Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Everything seemed to be working well for Jiang WanYin. He successfully rebuilt Lotus Pier and took in a large number of new disciples. Given enough time, he was sure Yunmeng Jiang Sect would regain its reputation just like before Lotus Pier was burned down. His sister, Jiang YanLi was married to Jin ZiXuan and both the husband and wife were living happily, in addition to the child that his sister had just given birth to. Yes, everything seemed fine, but there was only one problem.
The one that he had considered him as his brother. The one that told him when he became the sect leader, he would stay by his side and help him out, just like how both their fathers were. At the same time, he was also the one who chose to leave Lotus Pier, he left Yunmeng Jiang Sect merely to stay in Burial Mounds to protect those remaining Wens.
Jiang WanYin had had enough. Why would he stay at a place like Burial Mounds when he had a home, had a brother waiting for him to return to – not that he would admit that he was waiting for Wei WuXian to return to Lotus Pier. That explained the reason to which why he was standing in front of Burial Mounds right at the moment. He had decided today would be the day when he would drag his brother home.
His grip on his sword became tighter when he saw his brother again after – he could not even bring himself to count how long had it been since they last met. The previous time they both met each other was when his sister visited Wei WuXian to show him how she looked in her wedding clothes. That was not how it was supposed to be. Wei WuXian and Jiang WanYin were supposed to meet each other every day, with Wei WuXian staying at Lotus Pier – at Jiang WanYin’s side, not merely as his right-hand man, but also his brother, his family member.
Wei WuXian was standing there, talking with the Wen siblings. He seemed to be joking with them.
“Jiang Cheng,” greeted Wei WuXian as he walked toward his brother and smiled, but he realized the smile was no longer as bright as how it used to be. He missed his smile so much. He missed his voice so much. He missed the days when his brother was the one who stood beside him. He missed his brother!
“What brings you here? You must be busy being a sect leader and all… or Jiang Cheng, are you running away from your sect? Is it so stressful that you have to come here to take a break? Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Wei WuXian, return to Lotus Pier with me.”
For a moment, Wei WuXian just stood there, staring at Jiang WanYin as if he had said the weirdest thing. Then as if something struck through his brain, he anxiously grabbed the Yunmeng Jiang sect leader’s shoulders.
“Jiang Cheng, did something happen? Shijie! What happened to her?”
Jiang WanYin merely stared at him.
“Tell me, Jiang Cheng! Is it Jin ZiXuan? He hurt Shijie?! I will go kill that peacock bastard right now!”
Before Wei WuXian managed to disappear from his view and really went and tried murdering Jin ZiXuan, Jiang WanYin grabbed his arm and forced him to stay in place.
“No one is hurt. I… I just want you to be back at my side.”
For a long moment, Wei WuXian said nothing. Jiang WanYin thought he would never say anything and perhaps that might be an indication for him to forcefully carry his brother on his shoulders and bring him back to their home, but then the Yiling Patriarch suddenly blurted out a word.
“You promised that in the future when I became the sect leader, you would be my subordinate. Now that I am finally the sect leader, where are you? You said you would stay by my side forever, but look at what you are doing now? You left me, left sister, left Lotus Pier to protect the Wens! The Wens that killed father and mother, they were those people who burned down Lotus Pier!”
“Jiang Cheng, I have told you many times that Wen Qing and Wen Ning have nothing to do with what the Wens did to Lotus Pier. They both helped me save you, they even helped us to bring back Uncle Jiang’s and Madam Yu’s belongings! Jiang Cheng, please! If not for them –”
Wei WuXian immediately shut his mouth when he realized what he was about to reveal.
“If not for them, what? You can’t finish talking, then I will help you. If not for them, you would not leave me. If not for them, you would still be staying at Lotus Pier happily. If not for them, you would not be despised by the cultivation world. If not for them, you would be able to attend sister’s wedding, standing alongside me. If not for them, I would not be arguing with you here! We would be at Lotus Pier, training the new disciples together, and perhaps when we had some free time, we could get some wine together and spar with each other.”
Only that something like that would never happen, not anymore. Wei WuXian would not be able to spar with his Shidi for the rest of his life, but he could never tell him that.
“Jiang Cheng, stop –”
But no, Jiang WanYin was never one to listen.
“Wei WuXian, do you even know what they are talking about you? Wei WuXian, Yiling Patriarch, evil as a demon. Some said you are hiding in Burial Mounds, plotting to assassinate people, and trying to jump up to be the Chief Cultivator. Some even said that you left Yunmeng Jiang Sect to plot to steal my position as a sect leader. Ridiculous, isn’t it? So please, I don’t like to hear what these people are saying about you, but if you come back to Yunmeng with me, all the rumors will stop. Come back to Lotus Pier with me, everything will return to how it used to be, to how we used to be!”
“Jiang Cheng, don’t be silly. You seriously think that if I return to you, the rumors will stop?”
“I will make them stop,” said Jiang WanYin confidently.
“Do you trust me so much? What if what the other cultivators said is true? What if I am really plotting to be a chief cultivator, or what if I really want to be Yunmeng Jiang sect leader?”
Jiang WanYin was furious. He was furious that his brother would imagine him to not understand him enough, to not believe him, and tried to think that he would be stealing his position as the rightful sect leader. He was furious that his brother was taking this as a joke, more like taking him as a joke! He was furious that despite everything he had said, his brother still made no arrangement to return to Lotus Pier with him. He clenched his fist in anger, but he told himself to calm down. Being angry right now definitely would not help him in anything, and it would definitely not help him to successfully bring his brother back. When he finally calmed down and thought, he realized something seemed strange. Previously, Wei WuXian would always make sure that he would understand that no matter what happened, he would stay by his side, but right now, it was as though he wanted him to stay away from him, to abandon him and doubt him. This was not the first time that he was thinking about it, but he felt as though there was something more behind the reason why Wei WuXian was so keen on staying in Burial Mounds. He also felt that Wei WuXian and the Wen siblings, they seemed to have some sort of secret among them.
“Wei WuXian, you… Tell me, do you have another reason why you are so keen on protecting the Wen siblings?”
“What other reason could there be?” asked Wei WuXian.
“I don’t know, that’s why I am asking you. Somehow, I feel like there is something going on among you, Wen Qing and Wen Ning.”
Wei WuXian clenched his Chenqing, internally telling himself to calm down. Jiang Cheng knew nothing, he told himself.
“Wei WuXian, are you hiding something from me?”
“There is nothing I am hiding. You want to know why am I protecting them, it’s because I want to and I am capable of doing it. The things that I, Wei WuXian want to do, who will dare and be capable of stopping me?”
“Wei WuXian, you!”
Jiang WanYin was enraged. Enough was enough. He, the proud Yunmeng Jiang Sect Leader came all the way here to Burial Mounds to beg the one he thought of as his brother to return with him, yet not even was he not touched, it also did not seem like he appreciated his effort at all. He wanted to be stubborn, he wanted to stay at Burial Mounds to continue to be the fearful Yiling Patriarch, so be it! See if he would care! He turned to leave, not even trying to offer any other words.
Yes, that’s how it should be, thought Wei WuXian as he watched Jiang WanYin leave angrily. He knew this might most probably be the last time his brother would visit him, but that was the right thing to do. They should stop meeting each other. He did not want to bring any troubles to Yunmeng Jiang Sect again.
“Why would you do that?” asked Wen Qing as she appeared behind him right after Jiang WanYin left.
“It’s better if he stays away from me. I will only cause him more troubles,” said Wei WuXian.
There was a moment of silence between them. Being Wei WuXian, he turned to face the woman behind him as he broke the silence by jokingly added, “But too bad, you Wens can’t stay away from me, you people need me to protect you all.”
As he laughed at his own joke, he saw that Wen Qing shook her head and released an exhausted sigh before she left him alone. Once he knew she was surely gone, he stopped laughing almost immediately. He stared at the entrance of Burial Mounds, remembering the shadow of Jiang WanYin leaving him. He allowed himself to fall backward and dropped himself onto the ground. He lifted his right hand that was still holding Chenqing and stared at it. This hand was supposed to be holding Suibian, not Chenqing. He used to be in the middle of attention, always either bragging to everyone or having been praised by others how much of a genius he was.
“Shixiong, your sword skill is amazing. The most magnificent I have ever seen!”
Before Lotus Pier burned down, he was always surrounded by Yunmeng Jiang junior disciples, showing off how strong he was and listened to each and every praise that was sent to him. Jiang FengMian was always proud of him. Madam Yu, although looking as frustrated with him as usual, he always heard others (usually his Shijie) told him that despite everything, she was proud to have him as the head disciple of Yunmeng Jiang Sect. That was one of the reasons she would always compare her son with him. She wanted her son to be better than Wei WuXian, which actually meant she acknowledged Wei WuXian’s skills and abilities as a cultivator.
His future as a proud cultivator had ended right after Lotus Pier burned down. He would not be able to wield his sword in the front line anymore. He would not be able to stand beside Jiang Cheng and fought alongside him. All he could do now was to hide away from the cultivators, he could only stay in Burial Mounds forever, and hopefully, everyone would be kind enough to not disrupt the little peace that had been left for them.
“Jiang Cheng, I am sorry. Please take care of Shijie and yourself.”
It was yet another peaceful day in Cloud Recesses, but it was a different case in Jingshi. Lan WangJi was playing out the melodic music with his guqin – the music he had composed for a certain someone. He looked as calm as always, but his mind was in a mess. He could not stop thinking that something was wrong, that Wei WuXian – his Wei Ying must have been hiding something from everyone.
Something was definitely not right. The man had not only stopped bringing his sword around, but he was never seen using any spiritual energy too. Like when he was injured back at Burial Mounds, Lan WangJi tried sending him spiritual energy but Wei WuXian pushed him away immediately, his face seemed a little… apprehensive? It was like he did not dare to receive any spiritual energy. Was it something to do with demonic cultivation?
He could not let this continue. Tomorrow, he decided, he would go to the Burial Mounds and once again repeat to the man the similar phrase for who knows how many times had it been.
Wei Ying, please come back to Gusu with me.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Some people might categorize Lan WangJi as a stubborn man, but he would prefer to use the word determined, especially when it was related to Wei WuXian, the one and only man that made him crave for his attention. He needed to take Wei WuXian away, to hide him from the cultivation world so that no harm would be brought to him. Somehow, he had a feeling that something bad would be happening soon if Wei WuXian continued to stay here. Today, he would try with all he could do to try and convince him to go to Gusu. He could bring the remaining Wens along too and if his uncle protested and forbid them from entering, they could all go stay somewhere else, with Lan WangJi staying by Wei WuXian’s side and he would hold the responsibility of protecting all of them.
A few steps after walking into Burial Mounds, he felt someone's hands wrapped around his left leg. He looked down and there he saw a small boy – he remembered his name was A-Yuan.
Lan WangJi looked up and saw Wen Qing standing a few steps away from him, calling out to her nephew. When they met each other’s eyes, both exchanged greetings solemnly.
“Wei WuXian is at the Demon Slaughtering Cave,” said Wen Qing.
There was no need to question the second master of Gusu Lan’s visit as she was sure that the only person that he cared enough to come all the way here was none other than for Wei WuXian. She scrutinized him when he nodded and expressed his gratitude as he left and walked toward the said cave. Before this, when Lan WangJi previously visited Wei WuXian, she could already see how much this man cared for him. Their relationship was not like how it was rumored to be, in which she had heard of stories of how Lan WangJi hated Wei WuXian. They seemed close, but not too close. It was as if there was a wall filled with multiple holes between them. They could see each other easily through the holes, but could never get near enough and destroy the wall. Wen Qing sighed and turned away from the man. The relationship between these two men could only be described in one word.
Lan WangJi halted in front of the Demon Slaughtering Cave. In the cave, there was a melody being played. He was surprised that the man actually remembered the song given how terrible his memory was, in addition to the fact that he was not fully awake when the song was presented in front of him. It was the song that Lan WangJi composed himself, the song that he had played for Wei WuXian in the Xuanwu cave.
WangXian – that was the name he had given to the music that he had composed while thinking of the only person he would be willing to fight the whole world for him.
Lan WangJi was brought out of his deep thought when he felt someone tugging his clothes. He looked down and saw A-Yuan again.
“Brother Rich, are you here to comfort Brother Xian because you know he is sad?”
Lan WangJi knelt down so that he was about the young child’s height as he asked, “Why is he sad?”
A-Yuan shook his head and answered, “I don’t know. Aunt Qing told me not to bother Brother Xian because he is sad.”
Lan WangJi got up and decided he should just enter the cave. Once he entered and saw the man sitting on the ground with his flute, the melody halted. The man looked upward and saw him. For a moment, he was afraid that Wei WuXian might show that he was unhappy to see him and that he was not welcomed at all. Appearing indifferent as he usually was, he was secretly delighted when Wei WuXian jumped up and rushed to his side, smiling all the way.
“Lan Zhan! What brings you here?”
Lan WangJi was about to answer when Wei WuXian carried A-Yuan in his arms and started talking again, “You know what, A-Yuan misses you so much. He always asks me where is Brother Rich, he loves you so much because you bought him so many things. So unfair, just because you are rich and he loves you more than me now. Since you are here, should I bring you out for a meal at Yiling? Thinking about it now, I said I would treat you for a meal previously but you ended up paying for it.”
“Let’s go,” answered Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian stared at him, surprised that the man would agree so easily.
“You really want to come? I thought you will definitely reject my offer,” said Wei WuXian, laughing sheepishly.
Lan WangJi grabbed his arm and took him out of Burial Mounds and walked toward one of the restaurants at Yiling, along with A-Yuan who was still being carried by Wei WuXian.
Somehow, they ended up in the same restaurant that they previously went to. Lan WangJi ordered a few spicy dishes and the most famous wine in the restaurant for Wei WuXian, a bowl of porridge and some other small portion of dishes suitable for A-Yuan and a plate of non-spicy dish and tea for himself.
“All spicy again. Lan Zhan, I have always thought you are not a fan of spicy dishes.”
Wei WuXian grabbed his chopstick and put one of the spicy vegetables on Lan WangJi’s bowl.
“This is nice. Try this.”
Lan WangJi ate it obediently.
“How is it?”
Wei WuXian grinned, he finally found someone who shared his love for spicy food, at least that was what he thought.
“Try this too,” said Wei WuXian again as he put some tofu in Lan WangJi’s bowl. When Lan WangJi ate it, Wei WuXian gave him a bowl of red soup and asked him to try out too, in which Lan WangJi also obediently tasted the offered soup.
Wei WuXian laughed happily.
“You are so amazing, Lan Zhan. Even Jiang Cheng has difficulties with this level of spiciness, but you can.”
Lan WangJi noticed Wei WuXian had a change in expression with the mentioning of Jiang WanYin. He had stopped eating as he played around with the remaining dishes in his bowl, looking deep in thought.
“Although Jiang Cheng always complained that it is spicy, he would usually accompany me to at least eat a little. Jiang Cheng, he had always been complaining, but thinking back now, he always stayed by my side no matter how many times I caused him trouble.”
“I will eat with you, anytime,” said Lan WangJi, causing Wei WuXian to jump out of his thoughts, startled by what he heard.
“Lan Zhan, you didn’t come all the way here just to have a meal with me. Why are you here?”
“Wei Ying, I –”
There was a sudden noise in between the two men. A-Yuan had overturned one of the dishes and it fell on his clothes.
“A-Yuan, why are you so careless?” stated Wei WuXian as he stood up immediately and tried his best to wipe the young child's clothes clean.
“Brother Xian, my clothes are dirty. Will Aunt Qing scold me?” asked A-Yuan.
Wei WuXian sighed.
“She will scold me, not you.”
“I will buy you some new clothes,” said Lan WangJi.
“No need, Lan Zhan.”
“Eat,” said Lan WangJi.
When the three finished their meal, Lan WangJi made the payment before Wei WuXian even had the time to fish out the little money that he kept to himself. Without giving another second for Wei WuXian to complain, Lan WangJi picked up A-Yuan and walked out of the restaurant. Wei WuXian promptly rushed to catch up with them.
When Lan WangJi did not answer, Wei WuXian moved faster so he could stand side by side with Lan WangJi.
“Lan Zhan, didn’t I say I will pay? More importantly, where are you bringing A-Yuan?”
“Buy clothes,” answered Lan WangJi when he walked into the clothes shop.
“Choose,” said Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian wanted to protest that there was no need for clothes, but when he saw how excited A-Yuan looked, he decided not to do so.
In the end, A-Yuan had difficulties choosing which one he loved the most, and Lan WangJi ended up buying him five sets of clothes.
“A-Yuan, what do you need to say?” asked Wei WuXian.
“Thank you, Brother Rich.”
Wei WuXian smiled at the young child and ruffled his hair. He looked up when a box was placed in front of his view. Lan WangJi was holding the box.
“For me?” he questioned. Lan WangJi nodded.
Wei WuXian took the box and opened it. Within the box was a black robe and a red belt. Wei WuXian smiled, he loved it so much. It was not only because he liked the robe, but it was also because it had been such a long time since he had received a gift, and a gift from Hanguang-jun was definitely something worth bragging to the world.
“I can’t believe you bought me one too. Thank you! You are the best, Lan Zhan!”
For a moment, Lan WangJi could only stare at the bright smile directed to him. He could not remember when was the previous time he saw this smile, so bright that he felt he wanted to melt right there. It was the smile that he had fallen for back when Wei WuXian was still studying in Cloud Recesses. Speaking of which, he was suddenly reminded of his purpose for visiting Burial Mounds this time.
“Wei Ying, I…” Lan WangJi started, but as expected he was always not good with words, especially when facing Wei WuXian. He looked at Wei WuXian’s puzzled face and then back to A-Yuan who was staring at him filled with curiosity and then realized this was not the right place. He could talk with him after returning to Burial Mounds. That way, he would have more time to think about what would be the right words to convince the Yiling Patriarch to go to Gusu with him.
“Let’s go back,” he said as he led the way back to Burial Mounds.
Throughout the way back to Burial Mounds, Wei WuXian constantly stole glances at Lan WangJi until when Lan WangJi suddenly stopped walking. Wei WuXian halted and when he refocused on his surrounding, he noticed they seemed to be surrounded.
Wei WuXian stepped in front of A-Yuan, clasping his flute while Lan WangJi was fully prepared to unsheathe Bichen. There were like at least ten men dressed in all black. When one of the men charged forward and before his sword managed to reach Wei WuXian, Lan WangJi stood in front of him, blocking the attack. When the two of them were fighting, around five or six other men attacked Wei WuXian at once. Wei WuXian blocked their attack with his flute. He tried to use his strength to push away the swords. He needed to summon corpses to fight for him. Just when he was about to push away those people attacking him, he was too late to notice an arrow pierced into his back, and then a sword was stabbed into his hand that was holding Chenqing, causing him to drop his flute. He turned back in time to notice an arrow was shot toward him again, so he managed to dodge it in time. However, as he had escaped the attack, the arrow was shot toward somewhere behind him, and when he took a look, he started panicking when A-Yuan was there, just a few feet before the speeding arrow. He promptly rushed forward and embraced A-Yuan, ready for the arrow to pierce into him, but the pain never came. He looked back to see Lan WangJi standing in front of him and those men in black were scattering away.
“Thank you, Lan Zhan. You save me again,” declared Wei WuXian, smiling.
Lan WangJi could only stare at the man in front of him. There was more and more proof that showed his suspicions were not wrong. If it was the Wei Ying that Lan WangJi knew, he would have been able to finish off the enemies in front of him within a blink of an eye. However, this Wei Ying who was currently standing right in front of him, not only did he not make any move to counterattack, he was merely standing there as though death was his only choice. Nonetheless, Lan WangJi remembered details like how Wei WuXian was never seen with his sword anymore, how he never used his spiritual energy anymore, and how he always clung to his flute as though that was the one and the only weapon that he could have in this world.
“Wei Ying,” started Lan WangJi and when Wei WuXian turned to look at him, he continued, “Do you still have your golden core?”
Once the question had been thrown out, Wei WuXian widened his eyes in surprise, although just for a few seconds but it did not go unnoticed by the second young master of Lan.
“L-Lan Zhan, what are you talking about?” asked Wei WuXian.
“You lost your golden core,” stated Lan WangJi. There was no need for questioning anymore. Wei WuXian’s actions had been the best proof.
“Wei Ying,” called Lan WangJi. When he was met with silence once again, he stepped forward while Wei WuXian stepped backward. For every step that Lan WangJi made to advance to Wei WuXian, Wei WuXian would take a step back each time. The two repeated the movement until Wei WuXian stopped moving when he felt something warm wrapped around his left leg. Before he even looked down, he already knew what he would see. Out of panic from nearly getting killed and being exposed to the secret that he hoped to keep with him until the day he slept in his coffin, he nearly forgot that A-Yuan was still there with them.
"Is it something to do with demonic cultivation?" asked Lan WangJi.
"It's not," answered Wei WuXian.
Wei WuXian did not have an answer to offer, so he chose to remain silent.
Lan WangJi called again, but this time slightly louder. Wei WuXian was not sure if he was imagining things, but was that concern he had heard in Lan WangJi’s voice?
“I am here to help. Tell me please, Wei Ying.”
Now, why did Lan WangJi sound like pleading? It almost looked like Lan WangJi was seeking help instead of trying to offer help.
“Lan Zhan, not now,” said Wei WuXian, he paused for a moment to look at A-Yuan before he continued, “Let me send A-Yuan back first.”
Lan WangJi looked at A-Yuan and nodded. They needed to send A-Yuan back first, then he would ask Wen Qing to help out with Wei WuXian's injuries. After all those things were done, they would have the time to sit down and talk.
Jiang WanYin was training with his sword for hours, how many hours he had no idea. All he knew was that even when training, he kept remembering Wei WuXian’s words. Like he would go to Burial Mounds again and asked him to return to Lotus Pier! Next time even if he came back and begged for him to be allowed to enter Lotus Pier, he would immediately throw him out without so much of glancing at him. He was in a rage, yes, but he was also lonely. His sister was married and hardly came back, especially when she had a son to deal with. All he had left was Wei WuXian, but Wei WuXian left him. He tightened his hold on his sword.
One of the disciples came running to him, seemingly panting.
“Speak,” he ordered.
“Report came from Lanling Jin Sect that Young Master Jin RuLan was poisoned. The physicians are doing their best at the moment.”
The news was so shocking that Jiang WanYin nearly dropped his sword. He immediately wasted no time to fly toward Lanling Jin Sect. Everything would be fine, he told himself. When he finally reached, he was guided to the room where his sister shared with his husband.
“A-Jie!” He called once he entered the room, greeted by his sister who rushed to hug him the moment he arrived.
She must have been feeling so terrified, thought Jiang WanYin as he embraced his sister tightly.
“Everything will be fine,” said Jiang WanYin in an attempt to comfort his sister, and perhaps to reassure himself too. He helped his sister to sit at the side of the bed as he approached his brother-in-law.
“How is A-Ling?” he asked.
“The physicians said it’s fortunate that he only ate a tiny portion of the poison and that he will be able to recover soon.”
Jiang WanYin wanted to ask if he knew who was the culprit, but before he opened his mouth, someone’s voice was heard outside of the room. It was Jin GuangYao.
“A-Li, I will be out for a moment,” said Jin ZiXuan as he gestured for Jiang WanYin to follow.
“Have you found out who is the culprit?” asked Jin ZiXuan.
“This…” Jin GuangYao seemed like he was afraid to speak as he nervously stole glances at Jiang WanYin.
“He is not an outsider. It’s about his nephew, he has the right to know,” said Jin ZiXuan.
When Jin GuangYao still did not make any attempt to speak up, Jin ZiXuan angrily exclaimed, “Speak!”
“We found something at the kitchen, right beside the food that was given to Young Master Jin,” said Jin GuangYao as he gestured one of the disciples who was holding a rectangular box to step forward and open the box. In the box, there was a flute.
“He wouldn’t!” exclaimed Jiang WanYin in panic. Jin ZiXuan also seemed surprised, but definitely not as shocked as Jiang WanYin.
“Why wouldn’t he?” Jin GuangShan voiced out as he walked toward his son and Jiang WanYin.
“Father,” greeted Jin ZiXuan while the other Lanling Jin cultivators presented there greeted their sect leader as well.
“Sect Leader Jiang, you must not be fooled by that Yiling Patriarch. You might treat him as a brother, but I assure you that he does not. Just like when he made a scene to save the Wens, had he shown any respect toward you at all? No. He is a strong cultivator to begin with, why would he trouble himself to learn demonic cultivation? It’s because he does not only want to be strong, he wants to be the strongest. He wants to take your place as the Yunmeng Jiang sect leader, and who knows perhaps he might be aiming to be a Chief Cultivator as well. Now, he tries to harm A-Ling, next might be you or A-Li.”
Jiang WanYin clenched his fists because no matter how hard he wanted to trust Wei WuXian, Jin GuangShan’s words made too much sense.
The three reached Burial Mounds and Lan WangJi had asked Wen Qing to help him out with Wei WuXian’s wounds. During the whole time, Wei WuXian did his best to avoid eye contact with Lan WangJi. For the first time in his life, Wei WuXian could not find any place to hide, could not form any type of lies. For once, he did not want Lan WangJi around him, giving him all his attention as he waited for him to tell him what happened to his golden core.
“A-Yuan, we need to go. Your Brother Xian and Brother Rich have something to discuss,” said Wen Qing as he picked up his nephew once she finished bandaging the wounds on the Yiling Patriarch.
Lan WangJi called again and moved a step forward in which Wei WuXian moved a step back, eyes still refusing to look at the pair of concerned-looking eyes in front of him. Lan WangJi was about to speak up again when Wen Ning came into the cave and interrupted them.
“Young Master Wei, Second Master Lan.”
Both the man turned to look at him and saw another man dressed in purple robes standing beside him. The man’s face looked like he was ready to strangle someone alive, the ring on his finger sparkling in purple.
Wei WuXian was definitely surprised. He had thought after their previous conversation, Jiang Cheng would never want to see his face again unless he was here to whip him dead with Zidian, which he thought about it, he actually did look like he wanted to kill him. Usually, he would not want to deal with this brother of his when he seemed so angry, but anything would be better than dealing with Lan WangJi right now. Whatever the Jiang Sect Leader came here for, he was thankful for him to visit at the exact right moment.
Jiang WanYin looked at the man beside Wei WuXian, his face indicated that he was obviously surprised to see the second jade of Lan there, but he chose to ignore him as he was here for a more important reason.
He was here to get an answer.
“Wei WuXian, I need to talk to you,” said Jiang WanYin.
“Yes, yes. I am coming,” Wei WuXian answered rather happily as he turned to Lan WangJi, “Lan Zhan, I have something important to speak to Jiang Cheng. Please go back first and we can meet next time.”
Wei WuXian was relieved he was finally able to get rid of Lan WangJi for a moment, but he did not know the man was just as stubborn as him. Jiang WanYin had walked out of the cave and before Wei WuXian could walk out and follow him, his arm was grabbed by the man behind him.
“I am not leaving. I will wait for you here until you return.”
Alright, Lan WangJi was not merely stubborn or determined. He was a tenacious man!
Whatever. He would think about it later, at least he could leave him for a while and there would be time for him to think of what he wanted to tell him, whether he should tell him the truth or make a lie out of it. He turned to leave, leaving Lan WangJi alone in the cave.
“Jiang Cheng, what indeed that you want to talk about? You brought me up here, yet you are not saying anything at all.”
After he followed behind Jiang WanYin and left Burial Mounds, they had walked up to a mountain in Yunmeng. Jiang WanYin was standing at the top of the mountain, staring right in front of him silently.
“Wei WuXian, do you remember when we were young, you climbed up a tree and fell and hurt your legs?”
Wei WuXian was surprised by the sudden question. Was he missing his parents, missing the old times they spent in Lotus Pier together? Did he actually visit him to reminisce on their good old times?
“Of course. How could I forget? Shijie had carried me on her back and then when we got back, Shijie prepared some soup for us.”
“A-Jie knows you love her soup, so she will always leave more of it for you.”
“Shijie loves me the most! Shijie is the best!”
“You are right, A-Jie is the best, yet you tried to kill her son!”
For a moment, Wei WuXian just stood there, shocked. Surely, he thought, either he was dreaming or he heard those words wrongly.
Wei WuXian was not even sure who spoke that single word, but he remembered moving his lips.
“S-Shijie?! What happened to Shijie’s son?! Tell me, Jiang Cheng!” exclaimed Wei WuXian as he grabbed Jiang WanYin’s sleeve.
Jiang WanYin gave him a disgusted look as he pushed aside the hand that was holding his sleeve and shouted, “What happened, you tell me! You sneaked into Lanling Jin’s kitchen and placed poison into the porridge that was prepared for Jin Ling! Thankfully, we discovered the poison early and A-Ling is safe!”
Wei WuXian was dumbfounded. Just what type of nonsense was the man in front of him spouting?
“Wei WuXian, do you wish to take my place as the sect leader that much? I really do not know what else you will be doing next. Will you kill me next, or do you plan to kill A-Jie first so that when I am grieving you can take the opportunity to pull me down? Wei WuXian, you are truly a terrifying creature!”
“Jiang Cheng, what –”
“Wei WuXian, you are so inhuman! I never knew you could be so heartless!”
“Jiang Cheng, you think I am the one who did those things..?”
“Stop pretending! You even left evidence when you committed such disgusting act!” exclaimed Jiang Cheng as he took out something and threw it right beside Wei WuXian. It was Chenqing. Wei WuXian widened his eyes in surprise. His flute had just been stolen and now it was there, right in front of his eyes. Instantly, he knew someone was trying to frame him. Whoever it was, he seemed to want to make Jiang Cheng to completely break ties with him, thought Wei WuXian.
“How could you do such a thing?! You tell me, how we treated you as a family! How A-Jie treated you like her own brother! You! You ungrateful thing!”
Wei WuXian felt something passed through his stomach. He looked down and unsurprisingly, he saw Sandu was stabbed into him. He did not move, all he could do was stand there, staring at the man in front of him who was looking at him with anger and disgust in return.
“If I have known earlier, I would have wished you never return when you disappeared after Lotus Pier burned down,” said Jiang WanYin as he removed the sword out of Wei WuXian. He walked toward the bleeding man and grabbed his robe.
“Wei WuXian, from now on, you are officially an enemy of Yunmeng Jiang Sect,” said Jiang WanYin. He pushed Wei WuXian away from him, watching the man in front of him lost his balance and fell backward and then falling off the mountain. Jiang WanYin turned to walk away, clenching his fists as he looked away from the falling man. He did not notice how Wei WuXian closed his eyes and allowed a few drops of tears escaped, welcoming death as he spoke his most possibly last words.
“At least they are both safe… I kept my promise to you, Madam Yu. Shijie, Jiang Cheng, farewell.”
Just as he closed his eyes, he saw a flash of white passed through his eyes.
He suddenly remembered Lan WangJi was still waiting for him, but it would not be bad if he died now, because he would not need to explain to Lan WangJi about his golden core.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Jiang Cheng stabs Wei WuXian.
Lan WangJi is there to prove his undying love for his Wei Ying.
“His wound is deep. WangJi, you need to transfer spiritual energy to him while I prepare to bandage him up,” commanded Lan XiChen. He turned to move but halted when he saw his brother was not moving at all.
Lan XiChen was confused. Why was his brother not transferring his spiritual energy to Young Master Wei? Did his brother not want to save this man, who Lan XiChen believed this was the man that his brother had fallen in love with?
For once, Lan XiChen was unable to guess what his brother meant.
“What do you mean by can’t?” he questioned again.
“No golden core. Can’t receive spiritual energy,” answered Lan WangJi.
“You are saying… Young Master Wei has no golden core?” asked Lan XiChen in disbelief. Lan WangJi merely gave him a short nod as a reply.
Although that was a piece of surprising news, Lan XiChen knew better than to waste another second standing there. He immediately left to gather appropriate equipment and came back a while later. Lan WangJi gently undressed Wei WuXian’s robe while Lan XiChen proceeded to stop the bleeding before starting to bandage the wound. Throughout the process, Lan WangJi’s eyes never once blinked or looked away from the injured man while he held Wei WuXian’s right hand in both of his hands, as though silently telling him he would be there, he would never release his hand again. Well, at least that was what Lan XiChen could see from his understanding toward his younger brother.
