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The Sky of Blood

Chapter Text

A youth casually got some hot potatoes from the ratty bag on his shoulders and ate it in silence. It was great that he was able to find a place that sold them near his destination despite it being nighttime already. His steps were light and made no sound as he traversed the path to the village ahead of him and all the while munching on his food.

 

He heard some rustling on the bush beside him and considered going over to inspect the noise. Upon pausing for a few seconds and determining he had time to spare, he walked to his right. He drew some leaves aside and what he saw made him chuckle lightheartedly.

 

It was a tiny rabbit with white fur.

 

As he was about to leave it at that, he heard thumping and saw a bigger white rabbit come over to the little one. The tiny one seemed happy to see the newcomer and with its small jumps, made its way to the other. The bigger rabbit looked as if it was inspecting the little one for injuries and when it deemed the other fine, it started jumping away - this time, with the tiny rabbit closely behind it.

 

The teenager took a small piece from his potato and threw it to the direction of the rabbits; whether they found the food or not wasn’t his responsibility anymore.

 

He continued on the pathway leading to the village and started humming softly.

 

Then a shrill scream sliced through the night air.

 

The youth looked up and saw the sky’s color slowly changing its color to a bleeding red.

 

Oh, it was time.

 

-

 

“Oi, oi. Why is little Jingyi looking at me like I wronged his entire clan?”

 

“That’s ‘Young Master Lan’ to you, you lunatic!” shouted Lan Jingyi as he and his fellow junior disciples searched for clues around Mt. Dafan with the pest.

 

“Eh? But all of you are ‘Young Master Lan’ hahahaha How will you know which one I’m calling then?”

 

“The rest of them aren’t even here!”

 

“Aren’t you lucky you got paired up with me~”

 

This of course prompted a litany of complaints from the Lan disciple making Wei Wuxian laugh more. As the younger one continued calling him names, the newly resurrected Wei Wuxian’s eyes swept over the area and frowned when he saw nothing amiss. Whatever caused that in Mo Village - no matter how powerful they were - should leave a trace somewhat.

 

He tried feeling for some resentful energy and his frown deepened when he realized that while he could sense them, he couldn’t tap it at all. Even if he just woke up from this new body a few hours ago and despite not having his old body, he should be able to still have his demonic cultivation skills.

 

His hands itched for Chenqing.

 

“Are you even listening to me?!”

 

Ah, it seems his companion finally noticed his straying thoughts. With a grin slowly appearing on his face and ready to tease the young Lan (was this kid even really a Lan?), he turned his head and opened his mouth. But before he could respond, an arrow went past between them and embedded itself on the ground near their feet.

 

They both looked at the direction it came from with readied weapons - the typical Lan sword for the junior disciple and some apples for Wei Wuxian. Feeling the amount of judgment on his choice of weapon from little Jingyi, he threw him an amused laugh and said, “Hey, don’t look at me like that~ These are the only things with me since they’re for Little Apple.”

 

“Who the hell is Little Apple?!”

 

Feigning an offended expression, Wei Wuxian replied, “Ahh~ how rude! How could you forget our companion here?” and made a grand gesture to point at the donkey on his side.

 

Lan Jingyi’s eyes twitched.

 

“Who goes there?!” a young voice resounded in the dark; which reminded the two of their current predicament.

 

“You attack without even knowing who we are?!” yelled Lan Jingyi.

 

There was an annoyed huffing sound from the other person and footsteps were heard as the owner of the arrow finally stepped into the light. He was wearing a Lanling Jin sect disciple outfit complete with the vermillion mark on his forehead. He seemed to be around the age of the Lan disciple who had his sword out.

 

The young boy sneered at the two (three - if you count the donkey). He startled quite a bit when his eyes landed on Wei Wuxian before adopting the previous expression again.

 

“Oh, it’s just you,” he said nonchalantly before starting to walk away from them.

 

“Ahh, children these days just don’t have manners. Didn’t your parents teach you about that?” Wei Wuxian commented as he blew some air to the wayward bangs on his face.

 

He felt the two juniors freeze up at his words and as he was just about to ask what was wrong, the Lanling Jin disciple unsheathed his own sword and attacked him with a loud cry. He deftly evaded the attack which ended up with the young Jin slicing an empty air. His next attack was then intercepted by Lan Jingyi.

 

“Stop it, Jin Ling!”

 

Upon hearing the name called out by his Lan companion, it was Wei Wuxian’s turn to freeze.

 

Jin Ling.

 

His eyes got redirected to the sword clashing with the Lan one and felt his hands get clammy. He may have a bad memory but with this much trigger, he already knows who this child was.

 

“Why are you defending him?! Is the supposed righteous Lan clan saying I do not have the right to kill him after what he said?!”

 

“He doesn’t know, you idiot!”

 

Another meeting of the swords sent sparks flying between them.

 

“Of course he does! How can that lunatic not know when he used to be with the Lanling Jin sect?!” came the indignant exclamation from the golden robed boy.

 

Lan Jingyi gave a shocked look to where Wei Wuxian was standing and was met with an equally shocked one. His genuine expression made the Lan junior doubt the words of the one he was currently sparring with.

 

“You must be mistaken! We just met Senior Mo,” oh now, this kid can address him properly, “after the incident in Mo village where he used to stay at.”

 

“That’s because this cutsleeve got kicked out of our sect!”

 

The comment snapped Wei Wuxian out of his guilty daze.

 

A cutsleeve? Oohhh, he’s never been one before.

 

Lan Jingyi glanced at him again with a growing horrified expression to which Wei Wuxian tried curbing with a direct to the point, “Both of you aren’t my type.”

 

A pause.

 

“Why are you looking looking like that?” asked Wei Wuxian as a teasing grin appeared on his face, “I’m sorry I had to crush your dreams on me but I only go after mature and handsome men~”

 

With a roar, the teens stopped attacking each other and changed their direction to where the now laughing Wei Wuxian was.

 

Despite not being in his original body, his instincts haven’t dimmed at all and so he could afford to kid around while avoiding the frustrated blows of the two. When a swipe almost got his sleeves, he finally decided to calm things down. He picked some leaves on the tree they just passed and threw it to their backs while mentally murmuring a call to some spirits in the area.

 

He was quite surprised into being able to use some energy as none responded to him before.

 

Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi yelped as they were forced down due to some unknown weight on their backs.

 

“Hey, hey, calm down already,” he said in between laughs and squatted down, “We still have to search for the answers to what happened in Mo village, remember?”

 

That made both of those sprawled quiet down a bit.

 

“How do you not know you’re from the Jin sect though?” questioned Lan Jingyi.

 

“Hmph, he must be ashamed of what he’s done and is just denying it,” remarked Jin Ling.

 

“I don’t remember a lot of things,” Wei Wuxian admitted. And it was true, he doesn’t know anything about Mo Xuanyu except that he was desperate enough to call for the Yiling Patriarch. Even as Wei Wuxian, he already had a bad memory so combining these two scenarios was definitely not a lie.

 

“Well, I guess, with that happening would give anyone a deep trauma and make you forget,” noted the Lan disciple.

 

His statement made Jin Ling scowl in confusion, “What do you mean?”

 

Lan Jingyi rolled his eyes (really, how is this kid a direct Lan disciple), “Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it yet? Isn’t that the reason why you’re near the village as well?”

 

“I’m here because uncle is training me for a night hunt! We haven’t gotten news of any abnormalities.”

 

“What? So Sect Leader Jiang still doesn’t know?!”

 

Hearing his shidi being mentioned made him feel nostalgic. Of course, Jiang Cheng would be here. Despite continuously saying he didn’t like kids - who else would be taking care of their sister’s child.

 

“Know about what?! What happened already?!”

 

“I was going to tell you already so stop shouting!”

 

Ahh, but Jingyi, you’re also screaming.

 

“It happened again.”

 

Jin Ling’s eyes widened and his hands trembled, “And the body part?”

 

“None.”

 

“Huh? What do you mean ‘none’?”

 

An annoyed look appeared on the white robed kid, “None means none! No one’s body part was missing.”

 

“Hold on,” interrupted a now disturbed Wei Wuxian, “You mean what happened to Mo village has happened before already? And what is this about body parts?”

 

Both kids seemed to have forgotten their predicament on not being able to stand up and were not more casually resting flat on the ground. They looked at each other as if deciding who gets to talk. Wei Wuxian was about to prompt them to talk when Jin Ling gave a huff and looked up at the squatting man dressed in black.

 

“You seem to have really lost your memories if you can’t even remember this,” he sighed and started talking, “It’s called “The Sky of Blood”. Basing from its name, the sky bleeds into red in the place where it’s happening as witnesses from nearby villages collectively agree on.”

 

“So what exactly happens? ” Wei Wuxian asked urgently as he felt that this event had something to do with him being unable to fully tap into the resentful energies in the area.

“I was getting there!” growled Jin Ling who only calmed down after a placating gesture from the older male, “Corpses attack a village and kill everyone in it. No one ever survives. A lot of times when this happens, it appears that a certain villager would have a missing body part or organ. The Sky of Blood happens irregularly and has been going for the last decade.”

 

Someone else could control corpses that efficiently? Did someone manage to completely fix his Stygian Tiger amulet?

 

“What’s with the body parts? How does one villager get marked? Where do the corpses come from? What has the sects been doing about this if it has already lasted for a decade? Wh - ”

 

“Oi relax with the questions! One by one only. One by one,” Lan Jingyi spoke up.

 

“Alright, alright. Now go answer my questions.”

 

“Nobody knows what the body parts are for. It’s speculated that it feeds someone or something that specifically needs that particular part or organ. We also don’t know how a village or that one villager gets marked. They have a lot of theories on that one but so far nothing has been proven to be consistent,” Jin Ling explained.

 

Lan Jingyi continued from where Jin Ling left off, “The corpses seem to be coming from anywhere near the village - those bodies long since buried or forgotten. The four major sects had banded together to try and determine how to stop this and protect the people.”

 

“It’s been years already and they still don’t know who’s behind this?” asked an incredulous Wei Wuxian.

 

At that question, the two clamped up and exchange angry glances at each other. Wei Wuxian observed the exchange and his conclusion made him even more confused.

 

“So they do know who’s behind this. Why haven’t they attacked yet? They can’t be scared of some demonic cultivator, right? I mean,” he tilted his head to the side, “ they easily banded together and immediately attacked the Yiling Patriarch before when he proved to be dangerous, right ?”

 

“Hah!” scoffed Jin Ling, “While almost everyone agrees that while the Yiling Patriarch was evil - this one is way worst because they aren’t just evil; they’re a monster .

 

Wei Wuxian noted the bitter tone on Jin Ling’s voice. Almost everyone only, huh? He can only try to imagine how he feels for the murderer of both his parents to be toned down in lieu of this threat.

 

“What is happening here?”

 

The three startled and turned to the owner of the voice. They were too engrossed in their conversation that they missed the arrival of the Jiang sect leader .

 

-

 

“What did we ever do to you?!” the man shouted as he tried shielding his wife and child from the oncoming corpses.

 

The scent of blood permeated through the air and the sound of screams were slowly fading as their owners also dropped dead one by one. The village was razed to the ground. The houses that were locked showed signs of forceful entry and everything inside and out were in topsy turvy. The animals - domesticated and wild alike as long as they were in the vicinity lay dead together with men, women, and children.

 

The corpses advanced to the family and both the dad and mom died instantaneously from being ripped apart. The child, no older than seven, is shaking from head to toe as he curled up into a ball. However, the corpses haven’t moved to attack him. He yelped when he felt a hand touch his head and started screaming and crying.

