should you bow like this to someone like me.”

Lan Xichen understood that. He knew that people were uncompromising and many paid much attention to another’s background, uncaring of the person themselves. However, Lan Xichen had always strived not to judge a person by their birth but by their actions, and he would not stop now.

“I would still bow to you. I owe you much and not even a lifetime's worth of bows could repay my debt.”

Meng Yao let out a soft laugh, and somewhat muttered the next words, “This is quite surprising. I thought I had seen everything when I was in Yunmeng, but to have another young master bow to me like this—the cultivation world seems to be much different than I thought.”

Lan Xichen was utterly baffled by these words, but left it be.

Just as they had learnt from the token, the food that the Wen sect provided was indeed bland and sometimes, even inedible. Jiang Yanli had strapped snacks on Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng afraid that they would starve, but to no avail. The snacks were all confiscated on the first day.

As they had expected, Wen Chao had swept up in front of them and seized everyone’s sword. When he’d confronted Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng about their swords, they’d all but accused them of hiding the weapons somewhere on their body.

Wei Wuxian immediately started stripping right there in front of everyone to show that he had no qiankun pouches nor anymore place to hide his sword, but Wen Chao had stopped him just as he’d begun to remove his shirt as the skin on his stomach had been now visible.

“Wei Wuxian, have you no shame?!” Wen Chao asked, red-faced, as he stopped him from continuing.

“You were the one who wished to see what I was hiding!” Wei Wuxian huffed. “As you asked, I decided to show you. None of us carry any swords since our Madam decided it was a good learning experience for us—even though, truly it was a punishment. Since we don’t have it, I assumed you’d wanted to see my body.”

“Who’d want to see it? None of us want to see it!” Wen Chao hissed.

Wei Wuxian leaned closer to Wen Chao and spoke low enough so that only he could hear. “It’s alright young master. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were attracted to me nor would I shame you for it. It is understandable.”

Wen Chao looked furious at this claim and feeling thoroughly disgusted, he harshly ordered Wei Wuxian to reclothe himself and proceeded to scold him as often as possible during the initial days of the indoctrination.

During these past few days where they were forced to night hunt while acting as human shields for Wen Chao, Jin Zixuan had probably suffered the most.

Lan Wangji had a face that was all but made of stone, while Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian easily managed to receive all of Wen Chao’s insults and remarks about them, having already expected it. Jin Zixuan was the only person out of those who’d ranked in the archery competition to have expressed humiliation. Seeing that at least one person found it unbearable, Wen Chao threw more words his way.

Had it not been for the fact that his disciples held him back, Jin Zixuan would’ve happily killed Wen Chao and then himself.

During this whole time, Wei Wuxian spared Lan Wangji many glances when the latter was not looking, but never approached him due the promise he’d made on the last day of the discussion conference.

Today, as usual, the group was hustled awake by the Wen Sect’s disciples again. Like a group of livestock, they were driven toward the next destination of their night-hunts.

The place that they were going to was called Dusk-Creek Mountain.

This time, however, the three sworn brothers felt their hearts lighten when they saw a certain face among the Wen Sect members.

There, Wen Ning stood behind Wen Chao, bags strapped all over his thin body, carrying much luggage.

The trio’s pleasant feelings lasted only until Wen Chao had kicked Wen Ning and yelled at him.

“Why are you so slow and weak?! How did you reach third place in our archery competition? You cheated didn’t you? Admit that you cheated!”

Wen Ning didn’t say anything, already knowing that he wouldn’t be listened to, and that if he admitted that he’d cheated, he would certainly get another punishment. So he kept his mouth shut and only let out soft whimpers whenever Wen Chao managed to hit him particularly hard.

Wei Wuxian was furious and started to go towards them, but Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang held him.

“Wei Ying,” Jiang Cheng said, lowly. “Do not dare.”

“Won’t I?” Wei Wuxian growled.

Nie Huaisang stepped up, “He’s right, Wuxian-xiong. You shouldn’t. If you get in the way now, Wen Ning will only suffer more. He is part of the Wen Sect and his sister is a famous doctor. Nothing will happen to him if he endures for a while longer, but if you speak for him again, they will consider him to be a spy or a traitor. It may be frustrating, but you have to stay out of the way.”

Wei Wuxian felt conflicted. He gave a pained look to his brothers, but he was no longer struggling to get out of their grasp.

“Alright…” He said through his teeth. “I’ll play along… for now.”

And true to his word, Wei Wuxian did not try to help Wen Ning, and thankfully, there was not much reason to any longer seeing as Wen Chao continued to target the disciples of other sects. As Wen Ning was part of his own sect, he could torment him any time, but he wouldn’t be able to do the same with any of the other disciples as soon as this indoctrination was over.

Now, as they walked deeper into the forest, the place has gotten calmer and quieter. Nothing but the sounds of the birds, beetles and the crunch of leaves under their feet could be heard.

After a while, the group met with a creek. Scattered throughout the gurgling water were maple leaves that floated along. The harmony of the sound and the sight imperceptibly diluted the atmosphere of desolation. Bouts of giggling laughter could even be heard from in front of them.

Everyone broke out into low conversations.

“You brought your saber just to throw it away here, didn’t you?” Jiang Cheng looked at Nie Huaisang scathingly, as they walked.

The latter fanned himself a little nervously. “It’s not like I need it. Besides, it would’ve been suspicious if I hadn’t carried it.”

“I suppose…” Jiang Cheng scowled.

“Rather than that, are you alright, Jian—” Huaisang cut himself off when the other glared at him and changed his manner of address, “....are you alright… Wanyin-xiong?”

Jiang Cheng scrunched up his nose, “What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean.” Nie Huaisang said, unimpressed. “Wen Zhuliu—must you bottle it up?”

Jiang Cheng sighed. It was true, when he’d come here, he was completely expecting to see Wen Zhuliu. What he didn’t expect was to witness his core-melting prowess so soon in person.

He could not help feeling empathetic towards that nameless disciple who now has to live without a core.

“I’m fine.” He answered. “I have to be. It won’t happen to me again.”

Huaisang nodded understandingly, not wanting to push the subject. Instead, he changed it.

“By the way… why is Wuxian-xiong being like that?”

Jiang Cheng looked at Wei Wuxian who was eerily quiet. He would keep staring towards the back of the group, slow his pace and then catch up to his brothers without saying a word before repeating the whole process again.

Huaisang and Jiang Cheng looked at each other and then decided to follow their brother’s line of sight.

Their faces slackened as they realised he had been staring at none other than Lan Wangji who was slowly walking at the very back, looking for all the world like he had finally reached enlightenment. He had the aura of someone whose soul had already left his body.

“Just go speak to him if you’re that curious.” Jiang Cheng scoffed.

Wei Wuxian jumped slightly at the intrusion in his thought process.

“I can’t,” He said, scowling at his brother. “I told Lan Zhan that I wouldn’t bother him.”

“And since when has that stopped you?” Jiang Cheng asked, irritably. “You hardly keep such flimsy promises. Don’t you self-proclaim your shamelessness?”

Nie Huaisang smiled at the Jiang Sect’s head disciple. “He’s right, Wuxian-xiong. Wangji-xiong is not in such a great condition and he’s walking there alone. I think you should go there.”

Wei Wuxian started at his brother’s like he had just realised who he was. “You’re right. I shouldn’t even be thinking about this!”

Immediately, he turned his heel and ran off to Lan Wangji’s side.

“He left us without any hesitation…” Nie Huaisang stated, blandly.

“When it comes to Lan Wangji, we’ll have to accept it’ll become a habit.” Jiang Cheng replied in the same tone.

Everyone who was behind the trio, however, was surprised to suddenly see Wei Wuxian aggressively turning back. They made way for him as he finally settled himself to walk beside the white-clothed figure at the very back.

“...Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian called as he settled into Lan Wangji’s pace.

Lan Wangji stared straight in front of him, “What?”

Suddenly, Wei Wuxian felt that he’d forgotten all the words he’d used up until that moment. He almost bit his tongue as he spoke.

“I know I promised I wouldn’t bother you again… I really meant it! But!” Wei Wuxian also stared ahead, unable to look at the other boy’s face. “But… I couldn’t really hold myself back. You don’t look so good.”

Lan Wangji now looked at Wei Wuxian, and in his surprise, the latter almost squeaked.

“Not that you look ugly ! You look as handsome as always!” Wei Wuxian declared, and felt his face heat up at how Lan Wangji looked at him expressionlessly before turning his head away again. Wei Wuxian hated how he became whenever he was in front of this second young master. “You just seem tired, and if you need help then—”

Just then, a fragrant breeze wafted towards Wei Wuxian’s nose and he looked to where the sound of melodious laughter tinkled.

In front of them, a group of girls walked. In the center, a girl with a pale scarlet chiffon coat giggled with her friends. Her figure was especially good to look at from the back.

One of the girls laughed, “Mianmian, your perfume sachet truly is something special. After I wore it, bugs really did stop coming over. The scent is nice too. I seem to feel much more awake after I smell it.”

The voice of the girl called Mianmian was indeed soft and sweet, “Inside of the sachet is filled with minced medicinal plants. It can be useful in quite a lot of ways. I’ve still got a few here. Do any of you want one?”

Wei Wuxian’s eyes lit up as his attention zeroed in on the girl named Mianmian. Lan Wangji’s eyes narrowed seeing this sudden shift in expression.

Wei Wuxian swept over like a foreboding gust of wind, “Mianmian, save me one too.”

The girl looked at him in surprise, “Who are you? Why do you call me Mianmian as well?”

Wei Wuxian grinned, “I heard all of them call you Mianmian, so I thought that it’s your name. What, it’s not?”

Lan Wangji watched them coldly. Seeing that he was at it again, Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes with emphasis.

Mianmian’s cheeks flushed, “You can’t call me that!”

Wei Wuxian felt incredibly pleased looking at this girl’s reaction. He had often loved to tease girls before and now, it hardly happened as his head was always full of more serious matters and if not, it was full of Lan Wangji. The fact that he could still comfortably speak and tease other people made him feel much more energetic.

Wei Wuxian, “Why not? How about this: if you tell me your name, I won’t call you Mianmian anymore. What do you think?”

Mianmian, “Why do I have to tell you just because you asked? Before you ask for somebody else’s name, you should tell them your name first, shouldn’t you?”

Wei Wuxian, “Sure, if you want my name. Remember, my name is ‘Yuandao’.”

Mianmian mouthed the name, finding it unfamiliar, but also feeling sure that this boy in front of her was a young master. Yet she could not remember a young master named ‘Yuandao’.

Suddenly, Lan Wangji’s low voice came from beside them, “A play on words.”

She realized at once that it had been taken from the poetry line ‘its ceaseless bounds yearn for miles and miles on’ and he was making fun of her. She stomped her feet in spite, “Who’s yearning for you? You have no face!”

The girls collapsed into a laughing mess, chirping, “Wei Wuxian, you really have no face!”

“I’ve never seen someone as annoying as you!”

“Let me tell you, she’s called…”

Mianmian dragged them away and turned to leave, “Let’s go, let’s go! You can’t tell him.”

Wei Wuxian shouted from behind, “You can go, but give me a sachet, won’t you?! You’re ignoring me? You don’t want to? If you don’t, I’ll find other people and ask for your name. There must be someone out there who’s willing to tell me…”

Before he finished, a perfume sachet flew over from in front of him. It landed right in the middle of his chest. With an ‘ouch’, Wei Wuxian pretended as though his heart hurt, spinning the sachet around his hand with its ribbons around his finger. Even as he walked back to Lan Wangji, he was still spinning the sachet around, grinning.

Watching Lan Wangji’s expression grow colder, he asked, feeling anxious, “What? You’re looking at me like that again. Come, I got this perfume sachet. When we find a place to rest, let’s put the herbs on your leg.”

“Why?” He asked.

Wei Wuxian, “What do you mean why? I got this for you.”

Lan Wangji, “Then why did you act so frivolously with her?”

Wei Wuxian stroked his chin, “I act that way with everyone?”

Lan Wangji looked at the ground. He only replied a moment later, “How impudent!”

He spoke the two words through clenched teeth, along with some strange hatred. He didn’t even deem it worthy to give Wei Wuxian another glare. Lan Wangji strained to speed up and walk faster.

Seeing that he was forcing himself again, Wei Wuxian panicked, “Fine. You don’t have to walk this fast. I’ll just go.”

Lan Wangji did not have the strength in his leg to walk with such speed or force, and Wei Wuxian could not bear seeing him grit through the pain like that. Instead, he quickened his pace and caught up to his brothers in quick strides.

“You’re so ridiculous!” Jiang Cheng scolded as soon as he reached. “Didn’t you go there to talk properly? What are you doing making him angry and then coming back?!”

Wei Wuxian did not feel very good about it either as he said, “I don’t know what I did. I only wanted to help him...”

Jiang Cheng pursed his lips, not having the heart to scold him further when he already looked down. Nie Huaisang, on the other hand, watched the entire thing unfurl behind the protection of his paper fan and raised his eyebrows as he glanced backwards to Lan Wangji once.

“Hm…”

In one angle, it looked like Lan Wangji loathed Wei Wuxian, but in the other angle—the angle Nie Huaisang used—it looked like the opposite. Yet, not being sure, he didn’t say a word to his brother and simply walked along with them. Lan Wangji is bound to fall in love with Wei Wuxian soon if he hasn’t already.

This, Nie Huaisang was sure about.

Notes:

Bad news. If this is not the last chapter for a while, then the next one will be.
Obviously, y’all already know why, so imma just say, I probably won’t be able to reply to your comments, in advance.

But I still read them, so please do comment 😭😭😭 They really boost me. Most of the time, I read your comments twice!

Anyway, I hope you liked this chapter.

Another fanart by @RYMF, HERE, of Wen Ning ❤️

Ciao~

Chapter 26

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Even though Wei Wuxian had come running back to his brothers after seeing Lan Wangji force himself, he kept glancing at the back and fidgeting suspiciously. His feet moved sloppily like he had no idea where he wanted to step next.

“You want to go back?” Jiang Cheng asked, reading his brother’s mind.

Telling the truth, after the way Lan Wangji acted towards Wei Wuxian, Jiang Cheng really didn’t want his brother to go back. If he did, he’d probably get hurt again, and cover it up with stupid jokes no one wants to hear. He debated with himself but witnessing Wei Wuxian’s anxiety, he sighed internally.

Wei Wuxian frowned, “He’s been on the go for so many days. His leg is probably in its worst condition yet. What if his stubbornness costs him his leg?”

Jiang Cheng, “It won’t. He even had that same injury in the vision, but turned out fine. And anyway, what will you do if you go back?”

“Why, I’ll carry him on my back!” Wei Wuxian announced.

Jiang Cheng immediately smacked his brother’s head. “Are you an idiot? You’re going to carry him? Do you think he’ll appreciate that? Look at that young master who tries to stand tall with a broken leg!”

Nie Huaisang smiled wryly behind his fan, “Wuxian-xiong, I certainly can’t imagine Lan Wangji allowing himself to be carried by anyone.”

“What’s the worst he can do if I carry him?” Wei Wuxian snorted, but then tilted his head contemplatively. “Could he possibly choke me while he’s on my back?”

Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng exchanged an exasperated look.

Nie Huaisang, “You aren’t afraid he’ll be hostile to you again?”

Wei Wuxian huffed, “If he wants to be hostile, let him be hostile. If he wants to hate me, let him do it. No matter what, I want to go help him.”

It looked now, like the prospect of Lan Wangji hating him didn’t affect Wei Wuxian as much as it did before. He had cast away those negative feelings and replaced them with his worry and fondness for the Lan Sect disciple.

Jiang Cheng massaged his forehead, “Why are you such a lost cause?”

Just then, one of the Wen Sect’s servants came over and scolded, “Don’t talk amongst yourselves. Watch what you do!”

After the servant came and went, a dainty girl approached them. Her name was Wang LingJiao.

The trio looked upon her with internalized disgust. Sisi had been a prostitute for years and had most definitely slept with thousands more men, but she was much purer than this one-man woman in front of them right now who slept her way up the ranks and then abused that power. There was no question as to which one was repulsing.

Holding the Wen Sect branding iron in her hand, Wang Lingjiao scolded pompously, “Young Master Wen told you to search for the entrance, so what are you doing, whispering to each other?”

At such a time, even a mere maid who had earned her position by crawling into another’s bed sheets could bloat with such arrogance before them. They weren’t sure whether to laugh or frown.

Suddenly, somebody shouted from the side, “Found it!”

Wang LingJiao didn’t have the time to pay them any more attention. Having rushed over, she took a look at it, then beamed, “Young Master Wen! They found it! The entrance!”

It was a hole in the ground, hidden quite well beneath an old banyan tree. Tangled roots and vines formed a web over it and the mud and stone above it made it almost unnoticeable. Clearing away all of these things, one could finally get a good enough view of it.

Wen Chao came over to take a look at it, Wen Ning following close behind. He hadn’t let the timid boy out of his sight even once and made sure that Wen Ning was always behind him. Wei Wuxian was incredibly suspicious of this behaviour and Nie Huaisang’s eyes narrowed. He realised that Wen Ning was definitely supposed to act as shield for Wen Chao should they run into any danger.

Looking into the entrance of the hole, the silence and the cold air permeating out of it was ominous at the very least. Knowing what kind of beast they would have to face, however, the trio grew more serious.

Wen Chao was ecstatic looking at the entrance, but Jin Zixuan could not hold in his frustration. He questioned Wen Chao about what kind of beast it was, but the other boy did not drain him with an answer, choosing to mock and lord over him once more.

Jin ZiXuan was standing at the very front. Holding back his anger, he lifted the hem of his robe, grabbed one of the thickest vines, and jumped without any hesitation into the endless hole.

This time, Wei WuXian could relate to his feelings on a profound level. Even though what they were going towards was the Xuanwu of Slaughter, facing it would be much more comfortable than facing Wen Chao and the others. His sight would be contaminated by looking at them any longer.

Wei Wuxian glanced at Lan Wangji one more time to purify his eyes before following after Jin Zixuan. One by one, everyone also moved along with them.

Once everyone was down, Wen Chao shouted a few things from above ground. Having ensured that it was safe underground, he flew easily down, sword under his feet, Wang LingJiao in his arms. A while after, the disciples and servants also landed one by one.

Jiang Cheng’s mouth twisted in disgust at this cowardly behaviour.

Wei Wuxian was also irritated because though all the other Wen Sect members came down by sword, Wen Ning was forced to climb down the vine with the rest of them while carrying all that heavy baggage.

“Take that off.” Jiang Cheng told Wen Ning.

Wen Ning looked surprised, but shook his head, “I can’t. Young Master Wen Chao would not like that.”

“Who cares what he likes!” Jiang Cheng scoffed, under his breath.

“He’s right,” Wei Wuxian nodded. “Wen Ning, we are going to face something terribly dangerous. Having all that useless luggage on you makes you an easy target.”

But Wen Ning didn’t have a chance to think any further. Wen Chao was nearby and the trio immediately distanced themselves from him lest they make him a target for any unfortunate future events.

Wen Ning bowed even as Wen Chao started yelling at everyone.

“What are you doing just standing there? Do you need me to teach you what to do? Go!”

The group of the boys were chased into the depths of the cave.

Even with torches in their hands, the cave was too large to have the light reach everywhere. They could only keep moving forward. Wei Wuxian knew that, by now, they were probably a hundred feet underground.

A long time had passed until, finally, they had reached the pool.

The trio gulped knowing what was there inside it. This was the part of the cave from the vision. This was where Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian were supposed to get trapped.

They were startled out of their thoughts as as Wen Chao shouted at them. He was irritated and wanted someone to be hung up as bait. Wang Lingjiao immediately suggested Mianmian, and Wei Wuxian narrowed his eyes at this. Wen Chao did not seem too happy with this choice, but as Wang Lingjiao let loose her coquetry, he couldn’t help but melt.

Everyone in the cave, including herself, knew that if Mianmian were to be hung up, she would certainly not make it out alive.

She tried to run and hide behind a few people, but everyone near her moved away. Just as Wei Wuxian moved towards them so that he could shield her, Mianmian ran behind the only other two people who hadn’t moved. Which were Jin Zixuan ans Lan Wangji.

Despite being ordered to move aside, they stood still.

Jin Zixuan lifted his brows, “Isn’t that enough? It wasn’t enough for people to be flesh shields for you, and now you want live humans to bleed for you to use as bait?!”

Wei Wuxian was surprised. To think he would see the Jin Sect heir’s maturity this early in the game. For a moment, he caught a glimpse of the man from the visions; Jin Ling’s father and his sister’s husband.

Wen Chao was humiliated, and he immediate started threatening them, saying that he would make sure none of them returned.

During this time, Wei Wuxian noticed Su She who was creeping towards Mianmian. He immediately lunged at him, catching him by the arm.

“Dont be stupid!” Wei Wuxian whispered harshly. “Do you want to lose face by doing this? Stand behind me.”

Su She looked at him with wide eyes, but complied, moving behind him.

“How dare you!” Wen Chao raged. “Kill them!”

A few of the Wen Sect’s disciples unsheathed their swords, rushing toward Lan Wangji and Jin Zixuan. The Core-melting Hand, stood behind Wen Chao with his hands folded behind him. Wen Ning watched on in panic as a fight broke out. Jin Zixuan and Lan Wangji were both completely tired after all these days under Wen Chao. They would surely not last.

Wen Chao looked as if his mood was much better. He spat, “Talking back to me—what did you think you are? People like you really do deserve to be killed.”

A grinning voice came from the side, “That’s right. All those who oppress others and do evil relying on the power of their clan should be killed. Not only that, they should be beheaded for tens of thousands to revile so that those to come would beware.”

Hearing this, Wen Chao spun around, “What did you say?”

Wei WuXian pretended to be surprised, “Do you need me to repeat it? Sure. All those who oppress others and do evil relying on the power of their clan should be killed. Not only that, they should be beheaded for tens of thousands to revile so that those to come would beware. You heard it this time?”

Wen Chao erupted, “How dare you say such absurd, outrageous, and pretentious words!”

Wei Wuxian first lifted the corners of his mouth with a ‘pfft’, then immediately burst into unbridled laughter.

Under everyone’s shocked eyes, he laughed so hard that he was out of breath, clutching Su She’s shoulder, “Absurd? Outrageous? I’d say you’re the one who’s all of those! Wen Chao, do you know who was the one that said those words? I’m sure you don’t, do you? Let me tell you. This was said by the most, most, most famous cultivator of your sect, the one who founded the entire thing: Wen Mao. You dared say that one of your ancestor’s remarks are absurd and outrageous? Well said, very well said! Ahahahahaha!”

Wen Chao shot him a murderous look.

Just as he was about to no doubt shout at the Jiang Sect head disciple, Wang Lingjiao stepped forward, also looking angry, “Wei Wuxian! Don't think I don’t know what you are up to!”

Wei Wuxian stopped laughing in surprise, really not knowing what she was talking about, “What do you mean?”

“Playing dumb!” She sneered. “You have been trying to vie for Young Master Wen’s attention since the start. You started removing your clothes in front of him on the first day and since then, you keep looking at him with your greedy eyes. Don’t think I don’t know that you’re a cutsleeve!”

Everyone froze and then turned to look at Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji stared at him. Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang shared a panicked look.

Wen Chao looked utterly digusted, “What?”

Wang Lingjiao was satisfied at this reaction and smirked at Wei Wuxian, “You truly bring shame upon your Sect. Being unruly wasn’t bad enough? You try to force your shameless inclinations on my master as well? Too bad he’s not at all interested in men.”

Wei Wuxian could not hold back a smile.

“Maiden Wang! You are certainly amusing. Even if I am to be a cutsleeve, at least let my object of affection be someone as handsome as Second Young Master Lan! Young Master Wen does not reach my standards at all!”

Wei Wuxian collapsed into a mess of rambunctious laughter, and now, everyone else also seemed to feel stupid.

Of course Wei Wuxian was not a cutsleeve. He was famous among all the sects for how much he flirted with women. Not to mention, Wang Lingjiao and her master were both self-absorbed idiots and Wei Wuxian couldn’t resist to tease idiots.

Wen Chao was disgusted before, but seeing as how his looks were being compared, he felt even more insulted. He immediately unsheathed his sword and ran towards Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian smirked, having expected this and immediately reversed the situation by catching hold of Wen Chao and pressing his own sword against his neck. How lucky was it that he stupidly left Wen Zhuliu’s protection by himself!

“Nobody move. If you’re not careful, I might just decide to let some blood out of your Young Master Wen!”

Wen Chao screeched, “Stop moving! Stop moving!”

The disciples surrounding Lan WangJi and Jin ZiXuan finally ceased their attacks. Wei WuXian shouted, “Core-melting Hand, you’re not moving either! You know how the temper of the Wen Sect’s leader is. Your master is in my hand. If he loses just one drop of blood, then not one of the people here should hope to live on, including you!”

Wen Zhuliu predictively put down his arms.

Just as Wei Wuxian was about to speak, the ground started shaking.

“Is it an earthquake?!” He exclaimed and then looked to where his brothers were. Both of them were pale.

“You idiot!” Jiang Chang yelled, eyes wide with fear. “Get off that monster!”

Immediately, Wei Wuxian realised what he had been standing on the entire time was none other than the Xuanwu of slaughter!

Wei Wuxian let out an aching roar as he felt the burn in his chest. The branding iron had burnt right through his clothes and his skin and felt as if it would reach his heart as well.

In the background, he heard the sound of chaos mixed in with Wang Lingjiao’s cry at how Wei Wuxian had struck her.

“Retreat! Retreat right now!” Came the wretched voice of Wen Chao.

They were abandoned by the Wen Sect members who had blocked the entrance above them. Only Wen Ning was kept behind, but he wouldn’t have keen to leave his friends behind even if he did get the chance to escape.

Nie Huaisang gasped as he finally emerged out into the forest and out of that disgustingpool. He grit his teeth, remembering how Wei Wuxian was left behind with Lan Wangji.

No matter how much they tried, there a few things that fate would not allow them to change. This had become clear to him.

“Y-Young master Wei…” Wen Ning whispered, fearfully. “He was left behind. I-I saw him draw the arrow. I should have—”

“It’s no use thinking about those things now.” Nie Huaisang said as Jiang Cheng helped him up.

All the other disciples were huddled around them, unsure of what to do now that they were out as they had no idea exactly which way would lead them to where they want to go.

Nie Huaisang took out a Qiankun pouch.

The disciple looked out in confusion as he opened it up.

“What!” A disciple raged. “Didn't they confiscate all our swords?”

“They did,” Jiang Cheng answered. “Huaisang gave his saber, too.”

“...wait, what is that?” Another disciple asked.

Now they realised that although what Nie Huaisang was holding looked like a sword at first glance, it wasn’t. It was thick and looked folded and once Nie Huaisang opened it up, they realised why.

“A metal fan!” Someone exclaimed.

“A battle fan!” Another corrected. “It has blades on the top!”

Of course, boys being boys, even though they had just escaped a life threatening situation, they were all entranced with the shiny, new weapon in front of them. Even Jin Zixuan spared a glance at it. The girls behind them, on the other hand, were horrified.

“Please be serious!” One scolded.

“Your friend has been left behind, young master!” Mianmian said, coming towards them. “Will that help?”

“Of course.” Nie Huaisang smiled.

Huaisang placed the fan on the ground and it immediately flattened its folds. He stepped on it, and so did Jiang Cheng.

“It can hold two more. We will take the injured with us.” Jiang Cheng said.

“It can… fly?” One disciple from the crowd said.

“Can’t you take me first?” Another disciple asked. “I cannot stay here! My parents will be worried.”

And then it seemed like everyone wanted to go first. They pushed and shouted at each other.

Enough !” Jiang Cheng scolded harshly. “Have some face! There are young girls in our midst and none of them are complaining! Have you no shame? Why become a cultivator? First we will transport all of us to shelter and then I and Huaisang will go to the border where my father is holding camp. We will be out soon, so have patience!”

Reluctantly, the disciples quieted down. They kept their heads lowered, now feeling slightly afraid of the Jiang Sect heir.

Jiang Cheng pursed his lips at the sight, “Good.”

Back in the cave, Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian were alone.

Notes:

So there’s one thing that I forgot to mention. Over here, six months have already passed, and so, Madam Yu is already quite pregnant. During that time, Wei Wuxian had also created routes escape routes all over Yunmeng for his sect and had improved upon the destructive strength of all their weapons.

I just didn’t feel like writing the entirely of it all. The amount of visions they watched during this time were also scarce, busy as they were training with their new weapons and trying to figure out ways to save their family in general.

Anyway, I wasn’t happy with this chapter much, but that’s probably because of how tired I am. Still, I wanted to give you guys SOMETHING, so here it is.

Quality will improve next chapter onwards again.

Chapter 27

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian were now left alone and the latter was bandaging Lan Wangji’s leg with his forehead ribbon. Wei Wuxian's arm was stinging in chorus with his chest with both the arrow wound and the iron branding. He had vaguely remembered having an injury on his arm when he’d watched the vision with his brothers.

Who would’ve known that the injury was so significant as to have been the cause that the two of them were left behind! Su She certainly caused more harm than help with his consideration.

Now, however, with his brothers and Wen Ning safely out of the way, Wei Wuxian could relax a little. Uncle Jiang was on the border, keeping a camp and Nie Huaisang had Xifeng with him. They would reach soon.

“See, Lan Zhan. Weren’t Mianmian’s herbs helpful?” Wei Wuxian grinned, as he secured Lan Wangji’s leg. The other boy gave no answer. “Not answering me? Ignoring me? Is it because I carried you on my back or because I’m touching your forehead ribbon again?”

Lan Wangji grit his teeth.

“Ah, I’ll thank her properly once I see her again.”

Lan Wangji looked at him coldly, “Are you sure you don’t mean to properly harass her?”

Wei Wuxian, “What are you talking about? It doesn’t count as harassing if I’m the one doing it. It only counts if the one doing it looks as greasy as Wen Chao. Go on, strip.”

Lan Wangji frowned slightly, “What?”

Wei Wuxian, “What do you think? Strip your clothes!”

He did exactly what he said. Hands grabbing each of Lan Wangji’s lapels, he peeled them to the side, revealing a chest and shoulders the color of snow.

Lan Wangji had suddenly been pushed onto the ground, shirt forcibly stripped. His face was almost green, “Wei Ying! What do you want to do?!”

Wei Wuxian took off all of his clothes and tore them to shreds, “What do I want to do? Right now, we two are the only ones here. I’m already making it so obvious—what do you think I want to do?”

As he finished, he stood up and drew away his belt sash. As though reciprocating out of courtesy, he revealed his own chest as well. His torso was a smooth expanse of gently sun-kissed skin.

Wei Wuxian didn’t feel comfortable showing his body to Lan Wangji since it was too muscular, but it was needed to meet his end. Still, despite the circ*mstances, he felt the corner of his mouth lift slightly as he saw Lan Wangji’s flustered expression, so rare and precious.

It was a far cry from the man in the visions who would just jump on top of Wei Wuxian and tie up his wrists. This was such an innocent version.

“Now that the shirts are gone, it’s time for the trousers.” He shrugged, reaching for the other boy’s lower clothing.

Unable to move and incredibly anxious about his helpless situation, Lan Wangji felt intense rage boil within. All the acidic heat in his chest rose to his throat and he coughed a mouthful of blackish blood.

Wei Wuxian smiled in relief at the sight.

“Alright!” He grinned and pressed a few acupoints on Lan Wangji’s chest. “The bad blood is all out now. No need to thank me!”

Lan Wangji’s irritation reduced as soon as he’d realised what had happened. Wei Wuxian scared him on purpose so that he would not suppress a potentially dangerous amount of rotten blood in his body. As soon as he’d spat it out, he indeed felt his internal pain lessen.

Although he knew that it was out of good will, Lan Wangji was still a bit annoyed, “…Can you not make this kind of joke again?!”

Wei Wuxian protested, “It’s very unhealthy for blood like this to be held in. It gets out with just a scare, though. Don’t worry, I would never take advantage of anyone.”

Lan Wangji looked at him irritably.

Wei Wuxian also didn’t want to do that type of joke again. He’d rather the next time he takes Lan Wangji’s clothes off, it would be because of mutual understanding. And he was a teenage boy, after all. Being alone here, half naked with the object of his affections, Wei Wuxian couldn’t help that his mind kept racing in different directions. Very inappropriate directions.

He opened up the perfume sachet and began using some of the herbs on his arm, mostly to distract himself from his indecent thoughts.

Suddenly, Lan Wangji raised his arm and stopped him. Wei Wuxian asked, “What’s wrong?”

Without speaking a word, Lan Wangji took out some of the herbs from his palm and pressed them onto Wei Wuxian’s chest.

Wei Wuxian’s entire body trembled as he exclaimed, “Ah!”

He knew there was an open wound on his chest because of the unmissable pain, but he had almost forgotten about it in his concern for Lan Wangji’s leg.

“Stop it, stop it!” He said, prying the Lan disciple’s hand away. “The wound on my chest doesn’t matter that much. How many herbs can be there in this sachet? Your leg has three big holes in it! You need it more.”

Lan Wangji’s face was dark. A moment later, he replied, “If you know that it hurts, do not be so rash next time.”

Wei Wuxian, “It’s not like I had any other choice, right? Do you think I enjoy being burned? Who would’ve known that Wang Lingjiao is so heartless. She almost pressed the iron into the eye. Mianmian is a girl, and quite a pretty girl, at that. If she was blind in an eye or such a thing gets onto her face, it wouldn’t be able to come off for the rest of her life. How bad would that be?”

Lan Wangji spoke in a thin voice, “The thing on your body right now will not be able to come off for the rest of your life either.”

Wei Wuxian, “That’s different. It’s not on the face. And I’m a man—what am I scared of? In a man’s life, how can he not get a few wounds and earn a few scars?”

His upper body bare, he was squatting on the ground as he picked up a branch and poked at the flames for it to burn brighter. A thought came to him as he did this.

“Unless… were you worried about me?”

Lan Wangji looked at him coldly, “You do not have those intentions yet you flirt around, doing as you please while others are in turmoil.That girl will not be able to forget about you for the rest of her life, now.”

Wei Wuxian frowned, “So it’s Mianmian you’re worried about? Not me? You… you don’t like her or anything, right?”

Lan Wangji, “Ridiculous.”

Now, even Wei Wuxian was irritated. Lan Wangji was potentially in love with someone else and Wei Wuxian was being scolded him. How could he not be irritated?

“Fine, fine! I’m ridiculous. I’m the most ridiculous person there is!”

He took some white pieces of cloth as he said this. Even if he was irritated at Lan Wangji, his love for him was more, and he didn’t want him to suffer a crippled leg. He started binding the rest of the injury.

“What’s wrong with you today, Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian asked. “You’re not like yourself at all. You’re very rude…”

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened in realisation and he looked up and Lan Wangji in shock. Lan Wangji also looked back, not understanding why Wei Wuxian had paused in the middle of his rant.

The Jiang Sect head disciple gave a bitter smile as he handed Lan Wangji the rest of the cloth strips, being careful not to touch him.

“You know what? Bind them yourself. It seems you really do hate me.”

Lan Wangji looked at him strangely. He debated with himself for a while before speaking.

“You are also very strange today.”

Wei Wuxian glanced at him, too curious to be irritated, “How?”

Lan Wangji, “...You are more serious than usual.”

Wei Wuxian raised an eyebrow at him, “Do you not like it? I don’t like it either. I was staying a respectable distance from you because of that incident from the discussion conference. I’m quite sure I took your first kiss.”

Lan Wangji immediately stiffened, and though he noticed it, Wei Wuxian kept talking.

“I said I was sorry about it. I really did feel bad. I even thought of not at all speaking to you until this indoctrination was over, but after all, even if you don’t like me…”

“...What?” Lan Wangji asked, when he stayed quiet for too long.

Wei Wuxian bravely met Lan Wangji’s eyes as he spoke his next words, “You’re very different from everyone else. A stickler for rules and very honourable, to the point that it’s boring. On top of that, you have a very bad temper with me!”

Lan Wangji seemed irritated at these words. Like he was wronged.

Wei Wuxian continued, “But you are pure and righteous and I think you’re really great. So even if you hate me, I still like you.”

Silence rang throughout the cave as these words were spoken.

Wei Wuxian did not look at Lan Wangji’s face anymore, lest he see any signs of rejection. He simply poked at the fire, even though it would burn just fine even if he was not meddling with it.

“...I do not hate you.”

The words were so soft and light, but in this quiet cave, you could hear it with no problem. Wei Wuxian was surprised, and was even more so when Lan Wangji spoke again.

“Thank you.” He said.

Wei Wuxian thought he’d heard wrong and looked up at him. Lan Wangji was looking right at him with unmistakable eye contact.

“Thank you.” He repeated.

Immediately, Wei Wuxian knew what was happening. This was the scene from the vision they had seen. It was the same. The situation, their dressing and their state.

Wei Wuxian remembered exactly what he had said, and just for the sake of keeping it identical to the vision, repeated his words.

“There’s no need, there’s no need. The problem with me is that I’m unable to stand it when others thank me, especially if people like you thank me so seriously. It’s so creepy that I’m even getting goosebumps. Kneeling worship, of course, is even more so unnecessary.”

Lan Wangji replied with indifference, “You are thinking too much. Even if I wanted to worship you, I would not be able to move.”

It was exactly the same!

Wei Wuxian was elated. They had finally lived through a solid vision. The token hadn’t left much doubt for them before, but now, it was unmistakable. They had seen the future, and they would correct every single thing that had gone wrong. He began to talk of a more uplifting topic to suit his mood.

“Uncle Jiang is on the border. He will reach us soon, within three or four days at most.”

Lan Wangji, “On a night hunt?”

The Wen sect had been hogging all the land they could claim for night hunts, so this wasn’t possible, but Wei Wuxian nodded anyway.

“Yeah,” He lied, “And since he’ll be here soon, we can wait in peace. It’s a good thing that it says in the pool and doesn’t chase us around, but the bad thing is that it cover the escape hole, so we are stuck. We shouldn’t aggravate that Xuanwu for now.”

Lan Wangji’s eyebrows lifted slightly, “So you know that it is a Xuanwu.”

Wei Wuxian recognised his slip once he’d heard those words, and instead used his knowledge of the vision to lie through his teeth. According to the vision, Lan Wangji knew about the Xuanwu because he’d read about it in the cloud recesses.

“I read about it in some old texts from the Library Pavillion.”

Lan Wangji nodded, “I had read about it from there as well. You know about it’s story?”

Wei Wuxian nodded, smiling wryly, “Yes. The bloody thing overate. To think it’s been savouring all the thousands of humans it ate for hundreds of years…”

Lan Wangji was disgusted by the crude wording and did not pay attention to him any further.

Wei Wuxian simply sighed and leaned back, acknowledging the end of their conversation.

“Do not be so hard on yourself, young master Lan.” Meng Yao smiled. “For all your talents, washing clothes should certainly not be one of them. That would be quite unfair.”

Lan Xichen bowed his head apologetically, looking at the basket of clothes in his arms. They had gone to a nearby stream to wash all the dirty clothing, however, he’d torn them while trying to help Meng Yao wash them, and in the end, the smaller man insisted on doing it himself. Lan Xichen in turn, insisted on carrying them all back to the lodging.

“I apologise. I wanted to help you with the chores, but I can’t even manage my own responsibilities, let alone yours.”

Meng Yao chuckled, “That’s quite alright. I do not mind washing them. Carrying them to and fro was always more difficult for me.”

Lan Xichen gave him a bright smile, “You may leave that job to me, then.”

As they talked, Lan Xichen and Meng Yao realised that they actually have quite a lot in common, mostly concerning their tastes in music, art and books. Lan Xichen was amazed to learn about how fast Meng Yao was able to soak in information. He’d need to read a book only once to have memorised the entire thing. In return, Meng Yao had developed much respect towards the Lan disciple.

They talked about a lot of things. Lan Xichen had trusted Meng Yao almost immediately, and told him about all the events that had conspired in the cloud recesses, from the letter he received to the burning of the sect.

“I had only told my father at the time.” Lan Xichen admitted. “He’d still refused to come out of his seclusion, and it was a hard battle to fight for the first few months. But, eventually, I took matters into my own hands. I had copied every single book from our library, hung up the bells near the gate of the cloud recesses and packed my belongings beforehand in case something went wrong. By the time they came, I was ready to leave and my father also believed me.”

“Do you truly not have an idea who the sender is?” Meng Yao asked.

Lan Xichen shook his head, “If I did, I would certainly thank them. I owe them my father’s life. If they hadn’t revealed the fact that it was him who would get injured, then I’m afraid that he wouldn’t be here now.”

Meng Yao pressed his lips into a thin line, “These people know a bit too much. How did they predict everything that would happen? Are they possibly Wen Sect disciples?”

Lan Xichen considered this, “It would make sense. I found the letter right after returning from their discussion conference. If they are Wens, then I must find out who. They could be in danger if it’s found out that helped the Lan sect.”

As they quietly discussed this topic, they walked into Meng Yao’s room, only to drop whatever they were carrying.

This was because Qingheng-Jun, who had been unconscious for the past week, was sitting up on the bed, staring vacantly into space.

Lan Xichen gasped, “Father!”

His father turned to look at him tiredly, “A-Huan…”

Lan Xichen, noticing the pile of clothes now on the floor, immediately stooped down to collect them into the basket once more. Meng Yao rushed to help him. Standing up again, Meg Yao took the basket from Lan Xichen and put it away in a corner.

Lan Xichen went to his father, “Father… When did you wake?”

The Lan Sect leader closed his eyes before speaking, “Maybe half a shichen ago. Could I have some water?”

It was then that Xichen noticed how raspy his father’s voice was. He was about to go fetch some when Meng Yao appeared, already holding a container of fresh water.

“Please take this, sir.” Meng Yao said, bowing his head.

Qingheng-jun took the water without hesitation and drank it as gracefully as a parched man could. Though he was thin and gaunt, the father of the twin jades maintained his poise and his aura radiated his dignity.

“Thank you,” He said, handing the container back to Meng Yao, his voice now smoother than before. “I assume we’ve been under your care for a while?”

Meng Yao was intimidated, but did not dare show it. Instead he inclined his head a respectful angle while he spoke.

“For the better part of the week, Master Lan.” Meng Yao replied. “Are you feeling hungry?”

Qingheng-Jin couldn’t help but smile, “Not as much as should be necessary. It can wait.”

Lan Xichen steadied his father as he started swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. Qingheng-jun clutched his son’s shoulder as he sat straighter.

Meng Yao stood a polite distance away from them as he offered a delicate bow. “My name is Meng Yao, master Lan. Although it’s not much, please feel free to take shelter here for the time being.”

Qingheng-jun looked at him in mild surprise, “Wouldn’t that be an imposition? I can’t imagine it will be easy to house two more people with a single person's income.”

Lan Xichen jolted slightly, suddenly realising this truth. He never worried about money before, and so he hadn’t thought much of it when Meng Yao kept going out for work and then coming back with food in the evening.

“Meng Yao, I’m very sorry. I didn’t think about that. I have money with me, so the next time you go out, please don’t use your savings.”

Meng Yao submitted himself to a soft, restrained laugh, “Thank you, Young Master, Master Lan.”

“On our parts as well.” Qingheng-Jin said, inclined his head. “My name is Lan Qiqiu, better known as Qingheng-Jun. Thank you for saving our lives, Meng Yao.”

Notes:

We’re getting closer and closer to the parts I’ve been dying to write since I started this story. Oooohhh I can’t wait!

Thank you so much everyone, as usual, for commenting. I’ve been SOOO stressed and tired lately that I wasn’t feeling myself at all, but all of you were so sweet in your comments, telling me to take care of myself and all. I picked myself up faster than I thought with these words.

I apologise to everyone who’s comments I didn’t answer. I most likely filed it away to reply to and never got to it.

I hope you liked this chapter ❤️❤️❤️

Chapter 28

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang managed to reach Jiang Fengmian within two days, considering the amount of injured they had to carry along with them.

“How long will it take to reach there?” Jiang Fengmian asked his son as his men started collecting their weapons to make the journey.

“Little more than a day,” Jiang Cheng answered. “I’ll come with you. Finding it may be difficult, since Wen Chao blocked it. We’ll need to find the original entrance to the cave. ”

Jiang Fengmian nodded at his son, then turned to Nie Huaisang. “Good job, Nie Huaisang. You’ve become very reliable. I’m sure your brother will be proud.”

Nie Huaisang gave Jiang Cheng’s father a grateful smile, “Thank you, Sect Leader Jiang.”

Jiang Fengmian, “Alright, then. Let’s dispatch, shall we?”

“Do you have a goal?” Lan Qiqiu asked Meng Yao, as they both started preparations for lunch. Qingheng-Jun was peeling potatoes while Meng Yao was chopping them. Lan Xichen was hanging the laundry to dry in the yard.

Meng Yao glanced at Lan Qiqiu. Although the older man was probably just making conversation, he still answered truthfully, “It’s not very interesting.”

Lan Qiqiu lips quirked a little, “There is no goal that is uninteresting. Only ones that are difficult.”

Meng Yao smiled, “Well, it’s certainly difficult.” After a small pause, he decided to answer the question, “...I want to earn the acknowledgement of my father.”

Lan Qiqiu nodded his head, “A goal many children have. You need not worry too much, if your parents love you.”

Meng Yao, however, was remembering the words of the young masters he’d met in Yunmeng. “Then the situation is worse than I thought. I’m trying to earn his acknowledgement so that I can earn his love .”

“...I’m probably the least eligible to say this, but I know only a few fathers that do not love their children from the very start.”

“Do you not consider yourself eligible because of your seclusion?” Meng Yao asked, slightly irritated, but then lowered his head. “That was out of line. I’m sorry.”

Lan Qiqiu smiled, “No, you are right. I went into seclusion and left my brother to raise my children. I hadn’t seen my children for years until A-Huan barged into my cottage and demanded my audience. He’s grown so much, I could barely recognise him. My younger son, A-Zhan, is quieter and never threw tantrums as a child. I only caught a glimpse of him as we escaped from the Cloud Recesses. He’s also grown into a fine young man.”

Meng Yao, “You regret your seclusion.”

Lan Qiqiu’s voice quivered slightly, “Back then, I never thought about it. I was young, and fell in love… she had killed my dearest mentor. Despite that… I couldn’t bear to see her stand trial, yet, I couldn’t bear my teacher’s death. So, I married her to keep her safe, and then made sure we took our punishments. There were times I hated her.”

“Do you still love her?”

“She died a long time ago.” The Lan Sect Leader replied, “But with each day that passes, I love her more. And sometimes, that's just how it is. We may be wronged or be wrong, but the heart cannot help itself. And I cannot help it now, that I feel regret. Over how I could not properly fulfill my duties, and over not having seen my sons grow.”

Meng Yao swallowed and buried himself with heating up the oil in the pan. With everything that Lan Xichen’s father had revealed, he felt that he couldn’t give the man anything except the highest form of respect. It wasn’t an easy thing to love someone that much. And because Lan Qiqiu had done such things, unbefitting of his position, Meng Yao also felt that he could speak and tell the truth.

He spoke slowly, but softly, “My mother worked in a brothel. I grew up there. A lot of the times it was very unpleasant, but I still had some good memories. Mostly because my mother loved me and her friend was also always there for us.”

Meng Yao didn’t look at Lan Qiqiu as he spoke. “I learnt how to smile when I was there. Even if it’s unpleasant, I can smile. If someone doesn’t like how I act, I can change what I am. Sometimes, even I don’t know who I am, but if it gets my father to accept me, I thought it would be worth it. Now, I wonder if it really is.”

Lan Qiqiu spoke after a while, “...What type of person is your father?”

Meng Yao pursed his lips, “...Jin Guangshan.”

Baring himself like this, Meng Yao suddenly felt scared. He couldn’t bear to look at Lan Qiqiu, now. The other man was loved by many people, regardless of his sins. Meng Yao was loved by no one, even though his only sin was being born in his situation. They were different people.

No sound came from the other side for a moment, and Meng Yao’s anxiety grew.

Then there was a scrape of the floor and a few, soft footsteps that drew closer to him. Meng Yao only turned around when he felt a hand on his head, freezing on the spot.

Lan Qiqiu met Meng Yao’s eyes, soft and kind. “Meng Yao, your father doesn’t deserve you.”

Of course, he’d heard these words before. When he’d met the young master Nie and his friends in Yunmeng, they’d told him pretty much the same thing, though not the same way.

Even after being kicked down the stairs by his father three years ago, he still thought that Jin Guangshan was all he had left. That he didn’t have any worth if he wasn’t a Sect leader’s son. Someone’s son.

Yet, coming from the famous Qingheng-jun, a man around the same age as his father and one with two children of his own, these words just meant so much more to Meng Yao. For once, he felt like it was true.

That he was worth something.

That Jin Guangshan didn’t deserve him.

Lan Qiqiu stroked Meng Yao’s head soothingly.

To the younger man, this was a type of touch he’d never had in his life. The touch of a father. Tears started gathering in the corner of his eyes, but Meng Yao blinked them away, refusing to let them fall.

For the first time, he felt like he would be fine.

It had been two days since they had gotten stuck in the cave.

With the past two days of conserving energy, the injury on Lan Wangji’s leg didn’t worsen and was slowly healing. He was able to sit in the lotus position to meditate soon afterward.

With much discretion, Wei Wuxian didn’t tease him anymore either. The two’s interactions were lukewarm, though peaceful.

During that time, the two had scouted around the pool a couple of times. The Xuanwu of Slaughter had already dragged all of the corpses into its shell. The large, black shell floated in the water like a huge, impenetrable warship. In the beginning, heavy chewing noises often came from within. Later on, though, the noises ceased, replaced by what sounded like it was asleep and snoring.

They also gathered all of the arrows, bows, and iron rods that lay scattered on the shore and took them back to count. There were over a hundred arrows, around thirty bows, and a little over ten iron rods. If they needed it, they had to have it in reach.

They had thought about looking for the hole that Jiang Cheng had mentioned, but after searching only once, Wei Wuxian realised that it was probably covered. According to the visions, they had remained in the cave for seven days. Surely if they could find the hole, then they would have.

On the third day, Wei Wuxian stated as much.

“We can only wait,” He told Lan Wangji.

He had just come out of the pool, and was putting on his clothes again. As he did this, an object fell out.

Lan Wangji’s eyes followed it. The object had been covered with black cloth that came slightly loose, revealing a sliver of something that looked rather ethereal. Feeling that the shape of it was familiar, Lan Wangji picked it up.

The black cloth fell off.

Lan Wangji’s eyes widened. “Why do you have this?”

Wei Wuxian, who had finished putting his clothes on, looked towards Lan Wangji. His face blanketed itself with horror, recognising the token.

“...Give it back. That’s mine.” Wei Wuxian said.

Lan Wangji’s face was cold, “If it is yours, why does it look like the entrance tokens of the GusuLan Sect?”

“Does it need to be yours because it looks like an entrance token?” Wei Wuxian asked back, face just as cold. “Which of your tokens glow like that, tell me? Though it looks like a GusuLan token, it’s mine.”

At this, Lan Wangji hesitated. It was true none of their tokens would glow this flamboyant golden shade. If at all it had to glow, it would be the traditional soft blue light that represents their sect. But the fact that it glowed at all was suspicious enough.

“I should take it back to my sect.” He said instead of giving it back, but he didn’t tuck it inside his robes, as if still considering what he should do.

Wei Wuxian ground his teeth before lunging at Lan Wangji, catching hold of his wrist.

“Give. It. Back.” He grated.

Lan Wangji, feeling startled at this behaviour, instinctively started pulling his hand back. Unfortunately, his strength was five times more than Wei Wuxian’s, and this slight movement made them both topple over.

The moment Wei Wuxian started tipping over Lan Wangji, he knew that it was bad. When they had fallen to the ground the golden light of the token flared across the cave, and then he knew that he was doomed entirely.

As it flared, Wei Wuxian tried to think of anything else except Lan Wangji, but the more he tried to evade those thoughts, the more it got cemented in his head.

Then, the darkness of the cave melted away, getting replaced by a new scene.

They were standing in a room, bright and clean. A complete contrast to the cave they were just in. Wei Wuxian recognised this room as the one he had seen himself in with Lan Wangji in the previous token visions.

The sun rays filtering in and the brightness of the room almost blinded the two who had been submerged in darkness for three days consecutively.

“...The Jingshi?” Lan Wangji asked, blinking slowly.

Wei Wuxian didn’t look at him. The Jingshi. Lan Wangji’s quarters. Of course that was what it was.

“Lan Zhan… I’m sorry.” Wei Wuxian said, not answering his question.

Lan Wangji only looked at Wei Wuxian, wordlessly.

Then a new voice joined them.

“Wangji.”

Lan Wangji saw his brother walking into the room, and only then did he notice that, on the bed, he was also there. The version of him that was on the bed was lying face down, wearing only trousers and bandages covering his entire upper body.

Lan Wangji asked slowly, in a way that expressed a closed throat, “An apparition?”

Wei Wuxian glanced at his companion once, “You catch on quick. Though, I shouldn’t be surprised.”

But Wei Wuxian didn’t care much about that anymore. He wanted to know why Lan Wangji’s future self was so injured.

Lan Xichen moved towards his brother.

“Wangji, how are you feeling?”

Lan Wangji said nothing. He only tried to sit up. Lan Xichen moved to help his brother into an upright position.

“We must change your bandages.” He said, somberly. “I’m afraid that even with meditation, the healer deemed your injuries to take at least a year or two to heal.”

“...It does not matter.” Lan Wangji said finally. His face was tired, and looked gaunt in his horrid state. His eyes were bloodshot and swollen. “A-Yuan?”

Wei Wuxian jerked, hearing A-Yuan’s name. He had been so alarmed and Lan Wangji's horrible state of being that hearing this name come out of his mouth had been somewhat of a shock.

“The boy is being cared for. I will speak to uncle about it.” Lan Xichen told him, gently. “Wangji, I… I’m truly sorry about young master Wei. I should’ve known how you felt…”

It seemed as if hearing the name had been too painful for Lan Wangji. His next words came out in a shuddering breath.

“It won’t do to speak of the dead any longer.” He spoke, but it seemed like his own words cut into his heart, and tears started rolling down his cheeks; sacred and sorrowful. “Let them celebrate.”

“Oh, Wangji.” Lan Xichen looked pained at this sight. “Yes. Let them celebrate. Even if the world remembers him as a monster, Young Master Wei would trust you to remember him fairly.”

Lan Wangji’s face grew more emotionless at this, despite the tears still falling. “But he did not reciprocate.”

Lan Xichen was unwrapping Lan Wangji’s bandages as they spoke. The bandages closer to skin grew more and more blood stained. Wei Wuxian’s heart dropped, when the wounds underneath were revealed. Although the wounds looked to be healing, they were still open and most were still bleeding. The flesh underneath the skin was visible in angry red streaks. Some of them were even purple.

They were wounds from a discipline whip.

Why? The only people who had the power to do that to Lan Wangji were his brother and his uncle. What deed could he have done to earn these many lashes from two people who loved him so dearly? Such a cruel punishment? But even while thinking this, Wei Wuxian knew that if nothing else, this had something to do with him.

“He was not in the position to reciprocate.” Lan Xichen said. “He knew better than anyone, his sins.”

“Wei Ying had no sins.” Lan Wangji protested, immediately. “He would never…”

“I understand.” Lan Xichen sympathised. “You think he was treated unfairly. Everyone was too hasty with their judgement.”

Lan Wangji didn’t speak any further. In understanding, Lan Xichen also did not speak anymore. He only bandaged his brother’s wounds once more.

The vision melted away.

Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian were back in the cave, the darkness that they were plunged into once more, somewhat disconcerting. The Jiang Sect disciple was lying on top of the second jade, their hands connected over the token.

“Wei Ying…” Lan Wanji’s voice came.

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened when he realised that they’ve returned from the tokens vision and immediately sat up, snatching the token along. But Lan Wangji’s grip was not that loose, and it jiggled in between their hands for a moment before jumping right out.

Wei Wuxian watched haplessly, as the token bounced down the slight sloping of the cave, tumbling over a few rocks here and there. Before he could even get off Lan Wangji, he heard a soft ‘plop’ sound. The little round ripples that spread out on the surface of the water spoke loudly.

The token had fallen into the pool.

Oh no.

“f*ck.” Wei Wuxian cursed.

Notes:

I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little nervous about this chapter. I hope Lan Wangji was in character. He doesn’t talk much sometimes, and other times, he does, so it’s a little difficult to work with him.

And yes, I’m definitely going there with MY’s daddy issues.

Also, thank you guys sooo much for the comments last chapter. I seriously appreciated it, but it’s alright. I’m not forcing myself to write. I genuinely love this story and all of you guys, and I really want to write it for us all.

As I said, it’s addicting.

See you next chapter, and don’t forget to come scream at me on TWITTER

If I’m not able to update suddenly, or something, this is also where you will know it from.

Ciao~

Chapter 29

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“sh*t, sh*t, f*ck, sh*t…” Wei Wuxian cursed continuously as he scrambled off of Lan Wangji. He wasn’t much of the cursing type, leaving that to Jiang Cheng, but in this situation, it just seemed appropriate.

A hand grabbed hold of his wrist.

Wei Wuxian looked at Lan Wangji in surprise, not having expected him to initiate any sort of physical contact. After all, the other boy said so himself about how much he hated those kinds of things.

“Wei Ying,” He said, his eyes conveying something that looked like worry. “What was that?”

Wei Wuxian clenched his fist, “It doesn’t matter.”

Lan Wangji kept quiet for a moment, pondering.

Then he said, “...After the discussion conference, my brother received a letter. Then, he started acting strange. He copied all the texts from the library and hung up strange bells at the entrance.”

Wei Wuxian said nothing.

Wei Ying.” He pleaded.

And just for the fact that Wei Wuxian felt incredibly uncomfortable to see Lan Wangji plead, he crumbled a little bit. In front of Lan Wangji, how could Wei Wuxian not crumble? But even so, he couldn’t tell him. To lay himself bare right now was impossible. He was unprepared for the reaction he’d receive. He was unprepared to drag Lan Wangji into such turbulence. He was just unprepared.

