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flowers wilted in death, blooming in the waters

Chapter Text

Things were supposed to be easier after Jin Guangyao - supposed to be better - and they had. 


For awhile.


A few years passed in blissful happiness and yeah, sometimes Wei Wuxian was bogged down by thoughts of not deserving any of this - he wasn’t good enough for this - but - 


Lan Wanji was good at chasing those thoughts away and he let him. 


But then rumors started about smaller sects vanishing - no trace - no blood - just gone. There were investigations but nothing ever turned up and so the larger sects swept it out of their minds. 


Wei Wuxian wanted to laugh at the foolishness of them all - the arrogance they somehow managed to keep even after everything - but there wasn’t any point anymore. Not when he was bleeding out and everyone was gone


Jiang Cheng (Lotus Pier was burning all over again - please no - he couldn’t handle this - not again - not his brother please -)


Nie Huaisang (how - he was one of the last ones from their group - he couldn’t be gone -) 


Jin Ling (oh god - not him - please - don’t take him away too - if they had only just been a little sooner - just a little -) 


Lan Jingyi - Lan Qiran - Lan Xichen (not them - no - everything was burning - this couldn’t be happening - please no - not his home - not - not -) 


Lan Sizhui - Wen Yuan (his baby boy - his boy - not him - he’s already survived so much - please - please - please -)


Lan Zhan -


(his home - his dream - his love - his husband - don’t take him away please - not him - anything but him -)


They’re all gone.  


Wei Wuxian weeps into his own blood smearing the ground and wishes with all his bleeding heart that he could see his loved ones again - see Lan Zhan again - but knows its foolish and yet - 


He wants it. 


So much.  


The sword comes down and he chokes on the blood flooding his throat - feels the cold seeping into his fingertips and closes his eyes - and wants


There’s the sound of growling.

Chapter Text

Wei Wuixian opens his eyes, fear immediately climbing up his throat and threatening to choke him and he screams at the sight of three dogs bounding forwards to him, yapping excitedly. He jumps immediately behind whoever it is standing next to him, fingers tangling in purple - 




Distracted from his fear he looks at his hands (too small -) tangled in purple (familiar -) robes and then up - (he’s supposed to be dead - burned with everyone else -) 


He finds himself frozen - what was this? Why was Uncle Jiang -? Why was he so small -? The barking knocks him back out of his confusion and he whimpers pathetically, clinging more tightly as he tries to swallow his fear and cries out for Lan Zhan mentally -


(but Lan Zhan was gone - blood staining white and red lips forming his name - no -) 


When he comes back again, Uncle Jiang is scolding - Jiang Cheng - who is young and has chubby cheeks and is staring at his father with uncomprehending eyes filling with tears as he holds one puppy and two more are sitting at his feet and - 


Wei Wuxian knows this - this was - this was after Uncle Jiang had found him. Brought him to Lotus Pier only to stop when his son’s new dogs had come rushing up and had scared Wei Wuxian so bad he had nearly fainted and - and - 


Uncle Jiang had made Jiang Cheng get rid of his puppies. 


Wei Wuxian didn’t know what was happening - didn’t know why he was experiencing this but - he couldn’t let this happen again. Jiang Cheng had always denied it but Wei Wuxian knew that his brother had held a small kernel of resentment for this. Uncle Jiang had just gotten his son the puppies and just as quickly was ordering him to get rid of them. 


(he remembers finding the body - bloody and staining the lotuses red and he wasn’t sure how much of this he could take anymore -) 


“...he can keep them.” 


The conversation (argument) stops and Uncle Jiang’s concerned eyes find him, large hand resting on his head as he asks, “Wei Ying - are you sure?” 


Wei Wuxian isn’t looking at Uncle Jiang though - he’s looking into grey eyes that aren’t spitting with furious anger, but instead wary confusion. Wei Wuxian swallows, eyes flicking fearfully to the beasts around his brother, and smothers his fear as best he can (even as the bite marks scarring his body throb in remembrance of what they can do to him -) and he nods. 


“He shouldn’t have to give anything up for me,” he says slowly, fear making his voice tremble but expression resolute. 


