As Lan Qiren approached the Burial Mounds, he once again questioned just what he was doing here. Coming here alone, without any backup, had to be one of the most ridiculous ideas he had ever had.
‘You are doing this for Wangji,’ he reminded himself. Wangji needed him to do this, because it was obvious that no one else would be willing to; and, unless he did this, his nephew would never be at peace.
Still, that didn’t mean he wasn’t acutely aware of the danger he was walking into. Wei Wuxian was dangerous, unpredictable. Lan Qiren focused on the weight of his sword, and forced himself to stay constantly on guard as he neared his destination.
“What are you doing here?”
He stiffened and whirled around, coming face to face with Wei Wuxian, a young child, and that corpse of his. He eyed the Ghost General warily for a moment, and then allowed his eyes to flicker down to the child. He had no idea why there was a child with the Yiling Patriarch, whether Wei Wuxian had found the child somewhere or…well, there was the occasional rumour here and there about him and that doctor, Wen Qing…
Wei Wuxian watched him, his eyes narrowed dangerously, his hand clenching around Chenqing, and Lan Qiren decided that it would be a good idea to say his piece and leave before his turned dangerous. He could hold his own in a fight, but he had no desire to go up against the demonic cultivator. He was more than aware of the bloodshed the man in front of him had caused.
“Wei Wuxian,” he said, “I need to speak to you.”
The child tugged urgently at Wei Wuxian’s robes, staring up at him with wide eyes. “Xian-gege!” he cried. “Xian-gege, bad man?”
Lan Qiren bristled slightly. Him, a bad man? Did that child not realise who he was standing next to?
Wei Wuxian’s expression softened immediately. He knelt down slightly, and lay a gentle hand on the child’s head. “It’s okay, A-Yuan, he’s not a bad man. That’s Rich-gege’s uncle.”
The child’s eyes widened. “Rich-gege!” he exclaimed excitedly. He turned to Lan Qiren, and, after a few moments of curious staring, resolutely declared, “Goat Uncle!”
Lan Qiren stiffened. “Excuse me?”
Wei Wuxian let out a snort of laughter, and ruffled the child’s head. “Yes, Goat Uncle.”
Lan Qiren’s hands clenched at his sides. How dare they? He opened his mouth to reprimand — the child, Wei Wuxian, the Ghost General, all of them — but Wei Wuxian was already straightening up, and his gaze met Wen Ning’s. “Could you take A-Yuan back with you? I’ll be back soon as long as this is…dealt with.”
“Master Wei…” murmured the Ghost General, actually sounding worried. Lan Qiren glanced away. Hearing a corpse speak, and sound so normal, was just unsettling.
“I'll be fine,” Wei Wuxian assured him. “Just make sure A-Yuan is alright. I’ll be back soon.”
He supposed he was lucky that he had caught Wei Wuxian outside of the Burial Mounds, the man having been coming from the direction of the Yiling marketplace. He hadn’t been sure what he would do once he actually got to the Burial Mounds, only that this was the only way he would actually be able to speak to the man.
Once Wen Ning had left, taking the child with him, Wei Wuxian turned back to him. Any of the previous gentleness had vanished, and he was once again tense, his eyes narrowed warningly.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
What did he want? Lan Qiren sighed miserably as he silently recounted how all of this had started. How slowly, ever since the menace in front of him had entered their lives, he had noticed his nephew’s behaviour changing more and more. He wasn’t oblivious to Lan Wangji’s feelings; he had raised the boy. He may not be as adept as Xichen at reading Wangji’s facial expressions, but he still knew when the boy was in love.
And, as much as he loathed to admit it, Wangji was in love. With that wretched Yiling Patriarch of all people.
Of course, a drunken night after his nephew had gotten particularly emotional about Wei Wuxian had revealed a few things that had solidified his theory, and had only strengthened his resolve that something had to be done. Wangji couldn’t go on like this, chasing after a heretic, putting his reputation on the line for him — for godsake, Wei Wuxian had driven him to drinking. Wangji didn’t drink. Wangji didn’t break the rules. These days, Lan Qiren found himself thinking of his late brother more and more, and it filled him with dread.
He couldn’t allow his nephew to become like that. He loved Lan Wangji too much to allow Wei Wuxian to ruin him.
