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south of somewhere, north of nowhere

Chapter Text

It’s not the first time Mo Xuanyu has been left taking the back alleys in order to get home – he’d rather avoid his cousin whenever possible – and it likely won’t be the last.

He’s lucky enough that he had just caught sight of Mo Ziyuan and a couple of his friends outside the library he had been hiding in. They had stood out on the street – what with the baggy pants and attempt to look fashionable, despite the fact that none of them were able to pull it off. And so, he had given the librarian his saddest expression before asking if she could let him use the back door. She had taken one look at his split lip and watery eyes and immediately agreed.

Though – it hadn’t been entirely successful.

He had gotten halfway home before he had caught sight of them, and now he’s meandering around until it gets dark enough that they’ll all go inside.

Mo Xuanyu hates that he’ll have to return to that house soon – it’s a nightmare – but it’s not like he has anywhere else to go, is it? Sure, he knows he has a father and some siblings out there, but, well-

There’s a reason he’s here and not there.

He turns the corner, and stops.

There’s a wooden fence stretching halfway down the block – from over the top of it, he can see the branches of a ginkgo tree, the leaves yellowing as if it were autumn and not early spring. There are also the fully opened blossoms of a plum blossom tree, the branches just hanging before the edge of the fence. The buildings around the enclosed space are the cold grey concrete that’s usual for the city, making the old warm-coloured wood stand out even more.

But what’s really weird for Mo Xuanyu is the fact that he’s walked down this path plenty of times before – and he’s never seen this place any of the other times.

He slows down as he approaches the front gate – it’s a simple archway, one side has a sculpted crescent moon, while the other is a full circle. Perched on the crescent moon is a crow – it’s beady eyes regarding him closely.

The lawn is an actual lawn, grass and flowers blooming in front of a traditionally-styled home. Windchimes and red lanterns hang from the eaves – Mo Xuanyu sees them moving in the breeze he can’t feel from outside the fence. Now that he’s closer, he can see another tree – this one a magnolia – the buds tightly closed where it grows next to a pond with a few lotuses blooming.

Carefully, Mo Xuanyu steps onto the small stone path leading from the wooden gates, taking another look around at the estate.

“Oh, hello sir!”

He spins to the right, turning to see a young boy holding a broom. And for some reason the kid is dressed like he just walked off the set of a xianxia drama, long hair, robes and all.

Mo Xuanyu blinks.

The boy tilts his head.

“Welcome to the Yiling Wish Granting Shop?” It’s more of a question then a greeting, the boy clasps his hands together and salutes him, “You’re here to see the shopkeeper?”

He laughs – incredulous, “A wish granting shop? And Yiling? We’re in Shandong, not Hubei…”

“Oh!” The boy runs to the entrance – careful not to step over the threshold – and looks around, “I don’t think we’ve been in Shandong before…” He seems disappointed by the lack of view that the alley gives.

The bells and chimes ring out in the breeze, and as Mo Xuanyu turns back to look at them sway, the boy speaks again.

“The Shop was in Yiling when Ying-Ge took over,” he strains to look further down the alley, in the direction Mo Xuanyu had come from, “So it became the Yiling Wish Granting Shop. I don’t know where it was before.”

Crossing his arms, Mo Xuanyu replies, “So this shop moves?” Is he being pranked right now?

Nodding the boy pulls away from the gateway – absently twirling the broom in his hands, “Yes, when my family first moved in, the Shop was in western Shaanxi.”

Mo Xuanyu has either found someone who is crazy, a liar or being lied to – either way – it’s probably time for him to leave.

“Of course,” He says, trying to keep the disbelief from his voice, “Well, I’m sorry to bother you but I have to go-“

And he stops.

Because right in front of the gate strolls Mo Ziyuan and his friends – they walk right up to the entrance – laughing loudly and obnoxiously. Mo Xuanyu feels himself tense up in anticipation of having to run from them again, when the boy speaks up.

“Are you hiding from them?” While the boy is soft spoken, it’s loud enough that even the unobservant Mo Ziyuan is sure to hear him, and frantically, Mo Xuanyu brings a finger to his lips – trying to gesture he should be quiet, with a small shake of his head, and a gentle smile, he continues.

“They won’t be able to hear us – or see us either – the Shop only appears to those who need it.”

And sure enough, when Mo Ziyuan leans backwards, he doesn’t fall through the open gate, instead he looks as though he’s leaning on a windowpane. Mo Xuanyu blinks.

“What? I don’t – What?”

The boy seems even younger now – openly giggling at him, “I did tell you…”

Moving right up to the threshold himself – Mo Xuanyu tries to see if somehow, they managed to put up some glass or plastic or something while he was distracted. And- he sees nothing. He reaches out a hand-

“Don’t-!”

And suddenly all the boys on the other side of the door start screaming – flinging themselves at the other side of the alley and pointing.

“A hand! A-“

“It came out of the wall!”

Then – shoving each other behind them the whole way – all nine of them run down the alley.

“Oh no…” The boy mutters, “Qing-Jie is going to be upset about this…”

Mo Xuanyu just stares at the opening – not even for a prank would Mo Ziyuan allow himself to look such a fool – which means –

“A wish granting shop…” He mutters, because apparently that’s a real thing now.

From the corner of his eyes he sees black and red robes – the boy extends a hand to help him up from where he’s dropped to the ground. He’s far too young for it to actually help – but the attempt is kind.

“That is the usual reaction,” He says, hiding his smile behind his hand, “Did you want to see the Shopkeeper now?”

Mo Xuanyu looks back towards the building.

“Alright.” He says, “Alright.”

“Then after me – ah!” The boys eyes widen, “I forgot- My name is Wen Yuan, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He offers another salute.

Folding one hand over the other – Mo Xuanyu copies the motion, “I am Mo Xuanyu.”

“This way then Mo-Xiansheng.” Wen Yuan says leading him along the stone path to the wooden building.

There are a few wide steps leading up to a veranda which surrounds the structure, Mo Xuanyu can make out several windows with fine latticework covering them – the interior seems well lit. Rather then entering through the doors, Wen Yuan leads him further down the veranda, around the corner and towards the back. Once more Mo Xuanyu finds himself taken aback – because it’s only now that he realizes that the grey apartments and skyscrapers have disappeared – and now he sees the sharp hills and valleys and rivers around them.

He doesn’t see the city itself from here – but he does see a river and forest and forest.

It’s times like this he wishes he had a phone or a camera, it’s beautiful.

There are even more lanterns here – and even more people.

All dressed similarly to Wen Yuan, long robes and hair grown out – several of them appear to be fetching water from a well, while the others appear to be doing laundry. The fabrics look high quality – soft and vibrant, Mo Xuanyu wonders how much that must cost.

A few of them look up as they walk by, a man a few years older than Mo Xuanyu waves as they approach the doors at the back, already wide open.

“A-Yuan! Weren’t you sweeping?” Comes the cheerful call from inside.

Wen Yuan begins to speak, but as Mo Xuanyu finally gets to a place where he can look inside the room, he stops listening.

The man inside is sprawled across the ground – half sitting against the table beside him. There are at least three empty jars of wine on it and the floor, and several other unopened ones. The mans robes are half open and his hair pools on the floor around him, a red ribbon haphazardly holding back some of it. His eyes are a bright silver, and he smiles with straight white teeth. On his chest is an odd sunburst-patterned scar or tattoo.

As messy as he seems –

He’s really hot! Mo Xuanyu blinks, this guy is really, really hot!

“-and so I brought Mo-Xiansheng here.” Wen Yuan says, not yet realizing that Mo Xuanyu is peeking inside the room. “Ying-Ge, can you, um, well…”

“Well what? A-Yuan?” When Ying-Ge tilts his head, Mo Xuanyu is reminded of a stray cat that he used to see outside his house.

Then his head slams onto the table loudly, as a young woman comes into the room from behind him, having just thrown a large, heavy looking, bound book right at the back of his head.

“Wen Qing!” He cries.

“Fix your robes!” She snaps, scooping up the book, “What are you doing? Sitting around drinking while the rest of us work! Who do you think you are, Wei Ying?”

Wei Ying straightens, a large red mark on his forehead, “Wen Qing – dear, dear Wen-Yisheng, why do you hurt me?” He pouts, “I did a very big job the other day, I’m so tired… Please be nice to Ying-Er? Ahh-!”

He’s cut off as she yanks him further upright – and starts fixing his robes, “Who’s Ying-Er?” Wen Qing near snarls, “You are an adult! Don’t act like a child!”

Mo Xuanyu watches as Wei Ying gives Wen Yuan a quick wink, “Ying-Er is three years- Ow! Ow ow ow!”

With forceful movements – Wen Qing pushes Wei Ying further away from her. “You have a customer, and look at you! Half-drunk and half-dressed!”

“Oh!” And now the full force of his smile is directed towards Mo Xuanyu, “Welcome to the Yiling Wish Granting Shop! I’m the Shopkeeper, what did you want?”

“…”

Staring at him – Mo Xuanyu really isn’t sure what to say.

“You must have something you wish for?” Wei Ying says, “Only people who really, truly wish for something can see the Shop. Let alone enter it. I promise,” he smirks, “If you can pay the price then you can have whatever it is you wish for.”

Rubbing his hand over his wrist, feeling the bruise on his shoulder twinge, Mo Xuanyu speaks slowly, “I… I don’t want to go back. To my. My house.”

Wei Ying slumps back down, scooping up one of the wine jars, “That’s so easy.” He ends up pouring more wine onto his clothes and neck then he does in his mouth, “The price isn’t that bad either, right Wen Qing?”

“It’s a nightmare,” Wen Qing says dryly, “And every day I think about how much easier it would have been to just kill my uncle.”

What.

Laughing Wei Ying waves her off, “She’s joking. Qing-Jie loves it here.”

Wen Qing crosses her arms, “Are you giving him the same deal you gave us?”

“Not quite. His situation isn’t quite as dangerous as yours, so it’ll be a little less strict…” He turns to Mo Xuanyu, “You can stay here for as long as I'm Shopkeeper. But you’ll have to help out around the Shop, cleaning, cooking, helping with the Storeroom – that sort of work. You can leave too – if you want – but if it’s not leaving on a task I’ve asked of you, then you will never enter the gates again.”

Something seems different in his eyes now – the playful glint from before is gone, his gaze is solemn and maintains eye contact.  There is no grin in sight.

“What sort of tasks?” He forces himself to ask, he doesn’t want to have to hurt people or anything like that.

“Collecting things, food, supplies,” Wei Ying answers, “We can’t leave the Shop. So usually the price for a wish is something we need, but we can go a while without customers… That’s where you come in.”

It’s not that bad a deal actually, Mo Xuanyu thinks, working and living here seems like it would be a lot better than his aunts house. And if it isn’t, then he’ll just leave.

“Okay.” He says, “I’ll do it.”

Wei Ying rises to his feet, he’s taller than Mo Xuanyu – and standing, his hair seems to reach his waist – an easy-going smile crawls across his face.

“Welcome home then, Mo Xuanyu.”

Chapter Text

Qin Su has been married for ten years – happily, she insists to her friends and her parents – her husband is wonderful, kind despite the cruelty shown to him. But recently –

Jin Yao has been acting odd recently, at first, she had though it was simply stress from work. While his father technically still ran the finance offices, it was A-Yao who did almost all of the work. Especially now that Jin Zixuan had started spending more time helping with the Jiangs restaurants – rather then his own families business.

But the more that she thinks about it, the more that doesn’t make sense.

It’s not the sort of unusual that comes from too much work, he’s constantly double-checking passwords and account information, he’s always asking her where she’s going or who she’s talked to. And not in the usual way when he’s expressing an interest in her day – more as though he’s scared about something.

All Qin Su wants right now is to be able to help him, to put his mind at ease.

She raises from her position – kneeling by Jin Rusongs grave – after one last caress of the stone monument. The white chrysanthemums she placed there are neatly tied together with a gold ribbon, and she pauses.

Her A-Song hadn’t been able to see much of the world – and his death affected both her and her husband strongly. Jin Yao had sued the hospital and the doctor looking over their son, negligence, because how else could their son have had a fatal allergic reaction?

She’s asked A-Yao what she can do to help him, but he insists that there is nothing she needs to worry about. She doesn’t think he would hide anything from her, at least – she doesn’t think he would do so to hurt her.