He swallowed thickly, “Lan Zhan, please… I have my reasons. I swear I’m not doing anything bad, but I can’t tell you everything yet.”

“When?”

“Not now.” Wei Wuxian said, averting his eyes. “But I really need to get that token back.”

Lan Wangji was quiet for a moment. Then he spoke, “If you search around for too long and the Xuanwu notices?”

Wei Wuxian pursed his lips. Then, like a flash of lightning, memories of the visions had come back to him.

“Lan Zhan, you know how to perform Chord Assassination, don’t you?”

Lan Wangji’s eyes narrowed, “You knew of it… because of that thing?”

Wei Wuxian gave him a look, “Why are you asking such demanding questions again? What do you think that thing is? If you think it shows the future, you should stop asking questions. Didn’t ‘you’ say that I have no sins? Your apparition trusts me so much, and you can’t?”

After saying it, Wei Wuxian realised he was starting to take out his frustrations on Lan Wangji.

Lan Wangji was expressionless. Or, most would have thought so at least, but Wei Wuxian saw the way his lips were slightly apart and how they trembled. He immediately felt guilty.

How could he speak like this to someone who held his heart?

Wei Wuxian steadied himself, and spoke the next words more calmly, “You should forget what you’ve seen, Lan Zhan. It’s for your own good.”

Lan Wangji wasn’t at all ready to follow that advice, “...I was injured, and... you were…”

And then, Wei Wuxian understood. His death didn’t ring many bells in his head anymore because he knew of it for a long time. He’d been exposed to this truth repeatedly and became somewhat numb to it after a while. But to Lan Wangji, it must’ve seemed like important news. Ominous foretelling.

“Ah. That.” He said, flatter than he meant it to sound. “Look, I won’t die. Does that make you feel better?”

Lan Wangji coldly answered, “No.”

They both avoided the part where Lan Wangji cried for Wei Wuxian’s death. It was too personal to speak of and too delicate to hint at.

Wei Wuxian rubbed his neck sheepishly, laughing a little, “Yeah, I thought so. You’ve always been like this—so stubborn! But right now, you really need to let it go. I need to get that token back. You’ve seen what it does. I’ll definitely tell you about it when I can.”

Wei Wuxian didn’t mention that it doesn’t matter if someone else found it because only he can activate it, but he deemed that a little omission here and there wouldn’t hurt anyone. Least of all one who has little to do with it.

Finally, Lan Wangji let go of Wei Wuxian’s wrist, and the latter didn’t even notice it was there until the cool air hit its skin once more.

Taking this as a sign that he’s willing to listen, Wei Wuxian began to speak.

“Listen, this is what we’ll do…”


Lan Xichen and Lan Qiqiu were planning to leave for Qinghe.

They hadn’t told this to Meng Yao yet, but they would discuss their plans in the early hours when they assumed that he was asleep. They haven't made a solid plan about whether or not they would leave yet, but apparently, Lan Xichen was rather close with Sect leader, Nie Mingjue. Enough to refer to him as ‘brother’ at the very least.

More than once, when they discussed whether they should leave or when they should tell their host about it, Meng Yao would think about the Second Young Master Nie. He still had the Nie Sect seal with him, and carried it everywhere he went.

The more he thought, the more he liked it. The idea of Qinghe.

But he didn’t say it out loud. He continued to keep quiet as the two Lans talked.

Meng Yao had been going to the bookshop as usual for work, but as he neared it, he realised something was wrong. The shop was not open, and a two young men were outside, looking like they were closing up the place.

“Excuse me,” Meng Yao asked, once he’d reached there. “May I know what’s happening?”

The two young men turned to look at him.

The taller one spoke first, “Are you the employee here?”

Meng Yao, “Yes…”

The two looked apologetic as they said the following words.

“Grandpa Wang passed away last night.”

Meng Yao froze, “What?”

The shorter of the two explained the situation. It seemed that they were Grandpa Wang’s grandchildren and had come to close shop. The old man had a mild cardiac arrest the night before during his sleep and passed away peacefully. There was no pain, and no struggle. It was the ideal death.

“He’d always talked about how he wanted to join grandma.” The taller boy said, wistfully. His eyes were red and unfocused, remembering something long past.

“You were due payment weren’t you?” The shorter one said, pulling out an envelope from his robes. “Grandpa had kept this to give you soon, but since he can’t, we should.”

Meng Yao was still in shock. Uncle Wang had looked so healthy just yesterday. His mother had been sick for years before she finally passed away, and it seemed too quick for Meng Yao to process a death like this. Yet, he knew that this was how the world worked.

With trembling hands, he accepted the envelope.

“...What will happen to this shop?” Meng Yao asked, finally.

Uncle Wang’s grandsons exchanged a look. Apparently, they would donate the books to schools and sell the shop to someone. They certainly couldn’t keep it running, having jobs themselves.

Meng Yao paid his respects to them after being informed of everything and went back the way he came, having no other plans.

When he’d reached back to his lodging, he saw Lan Xichen and his father deep in conversation. They both turned to look at him in surprise. They didn’t wear any guilty looks, indicating that they probably wouldn’t have minded should he have heard something.

“A-Yao? Don’t you have work?” Lan Qiqiu asked.

Meng Yao doesn’t know when he started referring to him as ‘A-Yao’ but it was so natural that he didn't at all mind. Lan Xichen had also taken to calling him that. There was a closeness in that term that he had with too few people.

Meng Yao allowed himself to stay quiet for a while, calming his overwhelmed brain. Then, bracing himself, he took a deep breath and looked at them directly.

“I know you are planning on going to Qinghe.”

Father and son were both surprised at this and looked slightly guilty at not having said it themselves. That didn’t matter though. They had no need to feel guilty, according to Meng Yao. He only continued to say what he wanted.

“I want to come with you.”


When the head of the Xuanwu came out, Lan Wangji wasted no time. He pulled tightly on the chord, refusing to loosen up for even a split second, and held it for six hours.

Six hours later was when the Xuanwu of Slaughter finally ceased to move.

Lan Wangji, “Wei Ying!”

No sound came from within the beast’s mouth.

Lan Wangji reached out at once, grabbing the two rows of fangs and forcing them apart. Swimming in water without anything that he could use to support himself, he could only open them after straining for quite a while. Inside, he saw a black iron sword stuck within the mouth of the beast. Both the tip and the handle had pierced deep into its flesh. The blade had already been forced into a curvature.

Wei Wuxian’s entire body was curled up in the shape of a shrimp. Head facing down, his hands still clenched onto the not-so-sharp blade of the sword. He had almost slid into the throat of the Xuanwu. Lan Wangji grabbed his lapel at once and pulled him out. As soon as the Xuanwu’s jaws loosened, the iron sword slipped into the water and sunk to the bottom.

Eyes tightly shut, Wei Wuxian lay limply over Lan Wangji’s body, one arm around his shoulder. Holding his waist, Lan Wangji floated over the bloody water with him, “Wei Ying!”

His hands trembled slightly. Just as he was about to touch Wei Wuxian’s cheek, Wei Wuxian suddenly shivered and woke up, “What’s happening? What’s happening? Is it dead? Is it dead?!”

He flopped lightly, causing both of their bodies to sink deeper into the water. Lan Wangji’s arm tightened around his waist, “It is!”

Wei Wuxian’s gaze was blank, as though he had trouble realizing what was going on. He only replied after thinking for a while, “It’s dead? It’s dead… Great! It’s dead. Earlier on it kept on screaming, screaming as it rolled around, and then I fainted. Oh right, the token. I need to find it! And the hole. We need to search for it! Let’s go, let’s go!”

Lan Wangji found Wei Wuxian’s behaviour strange, “What is wrong?”

Wei Wuxian was suddenly energetic, “Nothing! Come on, there’s no time to lose.”

There was indeed no time to lose. Lan Wangji nodded, “I will take you.”

Wei Wuxian, “There’s no need…”

Yet, Lan Wangji’s right arm was still wrapped like an iron belt around his waist, stating in an irrefutable tone, “Breathe in.”

Even from above the water, the token’s golden glow was very visible. Pulling it out of the murky water, even though he and Lan Wangji were covered in reddish purple muck, the token looked untouched. Dirt just slipped right of it, leaving nothing. The token hadn’t been hard to find at all.

The hole, however, was another problem.

“Ah, it happened again!” Wei Wuxian whined.

Lan Wangji, “What?”

Wei Wuxian looked at him like the answer should be obvious, “The hole! It got covered up again ! I thought maybe it wouldn’t happen this time, but you can’t stop some things, I guess.”

Lan Wangji understood then, what he was talking about, “Are you talking about what you had seen beforehand?”

“Keep up, Lan Zhan.” Wei Wuxian said, teasingly. “What should we do now? Last time, we waited until Uncle Jiang came to get us. We should go wait again.”

“...Okay.”

Both were drained of all energy. They swam slowly toward the shore. When they rose out of the water, both were covered in a bloody shade of purple. Wei Wuxian took off his clothes. Wringing them dry and flinging them around in the air.

“I wonder why Uncle Jiang and Jiang Cheng are taking so long to come. In the visions, they had taken seven days to reach us, but this time it should be less because we held camp. We had to kill the Xuanwu anyway!”

Lan Wangji looked like he wanted to say something, but in the end he kept quiet as Wei Wuxian chattered on.

“Oh, right, Lan Zhan, did you see that I was holding a sword when I was in its mouth? Where did the sword go?”

Lan Wangji, “It sank underwater. Is there anything about it?”

Wei Wuxian, “It sank? Nevermind, then.”

When he was clutching onto the sword, he kept on hearing a deluge of screams beside his ears. His body felt cold and his head spun. While this was happening, Wei Wuxian could only think of one thing. The Stygian Tiger Amulet.

He knew that it was made of a mysterious metal that was packed with resentful energy, and was almost completely sure that the sword was what he used to make it. But if he indeed used it to make that horrible artefact, then perhaps it’s better that it sank to the bottom of the pool. No sense in getting it back.

He continued to drag his legs forward. Lan Wangji followed behind him in silence. While he walked, he wondered why his head felt so heavy. Then, he realised that his ribbon had come loose and all of his hair was weighing down his head over his shoulder and back. The ribbon was probably lost by now.

A few steps later, Wei Wuxian’s legs gave out again.

And Lan Wangji caught him again. This time, he put one hand against his forehead. After contemplating for a few moments, he spoke, “Wei Ying, you… are so warm.”

Wei Wuxian put his hand to his forehead as well, “Lan Zhan, you’re also really warm.”

Lan Wangji took his hand away, speaking in a tepid tone, “That is because your hand is cold.”

Wei Wuxian, “I think I do feel a bit dizzy.”

About three to four days ago, he put almost all of the herbs in the perfume sachet onto Lan Wangji’s leg. He only wiped the brand mark on his chest a few times. In the past few days, he hadn’t rested well, and he had just been rummaging through the corpse mound and the pool water. An on top of the stress in his heart by being with an non reciprocating Lan Wangji, the energy the token drained from him was finally taking its toll. His injury had finally worsened.

Wei Wuxian had a fever.

“Lie down.”

Wei Wuxian did as he was told. Lan Wangji took his hand and began to pass him spiritual energy.

Though he had been lying for a while, Wei Wuxian soon sat up again. Lan Wangji told him, “Lie down properly.”

Wei Wuxian drew his hand back, “You don’t need to give me any. You don’t have much left yourself.”

Lan Wangji grabbed his hand again and repeated, “Lie down properly.”

A few days ago, Lan Wangji was drained of energy and got both scared and teased by him. This time, it was Wei Wuxian’s turn to be drained of energy for him to do whatever he wanted.

But, even when lying down, Wei Wuxian didn’t like loneliness. Soon afterward, he began to complain, “It’s too hard, it’s too hard.”

Lan Wangji, “What do you want?”

Wei Wuxian, “I want to lie somewhere else.”

“Where would you want to lie, at such a place?”

“Let me borrow your lap for a while, won’t you?”

Lan Wangji spoke with an expressionless face, “Stop fooling around.”

Wei Wuxian, “I’m serious. My head is so dizzy. You’re not a girl; why can’t I borrow it for a bit?”

Lan Wangji, “Even if I am not a girl, you cannot just lie on it.”

Seeing that he was starting to frown, Wei Wuxian responded, “I’m not fooling around. I’m completely serious. After all, I can’t accept this. Tell me why, Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji, “‘Why’ what?”

“Let me tell you, in the visions, you had given me your lap to lie on. In fact, you always treat me very nicely. Why don’t you treat me the same way now? You said you don’t hate me, didn’t you?”

“Do you base everything off the visions? What if they are wrong?”

“So far they haven’t been.”

Lan Wangji went quiet. For some reason, Wei Wuxian realised what he must’ve been thinking about.

“You’re thinking about my death again?”

Lan Wangji looked at him. Though wordless and expressionless, Wei Wuxian could still make out that he had hit the target with his guess.

Wei Wuxian, “It won’t happen this time. I’ve already changed a lot of things.”

Lan Wangji didn’t say anything, and just when Wei Wuxian started feeling disappointment sink in, the other boy came closer to him.

“What’s wrong?” Wei Wuxian asked, as Lan Wangji gently lifted his head.

When the back of Wei Wuxian’s head touched something soft and his eyes were directly facing Lan Wangji’s face, he realised what had happened.

“...You said you wanted to lie down on my lap.”

Wei Wuxian was so happy, he might’ve burst into tears right on the spot. Even though he had said it, he didn’t expect it to actually happen. Instead of crying though, he gave Lan Wangji a blinding smile.

He shifted his head so that he would be facing Lan Wangji’s stomach. The Lan disciple froze as this happened.

“What are you doing?”

Wei Wuxian put an arm around Lan Wangji’s waist and closed his eyes, “Since you gave me your lap, I’m taking full advantage. Say Lan Zhan, why don’t you sing me a song, now?”

“You are delirious.” Lan Wangji said, thinly.

“I’m sick and feverish. Poor, poor me. I should be delirious. But I still want you to sing a song. You know which song. That one.”

After the archery competition, the visions they had watched mostly consisted of the Xuanwu. During this time, Wei Wuxian had seen a vision with Jiang Cheng where Lan Wangji sang a song for Wei Wuxian after he lent his lap to the visions unconscious Wei Wuxian. His brother seemed to find this completely unbelievable and did not believe that such a vision would actually come true.

The next time he heard that song was when he himself played in it his new body to summon Wen Ning right after he’d returned. Lan Wangji had immediately realised who he was by hearing it, and Wei Wuxian wondered how his future self didn’t know that.

Later, he found out that the song was composed by Lan Wangji himself and that the only person he’d ever sang it to was Wei Wuxian.

He remembered the song well because it was such a calming melody.

“Which one?” Lan Wangji’s voice came.

“That one.” Wei Wuxian repeated. “The one you made.”

Lan Wangji was perfectly still for a moment.

This made a despondent Wei Wuxian wonder if Jiang Cheng was right. Maybe he wouldn’t sing it. Maybe he didn’t even make it this time. A lot of unwanted thoughts started entering his head and he grew more and more depressed with each one.

Just as he was starting to wonder if he should get up from Lan Wangji’s lap, the latter started humming.

Wei Wuxian blinked and looked up at the other boy’s face.

Lan Wangji’s eyes were closed, but he was indeed humming, Adam's apple bobbing up and down as he did so.

Relief flooded into Wei Wuxian, gathering behind his eyelids. He tried to hold in his tears, but still felt one escape the corner of his eyes as he heard the song. The very same song he wanted to hear.

When the song got over, Wei Wuxian smiled into Lan Wangji’s lap.

“That’s the one.” He said, softly. “What’s the name, by the way?”

Lan Wangji murmured something. His voice was like static in Wei Wuxian’s ear, but he still hummed in response.

“It’s such a pretty song…”

Wei Wuxian was so dizzy now, that even while lying down, he felt like the world was turning. He had only just started drifting away when Lan Wangji’s voice entered his ears once more, this time, clear as day.

“Then you should’ve heard it directly from me first.”

Wei Wuxian fell asleep without saying anything back.

Notes:

WWX: Forget what you saw.
Also WWX: (Proceeds to talk about all that happens in the visions)

That’s the wrap up of the Xuanwu of Slaughter/indoctrination arc!

I was getting some kind of feeling while writing this and couldn’t stop smiling. I’m just so happy to finally be able to write some proper WangXian moments with these two. They keep dancing around each other. No matter how much I want them to get together, they just won’t! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU TWO?

But now we have even more serious matters.

The Sunshot campaign draws near.

Chapter 30

Notes:

Feel free to let me know about any spelling or grammar mistakes. I didn’t have time to look over this one.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

When he woke up again, as Wei Wuxian opened his eyes, what he saw was neither the black ceiling of the underground cave nor Lan Wangji’s pale, handsome face, but rather a wooden board. Drawn on the board was a funny series of kissing heads.

These were the sketches that he drew on his own bed at Lotus Pier.

Wei Wuxian was lying on his own bed. Jiang Yanli was reading a book, her head tilted downward. Seeing that he woke up, her mild brows immediately lifted, laying her book down, “A-Xian!”

“Sister!”

Wei Wuxian then noticed Sisi who was hovering next to her, holding a cup of tea.

“A-Ying, finally awake?” Sisi asked, shooting him a crooked smile. “How goes the fair maiden without the handsome prince?”

“What fair maiden?” Wei Wuxian scowled at her, voice raspy. He sat up just as Sisi gave Jiang Yanli the cup of tea. His limbs stopped burning, but he still felt weak. “What handsome prince?”

Your handsome prince.” Sisi answered.

Wei Wuxian was still shaking off his sleep when a new, deeper voice joined them.

“She means Lan Wangji, you idiot.” Jiang Cheng said, coming into the room with a bowl of soup. “Seriously. Sleeping for three days? You might as well be a fair maiden. What the f*ck did you do to drain your spiritual energy that much?”

Suddenly, the incident of the cave came back to him in flashes of images.

“Oh no.” He breathed. “Where’s Lan Zhan?!”

“He’s back in Gusu. Here—it’s hot.” Jiang Cheng answered, handing him the bowl. “Why would he be here? When we found you two, he was already letting you use his lap as a cushion even though he was tired himself.”

Wei Wuxian accepted the bowl, feeling a pang of disappointment.

Jiang Yanli smiled at them, “He was here for almost two days, resting. We offered him a room so that he could stay longer, but he insisted on going back home.”

“Was he okay?”

“The young master was fine, A-Ying. Calm down. We healed up his leg before sending him. Don’t worry, I made sure to tell him all your good points whenever I brought his meals.” Sisi winked. “You make a good looking couple.”

Wei Wuxian realised that Sisi found out about his unconventional feelings for Lan Wangji, yet she was certainly quite easy-going about it. He wondered if this was because she’d already seen quite a lot in life. Then, his mind wandered somewhere else.

“Wait, if you found out that I… and—Uncle Jiang. Does he know?”

“It’s okay. Only Sisi-jie figured it out.” Jiang Cheng told him. “You always joke around with people and flirt with so many women. Dad didn’t think much about it at all.”

“Didn’t think much of what?” Jiang Fengmian asked as he entered the room.

“Uncle Jiang!” Wei Wuxian grinned, trying to get up.

Jiang Fengmian, “Sitting is fine.”

Jiang Yanli passed a handkerchief for Wei Wuxian to wipe his mouth, “Is it good?”

Wei Wuxian didn’t take the handkerchief. Instead, he pouted his mouth with exaggeration, “Yes!”

Jiang Cheng, “Don’t you have hands yourself?!”

Sisi laughed a belly laugh, unsuiting of her delicate stature, “How spoiled!”

With a smile, Jiang Yanli wiped Wei Wuxian’s mouth and chin.

“What happened? Why did you take so long to arrive?” Wei Wuxian asked. “We were stuck in there for more time than I thought we’d be.”

Jiang Cheng, “It was those damned Wens. When we came back to look for you, they had already kept an ambush ready. We were lucky that Huaisang was there. He used his fan to block all the arrows and sent them flying back. But now, his sect is also a target of the Wens.”

“Damn it.” Wei Wuxian ground. “Hopefully they don’t attack the Nie sect. We haven’t sent any bells their way. I should have.”

“You’ve done as much as you can, A-Ying.” Jiang Fengmian smiled. “You as well, A-Cheng. Good work, to both of you.”

The two brothers smiled.

“At least we still have our swords.” Jiang Cheng grinned at Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian returned the grin, “What did I tell you?”

“And what did I tell you ?” Madam Yu’s voice came, accusingly.

She swept into the room like a purple tornado, stomach now large, rounded and probably heavy, seeing as she cradled it with one hand.

“Ziyuan, what are you doing here?” Jiang Fengmian got up. “You should be taking rest.”

“I’m pregnant, Fengmian. Not invalid. I’ve borne two children before, why are you so frightened now?” She scowled at him.

“Mom!” Jiang Cheng smiled.

“Madam Yu.” Wei Wuxian greeted.

Yu Ziyuan didn’t look up to returning any greetings. She only frowned at both of them.

“Everything I said happened, didn’t it? The Wen Sect treated you like live stock just as I thought they would. You two are constantly worrying me! Yet you keep doing whatever you want… I know that you three are planning something without my knowledge. I’m not stupid.”

The three men stiffened, but relaxed as soon as Madam Yu continued speaking.

“If you aren’t telling me then I won’t ask, but I hope you know I’m not weak just because I’m with child.”

“We never thought so.” Jiang Fengmian smiled at her.

He went to her side and put an arm around her shoulder, gently guiding her to turn around towards the door. Yu Ziyuan looked up at him disapprovingly.

“I’m stronger than you.” She said defiantly, as they began to walk out of the room.

Jiang Fengmian nodded indulgently, as he replied, “I know.”

“You should know. Since you won’t spar with me now, after I deliver we should definitely…”

After they left, Wei Wuxian turned to look at his brother.

“Speaking of which, Jiang Cheng,” He said, giving a nervous smile. Jiang Cheng raised his eyebrow at his brother.

Wei Wuxian cleared his throat, “So… something happened while I was in the cave…”

“Xichen,” Nie Mingjue’s deep voice came.

“Mingjue-xiong,” Lan Xichen returned with a bright smile.

Nie Mingjue then turned to look at the new figure. The man was older, but still retained so much of his youth, indicating his high level of cultivation. He had soft features and slightly drooping eyes. The resemblance between the two men was so startling that he might’ve been mistaken for Lan Xichen’s older brother.

“Sect Leader Lan,” Nie Minjue greeted, swiftly concluding his identity. “It’s an honour to finally meet you.”

“Nie Mingjue.” Lan Qiqiu smiled. “You have grown so much. You are the spitting image of your father.”

Nie Mingjue smiled a rare smile, “Thank you. I hope you made it here safely?”

“We did.” Lan Xichen answered, amicably. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

Mingjue nodded and then gestured inside, “I’ve asked my people to prepare rooms for you—”

“Sect leader, Sect leader!” Someone that was obviously a junior disciple came running.

“What’s this racket about?” Nie Mingjue asked, irritably. “Show some decorum!”

“But sect leader!” The disciple panted. “Someone’s at the gates. He-He has the Nie sect seal…”

“What?” Nie Mingjue asked, brows furrowed.

This was because, currently, the Nie sect seal was only allowed to be in the hands of two people. Nie Mingjue and Nie Huaisang. Before, if seals were given to people, that meant they were to be treated as honoured guests in the sect. Nie Mingjue knew that he had definitely not given a seal to anyone.

“Who is this person?” Nie Mingjue asked.

The disciple gulped, “H-His name is Meng Yao, sir. He had worked as a servant here more than a year ago. He is famous around the sects.”

Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue both blinked again this. Lan Xichen knew almost everything about Meng Yao, but not that he was famous. That was completely new. When they had separated at the gates, Lan Xichen had tried to convince Meng Yao to come with them, but he had insisted not to go with them.

He wondered if the reason he refused to come along had something to do with. A nagging feeling in the back of his head told him that yes, it probably was.

“Famous? For what?” Nie Mingjue asked, because of course, he never took part in petty gossip. He was a straightforward man than took new as it came but would never slander another with hushed conversations.

Lan Xichen listened closely, also wanting to know the reason.

The disciple gulped, “H-He was ordered to be kicked down the stairs of Koi tower by Jin Guangshan three years ago. The story spread everywhere that after he had been kicked down, he simply got up, wiped the blood from his forehead and collected all his belongings before leaving. Not a single word more, and no expression.”

“Kicked down? By Jin Guangshan? Why?”

Lan Xichen and Lan Qiqiu felt injustice on Meng Yao’s behalf. They knew the rest. They knew why he was kicked down, and both schooled their faces as the disciple answered Nie Mingjue.

“Because—because that day was Jin Zixuan’s birthday and Meng Yao had apparently come to reveal his identity as Jin Guangshan’s illegitimate son!”

“You what ?” Jiang Cheng shouted, looking right about to choke Wei Wuxian.

Jiang Cheng, he and Jiang Yanli were currently in the room together. His sister was currently covering her mouth with her hand, blinking disbelievingly.

“Didn’t Young Master Lan ask questions?” Jiang Yanli asked.

Wei Wuxian bit his lip, “Well, he did, but I refused to tell him… at first.”

“What. Does. That. Mean?” Jiang Cheng asked, dangerously. “What did you do ?”

Wei Wuxian was downright offended. He put a hand over his heart and with an exaggerated gasp, “I got sick! It’s not my fault I let slip a few things under my fever!”

Jiang Cheng would’ve surely throttled Wei Wuxian had Jiang Yanli not intervened.

“Now, now.” She smiled. “I’m sure Young Master Lan is not the type of person to reveal secrets.”

Wei Wuxian rushed to agree with her, “True, true! He doesn’t even say what he wants to say sometimes! There’s no way he’d spill a secret.”

Jiang Cheng growled at Wei Wuxian, “Youre lucky that for once, that’s true. Else we’d be in trouble. The only person Lan Wangji would talk to about this would be his brother. Since Lan Xichen is on the run, we can relax.”

Jiang Yanli seemed to care little about that matter however.

“A-Xian… what was the vision you saw about?” She asked.

Wei Wuxian sobered. Thinking back on the vision now, it was rather painful.

“I… think I just died in that vision.” Wei Wuxian explained. “Lan Zhan was injured very badly on his back. It looked like he gotten over two dozen strikes from a discipline whip.”

Jiang Cheng, “Two dozen ?”

Jiang Yanli looked pained just many listening to that number. This was natural because they all knew how harsh the discipline whip was even without having been subject to it.

Wei Wuxian nodded at his brother.

Jiang Yanli, “What happened next?”

So Wei Wuxian told them everything that he’d heard from the vision. From Lan Xichen coming in, till the very moment it ended. Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng listened to everything seriously.

“Oh no…” Jiang Yanli said, voice filled with sympathy, once he’d finished retailing the entire vision. “He was grieving.”

Wei Wuxian looked at her in surprise, “Grieving?”

“Couldn’t you make out, A-Xian?” Jiang Yanli’s voice trembled. “He started crying immediately at your mention. Lan Xichen expressed sympathies to him at your death. Certainly… I cannot think of any other reason than the fact that he was grieving for you.”

“Neither can I.” Jiang Cheng agreed. “Isn’t that good for you, Wei Ying?”

Wei Wuxian, “Good? Why?”

Jiang Cheng, “Of course, because this means that he is not just attracted to that stupid other body of yours.”

Jiang Yanli smiled then, “Yes. This means that he had fallen in love with you before you died. Oh, that is romantic. His feelings for you surpassed a decade!”

Wei Wuxian went red listening to this. Inexorably, hope began to bloom in him.

“You think so?” He asked, fighting the urge to grin. “Do you think he’s already in love with me?”

Jiang Yanli smiled, eyes twinkling, “I think he must be. From what I’ve heard, Young Master Lan hates physical contact, yet, he willingly allowed you to lay your head in his lap. That already speaks volumes.”

Wei Wuxian felt light headed, “You’re right, you’re right! He avoided me all the time before, but while we were in the cave, he listened to all of my unreasonable requests!”

“So you agree that they were unreasonable.” Jiang Cheng said, sardonically.

Wei Wuxian didn’t pay any attention to him. He felt energetic all of a sudden; like he could run a lap around the training ground and still not feel tired. Yet he knew that wasn’t possible of him physically, so he made up for it with his loud voice.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan! How shy of him!” He laughed, merrily. “I’ll probably have to actually wait a decade if I wait for him to express his feelings! I should do it first, shouldn’t I?”

“Hold up there, fair maiden.” Jiang Cheng interrupted, like a damp spot on an otherwise warm blanket. “Lan Wangji is so repressed he may as well be a zen monk. You might want to wait a while till he’s ready to be your prince.”

Wei Wuxian scowled at his brother, “Who are you calling a fair maiden? Come over here, you bastard!”

Jiang Cheng immediately jumped behind his sister. “Why? So you can thank me? Don’t worry about that. You can kowtow right over there. Oh right, you can’t. No wonder your spiritual energy drained so much. Using the token, I’m not surprised.”

Wei Wuxian huffed and turned away from his brother and Jiang Yanli laughed.

Just then, Jiang Cheng jumped a little.

He looked towards his wrist and Wei Wuxian looked towards him. The Jiang Sect heir then grinned and looked to his brother. He held up his forearm.

There, on the wrist guard, in elegant calligraphy, a few words were written.

‘Meng Yao has come to Qinghe.’

Nie Huaisang looked at the wrist guard on his left arm. He wasn’t the type to wear wrist guards, but Jiang Cheng had given this to him before he’d left for Qinghe. They were in the colours of the Nie Sect and didn’t at all look out of place on him, even though he wore just one. They were Wei Wuxian’s most recent inventions.

‘Contact guards’, he called them, apparently.

Just as Nie Huaisang’s was beginning to wonder if they worked, an answer came back to him.

‘Message received. Do what you have to.’

Nie Huaisang smiled.

He hid the contact guard under his robe and walked out of his room.

He had a guest he needed to reacquaint himself with.

When Nie Mingjue saw his younger brother approaching their group, the last thing he expected was for him to give a large smile and directly address the individual that had just been escorted inside.

“Yao-xiong!” Nie Huaisang exclaimed, coming to a halt in front of the shorter man.

Meng Yao gave a smile, “Second Young Master Nie. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

Nie Huaisang snapped his fan open and modestly replied, “Same here, of course. I’m glad you decided to come. Though you are a over a year late.”

Meng Yao dug into his robes and pulled out the Nie sect seal that Huaisang had given him long ago. He presented it in front of the young master.

“My apologies for being this late. I did as you asked and showed the seal when I arrived.”

“Ah, keep it, keep it.” Huaisang said, fanning himself. “I gave it you anyway.”

They would’ve talked more. Meng Yao would’ve asked about the other two young masters and Nie Huaisang would’ve asked him how he’d been faring, but a voice interrupted them.

“Huaisang,” Nie Mingjue called. “What’s the meaning of this?”

“Ah…” Nie Huaisang turned to his brother nervously. “Brother. Let me introduce you; this is Meng Yao from Yunmeng.”

“Yunmeng? Did you meet him when you went to train with the Jiang Sect?” NieMingjue asked, with knitted brows.

“Essentially, yes.” Nie Huaisang nodded. “So, I sort of… promised to take him under the wing of the Nie Sect.”

Nie Mingjue’s face twisted, “You what.”

Nie Huaisang immediately dashed to hide behind Meng Yao, though he was taller than him.

“Do you think hiding behind him will fix anything? Come here and explain yourself!”

“Now, now, Mingjue-xiong.” Lan Xichen soothed. “Perhaps you should listen to what Huaisang wants to say, first?”

Meng Yao stayed still during the entire exchange. He did not let down his pokerface even as Nie Mingjue’s tall frame cast a shadow over him. Thankfully, he seemed to calm down with Lan Xichen’s words.

“Yes, brother. I have a good reason!” Nie Huaisang said, peeking from behind Meng Yao’s shoulder.

To properly hide himself, he had to bend his knees, and it made for quite a funny sight.

Nie Mingjue, “Let’s hear it then.”

“Brother, Meng Yao is a once in three lifetimes type of rare genius.” Nie Huaisang explained.

Lan Xichen and even Meng Yao were surprised at this. Because, how on earth did he know that enough to say it so confidently.

“Don’t be fooled by his background, he is very educated. His mother had sent him to school and taught him as much as she could. He even knows how to play the guqin very well. It wouldn’t take him even half a year to be more skilled than most of our cultivators.” Nie Huaisang explained. “This is because he can memorise anything by just looking at it once. Also, he is craftier than you think.”

Meng Yao couldn’t keep quiet anymore, “How do you know this?”

As Nie Huaisang had explained everything so confidently, they had assumed that he knew Meng Yao well enough that the older male had divulged this information willingly. Finding out that this wasn’t the case, they all looked at Nie Huaisang inquiringly.

“Ah.” Nie Huaisang said, as if just realising. Then he smiled sheepishly. “Well, actually, Sisi-jie told me.”

“Sisi-jie?” Meng Yao asked, as his brain shot back to the woman in the brothel. His mother’s friend.

“Yes. After you left Yunmeng, the Jiang Sect took her in as a handmaiden for their young mistress.” Nie Huaisang told him.

Hearing this, Meng Yao deemed it made sense.

He did not know that Nie Huaisang was lying through his teeth with every word he uttered about his uncanny knowledge. None of them knew that Huaisang had knowledge that would be part of a much larger scheme in the events that would follow.

Nie Mingjue, however, knew his brother. He wouldn’t pick up a would be talent just due to this. He wouldn’t even pick up his saber until he was forced to.

“Is that it? Huaisang, what are you not telling us?”

Nie Huaisang’s face immediately dropped its carefree expression. He sobered up as he debated on the words he should speak. Eventually, he decided.

“When we were on Dusk-Creek mountain, the entirety of us disciples had gone against Wen Chao. Just because he hadn’t placed rank in the archery competition, he had come up with a scheme to put us in danger. Just after we’d escaped, he had laid a siege for us. What do you think will happen now that we are all unscathed?”

Nie Huaisang stepped out from behind Meng Yao and faced his brother who stared down at him in wonder.

“Meng Yao will be needed, brother.” He said. “We have to get ready for war against the Wen Sect.”

Notes:

So, within one more chapter, the attack on Lotus Pier will happen. I hope y’all ready because I ain’t.
Also, CHECK OUT WHAT I MADE HERE

I think y’all will like it :)
....hopefully 😭

Anyways, see y’all next chapter!

Chapter 31

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Read this,” Nie Huaisang said, tossing a book to Meng Yao from the Nie Sect’s library.

Meng Yao watched as the Nie Sect’s young master browsed the shelves as fast as he could and pulled out a few more texts and scrolls.

He tossed those as well, “And these. And these as well.”

“Young master…?”

Nie Huaisang did not look at him as he continued browsing, “We don’t have a collection as extensive as Gusu’s, but these are the fighting techniques of every major sect. You need to read all of these as fast as possible and soak up every single technique. Especially that of the Wens.”

“Here, take this too. Chord assassination. It’s a technique developed by the third leader of the Lan Sect. You will take quite finely to this method of battle, I think.” Nie Huaisang said, passing over another scroll.

Finally, he pulled out a few more books and held them in his own arms, noticing that Meng Yao’s were full.

“We will also begin with cultivational studies for you. You lacked proper education for it before, but within a few months or so, I think we can fix that up. Still, it’s a race against time.”

Meng Yao was absolutely flabbergasted, but his face only showed some loss.

“Why all of this, Young Master?”

“Please call me Huaisang.” Nie Huaisang said, feeling uncomfortable at the formality. “To be honest, there’s a lot of things going on right now. I can’t hope to explain it all, so you’ll just have to trust me.”

Meng Yao pursed his lips, but nodded in acquiescence.

Nie Huaisang smiled, “How much time do you need for this?”

Meng Yao looked at all the books and scrolls in his arms, then back at the Nie disciple, “I’ll memorise it in two days.”

“Excellent.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Jiang Cheng asked, as they looked at the token.

Wei Wuxian himself wasn’t sure if he wanted to do it. He was sure to be promised an unpleasant sight if he did, yet, he nodded anyway.

“I need to.” Wei Wuxian answered.

Jiang Yanli was also with them. They didn’t want to show her the vision, and so, the only thing she could do was watch as her brothers decided to watch the distasteful vision.

“Fine, then. Let’s do this.” Jiang Cheng said, sounding more ready than Wei Wuxian would ever be,

Wei Wuxian held the token in between his fingers and Jiang Cheng automatically reached out.

Jiang Yanli watched anxiously as her brothers were engulfed in the golden light.

“Do you repent?”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng watched as a small crowd gathered in the courtyard, looking on a Lan Qiren and Lan Xichen stood in the middle.

Wei Wuxian’s breath speed up and his throat close as he recognised the man kneeling in front of them, bare from the waist up, and face indifferent. Only then, did Wei Wuxian also realise that the rest of the crowd present was made of the GusuLan elders.

“Do you repent?” Lan Qiren repeated. His face was pale and drawn.

Lan Xichen made a pained face. He didn’t want to be present here at all. He didn’t want this to happen at all. He only made a silent prayer, closing his eyes.

Lan Wangji kept his head lowered, answering, “No.”

Lan Qiren inhaled sharply, then, after grinding his teeth for a moment, nodded. “Very well then. Let the punishment commence!”

Three GusuLan disciples walked over. One who held the heavy body of the discipline whip, and two who stood next to him to hold up Lan Wangji when he couldn’t hold himself up any longer.

“You, Lan Wangji of the GusuLan sect, has committed the grave sin of protecting the notorious demonic cultivator, Wei Wuxian, who had murdered countless, and for wounding thirty three of your own clans elders in the process. For this, you shall be punished! One strike for each wounded elder.”

Lan Wangji straightened his fair skinned back, still unscarred and beautiful. Then, Lan Qiren raised his arm. The disciple raised the whip in response.

“Strike!” He commanded, bringing his arm down.

The cracking sound resonated around them as the first strike cut into Lan Wangji’s skin. One was enough to open up his flesh very significantly. Lan Xichen turned his head away while Lan Qiren continued to watch, pale faced.

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened in horror as Lan Wangji kept his back straight even after the first five strikes. The Lan disciple was very clearly incapable of bearing it. His face was twisted in pain. A look Wei Wuxian never thought a man like Lan Wangji could make. It was the most expressive he’d ever seen.

“Stop…” Wei Wuxian‘s head started throbbing and his vision became blurry as he watched the second jade finally break his stance. He began slumping.

The two disciples came to hold him up and Lan Wangji fell forward after the tenth strike. He was losing consciousness, Wei Wuxian realised with dread. He was losing consciousness, and his clan was still punishing him.

Stop.” Wei Wuxian pleaded again, to the images of people who couldn’t hear him.

Jiang Cheng looked at his brother in deep sympathy, wondering if he should do something, but not knowing what.

Lan Wangji’s back was now fully covered in blood. Not a single sliver of his snow white skin was visible any longer. It was a completely red canvas. Yet, they continued striking him. Even while his composure was broken. Even while his consciousness was leaving him. Even though he could die from that much blood loss.

They didn’t stop.

“STOP!”

The vision faded.

Back in their room, Jiang Yanli was startled as the golden light suddenly faded, and her brothers returned to their world.

What alarmed her most was her brothers face. He looked soulless.

“A-Xian! What happened?” She asked, looking at Jiang Cheng.

Her brother gave her a tight look, “Sister… the strikes on Lan Wangji’s back… It was—”

He looked towards his older brother, uncertainly.

Wei Wuxian continued it for him instead of berating him, however.

“The strikes on his back were for me. Because of me.” Wei Wuxian said, and his siblings couldn't make out if he was telling this to them or himself. “I wonder if I did something good in that world.”

Jiang Yanli took her brother's hand, “You did.”

Wei Wuxian looked at her, pale-faced. Jiang Yanli’s slender fingers squeezed his hand.

“You went back to him, after all those years. And then, you went back to A-Cheng. You saved them from their mourning.”

Wei Wuxian saw Jiang Cheng looking away at this. He probably didn’t know how to give any comforting words. Wei Wuxian didn’t hold this against him.

“...I was the one who started it.” Wei Wuxian protested, weakly.

“And so what?” Jiang Yanli asked, kindly. “At the very least, you were still my brother there. And the fact that you were there is already a good thing. Your smile has always saved me and I’ve no doubt it’s the same in every universe.”

“Sister…”

“You saved A-Ling’s life.” The stiff voice of Jiang Cheng came. His siblings looked up at him. “Remember? He was cursed and you took it? You talked about it with me in some vision.”

Wei Wuxian did remember. Vaguely. It was a small vision that they’d seen long ago where he and Jiang Cheng had been discussing past events while drinking. Lan Wangji was nowhere to be seen, but he definitely wasn’t far from what they could make out.

“There,” Jiang Yanli grinned. “You saved my son’s life. Is this enough yet? Is it not? And if not, why does it matter? You are here. We need you here now .”

Wei Wuxian smiled.

In a week’s time, Meng Yao had read half of the library, and then gotten dizzy enough to have to sit down and clutch at his head with one hand. Nie Huaisang decided that it would be okay if he took a break for now.

Due to the fact that Meng Yao was Nie Huaisang’s personal guest, he had received a lot of special treatment. He’d been given a room for himself, and though it was said to be a spare room, it was an absolute luxury to Meng Yao who’d never known much finery in his entire life. The cooks in the kitchen also favoured him, slipping him a snack every now and then since he never felt comfortable eating with others.

He in fact, had a snack with him right now. The old maid had wrapped some rice crackers and passed it to him while he was walking through the corridors. He graciously thanked her while accepting it and continued on his way to search for a solitary place to eat.

The back garden was always the best place to bask in solitude.

Just as he was passing a group on Nie Sect disciples, his shoulder caught on one of them and he was sent falling backwards with the force of a bigger body.

His lower back made a painful impact at falling, but Meng Yao simply got up, dusted his back and gave a dignified bow, ignoring the throb on his rear side.

“I apologise for being in the way.” He muttered.

The men looked at him in disgust.

“Don’t stand in the way, then.” The disciple he bumped into spat. “For goodness sake, who do you think you are?”

The other disciple looked confused, “Who is he?”

“What, you don’t know? He’s Meng Yao. He used to work here as a servant, even though he’s Jin Guangshan’s son.”

“Jin Guangshan’s!” The second disciple exclaimed in awe and then looked at Meng Yao warily. “Why are you here if you’re Jin Guangshan’s son, young master?”

The first disciple laughed maliciously, “He’s no young master. His mother is the lowest of the low—you couldn’t imagine and I can’t bear to say either! He’s here because our young master took a shine to him. Can’t imagine why. You think you’re so special now, don’t you?”

Meng Yao who had listened to everything with gritted teeth, simply smiled genially.

“I would never think of such a thing. I am a mere servant.”

The disciple smirked, “Hah! That’s right. You’re a servant! So act like a servant. Strutting around the Unclean Realm like you own it now—it’s disgusting…”

“What’s going on here?” A voice interrupted, deep and strict.

Meng Yao felt the burning resentment in his heart get doused by a cool breeze as he saw Lan Qiqiu approaching them.

The disciples in front of Meng Yao straightened up, “Sect Leader Lan! Good morning!”

“Not so good, I see. I hope everything is fine here?” Lan Qiqiu asked, one eyebrow delicately raised.

“Yes, sir. Nothing wrong.” The second disciple spoke. He gave a significant look to his companion. “We were just leaving , weren’t we?”

“Huh? Oh, yes. Yes, we were! It’s a busy morning for practice, so we should take our leave. Have a good day, Master Lan.”

“Good day to you as well.” Lan Qiqiu returned as the two disciples scampered away.

Meng Yao watched as the disciple who was sneering at him not too long ago now just ran away at first sight of an authoritative figure. Meng Yao knew that if he wasn’t so well acquainted with Lan Qiqiu, he would be expected to do the same.

“You must not take what they said personally.” Qingheng-jun told him.

Meng Yao nodded, smiling, “I won’t.”

“Yet you lie to me.”

“What are you talking about?”

Lan Qiqiu chuckled, “The one thing you should know about me is that I’m very good at seeing through acts. I saw through my wife’s cold hearted act dozens of times, and my brother’s uncaring attitude even more so. My second son is also not very expressive. I’m quite a veteran.”

Meng Yao’s smile immediately slipped, “Then… you always knew when I was faking a smile?”

“Of course.”

They stood still and silent for a moment. Then, Meng Yao looked away, irritated.

“Why shouldn’t I take it personally? They were getting personal.” He ground out.

“They are boys. Not much older than you. Still quite young and haven’t seen as much life as you. Chances are, they will realise how wrong they were to judge you later.. One was jealous of you and the other simply didn’t want to speak against his friend.” Lan Qiqiu smiled and patted Meng Yao’s back.

“What if they don’t?”

Lan Qiqiu thought for a moment, then, “Were you going to the garden? You usually do, don’t you? Why don’t we both take a seat and talk? Perhaps eat those crackers you have with you.”

Meng Yao had no idea how he knew about the crackers, and frankly, he didn’t want to ask. He simply nodded and followed Qingheng-jun into the garden.

“You know, a lot of men, in their lifetime, don’t tend to understand many wrongs that they’ve committed. Sometimes, we have to accept it and be the better man.” The older man said as they sat down on a stone bench.

“And then what? Let people step all over you?”

“Good men attract good people.” Lan Qiqiu states, wisely.

“How ridiculous.” Meng Yao blurted, then, horrified, he apologised. “Please ignore that. I’m sorry for my impudence.”

“You’re only impudent with me.”

Meng Yao gave a guilty look, “I don’t know why.”

Indeed, he didn’t. He could keep up an amicable facade with anybody. He could bear anything. He didn’t want people to have a reason to point fingers at him or call him a prostitutes son anymore. And yet, when he spoke to Lan Qiqiu, he never bothered with it. Unconsciously, he would become irritable and speak whatever he thought. Most of the time, he surprised himself with that.

Meng Yao told him so.

Lan Qiqiu looked at him strangely, as if seeing him for the first time, and gave a small smile, somewhat disbelieving. “You feel I won’t ever think badly of you so you speak what you want… I’m honoured to have that sort of trust. I hope you always feel you can trust me.”

Meng Yao flushed and looked at the ground.

He hoped so too.


Wei Wuxian checked the contact guard one last time. He put his finger on top of the stone he’d placed on top of it. The stone was so polished that it looked like a decoration on the wrist guard.

“Can you hear me?” He asked, channelling his spiritual energy.

A moment, then, “Yeah,” Jiang Cheng’s voice came.

Wei Wuxian grinned at his invention, “It works!”

“Did you expect a different outcome?” Jiang Cheng’s voice came again.

To be honest, he didn’t expect to complete it this fast at the very least. After four failures, he was starting to lose hope a little. Finally, finally , the contact guard was working like he wanted it to.

“We have only two stones.” Jiang Cheng said. This time his voice was not as resonant.

Wei Wuxian looked up and saw him walk into the room, placing a hand on his hip.

“We need to make one more for Huaisang.”

“I know, I know. I’ll get on it tonight.” Wei Wuxian grinned. “Why don’t we go out? I’m sick of staying inside.”

Jiang Cheng immediately relented. He was tired of that as well. They’ve been stuck inside for a week since they started on this little trick. And before that, they were double checking the escape routes. And with the youngest Jiang sibling on the way, things had been terribly busy.

“The other disciples are shooting kites. Want to go join them?” Jiang Cheng asked.

Wei Wuxian was out of the door before his brother could finish the question and almost immediately heard a loud ‘ HEY’ coming from behind him. He laughed as he ran, seeing Jiang Cheng quickly catching up to him.

They laughed all the way to the training ground.

“Cheater.” The younger grumbled.

Wei Wuxian tutted, “All’s fair when trying to win.”

“No it isn’t.

They were arguing as they walked towards the lake, but stopped when they started hearing sounds.

Wei Wuxian shushed Jiang Cheng and they both listened closer.

The sounds grew louder, more wide spread. It was clanking, clattering, ringing. They were the sound of bells. The sound of a bunch of very familiar bells.

The alarm bells.

“Dashixiong!” Wei Wuxian saw the disciple rushing towards them, looking scared out of his wits. “There’s, there’s—”

They didn’t need an explanation. The two brother looked at each other, pale faced,

“Aren’t they here too early!?” Jiang Cheng asked, his throat closing up.

“We’ve changed the future too much,” Wei Wuxian realised, in numb terror. “There’s no way everything should be exactly the same as we saw it a year ago.”

His shidis all looked at him and Wei Wuxian could suddenly make out how young and scared they looked. Even Jiang Cheng. It was all fine when they were planning everything step by step, but suddenly being thrown into this situation—it seemed no matter how much they prepared, it wouldn’t be enough.

“All of you, go to the town quickly!” Wei Wuxian ordered his shidis. “Make sure all the locals are managing fine with the escape routes and escape along with them! They will lead you right to Yiling. From there, make your way to Yueyang. Your shixiongs will take care of everything here.”

The disciples nodded and rushed towards the town.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian ran back inside their home and grabbed their sword before darting throughout the house.

“Everyone evacuate!” Jiang Cheng shouted as he ran through the hallways of Lotus Pier. “Follow the routes that we’ve taught you!”

Wei Wuxian realised something was wrong however when he saw his sister and Sisi standing right outside the Jiang couples’ room.

“A-Xian, A-Cheng!” Jiang Yanli shouted. This was strange because she never shouted. “A-Cheng, A-Xian what do we do?”

“Why?” Wei Wuxian asked, dread overcoming him.

Jiang Cheng, “What happened?”

Sisi spoke before their sister could. Her voice was shaking and her face was beaded with sweat. She has never looked so at loss before.

“The Madam… her water broke.”

Notes:

Okay, so it’s been SO long by my standards. I really wanted to post earlier but this is how it ended up. Anyway, as usual, I’ll leave it to you guys to find my mistakes because I couldn’t proofread 😭

I hope y’all enjoyed it!

Also, there is now a Spanish and Italian translation being done by the lovely Luna_tica4 AND Ili91

LINKS ARE IN THE SUMMARY!

Also check out this fanart by RYMF that is depicting NIe Huaisang’s fan EXACTLY as I imagined it, as well as Suibian on fire and the Prophetic Token HERE

Everything has happened so suddenly and I’m psyched you guyyyysss!

Sooo much is happening in the next chapter lol.

Also, there are some fins I really like and not many people read them, so I think I’ll start recommending stuff.
Here’s the first fic y’all gotta check out Even Lovers Drown

Chapter 32

Notes:

DO NOT IGNORE-

TRIGGER WARNING: Attempted rape. Lots of blood. Is labour a trigger? Because there’s some birth giving. Oh, and death (nobody we care about).

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“The baby is coming?” Wei Wuxian croaked.

Jiang Cheng was speechless. His face was completely drawn and his eyes were unfocused. All the blood had drained from his cheeks and his skin took an ominous greyish tinge.

The situation made them all look much the same.

“What do we do?” Jiang Cheng asked. “Mom… mom…. she has to leave. She has to go. Dad!”

Jiang Cheng broke into his parents room. This gave a clear view of the couple inside.

Jiang Fengmian was picking up Yu Ziyuan who was clutching at her abdomen. Her face was scrunched up and pained. Sweat was rolling down her forehead and she was breathing heavily.

“She’s having contractions.” Sisi said, pulling aside the boys. “Master, Madam. You have to leave.”

“What about the child?” Jiang Fengmian asked.

“Is this your first time witnessing birth?” Sisi scolded, eyes flashing. “She won’t go into labour right now, but soon! We have to get out of here before that. How long has it been since it happened?”

Madam Yu strained, “It’s been a while… I don’t think I can leave. The child has started dropping…” She dissolved into a series of pained groans.

“Madam…” Sisi swallowed and pulled herself together, coming to a decision. “Okay… I will deliver the baby.”

“What?!” Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian shouted. Jiang Cheng was beyond panicked. “The Wens are right outside.”

“And most of them will have been electrocuted!” Sisi responded and Jiang Fengmian helped her put Madam Yu back on the bed. “You three!”

She pointed her fingers at the three men in the room, “Go out and fight! A-Li and I will deliver this child as quickly as possible.”

“But—”

“A-Cheng.” Sisi interrupted, and held the boy by his shoulders. “You are the future Sect Leader. I will do my best over here, so you have to do your best there.”

Then, she looked at Wei Wuxian and Jiang Fengmian, a smile on her lips and eyes determined, “We have to escape together.”

Wei Wuxian felt a smile tugging his lips despite everything, “The bells will have done half the work for us. All we have to deal with is the core melting hand and whoever else survived the shock.”

Jiang Cheng relaxed, “You’re right.”

Jiang Fengmian nodded at his sons and turned around. He spoke, clearly addressing Sisi, “I leave my child and wife in your hands. We’ll be back soon.”

Sisi smiled as she watched the Sect leader and his boys leave, “I know you will…”

TRIGGER WARNING: Labour scene

More groans came from Madam Yu. Sisi schooled her face, determined to have them all come out alive from this ordeal. She closed the door and latched it.

“A-Li. You have trained in channelling spiritual energy, right?”

Jiang Yanli was startled. Her face was pale and stressed, “Yes, but I don’t know if I—”

“You need to be.” Sisi cut in. She undressed Madam Yu’s lower half and brought chairs to support her feet. “Madam, please spread your legs, I need to see how far along you are.”

Yu Ziyuan was heaving breathlessly, but did as she was told. Sisi bent down in between her legs to observe the level of dilation, but clicked her tongue in impatience.

“We need to induce the birth after all.” She stated, pursing her lips. “A-Li, you need to put your hands over her stomach and push your spiritual energy into her in small, sharp bouts. Focus around the area of the uterus. Can you do it?”

Sisi asked her this as if giving her a choice, but Jiang Yanli knew better. She had to do this, no matter what. She looked at her mother whose normally composed face was twisted in pain, brows knitted and teeth bared and she grit them from pain. Sweat was rolling off her forehead and face and with how much all of them were sweating, you’d think they’d all ran a mile.

“I think–No, I will.” Jiang Yanli said, more firmly than she felt herself to be.

She set to work immediately. Even with the uncertainty of it all and the weight of unborn sibling’s and Mother’s life on her shoulders, Jiang Yanli steadied her breathing as much as she could, reeled in her tears and began channelling her energy.

“With this we’ll be able to increase the contractions and dilate her cervix a bit more.” Sisi said and looked around the room, spotting a bathtub of water behind a screen.

It had probably been prepared by the maids before they evacuated for the Madam. Sisi felt a strange hostility towards them for not being here when it was needed, but shook it off. There was no way they could’ve known that their Madam would go into labour today. They only did as they were told and evacuated at the first sound of the bells.

Sisi collected the water from the bathtub inside a basin and added some colder water in it to make it lukewarm.

“Have you done this before, Sisi-Jie?” Jiang Yanli asked, attempting to calm herself down.

“I’ve delivered a few children of my colleagues’ before, including my friend’s, but Meng Shi was the only one who actually grew hers and didn’t abandon him.” Sisi explained. Talking about this was calming her little as well. It was a well needed conversation that gave some sense normalcy towards the absurdly dangerous situation they were currently in.

Jiang Yanli, “Where is he now?”

“Who knows? I last saw him for a short while almost two years ago, right before I came here. I hope he’s well, at the very least. He’s a good, smart kid. Always very secretive, but never arrogant. Humble.”

Jiang Yanli smiled with a small huff, and panted softly. Using her spiritual energy this much was taking its toll on her. She wishes she’d trained more now, but focused on the conversation. A diversion. She could not become weak at such a crucial time.

“He sounds nice. I’d like to meet him.”

“...Me too.” Sisi replied, lips tugging at the corner.

Just then, Madam Yu’s voice came in cutting, strangled cries. The two women jumped.

“It’s started.” Sisi exhaled and rushed towards the labouring woman. “Come on, Madam. Breathe and push! Let’s deliver this baby!”

TRIGGER END

A signal had been sent up into the sky not long before they’d left the master bedroom. The smoke in the sky was still dispersing it’s evident presence.

Jiang Fengmian strode right into the fray, cutting down the few men who had managed to get up after suffering the burns. He was furious and he was overcome with worry for his wife and unborn child. He wanted to be beside them as soon as possible.

The boys on either side of him also swung their swords at whoever managed to still come at them. Thankfully, Wei Wuxian’s alarm bells really had done half the work for them. Yet, the other half unfortunately, was the core melting hand all by himself who was still standing despite everything.

Wang Lingjiao was next to him, slightly burnt but not as much as the rest.

Wen Chao looked like he had just arrived. A small army of men was by his side.

“I knew it!” Wen Chao exclaimed, looking enraged. “You were planning to overthrow the Wen Sect!”

Wei Wuxian indignantly shouted back, face bitter, “Overthrow? We weren’t going to do anything! You came here of your own volition without warning! Our security measures are for the protection of Lotus Pier. Look around you. Are they dead? They are only unconscious!”

“Wei Wuxian, I have never seen someone as pompous as you.” Wen Chao spat. “Sect Leader Jiang, I order you to strike your ward if you do not want to anger the Wen Sect further.”

“Strike? I want his limbs removed for what he has done to me!” Wang Lingjiao screeched. “He had struck me back in the cave and shown so much disrespect towards me, I cannot bear it!”

Saying this, she flung herself into Wen Chao’s arms. The man caught her and cooed sweetly into her ears to calm her down.

“My poor Jiaojiao. First you hit her and now she was burnt because of you!” Wen Chao accused. “Jiang Fengmian. Strike him. Strike him and remove his hands and legs!”

Jiang Cheng bristled beside Wei Wuxian.

Jiang Fengmian’s face was completely composed and cold as he replied back, “I’m afraid I cannot do that. You have angered our YunmengJiang Sect, young master. Leave now, and we will spare you.”

“Leave?” Wen Chao laughed, jeeringly. “Jiang Fengmian are you already going senile? The Wen Sect? Retreat? We will not leave.”

“Then we will fight.” Jiang Fengmian said, unsheathing his sword.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng did the same.

There was a moment of silence from each side. Wen Chao waited for a moment as if expecting them to change their minds. Then, getting impatient, he ordered his men, “Attack these traitors!”

Jiang Fengmian immediately met the swords of the few men who came to fight him.

Zidian crackled on Jiang Cheng’s finger and he transformed it. With the whip in one hand and Sandu in the other, his entire form sizzled with the sparks of lightening. He was a frightening sight to behold and the Wen soldiers hesitated.

