In a parallel universe where Wei Wuxian has too much time and not enough patience:
‘Oh good, you’re both here,’ Wei Wuxian says cheerily as he walks into the room with an armful of red fabric.
Jiang Cheng eyes him suspiciously.
‘We’re busy working. What are you doing here?’
‘I’m part of a new peace initiative!’ Wei Wuxian chirps. ‘In a bid to build a more inclusive society, it’s been decided that one of the four major sects will adopt Wen colours.’
‘Really? I don’t think I’ve received word about this initiative,’ Lan Xichen said dubiously.
‘Who exactly decided this?’ Jiang Cheng demanded.
‘What could be more inclusive than such a visible demonstration of acceptance? Anyway, here are some samples that Huaisang’s sent over. Go and change, would you? We’re going to see which sect looks better in red. Xichen-ge, you don’t mind us decorating this room a little to test the new colour scheme, right?’
‘Is this really necessary? Yunmeng Jiang is not going to change her colours on a whim,’ Jiang Cheng grumbled, accepting his bundle with ill grace.
‘Quickly, now,’ Wei Wuxian said, pushing at his brother.
‘Well, if it’s for world peace…’ said Lan Xichen hesitantly.
Several minutes later, Jiang Cheng returned, still adjusting his crimson coat. A band of purple dark enough to be mistaken for black ran around the high collar and edges of his robes. A thick belt in the same shade cinched his robes together, balancing out the extravagant red and gold embroidered fabric.
‘What the hell, Wen Wuxian, this is practically nothing but red,’ Jiang Cheng groused, plucking at his robes discontentedly. ‘A-Die and a-Niang are probably rolling in their graves right now. And why the hell have you made this place look like a slaughterhouse?’
‘I’m not sure our sect elders will approve of these robes either,’ said Lan Xichen honestly as he entered. ‘They’re a little extravagant, are they not?’
Jiang Cheng’s mouth fell open.
Lan Xichen’s outfit was a sight for sore eyes. The faint flush on his cheeks made him look even more appealing as he stood there, visibly fidgeting under their gaze. Though the layer beneath his coat was silk white, his outer coat and inner robes were also crimson and embroidered in gold. Even his traditional white ribbon had been replaced with a dark red ribbon, and his hair was pinned back in gold.
Wei Wuxian sniffled, hands on his hips as he surveyed the both of them.
‘All right, please face the door. Natural light helps me see better… Hmmm, there’s something weird…’
‘Yes, it’s you. Why are you crying?!’
‘Shut up. Look at me,’ Wei Wuxian squinted at their feet. ‘Whoa. I didn’t notice at first, but when you stand side by side, it’s obvious that the legs of your trousers are shorter than Xichen-ge’s.’
‘What, really?’ said Jiang Cheng, bending over immediately to check.
‘Don’t crouch, you idiot, it’d be harder to tell like that. Just keep your legs straight and bow.’
‘I don’t see the difference,’ puzzled Lan Xichen as he leant down and craned his neck.
‘Oh, can’t you see it? That’s odd. Maybe we need a third opinion,’ Wei Wuxian mused, flagging down a passing Lan disciple.
‘Help me fetch Master Lan, will you? Be quick!’
‘While we’re dressed like this?’ Jiang Cheng spluttered. ‘Even if you’re bent on making me lose face, what about Xichen?’
‘Wei Ying! Jiang Cheng is right. Neither of us are presentable at the moment. Shufu will not be pleased,’ protested Lan Xichen at the same time.
Wei Wuxian waved their concerns away.
‘Nonsense, I’m sure Master Lan would love to be here on this happy… day.’
‘All right, I’m here. What’s all the fuss about?’ Lan Qiren’s voice trailed off as he hurried into the compound, stopping short as he took in the newly decorated hall. His eyes grew large and horrified as Jiang Cheng and Lan Xichen turned awkwardly to bow to him.
‘Shufu!’ exclaimed Lan Xichen, flying to his side as Lan Qiren collapsed.
