The night had started out well and then turned into a nightmare. All Wangji could focus on was the thin deadly string cutting into the throat of the man he loved most in this world. He could not think of any way to fix the situation they were now in. So, he did the only thing he could do to keep his Wei Ying safe; he sealed his spiritual energy.
Now held back at sword point, Wangji could do nothing as Jin Guanyao ordered his men to bind Wei Ying's hands together with deity rope.
"My apologies Huangung-Jun, but I promised a friend of mine a gift for the help he's given me through all these years. I told him I would not let him harm Xichen's little brother, so he asked instead for the person Huangung-Jun cared for the most." Jin Guanyao's apology rings false in everyone's ears. The congenial smile on his face seems sinister at the explanation for Wei Ying's situation.
"Who wants me? What do they want to do with me?" Wei Wuxian asks curiously, not seemingly afraid of his own precarious situation.
As soon as the question is asked, the gate doors bang open and closed and everyone turns to look as Su Minshan hurriedly walks up to Jin Guanyao and the bound Wei Wuxian.
With a gleam of maliciousness in his eye, he looks at Jin Guanyao for permission. At his nod, Su Minshan pulls out an item that Lan Wangji is very familiar with.
A discipline whip.
His heart starts to beat fast at the implications of the whip and who might be on the receiving end of it. All he can think is No no no… He almost died at the hands of the discipline whip sixteen years ago with a fully functional golden core. Wei Ying's body has no golden core.
A discipline whip was not meant to be used on the body of a civilian, on someone who has no developed golden core. The whip will kill him if they use it on him.
And no one here knows about Wei Wuxian's lack of golden core except for him and Wei Wuxian.
He looks over at Wei Ying and sees the expertly hidden panic and fear as he also suspects what is intended with the discipline whip.
"Take off his robes," Su Minshan orders the Jin cultivators.
"Jin Guanyao, what is the meaning of this?" Lan Xichen asks his former sworn brother.
"Su Minshan asked Wei Wuxian to be punished in Lan Wangji's place. I gave him my permission to do as he pleased," Jin Guanyao calmly explained.
"Punished? Punished for what?" Lan Xichen asked worriedly.
Su Minshan answered this time. With a sneer on his face he said, "Punished for his arrogance. Punished for never taking me seriously; for never giving me the respect I deserve."
Barely giving the ex Lan disciple his attention, Wangji's eyes have not left Wei Ying's. His soulmates eyes are boring into his like he's trying to memorize Wangji's face. Like he's never going to see it again.
The thought shoots a spike of fear through him. He can't lose Wei Ying. Not again, not when he's just gotten him back again. Not when he finally knows that Wei Ying loves him as he loves Wei Ying.
At Su Minshan's orders, the Jin cultivators have cut the robes away from Wei Wuxian's body so as to not have to undo his bound hands. With his naked chest bared, only his boots and pants are left on for decency's sake.
"Lan Zhan, I love you Lan Zhan. Don't watch. You don't need to see this," Wei Ying tries to tell him. But Wangji can't agree to it.
He shakes his head, "No. Love Wei Ying." He blinks back tears. He hates this. He feels just as powerless as he did sixteen years ago when he couldn't protect the man he loved before he killed himself.
Su Minshan orders the Jim cultivators to lay Wei Wuxian down on his stomach, bound hands above his head. The cultivators hold him down in preparation for him to fight back. But Wei Ying does not have that kind of strength to physically fight against a cultivator with a golden core.
"I've been told that Huangung-Jun received thirty-three lashes just after the Yiling Patriarch was killed. His punishment for going against the rules of his clan. Don't you think Wei Wuxian should have matching scars? To be put through the same kind of pain and agony?" Su Minshan asks rhetorically.
Wangji knows he doesn't care what Wei Ying has done and what he may or may not deserve. He wants to see Wangji punished; to see him suffer as the person he loves suffers because of him.