Jiang Cheng took advantage of their fear and attacked, impaling one man on his sword and burning him to death while another was whipped down by Zidian.

Wei Wuxian also used Suibian seriously for the first time. The flames poured out of the sword and it was difficult for anyone to even get near him without being burnt. Wei Wuxian spent most of his attention on Jiang Fengmian, shooting fire at anyone who tried to attack him from the back while also protecting himself.

Wen Chao gaped at this display. He had never seen anyone’s swords do these kinds of things before!

“You-You! What kind of sorcery are you performing?! This is an outrage!”

Wei Wuxian laughed internally. Everything was an outrage to Wen Chao. Especially if you refused to submit to him. Even while their surroundings were burning he still wanted to set them on fire.

Seeing that they were fighting a losing battle, Wen Chao grew more irritated. “You think you’re so smart?”

They had been fighting for quite a while. Wen Zhuliu had not moved yet, keeping his master safe. The sky above them was dark, but had red glow to it now because of the fire that was set around them. There was a foreboding of sorts, and Wei Wuxian had a bad feeling.

“We kept plenty of boats nearby in case.” Wen Chao exclaimed, smugly. “You will not escape our wrath, try all you may.”

Wen Chao pulled out a fire signal and waved it in front of them mockingly. Then he set it alight, shooting it upwards. Sparks bounced off the signal as it erupted into the sky, and it was clear to everyone that things would never be the same again.

Wei Wuxian watched as the sun bloomed in a darkened sky.


TRIGGER: Labour scene

Yu Ziyuan panted heavily. Her baby’s head was out already.

“One last push!” Sisi encouraged and it calmed her heart. In her entire life, never had Yu Ziyuan once thought that she would be so thankful for the presence of such a woman nearby her.

She gathered all her bearings and with all her remaining strength, pushed with the help of Jiang Yanli’s hands over her abdomen.

There was a dizzying moment when she felt her innards relax, the pain having dulled and her ears ringing. The world was a blur and she was overcome with a relieving sensation. There were sounds of fussing. Yu Ziyuan vaguely recognised Sisi’s voice.

“Cut the cord here, A-Li.” She said.

She doesn’t know how long she was out of it, but gurgles and the piercing sound of a baby’s cry filled her ears as soon as she could comprehend her surroundings properly.

There was the splash of water for a while and then the rustling of cloth. Her daughter was speaking in hushed tones with her handmaiden.

“Madam, I’m going to remove the rest of the stuff in you.” Sisi said.

Yu Ziyuan kept her legs open as she felt Sisi’s hand inside her, pulling out the rest of the bloody debris her cervix was containing. She was done removing the remaining products of conception in a matter of minutes.

“A boy?” Yu Ziyuan asked, in a whisper. “Or… a girl?”

TRIGGER END

Sisi had most definitely heard her, “Madam, you should rest for a moment, at least. It’s not done to show the baby right after giving birth—”

“Show me.” She commanded. “We are pressed for time… I… want to see my baby.”

There was a pause.

Then there was the shuffling of feet and Sisi was by her side, a baby in her arms, wrapped up in cloth. The child was still crying and it’s face was red, cheeks filled with freshly circulating blood. Yu Ziyuan felt tears gather in the corner of her eyes.

“Congratulations, Madam.” Sisi told her, softly.

Jiang Yanli appeared beside Sisi and placed a hand over her mother’s. She smiled, “Congratulations. It’s a girl.”

“...I knew it.” Madam Yu smiled, reaching out to cup the baby’s tiny face in her hand. It barely covered half her palm. “Welcome to the world, Jiang Zemei.”

Then, the door broke open.

Wei Wuxian ran.

Jiang Cheng and Jiang Fengmian had looked at him one last time before sending him off, facing the oncoming threats.

“Go.” They said.

“Go to My lady. “

“Go to Mom.”

“Go protect them all.”

“We will be right behind you.”

So Wei Wuxian ran.

A few of the Wen dogs had escaped past them and made their way into the residence.

Lotus Pier was burning all around him, and Wei Wuxian ran harder. He navigated his way through the hallways passing the rooms that he had played in during his carefree childhood. And he knew that everything was going to change now. He had known for so long, but he still wasn’t ready.

Wei Wuxian shook away those thoughts and concentrated on looking for the women. He needed to get to those three in time. Sisi was a normal woman and Jiang Yanli’s cultivation wasn’t strong. For Madam Yu to fight was completely out of the question.

He neared the master bedroom, but immediately noticed something out of place. The door was smashed open.

Wei Wuxian’s heart dropped.

He ran right into the room and his eyes widened with the sight that met him.

Madam Yu was holding onto Huayin in one hand, growling. Jiang Yanli was standing behind her, holding a newborn baby and crying, being pushed back by her mother. The baby’s cry was raspy and high pitched with the new use of its voice.

The man in front of them moved towards the two slowly, hands ready to grab wherever he could.

Sisi was on the ground. Her head was bleeding and she was being pinned by some greasy man over her, leering at her now exposed chest. He was choking her with one handand ripping her robes open with the other. She was kicking in vain at him.

Blood was splattered on the floor.

Wei Wuxian felt rage overcoming him and his Suibian caught on fire, red and orange tongues rising to life.

“How DARE you!” He shouted and immediately killed the man on top of Sisi, burning him to a crisp as soon as he stabbed him.

Then he slashed the back of the one who was in front of Madam Yu, and kicked him down.

The Wen soldier made a pained sound as he crashed onto the floor, “Wait!”

“Why should I?” Wei Wuxian asked dangerously, as he pointed a sword at the man’s neck. “What were you thinking of doing to them? What did you think?!”

“N-Nothing. I wasn’t thinking of anything!” The Wen dog whimpered.

“You were going to do the same thing as your friend there!” He jerked his head at the dead man next to Sisi, whose charcoaled skin was now flaking off.

“N-No! No!”

“Liar.” Wei Wuxian spat and impaled the man before he could get another word out.

The Wen dog vomited blood as the sword pierced his chest and once Wei Wuxian pulled it out, he collapsed onto the floor.

He refrained from burning this one due to the fact that his sister and Sisi were watching.

“A-Xian!” Jiang Yanli cried.

“Shijie!” Wei Wuxian turned around and rushed to her side, looking her over from top to bottom. Then he proceeded to do the same to Yu Ziyuan. They were both in fine condition.

He turned to Sisi who was just getting up from the floor while re-robing herself delicately.

“Sisi-jie!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed and went to examine her head. It was still bleeding, but the cut was not as bad as it looked. Yet there were finger marks on her neck that indicated that she’d been deprived from oxygen long enough for it to have been fairly painful.

“Sisi-jie, Sisi-jie…”

“Oh, stop that, now!” Sisi exclaimed, slapping his arm. “Do you think I’m dying?”

“But he was trying to…”

“There are lots of men like that in the world, A-Ying. Many of them were my customers. It’s okay. I’m no fragile flower.” Sisi said, grabbing his shoulders and shaking him. Then, she gave him a toothy grin. “I’m fine.”

“Sisi-jie!” Jiang Yanli sobbed and flew into her arms. “I’m so sorry! You were trying to protect us and look what almost happened to you…”

“Calm down, A-Li. I’m fine!” Sisi laughed. “Look, you’re gonna give your mom a heartache if you keep crying like that. Madam Yu, you just delivered, please don’t move around so much.

“But who’s blood is this?” Wei Wuxian asked, confused at the amount of red coating the floor.

“Mine.” Yu Ziyuan answered, tiredly.

Wei Wuxian was alarmed, “Are you injured?”

“No, you idiot.” Madam Yu huffed. “I just gave birth. That amount of blood normally comes with it. Do I need to explain it to you?”

Wei Wuxian flushed. “Oh.” He said dumbly. “Never mind then.”

Just as he was wondering if Madam Yu should be able to stand like this right after giving birth, she began swaying on her feet. Sisi rushed to catch her.

“Madam!”

“Madam Yu!”

Wei Wuxian helped Sisi balance her. He noticed that the new Jiang baby had started crying again and was being lulled by Jiang Yanli.

“She doesn’t have much strength. We rushed the birth so much, she must be utterly exhausted.” Sisi explained.

“I’ll carry her.” Wei Wuxian said.

“Strap my sword to my hip.” Yu Ziyuan commanded. Noticing that everyone had a protest on their lips, she barked at them. “No cultivator with any self respect would allow someone else to hold their sword. Strap it!”

Reluctantly, Wei Wuxian did as she asked.

They stumbled out of the room, Wei Wuxian carrying Madam Yu on his back and the other two girls behind him. Blessedly, the baby was now quiet in Jiang Yanli’s arms.

Tip toeing through the hallways, everyone was dismayed to see how much of the residence was destroyed. There were sword marks wherever there did not need to be and the doors were broken down everywhere. Clearly, they had been searching for the servants of the house to pass time on, but were frustrated when they didn’t find any.

Wei Wuxian led the group, making sure that every corner was clear before moving forward. Sisi was at the rear to make sure that Jiang Yanli and the baby would be within sight.

Everyone’s hearts beat in simultaneous anxiety. The goal in all of their minds was clear. We must get out alive.

They had finally made it out of the house when Wei Wuxian heard the shrill voice of Wen Chao coming from the direction of the grounds.

Wei Wuxian halted and gestured for the women to be quiet as he observed what was going on from behind a wall. And when did they get so close to the main residence?

He was tempted to see how Jiang Cheng and Jiang Fengmian were holding up, but their commands rang in his head once more. Protect Madam Yu.

He shook his head and turned around, searching for the escape routes. He needed to reach the shrouded route as quickly as possible. From there, they would be easily hidden by the foliage and would be long gone before anyone found them.

Gritting his teeth at the frustration of leaving behind his adopted father and brother, Wei Wuxian marched on.

Soon enough however, they had to hide themselves again. The Wen dogs were littering the entirety of the residence, searching around for any remnants of the Sect. They stayed hidden for a moment behind a shed.

Madam Yu started groaning.

“Madam Yu, what’s wrong?” Wei Wuxian asked, in a hushed volume.

“Water…”

Sisi’s eyes widened in realization, “Of course, she needs water. She’s lost so much fluid, A-Ying.”

“The kitchens are not far from here.” Wei Wuxian said, biting his lip. “I’ll go and get the water as quickly as possible.”

Sisi nodded at him. “I’ll stay here and guard them.”

Wei Wuxian got up and ran towards the direction of the well, leaving Sisi behind with his sister and Madam Yu.

The kitchen really wasn’t that far. They were kept in an open area so that the smell of fermented food would not permeate into the main residence. Who knew it’s position would be so convenient? Wei Wuxian thanked the gods that he could find some boiled water left in the kitchen by the cooks before they evacuated.

He ladled some of it into a waterskin and corked it again.

Making his way back to the women, Wei Wuxian noticed voices, though. He stopped walking and ducked behind some bushes.

“Aren’t you a pretty thing? Will you come back to Qishan with me? I’ll take good care of you.”

Wei Wuxian gagged at the greasy voice, but almost stopped breathing when he heard who spoke next.

“Really? You would?” Sisi’s sultry voice came.

“Yeah, yeah! Come! I’m sure they never treated you right here, anyway…”

Wei Wuxian peeked out from behind some shrubs at what was going on. As he thought, Sisi was there, back against a tree and she smiled coquettishly to the man who was in front of her. He was another Wen Sect soldier and Heavens were they all so horny?

Wei Wuxian drew closer to them soundlessly, looking for an opportunity to attack the soldier. He had no idea what Sisi was doing, but he had plenty of time to ask her later when they were all safe and sound.

He watched in horror as the man leaned down and covered Sisi’s mouth with his own. She kissed him back fervently and reached behind to hold his rear. Wei Wuxian felt nauseous as he saw the Wen Sect soldier grope her thigh and move his hand towards her intimate regions.

Wei Wuxian’s mind was blank. He could never believe that Sisi would betray them. He couldn’t and yet, how could he explain what he was seeing in front of him. She had promised to protect Madam Yu and his sister and the new baby, but she was instead frolicking with a Wen Sect soldier.

All the terrible theories his mind came up with were interrupted by the sound of a pained cry.

Wei Wuxian blinked.

The Wen Sect soldier who was messing around with Sisi a moment ago was now on the ground, clutching at his privates in agony. Sisi’s knee was raised and a smirk was on her lips.

“You think you’d treat me right? I don’t believe any man that looks at me like you do would ever treat me right. The YunmengJiang Sect treats me exactly how I prefer so you can just f*ck off, thank you.” She sneered.

“You… bitch !” The Wen Sect soldier hissed. “I’ll kill you! I’ll—”

Wei Wuxian knocked him out by a sharp hit and the back of his neck with Suibian.

“A-Ying!” Sisi exclaimed, looking surprised and happy to see him. “Thank heavens. Not really sure how much more I could hold on with this piece of trash.”

“What happened?” Wei Wuxian asked.

Sisi clicked her tongue, “After you left, this guy came up searching with a few cronies. I revealed myself only to him and batted my eyelashes—you know, stuff that men like—and it worked like a charm. He just drove away the rest of them and came searching for me. I led him away from the Madam and mistress and well… you know.”

She gestured the unconscious form on the ground and scowled. Then, probably just because she could, she kicked him.

“Thought I was easy, did you?” She spat, though he couldn’t hear it, and stuck her tongue out at him.

Wei Wuxian almost laughed. Of course, this was what he should’ve expected from Sisi. Nothing else. He mentally slapped himself for his temporary lapse in trust.

Being in the situation they were in, Wei Wuxian felt a lot of pressure as he was the one that held the token with him. He was the one who had panned the most to ensure their safety, and he was utterly frightened that it may not work. He shook away those thoughts, trying to focus in the situation at hand.

Wei Wuxian, “Come on, we better get to them.”

Sisi nodded and led him back towards their hiding spot, but before they could get there, Jiang Yanli came running towards them.

Jiang Yanli looked around desperately, the new Jiang member in her arms, awake and making gurgling sounds. When she spotted them she called out, “A-Xian, Sisi-jie!”

“Shijie! What are you doing here? Where’s Madam Yu?” Wei Wuxian asked, looking around.

“A-Mei started crying after Sisi left and I was just calming her down. I only turned my back for a moment… but…” Jiang Yanli hiccuped, tears in her eyes.

Wei Wuxian felt his stomach churn, but couldn’t say anything. He watched as his sister sobbed.

“What should I do, A -Xian? Mother is gone.”

Notes:

So this was a f*cking long chapter, but Idk. I had to make it happen this way. I really didn’t want to cut it in half. I hope you guys liked it because damn, this was mentally taxing.

Also, Luna_tica4 AND Ili91 , I urge you to both contact me on TWITTER ASAP.

Rest of you, I really hope liked the chapter! Thank you for reading and do drop a comment. I apologise to everyone whose comments I haven’t replied to. I have 200+ comments in my inbox because I thought I’d eventually get back to y’all and answer but lmao. So busy.

See you guys next chapter~

Chapter 33

Notes:

So, just in case everyone forgot Huayin is Madam Yu’s new spiritual whip that Wei Wuxian has modified for her by adding special features and Xifeng Is Nie Huaisang’s battle fan.

Warning: I wonder if this warning could be considered spam because I’m not really sure on what to warn you because you’ll only be a little stressed while reading this chapter and that’s pretty much it.

Anyway, Enjoy!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Gone.

The word rang in his head even as he ran back into the direction they came from. Sisi and Jiang Yanli were also behind him, only slightly slower. He stopped when he reached a safe area hidden from plain sight of the soldiers and turned towards the two women.

Jiang Zemei was asleep and did not make any noise in her sister’s arms. A newborn baby like her wouldn’t stay awake for very long.

“You two, hide here.” Wei Wuxian ordered, sweat beading at his forehead. “I think I know where Madam Yu is.”

“You’re not the only one.” Sisi grumbled and looked like she very much wanted to kick at something. “She’s being so reckless, I just ought to—Well, I’ll think about all of that after we’re safe and sound. Go do what you have to.”

Jiang Yanli was pale, her normally rosy lips and cheeks were ashen even as she panted slightly from running. She gave her brother a watery look, “Be careful.”

Wei Wuxian nodded and kept a one hand grip on his sword as he made sure no one was around before flying off.

He dearly hoped that he could get to Madam Yu before she could get where she wanted to.

Nie Huaisang stood by the window and stared out at any visible part of Qinghe that was available.

“Young master?”

The voice was familiar now, and Nie Huaisang turned around, not in the mood to smile. Meng Yao stood by the door, holding stacks of parchement. He looked slightly worried, but Nie Huaisang would not let himself assume that he could understand this boy’s heart.

“How many times have I told you not to call me that, Yao-xiong? I might think it’s a servant.” Nie Huaisang told him.

Though it could only be Meng Yao at the door, anyway. The Wen Sect had invaded the Nie borders at dawn and now the day was almost over. His brother had left as soon as he received word and has been fighting for hours at least, by now. Of course, he didn’t leave Nie Huaisang unguarded. He kept two men outside his door before leaving and strictly ordered them to protect him. Only Meng Yao was allowed entry.

Huaisang was surprised at the humiliation he felt by having his brother order his protection while he rushed out to fight. It was strange he’d never felt it before.

“Is something the matter?” Meng Yao asked. “Is it about the Sect leader Nie? He had personally gone to aid our soldiers on the border and both Xichen-ge and Qingheng-jun are with him. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Nie Huaisang pursed his lips but nodded, “I know.”

He knows, but he still wished to be fighting with his brother. He could do it now, with Xifeng in his grasp. There was little he could not do on the battlefield with Xifeng.

“The Wen Sect is truly letting all restraints into the wind. Did you predict that Wen Ruohan would send his son to attack our sect?”

Huaisang almost smiled hearing the words ‘our sect’ come out of Meng Yao’s mouth, but as it was, he was up to his neck with worry. The bad feeling he’d had since he’d woken up had not ended when he found out about the Wen Sect’s attack on Nie borders.

When he tried contacting Jiang Cheng earlier that day with the guard, he hadn’t received an answer. His worries were almost confirmed. It must be around that time.

How could he have been confined to the Unclean Realm at such a crucial moment? He needed to find a way to sneak out. And he knew he couldn’t do it alone.

“Meng Yao. Do you think you could help me sneak out?”

Meng Yao’s eyes widened, “Huaisang? What’s going on?”

Nie Huaisang hesitated, but decided to answer, “I think my friends are in danger. I know that I should worry about our sect, but I know we will be fine. I cannot say the same about them.”

“Them? Your friends? Are they the same young masters from Yunmeng?”

Huaisang nodded, “Can you help?”

Meng Yao’s face glowed a little, “Of course. I will see what I can do.”

The Nie Sect young master smiled as Meng Yao turned around to go out of the room. Before he left, Huaisang called out once more.

“Yao-xiong, did you manage to send the letter I wrote?”

Meng Yao looked over his shoulder and blinked a few times, “The one from a week ago? Of course. It should have reached Qishan by now.”

Huaisang nodded, feeling relieved.

Meng Yao, “I’ve been meaning to ask, but I was worried to be overstepping my bounds…”

Nie Huaisang, “What is it?”

“Who… is that letter for?”

He looked the slightest bit nervous while asking this and Nie Huaisang smiled as he responded in answer, “A friend.”


Jiang Fengmian grit his teeth as he blocked another attack. Jiang Cheng was managing to hold on with his form bordering unapproachable due to the lightning, but it was clear that Wei Wuxian’s departure was a huge loss in manpower.

“co*cky, co*cky!” Wen Chao goaded. “You dare defy the Wen Sect? What were you planning? Nobody is even here in Yunmeng, so of course, you were planning something.”

Jiang Cheng was surprised that Wen Chao could manage to think that much being as stupid as he is. He cut down another soldier that attacked him.

‘f*ck, they’re like co*ckroaches! Where do they end?’ He thought angrily and with some weariness. It was hot. Too hot, and he felt dried up from everything. He has no idea how many men he has injured and even less of an idea of how many he might’ve killed in the process.

Wei Wuxian had left almost quarter of a shichen ago and Jiang Cheng dearly hoped that he had managed to escape with everyone. Jiang Cheng panted a little and glanced towards his father. Jiang Fengmian’s speed hadn’t slowed once since he began fighting, but it was clear that he was starting to tire from the sweat rolling down his face and the courseness of his skill.

Belatedly, Jiang Cheng wondered how much of Lotus Pier was still in tact. He wondered if they should’ve used some protection wards. The Wen Sect already knows that they’re planning something after all, so they should’ve put some wards up. Even after everything that they’d accomplished, it seems that they were still woefully unprepared.

Perhaps they never could actually be prepared for something like this. They were too naive.

Then, a grumble sounded. Wen Chao was growing impatient and bored. Even Wang Lingjiao seemed displeased at everything. She hadn’t been able to goad properly in front of Wei Wuxian, and she wasn’t able to assert any cheap power over the Yunmeng leaders. She obviously thought that she was being denied some justice.

Wen Chao became irritated, “Okay, okay, enough of this. Wen Zhuliu, go over there. It’s time we ended this boorish game.”

Wen Zhuliu only spared his master a glance before dutifully unsheathing his sword. Jiang Cheng noticed that he held the sword in his left hand while stretching the fingers of his right one.

Fear.

He had never felt so much fear in his life. He watched Wen Zhuliu approached them, but couldn’t pay much attention with the endless amount of soldiers that kept attacking him. He blocked another group of men and shocked them with the lightning of Sandu and Zidian.

Time slowed down and memories of something that hasn’t come to pass flashed before his eyes. This man, Wen Zhuliu, the core-melting hand… could melt his core. And he was approaching them.

A man slashed at Jiang Cheng and in his daze, the Yunmeng heir almost got cut down. He immediately shot a rope of electricity to him burning him while consequently spreading it to all the other soldiers around him as well.

He panted as he looked down at the unconscious men at his feet.

A shadow was cast beside him. Jiang Cheng’s eyes widened and he slowly turned around.

A hand reached for him.

Yu Ziyuan flew on her sword. She was thankful, at least, that she’d insisted for it to be brought along, because she knew quite well that her legs weren’t strong enough for running with.

She thought of her daughter who she left behind and how she must be crying right now. She was always a sensitive soul. No. Right now, all three of them must be worried sick about her, but she couldn’t allow herself to falter here. Her family was in danger, and not even the gods could stop her from protecting them.

The hot, humid air slapped at her face and body and she wobbled slightly in the air. It was a damning state to be in. She grit her teeth as she took in the sight of her residence, burnt down and destroyed. It looked completely different to what it was the previous day.

The ashes and smoke scattered all around, and she couldn’t bear to look anymore.

“Madam Yu!”

The voice was bursting with youth and the mischievous lilt to it was mellowed down by unconcealable anxiety. Yu Ziyuan immediately knew who it was even as she slowed down and looked over her shoulder.

“Wei Ying, go back.” She ordered. “My daughters need your help. The handmaiden can only do so much.”

Wei Wuxian skidded to a halt in front of the Jiang matriarch. He didn’t put a hand on her, but he didn’t dare remain too much of a distance away.

They both stood on their respective swords, floating above the turmoil below them, wary of the others actions.

“Come back with me. Madam Yu, you just gave birth. I do not know what that could be like, but I do know that you are not fit enough to fight in your state. Uncle Jiang and Jiang Cheng told me to protect you.”

“Wei Ying, how could you dare to speak like this to me?” Madam Yu spat. “I’ve truly been too lenient with you. I cannot fight? Let me go in battle and I’ll show you how I fight. Do you think I won’t whip you for insinuating my weakness?”

Wei Wuxian clenched his fists beside his body, but did not back down, “You can whip me how much ever you want—until you are completely satisfied—but I will bring you back!”

Yu Ziyuan schooled her face. She would not argue anymore. Instead, she transformed her ring.

“Huayin works much better for me now. You deserve the credit, but not before I knock you off your sword for insulting me.” Yu Ziyuan sneered as Huayin shaped itself. It did not crackle like Zidian, but still had the glow of a spiritual weapon and was frightening enough. Especially in the hands of a woman like Yu Ziyuan.

Wei Wuxian cursed himself for not creating an accessory weapon as Madam Yu struck him with her whip without hesitation. He lost his balance and one foot slipped off Suibian. He grabbed onto the hilt of his sword.

As he climbed onto the sword, he watched Madam Yu fly away. Wei Wuxian balanced himself once more and flew after her.

Yu Ziyuan flew as fast as she could. She did not have as much energy as her ward and he would definitely catch up with her without problem if she gave him a chance to.

The training grounds neared and Yu Ziyuan could make out the figures of her husband and son in the middle of the fray. They were only two people, but had somehow managed to render half an army useless going by the amount of bodies littering the ground.

Right at the moment it looked like someone would get the upper hand on Jiang Cheng, he managed to shock them all with a burst of electricity that spread about two meters in diameter.

Yu Ziyuan felt pride fill within her, but then, horrifyingly, she saw a man nearing her tired son.

“Madam Yu!”

Yu Ziyuan sped up, not only due to the fact that her son was in danger, but because she wouldn't be able to do anything about it if Wei Wuxian managed to catch her.

She took out Huayin, it's tail whipping around dangerously as she attacked the man.

Unfortunately, he noticed her right at the last moment and blocked her attack with his sword, but the force of the impact still pushed him back a few meters. He used his knee to stop himself from being thrown right onto his master.

“Mom?!” Jiang Cheng exclaimed at the same time his father shouted, “Ziyuan!”

“Core-melting hand.” Yu Ziyuan stated, ignoring her husband and son.

“Purple spider.” Wen Zhuliu returned, indifferently.

Wen Chao appreciated nothing about this situation, “What do you think you’re doing, being pushed back by a woman ? She doesn’t even look that strong!”

Yu Ziyuan shot a murderous look at the young master, “Would you like to experience for yourself how strong I am, then? Come here, you worm!”

Wen Chao flinched at the fierceness. Since he was young, girls have only been meek and yielding with him, and this was the first time exposed to a woman so aggressive. He was thoroughly embarrassed and was too intimidated to actually face her in battle.

“Wen Zhuliu, get up!” He said, instead, unable to show that he actually felt a hint of fear towards a woman. “Show her what happens when she speaks to me like that!”

Yu Ziyuan watched curiously as Wen Zhuliu stood up tall, like nothing happened.

“Wen Zhuliu? Is that what they call you now, core-melting hand? I recall your last name to be Zhao.” She said, as she kicked her sword into her hand. “To forgo your ancestral name… Have you no pride ?!!”

Wen Zhuliu looked unaffected by her words, “I am loyal to Sect Leader Wen.”

“If you say so. I will only kill you, anyway.” Yu Ziyuan told him.

“Kill me?” Wen Zhuliu repeated in disbelief. “You look like you can barely stand up properly. Your whip had force, but no strength. How are you going to manage to kill me?”

Indeed, Yu Ziyuan looked like she wouldn’t be able to stand for that much longer. Her face was pale and her body swayed. Her clothes weren't as neat as they usually were and were out of place. All in all, she was in a rather shameful state not only to herself, but to anyone.

“Madam Yu!” Wei Wuxian’s voice came as he landed next to her. He stepped on his sword and flipped it into his hand, similarly to how Madam Yu had done, and held it up threateningly.

The Wen soldiers made no move to attack anymore seeing as how to number of people increased, and one of them was someone who could turn you into charcoal.

Wen Chao looked irritably at his frightened soldiers, “Cowards!”

“Wei Ying, you are very annoying.” Yu Ziyuan said. “How dare you follow me this far after I warned you.”

“Madam Yu, how can you do this? You are—”

“In no state? Just gave birth? Do you think I’m so fragile? Look at what is happening with our Jiang Sect! You dare try to speak to me? If I hadn’t come here in time, my son would’ve lost his core!”

Wei Wuxian looked at Jiang Cheng in shock. His brother, knowing fully well that it was exactly as how his mother described, looked down in shame and anger.

Wei Wuxian swallowed.

“My lady!” Jiang Fengmian called out. He had managed to make his way to his family, cutting down anyone who came his way. Wei Wuxian stepped aside just as Jiang Fengmian nudged him. “You can not be here.”

Yu Ziyuan only tried to step away from his area of reach, “Don’t you start too, Fengmian.”

Jiang Fengmian grabbed his wife’s shoulders just as she threatened to fall backwards, “You have to go! What do you think you can do?”

His eyes were wild and anxious, like his worst nightmare was about to happen. Wei Wuxian understood. This is the moment when the first and only token vision Jiang Fengmian had ever seen, took place in. Too see Yu Ziyuan in the same situation which killed her was unsettling to all of them.

“What disrespect towards young master Wen! Are you ignoring him? Your situation?” Wang Lingjiao goaded from the side. “Look at the famous purple spider in such unsightly garb! She can barely stand up and still insists on fighting. Jiang Fengmian, you must be the unluckiest man in the world to have such a wife!”

The Jiang Sect leader glared at the woman poisonously, “Shut up.

Yu Ziyuan and Jiang Cheng were shocked into speechlessness. This was the first time they had seen the man be so rude. Wei Wuxian however, was too busy feeling the same way. He had seen this woman speak exactly the same words long ago with Jiang Yanli.

He also spat at her, “You think you have any right to speak to Madam Yu that way? You’re nothing but a warm place to keep a certain thing of your disgusting master. You think he cares about you? How dare you look down on our respectable leaders!”

Wen Chao and Wang Lingjiao turned red at this, both utterly mortified. Whichever of the soldiers that were still standing also awkwardly stood, not knowing where to look. What Wei Wuxian said was something everyone knew but nobody said out loud, least of all in such a crude manner.

Yu Ziyuan and Jiang Cheng looked at Wei Wuxian in disgust, but neither felt like scolding him as they both felt the same way.

“Wei Wuxian!” Wen Chao raged. “Do not hold any hope to remain alive for long now! All of you, whoever kills these insects will get a godly reward per head! Whoever brings me Wei Wuxian’s head will never have to work again his entire life!”

Being promised such a generous reward certainly brought up the motivation of the soldiers. They all raised their swords in high spirits and charged, shouting courageously.

The Jiang Sect members met everyone’s sword bravely. As easily as they came towards them was the speed at which they got cut down. Even Yu Ziyuan who was made fun of for not being able to stand up, managed to kill at least three soldiers before stumbling.

Even though killing them was easy, there were far too many attacking at the same time, much too enthusiastically ready to take their heads and not thinking enough about how they would die. This made it more difficult than necessary, as all three men were sticking as close as they could to Yu Ziyuan.

“Move away from me!” She yelled. “I can’t fight like this!”

Just as she said it, Jiang Cheng and Jiang Fengmian were pulled away from her by the wave of soldiers that surrounded them.

Wei Wuxian stuck to his ground, trying to keep up a forcefield of fire, but having to limit himself due to Madam Yu who was standing right behind him. This made it difficult, since majority were looking to land either Yu Ziyuan, who was weakened, or Wei Wuxian, who was the ultimate prize.

Wen Chao was infuriated with Wei Wuxian and the fact that he was not being harmed at all irritated him. Then, he got an idea.

“Wen Zhuliu!” Wen Chao called. “Go destroy Wei Wuxian’s core. Make sure not to kill him though.”

The core-melting hand was one to follow orders as soon as they came but even couldn’t help but ask, “Why?”

Wen Chao sneered, “Why else? I want to do it myself, as painfully as possible.”

Wen Zhuliu spoke no more. He held his sword in one hand and walked calmly towards the middle of the chaos.

The sky thundered. The normally cool night air of Yunmeng was colliding with heat from the fire that razed Lotus Pier. The sky darkened further as the time they fought extended but the stars were not visible. Whether it was from smoke or from clouds, nobody knew and nobody could care either.

Wei Wuxian was too busy trying to protect Madam Yu to notice the impending danger directed specifically at him.

All he knew was that they couldn’t remain any longer. Madam Yu was tiring now, and he knew she couldn’t last longer. She hadn’t even been able to receive the water he’d gotten for her. He was stupid. Instead of asking her to come back, he should’ve forced her to have a drink at least. Yu Ziyuan was the kind of woman to stubbornly fight if her family was in danger.

Occasionally, Wei Wuxian would hear his uncle or Jiang Cheng call out for Madam Yu and try to near them, only to be swept away once more.

A man snuck up behind Yu Ziyuan and Wei Wuxian turned around, thrusting Suibian into his shoulder. He jerked himself away from the blade and fell back in pain. Due to this, Wei Wuxian did not notice that no one was at his back any longer and that he was wide open.

It was only when Yu Ziyuan’s eyes widened that he figured out something must be wrong, but the moment he turned around, his sight blurred, and his body was scraping the ground.

In shock, he watched as the world slowed down, belatedly realising that he’d been pushed to the ground and Madam Yu was now standing in front of him.

It took longer to process that the person who had snuck up behind him was the core-melting hand and the fact that his bare hand was on her chest.

For a long moment, Wei Wuxian went deaf. He could see the soldiers around him still clamouring around but there was no clamour, they were shouting with no voice, Lotus Pier’s gate crumbled to the ground soundlessly.

Then, Madam Yu screamed, high pitched and agonising, like it wouldn’t be enough if her voice was lost by screaming her lungs out.

“Mom!” Jiang Cheng shouted as Yu Ziyuan screamed, but he was surrounded. Anxiety and fear built up in him the entire time, and now, the only way he could express it was through anger.

Letting all restraint go, Jiang Cheng slapped Sandu and Zidian together, having the whip coil around his sword and used the strength doubly. The electric power increased devastatingly and Jiang Cheng made one circular stroke with it.

Lightning burst from his modified weapon and spread all around him, electrocuting all of his victims until they were completely dehydrated and they collapsed in the order of ripples on the surface of water.

Wei Wuxian remained where he was, looking up at the woman before him, stupefied. Subconsciously, he recognised Huayin as it fell from somewhere, and shattered right as it hit the ground. Madam Yu had stopped screaming and also fell.

Wei Wuxian caught her before she hit the ground, “M-Madam—”

It didn’t matter what Wei Wuxian wanted to say because he didn't know what it was. All he knew is that Madam Yu’s eyes were not focused on him. She was gazing sideways, teary-eyed and longing.

Wei Wuxian followed her line of sight where it met Jiang Cheng and Jiang Fengmian. Both of them wore unimaginably tragic expressions. He tore his eyes away from them and looked back at Madam Yu.

She was still looking at them as she addressed him groggily, “Wei Ying… Take… care of them… I’m going to sleep… for a while.”

Her eyes fluttered for a moment before they closed, a small sigh escaping her lips as she did so.

That soft sigh repeatedly echoed in Wei Wuxian’s mind long after she’d sealed her eyelids shut.

Sisi pulled Jiang Yanli back into their original hiding spot behind a fallen roof and wall.

They had been switching hiding spots for a while now since the occasional soldier kept passing by. Sisi made sure, however, that they would come back to the place Wei Wuxian had originally left them in so that he wouldn’t die from worry when he saw they were gone.

She cursed profanities continuously, only feeling sorry about soiling her young mistress’ ears with such foul words. Jiang Yanli stood behind her, still pale and unfocused. Just as Sisi was about to comfort her, she heard a sound.

Just a few meters away from them, a man in Wen Sect clothing was walking, looking around nervously, as if already knowing what—or who—he wanted to find. He had an unsheathed sword hanging on his hip, a bow in his hand and a quiver on his back. He stumbled on a few stray branches lying around and yelped at each noise it made.

The sounds were very loud and immediately woke up the Jiang baby. Jiang Zemei had been blessedly quiet and asleep the entire time, not making any noise, but as soon as she was woken, her tender, new voice shrieked and wailed.

Sisi cursed again at the loud sound and Jiang Yanli was horrified, hastily calming down the child. But the damage was already done. The Wen Sect cultivator had seen them and he was already walking their way.

Sisi shielded Jiang Yanli with her body and looked around wildly. Luckily, she found a wooden support of the roof had fallen off, and picked it up, pointing it at the Wen soldier in front of her.

“Take a step closer, if you dare.” She growled.

The Wen soldier stepped back in surprise, “W-Wait! I’m n-not going to h-hurt you!”

“Yeah?” She mocked. “Tell that to our Jiang Sect which is completely destroyed because of your dogs!”

The Wen soldier actually looked guilty about this, and Sisi couldn’t help but feel like he really didn’t want to harm them. Still, she didn’t lower the wooden support in her hands.

“Really I won’t h-hurt you! I came as s-soon as I heard there was danger…” The man said, his voice was youthful and earnest. He dug into his robes and pulled out a few papers. “I was s-sent a letter. By... young master... Nie Huaisang.”

Sisi blinked at the papers he held out. Again, she didn’t lower her makeshift weapon, but snatched the letter that the man was holding out.

It was indeed signed by Nie Huaisang. He was the young master that stayed with them for a month. By now, Sisi felt tired enough to lower the wooden support.

“Why are you here? Who are you?”

The man swallowed, looking back and forth between the two women, red-faced and nervous. Sisi grew irritated and was ready to snap at him once more, being in a very bad mood. As if sensing impending danger, the Wen disciple spoke hurriedly.

“I-I came to help... My name is Wen Ning.”

Notes:

I hope that you guys enjoyed this chapter because it was horribly difficult to write! I had so much trouble on trying to progress with it and I’m not sure how I did, so let me know in the comments!

And as usual, the lovely RYMF had left me another fanart a while ago of Lan Qiren and Lan Qiqiu, but I never got around to posting it, and you guys should really take a look because I love all of their art HERE ❤️❤️❤️

I was going to leave this chapter off at the part where Madam Yu closed her eyes, but then I was like “No, I can’t be this cruel", because I’ve been leaving you on terrible cliffhangers for two chapters straight, but then I left you on a cliffhanger anyway so 🤷🏾♀️

I tried.

Chapter 34

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Nie Huaisang soared in the darkening sky, reaching the banks of Lotus Pier. His mind frequently wandered during his journey there, mostly due to his last interaction with Meng Yao.

Meng Yao had snuck Nie Huaisang out of the Unclean Realm and told him in a hushed voice, cautioning, “This is as far as I can take you, Huaisang. Walk for a while longer and once you reach the back mountain, fly off. No one will think of looking there.”

“You’re not coming with me?” Huaisang asked, alarmed. It was easy to be calm when he was in a closed room, but now, faced with the threat of war and his friends’ lives on his shoulders, he couldn't help but feel like he needed someone else along with him.

He had a new fan, but so what? He hardly had an opportunity to use it properly, let alone face off in actual battle. His confidence drained by the minute.

Meng Yao put his hands on Nie Huaisang’s shoulders, “Huaisang, stop panicking.”

That did little to soothe him, “How?”

The older of the two smiled, “Everyone keeps saying you’re not as talented as your brother. That you’re useless—”

“That’s because I am.” Huaisang cut in, bitterly.

“You didn’t let me finish.” Meng Yao said, patiently. “What I want to say is that I don’t think you’re useless. I know very well how smart and strong you are. You just haven’t shown it to anyone yet. I look forward to when I can see everyone look at you standing tall on the battlefield with their stupid expressions so that I can say ‘I knew it all along’.”

Nie Huaisang, despite himself, felt like smiling at that image, “But I—”

“No buts!” Meng Yao interrupted this time. It was a brave gesture on his part; something he’d never before dared to do to anyone, let alone someone of higher status. “Go save the young masters. Let this big brother take care of everything else over here in case the Sect Leader returns early.”

Only after he said it did Nie Huaisang realise that that was exactly how he viewed Meng Yao: As an older brother. Deep in his heart, he felt secure with Meng Yao, knowing how smart and confident he was in his abilities.

“I’ll… be leaving…” Huaisang said slowly. Then he opened his fan and it flattened its folds immediately, floating to the ground. Nie Huaisang stepped on it.

“Take care, Huaisang.” Meng Yao smiled, stepping away.

“You too.” Huaisang said, as his fan carried him upwards. Right before he was out of earshot, he looked back at Meng Yao in afterthought, adding, “I’ll be back soon, Yao-ge.”

Meng Yao blinked, his eyebrows rising. Nie Huaisang did not wait to see the rest of his reaction and simply flew off.

To call him ‘ge’ had already been a leap for both Huaisang and Meng Yao. Just that simple address was drastic enough to close a lot of distance between them. And Huaisang was afraid that he was beginning to get much more attached to the future Jin Guangyao than he wanted to.

While his worry for his brothers in Yunmeng did not subside, the worry for himself grew. He was determined more than ever to win this war and to stop Meng Yao from becoming Jin Guangyao.

Nie Huaisang was snapped out of his thoughts when he caught sight of something bright. In the distance, the sky was not as dark and was rather red. His sight travelled to the source, where it looked like an ember floating on dark water. Where the Lotus Pier training grounds were located, there looked to be a particularly large fire.

His eyes widened as he realised that it was Lotus Pier, and it was burning!

He began to speed up, throat constricting with the faint scent of smoke that grew stronger and stronger as he neared the residence, until it was bordering on suffocating.

There were Wen Sect boats near the gates and Huaisang noticed that some of the Wen soldiers were still on the boats. He took a turn and made his way to the other side of Lotus Pier. He knew the escape routes, and for certain, his sworn brothers would not come towards the gates if they were to escape.

His mind raced. Was he too late? What happened? Where was Wen Ning?

Wen Ning ! He realised that the boy should be around. He definitely would’ve come by now if he knew Wei Wuxian was in danger.

Nie Huaisang looked around, searching for a boat that was set apart from the rest. The fiery ashes made it difficult for him to look around. They floated everywhere, threatening to enter his eyes at any moment. These ashes were so significant as to indicate one thing: The pier was almost completely destroyed.

Finally, Nie Huaisang saw a small boat on the other side of the pier, kept hidden in the darkness, untouched by most of the light given out by the fire. On it, a woman stood, looking out towards the general direction of Lotus Pier, seemingly on edge.

Nie Huaisang recognised her immediately. He had seen her only a few times in passing during the token visions, but he was sure of who it was. This was the famous doctor, Wen Ning’s sister, Wen Qing!

He flew down, landing himself on the boat, right behind Wen Qing.

The older woman turned around in alarm, her face morphing into vicious panic.

“I’m not an enemy!” Huaisang said, holding his hands up as he stepped off his fan, and moving towards her.

Wen Qing backed away, until her back was pressed against the ship’s railing. Her face did not calm down at all, and to top it off, she took out several needles from a pocket pouch, holding it up between her fingers threateningly.

Huaisang froze, not daring to step any closer, “P-Put down the needles, will you? They look seriously scary. I’m really not an enemy. I’m from the Nie Sect.”

Wen Qing’s intimidating expression morphed into one of contemplation, “Nie Sect? Are you the one who sent the letter? State your name before I call for my guards!”

“Nie Huaisang!” He replied with a flinch, seeing that she raised the needles higher. “I’m Nie Huaisang! I did send the letter! My friends are in danger right now.”

“So is my brother!” Wen Qing hissed. “Who asked you to send that letter? Why does my brother need to put himself in danger for perfect strangers? If our Sect finds out what we’re doing, we’ve signed ourselves a death warrant! He wouldn’t at all listen to me when I told him not to do this. Now you better go into that burning pit and get my brother back!”.

“I will, I will!” Huaisang immediately replied, not at all confident that he could do it, but determined to try his hardest to do it. “Which direction did he go in?”

Wen Qing lowered her needles and pointed in the direction of the servants quarters. “That way. He’s definitely not in the middle of battle. He’ll be somewhere out of sight.”

“Many thanks, Lady Wen!” Nie Huaisang said as he stepped onto his fan again and flew away hurriedly.

“You better get him back here safely!” He heard Wen Qing’s voice chase him as he travelled against the warm winds.

He hoped he could get all of them back safely.

Wei Wuxian flew away with Madam Yu on his back. Jiang Cheng and Jiang Fengmian were right behind him on their swords.

He hadn’t had time to check for her pulse, but the faint breath on the back of his neck told him that she was still alive. His heart beat frantically, wishing to already be out of danger as soon as possible so that they could tend to Yu Ziyuan immediately.

Back near on the grounds, Wen Chao’s voice came after them, “Go after them, go after them!”

The remaining Wen soldiers looked at each other with uncertainty.

After Yu Ziyuan had collapsed, none of them had been able to get near any of the Jiang members. This not for lack of trying. With one down, they had naturally thought that it would be easy to secure all of their heads. What the soldiers had not anticipated was that Wei Wuxian’s mind had been submerged into complete chaos.

Before they could come much closer towards the Jiangs, a warm breeze started sweeping the ground. Soon, a fire bloomed from the dust and erupted into a whirlwind that circled around the Jiang family protectively. Wei Wuxian had summoned a flaming tornado, keeping them safely in the eye of it.

The Wen soldiers backed away and looked on in awe as the fire brushed the ground and grew higher and higher, reaching towards the sky. Wen Chao and even Wen Zhuliu were just as flabbergasted as anybody.

They were so amazed by this feat that they didn’t notice the moment when Wei Wuxian and the Jiang’s had escaped and only once the tornado seized, did they realise that their targets were no longer there.

“Where did they go?!” Wen Chao yelled, looking around.

Wang Lingjiao also spoke up, “Search for them. Search around! They couldn’t have gone far!”

The Wen soldiers looked miffed to be receiving orders from such a cheap woman, but scattered anyway.


“We won’t move from here.” Sisi stated, handing the letter back to Wen Ning.

“Thank you for coming to help us, young master.” Jiang Yanli said, tiredly. Her eyes were red, and she looked very exhausted. “But A-Xian will come back and if he doesn't find us, he’ll search.”

Wen Ning only fidgeted with his sleeve nervously, “But s-staying here…”

At that moment, a voice came from above them, “Wen Ning!”

The three looked up where the voice came from. Flying towards them was a man with expensive clothing, standing on a large battle fan.

“A-Sang!” Sisi exclaimed, in relief.

“Where are Wuxian and Wanyin?” Nie Huaisang asked as he jumped off his fan and folded it swiftly.

Just as he’d asked, he noticed figures flying towards them. His eyes widened and he almost jumped up, trying to get their attention. He didn't need to do anything, however, as the group flying on their swords had already seen them and flew down towards them.

“Wuxian-xiong!” Nie Huaisang exclaimed as Wei Wuxian landed on the ground. He looked at the figure on his back. “Is that Madam Yu? What’s—”

We need to go! ” Wei Wuxian interrupted urgently.

Nie Huaisang recoiled. There were a lot of things he’d seen in his lifetime, especially because of the versatility of the token, but he’d never once thought he’d see something like this. He never thought he’d see someone as fearless as Wei Wuxian, so frightened.

Slowly, he looked at Jiang Cheng and Jiang Fengmian and his heart dipped into the same fear that Wei Wuxian felt, if only due to influence. Both the Jiang men looked like their world was ending and Nie Huaisang felt helpless towards them as they looked at Yu Ziyuan’s unmoving form on Wei Wuxian’s back.

Nie Huaisang could not bring himself to think of the worst case scenario that might’ve befallen her. After all they’d tried to prevent, if Madam Yu were to be a sacrifice, it would mean their work was not enough.”

He swallowed before speaking, “Follow me. Wen Qing is waiting on the banks. We-We have to hurry.”

When Nie Huaisang had left her boat, Wen Qing had not expected him to come back so soon. She stood at the bow, watching the orange light brighten and dim as they spread around the YunmengJiang Sect residence.

She had barely waited for half an incense stick’s worth of time before she saw multiple figures flying towards their boat. She made way for them to land on the deck. It was a small boat, but it could still manage the crowd.

“Boys, my brother is back!” Wen Qing called.

Juvenile boys burst out from inside the ship’s cabin, and scrambled around. One looked at her and asked, “Should we get the infirmary ready?”

“Just take out my instruments.” Wen Qing commanded. “I’ll do the rest. And get the boat moving. We need to be out of here before anyone sees us!”

The boys nodded at her and moved back in.

The group soon landed on her boat.

She saw her brother standing near three other boys around his age. She paid little attention to them and examined her brother. He didn’t looked injured, but his face was ashen. She was about to go to him when one of the three boys blocked her way. She would’ve scolded him if it wasn’t the fact that he looked so desperate.

“Wen Qing, Wen Qing, please… save Madam Yu!” He pleaded.

Wen Qing then noticed the woman on his back. Her skin had a horrible complexion, reminding her of dead fish.

“Sister, please!” Her brother also pleaded.

Wen Qing could never deny her little brother anything, and so she immediately started looking her over. She didn’t look like she had any visible injuries, so she checked her spiritual flow. Placing two fingers on her neck, she searched for the strength of her golden core.

Her brows furrowed and then rose when she realised, “Did Wen Zhuliu get her?”

“Yes.” A woman spoke. She was very thinly dressed but her countenance was serious and if Wen Qing were honest, she looked like the only one out of them all that would be able to have a sensible discussion.

“Do I need to know anything else?” Wen Qing asked.

The woman was urgent, “She just gave birth. Please just help her.”

As soon as that information was processed, Wen Qing noticed a dark dampness on the lady’s skirt. She pulled at the cloth and drew back her hand which was now wet.

Blood.

“She’s going through postpartum haemorrhage!” Wen Qing exclaimed, angrily. She turned around and shouted, “Boys, get my surgical bed ready!

“Surgery?!” A boy asked, opening the door of the cabin. “I thought it was just first aid?”

“Situation has changed!” Wen Qing replied, hastily. “Get it ready now !”

The boy saluted and disappeared back inside.

“Everyone, follow me!” Wen Qing told the group. She led them inside and placed the bleeding woman onto the bed.

The soldiers excused themselves out of the room.

“What’s happening to her?” A man who looked like her husband asked. He looked like he was on the verge of hyperventilating his way to unconsciousness.

“Nothing’s going to change if you panic. You need to calm down and listen to me.” Wen Qing said and then addressed the rest of the group. She noticed a young woman holding who was presumably the new family addition. “Your wife has a tear in her reproductive tract. I won’t lie to you, it is life threatening.”

“What’s going to happen?” The boy wearing black robes asked.

“We can’t know. Prepare yourselves for the worst. I will do my best, but you need to wait outside. No arguments!”

She shouted the last part noticing the hostility building up in the purple clothed boy.

“A-Ning, see them out.” Wen Qing to her brother.

“Let me stay, at least. If I’m here, they’ll at east know she isn’t going to be harmed. I could even give you some help.” The woman from before said.

Wen Qing thought for a moment before nodding. “Okay. You can stay.”

Once the room was clear, she set to work.

Jiang Cheng punched the boy he called his brother.

“You were supposed to have taken her away! You were supposed to protect her!” He shouted. Wen Ning had taken the baby of their hands and escorted Jiang Yanli inside. Nie Huaisang went with them, deeming that Jiang Yanli needed company. It was just as well since neither would’ve been able to handle this confrontation.

Wei Wuxian was still in shock when Jiang Cheng took hold of him by the lapels. His chest heaved, but he said nothing. This was because he couldn’t say anything as he looked right into the frightening glare his brother was giving him.

“What happened?! Why did she come back? Why was she able to come back? What were you doing ?!” Saying this, he shoved Wei Wuxian onto the floor.

“Jiang Cheng!” Jiang Fengmian shouted. “What are you doing?!”

The addressed boy grit his teeth but didn’t say anything. Not even as his brother stayed on the ground, or even as his father walked towards him.

“What can you accomplish by taking out your anger at A-Ying?!” Jiang Fengmian asked. His voice was rarely raised towards them, but he could not be happy to see his sons fight like this at such a moment.

“It’s okay Uncle.” Wei Wuxian said. He didn’t look up at them. He didn’t get off the ground. “Jiang Cheng… is right. I gave you my word… and I couldn’t stand by it.”

Jiang Fengmian looked at Wei Ying sorrowfully, “A-Ying…” Then, he bent down and helped Wei Wuxian stand up. “Come, don’t stay on the ground like that. My lady… she’s not so weak.”

Jiang Cheng, who was already frustrated, felt his old resentment bubble up when he saw how his father was treating Wei Wuxian more preferably. He said nothing and stomped away.

“Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian’s voice called after him.

It was followed by the placating voice of his father, “Don’t go after him, A-Ying. Leave him be for now.”

‘Leave him be’. It was such a familiar statement. It was the sentence Jiang Fengmian had said to Wei Ying after giving away his dogs. After Wei Ying’s numerous dangerous stunts that wouldn’t have been tolerated had it been done by Jiang Cheng. It was a much hated phrase from the past.

And just like that, all the progress Jiang Fengmian had made with his son over the past two years seemed to crumble to dust in that moment.


When Wen Qing stepped outside of the infirmary, she noticed that only two of the people were remaining from the group that had arrived. This was more convenient for what she was about to say anyway.

Sisi—she had learnt the woman’s name—also stepped out with her. Her face betrayed nothing but determination. She was visibly determined to keep the strength of this family, even if it was only in her.

Wen Qing approved of that kind of behaviour.

“I’m not going to skirt the corners; The Madam has lost a lot of blood.” Wen Qing explained, patiently. “I’ve stopped the flow and normally, a cultivator like her would still be fine after a long rest…”

Sisi took the reins as soon as Wen Qing trailed off. The two were looking frazzled and that was probably the reason why the Wen doctor stopped talking, “A-Ying, Master Jiang, you need to be calm now.”

Jiang Fengmian agreed softly. Wei Wuxian was also anxious and impatient, “Tell us.”

Wen Qing nodded, “Madam Yu had half her core melted by Wen Zhuliu. Do you have any idea why that may be?”

Just as Wei Wuxian was about to reply negatively, a thought struck him, “Her spiritual whip! I modified her spiritual whip to protect her if she was in danger. What it’s supposed to do is coil up and act like a shield. It shattered right after Wen Zhuliu caught her.”

“It was your doing?” Wen Qing asked, looking impressed. “Well then, it’s because of you she’s still alive. Since her entire core wasn’t melted, her body is using up the rest of the remaining spiritual energy from half the core to heal her.”

Wei Wuxian was just about to sigh in relief when Wen Qing’s voice came once more, “But her core can no longer generate any spiritual energy. Once her body uses up the remaining, it will most likely not survive the shock. I’m sorry.”

Jiang Fengmian stepped forward, “Doctor Wen, please. Isn’t there something we can do? Couldnt I supply spiritual energy to her until she heals?”

“I’m sorry, Sect leader Jiang. Without a full golden core, her body’s spiritual network will start deteriorating—It already has. It will completely cease to exist, soon. I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do.”

Jiang Fengmian, “No… there must be something —”

“Master Jiang! Please get a hold of yourself! Death is inevitable for any human being. Please do not waste your last moments with her. Go see your wife.”

It was silent for a moment.

“...How… How much more time?” Despite how his hands shivered, Jiang Fengmian stood as solidly as possible when he asked the question.

Wen Qing was sympathetic while answering, her voice kind, “Within a week or two, I’m afraid.”

Jiang Fengmian stood still, processing the information. Then, he walked past Wen Qing, not saying another word. Sisi and Wen Qing both allowed him to go through.

A few moments passed between them.

“A-Ying, let’s go. You need to rest. I know you must be the most tired of us all.” Sisi said, reaching for his shoulder. She gave him a small squeeze, “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

Wei Wuxian wordlessly removed Sisi’s hand from his shoulder.

She looked at him worriedly, “A-Ying?”

“Wen Qing,” Wei Wuxian said, looking at her. The Wen doctor looked back at him, slightly surprised to see strength in his gaze.

“What is it?” She asked.

“There’s a way to help Madam Yu. Something you didn’t tell us about.”

Wen Qing shot him an irritated look, “Do you think I haven’t thought of all the possibilities? Unless you can get her another core, don’t talk big!”

“...See? You do have another way.” Wei Wuxian told her, a bitter smile on his lips.

Wen Qing was confused for a moment. Then, her eyes widened, “What are you trying to say?”

Wei Wuxian looked at her straight in her eyes, “You know what I’m trying to say. You have a theory for it. You can make it happen.”

“Who told you about this? Did A-Ning tell you?”

Wei Wuxian ignored those questions, “Please. We cannot lose Madam Yu. Not now.”

Not now. Not now when the Jiang family just started getting along. Not now when she had barely spent an hour with her newborn daughter. Not now when they were so close to the happy ending.

“Who’s core do you want to use then?! Do you think it’s easy to just catch hold of just anyone with a strong and stable core? You can’t use the Sect leader’s. If he loses his core, your Sect will fall.”

“Use mine.”

Sisi and Wen Qing looked at him in shock.

“Are you… out of your mind?” Wen Qing asked, wanting to laugh, but not having the strength, “Do you know what you’re saying? If you lose your core, your career as a cultivator is over. What will you have left?”

“...I’ll have the rest of my life.” Wei Wuxian answered. “And I’ll have my family, whole and safe.”

Wen Qing growled in frustration, “No. I won’t do it. I refuse.”

Wei Wuxian didn’t back down, “Wen Qing, I am not a real descendant of the Jiang sect. I was taken in and cared for by them. If not for them, I would have nothing. I would never have had a bed of my own or warm meals or ever know of cultivation. I owe them my life.”

“So you’re repaying it with your golden core? How selfless!” Wen Qing sneered.

“A-Ying, I also feel like you’re being too hasty. Please calm down and think about this clearly!” Sisi told him.

Wei Wuxian swallowed.

Then, he did something that made both the women in front of him speechless. He got onto his knees and bent down till his forehead was threatening to go right through the floor.

“I swore to myself that I would protect them. Please, I beg you.”

Wen Qing couldn’t say anything anymore. She had heard as much of the Jiang Sect’s head disciple as anyone in the cultivational world. She had also heard about what a proud and untamed soul he was. Yet here was the very same Wei Wuxian on his knees, pleading to her to save the life of someone who wasn’t even his own mother.

Faced with such pure intentions, she could no longer bring herself to refuse him this favour.

“...Alright. Let’s get the golden core transplant done immediately, then.”

Notes:

And I thought the last chapter was tough to write! This one had so many scenes that I had to switch with in between. I don’t even know where I’m going with this myself XDDDD

Anyway, I hope you guys are taking care of yourselves during these tough times, and with each chapter I write, I think about everyone of y’all and hope you are safe and doing well. I myself, is on complete lockdown, but I have so much housework everyday (I have an old house) and no servants coming in because of the spread, so I have to do it myself. This really takes up so much time in a day than you think. Not to mention India is bloody hot *sweats*

Take care all of you, I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and I really hope to be uploading the next one faster.

Ciao~ ❤️❤️❤️

Chapter 35

Notes:

TRIGGER WARNING: Pain and frustration.