‘Wei Wuxian, look at what you’ve done!’ Jiang Cheng’s eyes were wide with shock. ‘Did Master Lan’s heart give out? Over new clothes? Is that why everything is forbidden here?’
In a matter of minutes, Lan Qiren was revived, but the sight of his nephew and Jiang Cheng bedecked in red seemed to agitate him further to the point where they feared to approach for fear of a relapse.
‘I’m dreaming… yes… that’s it! I’m dreaming! This is just a bad dream!’ Lan Qiren raved as Wei Wuxian hastily dashed forwards and helped him out of the compound.
‘Whew!’ Wei Wuxian collapsed into a chair. ‘Lucky that was just a fainting spell, eh?’
Jiang Cheng glared at him fiercely.
‘You and your stupid ideas! I hope he makes you write the rules fifty times!’
‘What?’ asked Wei Wuxian, sounding injured. ‘Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. Anyway, we’re almost done.’
‘No! I’ve had enough. I’m changing out of these ridiculous clothes!’
‘It’s not for you anyway. This was something extra made for Xichen-ge!’ said Wei Wuxian, a crazed glint entering in his eyes as he leapt to his feet again, brandishing a fistful of red fabric.
‘…Wei Ying, this hardly seems necessary. Judging by Shufu’s response, Gusu Lan will definitely not be adopting this new style,’ said Lan Xichen resignedly, even as he bent obediently for Wei Ying to begin pinning the thin fabric to his hair.
‘WEI WUXIAN!!’ came an outraged shout from the front of the compound.
The three of them turned to see Lan Wangji storm into the compound, his eyes raking over his brother’s and Jiang Cheng’s attire with cold fury.
‘Ah, Lan Zhan…’ Wei Wuxian laughed sheepishly. ‘I guess you found out.’
‘Xiongzhang. Sect Leader Jiang. We’ll be taking our leave now,’ Wangji bit out as he grabbed Wei Wuxian’s wrist and began pulling him towards the doors.
‘No, Lan Zhan, we were so close! So close!! They have to be together! I’m not going anywhere and you can’t make me! Nooo! Lan Zhan, why??’
The loud cries of protest petered out when the two were far out of sight.
‘…well,’ said Jiang Cheng at last, sounding at a loss. ‘I guess we know he’s in for it whenever your brother courtesy names him.’
Mechanically, Lan Xichen began removing the pins from his hair, looking just as bewildered by the events of the past hour.
‘Maybe Wangji wanted to try these on instead?’
The two of them contemplated the door in silence.
For the past three years, Sect Leader Jin Rulan has requested for all attendees of the Lanling Jin Discussion Conference to cooperate with the latest security measures and leave all arms in the secured weapons chamber for safekeeping. In general, this practice has proven to be much safer for the owners, but not so much for the weapons themselves…
As soon as the last attendant places him on the sword stand and leaves, Bichen slides out of his sheath and throws himself off the stand. He clatters to the ground with a despairing clang as the other swords look on with mixed reactions of disdain, surprise, and curiosity.
Chenchen, what are you doing? Suibian asks, sliding out for a better look.
I am unfit to be a sword. Bichen declares morosely. I have strayed from the path of cleanliness. I shall lie in the dirt and repent for my sins.
What a diva.
Give us a break!
Baxia scoffs openly, raising his voice above the clamour of the other swords.
What do you know about dirt? Look at me! Do you know how difficult it is to be clean when you only shower in the blood of your enemies?
You know not where I have been. I am tainted. Defiled and unclean.
Poor baby. Zidian says, voice dripping with false sympathy. Perhaps you’d like a bell to jingle as you fly around crying ‘Unclean, unclean!’ to warn off the rest of the world?
Oh, an Yunmeng bell? asks Shuoyue with poorly concealed interest. I hear they are not easy to obtain.
Bichen’s sword glare intensifies for a moment before subsiding.
What’s wrong with a little dirt anyway? Suibian wants to know.