Walking out of the graveyard, she notices an odd building across the street. It’s not one she’s seen before, despite visiting her son at least once a week. A warm-coloured wooden fence, surrounding a simple house and the surrounding garden. Smoothing down her pink and yellow dress – she approaches the gate entrance.

The first person she sees upon entering is a woman – likely a few years older than herself – dressed in traditional hanfu in black and red. They seem to catch sight of each other at the same time, the woman setting aside the crate she caries on the veranda as she turns to salute Qin Su.

“Welcome to the Yiling Wish Granting Shop,” She says, straightening up, “I’ll take you to see the Shopkeeper.”

“A wish granting shop?” Qin Su repeats, “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

The woman shrugs, “That’s not too surprising, this way.”

Qin Su probably should be more suspicious of all this – but with the fact that this shop managed to materialize out of nowhere, she’s willing to give in.

There’s a moment of dizziness when they turn the corner and as she blinks the scenery beyond the fence changes from the clean city and small shops to hills and greenery.  She feels a small smile spreading over her face, she’s always loved these kinds of stories.

They come up to the doors at the back of the building – and while the woman goes to open them, she sees several people in hanfu at the other end of the lawn. A man around her own age is holding a teenager steady on his shoulders as they try to pull a kite out of one of the trees, while an old woman scolds them.

It’s very sweet, Qin Su thinks, and the commitment to the aesthetic that they have here is rather impressive…

“Welcome to the Shop,” Comes a voice from inside the shop, “Might I ask for your name?”

Entering the room – the man makes quite an impression. Unlike the simpler robes of the people outside, this man is wearing far more layers, the black outer robes have delicate embroidery in red – though she is too far away to properly see the design. He’s sitting in a large throne-like chair – much like the windows, there are designs of spider-lilies and lotuses decorating it. Like the rest of the residents here, his hair is long, it’s as though she’s walked into a historical drama.

Remembering her manners – and the shows she would watch, curled up next to her mother – Qin Su brings her hands together and bows. “Qin Su. How should this one address you?”

He laughs – sounding truly amused, “Ah! Qing-Jie why couldn’t you have greeted me so nicely when we met?”

The woman snorts, muttering under her breath, the man on the chair continues, “Well Qin-Guniang, you can call me the Yiling Laozu!” He leans further forward, smile turning his silver eyes into crescents, “What are you looking for today? If you can pay the price, it’s yours.”

She takes a moment to think about it. Typically in the stories one has to be careful with their wording, wish-granters being notorious for using wordplay. And if there is a price…

“I would like,” Qin Su says carefully, “For a way to know what concerns my husband – so I can help him myself.”

The Yiling Laozu nods, tapping his chin with a finger, “Qin-Furen, you really don’t ask for much, do you? You can just go through his mail or ask him, can’t you?”

Shaking her head, Qin Su replies, “I’ve asked him, but he doesn’t want to worry me. Truthfully Yiling Laozu? I fear what cost it would have to ask more of you.”

“Huh,” The Yiling Laozu leans back on his throne, “It’s not often I get someone so thoughtful in here… Ah,” He makes a face, “Qing-Jie, don’t be mad! You were just in a bad situation so you couldn’t negotiate.”

Qing-Jie narrows her eyes, but remains silent.

“Anyway. I do have something that may work for you…” He stands from the throne and makes his way over to one of the shelves along the wall – and pulls a book from the shelf. It’s old and the spine is only loosely held together, holding it closed carefully, the man sets it down on the table.

“You just want to know the problem – not have me solve it.” He says, hand placed firmly over the cover, “So here is the deal.”

The Yiling Laozu opens the book, nestled in the pages are two bronze hand-mirrors. He pulls them out and settles the first down on the table – the rim and back are decorated with the leaves and branches of a witch-hazel tree intertwined with a chestnut tree.

“This mirror you will place in a room your husband uses often. Somewhere it can reflect everything that happens in that room.”

He places the second mirror in her hands, like the first, this one too has the witch-hazel, but it is paired with a wisteria tree. Somehow – it seems almost familiar, safe even.

“This one will reflect what is seen in the other.” The Yiling Laozu says, “So you can use these to see what it is he’s doing. Don’t worry about returning them when you’re done.” The smile is he gives her is less jovial then before, “It’ll find it’s way home…”

Swallowing, she holds the mirror closer, “And what of the cost?” Qin Su asks, voice shaking.

“You want to help him, so…” His gaze drifts to look out behind her, “You must tell the next person you see what it is that he’s scared of. Tell them all of what you know.”

“What if they’re the reason he’s in trouble? What then?” She grips the mirror tighter, “That would accomplish nothing.”

Pushing the first mirror towards her, he shrugs, “Qin-Furen, there’s not much I can do about that. Phones these days let you video-call people right? If you’re that worried you can just call your husband, can’t you?”

Qin Su picks up the other mirror, “It can’t be that easy.” She says, shaking her head.

Moving back to his seat, the Yiling Laozu says, “You only asked for a way to see the problem, so I can be lenient on the cost.”

She only needs to tell the first person she sees? And there are clearly loopholes… She just has to be careful.

“I accept your offer, Yiling Laozu.” Qin Su says with a determination she doesn’t feel – not yet – and places the mirrors in her purse.

The Yiling Laozu just nods, looking as though he’s about to fall asleep, “Good luck Qin Su.” He seems to want to say more, but stays silent, falling asleep on his throne – the lotus and spider-lilies a halo around him.

Qing-Jie gestures for Qin Su to follow her, and on shaking legs, she does so.

“He let you off easy because he knows something he shouldn’t,” the taller woman says without prompting, “If the cost isn’t balanced, he pays the remainder.” Her gaze is piercing, “As much as I hate to say it, I owe that man much. Don’t waste this Qin-Furen. For whatever reason, he has decided to help you, even though he shouldn’t.”

“I see,” Qin Su says slowly, “Thank him for me please, when he wakes up.”

There’s approval now, in Qing-Jies eyes, though she remains silent for the remainder of their short walk to the exit of the Yiling Wish Granting Shop. The three people from before are no longer by the tree, instead, there is an older man sitting by it’s base – carving designs into a wooden cane in his hands.

As they approach the gates, Qin Su pauses, and looks around one more time. Something about this place seems familiar – it feels good and safe – she almost doesn’t want to leave…

With one last nod to the other woman – Qin Su steps out the gate.

Turning around she can still see the wooden fence, a crow and a magpie perched on the posts decorating the gate. The shop is still visible behind it – as is the solitary figure.

It’s because she isn’t quite paying attention to what’s in front of her that Qin Su bumps into the young man walking towards her. They both quickly steady each other – and she barely catches one of the wine jars on the top of the pile he carries.

“Thank you.” He says quietly.

“It’s no problem.” Qin Su replies, setting the wine jar back onto the pile.

She only gets a glimpse of him, as he passes by – but he looks familiar to her, the shape of his features. And then she realizes he’s wearing the same red and blacks as the people in the Wish Granting Shop.

She turns again to see him turn through the open gates, and between one blink and the next – the fence disappears. The small bakery and the flower shop now next to each other.

She tightens her hold on her purse, and thinks of where to put the mirror.

Chapter Text

He’s not anywhere near used to it yet, Wei Ying has always surrounded himself with people and noise and action. So the quiet and emptiness of the Wish Granting Shop is strange and unpleasant at times.

Also, despite the fact there is somehow a working fridge that always has something in it and cupboards that are never empty – even if it’s all healthy and vegetarian – the clothes left behind seem to all belong to the previous Owner.

And Wei Ying has tried to change that. He’s closed the closets and drawers, and pictured everything from his own clothes to things Nie Huaisang would pick out – but when he opens the doors it’s all robes, robes and more robes.

He doesn’t like thinking about how long it took him to figure out how to tie some of them properly… And some days he doesn’t bother too – it’s not like he has anyone to impress after all.

Legs crossed he sits in front of the “front” doors to the Shop, careful exploration has shown them to be locked. While Wei Ying had tried all the keys he could find, has tried picking the lock and even one attempt at breaking down the door, nothing has been successful.

The rain pours down around him, though under the eaves he remains dry.

It’s so boring.

In front of the gates, a man in white walks by, his face a mask of distraught sorrow – no umbrella in sight.

“What’s wrong?” Wei Ying calls out to him, not expecting an answer.

The man turns, his eyes rimmed red from crying – and looks straight at him.

There’s a pull in his chest, something Wei Ying should know but doesn’t, he doesn’t have an explanation for the sudden feeling of anticipation.

The man in white seems half-aware of his surroundings, and walks through the open gate, “I don’t know what to do.” He says, his voice soft.

“What do you need?” Wei Ying asks, but that’s not right, “What is it you wish for?”

The mans face falls even more, “My friend, his – We,” He doesn’t seem to know what to say, “We got there too late – his eyes.”

Stepping out from under the eaves, Wei Ying feels the cold rain – his hair and clothes are almost immediately soaked – “I can help.” He says.

How?” Comes the broken response.

“Tell me your name, and tell me your wish.” He’s not sure how, but he knows that if the man tells him – “This is a Wish Granting Shop, for a price, you can have anything.”

The other man looks doubtful, “My name is Xiao Xingchen. Song Lan he – there was some sort of gas released, he lost his eyes. But it’s my fault.” He inhales deeply, “I wasn’t feeling well and, he was covering my shift – it should have been me.”

“You want to give him his eyes back?” Wei Ying feels a tingling in his fingers, the chime behind him rings out.

Xiao Xingchen looks up at him, despite his exhaustion, his gaze is determined, “I will pay any price to help him.”

In an instant a scene plays out behind his eyes – Xiao Xingchen coughing at the dining table, Song Lan placing a cup of tea in front of him, an offer to go into the dispatch centre himself, the news a shooting at Baixue Temple first responders arriving on the scene, Song Lan still in his paramedic uniform bandages over his eyes on the hospital bed it was that brat you helped Xingchen I never want to –

Wei Ying remembers the weight of his brother in his arms, please please help him I’ll do anything, and the look on the Shopkeepers face as they named their price – how he would have paid it a thousand times over.

He knows what the price is for this.

“You’ll have to give up your own eyes.” He says, “And suffer whatever after-effects he would have had for yourself.”

“Deal.” Xiao Xingchen doesn’t hesitate, “How soon can you do it?”

Like when he first woke up, the title of Shopkeeper transferred – Wei Ying finds himself just knowing what to do.

“Right now.” Wei Ying reaches both his hands out – placing the palms over Xiao Xingchens eyes, closing his hands into fists just in front of the mans warm brown eyes, he pulls his hands back.

With a pained shout – Xiao Xingchen drops to the ground, blinking rapidly as bloody tears run down his cheeks.

“They will stop working once you’ve given your sight to him,” Wei Ying looks at the two clear glass marbles in his hands, “You just need to give these to him to finish the transfer.”

Still gasping, Xiao Xingchen raises a hand to accept them, “Th- Thank you.”

It’s the first time he’s had contact with another person in months, so Wei Ying is slow to draw his hand away from Xiao Xingchens. But as soon as he does so, the other man rights himself, wiping the blood away from his face, his eyes a dull grey now.

“I will not forget what you’ve done for us.” Xiao Xingchens smile is a fragile thing, he holds the marbles to his chest.

He doesn’t wait for a response, Xiao Xingchen runs out into the rainy evening, the windchimes rustle behind him.

Wei Ying hears a distant sounding gong ring once, twice, a third time he closes his eyes, and when he opens them gone is the liquor shop across the street. Replaced with the gaudy neon lights of a hotel.

Hands still shaking, Wei Ying collapses back on the front veranda, his head hits the door with a thump he can hear now that the rain is gone.

In the pond beneath the dead tree – a single lotus flower opens.

Chapter Text

It’s the second time Lan Zhan has seen the odd building, and once more he has entered the gates –perhaps the Shopkeeper can help him this time.

The sun overhead is pleasantly warm, not a cloud in sight.

“Oh! You’re back.” A teenager says, the last time he was here the boy had been much smaller but he can still recognize the face, “That doesn’t happen very often.”

Lan Zhan simply nods, ever since this place appeared and disappeared five years ago, he has been trying to find it again. That alone had been proof enough for him, the boys claim that the Shopkeeper could grant wishes must have had merit if the man could get the entire property to move.