ALSO, WE’VE CROSSED 100K WORDS! PHEW. This is getting longer than I thought it would be.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Nie Huaisang looked at the communication stone that had been kept near his head while he was sleeping and a note underneath it.

To Huaisang,

Here’s the more convenient part of the contact guard. Just put it on your vambrace and channel spiritual energy through it whenever you want to talk to Jiang Cheng. I know, I know. How could I have made something like this so quickly? You know the answer. I’m just a genius!

Your brother in all but blood,

Wei Wuxian

Nie Huaisang smiled at himself, really exclaiming in his mind at how Wei Wuxian truly was a genius but wondered why he’d only mentioned Jiang Cheng’s name. He also asked himself why Wei Wuxian had chosen to give it to him during the night instead of in the morning, but perhaps he knew that Nie Huaisang couldn’t stay long.

He tucked the communication stone into his robes and promised himself that he’d carve a pair of vambraces to fit it in one.

On his way out, he met Wen Ning.

“Oh, good… morning.” Nie Huaisang greeted, not sure if he should call it morning given the dark hour.

“Young master!” Wen Ning clasped his hands in front of him. “W-What’s the matter? You’re up early…”

Nie Huaisang waved his hand, “I need to return to Qinghe as soon as possible. You wouldn’t happen to know where Wei Wuxian is? I assumed he was awake since he left a note for me.”

Wen Ning immediately stiffened, “Young master W-Wei is… busy…”

Now, he had told Wei Wuxian long ago that he was far from the mastermind from the visions, and that was still true to the day, but Nie Huaisang could still make out that something was wrong. As it was though, he had to go back to his sect as soon as possible. That did not stop him from worrying.

“Then I probably shouldn’t disturb him.” Nie Huaisang told him, feeling like he shouldn’t leave without saying anything. “Tell Wuxian-xiong that I’ll be returning to Qinghe. My brother does not know I’ve left and I’m afraid that a lot of people will be in trouble if he finds out I’m gone. Tell him that I received his gift and I will use it soon.”

As an afterthought, he added, “Also, I brought two qiankun pouches with me. One has all the necessary herbs and medicines in it while the other has a pantry full of food and supplies. I left it where I slept, please give it to the Jiang family.”

Wen Ning nodded at each order, “Okay.”

Nie Huaisang smiled at him and walked towards the deck. Wen Ning followed him there, wishing to see him off well. The sky, as they already knew, was still dark and went to show that it would still be a few hours before the sun rose. It was a good time to start on his journey back to Qinghe.

Just as he’d taken out Xifeng and stepped on it, however, Nie Huaisang turned to Wen Ning one last time.

“I know that you listen to Wei Wuxian the best out of us all, Wen Ning.” He told the timid boy in front of him. Wen Ning blinked at him and Huaisang bit his lip, trying to ignore the uneasy feeling in his heart, “But do me a favour. Tell him not to do anything stupid.”

With that, Nie Huaisang flew off, not waiting for any more delays.

He was already out of earshot when Wen Ning’s soft voice spoke sadly, “I’m afraid it’s already too late for that, Young master Nie.”

When Jiang Fengmian was asked to leave the infirmary, he didn’t know what to think, and to be honest, he was too tired to do any thinking at all. Wen Ning had escorted him to the cabin bedrooms and even though he thought he couldn’t possibly bring himself to lie down, before he knew it, he’d fallen asleep.

That was why, the next morning when he woke up, he immediately went searching for the remaining members of his family. He was still in the same clothes as the day before and was covered in blood and dirt but didn’t bother to work with his inappropriate appearance. Having someone he loves in dire danger changed what one views important in life.

He found his daughter and son almost immediately. They were with Sisi, as usual. Jiang Fengmian paused as he heard Sisi’s infuriated voice.

“A-Cheng, what were you thinking?!” Sisi scolded. “A-Ying causes a lot of trouble, and most of the time he doesn’t listen, but this time, he did. Madam Yu slipped past us all. If you were going to blame him, then you should blame me too.”

Jiang Yanli stepped forward, “No. It’s me. If I hadn’t been distracted, mom would not be like this. I’m to blame.”

Jiang Cheng didn’t respond for a moment. He looked resigned—a complete change from the frustration that he’d exhibited the previous day. He spoke slowly, “...I don’t want to blame you. I didn’t want to blame anyone… I know myself, what I did wrong. I will go apologise to Wei Ying…”

Sisi looked uncharacteristically frustrated, “Apologize to him! If only it were so easy to just apologise for everything!”

Jiang Fengmian continued watching them in numb curiosity. He was so tired, and his heart was broken, and at this moment, all he really could do was just watch.

“Where is he?” Jiang Cheng asked, like he’d just realised something.

Instantly, Sisi sobered up. She seemed to debate with herself for a moment, but relented eventually, “He’s… with Doctor Wen.”

Suddenly, Jiang Yanli also showed the same realisation as Jiang Cheng, “With Maiden Wen? Why? What is he going to do?”

When Sisi gave them a helpless look, Jiang Fengmian’s children flew in panic. It looked like they knew exactly what was happening, but stayed their ground because they hoped differently. Yet the anxiety of being right about something you wished you were wrong about is unbearable.

In a way that he would never do, Jiang Cheng caught hold of Sisi’s shoulders and shook her a little, “What is he going to do?

Sisi didn’t answer.

“Sisi-jie!” Jiang Yanli cried.

Faced with such tragic young faces, Sisi relented, “I tried to stop him…” She whimpered. “Even Wen Qing tried to stop him. She repeatedly told him, even while they were getting ready for the operation, that the chances were only half. He said half was fine, because he would live, but that the Madam would not if she didn’t have her golden core. Because there wasn’t any time to lose by arguing, Wen Qing immediately started with the golden core transplant…”

Sisi started crying where she stood, “I really wanted to make him stop but I didn’t know what to do! Madam Yu is on her deathbed and how could I tell him not to save her?!”

Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng exchanged one panicked look before dashing off into the direction of the infirmary.

Jiang Fengmian revealed himself to Sisi just as they had run off.

“Miss Sisi!” He called, urgently, “Is whatever you said true?!”

Sisi was mildly startled by his sudden appearance so much that her tears slowed, “Yes… A-Ying… decided to give his core to Madam Yu.”

Jiang Fengmian, still in disbelief over the entire situation, continued questioning her, “How is that possible? Doctor Wen said that there was no way to save her. She told me that she’d tried everything.”

“A-Ying knew about her research for some reason… she’d been writing essays on the operation for a golden core transfer for years. He must’ve heard about it from her brother…”

Jiang Fengmian did not wait for Sisi to finish speaking. He hurried off into the direction his children ran.

He soon reached the door to the infirmary, meeting the sight of his son using the Zidian and Sandu wildly on it. Jiang Yanli stood as far as possible, most likely on Jiang Cheng’s instructions.

The ship they were on wasn’t too large and the hallways were small, so using such a weapon should definitely cause damage, but neither Zidian nor Sandu caused any damage to the door.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it!” Jiang Cheng cursed, with strike he made. His face was red and he continued to strike the door, but it didn’t leave a scratch. Instead, Sandu was repelled from it and Zidian struck him back.

Eventually, he threw down his weapons and began kicking at the door, “Open up! Wei Wuxian! WEI YING! I know you can hear me! OPEN THIS DOOR !!!”

“Why isn’t the door breaking open?” Jiang Yanli asked, also looking like she was ready to throw herself at it. “Why isn’t it opening?!”

Jiang Fengmian stepped towards them, unsheathed his sword, “Step aside.”

His children obeyed him silently, and Jiang Fengmian placed himself in front of the door. He concentrated as much of his energy as he could into his sword and slashed at it.

Invisible as it was, Jiang Fengmian could already make out that this door was charmed even while Jiang Cheng was attacking it. Yet faced with it himself, Jiang Fengmian realised immediately that it truly was very strong.

“It’s not making a scratch…”

His son spoke up bitingly, “It won’t. Wei Ying was researching the incantations for this barrier since we were fifteen. It’s so strong that it can repel an army.”

“He completed it?” Jiang Yanli asked, also seeming to know about this particular invention of his.

“No. If he completed it, he would’ve used it to safeguard Lotus Pier. As it is, this barrier takes almost a shichen to set up and can only work within the space of a small room like this one. Wei Ying is stupid most of the time, but only when it comes to these things, he’s so smart that none of us can ever go against his decisions!” Jiang Cheng laughed so bitterly, it bordered on insane.

Jiang Fengmian stood in front of the door, not knowing anymore what to do. Inside, his dying wife and his adopted son lay on the bed, one fighting for her life and the other fighting to save it. And yet, any end option was still a bad one.

Jiang Cheng slid to the ground, his back leaning against the wall of the hallway. It was an indignified position and showed a lot of weakness, and at any other time, he would never allow himself to be like this. As it stood though, everyone felt the same way as him.

“I should be the one giving my core to mom. It’s me.”

Jiang Fengmian, “No, A-Cheng. It’s not your responsibility. It’s mine.”

“It is.” Sisi’s voice came. She walked towards them slowly, eyes red and face swollen.

“It’s your responsibility, but it is also A-Ying’s. He sees himself as part of your family, but he couldn’t allow A-Cheng to sacrifice his core. He saw… how hard you worked to strengthen your cultivation. And he couldn’t allow the Sect leader to do it either, because then Master Jiang wouldn’t be able to lead the sect.” She paused for a moment, “That meant the responsibility would fall on your shoulders and you are still too young. In the end, his sacrifice is mostly because of his love for you, A-Cheng.”

Jiang Cheng sat on the ground for a long moment before he spoke again, voice cracking as he hid his head in his arms. Jiang Fengmian could make out very well that he was crying, “Wei Ying is an idiot. He’s such an idiot! But I’m much worse!”

Jiang Yanli sat on the floor next to her brother. She pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, like she was trying to keep some part of her steady.

“You are not the only one to blame, A-Cheng. I… should have continued my cultivational studies. If… if I had worked hard enough… like you, maybe my core could’ve developed.” Jiang Yanli burst into tears, “Why didn’t I train harder?”

Jiang Fengmian looked at his children whose silent sobs kept growing until the both of them were clinging to each other vulnerably. Like this, they looked as young as they were, being faced with war and choices that were too hard to make. His own eyes remained dry as he watched them, but his heart felt no less their pain.

Sisi gave him a significant look before she walked away. It was clear she didn’t want to interfere on any more personal matters.

Jiang Fengmian knelt down in front of his son and daughter and—remembering how Wei Wuxian had once taught him to do—put his arms around them, pulling them close.

This was all he could do now.

Wei Wuxian let out a loud, close-throated cry as Wen Qing began cutting around his core. His mouth was gagged with a wad of cloth and it was soaked with his saliva by now, but he’d have to keep it there for another night more. The thought already made him feel disgusted.

At first, Wen Qing had wanted to use anaesthesia, but having knowledge of the future already, Wei Wuxian knew better. He told her that the golden core would not be viable to transfer if he was not conscious. Of course, she’d looked at him incredulously and asked him how he knew. He didn’t have an answer, but she’d eventually decided to trust him after some prodding.

“Wei Wuxian, stay conscious. You can’t pass out!” She kept reminding him.

He felt like Wen Qing had been saying only that one phrase since they’d started on the surgery, and each time she said it, he knew she was right. He’d open his eyes wide and the cut of the knife would become nothing for a while in between until suddenly, his body felt pain again. Those were the most painful moments.

His chest burned and he wanted to stop himself, multiple times, from looking at what she was doing, and yet, his eyes moved to exactly what he did not want to see: his golden core, in the process of being peeled out of his body.

“Young master Wei…” Wen Ning was next to him, holding a cotton cloth in his hands, meant to wipe his face. Just like in the tokenvisions, his eyes were brimming with tears. “Young master Wei. Don’t look… I will put a cloth over your eyes.”

With whatever strength he could muster in his neck, Wei Wuxian shook his head.

“Don’t, A-Ning! He prefers it this way.” Wen Qing said as she furrowed her brows, focused on the area of his heart.

“B-But…” Wen Ning looked at Wei Wuxian as if he also felt the same pain.

“No! And don’t cry!”

True, it was painful, seeing with his own eyes as his golden core was getting carved out of his chest. But for Wei Wuxian, not being able to see and having no idea what was happening to him was much more frightening.

He wondered if everything was like this even the last time. The scene was so familiar, since this was the first scene he’d ever seen from the token. The person he was giving it to was the different, but who he was giving it for remained the same.

He wondered what Jiang Cheng was doing now. He definitely knew what Wei Wuxian was doing. Outside the door, kicking at it in frustration? The image lightened his mind slightly despite how cloudy his thoughts were. Or perhaps he’s crying. Perhaps they all are.

And even during this terrible time, when he was filled with so much pain that he couldn’t think properly, Lan Wangji’s face floated into Wei Wuxian’s mind, giving him false promises of security.

Wei Wuxian lost complete track of time. It felt like the surgery would never be complete while he was under the knife, but then, he eventually felt the connection of his spiritual pathways die out. The warmth in his body parts melted away and replaced itself with a cold void in his chest.

Vaguely, he heard the words, “Finally… Two nights… Over…”

He fell asleep.


When Wen Qing stepped out, it was to three incredibly worried family members all waiting outside the door, sitting on the ground like no noble she had ever seen before. They all had red, swollen eyes and look severely sleep deprived. She almost wondered if they’d also been awake for two entire nights.

She couldn’t help but think, Wei Wuxian, who said you aren’t a real part of this family? You are so loved.

She looked at them with pursed lips, “I assume Sisi has told you.”

They looked back at her, neither nodding or shaking their heads, yet it was clear what the answer was.

“The transplant… was sucessful.” Wen Qing told them. This was her favourite part about being a doctor. It was the moment she could tell the patients that their loved ones were alive, safe and healthy. The part she hated was the one where she had to do the opposite and had to announce the bad news. Like she would do now.

“Mom… is fine?” Jiang Yanli asked, standing up and looking at Wen Qing with her big, watery, doe eyes.

“She is stable. She will survive, as far as I can see.” Wen Qing replied.

Jiang Fengmian looked relieved to hear this news, but the stress that lined his face did not disappear. Of course, it didn’t.

“And, A-Ying?” Jiang Fengmian asked, tensely.

“Wei Wuxian…” Wen Qing started, a sigh escaping her mouth. “He is fine. He is completely healthy. However, you must remember that he can no longer go through the same amount of physical activities as you. His speed is decreased, his strength is decreased, and his life span is decreased.”

Jiang Cheng shot up from the ground, “Life span?”

Wen Qing, “Yes. He is a normal person now so he will age normally. Within another ten to twenty years, his limitations will be even more clear. That’s when he will need you the most.”

There was uneasiness that seeped into everyone’s bones. It seemed to go on for a long while until Wen Qing started swaying.

“Sister!” Wen Ning appeared at the door and held onto his sisters shoulders to prevent her from slipping down.

“It’s okay, A-Ning.” She told him, her voice suddenly soft and weary. “I’m only sleepy.”

“You should take rest, Doctor Wen.” Jiang Fengmian told her.

She nodded at him.

Sisi’s voice suddenly drifted to them, “I‘ll take her.”

The group watched as the Jiang Yanli’s handmaiden came towards them. She was not present while the group was together, but it seemed that it only looked that way. Sisi had been waiting around the corner, patiently, until everything was over.

“Come, doctor Wen.” She said, taking Wen Qing’s arm and putting it around her neck to support her. “You deserve rest.”

Wen Qing’s eyes closed as she was helped back into the sleeping quarters.

“Young master Wen?” Jiang Yanli called, as soon as they were gone. “Aren’t you tired as well?”

Wen Ning looked at her in surprise, “N-No. I don’t sleep that well anyway… a night or two is nothing…”

Jiang Yanli gave a small smile, faced with such timidity. It reminded her of Wei Wuxian the first time he had come to Lotus Pier. Of course, he wasn’t timid for long and soon started causing trouble, but it was a precious memory.

“Madam Yu and Young master Wei… are asleep.” Wen Ning told them. “You may go see them, though.”

A day had passed since the transplant. The ship they were on docked at Yueyang. This was where half of the Jiang Sect relocated and where Wen Ning’s soldiers stopped to get supplies. They would be here for a while—until Wei Wuxian woke up, at the very least as Wen Qing felt responsible for her patient.

They had immediately found a place to live as the Jiang Sect disciples had found an abandoned house and had cleaned and fixed it up for their Sect leaders until they arrived. Even though both Madam Yu and Wei Wuxian were unconscious, they had been moved into the house as discreetly as possible with the help of the Jiang Sect disciples.

They had already been told that Madam Yu might not wake up for at least a week, and needed to be supplied spiritual energy as much as possible. Jiang Fengmian had taken the responsibility to do that and sat next to his wife for as long as he could, night and day, only stopping occasionally to eat, bathe and rest.

Jiang Yanli, on the other hand, helped wherever she could. She had taken out all of the supplies Nie Huaisang had left and with Sisi’s help, organised them comfortably. In regards to the medicinal substances, she’d asked Wen Qing once the doctor had gotten her due rest and written down everything that was explained about which herb helped with what and which medicine cured what.

Jiang Cheng, in the meantime, took care of the Sect leader’s duties, recording how many Jiang Sect members had relocated to Yueyang and trying to find out how many left for somewhere else. He also paid a visit to the Chang sect to announce their presence. Being a major sect, they were very well received and were immediately offered as much help as they wanted.

The rest of the time, he sat next to Wei Wuxian and it became his unofficial job to take care of him. Faced with the uselessness of supplying any spiritual energy, Jiang Cheng dedicated himself to wiping his face and cleaning the accessible parts of his body.

When he was wiping his torso, the Jiang Sect heir couldn’t help noticing the scars on his chest. One was the Wen Sect brand which Wang Lingjiao had marked him with not too long ago. The other was the place which Wen Qing had cut. He was amazed to find that it was already healing. Wen Qing was truly a skilled doctor, having made the incision so clean that by the time it healed, it would hardly be visible.

Once he was done, he sat down on a wooden chair he’d kept nearby and stared at his brother’s face. He looked normal—exactly the same. You would never be able to make out that he doesn’t have a golden core. Perhaps that’s why his vision self never figured it out.

A window was near Wei Wuxian’s bed and it brought in a slight breeze which scattered some of his hair onto his face. Jiang Cheng pushed it off and wondered if he should braid the hair to stop it from getting tangled. When Wei Wuxian woke up, he would definitely struggle with the knots that collected in it, just like he did when they were younger and he had no idea how to comb his hair.

In between these pleasant memories, Jiang Cheng drifted off into slumber.

Notes:

You guys wanted regretful JC. I give you regretful JC. Hey, you guys asked for it 🤷🏽♀️
Tbh, I don’t really know why everyone had such strong reaction to JC in the previous chapter because I for one have gotten into worse fights with my sister over way more idiotic things 😂😂😂
Anyway, after three chapters of stress, I think ya’ll deserve some low down, so there will be some calm scenes mixed in with the next update.
Thank you to everyone who commented. SERIOUSLY. I got so many comments (and read every single one of them attentively) but 100 comments? I couldn’t manage to reply to all of you 😭😭😭 I feel so bad about that, so I’m giving you all my thanks in the a/n.

I seriously appreciate everybody’s comments and I will try my best to reply with whatever time I get.

Stay safe and healthy! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Chapter 36

Notes:

Here’s the non angsty chapter I promised you guys because I made y’all cry for three chapters straight. Hope you enjoy it

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Although Nie Mingjue had by no means come back early, he had come back earlier than Nie Huaisang. That in itself was bad. Meng Yao bit his lip as he watched the Nie troops filter into the Unclean Realm. Mixed in with them were Lan Qiqiu and Lan Xichen.

Meng Yao prepared himself for when Nie Mingjue may call him to ask for Nie Huaisang, but instead he went towards a large desk in the hall and opened up a large chart. He looked so frustrated and angry that the veins in his forehead looked about ready to burst.

Intrigued, Meng Yao shuffled closer, keeping himself hidden behind some large potted trees.

“They brought so many men…” Lan Xichen said, pursing his lips.

“But Wen Xu still escaped.” Nie Mingjue cursed. “That dog! Using his men as shields so that he could run away! Insidious scum!”

A disciple who had just come into the room, hesitated into coming closer when he saw that his Sect leader was in a rotten mood. After a moment, he decidedly made his way towards him, announcing, “Sir, we’ve just received word that Lotus Pier was burned down.”

Lan Xichen’s eyes widened and he exchanged a look with Nie Mingjue.

Nie Mingjue, “What were the casualties?”

The disciple frowned, “As far as we know, they’ve only burned the Pier. The residents and the Jiang family are nowhere to be found.”

Nie Mingjue lifted his chin, “They must’ve escaped. At least that’s good news.”

“...Sect leader, what do I do about the postings? Our soldiers were all surprised at the sudden attack.” The discple asked, nervously. “Almost half our men have been injured by that alone.”

Nie Mingjue thought for a moment, “I don’t know how they must’ve come in without warning. We have troops stationed at every post.”

“They’re stationed improperly.”

Everyone’s heads turned to look at the one who spoke, and more than half of the faces turned red in anger. This was because the one who said these words was none other than Meng Yao!

As soon as everyone’s eyes moved to him, Meng Yao realised that he’d said those words out loud and turned red.

“Who do you think you are to speak like that!” One of the younger commanders shouted, “You dare question our layouts?”

“Coming from a low background and criticising the plan work of scholars! You’re a cat thinking yourself a lion.”

“Isn’t this the Young Master’s recruit?” Another senior discple asked, coolly. “I suggest you don’t toss about any more words lest you speak out of place.”

Lan Qiqiu and Lan Xichen gave cold looks to the men who said these words and both were about to speak up, but were stopped by Nie Mingjue’s voice.

“Why not?” He asked, looking genuinely bewildered.

The Nie sect members became quiet. They had no idea what to say now. When Meng Yao spoke, all of them rushed to defend their Sect’s honour, but if Nie Mingjue himself didn’t not see this as an affront, they had nothing more to say.

Lan Xichen and his father exchanged amused smiles at this reaction.

“Meng Yao, what is it that’s improper?” Nie Mingjue asked.

The addressed individual fumbled to bow, “I simply spoke out of line, Sect leader Nie. I apologise.”

Nie Mingjue, “That doesn’t matter. I’m asking you what about this plan work is improper? Come here and answer!”

Alarmed by the man’s deep, booming voice, Meng Yao jumped and immediately came to stand before him. Nie Mingjue stared at him imposingly. Carefully, Meng Yao kept his eyes lowered.

“Well?”

Meng Yao, “...I mean no offence to the one who had originally planned this layout, however…”

“However?” Nie Mingjue prompted, growing impatient.

Meng Yao examined the map, “However, the soldiers have not only been stationed right in front of the gates, they've been placed on flat ground. When I came to Qinghe, I noticed there are many high rocks and hills, and placing soldiers on flat ground proves to be inefficient. The enemy can see us from distances away and launch attacks on us easily.”

Nie Mingjue’s eyes widened at this and he took another look at the map. It was indeed as Meng Yao had said. On maps, you couldn’t see the rocks and hills that littered Qinghe, and thus, this placement would work well if it really was flat ground.

“What do you suggest we do?” He asked Meng Yao, looking at him differently now.

Meng Yao blinked, “Is… Would you… like my opinion?” He asked, uncertainly.

“Why else would I ask? Stop wasting time and speak.”

Meng Yao nodded, and pointed at the landmarks on the chart, “These troops should be moved over here. If my memory serves me right, there is a large rock in this area. If they are placed there, the soldiers will easily be able to spot any incoming threats. It would also be easier to spot and receive messenger birds. In the same manner we can move this group on this side…”

“Someone get him a brush!” The Nie sect leader commanded.

The junior disciples immediately scrambled to search for a brush and some ink. They brought it to Meng Yao in a matter of moments.

Meng Yao accepted the brush and began marking the areas he had mentioned. Once he was done, he smiled, admiring his handiwork, “Now, you won’t have to worry about any enemy troops any longer, Sect leader.”

There was silence in the room, and Meng Yao was jerked out of his thoughts, realising that he had spoken too much. He was about to apologize once more, when he heard laughter. He turned to look at the large man who was now standing right next to him.

The entire hall looked on with wide eyes as Nie Mingjue laughed heartily, “Meng Yao, you are truly a genius! How do you remember the placement of every rock and tree? I should have asked for your advice earlier! My brother has better eyes than I do, it seems.”

Disbelievingly, Meng Yao flushed, “You flatter me.”

A heavy hand patted his back merrily. Though it was just a light touch to Nie Mingjue, Meng Yao had to do all he could to find steady ground and not fall over from the force of his hand.

“Why don’t you take a look at our inter residential formations as well? And battle plans—Do you have any experience with battle plans?” Nie Mingjue asked, rubbing his chin, eyes sparkling in excitement.

“I’ve… read some books on it.” Meng Yao offered, still feeling confused at the turn of events. “If I can see the success rates of our current battle plans, I could possibly find out some easier methods to complete them.”

“That’s enough! Are you free now? We should discuss these changes as soon as possible.”

Meng Yao nodded, a smile creeping to his lips. Never had he thought that he could receive such praise from a man like Nie Mingjue. He felt elated and now more than ever, he wanted to show exactly what he was capable of.

Nie Huaisang had returned that afternoon and tiptoed around the Unclean realm, afraid that his departure was already discovered. Instead, he was greeted with the news of Meng Yao planning battle strategies with his brother in the conference room.

When Wei Wuxian next opened his eyes, Jiang Cheng was checking over the list of YunmengJiang residents that escaped peacefully. So far, a few families were missing, but the majority of them had come out safely. Most of the maids of Lotus Pier were here in Yueyang and volunteered to look after Jiang Zemei, but Jiang Yanli insisted that she would do it.

“Jiang… Cheng?” Wei Wuxian said, voice thick with sleep.

Jiang Cheng almost jumped out of his seat, “Wei Ying?” He leaned over to look at his brother’s face, “You’re awake? How are you feeling? Are you hungry?”

Wei Wuxian blinked at him groggily for a moment, before pushing himself up into a sitting position. Jiang Cheng instantly supported him with one hand on his back and the other on his arm. This felt odd to Wei Wuxian and he laughed a little.

“Jiang Cheng, you’re being so gentle with me today. What happened?” He asked, looking at his brother and grinning. “I must’ve done something good.”

“‘Something good’ my ass!” Jiang Cheng shouted. Wei Wuxian stayed still while he rambled, “Why didn’t you tell me what you were going to do? Do you think I’m happy? You deserve a hundred beatings!”

“Ah, I’m sorry!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, forcing another laugh. It came out more awkward and fake than he’d hoped.

He was just about to apologize again when he felt himself get enveloped in a pair of heavy, purple-clothed arms. Wei Wuxian blinked as Jiang Cheng hugged him. His brother rarely initiated any shows of affection—the last time being during the archery competition—which made any such action from him as precious as jewels.

Wei Wuxian was dumbstruck.

“You’re a ridiculous person.” Jiang Cheng told him, gratingly.

Wei Wuxian was a little scared that he may start crying, so he patted Jiang Cheng’s back consolingly, “...I know.”

There was a pause, and then Jiang Cheng spoke, somewhat meekly, “...How am I ever supposed to repay you?”

Wei Wuxian himself didn’t know the answer to this. If Jiang Cheng had to do what Wei Wuxian did, it would’ve angered him as well. No matter which situation they were in, both of them would feel that something was unfair, and yet, neither could really do anything about it.

In the end, Wei Wuxian decided to speak his heart, “You don’t need to. Family always make sacrifices for each other without asking for something in return… It’s because we care. We’re… family, aren’t we?”

Jiang Cheng pulled away from the hug, even though he didn’t want to. He just wanted to stay there and hug his brother and pretend that everything was okay. Instead, he poked Wei Wuxian’s forehead, pushing it back a little, “Why are you even asking that question? Wasn’t it always obvious?”

Wei Wuxian touched his forehead, on the spot that Jiang Cheng poked, and gave a crooked smile. Jiang Cheng gave him a gentle look in return.

“A-Xian!” Jiang Yanli’s voice came and she came into the room holding a bowl of soup. “I knew you were awake.”

Wei Wuxian’s face brightened up immediately, “How?”

Jiang Yanli smiled at her younger brother tenderly, saying, “I just knew. I boiled some soup for you. Are you hungry?”

“Yes!” Wei Wuxian said immediately. “Feed me!”

His sister giggled and Jiang Cheng covered his face with his hand, sighing, “You’re a giant baby. Sit on this side, while you eat.”

“Why?”

“I’ll braid your hair for you. You need to rest and if you keep sleeping like that, you’ll have knots. You can still eat.”

Wei Wuxian rolled his eyes, “No need, no need. Just tie it up and leave it be.”

“Turn around!” Jiang Cheng ordered and Wei Wuxian instantly obeyed, sitting with only one leg hanging off the bed.

Jiang Cheng sat behind him and combed his fingers through the other man’s hair. Jiang Yanli sat in front of Wei Wuxian, bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other. She blew on the soup softly to cool it down and spooned it into Wei Wuxian’s mouth.

The Jiang Sect head disciple happily ate the soup his sister fed him while his brother combed his hair.

It was at such a moment that Wen Qing walked in on them. She put her hands on her hips and raised her eyebrows at them.

“Well, you’re quite spoiled aren’t you, Wei Wuxian?” She said, her mouth quirking upwards a little.

“I deserve it.” He shot back.

Wen Qing agreed. He did deserve to be spoiled. As she watched Jiang Yanli wipe his mouth with a handkerchief and Jiang Wanyin neatly tie his hair, it made her think of herself and Wen Ning. There was a sweetness to them that displayed the bond between siblings very well.

“Just a moment, then.” Wen Qing said as she stepped in front of Wei Wuxian and checked his wrist to count his pulse. Then she put a hand to his forehead to check his temperature. “Hmm… you’re recovering well. No fever and no problems with your cardiac functions either. You can rest for a while longer to heal up the incision and you’ll be fine.”

And as she said this, all of them—herself included—knew that his life could only be fine for a normal human. Not for someone who was once a talented cultivator and rising talent. Not for someone as wild and free as Wei Ying. Now, his wings were clipped.

Wei Wuxian swallowed, “Thank you for listening to my unreasonable requests, Wen Qing. How… how is Madam Yu?”

Wen Qing inclined her head at him, “Her body is relatively stable now, but she is still dehydrated. I’ve prepared a solution that has to be replaced every three days. It will continuously be administered into her body to combat her dehydration and to help with her nutrition. Even after she wakes, this has to be done for a while. I’ve taught your sister how to do it.”

Wei Wuxian nodded, understandingly, “You have to go?”

Wen Qing nodded back, “I’ve been gone far too long. I cannot afford to stay any longer.”

Wei Wuxian forced himself to face Wen Qing directly, despite his protesting joints. He clasped his hands in front of her, “Thank you. For everything.”

Wen Qing’s eyes softened, looking at his bowed head. She turned around, to hide the expression on her face, “Take care Wei Wuxian. We won’t meet again.”

As she left, Wei Wuxian smiled slightly, knowing that they absolutely would.

It was later that afternoon when the Wen siblings decided to leave. Their group had long since boarded the ship already and carried all the necessary supplies, but Jiang Fengmian and Jiang Cheng, along with a few disciples, insisted on walking them to the harbour.

Jiang Yanli stayed back to take care of baby Zemei and bid them farewell by the door, waving with a gentle smile on her face and pleasant words on her lips.

As they walked Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning talked about the recent events. The sun was already starting to set and it threw an orange light everywhere they looked. When they’d started talking about darker topics, Jiang Cheng couldn’t help feeling like he had to express some gratitude to the man next to him.

“Wen Ning, thank you for coming to Lotus Pier as fast as you did.” Jiang Cheng said, inclining his head.

Wen Ning started, “Of course, young master Jiang. I-I was happy to be able to help you and young master Wei. I—”

“Not you again! Get out of here!” A shopkeeper shouted.

Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning turned their attention there, steps slowing down. The person that the shopkeeper was shouting at was none other than a young boy. However, something about the scene seemed off. Though they were shouting at just a young boy, everyone around was suddenly looking on guard and weary.

Jiang Cheng watched in shock as the boy took out a long knife and spun it in between his fingers. Why in the world did that boy evenhavea knife?

“Hey, shouldn’t you at least do me the courtesy of sparing some time?” The boy said, from the side, Jiang Cheng could see he had a radiant smile on his face. “We’re almost friends now, aren’t we?”

The whole incident was so surreal. It was a young boy—no older than eleven—up against a grown man and surrounded by adults. Even if he had a knife, it shouldn’t be difficult to apprehend him, yet no one was trying to stop him.

“Who are friends? Get out now or I’ll file another complaint!”

“Just calm down and listen, you old fart. It was just a plate of pastries—very delicious, mind—but I don’t think it warranted a complaint to the Chang sect. Everyone knows how unfair they are. They really beat me up. The bruises on my back are now purple.”

“It’s fine if they’re unfair to you, isn’t it? You vulgar brat.”

The boy’s smile widened, and though it wouldn’t normally look strange, in this situation it did. Jiang Cheng immediately knew that this kid was planning something bad, and just as he’d thought it, the boy attacked the man.

Jiang Cheng was vigilant. He had been paying close attention and was instantly near the shop owner. He blocked the boy's knife with his sword and forced it out of his hand.

“Hey!” The boy exclaimed, watching as his knife flew out of his hand and landed in the middle of the road.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jiang Cheng shouted. “Do you know how dangerous that is? You could’ve killed this man!”

“Yeah, because I didn’t know knives could kill.” The boy drawled, sarcastically. “Who are you anyway? Hm? Purple clothes… hey, you’re one of those big shot cultivators that the Chang sect bastards were talking about, aren’t you? I heard everything about it when I was getting beaten.”

Hearing this, the shop owner started sucking up to the Jiang Sect heir, “Young master, please help! This child was a delinquent since his birth and grew up without parents. He has no manners and as you can see, he now draws a knife on anyone. He will surely be dangerous if he’s allowed to go like this!”

Jiang Cheng, on the other hand, furrowed his brow in unease, ignoring most of what the man said. It was uncomfortable to hear a boy this young talk so nonchalantly about getting beaten up. Though he looked indifferent, his eyes were red with anger and Jiang Cheng felt a chill. He didn’t doubt the man’s words when he said that he would be dangerous.

“By the sound of it, you stole pastries from him. Weren’t you the one at fault first? You shouldn’t steal.”

Now, the boy’s face twisted, “Typical. So when I steal it’s a problem, but when adults break their promises it’s okay? f*ck you!”

Jiang Cheng had the feeling that there was another story as to why this boy was so distorted. He talked to elders with no respect and seemed to hold no fear at all.

“D-Don’t speak like that.”

Wen Ning walked shuffled forward and looked down at the child in what seemed to be his version of a harsh expression. The boy just looked up at him, unimpressed. Though he was shorter than Wen Ning, Jiang Cheng could no longer make out who was looking down on whom.

“Young master Jiang is o-older than you. You should s-show some respect.” Wen Ning said, bravely.

The boy looked at him incredulously, “Are you seriously lecturing me while stuttering? Do you always do that sh*t?”

Wen Ning turned red in mortification and Jiang Cheng almost slapped his own forehead, “I… was always like this. S-Sorry if it’s annoying.”

The boy snorted, “Yeah, it’s f*cking annoying.”

“You shut up!” Jiang Cheng reprimanded.

Wen Ning straightened up. He seemed to contemplate something for a moment before deciding to walk up to the shop owner. The Wen disciple pointed at a basket of pastries.

“Excuse me, are these for s-sale?” Wen Ning asked.

The vendor frowned, “Yes, they are…”

Wen Ning dug into his robes and pulled out two silver pieces, “...Is this enough for them?”

The shop owner goggled at the money and took it into his hands greedily, “It’s more than enough. Here take it, take it! You can even keep the basket!”

Wen Ning bowed to the owner and walked back to the boy. Jiang Cheng watched curiously as he handed the basket to him, “Here.”

The boy looked at the basket of pastries with wide eyes, mouth watering, “What’s this?”

“Pastries… Don’t you like them? You like them enough to s-steal them…”

The boy gave him a suspicious look, “There’s something that you want, isn’t there? Adults never give things away for free.”

Wen Ning seemed to think, “Yes… There’s something.”

The boy crossed his arms over his chest and gave a bright smile, “Well, say it and I’ll decide whether or not I’m going to skin you.”

Jiang Cheng hissed, “Why you!”

“It’s… not that difficult.” Wen Ning promised. He took hold of the boy's hand and pressed the handle of the basket into it. Wen Ning noticed he was missing a little finger and covered up the fact by wearing a strange black glove. He was overcome with pity for the boy. “If you must s-steal, at least don’t try to hurt anyone. I-In the end, if you do those things… the person who will be hurt the most... is you.”

“That’s it?” The boy asked, surprised that he had just pulled a knife on someone and gotten pastries after.

Wen Ning nodded, “Will you promise? You won’t break it?”

The boy snatched the basket, “Now it’s mine! I’ll keep my end of the promise because I’m not a sh*tty adult.”

Wen Ning blinked at him owlishly and then gave him a smile as soft as a spring breeze. Xue Yang gave a strange look, his guard having come down after being on the receiving end of a smile. He thought for a moment.

“Gege… is that hothead your friend?” The boy asked, pointing at Jiang Cheng.

Wen Ning inclined his head, “Yes…”

“Hey, hothead! Come here!” The boy waved.

“Who’re you calling a hothead, you brat!” Jiang Cheng raged, but still walked over. “What the f*ck do you want?”

The boy gasped, “Cursing in front of a child’s innocent ears! How irresponsible!”

Jiang Cheng raised an eyebrow, “Where’s the innocent ears? You know how to curse better than me.”

“Okay, okay. Guilty.” The boy laughed, brightly. Suddenly, Jiang Cheng felt like this was a normal boy instead of one that was threatening to stab a man not too long ago.

“So listen,” The boy continued, “You should probably leave Yueyang as soon as you can. The Chang Sect are a bunch or dirty backstabbing bastards. While I was getting beaten up, I heard that some other big shot clan was looking for you purple guys and they’re planning on selling you out to them.”

Jiang Cheng's eyes widened in anger at this information, “What? Are you sure?”

“Hey, I don’t lie. I’ve got nothing to lose.” The boy shrugged. “I would kill them myself, but that won’t happen yet since my back’s still swollen. Besides, I got a basket of pastries and this is the first time an adult has been nice. I’m doing a good deed.”

Jiang Cheng and Wen Ning exchanged an urgent look. Wen Chao was still looking for them and it was clear they had to escape.

“Thanks, brat.” Jiang Cheng said before dashing off into the direction that Wen Qing and his father had gone in.

”Rude.” He snorted in return, finding it amusing that someone could put ‘brat’ and ‘thanks’ in the same sentence.

Wen Ning gave the boy a grateful smile, “Thank you. What you told us… will save a lot of people.”

He stood up, prepared to follow Jiang Cheng, when he heard the boy speak up again.

“Hey Gege! What’s your name?”

Wen Ning turned around, surprised, “Wen Ning, courtesy Qionglin.”

“Ning-gege!” He repeated, happily, “My name’s Xue Yang. Don’t forget me!”

Wen Ning gave him a confused look, but nodded anyway and smiled a bit, “Don’t kill anyone, little Yang.”

With that, Wen Ning ran after his companion.

Xue Yang grinned at the retreating figure, exposing his large canines that made him look more devilish than he usually did. His red eyes curved into delighted crescent shapes and his face glowed with child-like excitement.

He held the basket firmly in his hands and skipped away, singing, “Ning-gege gave me pastries~”

Notes:

Since Jiang Zemei is still too young, she won’t be shown much. Moments with her will increase passing by the Sunshot campaign.
Anyway, how was Xue Yang’s character debut? I’m hoping I wrote him well. Since he hasn’t actually committed any real crimes yet, I’m hoping to work on his character more in the future.

“Little Yang” as Wen Ning called Xue Yang sounds like “Xiao Yang” in Chinese and is used quite often to refer to younger ones and I liked the sound of it, for now. Xue Yang won’t want to be called ‘little’ forever 😂
And yes, Wen Ning thought Xue Yang was joking when he said he was planning to kill the Chang sect members.

Also, here’s some fanart of this chapter that I’m sure y’all will like.

So I hope this chapter was easy on the heart for you guys. Do let me know in the comments what you think!

Chapter 37

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“It has been rather stressful serving you,” Wen Qing told Jiang Fengmian and his Sect, once Wen Ning had finally boarded the ship. “But I’m glad that I could help.”

Jiang Fengmian, “Thank you for all your help, doctor Wen.”

“I don’t require thanks. It is my duty. You do not need to feel as if you owe me anything, and for certain, I will take it as I don’t owe you either.”

Jiang Cheng spoke up, “Though you say we don’t owe you, I hope you know that if we can ever help you, the Jiang Sect will do their best.”

Wen Qing co*cked her head to the side, bewildered, “I just said you don’t need to.”

Jiang Fengmian gave a smile, “No, my son is correct. You did something for us that you didn’t have to. If there ever comes a day where we need to do the same for you, we will get it done. The Jiang Sect… is in your debt.”

With that, Jiang Fengmian cupped his hands in front of him and bowed deeply, in a show of respect that was befitting for a king. Jiang Cheng, and the rest of the Jiang disciples copied him.

“We are in your debt!” They chorused together.

With their heads bowed and the orange light of the evening sun set on their back, Wen Qing felt somewhat touched. In the corner of her eye, she saw Wen Ning looking about ready to cry.

Her lips curved upward, “Take care, all of you from the YunmengJiang Sect. Be well.”

“They left?” Nie Huaisang asked, pinching the stone in between his fingers. It glowed slightly with his energy. And an array floated about it with golden light. The array had been imprinted into the stone by Wei Wuxian which made communication easier.

From the other end, Jiang Cheng’s voice came, “Yes. My mother still hasn't woken up and we need to leave for Meishan as soon as we can. That street orphan didn’t seem like he was lying.

“He has no reason to.” Nie Huaisang answered. “I suggest you leave today. Waiting for Madam Yu to wake up may not be the best idea.”

I think the same…” Jiang Cheng agreed. Nie Huaisang did not miss the disappointment in his voice. He had been hoping his mother would wake up as soon as she was treated, but her eyelids were still shut and the Jiang Sect leader still spent every minute he could spare transferring his spiritual energy to her.

“By the way, Wanyin-xiong.” Nie Huaisang spoke, inquiringly, “When I left, Wen Ning seemed rather nervous. Did anything happen with Wuxian-xiong?”

The stone grew dull in his hand, and the other side was quiet for a long moment. Nie Huaisang’s brows knitted together and he was about to call Jiang Cheng’s name again when the other boy spoke again.

Huaisang, I… Wei Ying has…

Nie Huaisang’s eyes steadily widened with each word Jiang Cheng spoke as he explained what happened after he’d left the boat. Jiang Cheng’s voice frequently broke in between and he choked on the difficult parts of his story.

The Nie Sect young master thought back to when he’d been leaving Wen Ning’s ship. There was something so clearly wrong with the situation, and yet, he hadn’t thought it would become like this. Even if Madam Yu had lost her core, there would’ve been no reason for Wei Wuxian to give his. Unless the situation had indeed happened to be as bad as Jiang Cheng said.

“Wanyin… I’m sorry.” He said, unable to find anything else to offer. “How is he?”

In body… he’s fine, but in spirit… I don’t know, Huaisang. I don’t know what to do. His pride is not less than mine. How could I have allowed him to do this?

“It was either his core, or your mother’s life.” Nie Huaisang stated, sympathetically. “You couldn’t have done anything. Wei Wuxian knew that he couldn’t tell you. You would’ve been caught in the middle, so he did it without saying anything.”

Nie Huaisang gave a deep sigh, “I cannot imagine anybody doing this type of thing for anyone. I’m still shocked, if I may be honest.”

There was no answer on the other side. Like Huaisang, Jiang Cheng was also still in shock. It wasn't something that someone could easily accept. That a man as talented as Wei Wuxian would be suddenly reduced to a normal human being. If they were this shocked, he could only imagine what it must be like for the Jiang Sect head disciple.

“Does the rest of the Jiang Sect know about this yet?” Huaisang asked.

Jiang Cheng, “Wei Ying… wants to feel normal for a little longer. We didn’t tell anybody yet because of that.

Nie Huaisang nodded, though no one could see it, “Protect him, Wanyin.”

Jiang Cheng answered irritably, sounding a little insulted, “You don’t have to tell me that. He’ll be lucky if he can get out of my sight now.

Huaisang smiled, “When can I speak to him?”

I’ll connect us again once we reach Meishan. For now, it’s better we let him rest. His wound still needs to heal.

Nie Huaisang couldn’t help but wonder if it was the surgical wound Jiang Cheng was talking about, or the wound in Wei Wuxian’s heart. Either way, it was true he needed time to heal.

When he’d disconnected from Jiang Cheng, Nie Huaisang decided that it was about time the Sects came together and allied themselves against the Wen sect. He knew well that Lan Xichen had already begun recruiting the smaller clans to come fight with them. He had left for the cloud recesses again not too long ago with his father to convince them to join the fight.

Nie Huaisang decided to make his brother do the same with whoever else they could convince. It was also about time to discuss with Meng Yao for what he’s been preparing this entire time. He would continue moving forward with the plan.

For Wei Wuxian’s sake as well.

The Jiang Sect disciples were ordered not to wear the Jiang Sect colours by Jiang Fengmian to prevent any of them from being recognised. Jiang Cheng and his sister packed all of their necessary belongings for the time being with the help of Sisi.

Jiang Fengmian himself had not changed his robes in case the Wen Clan were to spot them. This way, he would draw attention to himself and away from others. Jiang Cheng had done the same, but had forced Jiang Yanli to change her attire.

Jinzhu and Yinzhu had been in front of Yu Ziyuan’s room since they’d arrived and did not move from the place. They seemed to hold terrible feelings of guilt for having not been there with their mistress when the Wen Sect attacked, even though it was on her very orders that they were to run at first sound of the bells.

Madam Yu was transported onto a rented ship that night by Jinzhu and Yinzhu, as she hadn’t woken up yet. Wen Qing had only just left that evening, but without her, they were already growing anxious at the Jiang matriarch’s persistently unconscious state. The feeling left them all a little helpless.

Jiang Fengmian, Jiang Yanli and Sisi had already boarded the ship, along with all of the Jiang Sect disciples. The normal folk had opted to stay in Yueyang until Yunmeng was safe to move back to.

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian were about to do the same, before Wei Wuxian made an exclamation of surprise and said that he’d forgotten something before he ran back to the small house that they had been inhabiting the entire time. Jiang Cheng ran after him.

“What is it? What did you forget?” Jiang Cheng asked, meeting the sight of Wei Wuxian rummaging through a desk drawer in the room that he’d been sleeping in for the past few days.

“This!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, holding up a thick, string necklace. At the end of the string was a familiar object they hadn’t used in a long time.

The golden token, bright as usual, pulsated softly as Wei Wuxian smiled a little sadly, “I know I can’t use it anymore, but would it be selfish of me to keep it anyway?”

“Why should that be selfish?” Jiang Cheng asked, heart heavy, “As far as I’m concerned, it belongs to you. Besides, who says you can’t use it? Maybe you can.”

Wei Wuxian looked at his brother in surprise, “You think so? That… may actually be a possibility. We should try it out.”

Jiang Cheng snorted, feeling a little relieved to see the light return into his shixiong’s eyes, “Not now, we won’t. Everyone’s waiting for us. Let’s use it once we’re on the boat.”

Wei Wuxian grinned, “Let’s get going then!”

They got out of the house, Wei Wuxian chattering away about anything he could. They’d walked a bit of a distance until Jiang Cheng noticed that something was off. Wei Wuxian seemed to realise it at about the same time. They both looked around.

Even though it was nighttime, Yueyang was empty and much, much quieter than usual.

Jiang Cheng, “Wei Ying,”

Wei Wuxian nodded, “Something’s wrong. Let’s hurry up.”

As soon as their resolution had been fixed, however, soldiers poured in from seemingly every side. White robes scattered and almost twenty men surrounded them from every angle. They were the familiar robes of the Wen Sect, and not from the friendly part of it either.

“There you are, Wei Wuxian. Were you leaving for somewhere?” Wen Chao’s greasy voice drawled. He stepped out from within the crowd, Wen Zhuliu following him loyally. His mistress, blessedly, was absent. “Not that it matters. You’re coming with me.”

“Oh? Is that so?” Wei Wuxian said, giving a terse smirk. Sweat beaded at his forehead. “I’m not quite in the mood, though. Think we can reschedule our little tryst?”

Wen Chao’s face distorted in disgust, “You haven’t learned your lesson at all! Must I kill that pest next to you to make you realise how dangerous I am? It’s only a matter of time till I take down the Jiang Sect. However, I am nothing if not merciful.”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian almost burst out laughing in their disbelief.

“And what mercy do you plan on granting us this day?” Jiang Cheng asked, as he carefully examined the number of soldiers that surrounded them.

“It’s very simple!” Wen Chao gave a sleazy smirk, “Jiang Wanyin, hand Wei Wuxian over to me, and we shall leave the YunmengJiang Sect to it’s own.”

Jiang Cheng grit his teeth and glanced at Wei Wuxian.

There were many men. Normally, this would be easy to handle, but with Wen Zhuliu there, it was a bargain. He had to find a way to protect Wei Wuxian, as well as himself.

“Okay then. I’ll come with you!” Wei Wuxian agreed.

Jiang Cheng looked at him in shock, “Wei Ying! What do you think you’re doing?”

“Oh! Looks like you can be smart!” Wen Chao exclaimed, pleased.

Wei Wuxian turned to his brother and lowered his voice, “Jiang Cheng, you need to run.”

Jiang Cheng, “Wei Ying, this is pointless. They will still target our Sect no matter what you do. Don’t do this.”

“I know they will,” Wei Wuxian shook his head, “I’m going to lure the Core-melting hand away. Without him, you can easily escape and regroup. He can’t do anything to me.”

Wei Wuxian was referring to the fact that Wen Zhuliu couldn’t melt his core because he no longer had one. This did not comfort Jiang Cheng. He looked at his brother incredulously, “He could kill you.”

“I won’t die.”

Jiang Cheng had no idea where that confidence came from. He certainly didn’t feel that way.

“What are you bickering about?! Stop it!” Wen Chao yelled, impatiently.

“Just saying goodbye.” Wei Wuxian answered, turning around.

Jiang Cheng caught hold of Wei Wuxian’s arm before he could get too close to Wen Chao, “You are not going anywhere! I forbid it!”

His brother tried to jerk his arm away, but Jiang Cheng was stronger right now. His grip didn’t budge, “I’m going, Jiang Cheng. Let me go.”

“Didn’t you say you would stay by my side? Am I not your future Sect leader? Your brother? I told you that you can’t go!”

Wen Chao, “Enough of this! Get him away.”

With a wave of his hand, Wen Chao’s soldiers all attacked Jiang Cheng and tackled him to the ground.

“Jiang Wanyin, aren’t you lucky? You took in this street orphan and here he is, sacrificing himself for you. All this time, everyone thought he was a pointless investment—an extra mouth to feed and extra trouble that came along with—but finally, he’s doing something worthwhile! Isn’t it selfish of you to disrespect his wishes?”

Jiang Cheng pushed himself off the ground shouting, “Shut up! What do you know about respect? About Wei Ying?! He belongs to the Jiang Sect and if you harm him, we will not stay quiet!”

The Wen soldiers seized Wei Wuxian by both arms and forced him to his knees.

Wen Chao laughed at the sight in cruel delight, “He’s given himself up! You are an idiot, Jiang Wanyin! Yu Ziyuan was rumoured to loathe him but that’s an unreliable rumour. She pushed him out of danger and put herself at risk. Both your parents treat him well but he has caused nothing but trouble for your sect and you still want to fight for him? Without him, you’ll be better off, don’t you think?”

As he spoke, Wei Wuxian felt more and more guilty. He thought of Madam Yu who was still unconscious and of Jiang Fengmian who wearily sat next to her everyday and put on a smile, pretending everything was fine so that he wouldn’t upset his children. He lowered his head.

Jiang Cheng was enraged to hear his mother’s name from Wen Chao’s foul mouth and was just as angered at the sight of his shixiong being forced onto his knees, “Get your hands off him, before I burn you all to death!”

Wen Chao took a step back, recalling his fearsome abilities from their previous encounter. Then, remembering he had the core melting hand next to him, his confidence shot up again.

He walked over to Wei Wuxian and snatched Suibian from his hip, startling him.

“My sword…!”

“Mine now.” Wen Chao grinned, examining it excitedly. “Doesn’t this throw flames? I think I should try it. Jiang Wanyin, I’m not scared of your sword. I have one too!”

Wen Zhuliu stepped up, “Young master, doing it here may not be for the best. Our men are around and we only have these many for the moment.”

Wen Chao was displeased to hear this but couldn’t help agreeing. He didn’t care for the lives of his men, but he didn’t have any more lives to spare, so he kept the sword aside.

“Carry him with you. Make sure he doesn’t escape.” Wen Chao ordered two men. “The rest of you, take care of Jiang Wanyin.”

Xue Yang held the basket in his hand as he savoured the last bite of the pastry Wen Ning had bought for him. He licked his fingers and lips and looked down at the basket. It was now empty and only contained the crumbs of what had once filled it.

In retrospect, he shouldn’t have eaten them all at once, but Xue Yang wasn’t the type to take his time with things. Yet now, not only did he miss the pastries, but he rather wanted to see Wen Ning again. Even though he stuttered too much for the youth’s liking.

Just as he looked up from the basket and focused on his way to the Main Street, he noticed a man in purple clothes standing in the middle of the road, soldiers in white and red clothes were scattered around him unconscious. Xue Yang’s recognised him immediately.

“Hey, hothead!” Xue Yang called out, grinning. He walked over to the man, ignoring the fact that he was stepping on the bodies of the men on the ground. One even made an ‘oof!’ sound. “What are you doing here? No one else with you?”

He looked behind and all around the man, but saw that he was alone.

“You’re the kid from earlier…!” The man said and looked at Xue Yang urgently. “Listen, I need you to do a favour.”

Xue Yang, “Oh, I don’t do favours.”

He was about to walk away but the purple clothed guy caught his shoulder, “Please. I need to go save my brother. Just go to the harbour and look for the biggest ship. If you see another man dressed like me or two women standing on the docks beside it, tell them that they need to send help and that I will flare up signals so that they can locate me. I’ll give you anything you want if you do this!”

His grip tightened on Xue Yang’s shoulders, “Ow! Okay! Okay! Just remove your hands, they f*cking hurt!”

The man removed them immediately and immediately mounted his sword, floating a distance above the ground.

Xue Yang’s eyes widened. He’d never seen a person do this up close before and it was really fascinating to see for a child his age.

“Go find the biggest ship.” The older male repeated, “Tell them that Jiang Cheng sent you.”

Xue Yang raised an eyebrow but nodded, “You better not forget your promise. I’m doing this since you’re Ning-ge’s friend and he didn’t break his, so you better not!”

“I promise!” Jiang Cheng shouted as he flew past Xue Yang as fast as he could and soared into the sky.

They landed in a clearing on the border that separated Yueyang and Yunmeng. Wei Wuxian vaguely remembered that he was now in Yiling. He couldn’t help but think of the words ‘Yiling Patriarch’. It chanted in his head, persistently, in a voice he didn’t recognise.

Wang Lingjiao was waiting there for them.

The moment they’d touched the ground, Wei Wuxian wasted no time. He kicked back into the crotch of one the soldiers that held onto him. The man doubled over in pain and Wei Wuxian immediately kicked the other one.

The stupid woman started screaming and Wen Zhuliu immediately caught hold of Wei Wuxian, slamming his bare hand into the Jiang disciples chest.

Just as Wei Wuxian was pushed back with the force of the impact, two things happened simultaneously: the first, Wen Zhuliu realised that something was wrong with his pathways. The second, Wen Chao stabbed Wei Wuxian in the chest with Suibian.

Wei Wuxian made a pained sound and stumbled to the ground.

“What? On your knees already? Swagger some more. Aren’t you the greatest at swaggering?!” Wen Chao sneered and kicked Wei Wuxian, grinding his face into the ground with his foot. “Wei Ying, you act so faultless. So gallant and chivalrous. Do you think I would’ve attacked Lotus Pier so badly if it weren’t for how much you angered me? It’s your fault! Yours!”

He kicked at Wei Wuxian with every word he could utter.

“Don’t forget,” Wang Lingjiao piped up, her voice honey sweet. “He still owes us an arm.”

“An arm!” Wen Chao scoffed and bent down, grabbing Wei Wuxian by the hair and
pulling him halfway off the ground. “An arm is letting him off too easy. I will break his meridians and make him scream like Jiang Cheng’s mother. Then, I’ll lead a siege onto the Jiang Sect again and this time, kill every last member without fail”

It escaped everyone’s notice that Wen Chao no longer used courtesy names to refer to the Jiang brothers.

“And MeishanYu!” Wang Lingjiao suggested, joyfully. “That bitch, Yu Ziyuan thinks her sect is so great. We have to bring it down.”

“All in due time. First, Wei Ying will get what he deserves.” Wen Chao grinned.

Blood collected in Wei Wuxian’s mouth and he spat it onto Wen Chao’s face. He gave him a dark look, “Wen Chao. Enough of your bullsh*t. Bring whatever methods you have. The more brutal the better. Torture me to death of you dare! If you even think of harming the Jiang Sect, I will come back from the dead as a ferocious ghost and haunt you all! You damned Wens will never be at peace!”

His threat was frightening to everyone present. Wei Wuxian’s voice no longer had the mischievous lilt they were used to. It was deep, dangerous and filled with hatred. It haunted them before he was even dead. Yet, Wen Chao would not allow himself to show that he was disturbed by it.

“You want to be a vicious ghost?” Wen Chao smiled insidiously and then slapped Wei Wuxian down. “You think you’re afraid of nothing. What a great man! I’d like to see, how long can you stay tough?”

He turned around and ordered his men after him, “Take him!”

The two men who had been kicked by Wei Wuxian were now standing up straight again and obeyed the orders of Wen Chao. As they dragged Wei Wuxian after their master, the bell on his waist fell off, landing into the soft grass on the ground.

Jiang Cheng knew exactly where Wen Chao would go. Chances were, Wei Wuxian knew as well. He flew as fast as he could and lowered himself nearer to the ground, examining the surrounding.