After some contemplation, he came to the conclusion that the only way his nephew would ever truly be able to let go and put these feelings behind him, would be if Wei Wuxian told him directly that he wasn’t interested. Wangji needed to be aware that there was no hope of these misguided affections leading to anything.
Lan Qiren would have gladly spoken to his nephew about this, but he knew that if anyone was going to have this conversation with Lan Wangji, it would have to be Wei Wuxian. And that was why he was here, swallowing his pride and risking himself, to speak to Wei Wuxian and make him aware that he needed to tell Wangji that he wasn’t interested.
Then, Wangji could finally begin to move on from this, and cease being so preoccupied with pointless matters.
Wei Wuxian was still watching him warily, and Lan Qiren decided that he was simply going to say what he needed to, and then leave. Even at a short distance from the Burial Mounds, he could still feel how unsettling this whole area was.
‘This is for Wangji,’ he reminded himself.
He took a deep breath, preparing himself. “As you may know,” he said, “my nephew has…feelings for you.”
Wei Wuxian’s gaze darkened. “I know. He hates me.”
Lan Qiren frowned. “What?”
“What else would Lan Zhan be feeling for me?” Wei Wuxian asked, snorting. “Annoyance? Yeah, I know that too.”
Lan Qiren inhaled sharply. Oh, this idiot boy was really going to make him say it — “My nephew is in love with you. There is no point in pretending to be a fool.”
For a long moment Wei Wuxian didn’t say anything, his mouth opening and closing silently. Any vestiges of his previous anger had faded, leaving only bewilderment. “Uh — what?”
“Oh for the love of — you obviously know what I’m talking about!”
“Lan Zhan isn’t in love with me!” Wei Wuxian protested, his voice rising in pitch. “Why would he be? What are you trying to do here?”
“Are you mad?!” Lan Qiren demanded, with more than a hint of incredulousness in his voice. “He has been trying to convince you to come back to the Cloud Recesses with him for months now!”
Wei Wuxian nodded frantically. “Yes, to punish me.”
Whatever Lan Qiren had been planning on saying next was cut short. He honestly couldn’t find the words to express what he was thinking, and could only stare at Wei Wuxian in utter disbelief. There was no way the man didn’t already know about this. He had to be a complete imbecile not to see that Wangji was completely besotted.
(Lan Qiren didn’t really take into account the reality that Lan Wangji wasn’t the best communicator, nor Wei Wuxian the best at reading people. And not everyone was as good at reading Lan Wangji as those who had raised him).
Wei Wuxian’s expression shuttered, and he turned away. “If we’re done here, I’d like to go now.”
“We are not done!” Lan Qiren snapped. He had come all the way here, putting his pride, dignity, and life on the line. He wasn’t walking away until he’d finished what he had set out to do. “I don’t care if you are an idiot, my nephew is in love with you! Now, you will tell him that you aren’t interested!”
Wei Wuxian turned around, his expression one of incredulity. “Why does it matter what I think?!” he cried. “He obviously doesn’t like me!”
Lan Qiren felt his hands tremble at his sides, clenched into tight fists. He could feel his last vestiges of resolve crumbling, any hope of walking away from this without an outright argument vanishing when he remembered just who he was talking to.
“Wangji,” he said, his words spat through gritted teeth, “as much as I loathe to admit it, is in love with you. I’ve had the displeasure of watching him mooning after you ever since you graced us with your unwanted presence during your studies as a teenager; I have watched his heartbreak when you went missing after the attack on Lotus Pier; I have watched his desperation to bring you home with him, not to punish you, you idiot child, to protect you. A few days ago, I watched my nephew wallow in drunken misery over his unrequited feelings. Did you hear me?!” He took a step forward, jabbing a finger in the direction of a shocked Wei Wuxian. “Wangji was drunk! Wangji doesn’t drink, and yet there he was, out of his mind after three sips of Emperors Smile! And — and — and you have the gall to be oblivious about his feelings?!”
Wei Wuxian trembled. “Wha — what?”
“My nephew deserves better than you! He is a good boy! Kind, righteous, hard-working — and look at what you’ve done to him! Reduced him to a deviant who drinks away his feelings!”
“Y-you said it was only three sips.”