(his brother should never have to give up anything for him again - he was the one that should give up everything so his brother could -) 


Jiang Cheng’s brow furrows (he’s so … tiny -) and his lips purse in an attempt at imitating his mother, before he asks unsure, “Are you … scared of them?” 


His brother is too cute and Wei Wuxian wants to pinch his cheeks - but then one of the puppies bark and he lets out a loud shriek and ducks back behind Uncle Jiang. He shivers for a long moment, trying to wrangle his fear under control but its hard - 


(Lan Zhan isn’t here to protect him -) 


“If - if you’re scared of them I can get rid -” Jiang Cheng started, voice shaky but determined and Wei Wuxian couldn’t allow that - he couldn’t


No! You keep them! They were here first, weren’t they?” he blurts out from behind Uncle Jiang, knuckles white from the force of his grip but determined to make sure his brother could keep his puppies. “J-Just make sure they - they keep away from me, yeah?” 


He lets out a nervous laugh because if he doesn’t he’s going to start bawling his eyes out and he can’t do that - not now - 


(he’s eight again and everyone is gone - but Uncle Jiang and Jiang Cheng are here - and how is this possible - he - the sword had pierced his heart - run him through - he was supposed to be dead - like everyone else why was he alive please -) 


“Wei Ying -” Uncle Jiang starts, and Wei Wuxian knows that tone - hates that tone of voice because it always wound up with Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu fighting and Jiang Cheng furious and hurt and shijie quiet and holding a fake smile and he can’t - 


No! They can stay!” he shouts determinedly, eyes squeezed shut and still trembling because - there’s the sound of claws against wood, but rather than grow closer they go away and slowly he cracks one eye open and peers around Uncle Jiang. 


Jiang Cheng is scowling, arms crossed over his tiny chest and cheeks puffed out, “There, they’re gone! Now stop cowering!” 


And suddenly Wei Wuxian is letting out another laugh that is sharp with relief and grief but something in his chest loosens because no matter what he does … Jiang Cheng doesn’t change it seems.

Chapter Text

Yu Ziyuan is not happy with her husband. 


She is furious (and hurt) over his obsession and then he has the gall to bring that - that child here into their home and - she wants to grab him by the shoulders and shake him until he sees sense . How can he not see the repercussions of taking in the child -? The rumors that will spread no matter what -? 


She cannot - will not - condone his actions. 


Not that she doesn’t feel for the child - knows that he was found on the streets fighting a pack of wild dogs for food - but she still can’t stop the bitterness welling up in the back of her throat. 


She was his wife - she had borne him two children - she


The scream shatters her thoughts and she’s moving before she even fully registers it. It had come from the direction of the children’s room and fear claws at her throat - had something happened to A-li - to A-Cheng -?  


Mind tangled with worry it takes her a moment to realize where the screaming sobs are coming from  - not her children’s rooms but Wei Ying’s -


She spares no thought before entering his room - and grits her teeth when she finds the child is caught in the throes of some nightmare (or flashback -). Unbidden, her heart softens because - what has the child gone through to tear such gut wrenching screams from him? 


Her eyes narrow and she closes the door behind her and moves to sit on the edge of the bed, reaching out slowly to press her hand to his head. She’s startled when the screaming cuts off abruptly at her touch, but the sobs remain. Frowning softly, she slowly starts running her fingers through the dark locks, and - 


The child whimpers and leans desperately into her touch, curling up into a tight ball as he continues to sob. But under her gentle touch, the sobs slow into quiet hiccups, tears drying on pale, gaunt cheeks and - perhaps things will - 


Hazy, grey eyes crack open - looking at her incomprehensibly and - she thinks of what she would do if this had been A-Li or A-Cheng - and sighs. “Shush, you are safe,” she murmurs quietly, smoothing sweat soaked bangs back gently. The boy continues to look at her for one long moment, before his eyes flutter closed again - seeming to trust in her words. 


Yu Ziyaun stays there for some time, perched on the edge of his bed and petting his hair gently - soothing him back into sleep while her own thoughts are in turmoil. 