“This way then,”

He’s led past the pond of lotuses and back to the open doors. Unlike the last time – today he hears the sound of shuffling from inside the building, and he can see the doors already wide open.

The teenager pauses, “Um, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

Looking down at him, Lan Zhan considers the request. As a professor of folklore, he might be at an advantage when dealing with whatever beings live here. But he also knows the dangers of dealing with the supernatural.

“You may ask.” He replies.

Tugging at his sleeves, the Shopkeepers assistant seems to have trouble deciding how to phrase his question, “It’s just, do you know – I mean,” he shakes his head, “Never mind. I suppose I’ll know soon.”

“ – and how did you lose it? Huh?” A womans voice comes from the room, “It’s a wonder you haven’t killed yourself by now! And if you did, where does that leave us?!”

In response, there is a lower-pitched groan.

She continues, “If you keep acting on that bleeding heart of yours, I’ll give you something to bleed over!”

“Qing-Jie, please stop yelling, my poor head…”

Lan Zhan stops breathing.

He knows that voice, that petulant tone. Lan Zhan, can I take a break from copying now? My hand hurts… It can’t be – but it has to be. Heart racing, he walks into the room.

Dressed in black and red robes, and sitting on a throne like chair is Wei Ying. He has one hand covering his eyes as he lies against the arm of the chair, his hair had always been longer than the social norm – but now it’s almost absurd, the way it falls, over the armrest and to the floor.

Remembering the last time they spoke, the argument over Wei Yings refusal to actually think about what he wanted to do with his life – how Wei Ying had stormed out of the library and he had never seen him again.  Days that felt like weeks later, Jiang Cheng had turned up in a hospital with no memory of how he got there – and Jiang Yanli had woken up from a fainting episode with no memory of Wei Ying.

Lan Zhan had been in a daze after that – thoughts spiralling – had Wei Yings last thoughts been of their fight? Had he vanished thinking Lan Zhan didn’t trust him to make his own decisions?

Wei Ying hasn’t noticed Lan Zhan yet, seemingly too caught up in his headache. The woman however –

She turns to look at him, and while the memory is vague, he can recognize her from the news reports.

Wen Qing has been missing for ten years, along with an assortment of her family members. There had been a legal dispute over the death of Jin Yao and Qin Sus’ son – Jin Rusong, and the hospital run by Wen Ruohan had taken the brunt of the damage. Specifically, his niece, the young head of the ER, Wen Qing, and her brother who had been one of the pediatricians.

They had vanished, and months later Wen Ruohan and his two sons had died. The police had not disclosed much regarding the situation – only that Wen Qing was likely involved as the three had overdosed on a controlled medication.

“You have a customer.” Wen Qing says, tone dry, “Don’t overdo it.”

Wei Ying sighs loudly, “Hello, and welcome to the Yiling Wish Granting Shop. What is it that – “ He lowers his hand and his eyes widen. He releases a breath as though he’s been hit. “Lan Zhan…?”

Hearing his name, seeing those eyes – Lan Zhan steps forward, “Wei Ying?”

Looking between them, Wen Qing rolls her eyes, “I don’t need to be here. A-Yuan, help me with the Storeroom.” She spins on her heel, heading through a door farther back in the room. A-Yuan reluctantly follows her, he looks worried as he passes Wei Ying.

“Haha…” It doesn’t sound like Wei Yings laugh, it’s too high and strained, “I wouldn’t have thought you’d ever end up here Lan Zhan. You look good, the long hair suits you!”

Lan Zhan can’t pull his eyes away, “Wei Ying, what happened?”

The false smile on Wei Yings face doesn’t fade, “That’s – Does it matter? You’re here for a reason, aren’t you Lan-Er-Gege? This is a Wish Granting Shop, so you must – ”

“I wanted to find you.” Lan Zhan says, watching Wei Ying blink in surprise, “And I have.”

This time the laugh is real, Wei Ying snorts and curls in on himself, one hand across his stomach as he laughs and laughs – falling against the arm of his chair.

“You really are too good!” This is the Wei Ying he remembers the best, eyes bright and a smile on his lips, “Wanting to find me… Ah, Lan Zhan you are too much for me.”

Lan Zhan remains silent, trying his best to memorize the way Wei Yings bangs fall against his face and the press of his lips against his teeth as he smiles.

Straightening in his seat, Wei Ying gestures for him to come closer, “Really though – what’s the wish that brought you here? For a friend, I’m sure I can negotiate the price a little.”

“I wanted to find you,” Lan Zhan repeats, moving closer, “I – “ He stops.

While still a true smile, it seems a little sad now, “Well. You found me without needing a wish then. I’ve never had a wish no one needed to pay for before…”

“What happened?” He knows his voice sounds hurt, from the way Wei Ying winces.

“That’s…” Wei Ying taps at his nose, an old habit, “Part of a price for me is I can’t talk about it, at least, not yet.”

“Can I help you?” Lan Zhan asks, his toes press against the bottom of the chair, but Wei Ying doesn’t seem to mind the closeness, and it would never bother Lan Zhan.

Wei Ying shakes his head, “Not really. I can’t afford to do anything that would affect my deal.”

“…” Lan Zhan thinks, watching Wei Ying run his fingers over the embroidery lining his sleeves, what is there that he can do. “Can I visit again?”

He blinks, “Lan Zhan. Is that your wish? To be able to find the Wish Shop whenever you – heh – wish?”

It’s not… It’s not quite what he really wants – but it may give him a better chance.

“Yes.” Lan Zhan answers, “Allow me to return to speak with you.”

“That’s more of a wish for me,” Wei Ying muses, “How kind of you though… Alright!” He claps his hands, “The price for being able to visit me whenever you want is… your necklace.”

Lan Zhan blinks, a hand going to the thin silver chain around his neck. The charm had been a gift from his mother – a pale blue jade cloud, she had carved herself. One for him and one for Lan Huan.

It had been the last thing she gave either of them.

She settles the small jade pendant around his neck, smiling.

“Ah, look at you A-Zhan.” Mother says, running her fingers through his hair, “This is a gift for you alright?”

“Mn.” He nods smiling slightly, tracing his fingers over the carvings.

“I know you have trouble with your words,” She continues, from where he’s pressed against her he can feel the vibration of her voice, “So this may help, jade is supposed to be good for that.”

His eyes close slightly, the feeling of a hand in his hair and the warmth of the room making him tired.

Wei Yings hand reaches out and pulls on the chain. “Yeah,” he says quietly, “I’ll return it to you when you no longer want to find me. But until then…”

“Oh?” Wei Ying reaches out to tug on the chain, “Lan Zhan you wear jewelry? But you always tell me off for going against the dress code!”

Lan Zhan looks Wei Ying up-and-down, the dress shirt partially unbuttoned, the loose tie, his jacket nowhere to be seen. Several dark red and black bracelets around his wrists and the red plastic gem hanging from his ear. And then there’s his hair – several purple bobby pins to hold his bangs back and in a short ponytail – the scrunchie has sparkles decorating it. He looks away, and Wei Ying laughs.

“Come on – let me see it!”

Without waiting for him, Wei Ying pulls it free from Lan Zhans collar, he feels the slide of silver against his skin.

“It’s pretty,” Wei Ying says, leaning further over the desk to look, “It suits you. Maybe you can wear something that’s not a turtleneck outside of school and show it off?”

The bell rings, and as Lan Zhan rises, Wei Ying starts to shove his books back into his bag, “I’ve got to go! If I’m late again, Aunt Yu will kill me!”

And out the door he goes.

When Lan Zhan tucks the small charm back under his shirt – it feels warm.

Lan Zhans hands move to unclasp the chain, as he does – he brushes past Wei Yings hands, fighting the urge to stop and hold them.

With the pendant unclasped for the first time since his mother put it on him, Lan Zhan gets a good look at it. The way the pale blue catches the light, the darker flecks of colour near one carved curve.

Instead of placing it in Wei Yings still outstretched hand, Lan Zhan steps back – pulling Wei Ying with him. He lifts Wei Yings loose hair up, it’s drier than it looks, and warm from the summer breeze.

“Hold here.” He says quietly.

Laughing weakly, Wei Ying does, “Really now Lan Zhan? Are you that worried I’ll lose it otherwise?”

As he re-clips the chain into place – he forgets to breathe. The pale blue and silver contrasts with Wei Yings tanned skin and black and red robes. The charm stands out.

As Lan Zhan backs away another step, Wei Ying runs a thumb across the small cloud.

“There is one more thing,” He says, “You’re the first visitor that this has come up with though… No one else has known me.”

Not liking the tone of his voice, Lan Zhan frowns, “What do you mean?”

“I told you before, I made a wish, and there was a price.” Wei Ying looks serious, “You can not tell anyone about the Wish Granting Shop or about me.”

“What of Jiang – “ He doesn’t even get to finish his question before Wei Ying starts shaking his head, looking down.

“No – they.” Wei Ying takes a breath, “They can’t know, it’ll be bad if they – Lan Zhan,” He looks up grasping Lan Zhans hands in his own, “Don’t tell them.”

The Jiang siblings are two of the most important people in the world to Wei Ying, it’s always been obvious. For Wei Ying to worry his siblings as much as he has – it must have something to do with Wei Yings price, for whatever wish he would have made.

“I understand.” Lan Zhan says, in part because it is the truth, but also because he wants to calm Wei Ying down. “I will not tell them.”

Anyone, Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying says, tightening his grip of Lan Zhans hands, “No one at all can know about me being here.”

“I promise.” He tightens his hold in response, bringing his other hand up to hold Wei Yings between them.

Wei Ying sighs in relief, “Okay, okay that’s good.”

Then he pulls his hands free. Lan Zhan can feel the lingering warmth in his fingertips.

“Well, granting wishes like this make me sleepy,” Wei Ying drops back into his chair, fingers playing with the cloud charm, “Lan Zhan, tell me about what you’ve been up too. You were going to go into teaching, like Huan-Ge right?”

There is no other chair, so Lan Zhan stands, leaning slightly against the throne, “I did. I teach folklore.”

“Ha? Really?” Wei Ying smiles, “I thought you would teach music or literature? You always took away my monster books during class…”

“You needed to focus on the subjects we were being taught,” Lan Zhan defends, “I returned them after.”

“I was such a bad influence on you,” Wei Ying says, “How did Lan-Xiansheng take that?”

Shufu… had not taken it well at all, but Lan Zhan gets the feeling that even though Wei Ying had asked, he’ll feel guilty about the answer.

“He has accepted my choice.”

“Aiyo! What an answer!” Wei Ying laughs, “Ah, tell me about some of your students Lan Zhan? Have you met any as terrible as me?”

Lan Zhan thinks, and then he speaks.

Chapter Text

As Wen Ning drags the last of the crates out of the Storeroom, he looks around at the piles of boxes, chests and other things, he wonders – not for the first or the last time – at just how much the physics of this place do not work.

Wen Xifeng looks over another bolt of fabric, running her fingers over the material, before setting it aside. She’s also made sure to separate the embroidery thread from stitching thread – Wen Bin Bin frowns.

“Will we ever get to wear something other than black and red?” She stands up and turns to where Mo Xuanyu and Xia Lian are sorting through a trunk, “Xuanyu, next time you go into the city get us some cool patterns?”

He crosses his arms, “Can’t I just buy some, you know, normal clothes?”

Xia Lian sighs, “I miss my jean jacket…”

“Absolutely not!” Wen Bin Bin advances on the two to mess with their hair, “We have to commit to the look! What kind of Wish Granting Shop lets it’s workers wear denim?” She pulls Mo Xuanyu with her, back over to the fabric pile – Xia Lian waves to her lost partner-in-crime.

“Wen Ning…” He hears, and turns to see Wei Ying doing his best to drag what looks like a sealed jar of water out onto the porch, past where Wen Yuan and Wen Suyin sit amongst a pile of workbooks – both looking longingly out at the mass of stuff across the lawn. Despite the small size of the jar he pushes – only about a handspan tall – Wei Ying seems unable to pick it up.

“Ha! All that sitting around has done you no favours!” Wen Qing scolds, from where she sorts through everything between plastic hardcover textbooks, to small wooden planks tied together with wood. “You can’t even pick up a jar?”

Wei Ying pouts, before pointing at her, “This is a magic shop! Of course, there’s a – a curse on it or something!”