Once Lan XiChen was done bandaging Wei WuXian’s injury, he turned to his younger brother. There was something he needed to question him.
“WangJi, Young Master Wei’s golden core…”
Lan WangJi shook his head, silently stating he had no idea what had happened. Lan XiChen thought about it for a moment before he asked again.
“Might it be related to practicing demonic cultivation?”
Lan WangJi shook his head again, and this time it meant no, it’s not. Lan XiChen looked at his brother, waited for him to continue. Surely, he had a reason for being so sure that it had nothing to do with demonic cultivation.
“Wei Ying said so.”
Lan XiChen continued to look at his brother, waited for him to explain.
“Just before he was injured, I discovered that he had lost his golden core. I asked if it was because of demonic cultivation, he said no.”
“So it was before he practices demonic cultivation? That means it might have happened somewhere during the three months that he was gone…”
The twin jades of Lan both frowned at the same time and focused their attention on the sleeping man on the bed until Lan WangJi broke the silence, muttering a dead man’s name, “Wen ZhuLiu.”
Lan XiChen widened his eyes as he immediately understood what his brother was implying. That was a high possibility. Wen ZhuLiu was probably the only one in this world who could melt one’s golden core. Besides him, no one could remove another person’s golden core unless it was forcefully cut out by someone.
It was said that Jiang WanYin had walked out of a mountain in Yunmeng, blood dripping from his sword.
Yiling Patriarch’s blood.
All cultivators praised him for being justice, for returning peace to the world. He did not provide any kind of response. Many cultivators tried searching for the Yiling Patriarch, but none managed to find him, not even his corpse. Some said Sect Leader Jiang hated him so much and that he must have done something to the corpse because the mere sight of the man, even if it was only a corpse made Jiang WanYin wanted to murder him another million times. The Yiling Patriarch was presumed dead.
A day later, there was a meeting held at Lanling, cultivators were all still discussing the great action of the sect leader of Yunmeng Jiang. Just when they were about to end the discussion, someone broke into the discussion room.
Jin ZiXuan promptly walked toward his wife and guided her out after apologizing to the sudden interruption. He knew what was coming. His wife was definitely here to ask regarding the death of a certain someone.
“A-Li,” said Jin ZiXuan once he closed the door in their room.
“A-Xuan, where is A-Xian?”
“A-Li, calm down first. We –”
“Where is A-Xian?!” Jiang YanLi was raising her voice now and that certainly made Jin ZiXuan shut his mouth. He had never seen his wife so angry, not even when he was being rude at her back then before he started falling in love with her.
“The people out there said he is dead. It’s not true, right?” asked Jiang YanLi. Her husband looked away from her eyes. Jin ZiXuan could not bring himself to look at the sadness within his wife’s eyes.
“What did you people do to him – to my A-Xian?” She sounded scared, terrified to know what happened to her Shidi.
“A-Li, he is… It’s not us! I did not do anything, it’s your brother. He was the one who killed Wei WuXian.”
Jiang YanLi stumbled backward, looking like she had just heard the most ridiculous thing ever in her entire life. Jin ZiXuan guided her to have a sit as he told his wife on how they found Chenqing and how her brother took the flute and left, probably to find Wei WuXian. When he was done telling her everything, he could only sigh in defeat when his wife rushed out of the room. He knew where she was going.
To Lotus Pier, to find her little brother, the sect leader of Yunmeng Jiang.
When Jiang YanLi reached Lotus Pier, she went right into her brother’s room who appeared to be sitting there, wiping his sword clean as a new one. The sword that appeared to have killed her other brother.
“A-Jie,” he greeted his sister as he continued to wipe his sword.
“A-Cheng,” greeted his sister, her eyes glanced at the sword he was holding before she continued, “They said you killed…”
She could not find enough courage to continue, but she knew her brother definitely understood what or who she was referring to. When she was met with silence, that only confirmed the rumors. She wanted to cry. How did things end up like this? They were the three closest in the world, when did things start to fall apart?
“A-Cheng, how could you? A-Xian… XianXian, he is our –”
“He tried killing your son!” exclaimed Jiang WanYin.
“A-Xian would never! How could you think that he would even do that? Have you forgotten what type of person A-Xian is? When you all were still kids and when you have been scolded by mother, A-Xian would give you all his pork ribs from the soup to cheer you up. He was also the first one who defended me when A-Xuan misunderstood me. A-Xian would never do anything to hurt us. How could you even… how could you…”
Jiang YanLi was clenching her brother’s robe, her face in a mess as she had started crying in the middle of the conversation.
Jiang WanYin thought about it, and yes, Wei WuXian would definitely choose to die alone before he would even think of hurting them, but then again, people do change rather quickly, was it not? They had experienced so many things and matured so much after Lotus Pier was destroyed. He himself had changed from a small child who had nothing to worry besides being shouted at by his mother to a responsible sect leader. Besides, when Jiang WanYin previously visited Burial Mounds and requested for Wei WuXian to return with him so as to stop the terrible rumors, Wei WuXian himself had mentioned that he might just be like what the rumors said, that he might actually be interested in taking his place as the sect leader.
“A-Xian… A-Cheng, have you forgotten back when you accidentally broke mother’s favorite porcelain, you were so afraid and A-Xian went and told mother that he broke it? He received punishment in your stead.”
Jiang WanYin thought about it and he definitely remembered it. He knew he was so screwed up when he saw the porcelain broke apart in front of him. He asked Wei WuXian to at least help him beg Jiang FengMian to help him out. Jiang FengMian had always adored Wei WuXian so much. He would definitely help out Wei WuXian with any of his requests. Never would he have thought Wei WuXian would go straight to his mother and told him he was sorry for breaking her favorite porcelain. Yu ZiYuan looked like she was ready to hit him with Zidian until he vomited blood, but fortunately, Jiang FengMian was there in time to calm her down. In the end, Yu ZiYuan punished Wei WuXian by grounding him for a month and within that one month, he was responsible for the cleaning duties in Lotus Pier.
“And do you remember that time when you left Lotus Pier alone, leaving behind only a note? A-Xian brought you back, and he did not say anything even when he was injured for protecting you.”
Jiang WanYin knew which incident his sister was referring to. How could he have forgotten something so important? Back then, when he was thirteen, there was a cultivator who was going around, challenging other strong cultivators and killing them. The cultivator who was a man, he was a well-known murderer at that time for he had killed many innocent cultivators, and many were trying to kill him to return the peace to the cultivation world. At that time, he thought if he managed to kill the man by himself, his father would be proud of him and he would eventually get more of his father’s attention. However, a miracle did not happen and what would a thirteen-year-old child manage to do when so many strong cultivators had already died in the hands of that murderer?
When he was facing the murderer all by himself, he knew he was so dead. The difference in skills was too much. He was like an ant, one step from the murderer would end his life immediately. He knew he had no one to blame. He overestimated himself, to be thinking that he would be able to kill the murderer, how foolish was he back then. He closed his eyes waiting for death because there was really no way he could escape, but when he opened his eyes, he realized the murderer was gone. He was at a totally different place, surrounded by trees and Wei WuXian was in front of him.
When Wei WuXian told him that everything was fine and that they had successfully escaped out of the murderer's eyesight, Jiang WanYin was so glad and relieved. He was still trembling in fear and was really happy that Wei WuXian, his dear brother came to find him and save him. He hugged Wei WuXian and it was that time that he noticed Wei WuXian's back was bleeding. He knew instantly it must have been wounded by the murderer.
“It’s okay, no one else knows you ran out alone, only Shijie and I found your note. We will keep this a secret from Uncle Jiang and Madam Yu,” said Wei WuXian as he smiled and patted Jiang WanYin's head.
“But we can’t… your injury… we need to go to the healer and father and mother will eventually learn what happened.”
“I am not going to the healer. It’s just a scratch, the wound will be closing itself soon.”
Jiang WanYin protested because the wound looked so deep, how could it be just a scratch? However, no matter how many times he persuaded Wei WuXian to let the healer have a look, he would simply brush it off by stating he had already recovered.
Then one day, Wei WuXian collapsed and when Jiang FengMian brought him to the healer, they discovered that his back was bleeding. When Jiang FengMian asked Jiang WanYin if he knew what happened, Jiang WanYin knew there was no escaping. He prepared himself in seeing the disapproving looks displayed out of his parents’ faces after they knew the truth. He braced himself to tell them everything that happened, but before he managed to voice out his first word, Wei WuXian was awake.
“Uncle Jiang, I am sorry… I was playing around in a forest and I slipped, I have no idea what cut through me but when I realized it, my back was injured. I did not want you to worry so I did not say anything.”
Jiang FengMian patted his head and told him to be careful next time, while his mother… She had commented that it served him right and that he should take this as a lesson to stop fooling around before she made her way out of the room. When both his parents were out of Wei WuXian's room, Jiang WanYin thanked and apologized to him repeatedly while crying.
“And that time –”
That was pretty enough. Jiang WanYin believed his sister had already made her point clear enough.
“A-Jie,” Jiang WanYin wiped the tears away from his sister’s face and told her, “He is not dead.”
Jiang YanLi stared at her brother, her eyes looking full of hope.
“I merely stabbed him through his stomach, with his strong cultivation, I am sure he will survive.”
Jiang YanLi grabbed her brother’s arm as she dragged her out of Lotus Pier.
“Let’s go find him.”
The discussion at Lanling ended not long after Jin ZiXuan left with his wife. Jin GuangYao scrutinized his second brother, he looked as though something was troubling him. If there was really anything troubling him, he would be extremely glad to be able to help.
“Second brother, is something troubling you?” asked Jin GuangYao. Lan XiChen stopped walking as he turned to his younger sworn brother.
“A-Yao, when you were working under Wen RuoHan back then, you must have heard lots of things like how the Wens killed the other cultivators, right?”
“Yes, second brother. What is with the sudden curiosity?”
“I just suddenly thought about it. Do you remember if you heard anything about Wei WuXian back then when Lotus Pier was burned down?”
“Wei WuXian, you mean the Yiling Patriach?” asked Jin GuangYao, giving him a questioning look, curious to why of all people, he was asking about a dead man instead. However, it was a request from his second brother that he admired so much, so he would definitely answer his question honestly.
“There was one. I heard Wen Chao had thrown the Yiling Patriarch into the Burial Mounds, though I am not sure whether it is true. After all, it was a known fact that no one can come out alive from the Burial Mounds back then. But then again, this has definitely been proven wrong as we all know the Yiling Patriarch and the other Wens have been living in the Burial Mounds for quite some time now.”
Lan XiChen frowned at the news. He could somehow guess when and where had Wei WuXian started learning demonic cultivation. He was probably left with no other choices, that was most probably the only way he could continue to survive.
“But that is just rumors, it’s most probably not true. After all, this is not the first time I am getting fake news.”
“Have you heard of anything else related to Wei WuXian?”
“Not about Wei WuXian, it was the sect leader of Yunmeng Jiang, Jiang WanYin.”
“What about him?”
“Well, that was just a rumor going wild back when I was working under the Wens. I heard Wen ZhuLiu had melted Sect Leader Jiang’s golden core, but I am pretty sure that is not true. After all, we all see how he swings his zidian around, right?” stated Jin GuangYao, smiling, but the smile quickly disappeared when he saw his sworn brother staggering backward. He looked extremely shocked.
“I… I need to go back… to Gusu,” stated Lan XiChen as he left, leaving behind a puzzled Jin GuangYao.
“Sect Leader Jiang, Maiden Jiang,” greeted Wen Qing, followed by Wen Ning who stood behind his sister. The other Wens went hiding, sensing that something was not right, especially when both the Jiangs were here to visit. It was definitely Jiang YanLi’s first time visiting Burial Mounds, but it had been technically proven that every time Jiang WanYin was here to visit, something bad would happen. The visit would usually turn with Wei WuXian and Jiang WanYin either arguing or fighting.
“Maiden Wen, is A-Xian here?” asked Jiang YanLi.
“Wei WuXian? He is not back yet, I thought he was supposed to be with Sect Leader Jiang?” asked Wen Qing as she looked at the Jiang siblings, who both seemed to be looking worried.
“A-Cheng,” called Jiang YanLi.
“We will find him,” said Jiang WanYin.
They turned to leave. If Wei WuXian was not here, he would probably still be down the mountain or perhaps resting somewhere nearby.
“Wait,” called out Wen Qing, stopping the siblings from leaving.
“Did something happen to Wei WuXian?”
“A-Xian,” Jiang YanLi glanced at her brother before she continued, “A-Xian is injured. We need to find out where he is.”
“What, again?! Who did he end up fighting again this time?” asked Wen Qing angrily. She could never understand why Wei WuXian would always end up coming back to Burial Mounds injured.
Jiang YanLi glanced at her brother again before she decided Wen Qing had the right to know the truth. She started telling Wen Qing that there was a misunderstanding and how Wei WuXian was injured by Sandu before falling off the mountain. When she was done speaking, there was a loud crash behind them. It turned out that Wen Ning was standing behind them and dropped the tray of teacups that he had prepared to serve the Jiang siblings.
“Young Master Wei…”
“A-Xian will be fine. We will bring him back,” said Jiang YanLi as she knew the Wen siblings must be worried about him just as much as she worried for his missing brother. She turned to her brother, “A-Cheng.”
“Yes, we will bring him back,” said Jiang WanYin as the siblings turned to walk away again, only to be once again halted when Wen Qing spoke up.
“Don’t bother finding him,” said Wen Qing.
Both Jiang siblings turned to face her.
“He is dead.”
Jiang YanLi widened her eyes while Jiang WanYin questioned, “What?”
“He will not survive. He should be dead by now.”
The Jiang siblings could only stare at her.
“If the man who you have stabbed and pushed down the mountain is not the Wei WuXian with high cultivation, but he is merely a normal man who is not a cultivator, do you think he will survive?” asked Wen Qing.
“Of course not, he would be dead for sure,” answered Jiang WanYin.
“There you go, you just admitted that Wei WuXian must have been dead by now.”
“What?! Wei WuXian is a cultivator and a very strong one,” said Jiang WanYin.
“He was,” said Wen Ning as he approached the Jiang siblings, “He was a cultivator, a very strong one in fact, but not anymore. Not after he has given his golden core to you.”
Jiang YanLi turned to her brother to see that he was just as shock as her. Wen Ning looked at his sister for permission to continue, but his sister chose to look away. There was no point to keep the secret anymore. The only person who was so keen on protecting the secret was dead now, died in the hands of someone he loved, the one he never wasted even a second to hesitate in giving him his golden core.
Wen Ning stepped forward as he started telling the Jiang siblings how did everything happen, from how they knew Jiang WanYin lost his golden core to how Wei WuXian begged Wen Qing to perform the surgery and how Wei WuXian told them about the lie he created for Jiang WanYin to think that the person performing the surgery would be Baoshan Sanren.
Jiang WanYin could only stare at the Ghost General in shock as he thought he must be lying. It was definitely not true. What he said could never be the truth because… because was that even possible?
That would mean the core in him now belonged to Wei WuXian.
The core in Wei WuXian right now… there was no golden core in that man. That could never be true. He refused to believe it, but the fact that the Ghost General was able to tell him his every single word and movement when he thought he was meeting Baoshan Sanren, he could not find any valid reason to not believe him.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Once Lan XiChen returned from Lanling, he went straight to visit his brother at Jingshi. Wei WuXian was still asleep on the bed and Lan WangJi was still sitting at the side of the bed, eyes focusing on the man on the bed.
“WangJi, how is he?” asked Lan XiChen.
“Not woken up yet,” answered Lan WangJi as he turned to his brother. With just one glance, Lan WangJi noticed his brother looked like he had something to inform him.
“Brother, you have something to tell me?” asked Lan WangJi.
Lan XiChen looked hesitant. After all, the news he had just received was way too shocking, he did not even know how was he supposed to break it to his brother, but his brother had to know.
“WangJi, I have heard something about Young Master Wei, so I thought I should tell you…”
Lan WangJi stood up, clearly indicating that he was more than interested in the topic. He braced himself to hear whatever it was that he would discover as he saw his brother looking rather hesitating to speak.
“WangJi –” Lan XiChen started to speak but was then interrupted when the twin jades of Lan heard something coming from the bed. Both turned their attention to the man on the bed who seemed as though he had finally started waking up. The previous conversation was immediately forgotten as Lan WangJi sat at the side of the bed and called the man’s name, trying to get the woken man’s attention.
“… Lan Zhan?”
Wei WuXian looked confused as he called his name.
“Wei Ying, I am here,” said Lan WangJi as he tightened his hold on his hand as if that would help him to prove his point.
Wei WuXian blinked his eyes a few times before he widened his eyes, remembering everything that had happened previously. He promptly rose up to a sitting position and immediately winced in pain as he felt the fresh wound on him.
“Wei Ying! Careful, your wound,” said Lan WangJi as he grabbed Wei WuXian’s shoulder, trying to push him back to rest on the bed, only to have his hand grabbed by the injured man.
“Lan Zhan! What are you doing here? How can you be here?!”
“How did you die?!”
Lan WangJi frowned at the question.
“Young Master Wei.”
Wei WuXian turned to the source of the voice, and he was absolutely surprised to see Lan XiChen standing there.
“Zewu-jun! How did you end up dying too?! What happened? Who in the world even dared to kill the twin jades of Lan?! Tell me, I will help you two to take revenge!”
When Wei WuXian saw both the Lans kept their silence and frowned, he immediately realized what he said was wrong.
“No, sorry I forgot I can’t. I am dead as well. I don’t think I will be of much help to help the two of you take revenge.”
“Wei Ying. Alive.”
Wei WuXian looked at Lan WangJi, puzzled. Lan XiChen felt he was responsible to help his brother do the explanation.
“Young Master Wei, you are not dead, WangJi and I are not dead too. We are all alive at Cloud Recesses. Thanks to WangJi coming to me in time, we managed to save you from blood loss. You are safe now.”
Wei WuXian shifted his gaze between Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi back and forth before he asked, “Why did you two save me?”
“I don’t want you to die,” answered Lan WangJi.
There was silence for a moment, and then Wei WuXian started to laugh.
“Well, of course you don’t. The honorable Hanguang-jun definitely would want me to get the punishment that I should be deserving before allowing me to leave the world. After all, I have tried killing a child – my Shijie’s son. The Yiling Patriarch, biting the hands of people that raised him up, cruel as a monster.”
“Wei Ying, I believe in you.”
“Believe in me? What indeed that you believe about me? That I will hurt more people from now on?” asked Wei WuXian as he pushed Lan WangJi’s hands away from him.
“I believe you did not hurt anyone,” said Lan WangJi, grabbing Wei WuXian’s hand in the process, only to be pushed away.
“Stop joking around, Hanguang-jun. Even Jiang Cheng does not believe me, and here you are telling me that you believe me?”
“Wei Ying –”
“Do anything you want, it’s not like I will be able to get out of here anyway!”
“Young Master Wei,” started Lan XiChen. He wanted to explain that they would never hurt him, not when it was against their rules to hurt anyone and that Lan WangJi would never let anyone hurt him. Apart from that, he was also dying to tell him how his brother was deeply in love with him and that his brother would throw anything away just to keep him by his side.
“Brother,” said Lan WangJi as he shook his head, requesting for his brother not to say anything.
“Wei Ying, you are tired. I will leave you here to rest first,” said Lan WangJi as he moved to walk out of his room, followed by his elder brother.
“Brother, you were saying something just now?” asked Lan WangJi once they were out of the room.
“Well, yes. I have heard something from A-Yao. He told me that when he was working under the Wens back then, he heard Young Master Wei had once been thrown into the Burial Mounds.”
Lan WangJi frowned.
“And then, A-Yao also told me that he heard Wen ZhuLiu had once melted Sect Leader Jiang’s core, but A-Yao thought he must have gotten the news wrongly since Sect Leader Jiang did not seem like he had lost his core at all.”
Lan WangJi clenched his fists. Although silent, his brother could clearly feel his anger.
“WangJi, we do not have proof. Transferring a golden core to someone else’s body is not something easy. No one else has done something like this before.”
Lan XiChen could only stare back in shock because if it was Wen Qing, the best physician of Qishan Wen Sect, that could explain many things. He watched his younger brother walked away. He knew where he was going – to the rabbits. Ever since the rabbits made Cloud Recesses as their home, Lan WangJi would always go there to spend his free time, no matter in good or bad times, but mostly when he missed Wei WuXian.
Lan WangJi placed himself on the ground, his hand made his way to carry the black rabbit in his arms and petted it. As he was doing so, the other rabbits came hopping onto him, placing themselves around his white robe. Out of so many rabbits, he had to say that he loved this black rabbit in his arms the most. It was always energetic and was way more playful than the others. It reminded him of Wei WuXian.
Right, Wei WuXian.
His poor Wei Ying.
He found it hard to believe that Wei WuXian might have transferred his golden core to Jiang WanYin. There was no proof yet, but he believed if Jiang WanYin had really lost his golden core, and if Wen Qing really had the ability to transfer a golden core, Wei WuXian would definitely transfer his to Jiang WanYin without any hesitation. To Wei WuXian, Jiang WanYin was his brother, his family. He would sacrifice anything for those he loved and cared for.
However, on the other hand, Lan WangJi was not even sure if Jiang WanYin had ever thought of Wei WuXian as his brother. He saw it with his own eyes that Jiang WanYin had stabbed Wei WuXian with Sandu. He saw how blood dripped down from his wound as Jiang WanYin pushed him down the mountain.
Back then, when Jiang WanYin came to Burial Mounds, he looked like he was ready to strangle Wei WuXian. After the two of them left, Lan WangJi got worried and he could not stop himself from following them, even if it was against his sect’s rules to do so. He heard them talking about the times when they were younger, so Lan WangJi thought it was just normal chatting between brothers and he proceeded to walk down the mountain. Just when he was almost at the bottom of the mountain, he turned back to see if everything was fine, only to have himself stared at the scene above the mountain as he saw Wei WuXian had been stabbed and was falling off the mountain.
He managed to catch Wei WuXian in his arms and brought him back to Cloud Recesses. Jiang WanYin disappeared right after he pushed Wei WuXian down the mountain, so hopefully, he did not know that Wei WuXian had been saved. If Wei WuXian would be safe by hiding here in Cloud Recesses, he would hide him here for eternity even if that would make the man hate him.
If Wei WuXian really had transferred his golden core to Jiang WanYin, Lan WangJi could not even imagine how terrible he must be feeling right now. He gave his golden core to the man he thought of as his brother, and the said man was the exact man who had tried to kill him. By now, Lan WangJi was almost sure that Jiang WanYin had never treated Wei WuXian as a brother. Not only because he tried killing him, but when Wei WuXian saved the Wens and stayed at Burial Mounds, Jiang WanYin did not stop him. He let him leave as if he was sick of having him around. Jiang WanYin then announced that Wei WuXian betrayed the Yunmeng Jiang Sect not long later. Apart from that, when the other cultivators constantly badmouthed Wei WuXian, the Yiling Patriarch, Jiang WanYin looked completely unbothered, and never did he stand up for the man.
Thinking back now, there were so many hints that told him Wei WuXian had no golden core, and demonic cultivation was his only choice – his only hope to survive. He still remembered every time when he asked Wei WuXian to stop demonic cultivation, he would look defensive and they would always end up arguing and parting ways. To Wei WuXian, after he had lost his golden core, demonic cultivation was probably the only thing he had with him. When Lan WangJi asked him to stop demonic cultivation, it was like asking him to give up life and wait for death. Without demonic cultivation, he would have died a long time ago.
Wei WuXian had kept this secret for so long. It must be painful and he was not there to share his pain. If anything, he probably added pain for him by asking him to stop demonic cultivation. He did not know what he could do. He felt hopeless at this point. There was nothing he could do to help his Wei Ying. He never knew he could be so useless.
Lan WangJi looked up and registered that his brother was there, placing himself in front of him as he grabbed his arms holding the rabbit. It turned out he was actually clutching the rabbit without realizing it. He released the rabbit and it quickly hopped away, glad that its master finally released it and it could breathe again. Lan XiChen brought his hands up to his brother’s face and wiped the tears off the younger man’s face. Lan WangJi did not even notice he was crying in the middle of his messed-up thoughts.
“Brother…” he called out brokenly.
Lan XiChen wiped the tears off his brother’s face again as he pulled him into an embrace.
“It’s all right, WangJi. We are all here. Young Master Wei is here, he is safe. We, the Gusu Lan Sect will protect Wei WuXian.”
Lan WangJi did not say anything in return. He sat there silently, weeping in his brother’s shoulder. He always had a brother to comfort him, but Wei WuXian had none. That single thought made his heart ached as he wept harder.
Jiang WanYin opened the door to Wei WuXian’s room. He used to always come to the room to find for his brother, either tried waking him up in the morning whenever he was needed because something happened or they would spend their time drinking at night from time to time. The last time he entered the room was somewhere before Lotus Pier burned down, when Wei WuXian came back injured from the Xuanwu cave incident. He stared at the bed and remembered their previous conversation just like it had just happened yesterday.
“In future when you are the sect leader, I will be your subordinate, just like your father and my father.”
A drop of tear escaped his eye as he remembered how touched he was back then. He was so disappointed with Wei WuXian when he left to protect the Wens, thinking that he had totally forgotten the promise between them. Now he understood. Wei WuXian had never forgotten the promise, but he knew perfectly well that he was unable to hold the promise anymore. Without a golden core, there was no way he could continue to stay in the cultivation world like before, let alone being his subordinate to help him out.
He walked forward, trying to approach the bed. Before he even managed to reach there, he felt himself kicking something on the floor and looked down, turned out it was Wei WuXian’s sword, Suibian. He picked the sword up and unsheathed it. He finally remembered that after Wei WuXian returned from disappearing for three months, he was never seen touching his sword anymore. He had often reminded his brother to always take his sword with him, but he seemed to always defy him, which made him furious at him.
“Wei WuXian, where is your sword?”
“No idea, probably thrown somewhere in the room.”
“From now on, wherever you go, take your sword with you. You know what the other cultivators are saying about you, that you are disrespectful, attending events without your sword. I don’t want to hear anyone saying that about Yunmeng Jiang disciples, and don’t forget your role as the eldest disciple of the Yunmeng Jiang sect.”
“Whatever other people say is their problem. I just don’t feel like taking Suibian along. Jiang Cheng, stop forcing me. You know me, the more you forbid me to do something, the more I am interested to do it.”
“Wei WuXian, why are you always like this?! At least give me some face in front of other sects. What would people say about our sect?”
“If you care about it so much, I will stop appearing myself in front of other cultivators then.”
Indeed, Wei WuXian had eventually stopped appearing in front of other cultivators when he went to stay at Burial Mounds with the remaining Wens. Jiang WanYin allowed more tears to fall off to his cheeks. He was frustrated with his brother, thinking he was always bringing trouble, never considerate to him at all. He was wrong, the one who was inconsiderate was none other than himself. He repeatedly forced his brother to hold the sword that he would no longer be able to use. Once he used the sword, everyone would discover something was wrong, and would soon realize that he had lost his golden core.
Then there was this once when the three of them, Jiang WanYin, Wei WuXian and Jiang YanLi were having breakfast together, where Jiang YanLi reminded both her brothers about their childhood times, like how they always played around and fought each other. All three of them smiled at the memories while Jiang WanYin said it had been a long time since they fought each other. He asked Wei WuXian to take out his sword, so they could have a match and see how much both of them had improved.
“Not today, next time,” said Wei WuXian as he drank his tea, ignoring the weird stares given to him from the Jiang siblings.
“You…” Jiang WanYin had said, and Wei WuXian somehow grabbed the cup he was holding tighter. His heart was beating fast as he was starting to worry that Jiang WanYin might have discovered something was wrong with him.
“I know it, you are afraid of losing to me,” said Jiang WanYin as he smirked, looking absolutely proud of himself. Wei WuXian released a sigh of relief.
“I am just tired today, and swordplay is boring,” said Wei WuXian. Both Jiang WanYin and Jiang YanLi exchanged quick glances with each other.
“A-Xian, you used to always love matches,” stated Jiang YanLi.
“That was the last time when I was still immature. We can’t always stay immature and I merely grew up,” stated Wei WuXian. He put the cup that he had finished drinking onto the table before he stood up, excusing himself and informing the Jiang siblings that he would like to take a walk around Yunmeng. Jiang WanYin was worried at first but quickly dismissed it, thinking that he must have held a greater interest in wandering around and getting to drink his wine rather than having a sword match.
“You knew you can’t hold Suibian anymore… because I will know you have lost your golden core if you do so,” said Jiang WanYin as he knelt right beside Wei WuXian’s bed, allowing more tears to flow, drenching the bed beside him. His hand traveled to where the golden core – Wei WuXian’s golden core was located in his body.
“I didn’t know… I really didn’t know…”
He recalled how Wei WuXian told him Baosan Sanren could help him recover his golden core. He believed him so easily, never once thinking that was too good to be true. Wei WuXian told him that it was his first and last chance, reminded him not to act without thinking again and to treasure his restored golden core. Of course he should, because if he lost the golden core again, Wei WuXian would have no idea where to get another golden core for him. He felt his heart aching, imagining what he made his brother went through. He remembered Wen Ning describing to him how he had to stay awake for two days during the surgery, enduring the pain of having his golden core removed from him. He clenched his chest painfully. Even until now, he remembered how painful it was to watch Wen ZhuLiu melt his golden core in front of him and he was sure it must have been so much worse for Wei WuXian.
“Why, Wei WuXian… If I have known, I will never take it..!”
Jiang WanYin sobbed miserably as he hit the bed repeatedly with his fist, hoping that would ease the pain in his heart for at least a little. Wei WuXian had sacrificed for him, putting him as a priority above himself and what he did was simply believing what others talked about him, never supported him when he heard people badmouthed him. After all that Wei WuXian had done, there was no excuse that what he did was absolutely unforgivable. He remembered when he had stabbed Wei WuXian, accusing him of something as ridiculous as trying to take his position as the sect leader. He always knew Wei WuXian was never interested in it. He had always supported him and repeatedly told him he would be a successful sect leader, and that he would stay by his side and helped him out as his subordinate.
“Wei WuXian, do you wish to take my place as the sect leader that much? I really do not know what else you will be doing next. Will you kill me next, or do you plan to kill A-Jie first so that when I am grieving you can take the opportunity to pull me down? Wei WuXian, you are truly a terrifying creature!”
“Jiang Cheng, what –”
“Wei WuXian, you are so inhuman! I never knew you could be so heartless!”
That was what he had said to the one who willingly gave his golden core away for him. Who was he kidding? At this point, he was entirely sure that there was no one else more inhuman and heartless than him in this world.
“Jiang Cheng, you think I am the one who did those things..?”
“Stop pretending! You even left evidence when you committed such disgusting act!” exclaimed Jiang WanYin as he took out something and threw it right beside Wei WuXian. It was Chenqing. Wei WuXian widened his eyes in surprise.
He remembered the look that was shown on his brother’s face.
“How could you do such a thing?! You tell me, how we treated you as a family! How A-Jie treated you like her own brother! You! You ungrateful thing!”
Ungrateful thing, he had said. How laughable. He was the one who was truly ungrateful here.
Wei WuXian felt something passed through his stomach. He looked down and unsurprisingly, he saw Jiang Cheng’s sword was stabbed into him. He did not move, all he could do was stand there, looking at the man in front of him who was looking at him with anger and disgust in return.
Jiang WanYin still remembered how he had stabbed his brother. Even if he felt as though he was angry and disappointed, he never wished for the death of Wei WuXian because he still considered him as his dearest brother no matter what he did, despite how unforgivable he thought it was. He stabbed him and pushed him down the mountain. He knew he would not die, not if he had such a strong golden core to help protect himself, but the problem was there was no golden core.
“If I have known earlier, I would have wished you never return when you disappeared after Lotus Pier burned down,” said Jiang WanYin as he removed the sword out of Wei WuXian.
He knew that sounded harsh back then, but that was the point. He wanted the words to sound as harsh as possible, he wanted Wei WuXian to understand how much he hated him. Being Wei WuXian, after listening to something like that, Jiang WanYin was sure he must have hoped he never returned and died in those three months that he had disappeared.
“I should have trusted you! I should have never doubted you!”
Jiang WanYin cried louder.
“Wei WuXian, my brother, I am sorry! Please come back, come back to me! I am sorry!”