 

“There’s no need to be so noisy, child.”

 

He looked up as he heard the lighthearted voice. The owner was a young teenager who had an easy smile on his face. His right hand was still on the kid’s head while his left hand clutched the ratty bag on his shoulder. The corpses all seemed attentive to him but had no hostile intent.

 

“Did you eat the loquat, young one?” he asked.

 

The kid’s bright grey eyes widened when he connected the question to the face of the teen.

 

This was the same one who gave him loquats a week ago when he accompanied his parents in the bustling market place in the Lanling Jin territory.

 

At first there was only silence as the child didn’t understand why the other would be interested on whether he ate the fruit or not.

 

Then, he slowly nodded his head.

 

The teen gave a satisfied sound and patted his head, “Good.”

 

He started combing the young boy’s hair with his fingers and pushed back the strands that covered his face.

 

“Remembering how the Mo village heir grabbed one from me without permission is honestly pissing me off. It was such a waste of time and resources as it was already obvious he wasn’t going to satisfy any requirement. Ah, but you though…” he trailed off as his cold fingers traced the eyebrows of the kid.

 

“Was the loquat tasty?”

 

Silence.

 

A nod.

 

“Good,” he repeated and still with that smile on his pretty face, “Only the best ones will do, after all.”

 

And the same fingers that fixed his hair gouged his eyes out .

 

Above, the sky bleed red.

 

-

 

“Uncle!” exclaimed Jin Ling and he tried getting up, only to remember that the reason why he was on the ground on the first place was because of the older one nearer to him.

 

Jiang Cheng was in a rush looking for Jin Ling after he was informed as to what happened to the nearby village. As much as he hated to admit it, if that monster shows up, he isn’t confident in winning and protecting his nephew. When he managed to trace where the kid was, he narrowed his eyes at the state of the three he happened upon.

 

With a lot of effort, Wei Wuxian tried breathing normally with the surprise appearance of Jiang Cheng. He lightly snapped his fingers to take off the possessed leaves on the back of the junior disciples. But of course, the newcomer wouldn’t miss the action and the energy in the area and held out his hand for the leaves to be redirected to him.

 

“Get up.”

 

The child in peony and golden robes hastily stood up and ran to his uncle’s side while the one in white stayed put beside the other.

 

“Uncle, this is...Mo Xuanyu. He was there in Mo Village when the Sky of Blood happened.”

 

Jiang Cheng’s attention was already on him but after hearing those words from his nephew, his focus intensified.

 

“It’s true, Sect Leader Jiang. Together with my fellow junior Lan disciples, we happened upon him while our seniors surveyed the village. He was apparently saved because he was staying in a donkey shed quite a distance from the center of the village. But he was traumatized and he lost his memories,” said Lan Jingyi.

 

“Lost his memories, you say?” drawled Jiang Cheng, “How convenient .”

 

“I know he looks like a lunatic,” Wei Wuxian blanched at the Lan kid’s statement, “But he’s really innocent,” and with that, he stood in front of Wei Wuxian as if acting like a shield.

 

“Stand aside, Lan child. This is a matter between him and I.”

 

Lan Jingyi looked like he has seen a ghost as the purple robed sect leader started touching the infamous Zidian and lightning crackled in the air and yet still wouldn’t back down. Wei Wuxian let out a small smile in seeing the the young one’s actions. He lightly pushed him away and with a whisper of, “I’ll be fine,” walked closer to Jiang Cheng.

 

He grinned at the other and was expecting to be reprimanded for his audacity and was genuinely surprised when he was hit by Zidian with force enough to send him a few meters away. He could hear Lan Jingyi and Jin Ling both shouting in shock.

 

“Sect Leader Jiang! You can’t just do that! He’s already considered a guest of the Lan clan! Please stop or I’ll call for our seniors!”

 

“Uncle! He’s a lunatic and a cutsleeve and super annoying but he’s really innocent!”

 

Wei Wuxian rubbed his chest where Zidian hit and ran for it when Zidian descended on him again - but this time, he was prepared and rolled away. They were already quite far from the kids who seemed to have been given an order to stay away. The Gusu Lan’s cloud motif appeared on the sky as a firework and he had to grin at Lan Jingyi’s attitude.

 

The brat really did call for his seniors.

 

He didn’t have time to ponder more when Zidian wrapped itself on his neck with only his right wrist stopping it from fully strangling him and his left palm trying to give himself room to breathe. Jiang Cheng appeared in his line of sight with a mixture of expressions on his face.

 

“Welcome back, Wei Wuxian.”

 

He froze for a moment before acting out his lunatic rule.

 

“Huh? I don’t know what you’re talking about Sect Leader Jiang!”

 

Jiang Cheng’s face twisted in contempt at his response.

 

“Because that Lan brat called for his seniors who will no doubt be a thorn on my side, I don’t have much time right now. So I’m giving you two choices here.”

 

He stepped closer and tilted Wei Wuxian’s face upwards and leaned so close to it that their eyelashes were pretty much touching.

 

“Choice number one: You come back with me to Lotus Pier and we’ll discuss a lot of things. Choice number two: You continue denying the truth that we both already know and I’m going to fight tooth and nail for your custody over those Lans. When I win, and I will, you’re coming back to Lotus Pier with me and discuss things still but I will make sure that every single dog we can come across will be all over you.

 

Wei Wuxian felt his throat dry up both from the mention of dogs and the steel look of certainty from Jiang Cheng.

 

He knows that look. In front of someone who knew him so thoroughly, it’d be impossible to argue. It was an obstacle harder to overcome than Zidian who’s currently wrapped around his neck. He exclaimed in his heart that Jiang Cheng really knew the best way to deal with him.

 

“I already died for thirteen years - what more do you want from me?” he easily relented, “I’m not even asking for forgiveness as I know I don’t deserve that but Jiang Cheng, what else - what else am I supposed to give up?”

 

“I didn’t ask you to die!” was the frustrated roar from his shidi, “Who gave you permission to administer your own punishment?! And even beyond death, you can never seem to stop stirring trouble!”

 

“What do you mean?” he asked confusedly as he started seeing black spots in his vision because of the strangulation.

 

“I still haven’t heard your choice, Wei Wuxian,” was the toned down reply.

 

He knows that Jiang Cheng would be able to give him the information he needed for what was currently happening and he also understands that the other would relentlessly pursue him even if he doesn’t come with him now. For some reason, Jiang Cheng immediately figured out it was him.

 

And he doesn’t know how (he will find out). But right now, he acknowledges that the tipping point for his choices is to go with him.

 

“Choice one! Choice one! Shit, let me breathe!”

 

Zidian immediately let go of his neck but also instantaneously wrapped around his wrist.

 

He paid it no mind and asked again, “What did you mean about me stirring trouble even beyond death?”

 

And Jiang Cheng sneered, “Creating the monster that now threatens everyone.”

 

-

 

The youth hummed softly as he walked under the dark sky and didn’t even look back at the carnage that just happened in the village he was previously in. He noted that the location of the village was actually under the protection of Lanling Jin and briefly wondered if it would be a problem.

 

Then he chuckled.

 

Lanling Jin wasn’t even at the list of probable contentions against his master so long as they retain their incumbent sect leader.

 

Besides, contention or not - it’s not as if his master cares for any of them.

 

-

 

Inside the quarters in Koi Tower, two people were seated inside as they both watched a third person outside the room and holding tightly on the rails of the balcony.

 

“You’ve just been reported to that the Sky of Blood occured near and you’re not even going there personally?” scoffed a deep voice.

 

The other sipped his tea and wouldn’t meet his eye.

 

“You finally got your goal, Sect Leader Jin . Why are you not doing your job properly?” the voice taunted.

 

“Eldest Brother, please keep your voice down,” Jin Guangyao finally replied.

 

Nie Mingjue slammed his fist on the table making the contents on it rattle and shake.

 

“Am I not asking correct questions?!”

 

The smaller male’s placating countenance twitched and met the eyes of the other. As such, he now noted the ashen look of the bulky man in front of him that gave away his status as a non-living. While he used to proudly wear the Qinghe Nie sect robes, he now doned plain dark garments that somehow still matched the color scheme of his previous clothes (an act of sensitivity from their second brother, without a doubt).

 

“You know what Second Brother will feel if he finds out we’re fighting again.”

 

A stiff look passed the eldest and finally settled down as he looked outside again where their white robed brother was.

 

“You finally have your biggest goal in your hands and you don’t even do it well, you ingrate .”

 

The Lanling Jin sect head did not respond and only directed his attention outside as well.

 

“Was it worth it?”

 

Jin Guangyao didn’t need to ask clarification on the question. He doesn’t even defend himself (not in front of someone who saw right through him and one of the only two people who knows his sins). His gaze took in Lan Xichen’s forlorn look in the balcony as the Lan sect head gazed at the moon with a heartbroken look.

 

“...no.”

 

-

 

While the outside of the cave may not look very imposing, the inside was another story. The sound of guqin playing echoed throughout its walls and the figure opened his golden eyes when he strummed the last note. He was dressed in all black and his hair falling on the sides of his face as nothing was keeping it tied.

 

He stood up after he set aside his instrument and walked towards the center of the room. An array was finishing itself up as the remaining sounds of the guqin directed it. When the last character was completed, the room started to glow in deep red and black miasma exited from the figure’s body and went over to the array to trigger it.

 

An excited gleam from the golden orbs appeared.

 

After thirteen years, it was now ready.

 

He can now call upon his soul. If the soft method of Inquiry won’t make him respond then he’d just have to drag his soul kicking and screaming back here in the land of the living. Amidst thousands of beating hearts in the sacrificial circle, amidst the groaning sounds of the souls used, and amidst the blackening of his own heart - he called for him .

 

After a few moments, the array broke.

 

There was no response.

 

At first, everything was calm.

 

He unsheathed the once pristine white and now an ebony black sword - and sliced the array and everything gets destroyed. A part of the walls came crumbling down from the sheer pressure of his spiritual energy. Gold and black merged together and the landscape of his surroundings started getting deformed.

 

Then he abruptly stopped.

 

He breathed in. He has been waiting for thirteen years - he can wait longer. With that thought, he turned around to go back to where he was before and his black robe elegantly swished with his movements. He ascended the small set of steps and reached his destination

 

The figure sat on his lonely throne and plotted the demise of the thief.

 

-












Chapter Text

“Oi, be careful!”

 

Loud laughter was the only response to the annoyed call as the young man whose hair was tied in a loose and messy high bun continued going to and fro the boat they were in.

 

“Mo Xuanyu! Are you deaf?!”

 

Wei Wuxian finally looked at the junior Lanling Jin disciple who had a big scowl on his face. He knew Jin Ling had been trying to keep quiet ever since they headed out from Mt. Dafan in fear of his uncle who’s aura was giving off mixed vibes. Immediately right after he gave his choice to the Jiang sect head, his right wrist was wrapped in Zidian and they took off.

 

“I hate to agree with the little mistress - but stop running around already!” came the complain from the other junior.

 

Jin Ling’s head snapped to his side and balled his fist, “Don’t call me that!”

 

“Then stop acting like one!” retorted the white robed junior.