Wen Ning makes his way over, there are no marks on the floor to show its weight – though Wei Yings fingers are white where they press against the jar.

Kneeling beside the man, Wen Ning tries to lift the jar.

Nothing happens.

“See!” Wei Ying declares loudly, “It’s a weird magic jar that weighs too much!”

Furrowing his brows in determination, Wen Ning tries again – this time managing to lift it an inch off the ground before it hits the wooden veranda with a dull thud.

“Jiejie,” He says breathlessly, “It really is heavy…”

Wen Qing rolls her eyes, but doesn’t say anything else.

Seemingly being done with humouring the jar, Wei Ying starts picking at the wax sealing the cork into place.

“Maybe you shouldn’t open that, Wei-Zong?” Granny asks, setting down what looks like a bunch of magnifying glasses welded together, “You don’t know what will happen.”

“Don’t worry Granny!” He chirps, even as Wen Ning backs further away, “It’s not going to kill me. I think.”

He finally finishes prying the lid free, and with a shout of triumph he tosses the cork into the air, before catching it. Still grinning, he leans over to look into the jar – and pales.

“What is it?” Wen Qing looks cautiously curious.

“Um.” Wei Ying very slowly pushes the lid back into place, “There’s an ocean in there.”

“What?”

“There is. A ocean. In the jar.” Wei Ying pushes the cork with his whole body, it pops back into place, "Li-Xiong? Can you make a label for that?”

Wen Li looks up from his place at the small writing table, fingers twirling the brush in his hand. “Should – should I just write ‘ocean in a jar’?”

“Yes please.” Wei Ying says, “Wen Ning? Do you want to put it back into the Storeroom for me?”

Wen Ning looks at the jar, then the Storeroom, and back to the jar. “It is very heavy…”

Patting him on the head, Wei Ying nods, “It is. And since I dragged it here, you can take a turn and drag it back.”

Sighing, Wen Ning reaches for the jar.

“A-Ning don’t you dare!”

At his sisters tone, Wen Ning instantly backs up, “Sorry Wei-Xiong, Jiejie said no.”

Wei Ying groans dramatically, “Let’s just leave it here. It’s fine.”

Yawning, Fei Li lightly kicks at a skateboard that’s half under the table Wen Li is using, “Why not just push it around?” They ask, already looking half asleep.

“Fei Li, you are the most helpful person here today!” Wei Ying cheers, Fei Li just responds with a thumbs up, before laying back down on the grass.

Xiao Dongmei laughs loudly from her place leaning against Wen Xifengs legs, “Careful there A-Ying, You might lose out on everyone elses help and end up stuck with only sleeping beauty there.”

In response he sticks his tongue out, before turning to Xia Lian who is staring at something she must have pulled out from one of the crates.

“What’s that?” He asks.

Wen Ning watches as she holds up a pale pink staff, a golden star on the top fastened within a circle, there are cute looking wings on the sides.

“Did you get this from a magical girl or something?” Xia Lian asks, giving it a twirl.

Leisurely, Wei Ying pushes himself to his feet, walking over to her and holding out a hand.

“Laoshi…” Xia Lian makes a face, before handing it to him.

Immediately, he spins around, pointing it at Wen Qing.

With a long-suffering sigh, and sounding like she already regrets it, his sister asks, “What are you doing?”

“I’m seeing if it works!” He grins, “Oh mighty staff – I command you and your powers, stop Wen Qing from bossing me around!”

His smile turns to panic as when Qing rises to her feet – a dark look on her face. Wei Ying drops the staff and starts to run, as she rushes past them, Wen Qing picks it up – before throwing it with her full strength right at Wei Yings legs.

He immediately falls to the ground, groaning as Wen Qing advances on him. Scrambling past Sixth Aunt, who cackles at Wei Yings misfortune, he barely makes it through the doors of the Shop.

Wen Ning sighs, and moves over to his sisters abandoned book pile, Xia Lian joins him.

“Ning-Shushu? If she does kill him, does she become the new Shopkeeper?” She asks.

“Um,” Wen Ning is taken aback by the nonchalant tone, “I don’t – I don’t think it works like that?”

Xia Lian nods, pulling a scroll towards her, it’s covered in talismans and what looks like a string from an instrument, “Sorcerous Sword Index,” She reads the small tag attached to it, “Do not open! Seriously, don’t.”

As soon as he sees her fingers twitch – Wen Ning gently pulls it from her hands and places it in one of the crates half-filled with labelled scrolls.

“Aww,” She pouts, “Just a little peek?”

“That’s not a good idea,” Wen Ning pats her on the head, “Why don’t you help Fourth Uncle with the swords?”

Xia Lian perks up, giving him a small smile, before running to the other end of the yard.

As Wei Ying shrieks in terror from inside the Shop – Wen Ning calmly sorts through the different documents. Xiao Dongmei leans against her wifes legs, as Wen Xifeng quietly discusses different colour combinations of fabrics, Wen Bin Bin offering suggestions as Mo Xuanyu dutifully takes notes. He can hear Fei Li snoring from where they are half-curled under the table, and Wen Li writes labels as quickly as he can, even as Fourth Uncle calls out jokes. Granny begins to hum a song as Wen Yuan and Wen Suyin continue to work through their current schoolbooks.

Above them, the sun is warm and bright.

It’s another good day in the Yiling Wish Granting Shop.

Chapter Text

The first thing he registers is the sound of a womans voice, unfamiliar and scolding. She uses words Nie Mingjue has never heard before – and doubts he could spell. They all sound medical, and with the heavy smell of antiseptics and faint beeping, he guesses he must be in the hospital.

Which… okay.

He knows that medications weren’t working, the electric cardioversion helped a bit but, well, it’s difficult to work when you’re worried about a stroke every time your heart-rate picks up a little.

So he had gone in for a maze procedure. The doctor had explained it, it had made sense, and he signed all the papers.

Then…

The doctor had said he would need rest after, that he would feel weak.

His fingers barely move as he tries to clench his fist.

Grunting, Nie Mingjue attempts to open his eyes. The brightness of the white room blinds him at first, and all he sees are the white blurs of the doctors coats, the glare from the open window.

Blinking away tears, he narrows his eyes.

That is not his doctor.

He’s never seen the woman before in his life, and he’s honestly a little glad she’s not directing her ire at him.

“ – Kind of idiot doesn’t even check for allergens!”  She snaps, pointing at one man, “Get out if you’re going to be no help, and you! Why did you even try that? – you think that’s going to help at all?”

The man abruptly turns around, setting a large amount of pill bottles down.

She scoffs before facing him, “See! Awake already, which school did that fool graduate from? He ought to have his licence revoked.”

Nie Mingjue tries to speak, to say something, but his voice catches on a tube stuck down his throat. He starts coughing and it burns, distantly, he’s aware of his heart-rate spiking.

“Yisheng…?” One of the nurses starts, and the woman frowns at him.

“I’m going to have to put you back under,” She reaches for the IV drip, using a syringe to inject something into it, “Don’t worry, it won’t last as long as the last thing they gave you.”

The room darkens, and the woman begins to step back, barking orders at the rest of the staff in the room.

He falls asleep.

---

--

-

There’s something on his hand, a light weight pushing it against the sheets. The room is much dimmer now, when he tries to open his eyes – the curtains are closed, and it seems to be night.

Looking in the other direction, he sees Nie Huaisang, leaning so far out of his chair that he’s half on the bed.

There’s no breathing tube this time, he notes, slowly trying to pull his hand out from under Huaisangs without waking his little brother.

It’s always been next to impossible to wake him up – so he’s not surprised when his brother just lets out a little snuffled snore and continues drooling on his sheets.

That’s when he gets a good look at his hand and arm.

He flexes fingers that are too thin, the muscle on his arm is much less then he remembers – and when he tries to push himself up, they tremble with the effort.

Now that he’s looking… Huaisang seems different too. His hair in a longer braid, and dark circles under his eyes – the purple hoodie he wears seems too big, and his hands are covered in small bandages.

“ ‘Sang,” He clears his throat, and grabbing his brothers hand, tries again, “Huaisang.”

He wrinkles his nose, “Five minutes – Da-Ge, exams are done…”

What a little brat, Nie Mingjue sighs.

He tightens his hold, and gives a little tug, “Huaisang.”

This manages to get a response, Huaisang blinks blearily at him, once, twice – before shooting upright in his chair.

Da-Ge!” And with a wail, Huaisang throws himself at Nie Mingjue bursting into tears and clinging like a child.

The feel of tears and snot on his neck is, unfortunately, familiar at this point. So he simply pats Huasiangs back and lets him cry. From the shaking of Huaisangs shoulders – it will likely take a while.

He does eventually calm down, and return to his seat – using the too-long sleeves to dry his eyes.

“Sorry, Da-Ge,” Huaisang says quietly, he starts absently playing with Nie Mingjues hand, “It’s – I missed you a lot.”

“Something went wrong.” Nie Mingjue says, he’s figured that much out at least.

Nodding, Huaisang takes a breath, “You were allergic to something they gave you. They finished the procedure but you wouldn’t wake up.” He tears up again, “You, you’ve been asleep for two years now.”

Two years?

Nie Mingjue exhales heavily, two years, he thinks, and brings his other hand to cover Huaisangs.

“The doctor was able to help though!” Huaisang smiles a little, “She figured out what was wrong very quickly, it only really took her a few days to get you to wake up.” His face falls again though, and he lowers his head to rest it on top of Nie Mingjues hands.

He wonders how Huaisang has held up, what’s changed in his little brothers life, their business, how are Lan Huan and –

Jin Yao.

“Huaisang,” He says, voice low, “Do you know where Jin Yao is?”

Huaisang tilts his head up to look at him, “No, I heard something from Huan-Ge about him going missing though, I don’t really know…”

That’s a problem for him to deal with, Nie Mingjue sighs, later, though, once he’s got a better idea of what else has changed.

“Ah!” Huaisang digs around in the hoodies pocket, “I’ve got to call Huan-Ge! I told him I’d let him know when you woke up!”

Nie Mingjue surrenders his brothers hands so the younger can actually make the call, he let’s his brothers chipper tone become background noise.

Looking at his thin arms, he has a lot of work to do.

Chapter Text

Jin Yao has been forced to beg for things before, but never in this sort of manner.

He presses his forehead to the wooden floor, and listens to the Yiling Laozu sigh.

“Well Jin-Xiansheng… That is quite the problem isn’t it?” The man drawls.

“It is,” Jin Yao swallows audibly, “Which is why I’m asking you to help me.”

“You can sit up, you know?” The Yiling Laozu says, almost absentmindedly, “No need for all this, especially when I can’t help you.”

Jin Yao looks up, “What? You said you could grant any wish!”

“If you can pay the price,” The Yiling Laozu finishes, “And you can’t.”

Curling his hands into fists, Jin Yao leaves small scratch marks on the floor, “And why do you think I can’t? Name the price and I’ll do it.”

Sighing again, the Yiling Laozu looks at him with pity, “You want them to forget. For your wife – I mean, your sister to forget what she saw. And for anyone else who knows to forget. That’s so many people now though…”

Jin Yao feels his stomach turn, “I didn’t – I only found out after Rusong – “

“After she was pregnant, I know,” The Yiling Laozu reaches towards the table and pulls a bronze mirror into his hands – it looks very much like the one Qin Su had hung in his office. “And even before you arranged for his accident – hadn’t you already taken care of your father?”

“There was no pain that man didn’t deserve,” Jin Yao says, his nails digging into his palms, “My mother – Qin Sus mother – Do you know how many women he treated like that?”

“Oh, I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it.” The Yiling Laozu says mildly, “I agree with you there. The problem is you wanting me to hide that that was you too.”

“Your power must not be all that much then,” Jin Yao manages, “I hid it for years with no magic to speak of.”

With a loud clank he sets the mirror back onto the table, “Let me think then. You want to hide the fact you killed your father, your son, Wen Ruohan who helped you kill your son, and that Nie Mingjues coma was your doing?”

Setting his face into an embarrassed and regretful mask, Jin Yao answers, “I’ve told you – I had no choice. After everything Father had done, I couldn’t let him go after anyone else! And Rusong, A-Song, I did love him – truly, he had done nothing wrong. But if he was slow – a simple DNA test would have shown that A-Su and I were – “ He pauses – fighting the urge to throw up, “Wen Ruohan knew – and any man who would take a bribe to allow a child to die? He had no right to run a hospital.”