He screamed and repeated the words ‘I am sorry’ again and again while he cried louder and louder each passing second.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Three days passed since Wei WuXian had woken up, he had yet to speak up since then. Lan WangJi repeatedly helped him changed his bandages and brought him meals, but he had never once touched any of those meals. He would just sit on the bed, hardly making any movement as he stared at the white wall. Sometimes, a few drops of tears would escape his eyes while staring at the wall. Lan WangJi did not need to ask to figure out what or who he was thinking about.
“Wei Ying, I have prepared some porridge for you today.”
As usual, Wei WuXian ignored him. Sometimes, Lan WangJi had to wonder if the man ever heard him.
“Wei Ying, please at least have some,” said Lan WangJi as he placed the spoon filled with porridge in front of the Yiling Patriarch. Wei WuXian continued to look away, never once meeting his eyes these three days.
“I will leave it here for you,” said Lan WangJi as he turned to glance at him before leaving. Once he closed the door of Jingshi, he saw his brother standing there, waiting for him outside.
“He is not eating again?” asked Lan XiChen as he observed his brother. Lan WangJi shook his head and looked at his brother, he looked troubled as his eyes were silently stating that he had no idea what he should do.
“Is there anything in specific that can attract Young Master Wei to eat? Does he have anything in particular he loves to eat?” asked Lan XiChen. Lan WangJi looked at him and nodded.
“Spicy food and Emperor’s Smile. I will go and prepare it right now,” said Lan WangJi. He seemed excited in Lan XiChen’s opinion, probably happy to see Wei WuXian eat again.
“I suppose you don’t need my help with the food. I will go and buy some Emperor’s Smile back,” said Lan XiChen. Lan WangJi gave his thanks before they walked in separate directions, one toward the kitchen while the other heading out of Cloud Recesses, going to Caiyi Town.
Once Lan WangJi went into the kitchen, everyone working there greeted him edgily, terrified as if they had done something wrong to have the second master of Gusu Lan to personally come and point out their wrongdoings. Lan WangJi merely nodded to them and went to find the ingredients he needed, ignoring hundreds of eyes staring at him. He was not one to cook, in fact, he had not really cooked much throughout his entire life. He remembered those dishes he ate in Yiling with Wei WuXian and A-Yuan, and he was planning to cook something similar to those dishes.
He had no idea how long he had been standing there cooking, but when he had finally finished preparing the dishes, all of them were looking red. He put all the dishes along with a bowl of rice into a tray and carried out of the kitchen and walked to Jingshi, in which he saw his brother was already standing there waiting for him, his hand carrying freshly bought Emperor’s Smile. Together, the Lan brothers walked into Jingshi, feeling hopeful that Wei WuXian might finally be able to eat this time. If even all these spicy food and the wines that he had always craved for would not work, then they could only make him eat by force.
Lan XiChen was only holding Emperor’s Smile with one hand, so he used another hand to open the door of Jingshi. Once the door was opened, what they saw startled them. Lan WangJi dropped all of the freshly cooked food as he rushed into his room and approached the fallen man while Lan XiChen quickly placed the wines onto the table before rushing forward too.
Wei WuXian was lying on the ground, eyes closed and looking paler than usual.
“Wei Ying!” Lan WangJi called for him frantically as he carried him in his arms and placed him on the bed. Lan XiChen moved to test his pulse to make sure he was still alive.
“He is fine, probably just weak from the lack of food. Once he wakes up, we have to make him eat,” said Lan XiChen.
Lan WangJi nodded, his eyes never leaving the man on the bed.
“I will leave first and have people to clean up outside,” said Lan XiChen.
“Thank you, brother,” said Lan WangJi.
Lan XiChen nodded and moved to leave. Once the door was heard closed, Lan WangJi turned his attention back to the bed.
He stroked his cheeks and pushed aside the hairs that were covering his eyes and as he did that, he noticed a drop of tear falling off his eye. A broken voice sounded in the room, calling for someone.
Lan WangJi felt his heart clenched in pain. He knew how much this man on the bed right now loved his Shijie, it must have hurt so much for him. He knew to Wei Ying, the Jiangs were his family. Lotus Pier was his only home. He wiped off the tear that left the man’s eye as he continued to stroke his face gently.
“Wei Ying, I am here,” he said softly.
He clenched the man’s hand and swore to protect him from now on. He would never let anyone hurt his Wei Ying again. He would make him return to the young man wearing the same bright smile on his face every day, the face he had grown to love.
Smells nice, that was the first thing Wei WuXian thought when he found himself awake. His eyes were still closed, but he tried to remember what belonged to the smell. He had smelt something like that before and loved it.
He cracked his eyes open in an instant and jumped off the bed, but he realized way too late that he should not have done that. He felt dizzy and lost his balance, falling forward, but just when he thought he was about to hit his face on the ground, he came in contact with something soft, white in color.
The voice sounded familiar too. He looked up the see the man dressed in Gusu Lan’s attire, his face solemn. The man guided him to a table filled with dishes colored in red and there was an Emperor’s Smile placed among the dishes. The man helped him take a seat in front of those dishes as he placed a bowl of rice and a pair of chopsticks in front of him.
“Eat,” said the man.
“This… all for me?” Wei WuXian asked, feeling surprised and happy at the same time.
Wei WuXian looked at the table and licked his lips. He had no idea he was actually so hungry. He moved forward to get the Emperor’s Smile located at the other end of the table, only to be stopped by Lan WangJi as he held his wrist.
“No drinking until you finish eating.”
Wei WuXian pouted, but he started eating anyway.
“Mmm… It tastes great! This is what you call edible, if only food at here always tastes like this,” said Wei WuXian half-eating and half-speaking.
“No speaking while eating,” said Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian listened for this once as he was too busy throwing everything into his mouth. He finished everything in about a few minutes and quickly grabbed the Emperor’s Smile and started drinking. How he missed the aromatic smell. If only life at Gusu would provide him those spicy dishes and Emperor’s Smile every day, he probably would not mind staying here for eternity.
“I am done eating now. Tell me,” said Wei WuXian as he continued to drink his wine.
“Tell you?” questioned Lan WangJi.
“You have finally decided what you want to do with me, the Yiling Patriarch, right? This is like my final dinner, perhaps? Not that I will ask for more, although it can be better if there is my favorite Lotus Pork Rib soup, but this is the best meal already!”
Lan WangJi frowned.
“Say, how do you wish to punish me?” asked Wei WuXian.
“Not punishing,” stated Lan WangJi.
“What?” questioned Wei WuXian, and then like he finally understood something, he added, “Oh… is that it? You are going to end my life here?”
Lan WangJi promptly rushed toward Wei WuXian, he grasped his pair of hands with his and shook his head.
“No killing. No punishment. I will never hurt Wei Ying.”
Wei WuXian did not know why, but he felt heat going up to his cheeks when those gentle hands touched his. It felt so warm and safe like there was nothing to worry about as long as these hands would be there.
“Wei Ying, stay by my side,” said Lan WangJi as he moved a hand up to cup Wei WuXian’s cheek, “Let me protect you.”
Wei WuXian could neither move nor say anything in reply. He felt his cheeks reddened, why was it suddenly getting so hot here? Perhaps the dishes were really too spicy? Besides, his heart seemed to be pounding faster for no specific reason (at least that was what he thought). Was he sick? He found his eyes unable to leave the man’s eyes in front of him. He could only stare at the man but he soon realized he must have been staring for too long when he heard his name being called out in a concerned tone.
“Wei Ying?” Lan WangJi tried calling again.
Wei WuXian took his hands away out of Lan WangJi’s hold and stood up.
“Protect me? Why do I need protection? Lan Zhan, don’t forget that I was once the head disciple of Yunmeng Jiang Sect and right now I am the fearsome Yiling Patriarch!” Wei WuXian grinned.
“You lost your golden core,” stated Lan WangJi.
The grin on Wei WuXian’s face disappeared almost immediately. He had forgotten that Lan WangJi found out about it.
“You gave it to Jiang WanYin.”
Wei WuXian turned to him, looking astounded.
“You – how?”
Lan WangJi kept his silence. Wei WuXian tried to think about how he might find out and when a certain idea crossed his mind, he grew panic and rushed to Lan WangJi and grabbed his arms.
“Jiang Cheng! Is he the one who told you?”
“No,” said Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian released a sigh of relief.
“Lan Zhan, please don’t tell Jiang Cheng. I can’t let him know,” pleaded Wei WuXian.
“He does not know?” asked Lan WangJi, perplexed with this new knowledge.
“No one knows besides Wen Qing and Wen Ning. Please, Lan Zhan, help me keep this secret.”
“Why don’t you let him know?”
“He would not take my golden core if he knew. He is the sect leader, how can he live without a golden core?”
“How about you?”
“Me? I am not important at all.”
Lan WangJi was furious. How could he say he is not important at all? To him, no one in this world was more important than him!
“He has no right to take your golden core.”
“He is the only one that has the right to take my golden core.”
“The Jiangs aren’t worth you sacrificing for them.”
“Don’t you dare badmouth my Shijie and Jiang Cheng!”
“Wei Ying –”
“Who do you think you are, Lan WangJi? You know nothing! Shijie and Jiang Cheng are the ones who grew up with me, they took care of me! It's just a golden core, it is never enough for me to return the things I owed to the Jiangs - to Shijie and Jiang Cheng!”
Lan WangJi turned to leave. Wei WuXian was disappointed that he would just leave like that, but he did nothing to stop him. Lan WangJi was at fault after all. He should not have badmouthed Jiang Cheng and his Shijie.
Jiang WanYin stood at the entrance of Burial Mounds again. Now that he thought about it, every time that he came here, nothing good happened. The first time he came here was right after Wei WuXian came here with the Wen remnants, so he came here to ask what he was planning to do and ended up leaving alone after Wei WuXian asked him to give up on him. He still remembered he went home that day, back to Lotus Pier, and stared at the empty space, missing the noisy voices of a certain someone. The second time he came here was when Jin Ling had been poisoned and he… he came here accusing Wei WuXian that he had tried harming Jin Ling. He was blinded by shock and hatred back then. He should have known – should never have stopped trusting Wei WuXian that he would never try harming Jin Ling. Even if he was presented with Chenqing as proof, he should not have doubted his brother at all. The third time he came here with his sister and learned the truth about Wei WuXian’s golden core. As for now, it was the fourth time he was here, accompanied by his sister as well.
“A-Cheng, let’s go in,” said Jiang YanLi. Jiang WanYin nodded as he walked into Burial Mounds once again, his sister followed him. Just as they entered, they heard someone crying. There they saw a child pulling Wen Qing’s legs, that child’s face was in a mess. He must have cried for a long time already, thought Jiang YanLi. Jiang WanYin recognized this crying child. He remembered Wei WuXian addressed him as A-Yuan.
“Aunt Qing, I want brother Xian!”
“What do you mean by Brother Xian died? You told me my parents died too, and you also told me that dying means my parents left me to go to another place. Did Brother Xian go to somewhere far too, like my parents?”
“Yes, your Brother Xian left and he will not be coming back anymore.”
“Why? Brother Xian does not want A-Yuan anymore? A-Yuan will be good from now on, Aunt Qing, please ask Brother Xian to come back to me.”
Wen Qing crouched down and hugged Wen Yuan. It pained her to see her nephew crying like this. As she was comforting her crying nephew, she saw Jiang YanLi and Jiang WanYin standing there, once again visiting Burial Mounds. She stood up, carrying a crying A-Yuan in her arms as she handed the child to grandmother and Wen Yuan was carried away from the scene.
Wen Qing invited them to have a seat in Demon Slaughtering cave while Wen Ning prepared teas for the Jiang siblings.
“If I may ask, what brings Sect Leader Jiang and Maiden Jiang here again?” asked Wen Qing once the teas were presented to the guests and her brother came to stand behind her.
“We are here to invite you Wens to Yunmeng,” said Jiang WanYin plainly.
“What?” questioned Wen Qing.
“A-Xian has been the one to protect you all, we will protect what A-Xian wishes to protect too while he is gone,” said Jiang YanLi.
“I am sorry, but we cannot agree with that. The reason why Wei WuXian decided to cut ties with Yunmeng Jiang Sect when he decided to protect us was that he did not want to involve his sect in this mess. He knows once he chose to protect us, he would be considered as an accomplice of Wen-dogs and despised by the cultivators. No matter whether it was about his decision of cutting ties with Yunmeng Jiang Sect or transferring his golden core to Sect Leader Jiang, all he wanted to do was to protect Yunmeng Jiang Sect, to protect the two of you. We are thankful to Wei WuXian for if not for him, we will all be dead a long time ago. I will not be able to have A-Ning here with me right now without his help. Therefore, I wish to protect his wishes even if he is already gone.”
“A-Xian will be back,” said Jiang YanLi determinedly.
“Whether he is dead or alive, I believe this is the only place that we belong to.”
“Maiden Jiang, I believe this is final. Nothing you say can change our minds. We already owed Wei WuXian too much, we do not wish to cause him any more troubles.”
Jiang YanLi smiled.
“You are just like A-Xian. Stubborn and determined.”
Wen Qing raised an eyebrow at that statement. To think that someone would actually compare her with Wei WuXian and stated that they were similar, she believed that should be considered as an insult.
“What, no! Please don’t compare me with that Wei WuXian. He is an idiot! And you are just like how Wei WuXian described you, I am glad to be able to meet you and get to know you.”
“How did A-Xian describe me?” asked Jiang YanLi.
“The best woman in the whole universe,” stated Wen Qing.
Jiang YanLi chuckled.
“A-Xian always exaggerates.”
“And a good sister too. I, on the other hand, not that good of a sister,” said Wen Qing.
“It’s not true, Jiejie. You are the best sister to me!” said Wen Ning.
“There you go, I believe you must be a good sister too,” said Jiang YanLi. Jiang WanYin did not join in because frankly speaking, whether Wen Qing was a good sister or not, it was definitely none of his business. He hated the Wens after all. The only reason he was here was that his sister wanted to do so and he also wanted to thank them for taking care of his brother throughout his time staying here in Burial Mounds.
“Thank you,” said Wen Qing.
“Does A-Xian always talk about me or A-Cheng? Do you think you can tell me more about what he did here most of the time?” asked Jiang YanLi.
And told her, Wen Qing did. She started talking about how the man would stay hidden in the cave doing experiments and losing track of time, then how he played with A-Yuan and teased Wen Ning to pass his free time and then he would always dirty his clothes and Wen Qing would smack him on his head before Wei WuXian managed to apologize. The Jiang siblings smiled at that. They could totally imagine what Wen Qing was describing.
Then she also proceeded to tell them how Wei WuXian got a little drunk that one time when he knew Jiang YanLi was about to get married to Jin ZiXuan and he could not attend the wedding. Jiang WanYin and Jiang YanLi felt their hearts smashed into pieces. They never thought it would have affected him that much.
Jiang WanYin felt like either stabbing himself or knocking his head against the wall. He felt like it was all his fault. He should have stayed by his brother’s side no matter what happened. He should have never cut ties with Wei WuXian and if his brother wished to protect the Wen remnants that much, he should have just helped him out. He only realized this when Wei WuXian went missing after the incident where he stabbed him and pushed him down the mountain, but if he was given another chance, he would do anything Wei WuXian asked of him. Yes, he would do anything that he can do as long as it meant he would still have his brother by his side.
Jiang YanLi was deeply regretting. When Jiang WanYin told her that Wei WuXian decided to cut ties with them to protect the Wens and that Wei WuXian asked for them to respect his decision, she should have done something instead of thinking that her two brothers would be able to sort things out by themselves like in the past. She should have allowed Wei WuXian – her dear little brother to attend her wedding no matter what the others would comment about it.
“I am sorry, I probably said too much,” said Wen Qing.
Jiang YanLi shook her head and wiped off the tears damping her cheeks. She was glad to know and understand what her brother went through. She wanted to hug him right now and then tell him she was sorry for not inviting him and that would definitely be the first thing for her to do once she managed to find her missing brother. That would be soon, she kept telling herself.
“Sect Leader Jiang, Maiden Jiang, I think it’s better for the two of you to leave. It will be bad if the other cultivators find out that the two of you are here.”
“Maiden Wen, do you really do not want to reconsider coming to Yunmeng with us?” asked Jiang YanLi.
“I insist on my decision,” said Wen Qing, firm and solid without a hint of hesitation in her voice.
“Well, then. I will respect your decision. We will send you food and necessary supplies regularly and A-Cheng will send his people here for protection,” said Jiang YanLi.
“There is no need,” said Wen Ning.
“Please accept this little offer from us, that is the least we can do,” said Jiang YanLi.
“No,” said Wen Ning again, he wanted to tell them they had enough food but his sister interrupted, “Well then. I will be thanking Yunmeng Jiang Sect on behalf of everyone living here.”
Jiang YanLi gave a soft smile to the Wen siblings before she and her brother turned to leave. Once the Jiangs left, Wen Ning turned to his sister.
“Jiejie, why did you not allow me to tell them?”
“Food is never too much, and we have so many people here to feed here. Who knows one day one of the two sects might change their minds and stop giving us food? Besides, with Lanling Jin Sect always targeting and planning to get rid of us, isn’t it great to be under the protection of two great and powerful sects?” stated Wen Qing.
There was nothing Wen Ning could say about that. His sister was always right, they needed protection and food more than anything else right now.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Wei WuXian could not sleep all night. He stared at the bed located not too far from him. That was the bed that Lan WangJi had been sleeping on ever since Wei WuXian was brought to Cloud Recesses and kept hidden in Jingshi. Since he had been occupying Lan WangJi’s bed day and night, Lan WangJi had brought in another bed for himself.
At first, he did not understand why Lan WangJi would treat him like he was an honored guest. Lan WangJi never made any plan to punish him, he bandaged his injuries and took care of him like he was made of glass, acting as if one careless step would break him. Then he would bring him food and begged for him to eat. When Wei WuXian ignored him for those few days, Lan WangJi would try to talk to him – he would try starting a conversation and try getting a response out of him. Sometimes, he noticed Lan WangJi would watch him worriedly, but he thought the man was merely worried that he might either start using demonic cultivation to escape or cause troubles in Cloud Recesses.
He was almost certain he was brought back to Cloud Recesses as a prisoner. Why would Lan WangJi even treat a prisoner so kindly was something he did not understand. However, everything seemed different when Lan WangJi told him he would never hurt him and that he wished to protect him. He almost could not believe his ears at that time. He was happy and touched by his words and those warm hands – he wished to be able to be wrapped under that pair of strong hands again.
Everything seemed to be working so well until when they had an argument where Lan WangJi criticized his Shijie and Jiang Cheng. Everything fell back to its original pieces. Lan WangJi left and did not return at all ever since that quarrel.
Yes, he was angry at Lan WangJi for disrespecting his Shijie and Jiang Cheng, but he did not want Lan WangJi to be angry at him. He thought back to yesterday when Lan WangJi left him alone, he looked angry, or was he annoyed? But then again, Lan WangJi always looked like that. He always looked as though Wei WuXian was annoying him. Thinking back now, he always thought Lan WangJi hated him. Why now of all times, when everyone out there was trying to kill him and Lan WangJi was here stating that he wanted to protect him?
There were so many questions he did not understand. He spent the whole night thinking and watching the door in the hope to see Lan WangJi returned. He looked at his surrounding, it was probably around nine in the morning already. He wondered where Lan WangJi slept yesterday. Did he even get any sleep?
He stopped thinking about all the questions when there was a knocking sound.
Wei WuXian stood up almost immediately, eager to welcome the person outside.
He was about to rush forward to welcome the man but then remembered he was still supposed to be angry at Lan WangJi for criticizing Jiang Cheng and his Shijie. He sat back down, pretended like whoever standing outside did not bother him at all as he waited for the man outside to enter. When the door was opened to reveal not Lan WangJi, but Lan XiChen holding a tray of food, Wei WuXian immediately stood up again to greet the man.
A gentle smile was displayed on Lan XiChen as he returned the greeting.
“Young Master Wei.”
Wei WuXian looked around, Lan WangJi was nowhere in sight. Lan XiChen saw the slightly disappointed look on his face and could not help but to smile at that.
“WangJi will not be around, so I will be sending you meals these few days,” said Lan XiChen as he put a bowl of porridge on the table. As he did that, he noticed Wei WuXian was gazing at him warily.
“I see that you have something to say,” said Lan XiChen.
“Lan Zhan said he is not punishing me,” stated Wei WuXian.
“Of course not,” answered Lan XiChen, smiling.
“He isn’t killing me or handing me to the other cultivators too,” stated Wei WuXian again.
“He definitely will not,” said Lan XiChen.
“And what about you, Zewu-jun?”
“I will not do anything to you if that is what you’re worried about.”
“What about your uncle? He hates me.”
Lan XiChen frowned at the mention of his uncle. He tried not to think too much about it, but this was something he could never run away forever.
“Uncle does not know…”
Wei WuXian could only stare at the man in front of him. The Lan brothers were actually hiding him from Lan QiRen? He almost laughed out loud when he imagined the moment Lan QiRen found out that the Yiling Patriarch was in Cloud Recesses the whole time and his two beloved nephews were the ones who hid him here, he would definitely collapse out of rage, perhaps even throw up blood!
“We will deal with that later. For now, Young Master Wei, please take your meal,” said Lan XiChen as he presented the porridge right in front of Wei WuXian.
Wei WuXian looked at the porridge presented in front of him and took it. It would be rude of him to not accept the food given by the Sect Leader of Gusu Lan. It looked so bland, then he looked at the place where Lan XiChen was sitting at. Just yesterday, that place was sat by Lan WangJi and the table was filled with his favorites – spicy dishes and Emperor’s Smile. He wanted to taste those spicy dishes again, with Lan WangJi by his side. He was already missing him. He wanted to see him.
He really enjoyed eating with Lan WangJi, like the time when they ate at Yiling together with A-Yuan. A-Yuan had been so clumsy and ended up dirtying his own clothes back then and Lan WangJi bought him a few new sets of clothes after that. Speaking of which, Lan WangJi bought him a new set of clothes too. He had not even had the time to try it out. It was still at Burial Mounds…
Burial Mounds! Oh gosh, how could he have forgotten? He stood up abruptly which made Lan XiChen stood up with him, watching him worryingly.
“Young Master Wei, is something the matter?” he asked.
Wei WuXian knew he must have looked so panic, but that was exactly what he was feeling at the moment. It had been days. He had disappeared for days, and could almost be certain that the cultivators, especially Lanling Jin Sect – they would definitely attack the Wen remnants the moment they got the chance. He needed to leave. He needed to get out of Cloud Recesses, away from Gusu and rushed back to Burial Mounds as soon as possible. They were all waiting for him. They all needed him. He would never be able to forgive himself if anything happened to any of them.
“Young Master Wei?” Lan XiChen called for him again worriedly.
“Zewu-jun, I can’t be here! I need to go back to Burial Mounds. Wen Qing, Wen Ning, A-Yuan… they are all waiting for me. If I am not there, they will be in danger. I need to go.”
Lan XiChen rushed forward, immediately seizing Wei WuXian’s wrist to stop him from getting out of Jingshi.
“Young Master Wei, please calm down for a moment. You are being hunted by both Yunmeng Jiang Sect and Lanling Jin Sect out there. You can’t let any of the cultivators find you. As for what you are worried about, please do not fret. I have sent my people to secretly protect the Wen remnants in Burial Mounds and food and other necessary supplies will be sent there on a regular basis.”
Wei WuXian looked at him rather suspiciously.
“Why is the Gusu Lan Sect doing this for the Wen remnants?”
“I have heard everything from WangJi that the people living in Burial Mounds meant no harm at all. I am sorry for not acting sooner.”
Wei WuXian shook his head. It was not late at all, he was extremely glad to obtain help from Gusu Lan Sect.
“Thank you, Zewu-jun.”
Lan XiChen smiled.
“I am sorry that this is the best I can do for now. We had a discussion at Lanling a few days ago where I offered Gusu Lan Sect to keep the Wen remnants under control. That way, I could bring them back to Gusu by stating that this was my way to keep them in control. Lanling Jin Sect and Qinghe Nie Sect had eventually agreed to that, but Sect Leader Jiang had objected. He offered to take charge of the Wen remnants instead,” said Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian widened his eyes and started getting anxious again.
“What? No! Please, Zewu-jun, you can’t let Jiang Cheng have them. He will kill them all.”
“I will not. I objected to Sect Leader Jiang’s request, so as we could not get to a point where everyone would agree to each other’s terms, the Wen remnants are allowed to continue to stay at Burial Mounds. As long as none of them act on anything bad, no one is allowed to do anything to them.”
Wei WuXian released a sigh of relief.
“Thank you for your help, Zewu-jun.”
Lan XiChen nodded. Feeling like a burden had finally been released out, Wei WuXian started calming down.
“Are they all safe?” asked Wei WuXian.
“Yes, no one has been harmed. Do you wish to see them?” questioned Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian looked like he was contemplating before he shook his head.
“They are all safe now, but if they are spotted with me together, I will cause them trouble again. It’s enough as long as I know they are safe,” said Wei WuXian.
“If you wish to, I can keep you updated with how they are doing,” said Lan XiChen. Wei WuXian thanked him and smiled. That was probably the brightest smile Lan XiChen had seen ever since he was brought back to Cloud Recesses. However, the smile disappeared soon after and he looked like he was in deep thoughts again.
“Is there something else you wish to ask?” asked Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian glanced at him and said, “Jiang Cheng and my shijie… are they well?”
“They are well,” answered Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian smiled softly.
“Good enough... as long as they are well…” mumbled Wei WuXian, a weak smile was displayed on his face.
“Young Master Wei, have you ever thought of telling Sect Leader Jiang about the truth regarding his golden core?”
Wei WuXian turned to him with widened eyes. Of course, he should not be surprised that Lan XiChen knew. The twin jades of Lan had always been close, it was certainly not surprising for Lan WangJi to talk to his brother about it.
“I can’t, Zewu-jun. Please, I am begging you, please help me keep this secret from Jiang Cheng.”
Lan XiChen was surprised. He clearly did not expect that Wei WuXian would still be so determined to keep this secret after everything that happened.
“Young Master Wei, have you ever regretted giving your golden core to Sect Leader Jiang?” asked Lan XiChen.
“No,” answer Wei WuXian within a second. There was no hint of hesitation in his answer at all.
“Zewu-jun, my parents died early and I was left struggling in the streets myself. Uncle Jiang saved me, he gave me a place to stay, food to eat and a chance to be a cultivator. Now that his son is in trouble, of course my golden core should be given to him. After all, without Uncle Jiang I will not even have the chance to form a golden core in the first place. This is my way of returning the debt I owed to the Jiangs.”
Lan XiChen found himself staring at the young man in front of him with admiration. Given anyone, they would surely regret sacrificing for someone who ended up hurting them in the end, but this man in front of him – he seemed to have never once regretted his choice. As expected of the man who his little brother had fallen in love with.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Lan QiRen grasped the cup of tea presented in front of him and drank it. He watched his elder nephew who was doing the same as him.
“XiChen, as you know, both the Lanling Jin Sect and Yunmeng Jiang Sect have been searching for Wei WuXian, what are you planning to do about it?” asked Lan QiRen, carefully observing how his nephew would answer the question.
Lan XiChen calmly sipped his tea before he put it down and looked at his uncle, “I think having two sects finding for Young Master Wei is more than enough. I believe our sect should do nothing about this matter.”
Lan QiRen looked like he was contemplating as he stroked his goatee.
“I see. How is WangJi doing recently? I heard he has been in seclusion these few days.”
“Just like what you have heard, uncle. WangJi is doing perfectly fine, he just wanted to have some time alone and cultivate,” said Lan XiChen as he took another sip of his tea.
Lan QiRen released a sigh like he was tired and he looked defeated. Lan XiChen looked at his uncle worriedly.
“Uncle, is something wrong?” he asked.
“XiChen, I have watched the two of you grow up and I think I know quite well what the two of you like and dislike. You and your brother are always honest, never known how to lie.”
Lan XiChen stopped drinking abruptly and placed the cup of tea back onto the table. He knew he would never be able to hide anything from his uncle, but thought if he did his best, a miracle would happen.
“I know perfectly well how WangJi feels toward Wei WuXian. When he had disappeared for three months, WangJi had been searching for him all around the world. Why would he even stay in seclusion now when it has been announced that Wei WuXian has disappeared again? There is only one explanation for this and by scrutinizing both you and WangJi, I knew I have reached the right conclusion. Wei WuXian is currently in the Cloud Recesses.”
A soft, weak smile was displayed on Lan XiChen. He knew the day where his uncle would find out about who both WangJi and him were hiding in Cloud Recesses all these whiles would arrive sooner or later, and today was the day. His uncle managed to find out about it way sooner than he expected.
“As expected, I know I can never hide anything from uncle.”
Lan QiRen frowned. Did his nephew just openly admit that he was trying to lie to him all these while?
“Where is he?” asked Lan QiRen rather angrily.
“Uncle, you must not believe what others said about Young Master Wei. He is not someone who will harm anyone and he is definitely not interested in trying to harm Sect Leader Jiang just because he wishes to replace him as a Sect Leader.”
“Of course I know he is not interested to be a Sect Leader. Otherwise, he would have behaved a lot better and would never talk back to me when he studied here so as to leave a better impression to all the cultivators!” exclaimed Lan QiRen.
As he spoke, the memories of how Wei WuXian messed up Cloud Recesses during the time where he studied here came back to haunt him. At the very least, he should feel relieved, knowing that Wei WuXian had stayed in Cloud Recesses for quite a while now and had yet to cause any trouble. A good sign, definitely a good sign. He could only hope that the peace in Cloud Recesses would continue for eternity, but given who his nephews were hiding in Cloud Recesses, he had his doubts. He felt a headache coming over him as he imagined the tranquility of Cloud Recesses being destroyed by a certain someone.
“I am not going to chase him out or reveal his whereabouts to the cultivation world,” said Lan QiRen as he noticed his nephew observing him warily and looking a little anxious. When he noticed his nephew looking not as anxious anymore, he continued, “So how is he?”
“At Jingshi. He is still recovering from his injury right now. He had been refusing to eat or drink anything until two days ago.”
Lan QiRen gave him a questioning look, asking, “Why?”
“The people that he treasures the most, those he decided to protect with his life wants him to die. I believe even for someone as optimistic as Young Master Wei has trouble accepting that.”
“And WangJi?” asked Lan QiRen curiously.
“WangJi was by his side all the time, but he has left Gusu yesterday morning. There is something he has to do,” said Lan XiChen.
“Does he know how WangJi feels about him?” asked Lan QiRen.
Lan XiChen merely shook his head and said, “More like he does not care at all. No matter how much WangJi and I talked to him, he seems to have difficulties believing that we did not bring him back for punishment.”
“You did not explain? I know WangJi is probably bad at explaining himself, but you have always done the explanation in his stead.”
“I did. He was so sure that if even the Jiang siblings wish for his death, there should be no one else in this world who will stand by his side.”
“I will talk some sense into him,” declared Lan QiRen as he started walking away, only to be stopped by Lan XiChen.
“What are you going to do, uncle?”
“Tell him how much WangJi cares for him. If he has the same feelings toward WangJi, I will even let them get married, but with a condition that he must stop demonic cultivation, and he can start over on a good track by learning our Gusu cultivation method.”
Lan XiChen smiled. He knew his brother would be absolutely happy to learn that uncle would allow them to get married, but everything required the right timing.
“Uncle, I believe their relationship should be left to be solved by both of them. We, outsiders have no way to interfere. Moreover, I am pretty sure Young Master Wei will not be interested in starting a relationship at such a time. Besides…”
“Besides what?” asked Lan QiRen. He observed his silent nephew and frowned before continuing, “XiChen, you are still hiding something?”
“Uncle, there is no way Young Master Wei will be able to go back to how he used to cultivate. I think I should tell you this, given how much you dislike him for practicing demonic cultivation. Uncle, Young Master Wei has no choice. He must practice demonic cultivation because that is the only way he can protect himself, protect those people he cares for.”
Lan XiChen clenched his fists and closed his eyes, inhaling a deep breath as he opened his eyes and continued, “Uncle, Young Master Wei does not have a golden core anymore.”
“What?! How..? Is it –”
“No, not because of demonic cultivation.”