 

It seems that a few hours of traveling together and Lan Jingyi seems to have somewhat conquered his fear of the Yunmeng Jiang sect leader as evidenced with how lively he has become. Wei Wuxian had to hand it to the kid though - his guts were truly noteworthy. Not only did he openly defy a sect leader by calling for his senior disciples, he even firmly inserted himself in their travel to Lotus Pier stating that Wei Wuxian was his responsibility. Despite being miffed by the fact that they left before any of the Lan senior disciples could arrive, Lan Jingyi showed determination in upholding his role as the protector of the only survivor of the Sky of Blood phenomena.

 

He wondered how Jiang Cheng would have acted if a Lan did arrive before they could leave. He chuckled at the mental image of a scowling Jiang Cheng and perhaps...a stoic Lan Zhan? That was surely a face off that would leave him in stitches from too much laughter as the two had their own brand of stubborness.

 

He softly sighed at the remembrance of the second master of the Lan clan. His eyes looked at the expanse of water they were sailing in and the blue hue made his thoughts go back to Lan Zhan. The other would be a senior disciple by now and surely his impeccable image is as perfect as ever - after all, if there was one person that Wei Wuxian had to name to attach that title then it would be his companion during the time he was punished in Gusu’s library pavilion.

 

The boat suddenly rocked and upon finding balance again, Wei Wuxian looked back at their vessel’s occupants. Upon finding the cause of the lurching, he guffawed at the two juniors who seems to have been roughhousing with each other too much and ended up falling to the water.

 

“I told you to stay still! Look what happened!” screamed Jin Ling as he held on the side of the boat.

 

“Stay still?! You were going to stab me with that sword of yours!” exclaimed an equally furious Lan Jingyi.

 

The latter tried to hold on to the side of the boat as well but because he had little experience in swimming, he missed it by an inch and ended up accidentally pulling on his companion’s ponytail.

 

“Ouch! Why are you pulling my hair!”

 

“I was reaching for the boat, stupid!”

 

“Does my hair look like a boat?!”

 

“Well now that you mention it - your face does!”

 

“Why you - !”

 

Wei Wuxian was now holding his stomach in laughter as the two renewed their fighting despite being in the water.

 

“Stop laughing, you lunatic!”

 

“Maybe he will if you stopped paddling like a dog - ”

 

“It’s not my fault that our sect is located in the mountains!”

 

“ - even Fairy looks more elegant doing it compared to you!”

 

“Yeah, well, your dog looks better than you!”

 

“Oh god hahahaha oh goood the both of you are such an entertainment hahahaha”

 

Momentarily banding together, the two teens glared at Wei Wuxian and shouted together, “Shut up!”

 

Upon realizing that they said the same thing at the same time, they redirected their glares to one another again.

 

“Hahahaha the both of you are really killing me here~”

 

“I’m going to kill all three of you if you don’t stop right now.”

 

Both Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi froze at the venomous hiss from their previously quiet companion. Wei Wuxian merely gave the other a chuckle before leaning to the two who were still in the water and held out both his hands in an unspoken invitation. The juniors hesitated for a split second before they took the offer and let themselves be pulled up.

 

“We’re arriving. Clean yourselves up,” instructed the sect head.

 

While the teenagers tried their best to dry themselves after being in the water for some time, Wei Wuxian looked in front as they approached the docks of Lotus Pier. His feet unconsciously moved forward and soaked in the sight of where he spent his childhood. With unblinking eyes, he breathed deeply and  his eyes greedily took in the sight.

 

His old home.

 

As he was too focused on gazing at the bustling area ahead of them, he missed a pair of dark eyes observing him. The owner let out a silent ‘tsk’ and stood up.

 

“We’re here.”

 

They alighted from the vessel and was greeted by a row of Jiang sect disciples all of whom were already giving a bow and a salutation.

 

“Welcome back, Sect Leader.”

 

Jiang Cheng nodded in response. The purple robed disciples sent a questioning glance at the presence of who seems to be a Lan junior and a young man who had a bounce on his steps. Wei Wuxian was about to give his own personal greeting when one of the awaiting disciples stepped forward with an uncertain look in his face.

 

“What is it?” questioned Jiang Cheng.

 

“Sect Leader, while you were away, we received an unexpected guest and he is currently waiting for you. The Qinghe Nie’s sect head is here.”

 

Wei Wuxian cocked his head to the right in puzzlement.

 

What was one of the venerated trio - Nie Mingjue doing in Lotus Pier?

 

-

 

A figure entered an unassuming cave and after quickly bypassing some security measures that had been put by his master, he transferred his ratty looking bag to his left shoulder. Now that he was back, his steps became more controlled as running around was forbidden, after all.

 

As he neared the main hall, he heard groans. Flicking his half ponytail, he turned around and saw corpses on the ground buried by some rubble. He approached them and while he made no move to help those who were squashed, he stood on top of the rubble and touched the walls that caved in and realized that it was made by a slash of a sword.

 

His smiling face faltered.

 

He lightly jumped back down and walked faster to his original destination.

 

While he doesn’t believe anyone can go up against his master, he was also certain that there exist really strong cultivators out there who may be able to injure the older man. Whatever happened when he was gone seemed to have forced his master to draw his sword which as far as he can remember only happened twice.

 

His pace quickened even more at that thought. Upon seeing the doors to the main hall, he pushed it open with perhaps more force than necessary and his eyes wildly looked for the only other occupant of thee place. When he found no one, he started feeling a sense of panic coursing through him and couldn’t help but call out.

 

“Master?”

 

Footsteps neared him and he found a corpse looking at him then walking to one of the adjacent halls. The youth followed him and he let out a relieved sigh when he finally saw the black clothed pristine looking man who had his back turned to him.

 

“I’m home.”

 

The other paused whatever he was doing, turned around, and responded with an, “Mn.”

 

“Master, are you alright?”

 

He doesn’t elaborate on the question as he’s aware that the blank faced man before him knows that he must have seen the aftermath of his sword’s slash. The perpetrator of the caving doesn’t respond for some time making him uneasy at the thought that perhaps someone did manage to injure him. Before he can boldly ask for his list of injuries, the other slightly tilted his head to the side as a reply.

 

The teen’s smile was fully back in place when he noticed that his master was unhurt and walked towards him. He opened his bag and carefully placed its contents on the side table beside the workstation the older was in. Multiple fresh and similar looking eyeballs were each held in transparent pouch of their own.

 

“Good work, Sizhui.”

 

Sizhui beamed at the praise.

 

“Should I store them first or are you going to use them now?”

 

“Store them.”

 

The young one nodded and took the contained eyeballs. He moved towards a deftly hidden room and with a murmur of the password that was close to both their hearts, the entrance to it opened. While the entire inside of the cave was kept flawlessly clean, this room was on another level.

 

Besides the two of them, no one and nothing has ever entered it. He settled the newly acquired goods and looked at the center of the room where everything was immaculate. He would have checked on it as he usually did whenever he went here but he had some questions at the moment and exited.

 

“Master?”

 

There was no verbal response but he saw that he had his attention. He gestured towards the spiritual pouch he noticed his master had in his hand earlier and commented, “I haven’t seen you take that out in years.”

 

“Mn.”

 

“Are you going to make another fierce corpse with consciousness?”

 

Golden eyes looked at the spiritual pouch and gave a vague reply.

 

“I’d like to experiment on something.”

 

-

 

Lan Xichen was abruptly awakened by a shake on his shoulders. With ragged breathing, his dark violet eyes snapped open and met with black ones. He was still tethering between consciousness and could still hear the screams in his memory. There was so much blood that it painted the entire -

 

“Xichen!”

 

- and he was dragged into wakefulness.

 

At first there was silence between him and the one who woke him up. He started trying to even his breathing like how it was taught in the Lan sect and after a few minutes had passed, he slowly sat up with the help of his companion.

 

“Xichen, are you alright?”

 

“Mingjue-xiong,” he acknowledged the other, “I am fine. Thank you for your concern.”

 

Nie Mingjue put on a small scowl on his face. His right hand reached towards the pale cheeks of the Lan sect head and with an uncharacteristic gentleness, he wiped the tear mark residues left. Lan Xichen gasped at the realization that he had been crying and stamped down the onslaught of emotions he felt was coming.

 

He had no time for anything besides saving his brother.

 

“Have some tea.”

 

Lan Xichen smiled at the gruff order and received his cup. He inhaled the aroma of the tea and let its calming properties wash over him before taking a sip.

 

“It seems that you have acquired the tea preparation skill set,” he teased the bigger man.

 

“A nonsense skill, if you ask me,” Nie Mingjue scoffed.

 

“And yet you let Huaisang have this hobby way back then.”

 

“I didn’t let him have this hobby , he was just far too whiny that I had to look the other way as he spent time supposedly for his training to do all those useless things.”

 

“Did Mingjue-xiong forget that you would come to ask for my help in picking out tea sets for Huaisang?”

 

If his body could, Nie Mingjue would have flushed red with the reminder. Upon noticing his expression, Lan Xichen chuckled lightly and patted the other’s arm, “I was only joking, please do not take offense.”

 

“As if anybody can take offense from you,” came the swift reply.

 

“Ah, but - ”

 

“I meant, anybody who isn’t insane,” Nie Mingjue cut in as he already knew what was going to come out of his mouth.

 

They basked in comfortable silence as Lan Xichen finished his cup of tea. The older one got the cup from him and placed it down in the bedside table. They could have continued with such an atmosphere but for some reason, the elder Twin Jade let the question that’s been brewing in his mind slip out due to their previous conversation.

 

“Why do you refuse to appear before Huaisang?”

 

Without hesitation, the ashen figure answered, “I have no reason to.”

 

“You have been brutally taken from him. He is struggling.”

 

Nie Mingjue let out a huff, “It’s been a decade. He’ll be fine.”

 

Lan Xichen had bonded with the man before him a while back and he knew that the other was worried for his younger brother so he doesn’t understand why he won’t show himself to the current Nie sect leader. A thought passed his mind and he felt his hands shaking underneath the blanket draped on his lower body.

 

“If…” he started, “If it’s because of me - ”

 

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence.”

 

And Lan Xichen had no choice but to drop the matter. This was one of the only two topics that can make the other snap at him.

 

“Huaisang is going to be fine,” he repeated, “because he has no other choice but to be strong. Besides, he has you and,” he paused then spat the next words, “ that ingrate .”

 

The white robed man sighed as he seemed to have opened the second topic he shouldn’t have. He tried lightening up the conversation by asking a simple information, “Do you happen to know where A-Yao is?”

 

“He must be off doing whatever it is that snakes do. No, wait. I retract that sentence. Being compared to that man is an insult to the snakes.”

 

“Mingjue-xiong,” started the gentle man.

 

“And you! Why do you always defend him?! He has done unspeakable things and yet you still welcome him with open arms. I’ve told you time and time again to not let yourself be fooled by the facade he gives. He will continue hurting you and - ”

 

His tirade was stopped as both of Lan Xichen’s hands covered his tightly clenched right fist. Warmth spread on his own hands as the living body heat transferred to his cold, dead body. The Lan sect head brought the older man's fist to his own chest where his beating heart was.

 

The previous Nie sect head anger evaporated. Feeling Lan Xichen’s heart beat was more than enough to cease whatever emotional turmoil he had - even more effective than any instrument. Even if he hadn’t regained his consciousness as he had right now, he thinks he’d recognize this sworn brother of his. Even if he had no eyes nor ears, he just knows he’d gravitate towards him still.

 

He was his home.

 

Silence reigned.

 

Outside the room, a man wearing the Lanling Jin sect robes stood with his back on the wall beside the door. And on his hand was a crumpled piece of paper that held information.

