The first time Wei Wuxian sees that goddamned forehead ribbon again, it’s December and snow has just begun to fall over Beijing. It’s easy to see that it’s a GusuLan ribbon, even after so much time he’s gone without meeting a cultivator, but it’s more the shock of who’s wearing it, rather than its surprising appearance, that makes Wei Wuxian want to hide away.
Lan Wangji is just as beautiful as he remembers, skin smooth as jade and eyes frostier than the snow falling down. He’s wearing modern clothes, rather than the white flowing attire Wei Wuxian was expecting, but it’s unmistakably him – HanGuang Jun, the pride of the GusuLan Sect.
Or, well, that’s what he used to be. Wei Wuxian has no idea how many times Lan Wangji’s soul has been reincarnated in the past one thousand and odd years, but he’s sure it shouldn’t remember anything from back then – Old Meng’s Forgetness Tea is good at doing its job. That doesn’t explain the long, flowing hair – even Wei Wuxian had deigned to cut it after it became apparent people in this time found men with long hair weird – nor does it explain the ribbon on his forehead.
Then again, it’s completely in Lan Wangji’s style to reincarnate into his family again and again, and it’s completely in Lan Qiren’s style to make sure the GusuLan rules stick in their disciples’ minds long after cultivation as a profession disappeared. Argh, Wei Wuxian’s hands ache just thinking of the copying he had to do back in the Cloud Recesses! Poor sods, being made to follow rules they don’t even understand – what if they’re not allowed to eat ice cream? To drink vodka, or any of the new alcohols Wei Wuxian loves so much?
Truly, the world is unfair.
Then again, this is a wonderful opportunity to mess with somebody new – or, well, as new as somebody from your past life can be. Wei Wuxian has grown bored the past few centuries, and not even humanity’s rapidly evolving gadgets can keep his attention for longer than a few minutes.
(Wei Wuxian firmly does not think about the possibility that this Lan Wangji won’t respond in the way he’s used to, that it’ll hurt when he turns around and there’s no recognition in his golden eyes.
After all, this may be the first time he’s meeting a reincarnated HanGuang Jun, but it’s hardly the first time he’s met a reincarnated friend, or foe, or both. At this stage, Wei Wuxian is already used to disappointment and pain.)
“Hey, you! Your forehead ribbon is crooked!”, Wei Wuxian calls after the man, and, just for old times’ sake, pulls on one swishing end. It comes loose, much like it had done in an archery competition millennia ago, and Lan Wangji spins around fast, eyes wide and hunted.
Wei Wuxian grins unrepentantly at him, and hands the ribbon back. “Sorry, sorry – I didn’t know it’d come undone so easily! Here, you can have it back.”
Lan Wangji doesn’t take it, just stands there like a statue, staring at Wei Wuxian as if he’s- well, Wei Wuxian’s never been that good at reading people, so he can’t really tell if there’s anything other than shock in his eyes, but. Hm, wasn’t there some kind of meaning to the GusuLan’s ribbon, though? Ah well, no matter what it was it’s doubtful Lan An’s descendants remember what exactly it means, so far into the future.
“Who…” Lan Wangji’s voice is choked and stilted, a lack of composure the one Wei Wuxian knows would never allow to be shown. “Who are you?”
It’s tempting to lie, to use one of the names he’s made for himself, or maybe even say it’s Wei Wuxian, to see if it jogs any memories, but–
Wei Ying. There’s no person remaining, alive or dead, who calls him that. In the first place, there were only a few people who originally called him that, but the one who said it the most was the man in front of him, wasn’t it?
If Wen Ning was here, he’d surely have told him he was being selfish, but that’s fine – Wei Wuxian doesn’t remember when he wasn’t, anyways.
So he grins, and, “I’m Wei Ying! And who is the Young Master in front of me?”