“Uncle, I am sure you still remember the incident where Lotus Pier was burned down. Jiang WanYin was captured by the Wens at that time, and he had his golden core melted by Wen ZhuLiu,” he paused and observed his uncle’s reaction, and somehow he felt both of them reacted almost the same way as he continued, “Young Master Wei then begged Wen Qing to transfer his golden core to Jiang WanYin, but he also begged that this is to be kept a secret from Jiang WanYin. Both WangJi and I had agreed to keep this a secret. Uncle should do so too. I am only telling you this so you will stop hating Young Master Wei for what he has done.”
“Why… Why would he do that?” Lan QiRen asked incredulously.
“I have asked him the same question. I even asked him if he regretted his choice of giving away his golden core. He told me that he has no regret at all, without any hesitation. He said it is his way of repaying the Jiangs, that without the late Sect Leader Jiang, Jiang FengMian who took him back and adopted him, he would have died on the streets a long time ago.”
For a long moment, no one made any attempt to speak. Silence filled the air until Lan QiRen released a long sigh and spoke, “And they said he is one who bites the hands that fed him.”
That was what everyone was saying about Wei WuXian recently. It was said that he was heartless for he was raised by the Jiangs and that both Sect Leader Jiang and his sister treated Wei WuXian like he was their brother, only to have the Yiling Patriarch backstabbed them by attempting to murder Jiang YanLi’s child. A few times, Lan XiChen had the urge to jump out to tell the world how wrong they were. He wanted to tell everyone the truth, that Wei WuXian had never done anything that harmed any of the Jiangs, but he knew he needed to keep it down. He needed to make everyone think that Gusu Lan Sect did not have a good relationship with Wei WuXian so that if one day someone suspected Wei WuXian was still alive, they would never think that Gusu Lan had anything to do with that. This was the only way to protect Wei WuXian for now.
Lan XiChen looked up to the sky. It was getting dark. He had to deliver dinner to Wei WuXian, so he excused himself and left, leaving his uncle alone. He went to the kitchen to get a tray of food before walking to Jingshi. When he slid the door opened, he saw Wei WuXian was on the bed, eyes closed and seemingly sleeping.
Lan XiChen put the tray of food on the table and walked closer, which he then realized the man on the bed seemed to be mumbling in his sleep. He sounded like he was pleading, there was a hint of fear in his voice. When Lan XiChen reached the bed that the man was sleeping on, he noticed he was crying in the middle of his broken words.
“…shijie… I did not… please believe me…”
He was dreaming about his Shijie again.
“Young Master Wei.”
“Young Master Wei.”
“I did not… I really did not…”
Wei WuXian woke up, sat bolt upright and turned around like he was finding something, or perhaps someone. He looked panicked, but when he saw no one else besides Lan XiChen being there, he seemed to have calmed down a little.
“Zewu-jun,” he greeted, trying to force a smile on his face but then he suddenly remembered he had been crying in his sleep. He quickly tried wiping his face, attempting to make it clean and eliminate the existence of his tears.
“I am sorry to let you see me like this.”
Lan XiChen shook his head as he brought up his hand and gently stroked Wei WuXian’s hair. It felt warm, like how his Shijie used to do to him.
“It’s absolutely fine to cry, you don’t need to always stay strong. You might have lost what you have thought was your family, but you still have people to care for you. WangJi will always stay by your side, and I… If A-Xian doesn’t mind, I will take care of you too and treat you like you are my little brother.”
Wei WuXian widened his eyes, one or two drops of tears still falling off.
“What did you call me?”
“Does it bother you?” asked Lan XiChen, he looked a little unhappy.
“No, it’s just… my Shijie calls me that too.”
“If it bothers you, then I will not –”
“No, Zewu-jun. It’s fine, really. You can call me whatever you want, as long as you are comfortable with it.”
“If that is the case, shouldn’t you stop being so formal to me too? I really mean it when I said I see you as my little brother.”
“I… Lan Zhan will be furious with me for stealing his brother away.”
Lan XiChen chuckled, “WangJi will not.”
“Thank you, Zewu-jun, I feel better. You are good at comforting people, unlike Lan Zhan.”
“WangJi cares for you a lot.”
Wei WuXian smiled at the statement.
“Where is he anyway? Night hunt?”
“Not night hunt. You will know when he is back. Anyway, now will you get something to eat first?”
Wei WuXian looked at the dishes placed on the table. He really had no appetite at all.
“I know you might not have much of an appetite, but you should at least try eating something. How about taking it as accompanying me? I haven’t eaten too. WangJi will be back soon, and then you can have the food that he cooks for you.”
“So he did cook all the food?” asked Wei WuXian. He smiled at the thought of imagining Lan WangJi cooking for him. The image of the man cooking must be intriguing. He wished he would have the chance to see it for himself.
“Of course he did. He would not let anyone help him out,” stated Lan XiChen.
“Lan Zhan is really amazing. He cooks greatly and has a great taste in food. Can Zewu-jun eat spicy food too?”
“I am sorry, I can’t really eat spicy food, the same goes for WangJi. When we were little, we both tried something spicy and it took us quite some time to stop coughing.”
Wei WuXian looked bemused, because he had clearly seen Lan WangJi eating those spicy food with him, and never once had he seen him cough. He looked perfectly fine with the food, almost like he actually enjoyed it.
“WangJi ate spicy food with you?” asked Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian nodded. Lan XiChen smiled.
“The food here are getting cold. Let’s eat first,” stated Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian followed Lan XiChen to the table filled with food. He sat down on the chair and ate the rice. Lan XiChen used his chopsticks to grasp a variety of vegetables and placed it on top of Wei WuXian’s bowl of rice until it was full.
“You have to eat more. You are still growing, yet look at how thin you are.”
Wei WuXian smiled. It had been a long time since he had someone putting food on his rice. Previously, when he was still living in Yunmeng, his Shijie would always do that, stating he had to eat more.
“Thank you. Zewu-jun, you should eat more too.”
They ate silently because talking while eating was against the rule, but it did not bother Wei WuXian at all. He was too busy wondering why would Lan WangJi eat spicy food with him when it was clearly not something he enjoyed eating. When he returned, Wei WuXian decided he would question him about this matter.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
There was a man standing at the crest of a mountain in Yunmeng, his purple robe swaying as the wind blew through him. Unbothered by the cold wind amidst the mountain, the man clenched the flute in his hand, memories coming back to him concerning the previous time he came here, not alone, but with another man.
He stared at his hand holding the flute. The hand that he had used to stab his brother. It was also the same hand that he had used to push his brother down the mountain. He could never forget the surprised look that was shown on his brother’s face that day. He could neither forgive nor forget what he had done to his brother that day.
“Wei WuXian, where are you?” the man mumbled. He could feel tears welling up in his eyes again, one drop already trickled down his face.
Taking in a deep breath, he hastily wiped his tears away. He turned to walk down the mountain and headed back to Lotus Pier. The day was getting darker, dinner time was approaching. He had left Lotus Pier unguarded for far too long. The journey back was quick, the mountain was located somewhere nearby. Once he reached the entrance of Lotus Pier, the disciples who were positioned to guarding duties immediately greeted him.
“Sect Leader Jiang, you are finally back,” one disciple said.
“Anything happened while I am out?” asked Jiang WanYin.
“Maiden Jiang is here for a visit,” said another disciple.
“She came with another man,” added the first disciple who greeted him.
“You mean Jin ZiXuan?” questioned Jiang WanYin. Why did they look so weird? Nothing should be looking wrong for his sister to visit here with her husband.
“Not Young Master Jin ZiXuan. The one with Maiden Jiang right now is the Second Master of Gusu Lan Sect.”
“What? What is he doing here?” Jiang WanYin questioned, exasperated. What the hell was the man doing here, alone with his sister? What was he trying to achieve?
“According to Maiden Jiang, Second Master of Gusu Lan Sect is here to learn to cook.”
If Jiang WanYin had been feeling exasperated before this, it was all gone, replaced with surprise instead. This was getting so ludicrous, he did not know if he should laugh. Lan WangJi, the high and mighty Second Master Lan, the respectable Hanguang-jun came all the way from Gusu to Yunmeng merely to learn cooking from his sister. Did people of Gusu Lan Sect have nothing better to do? Now that he thought about it, Gusu Lan’s food had always been extremely bland. Perhaps they finally realized the problem and Second Master Lan took the initiative to make an improvement for his home?
Anyhow, he would just go and see for himself what that man was up to. He walked in and headed toward the kitchen, knowing there must be where his sister and Lan WangJi should be.
“Thank you, Maiden Jiang,” said Lan WangJi as he bowed to the woman in front of him.
“It is no problem at all. I am glad to be able to help,” said Jiang YanLi. When Lan WangJi looked up at her, she was smiling at him.
“This person that you are cooking for is someone very important to you?” asked Jiang YanLi. Lan WangJi nodded shyly.
“That person must be feeling blissful to have Second Master Lan,” said Jiang YanLi.
“I am the blissful one,” said Lan WangJi softly, but it was clearly heard by Jiang YanLi.
Lan WangJi bowed again to Jiang YanLi before he left the kitchen. The moment he left the kitchen, he saw Jiang WanYin walking toward him from afar. He clenched his fists looking at the man. The only thing he could feel for this man was hatred. He could never forget how this man stabbed Wei Ying, and with the addition of information that Wei Ying’s golden core was taken by him, all the more the reason to make his hatred for this man to rise.
Trying his best to swallow down the hatred within him, he walked forward until the said man was right in front of him. He halted in his steps as he greeted him. Manners, he reminded himself, was the most important, especially now that he was in his territory.
“Second Master Lan.”
After they had exchanged greetings, Lan WangJi moved to leave.
“Wait up, I have something to ask you,” said Jiang WanYin and he turned to move in front of Lan WangJi.
“That day, when I went to Burial Mounds, you were there with Wei WuXian. What are you doing there?” asked Jiang WanYin
“None of your concern,” answered Lan WangJi.
None of his concerns? Jiang WanYin was annoyed. Of course it was something to be concerned about! Anything related to Wei WuXian – his brother, that would be his concerning area!
“Did you find out that Lanling Jin Sect stating that Wei WuXian was trying to kill Jin Ling earlier than me? Was that why you went there?” asked Jiang WanYin. Lan WangJi made no attempt to offer an answer.
“You were trying to kill him there that day.”
It was not a question. It was a statement. Lan WangJi was furious as he turned to the man and looked daggers at the man. How could that man even suggest that? He would never hurt Wei Ying!
“I am not you,” stated Lan WangJi, his tone harsh and louder than usual, like he was trying his best not to shout. He turned to leave and Jiang WanYin did not stop him this time. He was left standing there, the words Lan WangJi said still ringing loudly in his ears.
“Right,” he said as he looked up at the dark sky, “I was the one who tried killing him…”
Wei WuXian was extremely bored. Lan WangJi was gone for a few days already. Besides the time where Lan XiChen would come to bring his meals and spent time eating with him and checking his wound, he was all alone. He searched around Jingshi for something – anything interesting but found none. There were mostly books. He was left wondering how Lan WangJi could live in such a boring place for years.
As there was really nothing interesting to do, he took a piece of paper on the table and took a brush and started drawing. He did not have anything that he was specifically planning to draw, he decided he would draw out whatever came to his mind. He put a few strokes here and there to wherever he felt seemed fit. When he was finished with the drawing, he took a look at it. Apparently, what he had drawn was a man sitting down, his eyes looking cold as he stared at a distance while his fingers were delicately plucking at the strings of a guqin that was seemingly placed in front of him.
Wei WuXian gasped as he looked at the paper in his hands.
He was drawing Lan WangJi!
He had no idea what he was drawing, he just drew whatever came into his mind, and it appeared he had been thinking about Lan WangJi all along. Really, it was not that surprising for he had been thinking of the man continuously these few days. He was curious about where he had gone to. He wanted to see his face as soon as possible, preferably right now.
He looked up when there was suddenly a knock coming from outside. Panicked, guessing that it must be Lan XiChen out there to visit him again, he glanced at the drawing in his hands. What would Lan XiChen think if he caught him drawing his brother? Unable to think calmly, he quickly crumpled the paper and threw it into the trash bin.
When the door of Jingshi was slid open, he widened his eyes in surprise. He did say he wanted to see the man as soon as possible, but when the said man was presented in front of him, he felt as though he had forgotten how to speak. He stood up and stared at the man who was holding a bowl in his hands.
He missed calling his name.
He realized that his eyes were unable to leave the man. He hardly noticed Lan XiChen standing behind the man, smiling warmly at him. It had been days and he thought Lan WangJi was looking as gorgeous as usual. He missed him so much – his looks, his voice, his silence.
“Wei Ying,” called Lan WangJi as he entered Jingshi along with his brother who stood behind him. Wei WuXian looked down to stare at his hand, the hand where he was holding the bowl of soup that he had prepared for him. Lan WangJi walked toward Wei WuXian and handed him the soup. Wei WuXian stared at the soup and when he smelled it, realization struck through him. He felt tears welling up in his eyes with the familiar smell. He looked up to look at Lan WangJi and then at Lan XiChen.
“Lotus Pork Rib soup?” he questioned.
“For you,” answered Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian took the bowl of soup with slightly trembling fingers and stared at it. He thought he would never be able to taste this soup for the rest of his life. He took the spoon and started to taste the soup. The twin jades observed his reaction to seeing whether the soup was to his liking, but all they could see was that his hands were shaking uncontrollably while more and more tears were finally leaving his eyes, dropping into the soup instead.
“I am sorry. I – I just…” Wei WuXian stuttered as he put down the spoon and tried wiping his tears away, only to have more tears flowing down, watering his hand in the process.
“Sorry… and thank you, I love the soup so much, I will drink it all,” said Wei WuXian as he attempted to put his lips onto the bowl, preparing to gulp down the contents at once, only to be stopped by Lan WangJi who grabbed his wrist, preventing him from drinking. Lan XiChen used the chance to take the bowl away.
“A-Xian, I will bring you a new bowl of soup. Don’t worry, we have a lot more of the soup. WangJi has cooked a big pot, enough for you to refill as many times as you want,” said Lan XiChen as he gave him a warm smile and left. Once Lan XiChen left, Wei WuXian turned his attention to Lan WangJi.
“Lan Zhan… how… why..?”
“You like this. Learned from Maiden Jiang.”
It took Wei WuXian a moment to realize that these few days that he had disappeared, he actually went to find his Shijie to learn how to make the soup. Why would the great Hanguang-jun go to such an extent for him?
“Lan Zhan, you are so good. Why are you so good to me?”
Lan WangJi brought his hands up to wipe away the tears on Wei WuXian as he answered, “I will do anything for Wei Ying.”
For a moment, Wei WuXian stared at him in shock and new tears started appearing again.
“You are so kind to me, Lan Zhan,” said Wei WuXian. Lan WangJi moved closer and wiped the tears off his face again.
“Tell me, Lan Zhan, how is my Shijie?”
“Living well, with her husband and son.”
“That is great… It’s great…”
Wei WuXian, once again started crying.
“Shijie must have hated me,” said Wei WuXian as he started sobbing louder.
Lan WangJi hugged him and rubbed his back, whispering, “Wei Ying, it’s okay. Cry as much as you like, I am here.”
That was the last straw. Wei WuXian hugged Lan WangJi as tight as possible as he sobbed louder and louder, ignoring the fact that he was dirtying the pristine Hanguang-jun’s robe with his never-ending tears. He wailed and called for his Shijie, apologizing in between the lines, in which Lan WangJi could not help but to comment and assure Wei WuXian that it was never his fault.
When Lan XiChen came back with the new bowl of soup, Wei WuXian had already cried himself to sleep on Lan WangJi’s shoulder. Knowing that he should leave the two alone, he took the bowl of soup in his hands and left Jingshi again. It would get cold anyway if he left it there.
When Wei WuXian woke up the next day, the first thing that came into his view was Lan WangJi sitting there in front of his guqin playing a piece of soothing music. He moved to wake up from the bed and Lan WangJi was at his side in an instant.
“Lan Zhan,” he smiled. It was good to be able to see him once he opened his eyes.
“Wait,” said Lan WangJi and he disappeared out of Jingshi. A while later, the man who just left came back holding a tray of dishes in which he placed all of it onto a table. There was rice, a few plates of spicy food and a big bowl of Lotus Pork Rib soup.
The first thing Wei WuXian reached was for the soup. He did not have a chance to taste the soup properly previously before he cried himself to sleep, and this time he finally got the chance to try tasting it to see if it was similar to the original. He had to say, the soup was almost the same as it was prepared by his Shijie, there was only a slight difference in taste.
“Drink slowly, there is still a lot in the kitchen,” said Lan WangJi as he helped Wei WuXian to brush off his hair that was about to stick onto his lips.
“Amazing, Lan Zhan,” Wei WuXian said with a smile as he put the now-empty bowl down and started eating his rice and dishes. The soup seemed to make him hungry and he finished his rice and other food presented in front of him in a short time.
“It’s delicious. Lan Zhan, you are so good. Anyone who gets to marry you will be the luckiest bride,” said Wei WuXian. Lan WangJi’s ears were tinted red as he said that.
“Lan Zhan, thank you. I thought you left me because you were angry at me.”
Lan WangJi shook his head.
“Never angry at Wei Ying. You are right, I don’t understand you.”
Wei WuXian wanted to protest but stopped himself when Lan WangJi spoke again.
“I want to know more about Wei Ying. Can you tell me more about yourself?” asked Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian smiled – more like a grin. Lan WangJi wanted to know more about him. That was totally new. He would never let this big chance slip! It was time for some storytelling.
“Of course!” said Wei WuXian with a grin.
He started with how he wandered around the streets after his parents left him. Jiang FengMian found him and brought him back to Lotus Pier, and then Jiang Cheng was so angry at him because he had to bid his farewell with his dogs and how they made up with each other with the help of Jiang YanLi. Wei WuXian did not stop talking at all. He decided he would tell Lan WangJi about his entire life until he went to Cloud Recesses to study, and such a long story certainly need lots of time. He had time after all. Lan WangJi, on the other hand, might not have as much time Wei WuXian had but he did not look like he was planning to leave any moment, so Wei WuXian would continue the storytelling until Lan WangJi decided to ask him to keep his mouth shut.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
Jin ZiXuan stood behind his wife who was holding their son in her arms. Ever since Wei WuXian was thought to be dead, his wife had been giving him the cold shoulder. She had learned of what Jin GuangShan told her brother and was disappointed that her husband was standing on the man’s side. Anyhow, his wife was determined that his dear little missing brother was not dead, he was alive and hiding. Jiang YanLi would be at home taking care of her son during day time and would be out to search for Wei WuXian during night time. Her reason for going out at night was because she knew her brother would always prefer going out at night, especially when he knew so many people would be hunting for him if they found out he was still alive. When she went out at night, Jin ZiXuan would usually follow behind to ensure her safety.
Jin ZiXuan wanted to call out to his wife again, hoping to get a reaction out of her. This should not go on for long, and it had already carried on for far too long in his opinion. Why would their relationship turn bad just because of the Yiling Patriarch who tried to poison their son went missing? Did that mean if Wei WuXian does not reappear himself for the rest of their lives, he would never be able to reconcile with his wife? Just when he was about to walk forward to his wife, a disciple came knocking the door.
“Come in,” said Jin ZiXuan, annoyed.
“Young Master Jin, Young Madam Jin,” greeted the Jin disciple once he entered the room.
“What is the matter,” asked Jin ZiXuan, irritated.
“Two disciples from Yunmeng Jiang Sect are here to request to meet Young Madam Jin, they mentioned it is urgent,” said the disciple. For the first time after Wei WuXian disappeared, Jiang YanLi and his husband made eye contact with each other. There were only two reasons that might cause something urgent coming from Yunmeng Jiang Sect. It was either something had happened to the sect, or there was news about Wei WuXian. Understanding his wife’s eagerness to know what was happening, Jin ZiXuan urged the Jin disciple to bring the people from Yunmeng Jiang Sect in.
“Maiden Jiang,” greeted the two disciples from Yunmeng Jiang Sect.
“A-Meng, A-Fan,” acknowledged Jiang YanLi.
“Maiden Jiang, Sect Leader Jiang, he…”
“A-Cheng! What happened to A-Cheng?” asked Jiang YanLi anxiously.
“Sect Leader Jiang collapsed yesterday night. He… Ever since Yiling Patriarch was de –” The disciple paused a moment when he noticed the change in how Jiang YanLi looked at him. He tried rephrasing as he continued, “Ever since Yiling Patriarch was missing, Sect Leader Jiang refused to eat. He knelt at the ancestral hall most of the time, and yesterday, his body finally could not take it any longer and we found him unconscious in the middle of the night.”
“I will go back to Lotus Pier now,” announced Jiang YanLi as she handed Jin Ling to her husband.
“I will go with you,” said Jin ZiXuan.
“No, this is between my brother and me,” said Jiang YanLi as she hurried to leave. She needed to rush to Yunmeng as soon as possible.
Once Jiang YanLi reached Lotus Pier, she immediately rushed into her brother’s room. Jiang WanYin was on the bed. His eyes were closed, and for a short moment, Jiang YanLi almost thought her brother was sleeping soundly. However, as she sat at the edge of the bed, she could see her brother sweating, fingers clenched as he was mumbling in his sleep.
“Wei WuXian… I don’t… I am sorry… Come back…”
“A-Cheng,” Jiang YanLi called out to her brother softly as she wiped away a drop of tear that escaped the man’s eye.
As if hearing someone calling him, Jiang WanYin shot upward, screaming for a missing man’s name. He looked around and noticed he was in his room, his sister sitting beside him on the bed and he immediately realized that it was yet another dream. He had already lost count of how many times he had dreamed of the same scene again and again.
“A-Cheng, you dreamed of A-Xian again?”
“I dreamed of Wei WuXian – he told me farewell and then he fell off the mountain. A-Jie, I… I really don’t…” Jiang WanYin found he was at a loss of words as he started crying again. What could he say?
That he regretted what he had done? What had been done could never be undone.
Or could he say he never meant any of those harsh words that he had spouted before pushing his brother off the mountain? But he had definitely said all of those words back then, and he even made sure Wei WuXian understood how much he hated him, how much he wanted him to get out of his life.
“A-Cheng, I believe in A-Xian. He would never die so easily. Besides, he promised me that he will not leave, the three of us will stay together forever.”
Jiang WanYin shook his head as another drop of tear trickled down his cheek.
“That will not be possible anymore… A-Jie, Wei WuXian… he must have been hating me now. I – A-Jie, what should I do? I didn’t know… I know nothing! He secretly gave me his golden core because he knew I will not take it if I know it’s his, but I – I didn’t even believe him when everyone accused him of doing something that he will never do! A-Jie, I..!”
He burst into tears as he allowed his sister to hug and comfort him like he was back into a small kid who always clung to his sister whenever he was upset.
“No, A-Xian will never hate you,” said Jiang YanLi as she repeatedly stroked her brother’s back while simultaneously offered words of comfort.
After a while, Jiang YanLi pulled away from her brother. She wiped the tears off her brother’s face.
“A-Cheng, you are tired. Rest,” said Jiang YanLi as she gently pushed her brother down, forcing him to lie on the bed. Jiang WanYin caught her wrist, his eyes pleading her not to leave.
“I am not leaving yet. Sleep, A-Cheng.”
Like those words were a sort of comfort, Jiang WanYin obediently closed his eyes and fell asleep soon. Once Jiang YanLi made sure her brother was sleeping soundly, she left the room and went to the kitchen. Her brother needed food. She would prepare all his favorite food and her famous Lotus Pork Rib soup for him. She started gathering the pork ribs and lotus roots. She would prepare the soup first since it would require time to boil.
Lotus Pork Ribs soup had always been her family’s favorite, especially her two little brothers. They always claimed that her soup made them feel blissful, whatever trouble they had would soon be gone after having the soup. She always thought they exaggerated, but she hoped it was true for now. If A-Xian came back, then she would prepare the soup again, three of them would drink the soup together, they would forget the past and forgive each other, they could all be together again.
As she stirred the boiling soup, good memories of her two brothers enjoying her soup came to her.
“Where is my pork ribs?” questioned Wei WuXian.
“You have been too slow. I ate them all,” said Jiang WanYin.
“Shijie, Jiang Cheng bullies me again.”
Jiang YanLi smiled as she looked at her two brothers.
“Stop arguing. I will just make another pot of the soup,” said Jiang YanLi.
“Shijie is the best! Shijie’s soup is also the best!” said Wei WuXian fondly.
Jiang YanLi smiled sadly at the memory. Just then, she heard a familiar voice calling out to her from behind.
That voice, the voice she had yearned to hear again! She turned back almost too quickly. She saw a man in a black robe standing there, the red ribbon that was used to tie up the man’s hair was swinging around as the man waved happily at her with that familiar bright smile.
She smiled happily. Her brother came back. She wanted to rush forward and hugged him, and that was exactly what she was about to do. However, as she took the first step forward, the smiling man disappeared within a blink of an eye. Her smile disappeared immediately as she realized Wei WuXian was never there in the first place. It was an image created by her brain for missing her brother too much. She turned to look around the kitchen, it was all empty. No one else was there.
“A-Xian… where are you? You don’t even want to see me anymore?”
“Lan Zhan, I have recovered now! Bring me out!” said Wei WuXian excitedly. Previously, he had pleaded for a few times to be allowed to sneak out at night, but Lan WangJi told him not until he had recovered. He had been doing almost nothing the past few days, with Lan WangJi always urging him to return to bed and rest.
It was an obvious lie that the man had fully recovered, Lan WangJi knew. Without a golden core, he probably needed a much longer time to completely heal his wound. However, Lan WangJi knew the man was dying to get out. He was not one to be trapped in a place for a long time. This man craved for freedom more than anything else.
“Only within Cloud Recesses, but with a disguise,” stated Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian jumped up happily as he gladly took the offered mask and a set of Gusu attire and put it on. Surprisingly, the Gusu Lan’s robes prepared for him fitted him perfectly. The mask he wore was white in color, filled with cloud design with a small hook nose on it. The mask covered from his eyebrow to his nose, leaving the other areas of his face exposed. He smiled happily as he could finally get out and feel the fresh air. He felt like he would be suffocated to death soon if he continued to stay hidden in Jingshi. As they walked out, everyone greeted both Lan WangJi and the masked man beside him. Apparently, he was introduced as an important guest who Lan WangJi had invited to visit Cloud Recesses. As they walked around, Wei WuXian found himself enjoying the magnificent scenery of Cloud Recesses. When Lan WangJi stopped walking, Wei WuXian looked around to see where Lan WangJi had brought him to. The scene before him made him gasp in surprise and excitement.
“The rabbits! There are so many!” exclaimed Wei WuXian as he ran forward, trying to catch one of the rabbits, only to have the rabbits scattered around, all getting away from him. He pouted when all the rabbits hid behind Lan WangJi. Lan WangJi crouched down and gently carried a black rabbit on his hand and presented it in front of Wei WuXian’s eyes. Wei WuXian recognized that it was one of the rabbits that he had given to Lan WangJi back then. He happily took it in his hands and started playing with that rabbit.
“Lan Zhan, there are so many rabbits here and you said you don’t like rabbits?” Wei WuXian giggled.
“But how come there are so many?” questioned Wei WuXian.
“I came across some rabbits straying alone during a night hunt. Brought them back. Brother brought some back too because he is worried that they might be lonely.”
Wei WuXian laughed, imagining the twin jades of Lan going around, carrying rabbits back to Cloud Recesses. Come to think of it, he remembered animals were forbidden in Cloud Recesses. He wondered how Lan QiRen would react in watching his nephews bringing so many rabbits back home.
“Lan Zhan is so kind to the rabbits, but you are never as kind when it comes to me,” said Wei WuXian, pouting.
“I brought you back too,” answered Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian laughed sheepishly. So, Lan WangJi was treating him as a rabbit all these whiles?
“You brought me back and threw me away in Jingshi. At the very least, you have to be kind enough to me like how you treat the rabbits. You must be pampering them so much that they do not want anyone else to touch them besides you,” said Wei WuXian jokingly.
He was really joking, which made him dumbfounded when he found himself being lifted up in Lan WangJi’s pair of strong arms. Lan WangJi was gently patting his head, just like how he was patting the rabbit just a while ago. He looked up to see the man dressed in white, and he felt that he was just too good to be true. He was so pretty, so perfect. Just like that, they stared at each other as though time had stopped itself and they were the only two remaining in the world. Anyone who might have passed by would serve as nothing more than background images. Wei WuXian was leaning forward slowly, he did not know what came to him but at the moment, he wanted to touch the perfect man’s face so much that he could not stop himself. When they were so close that their noses almost touched, Wei WuXian saw two men staring at them. Noticing who they were, he swiftly jumped down from the man as he saw Lan XiChen and Lan QiRen standing a few feet away, watching them. One was smiling while another one was frowning.
“WangJi, A-Xian,” called Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian stared at Lan XiChen. Was this man trying to kill him by revealing his identity to Lan QiRen? He turned to look at Lan QiRen who seemed to be ignoring him like his name meant nothing to him at all. The man released a long sigh after he took a glance at his younger nephew and the masked man. He then turned to Lan XiChen.
“XiChen, I leave the rest to you.”
Wei WuXian blinked at the man in surprise.
“Wait!” exclaimed Wei WuXian when he saw Lan QiRen started walking away. He ran up and blocked Lan QiRen’s path by standing in front of him. Lan QiRen glowered as he controlled himself to ignore the man. Within a short time, this man had already broken two rules.
First rule broken: Shouting within Cloud Recesses.
Second rule broken: Running within Cloud Recesses.
“You are just leaving like this? Are you not going to do anything to me?” asked Wei WuXian. When Lan QiRen did not make any attempt to answer him, he removed his mask and that certainly did manage to catch Lan QiRen’s attention.
“Have you forgotten who I am? It’s me, Wei WuXian. The demonic cultivator, Yiling Patriarch. Are you really not going to do anything to me? Punishment or perhaps pass me to Lanling Jin Sect or Yunmeng Jiang Sect?”
“Be silent,” said Lan QiRen, annoyed.
Wei WuXian looked at him, astounded.
“I will only say this once so you better listen. If I ever see you use demonic cultivation again, I will throw you out right away.”
Lan QiRen started walking away again but before he left, he added, “And if I see you break any rules again, punishment will definitely be given.”
Wei WuXian looked at the Lan brothers, his face resembled nothing but shock, but none of the two bothered to explain anything to him. Lan WangJi turned to his brother and asked him, “Brother, you are here to talk?”
“Right,” said Lan XiChen as he glanced at Wei WuXian, “We received an invitation from Lanling Jin Sect. We are invited to attend the son of Young Master Jin and Young Madam Jin’s full month celebration.”
Both turned to look at Wei WuXian who merely said an “Oh…” in return. He was not even invited to their wedding. After what people thought he had done, of course he would not be invited for the celebration either. Nothing surprising here.
“A-Xian, do you want to come?” asked Lan XiChen. Wei WuXian looked at him, shock was written all over his face.
“I can?” he asked, a hint of excitement in his voice.
“If you put on a disguise, then it’s possible,” said Lan XiChen.
“I will! I will!” answered Wei WuXian happily.
“Thank you, Zewu-jun!” said Wei WuXian before he bowed gratefully and rushed back to Jingshi. He had to think of what type of gift to be given to Jin Ling on his full month celebration. Lan WangJi was about to follow the man, but his brother stopped him.
“WangJi, there are lots of people who might recognize A-Xian’s voice. We have to do something about it,” said Lan XiChen. Lan WangJi thought for a second and nodded. The two brothers proceeded to visit the library together to figure out the best solution out of it.
After almost half a day of searching for a solution, Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi had both decided that they could cast a voice changing spell on the mask that Wei WuXian would be wearing. As long as the mask was not removed, his true voice would not be discovered. Once it had been settled, Lan WangJi decided to return to Jingshi to check on how Wei WuXian was doing.
“Lan Zhan, you are back!” said Wei WuXian happily.
“I can’t think of what to give to Jin Ling. Do you have any idea?” asked Wei WuXian.
“Gusu Lan Sect will be sending them a box of gifts, do you wish to send one too?”
“Of course not, those golds and expensive things, I bet Lanling Jin Sect has lots of it. I want to give him something special, something that will not be found anywhere else,” said Wei WuXian as he started to draw something on paper.