“That is three sips too much!” Lan Qiren took a deep breath, trying to calm his racing heart. He lowered his head slightly, and met Wei Wuxian’s gaze directly. “My nephew is in love with you. You may deny it, but that is the reality we are faced with.”
Wei Wuxian seemed confused and lost. He looked like a bewildered child, and nothing like the dangerous demonic cultivator that everyone loathed and feared.
He shook his head, quietly murmuring, “Lan Zhan really…he really…?”
“I will tell him to come and meet you here,” Lan Qiren said, ignoring the younger man’s confused murmurs. He didn’t want his nephew anywhere near Wei Wuxian, but he doubted Wangji would be in danger; he knew his nephew had visited Wei Wuxian before, and either way, he was more than capable of looking after himself in a fight. “Do the right thing for once in your wretched life, and set him free!”
With that, he walked away, leaving a stunned Wei Wuxian behind him.
Lan Qiren went straight back to the Cloud Recesses after that conversation, and told Lan Wangji exactly what he had done.
Anyone would have been able to see the naked horror in Lan Wangji’s expression. He turned around immediately and fled, most likely to the Burial Mounds.
Well. Better to get this over with now. Lan Qiren knew his nephew would have a hard time dealing with the heartbreak — Wangji may have put on a stoic front, but Lan Qiren knew that his nephew experienced emotions very deeply — but this had to be done. And Wangji would eventually move on from this. This was nothing but a passing phase, and as soon as he realised that nothing would ever come of these feelings, he would finally be able to come to terms with it and move on with his life.
He had other Sect business to take care of in the meantime. Lan Xichen was already preoccupied with his own sect related work, and Lan Qiren had taken over some of the responsibilities to assist his nephew. It would take him away from the Cloud Recesses for a little over a week, and he did feel some worry about being away from his nephew right now. Wangji would need the support of his family when he returned, but as much as Lan Qiren wanted to stay, he knew that he couldn’t set aside the needs of the Sect for his own desires.
He did make a stop at Lan Xichen’s home before he left, and let his eldest nephew know that Wangji would, “Need his support when he returned.” Xichen looked worried, but Lan Qiren didn’t expand anymore on what he meant. Wangji would let his brother know what had happened when he returned. Those two were so close, and Xichen had always been very protective of his brother. Lan Qiren knew that Wangji would be in good hands.
He left at that, feeling regret at the heartbreak his nephew would undoubtedly be feeling, but also relief knowing that Wangji could finally move on with his life once this was over.
When he returned a little over a week later, he felt an encompassing sense of calm. He would need to talk to Wangji and let him know that his family were there to support him, and he wasn’t foolish enough to think that his nephew would simply get over this overnight. Wangji was his father’s son, after all. However, he had undoubtedly spoken with Wei Wuxian by now, and this whole mess could finally be put behind them, and be brushed aside as a brief dark chapter in his nephew’s otherwise spotless life.
Lan Qiren didn’t feel even an ounce of dread or foreboding, which was why the sudden presence of an unfortunately familiar child took him completely off guard.
“Goat Uncle!” cried a familiar voice, and Lan Qiren felt a wave of horror as a tiny body collided with his legs. A little figure was clinging to him, and Lan Qiren knew, before even looking down, that it was the little boy he had seen with Wei Wuxian.
“Goat Uncle! You’re back!”
“What is this child doing here?” he demanded, trying to take a step away from the boy. The child continue to cling on resolutely, and Lan Qiren wasn’t so hard hearted that he would simply brush him off.
He looked around frantically for someone to explain what was going on, and blanched in horror as his eyes met a very unwelcome figure.
What was Wei Wuxian doing in his home?!
“A-Yuan!” the man called out, far too loud given his current location. “A-Yuan, you’re very happy to see your Goat Uncle again, aren’t you?”
“Mn!” the child — A-Yuan — said, nodding enthusiastically. “Goat Uncle is nice! Xian-gege said Goat Uncle is why he and Rich-gege are getting married!”
Wei Wuxian met his horrified gaze with a mischievous smile, and nodded his head. “Yes, Goat Uncle helped a lot. Xian-gege never would have realised how Rich-gege felt otherwise.”
Lan Qiren could feel his head pounding, and he struggled to think of what to do next. He needed to do something — inform someone that the Yiling Patriarch had broken into the Cloud Recesses — but the bizarre situation in front of him made it hard to formulate the words he needed.