There’s a pause, and the air supercharges with something Wei Wuxian can’t put his finger on. “Lan Wangji,” is the answer he gets, and suddenly Wei Wuxian really wants to laugh. Truly, Second Brother Lan is too good – who gets reincarnated into the same body, in the same family, with the same name?
Instead of saying that, however, Wei Wuxian steps forward and hands him the forehead ribbon again. “Ah, Lan Wangji – what a beautiful name, for such a beautiful man.”
He’s delightfully surprised to see Lan Wangji subtly reacting, shifting his feet and looking down and away. The shells of his ears are a pleasant red, and Wei Wuxian suddenly is loath to separate from the man. Sure, he was only teasing, but these past years he’s had a lot of time for himself, to figure out things he hadn’t thought of before. Not making a move on the gorgeous beauty that hated his guts was a regret he often entertained – better something like that, rather than– everything else, but it still is a legitimate regret.
Wei Wuxian is aware he’s been staring a little, so he smiles and tries to hand the man his ribbon again – truly, the first time he’d taken it he was almost killed, why is it that now he doesn’t want it? Might it be that he’s become less rigid, after reincarnating so many times? The thought is supposed to be hilarious, but it jus serves to sour Wei Wuxian’s mood instead.
Lan Wangji shakes his head, and when Wei Wuxian doesn’t budge he even pushes his hands back. One more difference from Wei Wuxian’s Lan Wangji – that quiet boy would have never touched anyone voluntarily, not even under the threat of death.
“Keep it,” is all he says on the matter, and Wei Wuxian feels a little bit insulted. Is he so repulsive, that Lan Wangji doesn’t want his forehead ribbon at all after he’s touched it?
Wei Wuxian, “It’s yours, why should I keep it? Lan Wangji, do you make a habit of giving such important stuff away to–”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji’s firm voice interrupts, “keep it.”
He says his name the same way he used to, back then. Wei Wuxian is unsure why that makes his heart tremble the way it does.
In the end, he can do nothing but nod, cheeks flaming – why are they flaming? He just said his name – and brings the hand holding the ribbon to his chest, as if to keep it close. Something like approval shines in Lan Wangji’s eyes, and it makes Wei Wuxian’s heart beat faster.
“I, uh – I have a bit of business to do now, actually, but – let’s meet up here tomorrow and have a cup of coffee, hm, Wangji-xiong?” The nickname slips out without Wei Wuxian’s permission, but Lan Wangji doesn’t seem to mind it at all, if the pleased nod he gets is anything to go by.
“Tomorrow, three o’clock,” Lan Wangji says, and Wei Wuxian has to force himself to wave goodbye and walk away, forehead ribbon still gripped in his palm.
Ah, he knows the GusuLan Sect’s forehead ribbons mean something, but what was it?
Being the Demon King isn’t easy, but it’s a simple job most of the time. Police any demons illegally wandering around and killing people, snuff out any rebellions – there’s been a lot of those since the humans started expanding more and more. Some demons aren’t really fond of mortals encroaching sacred territories or old lands, and with Wei Wuxian in charge they can’t just go slaughter them like normal, which makes them angry and in turn gives Wei Wuxian a headache, but it’s standard procedure so he’s mostly used to it.
And then, of course, there are the bad days, when your right-hand man disappears and your left-hand man tries to overthrow you, just to keep you on your toes.
“Couldn’t you do this tomorrow?” Wei Wuxian complains between sword strikes. “I have a date today, it’d be such a disaster if I’m late!”
Jin Guangyao laughs gracefully and tries to cut one of his legs off. “Then may I suggest dying sooner rather than later? If you’re in luck, you’ll be reincarnated before your date is over.”
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid that’s impossible. My date insists on punctuality, and if I’m late I don’t think I’m going to get a second chance.” Wei Wuxian slices a gash on Jin Guangyao’s sword arm, just deep enough to inconvenience him, but the other doesn’t show even an ounce of discomfort. Truly, fighting this man is a pain in the ass.