And Wangji can do nothing to stop it. He would get down on his hands and knees to beg him to spare Wei Ying this pain. And Wei Ying would be so angry with him for trying to take the punishment himself. But he knows it would fall on deaf ears.
"Jin Guanyao, stop this! Wei Wuxian and my brother have done nothing to deserve this from you," Lan Xichen tries to reason with him.
"Sorry Xichen, I promised Su Minshan he could do as he wished. I could only promise your brother would not be physically harmed," Jin Guanyao answered but the I never promised he would not be harmed emotionally is left unsaid but heard by them.
"If you try to interfere, though, I cannot say my promise will hold," he quietly threatens his old friend.
Xichen looks stricken at the thought of his brother being harmed because of him.
"Just remember Huangung-Jun, you brought this on yourself and him," Su Minshan says as he turns his back to him.
The way that Wei Ying is positioned on the floor, Lan Wangji has a perfect view of his naked, unmarked back. Just the way they want it. For him to watch as his beloved's back is torn apart.
Su Minshan raises the whip and lands his first hit on the smooth flesh. Wei Wuxian's body bucks under it in pain but no sound comes out of his mouth. The Jin cultivators continue to keep him confined on the floor. The whip comes back dripping the first drops of Wei Ying's blood. A long red slash is left on Wei Wuxian's back.
"One down, thirty-two more to go," Su Minshan gleefully announces to them.
Wangji can't keep the tears at bay anymore. His eyes spill the tears he's been holding back, uncaring who sees him in his distressed state.
Another and another lash come down on Wei Wuxian's back. He holds back a sound on the second lash, but a whimper comes out on the third. It tears Wangji's heart apart.
Wei Ying's back is starting to glisten from the sweat that has broken out in response to the stress and pain his body is being put under. It mixes with the blood that is starting to drip down his back from the open wounds.
The fourth and fifth lashes come in quick succession and the fifth draws a painful scream from Wei Ying, finally unable to keep his voice controlled under the torture he is experiencing.
Wangji silently sobs at the sound, staring in horror at his love and begging the gods for some kind of intervention.
The sixth and seventh lashes splatter blood across Su Minshan's robes and the faces of the cultivators holding Wei Ying down, also drawing more screams from Wei Ying's throat.
Wangji drops to his knees, feeling weak and terrified that he is watching Wei Ying's last moments of his freely given second life. The swords the cultivators are using to keep him in check follow his movement down. He pays them no mind. What does he care if they kill him when the person he loves is dying in front of him?
Lashes eight, nine, and ten land true and Wei Ying's back is full of blood; naked skin is covered in open wounds. The scariest part, however, is that the screams from Wei Ying are getting weaker with each hit.
Wangji feels like he's going to be sick.
Just as Su Minshan reels back to land blow number eleven, there is another disturbance at the door. All heads, including Su Minshan's, turn towards the doors as it bursts open. Sect Leader Jiang is standing there with Zidian at the ready, taking in the sight before him. When he sees his brother on the floor bloodied and torn open, the rage that crosses his face is enough to make the Jin cultivators focus their full attention on the new threat before him.
Wangji had never really liked Jiang Wanyin; could say he hated him for his part in Wei Ying's death. But right now, Wangji is willing to forgive him for everything. With his presence, his distraction, Wangji slips out from where he's been held back as they begin battle with the enraged brother.
Wangji runs to Wei Ying's side, who is no longer being held down but still not moving. Falling to his knees, he calls out Wei Ying's name when he sees his eyes are closed. Afraid, he checks for a pulse on Wei Ying's neck.
Its weak, but it's there. Wangji lets out a breathe in relief. He has to do something about Wei Ying's back now. Quickly, Wangji removes his outer robe and starts to tear long strips from it to make bandages to cover the wounds from infection. In the middle of this, another robe is being held out to him.