It’s against The Rules, Hensheng says knowledgeably.
Eradicate dirt and establish rules to remain spotless, recites Bichen sadly. Then cleanliness shall be everlasting.
My god, you Lan weapons will be the death of me. Look, out of all the swords here—
Zidian crackles warningly.
—excuse me, out of all the swords and evil viper bitches here, if I claim to be number two when it comes to being absolutely filthy, no sword would dare claim to be number one! It’s part of the job when you’re a weapon, and being a sword is awesome! Don’t you like being a sword?
…I like anything, Bichen rumbles shyly, flipping over to not-so-subtly display his jewel-inlaid side to Suibian.
A stray bolt of electricity hits the sword stand, missing Suibian by seconds when he slips off the stand too to join his friend.
Oh… you’re so sparkly… breathes Suibian.
The two swords twinkle alluringly at each other in the dying amethyst light.
Put your sheaths on, you shameless heathens! Zidian shrills from her side of the room.
Get up here and be real swords, you pansies, Baxia scoffs.
This wonderful sword-normative culture is something to be proud of, Hensheng says agreeably.
Kill! says Sandu brightly.
Damn straight, says Baxia with pride. Kid, you’re gonna go far.
Jiang Cheng sighed heavily.
Another day, another pile of paperwork.
‘Jiujiu!’ came an imperious greeting. Jiang Cheng’s eyebrow twitched as Jin Ling marched into his study without so much as a by your leave. Fairy trotted in right alongside him, her bushy tail waving happily in the air at the sight of one of her favourite people.
‘What do you want?’
Jin Ling rolled his eyes. ‘Is that any way to talk to your only nephew when I’ve come all this way to Yunmeng to visit you?’
‘Only nephew? Then what about Sizhui?’
‘What? Jiujiu! Who told you?!’
Jiang Cheng eyed his nephew as he set down his brush reluctantly.
‘Surely the whole world has heard of their father-son relationship by now, given how often your uncle brags about it. Did you think I would refuse to acknowledge Sizhui when I even acknowledged his father?’
‘Oh! No, I guess not,’ Jin Ling sagged in obvious relief.
Jiang Cheng squinted at him.
‘What’s really on your mind?’
‘Uh… Fairy’s learnt a new trick!’
‘You’re not going to believe this, but Fairy is a genius!’ Jin Ling said proudly. ‘I always knew my spirit dog was smart but this new trick proves beyond all doubt that she’s the smartest dog in the whole world. Watch this. Fairy, help Jiujiu!’
‘What are you up to now?’ Jiang Cheng complained loudly, though he was secretly pleased when the dog wandered up to him and proceeded to rest her head in his lap, gazing up at him with big soulful eyes. Her tail waved happily in the air, thumping against the side of his table with every other beat.
‘You see?’ Jin Ling said smugly. ‘It works!’
‘You haven’t even shown me anything!’
Jin Ling shrugged and set down Suihua on a table.
‘Jiujiu, don’t you feel better now?’
‘…which part of this is a trick?! Fairy’s innate cuteness just part of her being a dog!’
‘Pfft, no, it’s hardly that simple,’ Jin Ling said, waving a hand dismissively as he started backing towards the door and reminding Jiang Cheng unpleasantly of his irritating brother.
‘What nonsense is this?’ Jiang Cheng demanded as purple lightning began to crackle. ‘Do I not look busy enough? Do you have to come here just to waste my time?’
‘Ah! Fairy, help!’
With a sharp bark, Fairy scampered off and snagged Suihua from the table, nearly jabbing Jin Ling with the long weapon in her eagerness to get the sword to him.
‘You see?’ Jin Ling said smugly. ‘Fairy knew I’d need Suihua! What a brilliant girl you are, Fairy. Oh yes, you are! Yes, you are! Ahem. Anyway, I’m off to the kitchens to… uh… supervise the help. Have fun working, Jiujiu! Fairy, stay and help!’
Jiang Cheng looked at Fairy.