She leaves and refuses to look at her husband hovering outside of the child’s room - instead enters her own children’s rooms to make sure they are alright. A-Cheng is still asleep, buried under a pile of fur that are his new puppies, and she rolls her eyes fondly before pressing a kiss to his forehead. A-Li is awake, however, peering at her door worriedly and Yu Ziyuan does her best to calm her back into sleep. 


She doesn’t return to their shared quarters. 


And refuses to speak to her husband that night. 

Chapter Text

Mo Xuanyu’s core had been small - even after Lan Zhan’s careful nurturing. It is strange to have a bright, golden core - young and small still but with so much more potential. 


Wei Wuxian frowns softly, pressing a hand to his chest and swinging his legs idly off the edge of the pier. He knew what Uncle Jiang wants from him - to become one of the disciples of the Yunmeng Jiang (and if he followed his past become head disciple) but - 


He doesn’t want that anymore. 


Being lead disciple hadn’t done anything in the end (hadn’t saved anyone -) and he doesn’t want to become that again. Doesn’t want to be another reason for Madam Yu and Uncle Jiang to fight. Another reason for Jiang Cheng to resent him. 


He refuses. 


“You do not wish to become a disciple?” 


The voice startles him and he flinches, looking up and then scrambles to his feet and bows hastily. “Madam Yu -!” he greets, nerves crawling in his stomach and he can’t stop the bloody memories surfacing in his mind - (Madam Yu on her knees, eyes glazed with death and blood pooling around her - Uncle Jiang across from her, equally as bloody and dead and - and - there’s a hairpin between them - but they’re surrounded by the bodies of their sect and -)




He flinches again and shakes away the memories, glancing up at her briefly to try and gauge whether or not she’s angry with his decision. Her expression is decidedly neutral and he’s not actually sure how to deal with that. “I - I do not,” he answers shakily (there had been a hand petting his hair - but that was preposterous -). 




He licks his lips and then straightens and meets her gaze determinedly. “I wish to learn the healing arts,” he answers as steadily as he can with bloody memories clawing at his mind and grief choking his throat (remembers Wen Qing and everything she’d done - for him -) “I can - I can do more if I can heal to fight another day.” Wei Wuxian isn’t sure what to make of the expression Madam Yu makes at his words and he flinches again before he can stop it. 


“Ah,” Madam Yu hums, and she reaches out with one hand and rests it on his head and (there had been a hand on his head, brushing his hair back and a low voice saying: you are safe -) he looks up at her with wide eyes, throat dry. “You will join the disciple training, but I will put you under Madam Jinghua in the healing ward.” 


“Do not disappoint me, child.” 


The hand is gone and with it Madam Yu - and Wei Wuxian lets out a disbelieving laugh as he slumps back down to the edge of the pier. 


But then he’s choking on sobs as he buries his face in his hands - the memories of the burning of Lotus Pier now at the forefront - it had been all his fault - all his fault - and still - still


(Lan Zhan had become his home in the end but Lotus Pier - it had been his home first after his parents and the streets - and nothing could replace that -) 

Chapter Text

Jiang Cheng doesn’t really know what to make of Wei Ying. The boy is fun - when dogs aren’t around - but there are moments where he looks so much older and tired that it scares him a little. But it is also easy to like him. 


Even deathly terrified of puppies , Wei Ying had fought for Jiang Cheng to keep them. 


And then had shakily and deathly pale asked for Jiang Cheng’s help in getting used to at least his three dogs if not any others. 


“It isn’t fair if you have to send them away every time we play,” Wei Ying told him earnestly, even as he clutched at his sleeves with white knuckles. “And - and when we go on Night Hunts together I - I can’t be useless!” 


Jiang Cheng hadn’t been able to stop himself from hugging the older boy tightly, chest feeling fit to burst with the sheer happiness that had bubbled up. 


It was easy to love Wei Ying. 


Even if he was weird sometimes. 


“You should train with whips too!” Wei Ying told him one hot afternoon while the disciples were training. Even though the other boy was cultivating to be a healer, Jiang Cheng knew his mom had told him that he had to train with the rest of the disciples too. 