Its his brother's. "Take my robe too Wangji. You'll need more material for bandages," Lan Xichen offers, "I'll start cleaning and treating his wounds." In Xichen's other hand is a pouch filled with medicinal herbs. Wangji could kiss his brother he's so thankful for his help.
Instead, he takes the robe, silently nods his assent and continues to make bandages to wrap around Wei Ying's torso. It isn't until a few minutes later that he realizes that all sounds of fighting have come to a stop. Looking around, he sees Jin Ling helping an injured Jiang Wanyin to sit down as he concentrates his spiritual power into keeping himself alive with the wound he has.
Jiang Wanyin's arrival and subsequent fight seem to have made Jin Guanyao and Su Minshan realize they are running out of time to finish whatever they are trying to accomplish at the temple. They leave him and Xichen be as they continue to work on cleaning and bandaging Wei Ying's wounds.
When he and Xichen have done all they could for the open wounds, Wangji settles himself on the ground with a still unconscious Wei Ying in his lap. He runs his fingers through Wei Ying's hair in a soothing manner to give comfort to the passed out man. The tension on Wei Ying's face relaxes at his touch.
Xichen has gone back to be closer to the others and the cultivators that had held him back were now being utilized for Jin Guanyao's original purpose.
Honestly, at this point, Wangji could care less about what they were doing. The only thing he cared about was keeping Wei Ying from further harm and bringing him home to Cloud Recesses to nurse him back to health. It will be a long road to recovery for his love when they make it out of this mess.
The events at Guanyin temple end when Lan Xichen finally stabs and kills Jin Guanyao (but not before Lan Wangji kills Su Minshan by putting Bichen through his heart). It takes both him and his brother to put Nie Mingjue to rest and several talismans to keep his body and Jin Guanyao's trapped in a tomb together. When he is finally able to direct his full attention back to Wei Ying (left in the care of Nie Huaisang. It's the least he can do for dragging them into this mess) he's still unconscious, his face tensed up in pain. With Xichen's help, they transport Wei Ying home to Cloud Recesses and to his bed in the Jingshi. Xichen immediately goes to grab a healer and Wangji asks a disciple to bring hot water knowing the wounds will need a deeper cleaning.
The healer, attendants, and Xichen step in just before the water is delivered and carefully removes the now red bandages from Wei Wuxian's back. Even Wangji's untrained eyes can see that the wounds are inflamed, an angry red lining the deep gashes on his back. Most of the bleeding has stopped, but there are some that still leak a little blood.
"It is a good thing you were able to use what medicinal herbs you had with you Sect Leader Lan. Without them, I fear an infection might have already set in. For now, it looks like the wounds need more cleaning and additional medication. We'll wrap them in new bandages afterwards. The wounds will need to be cleaned and bandaged once a day. We will need to keep a careful eye on them to make sure they don't become infected," the healer informs them. "He'll have to be on bed rest until we can be sure his wounds won't open and start bleeding again. Moving will be quite painful for him for a while. I will see what I can do to help mitigate the pain."
"Teach me how to take care of the wounds," Wangji asks politely but determinedly. It was his inability to protect him that put Wei Ying in this condition. He wants to be the one to take care of his beloved person and help him return to optimal health.
"Me as well, master healer," Xichen chimes in and Wangji looks over at his brother in surprise.
Xichen looks at him with eyes full of sadness and grief, "It is my fault this situation happened Wangji. If I had believed Young Master Wei and kept my guard up, A-Yao-Jin Guanyao would not have tricked me. If I had not been complacent and unknowingly helped in his schemes, in fact, much of what happened to the Yiling Patriarch might have been avoided. The least I can do is share in the responsibility for his recovery. Do you still trust your brother enough to let me help you in this Wangji?”