“Lan Wangji’s been waiting for you so long already, I doubt a few more hours will make a difference.” The remark is thrown in causally, but Wei Wuxian’s shocked enough by it to stop moving, and he gets smacked in the face with the flat of Jin Guangyao’s sword for his troubles.
“I– You– Why do you think it’s Lan Wangji?!”
Jin Guangyao lowers his sword, a confused furrow between his brows. “It’s not?”
Wei Wuxian, “I– It is, but how the hell did you reach that conclusion?!”
Jin Guangyao, “…you’re wearing his forehead ribbon.”
Huh, yeah, actually he is – wearing it like an arm wrapping sounded like a good idea right up until someone tried cutting his arm off. “Yeah, but how did you guess it was his?”
“…Is there any other Lan that would give you their forehead ribbon, on the first date no less?” A pause, and then Jin Guangyao sighs and adds, “Also, his name is embroidered on the inside of it – it’s how GusuLan members don’t confuse them for other people’s when they’re washing their clothes.”
Huh. Wei Wuxian didn’t know that. He unrolls the forehead ribbon from his arm, and really, there’s a miniscule ‘Lan Wangji’ next to one end of the ribbon… followed closely by a ‘Lan Zhan’.
Wei Wuxian’s heart skips a beat. “Aren’t courtesy and given names one and the same, now?”
“They are,” Jin Guangyao confirms. “…for the ones born in modern times.”
…Ah. “Lan Wangji ascended to godhood?”
Jin Guangyao’s ‘oh dear I pity your stupidity but I have to be polite about it’ face makes Wei Wuxian want to punch him, mostly because it’s always directed at him. “Indeed. It was a very big deal when he got pronounced as a god of unrequited love – quite the scandal, gods and demons alike wouldn’t shut up about it for decades.”
The tilt of his eyebrows clearly conveys, ‘if you weren’t as big of a coward and didn’t ignore any and all news related to people you knew from when you were alive you’d have known this’, and Wei Wuxian totally agrees about being a coward. Even Jin Guangyao listened for when Lan Xichen decided to ascend – or, as it happened, until he passed away, allegedly from heartbreak.
Wei Wuxian didn’t want to know about any of it, not even centuries later. He didn’t want to see more of his precious people dying, even if they hated him to the bottom of their hearts.
“…Jin Guangyao. What does the GusuLan Sect’s forehead ribbon actually mean?”
Jin Guangyao sighs, as if this is all a major pain to him. “I know you’ve copied the GusuLan Sect rules numerous times, how did you miss that one?” Wei Wuxian doesn’t answer, because they both know he rarely thinks when he’s copying things. “The ribbon is a way for them to conduct themselves, and the only people allowed to touch it are very close family and spouses. Giving it away like that, even someone like Wei Wuxian must understand what it means.”
Wei Wuxian doesn’t pay attention to that ‘even someone like Wei Wuxian’. “Lan Wangji is the god of unrequited love?”
“He is. He’s also associated with music, love songs, and the guqin in particular. In the beginning he was also known for his martial prowess, but nowadays people pray to him for luck in the love department.”
“Oh.” Wei Wuxian says. “I didn’t know.”
Jin Guangyao, “Yes, I do think that his obvious feelings for you and your oblivious conduct towards him was the major hurdle in your interactions.”
Wei Wuxian, “Obvious? Obvious how? And in the first place, why do you know all of this? We weren’t in the same generation, why would you know so much about his feelings for me?”
Jin Guangyao sighs long-sufferingly. “I really do think you should ask him about these things yourself – after all, this is between you two only. And as for how I know all of this, I have eyes and ears, and of course I’d be concerned about the little brother of my sworn brother.”
Things click into place, and Wei Wuxian tries not to laugh. “You tried to overthrow me because your Xichen’s little brother’s virtue was being threatened?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about; as you know my goal has always been the title of Demon King.” They've known each other for long enough to know when the other is lying, but Wei Wuxian doesn’t particularly want to press the issue. If he started pointing fingers with the, ‘You as good as killed him but still try to do things like this?’, they’d be standing here all day.