Meanwhile, Lan WangJi started playing his guqin, choosing a piece of more melodic music to play, hoping the music might help Wei WuXian in forming an idea on what to give Jin Ling. Wei WuXian enjoyed the music. Lan WangJi’s music always managed to make him feel so peaceful and like he was safe, no danger would be coming to him. Wei WuXian thought it was a wonderful view. He took another new piece of paper and a brush and started drawing the scene in front of him. When he was done, he smiled at it. He could not help but feel proud of himself for creating yet another magnificent work.
“Lan Zhan,” called Wei WuXian as he stood up and walked toward Lan WangJi. Seeing that Wei WuXian seemed to have something to say, he stopped playing his guqin.
“Here,” said Wei WuXian as he handed him a piece of paper. Lan WangJi took it and Wei WuXian was excited to see what type of reaction he would be receiving from Lan WangJi this time. He expected Lan WangJi to react like previously, where he would say he was being ridiculous, or perhaps he would ask him to stop fooling around. Of all the reactions that he could have been expecting, he would never dare to think that this man in front of him, the cold and stoic man would be staring at the drawing fondly, giving off a slight soft smile. At that instant, he realized he had forgotten how to breathe. The image before him was truly too breathtaking. Just like previously when Lan WangJi held his hands, he felt his cheeks burning again and his heart was beating so much faster than usual.
Sick! Wei WuXian concluded that he must be extremely sick. Being locked in Cloud Recesses probably made him sick.
Right, music. He needed to hear Lan WangJi’s music, it always helped him to calm down. Speaking of which, he suddenly remembered a piece of certain soothing music that he had always wanted to hear from him again.
“Lan Zhan, I want to hear the one you played for me at the cave in Qishan.”
At that request, Lan WangJi started playing the song – WangXian. Wei WuXian closed his eyes and enjoyed the music. The music made him remember the time he had spent with Lan WangJi in the cave, both doing their best surviving and defeating the giant creature in the cave. When Lan WangJi finished playing the song, Wei WuXian opened his eyes and asked, “What is the name?”
“It is time for dinner. I will go and take our meals,” said Lan WangJi as he immediately moved to get up and he left Jingshi.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Today was finally the day. Cultivators from many different sects were gathered at Lanling, endless gifts were being accepted by Jin GuangShan and his wife. Standing in his own room, Jin ZiXuan walked toward his wife who was carrying little Jin Ling in her arms.
“A Li,” said Jin ZiXuan as he approached his wife and clenched her hands.
“A-Li, please stop being so cold to me. I promise, I will help you find Wei WuXian, if that is what you want. I don’t want us to be like this, talk to me, A-Li. If you say he is not the one who harmed our child, then he is not. I trust you.”
A soft smile was displayed on Jiang YanLi’s face.
“We will talk about this another time. Today is A-Ling’s big day, let’s create a good memory together today,” said Jiang YanLi. Jin ZiXuan smiled and nodded happily.
The husband and wife, along with their son went out to the main hall. They had to greet the guests together. Once they were in the hall, many were chatting happily. Jiang WanYin however was sitting alone at the place designated for him, drinking the wine prepared for him. Jiang YanLi handed Jin Ling to her husband and walked toward her brother. She grabbed her brother’s wrist and took the wine from his hold.
“A-Cheng, you need to stop drinking,” said Jiang YanLi.
Jiang WanYin stretched his arm and tried to grab the wine back, but his sister merely moved the wine further from his reach. It might be his imagination, but Jin ZiXuan thought he saw a Jiang WanYin pouted in that one second, but it disappeared almost as soon as it appeared.
“A-Jie, please give it back to me. Today is a celebration for your son, you should go and greet the guests,” said Jiang WanYin.
“I am glad that you know you are here for your nephew's belated full month celebration. Look at you, you are a sect leader now. There will be many guests coming soon, are you going to let them see you like this?”
Jin ZiXuan watched the siblings interacted with each other. He really could not understand Jiang WanYin. He was the one who pointed his sword at Wei WuXian, so why was he grieving now as though Wei WuXian’s disappearance had nothing to do with him? As far as he remembered, he went to take Wei WuXian's life willingly that day, no one had forced him. Perhaps, he thought, there was something that happened in the middle that he did not know. He would need to ask his wife later after this celebration ended.
“ZiXuan, why are you still here? You need to greet the guests. Where is A-Li?”
Jin ZiXuan turned to see his mother standing behind him. At his mother’s question, Jin ZiXuan turned back and looked at where the Jiang siblings were sitting at and his mother followed his gaze to find her daughter-in-law seemingly chatting with Jiang WanYin.
“Sect Leader Jiang has been very moody. The moment he arrived, he started throwing cup after cup of wines into his throat like he is wishing to be drunk, but it is expected after all. To be betrayed by someone you trust so much must be extremely hurtful,” said Madam Jin.
There was no need to ask who Madam Jin was referring to. Jin ZiXuan only hoped such words would not reach the Jiang siblings’ ears for they might not stay silent after hearing it.
“ZiXuan, come give me A-Ling and you should go and greet the guests,” said Madam Jin. Jin ZiXuan obeyed as he handed the little child in his arms to his mother and started to greet the first sect that he saw – the Qinghe Nie Sect.
They were about to walk up the stairs that would bring them to where the celebration was held. After passing the stairs, he would finally be able to see his Shijie and the child he had never gotten the chance to take a look – the child that everyone was accusing him of poisoning. Somehow, Wei WuXian was getting a little nervous, but excited at the same time. It had been so long since he last saw his Shijie. As he remembered, the last time they met was probably right before his Shijie was getting married, she went to see him to show him how she looked in her wedding attire. And there was also Jiang Cheng. He had not seen him since… since they separated at the mountain. He wondered how he was doing lately. Probably busy with Yunmeng Jiang Sect as he needed to lead the new disciples. He was probably busy spending time with his cute little nephew too.
Breathing in deeply, he followed the rest of the Gusu Lan Sect to climb up the stairs. Once they reached the entrance of the main hall, Wei WuXian looked around, finding for his Shijie. After a while of looking around, he finally saw her. There he saw where Jiang WanYin was sitting, Jiang YanLi was sitting right next to him.
Oh, how he missed seeing his Shijie…
She looked as pretty as usual, but somehow a little pale. Did she not get enough rest?
For a moment, he wanted to rush to Jin ZiXuan and hit him for not taking perfect care of his wife, but then he remembered he was not supposed to reveal his identity. He felt someone gently touched his wrist and turned out it was Lan WangJi. Lan WangJi was looking at him worriedly and that was when he realized his eyes were a little watery so he quickly turned behind and wiped off the tears that were about to trickle down. When he was done and turned to the front like nothing had happened, he saw Jin ZiXuan was walking toward them.
Jin ZiXuan was looking at him curiously and Wei WuXian realized he was not the only one. He saw quite a number of others were looking at him too like he was something interesting, but it was expected. After all, who would actually wear a mask to attend a full month celebration? He was sure he must be the first.
“This is..?” questioned Jin ZiXuan after he greeted both Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi.
“This is a friend of WangJi. He is not a cultivator, I hope Young Master Jin do not mind him here,” said Lan XiChen. The masked man bowed and greeted Jin ZiXuan politely.
It took Jin ZiXuan a great amount of effort to not gasp at what Lan XiChen said. Lan WangJi had friends or a friend in this case? On top of that, he actually had a friend who was not a cultivator?
“Why the mask?” asked Jin ZiXuan curiously.
“I am sorry, he had always been quite shy, he wore this mask all the time. Will that be a bother?” asked Lan XiChen.
“Of course not, I am just curious,” said Jin ZiXuan as he turned to the masked man, “I am sorry if I agitated you by asking. Welcome to Lanling.”
The masked man smiled at him and handed him a small wooden box.
“I am not very sure what cultivators give each other as presents, this is a little of something I came out with the help of Hanguang-jun. I hope the present is not too bad,” said the masked man.
Jin ZiXuan thanked them as he took the offered gift. He then invited people of Gusu Lan Sect to their respective seats. He looked at the masked man and thought, He is weird. Lan WangJi is weird too, so of course he will have a weird friend.
Turning away from them, Jin ZiXuan was about to greet the other guests when he saw his wife walking toward him. Together, both of them went to greet the other sects that came. When all the sects had made their arrival, everyone went and sat at their appointed places as Jin GuangShan raised his cup of wine and thanked everyone for their kindness for coming all the way here. When Jin GuangShan drank the cup of wine in his hand, the guests drank the wine together with Gusu Lan Sect drinking tea to replace wines, but the masked man sitting between the Lan brothers was an exception. It was definitely strange watching someone wearing Gusu Lan attire drinking wine.
“Today, we are here to celebrate my grandson’s belated full month celebration. This celebration is supposed to be held two months ago, but as everyone here must have known the Yiling Patriarch attempted to kill my grandson who is only less than a month old back then. Fortunately, my grandson managed to be saved but he needed time to recover which is why the delay for the celebration.”
At that said, many people started throwing insults at the man who attempted to kill the grandson of Jin GuangShan.
“Yiling Patriarch is really ruthless!”
“I say his heart must be eaten by a dog. He harmed a newborn baby just to accomplish his disgusting goal!”
“What can we expect? He is a demonic cultivator after all!”
“The way I see it, this Yiling Patriarch might be even worse than the Wen dogs! Thankfully he is gone now. We really need to thank Sect Leader Jiang again for getting rid of such a man.”
There was a sad smile on the masked man’s face as he gulped down his cup of wine. Just then, he felt someone’s hand on his and looked to the left, seeing Lan WangJi looking at him in concern.
“I am fine,” said the masked man as he attempted to smile.
He was about to pour himself another cup of wine when there was suddenly a loud bang, sounded like someone threw his fist onto the table and when both Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian turned to look at what happened, Jiang WanYin was standing up from his seat, the ring on his finger was sparkling purple like it was dying to release itself and murder someone. Jin ZiXuan quickly stood up and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder.
“Don’t be rash. I know what you want to say, but no one here is going to believe you. We need proof,” whispered Jin ZiXuan, making sure no one else heard them. Jiang WanYin scowled at him, but as he contemplated the man's words, he realized Jin ZiXuan was right. Although it took a while but when the ring on the man’s finger had finally stopped sparkling, Jin ZiXuan released a sigh of relief before turning to the crowd.
“Today we are all here to celebrate my son Jin Ling’s full month celebration, I suggest we should not be reminded of the bad things,” said Jin ZiXuan. At that said, he noticed the Jiang siblings were sort of glaring at him, perhaps not too much from Jiang YanLi, but Jiang WanYin was definitely glaring at him.
“Right, right. Today is a day for celebration, let me toast to Sect Leader Jin and Young Master Jin,” said a man from a minor sect.
Everyone started drinking their wines and many offered wishes to Sect Leader Jin and his family. Some were already starting to chat with one another. Wei WuXian took the cup in his hand to gulp down the wine, only to have Lan WangJi took the cup away from his hand.
“Do not drink too much. Your wound has not healed,” said Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian gasped. He remembered he clearly told Lan WangJi his wound had completely healed.
“I know you lied,” said Lan WangJi.
“Come on, Lan Zhan… I already can’t drink in Cloud Recesses. You don’t even let me drink now?” Wei WuXian attempted to make it sound like he was so pitiful for not having wine for so long, but when Lan WangJi gave him a look, he suddenly remembered even though Cloud Recesses was not allowed to drink, he was offered Emperor’s Smile once in a while.
“Lan Zhan… please? Only for today, let me enjoy myself?”
That was a lie, everyone knew it. He was enjoying himself even in Cloud Recesses. He never followed any of the rules, he wandered around whenever he wanted and often begged Lan WangJi to give him a jar of Emperor’s Smile.
Lan XiChen chuckled at the two as he excused himself to meet up with his sworn brothers. Wei WuXian quickly took the cup of wine from Lan WangJi when the man loosened his hold on the cup and he continued to enjoy his wine until he saw Jiang WanYin stood up, taking a jug of wine in his hand and left the main hall. Wei WuXian stood up, decided to take a look to check if the man was fine. Knowing what he was planning to do, Lan WangJi caught his wrist and shook his head.
“Don’t worry, it will be fine. I will not let him know who I am,” said Wei WuXian softly as he gently pushed Lan WangJi’s hand away and left. Lan WangJi sat still for a moment before he decided he was too worried to sit there doing nothing. He stood up, he would just find them and look from afar, just to make sure he could jump out once there was a hint that Jiang WanYin was going to hurt Wei WuXian again.
Observing the two, Lan XiChen himself was getting worried too. He hoped nothing turned out badly, but with his brother here, he would definitely make sure Wei WuXian would be unharmed by the end of the day.
He turned back to his sworn brothers when he heard a concerned voice calling out to him.
“Yes, elder brother?” responded Lan XiChen.
“What are you spacing out at? We are asking you who is the masked man,” said Nie MingJue.
“He is a friend of WangJi.”
“Why is he wearing a mask though?” asked Jin GuangYao.
“He has always been shy, he has always worn a mask even when nobody is around,” said Lan XiChen as he found himself repeating the same answer again and again for the day. Just yesterday, he was discussing with his brother and Wei WuXian on how to cover up for the reason of why WangJi’s friend always had a mask on. Wei WuXian was the one who suggested such an answer. It was undoubtedly a good answer as no one would ask another question after Lan XiChen said he was shy and wore a mask even when alone.
Wei WuXian looked at Jiang WanYin who was pouring the wine into his throat as he looked up to the sky, his eyes looking sad like there were longings and regrets hidden within the pair of eyes. Wei WuXian walked out from his hiding spot as he approached the man. Jiang WanYin looked at him when he stood right in front of him.
“Why is Sect Leader Jiang all alone here drinking wine?”
Jiang WanYin scowled at him and stated, “Get lost.”
“Isn’t today your nephew’s big day. It’s a day for celebration, so why is Sect Leader Jiang so gloomy?”
Jiang WanYin slammed the wine onto the table and exclaimed, “Are you that free? I don’t care who you are, get the hell out of my eyesight!”
“Don’t be so fierce, Sect Leader Jiang. What do you say if we be friends? You see, I have always admired Yunmeng Jiang Sect. When I was a child, I wanted to be a disciple of Jiang Sect, but I soon realize that I do not have the skill to be a cultivator. I gave up the idea eventually.”
That seemed to have caught Jiang WanYin’s attention as he looked up to the masked man. A man wearing Gusu Lan Sect's attire was stating that he wished to be a Yunmeng Jiang Sect's cultivator. That was definitely something interesting.
“Aren’t you a cultivator in the Lan Sect?” asked Jiang WanYin.
“The Lan Sect? Of course not, I will not be able to survive those thousand rules there,” exclaimed the masked man. He looked at Jiang WanYin who was staring at him, his eyes widened like he was surprised with what he had just said. The masked man bit his lower lip and tried covering up for what he might have let slip, “Anyway, as I just said, I do not have the skill to be a cultivator. I am just invited to visit Cloud Recesses as a guest of Hanguang-jun.”
“Why do you want to be a Yunmeng Jiang disciples when there are so many other great sects?”
“I heard Yunmeng Jiang Sect have lots of strong cultivators, like Sect Leader Jiang yourself. You became a sect leader at such a young age and received the title of Sandu Shengshou. That is an amazing achievement.”
Wei WuXian expected Jiang WanYin to smile or grin, proud of his own achievement. He had always been delighted to hear others praise him. Jiang WanYin, however looked like whatever Wei WuXian said had done nothing besides worsening his mood as he continued to drink his wine.
“Sect Leader Jiang has something troubling you?” asked the masked man. Jiang WanYin glared at him. Years of knowing him made Wei WuXian certain that the eyes glaring at him must be stating scram off and mind your own business!
Wei WuXian thought he was about to get shouted at again, but the man in front of him asked him a question in a desolated voice.
“Do you have a brother?”
As he asked that, Jiang WanYin looked at the masked man, waiting for an answer from him. The masked man looked a little surprised at the question, but he eventually shook his head.
“Do you know how it felt like to be betrayed by a brother?”
The masked man widened his eyes, but he offered no answer.
“I attempted to murder my own brother,” said Jiang WanYin as he once again brought up the jug of wine and poured the contents down his throat.
Wei WuXian clenched his fists as he felt his tears about to start welling up in his eyes again. He could not cry now. He could not let Jiang WanYin know he was the said brother.
“If you have chosen to kill your own brother, I am sure he deserves it,” said the masked man.
Jiang WanYin slammed the wine down the ground, breaking it into pieces in the process. He grabbed the masked man’s robe and slammed him onto the wall.
“You don’t understand anything! You don’t have the right to say anything about this matter!”
“Sect Leader Jiang thinks he is wrong too and that he deserves nothing more than death, that is why you have attempted to kill him, isn’t it?”
Enraged, Jiang WanYin raised his fist. Wei WuXian had no idea if he was trying to hit him or what, but before the fist even reached him or anywhere near him, Lan WangJi came to pull him away. He had his hand on Wei WuXian’s as he pulled him closer protectively while another hand was pointing Bichen at Jiang WanYin.
“Jiang WanYin!” exclaimed Lan WangJi.
Hearing the uproar, everyone from the main hall came to see for themselves what had happened.
“WangJi,” called Lan XiChen worriedly as he moved to stand beside his brother.
“A-Cheng,” called Jiang YanLi as she moved to stand beside her brother too.
Wei WuXian moved to stand in front of Lan WangJi and pushed down the hand the man was holding Bichen.
“I am fine,” he said softly before turning to the crowd.
“Misunderstanding, it’s a misunderstanding. I was trying to befriend Sect Leader Jiang, but perhaps something I said might have accidentally offended Sect Leader Jiang. Hanguang-jun was just trying to protect me. I am sorry for the misunderstanding caused,” announced the masked man.
Most were not convinced with his explanation, especially with Jiang WanYin glowering at Lan WangJi and Lan WangJi was glaring at the man in return.
“Lan Zhan,” whispered Wei WuXian as he pulled Lan WangJi’s wrist, begging him to stop glaring.
After a moment, Lan WangJi finally decided to keep Bichen back to its sheath. Seeing the fight must be over, the others started returning to the main hall. Jiang YanLi walked forward, approaching the masked man.
“Young Master, if I may ask what is your name?” asked Jiang YanLi.
“My name… is not so important isn’t it?” asked the masked man in return.
“Well then, Young Master, are you injured?” asked Jiang YanLi.
“No, I am perfectly fine.”
“I apologize if my brother did anything rude. He is not in a good mood recently,” said Jiang YanLi.
“A-Jie,” said Jiang WanYin, attempting to protest. His sister should not apologize, he was not at fault at all. It was the masked man’s fault. He should not have spouted any nonsense when he did not know Wei WuXian at all.
“A-Cheng, he had said he was just trying to befriend you. You need to be kinder to people,” said Jiang YanLi.
“By the way, Young Master, will you like to take a look at A-Ling?” asked Jiang YanLi. The masked man looked at her, he looked happy, or more like excited at the idea.
“I can?” the masked man questioned. Jiang YanLi smiled. Somehow, the tone in the man’s voice reminded her of someone, a certain someone who she had been busy finding every other night.
Her other brother.
That voice definitely did not belong to Wei WuXian, she knew. She could never forget the voices of her brothers. It was just the way the man spoke, it reminded her a little of Wei WuXian.
“Of course,” said Jiang YanLi. She asked him to follow her while Jin ZiXuan and Lan XiChen followed behind too to return to the main hall together.
When they reached the main hall, Jiang YanLi took Jin Ling from Madam Jin and brought him to the masked man. Jin ZiXuan was worried at first that his wife was just going to give their child to a stranger, but one look at his wife made him silent. He just mentioned that he would trust his wife, so there was no way for him to doubt her decision now. Surprisingly, the masked man carefully carried Jin Ling in a very gentle way, a lot gentler than Jiang WanYin in Jin ZiXuan’s opinion.
Jiang YanLi sat beside the masked man and watched him smiled while carrying her child, with Lan XiChen sitting beside the masked man, also smiling as he watched the innocent child sleeping peacefully. Jin ZiXuan sat beside his wife and carefully observed and made sure no harm would be brought to his child.
“Young Master, where are you from?” asked Jiang YanLi.
“I am from…”
Wei WuXian wanted to answer Yiling, but he thought it might be a little suspicious and answered, “…Caiyi Town”.
Jiang YanLi seemed like she still had questions, but Jin Ling was suddenly awake and crying. He was thrashing around in the masked man’s arms. Jiang YanLi quickly took the child into her arms as both her husband and her worked on comforting their crying child and the child ended up sleeping peacefully again. Wei WuXian was proud of his Shijie. She could really do anything. Lan XiChen was amazed.
“That is amazing, Young Madam Jin,” praised Lan XiChen.
“It’s nothing,” said Jiang YanLi, smiling shyly.
Wei WuXian watched how Jiang YanLi and Jin ZiXuan worked together to make their son sleep soundly, he was so happy for them. He was glad to know that Jin ZiXuan managed to be a good husband and a good father.
“Young Master Jin and Young Madam Jin look like a good match,” said the masked man. He used the word good instead of perfect because he would never admit that Jin ZiXuan would be the right choice for his Shijie. He could still remember clearly how that man embarrassed and scolded his Shijie. There were many men out there who could be a better husband for his Shijie, but he decided he could accept him as of now.
“Thank you,” said Jin ZiXuan.
“If I may ask, how did Young Master Jin and Young Madam Jin got together?” asked the masked man. Jin ZiXuan looked at his wife who turned away, face blushing like him and decided he should be the one to answer the question.
“We were engaged at a very young age. However, I was too stupid and made a mess out of things and broke the engagement. I realized my mistake and fortunately, A-Li is willing to forgive me and give me another chance.”
I am glad you know!
Calm down, Wei WuXian told himself. He could not let his anger for Jin ZiXuan go wild here. That would serve nothing more than revealing his identity. Polite, manners – those were what he needed right now.
“Oh, how did you know you are falling in love then?” asked Wei WuXian. He had never known how the man started to fall in love with his Shijie, so he would take this chance to ask, but his question seemed to have caught Jiang YanLi’s attention.
To Jiang YanLi, the questions sounded a little familiar. Someone had asked him a question like that too back at Lotus Pier, at the ancestral hall. It was not the same question, but the answer to both questions might be a little similar.
“Shijie, why would a person fall in love with another person? Oh, I mean that kind of love.”
She smiled sadly at the memory. Come to think of it, she never answered the question. She was too excited about the idea that her A-Xian had fallen in love with someone.
“When we fall in love with someone, we feel our heart beat faster whenever around them. When we are with the one that we love, spending time with them feels too short no matter how long we have stayed together. When we separate from each other even for just a while, we will start missing them almost immediately,” answered Jiang YanLi.
With that said, Wei WuXian felt himself opened a door that guided him to a new world. The confusion he had been having for the past few days were all cleared up. His fast heartbeat, his longing to see a certain someone and touch him whenever the chance came to him – he finally understood the reason now!
Wait a moment, did that mean he was a –
There was suddenly a loud noise coming from outside of the main hall.
“What is happening?” questioned Jin GuangShan as he urged a Jin disciple who just entered the main hall to calm down and speak up.
“Sect Leader Jiang and Hanguang-jun are fighting!”
Wei WuXian was still in shock with what he had found out about himself, but as he heard that, he was immediately alert.
Lan Zhan! Jiang Cheng!
He promptly rushed out, squeezing himself into the crowd just in time to see Lan WangJi shove Sandu out of Jiang WanYin’s reach and was directing Bichen toward his chest. Panicked, Wei WuXian rushed out to stand in front of Jiang WanYin without thinking much as he thought Jiang WanYin was left with no weapon to defend himself and screamed, “Lan Zhan!”
Just another step, Lan WangJi would have thrust the sword into Wei WuXian. When he heard someone calling for him, and given that only a certain someone here who would call him by his birth name, he immediately retreated his sword. Jiang WanYin was about to defend himself with Zidian when his sword was thrown out of his reach, but when he saw the masked man standing in front of him, he managed to keep Zidian away.
Wei WuXian was relieved that he managed to stop the fight in time. Everything went well since none was injured. Lan WangJi, however, did not feel the same. He was staring at Wei WuXian coldly and then with a swift move, he grabbed Wei WuXian and they flew away, ignoring hundreds or thousands of eyes staring at them.
On the way back, Lan WangJi was all silent and Wei WuXian did not say anything either. Even though he was a little angry at Lan WangJi for trying to hurt Jiang Cheng, he could not stay angry at him when he noticed Lan WangJi’s hands were trembling as he carried him on Bichen throughout the journey back to Cloud Recesses.
Once they reached Cloud Recesses, Lan WangJi summoned his sword back to its sheath and left Wei WuXian alone. Wei WuXian wanted to talk, but Lan WangJi did not even give him as much as a glance. Wei WuXian pouted angrily and went back to Jingshi. He had no idea how long he had been sitting on the ground looking petulant. When the door of Jingshi had been knocked, he looked up in hope of it was Lan WangJi, but turned out it was the said man’s brother instead.
“A-Xian,” he said as he crouched down, “Do you know why WangJi is upset?”
“How am I supposed to know?” asked Wei WuXian. He was always silent, keeping everything to himself. He never bothered telling him anything. He was sometimes acting very cold, but there were times where he was so gentle to him. He could never guess what was going on in the man’s mind.
“WangJi is terrified,” said Lan XiChen.
“Terrified?” questioned Wei WuXian.
“He will never be able to forgive himself if he ever hurt you, even by accident. He is terrified because he nearly killed you.”
Wei WuXian frowned. It was not Lan WangJi’s fault at all. He ran out of Jingshi, running around to find for the man. When he finally found him, the man was sitting in the middle of a pile of rabbits. When he approached him, the man looked up at him.
“Lan Zhan,” he crouched down and said, “I am sorry.”
For a long moment, it seemed like Lan WangJi would not respond at all, but then he abruptly pulled Wei WuXian down into his embrace, his still slightly trembling hands wrapped around the masked man’s back tightly.
“I could have killed you,” Lan WangJi croaked.
“You did not and will never do so,” said Wei WuXian. Lan WangJi was neither convinced nor comforted by his words. As Wei WuXian hugged Lan WangJi, he remembered those words his Shijie said. He finally understood what he was feeling and how important Lan WangJi was to him. The only problem now was what was he to Lan WangJi? Was he just a guest living in Cloud Recesses or a friend or something more than a friend? He needed to know the answer.
He pulled himself away from Lan WangJi and took his mask off and asked, “Lan Zhan, I have something to ask.”
Lan WangJi looked at him, waiting for his question. He was about to start asking what he was to Lan WangJi, but he heard some disciples speaking while walking toward their direction. Remembering he just took off his mask, he immediately grabbed his mask and wore it clumsily. He might have been a little nervous and could not make a knot on the strings attached to the mask. Lan WangJi quickly helped him to tie a knot, just barely enough time for them to act nothing when the disciples came to them and greeted them. When the disciples left, both Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian sighed in relief. Lan WangJi stood up and offered a hand to Wei WuXian.
“Let’s go back?” asked Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian gladly took the offered hand and together, they went back to Jingshi. It had been a tiring day. The question could wait until the next day.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
It had been a few days since they returned from Lanling. Wei WuXian still had no idea what Lan WangJi thought of him. He wanted to ask, but he no longer had the courage.
Just a day after they returned from Lanling, he was on his way to Jingshi when he passed by a few cultivators talking, and Wei WuXian was quite certain that the conversation held might most probably be categorized as gossiping. Those cultivators would definitely be punished by Lan QiRen if they were heard. Anyhow, those people were actually gossiping about the Second Master Lan which interested Wei WuXian to listen to their conversation.
“Have you all heard, Hanguang-jun fought with Sect Leader Jiang back at Lanling.”
“I heard they said Hanguang-jun was trying to protect the guest he brought back to Cloud Recesses.”
“That guest. Come to think of it, he always had a mask on. Has anyone actually seen his face without a mask?”
“I already thought it was weird when I heard Hanguang-jun brought in a guest. Do you all think there is something going on between Hanguang-jun and the man? You know… they share a room…”
“No way! Hanguang-jun is definitely not interested in a man.”
“How do you know? He does not look like he is interested in a woman either.”
“You guys are new here so you might not know. A long time ago, there was a very beautiful lady who was courageous enough to confess her love for Hanguang-jun. Many thought they looked good together. It was rumored that although she was beautiful, she had low cultivation. Hanguang-jun seeks for a beautiful lady with cultivation as high as him.”
“I doubt he will ever find someone like that.”
“Which explains why he is alone until now.”
Wei WuXian had heard enough back then and decided to walk away from the scene. Those words the cultivators said kept ringing in his ears even until now. They were right. Lan WangJi was a perfect man, adored by the countless number of ladies out there. Who was he, but a demonic cultivator, a man without a golden core?
He really did not have the courage to ask Lan WangJi who he was to him, because if Lan WangJi told him they were nothing but friends, he would be so disappointed. And he would not dare to confess to him either, because he most probably would not be able to handle it if Lan WangJi showed any sign of feeling disgusted with him. For now, he wanted to just ignore everything and enjoy his time in Cloud Recesses – the time he spent with Lan WangJi.
He was walking toward Jingshi, hoping to find Lan WangJi there. Cloud Recesses was too boring for him and only Lan WangJi could release him from the boredom. As he was about to enter Jingshi to search for Lan WangJi, he heard some people talking inside. He slid the door small enough not to be noticed, but large enough for him to see who were inside. It was Lan QiRen, Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi inside talking. It looked like there was a family meeting going on there, so Wei WuXian silently slid the door closed and prepared to leave. However, just before he turned, he heard Lan QiRen said something that caught his attention.
“WangJi, I think it’s almost time for the two of you to get married.”
Wei WuXian widened his eyes and staggered backward. He could hear the three still speaking in Jingshi, he had no idea what they were talking about. It was like his ears were blocked, the only thing he heard was the repeated phrase where Lan QiRen stated Lan WangJi was getting married. To who – Wei WuXian had no idea. He should be happy for him, his Lan Zhan was getting married. That was pretty good news, wasn’t it? Yes, he should definitely congratulate him, but what was with the sudden ache in his heart and why did he feel like crying?
He decided he needed to leave. He walked away from Jingshi, he did not know where he was going. He merely wanted to get as far away from Jingshi as possible, his mind was clouded. When he looked around, he realized he was in the middle of a pile of rabbits. He squatted down and picked a white rabbit in his arm as he stroked it.
“This might be the last time for me to play with the rabbits here,” he said as he remembered the previous time he was here with Lan WangJi.
He should have known… Who was he to even have the right to stand beside Lan WangJi? The only reason that Lan WangJi brought him to Cloud Recesses was probably that he treated him as a friend. Frankly speaking, he should be happy enough to be Lan WangJi’s friend. After all, he had been pestering him and trying to be friends with him for quite some time. He should not have wished for anything more than friendship. Hanguang-jun was never a cut-sleeve, unlike him.
That was Lan WangJi’s voice. Wei WuXian quickly put down the rabbit and wiped his teary face clean before he stood up to face the man.
“Lan Zhan!” Wei WuXian waved his hand to him while putting on his usual smiling face.
Within a blink of an eye, Lan WangJi was standing right in front of him, his fingers gently touching his face.
“Wei Ying, you cried.”
Wei WuXian gently pushed Lan WangJi away from him as he half-heartedly laughed and declared, “N-no, it’s sweat! I have been running around all day, so of course I will be sweating.”
Lan WangJi merely frowned, clearly showing that he did not believe him.
“More importantly, I heard you are getting married. Congratulations, Lan Zhan!”
“I passed by Jingshi earlier. Oh, I definitely was not eavesdropping, I merely overheard,” explained Wei WuXian quickly. He would not want to be punished.
“Wei Ying –”
“So tell me, Second Young Master Lan, who is the lucky bride?”
“Wei Ying, no bride.”
“Stingy, you are trying to hide the bride’s identity from me. We are so close already, come on and tell me,” whined Wei WuXian.
“Wei Ying –”
Wei WuXian realized he was getting panic when Lan WangJi looked as though he was about to answer his question and tell him the name of his future bride. Seriously, he really did not want to know who would be that lucky bride.
“Anyway, Lan Zhan, your bride must be super lucky to have you as her husband. I am sure the two of you will live happily together. You will be a great husband. You will cook for your wife and your wife will eat everything you cook and tell you what an amazing cook you are. You will not have to stay alone in Jingshi anymore, whatever you do, wherever you go, your wife will be able to accompany you. Then you can compose a piece of new music just for your wife, and I am sure she will be so happy and then… and then the two of you… your… wife and you…”
Wei WuXian found himself unable to continue speaking, he was starting to croak out the words at this point. He imagined a woman standing beside Lan WangJi, Lan WangJi looking at his wife and smiling to her, the smile that Wei WuXian always thought was only directed to him alone.