“And Nie Mingjue?” The Yiling Laozu asks.

“And Nie Mingjue…” Jin Yao repeats, “He lost his father because of Wen Ruohan – I thought. I thought he would finally…”

“You tried to get on his good side.” The Yilling Laozu says, tilting his head, “You thought he’d be happy you killed a man he hated.”

“Apparently it was too underhanded,” Jin Yao responds bitterly, “The son of a prostitute, why should I have expected better.” His voice returns to his normal pitch, “After everything I do for people – it always comes back to that. Just a little bastard.”

The Yiling Laozu still has that look of pity on his face – Jin Yao hates that look.

“I had no choice,” Jin Yao repeats, “So I have no choice now but to make a deal with you.”

“I don’t think you understand how this works.” The Yiling Laozu says, resting his cheek on his hand, “For the amount you are asking for, I really can’t grant your wish. There are some rules, after all. No bringing back the dead, no reversing someone elses wish, no forcing someone to fall in love and no killing.”

“And how does this contradict those rules?” Jin Yao asks.

The Yiling Laozu taps the mirror on the desk again, “Qin-Furen really wanted to know what was bothering you so she could help you.” He sets a second – almost identical mirror down next to the first, “How kind of her.”

“You can’t make her forget.” Jin Yao says blankly, at least he knows now – and he’d thought whoever wrote that damned letter had told her, “Can – Is there a way to keep her from speaking?”

“You have to tell me what you want in order for me to come up with a price.” The Yiling Laozu shrugs, “I can offer a suggestion, but you have to decide what you want first.”

Jin Yao thinks – he can do this. He’s come up with so many ideas before – it shouldn’t be too difficult to come up with something.

“I…” He starts slowly, eyes darting as he thinks, “I want no one who knows to be able to speak, write or show it, for there to be no proof.”

“Alright.” The Yiling Laozu says, drawing a hand up to play with his necklace, “That I think I can do. But as for the price… It has to be equal so…”

Jin Yao watches him think, and it’s fine. He can come up with some way to negotiate or work with whatever cost the man can come up with.

“Speak, write or show…” He repeats, looking up at the roof of the room - somewhere else in the house, he hears the sound of running feet, a distant laugh.

“Jin Yao,” The Yiling Laozus eyes are a bright red like the ribbon in his hair, “The price is this. You can not write, speak, or show yourself to anyone you currently know. The second you do – proof of your actions will find their way to someone.”

Letting out an incredulous laugh, Jin Yao straightens, “How am I supposed to do that? I run a company! I worked so hard for all of this – and you expect me to throw it away?!”

“That’s the best I can do.”

“There has to be some sort of other option – I’ve been in newspapers, on TV, even walking down the street to leave someone might notice me!”

“Maybe you should have thought of that earlier?” The Yiling Laozu says, “You know, before the whole murder thing?”

Jin Yao shakes his head, “I – There’s cameras at the bank so I – I’d have to wear a hat or a breathing mask. But I could take out some money and – no.” He tugs at his hair, “Can I have some more time? Give me a day before the price starts – enough time to get ready.”

The Yiling Laozu raises an eyebrow, “It’s only going to add to the cost you know?”

“What would it add?” He snaps.

“Hmm,” The response comes slowly, “Well, during that time someone could reveal it… or…”

Or?”

“Or we could make it so you can’t be seen by anyone afterwards.” The Yiling Laozu smiles lazily, “For someone who cares so much about their image, that would be a fitting cost.”

“Seen as I look now or in general?” Jin Yao asks.

The Yiling Laozus smile fades into a frown, “In general. I can understand you trying to adjust the price – but if you push your luck further you may end up being unable to pay it off.”

“Fine.” Jin Yao says through gritted teeth, “Give me the twenty-four hours, I can just order things to an apartment – no need to see people in person. I have enough funds to survive comfortably.”

“Deal.”

The Yiling Laozus eyes seem to glow in the suddenly dark room, Jin Yao feels something cold and slimy crawl across his spine.

And then it ends.

The Yiling Laozu pulls a pocket-watch from under the table and winds it up. He holds it up – one finger over the turner. The watch is odd, with far too many numbers on it and none of them look like numbers.

“When the hands make a full rotation – your time will be up. Don’t forget to keep it wound, if it stops – the deal will be void.”

He then presses his finger down, the ticking begins.

Jin Yao pulls it from the mans hands and makes for the door.

“Good luck Jin Yao!” The Yiling Laozu calls, “You’ll need it!”

He will not.

It should be easy enough to withdraw his money, and book a plane ticket. Perhaps he can relocate to Japan? It should be easy enough to restart over there.

“Huh, Yao-Ge?”

He turns to see Nie Huaisang, the younger bounces towards him cheerfully.

“Huaisang.” This is not a good time for this. “It’s good to see you, I was just – “

Nie Huaisang, grabs his free arm, linking them together with a smile, “Yao-Ge, I was going to go visit Da-Ge, you should come with me!”

“Sorry Huaisang,” He smiles, “I have some things to attend to – I’ll stop by later.”

“But Yao-Ge,” Huaisang pouts, “Huan-Ge is there too, it would be nice to catch up…”

“I really can’t right now, later, I promise.” Jin Yao says.

“How about I join you then?” Nie Huaisangs smile is sweet.

Jin Yao shakes his head, “You go see your brother and Lan Huan.” He pulls his arm out of Nie Huaisangs grip.

Frowning Nie Huaisang sighs, “Okay…”

Having escaped his grasp – Jin Yao briskly makes his way to his office – there are papers he needs to get rid of.

_ _ _

_ _

_

It’s easy enough to get on the plane, and once it’s in the air there is no way to change things.

Looking out the window – he sees the ocean, there is a whole new world ahead of him. Reaching into his pocket for the pocket-watch, he breathes out a sigh. Pulling it out to wind it up he freezes, the smile sliding off his face.

It’s a different watch.

Similar to the first in size and shape, but without all the extra numbers. Rather than silver, this one is gold – a bird with a small emerald for its eye engraved on the back, nestled amidst the leaves of a mulberry tree.

He had kept it safe in his pocket the whole time, carefully keeping it wound without removing it and risking it falling. But that had only served to keep him from noticing.

He’s thousands of miles above and away any chance to change things.

He tightens his grip on the watch, and the glass cracks in his hand.

_

_ _

_ _ _

“ – Shocking information came to light recently. Jin Yao of the Jin Finance group was found to have provided a large sum of money to Wen Ruohan shortly before the death of Jin Yaos, son – Jin Rusong. The coroner initially assigned was Wen Zhuliu, who had been adopted by Wen Ruohan, and was one of the victims of the mass poisoning attributed to Wen Qing.

However, with this new information – the case was re-opened. It quickly became clear to law enforcement that there was more to this situation.

When attempting to speak with Jin Yao – authorities found the man was no longer in Shandong. He had, in fact, emptied his back account and was last seen boarding a flight to Tokyo International Airport. When authorities arrived at his home, they found his wife, Qin Su in critical condition. Though suffering a stab wound and blood loss, she is expected to survive. Also found, were several documents proving Jin Yaos connection not only to the death of his son, but also to the deaths of both Wen Ruohan, and Jin Guangshan.

If you see this man – please alert authorities immediately. Do not attempt to apprehend him on your own.”

Jin Yao throws the remote at the screen – it cracks, sparking and smoking.

Chapter Text

Xiao Qing knows she shouldn’t be following Song Lan like this.

If her Xingchen-Ge knew what she was up too…

But the man had been asking around their neighborhood about his “missing friend” and when he had seen Xingchen-Ge and the jerk leaving the apartment he had looked so distraught.

Following him is easy – he doesn’t seem to be paying attention, until he trips over a curb and stumbles through a wooden gate that Xiao Qing is sure was not there earlier.

She follows, of course, she’s heard enough stories from Xingchen-Ge to know that this is his “dear old friend” that he “truly misses with all his heart”. And so, if she can talk to him, maybe she can get rid of that weirdo.

“Let’s wait for your little shadow before we start making the deal though, alright?”

“My what?” Song Lan asks.

The man in black in red leans forward from where he sits on the front stairs, he carefully braids the hair of a young girl sitting in front of him.

“The little miss over there of course!” He looks right at her.

Song Lan turns, and his eyes widen, “The girl from the apartment?”

“I have a name!” Xiao Qing walks in proudly, “Xiao Qing!”

“Xiao…” Song Lan looks stricken – but Xiao Qing powers on.

“You’re Xingchen-Ges old friend, right? Why did you run off?!”

The man pats the top of the girls head, “Off you go A-Yin, your hair is done, go show your moms!”

The little girl cheerfully runs off – her black and red skirts swirling around her legs. As she takes the turn at the corner, she runs into the railing. “Careful Suyin!” Someone calls.

“Now on to business,” The man says, “Welcome to the Yiling Wish Granting Shop, I’m the Yiling Laozu. And I’ve never granted two wishes at once before.”

Song Lan turns back to him, “I don’t remember it well, but I know Xingchen spoke of this place.” He raises a hand to his eyes, faintly scarred, “I know what happened to me – but when I just saw him, he – “

The Yiling Laozu nods, “He gave you his eyes. I’ll tell you that, because one of my rules is that I can’t reverse someone elses wishes. Whichever came first has seniority.”

Xiao Qing vaguely remembers Xingchen-Ge telling her a story, a rainy night, a magic shop...

“What can I do to help him then?” Song Lan asks, “If I can not give them back to him – how can I think to speak with him again, after everything…”

“Just talk to him!” Xiao Qing snaps, hands on her hips. “Xingcheng-Ge talks about you all the time! Oh Song Lan would always say this or My Song Lan knows a lot about that. He’d be happy if you talked to him!”

Song Lan takes a step back – looking confused and hopeful both.

The Yiling Laozu laughs, “Are you trying to do my job for me, A-Qing?”

“Who said you could call me that?” She raises her chin, he continues laughing.

“I’m sorry, Xiao-Guniang.” He puts his hands together, “This one will be more careful in the future.”

“I have to do something for him,” Song Lan says, “Xingchen gave so much for me – there has to be something I can do.”

I just want the stupid jerk to leave us alone.” Xiao Qing says.

Turning back to her, Song Lan asks, “You mean Xue Yang? He hasn’t told Xingchen his name, right?”

“The jerk is the jerk,” Xiao Qing says, “He was passed out in an alley and Xingchen-Ge brought him home to take care of him.”

Song Lan looks angry, “Taking advantage of Xingchen like this – !”

The Yiling Laozu taps his chin, “So what wishes am I granting today then?”

“Could.” Song Lan starts slowly, “Would it be possible to give Xingchen one of his eyes back? Rather then both?”

“You think that’s what he would want?” Xiao Qing asks, “If Xingchen-Ge did it to help you then isn’t this telling him you don’t accept his help? Well, I’m going to get rid of the jerk on my own!” Xiao Qing declares, “I don’t need some magician to help me out, I can do it myself.”

The Yiling Laozu smiles widely, “I get the feeling you can. But that doesn’t mean you should turn down help when it’s offered.”

Song Lan looks down, “I will speak with him. But I… I wish to give him back one of his eyes. I said things I should not have when - before he came here. I fear that he felt he owed me this.”

“Alright.” The Yiling Laozu says, and he reaches out one hand in front of Song Lans face – the man instinctively flinches.

Xiao Qing watches as a small light seems to form in front of Song Lans eye, he gasps and brings a hand up to cover his eye as the Yiling Laozu draws his hand back. A glass marble sits in the palm of his hand. When Song Lan lowers his hand, there is blood around his fogged-over eye, he blinks a few times – squinting in pain.

The marble is placed in Song Lans hand, and he looks at it with a small frown.

“Just place it against his eye,” The Yiling Laozu says, tapping right under his left eye, “And then his vision will be returned. Though… this is it. No more chances if one of you loses an eye.”

Song Lan nods, the marble in his hand, “Thank you for this.”

“Tell Xiao Xingchen I said hi,” The Yiling Laozu responds, sitting back down on the steps and looking up at them, “And to please not talk about me, there are rules to this.”

“Let’s go,” Xiao Qing demands, tugging on Song Lans sleeve, the man looks taken aback, “Come on – We have to go see Xingchen-Ge!”