“Whips?” he’d asked in return, a little baffled at the sudden statement. 


Wei Ying had nodded and given him a beaming smile despite the dirt smudged on his face, or the sweat soaking their robes from the intense training, and answered, “Yeah! When you become Sect Leader you’ll get your mom’s Zidian, right? You should learn the whip now so you can be even better than before!” 


Jiang Cheng blinked in confusion, mouthing, ‘before?’ 


But before he can ask about the odd phrasing, Wei Ying is already helping another disciple in their stance and it suddenly hits Jiang Cheng that there had been no doubt in Wei Ying’s voice when he’d said ‘When you become Sect Leader’ - as if it was already a given that he would. 


The tight bubble of happiness bloomed in his chest again at the sheer amount of faith and trust Wei Ying seemed to have in him and he can’t help but grin stupidly. 


That night he asked his mom if she would train him in the whip. 


(and if the surprise that had bled into a fierce pride on his mother’s face at his question had even more happiness bubbling in his chest - well that was for him to know)

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Wei Ying has been thinking about Cloud Recesses - even though it hurts because he can remember it on fire with blood staining the once peerless beauty - he shakes the thoughts away and tries to focus on his earlier thought. He couldn’t remember any talk of any Sect aside from Gusu taking on disciples for a period of study. It had always been ‘send your disciples to Gusu to study’ never Yunmeng, or Qinghe, or even Jin! 


The boy pets the puppy in his lap absently, swinging his legs slightly as he thinks. It had taken some months before he had gotten to this point of being comfortable with Jiang Cheng’s dogs. Lots of panic attacks and slow coaxing of one puppy at a time. But Wei Ying had been determined, and Jiang Cheng equally so, and Jiang Yanli had watched over them with a gentle gaze and soft smile. 


Wei Ying was still utterly terrified of dogs - just not Jiang Cheng’s three. 


The puppies had been surprisingly behaved throughout the boy’s attempts, seeming to know that Wei Ying needed time and slow motions. They were outrageously rambunctious around everyone else, but around Wei Ying they were gentle and very well-behaved. It had gone a long way in helping him get used to them. 


(the youngest of the three, Jasmine, also had a knack for knowing whenever Wei Ying had a silent nightmare and would manage to escape Jiang Cheng’s rooms and enter his to cuddle with him) 


But back to studying. 


There had been guest disciples before but never anything to the extent of what Gusu did - and Wei Ying thought that should change. Maybe integrating the sects more would help foster better relations and temper any future problems. 


(there was also the idea that if Wei Ying could get Jin Zixuan here to Lotus Pier, maybe the peacock wouldn’t fumble so badly with shijie later -) 


(and maybe - just maybe - he’d get to see Lan Zhan early -) 


He brings it up at dinner. 


“How come disciples only go to Gusu? Can’t we offer studying at Yunmeng too?” he asks, honestly curious to the answer since he couldn’t come up with one. 


Uncle Jiang blinks at the question and Madam Yu raises one sharp eyebrow at him, indicating her own surprise at the question. “Why do you ask?” Madam Yu asks calmly, for all the curtness of her words - and Wei Ying still can’t figure out what changed for the woman to act the way she did now. 


“I was just curious,” he answers. “And I - we - could learn a lot from the other sects too, but I’ve only heard that Gusu offers studying?” He trails off a little uncertainly, wondering if his memory was simply bad and there had been other studying options.


“That’s not a bad idea, A-Ying,” Jiang Yanli praises thoughtfully, and then looks at her mother hopefully. “Maybe one of the other sects could help find a better way of cultivation for me?” 


Wei Ying hadn’t thought of that! Maybe shijie would have a better chance of living if she could find some way of cultivation or fighting that works for her! He looks at Jiang Cheng and falters at the scowl on his brother’s face. He pokes him in the ribs, “A-Cheng?” he asks quietly, only stumbling slightly at the name Jiang Cheng had bullied him into using. 


“ you not like our sect?” Jiang Cheng asks petulantly, brow furrowed in a scowl. 


“What? No! I love Yunmeng! I just - I just thought it would - would be cool to learn some things from other sects too!” Wei Ying hurriedly assures, flailing and feeling panic welling up inside of him and looking pleadingly at shijie for help. 