 

-

 

Wei Wuxian followed Jiang Cheng as they walked through the Jiang household. Both Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi were left behind and tasked to make themselves presentable as they were still dripping wet from their earlier shenanigans. Accompanying them were two Jiang senior disciples and the realization that they weren’t any of the shidis they had before the fall of Lotus Pier sent a pang of hurt in him.

 

He shook his head in an effort to remove those thoughts and saw Jiang Cheng looking at him in the corner of his eye. He grinned at the other.

 

“Shut up.”

“Wha - I haven’t even said anything?”

 

“And we both know that you were about to. Now be quiet.”

 

They entered the receiving area -

 

“Ah, Sect Leader Jiang! You’re finally here!”

 

- and Wei Wuxian’s brain was suddenly filled big question marks.

 

Jiang Cheng gave the perfunctory greeting with clasped hands, “Sect Leader Nie. I wasn’t aware you had plans to meet with me?”

 

With a snap of an opening fan, he laughed sheepishly, “I forgot to send a missive of my arrival, sorry.”

Jiang Cheng sighed and as if he was used to it already, he stepped closer to where the frail looking sect head was. Wei Wuxian followed suit and sat beside Jiang Cheng and it was then that Nie Huaisang finally noticed him. He let out a soft gasp in surprise and asked, “Er...may I ask who is with you?”

 

It should be noted that when an opportunity presents itself, Wei Wuxian never failed to grab it. So when he saw his chance at mischief, he gave a sly look to his once-junior and faked a demure laugh, “Ahh, I can’t believe A-Cheng didn’t tell you about me. Oh well, it can’t be helped of course. A sect leader may be judged for being a cutsleeve after all an - ”

 

He didn’t get to finish as Zidian wrapped itself around his neck and choking him (effectively shutting him up as well).

 

“Don’t mind the trash, Sect Leader Nie. Let’s continue discussing why you came over.”

 

Nie Huaisang gave an uncertain glance on the resolute looking Jiang Wanyin and the still choking young man beside him. But being familiar with the kind of temperament his senior and elder brother sort of shared, he spoke up, “I come bearing news on the development of the investigations.”

 

If possible, Jiang Cheng sat straighter and focused his entire attention on the speaker.

 

“The last five years of activity from The Sky of Blood were seemingly traced down. The cumulative resentful energy from whenever the incident happened went back to a certain area which may mean that we have found where he is staying.”

 

Upon hearing the perpetrator being talked about and remembering what Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi said to him about the sects knowing who it was, Wei Wuxian leaned forward while holding the calmed down Zidian who went back to its ring form.

 

“Who is it anyway? Who is the one behind all of this? I heard that whoever it is is connected to the Yiling Patriarch. Is he a fan? A wannabe disciple?”

 

Nie Huaisang gave a start and shot a questioning look at the other sect leader.

 

A breathy sigh came from the Yunmeng Jiang sect head, “You’ll have to forgive his ignorance. He recently lost his memories due to a traumatic event.”

 

Instead of accepting the explanation as it is, Nie Huaisang looked more uncomfortable prompting Jiang Cheng to give out an order to the other disciples in the room.

 

“All of you - leave.”

 

When the last one of them exited and the door was shut closed to the remaining three inside, Jiang Cheng looked at Wei Wuxian and spoke, “What you are about to know from here onwards are privy only to sect leaders and other very select few people.”

 

Wei Wuxian frowned, “Why haven’t you given this information to the public? Aren’t they the ones who’re getting attacked?”

 

“Oh, they know who it is,” piped up Nie Huaisang as he fanned himself while looking shiftily to his two other companions, “they just don’t know the real background story. The sect leaders unanimously decided to keep it that way as this is a very sensitive information that may be used improperly if heard by the wrong ears.”

 

“What do the people know exactly?”

 

“That the perpetrator did what he did because he was influenced by the spirit of the Yiling Patriarch,” answered the youngest.

 

“Huh? Then why do the people seem to hate this monster more than the Yiling Patriarch?” Wei Wuxian asked confusedly.

 

“Because it’s common knowledge that influence and possession for a long time only happens when the one on the receiving end is weaker than the one who’s influencing.”

 

Wei Wuxian narrowed his eyes as he came up with his conclusion, “Then it must be widely known that this person was equally powerful as the Yiling Patriarch or even believed to be stronger than him and given that The Sky of Blood has been happening for a decade already...I guess it is hard to continue with the belief that it’s the Yiling Patriarch’s fault.”

 

Huaisang stopped fanning and gave a nod at his conclusion.

 

“Wait, so who is it?”

 

It was Jiang Cheng who recounted the story, “Ten years ago, the entire Caiyi Town was scorched to the ground.”

 

“Caiyi Town? Gusu Lan’s territory?!” was the surprised exclamation from Wei Wuxian. Nie Huaisang seemed to be uncomfortable again and shifted from his seated position and reopened his fan while Jiang Cheng continued.

 

“There are three facts from that event but the public only knows the first two. First - it was done through demonic cultivation. Second - the identity of the one who did it. And lastly, which is the information being kept by the higher-ups is that amongst the things left by the perpetrator were letters.”

 

“Letters?”

 

“The letters were kept in a sealed coffin and were all addressed to Wei Ying .”

 

He blinked and his brows furrowed in confusion.

 

Jiang Cheng fully faced him and there was a certain glint in his eyes as he said, “The one who wrote all of them and the one responsible for whatever’s happening now is the second master of the Lan clan, the younger of the Twin Jades, and who’s widely known as Hanguang-Jun.”

 

Wei Wuxian felt his heart drop.

 

Jiang Cheng continued mercilessly, “The monster we live in fear is Lan Wangji.”

 

-

 

Sizhui blew on the steaming hot potatoes and bit into it. He was seated on top of the table beside his master and was swinging his legs back and forth in the air. Because of the movement, he had to constantly push the strands of his hair back.

 

“Tie a ponytail instead.”

 

The teen looked up and grinned at the owner of the voice, “I want my hair just like yours.”

 

The demonic cultivator gave a slow blink before giving a soft hum and went back to his work.

 

“Maybe I could braid parts of it so it won’t fall?”

 

With that statement, it was as if the temperature in the room became colder and the fire in the lamps started flickering.

 

“No braids.”

 

Sizhui stopped swinging his legs and gazed back at his master.

 

“No braids,” he acquiesced.

 

And everything went back to normal. They both enjoyed the silence for an hour before Lan Wangji spoke up.

 

He needs white robes.”

 

“Eh? But the only clothings we have here are black,” replied Sizhui.

 

He must wear white.

 

The teenager sensed a hint of frustration from his master. They both knew that black clothes were the only ones available for use here but if his master said he needed a white one for this experiment of his then who was he to disagree?

 

He went down from the table, patted imaginary dust on his behind, and smiled, “I understand. I’ll go out to buy one, okay?”

 

Lan Wangji gave a small nod.

 

As Sizhui was about to leave the room, he heard his name being called and he peered at his master.

 

“Be careful.”

 

Sizhui gave a blinding grin at the soft tone and waved his hand, “I’ll be back home soon.”

 

-

 

“Brothers.”

 

“A-Yao, there you are,” greeted Lan Xichen.

 

Nie Mingjue hid a barely concealed sneer in the newcomer’s direction as he poured more tea.

 

Jin Guangyao gave a pleasant smile and raised the piece of paper in his hand.

 

“I have received information from the investigations and it seems that we have tracked down where he must be staying.”

 

Lan Xichen immediately stood up from the bed and reached for it. He carefully read what was written three times, a fourth and a fifth time - all the while holding the piece of paper painstakingly as gentle as he can as if it were his own brother.

 

Nie Mingjue followed Lan Xichen’s movements and his eyes caught the crumpled edge of the paper. His eyes swept to Jin Guangyao and they both shared an unreadable look with one another.

 

-

 

A mass of corpses were moving like puppets on a string. A young man paid the horde no mind as he sat on top of one of the town’s roofs. On his right hand, he clutches a piercing white sword. His dark and hate-filled gaze was focused intensely beyond the fog-filled city.

 

-

Chapter Text

“You do realize that those two are going to try and follow us, don’t you?”

 

Jiang Cheng’s steps didn’t slow down as he responded, “Of course. I know that kind of petulant and determined look.”

 

“Hahaha “that kind” of look is definitely a lot like what you sported back in the days,” came the merry chuckle from the newly resurrected Yiling Patriarch.

 

“I wonder why I had to make that face often back then,” was the sarcastic reply.

 

The two of them had been travelling together for a week now towards a point in the map where accumulated resentful energies from The Sky of Blood phenomenon for the past five years was pinpointed to converge. Both Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi had wanted to come as well but they were both naturally refused by the Jiang sect leader.

 

After the drop of reveals during their reunion with Nie Huaisang, who is now the Nie sect head - imagine that, Wei Wuxian’s entire being can’t seem to just accept what was happening. Basing from the words of two sech heads alone and the palpable fear of those who know of The Sky of Blood then it should be easy to understand that for some reason...Lan Zhan lost his way.

 

But everything in him is revolting against the easy acceptance of an evil Lan Zhan.

 

He remembers that righteous figure who always reprimanded him whenever he broke a rule in Cloud Recesses; that light frown and unimpressed look whenever someone did something morally wrong even beyond their junior days and during the Sunshot Campaign itself; and those unyielding golden eyes who always made it a point to help everyone he can even if it means uncomfortably going out of his way.

 

The esteemed Hanguang-Jun was someone that he himself knew he couldn’t taint despite how filthy the Yiling Patriarch was.

 

Perhaps that was even one of the reasons why he continued pestering Lan Zhan no matter the circumstance. He recalls the other visiting Yunmeng and him throwing flowers on his wake. There was also that time when he stole his cup of alcohol from him in Koi Tower. And even them meeting in Yiling when A-Yuan was still alive and clinging on to his leg.

 

He looked at the setting sun and hardened his eyes.

 

How could everyone just drag Lan Zhan’s pristine name to the ground?

 

It wasn’t because he was being in denial but more on the fact that these events sound so much like what happened to his own name. They praised his demonic cultivation skills when they were up against the Wens then how quickly everyone turned their backs against him afterwards - as if they all expected he was mad and evil from the start.

 

And this is the reason why he refuses to just believe the stories given to him like that.

 

That...and this is Lan Zhan they’re talking about.

 

Beyond that icy exterior, he’s seen him. In the dark cave during the XuanWu incident, he’s seen him. While everybody else had no issue speaking behind his back, Lan Zhan always asked him in front of his face - granted, that was him being requested to come to Gusu to face his own punishment perhaps - but still…he’s seen him.

 

And the whole demonic way they painted Lan Zhan is something he will continuously refuse precisely because he’s seen him.

 

There was also the matter regarding the letters.

 

Both Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang clamped up when he asked what was written on those letters they found. He has every intention to acquire those letters from Zewu-Jun despite the insistence of Jiang Cheng that he doesn’t reveal to anyone else who he was.

 

“Are we camping out tonight?” asked Wei Wuxian as he watched the sky darkening as it readied itself for the night.

 

“No. There’s a town nearby and we can get a room there,” answered the Yunmeng Jiang sect leader as he too noted the sky.

 

The past week had been a mix of hit and miss between the two of them. There would be some peaceful moments but then a single word from either could be a trigger to dig up hurt that has long festered and had been buried for a time. If Wei Wuxian had more tact, he’d feel like talking with Jiang Cheng was like walking on eggshells. But being dead for thirteen years and his natural shamelessness made him not bother too much.