The trees were all slashed at and cut. Jiang Cheng inferred that Wen Chao had been trying to release the flames from Suibian but failed and got angry. He flew to a height once more and flew straight, heart beating wildly in his rib cage.

Wei Ying, I’m on my way.

Notes:

Hurray for A BUTTLOAD of chapters!

So everyone’s been inquiring about why I’m making wwx lose his golden core. The answer is very simple: YILING PATRIARCH IS HOT AND I WANT TO WRITE HIM. Demonic cultivation made him sexier no one can disagree.
*Ahem*
But also, I feel like it’s a part of who he is. I can’t take demonic cultivation away from him and make him the same person. In the end, I want to be able to write a happy ending with the original MXTX wwx.

Chapter 38

Notes:

TW: Violence/loss of limb

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Lan Wangji was lighting the candles in the ashen ancestral hall of the Cloud Recesses when his grand uncle approached him.

“Wangji.”

Lan Wangji cupped his hands in salute and bowed, “Granduncle.”

He was one of the prominent elders of the GusuLan sect and the uncle to both Lan Qiren and well and Lan Qiqiu. His youth, however, was not maintained anymore, and it was clear he did not cultivate to the desired levels for achieving it. Still, he was revered for his knowledge in the Lan Sect.

“I heard you’ve sent disciples to Yueyang and Meishan to search for the Jiang refugees.”

Lan Wangji, “I have.”

“Wangji,” The old man spoke patiently, “The Wen Sect have taken brutal measures to try and exterminate the Jiang Sect. They have managed to kill only a few disciples and are terribly angry. They’ve put bounties on the heads of everyone belonging to the Sect. Even the insignificant citizens.”

Lan Wangji did not think that the citizens were insignificant, but stayed quiet. Show respect to your elders. The words automatically chanted in his head.

His granduncle continued speaking, “The QishanWen Sect is spending massive effort on trying to root out the Jiang Sect. Do you understand why?”

Lan Wangji bowed his head, “I do.”

“Then why would you search for them and draw fire to ourselves? At such a time, when we have suffered such massive damage to our Cloud Recesses, we must lay a low profile.”

Lan Wangji pondered on whether to answer, and settled on doing so, “Granduncle, in great disaster, none shall be unscathed. The Wen Sect will come after everyone. It is now that we must unite and resist.”

The old man sighed irritably, “You stubborn child.”

It was then that a new voice joined them, “Uncle.”

Lan Wangji watched as Lan Qiren approached them.

“Ah, Qiren. You’ve come at the right time. Quick, make Wangji understand that—”

The old man’s eyes widened as he looked past Lan Qiren. When Lan Wangji noticed why, he had felt like doing the same. Being as he was though, his eyebrows only moved slightly upwards.

Behind Lan Qiren, walking past the screen, was none other than Qingheng-jun.

“Uncle,” Lan Qiqiu stepped forward. “It had been a while.”

“Qiqiu… Your son… is as stubborn as you. He is not listening.”

Lan Qiqiu bowed his head, “With all due respect, Uncle. A war has already started. Qinghe had also been attacked. Now, it is only a matter of time till we will be forced to fight. Helping the Jiang Sect should be a priority. They have talented disciples and will be an asset.”

Lan Qiren also spoke, “Uncle, I also believe Wangji has done nothing wrong.”

“You two…!” The old man looked angry and cornered.

Lan Qiren continued speaking, “In this great calamity, all the cultivation clans must unite. I will set out for Lanling tomorrow.”

The elderly man was irritated but seeing that he had no more say in anything, huffed and left the room.

Lan Qiren spoke after he’d left, “Your Granduncle is only worried about our Sect. He means no ill.”

“Wangji… understands.” But even as he answered his uncle, his eyes did not leave his brother and father.

Lan Qiqiu walked up to his youngest son, “A-Zhan.”

Having seen his father properly for the first time in years, he could only opt to show the general respect and saluted, “Father. Where is…?”

Lan Qiqiu spoke serenely, much like Lan Xichen, showcasing the simlarities, “A-Huan had decided to take a detour. There are some matters he wanted to address. He will be back in time.”

“This disciple will not ask further questions.” Lan Wangji bowed, satisified with the answer.

Qingheng-jun smiled slightly, and then with a swift movement, he embraced Lan Wangji, “You have grown well.”

His son was now so stiff that he may as well have been a doll. Lan Qiqiu chuckled lightly and pulled away, “So you still don’t prefer physical contact.”

Lan Wangji pursed his lips, “I… will try to correct it.”

“You don’t need to change who you are if you aren’t harming anyone.” His father said. “For now, we’ll have to end the reunion here, though. Prepare for the conference.”

Lan Wangji bowed, “Yes, father.”

The youth left the room without another word.

Lan Qiren gave a cold glance to his older brother, “I will take my leave, Qingheng-Jun.”

Lan Qiqiu sighed as his brother turned around, “You may call me ‘brother’, Qiren.”

“If I may, I’m not quite as forgiving as your sons. I do not particularly want to see your face right now, either.”

The Lan Sect leader, felt a little hurt at this, but did not argue. It was understandable, after all.

“Qiren… I’m sorry for all these years. You took on the burden of the entire Sect and grew up my sons as well. I apologise to have left you to do it all alone.”

Lan Qiren was quiet for a moment. When he spoke, his voice shook, “Don’t you dare do it ever again. If you do, I won’t ever consider you my brother.”

“I won’t.” He promised. “Thank you for staying by me.”

Lan Qiren left the room without another word or glance.


Wen Chao forced Wei Wuxian’s head over the cliff, “Why don’t you guess where we are Wei Ying? You can’t? No, of course you know. These are the Yiling burial mounds. Corpse Mountain; an ancient battlefield! You can find a corpse anywhere you shovel.”

Wei Wuxian looked down at the burial mounds in mutely. It was black and grey wherever he looked and a putrid smell radiated from the depths. You couldn’t even see where it ended but there were sharp rocks emerging from odd angles and seemed to be skewering more than one body on each of them—Which was enough to deduce what it was filled with. It was much worse than he’d expected.

Then he felt himself being kicked into the ground again.

“Wei Ying! Take a look at this resentful energy! No matter who tried to purge it, they all failed. Go into it once, your soul and flesh will never return! A normal person would go mad, a cultivator would lose his life!”

Wei Wuxian felt himself being picked off the ground and forced onto the edge of the cliff.

Just then, a loud sound came from behind and the Wen Sect members all turned to look at the source.

There, standing with a flare in his hand and a lotus flower blooming behind him, was Jiang Cheng, expression furious.

“Give. Him. Back.” He ground out and took a step forward with each word.

“Jiang Cheng…” Wen Chao hissed. “You should not have come here!”

Jiang Cheng unsheathed his sword, “And you should die.”

Just as he said this, he transformed Zidian and blocked Wen Zhuliu who had thought he was springing a surprise attack from the side.

“Jiang Cheng…” Wei Wuxian gasped, through the choking hold that Wen Chao had on his throat. His mind raced with a million questions, all starting with the same word: Why, why, why?

Wen Zhuliu ignored the lightning that climbed up his arm and pulled at Zidian as much as Jiang Cheng did. The two other Wen soldiers that were there attacked Jiang Cheng, and he immediately forced Sandu on them, electrocuting them into unconsciousness.

Then, realising that he was getting nowhere with Wen Zhuliu, he let go of Zidian and simultaneously pushed Wen Zhuliu down. With the inertia of the movement, Jiang Cheng wasted no time and immediately stabbed Wen Zhuliu, pinning him to the ground with Sandu.

The Core melting hand could not help but let out a strangled cry of pain at this. Jiang Cheng got up in satisfaction and turned to Wen Chao, dangerously holding Zidian in his hand as it sizzled with a bright, purple hue.

“You’re next, Wen Chao.” He growled.

The Wen young master yelled, realising he was in danger, but then, he saw who was still at the end of his hand, running out of air to keep him stable. Wen Chao smirked deviously.

“No. This one is.” Saying that, he pushed Wei Wuxian off the edge.

Time slowed down as Jiang Cheng watched Wei Wuxian fall backwards. His eyes narrowed onto one point and he shot forward.

When Wei Wuxian was pushed off the cliff, he braced himself to feel the fall, but instead, he dangled off the cliff as an arm grabbed hold of him. Opening his eyes, he saw Jiang Cheng, holding his wrist firmly while his other hand was around Zidian. He was obviously using the spiritual whip to secure himself in place.

“Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian shouted.

“It’s okay!” Jiang Cheng called. “Hold on, I’ll pull you up now!”

“Pull him up? Jiang Cheng… you should be more worried about yourself right now!” Wen Chao grunted, stepping as hard as he could on the hand that held Zidian.

Jiang Cheng yelled out in pain. He growled, “Wen Chao…!”

Wen Chao was irritated at this. Before, Jiang Cheng had never treated him disrespectfully to his face, but now he didn’t seem to bother with it. “You dare to look at me with such defiance? Let’s see how defiant you can actually be.”

Wei Wuxian pupils contracted as he saw Wen Chao unsheathe his sword and put hold it towards Jiang Cheng’s arm. As he lifted it high up, Wei Wuxian could only shout at him to stop.

An order that Wen Chao cared little for.


The cup holding his tea broke just as Nie Huaisang was about to pick it up from the tray.

“Young master! I’m so sorry, I’ll get you a new cup right away!” The maid bowed apologetically a few times and rushed to prepare a new cup.

Meng Yao who was sitting across from him frowned, “That is a bad omen.”

Nie Huaisang’s shoulders drooped, “I was thinking the same thing. I hadn’t felt right since morning. My favourite fan fell into a pond, I tripped over my own foot and tore my best robe and now this.”

“Do not stress, Huaisang. We can only continue doing what we have so far.”

“Yes. With Xichen-ge already having spent his time recruiting the smaller clans to go against the Wen Sect, we have more of a chance to convince all the major Sects to work with us.”

“Eldest young master Lan is resourceful. He will definitely be able to lead everyone well.” Meng Yao states, sipping his tea. “But what did you want to discuss with me?”

Huaisang nodded. He reached out for his notes and looked over them again, “Yao-ge, this was something that I’d found recently. It could work very well with chord assassination.”

“Yes, I did look it over. Your diagrams are very precise, however… it’s very dangerous. If this was the case, I might as well kill them.”

Realising that what he’d said had been too thoughtless, Meng Yao gasped, “I—of course—do not…”

Huaisang shook his head, “That’s what I want to prevent. Yao-ge, my brother is very righteous and does not tolerate injustice. If you kill indiscriminately, I’m afraid he might not think well of you. I would like your good relations to continue.”

Meng Yao blinked, “You… are afraid for me? Not for the people?”

Huaisang smiled a little humorlessly, “Other people matter little to me. I’m very different from my brother. I only care for those I know, Yao-ge. I hope you learn how to use chord assaniation so accurately that you can manage to stop a cultivator’s breath for a few hours.”

“It stops for a few hours?” Meng Yao asked, a little incredulously. “How could they be alive after that?”

Nie Huaisang pushed the papers to Meng Yao, “Read.”

The Nie sect subordinate obeyed. He read each line carefully and looked over the diagrams again. After reading the entire thing, he exhaled through his nose and set down the scroll.

“This is truly… a theoretical technique.” Meng Yao managed. “This should normally be impossible.”

Nie Huaisang snapped open his fan and smiled behind it, “ Normally. No normal person could do it, Yao-ge. This is a technique that had long ago been used medically by only the most skilled of doctors with acupuncture needles. To use it along with the instruments for chord assassination is a brand new theory. A brand new technique. One that can only be used by someone who can take one look at a person and clearly analyse every part of their anatomy.”

Meng Yao looked at Nie Huaisang, “What if I can’t do it?”

“If you can’t, no one can.” Huaisang grinned, “But I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that.”

The other man sighed, “Very well. I will practice this on puppets for now.”

As he spoke, he noticed that Nie Huaisang was no longer listening and instead was staring out of the window dazedly.

“Huaisang? Is something wrong?” Meng Yao asked.

Nie Huaisang lowered his fan slightly before shutting it close, “I don’t know. Something must be. I can’t stop feeling anxious.”


Jiang Cheng’s cry of pain was much louder this time. It echoed throughout the burial mounds and Wei Wuxian felt himself tremble in mid-air as Blood splattered all over his face.

Through hazy vision, his shock permeated through him. Jiang Cheng’s arm fell past him into the abyss.

Yet, Wei Wuxian had not fallen with it.

“f*ck! What is wrong with you?!” Wen Chao cursed.

Wang Lingjiao also screamed in revulsion, “Is he mad?!”

This manner was worthy to be cursing about. It was certainly not the type of behaviour someone as selfish and cruel as Wen Chao could understand.

The moment he had raised his sword, Jiang Cheng knew what Wen Chao was planning to do, but instead of doing anything else, his first instinct was to let go of Zidian and hold onto Wei Wuxian with his other hand.

Now, he was missing his left arm and held onto Wei Wuxian’s wrist with his right one.

“Jiang Cheng, y-you’re arm…!” Wei Wuxian yelled, chest heaving up and down. “Don’t do this. Let go! Please, I’ll be fine!”

Jiang Cheng was panting heavily. Not only was he in immense pain at his arm having been just cut off, the hand he was using to hold onto Wei Wuxian was sore from having been stomped on by Wen Chao. And now without holding onto Zidian, he had no firm momentum to keep himself steady.

“Who… are you… to say that?!” Jiang Cheng roared, sweat dripping off his nose and forehead. “Who are you to say that, Wei Ying?! So you’ll be fine but do you ever think of how I’ll feel? Will you ever listen to me? Whatever happens, I will not let go!”

Jiang Cheng slipped forward slightly, being pulled with Wei Wuxian’s weight.

Wei Wuxian, “Jiang Cheng!”

“Disgusting!” Wen Chao sneered. “What is this supposed to be? Are you acting out a play? Jiang Cheng, you’re making it difficult for me. I don’t know who’s arm I’d like to cut off anymore. Should it be Wei Ying’s? Or yours? But even if I didn’t do anything, it would be fine. You won’t be able to pull up Wei Ying and will instead fall to your death with him. Compared to that, I would be showing great mercy to cut off your other arm as well!”

Wang Lingjiao couldn’t take it anymore and spoke up, “Young master, shouldn’t we cut off Wei Ying’s arm? He deserves some more pain before falling to death.”

“Ah, Jiaojiao!” Wen Chao turned his head and his voice turned sweet. “For a man like Wei Ying, you have to give him emotional pain. Falling to his death after thoroughly crippling his shidi—isn’t it perfect?”

Wang Lingjiao didn’t feel so, but anymore opinions were clearly unwelcome from her part, so she kept quiet. She consoled herself with the fact that he would be dying anyway.

“Wen Chao!” Wei Wuxian raged. “I have never hated someone as much as I hate you. Mark my words, I will not die. I will come back from the dead if I have to just so that you can die a painful death!”

“Listen to him, still dishing out threats!” Wang Lingjiao mocked, even though she was scared of them.

“Enough!” Wen Chao shouted. “Jiang Cheng, do not blame me for the loss of your arms. Wei Ying is the cause for one. You are the cause for the other.”

Wei Wuxian could not bear it anymore. Before Wen Chao could bring his sword down, he yanked his hand out of Jiang Cheng’s grip.

Jiang Cheng stumbled in shock for a moment and reached to grab him again, but it was too late.

Wei Wuxian already fell far past his grip.

“WEI YING!”


Wen Chao basked in savage delight at the anguish that spread across the Jiang Sect heir’s face. He was about to lift his leg to kick the purple clad boy in as well when Jiang Cheng turned to look at him murderously.

He held out his hand and Zidian flew to it.

Before, no matter how much he tried, Zidian had never allowed itself to be summoned. Yet now that he was consumed by grief and hatred, Jiang Cheng could not even notice this much less celebrate it.

“WEN CHAO!!!” Jiang Cheng bellowed.

Wen Chao had not expected that Jiang Cheng could stand up so fast while the junction of where his right arm should be was bleeding to the point that it had soaked the entire left side of his clothes with blood. He was even soaking the ground.

As he did not have a particular attachment to anyone, he couldn’t understand the rage that Jiang Cheng felt, which was so strong that it numbed his pain to nothing.

Jiang Cheng whipped Wen Chao as hard as he could with Zidian, throwing him into a tree and snapping it in half in the process. Wen Chao coughed blood on impact, clearly having broken something.

“J-Jiang Wanyin… Stop! Stop!” Wen Chao begged as he drew closer. His back was hurt now, and he felt that his ribs must be broken. He wasn’t below begging for the moment.

Jiang Cheng didn’t care. He wanted Wen Chao dead.

He raised Zidian high up again and struck, but just as it was about to hit, Wen Zhuliu shot in front of Wen Chao and blocked the whip with his sword. He had long since been working to remove the sword that he'd been pinned to the ground with, not expecting Wen Chao to help. At the last moment, he’d finally managed to pull it out and rush to help his master.

“You—!” Jiang Cheng thundered, eyes widening. They were red and filled with unshed tears. “It’s your fault! I’ll kill you all !”

Despite his claims, however, Jiang Cheng was tired and in pain. Having lost a limb and the amount of blood that it goes with, he was also quite weak. With such strong emotions clouding his conscience, his mind didn’t notice any of those things. However, his body did.

Wen Zhuliu easily pushed Jiang Cheng back and threw him to the ground. He was about to raise his hand and deal the final blow—his signature core melting technique—but a voice rang between them.

“A-Cheng!”

Wen Zhuliu spotted none other than the Jiang Sect leader and some of his disciples flying towards them with great speed. Immediately realising that they were in a disagreeable situation, the core melting hand picked up Wen Chao and tossed him onto his shoulder.

“Wen Zhuliu!” Wen Chao exclaimed in humiliation.

The man did not listen and proceeded to pick up Wang Lingjiao as well who also screamed. He spoke softly, “Young master, the Jiang Sect is coming. We are now at a disadvantage and must leave.”

Wen Chao was tired after having been hit by Zidian. Though wanting to get revenge, he did not have the strength anymore and so kept quiet when Wen Zhuliu carried both him and Wang Lingjiao off.

When Jiang Fengmian landed to where his son was he was shocked at the amount of blood surrounding him and at his missing left arm.

Jiang Cheng dashed to the edge of the cliff, but was immediately held back by two of Jiang Fengmian’s personal guards.

“Let me go!” Jiang Cheng struggled.

“A-Cheng, what happened?!” Jiang Fengmian asked as he went over to examine him.

He had left the ship as soon as a young boy came to pass the message and proceeded to follow wherever the Jiang signal appeared. It finally led him to Yiling where he had to search for this exact area.

“Dad, Wei Ying fell!” Jiang Cheng exclaimed, completely distraught. “We need to search for him. He’s in there!”

“A-Ying?” Jiang Fengmian asked, eyes widening. He grabbed his sword and looked over the cliff, preparing to fly in at first, but stopped short on the edge. Just looking at it made his eyes water like onions were being rubbed into them and his skin was burning as if he was being poked with a lit incense stick all over. His lungs were closing up being in its sheer presence.

The resentful energy was too strong. Even if a healthy person simply walked into it, they could not be fine enough to come back out. Jiang Fengmian’s breathing sped up to the point that he felt like he must be hyperventilating and nausea welled up in him.

He looked to Jiang Cheng who was still struggling in the grip of two confused Jiang disciples.

“Let go, let go!”

Jiang Fengmian swallowed and, making a decision, he walked over to Jiang Cheng. Just as his son looked up at him, Jiang Fengmian lifted the hilt of his sword and accurately hit the shock point on Jiang Cheng’s neck.

Notes:

Okay, I KNOW how this looks but TRUST ME. This story 10000000% has a sickeningly happy ending. This is a spoiler, but I feel it’s a necessary one seeing as how you guys are so worried.

Why did I cut off Jiang Cheng’s arm? I felt like his progress as a human being in the novel was due to his loss, and I kind of need that to happen here somehow so... ta-da?

Also hey! Did you notice the two new confirmed pairing?
Lan Qiren/Sisi and Lan Xichen/Jiang Cheng.

We’ll see how this works.

Chapter 39

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Lan Wangji sorted his belongings to make sure nothing was missing. While arranging his books, a paper escaped from the cabinet. He picked it up just as it landed onto the floor and unfolded it.

It was a portrait of himself. The strokes were thin and bold on exactly the necessary areas and was pleasing to the eye.

Lan Wangji remembered when he received this drawing as if it happened yesterday. He could clearly recall the library pavilion, clean and untouched; Wei Wuxian’s face, teasing and carefree, and felt his heart tremble with the memory.

As he smoothened the paper with his palm, he noticed the corner of the portrait split itself into two.

Looking at it, he felt that he had not treated it poorly enough to have it tear so easily. To see such a clean and deep cut in the portrait was unnerving to Lan Wangji who wasn’t used to such things happening under his care.

He ran his fingers over the tear, and as if Wei Wuxian’s voice would speak to him from the portrait, he called softly, “Wei Ying…”


Jiang Cheng had woken up after exactly a night of being unconscious. By the time he’d opened his eyes he was in the ship’s sleeping quarters. His waking had been followed by lots of fuss, which he grew more and more paralysed towards.

Without anyone telling him, he could already deduce what had happened.

After Jiang Fengmian found him, he’d examined the burial mounds. He must’ve seen how impossible it would be to actually search it for a body. First, because there were a lot of bodies in it, and second, because going in there would immediately make your flesh start rotting from the corruptive potential.

Everything was clear.

Wei Wuxian fell into the burial mounds. He must be dead. Going in there would be nothing short of suicide and a waste of his sacrifice.

This was what the senior disciples discussed.

Jiang Cheng sat by the tiny ship window, face devoid of emotion and eyes soulless. He was shirtless, torso covered in bandages and the junction of his arm plastered up. Suibian lay on a nearby desk and Wei Wuxian’s bell was clutched in his hand. Jiang Fengmian’s men had searched around the burial mounds and had found these traces that were left behind of him.

Jiang Yanli stood by the door, looking at her brother helplessly as she held a bowl of porridge in her hands. When her father had returned the night before without Wei Wuxian and an armless Jiang Cheng, she had cried herself to sleep, unable to do anything else.

Now, she tried to pick herself up so that her younger brother could as well, “A-Cheng… you need to eat something. We will reach Meishan only by nightfall.”

Jiang Cheng, who had not spoken a word to anyone since waking up, slowly looked up when he heard the gentle voice, “Sister…”

Jiang Yanli walked towards her brother and set down the bowl on the bedside desk, “A-Cheng…”

“Sister, don’t.” Jiang Cheng cut in, wearily, “I don’t know how to face you. Wei Ying… I couldn’t save him… Must he be...”

“No, don’t blame yourself. Don’t make wild guesses. We can’t lose hope now. Last night, I checked the records we made from watching the visions. Remember? A-Xian came back after three months of being missing, originally. I know he is alive.”

Though she forced strength into her voice, Jiang Cheng could see from her swollen eyelids that she’d been crying for too long. He sighed, “Then he would have learnt demonic cultivation. That was the way he survived before.”

“Is that so bad?”

Jiang Cheng pursed his lips, “He didn’t want to do it again. I wanted to protect him from it.”

Jiang Yanli held her brother’s hand in between her own two, “We will. He is not alone this time. He is alive and we will find him and then we will make sure demonic cultivation won’t harm him. The three of us must not separate.”

Jiang Cheng’s lips trembled slightly at his sister’s gentle tone and he looked down at the floorboard, “...Yes.”

Jiang Fengmian knelt sat beside his wife who still lay unconscious.

“Ziyuan, why do you take so long to wake up?” He asked, softly. “Without you, I feel lost. You sacrificed yourself for A-Ying, then A-Ying sacrificed himself for you and now once more, he has done the same again. A-Cheng was losing his mind and I could not even try to find him. I cannot lose you too.”

Yu Ziyuan stayed silent, lips pale and unmoving and face so peaceful that she could be having a wonderful dream. Jiang Fengmian squeezed her hand and started transferring his energy more forcefully.

“You told me that you wanted to spar with me once A-Mei was born. I did not plan to before, but I will now. I will do anything. Right now, more than ever, I yearn to hear your voice. Even if it is only to scold me for being too mild and too weak…”

The silence continued.


When the Jiang ship had landed in Meishan, Jiang Cheng had donned a purple cape. He had no choice, since it would look too strange to see an armless man walking around, but now, it wasn’t noticeable.

“A cape? Really? I thought the armless look was awesome but you want to go and hide it?”

The voice was familiar and irritating. Jiang Cheng turned and saw Xue Yang leaning on the doorframe.

“You—What are you doing here?!”

Xue Yang’s shrugged and grinned, canine exposed, “I’m collecting the favour. I don’t want to fight out on the streets anymore, so I’m coming with you. I’ve been here the whole time!”

“You—”

“Be nice, A-Cheng.” Sisi’s voice came. “He’s a rude brat, but not bad. We can afford to keep him.”

Xue Yang smiled brightly, “Think of me as a pet, but like your master.”

Sisi hit him over the head, “ A-Cheng is your master now, you little devil. Show him some respect.”

Xue Yang stuck out his tongue before running away.

Sisi sighed before turning to look at Jiang Cheng. She smiled sombrely, “You look very handsome.”

“I’m crippled.” Jiang Cheng deadpanned.

“Still charming.” She winked. Then, on a more serious note, her voice lowered. “...But I can tell by looking at you that it’s not what’s bothering you. When should we start searching for… A-Ying? A-Li insists that he is alive.”

Jiang Cheng swallowed, and picked up his bag. He walked out of the room and Sisi followed him as he spoke, “If we are honest, it is mostly just hope, but every minute passing makes us believe it more. Wei Ying is not weak. He will come back. And I will prepare a search party for him to set out as soon as possible.”

Though Sisi was only a handmaiden, Jiang Cheng had no qualms about discussing priorities with her. She had positive viewpoints and was very strong. So much that it influenced the people around her to be the same.

That night, Madam Yu was moved to her childhood room by her Clan relatives and Jiang Fengmian stayed with her. They’d summoned a doctor to look over her condition, but nothing could be found wrong. They instructed Jiang Fengmian to continue doing what he had been doing thus far as having someone else also transfer energy could be too overwhelming.

Jiang Cheng, on the other hand, was escorted to another room, his sister staying in the one opposite his. Xue Yang announced that he didn’t require a room and would go wherever he wanted or sleep wherever he could. Everyone knew though, that he would be disturbing the youngest Jiang sibling.

As he’d promised Sisi, he’d sent out several search parties to look for Wei Wuxian while he recuperated. Even with his fully functioning core, however, the wound was too severe to heal well. He still bled and had to change his bandages twice a day.

On top of that, even after a week, there was no sightings of the Jiang Sect head disciple around the burial mounds.

Jiang Cheng kept Wei Wuxian’s bell and sword on the table in the room and looked at it blankly before a messenger arrived by the door.

“What is it?” He barked.

The MeishanYu disciple bowed, reporting to a Jiang Cheng as it was expressly ordered that Jiang Fengmian mustn’t be disturbed without permission, “Young master, We’ve received an urgent summons requesting Sect Leader Jiang’s presence within the week.”

“From whom and for what?”

“The GusuLan Sect sect, sir. They wish to discuss… about war.”

Jiang Cheng stayed still in surprise for a moment. Then, “Inform my father that I will attend it in his place.”

In the span of a few days, the rumours of war became a reality.

The ruined Lotus Pier had been set up as a Supervisory office of the Wen Sect. After that, the offices spread everywhere, as ominous as a stream of blood that oozed into every district.

Lan Qiren had been reported to have gone to LanlingJin and was repeatedly turned away until he was forced to make it a public announcement where every powerful Sect leader would have no choice but to attend for a discussion. This was also the summons that Jiang Cheng had been sent.

QingheNie had long since been expecting the breakout of war and immediately agreed to a meeting at the Cloud Recesses. Nie Mingjue had at first planned on going alone, but when his younger brother insisted on coming, he’d been too surprised to do much else than agree. And wherever Nie Huaisang went, Meng Yao followed.

Jiang Cheng had stopped by his father’s room to say goodbye. Jiang Fengmian apologised to his son for making him bear the responsibility, but Jiang Cheng simply shook his head. Even if his father wanted to attend, his mother could only bear a familiar spiritual signature and thus Jiang Fengmian had to stay behind.

Sisi and Jiang Yanli both gave him a hug and Xue Yang begged to go with him until Sisi smacked him from impatience.

Jiang Cheng tied his bell to his belt and, hesitating, did the same with Wei Wuxian’s bell as well. Then, he donned his cape once more. When he wore it, no one could make out that he was missing his left arm, but would instead admire how regal his form and clothing were.

He grabbed Sandu and walked out of the room.

It goes without saying that reaching Gusu from Meishan was no easy task. It was much farther away from Gusu than even Yunmeng, which made it a travel of almost two days on his sword.

Jiang Cheng wore a hooded cloak as he travelled. He’d flown for the entire night and for most of the day. It was easier to avoid drawing attention to himself when no one could spot him in the sky, and it became more apparent how true this way when dawn arrived.

His stomach had been grumbling for a while and he realised he couldn’t ignore it anymore. This entire time, he’d felt too guilty to eat with the knowledge that Wei Wuxian probably wasn’t. He knew that his brother would find a way to survive, but it comforted him little.

After he’d finally started feeling dizzy with hunger, he decided to stop by the next village for a meal.

It was a small town situated in the middle of the five great sects, but was nonetheless inconspicuous. He knew that there was a small Sect nearby, but did not remember who it must belong to.

Jiang Cheng had just finished eating his meal when noise carried towards him from the private table nearby. It was covered on all sides by curtains and Jiang Cheng himself could’ve asked for a private table, but deemed it unnecessary since it was only a quick stop.

“Thank you for all your help, young master!” A grateful voice sounded all the way to Jiang Cheng. “I will most definitely make my way there by the morning!”

“Many thanks, Sect leader Fu. Your support is much appreciated.”

Jiang Cheng’s ears perked up at this voice. It was familiar and pleasant to the ear, reminding him of a warm patch of sunlight during winter time. There was only one person he knew with such a gracious manner of speaking.

Jiang Cheng looked up as the people from the private table exited the curtains.

“Nonsense, nonsense!” Sect leader Fu said, “My clan is small as compared to the formidable Lan Sect, but you are our saviour. If you had not saved us from those horrible Wen soldiers, I may not be here. Truly, we are fortunate.”

“You praise me too much.” The pleasant voice spoke once more. It was exactly who Jiang Cheng thought it was and he stood up from his surprise.

This drew attention to him from the tables around, including the men he had been paying attention to this entire time.

“Young Master Jiang?” A supremely handsome face stared at him from almost three zhang* away, recognition blanketing over those perfect features.

“Lan Xichen.” Jiang Cheng returned, bewildered.

(Zhang: A Chinese unit of measurement. 1 Zhang= 3 ⅓ meters)

“Everyone,” Lan Qiren addressed, stroking his beard while holding a judgemental gaze. “The QishanWen Sect has oppressed us to this state and you still want to watch from the sidelines while others burn? Guard against the fire so it does not burn you?”

Jin Guangshan nervously took a sip of his tea as Lan Qiren spoke. He’d been ignoring the man for months since the burning of Cloud Recesses and for almost two weeks since the fall of Lotus Pier. He knew very well who this lecture was dedicated to.

He spoke up to not lose face, “Sir Lan, since we are all here, of course we would like to earnestly discuss these matters. However…”

Lan Qiqiu, who was standing next to his brother, turned his gaze towards the Jin Sect leader, “Share your wisdom if you have a wise idea.”

“Not wisdom, but I do feel we mustn’t act rashly.” He answered, picking up his fan and cooling himself.”

“Exactly,” Another Clan leader piped up. “Right now, there is still room for negotiation. Provoking Wen Ruohan will burn the bridges we need to escape on.”

“Where is the room for negotiation? Where is the bridge for escape?” Lan Qiren asked, disdainfully. “Surrender our shield formation and magic treasures and then drag a feeble existence through the Supervisory offices?!”

Jin Guangshan flinched back, because, indeed, this was something he was considering without pondering the consequences.

Lan Qiqiu placed a calming hand on his brother’s shoulder. It seemed to work, for he relaxed his shoulders.

Lan Qiqiu, “Then, Clan leader Jin, does this idea appeal more to you? I’m not sure it appeals to me.”

Nie Mingjue spoke up from his side of the room, clearly an ally to the Lan Clan in this matter, “Forgive me, but once you surrender your weapons, you after nothing more than livestock to Wen Ruohan, waiting to be slaughtered!”

Nie Huaisang sat next to his brother, nodding along as he spoke, face half covered by his ornate fan. Meng Yao stood behind them, pointedly ignoring the man who is known to be his father. Jin Guangshan, on his part, pretended that Meng Yao did not exist in the room.

“Please calm down.” Jin Guangshan hurried to say, “I mean to say we shouldn’t counter violence with violence. GusuLan is widely known to be formidable in the arts but look what happened.”

Nie Huaisang piped up from beside his brother, “The gap in strength is the reason to back down?”

Jin Guangshan’s eyes narrowed at this. To be questioned by someone who is so famous for his cowardice did not appeal to him nor anyone else in the room.

“Young master Nie, with all due respect, your input here is unnecessary. You speak of matters you understand little about.”

Nie Mingjue was indignant on his brother’s behalf and was about to defend him when another voice spoke up, diplomatic and honeyed.

“Sect leader Jin, with all due respect to you , our Young Master Nie had predicted the war since the Wen Sect’s discussion conference which was a year ago. It is purely due to his foresight that the Nie Sect had not also been burned as well. On this matter, I’m certain he understands far more than you.”

The one who spoke up was none other than Meng Yao!

Everyone gaped at the display. Although it was a blatant show of scorn towards the Jin Sect Leader, it was so diplomatic that none could claim for it to be anything other than a polite argument.

On top of that, he wasn’t even finished!

“Esteemed Sect Leaders, I implore you to think carefully. The Wen Sect is nothing but ruthless. They do not care for lives, they care for power. It wouldn’t matter if every single one of us in this room were to die. In the end, whether we are distinguished Sect leaders or mere servants, the Wen Sect will treat us all the same when their swords cross us.”

Now, no one could speak back.

Lan Qiqiu and Nie Huaisang smiled, feeling a bit triumphant on the young man’s behalf.

Nie Mingjue burst out laughing, “Well said, Meng Yao!”

“Indeed, well said.” A serene voice interfered. Everyone turned to see two figures approach. “To quote Huaisang, the gap in strength is no reason to back down. Unless, Sect leader Jin is willing to surrender without a fight?”

Lan Xichen gave a kindly smile as he said this, making Jin Guangshan flush with the embarrassment of having been talked back to by three youngsters. He hastily picked up his tea cup and drank from it.

The first jade turned to his father and uncle, “Greetings, father. Greetings, uncle. I’m sorry for the delay.”

Lan Qiqiu smiled, “To have finished all your matters within the week, we haven’t waited long.”

Lan Qiren also couldn’t help but smile, “As long as you are here now.”

“Young Master Lan, you may be able to speak of it with ease, but look at what happened to YunmengJiang by resisting rashly.”

“And what happened to YunmengJiang?” The hooded figure spoke. He peeled away his hood and took off the cloak. In bright purple colours, his form was revealed to be Jiang Wanyin!

“Young master Jiang…!” Some Sect leaders gasped.

“Did you think we died?” Jiang Cheng asked, coldly. “The YunmengJiang Sect is holding ourselves strong and prepared to fight back as we have always done.”

“Of course you can say that!” A Sect leader shouted, indignantly. “Lotus Pier is no more, but your people survived. Most of you are in hiding! Where shall my people hide?”

“Such low priorities. Perhaps Sect leader Yao wouldn’t mind then, if your people were subjected to slavery and prostitution, if only they’re alive ?!” Jiang Cheng’s voice raised and his eyes became fearsome as he spoke these words.

A sect leader got offended on the addressed man’s behalf, “You—”

“Jiang Wanyin!” Sect Leader Yao shouted, “Don’t get too co*cky! Are you speaking of justice? Your clan is fine so you will drag us down?”

“Fine?” Jiang Cheng repeated, feeling anger boil to the surface. “ Fine?! My mother is fighting for her life, my father’s spirit is barely intact, my entire clan is shivering in whatever hole they’re hiding and my brother is missing after being tossed into the godforsaken burial mounds and you call this fine ??!”

For everyone, the fact that someone was thrown into the burial mounds was news. It took a moment for them to realise that this ‘brother’ was none other than Wei Wuxian, the ward of the Jiangs. This furthered their curiosity about the incident.

Jiang Cheng pushed away his cape and revealed his missing arm. The sleeve hung down, empty swaying in the air, containing nothing.

The room rippled with gasps, a particularly loud one coming from Nie Huaisang’s direction.

This is what happened when I tried to save Wei Ying, and it still didn’t work. A single moment of conflict and weakness will cost the lives of all your loved ones! Do you want this to happen because of your bad decisions? For your brothers, sisters, parents and children to go through this pain?!”

Another Sect leader spoke scathingly from the side, “If the loss of your left arm hurts so much, then you shouldn’t have tried to save someone beyond saving. To call him your brother…. isn’t he only a servant's son? Or is he actually Jiang Fengmian’s…”

Meng Yao almost slapped his own forehead at the idiocy of this person. Few others felt the same.

Jiang Cheng let out a bitter laugh, “Wei Ying does not need to be my father’s son to be my brother. It is clearly something you wouldn’t understand seeing as we’re still having this useless conversation. Arm? Something like an arm… I would give the other one as well if I need to!”

Sect leader Yao, “Don’t be foolish! If we disable ourselves for our people how do we protect them?!”

“How do you plan to protect them if you aren’t willing to disable yourselves?” Jiang Cheng asked, “I lost my left arm, I’ll fight with my right. If I lose both, I’ll fight with my legs. If I lose my legs, I’ll fight with my teeth. There is nothing I won’t do to protect those who expect my protection. I feel sorry for your people who expect you to do the same.”

Lan Xichen looked at Jiang Cheng in awe as he spoke, feeling somewhat star struck. He had seen Jiang Cheng here and there many times before, but Lan Xichen had never felt as captivated with his presence like he did at that very moment.

The rest of the room felt much the same. Admiration seeped out from mostly everyone present, and now, few felt willing to talk back to the young Jiang. The Sect leaders who had been arguing with him now felt thoroughly humiliated and ashamed.

“You are willing to run away from Wen Ruohan,” Jiang Cheng continued, his voice lowered, and tired, but his determination not any less. “But he won’t be willing to spare you.”

Seeing as a few people still looked ready to fight Jiang Cheng, Lan Xichen stepped in front of him, “Everyone knows how capricious Wen Ruohan is. Your surrender today may not prevent bloodshed tomorrow.”

“Indeed!” Nie Mingjue said, slamming down his cup. “Let me set things straight. Whether you choose to fight or not, Wen Ruohan’s head is mine !”

Lan Xichen cupped his hands in salute to Nie Mingjue, “Sect leader Nie is a man of valour. Our GusuLan Clan will follow your lead.”

Jiang Cheng bowed, not making the mistake of trying to cup his hands, “The Jiang Sect will also offer as much aid as possible.”

“If we are to fight, we musn’t cower.” Lan Qiren stated, rolling the tip of his beard between his fingers.

“Indeed,” Lan Qiqiu agreed. “The cultivation world is fair with rewards and penalties. Choose to sit on the fence until joining the winning party once the dust settles… These people will receive their due.”

Jin Guangshan had been fidgeting the entire time during the meeting. It seemed as if everyone had long since realised what kinds of plans would run through a selfish person’s mind. None of them expected Jin Guangshan to be one of those people, but he was. This was why he couldn’t directly speak back.

“But… how are we supposed to fight the Wen Sect with the strength of a few Clans?” He asked, in a last, weak protest.

Lan Xichen smiled and Jiang Cheng smirked.

“As powerful as the Wen Sect looks, it’s vassal Clans are disloyal. We can use that instability to persuade them onto our side.” Lan Xichen explained.

Jin Guangshan was not yet convinced, “And which clan would undertake the risk of an attack from the Nightless City?”

Jiang Cheng knew that Lan Xichen had been waiting for this question.

“They’re on their way.” He answered, pleasantly.

As if on queue, a crowd started gathering outside the discussion hall, growing larger and larger till it could be considered an army by itself.

“Ouyang Xin of Baling. Many of my clan members were slaughtered by the Wen Sect. Young master Lan saved us on the road!” One man spoke up.

After him, it seemed every single person had a clan and were wronged somehow.

They all started shouting out their names and the crimes of Qishan Wen.

“My sisters were violated and my parents were murdered! I will lead 200 remaining members into war!”

“My people were tortured and turned into slaves! With my 400 disciples, I will...”

As they shouted, Lan Xichen turned to look at the Sect leaders, “Any further objections?”

“Excellent!” Nie Mingjue boomed, pleased. He got up, holding his cup. “There have been many historical events of people going so far as to cut down the stars.”

Jiang Cheng watched as Nie Mingjue came towards the front of the hall where he stood in between the sect leaders and the men that followed Lan Xichen.

“Today, everyone here is part of an important historical event.” Nie Mingjue grinned. “The campaign against the Wens shall be called ‘Sunshot’!”

Nie Mingjue thrust his cup towards the direction of the sun and the men cheered. The Cloud Recesses were noisier than it had ever been before with his motivational words.

Everyone realised there were no more objections that could be made.

Notes:

Ahh... this story makes me more and more nervous as I progress. I myself am not picky about which pairings I read about, but I’m picky about those I write about.

Not to mention.... sunshot campaign 😱😱😱

Gotta find a way to write this without boring you guys.

Chapter 40

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

After the discussion, Nie Huaisang had demanded to know why Jiang Cheng never returned any of his attempts at communication. Not even through a written message on the contact guard. Jiang Cheng, who was simply wallowing in self pity while this had happened, had no excuse to offer and only offered his apologies to his sworn brother.

Nie Huaisang was displeased, but forgot about the matter soon as he was more worried about Wei Wuxian.

“I will send soldiers to aid the Jiang Clan in their attempts to find Wuxian.” Huaisang said, sombrely.

Meng Yao, who is always next to Nie Huaisang now, greeted Jiang Cheng and thanked him for taking in Sisi and expressed his hopes for Wei Wuxian to be found soon.

They parted on pleasant terms.

Lan Xichen had met with Jiang Cheng soon after and had informed him that Lan Wangji had been playing inquiry everyday and personally travelled around to search for Wei Wuxian.

They’d agreed that Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji could both join hands in this particular effort.

In his heart, the Jiang heir congratulated Wei Wuxian, feeling glad for him that at least part of his feelings seem to finally be returned.

The Sunshot Campaign had finally begun.

It would go down in history this way: the four great clans of QingheNie, LanlingJin, GusuLan and YunmengJiang would lead a total of eight thousand soldiers to conquer QishanWen and bring justice to the world.

The Wen Clan however was too overpowering and Wen Ruohan had only scorn towards their attempts at toppling the Nightless city. He compared it to that of an ant trying to shake a tree.

LanlingJin was assigned to Langya where they had suffered one defeat after another. In case of YunmengJiang, Jiang Wanyin had taken the lead as rumours of his father’s health worsening began to crop up. It had taken a while for YunmengJiang to have finally gathered all their members once more and fight back.

After the situation in Gusu’s main territories stabilised, Lan Wangji had gone to reinforce YunmengJiang’s turfs.

In Hejian, QingheNie had an overpowering victory. The efforts of both Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang in strategy had not only strengthened their defenses but also the soldiers' resolve. Here, Nie Mingjue had finally taken the head of Wen Xu.

As the war spread, so did many rumours. Two of them being about Lan Wangji and Jiang Wanyin.

It was said that Lan Wangji was so grief stricken that his beautiful face had begun to thin. Though he was gaunt, he was still handsome, yet people could make out mourning when they saw it. The question in everyone’s mind was ‘why?’.

No one knew that the knowledge of Wei Wuxian’s death had plagued him since the moment he’d seen a glimpse of the future, and now more than ever, it simultaneously dampened his spirit and increased his potential in battle.

On the other hand, though Jiang Wanyin played the confident card of Wei Wuxian still being alive, behind his back, many continued to ridicule him and his efforts to continue the search for his adoptive brother. His mother had not woken up and the health of the Jiang Sect leader worsened everyday. Talk of this spread far and wide.

Wen Chao publicly mocked their efforts, stating with utmost arrogance that Wei Wuxian was dead without doubt.

Wen Qing, back in the Yiling Supervisory offices, also received a letter stating that her branch had been ordered to fight in battle.

“Ridiculous!” She thundered, tearing up the paper.

“Sister…” Wen Ning shrank back. “What do we do?”

“Of course we will not fight! Remember A-Ning. Our branch of the clan only believes in healing. We are not killers. Do not forget these principles even in the midst of battle!”

“Yes, sister…”

It proved to be a difficult time for the Wen branch families that wanted nothing to do with the Wen Sect.

On the next side of the spectrum, more and more Jiang Sect members died everyday.

Nie Huaisang, at this point in time, could not bear it anymore. He’d begged his brother to let him aid YunmengJiang. Nie Mingjue who had always known his brother as weak and needing protection, had refused and wanted to keep him in the Cloud Recesses for safety, but after some coaxing from Meng Yao, he’d finally conceded.

They made their way to Jingchu where Nie Huaisang, for the first time since his battle fan, Xifeng, had been forged, used it.

“Young master Nie, please stand back!” One of the Nie soldiers voices carried over as they fought to take down the Supervisory office in Jingchu.

“No,” Nie Huaisang said, feeling his hackles rise at everyone treating him like a jade flower. “ You stand back.”

Jiang Cheng and Meng Yao watched with anticipation as the second young master dropped himself into the middle of the battle field and brandished Xifeng. He opened up the fan as wide as possible.

The Wen soldiers, having let their guard down when seeing such a frail looking man face them, immediately attacked. Nie Huaisang coldly swiped his fan once and a large gust swept away the tens of soldiers that ran towards him. But he wasn't down. He folded his fan just so and then gave another vertical swipe. With this, every single soldier in his vicinity was cut all over their body with the sharpness of the wind.

They screamed as Nie Huaisang ran towards them and immediately used the blades on top of his fan to stab each one of them to death, one after the other.

Every soldier present watched on with dropped jaws, while Meng Yao and Jiang Cheng shared a knowing smirk.

From then on, more rumours cropped up and this time, they were positive.

“Did you hear? The second young master Nie is actually not a coward at all!”

“Yes, yes! I heard he defeated a hundred soldiers with one swipe of his fan!”

“I heard it was a thousand !”

The more juicy the gossip, the more exaggerated it was. It spread like wildfire and soon it reached the ears of none other than Nie Mingjue.

“My brother what ?” He asked, disbelief colouring his features.

“Young master Huaisang has been noted to be quite strong on the battlefield and allegedly cultivates with a battle fan.”

“The one that he keeps in his room?” Nie Mingjue thought aloud. “I thought that was a showpiece. To think! My brother!”

He laughed heartily and his men watched on in confusion and caution.

Nie Mingjue picked up his saber and once more decided to march back into battle, having been motivated by his younger brother. He grinned, saying to himself, “Huaisang, you are not going to escape this discussion when we meet again.”


Without notice, it had been over two months since the Sunshot Campaign began. Jiang Cheng began to have dismay eat into his heart at the fact that there hadn’t been a single sighting of Wei Wuxian. He tried to banish those thoughts as soon as they arrived.

The good news was that they were getting anonymous help. Since the beginning of the week, there had been strange going ons. Every Supervisory office that Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji infiltrated already had all the work done for them. By the time they reached, all the Wen soldiers were already dead.

The strange part was that they couldn’t figure out how it had happened. The method of the if death varies vastly, ranging from stabs to having no external injury at all. Most of them actually seemed to have been literally scared to death.

Jiang Cheng was tired after having infiltrated another defeated office and had just made it back to camp and was in his tent. He undid his hair, removed his cape, outer robes and only kept on his trousers as he inspected his left shoulder.

The wound no longer bled terribly, but he still needed to bandage it up at least once in a few days. He took off the old bandages and had just finished replastering it when the curtain to his tent opened and a figure walked in.

Jiang Cheng heard a gasp and he looked up.

Lan Xichen stood at the entrance of the tent looking embarrassed.

“Please excuse me, young master Jiang!” He said and turned around to move back out, but Jiang Cheng stopped him.

“No need. I don’t require such courtesy, Zewu-Jun. I’m not a maiden.” Jiang Cheng said and with his right arm and teeth, struggled to tie the knot for the bandage.

Lan Xichen saw this from the corner of his eye and turned back around, “I would… like to offer my services.”

“I’m done.” Jiang Cheng said, with a relieved sigh, looking over his handiwork. He then reached for his hair and tried to braid it with his right hand. He usually had his sister or Sisi do it for him, but they were currently looking after the injured while Xue Yang guarded them from any attacks.

Jiang Cheng smiled slightly when he thought of the time when he first learned the brat’s name. Both he and his sister almost gasped.

They knew from the visions who he was and what he was capable of doing. Jiang Cheng had almost gone back on his promise to Xue Yang, but Jiang Yanli, with her bleeding heart, could not forsake an orphan child to the streets. So they decided not to judge him for the sins he hadn’t committed.

Thus, Xue Yang joined the YunmengJiang Clan and Jiang Cheng accepted him with the promise that he would absolutely keep him under control and if he couldn’t, he would deliver the just punishment.

Yet, the child was actually quite helpful. He was ruthless when he fought and was constantly vigilant about his surroundings. He had stolen a long danger from a soldier he’d smashed the skull of and used it to guard both Sisi and Jiang Yanli while they made their rounds to check for the injured.

Jiang Cheng was snapped out of his thoughts when he felt cool fingertips at his hand.

“Young master Jiang?” Lan Xichen called, his ethereal face suddenly very close. Jiang Cheng almost flew to the other side of the tent in shock, but made no show of it. “I said I’ll assist you for this, at least.”

He’d noticed that Jiang Cheng had a problem tying his hair with only one hand and after debating with himself, had decided to help him.

Jiang Cheng felt very awkward at this. He didn’t know much about Lan Xichen and to be honest, it was difficult for Jiang Cheng to talk to someone who was this impossible to get angry at. His reflex action to many things was anger, after all.

However, faced with such earnest eyes, Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but nod, “Many thanks.”

As Lan Xichen deftly began styling his hair in the traditional Jiang braids, Jiang Cheng spoke.

“So to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” Jiang Cheng asked. He had long since forgone formalities with his generation of cultivators, mostly because he could no longer give a proper salute.

“I’m sorry to have you discuss this when you hardly get to rest.” Lan Xichen said, apologetically.

“Think nothing of it. By now, GusuLan and YunmengJiang are close allies. You and I are both successors to our Sects. I will spare the time if need be.” Jiang Cheng replied, but in all truth, he was actually quite tired, and Lan Xichen's smooth fingers running through his hair were so relaxing that he could fall asleep anytime.

“Indeed,” Lan Xichen agreed, but inwardly, he felt strangely displeased at the description of their relationship, even though it was the truth. “I have actually come to ask for reinforcements to come to Langya. The Jin Clan is not doing very well currently.”

Jiang Cheng frowned. The situation in Jingchu wasn’t particularly great either, but it was true that they were faring better than LanlingJin.

“How many men?”

“Just one, in fact.” Lan Xichen answered, as he pinned up Jiang Cheng’s braids and began pulling up the rest of his long, black hair into his signature bun. “Meng Yao.”

“Meng Yao?” Jiang Cheng repeated. It would make sense that they wanted Meng Yao. He had planned many of the battle formations that led to the victories in the Jiang territories. After a moment of thought, he decided it would be too selfish to not agree, “Very well. You may take him.”

This was said exactly as Lan Xichen finished putting the crown on Jiang Cheng’s hair bun. The first jade fluidly moved to sit in front of the Jiang Sect heir and cupped his hands.

“To end this war as soon as possible with as little casualties, on behalf of the other Clans, I appreciate it.”

Jiang Cheng simply nodded genially. Then, he moved to pick his robes and redress himself. When he noticed Lan Xichen still hadn’t left, he got curious.

“Was there something else?”

As if broken from a stupor, Lan Xichen looked up, a little startled, ”I… couldn’t help but remember when you’d come for the discussion at the Cloud Recesses.”

“What about it?” Jiang Cheng asked, swiftly dressing himself, trying to be as graceful as he could possibly be with just one arm. It took time to get used to.

“It was a very admirable speech. That you wouldn’t mind losing your legs or your arms and would still continue fighting.”

“I never said I wouldn’t mind it.” Jiang Cheng protested, holding up his hand. “I only said that I would do what’s necessary. I’m not such a formidable person, Lan Xichen. If you want to see unconditional sacrifice, I would ask you to talk to Wei Ying.”

Lan Xichen hesitated, “Do you regret losing an arm?”

Jiang Cheng finally put on his sash belt and tied. His hand hesitated over the two bells he constantly wore now, “I regret many things, but not this. It gives me proof.”

“Proof?”

Finally making up his mind, Jiang Cheng took the bells and tied them together in his sash, “Proof… that I too can make sacrifices. I always want to be a better person, but it rarely ends up happening.”

Lan Xichen, in his heart of hearts, resonated with these words. He had never done anything that wasn’t exaggeratedly praised. Yet, it feels like he only does what people expect him to do.

“I understand that.”

Jiang Cheng looked at him in surprise, “You do?”

Lan Xichen nodded, “I am far from my own standard of satisfaction. I wonder if this is arrogance or if I am too greedy?”

He knew he could have dragged his father out of seclusion faster. He could’ve saved his mother from her lonesome death. Yet, it was improper. There were rules, boundaries, expectations that he must meet. He’d ran away from both his mother and father.

Never do anything that someone could complain about.

There’s no need to know things that would be harmless when left unknown.

These were the most shameful thoughts in Lan Xichen’s mind. Thoughts he could never divulge to anyone.

The Jiang heir’s eyes twinkled as if he knew what the first jade was thinking, “This is reassuring. Even if what we share is an inferiority complex, I have something in common with the number one good-looking young master.”

Lan Xichen felt a flush creep up his neck. He wished dearly to have his brother’s ability to restrict these kinds of reactions to his ears. Yet, he’d never felt this bashful, so he had no idea himself what it was like until that very moment.

“Young master Jiang… that list is exaggerated.”

“Where’s the exaggeration?” Jiang Cheng asked, unable to help himself. He picked up his cape and swiftly draped it over his shoulders. “The best looks and the best personality.”

Lan Xichen would’ve continued talking if it wasn’t for Jiang Cheng abruptly turning around and giving him a smile, “Lan Xichen, you deserve to feel more superior than anyone.”

With that, Jiang Cheng left his tent, letting Lan Xichen know that he could continue to rest inside if he preferred to. He held onto the bells hanging from his belt and felt more better than he had for a long time. He had no idea what it was, but suddenly, he just knew that Wei Wuxian must be alive.

He had no way of knowing that later, he wouldn’t have to doubt himself anymore.

Inside the tent, Lan Xichen continued standing, face red and heart pounding. He put a hand to his chest and tried to calm the beats, yet it wouldn’t stop. He closed his eyes, trying to think of something else, but the only thing his mind provided was the memory of the Jiang Sect heir’s steady voice and the image of his solid form.

Jiang Cheng was strong, but Lan Xichen began to feel weak.

Jiang Cheng was overseeing the training of the new disciples, later that week. They lost more people than they gained, but Jiang Cheng knew he, at the very least, shouldn’t falter.

The intravenous solution that Wen Qing had prepared for Yu Ziyuan had gotten over earlier that month, but Jiang Yanli had inquired on how to make it, hence she religiously continued to make and administer the solution to protect her mother’s nutrition.

Though she wouldn’t say it, Jiang Cheng knew that she was anxious about Jiang Zemei who was being cared for by nursing mothers. This couldn’t be helped as the baby required breast milk to grow.

The visit from Lan Wangji was, therefore, a welcome distraction.

“What is it?” Jiang Cheng asked.

Lan Wangji held out a talisman and Jiang Cheng received it.

“Isn’t this just an exorcism talisman?” Then, looking closer, Jiang Cheng gasped, “No… it has more strokes.”

“Four more.” Lan Wangji nodded. “Drawn with human blood.”

“Human blood…?” Jiang Cheng’s eyes widened, “Second Young Master Lan… by any chance, are the effects of this talisman the reverse of the normal?”

“Exactly so.” Lan Wangji looked at him, expressionlessly, nodding, “Normal talismans exorcise. This one… summons evil.”

Jiang Cheng felt his heart lighten and a smile bloomed onto his face, “Lan Wangji, you truly hold light in your hands!”

Lan Wangji was lost on these words. He didn’t understand why Jiang Cheng referred to him that way nor did he know why he looked so happy. He was not used to being praised by this man.

Then, the Jiang Sect heir leaned back to laugh merrily, “Let me tell you what you’ve just found, young master. This talisman is something my brother had invented. He calls it the spirit attraction flag.”

He held it up for Lan Wangji to properly look at. The second jade’s face instantly showed emotion, slight though it was—just the rise of an eyebrow.

Jiang Cheng’s eyes were lit up with joy, “Wei Ying… is alive!”

Notes:

Why is the XiCheng progressing faster than the WangXian??? I refuse to let this blasphemy continue!

Btw, I’ve been thinking that I will publish a cluster of chapters at a time like I did just now, since it seems like I stress you guys out too much.
We are moving out of the normal angst and into the romance angst soon guys. Prepare yourselves.

Chapter 41

Notes:

Happy birthday to Manzanita Bichen. I wanted to be able to release a chapter on Sunday but I was too busy. Here’s one now!
TRIGGER WARNING : A little gore and attempted rape (Yes, as usual it’s the Wen dogs and yes, as usual, they’re always horny)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Wen Zhuliu sat outside, sharpening his sword.

Wen Chao’s room could easily be seen from his position, and hence the reason for being in exactly that place. He dismissed Wen Zhuliu earlier that evening and was very irritable. They were currently in one of the supervisory offices, and Wen Chao had been very displeased at the letter he’d received about Wen Xu’s death.

It was a relief to Wen Zhuliu as well. At least for this night, he wouldn’t have to sit outside their room and hear that wench’s loud moans and screams during their activities. Nor did he have to deal with Wen Chao’s indignation as she woke up in the middle of the night having yet another dream about Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian.