She begins pulling him out the gates, the Yilling Laozus laughter echoes in her ears until it cuts off abruptly. When she turns back to look – the Wish Granting Shop is no longer there.

But that’s fine – once they get back to the apartment, she and Song Lan can tell Xingchen-Ge that the jerk is a jerk, and then he’ll have to leave.

As quiet as he is, Song Lan seems a lot nicer – and from all Xingchen-Ges stories, is a lot nicer.

Maybe he can stay with them? As long as he doesn’t leave Xingchen-Ge again.

And if he does try something, well, Xiao Qing can take of him then!

Chapter Text

The last thing Jiang Cheng remembers is the two of them, messing around and shoving each other as they walked back form Jiang Chengs business class – Wei Ying having waited for him after his own band class had ended earlier.

Wei Ying had been quieter than usual that day, from gossip around the campus – he had gotten into an argument with Lan Zhan in the library.

Jiang Cheng had never liked the guy.

Regardless – they had walked home together, waited at a red light and then –

He was in the hospital and Wei Ying was missing.

Their sister had arrived a few hours later, weeks away from her due date and the Peacock in tow and she –

She hadn’t even asked about Wei Ying. When he had brought up their brother, she had looked at him oddly, nose wrinkling in confusion.

“What do you mean A-Cheng? We don’t have another sibling, is this from the car accident?”

Almost eight years later, she still doesn’t remember – and he’s still missing.

The door slams behind Jin Ling loudly when he enters the house, and Jiang Cheng looks out from the kitchen, scowling at him.

“What are you slamming doors for? If you break it, I’ll break your legs.”

All he hears in answer is the sound of Jin Ling throwing his backpack onto the couch, before he joins it.

“Hey!” Turning the heat down on the stove, Jiang Cheng marches into the other room, taking in the sight of his nephew lying on the couch – shoes still on.

“If I knew you were going to be such a brat, I wouldn’t have told A-Jie I’d watch you.” He mutters, pulling Jin Lings shoes off for him, the brat doesn’t even move.

After putting the shoes by the door – he goes back into the kitchen, making sure the dumplings don’t overcook. Jin Ling remains silent – it’s worrying.

He’s not like A-Jie though, he can’t just ask, it never comes out right. So instead, he finishes cooking. If Jin Ling wants to talk – then he’ll talk.

Sure enough, Jin Ling does eventually shuffle into the kitchen with him, leaning against the counter and distinctly not looking at him.

It takes all of Jiang Chengs patience to keep from pushing him to speak.

“Jiujiu,” Jin Ling says quietly, “Am I bad luck?”

What the fuck.

“Who said that?” He narrows his eyes, “I’ll have some words for whatever – “

“No one said anything!” Jin Ling scowls, stabbing at one of the dumplings with his finger and recoiling at the heat, “It’s just – “

“Just?”

Jin Ling looks every-bit his father when he turns to Jiang Cheng, “If you keep interrupting me how am I supposed to talk?”

Jiang Cheng feels a pang of sympathy for his own parents – who had to deal with two pre-teen boys at the same time.

“All that happened is that Mo Xuanyu guy was reported missing, that it was a couple of months ago someone saw him last.” Jin Ling says, “And that’s just after Dad told me he wanted to meet him.”

“Who’s Mo Xuanyu?” Jiang Cheng asks, he can’t recall having heard the name.

Jin Ling looks at him in disgust, “He’s one of Dads half-brothers, obviously.”

“What does that have to do with you being bad luck?” Jiang Cheng says, he can vaguely recall Jin Zixuan talking about wanting to reconnect with his legion of half-siblings – for as annoying as he is, the Peacock can make good decisions sometimes.

“He’s missing,” Jin Ling stresses, “Just like how Dajiu went missing before I was born and Mom got hurt, and how Yeye died right after mom got pregnant and – “

Jiang Cheng grabs his shoulders to stop Jin Lings tirade, the boys eyes are red around the edges and his lip trembles. “None of that was your fault Jin Ling. The Peacocks dad was his own fault, and I’m sure that this Mo Xuanyu guy will turn up soon, and Wei Ying, he – “ He stops, takes a breath, and continues, “Wei Ying was so excited to meet you. You are absolutely not the reason he’s gone – and A-Jies memory was - That’s not your fault either.”

Jin Ling doesn’t look convinced, if anything he looks closer to crying then he did before. So Jiang Cheng pulls him into a side hug and wishes his sister was there.

“Do… Ah!” Jiang Cheng looks up at the ceiling, “Do you know what I did when I was nine? I scared Wei Ying so bad that he ran off in the middle of the night.”

“Jiujiu!” Jin Ling looks at him, eyes wide.

“That was something that has someone to blame. I threatened him with a dog and he ran away – that’s not the case with you.” Jiang Cheng holds him a little tighter, “You didn’t do anything wrong, sometimes bad things happen for no reason.”

Jin Ling hides his face in Jiang Chengs shoulder, “You’re so bad at this Jiujiu.” He has the arrogance to wipe his snotty nose on Jiang Chengs shirt.

“Shut up you brat.” Jiang Cheng sighs, roughly patting Jin Lings head.

_

_ _

_ _ _

After Jin Ling has gone to bed – he calls his sister.

“A-Cheng!” Comes the cheerful response, “How are you and A-Ling doing?”

“Your son walked his dirty shoes onto my couch.” Jiang Cheng replies, hearing his sister laugh over the other end of the line.

“Sorry about that,” Jiang Yanli says, “I’ll talk to him once we’re home.”

Jiang Cheng makes a small noise of agreement, before continuing.

“He also asked me if he was bad luck, because people go missing around him.”

The noise his sister makes is small and hurt, “What? Oh, A-Ling.”

“I told him none of it was his fault, but…” Jiang Cheng groans, “I don’t know what would make him think it up. It’s just coincidence.”

“It’s not your fault either.” Her voice is gentle, “I know you blame yourself for what happened to Wei Ying – “ and hearing her say Wei Ying instead of A-Ying is weird and sends a shudder down his spine, “ – but when the paramedics found you there wasn’t anyone else there. You were unconscious, A-Cheng you can’t blame yourself.”

“I don’t,” He says without thinking, and then, “I know it’s not my fault – it’s the fucker that ran me – us? – over that’s to blame.” And hadn’t that been a mess. The court fees, the police interview, his sisters worry…

Jiang Yanli hums soothingly, and so Jiang Cheng continues, “But if – Wei Ying knows how much this would worry everyone and he’s – “

His voice catches.

Jiang Cheng hasn’t cried in years, but he can recall the last four times perfectly – when his parents had been in the plane crash, his sisters wedding, when Jin Ling was born, and realizing he was about to turn twenty-three without his brother by his side.

His sister doesn’t say anything, she just keeps humming and the sound of her breathing is enough for him.

“Sorry, A-Jie,” He coughs out, lying back on the couch, “Shit, pretend you didn’t hear me crying?”

“Nope,” Her voice sounds a little hoarse, “And please watch your language in front of my son.”

Grabbing a hold on that change of topic – Jiang Cheng continues, “Do you know what he said over one of those voice-chat games he plays? His mouth is worse than mine.”

“Really? I’ll have to have a talk with him about that…”

Jiang Cheng pities his nephew. That tone is never a good one.

“I’m going to sleep now,” He says, looking over at the clock, “Time difference and all…”

“A-Cheng!” Jiang Yanli scolds, “What time is it there? Never mind! I don’t think I want to know, I’ll call you tomorrow, okay? At a better time so I can speak with A-Ling too.”

“Yeah, love you, good night.”

“I love you too, sleep well!”

He hangs up the phone, letting it slip through his fingers and fall to the carpet. While he should probably make an effort to change and sleep in his own bed – Jiang Cheng just makes himself comfortable on the couch.

The last thing he sees before falling asleep is the picture sitting on the side table – Jiang Yanli, six months pregnant and smiling, Jiang Cheng rolling his eyes with her arm around him, and Wei Ying on her other side – doing his best to hug them both.

Chapter Text

Wen Yuan feels his face twisting with discomfort, “I don’t like it.” He decides.

Neither Mo Xuanyu or Xia Lian seem very impressed with him.

“Those were expensive.” Mo Xuanyu says, “I spent three months saving up for them.”

“They are very nice.” Xia Lian says, “What do you think, A-Yin?”

The girl wrinkles her nose, “If they’re so expensive, why do they have holes?”

“It’s the look.” Mo Xuanyu sighs, “The two of you are ruined.”

“A-Yu, it’s not their fault.” Xia Lian shakes her head, “They’re too sheltered to know the wonder of skinny jeans.”

Sighing, Wen Yuan gathers the rest of his robes, “I’m changing back now.”

When he closes steps behind the privacy screen – it does nothing to hide the voices on the other side of the room.

Xia Lian groans, there’s the sound of her falling onto her back, “I forgot how much I missed stuff like that until you got here.”

“Sorry,” Mo Xuanyu does not sound sorry, “Do you want me to tell you about how phones work now?”

“No! I feel old!” Xia Lian pouts, “Man, I’m not going to get any jokes once I’m out of here…”

“We call them, memes these days.” Mo Xuanyu doesn’t even attempt to hide that he’s teasing her, “And unfortunately they change quickly enough that I’m going to be behind soon.”

Wen Yuan struggles out of the ripped “skinny-jeans”. There far too large for him, and weird compared to the robes he’s grown up in.

There’s the sound of wind-chimes in the breeze – and a faint gonging noise. He almost falls over in his haste to finish changing.

“Oh!” Xia Lian claps her hands, “This will be A-Yus first move! C’mon!”

He hears her dragging him to his feet. And Wen Suyins little voice piping up, “Come on! Let’s go!”

“Move?” Mo Xuanyu asks.

The footsteps get farther away as Wen Yuan finally get’s the stupid jeans off and his normal pants on – without grabbing his shoes, he rushes after them.

“You already know the Shop moves,” Xia Lian rushes them, “But you’ve got to see how it works!”

A second ring of the gong, and the four of them – Wen Suyin now leading the way – burst out the back doors. The sky overhead is a light blue, a few wispy clouds pass them by as they take the turn around the Shop in order to get a good view of the front gate.

“It’s odd that we where here for so long,” Wen Yuan says, as they settle on the steps and wait for the last gong, “Usually the Shop moves around a lot, but we were here for at least a month!”

“It stayed when we first got here,” Xia Lian muses, “Maybe because there were new people?”

Mo Xuanyu looks at her, “The fact you all seem to know so little about this place is very worrying.”

“It’s magic.” Wen Suyin says with all the gravitas a seven-year-old can muster.

“Of course…” Mo Xuanyu sighs.

The third gong rings out and the world shifts.

The clouds above them suddenly move faster as the hue of the sky darkens to a deeper blue and then on into a riot of orange sunset – the shadows shifting fast enough to give Wen Yuan vertigo. Outside the fence the view races down the alley and onto the main street – as if the world was spinning but the shop was not and it’s dizzying and fun every time it happens.

When the Shop “locks” into place there is no fanfare – no sudden feeling of stopping. The view outside just settles on what looks like a rarely used path between a looming building and what looks like a gardening shed.

Mo Xuanyu blinks, “I think I’m going to throw up.”

“No!” Wen Suyin cries, while Xia Lian sighs in disappointment, “Yu-Gege it’s cool!”

Maybe it does take some getting used too, Wen Yuan thinks, or maybe it’s because it’s the only way him and Wen Suyin have really gotten to see other places – but for the two of them, it’s the best.

Behind them someone bangs on the flower shaped window, and then Wei Yings voice rings out, “So where are we today?”

“Don’t know!” Wen Suyin jumps up to try and grab his hands through the window – Wei Ying plays along, poking at her hands and drawing his own back, the two of them giggling as they go.

Xia Lian pushes herself to her feet and skips to the doorway, Wen Yuan on her heels.

“I think… it’s a school?” She guesses, “Everyone has backpacks…”

“Oh?” Wei Ying steps back from the window, his voice growing a little fainter, “Maybe it’s time for final exams and the kids are getting worried?”

Wen Yuan looks over the school, a massive well-kept yard and large stone building, there are gentian flowers growing around the shed nearby them. Eventually Wei Ying leaves the Shop and joins them by the Gates.

“Let’s see, let’s – “ Wei Ying cuts himself off, going pale.

Taking a small step closer to him, Wen Yuan asks, “Ying-Gege? Are you okay?”