 

He continued acting as how he’s always been and it seems that Jiang Cheng didn’t know whether he preferred that or not. Oh well, whatever Jiang Cheng decided on wasn’t up to him anyway so he just let him stew on it on his own and went about his usual way. But if there was one thing they never touched upon, it was shijie’s death. And in this case, he himself preferred it that way.

 

All other topics were fair game on his motormouth. And the biggest issue on hand for him had been something he’s been trying to squeeze the answer out of the purple robed man beside him for days.

 

“Sooo,” he dragged his opening as he semi-hopped in his steps making his high ponytail with a small side braid on its left side bounce slightly as well, “How did you know it was me?”

 

Jiang Cheng looked distractedly at his hair with a strange focus on the new braids he was sporting thanks to the two juniors they left behind.

 

“Oiiiii, Jiang Cheeeeeng~ C’mon give me a clue here,” he started whining as he knew his baby-talk kind of voice always pissed off the other.

 

“Stop talking like that! It’s grating my ears!”

 

Wei Wuxian slung his right arm across Jiang Cheng and rubbed his cheeks against his own, “Don’t be stingy to your da-shixiong~”

 

There was a low growl from the younger man before he attempted to shove him aside. Tough luck for him though because Wei Wuxian knew all the moves he’d be sporting and as such was able to stick closer to him. His laugh reverberated in the forest path they were on as well as Jiang Cheng’s annoyed shouts.

 

And because their faces were close to each other that Wei Wuxian’s eyes caught sight of some light scarring on his companion’s neck.

 

“What are these?” he questioned as he ran his fingers on what looked like strangulation marks from something thin.

 

Jiang Cheng froze for a split second before dislodging Wei Wuxian.

 

He reached out to his neck and rubbed at it, “Nothing.”

 

Wei Wuxian’s eyes narrowed, “Those look like it’s been wrapped around by some string that cut through your skin. What happened?”

 

“Nothing,” was the repeated answer and the other hand that wasn’t touching his neck reached to his robe’s left pocket absentmindedly.

 

“That can’t be nothing. Whatever it was that did it made it scar.”

 

“Drop it already.”

 

There was a standoff between them before Wei Wuxian let out a breathy exhale. He had always been a pushy person but he also knew when to let things go. Judging from the hard look on Jiang Cheng’s face that was a mix between anger and a hint of terror then it was definitely not something he’s talked to anyone about either.

 

As he was about to suggest that they continue on, low growlings and numerous footsteps moving towards their direction were heard.

 

“Well, well, it seems we’re going the right direction with such an entourage,” chuckled Wei Wuxian as he whipped out the makeshift flute he made when they left Lotus Pier.

 

“Don’t play around too much,” warned Jiang Cheng as Zidian crackled through the air.

 

Five walking corpses simultaneously emerged from the shadows in front of them to which Zidian easily sent flying away. While Jiang Cheng stayed on the ground, Wei Wuxian climbed a tree to get a vantage point for his own fighting style. The flute touched his lips and he played a simple melody that would incapacitate their enemies.

 

Within a few minutes, despite the horde of corpse, the two were able to subjugate the groaning mass. Wei Wuxian jumped down from the branch he was on and squatted down to one of the corpses. He patted its head with a grin on his face earning a disgusted look from his shidi.

 

“Stop it. That’s dirty!”

 

Before Wei Wuxian could tease the other for his delicate sensibilities, he felt his neck prickling at the sensation of being watched. He snapped his head to the right and when he saw nor heard anything, he lifted his flute again and played some sharp notes. Jiang Cheng himself had Zidian out again as he too followed the focus on the clump of trees on their right.

 

Minutes passed - the sky remained as dark and nothing came out of the shadows.

 

“Where did you say this road was on the way to again?”

 

“Yi City,” replied Jiang Cheng.

 

A thoughtful look passed Wei Wuxian’s face as he tucked in the makeshift flute back in his robe’s own pockets. He hummed in agreement when he was urged to walk faster so they can leave the place already. He sent one last suspicious look on the trees and clenched his fist.

 

He was certain that there was something there a while ago.

 

-

 

A man in black let the breeze of the night pass through his youthful face. He was settled on one of the roofs on the rows of houses in the unfortunate city he was stuck in. With his arms folded behind his head, he stretched out his legs and made himself comfortable with a sheathed piercing white sword laid on his stomach.

 

He slowly opened his eyes as he felt the recreated Stygian Tiger Seal flare up signaling the arrival of his creation.

 

He sat up and looked down to the town’s dirty ground where a figure dressed in dark navy blue clothes was standing. He cocked his head to the side in both greeting and question as to what he’s found. The lack of companions when the figure returned was also noted by the young man on the roof.

 

The figure drew out the sword on his back and started writing with it on the ground.

 

He hasn’t even finished the strokes for the last character he was scrawling when a maniacal laugh escaped from the one in black. Empty eyes watched as the younger one stood from the roof and spread out his arms to the night sky. The corpses within the vicinity continued with their aimless walking and the only living creature continued laughing out loud with the moonlight highlighting the crazed look on his face.

 

“Listen here,” he called out to the entire city of the dead, “who knew that a random impulsive idea I had back in Lanling Jin would end up on my favor?”

 

He started pacing on the roof whilst clutching the white sword to his chest like some lifeline and never losing his unhinged look.

 

“Isn’t it absolutely hilarious how things are coming to a full circle now?” he started laughing again at the giddy thoughts that passed his mind. All the possibilities that were now within his reach is making him vibrate in excitement. For seven years he’s been cursed to be stuck in this god forsaken city and now he has a chance to break free from it and even get back at that monster.

 

He’d been forced to learn a lot the past years in order to keep himself sane. His thirst for revenge swinging back in full force at the reminder of how things went down in the past. Piecing back the infamous Stygian Tiger Seal to create a fierce corpse of his own, learning the ins and outs of demonic cultivation to have even the tiniest semblance of control over the corpses for his army, and even breaking and sacrificing all that he can afford to just to discover how to make the sky bleed red as well.

 

All of these for the past seven years and his spite were what fueled him on. And now, a past deed of handing out some forbidden text to another bastard of the Jin clan has him at the pinnacle of his revenge. Ah, but it wouldn’t be nice of him to full on hurt his predecessor even if that was the easiest way to get back to that monster. No, he has to do more. He has to do better.

 

He let his right hand cover half of his face as his body trembled in laughter and excitement.

 

On his left hand, his grip on the pristine white sword did not falter.

 

Below, empty eyes never left its focus on the same sword.

 

-

 

It had been roughly two weeks since they embarked on their journey and a few days since they encountered some corpses. After the initial attack which was obviously more on the other side scoping them out, there hasn’t been any other strike against them. During those tiring days, they gathered as much information as they could from the people they passed by. They discussed what they knew and connected it with old pieces of knowledge that Jiang Cheng had.

 

Perhaps it was because it was considered as old news for the Jiang sect head that he considered them as facts compared to Wei Wuxian who was just knowing of them now that he keeps on questioning everything. This, of course, leads to an argument they keep ending up with.

 

“Yes, those were corpses we faced and yes, Lan Zhan supposedly is using demonic cultivation - ”

 

“Not supposedly; it’s a fact.”

 

“ - but then how sure are we that those that attacked us was under his command?”

 

“Who else was it supposed to be?”

 

Wei Wuxian matched the fast walking pace of his companion and brushed the tiny braid on his left side as he retied his ponytail, “You confirmed with me that the number of people who’ve been trying to emulate my techniques can form a sect so we can consider all of them as well.”

 

“They’re small fry. They gain nothing by attacking us.”

 

“Then what does Lan Zhan gain by that single attack? Also, how sure are we that all of The Sky Of Blood incidents were caused by him? You said it happened almost every week for the past five years compared to the once in a blue moon incidents before that, right? Why would Lan Zhan suddenly increase its frequency then?”

 

Jiang Cheng stopped walking and glared at him, “How the fuck would I understand how a monster’s mind works?”

 

“Understanding his motivations would help us know how to help him.”

 

“Help him?!” scoffed Jiang Cheng, “If I needed to understand his motivations then it’s definitely to kill him.”

 

“That kind of mentality isn’t going to aid us in any way. You refuse to tell me what was on those letters and yet you expect me to just believe that Lan Zhan - the same Lan Zhan we went to school with and joined hands with during the war - is now pure evil?”

 

“Why are you then so insistent on his innocence?! Is murdering all those citizens and scorching Caiyi Town to the ground not equate to ‘pure evil’ as you term it?!”

 

“I’m not saying that murder's not an evil act,” responded a slowly growing frustrated Wei Wuxian, “all I’m bringing out in the open is that not every bad thing that’s happened should be connected with Lan Zhan since we don’t know the whole truth.”

 

Jiang Cheng rounded up on Wei Wuxian with a mocking expression, “Well doesn’t this scene look familiar? Here you are again defending outsiders. Perhaps you’ve forgotten so let me refresh your memory - the last time you decided to play hero for him, Lotus Pier paid the price.”

 

The last phrase was hissed so venomously it made Wei Wuxian take a step back.

 

Maybe it was because he himself was tired from their travel or maybe it was because it was Lan Zhan they were talking about but something in Wei Wuxian snapped and he coldly countered, “You’re right. This scene does look familiar. Everyone’s suddenly so righteous and oh, how easy is it to gang up on one person and point all the blame at him as if that’s the entire story, as if someone just decides they want to evil, as if they never did anything else in their lives that it’s so easy to turn back on them.”

 

Jiang Cheng’s eyes widened as Wei Wuxian felt his own face mirror the surprise of the other once he let out his steam. Neither of them spoke as they averted their gaze from one another. After a while, just like old times, they continued on together without any prompting and yet silence still persisted.

 

A few hours later and still lost in their own thoughts with an exchange that made them step on a landmine of old hurt, they entered the city of their destination.

 

The first thing they both noticed was the slowly accumulating fog they’re passing through. And the second thing was the heavy feeling of all the resentful energy. On instinct, they moved closer to each other and Jiang Cheng focused on the front and right side while Wei Wuxian focused on the back and left sides.

 

Jiang Cheng started reaching out for Zidian when Wei Wuxian held on to his hand to cover the ring. He gave the other a slight shake in the head to signify that he doesn’t think he should use his infamous weapon. A look of understanding went through the other’s face and he instead reached for Sandu.

 

As they walked further into Yi City, the more fog appeared that they could now barely see their surroundings.

 

Then a sudden scream tore through the air.

 

They both stiffened at the sound and while they were deciding whether to approach on the direction it came from, a louder scream was heard again but this time, it was more coherent.

 

“Idiot, get back here!”

 

The two adults exchanged looks before running to the sound. Growling sounds felt like it was surrounding them and Jiang Cheng didn’t waste any time in drawing Sandu. He made a grand sweep around them and they heard thuds on the ground which proved the attack to be a success.

 

Given that the fog was hindering their sight, they almost bumped into a group of juniors who were from different sects basing on their clothes.

 

“Jingyi?!” confirmed Wei Wuxian as he held onto the shoulders of the white robed teen.

 

“Senior Mo! You’re here! Quick, you have to help me drag this idiot back with us!” the Lan junior exclaimed. It was only then that Wei Wuxian noticed that he had both his hands outstretched. He blindly grasped at what he was holding and pulled whatever it was near them - which turned out to be Jin Ling, the proclaimed “idiot”.

 

“Sect Leader Jiang!” the other juniors breathed a sigh of relief once they recognized one of the newcomers.

 

“What are you all doing here?!” he questioned angrily.