“There’s always more to learn, A-Cheng,” Uncle Jiang says soothingly, smiling and resting a brief hand on the boy’s head. “A-Ying just wants to learn more, not leave us.” Wei Ying nods furiously, and only relaxes when Jiang Cheng does. 


Madam Yu hums and then asks, “What would you have us offer other sects, Wei Ying?” 


When he looks at her expression to parse how she’s feeling, he only sees curiosity. He gives her a somewhat tentative smile (sees her face dripping with blood and blank eyes -), and offers, “There’s swimming? Not all the Sects are near a body of water to learn. Uhm - martial training and sealing works too - nothing too big! Definitely none of Yunmeng’s direct skills but -! Wouldn’t - wouldn’t this also better relations between everyone …?” 


He trails off at the considering look Madam Yu and Uncle Jiang are giving him, feeling heat suffuse his cheeks as he ducks his head. 


“It’s an idea with merit,” is Madam Yu’s final word on the conversation, effectively ending it.

Chapter Text

It doesn’t take long for Jiang Fengmian to realize that Wei Ying is touch starved and also a tactile person (whether that’s from his time on the streets or something else -) and he does his best to offer the child comfort where he can. Wei Ying reminds him so much of his father it hurts - Wei Changze may have been a servant of the Jiang family but he had been a brother to him. 


Oh, he knows what everyone thinks - he isn’t blind or deaf - knows that they think he slept with Cangse Sanren - was in love with her - 


Knows that is what his wife thinks too. 


But - he may have been in love with both of his best friends at one point in his life but that had been a long time ago and his heart stayed true to his wife. 


Wei Ying is a painful reminder of the two he has lost but he’s all the more precious because of it. 


So he makes sure to rest a hand on the child’s head when he can - tucks him against his side if the opportunity presents itself - little touches that let the boy know he is wanted ( is safe -) 


It … admittedly takes him awhile to notice his own children’s needs. 


( tunnel-vision, Cangse’s voice teases in the back of his mind. 


be more aware, A-Mian, Changze scolds with a soft huff.) 


The jealousy in his own son’s gaze - the longing - and wonders how blind and remiss he has been to have his own child wondering if his own father loves him. It is with grim determination that he offers his own physical affections to his children - 


(silently marvels at the way A-Cheng blusters, but his eyes - so much like his mother’s - light up with happiness. 


A-Li’s bright, but shy smile that lights up her whole face - still slightly chubby cheeks flushed with her own happiness.) 


(it takes nothing at all to start trying to offer his wife the same - wondering how he had missed what was cracking under the weight of his desire to search for his dear friend’s child -) 


“I think Madam Yu would like it!” Wei Ying chirps from his side, and Jiang Fengmian shakes his head slightly to clear his thoughts and looks down. 


Wei Ying is smiling, eyes curved and glittering (smile wide like his mother’s, but eyes soft like his father’s), and Jiang Fengmian doesn’t resist placing a warm hand on the child’s head. He looks at the hairpin he’d unthinkingly picked up from the stall, and smiled warmly. 


Gold and purple with clinking lotuses trailing from the end and glittering in the sunlight - pointed tips sharp like his wife, but curved into beautiful flowers - 


“It suits A-niáng,” A-Cheng offers quietly, and Jiang Fengmian smiles down at his son too and presses his hand to his head too, ruffling the hair shortly - and his heart hurts still at the pleased wonder that sparks in his son’s eyes. 


“Then shall we get this for her then?” he asks with a light laugh, and heart feeling lighter at the beaming smiles he gets in response. 


He’d known things would change when he found Wei Ying and brought him home - had been prepared for the worst he had thought - but the changes the boy has brought have made things better


(he’s delighted in the faint blush that dusts his wife’s cheeks when he offers her the hairpin - and lets his fingers linger on her hands, and his lips curve into a smile he only ever gives her


he may have been in love with his best friends at one point in his life 


but that is the past and his heart was captured by his wife the first time they’d met and he’d seen the lightning in her eyes -)

Chapter Text

The sudden, shrill scream shatters the buzzing excitement of Lotus Pier and the small groups of foreign cultivators. Many immediately fall into defensive stances, looking around in wary surprise - trying to pinpoint the source of the scream - but Jiang Yanli knows exactly who it is. 