Wen Zhuliu almost felt a slight chill when thinking about him, but ignored it. His duty was the only thing that mattered.

In the distance, the wind blew, carrying with it an eerie tune. To Wen Zhuliu, it almost sounded as if someone was playing the flute.

“WEN ZHULIU!!!”

Wen Zhuliu got up instantly, hearing his named being screamed from the direction of Wen Chao’s room.

“WEN ZHULIU, COME QUICKLY!!” Wen Chao’s voice was pleading and desperate and Wen Zhuliu knew something was very wrong.

He rushed inside the building. As he did so, he didn’t recognise the shadow that lurked behind him. The only thing that seemed to stand out was the glimpse of gold that came from the figure, hidden by the darkness that enveloped him.

Waiting… watching…

They’d set up camp on the border.

Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji were to finally infiltrate the Supervisory office which was allegedly the temporary housing of Wen Chao. Their camp was nearby and hidden as best as possible. Even if they couldn’t stay hidden for long, certainly they had enough people to counteract a few people.

By this moment in time, both the boys had garnered quite a name for themselves. Jiang Cheng was fearfully referred to as the ‘Sandu Shengshou’ whereas Lan Wangji was reverently called ‘Hanguang-jun’. Together, they were a familiar pair during infiltrations.

As usual, Jiang Cheng carried the two bells with him and draped the cape of his shoulder. Both had decided to go by themselves lest they draw attention. The rest of their men were to wait around the buildings, hidden until it looked like they had to move.

As they moved, they felt something ominous drifting in the air. It was crisp and chilly and Jiang Cheng suddenly felt like his layers of clothing wasn’t enough. Like a fleeting dream, a high pitched tune flew with them as they broke into the office.

“What the f*ck?” Jiang Cheng hissed as he saw a corpse in the bedroom they’d entered. It was clearly a woman, but it was a gruesome sight. It looked like she had eaten the leg of a chair and burst the back of her own throat open while doing.

Then, looking closer, Jiang Cheng recognised who this was.

Wang Lingjiao!

Suddenly, his pity for the woman vanished and he was unfeeling, thinking that this type of death was exactly what she deserved.

“Again.” Lan Wangji said. “Someone has…”

“Second young master Lan, this is not the work of just ‘someone’. Don’t pretend to be oblivious.” Jiang Cheng said, feeling exasperated with the second jade. “I’m warning you. Do not exhibit this behaviour to Wei Ying.”

Ever since Jiang Cheng had revealed that Wei Wuxian was the one behind the talismans, Lan Wangji seemed to avoid the topic at best. At worst, he deluded himself into believing it was the work of someone else entirely!

He hoped that Lan Wangji wouldn’t continue on like this.

Then, a loud sound came from outside the building. It sounded like a flare. Shortly after, loud shouts and clanking of metal also sounded.

Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng exchanged a look before rushing back out.

What greeted them was the sight of their men fighting with numerous Wen Sect soldiers. The number was overwhelming!

“Kill them, kill them!! Kill them now!!!”

Jiang Cheng noticed that the one who shouted this was standing near Wen Zhuliu, completely covered from top to bottom in a cloak. His voice was sharp and thin. It had to be Wen Chao, yet why was his voice like this?

The Wen soldiers who were around immediately knew who Wen Chao was referring to and turned their sword towards the two figures who’d just emerged.

Wen Zhuliu’s attention had also been drawn towards them and Jiang Cheng cursed. They didn’t bring along that many men, nor did they stand much chance of having their cores with them if they were to fight head on. Yet, they did.

Lan Wangji strummed his guqin and the waves sliced through the air and cut at the soldiers. Then, he strummed again, a deeper sound that seemed to shove away the rest of who came near.

Jiang Cheng unsheathed Sandu.

Now that he’d finally mastered Zidian, it seemed to change it’s shape according to Jiang Cheng’s convenience. This meant that it would automatically fuse it’s handle with Sandu and it would shorten or lengthen and even stiffen or become flexible by his will.

This made it an incredibly convenient and strong weapon in the field.

Sandu sizzled in his hand and Zidian remained dormant, waiting till it was called upon. He started slashing at the soldiers and electrocuting them as they neared. He stood further away from Lan Wangji so as to not catch him in the range by mistake.

They continued on like this for a few moments, but the Wen soldiers were indeed endless. There were too many of them.

Jiang Cheng felt his breath get heavier and sweat bead at his forehead as he continued slashing at whoever tried to cross him. Lightning burst out from it each time, as he was beginning to grow tired.

Just when he was about to transform Zidian, the sound of a flute drifted towards them, eerie and menacing.

Wen Chao shrieked as he pointed at the roof of the building, “You!”

Jiang Cheng turned his head, and there, standing on the roof, was a slender figure, draped from top to bottom in black robes, his hair fluttering in the air. He carried a polished black flute which had a red tassel hanging from it.

Black energy surrounded him and then, Jiang Cheng saw from the corner of his eyes, a strange movement. When he properly looked, corpses started rushing out from the gates and coming inside, attacking every Wen cultivator in sight.

Seeing that his men were holding their swords at the ready, Jiang Cheng shouted, “Stand down! The corpses will not harm us. They are only after the Wens!!”

This bewildered many of their soldiers, but after a moment, they realised it was true. The corpses passed right by them and attacked only the men who wore the sun robes.

At once, it seemed the unending army of Wen cultivators were no more.

“Don’t come, don’t come!! Wen Zhuliu!” Wen Chao screamed and Wen Zhuliu immediately picked him up, ready to run away.

The figure on the roof did not give them that chance. He dropped down into the middle of the field and every person around instantly backed away.

A smile curved onto the man’s face and if he didn’t know who it was before, he knew for sure now. By the looks of it, Lan Wangji realized as well.

It was Wei Wuxian!

Jiang Cheng felt his throat close up at the sight of his brother. Wei Wuxian was a high-spirited boy and mischievous boy for as long as he’d known. The only time he’d ever seen him as something else had been in the token visions. Now, those images replayed in front of him and this time, it wasn’t just an illusion.

His brother looked like an entirely different person.

The ground crunched as he approached the two men, “Leaving so soon?”

Even as he said this, Jiang Cheng knew they wouldn’t be able to leave. A group of children corpses were surrounding the two men holding down Wen Zhuliu’s feet and gnawing at it while some reached for Wen Chao. Wen Zhuliu tried his best to shake them all off.

The cloak was pulled off and Wen Chao’s gruesome form was revealed. Not a hint of his previous face was visible anymore. His skin was burned and his head was bald, bleeding from here and there and covered in ointment and bandages.

Wei Wuxian gave a wintry grin as if pleased to see his handiwork. And Jiang Cheng knew that that's what it was. His insidious masterpiece was the torture inflicted on Wen Chao.

“Wen Zhuliu, do you really think that you can protect his dog life from my hands?”

Wen Zhuliu, “Better die trying.”

He laughed coldly, “What a loyal Wen-dog.”

Wen Zhuliu, “I can’t fail to repay my debt. I owe their generosity.”

Wei Wuxian’s expression darkened at once. His voice was harsh as well, “What a joke! Why is it that the debt you owe has to be repaid at the expense of others!”

He lifted his hand and gave a chilling wave.

Jiang Cheng watched as corpses of women and children approached them from all around. They all seemed to be focused on the Wens. They were most likely killed by the Sect’s soldiers and carried a grudge. They were sure to give a gruesome death. Along with Wei Wuxian’s hatred, they became even more ferocious.

Jiang Cheng felt a headache come on.

Meng Yao had been on the battlefield very few times since the war had started, but since he’d come to Langya, it seemed that he was on it more and more.

He had been hesitant to leave Nie Huaisang in Jingchu while he came to Langya by himself, but the two people he could never deny were Huaisang and Lan Xichen. Since both of them made this request, he’d come to help the Sect that he now deemed as a waste of his time.

Lan Xichen was on the front lines. He played a double role, fighting with his blade as well as searching for the injured. Meng Yao, on the other hand, had to sneak around to make sure that all the formations were proper so that they wouldn’t miss anything. There were refugees which were travelling past at this inopportune time which made it even more of a challenge.

Despite everything though, he still hadn’t expected that he’d need to come out of hiding.

A scream drew his attention towards the general direction of the thicket a little into the forest. Most of everything around them was burning and a lot of noise filled his surroundings, but even through all that, the scream penetrated his ears. It was soon followed by muffling.

Meng Yao debated on whether it was worth the risk to go and see what was happening in such a secluded part during battle, but then the voice shouted again.

“Help!” The voice of a woman screamed. “Hel—”

She was muffled again, followed by harsh whispers. Meng Yao saw flashes of the Wen Sect robes, and his eyes narrowed. He immediately decided to get closer, quietly threading towards the noise and the tangle of limbs.

The soldiers were holding her down without much difficulty now.

The first asked, “What use is kidnapping this one?”

“Plenty.” The second answered. “She’s the daughter of a close friend of Jin Guangshan’s. We will definitely rise in rank if we can bring her and use her as hostage. Besides, we don’t have to give her back immediately.”

“Ah, you and your dirty mind. She’s too pretty for you.” The first soldier guffawed. “And her body’s too small. You can’t, you’re like a bull.”

The second soldier seemed mortified, “As if you’re so righteous. I know you don’t plan on anything else either!”

Intimidated by the size of the other man, the soldier shrank back. Originally he hadn’t really wanted to do anything to her, but among the Wen disciples, the crueler you were, the more celebrated.

He spoke diplomatically, “Ah, no need to be like this. We can take turns with her. How about that?”

Hearing this terrifying conversation, the girl seemed to struggle even more. At this point, Meng Yao was close enough to catch a glimpse of her face. The soldiers held her down more firmly as he began to untie her sash.

The girl tried to let out her voice again, but she couldn’t. She only turned her head from side to side p, frantically, tears in her eyes. Then, she saw Meng Yao, observing from behind the tree, and her eyes widened.

Meng Yao also felt his eyes widen looking at her. They were big and round and indeed, she was very beautiful. Too beautiful for the bastards on top of her. What struck him more than her beauty though, was her expression. Pleading, frightened and so tragic.

Meng Yao swallowed. He was too small for them. He couldn’t.

Then, he took another look at the girl. She was still staring at him with watery eyes, so full of trust that he would be helping her anytime soon.

He felt helpless. He took a step back, thinking of getting someone else to help, but he knew that would be useless, deep down. She would already be violated, traumatised. He would have been the cause of damage as much as the soldiers if he did that.

He steadied himself. Though he was not confident in it, there was still something he could do.


None of the Wen Sect soldiers remained, every single one of them having been slaughtered.

Wen Zhuliu was on the ground, his legs having already been devoured by the ghouls on top of him. Yet he was still alive. He was a bloody mess.

Wen Chao was also being torn apart, his face hardly recognisable anymore.

“Wei Ying!” Lan Wangji had called, pleading.

He’d been pleading the entire time to Stop, Wei Ying! But Wei Wuxian only hesitated for a moment. The instant it looked like Lan Wangji was going to come to his side, Wei Wuxian summoned a barrier of resentful energy to keep him where he stood, and continued with his work.

Jiang Cheng, who was still infested with his need with hatred and revenge, could not move from where he stood. Despite knowing that he should stop Wei Wuxian, he couldn’t. He wanted this. He wanted them to die a horrible death.

The death his parents would’ve gone through if they hadn’t managed to stop it from happening. The death many of his people had to suffer through. The tragedy they’d brought upon the Jiang Sect. He wanted them to pay for it.

But as Lan Wangji’s voice shouted once more and Wei Wuxian still refused to listen, Jiang Cheng broke free of his self-induced paralysis. He slowly walked towards this new person. His old friend and brother.

“Wei Ying.” He said, bravely placing a hand on his shoulder.

Wei Wuxian looked over his shoulder at Jiang Cheng, eyes slowly unfreezing, “Jiang Cheng.”

His eyes wandered to the area that his cape covered and it grew sad, “I…”

“Wei Ying.” Jiang Cheng said again, more firmly tip his time. “Stop.”

Wei Wuxian’s looked at him in surprise, “...Stop?”

Jiang Cheng nodded, “Stop this. Call them off. Neither can run away any longer now.”

Wei Wuxian shook off his brother’s hand, “Jiang Cheng, what are you saying? Do you know what that scum wanted to do? You can’t have forgotten! Our lives nearly repeated that horrific future and it was because of him. You lost an arm because of him. Almost lost your life! It could’ve been so much worse, and they wouldn’t have stopped. Don’t you want justice?”

Jiang Cheng watched as his shixiong’s face darkened with hatred and felt his heart become heavier.

“I want justice.”

“Then—”

“But not this way.” Jiang Cheng continued, stopping Wei Wuxian before he could reason further. He grabbed his brother’s shoulders. “Not this way. We are not them. There’s cruelty in what you want to do. You are not cruel.”

Wei Wuxian, “How do you know?”

“It doesn’t matter even if I don’t—you have to listen anyway.”

“Jiang Cheng!”

“Wei Ying, as your future Sect leader, this is an order.” Jiang Cheng said, his hand dropping from the other man’s shoulder. He gave him a significant look, “As your brother… this is a request.”

Wei Wuxian looked at him with wide eyes, “Jiang Cheng…”

All the corpses around stopped what they were doing and looked towards their master who was with an unfamiliar man. Yet they knew that they, at all costs, must not harm these other two men who were still standing. They only watched on in confusion, their undead brains not being able to form any other coherent thoughts.

Then, Wei Wuxian’s eyes moved towards Lan Wangji who was still separated from them by the flames of resentful energy that circled him. His blanched face looked strange with helplessness. Wei Wuxian had no idea of knowing what he was thinking right now, but he knew it couldn’t possibly be anything pleasant.

The Jiang Sect head disciple thrust a fist towards the white-robed man before fanning his fingers. The barrier promptly dissipated, freeing the second jade. Lan Wangji cast a cursory glance around him to ensure this.

Then, Wei Wuxian brought his flute up to his lips and played, a hard sound, but not dangerous as it was before. All the corpses immediately fell away from the two men writhing on the ground.

Jiang Cheng sighed as Wei Wuxian turned back towards him, looking a little guilty.

“So you can show repentance towards your actions!” Jiang Cheng huffed, though it sounded more like a laugh.

“I’ve been repenting for almost three months.” Wei Wuxian mumbled.

Jiang Cheng held back a smile and put his hand on the back of his brother’s head, pulling him in for what resembled an embrace, “Welcome back.”

Wei Wuxian almost relaxed into it when he was suddenly shoved back. Jiang Cheng was now scowling at him, “But if you were back you should’ve come seen me first! Do you know how worried I was? How worried we all were?!”

Though he was overjoyed, there was still anger within him, and he did not take any pains to hide that fact from the one who caused it. Interestingly, the object of it himself did not seem too perturbed.

“I’m sorry.” Wei Wuxian chuckled. “I knew you were searching but there were some things I needed to take care of before I came back.”

He glanced towards Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng immediately knew that it was a topic for another time. He rested his elbow on the hilt of his sword and tutted.

“Whatever the case, you really wasted manpower. Not only I, but even Nie Huaisang and Lan Wangji sent out search parties for you.”

Wei Wuxian was startled at hearing that.

As if on queue, Lan Wangji walked forward. He attracted the attention of the other two.

Lan WangJi suddenly spoke up, “Wei Ying.”

He had been standing quietly at the side. As he spoke, both Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng turned to him. It was as though Wei Wuxian finally remembered to greet him but Jiang Cheng knew fully well that it was a farce.

Wei Wuxian nodded slightly, “Hanguang-Jun.”

Lan Wangji, “Were you the one who has been killing the Wen Sect’s disciples?”

Wei Wuxian looked at the corpses and slowly they all backed away into the darkness, “Of course.”

“What means do you use to control such dark creatures?”

Jiang Cheng felt his irritation spike, “Second Young Master Lan, how many warnings do I have to give you?”

Lan Wangji ignored him, “Answer me.”

Wei Wuxian thought of goading him without answering, but suddenly felt like being straightforward, “Demonic cultivation.”

Lan Wangji’s eyebrow twitched.

“See? Did you like that answer?” Wei Wuxian asked, a humourless smile on his lips, “Everyone’s talking about it so you must know that I was thrown into the burial mounds. I’m not a ghost yet, so what must I have done to come out? I learnt how to harvest resentful energy.”

Wei Wuxian barely dodged the sudden attack from Lan Wangji.

“Lan Zhan…” Wei Wuxian smiled, not making any move to attack. “Suddenly attacking me like that… after everything do I really mean that little to you? Not even friends? So is it… you want me dead now?”

Hearing these words, Lan Wangji stiffened. Then, he lowered his sword, “Wei Ying, for cultivating an evil path you would eventually have to pay. Throughout time, there has not been a single exception.”

Wei Wuxian, “I will find a way, for now.”

Seeing how unconcerned he seemed to be, Lan Wangji lowered his voice, “The path would not only damage your body, but your heart as well.”

Wei Wuxian, “Damage or not, I know it the most. As for my heart, it’s my heart after all. Does it matter to you?”

“Wei Ying!” Jiang Cheng hissed, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Don’t you think he’s being too much, Jiang Cheng? I may cry at how he’s talking to me.”

Wei Wuxian had always been one to exaggerate about everything he felt. Sometimes, it was outright acting. Yet, Jiang Cheng had witnessed with his own eyes how much he’d suffered with his unrequited feelings towards Lan Wangji, and he knew that Wei Wuxian most likely was really hurt at his words.

“Second Young Master Lan,” Jiang Cheng turned to look at Lan Wangji strictly, “I am very grateful for all your help but if you try to attack my brother, I will not consider you an ally. You’ve been worried sick about him for many weeks. Why are you acting this way now?”

“Worried sick?” Wei Wuxian laughed. “You must’ve imagined it. Clearly Hanguang-Jun hates me and wants to denounce me.”

“I don’t want to denounce you.”

Wei Wuxian noticed that he didn’t deny hatred. He pursed his lips, “Then what do you want?”

Lan Wangji struggled to speak and finally he said, “Come back to Gusu with me.”

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng were both surprised.

“Gusu? The Cloud Recesses? Why?” Wei Wuxian asked, and then let out a cold laugh. “Oh. I see. Hanguang-Jun, you don’t want to denounce me but you do hate me after all. The Cloud Recesses will not forgive my kind. Why did you send disciples to search for me? Do you want to incarcerate me? Lock me up so that I won’t be of danger? What is it?!”

Lan Wangji could not bear these words anymore, “Wei Wuxian!”

“Lan Wangji!” Wei Wuxian also shouted back, feeling his patience come to an end. “Do you have to be like this? Are you trying to use my good feelings towards you against me? Get lost!”

As he said the last words, Wei Wuxian swayed in his feet. Lan Wangji froze in shock as Jiang Cheng caught him with his only arm, holding him up. From his nose, two bright red streams of blood ran down till his chin.

“Wei Ying!” Jiang Cheng exclaimed, “What’s wrong?”

“I—I’m tired…” Wei Wuxian panted out. “Jiang Cheng… let’s go, let’s go. I don’t want to see his face. Take me away.”

Seeing this scene unfold in front of him and Wei Wuxian looking so weak all of a sudden, the lump in Lan Wangji’s throat trembled, “I…”

“Second Young Master Lan,” Jiang Cheng cut in, “I think it’s best if we part ways here. I need to get my brother back to the Jiang Sect camp for treatment. I will trust you to deliver these two to Qinghe, if you don’t mind.”

A few moments passed before Lan Wangji turned around and walked away. The Lan disciples who were under him scrambled to follow after his footsteps, still deep in confusion at what had happened.

The Jiang Sect disciples who were around rushed to help Jiang Cheng hold up Wei Wuxian.

“It’s okay, I can manage.” Jiang Cheng told them. “Please gather our things and bring a carriage. We need to make it back to camp by today. And call a medic.”

The men saluted and immediately scattered. Jiang Cheng lowered Wei Wuxian into a patch of grass that looked soft enough, “Wei Ying?”

Wei Wuxian leaned his head towards Jiang Cheng’s sternum, “Jiang Cheng… my chest hurts.”

It was completely unrelated to his health and absolutely related to the matters of his heart. Jiang Cheng’s voice softened.

“I’m sorry.” He said. He didn’t know why he was apologising, but he did it anyway.

Wei Wuxian chuckled wiping his bloody nose with his sleeve, “I’m the one who should be sorry. I’m sorry about your arm. I’m sorry about Madam Yu. I should be sorry about many more things.”

Jiang Cheng patted Wei Wuxian’s back in what he hoped was a comforting manner, “Let’s just… stop saying sorry. I’m too relieved to see you, right now.”

Wei Wuxian smiled, “Me too.”

The girl struggled in the grasp of the two soldiers. The man that she’s seen before was now nowhere any longer. Any hope she’d had of being rescued had now increased her despair and she was on the verge of cursing at everything she knew.

“sh*t, she’s struggling a lot! Should we break an arm?” One of the disciples asked.

The girl stilled immediately, frozen in fear.

“Oh? She’s obedient now. Okay let’s—”

Whatever he was about to say did not get completed as a flash of a golden string moved across his neck and then, his head was rolling. The soldier who was next to him immediately let go of her.

“What the f*ck!” He screamed, terrified.

Soon, he too was on the ground, his head had not been cut off, but there were a few strings that were poking out from his back, through the place that his heart would be. The girl followed the source of the threads and her eyes widened in relief.

“You…”

It was the man she’d seen hiding a few moments ago! His fingers were entwined with the golden strings and they withdrew back to him and into his sleeve.

Then, he began untying his sash belt.

As he took off his robe, she felt hopeless and betrayed. It was from one rapist to another. Even though he was smaller in build, she was still smaller and seeing how strong he was, she couldn’t defeat him.

Then, she felt the cloth draped over her shoulder.

“Young miss, are you okay?” The man asked, voice kind and concerned. “Please wear this for now. It’s not very fine clothing, but it should keep you modest at least.”

The girl felt tears come to her eyes, relief overflowing within her as she realised that the robe was only meant to cover her indecent state of dress.

“Who…”

The man smiled, “My name is Meng Yao. Please don’t worry. I know this place very well. Are you one of the travelling groups? This is a battle area, you shouldn’t have come here.”

He pulled her up to her feet.

“I… I was kidnapped from my carriage. We didn’t mean to stumble upon a war zone.” She told him, voice small and cautious.

“It’s alright.” He said and looked around. “Please follow me. I will return you to safety.”

She tried to step forward, but the fear that had overcome her still made her knees weak and she couldn’t walk more than just a few steps. Meng Yao caught her easily and held her up by her shoulders. She looked at him helplessly.

“You can’t walk?” He asked, lips thinning.

For a moment, she was afraid that he thought of her as a burden and was thinking of abandoning her. Then, she felt herself being guided to his back, and soon her feet were off the ground, and her arms were linked at his throat.

He lifted her on his back!

“You’ll have to bear with me, miss. I’m not very physically strong, so I can’t carry you as gallantly as other men.” He said, wryly. “I will not touch you more than necessary. I am the Nie Sect’s subordinate. If I do anything unseemly, you can complain to them.”

The girl felt her face heat up, “I would never! You are my saviour.”

Meng Yao walked deeper into the forest and he weaved around the paths expertly, like he could see where he was going from an aerial view.

“I’m not so heroic.”

“But you saved me.” The girl protested. “If that’s not heroic, then no one can be called a hero!”

Meng Yao laughed and he heaved her further up his back as he walked, “Young miss, your words are so charming! Thank you for the compliments. I think I may feel slightly braver once I go back.”

The girl stilled, “You’re going back? You shouldn’t!”

“I have to.” Meng Yao answered, a smile in his voice.

“You may die. You’re not big and muscular like the rest!” Hearing her own words, the girl suddenly felt humiliated for her saviours sake, “I—I don’t mean—”

“It’s okay. It’s the truth.” Meng Yao told her. “But I’m fine. There are people who still need me, so I will live.”

Just as the girl was about to relax over him, she saw some carriages at the clearing ahead. There were men and women frantically searching around. They were her servants! Then, she felt herself being lowered to the ground.

“You can walk the rest yourself. I cannot bring any attention to myself, so I must be off.” Meng Yao told her, his fair face offering her another smile.

Bravely, she asked, “Will we meet again?”

Meng Yao blinked at her and then he laughed softly, “Perhaps? If we do, I hope it’s under better conditions.”

A voice cut between them, “Young mistress!”

“Ah!” The girl turned to look at her servants. “Before I go, my name is—”

She looked back to where Meng Yao was standing, but now, no one was there. “Master Meng?”

She called out a few more times, and finally, allowing herself to realise that he’d left, she felt her shoulders droop in disappointment.

“Young mistress!”

Her maids finally found her loitering around at the edge. They took in her appearance with shock, "Young Mistress! What happened to you?! Were you attacked? Come let’s go!”

Her maids lead her towards the group of carriages and she answered them dazedly, “I was kidnapped.”

Her maids were horrified, “Kidnapped?! How did you make it back?”

“I was saved by a handsome man. He was just like a prince. No, a hero!” She said, dreamily. “But… I didn’t even get to tell him my name.”

Her maids exchanged a look. They were exasperated with their mistress’s love for fairy tales, but they went along with it, “Okay. You can tell him next time you meet that you are the young mistress of—”

The girl shook her head, “No. I will tell him my name like he told me his. I will say, ‘My name is Qin Su!’ with the brightest smile on my face.”

Her maids felt like sighing at this.

Notes:

Aaaannd Wei Wuxian is BACK!
I’ve not written the scene exactly as the novel since it would be really boring, but the red dressed corpse lady was super cool and I do want to bring her in somewhere. We’ll see.

So yeah.
This chapter’s pretty long. If I end up releasing a few in clusters again, I’ll make sure to put a note at the beginning A/N, so keep an eye out!

TO ALL THOSE WHO’S COMMENTS I COULDN’T ANSWER TOO: I’M SO SORRY AND I SWEAR I READ AND REREAD EVERY SINGLE ONE BUT I COULDN’T REPLY AND *cries*.

Also, come scream at me on TWITTER because it’s lonely there and I wanna talk.

And check out this fantastic fanart of an armless Jiang Cheng HERE

Chapter 42

Notes:

Cluster Chapters again! If you’re on this chapter, you’re in the right place!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

When Jiang Cheng brought Wei Wuxian back, chaos broke out.

Nie Huaisang looked at them with big eyes before flying right at them, tears streaming down his face and nose running.

“Wuxian!!” He wailed, tacking Wei Wuxian to the floor. “Where have you been, I've been so worried!!!”

Wei Wuxian patted Nie Huaisang’s back in consolation. Jiang Cheng covered his face with his palm and sighed into it. Nie Huaisang just rubbed his face into Wei Wuxian’s robes, sniffling loudly.

“Are you seriously the oldest brother, Huaisang?” Wei Wuxian laughed, which earned him a scowl.

If that wasn’t enough, Jiang Yanli and Sisi also almost burst into tears at the very sight of him.

“A-Xian!” Jiang Yanli cried and embraced him. Sisi also joined her and both of them smothered Wei Wuxian in warmth. Wei Wuxian happily returned their hugs.

The worst of them all, however, were the junior disciples. Specifically, Wei Wuxian’s shidis, who almost ran him over in excitement and relief when they’d caught sight of their dashixiong. Jiang Cheng prevented him from becoming porridge by their enthusiasm.

It took awhile for everyone to settle down.

“Where’s Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu?”

Jiang Cheng seemed to freeze up at the question, “...Do you want to see them?”

Wei Wuxian felt that the way Jiang Cheng spoke was rather ominous but nodded anyway. He was led towards a room at a secluded area of the camp where Jinzhu and Yinzhu guarded dutifully, standing as still as statues until they saw the two boys approaching.

They gave a suspicious glance towards Wei Wuxian and then saluted Jiang Cheng who returned to favour before he walked up to the door and gave a knock.

“Dad? I’m coming in.” Jiang Cheng said before entering.

Wei Wuxian followed him inside to the dimly lit interior. His eyes roved around the room p, taking the scenein with equal pars disbelief and worry. Madam Yu was on the bed, hooked up to different tubes and Jiang Fengmian who sat next to her.

The Jiang Scet leader turned to face them and Wei Wuxian felt his stomach drop. The man was thin and gaunt and even looked sickly. The last time they’d scene each other, he’d been so healthy and strong looking. For three months to have made this difference, made Wei Wuxian think about the changes in himself as well. Jiang Fengmian’s eyes also widened and he shot to his feet.

“A-Ying…?”

“Uncle Jiang… What happened to you? What—” Wei Wuxian got cut off as Jiang Fengmian, despite swaying, rushed over to hug him.

“You’re… alive? A-Cheng said you’d be...” He asked, his voice shaking. “You’re alive…”

Hearing the vulnerable tone of voice, Wei Wuxian leaned into his foster father’s hold. “Yes, uncle…”

“I’m sorry…”

“No, Uncle Jiang.” Wei Wuxian cut in and pulled away, looking at Jiang Fengmian in the eyes. “You are the last person who I want to apologise to me.”

Jiang Fengmian’s face relaxed, “These three months… have matured you. Both you and A-Cheng. While you were away, he took up all of the duties.”

Wei Wuxian shot a wry smile towards his brother who shrugged as if it weren’t a big deal. But the Jiang Sect head disciple knew that it wasn’t an easy job.

He turned to look towards Madam Yu, “How is…?”

Jiang Fengmian shook his head, “She is fine. But… she won’t wake. Even after you gave up your… I desperately wanted to find Doctor Wen again, but it’s too difficult at such a time.”

Wei Wuxian didn’t know how to feel, seeing the woman still lying on her back, lips pale and face devoid of emotion, like that. The main goal of giving up his golden core was to make her live, but how would that work if she didn’t wake? Only Wen Qing would know what to do.

“We’ll find her.” Jiang Cheng said, noticing Wei Wuxian’s increasingly hopeless expression. “As fast as possible we’ll end this war and then we’ll find her.”

Wei Wuxian nodded along, “Please don’t worry uncle Jiang. Even if the war is going on, we will search for Wen Ning’s branch. They are good people.”

Jiang Fengmian nodded and stepped back to take in the full view of his sons, “I wish I could be by your side and help you.”

“Stay here and help Madam Yu. She needs you most right now.” Wei Wuxian told him with a smile.

“Dad, Wei Ying… has learnt some unorthodox methods to fight.” Jiang Cheng said suddenly and Wei Wuxian turned to look at him in betrayal.

Jiang Fengmian frowned, “Unorthdox?”

“He started practising demonic cultivation.”

Jiang Fengmian was speechless at this. He had, of course, known that this happened in another universe, but it was safe to say that he didn’t expect it to become his reality this soon. He opened and closed his mouth weakly, switching to look between them, “How... Already? I thought...”

Jiang Cheng hurried to speak. It was like he was a child again, vying for his father’s acknowledgement, “I will keep him in check. I’ll take the responsibility. I only ask that you trust us to do as we see fit.”

Jiang Fengmian saw both his sons move to stand closer and he felt his heart lift. Their strength and determination radiated towards him and he couldn’t help but smile at him.

“Silly child.” Jiang Fengmian said, and reached out to stroke Jiang Cheng’s head. “Why would you have to take responsibility? I am still the Sect leader. Whatever you do, I will bear it. I have full faith that you will not disappoint me.”

Even though they were such simple words, Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng felt the weight on their shoulders lift. There was someone else with them. Someone who had more power than them and would protect them. This was a luxury they still had and they were unspeakably grateful for it.

They both moved in to hug their father. Jiang Fengmian for his part, was now used to doing this back and easily comforted them.

“Today was draining!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed and he flopped down in the hallway. “Emotionally speaking.”

Nie Huaisang was waiting outside the room for them and he watched as his brothers spoke, fan open and rotating in his hand.

Jiang Cheng scowled at him, “What the f*ck did you expect after disappearing for so long? No one will leave you alone even if you want to take a bath.”

Wei Wuxian mockingly crossed his hands over his chest and gave a scandalised, “Jiang Cheng!”

Jiang Cheng in return, gave him a well-deserved kick, “You idiot.”

“Speaking of a bath, you should take one, Wuxian.” Nie Huaisang said, fanning himself. “Those robes are filthy.”

“Seriously. They’re exactly the same ones from the vision.” Jiang Cheng observed. “I’ll get you new ones.”

Wei Wuxian laughed, “No thanks. Just let these wash and dry. I’m going to embrace the Yiling patriarch.”

Nie Huaisang’s eyes twinkled, “Should I order my maids to sew some spares for you?”

“I’ll trouble you with it, then.”

Jiang Cheng had no energy to argue with the older two and sighed, “Whatever. Get your rest today. We have more territory we need to take back. We’ll start fresh again at dawn. For now, I’ll go to check on the reports.”

Wei Wuxian got up to his feet just as Jiang Cheng was about to turn away, “Wait.”

Jiang Cheng looked back.

The Jiang Sect head disciple gave an uncertain look to his brothers, “...I have something I need to tell you.”

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang sat in the comfort of a spacious tent as they looked on with wide eyes at the object in between them.

It was a carved metal that was divided into two pieces and radiated sinister energy. They instantly knew what exactly it was. They had seen it a few times before when they glimpsed the future.

“The Stygian Tiger Seal?” Nie Huaisang guessed, choking on his own words.

Wei Wuxian swallowed and nodded.

Jiang Cheng looked on in shock, “Is this… what you were doing? Didn’t it take you three months to simply master resentful energy before?”

Wei Wuxian, “I already knew what to do. Maybe because of that, I could manage much more easily this time… I don’t know what came over me. I was so full of hatred and as soon as I could walk I went to Dusk Creek Mountain and on the spur of the moment… I made this.”

Anger boiled in Jiang Cheng’s blood, “Wei Ying! What were you thinking doing this?! Do you know what atrocities this object can create? It will take away everything that we have worked for! Did you forget, last time, this had ruined your temper? It will corrupt you.”

Wei Wuxian bowed his head, “I will destroy it.” He responded to Jiang Cheng’s tirade. “I’m not arrogant enough to think that demonic cultivation won’t corrupt me. I have no golden core to stabilise myself, but…”

Nie Huaisang’s eyebrows raised as he saw Wei Wuxian pull out a black clothed object from within his lapels. He uncovered it and placed it next to the Stygian Tiger Seal.

All three of them watched as the golden token illuminated the space between them as well as cast it’s light onto the Amulet. The sinister energy of the Stygian Tiger Seal seemed to withdraw within itself.

“What’s happening?” Jiang Cheng asked, feeling far less suffocated than before.

Wei Wuxian spoke sincerely, “The Token counteracts the effect of the Amulet. The Stygian Tiger Seal is ghostly, possibly evil, but the Golden Token is the opposite. It could even be called holy.”

Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng felt inexplicable relief at this.

“Do you know if you can still use the token?” Jiang Cheng asked, softly.

Wei Wuxian exhaled deeply, “I won’t risk it. The token uses up spiritual energy and presumably stores some of it. If I use it… maybe resentful energy would corrode it.”

Jiang Cheng, “So we’ll have to wait until mom wakes up after all…”

The words ‘ If she wakes up’ were not said. No one wanted to say it and no one wanted to think it, even if a small part of them couldn’t help but do so.

Jiang Cheng spoke again to disperse the silence, “But that leaves us with the Stygian Tiger Seal. What do we do?”

Nie Huaisang tapped his closed fan to his chin, “Why don’t we use it?”

Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian turned to their eldest brother in surprise.

“No, listen. There’s no possible way that we can defeat the Wens without using this.” Nie Huaisang explained, “My Xifeng is powerful and so is Wanyin’s Sandu. Even you, Wuxian, have many corpses at your disposal. Still, the Wen Sect is too vast. We’ll be at a deadlock if this continues. With this, we can defeat them with many less casualties. Even last time, didn’t we need it’s help?”

Wei Wuxian frowned, “That’s true but…”

“No.” Jiang Cheng barked. “Absolutely not. I refuse!”

“Wanyin!”

Jiang Cheng turned to Nie Huaisang, “If we do this, many people will target Wei Ying again. Once the war is over, they will want his power.”

Nie Huaisang pressed on, calmly, “He is not alone this time. Wuxian has our support. The Jiang Sect is still together. If we stand by him—show others that our bond is too great—no one would dare touch him.”

Jiang Cheng sat back, grumbling, “And how do we do that?”

Nie Huaisang snapped his fan open and hid his smirk behind it, “Have you forgotten that we are sworn brothers?”

They had just managed to clear off the borders of Langya, but Meng Yao knew very well that the main territory was yet to be taken back. The surrounding areas were still badly infested with Wen soldiers and it with the amount of men they had, it was impossible to progress much faster.

On top of that, he couldn’t stay much longer.

Earlier that morning, he’d gotten a note from Nie Huaisang via Lan Xichen who continued to split his time all over the Sects.

Move forward with the plan, it had said.

It was important to do so as fast as possible as well, therefore, Meng Yao had informed Lan Xichen on the spot that he would be leaving further instructions behind and would leave the Lanling as soon as possible.

As he packed, he heard the curtain rustle. Meng Yao looked up and saw the hulking figure of Nie Mingjue step in.

“You’re leaving?” He asked in surprise, looking at the bag that Meng Yao was packing.

Meng Yao looked at it, then back up at the Nie Sect leader awkwardly, “Yes, Chifeng-Zun. There is something I must do. Of course, I’ve already instructed Xichen-ge of the further steps.”

Nie Mingjue flopped down on a seating cushion as one would expect of a person who cared little for formalities.

“Is it Huaisang?” Nie Mingjue asked, and Meng Yao flawlessly played ignorance. Despite his excellent acing skills however, it seems Nie Mingjue could bring about an inference. It seemed like he had long since come to one. “I see. That brat is hiding so many things from me, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s colluding with you for something. If I asked, would you say?”

Meng Yao was incredibly awkward. He mostly talked to Nie Mingjue only for official matter and with other people present. If he were honest, he was also quite scared of the man. He had an unshakeable intolerance towards anything outside his moral boundaries, and yet he was good. This made people respect him much more than fear him.

“You would find out sooner or later, sir.” Meng Yao replied. “And it would be profitable for us all if it’s the latter. There is confidential work I must set to.”

Nie Mingjue frowned, “I was originally under the impression that Huaisang was incapable of taking care of himself.”

Meng Yao looked at Nie Mingjue, rather surprised at the change in topic, but listened attentively.

“He was always weak-hearted. On top of that, he preferred to paint and read poetry over fighting battles. As much as I forced him to train, I sheltered him. It wasn’t fighting he was incapable of, but wielding a saber. Now, he’s even scheming plots that I know nothing about. He was never incompetent, was he?”

“No, sir,” Meng Yao smiled. “He’s one of the most talented men I know.”

“You dote on him too much.”

“Sect leader Nie, I believe this is what we refer to as ‘the pot calling the kettle black’.”

Nie Mingjue burst out laughing.

More news had spread by way of mouth all over the provinces.

Wei Wuxian, who was rumoured to have died in the burial mounds, returned from the dead and is aiding the Jiang Sect. He had single handedly killed both Wen Chao and Wen Zhuliu. This was only true in part. Though he was the cause of their death, he didn’t watch them die. Wen Chao died of fright and Wen Zhuliu from loss of blood.

Wen Ruohan, after hearing of his second son’s death as well as his best subordinate’s demise, had pressed tens of thousands of soldiers onto the Jiang front. The Jiang Sect, currently led by Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian, hotly pursued every Jiang territory, and soon, they had recovered all of their land.

Lotus Pier was once again under the reign of the Jiang Clan.

Since Wei Wuxian returned, people have vaguely heard the man refer to himself as the ‘Yiling Patriarch’. Since he had survived the Yiling Burial Mounds, many of the Jiang disciples found this very fitting and took to calling him that. This title became official within the matter of a few weeks.

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang had joked about it on more than one occasion, but not for long.

Nie Huaisang’s prowess on the battlefield spread far and wide. The fact that he used a battle fan for cultivation and wind techniques to enhance his skills were so unique that a few of his shidi took to calling him ‘Wind Lord’.

To the Nie Young Master’s dismay, this title stuck and, as soon as Wei Wuxian was hailed as the Yiling Patriarch, so did he become known as the Wind Lord.

Huaisang lamented the fact that he had to receive such a cringe worthy name.

The gossip did not stop there. In many restaurants, you could hear this type of talk as the center of conversation within every group.

“Aren’t they known as the Two Prides of Yunmeng?” A woman asked as she sipped her wine.

The man with her shook his head, “No. Jiang Wanyin and Wei Wuxian are known as the Two Prides, however, along with Nie Huaisang, many people are taking to calling them the ‘Inviolable Triumvirate’.”

“My,” The woman gasped, covering part of her mouth with her fingertips, “That sounds like a powerful name. Why that?”

The man frowned as he drank his wine, “Because one can’t dare say anything against them. The Sandu Shengshou is famous for his fearsome lightning techniques that burn one from the inside out. The Wind Lord loves to slice up his opponents with cutting winds and no one can get within a few Zhang of him. The most fearsome though, is the Yiling Patriarch, who can control corpses by simply blowing a few notes on his flute.”

The woman leaned forward, very interested by the conversation, “They sound very fearsome but… I’ve heard that all three of them are very handsome young men?”

The man snorted, “Handsome, young, strong, rich and influential. They have everything going for them. Don’t even think about it. A hag like you won’t stand a chance.”

Though insulted, the woman did not show her scorn, “So are they so feared because of their strength?”

“It plays a role,” The man answered, now partially disinterested in the conversation. “But the real reason is because their bond is said to be very strong.”

“Bond?”

“Oh yes. All three are very close. Attack one and you will earn the wrath of the other two. Before this, the Wind Lord was known to be an incompetent idiot, the Yiling Patriarch was a trouble-making servant and the Sandu Shengshou was a pitiful boy who was treated worse than the servant by his own father. They made names together.”

The woman leaned her chin into her palm, “Perhaps by the end of the war, we’ll have more names to remember.”

The man downed his wine in a gulp, “Perhaps.”

Since Lotus Pier was taken back, the entire Jiang Sect had moved back. For a few days, Jiang Cheng had to oversee the welcoming of new disciples, before the senior disciples had managed to make it back and overtake the training. The civilians had slowly started filtering back in.

Wei Wuxian hung up the soldier bells as he did before, looking around in melancholy at the charred pillars and torn flags. The entire place was burnt down, destroyed, and it made them all feel somber at the sight.

With the help of his corpses, they’d managed to put everything back in place and tidy up. Jiang Cheng was in equal parts disturbed and impressed by this.

“We’ll rebuild in no time.” Jiang Cheng said, resolutely.

Wei Wuxian gave him a crooked smile, “You could already be the Sect leader!”

Jiang Cheng shoved him, “Shut up.”

A large sound came from the training grounds.

“Corpses! Hey, hothead, the corpses are walking !!!” A youthful voice shouted. “Do you think they’d still walk if I cut off their heads???”

Wei Wuxian, “...What is that?”

Jiang Cheng dropped his head into his hand, “Oh yeah. You haven’t met that yet. He’s…”

“THEY’RE STILL WALKING!” The voice laughed, delightedly. “Disgusting!”

“You know what? Let’s go make some introductions.” Jiang Cheng said and pulled Wei Wuxian along to present him the chaos on legs known as Xue Yang.

Lotus Pier was stabilised by the end of the week, but the war was not yet over. The Wen Sect’s force had decreased since the reclamation of YunmengJiang’s major territories, but since the past few days, it seemed that Wen Ruohan’s men had come back with even force than before, and this time, they concentrated on the weakest area: Lanling.

Thus, the Jiang Sect had gone in aid of the LanlingJin Sect and relocated camp to Langya. Jiang Fengmian and many senior disciples stayed behind in Lotus Pier. It was the trio known as the Inviolable Triumvirate that had made it’s way to aid the Jin Clan. Jiang Yanli and Sisi, who had been so far nursing the wounded, also joined them, Xue Yang in tow.

The end of the war would be in sight soon.

Extra: Wei Wuxian seeing Jiang Zemei for the first time in three months

“A-mei!!!” Wei Wuxian cried, taking the baby into his arms and cuddling her. She garbled at him, making her more endearing to the man holding her. “So soft! So small! So cute!”

Jiang Cheng watched on in barely concealed terror as Wei Wuxian spun around with the baby in his arms, “Wei Ying, put down our sister before I break your legs!

Notes:

For those who want to know, Yu Ziyuan’s breast milk is being collected by the made and fed to the baby.

Also, like, a serious request from my side: If you’re going to stop reading the story until it’s completed, or just stopped reading because it’s not really fitting with what you like, please just stop. You don’t need to tell me about it, because I feel really pressured to write something different or to publish chapters faster, and I don’t want to do that.

I’m glad that you’ve followed me this far, and if you just feel too anxious to keep reading, that’s fine. I replied to the first comment like that good willingly, but after the third time, I kind of got stressed. So, thanks to everyone for adjusting with me :)

Anyway, so back with the cluster chapters! Read as slowly as you can and don’t forget to comment!

Chapter 43

Notes:

Notice: Cluster chapter updates. Go back to chapter 42 to resume from where you left off!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

They had so much work to do with Lanling it was almost inhuman.

The consecutive defeats that they’ve suffered had made them lose many disciples and the amount of territory they managed to gain back was less that a tenth of the amount they’d lost.

Nie Huaisang learnt on arrival that Meng Yao was responsible for the amount that they’d gained at all.

As soon as they were received, many of the direct Jin disciples showed their outright displeasure at being in the same radius of Wei Wuxian. On top of that, they were immeasurably jealous about the fact that three young men who’ve barely touched the age of twenty had already made such big names for themselves.

Wei Wuxian spoke of it in amusem*nt, twirling chenqing in his hand, “Such envy. I feel quite nice.”

Jiang Cheng responded, rolling his eyes, “You’re quite narcissistic.”

Nie Huaisang covered his face with his fan and looked around agitatedly as they walked, “I don’t like it. That horrible ‘Wind Lord’ title haunts me and I know everyone is going to be looking at us and calling us by our titles.”

And everyone did look at them. Seeing them singly was already quite a sight, but seeing the Inviolable Triumvirate together, it became an impressive sight for many. Wei Wuxian preened and perhaps even Jiang Cheng felt begrudgingly pleased at the attention. Nie Huaisang found it absolutely horrendous.

Jiang Cheng was still wary about using the Stygian Tiger Amulet. He would often flare up and shout at his brothers for their recklessness but both knew that he was only worried and knew of no other way to express it. They discussed much about how they’d have to prepare for the next day in Nie Huaisang’s private tent.

“Tomorrow will be the most difficult.” Huaisang said, fanning himself with elegant twists of his wrist. “We’ll use the Amulet only as much as we need to. Let’s not overdo it.”

“Wei Wuxian’s the one who’ll be controlling it. If he overdoes it, all I have to do is choke him with Zidian.” Jiang Cheng said, darkly.

Wei Wuxian covered his neck with his hands, “I know you won’t!”

Jiang Cheng only raised an eyebrow as if saying, Oh, you think so?

Just then, a rustle of the tent curtain was heard and a large figure revealed itself. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng looked at the new arrival with curiosity whereas Nie Hausaing immediately went to hide behind a table.

Nie Huaisang, “B-b-brother!”

Nie Mingjue looked on with knitted eyebrows at the scene and shot a particularly disapproving glance and Wei Wuxian. Jiang Cheng narrowed his eyes, noticing this and guided his brother to stand behind him, but Nie Mingjue already shifted his attention.

“Huaisang! What are you doing hiding there?! Where is all the chivalry I’ve heard about the past two weeks?” Nie Mingjue boomed. “You have a lot of guts! A cultivation fan? Sworn brothers? You dare keep such things from your Sect Leader?!”

Nie Huaisang was completely pale. After all, the one he loved most in the world was Nie Mingjue and the one he was scared of most in the world was also Nie Mingjue. He stayed behind the table, as if this little partition would offer protection.

“Brother, I would’ve told you myself, but the rumours are faster.” Nie Huaisang reasoned.

Nie Mingjue was utterly unimpressed, “Would you have now? Then why is it that I’ve seen that fan in your room for years now, but only just found out that you can fight with it?”

“T-That is…”

Wei Wuxian stepped up, “Now, now, Chifeng-Zun!” He pacified, “We’ll explain everything to you soon, really!”

Nie Mingjue shifted his gaze, “Wei Wuxian. I’ve heard about your unorthodox cultivation methods. I will be keeping an eye on you.”

Wei Wuxian smiled, but it held no light. His eyes were slightly defeated, further confusing Nie Mingjue.

“I assure you, Sect Leader Nie, if I feel myself losing track, I will kill myself off before anyone else. But feel free to do so. It can’t hurt to have more precautions.”

“Wei Ying, you’re shooting yourself in the foot like this!” Jiang Cheng scolded and then turned to Nie Mingjue, “Sect leader Nie, if something happens, I will take responsibility.”

“With your own head?”

“Brother, stop it!” Nie Huaisang jumped out from behind the table and darted to stand in front of his sworn brothers, “If anything happens, then I should also take responsibility. All three of us work together so we will share the blame together. If you suspect them, then you should suspect me too.”

Nie Mingjue looked like he was going to burst a vein, “Oh, I suspect you!”

Nie Huaisang flinched a little but he did not back down. Then Nie Mingjue lay a hand on his shoulder, making them all look at him.

“But, I trust you as well.” The Nie Sect leader said, “And that may mean I have to trust them, so don’t disappoint me.”

It soon came to them that Nie Mingjue had only been testing them. Wei Wuxian laughed it off, but neither Jiang Cheng nor Nie Huaisang found it very funny.

Later that day, Nie Huaisang and his older brother talked. Nie Mingjue was going back to Qinghe since Lanling was obviously fortified, and he was bidding his brother farewell. He also asked about Meng Yao’s departure to which Huaisang refused to speak much about.

In the end, Nie Mingjue only gave a shallow nod, told Huaisang that he was doing well and left by sunset.

The next day came and the battle was as fierce as Nie Huaisang predicted. When the Stygian tiger amulet had been activated, not only the enemies, but also the allies were shocked and afraid of what it was capable of. Still, the fact that the Yiling Patriarch was on their side made them feel more secure about it.

The battle lasted for almost three days with significantly lesser casualties thanks to the help of Wei Wuxian’s corpse army. The more enemies that fell, the more bodies that were added to his ever growing army of the undead and by the end of two weeks, inner Lanling was free of any Supervisory offices.

Wei Wuxian stomped around in the camp, his bad mood flaring. When he was like this, everyone preferred to avoid him and so they did. They took one look at the Yiling Patriarch and knew better than to disturb him. All wondered how someone could be like this so early in the morning.

And indeed, Wei Wuxian was angry. This was because Jin Zixuan had been stationed at this camp for almost a week, and it was clear by the way he acted that he was actively trying to avoid meeting Jiang Yanli.

The eldest Jiang sibling spent most of her time tending to the wounded or practising to increase her cultivation. Though it’s slow, progress was showing. Still, her cultivation was low and suddenly starting up again was too laboursome for her so she had to take frequent breaks. Despite that, every night, she would make time to boil soup for Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian.

Sisi watched over her through everything and Xue Yang followed them around most of the time or was always somewhere nearby.

By this, she probably didn’t notice how he tried to avoid coming into contact with her like she was a germ, but if she did, she was sure to get hurt. Wei Wuxian was tempted to go kick him right then and there.

Still, he couldn’t hate the man knowing what had happened in the future, and this piled on his stress even more. At the very least, he hoped that the Jin Sect heir would be civilised with Jiang Yanli if they had to converse.

Wei Wuxian had just made it to the boundary of their camp when suddenly, a bark reverberated through the air.

The hair on his neck stood up and goosebumps travelled up his entire body.

He slowly turned his head, face draining of blood as he took in the sight of a black face, protruded teeth and dark golden fur that blanketed the back of the beast's body. It was a fully grown dog and was wolf-like.

Of course, small dogs by themselves scared Wei Wuxian to no end. Seeing one like this, however, was different. This looked very similar to the type of dog that used to chase him when he was a child.

He stumbled a step back. The dog took a step forward, growling.

“Don’t come…” Wei Wuxian pleaded, tears gathering in his eyes as he tried to turn around but only tripped and fell. The dog came closer. “No! Don’t come! SHIJIE!! JIANG CHENG!!!”

The dog bent it’s legs, looking ready to pounce.

Wei Wuxian closed his eyes and a few tears escaped. His heart and head both pounded simultaneously and he was deafened by the sound, making him dizzy. He was ready to faint at any given moment.

With one last shred of desperation, he called out another name just as the dog started running towards him, “Lan Zhan!”

Wei Wuxian waited, eyes closed and heart still pounding. Waited for the dog to jump over him, bite him, do something, but all that he heard was a whimper and a flop.

A moment passed… Then another…

His chest heaved as he slowly opened his eyes, still looking at the ground. Bravely, he lifted his gaze and saw a pair of white boots. Wei Wuxian blinked in shock as his gaze traveled further up and he could finally make out who he was looking at.

When he called out for Lan Wangji, he hadn’t expected for him to actually materialise!

The dog who was growling at Wei Wuxian just a moment ago was now on the ground, head and body flattened on the earth as it looked up at Lan Wangji submissively, tail wagging slowly.

Wei Wuxian felt another jolt of fear and he got up onto his feet shakily, hurrying to flatten himself to Lan Wangji’s back as the dog did to the ground. Lan Wangji stiffened when he felt the contact, but didn’t do anything else.

Just then, a Jin sect disciple came jogging, “Apologies, apologies! This one shook off his leash somehow. I’ll take him back. Did he do anything…?”

He titled his head to peek at Wei Wuxian, but Lan Wangji covered him with his sleeve, “The dog.”

“Huh? Oh, yes!” The disciple bent down and tied the leash towards the dog, leading him away. “I apologise again!”

Lan Wangji dropped his arm, staying where he was, “It’s gone.”

Wei Wuxian, who was still trembling, snapped his head up and saw Lan Wangji still staring forward resolutely. He swallowed and stepped away, taking a few calming breaths. Belatedly, he realised that he had called out for Lan Wangji not too long ago. Wei Wuxian wondered if the man himself had heard that.

The second jade turned to look at him, face as expressionless as always. And it made Wei Wuxian want to hit himself for finding such a boring expression so endearing.

He steadied himself before offering a bright smile to Lan Wangji, even as he still felt the remnants of fear clogging up his joints.

“Wow, Lan Zhan! You came at exactly the right time!” He laughed, “For a moment, I really thought I’d faint. Dogs really scare me. Don’t tell anyone, okay?”

Lan Wangji blinked, not having expected a smile and a laugh from the other man. He stood still and didn’t say anything, but Wei Wuxian’s smile widened.

“Not that you would tell anyone anyway.” He teased, “You barely speak three words to me. Or am I special?”

Lan Wangji patiently took a breath and then turned his face away, “Ridiculous!”

Hearing that word, Wei Wuxian felt his heart ease. It suddenly felt like they were back in the Cloud Recesses, when he used to constantly tease the other boy for anything. Lan Wangji’s irritated face was Wei Wuxian’s favourite.

“Yes, yes. That’s me!” Wei Wuxian grinned, “Lan Zhan, I didn’t know you were stationed here?”

“I’m not.” Lan Wangji answered. “Brother sent for me.”

“Zewu-Jun?” Wei Wuxian thought out loud, “Now that you mention it, he does move all over, doesn’t he? But I haven’t seen him yet. I just returned myself from the front lines, you know? He must be near the ration house. That’s the only place with decent sized tables, so people go there if they want to talk. Come, I’ll take you there.”

Lan Wangji hesitated for a moment before giving a small nod, and Wei Wuxian immediately caught hold of him by the arm, starting to pull him into the ration house’s general direction.

He waited for the moment when Lan Wangji would shake off his hold. That moment didn’t come.


Jiang Cheng had barely gotten four hours of sleep before he’d woken up again. His muscles were still sore from the battle the day before, but once woken up, he couldn’t sleep again. Not to mention, the bedding beside him was empty.

That was why he walked around the camp, searching for where Wei Wuxian could’ve gone. He hadn’t bothered with Nie Huaisang, knowing fully well that he must still be fast asleep. Wei Wuxian wouldn’t go far anyway. At worst, he would be pranking some unsuspecting junior disciples, but nothing worse.

Jiang Cheng, however, didn’t like to be alone and therefore, fully knowing he would regret it, looked around for his brother. In addition to that, they had no idea when they would have to run back into battle.

He searched around for a while, passing by his sister’s tent, opting to not disturb her at this early hour. When he passed by the ration house though, Jiang Cheng noticed a familiar figure sitting at one of the tables, head hovering over a few papers. He looked through them in concentration.

He was so concentrated, in fact, that he didn’t even hear Jiang Cheng approaching him from behind.

“Is that a map of the Nightless city courtyards?” Jiang Cheng asked, surprised.

Lan Xichen snapped his head towards him, also surprised. His face seemed to take on a pinkish tinge, “Young master Jiang!”

Jiang Cheng cast a glance over the rest of the papers, which seemed to be containing information about most of the courtyards and the amount of soldiers stationed there—which was as impressive as one would expect of the Wen Sect.

“How did you get these?” He asked.

Lan Xichen looked down at all the papers and neatly began to stack them, “I’m not sure myself. They’re anonymous.”

Jiang Cheng frowned. Suddenly, he remembered about how Nie Mingjue and many others had questioned Nie Huaisang about why Meng Yao was no longer in Langya. Everything slotted into place, and he realised that it was better not to question further. If Nie Huaisang didn’t tell them, it meant they didn’t need to know.

“Well, I hope they don’t stop here.” Jiang Cheng said and took a seat opposite Lan Xichen. While doing this, he adjusted the position of his cape.

Lan Xichen’s eyes followed this movement, “Is that a new cape?”

The Jiang Sect heir looked at his cape then at Lan Xichen, nodding, “Yes. I got tired of having one around both my shoulders. It weighs down. This one is only meant to cover the left side. It also balances the weight, so I’m content to keep it this way.”

Lan Xichen smiled, “It suits you. Very handsome.”

Jiang Cheng blinked and felt a little embarrassed. He cleared his throat, “I guess.”

Silence passed before Lan Xichen spoke again, “Congratulations on securing Lotus Pier. I’ve heard many great things about your abilities. It is heartening to see the YunmengJiang Sect getting back on its feet.”

“Thank you, but Wei Wuxian did most of the work.” Jiang Cheng answered, offhandedly. He was used to people talking to him about this topic and then immediately asking about his brother.