Lan WangJi called out to him and reached his hand out to his face. Wei WuXian realized Lan WangJi was trying to wipe the tears that somehow soaked his face when he was talking previously. He did not even know when he had started crying. He wanted to lean into the warm hands touching his face, but he forced himself to back away instead. He knew if he did not back away, that would only make him harder from leaving this man in front of him.
“Lan Zhan, I might not be able to attend your wedding, but I will wish for your happiness from afar.”
“Wei Ying, where are you going?”
“I can’t be staying here forever. Lan Zhan, I want to leave Cloud Recesses, will you take me out here?”
Lan WangJi was standing there, stunned. He had finally braced himself to come to find this man and to prepare to confess his undying love, and Wei WuXian was leaving?
“Sorry, Lan Zhan. You must be pretty busy in preparation for your wedding. I will go find Zewu-jun to bring me out instead.”
Don’t leave me.
Wei Ying, I love you!
There were so many things that Lan WangJi wanted to say, but no. His lips never once obeyed him whenever he was facing Wei WuXian. He silently stood there, neither moving nor speaking as he watched the person he had grown to love walked further and further away from him. He had no idea what he should do, but he knew he should definitely do something. He knew he would regret if he continued to stand there, doing nothing. As he desperately thought of what was best to be done, he suddenly remembered his previous conversation with his uncle and brother.
“WangJi, I think it’s almost time for the two of you to get married.”
Lan WangJi looked indifferent at his uncle’s words, but being the two closest to him, both Lan QiRen and Lan XiChen knew Lan WangJi was definitely affected by the word ‘married’.
“Uncle, we are not…”
“You are telling me Wei WuXian still have no idea how you feel toward him?” Lan QiRen asked rather angrily.
“WangJi, you need to tell A-Xian how you feel. Otherwise, he will never know.”
“Right, Wei WuXian is an idiot,” said Lan QiRen.
Lan WangJi frowned at the statement while Lan XiChen chuckled.
“Wei Ying will not be interested.”
“He might appear not, but WangJi, what if someday someone else confessed to him and he accepted because he thought no one else would be interested in him? Besides, I am pretty sure A-Xian is already in love with you.”
For a second, Lan XiChen actually thought he saw his brother’s eyes sparkled with excitement.
“…He is?” asked Lan WangJi. There was a hint of hope and joy in his voice that was covered by a large portion of hesitation.
“Of course he is. I see the way he spoke of you and clung to you,” his brother told him.
“And we thought the two of you are already together with how you two are flirting with each other, be it consciously or unconsciously,” said his uncle.
Lan WangJi had always hesitated in telling Wei WuXian his feelings. He enjoyed their time together right now at Cloud Recesses. He did not want to do anything that might break them apart. He was afraid if Wei WuXian did not feel the same like him, he would leave and never talk to him again, but now that Wei WuXian was leaving Cloud Recesses anyway, did it make any difference?
Meanwhile, Wei WuXian who was oblivious to Lan WangJi’s internal struggle walked away further and further as his tears continued to trickle down his face. He wanted to quickly leave the place, find somewhere no one would be able to see him so he could cry his heart out. Just as he fastened his walking speed, his legs halted when he felt someone hugged his waist tightly from behind.
A soft voice mumbled behind him, and the voice was so soft that he almost thought it was his imagination.
“…what?” questioned Wei WuXian.
“Not marrying anyone else besides you.”
Wei WuXian was dumbfounded. He could not believe his ears at all. Lan WangJi took the opportunity to grab Wei WuXian’s shoulder and turned him so that they could finally face each other.
“Wei Ying, I only want to marry you.”
Wei WuXian pushed Lan WangJi away.
Lan WangJi moved closer to Wei WuXian until they stood near enough that their noses almost touched each other. Seeing that Wei WuXian did nothing to protest and he definitely did not look disgusted by their closeness at all, Lan WangJi took it as a hint that he was allowed to move closer, advance to whatever he was about to do. He hesitantly reached for Wei WuXian’s lips with his.
“Wei Ying, I love you.”
He received no rejection, so he kissed him again.
“I want to spend the rest of our time together.”
And he kissed him again.
The next time Lan WangJi moved away from the kiss and before he could say anything else, Wei WuXian grabbed his wrist tightly, as though afraid that he would be leaving.
“Lan Zhan, you are serious about this?”
“You are in love with me?”
“You are not marrying anyone else besides me?”
“You want me to marry you?”
Wei WuXian jumped forward and hugged Lan WangJi excitedly.
“Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan! I love you too! I love you so much that I am dying of happiness now!”
Lan WangJi hugged him back, but with a frown shown on his face.
“Lan Zhan! You make me so happy that I will revive in a second even if I die.”
While the loving couple was head over heels for each other, they had no idea there were two audiences watching them all along, one smiling and another one frowning.
“They finally did it,” commented Lan XiChen, a smile visible on his face.
“Took them long enough,” grumbled Lan QiRen. Lan XiChen could only chuckle at his uncle’s words. Who would have known that his uncle would sound as though he was desperate for the two to get together as soon as possible? However, before he could try to even comment on his uncle’s words, his uncle disappeared, most probably trying to avoid watching the shameless affection shown by the two. Lan XiChen walked out of his hiding spot and walked toward the couple. As much as he would not want to disturb the couple, there were things that needed to be discussed before they could officially do whatever they wanted to do.
Both Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian pulled themselves apart as they looked behind them, responding to the voice calling out to both of them.
“Z-Zewu-jun!” Wei WuXian greeted, his face slightly red as he stared down toward the ground, suddenly feeling a little ashamed to look directly into the man in front of him. He was getting anxious. What if Lan XiChen disapproved of their relationship? He knew the two jades of Lan were extremely close, so would Lan WangJi give up on him if his brother disliked them being together? He clenched his fists in worry.
Lan WangJi greeted his brother right after Wei WuXian did. Although he looked indifferent and his expression as stoic as he usually was, Lan XiChen noticed his brother’s ears were tinted red. The two looked extremely adorable in his eyes, he could not help but widen his smile in front of them.
Wei WuXian immediately looked up and stared at Lan XiChen in disbelief. He could not believe his ears. Did he hear that right? Was Lan XiChen congratulating him? He stopped doubting himself when he felt Lan WangJi’s hand slipped around his waist, pulling him close as he thanked his brother.
For once, Wei WuXian had no idea what to say. Was Lan XiChen really not going to object to their relationship? After all, his brother was the honorable Hanguang-jun while he… Well, he was the Yiling Patriarch and was currently well known with someone who bit the hands of those who fed him by trying to murder Jin Ling.
“A-Xian, as I have said before, you can stop being so formal to me. If you don’t mind, you can call me brother, like WangJi does, but maybe that sounds too formal too,” said Lan XiChen as he paused for a moment, thinking how his soon-to-be brother-in-law should be addressing him.
Lan XiChen contemplated on how Wei WuXian should address him. He thought of how he heard other siblings addressed each other, then he thought of how he addressed his sworn brothers. A smile was displayed on Lan XiChen as he finally had a great idea.
“How about you call me Big Brother?” suggested Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian had a wide smile on his face as he obediently called out to him, “Big Brother! Thank you!”
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Cloud Recesses had always been peaceful. Right here, no one would talk about the bad deeds of what the Yiling Patriarch had done or what he was about to do. It felt so relaxing that he almost doubted that he was alive. Sometimes he would wonder perhaps he was already dead, all that was happening were what he imagined his life would be if he was alive or perhaps he was merely dreaming. Everything that happened recently had got to be too good to be true.
Wei WuXian could not remember when was the last time he could feel so blissful. He was smiling almost every day – no, should be every second. He could not resist smiling whenever he saw Lan WangJi – his future husband. They had spent almost every moment together ever since they both confessed their feelings. The two men were hardly seen separated. Even now as they were playing the duet together with Lan WangJi plucking the notes out of his guqin while Wei WuXian played with a bamboo flute that Lan WangJi had made for him a few days ago, the music that Lan WangJi had told him that he was the composer and the name of the song was WangXian – he still could not stop himself from smiling like an idiot in love.
“No wonder you kept refusing to tell me the name of the song. You made the name so obvious,” said Wei WuXian, grinning.
“I told you the name once, but you were not listening,” said Lan WangJi. Wei WuXian was taken aback.
“That does not count. You were talking to an unconscious man!”
“Say, Lan Zhan. When did you start falling for me?”
Lan WangJi looked away from Wei WuXian and answered, “Not telling you.”
“What, why not? Is it… because it was love at first sight?” teased Wei WuXian.
Although he saw Lan WangJi was still refusing to look at him and answer him, he saw Lan WangJi’s ears were tinted red, a sign that Lan WangJi was getting shy from what Wei WuXian managed to observe throughout the days they spent together. He was about to ask more, to make sure he knew when the man had fallen for him, but then someone knocked on the door.
Wei WuXian quickly got his mask and wore it just in case someone was to rush in before Lan WangJi went out to meet the disciple outside. Wei WuXian waited for a while before he heard the disciple walked away and Lan WangJi came in again.
“Anything happened?” asked Wei WuXian.
“Brother requested for our presence,” stated Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian stood up and left Jingshi with Lan WangJi. The distance from Lan WangJi’s place to Lan XiChen’s was not too far, so they reached there quite fast.
“Big Brother, we are here!” announced Wei WuXian as he entered Lan XiChen’s room.
“WangJi, A-Xian, have a sit. I need to discuss with the two of you regarding the upcoming wedding,” said Lan XiChen, smiling warmly at the two.
Once Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi took their place and sat down, Lan XiChen started briefing them on the flow of the wedding, asking their opinions occasionally on which choices they would prefer.
“However, we have one problem here,” said Lan XiChen as he showed the two one of the invitation cards. The name beside Lan WangJi was blank. There was no way for them to just put Wei WuXian’s name on it as they had all decided to keep the fact that the Yiling Patriarch did not die as a secret.
All three of them stayed silent as they tried thinking of a suitable name. When a mischievous smile was visible on Wei WuXian’s face, the Lan brothers prepared themselves to hear whatever nonsense he was about to spill out.
“WangXian. Lan WangXian.”
Wei WuXian could see that Lan WangJi’s ears were tinted red again. Before Lan WangJi managed to give a comment, Wei WuXian added, “I know, you must be trying to say ‘Shameless!’”
Lan WangJi kept his silence for a moment before he cleared his throat and spoke up, “Good name.”
Both Wei WuXian and Lan XiChen started tittering at Lan WangJi’s reaction. The way Lan WangJi was doing his best to act like nothing happened even though he looked clearly embarrassed definitely did nothing to stop both his brother and soon-to-be husband from laughing at him. Fortunately, a knock at the door finally made the two stopped laughing as all three of them observed who was standing at the door.
It was Lan QiRen.
Wei WuXian stood up immediately. He had almost forgotten that although Lan XiChen had shown his support toward their marriage, they had yet to pass through Lan QiRen. Lan QiRen had always loved his nephews so much, but at the same time, he hated demonic cultivators as much as he loved his nephews.
“Uncle,” greeted the twin jades of Lan.
“Mr. Lan, I…”
Ignoring whatever Wei WuXian wanted to say, Lan QiRen turned to his elder nephew.
“XiChen, how is the preparation?”
“I should be able to handle the rest,” said Lan XiChen.
“Good,” said Lan QiRen before he turned to Wei WuXian, “Wei WuXian, now that you will be a part of our Gusu Lan Sect soon, there are things I will have to make it clear with you. I know you have lost your golden core, but that is not a reason for you to use demonic cultivation. If you ever use demonic cultivation again, you will be exiled from Cloud Recesses immediately.”
Wei WuXian looked surprised when he heard that Lan QiRen knew he had no golden core. He looked at both the Lan brothers, feeling betrayed that they would reveal his secret.
“I am sorry, A-Xian, but uncle had to know and he promised to keep this secret too. Besides the three of us, no one else knows,” said Lan XiChen.
“If you know I don’t have a golden core, then you must understand how important demonic cultivation is to me. I will not use it simply, I will only use it to defend myself,” said Wei WuXian.
“No one knows your identity. Hence, no one will attack you if you do not provoke them. Of course, you will need to have at least a way to try defending yourself. I will be teaching you swordplay. You do not need to have the spiritual energy to hold a sword, and if you have good skills, you might even be able to defeat some strong cultivators,” said Lan QiRen.
“What if one day someone found out my identity? You should know that all the sects out there are way too eager to end my life. I will need to use demonic cultivation to protect myself when that time comes.”
“You will not.”
“I will die if I don’t defend myself,” complained Wei WuXian. He was a little angry by now. Did Lan QiRen wish for his death so much to forbid him from defending himself?
“You will not. You will have the entire Gusu Lan Sect protecting you.”
That certainly did render Wei WuXian speechless. It looked as though he had just realized that the Gusu Lan Sect would be willing to defend him.
“Come with me,” said Lan QiRen as he guided Wei WuXian out, leaving the two brothers to continue on their discussion regarding the upcoming wedding.
Wei WuXian blinked and stared at the pile of books placed in front of him, then he stared at the man who brought the pile of books here.
“There are many things for you to learn before your wedding, but we should start by having you familiarize with our sect’s rules.”
Wei WuXian still had not managed to protest, and Lan QiRen already started off by reciting his precious rules.
Do not kill within Cloud Recesses.
Do not start a fight without permission.
Do not commit acts of promiscuity.
Do not move impetuously.
Do not ridicule others.
Do not laugh for no reason.
Do not have an improper standing posture.
Do not have an improper sitting posture.
Do not eat more than 3 bowls.
Do not hold grudges.
Do not be picky with your food.
Do not indulge in wine.
Do not create a ruckus.
Do not be indecisive.
Do not submit to anger.
Do not submit to miserliness.
Do not pilfer.
Do not deceive.
Do not flatter.
Do not curry flavor.
Do not quail before the strong.
Do not tyrannize the weak.
Do not hurt people with malicious words.
Do not disrespect your elders.
Do not neglect the young ones.
Do not ruin others in self-praise.
Do not spout empty words.
Do not wallow in luxuries.
Do not mix public and private affairs.
Restrain your joy.
Restrain your woe.
Wei WuXian could not believe that getting married into the Gusu Lan Sect would be forced to listen to all the 3000 rules. As if it was not enough that he had to copy them a few years back then, now he had to listen and apply those rules. Was that even possible?
He had no idea until which rule he had listened to. As he looked at Lan QiRen blabbering those rules proudly, he felt his eyelids getting heavier, his palm supporting his head got weaker and when he felt his head dropped, he immediately woke up and sat straight, not because he did not want to fall asleep, but because of the scream that was directed at him.
“Wei WuXian! Copy the rules 100 times!”
Wei WuXian was absolutely wide awake now, his eyes widened in shock and terror.
This time, there would be no Lan WangJi to accompany him. Lan QiRen would be the only one here, watching and scrutinizing him while he copied all the rules.
His hands felt numb. He needed rest.
“You can do better! Keep your position right!”
It was not like Wei WuXian was not holding the sword right on purpose, but he was certainly not supposed to be blamed for he had just finished copying the set of hellish rules for a number of 100 times and Lan QiRen had dragged him out to practice sword again before he even had the time to take a rest.
He had had enough. He had spent an extremely great amount of time with Lan QiRen. He did not even know how long had it been since he last saw his future husband. The date for their wedding was approaching, but here he was spending all his time with his future husband’s uncle instead, doing almost nothing besides training and studying. He really wanted to take a break from Lan QiRen. He needed Lan Zhan. He needed Lan XiChen, or just anyone else who might be able to save him from this hellish training.
“Lan WangXian, focus!”
Wei WuXian tightened his hold on the sword. Somehow, he felt like he was back at Yunmeng, training under Madam Yu who was always harsh to her disciples, especially toward him. He always thought no one could be as harsh as Madam Yu, but he would admit now that he was absolutely wrong. Lan QiRen was at the same level as Madam Yu, if not worse.
“Alright, come at me,” said Lan QiRen.
Wei WuXian rushed forward and charged toward Lan QiRen. He could feel that Lan QiRen was not using any spiritual energy at all, but he still lost the fight. Lan QiRen was no doubt, an amazing sword fighter. He was definitely a good example of one who can still be strong even without a golden core.
“The most important thing that you need to pay attention here is your strength and speed. Again,” said Lan QiRen.
That was it. No matter how many times, Wei WuXian would not be able to win Lan QiRen in a fight even if the old man was not using any spiritual energy at all. Besides, he was exhausted. His arms were screaming to stop, begging to rest. Ever since he had lost his golden core, he had never been this exhausted. Even during a battle, all he needed to do was to play his flute. Back when he was staying at Burial Mounds, all the heavy work was done by Wen Ning. He basically had nothing to do. He merely sat around, played with A-Yuan, and probably done some work occasionally when Wen Qing scolded him.
“I can’t. I need to rest,” whined Wei WuXian as he fell flat on the ground. He needed a break, even if Lan QiRen would glare at him when he took that break that he felt he deserved more than anything else at the moment. Just then, he heard a familiar voice. Still on the ground, he looked behind and saw two men standing not too far away, speaking. His eyes brightened up as he ran to the two.
“Lan Zhan! Big Brother!”
When the two brothers turned to look at him, oh… how he felt such bliss. He could not even count how long had it been since he was stuck with Lan QiRen, copying rules, practicing sword…
He missed his soon-to-be husband and his soon-to-be brother-in-law, but mostly his Lan Zhan.
“Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan!” He called out to him enthusiastically as he hugged him tightly, especially when he felt the man he wanted to avoid more than anything right now came and stood behind him.
Both the brothers greeted their uncles.
Wei WuXian hoped Lan QiRen would leave and give him some time to spend with his future husband, but he realized something like that would definitely not be happening when he felt someone grabbed his robe from behind, pulling him away from the man he was desperately hugging.
“No, I want Lan Zhan!” cried out Wei WuXian, but it had been fallen on deaf ears.
Lan QiRen was undeniably too strong for him. Without demonic cultivation, without a golden core, he had no choice but to cry internally as he was forcefully pulled away, to where he had no idea, but definitely not for him to rest or eat.
Wei WuXian opened an eye to peek at the man sitting in front of him in a lotus position, meditating.
“Close your eyes, focus,” the man said while Wei WuXian sighed and did as was told.
They had been meditating for like more than half a day. He was bored, tired and hungry. He never understood how could someone meditate for such a long time. His legs were sore by now. He was about to open his mouth again to ask for a break, but just then a knock came.
“Come in,” said Lan QiRen. His eyes were still closed and still in his meditating position.
“Uncle, I might need to borrow A-Xian for the preparation of the wedding,” said Lan XiChen.
Lan QiRen stood up and stroked his goatee, contemplating for a moment before he nodded, giving his approval. Wei WuXian raised his hands, halfway cheering in excitement when he saw Lan QiRen glared at him in disapproval while Lan XiChen smiled in amusement. He dropped his pair of hands, straightened his back and cleared his throat.
“I am ready to leave with you, Big Brother.”
“I will take my leave for now, uncle,” said Lan XiChen.
“Disciple Lan WangXian will take his leave too,” said Wei WuXian.
Once they were outside, out of Lan QiRen’s view of sight, Wei WuXian took in a deep breath, a grin unable to be removed from his face.
Oh, how he missed this fresh air!
It felt like it had been years since he had been able to breathe in such fresh air. Finally getting out of Lan QiRen’s view of sight – with no more being trapped in the same room with the man, no more reciting endless rules that he could never stop himself from breaking them and no more training that reminded him of his days in Yunmeng where he could feel the same harshness of Madam Yu’s way of training coming from Lan QiRen, he could feel the long-awaited freedom enveloping him.
“Big Brother, look at that and that and that!”
Lan XiChen could only smile as he watched Wei WuXian jumped around in front of him. He was like a bird that had just escaped a cage and Lan XiChen felt like he was the one who took the key and opened up the cage to free this poor little bird. Without caring for anything in the world, Wei WuXian casually grabbed some food in each of the stalls as if he owned the street and Lan XiChen would pay for everything he took.
As Wei WuXian was busy eating with his hands almost full of various food, Lan XiChen found his eyes stopped at the stall beside him. The stall was selling jades and Lan XiChen happened to get attracted by the jade with dragon carvings on it. He went nearer to the stall and took a closer look. The carvings were beautiful. Besides, the stall keeper even mentioned that if he wanted to carve a name on it, it could be done for free.
“A-Xian, what do you think of –”
Lan XiChen turned to search for the man who was supposed to stay somewhere close to him, but the man was nowhere to be found. A slight fear started arousing within Lan XiChen. It would be fine if he had merely walked too far away without having his real identity been exposed, but nothing could be certain. He had to find him as soon as possible before something bad happened.
Lan XiChen quickly put down the jade gently as he walked away swiftly and frantically searched around, making sure he scrutinized everyone clearly while spotting for his lost brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, the said lost brother-in-law was still enjoying himself – still too excited that he could at least stop listening to the nagging voice of Lan QiRen for at least a day.
Wei WuXian turned around, there was no one beside him or behind him.
He had somehow managed to separate ways with Lan XiChen!
He was about to walk back in the hope of finding his future brother-in-law there, but a gentle voice that came from a few feet in front caught his attention. He turned to the left and that was when he saw a little girl who probably looked around the age of A-Yuan was crying her eyes out and beside her, a woman knelt there, seemingly to be comforting her. He walked toward the two, but when the elder woman looked up to her, he could finally see her face. He widened his eyes in surprise.
She was no doubt his Shijie, Jiang YanLi.
Although he had just met her a few months ago during the banquet in Lanling, he already missed her very much. To be able to see her here in Gusu was definitely a blessing for him. He wanted to run forward and embraced her, to tell her how much he missed her. There were so many things he wanted to tell her – that he had found someone he loved and that someone was willing to stay with him despite learning the truth that he no longer had a golden core, no longer able to cultivate like he used to be, no longer able to raise Suibian and receive praises of how talented he was. He was also going to get married soon – to the man he took most of his time trying to catch his attention and he actually succeeded without knowing it himself.
Speaking of which, he remembered the banquet in Lanling did not really end well. After all, Lan WangJi had started a fight with Jiang WanYin when it was supposed to be a happy occasion to celebrate Jin Ling’s full month ceremony. He wondered if Jiang YanLi still remembered the masked man that attended her son’s celebration.
Did she already open up the present he gave Jin Ling?
Did she like the present?
Did she give Jin Ling the present?
Would Jin Ling like it?
So many questions he wanted to voice out, yet the question he wanted to ask more than anything else was did his Shijie hate him? Did his Shijie, just like everyone else out there believed he tried harming Jin Ling too? He wanted to reach out to her, tell her he would never do something like that and begged for her to trust him. He stretched his hand out only to keep it back when the image of Jiang YanLi happily carrying Jin Ling in her arms with Jin ZiXuan smiling and standing beside her passed through his head.
They were so happy together.
They were a happy family without him.
He felt he was about to cry again, but suppressed himself from doing so. He could not let himself cry here, not now when his Shijie was looking at him. He started to back away, deciding he should make a simple excuse for walking into the wrong place and then take the chance to leave immediately if he did not want his true identity to be found out.
Wei WuXian was stunned when he heard someone called him that. His heart was pounding so fast and he could hardly breathe from the anxiety that was stirring within him. Did his Shijie really recognize him even with his mask on – but wait! Even though Jiang YanLi was staring and standing right in front of him, but he did not remember seeing her lips moved at all.
There someone was calling him again and the voice came from somewhere behind him. He turned back and saw Lan XiChen approaching. He was immediately relieved to know that his identity had not been exposed.
“Maiden Jiang,” greeted Lan XiChen.
“Sect Leader Lan,” Jiang YanLi greeted him back before she turned toward the masked man in front of her.
“Your name is A-Xian?” Jiang YanLi asked as she stepped closer.
“Maiden Jiang, this is my brother-in-law, Lan WangXian.”
“We have met during A-Ling’s full month celebration a few months ago,” said Jiang YanLi as she turned to the masked man, “So you are Second Master Lan’s betrothed? Nice to meet you again.”
“Maiden Jiang, nice to meet you again as well,” said the masked man as he offered her a smile.
“A-Xian… Lan WangXian… what a coincidence. I have a brother who is called A-Xian too. For a moment, I thought you might be him.”
Wei WuXian’s heart skipped a beat. His Shijie considered him as her brother, not Shidi but brother, but did she still consider him as one now? His head bent lower, he could not let his Shijie see him cry.
“Maiden Jiang is here at Gusu alone?” asked Lan XiChen as he stepped forward, standing in front of his brother-in-law.
“No, I was with my brother. I was about to go back to him when I found this little girl seemed to have lost her way,” said Jiang YanLi as she patted the little girl’s head gently.
The familiar voice behind him made his eyes grew widened. Wei WuXian did not even need to turn back to check who that voice belonged to.
“A-Cheng,” said Jiang YanLi, smiling.
“Zewu-jun,” greeted Jiang WanYin before he turned to look at the masked man beside him.
“This is Second Master Lan’s betrothed, Young Master Lan WangXian,” said Jiang YanLi.
“Second Master Lan’s betrothed?” questioned Jiang WanYin as he narrowed his eyes at the masked man, “You are the one from before..!”
Wei WuXian could not speak, he was pretty sure that he would tremble while speaking. He could only give them a nod.
“I am sorry, he is a little sick today,” said Lan XiChen.
“Who is this child?” asked Jiang WanYin.
“She got lost and I am about to help her find her way back,” answered Jiang YanLi.
“Maiden Jiang, you can leave this matter to me,” said Lan XiChen as he walked to the little girl.
Jiang YanLi was about to give out her thanks when she felt the little girl jumping up and pulling her hands, “Big sister, I am hungry.”
Jiang YanLi knelt down beside the little girl and patted her head again, “You are hungry? Should I get you some food now?”
There was a bright smile on the little girl’s face.
“Sect Leader Lan, do you mind if I bring her to eat something first before you help her find her parents?” asked Jiang YanLi.
“Of course I do not mind. I know a nice restaurant just nearby, I can bring you all there,” offered Lan XiChen.
“Speaking of which, I still have not thanked Young Master Lan for defending and standing in front of my brother that day. If Young Master Lan does not mind, can I have the honor of treating you this meal as thanking you?” questioned Jiang YanLi.
“No, that is not necessary,” said Wei WuXian quickly.
“Maiden Jiang, I think it is more appropriate if we treat you for this meal as you are a rare guest here in Gusu. As for thanking A-Xian, I think he will be happy enough as long as he can see you and Sect Leader Jiang attend his wedding,” stated Lan XiChen.
“Of course,” said Jiang YanLi, “After all, Hanguang-jun had personally come to Yunmeng and Lanling to hand the invitation cards to A-Cheng and me.”
Wei WuXian turned to Lan XiChen in surprise, but the latter merely offered him his usual smile. There was no need to send out invitation cards personally, especially for a well-known and highly respected cultivator such as Lan WangJi unless the one to be invited were those of more respected cultivators or if they were relatives. When Jiang YanLi and the little girl started walking with Jiang WanYin following behind, Lan XiChen patted Wei WuXian’s head before the two joined them too.
“I will have one extra spicy chicken, extra spicy tofu, extra spicy vegetables, extra spicy soup and –”
Wei WuXian stopped as he felt Lan XiChen nudged at him. He turned to look at his future brother-in-law who had a gentle smile displayed on his face which looked a little forced out, and then he turned to see both Jiang YanLi and Jiang WanYin staring at him.
A Lan should not be ordering something so tasty.
“These are all ordered for Sect Leader Jiang and Maiden Jiang. WangJi had told us before that back when Young Master Wei was studying here, he told him that Yunmeng is famous for their spicy food, so we thought it might suit the two of your tastes. As for the two of us, just one stir fry vegetable and a clear soup will be enough. Add one chicken soup for this little girl here.”
Lan XiChen ended the order while Wei WuXian pouted. He had been so excited to get rid of those bland food at Cloud Recesses, and now it was back to square one. He knew he had no choice when his Shijie and Jiang Cheng were here, he had to keep his new reputation as a Lan and if he actually showed how much he enjoyed those spicy food in front of them, there might be a high possibility where they might suspect his identity.
“The food here might not be as tasty as Yunmeng, but it is really not bad,” said the masked man while Jiang WanYin raised an eyebrow at him.
“Young Master Lan, have you been to Yunmeng before?” asked Jiang YanLi.
“I have not,” answered the masked man, a little way too quickly in everyone’s opinion. He noticed when he mentioned the food here might not be as tasty as Yunmeng, it sounded almost like he was a regular customer of the food in Yunmeng and he quickly added, “I mean for the two of you from Yunmeng, perhaps the food here is not up to your liking, but since I have tasted the food here since young, I know it is definitely not bad.”
“If you have time, maybe you can visit Yunmeng with Second Master Lan? We can bring you around,” offered Jiang YanLi while Jiang WanYin glanced at his sister suspiciously.
“We will if we have the time,” said the masked man, earning a scowl from Jiang WanYin.
Jiang WanYin had totally no idea why his sister was looking like she was so fond of the masked man. Last time too in the banquet at Lanling, he heard from Jin ZiXuan that his sister even allowed this man to carry Jin Ling. Seriously, his sister really needed to learn to be more cautious of strangers, especially those related to the Lans, to Lan WangJi to be specific. More importantly, why did his sister even offered to show them around in Yunmeng? He certainly did not want to see Lan WangJi at all, let alone showing him around in Yunmeng.
“Speaking of which, Young Master Lan, have you tasted my Lotus Pork Rib soup? Previously, Second Master Lan learned to make the soup from me. He must have made it for you, right?” questioned Jiang YanLi.
The masked man smiled as he remembered how happy he felt to be able to taste the soup again.
“Yes, the soup is really nice. I did not know it was Maiden Jiang who taught Lan Zhan how to make the soup. Thank you.”
“No problem. I am delighted to know that you like it.”
Jiang YanLi was about to ask another question, but the food had already arrived. Together, they took up their chopsticks and started eating quietly. As they ate in silence, Wei WuXian stared at those spicy food longingly. Knowing what type of torture he must have been going through at the moment, Lan XiChen kept putting more vegetables in his brother-in-law’s bowl, an act to tell him he should forget about those spicy food for now and to focus on the food right in front of him.
Once they were done eating, Lan XiChen and Wei WuXian quickly made an excuse that they were rushing to get the wedding items before they parted ways with the Jiangs, carrying the little girl with them as Lan XiChen had promised he would help the little girl find her parents. Wei WuXian released a sigh of relief as they were far away from the Jiangs. He was certainly glad that they did not seem to suspect his identity.
Wei WuXian and Lan XiChen looked in front of them to see a man and a woman running toward them.
“You are this little girl’s parents? How could you two just leave her alone?” questioned Lan XiChen. The parents looked guilty as they turned their child around to check if she had any injuries and was absolutely relieved when they found none.
“It wasn’t on purpose, but she disappeared when I turned around. Thank you so much for your help,” said the man while the woman hugged her child and repeatedly told the little girl that everything was fine now.
The couple quickly took their daughter and walked away. Wei WuXian and Lan XiChen took one last look at the family before they turned to walk away – to the place that was the reason for them to come to Caiyi Town. The main reason they went out of Cloud Recesses was so that Wei WuXian could try on the ordered wedding gown to make sure it fits well.
When they reached the shop that sold the wedding gown, the shop owner immediately recognized Lan XiChen and took out the ordered gowns. Wei WuXian then took the gown and tried it on himself.
“How do I look, Big Brother?”
The wedding robe fitted the man who was wearing it perfectly well. The design on the robe was not too complicated, it was simple and clean and made it enjoyable to look at.
Lan XiChen found himself staring at his brother-in-law, amazed by how beautiful he looked. His brother once said red was made for him, and he could see how true this was. It was a shame that his brother could not be here to look at this himself. There were still many things left for the preparations and many things left undecided. He had to stay in Cloud Recesses as he was the bridegroom. Since both of them were almost of the same height, Wei WuXian could try the robe on for him as well.
“You look amazing,” said Lan XiChen.
There was a wide smile displayed on the face of the man in red, delighted with the comment his future brother-in-law offered. He looked at the gown he was wearing and felt satisfied with it.