 

Hearing his familiar voice, Jin Ling turned to him and responded agitatedly, “Uncle! I swear we didn’t go here on our own! We were chased down by some fierce corpses and ended up here!”

 

A horde of corpse suddenly dived in to attack them making the interrogation halt. Noting that there were too many and that Jiang Cheng wouldn’t be able to go all out with the kids around, Wei Wuxian gave him a small nod and he hounded the young ones with him as they ran on the opposite direction.

 

Seeing them disappear in the fog made Jiang Cheng refocus his attention to the creatures in front of him. He sliced Sandu through the air and listened to the falling corpses. He looked around trying to find a higher point so he can assess the situation better but the fog proved to be extremely disadvantageous.

 

However, he also knew that staying still in one place was a recipe for disaster. With quick considerations on where he could feel lesser corpses, he turned to his left and dashed away.

 

He easily evaded the corpses who gunned after him and he frowned on the realization that the corpses were more on the quantity side and not the quality. The entire thing was also too chaotic compared to the attacks Lan Wangji did to Lotus Pier in the past. Moreover, as much as he hated to admit it, despite the blackening of said esteemed cultivator, the other hang on to some form of his gentlemanly past.

 

Lan Wangji never brought an army and did not attack those who left him alone. The dichotomy of him not involving civilians and non-partisans during his visits to Lotus Pier had always perturbed Jiang Cheng given that he doesn’t seem to mind their involvement during The Sky of Blood. Bringing the kids here didn’t seem like his usual plan of attack as well.

 

Remembering the extra effort Lan Wangji exuded in keeping their destruction to the area of their fight only was both unnerving and annoying for the Jiang sect head. He always politely (or the extent of how “polite” one can be when they’re challenging someone) asked for Jiang Cheng with the same goal each time of getting the same item. Jiang Cheng’s empty hand moved to the pocket of his robes and tightly felt for it.

 

As he ruminated on the implications of this realization, he abruptly stopped in his tracks to avoid getting hit by a white sword that glinted amidst the fog.

 

“There’s no need to bring out Zidian, Sect Leader Jiang.”

 

A poisonous voice called out and the white sword went back to the air. Jiang Cheng’s eyes narrowed in anger and confusion at this unknown factor. The fog around him started thinning out and it was only then that he saw the rows of houses that were near. His eyes locked on to a person who was casually sitting on one of the roofs with his feet swinging on the edge.

 

“We have, after all, the same sentiments.”

 

-

 

“Master, it seems we have key figures arriving at Yi City,” said Sizhui as he bid another corpse away.

 

While the specialized corpses that his teacher made won’t ever be on par with the only three fierce corpses that were able to retain their consciousness, they still had their uses. Transporting messages albeit in a very straightforward and limited manner was one of the their advantages from the usual corpses.

 

“In fact, your little prisoner seems to have caught someone interesting.”

 

Lan Wangji slid a quick glance at one of his wards before returning his attention on the figure on the big slab of stone that was made to be as comfortable as possible.

 

“But I guess we can only fully confirm the names when she arrives back here,” continued the young teen as he stood up from where he was perched on and walked towards the center of the room.

 

He watched as his teacher carefully arranged the now white-robed figure with as much respect as he can muster. The spiritual pouch beside the body was now empty and the array underneath aforementioned body had been glowing for a while now. This was the first time that this kind of experiment was enacted and even he was interested on how it would turn out.

 

Quiet patter of footsteps echoed in the halls as the huge doors leading to the room they’re in opened. Sizhui turned around with a smile on his face to the newcomer, “You’re finally here.”

 

The somewhat translucent girl gave a smile of acknowledgement in response before she hurried over the middle of the room as well. She gave a soft touch to the master of their residence and was rewarded by a nod towards her. She settled down beside Sizhui as they both watched as the older man did his finishing touches to his experiment.

 

“We were just talking about the mess that Master left behind in Yi City,” said Sizhui as he addressed the girl.

 

An inquisitive look was given to him after his statement.

 

“The little prisoner there caught interesting ones.”

 

A thoughtful frown flashed through the other’s face.

 

Sizhui gave a light chuckle at it, “No, no. It’s not them. I’m certain they’re still on the way where you last caught sight of them. We’re talking about some junior disciples and Yunmeng Jiang’s sect leader.”

 

The girl’s clear eyes widened and she gazed at the oldest of them three.

 

“Master isn’t interested about it right now,” Sizhui answered her unvoiced question, “He has to make sure that the new experiment becomes successful, after all.”

 

While Lan Wangji was very meticulous in his experiment, he also took notice of his two wards’ conversation. Once he deemed that everything on his end was done, he tucked the figure properly and he cupped his hands in salute to it. He hopes the outcome was going to be favorable for he personally had something he wanted to express to it.

 

A memory of the owner of a pristine white sword partnered with equally pure white garments bloomed from his mind. He recalls that kindness he was bestowed upon during the darkest part of his days and how its familiarity was a combination of his own brother’s gentleness and his bright smile.

 

He was admittedly still out of it and definitely too late during that time.

 

With the silent remembrance of those events, the little prisoner’s own visage also comes to mind. Despite being supposedly freed from attachments besides a very select few, Lan Wangji has to consciously stop himself from being actively mad with the other person. He could have had everything that Lan Wangji himself wanted but he was a fool who let his impulsivity ran amok. And now, if Lan Wangji couldn’t have a body nor a soul then that prisoner deserves nothing on his end as well.

 

“There’s no need to worry,” the former exemplar disciple of Gusu Lan stated as he felt the disconcertion of his last ward, “He cannot leave that city without someone breaking him out of there that has the same level of demonic cultivation skills as mine.”

 

A satisfied look emerged from the girl.

 

“Is there anything I can help you with, Master?”

 

Golden eyes swept over Sizhui and he responded, “None. She’s more than enough for this experiment.”

 

Sizhui grinned in agreement because of course, if there was someone who would do anything for the experiment then it would be her. With a light tap to the young maiden’s shoulder and cupped salute to the figure on the slab of stone, he went out of the room to prepare their food.

 

With Sizhui busy for the meantime and after an implicit permission for the girl to watch over the experiment, Lan Wangji climbed up the steps to his cold throne. Once he settled himself, his soul reached out to the numerous decaying crows within the vicinity.

 

The crows flapped their bony wings and within minutes has arrived in a fog-filled city - all their eyes showing a golden tint.

 

Back in his residence, Lan Wangji watched the unfolding events.

 

-

 

It surprisingly took a lot of effort to drag Jin Ling with them as the only Jin sect disciple threw a fit when he saw them leaving his uncle behind. There was a lot of pushing (courtesy of the other junior disciples), a lot of pulling (this came from Wei Wuxian’s end), and a lot of shouting (thank you, Lan Jingyi) to finally get him to move on their direction.

 

“Jiang Cheng’s going to be more than fine. He’s not going to lose,” guaranteed Wei Wuxian.

 

Jin Ling shot him a dark look, “Of course he’s not going to lose! But...but Hanguang-Jun truly is a formidable enemy for uncle.”

 

“We don’t know yet if it’s him,” he replied as he lead the group to turn right, “And how would you know how Jiang Cheng fares against him?” He doesn’t even remember them clashing swords at any point in the past.

 

“Almost everyone in Lotus Pier has witnessed at least one of their infamous fights,” grumbled Jin Ling.

 

The response made Wei Wuxian falter for a bit before regaining his composure quickly at the reminder that the juniors were all depending on him right now. Hmm but Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan fighting? What even is their connection to not have just one exchange but apparently it sounded something of a regular happenstance?

 

He didn’t have much time to ponder about this revelation when he felt someone grab his arm and was redirected to another direction. In a few seconds, they reached a door of a house and disregarding all caution, he ushered the kids inside and shut the door behind him.

 

“How did you see through all that fog and know there was a shelter here?” asked Lan Jingyi.

 

“I didn’t,” he responded and pointed at the one on his side, “But he did.”

 

The junior disciples all gasped in surprise at the sight of a fierce corpse as their savior. They instinctively drew their swords and huddled together.

 

“We-we’re not scared of you! Quick, Senior Mo, get back here and we’ll protect you as you don’t have any weapon!” shouted Lan Jingyi as both he and Jin Ling took a step forward.

 

Wei Wuxian let out a bark of laugh at their terrified faces and false bravado, “Settle down, kids. This one means us no harm.”

 

“How do you know?!” gritted Jin Ling.

 

“I uh...have wisdom!” was the immediate response and Wei Wuxian looked at the fierce corpse dressed in dark navy blue robes with a black sword at his back. His eyes looked exactly like Wen Ning’s when he first reanimated him from the dead and seeing another fierce corpse with such consciousness made Wei Wuxian both alarmed and excited.

 

Seeing that the juniors were hesitating on their decision whether to follow the older one, Wei Wuxian stepped closer to the corpse and patted his head (much to the squeaking terror of the teenagers), “He’s fine, he’s fine. See?”

 

Without waiting to see if that has convinced his entourage, Wei Wuxian faced the corpse, “What’s your name? Who reanimated you? Why did you help us?”

 

But the fierce corpse only shook his head.

 

Wei Wuxian was about to ask his questions again in a slower manner thinking that perhaps this one wasn’t as smart when said corpse opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue...or what was left of it.

 

If the juniors were already terrified before, the gruesome sight left some of them weak kneed and ended up falling to the ground. Wei Wuxian frowned at it and his mind screamed that he was now a hundred percent certain that Lan Zhan wasn’t in this city. Whatever they say about him or whatever story they concote about the supposed evil Lan Zhan, Wei Wuxian knew that he wasn’t capable of doing something like cutting someone’s tongue.

 

He clapped his hands twice and stared at the Lan juniors, “Sooo given that our dear savior here cannot speak, now is the best time for an Inquiry player on your end to step forward.”

 

There was an exchange of uneasy looks between the Lan disciples and a shuffle plus harsh whispers later, Lan Jingyi spoke up, “Unfortunately, no one here can confidently play the Inquiry.”

 

Wei Wuxian blinked at the admittance before a teasing grin morphed on his face, “Aiyaaa~ Your average seems to be around fifteen and sixteen already and yet no one can play it? How the great Lan clan has fallen if its juniors can’t keep up with the bursting talent of the elders~”

 

Lan Jingyi sputtered in reply, “Don’t be ridiculous! Someone in our age group started learning the Inquiry when he was just six!”

 

“Ohhhh, and where is this kid now?”

 

An awkward silence descended the group making Wei Wuxian’s eyebrow raise in wonder. However, as Jin Ling threw an annoyed look at the Lans and as said Lans got ready to defend their clan’s honow, they were reminded of the fierce corpse in the same area as them when he took out his sword and started writing on the ground.

 

Wei Wuxian bent his neck to be able to properly see the scribbles and read it aloud, “My name is Song Zichen. Xue Yang must be stopped.

 

“Daoist Priest Song Zichen?!” cried out Jin Ling in shock.

 

“Ha? Do you guys know him?”

 

“Everybody knows their story!” exclaimed Jin Ling.

 

“Memory loss due to some traumatic incident, remember?” Wei Wuxian said as he tapped the side of his head.

 

Realizing that they have to retell a tragic story, the juniors shifted closer to Wei Wuxian and began the tale about Xue Yang, Song Zichen, and Xiao Xingchen.

 

-

 

Zidian crackled through the air as Jiang Cheng twisted it to its whip form. His narrowed eyes glared at the younger man on the roof. He knows who this little fucker was, alright. How could he not when he was the other one who dared come up to Lotus Pier to ask for Wei Wuxian’s paraphernalia - as if the Lanling Jin sect hasn’t turned every leaf and every stone in Burial Mounds.