She instantly turns away from where she’d been tentatively talking with the few other girls visiting, hurrying away towards where the screaming was originating, shoving others out of the way in her haste. She bursts through a group of milling disciples and calls out worriedly, “A-Ying!” 


The eldest child of the Jiang Clan stared at the sight that greeted her - Wei Ying screaming with tears spilling down his face as he tries desperately to get away from the unknown dog (that was also much larger than A-Cheng’s puppies currently) that is barking and eagerly trying to get the boy’s affection. Wei Ying’s attempts at escaping are blocked by some of the visiting disciples (from the Jin Clan -? How dare they -) 


Her eyes glance around the group and manages to spot Jin Zixuan (the boy she is to be wed too -) at the head of the group, face twisted in a mixture of confusion and disgust and - 


Jiang Yanli feels anger bubbling up inside of her in a way it never has before. 


The barking dog has the Jin emblem and - she would bet it belongs to her future husband - who is doing nothing to call off the dog, despite the obvious terror in small Wei Ying’s screams and body. 


Sit! ” she shouts authoritatively, stalking her way forward in the seconds it has taken her to observe the situation. The dog - surprisingly - immediately sits, with a look of confusion as its ears pin down and it tucks its tail between its legs. 


Jiang Yanli swiftly gets between the dog and A-Ying in a whirlwind of purple fabric, gathering up the boy in her arms and humming softly. “It’s okay, A-Ying - it’s okay - you’re safe, you’re safe,” she murmurs soothingly, running her fingers through unruly locks as she tucks his head under her chin - and she glares thunderously at the boys blocking the way. Despite the furious words she wants to spit out at them, she simply continues to soothe her younger brother instead. 


A-Ying is clinging to her desperately, trembling like a leaf and it makes her so utterly furiously


She catches sight of A-Cheng storming towards their group, looking as spitting mad as she feels - his own faithful trio of dogs trotting at his heels. Jasmine immediately barges forward, but stops before she actually brushes against A-Ying, instead sitting next to their feet silently. Her sisters, however, immediately surround the Jin dog and crowd him away with low growls and snarling lips - matching A-Cheng’s furious shout of, “Does your mongrel have no training -!?”


Fury calmed for the moment, now that her brother is here and putting words to her anger, she focuses entirely on A-Ying, who has gone worryingly quiet. “A-Ying,” she whispers softly, cupping the back of his head gently. “A-Ying, its okay now. The dog is gone - you’re safe now. You’re safe.” A-Ying is still trembling in her hold, but its not as bad as it had been and Jasmine whines softly and then nudges her nose gently against A-Ying’s leg. 


“I’m okay - I -” the words are shaky, even more quiet muffled against her shoulder as they are, but she relaxes slightly anyway. Jasmine nudges closer, while Princess and Little Love circle the three of them protectively. 


A-Cheng is still yelling and berating the Jin disciples, even though he’s younger then the whole lot of them - and Yanli takes some satisfaction at the discomfited and red faces of the group. She’s surprised when A-Ying pulls away from her jerkily but then she spots her mother coming up from behind the group and understands. 


What is going on here?” Madam Yu demands, voice sharp as a razor blade and lashing out like Zidian.


The Jin disciples all go deathly pale and rigid, but A-Cheng only straightens and answers promptly, “The Jin disciples seem to have brought an untrained dog with them - if it is trained, then that means they refused to call it off when it was harassing someone obviously deathly terrified of it. ” The boy’s eyes are narrowed accusingly at the older boys, and their mother looks distinctly unimpressed, as her sharp eyes sweep over the area. 


“Is that so?” Madam Yu says flatly, voice utterly frigid now as her piercing gaze sweeps over the now trembling disciples. 