The smile on his face disappeared when he noticed the other people in the shop were looking at him and they started talking about him.
“Isn't that Lan WangXian? Lan WangJi's soon-to-be husband?”
“Who else? Zewu-jun is standing right there after all.”
“Can’t believe Hanguang-jun will really choose a man.”
When the man named Lan WangXian turned to them, they quickly fell into silence and acted as though they were finding for the items they wished to purchase. Lan XiChen placed a hand on Wei WuXian’s shoulder as he told him that he should not be bothered by them. Ignoring those people talking behind his back, Wei WuXian changed back to his Gusu Lan white robe while Lan XiChen made payment for the wedding robes.
When they were finally out of the shop, Wei WuXian noticed many others were half-staring at him and half-gossiping. He might have not noticed it previously probably because he was too busy getting excited for enjoying the smell of freedom.
“Have you heard, he is not a cultivator but is currently learning swordplay under Lan QiRen? More importantly, Lan QiRen even said he is a genius and one of his best students that he had taken in so far.”
“I heard. To be able to have Lan QiRen approved of him, he must be incredibly strong!”
“Or perhaps Lan QiRen only approved of him because he is Lan WangJi’s betrothed?”
“Of course not! I understand Lan QiRen very well. He differentiates black and white clearly, and he is definitely not the type to lower his standards on his students just because that student is someone he knows.”
Wei WuXian was astonished to hear that. Did Lan QiRen really think so highly of him, similar to what these people were openly gossiping about? He turned to look at Lan XiChen for confirmation, but the latter’s attention was not on him at all. He was staring at a jade with dragon carvings on it. He took a closer look and saw the look on his future brother-in-law. There was a mischievous smile displayed on his face as he could guess who this jade would be given to.
“The dragon carvings on the jade look magnificent. A dragon symbolizes power and protection, and this is probably a wonderful gift for Big Brother to give it to Sect Leader Nie.”
Lan XiChen gasped as he turned to Wei WuXian like he had just taken notice of his presence. Wei WuXian grinned at him. His reaction was more than enough to prove Wei WuXian had guessed correctly.
“I..! Do you think he will like it?” questioned Lan XiChen, his eyes avoiding the man in front of him as he felt his ears reddened. Wei WuXian laughed as he noticed the similarly unique way the Lan brothers reacted when they were embarrassed.
“Of course, why wouldn’t he? Perhaps Big Brother can give this to Sect Leader Nie and express your love for him,” suggested Wei WuXian as he grinned.
“W-What are you talking? Elder brother and I aren’t like that..! He is my brother!”
“Sworn. Not real brothers, just sworn brothers,” Wei WuXian tried correcting him because it made a big difference between real and sworn brothers.
“We are still brothers! It is not appropriate,” said Lan XiChen.
“Why not? I don’t see any problem why sworn brothers can’t be together. As long as the two of you are not blood-related and the two of you love each other, there is no problem,” said Wei WuXian.
“A-Xian, elder brother is most probably not interested in me anyway,” said Lan XiChen, sounding a little disappointed.
“You will never know. Big brother is the best, I don’t see how can someone not fall in love with someone as perfect as you!”
Lan XiChen wanted to tell him that it was not about whether he was perfect or not, but it was more of a matter in which Nie MingJue probably would not be interested in anything related to romance, but he kept his silence and stared at the jade. Wei WuXian took the jade away from him and told the seller to carve Nie MingJue’s name on it before sending it up to Cloud Recesses as he pulled Lan XiChen away with him.
After listening to what his brother-in-law said, Lan XiChen could not help but have the slightest hint of hope for Nie MingJue to actually return his love for him. However, right now was definitely not the time for that. He decided he should let this feeling stay behind first. At the moment, he had more important things to do. He needed to prepare well and make sure nothing would go wrong at his brother’s wedding. He could hardly wait to see the two all dressed in red, holding hands in front of all the cultivators who had been invited into Cloud Recesses and announced to the world that they were officially married.
First of all, thank you for all the comments and kudos. I may not have the time to reply to all of the comments, but I did read all of them and appreciate each of them.
It's been a while since I updated and hopefully, you guys will not need to wait too long for my next update~
For those excited to see WangXian's wedding, well no worries. It is coming soon! Soon, but not immediately - probably in around two or three more chapters. I will have to start researching how ancient Chinese weddings work.
If someone can provide me with an answer, do people serve tea to their family right after or before they had their three bows, or is it done on a different day which is not the day of the wedding, or is this not something that should be included in the ancient Chinese wedding?
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
There was only around seven more days to the arrival of the wedding. Wei WuXian was no longer living in Jingshi now. According to tradition, they should not be sharing a room before marriage. Thus, Wei WuXian had moved to the place where Lan WangJi’s mother once lived at. However, the nearer it got to the day of the wedding, the more Wei WuXian was feeling anxious. That explained why he was hugging Lan WangJi tightly right now in front of Jingshi, unwilling to separate with him despite the fact that curfew was approaching in a few hours’ time.
Lan WangJi embraced Wei WuXian gently, he was getting a little worried for his soon-to-be husband was clearly more clingy than usual. It felt like he had something troubling him too. He was not acting like himself for the past few days.
“Lan Zhan… are you sure about this? You will not regret it? You know you can still throw me away now if you wish to.”
It surprised Lan WangJi to know that was what had been troubling his betrothed the past few days. He was worried that he would regret his choice although Lan WangJi was so sure that he would never regret his choice. If he even regretted anything, that would be not marrying him sooner. A wedding with his Wei Ying was what he had been praying to come true ever since he found out his love for him. No words could describe how blissful he felt at the moment, knowing this man in front of him would finally be his alone. No one would take him away anymore and he could finally have the official rights to protect him from those who dared to lift a finger on him.
As he felt Wei WuXian tightened his hands around his waist, Lan WangJi took Wei WuXian’s hands in his and kissed them gently.
“I will never leave Wei Ying.”
Wei WuXian looked at the pair of eyes staring at him and felt his heart was about to melt soon at the sight of the man standing in front of him, “Lan Zhan, what have I done to be able to deserve you?”
Lan WangJi shook his head and said, “Wei Ying is the best.”
Excitedly, Wei WuXian threw himself into Lan WangJi’s embrace. When the two eventually pulled apart from each other, Wei WuXian directed his gaze toward Lan XiChen who had been standing nearby for quite some time. By now, the man had already gotten used to how these two little lovey-dovey brothers of his who could not seem to control their love for each other no matter where they were, and they would proudly display their affection in public as though they had a responsibility to show everyone how in love they were.
“You know I am as happy as you two about the wedding,” answered Lan XiChen.
“But your uncle…”
Lan XiChen chuckled, finally understanding what worried the Yiling Patriarch so much.
“Uncle is happy too,” said Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian definitely did not look as though he believed in his brother-in-law’s words as he turned toward the man he was marrying in a few days’ time.
“Mm,” agreed Lan WangJi.
Despite that, Lan XiChen could still see the insecurity within Wei WuXian. Perhaps, Lan XiChen thought, it would help this poor man lift his insecurity if they could just show him that Lan QiRen was not so against the marriage.
“Do you want to test it out?” questioned Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian turned to Lan XiChen with curiosity as he saw a slight excitement on Lan XiChen in which the latter was desperately trying to hide. One look at his brother, Lan WangJi could already guess what his brother was implying.
It was definitely against the rule – yes, but he would not want to see his betrothed looking so troubled especially now that it was only a few more days before the wedding. He wanted the man he loved to be the happiest on the day of the wedding, so perhaps it was necessary to do what his elder brother intended to do. They would just have to take the punishment after doing whatever they were about to do.
Wei WuXian could only stare at the scene in front of him in a daze.
When Lan XiChen mentioned that he had a way to test out how much Lan QiRen disliked the idea of the approaching wedding, Wei WuXian only felt curiosity regarding what type of way would Lan XiChen be using to test it out. When Lan XiChen had disappeared for a while and came back later to invite Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian to follow him, he thought he had probably talked to Lan QiRen and Lan QiRen wished to see him so they could talk everything out before the wedding, and he thought Lan XiChen managed to make Lan QiRen agree that he would accept the coming of the wedding for the sake of his love for his nephew.
Of all the things he could have imagined, none of it was what was happening at the moment. He blinked his eyes several times to make sure his eyes were not failing him and to make sure he was not dreaming. This was a reality. It was so true that he could not find any words to describe what he was feeling. He could not find it in himself to believe that something like this was really happening here in Cloud Recesses.
Was mischievousness something that could infect those near to him?
Did he affect the Lan brothers – Lan XiChen especially, more than he expected?
“Big Brother, is this really fine?” Wei WuXian was beginning to lose count on how many times he had asked the same question again and again. It was absolutely typical for him to fool around, to break each and every rule in the Cloud Recesses, but never would he have imagined himself trying and dragging the twin jades of Lan into his mess.
The two Lan brothers and Wei WuXian were hiding somewhere near Lan QiRen’s room. The said room was opened with Lan QiRen in it, sitting in front of a cup of water. Being his nephews, the twin jades knew perfectly well that their uncle was used to having a cup of water before calling it a night. Lan XiChen had secretly changed the cup of water into a cup of wine which was introduced by his sworn brothers a few days ago, stating that this was a unique wine they found the other day because although it was a fine wine, there was hardly anyone who could smell the wine in it until it entered one’s throat.
“Don’t worry, A-Xian. You want to know what uncle thinks of you, right? Besides, I would like to see how uncle looks like when he is drunk.”
When he was greeted with silence, Lan XiChen turned to Wei WuXian who was staring at him in surprise.
“I said that out loud, didn’t I?” asked Lan XiChen, laughing softly. Wei WuXian turned to look at Lan WangJi who was standing behind them all these while looking indifferent, then he looked back at Lan XiChen who did not even bother to try to hide his excitement.
“Big brother, the rules..! Your Gusu Lan Sect rules..!” exclaimed Wei WuXian as he tried to lower down his voice. He felt like the Sect Leader Lan standing in front of him had completely forgotten the 3000 rules in his sect and as someone who had lots of experience copying them, he had to remind him. The last thing he would want right now was to be caught by Lan QiRen and to be given punishment again.
“I know we broke the rules. As punishment, we will all copy the rules later,” stated Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian gasped in horror. He would rather not do this than copying the 3000 rules later. How many times had he copied the rules ever since he stepped his foot into Cloud Recesses? Besides he had no idea how many more times he would need to copy them in the future now that he would start living in Cloud Recesses permanently. Lan QiRen adored his sect’s rules so much that whenever he saw someone breaking any of them, especially the Yiling Patriarch, he would immediately punish them by having them to start copying the rules again and again.
Noticing his face of horror, Lan XiChen added, “Don’t worry, A-Xian. WangJi will be copying in your stead.”
Wei WuXian looked back at Lan WangJi who nodded in confirmation. When Wei WuXian turned his attention back to Lan QiRen, the older man was already drinking up the content in the cup.
In the next second, Lan QiRen dropped his head onto the table.
The three of them immediately rushed in. When they realized he was just drunk, everyone released a sigh of relief. Wei WuXian found it hard to believe. Seriously? Did he collapse with just one cup? Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi moved to carry their uncle to the bed, but before they managed to touch him, he was awake.
The three of them were stunned as they stared at each other, perplexed at the situation.
Lan XiChen and Wei WuXian gasped at how loud Lan QiRen was. Wei WuXian swiftly moved to close the door while Lan XiChen was struggling to decide whether he should cover his uncle’s mouth. His voice was loud, especially when it was nearing curfew and almost all disciples should be asleep by now except for those who were patrolling. In the end, Lan WangJi threw out a few soundproof talismans and attached them to the door and wall, so that people outside would hear nothing.
“My good nephew, XiChen!” exclaimed Lan QiRen as he walked wobbly and grabbed his elder nephew’s shoulders.
“Let me tell you, you are great! The best sect leader I have ever seen. You make me so proud!”
Lan XiChen stared at his uncle in surprise. His uncle was never this honest in speaking how he felt toward him. There was a bright smile on Wei WuXian, feeling happy for his brother-in-law. Lan WangJi’s lips were curled into a slight smile, nodding in agreement as he met his brother’s eyes.
“WangJi, my dear WangJi!”
And then he went silent. He stared at Lan WangJi for a long moment like he was contemplating what could be said before he released a heavy sigh, stroking his goatee.
“Out of all the people you could have loved, even if you must fall in love with a man, why must it be Wei WuXian?!”
Wei WuXian winced at the words. He knew Lan QiRen hated him, but when he heard it being said so honestly right in front of him, especially by a drunk Lan QiRen, he could not help but feel the sadness within him. Lan WangJi was about to comment on his uncle’s harsh words when his uncle continued further with his drunken confession.
“He is a rule-breaker and he is too noisy for you… but otherwise, I admit he is a great man for you. He is loyal, brave, smart and I am sure if anything happens to you, he will gladly protect you even if it means losing his life in exchange.”
Although Lan WangJi was relieved that his uncle was approving his husband, he frowned at the last statement. He would not let Wei Ying die for him. He was the one who should protect his husband, not the other way. As long as he was still breathing, no one would be allowed to hurt Wei Ying.
Then Lan QiRen turned around and met Wei WuXian. Feeling a little edgy on what the man was planning on saying to him, Wei WuXian held his breath and waited for the man to release all of his frustration on him.
“Wei WuXian, you fool! What kind of an idiot would give away his core to someone else? It is no secret that I hated you for practicing demonic cultivation, but when I knew the reason… it must have been hard for you, but that is not an excuse for you to turn into something like that! However, when I thought about it, you have been living a hard life. Your parents died early, and since the Jiangs took you in, you feel like you are in debt to them, although I still can’t understand how you can give your core away so easily merely to return the debt! But now that you are going to marry into our Gusu Lan Sect, fear not! WangJi loves you deeply and will protect you, so will XiChen and I!”
Wei WuXian could only stare at the drunk man in shock.
Before any of them could say anything else, Lan QiRen turned his back to them, ignoring the fact that he had guests in his room and climbed up onto his bed and closed his eyes.
Nothing could stop the Lans from sleeping at curfew!
Without another word, Wei WuXian turned to the door and walk out. The Lan brothers glanced at each other before they went out to follow behind the man, closing the door of Lan QiRen’s room before they left.
The Lan brothers followed Wei WuXian to his room. He sat there on his bed, contemplating what had just happened. Frankly speaking, he never thought Lan QiRen cared for him that much. He always thought even though there were times where Lan QiRen would look like he cared for him, it was merely because he was the man his nephew had chosen. He was trying his best not to be overly harsh to him merely because he did not want his nephew to feel sad.
Lan WangJi approached the bed and sat beside Wei WuXian as he had his hand on his shoulder, pulling him close to him.
“Lan Zhan, I…”
Wei WuXian fell into silence. He did not know what should be said or was there even anything else left to be said. He was confused – confused about what he was feeling right now and that if everything that was happening around him was really true.
Lan WangJi who was never good at comforting with words merely pulled the man closer to him. Lan XiChen walked to the bed and patted Wei WuXian’s head gently.
“A-Xian, uncle cares for you despite how he acts in front of you. The reason why he forbids you from continuing demonic cultivation is not merely because he hates it or that if you use it again, your identity will be revealed. It is also because demonic cultivation harms one’s minds and that is also the reason why both WangJi and I are against you using it too. We know that you feel… incomplete. You feel that without demonic cultivation, you are not strong enough. But A-Xian, I think you are strong even with no cultivation. Do you remember the time where you blindfolded yourself but still managed to hit the bullseye? You had already lost your cultivation back then, but you still had everyone raising their hands to applause for you. Besides, you are learning swordplay with uncle right now, I am sure you can be as strong as the other cultivators in no time.”
Lan XiChen patted his head again and smiled.
“It is late. Let’s call it a night,” announced Lan XiChen as both his brother and him stood up and left.
Silently, they walked toward Jingshi together with Lan XiChen throwing a few glances at his younger brother. He did not have the time to ask this previously, but he knew something was troubling this younger brother of his too.
Was this what people recognized as pre-wedding jitters?
When the two brothers were just a few feet away from Jingshi, Lan XiChen called out to him, “WangJi.”
Lan WangJi turned back to face his brother.
“WangJi, is there something troubling you too?”
Lan WangJi looked at his brother. He was not surprised at all. He was never good at hiding his emotions from his brother. His brother always had the ability to read him like an open book despite how he always thought he had done his best in hiding his emotions.
Lan XiChen did not interrupt. He would stand there patiently and wait until his brother could finally tell him whatever it was that had been troubling him.
“I am afraid that I am wrong,” said Lan WangJi.
“Wrong?” questioned Lan XiChen.
“What if Wei Ying only thinks he is in love with me because he feels lonely now? Perhaps, when one day he reconciles with Jiang WanYin, he might realize that he does not love me at all – that he is only thinking that he is in love with me now because he had no one else in the world who cared for him at the moment? What if he blames me then for forcing him into a marriage with me?”
Lan XiChen was taken aback at his brother’s words. He had no idea his brother was thinking of something so absurd. How could his brother not see that Wei WuXian had been in love with him all along, even before he had lost his golden core when he was still living in Yunmeng back then and had the Jiangs with him.
“WangJi, I am sure A-Xian is in love with you. There is no doubt about it. Do you think A-Xian is the type who will misunderstand his feelings so easily? If he is really feeling lonely, he will not need to agree to marry. He should be happy to be your friend here since no one is chasing him out of Cloud Recesses anyway,” said Lan XiChen.
Lan XiChen released a sigh as he watched his brother contemplated his words and nodded. He knew insecurity was still running deep within his brother, but there was nothing else he could say to make him understand. Only time would prove to his brother how much his soon-to-be husband love him.
“WangJi, I think you are just getting a little anxious with the day of wedding approaching. It is getting late now, go and get some rest,” said Lan XiChen.
Obediently, Lan WangJi walked into his room. Finally, Lan XiChen thought to himself, he could get some rest now. These two little brothers of his were making him anxious along with them. They were already not acting like themselves when there were still seven days before the wedding. He could only hope that the day before the wedding would not turn out to be a mess.
Lan XiChen was standing outside of the place that his brother-in-law was currently residing in, feeling a mixture of feelings as he prepared to knock on the door. The most anticipated day was finally here. His excitement was definitely not any lesser than his brother and brother-in-law. He had always dreamt of witnessing the day of his brother’s wedding, and when he learned of his brother’s devotion to Wei WuXian, it made him want to do everything he could to push them together.
It had been a long time since a wedding was held in Cloud Recesses. For once, the tranquility of Cloud Recesses was broken with a large number of guests here, giving out gifts and wishing for the Second Master Lan an eternity of happiness. Besides, as a rare occasion, today the Cloud Recesses was decorated wonderfully and the place was uncommonly filled with red instead of white.
He felt his heart on the verge of melting as he looked at everything around him before he proceeded to knock on the door. He had waited a while before the door was opened, revealing a man in red with a mask covering from his eyes to his nose, and with a smile brighter than anything.
“A-Xian, you look gorgeous,” said Lan XiChen.
Lan XiChen chuckled as he could see his brother-in-law was unusually shy today before he allowed himself to enter and closed the door behind them. He guided Wei WuXian to sit on a chair before him.
“Are you nervous?” questioned Lan XiChen.
“A little,” Wei WuXian answered honestly.
Lan XiChen chuckled again, “Don’t worry. Uncle and I will make sure that nothing will go wrong today. We will not allow anything or anyone to destroy this big day.”
Wei WuXian nodded and was relieved with his brother-in-law’s assurance. Many guests were here, including his Shijie and Jiang Cheng. He had to be careful with the way he acted and to be extra cautious with whatever words that might come out of his lips later. He could not afford to reveal his identity, especially not today. He would not allow the day of Lan WangJi and his wedding turned to the day where his husband would watch everyone pointing their swords at him.
“Come, A-Xian, let me comb your hair for you,” said Lan XiChen as he took the comb on the table and gently combed his brother-in-law’s hair before helping him to make a hairdo that matched Lan WangJi. Then Lan XiChen placed the comb back onto the table, just next to the forehead ribbon.
“A-Xian, your forehead ribbon,” said Lan XiChen.
Wei WuXian turned to the table and was surprised that he almost forgot about it. Since he was a Lan disciple now, just like the other disciples here, he had to wear a forehead ribbon too. According to the Gusu Lan Sect’s tradition, if two Lan disciples got married, they would have to exchange their forehead ribbons during the wedding ceremony.
Wei WuXian took the ribbon in his hand and stared at it. This – he would be tying this up onto Lan WangJi later, and Lan WangJi would tie his own onto his forehead. He would have never expected that there would come a day where he would actually be so excited to wear a forehead ribbon. He used to always try touching Lan WangJi’s forehead ribbon in the past, which resulted in the man always ended up getting angry at him.
He still remembered during the first time he touched his forehead ribbon, Lan WangJi had been so angry that he left in the middle of the competition.
The second time when he tried touching it again, it was at Xuanwu cave in which he had used it to help bandage up Lan WangJi.
He smiled at those memories. This time, however, Lan WangJi would not be angry at him anymore for touching his forehead ribbon. He would be the one to personally tie his own forehead ribbon onto him. Wei WuXian raised his hands up and tied the ribbon onto his forehead before turning to face Lan XiChen.
“Perfect,” said Lan XiChen.
“Thank you, Big Brother,” said Wei WuXian, smiling in front of the mirror. Today was probably the only day he would look so neat and tidy.
“All right, I will be leaving first. I have to see how WangJi is doing. Later someone will be coming to escort you in.”
Wei WuXian turned to Lan XiChen, a little surprised with what he had just heard. According to tradition, an elder should escort him to the ceremony. It was said that if one walked in alone without being escorted by an elder, it would not be a happy marriage. However, the current Wei WuXian had no family member or anyone close enough who would be willing to escort him there.
“I thought I would be going there myself?” questioned Wei WuXian.
“Of course not. How can I let our dear A-Xian walks in alone?” said Lan XiChen as he smiled and moved to leave.
Probably, Wei WuXian thought to himself, Lan XiChen had one of his trusted Lan disciples to accompany him there. Wei WuXian sat there and waited patiently.
When someone knocked on the door again, he quickly stood up to open the door, only to find himself gaping with who he saw at the door. The man standing there right in front of him would be the last person that he expected would come to visit him. Before he even managed to get out of his state of shock and greeted him, Lan QiRen had already walked past him, entering the room. He closed the door as he followed behind him and greeted, “Mr. Lan…”
“Mm,” stated Lan QiRen, his voice was as usual, firm and aloof.
“Wei WuXian, starting from today, you will officially be a Lan, WangJi’s husband.”
“I… I will do my best to be Lan Zhan’s husband and do my best to be a Lan.”
Lan QiRen took another glance before he walked past him, stating, “If you are ready, we should get going now.”
“Wait, Big Brother said someone will be escorting me to the ceremony.”
Lan QiRen raised an eyebrow at him, “And what do you think I am here for?”
Wei WuXian was dumbfounded. Did he hear that right? Lan QiRen – he was here to accompany him to the ceremony?!
“WangJi and XiChen came to my room earlier in the morning to beg me to escort you in. Truthfully, even if they don’t request me to do it, I would come to get you anyway. You are WangJi’s husband, we can’t let you walk in alone.”
To have Lan QiRen accompany him in, that would be of no difference than announcing to the world that Lan QiRen completely accepted Lan WangXian as his nephew-in-law.
“I… Thank you…” Wei WuXian said, feeling his eyes getting wet with tears. “Thank you,” he repeated.
Lan QiRen walked toward him and surprisingly, he gently wiped off the tears.
“Wei WuXian, you are ruining your face. Today is your wedding, act like how you usually do. Smile.”
Wei WuXian could only nod. He could not speak as he felt his voice would come out hoarse.
“You have a new family now. Cloud Recesses will be your new home. You are not alone anymore and you should not shoulder all the burden alone as you did in the past. We are all here, WangJi, XiChen, and I too. Remember that.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lan,” Wei WuXian croaked out and cried harder.
“Still calling me that? Is it not the time to change the way you address me?” questioned Lan QiRen.
“I… ” There was a short pause before Wei WuXian added, “Uncle.”
Lan QiRen nodded approvingly, “All right, stop crying. We need to get going or we will be late for the ceremony.”
Wei WuXian nodded as he quickly wiped off his tears, and prepared himself to walk beside Lan QiRen into the ceremony.
At the hall in Cloud Recesses where all invited guests were gathered there, some stood chatting with one another, while some others stayed in their seats and waited for the bridegrooms to appear so that the wedding ceremony would begin soon.
As Jiang WanYin sat there beside his sister who had her husband sitting beside her, he observed each individual presented in the hall. He was not exactly sure what he was trying to find here in the crowd. He was searching for any suspicious man that could be spotted, perhaps one who wore a mask, or perhaps one who wore a cloak and had his face covered up, or even perhaps one who dressed up as a woman who might look like Wei WuXian.
These past few days, he had been thinking that if Wei WuXian was here, he would definitely tease Lan WangJi on how he actually got married at such a young age, and he even got married before Wei WuXian himself. Teasing and making fun of Lan WangJi had always been one of Wei WuXian’s hobby. He never got bored of doing it in the past, no matter how much anger and annoyance had been displayed on the usual stoic face of the man. Perhaps, he thought to himself, there might be a slight possibility that when Wei WuXian actually heard of the news that Lan WangJi was getting married, he might find a way to sneak in there to see it for himself who Lan WangJi was getting married to.
He looked and looked and looked, and observed each guest presented there repeatedly, and he recognized all of their faces.
There was no Wei WuXian.
He should have known.
No matter how much Wei WuXian would like to come here, he would not be here. He could not afford to be here, not when all sects were being so obvious in wanting the kill him, including the Yunmeng Jiang Sect that he had grown to love – including the man that he had given his golden core to.
He could not even attend Jiang YanLi’s wedding, much less Lan WangJi’s, and that was all his fault too. He could still remember Wen Qing told him and his sister how terrible Wei WuXian had felt back then, knowing that Jiang YanLi was about to get married soon, but knew he would never be able to receive the invitation card. If only Jiang WanYin had stood by him, never allowed him to leave Lotus Pier, and agreed to take care of the Wen remnants along with him, none of these would happen. Wei WuXian would be able to attend Jiang YanLi’s wedding, and today too, he would be here with him to attend Lan WangJi’s wedding.
He felt his eyes were about to start dampening again when he heard someone exclaiming, “Zewu-jun and Hanguang-jun are here!”
He held back his tears and just like the other guests, turned around to see Lan WangJi in his red wedding robe with his usual solemn and stoic expression walked in with Lan XiChen standing by his side who was smiling at the guests.
Many cultivators started to walk forward to congratulate the Second Master Lan on his wedding and the bridegroom merely nodded and thanked them politely. While Lan WangJi was surrounded by the elders of the Lan Sect, Nie MingJue and Jin GuangYao both took the chance to approach their sworn brother.
“Congratulations, second brother.”
Both Nie MingJue and Jin GuangYao walked forward to Lan XiChen whose smile was brighter than any other day. Compared to the bridegroom, Lan WangJi who was maintaining his stoic expression, despite the fact that he was the one getting married today, Lan XiChen looked more like the bridegroom.
“Thank you, elder brother, A-Yao,” said Lan XiChen.
“I am happy for you. Your brother managed to find someone to marry,” said Nie MingJue. At that said, the smile on Lan XiChen’s face disappeared.
“Elder brother, why do you make it sound like it is surprising that my brother is actually getting married?”
Jin GuangYao laughed as he saw how his eldest brother immediately kept his mouth shut. As if to show him how words should be said, he cleared his throat and spoke up.
“It is definitely not surprising that your brother is getting married. Hanguang-jun, he is like one of the most amazing cultivators out there. Your brother-in-law is lucky that Hanguang-jun chooses him out of all people.”
“A-Yao, are you somehow dissatisfied with A-Xian?”
The smile disappeared from Jin GuangYao’s face while there was a slight grin shown in Nie MingJue’s face – a look that told him you are definitely not better than me. Both of them kept their lips shut as they were afraid that they would offend their dear sworn brother with their words again. As they kept their silence, they heard what people were talking about among themselves.
“Today is Hanguang-jun’s wedding, where is Lan QiRen?”
“Is it possible that he will not be coming?”
“Impossible. Today is his nephew’s wedding.”
“Have you all heard it? The husband of Hanguang-jun is parentless and he is not a cultivator either. I bet Lan QiRen probably does not approve of this wedding at all?”
“That makes sense.”
“But in that case, who will be escorting the husband of Hanguang-jun here? Will he be coming alone?”
Nie MingJue and Jin GuangYao exchanged a look and glared at those people gossiping.
“XiChen, who is escorting your brother-in-law here? If no one is with him, do you want me to get him?” offered Nie MingJue.
“I can go get him too,” said Jin GuangYao.
Lan XiChen merely smiled at his supportive sworn brothers, but there was no need for them at all. He knew when all these guests witnessed who it was who would be accompanying his brother-in-law here, it would definitely render all of them speechless.
“No worries, elder brother, A-Yao. A-Xian is here,” announced Lan XiChen.
Everyone who was in the room turned to the entrance of the hall. A man in his red wedding robe that matched Lan WangJi’s with his usual mask on his face was walking gracefully toward the hall. Even with a mask on his face, the smile that had been displayed across him made him look so beautiful. There were three Lan cultivators standing behind him. Standing beside him, there was a man dressed in white, looking slightly less grumpy than he usually was.
All of the invited guests were surprised to see Lan QiRen standing at the entrance, guiding the man – Lan WangXian forward. Lan XiChen smiled warmly at the scene before him as he noticed his eyes were starting to dampen. Finally, the day had arrived. The two – his brother and brother-in-law had finally gotten together. They had gone through so many things together – misunderstandings, the sorrow of being betrayed, and the pain of losing their loved ones, especially Wei WuXian.
Lan WangJi found himself unable to take off his eyes from his husband. Although his husband still had his mask on, he knew he was the most beautiful person in the hall. He felt like dreaming, today – his wedding and Wei Ying – his husband, everything felt like a dream. Never would he have imagined that the day where he would marry Wei Ying would become a reality. He thought he would only be able to stay in his shadows and protect him.
Standing there in the middle of the crowd, Lan WangJi patiently waited until his husband, guided by his uncle walked to him. Lan WangJi nodded to his uncle when his uncle held Lan WangXian’s hand and handed it to Lan WangJi. He grabbed them tightly and when Wei WuXian looked up, there were visible tears in around his eyes that were threatening to fall, but his smile was brighter than anything in the world.
Lan WangJi smiled at him, a genuine smile.
The audience was shocked by the scene before them. Some who were in the middle of holding the cup of tea in their hand dropped the cup and some of them had their lips parted slightly, stunned and gaping at the once in a blue moon image displayed before them. Who would have thought they would have the honor of watching the stoic Hanguang-jun smile, and it was definitely a shock to everyone to know that he could actually smile! Lan XiChen wiped a tear that dropped off his eyes earlier before he walked forward with Lan QiRen to the seats prepared for them in front of the pair of bridegrooms.
When Lan WangJi and Lan WangXian turned to face the two family members sat in front of them, an elder Lan who was responsible for this ceremony walked forward. The wedding should start with no further delay before they missed the auspicious time.
“First bow – to the Heaven and Earth.”
Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian bowed.
“Second bow – to the family.”
The two glanced at the two men sat in front of them, and bowed to them.
“Third bow – to the spouse.”
Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian turned to each other, took a few seconds to enjoy each other’s looks before they bowed to each other.
“Now, we will witness the exchange of forehead ribbons between the pair.”
Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian both took out their forehead ribbons. Wei WuXian walked forward and tied his forehead ribbon on Lan WangJi. In return, Lan WangJi tied his forehead ribbon on Wei WuXian too and left a kiss on his forehead. The two leaned their heads against each other, enjoying the warmth.
“With this, Lan WangJi and Lan WangXian are officially married.”
Wei WuXian allowed a tear to leave his eye and Lan WangJi moved to wipe it off. Wei WuXian did the same too when there was a drop of tear leaving Lan WangJi’s eye. Lan WangJi grabbed his fingers gently, and slowly, he moved closer and closer until their lips were so close that they could feel each other’s breath. Wei WuXian closed his eyes, and Lan WangJi took the chance to advance forward and kissed him passionately.