 

The last he’s heard about him was his murdering ways bleeding out to Baixue Temple.

 

“There’s honestly no need for us to fight, Sect Leader Jiang,” he drawled out uncaringly.

 

“The moment you decided to attack us was already statement enough that you actually do want a fight.”

 

“Oh that was just some playing around and nothing serious,” he made vague gestures with his hand to signify his uninterest in the events, “Besides, you’ll definitely need me on your team if you wish to go against him.”

 

Jiang Cheng scoffed the other’s confident tone, “We already have whatever we need and I’m certain we have no use for an indiscriminate mad murderer along the ride - Xue Yang.”

 

The younger man grinned broadly, “Fight a murderer with another murderer. Doesn’t that seem like a sound plan?”

 

“Unless you have relevant information then there’s no reason for this conversation,” and with that, Jiang Cheng snapped his fingers for Sandu to fly directly to the one on the roof.

 

As expected of his own ingenuity and skills, Xue Yang dodged the sword and leaped over it when it went for his direction again, “If your information was really correct then you wouldn’t be here thinking it’s where Hanguang-Jun is, now wouldn’t you?”

 

The sect leader didn’t bother replying and jumped up to the roof as well. He whipped Zidian but instead of it wrapping around Xue Yang, it was met with an equally strong force from the white sword the other had been holding on to.

 

“That’s not your sword,” Jiang Cheng noted.

 

“Not before, no,” agreed Xue Yang, “But it is now.”

 

“You really have a penchant on getting things that aren’t yours, huh.”

 

Xue Yang slyly smiled at the annoyed observation, “Replicating things are my expertise, Sect Leader Jiang. For example, making the sky bleed isn’t that hard to do if you’re willing to sacrifice a lot of things.”

 

Jiang Cheng stiffened at the declaration and glared harder at his opponent.

 

Seeing that he got his interest, Xue Yang continued, “Did you all truly believed that someone as smart as Hanguang-Jun would let his whereabouts be discovered simply because he didn’t hide the trail paths of the resentful energies during The Sky of Blood?”

 

Even if what he was saying was true, nothing helped in making sense out of it. Zewu-Jun himself confessed that it was his brother that was behind the first recorded incident of The Sky of Blood but now it’s looking like the phenomena could be easily replicated?! And if so, the motivations of Xue Yang for orchestrating today’s event seem out of grasp.

 

“To show you my gratitude for visiting me, let me exhibit the reason as to how badly you’d need me on your side,” Xue Yang mockingly bows and on his left hand, he reveals a patched up Stygian Tiger Seal.

 

“You - ” Jiang Cheng’s eyes widened.

 

“Won’t it be interesting to see how my predecessor would fair on his old invention?”

 

The flash of Wei Wuxian’s image with his new body - a new body which core hasn’t been developed, a new body that didn’t undergo the same training and experience, a new body that was unfamiliar with the world his old soul has resurrected in - sent Jiang Cheng in a panic.

 

In a haste, he makes the mistake of turning his back to rush to where Wei Wuxian was.

 

Xue Yang attacks.

 

-

 

Chapter Text

Wei Ying,

 

I’m sorry I was too late. I tried looking for you but even your ashes (your smile, your eyes, your heart) were nowhere to be found. The people you’ve defended have also perished and I couldn’t do anything. But there is one more memory left of you that is tangible. The child. I found him. I promise to take care of him in your stead until you reincarnate again, and even beyond that.

 

I will wait for you.

 

Lan Zhan

 

-

 

The story of how a bright-eyed boy came down from Baoshan Sanren’s infamous celestial mountain to help save the world was retold in patches by the different perspectives of the juniors with Wei Wuxian. Whenever a certain part seemed weird for him, he’d cast a glance at the form of Song Zichen (“And so Xiao Xingchen managed to slay the ferocious monster with just a smile!” “Uh, I don’t think that’s how it went.”).

 

Getting to the near end part where Xiao Xingchen sacrificed his own eyesight to give the same eyes that once was full of hope for the future to his most intimate friend, Wei Wuxian caught the subtle shaking of the other adult in the shack. He internally winced at the familiarity of sacrificing something precious because you found a more precious person.

 

The thought of Jiang Cheng being buried with such a burden of gift like Song Lan made him reaffirm his decision in keeping it to himself. The only three people who knew were all dead. Well, one is back with the living but he has no plans on revealing such a thing out loud.

 

On the other hand, there was the matter of Xue Yang who was without a doubt the mastermind behind the events in this city and the misfortune that befell his mother’s shidi. He put his chin on top of his balled up hand as he continued listening to the energetic juniors (who seem to have temporarily forgotten their predicament) and tried coming up with a decision on how to deal with Xue Yang.

 

Another thing was on how exactly were they all connected with Lan Zhan or if they even were.

 

He observed  the writing on the ground made by the former daoist priest. It seems he’s missing something big here but seems to be apparent in the air. He frowned and narrowed his eyes on the scribble “My name is Song Zichen. Xue Yang must be stopped. ” on the ground.

 

Another round of exclamations between the juniors on who got the next part of the story correct made him pause.

 

His eyes glanced sideways to the arguing kids, remembered who’s body he’s in, and slowly met the seemingly dead eyes of Song Zichen in front of him who had remained stationary the entire time.

 

“Why come up to us - to me ?” he whispered in a low voice.

 

Unmindful of the background noise, the fierce corpse mouthed a name.

 

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened.

 

However, before he could interrogate further, the other suddenly clutched his head as if he was in pain but made no sound. His stiff body became more rigid looking as he tried to control his motor functions. He looked at Wei Wuxian and with a swipe of his right arm to the door, the message was received loud and clear.

 

“Everyone, be quiet! And stick close to me!” he shouted.

 

The juniors finally realized that something was happening and did not hesitate to come closer to the oldest person they could depend and trust right now. Wei Wuxian immediately grabbed his makeshift flute and tried playing a calming tone that would enable him to control the temperament of corpses.

 

“What are you doing?! Playing him a lullaby?!” screeched Lan Jingyi as he redirected the other juniors behind him and Jin Ling who refused to be anywhere but in front.

 

“Well if he doesn’t fall asleep then maybe someone as noisy as you hopefully will!” yelled Jin Ling with Suihua out.

 

Wei Wuxian blew on his flute harder and when he was already halfway, he worriedly noted that there seemed to be no effect on his intended target. He has never encountered a moment where a corpse had not heeded him the moment he played the first notes on his flute. Granted that he wasn’t using Chenqing now but still.

 

Oh, wait. This has happened once before.

 

Because of the presence of his handmade relic .

 

He stopped playing as the thought crossed his mind. He knew for certain that he was able to destroy half of it before he was torn to pieces. What exactly happened to the other half was something he didn’t know. Because he was busy being dead for thirteen years and well that sort of takes up most of a person’s time. Trust him, he knows.

 

With this whole Lan Zhan and Xue Yang issue (of which he’s still not sure on how they’re connected - if they are), he’s not taking any chances though. And so, with the untrained spiritual energy coursing through him, he blasted the doors open making some wood splinters fly in the air of its destruction.

 

Just as he was about to drag the juniors out, Song Zichen had leaped towards him - with every intention of incapacitating him based on the scratches his hands left on the ground Wei Wuxian used to stand in a few seconds ago.

 

“I thought you said he was fine!” came the panicked voice of Jin Ling and some incoherent shouts of agreement and accusation from Lan Jingyi - both of whom had their hands on the back of Wei Wuxian’s robes when the two of them grabbed him backwards to avoid the corpse’s attack.

 

Seeing that the out of control fierce corpse was about to attack again, Wei Wuxian took his chances on the haphazardly put conclusions on his mind. He dislodged himself from the grip (really strong grip coming from the Lan junior, to be honest) of the two informal leaders of the juniors and bolted towards the door that was blasted open earlier.

 

“Oi! Are you leaving us behind?!”

 

“I knew we shouldn’t have trusted a lunatic like you! Wait ‘til my uncle hears about this, Mo Xuanyu!”

 

Wei Wuxian paid the teens’ words no heed and internally smirked when Song-daozhang redirected his full attention on his fleeing figure.

 

Just as he thought, this Xue Yang who’s controlling the corpses in the area was after him specifically. When his own real name was mouthed by the fierce corpse earlier, he’s more convinced more than ever that it wasn’t Lan Zhan who resided here and that Xue Yang isn’t following him.

 

He doesn’t know how Xue Yang figured it was the Yiling Patriarch’s resurrected soul in Mo Xuanyu’s body. Then again, he also has no idea how Jiang Cheng determined it was him either. He pouted as he dodged another attack from Song Zichen. Was his soul that easily recognizable? How was he supposed to live a quiet and peaceful second life if that’s the case.

 

He glanced at their distance from the shack and deemed it enough. Before the juniors could exit to join him outside, he threw his remaining paper talismans on the entranceway and sent a pulse of the resentful energy he was more familiar with to activate the seals around the area of the small house.

 

“Move already! He doesn’t have any weapon so we have to help him!” pushed the loud (ah, he really likes that one haha) Lan junior.

 

“I can’t!” cried the only Jin disciple, “It’s like the entire place is blocked!”

 

“What?!”

 

“I think it’s those talismans Senior Mo threw,” chimed a gentler sounding junior.

 

“He locked us in?! But what about him? He should go inside as well!”

 

With varying concerned shouts of “Senior Mo! Come inside!” , Wei Wuxian felt his heart warm up. The thing with demonic cultivation though, is that it always require a sacrifice of some sort. Perhaps he could somewhat bypass that if he were in his original body as that one was more trained in all cultivation aspects or maybe if he had Chenqing by his side to circumnavigate these negative energies.

 

But right now, he has neither.

 

In exchange for the locked safety of the children, he’ll be the one sacrificed outside to keep the balance.

 

He sees Song-daozhang closing in and he braces himself for the impact he knows he cannot cushion anymore when the last of talismans with him were used to barricade the juniors. He smiled wryly. Well, he’s already felt how it was like to have his intestine gush out of his body so he can most probably handle this.

 

The hands of the fierce corpse stretches out towards him and - BAM!

 

A foreign figure had slammed against Song Zichen sending him a few feet away. The figure straightened itself and looked at his direction and with a huff, it returned its attention to the now standing Song Zichen.

 

Wei Wuxian felt laughter bubble inside of him at the sight of another fierce corpse.

 

And to think it was someone he recognizes as well.

 

-

 

Wei Ying,

 

The child you love is crying. I do not know what he wants. I do not remember him crying like this when he was with you when we reunited in Yiling. How did you do it? Did your brilliant smile reassure him? Did your warm hands comforted him? I am unfamiliar with how to deal with this.

 

Brother says it must be because he’s having traumatic nightmares after what has happened to him during the siege of the Burial Mound. I do not know how to make him stop crying over almost the same reason as to why I have been breaking the nine in the evening rule.

 

Lan Zhan

 

-

 

Jiang Cheng snapped out of his previous panic over Wei Wuxian and Jin Ling when he heard the clang of two swords colliding. He turned to face Xue Yang again and he gritted his teeth in annoyance. How could he have forgotten that he was dealing with this demonic little fucker who had no honor.

 

Of course, the moment he had his back against him, the other would launch an attack.

 

His eyes caught the blinding light from the sword that saved him and for a moment, he looked at it in trepidation before he noted its hilt’s design and only then did he manage to let out a relieved quiet sigh.