“You should set yourself a more realistic goal,” is all Wei Wuxian says, in the end, and Jin Guangyao throws him a wallet and a phone as an answer.
“So you can pay for your meal, for a change, and so you can contact each other easier.” His tone is full of implications of incompetence and other fun stuff, but Jin Guangyao’s tongue has always been sharp so Wei Wuxian tasks him with the incredibly cumbersome task of finding Wen Ning and bringing him up to date with everything. Jin Guangyao takes the opportunity to gossip with his best friend as graciously and with as little amusement as he can, but the pleased curl of his lips is still obvious to anyone who knows him.
Ah, the things Wei Wuxian does for love.
It’s quite a different feeling, when he knows he’s going on a date. He should look good, right? No matter if Lan Wangji’s seen him at his worst, he should dress up at least a little, right?
Wei Wuxian regrets sending Jin Guangyao away, because now there’s nobody up to date with the current world to ask for advice. In the end, he chooses a velvet jacket that one of the demon lords gifted him, and prays that Lan Wangji doesn’t try to kill him when he realizes just who Wei Wuxian has become, in the last millennia.
He’s thirty minutes early, but to his surprise he finds Lan Wangji already waiting at their meeting place, staring blankly ahead. For a moment Wei Wuxian panics, thinking he’s somehow messed up the time or is horribly late, or something similar, but then Lan Wangji turns to him and remarks,
“You’re early.” His eyes stray to one arm, still wrapped up in the cloud-embroidered ribbon, and now that Wei Wuxian knows what it means to wear it, he can’t force down his blush.
“I am! I thought I’d come a bit earlier to take a walk, but it seems you’re here too!”
Lan Wangji’s answer is a non-committal, “Mm.” He still hasn’t looked away from Wei Wuxian’s side. “You kept it.”
Wei Wuxian, “I did. I tried to tie up my hair with it at first, but I haven’t had long hair in a long time, so I had to improvise – I hope you don’t mind?”
Lan Wangji, “I don’t.”
There’s a moment of awkward silence in which Wei Wuxian tries to think how to explain, ‘hey so I heard you’ve been in love with me since forever and now I think I’m finally sane enough to consider it, plus you’re the most beautiful being I’ve ever met’ and ‘so remember the guy you’ve been in love with for the past two millennia? Yeah, that’s me, no I didn’t reincarnate and by the way I’m that Demon King your whole Heaven is searching for’, but after a few seconds he figures it’s probably not very appropriate to talk about such things in the middle of the sidewalk.
So Wei Wuxian grins up at Lan Wangji and offers him a hand. “Come on, let’s go get some coffee! I know the perfect place to go to, they make spicy coffee – can you believe that?” A hand grips his own, and Wei Wuxian’s breath hitches for a second before he starts walking, babbling as if that will in any way hide the blush high on his cheeks or the wide grin on his face. “Spicy coffee – it’s so good, Lan Wangji, you need to try it for sure! I only drink that but I’ve heard their teas are also amazing, do you like tea or coffee more? You look like a tea person–”
Lan Wangji’s hand is warm in his, and for the first time in centuries Wei Wuxian relaxes enough to think of a future for himself with a happy ending.
(“This is a date, but to be honest I think we should first discuss some things that must be said. Don’t you agree, Lan Zhan?”
Lan Wangji chokes on his tea.
Wei Wuxian sends him the most brilliant grin he can manage. “Come on now, don’t be like that! We last met each other two millennia ago, we have so much to catch up with one another! How are we supposed to do that if you choke to death?”
“Ahahahaha, I’m here, I’m here! Lan Zhan, such a scary face, if it was anybody else I wouldn’t ask for a second date!”
“Ah, but since it’s you there’s no problem, I’d go on as many dates with you as you want– ah, Lan Zhan? Lan Zhan, you’re turning red– breathe! Lan Zhan!!”)