When he saw his two nephews approaching, he felt a wave of relief sweep over him.
“Wangji! Xichen!” he called out frantically. “What is he doing here?!”
“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian cried out, running forward, and throwing himself at Lan Wangji. Lan Qiren stared desperately at them, praying that Wangji would push him away. Instead, his nephew immediately wrapped his arms around Wei Wuxian and pulled him close.
No. No, no, no, please no.
“Teacher Lan,” Wei Wuxian said, smiling at him from within Lan Wangji’s embrace, “I want to thank you for what you said — I never would have been aware of Lan Zhan’s feelings if you hadn’t told me.”
“I wanted you to be aware of them so you could tell him that you weren’t interested."
“But I was interested,” Wei Wuxian said. “I just hadn’t realised it until then. I’d always felt a lot for Lan Zhan. I always liked being around him, his opinion always meant so much to me, and it…it really hurt me when I thought he hated me. I guess I just couldn’t process what that all meant, but when you told me about how Lan Zhan felt…I realised that I feel the same way. That I’ve felt that way for a long time.”
“Thank you, Uncle,” Lan Wangji said softly.
Lan Qiren stared at the horrifying sight of Wangji and Wei Wuxian, wrapped in each others arms, and — oh god, the child had now made his way over, and Wei Wuxian was sweeping him into his arms, beaming widely, and they looked like the perfect picture of a family. Lan Qiren felt a wave of nausea sweep over him.
“He can’t stay here,” Lan Qiren said numbly, his voice sounding distant to his own ears. “He — he is a wanted man. He uses demonic cultivation. It — it’s not right.”
“Young Master Wei will be marrying Wangji,” Xichen told him, giving his brother and Wei Wuxian a soft look. He then hesitated, before continuing. “The Wens under his care…we are in the process of negotiating their relocation here, Uncle.”
Lan Qiren jerked back slightly. “What?!” he exclaimed. “Are you mad?! They are war criminals!”
Wei Wuxian turned to him, his eyes narrowing. A hard expression settled over his face. He looked like he wanted to say something, but Lan Xichen quickly cut in.
“I have visited the Burial Mounds,” he told his uncle. “I’ve seen the Wens for myself, and Uncle — they are not war criminals. They are not even cultivators. Most are elderly men and women. This child was amongst them.” He gestured at the little boy who was embraced in Wei Wuxian’s arms, shaking his head with a look of regret on his face. “They are not the army the rest of the world claims that Young Master Wei is amassing there. It is wrong to leave them there, Uncle. And now that I have seen it for myself, I cannot simply ignore what is happening.”
Wei Wuxian’s gaze softened. “Thank you, Zewu-Jun.”
Lan Xichen smiled at him. “Young Master Wei, you do not have to refer to me so formally. We will be family soon.”
“Then please do the same for me!”
Lan Qiren shook his head, feeling his vision blur slightly. “No,” he choked out. “This cannot — this — no.”
Lan Xichen sighed softly, his brow creasing as he turned to Lan Qiren. “Uncle, I don’t understand why you are so surprised by this,” he said. “You were aware of Wangji’s feelings. You orchestrated this whole thing.”
“I did nothing of the sort!"
“You told me to support Wangji,” Xichen pointed out.
“Not like this!” he spluttered. “I thought that Wei Wuxian would reject Wangji! I thought that he would be heartbroken!”
“I would never!” Wei Wuxian said, cuddling closer to Lan Wangji. Lan Qiren felt his blood pressure go up. “I love Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan — I’m so sorry if I ever made you think differently.”
“Mn.” Lan Wangji pressed his lips against Wei Wuxian's head, the gesture soft and tender. “There is no need to apologise.”
Lan Qiren bit back a sob, and ripped his gaze away. He turned to Xichen, his expression wild and desperate.
“Uncle,” Xichen said, “Wangji is happy. He is going to be married. We should be happy for him.” Lan Qiren could hear the hint of warning in his eldest nephew’s voice, and realised, with a wave of dread, that he truly had no supporters here.
Unable to look upon the horrific scene that he had unwittingly orchestrated, and realising, with mounting horror, that Wei Wuxian would soon be living here — oh god, there was truly no escape — Lan Qiren hurried away as fast as he could.