“Shops closed today.” He sounds out of breath, “Someone get the closed sign.”

“There’s a sign?” Mo Xuanyu asks, while Xia Lian crosses her arms and exclaims, “Closed? We never close!”

“First time for everything,” Wei Ying says, surveying the view, “And we are Closed today – A-Yin, come help me make a sign.”

As he takes her hand and leads her quickly back to the doors, he turns to the three of them, “Do not let anyone in. We. Are. Closed.” This might be the most serious Wen Yuan has ever seen him be…

Watching him walk away – Wen Yuan frowns, having a subdued Wei Ying doesn’t feel right.

Mo Xuanyu looks confused, “So do we just tell anyone who comes in to leave?”

“I guess…” Xia Lian replies.

“Should we still tell them it’s a Wish Granting Shop?” Wen Yuan asks, looking up at the other two, “Because a whole building appearing out of no where might scare people.”

Xia Lian turns to Mo Xuanyu, and raises a single eyebrow.

“Why are you looking at me?” He asks dryly, “Isn’t there a system in place already?”

“We’ve never been closed before,” Xia Lian says, “I know about as much as you do right now.”

Someone clears their throat.

Wen Yuan turns around to find a man dressed in loose pale blues and whites, glasses perched on his nose as he regards them from just within the gates.

“Um,” Mo Xuanyu stares at the man, a faint blush starting to spread across his face, “Um – this, we’re… closed?”

The look Xia Lian gives Mo Xuanyu is equal parts pained and embarrassed.

“Do you have a permit?” The mans asks, “I was not informed of any events being hosted by the University.”

“What’s a permit?” Wen Yuan asks, tilting his head.

The man’s expression remains blank. “Is there an adult here?”

Wen Yuan isn’t too sure what that has to do with anything, but he knows what Ying-Gege said to do, so…

“The Yiling Wish Granting Shop is closed,” Wen Yuan says, as formally as he can, “If you want to talk to the Shopkeeper, you’ll have to come back later.”

“A wish granting shop?” The man repeats, he frowns slightly.

Wen Yuan nods.

“Ridiculous,” The man mutters, before clearly asking, “Which department authorized this?”

“Um,” When Mo Xuanyu answers, it sounds more like a question, “Folklore?”

The man crosses his arms.

Xia Lian puts her hands on her hips, “You can come back later, Xiansheng. It’s not like we can move the Shop, right?”

“I will be returning with campus security.” The man says, turning around, “Do not move.”

The second he exits the gates, Xia Lian grimaces, “This guy seems stubborn. We have to think of a way to keep him from coming back.”

“Do you know where the gong is?” Mo Xuanyu asks, “Can we use it to move the Shop?”

Xia Lian groans, “Oh, we’re stupid it’s a Wish Granting Shop! I’ll wish for it to move!” And with that she runs off.

Wen Yuan looks up at Mo Xuanyu, “Why was that man so angry?”

“Well, the Shop kind of just, materialized where it’s not supposed to be.” Mo Xuanyu explains, “So he’s probably confused, and thinks we’re playing a trick on him.”

“That would be mean.” Wen Yuan frowns.

Sighing Mo Xuanyu looks back out the gates, “It would.”

A gong rings out.

“Oh. He’s back!” Wen Yuan points to where the man is once more walking towards the shop, two men behind him in uniforms.

The second ring.

“This is probably going to make him believe you.” Mo Xuanyu raises a hand to wave at the man.

The two uniformed men share a look, when the man in white points at the Shop.

The third ring.

Wen Yuan sees the way the mans eyes widen in confusion and shock as the Shop moves. He wonders how it must look to someone from outside.

Mo Xuanyu drops to the ground, bringing a hand over his eyes, groaning, “I really am going to be sick…”

Chapter Text

Granny hands her the scalpel and Wen Qing takes it with steady hands, Wen Ning whimpers through the gag in his mouth – Granny runs her wrinkled hands through his hair.

She’s never done surgery like this before.

In the back of a van, with Fourth Uncle driving down the unpaved road, she can see the headlights from the other car behind them. There’s a walkie-talkie in Sixth Aunts lap that she holds with enough strength that the plastic creaks, and Zhao Zhiliu braces himself on the floor of the car, digging through the duffle bag for the suture-needle.

“A-Ning, I’ve got you – Okay?” She keeps her voice from trembling, and nods at Granny.

She doesn’t know how deep the bullet is lodged in her brother, she doesn’t have the ability to pull over and do this – not when she knows Wen Ruohan will be sending some of his men after them. Her whole world is narrowed to two mini-vans worth of people in the middle of some farmlands, and her uncles shadow.

She can’t stich the wound closed with it in – the bullet has to come out.

Wen Qing gets to work.

Her brother lets out muffled cries as she widens the cut around the bullet hole, holding her breath, she uses the flat of the forceps to shift muscle out of the way – and there she sees the small glint of metal, imbedded into the spot just between his sternum and left fourth-rib.

“Wen-Yisheng?” Zhao Zhiliu looks up at her, he has the suture kit in his hands.

“Hold him down.” She puts the kit on her lap as both Granny and Zhao Zhiliu shift to keep Wen Ning steady. “A-Ning, stay still.”

His screams ring in her ears.

-

--

---

Wen Ning is pale where he lies, his head in Grannys lap, Wen Qing holds his hand with her own bloody ones. What are they going to do now?

The empty landscape outside changes to a wooden fence – and the van rolls to a stop meters after it passes the gate.

Fourth Uncle frowns, taking the key out of the ignition before trying again. The engine gives a sputtering cough.

“Sorry,” the man frowns, “I don’t know what happened.”

Sixth Aunt smacks his arm with the back of her hand, “I told you to stop at that gas station!”

“It’s not the gas.” He grumbles.

“There’s not enough room for everyone in the other van.” Granny says, “Maybe this is an inn?”

Wen Qing pushes herself upright and grabs the door handle, “I’ll check – Auntie? Can you let them know in the other car?”

Sixth Aunt nods, finishing her tirade against Fourth Uncle, before lifting the walkie-talkie to her mouth, “Xifeng, we’re stopping here for now – how are the kids holding up?”

As she opens the door, Wen Qing hears Wen Xifeng start to answer, in the background Wen Bin Bin tells a story to A-Yuan and A-Lian.

The gateway leads to a poorly kept lawn, the grass is overgrown in places, while dead in others. The little pond is full of weeds and algae – along with a single lotus flower, while above her – the tree branches curl into each other. Weeds cover the space between the dirt-covered stone path.

The place seems very much abandoned.

Then she sees the hand.

Hanging out of one of the trees is an arm, and attached to the arm is a young man, sleeping in the tree. While not unheard of – it’s a little odd to see someone dressed in what looks to be formal hanfu sleeping in a tree.

He grumbles a little, and she realizes what’s about to happen a second before he rolls over in his sleep falling to the ground with a thump and a groan.

Shoving the robes out of his way, he sits up, before looking at her.

“Oh!” Sitting on the ground dirt on his face, he gives her one of the biggest smiled she’s ever seen, “Hello! What do you need?”

Her brother to be okay, her family to be safe.

“Is this an inn or something?” She asks, it’s far to big for one person.

He doesn’t bother getting up, “Nope, this is my Wish Granting Shop.”

She scowls, “How much would it cost for me to borrow one of your rooms? My brother is sick and needs rest.”

“Do you want to wish for him to be better?” The young man asks. “That’s probably costly…”

He’s delusional, Wen Qing thinks, He’s some mentally unstable man living on his own in the middle of nowhere.

There’s a moment, where she feels a pang of sympathy – the poor guy seems to have been abandoned here – but she has enough people to keep safe. She could… Play along? She doesn’t know enough about his medical history to know if pointing out the flaws in his logic would only worsen his symptoms, or if it would help…

“I wish,” she says, “That you’d let me and my family stay here for a while.”

He’s still looking up at her – the light catches his eyes and they seem red, almost glowing in the fading afternoon light. “What’s your name?”

There isn’t much harm, she thinks, there’s no mailbox for a newspaper, no electric cables for a TV, he can’t have heard about her yet. “Wen Qing.”

“The Price will be that you’ll all have to work here; you can’t leave unless I do.” He says, “Once you bring them in the gates, you won’t be able to leave.”

She can deal with that later, they outnumber him, for now –

“Deal.”

A wind blows through the yard, a magnolia blossom is pulled from the tree, and as it passes her by – she sees many more lotuses in the pond. The crow perched on the roof cries.

“You should go get them!” The young man finally stands – he’s around Wen Nings height, “I’ll see what I can do for your brother.”

Wen Qing walks back to the gateway, the man stops right before the stone gives way to dirt road, his toes just inside the threshold. She nods to Fourth Uncle.

“There’s a man living here,” She says, keeping her voice low enough that the man behind them shouldn’t be able to hear, “He said we could stay at his wish granting shop as long as we helped him. But that we can’t leave once we go in.”

Granny looks over the headrest, “Oh dear…”

Sixth Aunt rolls her eyes, “I think we can handle one man. Worse comes to worse, we give him a couple of whacks if he tries anything.”

It takes a few minutes for them to make a makeshift stretcher to carry Wen Ning – a few of the blankets they had managed to grab, the jumper cables from the boot of the car – Zhao Zhiliu, Fei Li and Xiao Dongmei each get ready to hoist it up. Wen Bin Bin attempts to keep the kids from staring at Wen Ning.

“Oh wow, he does look pretty rough.” The man says from the gateway.

Wen Qing narrows her eyes at him, and he bounces out of her way, “Are you going to open that door?” She nods in the direction of the building.

“I don’t know how,” He says, “I use the door in the back. Follow me.”

This just gets more and more suspicious, she looks back at the others, and allows herself a moment of doubt.

Then she follows him.

“I’m Wei Ying, by the way,” He says, as though this was a normal conversation, “It’s been a while since I’ve had visitors – I almost forgot about introducing myself!” He laughs.

“I’m A-Yuan!” A small voice pipes up behind her, before Wen Xifeng attempts to hush him.

They turn the corner towards the backyard and Wen Qing freezes.

There are mountains.

There had been no mountains visible from the front of the property but now she sees a sweeping mountain landscape and the sun is in a different position.

She shares a quick look with a wide-eyed Granny.

Then Wen Ning makes a small pained noise, and Wen Qing springs into action.

“Put him down!” She says quickly – digging through the medical bag at her side.

“Ning-Gege?” A-Yuan calls softly, before he’s pulled out of sight.

Wen Nings breaths become ragged, his pulse erratic, Wen Qing doesn’t know what to give him – he has a fever but he also needs something for the infection and –

Wei Ying crouches down, “I’ll give you a free one.”

“What?” She turns to see him reach out a hand, before she can stop him – tell him off about sanitizing wounds – he puts his hand over the wound.

He grunts, a low pained sound, and draws his hand back.

Her brothers chest is fine.

There isn’t a stitched wound, there isn’t a scar, there isn’t even a bruise.

“What are you.” Her eyes are locked on her brother.

Wei Ying rubs at his own chest, right where Wen Ning had been shot, “I told you. I’m the Shopkeeper.” Then he collapses onto the veranda.

---

--

-

“What are you wearing?” Wen Qing stares blankly at Wen Bin Bin, who does a little spin.

“Well,” Wen Bin Bin answers, “I wanted to change, and all the clothes here are robes.”

She knows this, they spent all of yesterday sorting through the bedrooms – Wei Ying having warned them away from the Storeroom – but it’s still odd to see.

Wen Bin Bin seems to understand, and continues, “If we’re going to be staying here a while – we may as well dress the part.”

That’s the other thing.

After she had gotten Wen Ning settled, and Granny had set about putting the kids to sleep, Wen Qing had walked to the front gate and tried to leave.

It was like someone had put up a glass wall in the gateway.

Her attempt to climb the fence had had similar results.

“Come on Qing-Jie,” Wen Bin Bin takes her arm, “It’s not that bad a situation, is it? We don’t have to worry about Uncle, and there’s a magic fridge, and Wei Ying doesn’t seem that bad.”

As if to agree, there’s a peal of laughter from A-Yuan outside the nearest window.

Wen Qing sighs, “I’m sorry. I should have discussed this with all of you first.” She’s just gotten them all trapped here.