Lan Xichen, surprisingly, did not.

“I’m sure that’s not true. You are well appreciated in your own right. Few leaders have the conviction towards their people as you do. I believe you are just as impressive.”

Jiang Cheng, who was not used to getting this much praise, felt his face heat up, “Lan Xichen, you should stop speaking.”

The first jade’s smile fell and he looked down, “Oh.”

A moment passed, and Jiang Cheng, who had a distinct guilty feeling like he’d just kicked a puppy, spoke up again, “It’s just that, I’m not used to hearing so many compliments at once. You’ll have to forgive me, Zewu-Jun. I’m not very skilled with such talk, especially coming from someone as commendable as you.”

Lan Xichen, who was worrying over whether he’d somehow offended Jiang Cheng looked back up at him in relief. Relief turned into enchantment when he saw the blush that spread all over the Jiang Sect heir’s face.

He stared in fascination before a smile graced his face again, “Not at all. But I truly do think of you as someone very impressive. I may end up complimenting you often.”

He gave an apologetic look to which Jiang Cheng only glanced at before turning his head away.

“Do as you please.” He grumbled, without any heat.

Lan Xichen was very happy to be told this. Hepicked up his teacup and took a sip, “Young Master Jiang, you’ve changed.”

Jiang Cheng looked back at him, but did not fully turn his head, “How?”

“We haven’t communicated much before, but I do remember… you weren’t as calm as you are now. You seem much more steady.” Lan Xichen explained. His observation was sharp.

The purple clothed man fiddled with Zidian on his index finger, using his thumb, “Perhaps… I just don’t want anymore regrets. The same as anyone else, I’m sure, but I realised it takes more than just knowing what you want. I’m seizing it.”

Lan Xichen felt his lungs close up as they now did every time he saw, heard or even thought of the Jiang Sect’s young master. He sat straighter, hoping this would ease his burden.

Then Jiang Cheng looked at him straight in the eyes with an electric gaze that travelled through every bone in his body, and he knew that nothing would help him.

At that moment, a cheerful voice came, saving him from the dizzying moment.

“Zewu-Jun! Oh, Jiang Cheng, you’re there too!!” Wei Wuxian said dragging along a stiff Lan Wangji.

Jiang Cheng stood up, looking between their two men with wide eyes, “Wei Ying! Who do you think you’re holding there?!”

Wei Wuxian thought for a moment. Then, he hugged Lan Wangji’s arm and leaned into him, a devious smile on his lips, “Him? Why, this is my husband, of course!”

Lan Xichen’s teacup immediately fell to the ground, breaking into chunky pieces and Jiang Cheng shot to his feet, face turning colours. Lan Wangji stood perfectly still, seemingly having frozen in place.

Just as Jiang Cheng thought about choking Wei Wuxian to death with Zidian followed by himself, the man let go of the second jade and held his hands up in surrender, “Joking! Just joking!”

He walked over to Jiang Cheng and threw an arm around him, teasingly tapping his chest with his flute, “No need to be jealous, Jiang Cheng. I can hang off your arm as well, if you like.”

Jiang Cheng gave him an unamused look, “Will you now? Then how will I fight? I’m afraid I have only one arm.”

“Aren’t I the other?” Wei Wuxian responded, winking, to which Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but laugh, despite himself.

The Twin Jades’ faces grew darker and darker at each passing moment to which the Two Prides were oblivious to. They just shoved at each other in turn, joking around as would long time friends.

Lan Xichen glanced at Lan Wangji, and though many people would say he looked only slightly more irritated than usual, Lan Xichen knew better. His brother was boiling himself in envy.

“—Is that correct, Zewu-Jun?” Jiang Cheng’s voice cut in and Lan Xichen blinked.

“Pardon?”

Jiang Cheng gave him a curious look, “I said, you probably wanted to talk to Hanguang-Jun about the maps you’ve received from the anonymous ally?”

Wei Wuxian rubbed his chin, thoughtfully, “That’s very convenient, though. Perhaps… could that ally be—” He cut himself off when he felt an elbow jab at his flank. Jiang Cheng looked at him warningly.

“I have no idea who it could be.” Lan Xichen confessed, misinterpreting the direction of the conversation. “But I do hope they know what they’re doing.”

“If they’ve managed this far, they probably do.” Wei Wuxian replied, wryly. Even as he spoke, he felt Jiang Cheng’s eyes sending him cautionary looks that bore through his head. “Perhaps they've been planning it for a long time.”

Lan Xichen frowned, finding this conversation curious, “I suppose. What do you think, Wangji?”

Lan Wangji took a look at the papers that Lan Xichen gestured to, and nodded, “Collect the information, plan the next move.”

His brother visibly agreed to this line of thought as did the other two men in their presence.

At that point, white flares started shooting into the air and the four men turned their attention towards it in alarm.

Intruders had passed the barrier.

Notes:

The XiCheng is strong in this one. I can’t seem to control myself. But damn, I finally got down one of the WangXian scenes I’ve been planning ever since I started this thing! Accomplishment achieved!

Yes, the WangXian scene IS based off of that one fanart that you must’ve seen at some point after selling your soul to MDZS and spending sleepless nights by scrolling through WangXian fanart.

But if you haven’t seen it, you can take a look at what inspired it HERE.

Chapter 44

Notes:

Notice: Cluster Chapter updates! Go back to chapter 42 to read from where you left off!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Jiang Yanli had just finished making a new batch of ointment with Sisi and the medics when her brother barged into the infirmary.

“A-Cheng?” She watched with wide eyes as he approached her urgently.

Sisi also noticed that something was wrong, “What happened?”

Jiang Cheng, “Both of you, don’t leave this tent. We have intruders and we don’t know how deep they’ve managed to enter, nor how many of them are there. Until I return, don’t come out.

Jiang Yanli and Sisi looked him over in worry but nodded. Xue Yang, who was sitting in the corner, sharpening his knife, jumped up excitedly, “Can I come? Is Wei Wuxian going? I want to come.”

Jiang Cheng glared at him, “Chengmei! If I find you outside, I will break your legs!”

Sisi caught hold of Xue Yang collar and held him in place, “I’ll keep an eye on him, A-Cheng. Go.”

Xue Yang’s smile did not deter even with Sisi’s grip threatening to choke him, “You won’t be able to stop me one day.”

“That day is not today.” Jiang Cheng said and with a swish of his cape, stormed out of the tent.


As expected, it had been the Wens that had intruded. Thankfully, the barrier that they had laid was quite expansive and they didn’t find the exact location of the camp. Wei Wuxian, who had rushed straight into action followed by the twin jades, managed to call up his entire corpse army in a matter of minutes.

Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang joined in later. They used their combination attacks, which, without Wei Wuxian’s Suibian, was less impactful, but was stronger than their singular attacks.

In the backdrop of the events, Jin Zixuan had also entered the fray, commanding his men as a leader would and helping the wounded into safer areas along with the twin jades.

The battle lasted for an entire day in which many had sustained injuries, but only few were critical. It was a sweeping victory.


“Sister Yanli, I’m bored.” Xue Yang whined.

The medics had all left to follow the rest of the army into battle. They would be standing on the sidelines to treat any injured men. This left the three alone as they were neither experienced healers nor soldiers.

Sisi was now dispensing the ointment into various containers and shot the boy disapproving looks while she worked, “I’m watching, A-Yang. If you bother A-Li, I’ll make you mix the smelly salves next time.”

Xue Yang snorted.

“What would you like to do?” Jiang Yanli asked, mildly. She was uneasy with the ongoing battle and was patiently waiting until the injured would start coming. A distraction was much welcomed.

Xue Yang grinned, showcasing his canines, “Tell me a story.”

Jiang Yanli smiled gently, “I’m not sure how well I can tell them, but I will do my best. What kind of story would you like to hear?”

“Anything.”

This did not narrow down her options, so she began to think.

“Then, here’s one.” She said and shifted to face him directly. Xue Yang’s continued to lounge, not bothering to sit up properly as she spoke. “Once upon a time, there was a girl. Her parents were famously powerful, but she herself was rather unremarkable. She was bethrothed to a handsome young boy, and though he wasn’t fond of her, she was fond of him. And she selfishly pretended that the betrothal was perfect, even though her betrothed wanted nothing to do with her, for he was much more beautiful and talented.”

Xue Yang smirked, “Well, if I was her, I would’ve just kicked him and told him he was ugly. That would knock him off his pedestal.”

Jiang Yanli laughed, “This girl could never do something like that. But one day, she met another young boy. He had a smile like sunshine and was a little childish. He had gotten angry for her and fought with her betrothed. It did not end well and by the end, the girl’s father cancelled the engagement.”

Xue Yang’s eyebrows drew down and he sat up, “That’s a dumb and boring story.”

Sisi’s voice came from the other end of the tent with an indignant, ‘A-Yang, watch your mouth!’

Jiang Yanli smiled sadly, “Yes, I suppose it is. I’m sorry, I can tell you another story.”

But Xue Yang wasn’t interested anymore. He leaned forward as if he was going to share something confidential to Jiang Yanli, “That story’s about you, isn’t it? And the guy who hit your dumb fiancé was Wei Wuxian. I think he was right, but that’s not what should’ve happened!”

Jiang Yanli’s eyebrows lifted, “It’s not?”

“No. You should’ve punched him. Or something better!” Xue Yang told her. “If he thinks you look bland, then carve his eyes out. If he thinks he’s more talented, then cut off his legs. There’s lots of options here, sister.”

Jiang Yanli shook her head and then placed a hand on the young boys head, stroking it softly, “No, no one should ever resort to that. Deep down inside, everyone is hurt; Tired of fighting battles that others cannot see. I’m sure it’s the same for him and I know it’s the same for you. That’s why, I would like to not hurt others more than they’ve already been.”

Xue Yang frowned and slapped away her arm, but it had no force or malice. He was sulking; a rare expression on his face.

Jiang Yanli gave him a soft, wide smile and dug into her qiankun sleeve, “A-Yang, open your mouth.”

Automatically, Xue Yang did as she said and she placed a small, spherical object on his tongue. The boy closed his mouth and chewed, his eyes lighting up.

“Melon!” He exclaimed and savoured the candy in his mouth.

Ever since he’d been acting as her bodyguard, Jiang Yanli had always carried sweets around to pacify Xue Yang’s moods. Many times, she would pop a sweet into his mouth for no reason at all. This was why the boy was so trusting of her and would open his mouth without question, sometimes, even when she didn’t ask him to yet.

A few moments passed, and then suddenly, they began to hear noises from outside. Lots of shouting and the clanking of metal could be heard until the curtain of the tent lifted to let in a stream of wounded soldiers.

“Sisi-Jie.” Jiang Yanli called, immediately standing up.

Sisi was by her side within a few moments with a bag of bandages, “Right here. Let’s begin our battle, shall we?”

Wei Wuxian collapsed on to his bedding and drew the curtains over it, not wanting to be disturbed. He pulled out both the Stygian tiger amulet and the golden token and kept it next to him. The headache inducing resentful energy of the Amulet was immediately neutralised by the spiritual energy of the golden token. Wei Wuxian looked at both of the artefacts and felt his eyes droop.

He was so tired from fighting consecutively with no break. It had been days since he’d received more than a few hours of sleep in one go, and he could probably fall asleep within no time, even though it was only seven o’clock.

Just before he could start dozing though, the sound of two people clambering into his tent startled him awake again.

“Reckless!” Jiang Cheng’s angry voice permeated through his curtains.

Wei Wuxian sat up a little as another, more gentle voice spoke, “My apologies. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to carry me this far.”

“Lan Xichen, do you think I care about that?!” Jiang Cheng scolded, “What were you thinking, shielding me from a sword with your own body? Look at that wound! You’ll need stitches.”

The Jiang Sect head disciple listened on in curiosity. He could’ve made his presence known before, but oh, this seemed so much more fun. He peered through the curtains gleefully, careful to hide himself behind the cluttering of things here and there.

The Lan Sect heir was lowered onto a sitting pillow and Jiang Cheng was glowering at him.

Lan Xichen wore an apologetic smile, taking in all of the purple clothed man’s scoldings patiently, “I’m sorry, I suppose I wasn’t—thinking.”

Jiang Cheng grumbled as he went to get the first aid kit, “Stop apologising, it’s making me more frustrated. All the medics are caught up with the other soldiers—even my sister who’s not a doctor. I’ll give you first aid, for now and then we can go and have someone take a look at this.”

The first jades’ eyes followed Jiang Cheng’s form keenly, not lifting for even a moment. The moment Jiang Cheng turned back to look at him, though, Lan Xichen averted his gaze. Wei Wuxian watched this happen with fast-blinking eyes.

“Okay, hold still.” Jiang Cheng said as he brought over some plasters. He reached out his arm and slipped off Lan Xichen’s robe. The older man seemed to freeze and grow red at this, instinctively bringing a hand to hold his clothing in place.

Jiang Cheng shot him an exasperated look, “If I’m doing this, I need your robes to be off, Eldest Young Master Lan.”

Having considered this, Lan Xichen swallowed and then allowed the left part of his robe slide open, revealing flawless, snowy white skin over the expanse of an impressively muscled torso. The only interruption was a wound in his flank that bled into the clothing around.

Jiang Cheng hissed, looking at it, “You said it wasn’t that bad! This needs more than just a few stitches!”

Lan Xichen closed his eyes and turned his head away, and for all the world, Wei Wuxian would say he was being shy.

He spoke softly, “It will heal soon. My meridians and body have been trained for this.”

“Yes, yes, and that’s a perfectly good reason to throw yourself into danger. That makes sense.” Jiang Cheng drawled, sardonically.

Lan Xichen, “You would’ve been stabbed.”

Jiang Cheng, “It wouldn’t have been life threatening. Imagine, the cultivation world’s ‘ray of hope’ for the weak is injured while protecting a cultivator who should be able to protect himself.”

Saying this, he busied himself. He cleaned the wound with a damp cloth and roughly applied some salve. Then, he took out the bandage and opened it up using his teeth and right hand, preparing to plaster up the wound.

Just then, he jerked.

It was a familiar motion, one which Jiang Cheng often did every so often. There were times when he’d suddenly freeze up, or look like he was about to do something but ended up not doing anything at all. When Wei Wuxian realised why that was, the guilt that overcame him was heavy.

Apparently Lan Xichen realized why this jerking motion was there as well.

“...You’ve adjusted as well as anyone could in your position.” He said, soothingly.

Jiang Cheng gave him a self-deprecating smile, “So you realised… That’s right, I still haven’t adjusted. The fact that I have only one arm is sometimes so intrusive in my thoughts that it’s all I can think about. Other times, I keep forgetting about it and I try to use it, only to remember it’s not there. I thought I would get used to it, but how long will that take, I wonder?”

Wei Wuxian listened to this with a heavy heart. Jiang Cheng always acted like the loss of his arm was nothing to him, but Wei Wuxian knew it wasn’t something you could just forget about. After all, the loss of his golden core also weighed down on his mind the same way, so naturally, both of them knew what the other was feeling best.

When you slept, you could forget, but the moment you wake and you don’t feel it, the emptiness would make itself known. That helplessness, that realisation that you would never be the same, was something the Twin Prides understood more than anyone.

“Am I the only one who knows this?” Lan Xichen asked, as he helped Jiang Cheng hold the roll of bandages while he worked.

“Who could I tell this too?” He scoffed.

“Young master Wei?”

Wei Wuxian stilled behind the curtain and he held his breath.

Jiang Cheng paused, and then he spoke again, “It may not look like it, but Wei Ying is going through his own troubles. This is a petty matter comparatively.”

Lan Xichen nodded, “I see.”

He did not question further on Wei Wuxian problems that were allegedly larger. He accepted them, but did not seem to completely agree. Yet, as Jiang Cheng did not seem prepared to share anything else, he did not attempt to ask.

Jiang Cheng sighed, “I’m being unsightly. You shouldn’t have to listen to this.”

Lan Xichen, “No, I’m… honoured. That you trust me with this.”

The tent went silent and Jiang Cheng felt ashamed for suddenly dumping minor worries onto another’s shoulders. But Lan Xichen listened patiently and did not judge him the slightest. This alleviated some of his concern.

Realising that he’d finished his job, he leaned away from the other man.

“Okay,” Jiang Cheng heaved, getting up. He often struggled to get up due to the imbalance of his weight on one side, but lately, it’s become less noticeable, “I’ll go see if someone’s free to come here. It would be too eye catching for one of the twin jades to be stitched up in a public infirmary.”

Lan Xichen, “I don’t mind.”

Jiang Cheng shot him a cautionary look, “We have images to preserve as the frontline fighters. Stay here until I return.”

The Sandu Shengshou left the tent, leaving Lan Xichen to look at the afterimage. He sighed and skirted his roughly plastered wound with his fingertips.

“He left too quickly. This was our longest conversation.” He sighed, not realising he was talking out loud. Then he paused, considering something. “Should I let myself get injured again, next time?”

He did not notice the figure creeping behind him until it sang out, delightedly, “I heard it~”

Lan Xichen snapped his head to the voice, startled. He was graceful enough to not collapse to the ground in shock as the black robed figure who had a wide, predatory grin on his face hovered over him.

“Young Master Wei!”

Wei Wuxian happily returned, “Me!”

Lan Xichen leaned back as Wei Wuxian scooted closer, cackling, “What’s this, what’s this? Here I am, exhausted after a battle, ready to sleep, and then comes my brother with the peerless first jade! If I wasn’t surprised at how close you were, I’d say I definitely was when you were considering getting injured just to talk to him again. Zewu-Jun, I am surprised at you!”

Uncharacteristically, Lan Xichen began to stammer weakly, “You… heard everything?”

Wei Wuxian grinned wickedly, “No, I saw everything. Hahahaha! I must say, I never expected this! What are your designs on my brother, Zewu-Jun? The way you were looking at him...”

Wei Wuxian raised his eyebrows suggestively and Lan Xichen flushed.

“Young Master Wei, please. It is nothing that warrants such interrogation.” He protested, a dusting of pink spread across his cheeks.

Lan Xichen by no means had a thin face, usually. He always wore a serene smile, like his face was carved by the Buddha himself and if not his smile, then it was other mild facial expressions. Yet now, he was so embarrassed that he turned his face away and tried to keep a stoic expression. The fact that it was Jiang Cheng’s influence that caused this, entertained Wei Wuxian to no end.

“Nothing?” He asked, innocently.

Lan Xichen, “I only… admire him very much.”

That was not the answer he expected.

The sincere look on the older man’s face made Wei Wuxian give him a blank look. At first, he thought it was an act, but he was long convinced that Lans did not have that ability.

He dryly repeated, feeling a little incredulous, “Admiration.”

“Correct.” Lan Xichen nodded, coughing into his fist. “He is brave, strong, loyal… there is much to learn from him. He always expresses his worry with anger, but that’s rather charming, isn’t it? His people are drawn to him because of the sense of security they get in his presence. I feel this is an exemplary quality of a leader. And his gaze is unwavering—always straightforward and true. Young Master Jiang is very captivating and admirable.”

He said this with sparkles in his eyes and now, Wei Wuxian was convinced that Lan Xichen really did think that what he felt was exactly as he thought. Yet, the way he spoke was so clearly like a maiden waxing poetry about her one true love that Wei Wuxian wanted to slap his own forehead.

He felt so frustrated, in fact, that, in the same dry tone as before, he simply repeated again, “Admiration.”

The gentle, composed smile was back on Lan Xichen’s face, and he turned to Wei Wuxian tranquilly, “You’ve repeated that word for a while now, Young Master Wei.”

The incredulous expression on Wei Wuxian’s face didn’t change, “Right. Zewu-Jun, have you ever been in love before?”

Lan Xichen blinked, “I can’t say I have. I’m sure I would know once it happens.”

No, you clearly wouldn’t , Wei Wuxian thought, exasperatedly.

“That reminds me, Young Master Wei,” Lan Xichen started again, “You asked me about my designs but I should be asking you about yours.”

Wei Wuxian snorted, “I have no designs on Jiang Cheng.”

“I meant on Wangji.”

Wei Wuxian froze. Then, he let out a stiff laugh, “Lan Zhan? What could there be?”

Lan Xichen gave him a disapproving look and Wei Wuxian dearly missed being the one asking the questions, “Young Master Wei, my brother is very sincere towards you. You tease him and get very close, then suddenly you distance yourself. You can do this easily, but Wangji doesn’t know how to lie to you.”

“Of course he wouldn’t.” Wei Wuxian agreed, “Don’t worry, Zewu-Jun. Everyone knows already and I know it too. Lan Zhan is honest and good. If there is something he cannot tolerate, it would be because it is wrong.”

Lan Xichen looked at him sympathetically, apparently understanding his implication, “He does not think you are wrong.”

“Is that so?” Wei Wuxian smiled, wryly. “I saw his face today. He did not like to see how I fought. The way he looked at me on the battlefield…”

“He is worried. Young Master Wei, Wangji has always thought highly about you. How do you feel about him?”

Wei Wuxian gave a startled, “Me? Isn’t it obvious?”

“I hope you don’t actually think it is. I’m confused as well. Do you like him? Hate him?”

Wei Wuxian looked up at Lan Xichen with furrowed brows, “Can anyone actually hate Lan Zhan? I don’t think I ever could.”

“There are a few who do not favour him. For you to say that shows that you aren’t one of them.” Lan Xichen smiled, “Young Master Wei, you and my brother have an overdue talk.”

“...Perhaps next time.” Wei Wuxian said. Then he got up, “I think I’ll sleep now. I’m really tired.”

Understanding that Wei Wuxian had no intention of further prolonging this conversation, Lan Xichen only quietly watched as he climbed into the bedding and pulled the curtain closed.

“Many thanks, Young Mistress Jiang.” A Jin Sect disciple said as Jiang Yanli finished securing his sprained ankle and bandaging his open wounds.

“It is my pleasure to help. Please do not strain to thank me.” She smiled, kindly. The many disciples who had just been treated by her including this one, all looked ready to worship at her feet.

Sisi, who was next to her, helped her carry most of the supplies and also helped treat the minor injuries. Many of the soldiers hoped that they’d be next in line to receive the touch of her hands while they stared at her fair face that sported beautiful, long-lashed eyes, a straight nose and red lips. She obliged their small happiness.

Now, she guided Jiang Yanli to the next patient, “There were two more just brought in, so I’ll have to go find a place to accommodate them, A-Li. Can you do this by yourself?”

“Don’t worry about me.” Jiang Yanli told her. “Go help them.”

Sisi nodded and rushed off.

She walked over to one of the only beds present in the infirmary and realised why this patient was allowed on it.

His figure indeed cast a striking image with his delicate features and expensive clothing. The golden robes were far more regal looking than other Jin Sect uniforms and his expression was haughty. The vermillion mark on his forehead was smudged with sweat and dirt.

It was none other than the heir to the Jin Sect: Jin Zixuan.

Jiang Yanli paused for a moment, unsure of herself. Then she saw his bleeding head and gashed limbs and her heart faltered. This was the man who had, in another universe, kissed her forehead and thanked her for birthing his son. He had laughed with her and loved her there. He was someone she shouldn’t run away from when he’s injured.

She clenched her teeth and determinedly walked towards him.

Jin Zixuan looked up as he noticed someone coming over and narrowed his eyes once he realised who it was.

“Maiden Jiang.” He greeted, distantly, cold but not icy.

“Young Master Jin.” Jiang Yanli returned, placing the basket of ointments on a bedside stool and the bucket of warm water on the ground.

She began glancing over his wounds. The head injury looked to be bleeding the most so far. “May I examine your head wound?”

Jin Zixuan averted his gaze, gruffly replying, “Do as you must.”

Hesitantly, she check the head would. Quite a lot of the blood had clotted into his hair, and she became concerned. Jin Zixuan hated to look unsightly and he wouldn’t like his hair to be shaved off.

She took a towel and dipped it in the bucket, squeezing out the excess water, “This might sting, Young Master Jin. Your blood has clotted, so I need to dab it with warm water for some time.”

Jin Zixuan did not answer her. He resolutely ignored everything she said and so, she simply set off to her work.

Jiang Yanli carefully and patiently dab out all of the blood and cleaned the wound gently. It took quite a lot of time to extricate the hair from the injury and thin down the blood. The head wound was not as large as it looked and she nearly let out a breath of relief. Gently, she plastered it up before moving on to the wounds on his arms and legs.

Once everything had been cleaned, medicated and bandaged, she leaned back.

Jin Zixuan kept his eyes closed and stoic expression fixed, as if he was expecting another wound to suddenly get cleaned. That was the worst part as it burned during then.

The expression made him look much younger and Jiang Yanli found him all the more endearing for it. She smiled, “It is done, Young Master Jin.”

Jin Zixuan opened his eyes, “Then why are you still here?”

Yanli’s smile fell and she swallowed. With some courage, she dug into her qiankun sleeve and took out a piece of candy.

“Please take this.” Jiang Yanli offered, holding out the sweet. “Sweet things bring up energy.”

Jin Zixuan looked down at the sweet that was on her open palm and then back at her face, expression darkening, “You… there are other people injured over here. Stop these pointless things and go help them if you want to do something!”

Jiang Yanli recoiled, and feeling ashamed, she started pulling back her hand.

Just then, a sing-song voice interrupted them, “Sister Yanli, give it to me~”

Xue Yang’s approached the eldest Jiang sibling and caught her wrist, bringing the candy to his mouth. He stood up straight and chewed on it, “Your sweets are the best!”

Jiang Yanli was startled at this sudden appearance, “A-Yang!”

The boy looked disinterested in giving her any words right now, though. He smiled at Jin Zixuan, red eyes curving. The expression was very familiar to Jiang Yanli: Xue Yang was angry,

“You bastard.” He said, sweetly, completely contrasting his words. “You think you’re so great to make this sister hold out her hand for so long. You think it’s easy to get these things during war? She makes these sweets herself from whatever fruit she can find around and gives it to every single soldier she treats. Don’t go thinking you’re special, asshole!”

Jin Zixuan’s face turned red. Growing up, he was always praised and talked highly about, so this was the first time he had been slandered like this. He bristled, “Why you—”

“How dare you!” A Jin Sect soldier shouted. “Who do you think you are, boy?!”

And then a bunch of Jin disciples started raising their voices, “Do you think you are qualified to speak to the young master like that?”

“He’s a street urchin, is what I heard. No manners!”

Xue Yang’s did not pay attention to any of them. He only grinned at Jin Zixuan before turning to Jiang Yanli. He hug her waist and buried his head in her abdomen, “Sister!”

Jiang Yanli brought her arms around him and stroked his head, “Please calm down. He’s just a boy. Surely you can forgive the words of a child?”

The disciples indeed calmed down at her voice, but were still indignant, “But Maiden Jiang!”

“Oh, shut up!” Sisi’s voice thundered, as she swept into the scene. “You people are unsightly. Every single one of you are grown men and, on top of that, injured! What do you want to do to an eleven year old?”

“I’m almost twelve!” Came Xue Yang’s voice, but Sisi ignored it.

“Lie back down, all of you, before I come and make you!” She said, she flicked her hair with her hand and the soldiers all stared, enamoured. She turned to Jiang Yanli while they were distracted, “A-Li, finish up here. A-Yang—you little troublemaking troll—you’re coming with me!”

“Get away from me, ugly!” Xue Yang turned his head away, and attempted to wrap his arms tighter around Jiang Yanli’s waist.

Sisi showed no mercy and pulled at his collar, choking him into loosening his grip, “Who’re you calling ugly? I’m f*cking stunning!”

And even as she dragged him away, Xue Yang made cutting throat gestures at Jin Zixuan.

Jiang Yanli bowed deeply to the Jin Sect’s Young Master, “I apologise for his behaviour. He’s had a difficult childhood, so please understand, Young Master Jin.”

Jin Zixuan was going to scold Jiang Yanli again, but after hearing this apology, his anger subsided and he leaned back, “Leave it.”

He pondered on how to apologise for shouting at her just moments ago, as he had never apologised to anybody in his entire life. Yet, before he could come up with an answer, Jiang Yanli offered him a mild smile and left.

He stared after her, a small frown on his face.

Notes:

Wwx: Bruh, you one oblivious mofo
Lxc: No U
Me: You both dumb af, pls just stop.

So, at this point it’s like this: we all know how dumb wwx so let’s set that aside, but for Lxc, it’s more like, he’s smart enough with other people’s issues, but when it comes to himself he’s... well, you saw.

Also, Xue Yang is so fun to write, I just can’t ❤️❤️❤️

Anyway, let me know what you thought of this chapter! I think the Sunshot Campaign will wrap up in a few more chapters. Hold on a bit longer!

Chapter 45

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

After the numerous battles they’d conducted, the Jin Sect had finally managed to secure an abandoned village that was in the vicinity of a Supervisory office the Wen Sect had claimed by forcing it’s people away.

Thus, with this new location that wasn’t far from the previous camp, everyone had shifted into the huts that were now uninhabited by people. This gave much more comfort to the many who had to sleep nights under the bare sky.

At the end of the day, Jin Zixuan walked towards his tent once he’d finished looking over his disciples to make sure everyone was present. He had reports to read and was much too tired from the past few days to even lift his legs for walking anymore. Yet, he continued for one reason:

The soup that would be waiting in his room every night right before he returned.

Though everything about the current situation of the cultivation world and his own life was upsetting, that bowl of soup that would be waiting for him on his desk every night brought him immeasurable comfort from the harsh ration that was provided for normal soldiers.

At first, he was confused as to why it was there, but only he stayed in that particular hut, so of course it must be meant for him. He wanted to thank the cook, but who was it? Every time, he would try to reach his tent earlier, only to see that the person has left already. At some point, he had seen a shadow and by looking at it, he could deduce that the person leaving the soup for him was a woman.

After a while, he was finally able to catch her one day, when she loitered around his cabin for too long.

He asked her, “It was you who left it for me?”

The girl blushed furiously and stammered, her fair face now bashful, “I-I don’t know what you must be referring to, Young Master Jin.”

Even after prodding for a while though, she only answered him with soft spoken, shy tones. Finally, he decided to let her go, but not without a much better impression of her than he’d had before.

As he returned and saw the bowl of soup on his desk again—tender looking lotus roots and chopped up pork dipped in the broth—he smiled and sat down.

Maybe he should increase her rank to guest cultivator as a show of his gratitude.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng sat down at the table in their room. The two of them, as they had always done since they'd first met, shared the room they stayed in.

They had also invited their eldest brother, but Nie Huaisang vehemently refused to stay with them, stating with distaste that he likes having a hut to himself, but Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng know why he really refused.

Earlier that week, they had caught the conversation of a few maiden cultivators talking about them and gushed about how well-figured and handsome Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng were.

Yet, when it came to Nie Huaisang, they all paused with tragically thoughtful expressions, before replying things like: ‘Slimmer than me’ and ‘Nicer skin than me’ and ‘With a little make up, he’d be a better bride than me’.

Since then, Nie Huaisang had been very bitter about his figure and face and scowled every time he took in the bigger appearance of his younger brothers. He took much care in making sure he would be completely alone when he undressed, lest they could see how much muscle he truly lacked.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng on the other hand, had a very tough time trying to properly school the expression on their faces and not roll on the floor laughing. Wei Wuxian gave into temptation early and really did roll around laughing but Jiang Cheng resolutely refused to allow such behaviour to be exhibited by himself.

They were in fact, talking about this very topic when Jiang Yanli finally came into their room, holding a tray with three bowls of soup.

“Who’s hungry?”

Wei Wuxian grinned and Jiang Cheng smiled, both saying one after the other:

“Me!”

“And me.”

“Understood.” Jiang Yanli beamed, showing a hint of her teeth as she set down the tray.

Jiang Cheng got to his feet and pulled out a chair for her to sit comfortably. His sister smiled and thanked him for his consideration and Jiang Cheng’s face lit up.

There were many crows in Qishan.

Everywhere Meng Yao walked, they seemed to follow, narrow beady eyes revolving all around to analyse if their surroundings were appropriate. A surrounding where they could comfortably be predators.

If you asked Meng Yao, in a place like the Nightless City, if you were not the predator, you were the prey. But if, if, you were neither, you couldn’t sit on the fence for too long. You’d need the power of a predator behind you, or else, prepare to lose a limb or two.

Meng Yao wasn’t keen on being prey, but he knew for sure that he couldn’t be a predator, therefore he had one to keep him safe.

Wen Ruohan sat like a king in the main hall, cold eyes staring down in pleasure. It was fitting to call him a king—the chair he sat on was hardly a chair. He sat on a throne. A large, intricate, obnoxious throne. But when he sat on it, the throne looked like the least obnoxious thing in the overly large, expensively decorated room.

In front of him were two cultivators from the QingheNie Sect, forced onto their knees by four Wen disciples. They were sweating and shivered at the very sight of Wen Ruohan. Meng Yao recognised them very well and by the pleading glances they kept shooting his way, they hadn’t forgotten him either.

“Meng Yao,” Wen Ruohan’s cool voice came, heartless and gleeful. “What do you think should be done to these arrogant fools who tried to alert the Nie Sect of our camp? Weren’t you allies once upon a time?”

Meng Yao’s eyes narrowed, “Your excellency, I have no love lost between us. I could care less if they lost their lives.”

The two cultivators who were on their knees shot a betrayed look at Meng Yao.

Wen Ruohan’s smile widened, “Oh?”

“These two are despicable creatures, I’m afraid. I do not want to sully your ears.”

The Wen Sect leader drummed his fingers on his arm rest, “No, please, go ahead. To judge their punishment, we have to judge the weight of their sins first.”

Meng Yao hesitated, “Born into wealthy, good named families. These were two of the many that look down on me for my… origins.”

“Meng Yao!” One of the Nie cultivators pleaded, but his eyes were lighting up in fury.

Meng Yao gave him an icy glare, “Shut him up.”

One of the Wen disciples holding him down slapped him enough to make him spit blood, and he immediately quietened. Wen Ruohan laughed blithely at this display.

“Meng Yao, oh, what did they do?”

The shorter man lowered his gaze respectfully and his voice was laced with anger and disgust as he spoke, “They belittled me, took credit for my work, beat me when they thought no one was watching.”

“I heard that the Young Master Nie was very fond of you. Surely he would’ve listened to your complaints?”

“Young Master Huaisang?” Meng Yao laughed, coldly, “That brat is nothing but a dandy! Painting fans and dressing in expensive clothes… free of all worries. What could he possibly do for me? Wind Lord? What is that? He has only borrowed a ride in the same carriage as his ‘sworn brothers’.”

Wen Ruohan listened aptly as Meng Yao continued rambling, half crazed, “They all hated me and Nie Huaisang was no different! I have come under your wing with only this intention, Master. That I may kill all the Nie and Jin Sect disciples with my own hands.”

“Isn’t it lucky then,” Wen Ruohan drawled, “That the only cultivators we really do manage to catch and bring here are all from Qinghe?”

“It is no coincidence.” Meng Yao smiled, slow and cruel.

The two cultivators looked up in shock, “Meng Yao, what do you mean?!” Again, they were slapped down by the soldiers.

“Isn’t it?” Wen Ruohan’s eyes lit up, like a child about to recieve a new toy. “If it isn’t a coincidence, then what is it?”

“Allow me to explain,” Meng Yao bowed, “Before I came under the care of Your Excellency, I had devised plans for Nie Huaisang. I told him I would be coming to the Wen Sect to lay down traps for you. I told him to only send cultivators from the Nie or perhaps manipulate the Jin Clan into sending theirs. Of course, we won’t be seeing any from the Jin disciples since they’re a little disadvantaged—he… he actually did what I said. He believed it all! Once we kill of the QingheNie Sect, we have very little remaining to worry about.”

The Nie Sect disciples watch on in disgust and betrayal, “Meng Yao! I was right about you!”

The second one also spoke up, “How could you?! After everything young master Nie has done for you?? He trusted you, you scumbag!”

The first one, in a bout of rage, spat out again, “You really are nothing more than the bastardly son of a prostitute!”

Meng Yao turned a look of pure hatred on them and without hesitation, strode over before kicking the first disciple in his face, effectively breaking his nose. Even with the force of the kick though, the disciple didn’t fall to the ground as the Wen soldiers holding him up only tightened their grip.

He only yelled out in pain as a river of blood dropped to the floor from his broken nose.

Meng Yao recoiled in disgust, noticing the red staining his trouser, and spoke low and cold to the guards, “Get him away from me. I have enough unworthy blood staining my hands.”

Wen Ruohan burst out laughing, “Meng Yao! This is just like you! Oh, you poor fools. You should not have angered him. This man… he seems meek, but he nurtures a demon in his heart—one that even I dread and respect in equal measure.”

The said man turned to his superior and saluted with a deep bow, “You have no need to dread or respect me, Master. You are much more powerful than I could ever dream, but more than that, I am but your loyal servant.”

“Yes, that’s what I like.” Wen Ruohan smiled eerily. “Well, do as you will with them. It is hardly satisfying, but I shan’t make it difficult for you.”

The cultivators shrank back in fear, “What? W-What are you going to do?”

“You’ll only feel the pain for a minute.” Meng Yao answered nonchalantly.

Wen Ruohan nodded approvingly, “My loyal subordinate hates to get blood on himself. You should be lucky to die by his hands. He will make it as neat as possible.”

The two cultivators watched in terror as Meng Yao raised one hand. Then, from his sleeve, flew out bright, golden strings. He manipulated them around for a moment, the threads flyings around him ethereally. They entwined with his fingers.

“Don’t move,” He started, looking at them unfeelingly, “And this won’t be difficult for either of us.”

The cultivators screamed as the golden strings pierced into their bodies, the threads all over them. From the point that each string pierced, a small blot of blood could be seen surfacing.

And by the time Meng Yao retrieved his strings, the two men lay on the floor, stiff and unmoving, mouths still open in a silent scream.

Neither had a heartbeat nor breath.

As per her usual nightly routine, Jiang Yanli carried the bowl of soup towards Jin Zixuan’s cabin, a small smile on her face. Every night that she went to leave a fresh bowl and collect the old one, it would be empty. This was a small happiness she received each day.

She had just managed to keep the bowl of soup down on the desk when the door opened.

She turned around, meeting the eyes of a startled Jin Zixuan.

“What are you doing here?” He asked, his voice coming out harsh.

He had forgotten some papers in his room and so he’d come to find it, but just as he’d opened the door, he found someone he wasn’t expecting there. Of course he felt his privacy was violated.

Jiang Yanli hadn’t expected to be caught either. She carefully planned her nightly visits to when he wouldn’t catch her and so, she didn’t quite know what to say. She was not the type to bring attention to whatever she did out of her own volition, so she stayed quiet.

But Jin Zixuan kept prodding, “I’ll ask again. What are you doing here? Aren’t you going to answer when you’ve infiltrated my privacy?!”

At this point, she couldn’t keep quiet, “I-I just… the soup…”

Jin Zixuan blinked and his eyes were drawn to the steaming bowl of soup on his desk, “What about it?”

Jiang Yanli looked up at him helplessly, “I… just kept it here. I will leave now.”

She made to walk around Jin Zixuan and head to the door, but he stood in her way immediately.

He looked at her, fury in his eyes, “You brought it? You?”

Jiang Yanli stepped back, daunted, “Young Master Jin…?”

Jin Zixuan grit his teeth, “How dare you! I already know who brings this soup for me! She’s been doing it for a long time, painstakingly after all her other duties, and you dare take credit for it?!”

At this point Jiang Yanli really didn’t know what to say. She knew for sure that she had been the only one bringing the soup for Jin Zixuan and yet he says it was someone else, “Young Master Jin, I’m telling the truth.”

“You’re still denying it?” Jin Zixuan’s eyes narrowed. “Do you have any evidence that you were the one doing this?”

Jiang Yanli swallowed. She kept protesting, but the more she did it, the colder her heart became. She didn’t want this. She had never sought to take credit anywhere. Why must she be put in this situation now?

“I really did not—”

“You know, I was starting to get a better impression of you. It seems I was wrong.” Jin Zixuan stiffly interrupted, “Don’t think that just because you come from a powerful sect that you can steal and trample other people’s feelings. Some people, even if they come from poor backgrounds, their character are much better than the former’s. Please watch your conduct.”

With these words, Jiang Yanli suddenly felt empty and she finally realised something. The man who was her husband didn’t exist. And the person right now didn’t want to understand her.

From the beginning, he had never expected her to be a decent person. He never believed that a maiden like her who was born wealthy but with low cultivation could ever be of any use in a war zone. He probably even thought that she was here to waste time.

Coming to this realisation, Jiang Yanli burst into tears.

Jin Zixuan froze at the sight.

It was at this very moment that someone had come to check on Jin Zixuan as he was late to their meeting, but was shocked at the scene.

Very loudly, he exclaimed, “Young Mistress Jiang, what’s wrong?!”

What followed was a frenzy of footsteps and doors banging open as everybody heard this exclamation.

When everyone had gathered to watch the scene, Jiang Yanli was miserably crying with no signs of stopping.

“Shijie? Shijie!” Wei Wuxian pushed his way through the crowd, followed by Jiang Cheng.

He came and put his hand on Jiang Yanl’s shoulder. Jiang Cheng also looked on in bewilderment.

“Sister, what’s wrong?!” Jiang Cheng asked and Jiang Yanli burrowed her face into his chest, her tears still streaming down and the signs of hiccups forming in her throat.

Both her brothers were shocked, having never seen their sister cry this terribly before. In fact, she almost never cried but whenever she did, it was always quiet. Not the type of wailing that was happening right now.

Wei Wuxian turned his eyes on Jin Zixuan, his face morphing into something vicious and he lunged at him, grabbing him by the lapels, “What did you do?!

Jin Zixuan was utterly confused, he looked back and forth between Jiang Yanli’s crying face and Wei Wuxian’s angry one, “She… she told me that she’s been bringing soup for me…”

This sounded nonsensical to everyone present.

Wei Wuxian, “And so you made her cry?!”

“No! She wasn’t the one who was doing it!” Jin Zixuan tried to explain.

Jiang Cheng looked over at the soup on his table and narrowed his eyes, “That soup is my sister’s speciality. She makes it every night for us, so it wouldn't be surprising if she secretly decided to bring a bowl for you.”

A moment ago, Jin Zixuan felt like he was on the side of righteousness, but now, he felt the least chivalrous in the room.

“How could that be?” He protested, “The girl who had been bringing it for me is the one I’d recently promoted to as guest cultivator. She told me about this long ago!”

Wei Wuxian ferociously turned on the crowd, “Who is that girl?! Bring her out now!”

Shortly, the girl was forced in front of Wei Wuxian, and he demanded her to explain this story.

It did not take her long to confess the truth. Wei Wuxian was normally very kind to women and he would always smile at them, but right now, he turned his furious face onto a young girl. She felt attacked and admitted everything.

“I didn’t mean for this to happen!” She insisted, “I only wanted some recognition…”

“Does being recognised through someone else’s work make you feel fulfilled?!” Jiang Cheng spat. “My sister does so much already with the ration house and the infirmary! Her cultivation is not much higher than yours. You could’ve done the same as her, and yet, you choose to take credit for her deeds? Do you not feel ashamed?!”

“I do, I do!” The girl cried. “I’m sorry, mistress Jiang. I’m sorry.”

Jiang Yanli wasn’t listening. She had cried so much that her face and eyes were red and she could only shake her head, hiccups preventing her from properly speaking, “I’m n-not angry. I’m j-just...”

She cried a fresh supply of tears before she could finish her words.

“Sister, you can be angry if you want.” Jiang Cheng encouraged, not knowing what else to do. “Come on. Do you want to slap her? Or Jin Zixuan? You can do it!”

Jin Zixuan was too nonplussed to say anything to that.

Then, a raging young voice burst from within the crowd, “I’ll kill him before that!”

Xue Yang flew right at Jin Zixuan and tackled him to the ground, holding a knife at his neck, “I warned you!”

“A-Yang!” Sisi cried out, also pushing through the crowd, “Stop that!”

“Shut up, I’m not listening to you anymore! I’m going to slit his throat just enough that he’ll never be able to open his stupid mouth again.”

Jiang Yanli’s eyes widened at the words and she couldn’t help but stare at Jin Zixuan. She was further startled to see that he wasn’t even looking at Xue Yang or the knife at his throat but at her.

His eyes were wide open and he was looking at her. Her heart trembled.

Xue Yang’s knife began to dig into Jin Zixuan’s throat, but he still didn’t take his eyes off Jiang Yanli. He wasn’t pleading at her. He didn’t look angry or scared even. Just… shocked.

Blood drew from the knife's point of contact and Jiang Yanli threw herself into action, “A-Yang, A-Yang, stop it!”

Xue Yang’s hand faltered, but he did not move, his eyes maintaining an animalistic look. Still, he did not make any further motions.

“Please…” She fell to her knees beside Jin Zixuan and Xue Yang, “Don’t do this.”

Slowly, she put her hand on Xue Yang wrist and gently pried it away from Jin Zixuan’s neck. Xue Yang, who has had a soft spot for Jiang Yanli ever since he’d met her, could not bear to shake off her hand and simply allowed it to be lead away.

Immediately, Sisi kicked the knife out of his hand.

“Hey!” He shouted, betrayed.

Sisi simply grabbed him by his collar as she usually did and forced him off Jin Zixuan, “Are you mad?! Do you know what you were just about to do? Think of who’s throat your cutting before you decide to do it!”

Xue Yang scowled and turned his head away from her, surprising Sisi. The boy was almost always smiling, even when he was angry. The fact that he was scowling now showed that anger was not the predominant emotion. Her heart softened realising that he was feeling pained to see Jiang Yanli’s current situation.

“Calm down. Violence is not the answer to everything.” She said and lightly smacked his head, “Do you remember A-Li’s words from the infirmary? ‘Everyone fights their own battles’...”

Xue Yang completed the quote numbly, “‘Don’t hurt others more than they are already.’ Yeah, yeah. But this guy—”

Both Sisi and Xue Yang silenced themselves when Wei Wuxian picked up Jin Zixuan by the collar and slammed him against the wall.

The Jin Sect cultivators present gasped, and readied themselves in case of an inter alliance fight.

“Jin Zixuan… I want to crush you.” Wei Wuxian said, eyes flashing. “How dare you make my sister cry. Do you even know… how she feels? What type of person she is? Have you ever tried to know?!”

The Jin Sect heir swallowed, not moving to do anything else as he looked at Wei Wuxian’s angry face.

Then, the man raised his fist and it flew towards him.

Jiang Yanli, “A-Xian!”

Jin Zixuan shut his eyes and grit his teeth, bracing for the impact. When it didn’t come, he cracked open his eyelids.

He was surprised into fully opening his eyes when he took in the tragic expression on Wei Wuxian’s face, who still held his fist up in an extreme effort to reel back his punch.

“You!” Wei Wuxian gave a strangled growl, “I hate you! I try so hard not to, but you make it so difficult!”

The golden robed man watched in astonishment as Wei Wuxian let go of him and gave the most disappointed look he’d ever received in his life. He looked like he wanted to say something more but simply turned around.

Jiang Cheng placed a hand on Wei Wuxian’s arm and steered him towards the crowded doorway. Then, both of them moved towards Jiang Yanli and picked her up, like she had done so many times for them when they were younger. With a hand on each arm, her brothers lead her out.

Sisi forced Xue Yang to follow, but not without one last loathing glance to Jin Zixuan.

The crowd parted to give them room to leave.

Right before Jiang Yanli disappeared into the crowd, however, she cast one more look at Jin Zixuan, full of sadness.

And then his heart began to ache in a way it never had before.

Meng Yao lined the two bodies in the empty room. He could do anything with them, is what he was told. Chop them up if he wanted, bury them if he saw it fit.

It was amazing how much Wen Ruohan recognised his worth even when his own father couldn’t.

Just as he started prying open the collars, the door banged open.

Meng Yao swerved, golden chords at the ready to kill off an unlucky soldier, but he stopped when he saw who was there. He lowered his arm and internally sighed with relief.

“Wen Qing?”

Wen Qing looked at him exasperatedly, shaking her head, “Another two? We need to start sending out more at a time. That room is getting too full. The corridors are empty, so you might as well do what you have to.”

Meng Yao, “I’m grateful for your help.”

“What you are doing is very risky, Meng Yao. I hope you know that.”

“I do.” Meng Yao replied, diplomatically, “And I hope you’ll continue to aid me.”

Wen Qing frowned at him, “I will, but the moment I need to choose a side, it will be the one that keeps my family safe.”

“I understand.” Meng Yao smiled, “I won’t make you choose.”

“I’ll be leaving then.” Wen Qing told him before nodding at the bodies. “Make sure to get rid of them soon.”

Meng Yao, “Thank you for your concern.”

Without another word, Wen Qing left.

Notes:

Sooo, I know you guys are having questions and a lot of you must already be having ideas on what’s going on with Meng Yao, and I swear, it’ll all be explained later.

Also, this seemed half filler-like to me because I wrote the whole Langya misunderstanding that mxtx didn’t really go into much with the novel, but I felt like it was really necessary, so there you go.

I’m totally expecting y’all to be wishing upon JZX’s death, but like, I don’t want that repeating and he’s definitely going to regret this, but go crazy in the comments if you want! XD

I’ve written the next few chapters, but my sister has started proof reading for me from this chapter onwards, so there won’t be as many spelling mistakes, thankfully.

Next update will be tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled!

Chapter 46

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“How is Maiden Jiang?” Lan Xichen asked as he walked with Jiang Cheng.

The other man replied sombrely, “She stopped crying. She even smiled at us and said she was fine but…”

Lan Xichen nodded, “I understand. She is the eldest. Of course she would prefer to show as little weakness as possible. Especially when her younger brothers are already having to do so much.”

Jiang Cheng paused, “Do you ever feel like that?”

“With Wangji?” Lan Xichen gave a helpless smile, “He doesn’t talk much of course. Even if there is a problem, he won’t say. The more you try to understand him, the further away he moves. I’ve always needed to look deeper.”

Jiang Cheng snorted, “So that’s why you have that strange ability.”

“Ability?”

“Yes, your ability. Lan Wangji doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t have any facial expressions either, but you just know ?”

“Ah.”

Jiang Cheng sighed, kicking a stone in his way as they walked, “I wish I could understand Wei Ying like that. He doesn’t say anything either.”

Lan Xichen soothingly said, “It’s the pride of an older brother. You need not be hard on yourself for that. I think Young Master Jiang is already doing a splendid job.”

In that moment a gust of wind came, blowing with it some brightly coloured leaves.

With his graceful form and the quiet background, Jiang Cheng felt like he was looking at a rather magnificent painting instead of a person when he looked at Lan Xichen. He blinked a few times but the image was still too bright.

The first jade looked at him with an angelic smile, “That was quite a strong wind, wasn’t it?”

Jiang Cheng’s brows knitted and he frowned, First Jade indeed.

The older Lan brother was fearsome. He even managed to make Jiang Cheng’s heart skip a beat despite being a man. He wondered what Wei Ying felt when looking at Lan Wangji, in that case? Or Lan Wangji with Wei Ying? Perhaps he was too inexperienced in the matters of the heart to hope to understand.

The Jiang Sect heir cleared his throat, suddenly feeling slow under the gaze of the older man, “So you’ll be leaving soon, Zewu-Jun?”

Lan Xichen’s smile dulled slightly, “Yes. Lanling is now stable. We have to reinforce the Gusu fronts again, and then…”

“Gather to invade the Nightless City.” Jiang Cheng completed. “I wonder if it’s the end we’re seeing, or the beginning?”

“We won’t know until we reach Qishan.” Lan Xichen replied, “But it won’t be very easy. Within a few more months, a year will have gone by…”

“...Many things happened.”

A year. A year since Lotus Pier was razed to the ground. A year since he had heard his mother’s voice. In this short year, so many things had happened. It felt more like a decade had passed to Jiang Cheng.

Then, Lan Xichen’s voice took on a nervous edge as he spoke again, “Young Master Jiang, I… I was hoping that after this war as well, perhaps we could—continue to speak like this?”

Jiang Cheng blinked, “With me?” Lan Xichen nodded. “ You want to?” Lan Xichen nodded again, this time a little slower.

The purple clad man became increasingly confused, “But why?”

When Lan Xichen’s face grew pink, Jiang Cheng felt like an idiot, “No, I mean—I don’t understand. You could talk to anyone. Be friends with anybody. Why me?”

The answer to that was a simple, “Why not you?”

Jiang Cheng stood still.

Lan Xichen asked once more, sincerity dripping from his voice, “Why not you? I like your company. I would not suggest this if I didn’t.”

Jiang Cheng opened his mouth to reply, but Xue Yang’s infuriated voice carried over to them instead.

“Why can’t you? You can!”

The voice was quite close, and Jiang Cheng saw that just a little further away, Xue Yang was surrounded by a few standing corpses, shouting at a tired looking Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji stood a few zhang behind him.

Wei Wuxian warned, “Yang-er, do not.”

“Do not what?” Xue Yang smiled, icily. “Even if you don’t teach me, I’ll still learn. See? I can already manage controlling corpses this well without your help. With it, I will definitely improve faster.”

“Resentful energy is not easy to control!” Wei Wuxian shouted. “You’ve only just managed to form a golden core. If you start harvesting dark energy, you will corrode your heart!”

Xue Yang looked bored, having heard this many times before.

“My heart is plenty corroded already.” He said, smile still in place, as if it had frozen there. “With or without you I will use it. And then, I’ll fight too.”

Wei Wuxian shouted at him, patience wearing thin, “Why are you so insistent on fighting in battle?!”

Xue Yang shouted back, with just as little patience, “Why are you?!”

Then they stopped for a moment.

The boy pressed his lips into a thin line, the smile finally slipping off his face, “How would you feel, if you were the only one who couldn’t fight? Couldn’t do something ?!”

Wei Wuxian’s voice became softer at these words, “You don’t need to feel like you should work at the same level as us. You do a lot by staying at shijie’s side already.”

Hearing this, Xue Yang wasn’t consoled at all. He ripped off one of the corpses badly attached arm and threw it at Wei Wuxian, who shielded himself with his forearm.

“I hate you!” He shouted and ran away, his back looking very small as he left.

Jiang Cheng tutted, watching this sight, “Chengmei, that brat.”

Once he was gone, Wei Wuxian sighed and bent to the ground, picking up the arm, “Now I have to attach this back. Children are such a joy, aren’t they?”

As Wei Wuxian began attaching it back, Lan Wangji approached him carefully.

“Wei Ying.”

Jiang Cheng already had a bad feeling, but his brother simply gave a smile at the Second jade.

“Ah, Lan Zhan. Sorry you had to see that. It’s the rebellious stage going on I say—”

“You said it was difficult.”

Wei Wuxian paused, “What? Resentful energy? Oh no, it would be difficult for him. I’m doing just fine.”

Lan Wangji seemed to grow more frustrated, “Wei Ying.

Wei Wuxian looked up at the Lan disciple with narrowed eyes, “What is it? What do you want to say?”

When Lan Wangji remained silent, Wei Wuxian’s temper flared, “What is it?! You’re always like this! How am I supposed to know what you want to say if you don’t tell me? I’m not a mind reader!”

“Wei Ying… your temper is worse. You have noticed it too.”

You’re making it worse!” Wei Wuxian raged.

“Stop cultivating this dark path.”

This drew a cold, incredulous laugh from the Jiang Sect head discple, “Stop? Tell me, Hanguang-Jun, do you think we can win this war without the help of resentful energy? Without the Tiger Seal? We can’t! We need the help of people who can’t die. Ones who are already dead . I’m the only one who can do this!”

“The young are starting to copy you! Others will watch you and learn from you. Wei Ying, this path you walk comes with a cost.”

“As long as the cost is my own life, I don’t care!”

Time slowed down for Jiang Cheng as the words Wei Wuxian said repeated in his head like a haunting chant. Before he knew it, he started to move. He was vaguely aware of Lan Xichen calling his name, but he was so overwhelmed by anger that he could not register it properly.

He stomped right over to Wei Wuxian and grit his teeth, “WEI! WU! XIAN!”

Just as his brother turned to look at him Jiang Cheng punched him in the face. The man fell to the ground, the impact causing some leaves and dust to scatter.

“Jiang… Cheng?” Wei Wuxian looked up at his shidi in shock, nursing his abused cheek.

Lan Wangji‘s eyes had also widened slightly and Lan Xichen could make out he was both surprised and indignant on Wei Wuxian’s behalf.

Jiang Cheng’s face was furious, “How dare you!” He picked up Wei Wuxian by the left lapel of his robes, “What was that you said? As long as the cost is your own life?? Did you forget about who will be left to mourn you? Why is your life worth so little only to you !?”

With this he shoved Wei Wuxian again, but this time, Lan Xichen caught him before he fell to the ground again, “Young Master Jiang—”

“Zewu-Jun, please stay out of this!” Jiang Cheng told him, with less heat, but fiercely nonetheless. “Wei Ying, you… if you do not correct the way you think right now, I’m going to use the Stygian Tiger Seal instead of you!”

Wei Wuxian, “Jiang Cheng, you can’t!”

“Who said I can’t? You ? Is everything because you say so? This time, everything will be because I say so!”

Jiang Cheng’s eyebrows knitted as a white figure suddenly engulfed his view and he’d noticed Lan Wangji was standing in front of him. He’d decided to put distance between Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian, perhaps in attempt to shelter the other man from another attack.

However, instead of blocking Jiang Cheng’s anger, Lan Wangji redirected it to himself, “And you ! You’re coming with me.”

He transformed his ring and Zidian uncoiled, it’s handle in Jiang Cheng’s palm and it’s tail shooting out to wrap around Lan Wangji’s wrist. The second jade looked at it briefly before his eyes flickered back to the Jiang Sect heir who had the clear intention of pulling Lan Wangji along to wherever he wanted to go.

“Young Master Jiang!” Lan Xichen called out, worriedly.

Jiang Cheng stopped, purely due to his respect for the man, “Zewu-Jun, do not worry. I will not fight with him. I know now that Second Young Master Lan doesn’t know how to converse well. Since Wei Ying is no different, I will do it instead. I hope I can ask you to watch him for me?”

Lan Xichen searched Jiang Cheng’s eyes, but seeing as they were as straightforward as ever, he gave a trusting nod. Jiang Cheng’s face softened and he began to walk away, Lan Wangji following after him without any complaints.