Yanli reaches out for A-Ying when the boy steps away from her and bows towards Madam Yu, still obviously trembling from the aftermath of his scare. “It is my fault, Madam Yu,” the boy murmurs steadily, skin white as a sheet still and Yanli purses her lips. “I was not paying adequate attention to my surroundings.” 


Her temper flares before she can control it and she’s speaking before A-Cheng can spit out the acidic words he obviously wants to in response to their brother taking the blame. “That is not the problem, A-Ying,” Yanli starts tartly, urging him out of his bow and casting a venomous look at the Jin disciples as a whole and then singling out Jin Zixuan. “ They are at fault in not calling their dog to heel when it was harassing you and for blocking any means of escape for you, intentionally or not.


A-Ying looks far too surprised at the defense and Yanli’s heart aches for the boy. 


“I see, ” Madam Yu purrs silkily, and Yanli knows her mother will take care of things. 


No one gets away with messing with A-Ying.

Chapter Text

Wei Ying hadn’t expected his idea of studying at other Sects to actually bear fruit - and definitely not so soon. Not weeks after he’d spoken the idea in passing. It was both liberating and terrifying because he could recognize people (and saw their deaths -)


But it was going surprisingly well - barring that first day with that peacock’s dog. It still confused him and yet he couldn’t help the warm bubble blossoming in his chest at the immediate defense his siblings had done - even Madame Yu had defended him in her own way, setting punishments for the Jin disciples that he had once been far too familiar with, and a very mild punishment for himself. 


(But he still had to bury the disappointment that Gusu Lan had chosen to pass the offer for the time being. He’d wanted to see Lan Zhan but - 


Was he even prepared to see his husband? When he wouldn’t know him? Wouldn’t remember everything they’d been through - 


It sat bitter on his tongue and threatened to break his heart.) 


He missed Lan Zhan - missed his hands, his soft looks, his scent - missed going to bed safe in his arms - missed the way his husband had helped him bathe and dressed. Missed the food, Lan Zhan had painstakingly made for him every morning so he wouldn’t have to eat the bitter, herbal food of the Lan Sect. 


(even though he’d eat every last bit of bitter herbal food if it meant he could just see Lan Zhan -)


It ached and burned, settled in brittle bones that threatened to break under the pressure. It was a miracle he could sleep as much as he did. He struggled not to wander into Jiang Cheng’s rooms and sneak into his bed - just to have someone with him - but he doubted his brother would appreciate that. So he stayed in the cold, lonely bed that was his and tried not to think about his husband - 




Wei Ying startles and blinks, turning his head to the side and then smiles. “Huaisang~” he greets with a small laugh, and its genuine delight he beams with at his one time friend, now new friend. He’d been surprised when Qinghe Nie had sent over some disciples, but knowing Nie Mingjue … the proud man had probably hoped Yunmeng Jiang could whip his brother into shape. It is nice to see Nie Huaisang though - unmarred by his brother’s murder. 


(not the tired but calculating gaze that hid his cracked self - the bags upon bags that weighed with the unfettered guilt, but steely resolve - the start of a genuine smile growing back as time passed after Jin Guangyao’s death -


that ends with him choking on his own blood even as he continued to fight - protecting his fleeing disciples with a ferocity that rivals his late brother - they’d been too late - the sword had pierced through the Sect Leader’s - his friend  - chest - and the disciples had been swiftly overtaken -) 


“...Wei-xiōng?” Nie Huaisang repeats, voice tentative and Wei Ying quickly shakes himself out of the bloody memories, widening his smile. 


“Ah - ah -! If you repeat my name too much, Huaisang, I’ll begin thinking you like me~!” he teases gently, and laughs at the startled expression the younger boy makes, before quickly hiding it behind a fan. He swings himself up off the pier and slings an arm around the boy’s shoulders, tugging him close and poking a chubby cheek. “Hahaha! I’m just teasing, Huaisang! What can this xiōng do for you, hmmm?”

Wei Ying soothes the slight tremble of his body with the warmth of his friend - who’s alive not dead - still innocent and looking to please his elder brother. Smooths out the ragged edges of his bloody memories with the new ones of teaching Huaisang how to swim, going hunting for pheasants with the others - practicing his healing so he can do better this time -