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“Jin ZiXun’s attack has failed…” was the resigned announcement of the Head of House Jin, starting with it this month’s Magical Council gathering.

Only his observations of his House’s rules prevented Lan QiRen from remarking that it wasn’t surprise. It was Jin ZiXun they were talking about, after all.

“Then, what are we going for this time against Yiling’s Dark Mage?” asked the Head of House Wen.

There were days the Magical Council gatherings didn’t revolve around the Yiling Dark Mage and removing his threat that loomed over them, filled and thickened with the veiled promises of war the Heads of the Five Magical Households exchanged like greetings. Good days, thought Lan QiRen wistfully.

“The Tiger Seal is the secret of his power, right? Then how about we seduce him and take that Seal from him?” suggested that younger brother of the Head of House Nie. Upon being fixed with the stares of all who were present, he continued, his voice slightly muffled by the folding fan he hid his face behind, “We tried war for ages, so why don’t we try love for once?”

It was the most idiotic idea Lan QiRen ever heard, and he heard his share of what the Head of House Jin had to say for years.

And speaking of the devil: “You know, you might be onto something here…”

Then there was chaos.

“Then who should we send?”

“It should be a brave maiden, righteous and wise, and of course, blindingly beautiful.”

“Doesn’t have to be a maiden…”

A moment of silence.

The Head of House Jin turned to him, “Lan Qi—“

“No,” answered Lan QiRen swiftly and with prejudice.


 

“I fear I have to subjugate you to this atrocious fate, Nephew…” Lan QiRen wasn’t one to feel apologetic so easily, but this time, looking at his perfect nephew, the pride of House Lan and the strongest Magical Knight, he couldn’t help but feel that way. “But given the fact you studied with Wei WuXian in your younger years along with other attributes, the Council deemed you the most fitting for the mission.”

“I understand,” was Lan WangJi’s only response, ever dutiful, ever kind. How cruel was his fate to take upon such mission?

His other nephew Lan XiChen coughed loudly beside him.

Lan QiRen couldn’t let his poor nephew leave without some warning of what lay ahead. “Now, you should know the risks that come with such task.” He received a nod. “You might have to cross a few… uncomfortable boundaries to achieve your goal.”

“I will endure.”

Another cough was heard from Lan XiChen. Perhaps he should summon a Healer for him.

With that, Lan WangJi prepared to leave Gusu to Yiling.


 

After a month of absence, his nephew returned, blessedly free of harm… and with a red rose tucked neatly into his hair.

“What is this?”

“A parting gift from the Dark Mage,” explained Lan WangJi, and Lan QiRen shuddered at the mere idea.

Oh his poor, poor nephew.


 

“This task…” Lan WangJi started upon entering his study, taking a seat across of him, his form perfect as always, “I need more time.”

Lan QiRen frowned. “How much?”

“As long as it takes to get the Seal. I ask your patience.”

Lan QiRen didn’t like the idea, then again, he supposed rushing into the matter would make the Dark Mage suspicious of his nephew’s intentions.

“Very well, take as much time as you need. I’ll inform the Council of the matter so they don’t pester you.”


 

Lan WangJi never bought a single alcoholic drink in his life. So, it was both surprising and alarming the fact that he bought several jars of wine, loading them up in the wagon that he was taking to Yiling along with other odd purchases.

“The Dark Mage likes those,” was Lan WangJi’s explanation.


 

“Rather thorough, don’t you think?” Lan Qiren asked. Even with his nature, Lan WangJi was surprisingly dedicated to complete the mission successfully.

“Indeed,” Lan XiChen replied, for some reason, his voice carried a laugh.


 

And so Lan WangJi’s visits to Yiling went on, and the Magical Council was pacified by the promise of obtaining the Tiger Seal someday, and perhaps desperate enough to hang all hopes on this ordeal.

Still, after two whole years of this situation, Lan QiRen was getting some… concerns.

“Give him time,” answered Lan XiChen sagely when he voiced those concern to him.


 

“So… when are you going to inform them that I already broke the Seal long before you first arrived?”

Lan WangJi paused from playing with A-Yuan to look at Wei WuXian, as helplessly fond as ever when the other reached a hand to tenderly caress the side of his face. He didn’t bother to consider the answer for one moment, “Another year.”

Wei WuXian laughed. “That’s what you said two years ago!”