Lan Wangji was brought into the Twin Prides’ hut where Jiang Cheng then finally retreated Zidian back into it’s ring form. The second jade could make out that his anger was diluted, but his irritation was not.

“Lan Wangji, I really have to ask, what are your intentions with Wei Ying?” Jiang Cheng started, wasting no time. “I have talked with Zewu-Jun. He already told me that the more we try to talk to you, the less likely you are to speak back. But I’m afraid I won’t give you that choice. I’ve had enough.”

Jiang Cheng snapped off his cape and placed it on a nearby hook. Lan Wangji’s eyes briefly glanced at the empty sleeve that hung from his shoulder, but then regained his attention to that man’s face.

“Sit down and make yourself comfortable.” He said with stiff geniality, seating himself down on one side of the table.

Lan Wangji slowly lowered himself to the other side.

“I’m sorry that I don’t have any tea to offer right now, but I don’t think we have such a position of luxury anyway.” Jiang Cheng told him, fiddling with Zidian using his thumb. “Second Young Master Lan, do you remember when you’d used the golden token with Wei Wuxian back in the Xuanwu Cave long ago?”

Lan Wangji stiffened and Jiang Cheng gave him a sardonic smile, “What? You didn’t think I knew? I’ve been using that token with Wei Wuxian for years—long before you did. I’m sure you know that it doesn’t show just anything. It showed the future to us in it’s visions. Did he ever tell you about how you treated him in those visions?”

Lan Wangji recalled Wei Wuxian’s words from the cave and patiently answered, “He said that… I treat him very well. Indulge him.”

Jiang Cheng nodded, “Indulge him indeed. Do you know why?”

The Lan disciple simply stared and Jiang Cheng decided to take this as a negative answer, “Wei Ying died. You know this, don’t you?”

The other man gave a rigid nod and Jiang Cheng drummed his fingers on the wood of the table, “He died a terrible death. People feared his power… There was no way he would be left alone. And in that other reality… even I was not there for him. I don’t want things to repeat this way.”

“How could I have treated him well if…”

Jiang Cheng understood what he wanted to ask immediately, “He was reincarnated. Summoned and forced into someone else’s body. True, in his first life, you had a more dysfunctional relationship. But I understand that with thirteen years to give you perspective, your treatment towards him also changed.

Take into mind now, Lan Wangji, that we have no way of knowing if the same thing will happen again. He may be gone forever, if he goes, and I’m not going to give anything the opportunity to do that. I don’t want anyone in my family getting hurt.”

Lan Wangji, “I don’t want to hurt Wei Ying.”

Jiang Cheng, “You’re doing a bad job.”

The Lan disciple went silent at this. Then, almost imploringly, he asked, “How don’t I?”

Jiang Cheng was caught off guard by this honest question. More so by the fact that Lan Wangji was the one who was asking it. He looked straight at Jiang Cheng, not shying away from what he wanted to know.

The Jiang Sect heir struggled with himself for a moment before sighing into his hand, “Both you and Wei Ying give me so much trouble. Now listen here,”

Jiang Cheng looked at Lan Wangji seriously, having no intention of sweetening his words anywhere, “The next time we meet, you should have your priorities set. Is the fact that Wei Ying cultivates demonically such a problem? Then find a way around it. In the other world, you spoiled him quite a lot. Let him do mostly anything; be it demonic cultivation or drinking in the Cloud Recesses. He projected that more mature Lan Wangji onto you and hurt himself in the process.”

Lan Wangji’s face became colder and colder as Jiang Cheng spoke, but he ignored it. Instead, he placed his hand on the table and took his time standing up.

With one more firm look at Lan Wangji, he said, “If you don’t like Wei Ying, stay away from him. If that isn’t so, go apologise to him soon. You’re leaving today and may not see each other until the end of this war. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

Right before Jiang Cheng left the room, Lan Wangji managed to ask one last question, apparently having gone through quite the effort to force it out.

“Does Wei Ying… hate me?”

Jiang Cheng stayed with his hand on the door, surprised and thoughtful about the question at the same time.

He answered with a defeated sigh, “Even if you were to stab him with your words or a knife, Wei Ying could never hate you. Instead, he’d find a way to blame himself for it.”

“Hey, Brother Xichen. Shouldn’t you be more worried?” Wei Wuxian whined, lounging around in what was apparently Lan Wangji’s bed, while Lan Xichen searched for an anti-inflammatory tonic. “Jiang Cheng dragged Lan Zhan off with his Zidian and they’ve been gone a while.”

Lan Xichen couldn’t help but murmur under his breath, “Yes, it is quite enviable.”

Wei Wuxian, “What?”

Lan Xichen smiled at him, “Hm? Oh, I found the tonic.”

“You really didn’t have to,” Wei Wuxian laughed, “Jiang Cheng is very good to me. His punch didn’t even hurt, see? No inflammation.”

Lan Xichen walked over with the vial in his hand, “Drink it anyway. If it did by chance manage to leave a mark, neither of you would like it.”

Considering this, Wei Wuxian nodded and took the medicine from Lan Xichen, drinking it in a gulp.

He wiped the residue at the corner of his lips with his sleeve, grimacing at the taste. Then he turned to Xichen again, “Sorry for interrupting. You probably wanted to spend more time with Jiang Cheng.”

Lan Xichen sighed, “No, I can’t be selfish. Friendships must not be based on monopolisation. I realise he has other matters to attend to. I will be patient.”

Wei Wuxian swore that he saw a glow radiate from Lan Xichen at that very moment and had to rub his eyes to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating. What he was even more disbelieved about, however, was how Lan Xichen could remain this oblivious to his own feelings.

For sure it must be because of the teachings of that GusuLan Sect and all their rules on self restraint. They turned the best looking man in all of China into such a pristine flower that even snowflakes seemed dirty in comparison!

So pure! So dazzling!

Ah, but Lan Zhan is definitely the only one who can make my heart race, Wei Wuxian thought, hopelessly, his heart trembling with the thought of the second jade.

“I apologise for Wangji, Young Master Wei. He really is only worried about you.” Lan Xichen told him, gently. “The words you said just then did not help anything either.”

Thinking back on it now, Wei Wuxian really felt that those words were presumptuous of him.

He tried to dismiss it nonchalantly, “Yes, I know myself that it was uncalled for. I should apologise to Lan Zhan.”

Lan Xichen‘s smile become softer, “Wangji would forgive you most anything.”

Wei Wuxian snorted and intoned humorlessly, “Lying is against the rules.”

This made the other man laugh, “Thus I’m not lying. In any case, I believe the one who deserves the apology most right now is Young Master Jiang. He was heartbroken to hear your words.”

Wei Wuxian paused, looking at Lan Xichen in disbelief, “What?”

The first jade thought back to the moment that Wei Wuxian’s words filtered into Jiang Cheng’s head. The moment when it seemed like his brother didn’t care about his life at all.

The Jiang Sect heir’s face twisted into something so tragic that Lan Xichen’s own heart broke looking at it. It was like he was blaming himself at that moment. Like he had failed to do something so important that it would leave a wound that bled forever.

“Why do I always do this to him?” Wei Wuxian sighed.

“It is part of being human.” Lan Xichen said kindly, “The ones who hurt us most will always be the ones we love. And it’s those same people who heal us. I’m sure that, when you said those words, Young Master Jiang was imagining somewhere without you, and it scared him to the point of anger.”

Wei Wuxian cracked a small smile as he remembered Lan Xichen’s words, “He shows his worry with anger.”

“Indeed.”

Notes:

Jiang Cheng’s long awaited shovel talk!
And Lan Xichen being jealous of Lan Wangji for getting it, Lmao.

I really love combining scenes with these two couples because it’s entertaining and there’s so much to do with them.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the update and definitely let me know what you think. I even welcome hearts and smiley faces just to know that you guys are enjoying it.

There will probably be another update tomorrow as well.

And guys, do check out my drawing of a caped Jiang Cheng HERE
I posted it a week ago, but I forgot to link it in the last chapter and I thought y’all might like to see it. Probably.

Chapter 47

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

When Jiang Cheng came to the Twin Jades’ hut, it wasn’t to collect Wei Wuxian but to drop off Lan Wangji and shut them in together. Without being asked to, Lan Xichen moved to stand beside Jiang Cheng as if they had planned this beforehand.

Before closing the door, Jiang Cheng glowered at them and said only one word, with a tone of finality, “Talk.”

This left Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji alone in the room with only a table and a pot of tea that Lan Xichen brewed earlier, separating them.

Wei Wuxian hated awkward silences so he started speaking first, “So, Lan Zhan. What did Jiang Cheng talk to you about?”

Lan Wangji seemed to be out on the spot with such a sudden question that Wei Wuxian felt he shouldn’t have asked it.

“No, it’s okay. You don’t have to say. Knowing him he probably threatened you and then lectured you.” Wei Wuxian sighed. Then, he decided to get to the point, “Listen, Lan Zhan. I’m sorry about shouting at you before. I didn’t mean to.”

Lan Wangji lowered his gaze, “It is fine.”

Silence once more.

Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but wonder how he had talked to Lan Wangji before. About how the other world’s Wei Wuxian talked to him. About how they must’ve fallen in love. It seemed so impossible with the way things were.

He tried to shake the thoughts out of his head, “Do you want tea?” He asked instead, busying himself with the tea set. “I can pour you some tea. Too bad we can’t get alcohol right now. Not that you’d drink it with me anyway, but it’s the concept actually—”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji interrupted his rant.

Wei Wuxian looked at him, giving a tight smile, “What is it?”

“...I’m sorry.” He said.

This apology was so surprising that Wei Wuxian almost dropped the tea pot he was holding. Though the teapot didn’t fall, the tea did, “Ah!”

Lan Wangji started to get up, seemingly alarmed, but Wei Wuxian held up his hand, “No, it’s fine, I’m okay. The tea isn’t too hot and not much fell on me anyway.”

Wei Wuxian smoothened his robes, “I don’t understand why you apologised. I should’ve been the one doing that.”

“Jiang Wanyin told me,” Lan Wangji responded, “That I was out of line.”

“Ah, it’s just like him to say that!” The Jiang Sect head disciple laughed. Then his expression sobered, “I’m sorry too. And thank you.”

“Why?”

Wei Wuxian hesitated, wondering if it was a good idea to talk about it, but decided to do it anyway, “You warned me against demonic cultivation for my own sake… I know this.”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji said, “It really is better if you come back to Gusu with me.”

This words normally made Wei Wuxian very angry, but now, he just felt tired, “...I can’t. You know why, don’t you? I have people I need to take care of… My shijie is heartbroken. Jiang Cheng is supporting the Sect all alone right now. That kid, Xue Yang, needs to be put in place.”

His expression became duller as he kept talking, “Our Sect leaders are sick and we have an infant growing up without any of her family members next to her. No matter what… I’m also still the Head Disciple of The Jiang Sect but I also consider myself as part of the real family. I cannot leave.”

As Lan Wangji listened, his face became more and more expressionless, until it seemed like he could not repress his emotions anymore. He froze his face that way, and he stiffly nodded.

“I understand.”

“Thank you.”

“No need.”

Saying this, Lan Wangji got up and left the room.

The tea that Wei Wuxian poured for him remained untouched and even though it seemed like nothing, Wei Wuxian knew that Lan Wangji was not happy. He never refused kind gestures, after all.

As Lan Wangji left the hut, he saw that both Jiang Cheng and Lan Xichen we’re outside, talking while they waited for them. Yet, his heart was so bitter that Lan Wangji passed right by them, not even bothering to give another salute to the Jiang Sect heir.

Before he knew it, his brother had caught up with him, hand on his shoulder. Obediently, Lan Wangji came to a halt.

Lan Xichen looked at him with concern in his eyes, “Wangji? What’s wrong? Did you not talk?”

“We did.” Lan Wangji answered, eyes dull.

Lan Xichen, “It did not go well, did it? What happpened…?”

Lan Wangji let out a shaky breath, “I would like to bring him back.”

Lan Xichen, “To the Cloud Recesses?”

His brother nodded slowly, “But… he is not willing. And I cannot force him to be.”

The first jade’s eyes widened in understanding and he couldn’t help feeling his brother was very pitiful at that moment.

He hoped that at least it was better on Jiang Cheng’s side, even though he doubted it.

Lan Xichen didn’t know how right he was.

Back in the hut, Jiang Cheng pulled Wei Wuxian up and bombed him with questions, “So? What happened? Did he apologise? If he didn’t I’ll go back there right now and—”

“He apologised.” Wei Wuxian cut in, silencing Jiang Cheng.

“Then what’s the matter? You two are back on good terms?”

Wei Wuxian dusted his robes and righted his shirt, “It’s fair to say we never had terms. It’s fine as long as I don’t talk to Lan Zhan anymore.”

Jiang Cheng made an outraged sound, “You’ve got to be joking. I didn’t do all this so that you would fall back on the step you started from!”

Wei Wuxian laughed, though it sounded forced, “Sorry, Jiang Cheng, but I think this is how it is. I can’t bear to talk to him anymore. He keeps asking me to go back to Gusu. For a moment, I considered saying yes, just to see what would happen once he’s finally locked me up.”

Wei Wuxian looked at Jiang Cheng who was looking back, in a mixture of worry and confusion, “But, then I thought about you and Shijie and everyone back at Lotus Pier. No matter what, I cannot leave you.”

Despite the fact that he had been forced to take the reigns with Lan Wangji and still nothing had bore fruit, Jiang Cheng couldn’t help feeling very touched. That Wei Wuxian would decide to go against his flimsy decisions for once because he thought of him and the Jiang Sect, made his irritation deflate to it’s minimum.

“I’m sorry, anyway.” Wei Wuxian said suddenly, “I shouldn’t have said those words back there. You didn’t deserve to hear that after everything you’ve done.”

Jiang Cheng patted his brother’s back consolingly, “Forget it. Just don’t do it again.”

Wei Wuxian smiled at his shidi, “Yeah.”

The Twin Jades prepared to leave for Gusu that night, hoping to use the darkness as a veil to camouflage themselves so that they wouldn’t alert any enemies.

Before they left, Lan Xichen and Jiang Cheng spoke one last time, exchanging apologies on behalf of their brothers. Both of them did not mention it if they knew more about what happened within those closed doors for the sake of their siblings’ privacy.

As Lan Xichen left, he gave one more last lingering look to Jiang Cheng which confused him slightly for a short moment before he’d waved it off as just a figment of his imagination.

Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian didn’t talk anymore after that, but both kept casting looks at each other when the other wasn’t looking. The longing in their eyes would’ve been visible to anyone who had noticed.

This went on until the GusuLan Jades left Lanling.

Thankfully, the only person who ever really noticed anything was Nie Huaisang.


Weeks passed after the Twin Jades had left, and they’d managed to secure even more of LanlingJin than they thought possible in the span of three months. The inviolable triumvirate regularly shuttled back and forth Yunmeng and Lanling for a few weeks before the entire Yunmeng seemed to have completely stabilised.

It was a busy month where everyday, they would be reminded that war was the most invasive highlight. They had, in fact, finished another raid just the night before, but as always, the expense at everything was always lives.

The camp became glum as the number of lives they lost increased and Nie Huaisang, Jiang Cheng and Jin Zixuan had to continuously make records of how many had died and how many death notices they’d have to send to the members of the deceased’s families.

Jiang Yanli continued about her daily work with only one difference: She no longer brought soup for Jin Zixuan in the late evenings.

Jin Zixuan, on the other hand, zoned out on majority of his meetings and frequently worried his men. They’d always have to call his name multiple times to make him return to reality and repeat everything they said.

They made short work of all the reports so that Jin Zixuan could rest faster, but that made it so every night he would come back to his hut and remember that he no longer had the comfort of a calming broth to keep him going for the next day.

On top of that, it seemed like everywhere he went, Jiang Yanli was there. Before, no matter what she did, it would take her presence right in front of him to make Jin Zixuan notice she was there. Now, no matter what he did, he noticed her everywhere. In the things that she did and in the things that people said about her.

And once more, this was the case as he heard one of his own soldiers speak, “Ah, those are Young Mistress Jiang’s candies, aren’t they?”

The man he was speaking to nodded happily, “I said I really liked them and she gave me more. The Young Mistress Jiang is truly too kind.”

“She does quite a lot, really,” The first soldier agreed, “She cooks at the ration house during the day and treats the injured in the evening.”

“Not only that. Did you know she’s practising her cultivation again? It’s improved, apparently.”

“Really? Why’d she start again? It isn’t to impress Young Master Jin, is it? Frankly, I think she could do better.”

Jin Zixuan ducked behind a hut, squatting against the wall as soon as he’d heard his name come up, but bristled when he heard the rest. By the looks of it, the other soldier agreed to it as well.

She could do better, could she? He thought bitterly, pride flaring. Then, his shoulders slumped, She could. Someone who wouldn’t make her cry.

“That’s not it, though. She’s doing it so that she can perform advanced healing. The Young Mistress really tries her best and uses up so much time for us. I feel bad that she gave me these many. She’ll have to make a new batch.”

The second soldier shoved at him, “That’s the reason I didn’t ask her. So why don’t you give me some?”

“I’ll give you one.”

Jin Zixuan sighed as the two began laughing together, praising her cooking skills, and felt envious. But there was nothing he could do about it any longer. Jiang Yanli wouldn’t even look at him anymore.

Then a voice came from above him, “Do you want one?”

Jin Zixuan looked up to see Nie Huaisang holding out a piece of the same sweet that he’d refused to take from Jiang Yanli’s hand weeks ago. Thinking about that moment made his bad mood become worse and he had an urge to kill someone.

Preferably himself.

“You can take it if you want.” Nie Huaisang continued, “Sister Yanli always gives them to me. They’re very delicious.”

Jin Zixuan pursed his lips, “What are you doing here? Come to hit me? You can do it. Wei Wuxian and Jiang Wanyin didn’t, so someone should.”

Nie Huaisang retracted his hand and pocketed the sweet, snapping open his fan at the same time, “I like to keep fights exclusive to the battlefield. Though, I’m not pleased to hear about what happened.”

The Jin Sect heir had nothing to say to this. He could only remain quiet, the crying face of Jiang Yanli flashing to his mind again and again.

“I wish I hadn’t said those things.” He blurted out. Then, he covered his mouth in horror and looked at Nie Huaisang who was smirking at him.

“Ah, I knew it. You have been thinking about her. I heard you asked around about her as well.”

Jin Zixuan frowned at the other man and threw away all his previous reluctance to talk,“What else could I do? I lie awake entire nights thinking about her sometimes, but I can’t even go up to her and ask her how she is. It would be too impudent.”

“Sister is doing fine. Or at least, she acts like she is. She almost never cries, you know?”

This did not make Jin Zixuan feel better at all. In fact, his guilt increased and he barked out, “What is the meaning of this? Did I ask you about anything? Just say what you want to say and go!”

“Ah, calm down, Zixuan-xiong.” Nie Huaisang said, fanning himself apprehensively, “It’s because you’re like this that such things happen. Don’t you want to talk to Sister Yanli?”

Jin Zixuan froze. Then he gave Nie Huaisang a suspicious look, “I don’t trust you.”

“Why does everyone always look at me like that?” Nie Huaisang grumbled, exasperatedly. “I like Sister, just so you know. If I thought you would do something bad, believe me, I’d turn my fan on you as soon as Wuxian would with his fist.”

At this point, Jin Zixuan could only rely on Nie Huaisang. Though he wanted to know what suggestion he would make, Jin Zixuan still felt uneasy, “What do I say to her even if I get a chance to talk to her?”

“...Isn’t it obvious that you have to apologise?” Nie Huaisang asked, blandly, “Why do you need me to tell you this?”

The Jin Sect heir flushed, feeling embarrassed before even saying the words, “I’ve… never apologised to someone before. I’m not sure how to do it.”

Nie Huaisang gave the man a withering look, feeling a little fed up, “You tell her, ‘sorry’, ‘I hope you can forgive me’ and ‘I really like you’.”

Jin Zixuan’s face turned even more red at hearing these phrases, “W-What? T-That’s—”

“Okay, fine!” Nie Huaisang dismissed, “You don’t need to say the last line. It would be too sudden anyway.”

“I don’t—”

“Yes, you do.” Nie Huaisang hissed at him. “Oh, this is so frustrating! You and Wuxian and Lan Wangji and even Xichen-ge! For the good name of Heaven, just stop with this!”

Jin Zixuan watched, flabbergasted as Nie Huaisang hit him on the head with his folding fan and continued lecturing him, “ This is exactly why you are suffering right now thinking ‘Is she looking at me? Will she not look at me?’and then wallowing in guilt at the fact that she isn’t since ‘Why would she when I said such things to her?’ because you were too proud to look straight and thought of walking the entire mile blind!”

Jin Zixuan spluttered, feeling indignant, “How dare you—”

“Keep quiet and listen!” His eyes flashed at Jin Zixuan and pointed his fan at him in warning, “Sister Yanli meditates daily by the nearby stream, under a plum tree to improve her cultivation. Normally Sisi-Jie accompanies her, but she’s had a lot of work to do today by running around to collect and distribute letters for the Jiang Sect members so she’ll be asleep early. Today is the only day when she won’t be with sister and you will go there, apologise and treat her with the courtesy she deserves!”

Today?”

“Yes, today.” Nie Huaisang said, sharply, “So it’s today or after the war, and really, you may not have a chance by then. Sister Yanli will already have half the cultivation worlds eligible Young Masters knocking on the doors of Lotus Pier, proposals in hand.”

This thought seemed to really frighten Jin Zixuan and he immediately straightened his back and stood taller, “I’m going.”

Nie Huaisang watched as Jin Zixuan turned away, but right before he left, he hesitated. Then, the Jin Sect Young Master turned towards Nie Huaisang again and cupped his hands in salute.

Nie Huaisang blinked, feeling a little embarrassed by the gesture after talking with such familiarity this whole time, but returned it anyway.

With that, Jin Zixuan hurried off, Huaisang watching after him.

Once he was out of sight, Nie Huaisang turned around and walked away, tapping his closed fan on his chin thoughtfully.

“I think Zixuan-xiong will be fine now,” He said to himself, “But what to do about my stupid brothers?”

The thought already gave him a headache.

Jin Zixuan searched along the stream as soon as Nie Huaisang told him too. The problem was, there were too many plum trees along this area. None of them were flowering at this time of the year, but he could still easily recognise them.

Then, he noticed red plum blossom petals floating on the water and lifted an eyebrow.

These were winter plum blossoms. Winter hasn’t started yet.

Jin Zixuan found this odd and followed the scanty trail upstream. The light of the moon and stars were the only things that lit his way.

Eventually, he saw a tree top that looked halfway between flowering and dead. Some of the branches reached up to the sky, and some of them looked like they were on the verge of breaking. The tree was completely bare, save for the few flowers that bloomed here and there.

Once Jin Zixuan was close enough to the tree, he hid himself in some shrubs.

This is because sitting underneath the tree was a slender figure that knelt in the grass, leaning her back against the trunk with a lantern hanging on a branch above. It was Jiang Yanli.

Jin Zixuan watched her as she held up some buds, face concentrated and eyebrows drawn slightly down. He hadn’t even known she was capable of such an expression. One could say she looked frustrated.

Then he saw the glow of spiritual energy course within the buds and he came to a realisation; she was harnessing her spiritual energy through the flower blooming method.

In this method, one would take unbloomed buds and use their spiritual energy to bloom it. This was a method taught to children early on, but was a passive learning method. Jin Zixuan himself had not learned it through this method as he’d mastered harnessing spiritual energy at a very early age, but he still knew of it.

This was a very common method for doctors to learn as well, since it was more efficient with healing techniques.

He watched for a while, eyes lighting up hopefully when it looked like the bud was finally about to bloom. Its petals were just about to open. Then Jiang Yanli’s energy wavered and instead of blooming the bud started wrinkling and soon, only it’s rotten remnants remained in her hand.

Jin Zixuan felt his own mood deflate when Jiang Yanli looked at the bud in disappointment and sadness. She then lay it down in the ground where a small hole had been dug, most probably by herself for this very reason.

He sighed and stood still for a moment as he watched her pick up another bud and repeat her previous actions.

What was he here for? She was busy and probably didn’t want to see him. If he were to go speak to her, he’d not only be wasting her time, but he’d probably make her cry again. It wouldn’t be his intention, but he may still end up doing it and he really didn’t want to have that happen again.

Just as he was about to leave though, he heard a rustle from the bushes.

Immediately, his hand went to grip Suiha’s hilt and he bent his knees, looking around cautiously.

After a moment, he saw the tail of a large snake disappear into another cluster of shrubs. Then, a head appeared.

Jin Zixuan’s eyes widened when he saw that the creature was eyeing Jiang Yanli. And not just any creature. This was a measuring snake. A demonised animal.

The snake was much closer to Jiang Yanli than it was to Jin Zixuan. It shot out from its hiding spot and rushed towards the girl under the tree, slithering it’s large scaly body with might.

It wasn’t until Jiang Yanli heard the strange hissing sound that she turned around and noticed the reptile that was coming towards her. Her eyes widened and she automatically tried to create some distance but her legs had been in kneeling meditation for so long that her ankles were sore from bearing her weight.

She turned her face away when the snake launched at her, jaws wide open.

“Maiden Jiang!”

The exclamation was followed by the sound of metal slicing flesh.

Jiang Yanli opened her eyes in surprise to see a golden clothed figure standing in front of her,the sword in his hand stained with blood. The head of the snake that was about to attack her was split apart from its body and lay motionlessly on the ground.

“Young Master… Jin?”

“Maiden Jiang!” Jin Zixuan sheathed his sword and dropped to one knee beside her, “Were you hurt? Did it’s venom reach you?”

Jiang Yanli blinked with wide eyes, absolutely at a loss with the situation, “No…”

Jin Zixuan was about to give a sigh of relief when he realised that he was talking to her too informally.

He cleared his throat, “I was just walking along the stream and saw plum blossoms in the river. I thought it odd at this time of the year, so I followed them upstream.”

It wasn’t exactly the truth, but it’s not like he could say he came to find her because he knew she’d be alone.

Instead, he nodded his head at the snake’s corpse, “That’s a measuring snake. I’m not sure how it reached here in a place with so many cultivators. It’s not very big, so it must not be long since it was demonised.”

Jiang Yanli nodded, “I see.”

Then, slowly she rose to her feet and moved towards the snake with the clear intent of picking up it’s carcass.

“What are you doing?” Jin Zixuan asked, horrified to see her doing such a deed.

The Eldest Jiang sibling looked at the body sympathetically, “I will bury it.”

“Why?” Jin Zixuan asked, completely bewildered.

Not only was she holding a demonic creature's dead body with her bare hands, but she was even going to dig it a grave? The concept of this was lost on a cultivator like him who had already led thousands of hunts and had never bothered with the bodies of such creatures for anything but a prize.

She lay the snake's head and body near the tree and pulled out her qiankun pouch, summoning out a broad spade from it.

Jiang Yanli started digging without a word.

After recovering from his surprise, Jin Zixuan could finally pay attention to how the mud started staining the girl’s sleeve and soil that got in her nails.

Feeling rattled at the sight, he stopped Jiang Yanli by laying a hand on the spade. The girl ceased her actions obediently.

“Stop,” Jin Zixuan told her. Jiang Yanli looked like she was about to say something but went quiet at his next words, “I’ll do it.”

“Young Master Jin, I can do it.” She told him, softly.

Jin Zixuan paid no heed to her. Instead, he pried the spade from her hands, “Your skin is more delicate. If you were to dig a pit large enough for this snake's body, it will definitely leave some scratches. On top of that, you use your hands to feed and treat our soldiers. My hands are used to being treated roughly. I will do it.”

With this level of insistence, Jiang Yanli could not protest any longer. She watched quietly as Jin Zixuan dug the hole and ignored the brown stains on his hands and sleeves.

Despite feeling nauseous at the thought of even touching the ground, Jin Zixuan refused to show the disgusted expression on his face. Still, he wondered if he was subtle enough, since Jiang Yanli kept glancing at his face. If she did notice how uncomfortable he was, she mercifully didn’t mention it.

The Jin Sect heir was very quick, so it didn’t take him long to dig a deep enough hole in the ground. They lay the snake's body in it and covered it up again, patting down the dirt till it looked appropriately flat.

While he washed his hands in the stream, Jiang Yanli spoke.

It only took a few words to realise that she wasn’t speaking to him, but instead offering an orison to the deceased animal.

“May your soul be at peace now.” She prayed, hands joined over the grave of the snake.

Jin Zixuan approached her, “It was a demon snake. It had likely killed many.”

Jiang Yanli took a moment before speaking, her voice gentle but firm, “Before it became a demon, it was only a snake. Alive in the same sense as any other creature. Feeling pain and fear just the same. It would be good if it can now escape from whatever made it a demon.”

Never in his life had Jin Zixuan ever thought of something like that. He killed what he was told to kill, and cut down whatever he needed to cut. But thinking of it this way now, even he felt some pity for the creature.

Then, he noticed the small hole in the ground that Jiang Yanli had been putting the dead flower buds in.

“Do you apply this to plants as well?”

The Jiang Sect’s Young Mistress followed her former fiancé’s line of sight, “It is my fault that they don’t bloom. I don’t want to discard them carelessly.”

“This tree shouldn’t be blooming. In fact, it shouldn’t be alive at all.” Jin Zixuan pointed out. “Wasn’t it you who made it flower?”

Jiang Yanli looked up at the few blossoms on the tree, “It is not enough.”

She picked up another bud from the ground. Jin Zixuan watched as she stared at it for a long moment. Then, she started infusing it with her spiritual energy again.

Just like before, the bud just started spreading its petals, when its progress halted. Jiang Yanli’s face started falling when she saw this.

Before he even knew what he was doing, Jin Zixuan leaned over to her and put his hand under hers, holding it up. Belatedly, he realised her hand was trembling.

The flower stayed in it’s nearly blooming form and did not rot. Jiang Yanli looked up at Jin Zixuan in surprise. It was clear that he kept the bud in a static form so that it would not die off yet with his own spiritual energy as a medium.

The man looked at her with a steady gaze and spoke assuringly, “Don’t get scared. You must have faith that you can make it bloom. Close your eyes, and try again. Don’t worry, I will be here to keep it alive.”

Even though she had no reason to listen to him, and even though he had said terrible things to her and made her cry, Jiang Yanli still obeyed. She did exactly as he told her to and closed her eyes, gathering courage.

Slowly, she channelled her spiritual energy and Jin Zixuan waited. When the flowers petals finally started unfurling, he removed his hand from under hers and watched, feeling a strange sort of warmth spread through and over his chest.

The plum blossom bloomed, it’s vibrant, red petals feathered out like wine-stained wings.

Jiang Yanli looked at it in awe when she realised that Jin Zixuan’s hand was not supporting her. She looked at him, “I… did this?”

Jin Zixuan nodded, “You did.”

And then she smiled, wide and bright and Jin Zixuan might have gone blind at that very moment because the woman in front of him was just that breathtaking.

Now, he couldn’t help but wonder how he had ever fooled himself into thinking that someone so beautiful could’ve been bland. The person in front of him was anything but bland.

Her charm was something so subtle and enchanting; Like a warm patch of sunlight during winter time or the remarkable force that made flowers bloom in spring and the first rain shower after an unforgivably hot week—And he didn’t care if his thoughts were exceptionally embarrassing ones such as these, because it was the truth.

This is what Jiang Yanli was.

And while looking at her smiling with such joy, Jin Zixuan smiled too.

Notes:

Lmao. I like how everyone was like “FINALLY SOME COMMUNICATION” in the last chapter, but I just read every single one of those reviews going “oh no 😂” because I already wrote this chapter and I knew they went back to square one.

But hey, progress with the XuanLi! Honestly, if it seems like it’s going fast, trust me, it’s really not. It’s called ‘Yearning for Miles’ for a reason.

I’m not sure if I should tell this to you guys, but the biggest reason for Jiang Yanli to bury that snake was basically because I didn’t want to write the romantic scenes with that snake corpse in the background. My imagination is very invasive and I cannot deal with that image.

Also, I’m so sorry if I didn’t reply to your reviews, but just know I appreciate every single one of them and my regular comments; I always see you guys.

I hope you liked this chapter and I hope to know what you thought of it in the comments!

But wait.
What’s this?

I’ll be posting ANOTHER chapter tomorrow! That’s right! Make sure to come back ❤️

Chapter 48

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Jiang Yanli looked at Jin Zixuan with wide eyes, and felt her cheeks heat up. She could scarcely believe that he was smiling and blinked a few times to make sure it wasn’t a trick of the light. It was night time, after all and she could easily be hallucinating.

But she wasn’t and he was still smiling at her.

She swallowed, turning her eyes downward, and against her better judgement, said, “I should go. I’ve spent too much time here and disturbed your walk as well.”

She didn’t look up at him, but she still knew that Jin Zixuan wasn’t smiling anymore. She shouldn’t have looked away so quickly. Who knows when she would see such an expression directed her way again?

She stood up and reached for her lantern, preparing to leave.

“I can walk you back, if you like.” Jin Zixuan offered, immediately. “There could be more snakes—or other dangerous creatures.”

Jiang Yanli’s voice was soft, “Young Master Jin, thank you for your kindness, but there’s no need for the trouble.”

Jin Zixuan paused in surprise, blurting, “Why not?”

“I… would not like to take advantage of your generosity. I will be fine. It’s not far.”

Jin Zixuan also stood up, his face heating up from embarrassment. He had never before been in such a position where a maiden refused him. He had never even been in a position that he’d need to make an offer where a maiden could refuse him. Thus, it was not strange that he had absolutely no idea what to do now.

His voice became icy, “Is it that you don’t want to take advantage of me, or is it that you don’t want to be near me?”

Jiang Yanli whispered, “No…”

At this point, Jin Zixuan was so humiliated that he could’ve killed at least a hundred more measuring snakes, but instead, Nie Huaisang’s voice resonated in his head.

You tell her, ‘sorry’

Jin Zixuan repeated after the voice in his head, “I’m sorry.”

Jiang Yanli turned around and looked at him in surprise.

The man was also surprised. He had no idea why he’d spoken out loud, but now that he had, he forced himself to keep speaking, “That time, I was really saying terrible things to you. I refused to accept your kindness in the infirmary before that as well.”

‘I hope you can forgive me’, Nie Huaisang’s voice repeated again, like a guide to help him.

“I hope you can forgive me.” He said, feeling so embarrassed that he could expire on the spot.

‘I really like you’

Just thinking about those words already was making him dizzy. It was only after Nie Huaisang said it, in fact, that he realised it to be true, but there wasn’t any way he could allow himself to blurt such shameless words to a maiden at night, while no one was around, and after he treated her so badly!

Instead he said, “I don’t hate you.”

Which was significantly easier than saying the former words, but now he felt like banging his head open to see if his skull really contained any brains.

“Young Master Jin…” Jiang Yanli whispered, “Thank you. I’m so… so relieved. That you don’t hate me.”

When Jin Zixuan looked up at her again, he froze. Jiang Yanli looked at him with such a face, he didn’t know what to think. Her eyes looked somewhat watery and her eyebrows were turned upwards. He was afraid she might start crying again.

“I don’t, I don’t!” He nodded his head, hoping she would understand how much he ‘didn’t hate’ her without him having to explicitly say it. “So let me walk you back. And also…”

Jiang Yanli mildly prompted him, “And also…?”

“If… if you’d like, I can come sometimes. To help with your cultivation.” Jin Zixuan told her, hating how much he stammered. “I’ll send a note to you on the days I’m free. I know your brothers… and your handmaiden… and that—intense child, would not like it if they saw me near your quarters.”

Jiang Yanli stared at him and he grimaced at himself, “I mean—I did something bad, so of course they shouldn’t—And, if you don’t want to...”

“Thank you, Young Master Jin.” Jiang Yanli cut in blessedly.

Jin Zixuan almost slumped to the ground in relief. He really almost thought that he’d need to cut off his own tongue.

Jiang Yanli, “If it’s not too presumptuous of me then… I will await your message.”

And somehow, finally, it seemed like he said something right to Jiang Yanli for once.

They had just woken up that morning when Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang were informed by Jiang Cheng that they needed to travel to the area between the borders of Qinghe and Lanling to purge the independent villages of any Wen soldiers.

Wei Wuxian pouted, “You’re not coming?”

Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes, “I have a job to do here and I can’t leave sister here without at least one of us. On top of that, since Huaisang is going with you, I’ll be doing the paperwork of Qinghe as well. We still have many infiltrations to stage.”

Nie Huaisang hated paperwork, but he didn’t like the battlefield that much either. At least if he stayed here, he could get someone else to do the work for him, “Can’t I stay here instead while you go?”

“Act like the eldest brother and be responsible for once! We’re in the middle of a f*cking war, if you haven’t forgotten? I know that even if you stay here, you’ll probably be dumping all of your work on some poor fellow that happened to cross by!” Jiang Cheng scolded him and Huaisang flinched.

“Okay, fine! I’ll go! I hope there’s a lot of paperwork to keep you happy.” He muttered, darkly.

Jiang Cheng only rolled his eyes once more before leaving his two brothers alone to stick their tongues out at his retreating back.

Sisi sat on her chair and watched with narrowed eyes as Jiang Yanli boiled the soup for dinner. This was routine for her, so of course this part was not suspicious.

What was suspicious was that she was humming.

It was no secret to everyone in the camp that after the incident with Jin Zixuan and the servant girl, Jiang Yanli’s mood had notably deflated and what remained of her smiles was simply forced and rather sad.

Yet, a few days ago when she had returned from her meditation—one of the first times that Sisi had not accompanied her for it—she came back with such a joyous look on her face that Sisi could hardly believe her eyes.

On top of that, she told Sisi that there was no need to accompany her during her meditation any longer. Since then, every night, she would return to the hut with the happiest look on her face.

Sisi was very suspicious, but she was also very relieved. It felt good to see her mistress finally looking cheerful again. And it was much more so than usual too.

Just as Jiang Yanli was leaving, she prepared a basket and put in a container of soup.

“Eating outside today?” Sisi asked.

Jiang Yanli smiled at her, “Yes. Please do help yourself whenever you want, Sisi-Jie. And for my brothers as well…”

“Don’t worry,” Sisi said with a wink, “I’ll make sure they get it. You can go ahead and do your work.”

Her mistress gave her one more grateful smile before leaving the hut, the basket nestled in the crook of her elbow and carefully held so that it would not tip the container, and a lantern held in the other hand.

Sisi waited a few moments until the footsteps became faint.

Once it seemed like she was appropriately far away, Sisi rushed out,

She quietly hurried after her mistress, spying on her stealthily.

Jiang Yanli walked along the path, looking around only from time to time. Sisi followed her quietly for a while, making sure to hide behind whatever fence or tree she could find in doing so.

When she finally saw that her mistress was indeed heading down the path to her usual cultivation spot, Sisi let out a breath.

Her mistress was not going anywhere she shouldn’t be. Of course she wouldn’t, Sisi thought, rolling her eyes at herself.

Confirming that Jiang Yanli was going about her usual routine, the handmaiden turned around, deciding to return back to the hut and pour herself a bowl of Jiang Yanli’s wonderful soup.

Jin Zixuan was at the meeting place early.

He cast a cursory look around before hanging up the lantern he held on a strong branch. Then, he took out a blanket he packed and lay it down by the root of the tree, making sure it was thick enough to be comfortable for Jiang Yanli’s knees when she started meditating.

He frowned. If he brought a sitting pillow next time, would it be too much?

He shook his head. No, why would it be too much? The Jiang Sect’s Young Lady deserved a nice, comfortable place to kneel lest her knees become sore. It would also help her cultivate longer.

That’s right! He was doing all this to help improve her cultivation like he promised! It was the least he could do for all the times she cooked for him. Jin Zixuan had no ulterior motives whatsoever. But... if—if—Jiang Yanli were to smile and praise him for how thoughtful he was… well, that would be entirely her decision.

After the first time he’d sent her home, Jiang Yanli thanked him with a smile. He might’ve gotten a little addicted to that, so, even though he said he’d send her a note when he was free next, he’d done so precisely the next day.

And every day since.

And after every single time he came to help her with her cultivation techniques, he would walk her back and they would part just shy of the forest border, Jiang Yanli giving him a gentle smile and a soft thank you.

And every single time, he felt like what he was doing just wasn’t enough and he needed to improve on himself more.

Jin Zixuan examined his handiwork and nodded approvingly at it.

After he made sure the blanket was in place, he took out his paperwork and sat down immediately, busying himself and making sure it looked like he was casually waiting for her and also being responsible at the same time.

When Jiang Yanli arrived, this was how she found him.

“Young Master Jin!” She exclaimed. “Were you waiting long? I’m sorry I didn’t come earlier.”

Jin Zixuan cleared his throat, trying to calm down his heart rate that increased the moment he heard the soft footsteps that came from within the forest.

He spoke as smoothly as he could, “I had some paperwork to complete, so I thought I would come a little early. You need not be sorry. It was entirely for my own comfort.”

Jiang Yanli smiled at him, “In that case, I’m glad.”

Her smile could’ve been an arrow to Jin Zixuan. Every time she did it, his heart would get pierced with such strong feelings that it seemed to stop. But if her smile was an arrow, then he was happy to get shot hundreds of times a day.

The Jiang Sects’ Young Mistress hung up her lantern on another branch, right next to the lantern Jin Zixuan brought.

He gestured to the empty spot next to him, “You can sit here. Just because you are meditating, it does not need to be uncomfortable.”

Jiang Yanli blinked at him in surprise, before giving a slow smile that was beautifully illuminated by the orange light of the lanterns. Then, she lowered herself next to him and delicately placed the basket in between them.

“Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Young Master Jin.” She said with a faint laugh. “It really had been uncomfortable this whole time. This blanket is very soft.”

Jin Zixuan preened, but tried to hide how proud he felt for receiving those words and even a laugh.

“No need for that.” He said in a manner he hoped came out as gentle but chivalrous. Then his eyes flitted to the basket, “What is in there?”

Jiang Yanli’s smile had been constant since she’d arrived and Jin Zixuan was very concerned about his heart. At the same time, he felt so pleasant unlike any other way he’d felt before.

The girl beside him opened the basket. Inside, there was a container, a bowl and a spoon. Jiang Yanli took out all of them and once she’d opened the container, Jin Zixuan halted as the familiar, comforting smell of soup wafted into his nose.

“I heard you haven’t been eating very well,” She said. “I brought this along with me. I thought you could have some while you were here.”

Then, a thought seemed to come to her, “Unless, it was too impertinent of me to assume…”

Jin Zixuan instantly yelled, “No!”

Jiang Yanli paused, startled.

Shamefaced by his own outburst, Jin Zixuan repeated, more calmly this time, “No. Thank you for… bringing this. Really, it was the only thing I could properly eat. It was a big help during the earlier days. There were a lot of battles being fought then and hardly any time to sleep.”

Jiang Yanli seemed to gather her courage for a moment, “Then, if you would like, I can bring this for you again. You can have it over here.”

As she said this Jiang Yanli poured the soup into a bowl for the man and held it out for him.

Jin Zixuan took it and then looked back at her, “Next time… I’ll bring the bowls. You should also eat with me.”

He suggested this because he knew the reason she didn’t bring more than one bowl was because her handmaiden was watching and would get suspicious.

Though they weren’t doing anything particularly scandalous, the fact that two young people—an unmarried man and woman no less—were meeting up at night like this was already quite improper. Neither mentioned anything about the impropriety of it though, and just kept suggesting ways that would make it easier for them to spend time together.

Jiang Yanli gave a warm smile, “Then I will depend on you for that, Young Master Jin.”

Jin Zixuan nodded, “Let’s share this bowl, today.”

This suggestion as well, was easily performed by the two of them. This too, was a propriety they forewent as they shared a spoon. Jin Zixuan insisted that Jiang Yanli should eat first, and reluctantly she did so, but after a few mouthfuls, she’d claimed to be full. Jin Zixuan did not believe her, but he didn’t want to see her uncomfortable, therefore he’d accepted the bowl and began eating as well.

Then he repeated Jiang Yanli’s actions and passed it back to her. This continued back and forth until the soup was over.

They practiced Jiang Yanli’s cultivation as per usual and talked about many different topics, but avoided the ones which would force them to acknowledge how they should not be together alone like this.

And neither of them decided to acknowledge out loud how close this was to a regular lovers rendezvous either.

That would truly be scandalous.

Wei Wuxian played Chenqing, the sharp notes permeating through the air as his army of corpses charged at the soldiers around him, biting and slashing at the the enemies of their master.

The Stygian Tiger seal was at his waist, giving out resentful energy that controlled all the dark creatures of miles long radius. Even if he was not within physical reach of them, they would still be doing his work.

Nie Huaisang, somewhere behind him was also fighting, protecting villagers from harm and escorting them to safety. Even with all the gruesome body parts being strewn around, he still managed to keep himself clean.

On the other hand, the smell of blood and rotting flesh was almost the scent that came with Wei Wuxian after all this.

They’d already purged two villages before this one of all the Wen dogs that were there. At first—like every single time they’d waged a battle with the Wen army—they would arrogantly think that they could defeat the inviolable triumvirate of they weren’t whole because, We’re not those other soldiers, we can kill the Yiling Patriarch. And it’s always like that. Everyone was always after Wei Wuxian’s head.

It took almost a day to eradicate the area of any Wen dogs. By the near end, Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang took a round along the village to make sure that all enemies were dead and if some had survived, that they would be imprisoned in Qinghe.

It was then that Wei Wuxian heard the sound of a Guqin string being plucked, followed by the smooth melody of a Xiao.

Nie Huaisang exchanged a look with Wei Wuxian and they rushed over to the source of the sounds.

As both of them had initially suspected, the ones who were responsible for these were none other than the Twin Jades themselves!

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed, surprised.

Lan Wangji and Lan Xichen who were still inspecting the corpses, turned around, also seemingly surprised at the voice.

“Young Master Wei, Huaisang?” Lan Xichen said, looking between the two of them, a look of understanding dawning on his face, “So that’s why these corpses were moving about.”

When he said that, Wei Wuxian noticed that about twenty of the corpses under his control were lying on the ground motionlessly.

He gave an amused smile, “You exorcised them?”

Lan Xichen chuckled, “Apologies. We didn’t know they belonged to you.”

“Ah, no problem. I can still raise them.” Wei Wuxian shrugged. His eyes involuntarily settled onto Lan Wangji, “Lan Zhan, you’re not going to say anything to me?”

Lan Wangji looked at him but still didn’t say anything, even though he was prompted.

Lan Xichen intervened, “Ah, we’ve been moving around for the past week. Wangji must only be tired, Young Master Wei.”

Wei Wuxian nodded, but didn’t believe that it was as Lan Xichen said, “I see.”

Hesitantly, Lan Xichen looked around and behind them, as if searching for something. Or someone, Wei Wuxian thought, gleefully. Nie Huaisang also seemed to notice this.

“It’s a shame Wanyin is not with us today, isn’t it, Wuxian?” Nie Huaisang asked, mouth covered by his fan.

Behind the fan, he carried a smirk which only Wei Wuxian, who was beside him, could see.

The Jiang Sect head disciple nodded, “Huaisang, you are right! He should be regretting that he couldn’t see Brother Xichen after these many weeks.”

They thought that they’d be able to see a rare bashful expression on Lan Xichen’s face as it would otherwise be when Jiang Cheng’s name came up, but his smile only became disappointed.

Lan Xichen, “I see. He’s not here?”

Now Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang just felt bad.

“He’s not, but we’ll definitely let him know we saw you. In fact, I’m sure he’s wondering about you at this very moment.” Wei Wuxian tried. “Don’t you think so, Lan Zhan?”

Lan Wangji stared at him impassively.

Nie Huaisang agreed, nodding, “He definitely is.”

The first jade’s smile brightened up again, “I’ll be glad if that’s the case. At any rate. I must be off.”

Wei Wuxian, who wasn’t yet ready to part with Lan Wangji, blurted, “Already?”

“Yes, I have to make for Qinghe now to meet Mingjue-xiong.” Lan Xichen, explained.

“My brother?” Nie Huaisang asked. He was not surprised that Lan Xichen would meet him—they were close friends since childhood after all—but he was curious as it was wartime. “Did something happen?”

Lan Xichen nodded, “We’ve received more maps of the Nightless City. On top of that, they seem to be sent mainly to myself and to Sect leader Nie. We need to collect them to make sure that none are missing.”

Wei Wuxian kept his face composed even as he glanced at Nie Huaisang. His brother betrayed nothing on his face and nodded, “That’s very convenient for us.”

“Yes. I hope I may be able to thank our anonymous ally in person soon.” Lan Xichen said, a pleasant smile in place.

The first jade was not a dim person. Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang knew that by now, he must be having a suspicion of who it is.

Lan Xichen turned to his brother, “Wangji, I’ll depend on you to aid the Young Master Wei and Nie here. I will leave now.”

Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang blinked, not having expected Lan Wangji to be staying behind. In fact, it seemed even Lan Wangji didn’t know he’d be staying behind.

“Brother?”

“They’d require some help, don’t you think?” Lan Xichen’s smile widened minutely, as if he was going to tell him a secret, and then again, “I’ll depend on you.”

Unable to refuse, Lan Wangji nodded.

Lan Xichen gave an approving look and then turned to Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang giving a salute which the two returned immediately.

Once the first jade had flown off, Wei Wuxian turned to Lan Wangji grinning, “Too bad for you, huh? We’re done here for the day, Lan Zhan.”

Lan Wangji, “And the exorcising?”

Wei Wuxian, “Not yet. We’ll do the corpses tomorrow.”

Lan Wangji gave a shallow nod. Wei Wuxian honestly didn’t think he would speak anymore, so he was really shocked when the Second Jade opened his mouth again.

“Wei Ying, are you well?” He asked.

Wei Wuxian blinked, utterly flabbergasted, “I-I… Yeah? But Lan Zhan! You’re actually interested? You’ve never asked me this type of question. Your’e not possessed are you?”

Lan Wangji turned his head away, “Ridiculous.”

Wei Wuxian burst out laughing and waved his flute at Lan Wangji in mock reproach, “Lan Zhan, really? That’s still the only word you know! Come on, try using some thing else. How about ‘I really missed you, Wei Ying.’? That sounds like a nice change of pace.”

At this point, Wei Wuxian really expected Lan Wangji to leave, but instead, he stood resolute, staring right at him. This made the Jiang Sect disciple feel rather nervous.

“Lan Zhan? Aren’t you going to shout ‘Shameless!’ or something and leave me in the dust?” Wei Wuxian prompted.

Lan Wangji didn’t move or give any indication of caring about Wei Wuxian’s further teasing. Then, as if a strike of thunder came to enlighten him, Wei Wuxian noticed the colour of Lan Wangji’s ear lobes.

Red.

Something jogged in his memory. Red ears. As far as he knew, that meant Lan Wangji was… embarrassed. What could have made him feel—Then he rembered what he’d jokingly said before.

I really missed you, Wei Ying.

Wei Wuxian felt the air leave his lungs, and promptly, he felt a blush creep onto his cheeks.

“Wait… Lan Zhan could it be you really…”

Lan Wangji kept looking at him—gaze as honest as could be—and the tension grew.

Then Nie Huaisang’s voice broke in, “Wuxian! I found an inn over here. The owner said he can host us!”

Until his voice had come, Wei Wuxian hadn’t at all noticed that Nie Huaisang left. For him to interrupt at such a timing was both a disappointment and a relief.

“Heard that, Lan Zhan? It seems we have a place to stay.” Wei Wuxian grinned, and grabbed Lan Wangji’s arm. “Let’s go!”

Just like the last time, the other man didn’t shake it off and allowed himself to be pulled along by Wei Wuxian.

“Thank you, Young Masters, for saving our village. They’d only been here for a short while, but so much damage happened. We were truly losing all hope.” The innkeeper bowed with a grateful smile. “I’m afraid many people have had their homes burnt down and are taking refuge in our blessedly standing establishment, but we have two rooms remaining. I will charge nothing, of course.”

Nie Huaisang, “No, no. We will definitely pay. Two rooms is more than enough.”

Wei Wuxian looked around the inn, noticing it to be in very good condition as compared to the many other establishments that looked like they had been destroyed even before the battle begun.

He spoke out loud, “I assume that the Wen soldiers used to spend lots of time here? I bet you keep very good alcohol.”

The innkeeper answered in surprise, “Why, yes. We are famous in this area for our sweet rice wine. How did you know?”

Wei Wuxian smiled deviously, “No man would want to destroy a place having good liquor. Especially in a place with so few establishments such as this.”

The innkeeper looked at him in awe, “That does make sense!”

Finding an opening, Wei Wuxian leaned forward conspiringly, “So… do you still have some left?”

“Yes, of course! I will bring it up to your rooms, if you like?”

Wei Wuxian laughed, patting the man’s back merrily, “You are very cooperative. I look forward to some good wine after all this time.”

Nie Huaisang fanned himself with anticipation, “I as well.”

The innkeeper chatted with Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang while they walked to the rooms, Lan Wangji following behind like a white shadow.

“These are the rooms.” The innkeeper gestured to one door, and then to the door across it.

He dropped one key in Nie Huaisang’s hand, and the other in Wei Wuxian’s hand, casting a nervous glance to Lan Wangji.

The innkeeper bowed, “I will be back with dinner and the wine shortly.”

When he disappeared down the hallway, Wei Wuxian turned to Huaisang, “So—”

“I refuse to share a room with either of you.” Nie Huaisang said immediately.

Wei Wuxian gaped. Of course he had planned to be sharing a room with his sworn brother, so being put in such a spot was shocking to him.

“Huaisang! You can’t just—”

“If it’s all the same to you, my pride is still suffering and I would rather not see such big bodies for an entire night.”

Before Wei Wuxian could even get another word out, Huaisang had opened the door to one of the rooms and walked in. Just before he closed the door, he gave a rather sad*stic, “Good night.”

The way he had so dramatically spoke, Wei Wuxian had a distinct feeling that Nie Huaisang’s image issues had nothing to do with his decision and rather, it was for his entertainment.

“Um… Lan Zhan, sorry about that. Looks like we’ll be sharing a room.” Wei Wuxian asked turning to look at the Lan Sect discple.

As far as Wei Wuxian could tell, it made no difference to Lan Wangji. The man was too expressionless at the moment for anything to be understood of his thoughts.

Wei Wuxian sighed and moved to open the door, turning the key.

As he walked into the room, he really did think that the inn was well kept. Everything was clean and maintained; The changing screens, the windows, the bed—

The bed.

Wei Wuxian looked at the room with mounting dread, “...We have a problem, Lan Zhan.”

When Lan Wangji walked in and also saw the problem, he gave one hesitant glance to Wei Wuxian. Dismissing Lan Wangji’s usual iciness, Wei Wuxian couldn’t make out what he was thinking. The problem was not big, but it was definitely unwelcome.

One bed.

At this point, Wei Wuxian was certain that some higher power must enjoy toying with him.

Notes:

You guys would understand why I was laughing while reading your comments last chapter as well, because each one of you went something like “Nie Huaisang should lock them up in a room” and it was so funny because this scene was preplanned.

Can you guys see the future?

And yes, I DID go there with the infamous “AND THERE WAS ONLY ONE BED” fanfic trope. Sue me 😂

And @Yessica. Yes, I do see your comments and I do know you’ve been reading for a long time. Thank you for following YFM this long ❤️
I tend to remember all of my regular commenters by name or profile picture. Plus, a lot of people think I might not read some comments and I’m not sure why 😭😭😭
Like, I even REREAD your comments. It makes me so happy. But replying is tough now, so if you don’t get one, I’m so sorry. I really am so grateful for each and every comment.

Anyway, enough rambling. Not sure when the next update will be, but hopefully it will be soon. See you ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Chapter 49

Notes:

Notice: So, I recently found out that Meng Yao is, in fact, younger than Jin Zixuan. This is either by two years or a few hours, but the fact is that they were born on the same day. Now, I like Jin Zixuan and Meng Yao being the same age, so I decided to keep it that way and made the necessary changes to previous chapters (there weren’t all that many changes really).

Anyway, with that out of the way, I hope you guys enjoy this chapter!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

From the corner of his eye, Jin Zixuan watched as another branch blossomed with red flowers. He had been holding his papers in his hand, perusing them and stamping them as deserved, but for a while now, he realised he hadn’t been paying attention anymore.

Jiang Yanli, however, was fully concentrated as usual, her hands on the trunk of the tree as she cultivated her energy through it. She hardly ever allowed herself any distraction and Jin Zixuan found that very admirable. He kept discovering different sides to her and found it absolutely astonishing that he couldn’t find a single bad quality.Or was that because he was biased?

When the flowers were appropriately bloomed, Jiang Yanli began taking her hands off.

Jin Zixuan quickly looked away before she could catch him staring. He felt her eyes land on him and suppressed the heat in his cheeks as he looked back at her.

His eyes flitted once to the branch, “Good work.”

He wonders if he smiled properly as he said that, but decided that he did since the girl beamed back at him, “Thank you, Young Master Jin.”

Feeling a little shy, he rubbed his neck. Due to this, his lapels loosened up and drew down.

Jiang Yanli’s eyes went to his neck and her smile fell.

Immediately, Jin Zixuan realised what she must’ve seen and hastily covered it up, but it was too late. Jiang Yanli already saw it. The cut that Xue Yang had made long ago didn’t heal unmarked.

“It scarred?” She asked, softly.

Jin Zixuan cleared his throat, “It’s nothing. A scar or two isn’t a problem for me. Aren’t I still quite handsome?”

He had meant to say that in a joking manner, but when it actually came out, he felt it sounded arrogant. It was strange how he’d never bothered about how arrogant he must sound to others before.

Still, Jiang Yanli laughed, “Young Master Jin, you’re right!”

Jin Zixuan felt a corner of his lips quirk up and he couldn't help his slyness in asking, "More handsome than your brothers?"

Jiang Yanli looked amused, "I wouldn't say that."

"Did you know that I was ranked third on the list of best looking young masters? Even above your brothers?"

"Oh, yes." Jiang Yanli nodded gravely, "A-Xian complained that it must've been a mistake since he was clearly more handsome."

Jin Zixuan, "Do you agree?"

"I did when he asked."

Jin Zixuan held in a laugh, instead saying, "They adore you.