As all the guests started applauding for them, Jiang WanYin turned to see his sister being one of the people who was applauding for the pair of cut-sleeves with her husband doing the same too though his lips were still slightly parted. Jin ZiXuan still had yet to get out from his shock from getting an invitation card from Lan WangJi (because not only him, everyone could hardly imagine that Lan WangJi would actually get married, and even if he did, it should probably be after Lan XiChen’s wedding) to watching the stoic Hanguang-jun smiled before all the cultivators who came here to witness his wedding. He could not help but wonder if Wei WuXian was here, he would definitely go forward to congratulate Lan WangJi before he started teasing him for getting so emotional and out of character in his own wedding.
But Wei WuXian was not here.
He stared at the cup of tea in his hand, ignoring the pair of bridegrooms and those noise made for them.
Wei WuXian, where exactly are you at?
Is Wei WuXian a little too emotional here? (I am not too sure about that...)
Is Lan WangJi a little too emotional here? (Well, of course he should be. He gets to marry Wei Ying 13 years earlier!)
Not completely satisfied with this wedding chapter, but I don't think it is that bad. I have actually planned to write a more touching one, but I came to realize that I am really not good at writing weddings!
With the starting of the wedding banquet, many cultivators started gathering around. Some were chatting with old friends and acquaintances while some went to congratulate the bridegrooms once again. Most of them went toward Lan XiChen to congratulate him on his brother’s marriage. Rarely anyone would actually approach Lan WangJi personally, for one, not many had talked to him before. Secondly, none wanted to interrupt the couple who were hand-in-hand now, their eyes staring at each other like there were no one else in the hall.
“WangJi, A-Xian,” called Lan XiChen not too far away. He gestured for the two to walk toward him to greet his sworn brothers.
“You must be Young Master Lan WangXian. We have met back at Lanling, but it was a regret to be unable to interact more with you back then,” stated Jin GuangYao as he smiled warmly at the masked man.
“These two gentlemen here must be big brother’s sworn brothers. It is my pleasure to have these two honorable men to attend my wedding.”
“You sound like you have heard a lot of things about us,” said Jin GuangYao.
“Although I am not a cultivator, I have heard many things about the two of you, mostly from big brother and Lan Zhan. Young Master Jin is the one who killed the sect leader of Qishan Wen Sect, Wen RuoHan. As for Sect Leader Nie, there is hardly anyone who does not know of the honorable Chifeng-zun.”
“There is no need to so formal with me. Since you are now XiChen’s brother-in-law, you can just call me MingJue-ge.”
“Same as for me,” said Jin GuangYao.
“All right, MingJue-ge, Yao-ge.”
Before they could advance their conversation further, Jin GuangShan walked toward them and congratulated the pair on their wedding. Jin GuangYao stepped back as he saw his father approaching, giving space for his father to stand in front of him, while Lan WangXian and Nie MingJue frowned as they saw the man approaching. The two disliked Jin GuangShan as the two knew he was not a good man at all. Lan XiChen smiled and thanked the man while Lan WangJi merely nodded at him.
While Lan XiChen, Nie MingJue, and Jin GuangShan seemed to be focused in their conversation, Lan WangJi glanced at his husband who seemed to have stolen a few looks at Jiang YanLi. He knew how much his husband wanted to grab Jiang YanLi’s hands to tell her – look Shijie, I am married, but there was no way he could do it, not as the identity of Wei WuXian.
Lan WangJi excused himself from the crowd as he grabbed Lan WangXian’s hand and pulled him along to Jiang YanLi. Jiang YanLi, upon seeing them approaching, walked forward along with her husband and brother, smiling to greet them.
“Second Master Lan, Young Master Lan WangXian, congratulations,” said Jiang YanLi.
“Congratulations,” both Jin ZiXuan and Jiang WanYin said together.
“Thank you,” said Lan WangXian while Lan WangJi nodded in gratitude.
“The two of you are a great match,” commented Jiang YanLi.
“Thank you,” Wei WuXian said softly, feeling contented. He was not even sure if Jiang YanLi heard him. He wanted nothing more than to have his Shijie’s blessing and approval of his wedding.
“Second Master Lan, the soup you made me taught you, it was for Young Master Lan WangXian, am I right?”
“Yes,” answered Lan WangJi earnestly.
Jiang WanYin and Jin ZiXuan looked surprised at the sudden revelation. Jin ZiXuan looked at Lan WangXian in admiration. This man was really something. The fact that this man was able to capture Lan WangJi’s heart was already something incredible. Apart from that, he even managed to create a smile on the man who the number of people who had seen him smiling before today could be counted with just a hand, and the most astonishing of all was that he even managed to make the high and mighty Hanguang-jun to willingly cook for him.
Jiang WanYin on the other hand, thought he should have been able to guess. When Lan WangJi was at Lotus Pier back then, he had heard his sister mentioning that he was there to learn to make lotus pork rib soup. He did not think much of it back then, he merely taught he was probably trying to taste something tasty for once given how bland Cloud Recesses’s food had been. He would have never expected that there was actually someone in this world who could make Lan WangJi willingly cook for him, much less a man who was not even a cultivator.
“I did not know the soup was taught by Lady Jiang. The soup is so delicious, you are amazing, Lady Jiang,” said Lan WangXian happily.
Jiang YanLi felt a little embarrassed to be praised like that. She was used to only be praised by her two brothers. There were hardly any outsiders who would praise her the same way her brothers did. She was about to comment that they flattered her too much when there was suddenly a commotion coming from somewhere behind them. All of them turned to see who it was who was trying to cause trouble here in Cloud Recesses.
A man in his Lanling Jin Sect’s attire was holding a jar of wine – yes, a jar of wine. Wines were prohibited in Cloud Recesses, even if it was at a wedding. Lan QiRen looked like he was about to scream, seeing how surprised he got to see someone actually sneaked in a jar of wine on such an important day – his nephew’s wedding and he did not even notice that up until now. Lan XiChen eyed the man warily. Lan WangJi and Lan WangXian glanced at each other, both worried that such an important day would be ruined.
The man looked drunk as he continued pouring the content of the Emperor’s Smile passed his lips. He must have secretly taken the wine in, knowing that if the jar of wine was found, it would either be thrown away or he might not even be allowed to enter.
Jin ZiXun, however, cared nothing about those rules that he deemed ridiculous.
First of all, he was not that interested in coming to this wedding at all. He was on the verge of dying, and he was suffering like hell. Who would even have the mood to go to other people’s weddings when his life was a miserable one? Why would he need to watch how happy these people were when his days were already numbered? He could not free himself from death for he could not find the man who placed the curse on him. He did not want to die, but there was nothing he could do.
Jin ZiXun smashed the empty jar of wine onto the ground and exclaimed, “Who would have thought that the almighty Hanguang-jun is a cut sleeve!”
Everyone stopped chatting among themselves as they all turned their attention to Jin ZiXun.
“This is absurd. Everyone is here to attend a pair of cut sleeves wedding. Aren’t you all feeling disgusted? Don’t you all find this ridiculous? And this man is probably so ashamed of himself that he does not even have the courage to face everyone here unmasked.”
“Young Master Jin ZiXun,” said Lan XiChen. His tone was gentle as usual, but those who were close to him enough knew he was not in a very good mood at the moment. He had been overjoyed to watch his brother get married, and he would definitely not allow anyone to destroy such a splendid wedding.
Lan WangXian stepped forward to stand beside his brother-in-law and spoke, “If this young master is unwilling to be here, there is no need to force yourself to be here.”
“You think everyone here is really interested to attend your wedding? You are wrong! They are only here because they want to maintain a good relationship with the Gusu Lan Sect, but who would have thought… The almighty Hanguang-jun is a cut sleeve and as though that was not shameful enough, he chose someone who cannot even form a golden core as his husband. What a disgrace! And to think that someone like you actually think that everyone is here to attend your wedding sincerely,” Jin ZiXun laughed and continued, “How arrogant! And your arrogance reminded me of that evil man, the Yiling Patriarch Wei WuXian!”
“Wei Ying is not evil,” said Lan WangJi.
Jin ZiXun laughed, “Come to think of it, Hanguang-jun is close with that man. There are even rumors that you are always seen visiting him at Burial Mounds.”
Wei WuXian turned to look at his husband who was keeping his silence. Come to think of it, Lan WangJi really did visit him at Burial Mounds, and not only once. Could he have already fallen in love with him back then? Oh… that had been so obvious. How could he have not noticed it? After all, why would someone who lived as far as in Gusu go to Yiling so often?
He turned to the crowd and was surprised to find that half of them were staring at Jin ZiXun while another half staring at Lan WangJi, all analyzing if what Jin ZiXun had said was the truth. After all, there were lots of rumors that mentioned that Lan WangJi hated Wei WuXian ever since the day Wei WuXian stepped his foot into Cloud Recesses back then when the man came all the way from Yunmeng to study. Then he turned to Lan XiChen who seemed to look a little troubled with the current situation. Next, he turned to Lan QiRen.
That was a mistake.
He should not have taken a look at the man. He quickly turned away, pretending not to see anything. The elder man was not looking at Lan WangJi or Jin ZiXun. He was glaring at him instead. He cleared his throat, deciding that he should do something to stop this mess, and hopefully he would not make things worse or Lan QiRen would kill him right here.
“Wei Ying? Wei WuXian? Yiling Patriarch? Who is that?” questioned Lan WangXian as he turned to his husband, his lips pouting, an exact image of a jealous husband as he continued with his endless questions, “Lan Zhan, are you close with him? Are you… in love with him?”
The masked man looked a little angry and sad.
The audience was watching the pair of bridegrooms with excitement now. Everyone held their breath as they waited for Lan WangJi’s answer to his husband.
“I have only ever loved you,” said Lan WangJi, his eyes displaying not a hint of hesitation. Lan WangXian smiled brightly.
The audience was once again surprised by Lan WangJi’s boldness. Jin ZiXun however, hardly cared how the pair was head over heels for each other. He had more important things to do. He would tell everyone what the dead Wei WuXian had done to him. He felt everyone should know how crazy the Yiling Patriarch was. The dead man had cursed him with a hundred holes, but this curse should be gone after the man who placed the curse was dead. Evil as the Yiling Patriarch was, he seemed to be able to make it in which even after his death, the curse still remained. He would reveal everything here now so that everyone would know the reason when he was no longer in this world one day later.
“This Wei WuXian, if you do not know, let me tell you about him. He is the most wicked man you have ever seen – no, he is not even a human! He is a monster! He killed people mercilessly, he even –”
Jin ZiXun wanted to show everyone what he thought the Yiling Patriarch had done to him. However, before Jin ZiXun could even finish talking, he felt danger arriving but he had no time to defend himself at whatever coming toward him and before he knew it, he was smashed to the ground by zidian. Everyone turned to look at Jiang WanYin, surprised with the sudden turn of event, yet no one dared to help Jin ZiXun out. Everyone thought Jiang WanYin must have hated Wei WuXian so much that even the mentioning of his name disgusted him.
Wei WuXian looked down. Although he already knew the man hated him, but it still hurt a little to witness it all himself. Lan WangJi grabbed his husband’s fingers, silently telling him that he would always be here for him.
“Sect Leader Jiang!” exclaimed Jin ZiXun.
Jiang WanYin was about to strike with his weapon again but stopped when he heard his sister calling to him from behind.
“Enough, we are at a wedding.”
Jiang WanYin turned to look at Lan WangJi and Lan WangXian before he decided that it would be best for him to keep his weapon.
“The next time I hear you talking about Wei WuXian again, I will cut your tongue out,” announced Jiang WanYin before he ignored the man fallen flat on the ground while he sat back onto his seat, with Jiang YanLi and Jin ZiXuan doing the same.
Some Jin disciples went forward to help to pull up Jin ZiXun and the rest started to get back to whatever they were doing, ignoring what had just happened. The Jin disciples walked Jin ZiXun out of the hall, knowing that with Lan QiRen glaring at the drunken man, Jin ZiXun was no longer welcomed to be in the hall.
Lan WangXian walked forward and left his husband’s hand behind, only to have his hand been grabbed again. He turned and found that his husband was eyeing him worriedly.
“I want to go out for a walk, then I shall wait for you at Jingshi,” said Wei WuXian as he offered him a smile before he disappeared out of the hall.
Lan WangXian strolled around Cloud Recesses for a while before he stopped and looked up to the sky, staring at the moon. He had no idea how long did he spend standing there absentmindedly staring at the moon, but when he came to realize that he had been out for too long and was about to head back to Jingshi, he noticed someone was standing beside him.
He was surprised to find out it was Nie HuaiSang out of so many other people.
“Young Master Lan seems a little lonely standing here alone when today is your wedding,” stated Nie HuaiSang.
The masked man laughed lightly, “Do I? I just want to walk around for a while. Why is Young Master Nie out here instead of joining everyone inside?”
“I don’t really like to be in the crowd,” answered Nie HuaiSang.
Lan WangXian almost laughed at the statement. Nie HuaiSang had never disliked crowd, not even once. However, he could only remain silent because he was no longer Wei WuXian now and had to pretend that he did not know much about the man standing beside him.
He had only one identity now.
Lan WangXian, the husband of Lan WangJi.
“It has been a long time since we can meet each other like this. Jiang-xiong is still how he used to be. He is always short-tempered, especially toward anything related to you, Wei-xiong.”
“Right…” answered Lan WangXian before he registered just what he had answered to. He swiftly turned to Nie HuaiSang, too shocked at what had just happened.
“You are really Wei-xiong,” confirmed Nie HuaiSang, smiling.
Lan WangXian turned to check around him to make sure no one was nearby before he pulled Nie HuaiSang with him to a corner.
“Relax, Wei-xiong. I am not going to tell anyone.”
Wei WuXian narrowed his eyes at the shorter man, “You really will not tell anyone about this?”
“I will not.”
“Not even your brother?”
“Not even my brother.”
“What indeed do you want?”
Nie HuaiSang grinned. He had been waiting for Wei WuXian to ask this question.
“Simple. My brother wants to send me to study at Cloud Recesses again next year.”
Wei WuXian raised an eyebrow at the man, “You want me to help you pass the exams?”
Nie HuaiSang grinned at him. His friend really did understand him very well, just like how he knew he was his friend despite the mask covering the man’s identity.
Wei WuXian sighed. This man was hopeless. He came all the way here to threaten him merely to ask for ways to help him cheat through the exams given by Lan QiRen.
“Let me consider it.”
“Thank you, Wei-xiong! You are the best!”
Wei WuXian immediately covered Nie HuaiSang’s lips with his hand, “Be quiet, okay? Don’t call me Wei-xiong anymore. Remember, my name is Lan WangXian right now.”
“Fine, fine. I will remember, but who would have thought that you will be here in Cloud Recesses and have just officially married to Second Master Lan.”
Speaking of which, Wei WuXian suddenly remembered he did tell Lan WangJi that he would wait for him at Jingshi. He could not let his dear husband wait too long. He promptly dashed back to Jingshi, ignoring the disappointed Nie HuaiSang behind.
When Wei WuXian reached Jingshi, his husband was already inside, patiently waiting for his arrival.
“You are back,” said Lan WangJi.
Lan WangJi walked forward and placed his lips on his husband’s. They shared a passionate kiss before Lan WangJi lifted his husband in his arms and carried him to the bed.
“Lan Zhan, I am all yours.”
Lan WangJi kissed his forehead before he nodded to him, “Mm. All mine.”
Lan WangJi leaned down to kiss him again, from his forehead, to his eyes, his nose, his cheeks, his lips, his neck. He would explore all of his husband today. Today was their wedding night. He could do anything to his husband and no one would stop him.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei WuXian called out to his husband fondly, “I love you.”
Lan WangJi eyed his husband fondly. He felt his heart melted at the sight of his husband in the same bed as him. All felt like a dream, but he was sure this was not a dream. This was really happening. He felt tears trickling down his face – those were tears of joy, but upon seeing him crying, Wei WuXian was starting to get anxious.
Wei WuXian lifted his hand to help his husband wipe off his tears, but Lan WangJi seized his hand before he could do so and pulled him into an embrace.
"I love you too, very much," whispered Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian sat up and wiped off his husband’s tears before he planted a kiss on each of his husband’s eyes, stopping the tears almost immediately. The two leaned their forehead against each other, feeling contented with the mere knowledge of they were both here together, married and safe from all types of harms. Lan WangJi gently pushed Wei WuXian onto the bed as he leaned down to kiss him again while the flame of the candles was extinguished, leaving Jingshi into a pitch-black room.
Jiang YanLi turned back, gazing at the familiar scenes around her. She turned around, feeling something was not right. She remembered that she was supposed to be still in Cloud Recesses at the moment. She had attended the wedding of Lan WangJi and Lan WangXian along with her husband and brother, and they should be staying for the night at Cloud Recesses after the wedding banquet. Lan XiChen had prepared guest rooms for all the guests who attended the wedding, welcoming everyone to stay for the night or more if they wished to. However, as she turned and scanned her surroundings, she was sure this was not Cloud Recesses she was standing at. It was no doubt her home – the home that she had shared with her two brothers with tons of their precious memories.
She tried calling out to her two brothers, hopefully, one of them would answer to her and tell her what was going on.
The voice startled her and she turned to the man calling out to her immediately. The man was smiling fondly at her. Realizing the identity of the man standing before her, she felt her heart pounding so fast and for a moment, it almost felt like she had forgotten how to breathe. She could feel her tears welling up in her eyes as she approached her lost brother.
She raised up her trembling hand to touch her brother’s face, “A-Xian? A-Xian, is this really you?”
The man did not answer. He merely continued on smiling fondly at her. She scrutinized the man and that was when she noticed her A-Xian was wearing his red, wedding robes with an unmistakable Lan sect forehead ribbon on him.
“A-Xian, you..!” Jiang YanLi started, and the smile on her brother merely widened.
The man turned around happily, showing Jiang YanLi how magnificent his wedding robes turned out to be.
“Shijie, Iook! I am married! Do I look handsome?”
Jiang YanLi smiled at her brother, feeling contented to see that her brother was in so much happiness.
“A-Xian, you… you are married?” Jiang YanLi questioned, and her brother grinned.
“My XianXian looks wonderful. Tell Shijie, who is the lucky bride. When are you bringing her home?”
“The one I married is the most amazing person in the world! The person is –”
Jiang YanLi turned, hearing another voice calling out to her, but no one else was around. She turned back to her brother who was smiling at her sadly. She blinked her eyes in confusion. Had her brother already told her who was the one he had married? But why was her brother suddenly looking sad?
She felt a sense of foreboding within her heart. She advanced to her brother to touch his face again, but upon touching the man’s face, her brother had disappeared into the thin air. She widened her eyes in horror. No! This was not happening!
There was no response even as she continued screaming out for her brother to reappear.
Jiang YanLi snapped her eyes open with the loud voice calling out to her. She turned to see her husband sitting at her side, watching her worriedly. Her husband raised up his hand to her face, seemingly wiping her tears away.
“A-Li, you dreamt of Wei WuXian again?” questioned Jin ZiXuan.
She stared at her husband in surprise, finally noticing that she had been crying. She knew what had made her cried.
She felt her shoulders slumped down, realizing that everything was a dream even though it had felt so real and it was no doubt, a beautiful dream. She was reminded of how handsome her brother looked with his wedding robes and the Lan sect forehead ribbon on him.
No, she thought. This was not an ordinary dream. This was probably her brother trying to inform her something through a dream. Ignoring her husband’s worried gaze, she left the bed and started making preparations to leave the room. She had an important task to work on before they left Cloud Recesses.
“Jiang Cheng, are you living well?”
Jiang WanYin turned around immediately. He recognized that voice. He would never ever forget that voice!
“Wei WuXian!” exclaimed Jiang WanYin. He immediately stood up and tried reaching his brother, but Wei WuXian backed away every time he came near him.
“I am glad you are safe,” said Wei WuXian as he smiled sadly at him.
“Wei WuXian, I… listen to me first. I –”
“It’s fine, Jiang Cheng. I understand. Who am I but a servant to the Jiang sect?”
“That’s not it!”
“I know you hate me, forgive me for coming here. I merely wanted to make sure you are safe before I leave. No matter how you think, to me, Lotus Pier is always my home and my life will forever belong to the Jiang sect. You and Shijie are the only two I care for now. Please take care, I promise I will not appear in front of you again.”
“No, Wei WuXian! Don’t leave!” Jiang WanYin screamed as he rushed forward to grab his brother, but when he touched him, his brother had vanished.
“No, Wei WuXian!” Jiang WanYin snapped his eyes open only to come to the sudden realization that it was yet another of his dream. He had been dreaming almost every day, each dream ended in the same way in which his brother would come to see him and tell him that he knew how much he had hated him and he would then disappear into dust. He could not take it anymore. He wanted to tell his brother how much he had regretted and how much he loved him.
Just like usual, he would find himself curling up by the side crying every time after dreaming of his lost brother. This time was no exception, but a sudden knock from outside of his room startled him.
“A-Cheng, have you woken up?”
That was his sister’s voice. He wiped his tears away and went to open the door to invite her sister in.
“Did you sleep well?” questioned Jiang YanLi.
Jiang WanYin remained silent. He knew his sister could have guessed what had happened. Again.
“You dreamt of A-Xian again?”
Jiang WanYin nodded.
“I dreamt of A-Xian too," said Jiang YanLi as she smiled, "In the dream, A-Xian told me he is married."
Jiang WanYin turned to his sister, the shock was written all over his face as he exclaimed, “Married?!”
Jiang YanLi smiled at the reaction, but she could not blame him, could she? It was after all very surprising if what she was thinking of at the moment was the truth. Not only was it surprising, but it would be extremely hurtful too to know that their brother was married yet they had no idea about it at all.
“A-Cheng, I have always felt that Young Master Lan WangXian seems a little familiar. Do you think that it might be possible that he is…”
Jiang WanYin frowned, “You are suspecting that he is Wei WuXian?”
Jiang YanLi nodded.
“When I see him, I always feel like A-Xian is beside me and everything he did is similar to A-Xian too. He is sort of mischievous, and the way he smiles too.”
Jiang WanYin contemplated his sister’s words and it sounded logical.
“Come to think of it, this Lan WangXian only appears when Wei WuXian disappears and the way he calls Lan WangJi sounded exactly like him. Wait – what?! If Wei WuXian is indeed Lan WangXian, does that mean he is married to Lan WangJi?!”
Jiang YanLi smiled at the thought. She felt a tinge of warmth running deep within herself to know that her brother might be married to Lan WangJi. She had witnessed how Lan WangJi had cared deeply for his husband and if Lan WangXian was really Wei WuXian, then she could almost be sure that her brother had chosen the right man as his husband.
“I would be happy for him. Second master Lan is definitely a good match for A-Xian,” said Jiang YanLi.
Jiang WanYin, however, held a totally different opinion.
“What?! That is not possible! Lan WangJi hates Wei WuXian and Wei WuXian – he!”
He liked Lan WangJi a lot, but no – Jiang WanYin would rather think that Wei WuXian just wanted a new friend to play with. His brother was not interested in Lan WangJi, definitely not the way where he wanted to marry him!
“How is it not possible? Did you not see how A-Xian talks about Second Master Lan so fondly? I have long suspected that he might be in love with Second Master Lan, but I never got the chance to test it out,” said Jiang YanLi.
Both the Jiang siblings seemed to be deep in thoughts until Jiang YanLi suddenly remembered something else that might give them a clue.
“Come to think of it, A-Cheng, you remembered the fight you had with Second Master Lan back at Lanling? Did he mention anything about A-Xian?” questioned Jiang YanLi.
Jiang WanYin once again frowned upon reminded of what had happened that day. That day, after Lan WangXian had announced that it was all a misunderstanding and everyone else were returning to the hall, Jiang WanYin remembered saying something that went along the line that he was surprised that Second Master Lan seemed to be so close with the masked man that he had brought along. He even added that he thought Second Master Lan would never befriend anyone because after all, Wei WuXian had been trying to befriend him for so long yet all he could get from Second Master Lan was nothing but hatred.
“Were you the one who told Wei Ying that I hated him?” Jiang WanYin still remembered Lan WangJi asking him that question.
“There is no need for me to tell him that. Everyone in this world knows that you hate him,” stated Jiang WanYin.
“Were you the one who told Wei Ying that I hated him?” Lan WangJi repeated the question again and Jiang WanYin was annoyed.
“Yes, I told him. I made it sure that he understood just how much you hated him yet that idiot never listened to me, always only hanging around you trying to be friends with you!”
It had happened so naturally and Jiang WanYin really could not remember who had started it first, but they started pointing the end of their swords against each other in no time and the next thing he knew was the masked man back then who was now known as Lan WangXian was standing before him, seemingly protecting him from being wounded by Bichen.
Jiang YanLi, upon hearing out what had actually happened that day, she was even more confident that Lan WangXian was the brother that she had been searching for months.
“A-Cheng, I think we should test it out if Lan WangXian is indeed our XianXian,” said Jiang YanLi.
“But how?” Jiang WanYin questioned.
“I am thinking that there is one thing that A-Xian is deadly afraid of, and perhaps we can test it out with that,” said Jiang YanLi.
Jiang WanYin widened his eyes, “You mean dogs?”
Jiang YanLi nodded hesitantly, feeling guilty for scaring her brother like that, but she had no other choice. She needed to confirm if she had just attended her brother’s wedding without knowing it.
“But the problem is where do we find a dog here? Cloud Recesses forbids animals,” said Jiang YanLi.
“A-Jie, do you remember that before coming here, Jin ZiXuan mentioned that he had ordered a puppy at Caiyi Town?” questioned Jiang WanYin and his sister nodded in understanding.
Sometimes, a sacrifice was needed to accomplish something. Jin ZiXuan would have to get another puppy because this puppy would need to sacrifice itself to help the Jiang siblings find their lost brother.
Jiang WanYin could not believe that he was really doing this! He and his sister, both of them were hiding behind one of the trees, watching Lan WangJi seemingly talking to his husband. He turned to face his sister, deciding that it was time to start their plan. His sister nodded and walked forward, coming out from their hiding spot.
They had both agreed that it was better for Jiang WanYin to not show himself. Wei WuXian had always shown himself better in front of Jiang YanLi. Besides, Wei WuXian might be on guard if Jiang WanYin appeared. After all, he was the one who had stabbed him and forced him to go into hiding. Just like all the other cultivators out there, Wei WuXian must have thought Jiang WanYin wanted him dead more than anything else.
“Second young master Lan, young master Lan WangXian,” she greeted.
“Maiden Jiang,” Both Lan WangJi and the masked man greeted.
“We are about to leave, so I am here to bid farewell. Young Master Lan WangXian, do you mind if I have a private talk with you?”
The masked man looked at Lan WangJi and nodded. Lan WangJi left without another word.
“How can I help you, Maiden Jiang?” questioned the masked man.
Jiang YanLi decided she had no time to beat around the bushes so she would not waste another second. After a detailed discussion with her brother, they had decided to request for him to take out the mask himself first before the appearance of the fearful cute little puppy that Jin ZiXuan had just bought. The Jiang siblings still remembered the moment that they had mentioned they had to sacrifice Jin ZiXuan’s little puppy, Jin ZiXuan had been so devastated.
Jiang YanLi and Jiang WanYin had turned to stare at Jin ZiXuan.
Jiang WanYin narrowed his eyes, “What did you call your dog?”
“A-Ling! I have named him A-Ling after my son! Then I will give A-Ling to A-Ling as a present!” exclaimed Jin ZiXuan as he started grieving for his dog that would soon be confiscated by the Lans once they found out that they had sneaked a dog into Cloud Recesses.
Jiang WanYin stared at his brother-in-law , feeling stupefied at what he had just heard, “You named your dog as the same name you have given to your son!”
Jiang YanLi remained silent, deciding that she had no interest to involve in the current topic being discussed.
Jiang YanLi had released an exhausted sigh before she stepped forward.
“Young Master Lan, you know when I first saw you, I felt that you reminded me of my brother,” said Jiang YanLi.
The masked man tilted his head, “Your brother? Do you mean Sect Leader Jiang?”
Jiang YanLi chuckled, “No, I have two brothers and you reminded me of my other brother who is not A-Cheng.”
Jiang YanLi scrutinized the man who looked confused before she continued, “We call him XianXian, and you feel so similar to him in terms of how the two of you speak and smile. A-Xian, you are my XianXian, right? Please, I already know it is you, so please take off your mask to see me, will you?”
Jiang YanLi could feel tears surging within her eyes and she ignored them. She was also aware that her voice sounded so sorrowful and she was begging for the man before her to take off his masks as she advanced step after step to the man while the masked man repeatedly stepped back, trying his best to maintain a distance with Jiang YanLi.
“Maiden Jiang, there must be a misunderstanding. I am not your brother,” stated the masked man.
“Then, Young Master Lan WangXian, would you be kind enough to take off your mask to make me see the truth myself?” Jiang YanLi questioned, and the masked man fell into silence.
Sensing that this was not going anywhere, she had one hand behind her back and was about to signal for her brother to bring out the dog when the man before her suddenly raised up his hands, surprising both Jiang YanLi and Jiang WanYin with what he was doing.
He took out his mask, and Jiang YanLi could not be more surprised at the image of the man named Lan WangXian who stood before her.
Jiang YanLi stared at it for a long time, finding it hard to believe that the man before him was not her brother. She could almost confirm that this was her A-Xian with the way the man spoke and smiled, but it turned out that she had made a mistake which was not forgivable at all. She could not believe that she had mistaken someone else – a stranger for her brother.
Jiang WanYin who was watching everything from behind noticed how depressed his sister must be feeling at the moment. He, on the other hand, was both relieved and disappointed. Relieved that Lan WangXian was not Wei WuXian and that his brother did not get married to Lan WangJi merely to get protection from the Lans. Disappointed that he still had not found his brother. That meant his brother was still not confirmed to be alive.
Feeling his shoulders slumped down with the disappointment, he stepped out from his hiding spot and approached his sister and the now unmasked man.
“A-Jie,” Jiang WanYin called out. His sister merely turned to him for a short moment before she focused on the man before them, looking as though she was checking if the man had put any extra disguise on his face but she obviously found none.
“Young Master Lan, my sister and I will take our leave now,” said Jiang WanYin as he bowed down to the man before pulling his sister with him and started walking away.
The unmasked man bent down to collect the mask just when four men came out behind him – the twin jades of Lan, a masked man who was known as Lan WangJi’s husband now and lastly, Nie HuaiSang.
Nie HuaiSang turned to the man who was holding a mask in his hand, “Thank you. You can go now and do not tell anyone what happened today.”
The man nodded and Nie HuaiSang watched the man left. The man was a disciple of his Qinghe Nie sect and he was a trusted friend of him. He had a shy personality and did not like being in a crowd, so that would at least help to lessen down the probability that the Jiang siblings would meet him again. Everything started just when he had passed by Jiang WanYin’s room this morning. He had thought as friends, perhaps he should pay a visit to a certain sect leader but he happened to overhear on the Jiang siblings’ plan in trying to expose Lan WangXian’s identity.
Feeling panicked for his friend, he rushed to Jingshi and told his friend on what he had overheard. They had a short discussion and came up with such a plan. Fortunately, it worked.
Wei WuXian fixed his gaze on the direction his siblings had left, eyes dampening now knowing that it would probably be a very long time until they could meet again.
“Take care, Shijie, Jiang Cheng.”
Lan WangJi pulled him into his embrace, knowing that his husband would appreciate it and he was sure his husband needed it right now more than ever. Feeling that he needed the warmth of his husband more than anything else, Wei WuXian embraced his husband tightly.
At least, Wei WuXian thought, he might have lost his family, but he had Lan WangJi – his husband by his side.
That simple thought made him felt contented and he tightened his hold on his husband while appreciating his husband's occasional comfort of stating that he would always be there for him. He smiled, ignoring the single or double drops of tears that left his eyes.
Nie HuaiSang, upon seeing such a sight knew he was of no place to be here. He turned to leave but after not more than five steps, he felt a gentle hand on his shoulders and turned around to see Lan XiChen smiling at him gently.
“HuaiSang, I think we should talk. About you suddenly learning of my brother-in-law’s identity.”
Lan XiChen was still smiling even as he said that, but Nie HuaiSang felt the man was not really smiling sincerely at all. He felt goosebumps all over him, almost similar to when he was facing his elder brother who was enraged whenever they were discussing his cultivation studies and his saber practices. These two were certainly similar in some ways.
As expected of someone worthy of being his elder brother’s sworn brother!