 

The fog surrounding them seemed to slowly part on one side as a shadow of a person appeared walking towards them. And with his famously calm voice, the person spoke, “There is no need for violence, Young Master Xue.”

 

Repressing the urge to roll his eyes at the ever polite role model of the entire cultivation world, Jiang Cheng watched as Gusu Lan’s sect leader stepped beyond the part dense with fog. While Jiang Cheng felt more at ease at Lan Xichen’s appearance, their current opponent looked at the latter as if he’s seen the devil.

 

Lan ,” came the unearthly growl from the black robed man.

 

Xue Yang’s eyes bled red and his face twisted in a mad manner showing the blatant hatred he had for the newcomer. He motioned for the pristine white sword back to his hands - only to have it change its course midway to fly directly to the object of his ire. The sword didn’t reach Lan Xichen as Shuoyue deflected it easily.

 

Two gleaming white blades clashed - and while Lan Xichen’s face showed nothing but calmness, Xue Yang’s was filled with loathing.

 

“Please, Young Master - ” the number one cultivator tried calling out.

 

“SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH YOU FUCKING LAN!” Xue Yang screamed as he heaved at both the effects of fighting with the best cultivator in the generation and his own anger.

 

Yunmeng Jiang’s sect leader almost took a step back with the extreme emotions let out by the former guest disciple of Lanling Jin. He frowned at the amount of hate being exuded to the most unsuspecting individual for such an emotion and wondered how the two were connected. Seeing a similar albeit lighter frown on Lan Xichen, he supposed Xue Yang truly had lost it.

 

When the two blades met in the air between them once more, another stray sword got in between them.

 

“Xue Yang, please stop it already,” came a new voice.

 

Lanling Jin’s sect leader stopped beside Gusu Lan’s own sect leader.

 

At first, a surprised look passed Xue Yang’s face with Jin Guangyao’s arrival but then his eyes returned its attention to the white robed one and a quick morph to vehement anger appeared on his features once more. Controlling the pristine white blade mid-air and gripping the Stygian Tiger amulet on his hand, he directed his next onslaught of attacks to Lan Xichen.

 

Jin Guangyao hastily moved in front of Lan Xichen to fend of the attacks on him, “Xue Yang, calm yourself. This is Lan Xichen. He is not him.”

 

Lan Xichen bit his lip in understanding and his hold on Shuoyue shook. Jin Guangyao sneaked a worried glance at him before steeling himself back to face his friend. However, instead of pacifying the crazed young man with that reminder, if anything, it made him even more mad.

 

“I will fucking kill all you Lans!”

 

As Jiang Cheng was also about to join the fray as this was originally his fight, the Stygian Tiger amulet glowed in Xue Yang’s hands. Multiple corpses came into view and at the corner of his eye, he saw half of them proceed to a different direction. At first, he thought it was some sort of weird formation for their attack until he remembered why exactly he was panicking earlier.

 

“Sect Leader Jiang,” called Lan Xichen, “A-Yao and I can take it from here. You are going to the children, yes?”

 

Without even questioning how he knew and a quick nod to him, he took off to the opposite direction leaving two of the venerated trio to deal with the seemingly mastermind of this city’s misfortune.

 

-

 

Wei Ying,

 

My isolation will finally end next year and I will be able to take better care of the child. Despite being shut away, I am still able to hear whispers passed down from one ear to another in this place. Gossiping is prohibited in the Cloud Recesses so I do not know why they are not being punished. They call you names. I can perhaps understand where the anger is coming from because not all of them have truly seen you.

 

It initially worried me that the child will be influenced by this - but you do not need to worry. The short visits he’s allowed has him talking a lot. I will make sure he remembers you properly. I will make sure he knows of your true soul and how you loved and cared so much (and yet did not live to see the day we could return it properly). He recalls you fondly, that much I can assure you wherever you are right now.

 

I remember everything about you.

 

Lan Zhan

 

-

 

The past thirteen years had somewhat been a blur. One moment he still had his sister and brother. The next thing he knew, A-Jie is dead and he’s staring at the last moments of his brother as the latter is torn to pieces. He remembers reaching out - Zidian crackling wildly as if calling as well - and then nothing.

 

Some days, he can’t even look at Lotus Pier without having the urge to scream. He sees shadows of two children playing without a care and he almost calls out a sarcastic reprimand to be careful on the kid on the edge of the pier as he always did until he blinked and realized it was a fisherman’s child.

 

Some nights, he’d shut himself inside the ancestral hall and kneel. He’d beg for forgiveness - to his mother, for not living up to how she expected him; to his father, for not being who he wanted; to his sister, for struggling with her child. He’d beg until he couldn’t see past his tears anymore and his voice has become hoarse.

 

When he becomes tired, he’d whisper his brother’s name - a call of hate, a chime of forgiveness, and an overwhelming mix of emotions with love at its core.

 

On an unfortunate day, the monster arrives and he’d choke on guqin strings fearlessly and defend all the memories he has left of the other half of Yunmeng Jiang’s Twin Heroes. On another, he’d intimidate the hypocrites of the cultivation world asking for his brother’s mementos. On those days, he screams in his mind that if he had to choose between the two forces, he’d prefer the monster by heaps and bound.

 

He doesn’t fully understand it but at least he knows where his brother is loved.

 

The very same brother - the traitor, the mad man, the demon - who appeared in his life again; as if fate loved to dangle her trump cards in a teasing way. And so he runs after him like a fool - to protect, to hurt, to -

 

The first thing he sees is the shack and the screaming children. The talismans on the hinges of the blasted entranceway reeking of resentful energy leaves no room as to who erected that barrier. For now, they are safe. But that statement doesn’t hold the same for the sacrificial idiot.

 

A few meters away and he finds him trying his best to hold off numerous corpses and he hears himself growl in displeasure. He jumps on that chaos and slices apart the dead with Sandu. He doesn’t even bother acknowledging the surprised “ Jiang Cheng! ” of the one at his back and continues attacking the incoming corpses.

 

Wei Wuxian felt a smile bloom on his face at the arrival of his grumpy shidi. If he’s here and the corpses are still moving then it’s either Jiang Cheng ran away from his fight or he found someone worthy to take over. And knowing that Jiang Cheng never runs away from a fight, it must mean that they had more allies.

 

However, he couldn’t celebrate early on as the shouts from the juniors changed in tone. He looked over at them and found corpses trying to enter. While the barrier remained strong, some of the corpses are also accidentally pawing off the talismans in an effort to scratch through the walls.

 

He runs towards them and blasts the closest ones away. Their number proved to be their main adversary when more kept coming and he had no weapon with him besides his makeshift flute which cannot even control these corpses.  A loud shout of “ Wei Wuxian! ” caught his attention and his eyes met with Jiang Cheng as the latter flipped through the air together with Sandu.

 

And then his shidi throws something in his direction and on instinct, he catches it without any issue.

 

A crackle in the air and the smell of lightning hit his nose. He looked down at his palm.

 

It was Zidian.

 

Amidst the concern for the junior disciples, the uncertainty over the battle of two fierce corpses not far from them but only hidden by the fog, and his relief in Jiang Cheng’s arrival, he felt it - the thrum of Zidian in his hand was unmistakable. There’s a certain sting dislodged in his chest and maybe (just maybe) an unshed tear at the corner of his eyes.

 

Ah, so this was how Jiang Cheng recognized him.

 

With a newfound determination, he stands up from his crouched position and faces the onslaught of corpses.

 

He wields Zidian like how its master would.

 

-

 

Wei Ying,

 

This is my first time back in the Library Pavilion after three years. I look at all these books and it’s as if I see your silhouette by my side as you wrecked your own brand of havoc in this safe haven. I look at the magnolia tree blooming outside the window and it’s as if I hear your laughter as you climbed it with those bunnies in your hand. I look at the polished wood of the desk and I can only write the character of your name in an effort to preserve you physically.

 

The child insists on learning the guqin after he’s heard me play. He asks about you. He is quite gifted in this instrument and he begs to know the what I’ve been playing as his first piece. I do not hesitate. Perhaps if he calls with me, then you will respond? He is a good child. You raised a good child.

 

He is also going to experience his first Discussion Conference as it will be held in Cloud Recesses a month from now. The missive from Lanling JIn says they’re auctioning rare items to introduce a new tradition this year. Perhaps I can gift one of those for the child. He seems to like trinkets. Later, we shall send some hand made paper lanterns to the sky in hopes it will reach you.

 

Lan Zhan

 

-

 

The newly arrived fierce corpse overpowers Song Zichen as the control over the former daoist priest seems to have disappeared for the time being. He drags the other to where Wei Wuxian was standing with the infamous Zidian crackling through the air. He scoffs at the sight and wonders how this would fuck up that pipsqueak’s plans.

 

“Oi,” he calls to the dazed looking demonic cultivation practitioner, “Do something about him so he doesn’t get controlled.”

 

Wei Wuxian blinks the overload of sensations and stares at the two approaching fierce corpses. He gets over his shock and grins at the gruff one, “Why does Chifeng-Zun expect me to know how?”

 

Nie Mingjue clicked his tongue in response, “What, are you going to wait for Yunmeng Jiang’s sect leader to be finished over the corpses there before you play some freaky music to help?”

 

Realizing that Song-daozhang has gone still already, he reached out to his robes and pulled out his badly made flute.

 

Then - all of a sudden, the infamous owner of Baxia has his hands around Wei Wuxian’s neck effectively choking him. Had this been another scenario, Wei Wuxian would have joked about bedroom activities but he honestly cannot breathe right now and the conscious look on the eyes of the fierce corpse above him was lost in a sea of gold.

 

Fuck. He thought Xue Yang was dealt with already?!

 

Then the usual scowl on Nie Mingjue’s face slowly morphed into a blank one and in a monotone voice, he hissed right in front - so close, their eyelashes were touching - of Wei Wuxian’s face,

 

“Thief.”

 

At the back of his mind, he can hear the terrified screams of the juniors calling for Jiang Cheng. But he’s also seen the remaining number of corpses his shidi still had to deal with. Factoring that in with the very firm and strong grip of a high quality fierce corpse like Chifeng-Zun, his chances are looking blurred.

 

Just like his vision - blurred. Haha.

 

Seeing Song-daozhang struggling to his feet, Wei Wuxian figured this wasn’t the Stygian Tiger amulet’s fault. With shaking hands, he stretched it out for the flute that lay near him on the ground. He just needs to calm down Chifeng-Zun as his type of fierce corpse might be different to the point that maybe he doesn’t have full consciousness?

 

Ah, but he’s starting to see black spots in his vision already.

 

Just in time, Song Zichen managed to bump against the bulky body of the Nie Mingjue away from Wei Wuxian. He coughs in an effort to fill his lungs with air again. Jiang Cheng’s running towards him now and well, finally, hello there help. He refocuses on the fierce corpses battling it out again.

 

He finally grabs the flute and plays the first calm music that entered his soul.

 

Since he’s still out of breathe plus the fact that the flute was badly made, he doubts it’s fast effectiveness but he plays on anyway. He barely registers Jiang Cheng kneeling beside him to help him sit up. The sound of struggles suddenly stop making the both of them look up.

 

Crows cawing resounded eerily - as if saying and repeating the same thing.

 

Nie Mingjue’s eyes that were unusually gold had its intense focus on him; and then -

 

“Wei Ying.”

 

-

 

Wei Ying, they had him . He’s yours. How could they -