Fairy cocked her head.
After a brief pause, she shook herself and returned to Jiang Cheng’s side.
‘…all right, fine, you’re great at being cute and fetching stuff. What a genius you are,’ Jiang Cheng sighed.
‘Let’s get back to work then.’
‘Oh, for the love of god. How thick can his face be?’ Jiang Cheng growled, chucking the letter to one side as he reached for his brush.
Fairy glanced up at him uncertainly, her tail starting to sweep from side to side.
‘Dear Master Lu,’ his brush slashed across the paper.
‘No. Greetings, Master Lu. No, why the fuck should he merit such courtesy? Master Lu. Fuck you, I am not compensating you for the loss when I warned you expressly about the risk of flood damage to the grain. Fuck you and your stubborn refusal to listen with a pointy stick and fuck your—’
Jiang Cheng broke off with a huff of disgust and crumpled the letter into a ball, tossing it aside.
That was probably one swearword too many, though he would have to check with Xichen on the maximum number allowable in order to scrape through a letter with some semblance of dignity as a sect leader in a civilised world. Why was letter writing so hard?
A wet nose touched his wrist and Jiang Cheng jumped.
Fairy gazed at him calmly, holding the balled up letter in her mouth.
‘Er… right. No, I don’t need this anymore, thank you,’ Jiang Cheng said, bemused, offering the soggy lump back to her.
Fairy eyed him for two seconds, before turning and loping out of the room.
‘Yeah, me neither,’ Jiang Cheng sighed and tossed it away.
Several minutes later, the sound of nails clacking across the floor alerted him to Fairy’s re-entry as she bounded into the room, trailing a long white ribbon behind her.
‘What the—’ Jiang Cheng said, aghast. ‘What are you doing with this??’
He swivelled around just as Lan Xichen hurried in, and promptly did a double take at the sight of his husband in his inner robes, his hair still dripping wet and leaving little trails of water behind him.
Lan Xichen stopped dead in his tracks upon realising that he wasn’t alone.
‘Um. Fairy ran off with my ribbon when I was taking a bath so I…’ he said, sounding a little self-conscious as he started to straighten his robes.
Jiang Cheng clicked his tongue. Lan Xichen’s long hair was creating a puddle where he stood, and the thin white layer of his robes was clinging to his skin and already turning translucent in some areas.
‘It’s a bit late to pretend you weren’t running around the Lotus Pier half naked,’ Jiang Cheng said, draping his own outer robe around his shoulders. ‘Do you know how many of my disciples I’ll have to blind if they caught sight of you in such a state?’
Lan Xichen blinked owlishly back at him.
‘Then what about that time they caught us in the Sword Hall? And that time behind the training grounds? And that time we—‘
‘All right, I get the idea. My husband is a nudist,’ he sighed, and gestured towards his chair.
Lan Xichen sat down obediently at his desk, while Jiang Cheng stood behind him and began rubbing his hair dry with a spare towel.
‘Oh, a letter from the Lu family?’
As he towelled his hair dry, Jiang Cheng felt as though he could practically feel the gears spinning in the other’s head when the other stiffened as he read on.
Without another word, Lan Xichen calmly retrieved a new sheet of paper and began writing a reply.
Jiang Cheng stopped what he was doing and rested his chin atop Lan Xichen’s head, reading over his head in awe. Lan Xichen was flatly rejecting any suggestion of compensation and instead, outlining an arrangement for funds to be loaned at an equitable interest rate under the fulfilment of certain conditions.
Still feeling somewhat touched, he glanced down when Fairy nosed at his leg, tail wagging nineteen to the dozen.
‘…all right, I admit it. You are a genius.’
‘Thank you,’ Lan Xichen replied calmly as he continued writing.
Jiang Cheng scoffed but couldn’t bring himself to correct the other nevertheless.
‘Hmmph. You’re lucky I love you.’
‘I know,’ Lan Xichen smiled up at him.
I’m the one who’s lucky.