Wangji had been afraid his brother would lock himself away in seclusion with the events that had transpired at Guanyin temple. After all, a sworn brother had manipulated and used the other in order to kill and gain power in the cultivation world. Worst of all, Jin Guanyao had died on Xichen’s sword because of Nie Huaisang’s own manipulations as well. Wangji would not have blamed his brother for needing to seclude himself in his grief to sort through the many turbulent emotions that were no doubt troubling his brother. He himself had spent three years in seclusion for healing and to calm and sort through his own grief (little though it had helped).
For his own healing of the whip marks on his back, Xichen had done his best to be there for him as his body worked to heal itself, but most of his time had been taken up with his Sect Leader duties. His brother had assumed the role of Sect Leader during war time and much had to be done to rebuild Cloud Recesses and to learn the nuances of the politics behind the motives of the different cultivation sects. Another reason perhaps that his brother was inclined to learn and help?
Either way, Wangji would be relieved to have his brother’s support in this and he answered, “Mn, trust you brother. Thank you.”
Relieved, Xichen, along with Wangji, turned to the healer awaiting his instructions.
A full day after receiving the whip marks on his back, Wei Ying finally wakes up for the first time. Wangji has not left his bedside unless it was to take care of his body’s needs or to grab more supplies to take care of Wei Ying’s injuries. Xichen had retired to the Hanshi to get rest and had encouraged Wangji to do the same. Both brothers knew, though, that Wangji would not get any rest until he saw Wei Ying wake up to know he was okay.
“L-Lan Zhan?” asks a bleary eyed Wei Ying. He looks like he’s about to move to sit up, so Wangji puts his hands on Wei Wuxian’s shoulders to keep him from moving.
“Don’t move, Wei Ying. Need to rest to recover,” Lan Wangji explains to the confused man.
“Where are we Lan Zhan? Are we back in Cloud Recesses? What happened with Nie Mingjue and Jin Guanyao?” Wei Wuxian is getting more agitated as he continues to ask questions about the outcome of Guanyin temple.
“Wei Ying, settle. Will answer your questions,” Wangji brushes hair out of Wei Ying’s face and presses a kiss to his forehead. This causes a lovely red flush to crawl up his cheeks.
“Ahh Lan Zhan, warn me when you're going to do things like that!” Wei Ying cries out, seemingly embarrassed. Hmm, interesting.
“How does Wei Ying feel?” Lan Wangji asks his embarrassed lover. He keeps a keen eye on Wei Ying’s face in case he tries to lie about how he’s feeling.
Wei Ying takes a few moments before he answers the question, truthful for once, “My back hurts, but that’s to be expected Lan er-gege.”
Wangji feels his ears burning at Wei Ying’s address to him, “Shameless.”
Wei Ying gives him a smile at that and tries to move to kiss him, forgetting his injuries, “Ow ow ow, it hurts Lan Zhan! Your XianXian needs kisses to make it feel better!” Wei Ying ends up whimpering into his pillow.
Lan Zhan takes pity on him, and moves closer so he can give Wei Ying the kisses he wants, not that it's a hardship on his part. It's everything he’s ever wanted with Wei Wuxian. He’ll give him all the kisses he wants for the rest of their lives, if he allows it.
“Wei Ying,” he calls out to get the other man’s attention. When Wei Ying is once again facing him, he gently slots their lips together in their, technically second but Wei Ying doesn’t know that, first kiss as a couple. Wei Ying’s eyes flutter shut in contentment and lets his do the same, soaking in the feelings they have for each other. He pulls away for a second to see if Wei Ying is still okay, but ends up stifling a yawn instead. Its to be expected, he’s been awake for two days at this point.
Wei Wuxian catches his yawn as the other man insists he crawls into bed with him to sleep. Immediately, Wangji agrees, but is careful to put a little space between them so as not to touch the just starting to heal injuries on Wei Ying’s back. Even though he’s just woken up, Wei Ying’s eyes look ready to close again for more rest.
Wangji kisses him one more time, “Sleep, Wei Ying.”
“Mn, stay with me, Lan Zhan,” he says before drifting off again.
“I will,” Wangji says before letting himself fall asleep.