Putting a hand on her shoulder, Wen Bin Bin, looks her head-on, “You had no way of knowing this was an actual magic shop, and regardless, we all know what would have happened if we had stayed there. It’s not what I was expecting to do with my life – but this is where we are,” She smiles, “So we’ll do what we always do, and make the best of it.”

“Alright,” Wen Qing says, “Alright.

“Now let’s pick out something nice for you to wear!” Wen Bin Bin drags her towards the dresser, “I think a ruqin would suit you best – we just need to pick a waist height…”

Wen Qing wonders what, exactly, she's gotten herself into.

Chapter Text

Wei Ying buries his face in his hands and moans, “Why is my luck this bad? First that awful guy and now you.”

“Wei-Xiong,” Nie Huaisang sips his tea, “Why are you being so mean to me? Aren’t we friends?”

Sure, Nie Huaisang hasn’t seen Wei Ying in almost thirteen years, and sure, the last time they hung out had ended with insults – but that’s how friends talk to each other!

The point is, they are friends, and Nie Huaisang is happy to see him – even if he’s apparently gone crazy and thinks of himself as a magic shop owner.

“You’ve worried Jiang-Xiong sick!” Nie Huaisang tells him, “What happened to you?”

“I told you,” Wei Ying refuses to look at him, “I can’t talk about it! I just have to stay here and run my Shop.”

In that case, Nie Huaisang will have to find some way to bring Jiang Cheng here.

“No.” Wei Ying straightens up and points at him, “Nie-Xiong, I know that look! It’s a bad look, it’s a look that happens before I get in trouble.”

Nie Huaisang raises an eyebrow, and Wei Ying wails, dropping his head onto the table, “That’s an even worse look!”

Taking pity on him, Nie Huaisang reaches out to pat his hair, the length is quite impressive – he almost wants to play around with it a little…

“If Wei-Xiong can prove he’s telling the truth then, maybe I won’t tell them.” He says.

“Mmm,” Wei Ying slowly straightens up, “I could show you my ocean jar?”

Nie Huaisang flicks open his fan, narrowing his eyes and looking at Wei Ying.

Wei Ying sticks his head out of the door, and yells down what Nie Huaisang assumes to be a hallway, “Someone get me my ocean jar please!”

“Get it yourself!” A woman yells back.

Leaning further down the hallway, Wei Ying shouts, “I’m with a customer! Help me out here!”

He hears the sound of rolling wheels, and Wei Ying moves back from the door as a young man with a ponytail pushes a jar on a skateboard into the room.

“A-Yuan, my dear sweet boy,” Wei Ying begins, and Nie Huaisang can tell he’s working himself up into one of his I-love-and-respect-you-so-much speeches, “If I ever have another son I would hope he could be half as good as you are, respectful and-“

“Ying-Gege, I have to get back to my textbooks,” A-Yuan says apologetically, “Please remember to put the ocean back when you’re done with it?”

Wei Ying pulls the boy in for a hug, “No problem,” He gives a quick kiss to the boys temple, before patting his back, “Off you go!”

As soon as the young man is gone, Wei Ying turns back to Nie Huaisang with a wicked grin, he suddenly remembers The Wine Incident from their first year at university, and when Wei Ying rubs his hands together, he remembers The Fire Turtle Debacle.

Maybe he should just leave while his eyebrows are intact…

“Take a look, Nie-Xiong.” Wei Ying near sings, prying open the lid of the jar, he rolls the cork across the back of his fingers, “If you dare.”

For as wild as Wei Ying is, he wouldn’t hurt Nie Huaisang on purpose. So he does move closer, cautiously looking into the clear jar. From the side, nothing appears to be wrong, and he frowns – then he looks from the open top.

“Why is there a boat?” His voice cracks.

Wei Ying bumps his head with his own, peering into the jar alongside him, “There’s a boat now! That’s new!”

Taking a closer look, Nie Huaisang thinks he can see tiny figures on the deck of the ship, the waves crashing against the side – he hears the faint cries of birds.

“You have a magic shop.” He looks up to meet Wei Yings eyes, “Wei-Xiong, how?

“I really can’t tell you,” Wei Ying says, putting the cork back into the jar, “But if you have a wish, I can grant it – for a price.”

There’s only one thing Nie Huaisang wants.

“Da-Ge is in a coma,” He says, fiddling with the fan, “I – I want him to wake up again. To be okay.”

Wei Ying whistles, “Mingjue-Ge? What happened?”

Shaking his head, Nie Huaisang replies, “A complication, he was – was allergic to something they gave him and – “ He breathes out, “It’s been two years.”

He can distantly feel when Wei Ying takes his hand, gives it a small squeeze, “To wake him up… I’d have to put you to sleep.”

“No.” Nie Huaisang shakes his head, “Could you imagine? Da-Ge would – he’d kill you, then me.”

Wei Yings other hand joins the first, “He really would.”

“Can you think of anything else?” Nie Huaisang pleads, “Any other price?”

His friend seems to think about it, the look on his face serious, “Maybe… no, not that. Hmmm…”

Absently, Nie Huaisang look at their hands, his nail polish is peeling at the ends, and Wei Ying – “I should bring you some red, your nails look weird without it.”

Letting out a small laugh, Wei Ying says, “That’ll only get you a small wish.” Then his eyes widen, “Oh! But I could grant a smaller wish! I have a doctor here, she’s the best, maybe she could – “

Several crows cry out in the distance, and Wei Ying frowns, “Another customer? Weird…”

“What would it cost to get your doctor friend to check on my brother?” Nie Huaisang asks, trying to get his attention back.

“Huh? Um,” Wei Ying wrinkles his nose, “Well, her price is to stay here, so with that…” He taps his nose, “I think you’ll have to stay here and help out until she gets back…”

“Deal!” Nie Huaisang may not be good at much besides writing, and painting, but he’ll do what he can!

Wei Yings eyes seem to almost glow red, it’s creepy – but somehow fits his look.

“Alright, we don’t have to do it now, of course.” Wei Ying sighs, “I’ll have to tell Qing-Jie first…”

The sound of footsteps approaches them, and Wei Ying makes a face, “Maybe you should hide for a minute…” he says, “I feel like there has to be a rule that you can’t meet other patrons.”

Nie Huaisang nods before looking around the room, other than the door further into the shop, or the door out, there’s only one other door. He opens it and sighs.

“You can make the joke when I leave.” He tells Wei Ying, before stepping into the small closet.

He can hear Wei Ying laughing from the other side of the thin sliding door.

Nie Huaisang does his best to keep from listening into the conversation, as much as he likes gossip – this somehow feels different – until he hears a familiar voice.

“The Yiling Laozu?” Jin Yao says, “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of you.”

That has Nie Huaisang pressing his ear to the door, what does Yao-Ge need? Maybe he also wants to help Da-Ge?

Then the whole sordid story comes out.

Nie Huaisang feels his hands shaking as he hears Jin Yao discuss keeping Qin Su quiet, how he killed Rusong and the Wens and –

He’s the reason - !

(Nie Huaisang doesn’t like to fight, he hates it – but for one moment, he imagines running out there and just, just, hitting and kicking and - )

Then Jin Yao scurries away like the rat he is.

The door slams open from the force of Nie Huaisangs push, his hands shaking, he wants something to ruin him, to get rid of that lying bastard.

Wei Ying looks up at him.

“Wei-Xiong,” Nie Huaisang keeps his voice clipped, “If I left you my fan, could I have something else?”

-

--

---

Jin Yao continues down the street, as though this were any other day and he wasn’t about to cover up several murders and a murder attempt.

Nie Huaisang holds the pocket-watch in his hand, and watches the hands click, click, click around.

He’ll return it to Wei-Xiong tomorrow, when he goes in to cover for Wen Qing.

Chapter Text

That fucking piece of shit, Xue Yang thinks kicking over a pile of boxes stacked in front of one store, fucking Song Lan and the damn Little-Blind and however the hell Xiao Xingchen got his fucking sight back.

It makes no sense!

None!

And now he’s on the fucking streets, again while the three of them are living it up like a cute little family.

Fucking disgusting.

Ahead of him, a woman crosses the street, shifting her son further away from him, he sneers at them. The flinch he gets from her is some relief.

How did Song Lan manage to get his sight back? Xue Yang knows his attack landed – but the man seemed fine.

“Xingchen-Ge!” Little-Blind pouts, “Can you tell me a story?”

“Hmm,” Xiao Xingchen pulls his legs up onto the couch as the girl leans against him, “Ah, I have one!”

“Is it like the last one?” Xue Yang asks, tossing an apple into the air before catching it on his knife, “Because the last one was pretty awful.”

“Shut up!” Little-Blind points about three feet to his left, “Geges stories are a thousand times better then yours!”

Xiao Xingchen laughs lightly, “Now now, don’t fight you two. A-Qing? Would you like one about a magic store?”

“A magic store?” She repeats.

“Yes, the – “

“The Yiling Wish Granting Shop.” Xue Yang muses, if he can find it, then maybe

It takes almost two more weeks, but eventually he comes across a fence like in Xiao Xingchens story, one hand on his knife, he saunters onto the property.

“ – Still!” A young woman complains, “A-Yu, it’s ridiculous, we have to do something.”

“Absolutely not,” the other voice responds, “There’s no way it ends happily.”

Xue Yang catches sight of them, they look about his age, and dress in flowy robes. They’re crouched on the grass by the corner of the building, looking into the backyard.

“It could, and even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t take away from them being happy now.” The girl says.

The boy opens his mouth to respond, but seems to catch sight of Xue Yangs shadow stretched out across the grass. “Ah!”

“This the Yilling Wish Shop?” Xue Yang walks towards them, slow and calm.

Pretty-Boy ducks behind his friend, and Eyepatch crosses her arms, “It is. It’s rare for someone to know about the Shop in advance.”

“I’ve heard about the place.” He replies, giving them a smile. Pretty-Boy blushes, while Eyepatch doesn’t seem to care.

“The Shopkeeper is, um, occupied?” Pretty-Boy says wincing, “We’ll, let him know?”

Eyepatch nods, keeping herself between Xue Yang and her friend. Not that it would do much – the two of them don’t look like they’d be much of a fight. Not even enough to be fun.

“After you.” His grin widens as he follows them into the backyard.

He’s not sure what he expects a wish shop owner to look like – but it’s not this.

It’s either the stone-faced guy in dad-clothes (unlikely), or the giggling man in robes hanging off of him (more likely – but also what?), either way, he’s not impressed.

“So do you still do handstands and yoga?” Robe-Guy says, brazenly feeling-up the others arm, “I mean, you must! Your arms are really impressive, Er-Gege…”

Stone-Face sighs.

“I can’t take much more of this…” Eyepatch mutters, before raising her voice, “Laoshi! Customer!”

Robe-Guy looks up, detaching himself from Stone-Face, and unsuccessfully trying to reclaim some dignity as he walks over.

“Hello,” He says, with a smile and a nod, “I’m the Yilling Laozu, welcome to – “

“The Yiling Wish Granting Shop,” he interrupts, “I know.”

Yiling Laozu freezes, “Ah.”

“So how does this work? I tell you what I want and you make it happen?” Xue Yang asks.

“I mean, there are rules,” Yiling Laozu says, “And you have to pay a cost.”

“Can you get rid of someone for me?”

Stone-Face narrows his eyes, “No.”

“I wasn’t asking you.” Xue Yang keeps looking at the Yiling Laozu.

“Well he’s right.” Yiling Laozu is frowning now, “I can’t kill people, or make someone fall in love with you – if that’s what you were going to ask for next.”

“I mean, you don’t have to kill him,” Xue Yang shrugs, “Just send them somewhere. Far away. Forever.”

“I don’t think that’s what you really wish for.” The Yiling Laozus eyes go cold.

Xue Yang hates the way he’s looking at him.

“I don’t need him to love me.” He scoffs, “I just want him to stay with me. Can you do that?”

“I… could.” Yiling Laozu says.

Stone-Face grabs his sleeve, and Yiling Laozu and him share a look. It reminds Xue Yang of Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen before and he grinds his teeth.

“Then do it.” Xue Yangs shoves his hands in his coat pockets – running a thumb over the handle of his switch-blade.

“He won’t see you, or hear you.” Yiling Laozu says, “There will be no way for him to interact with you – but he’ll stay near you”

That’s fucking bullshit.

“What the hell does that do for me?” He snaps, “There’s no fucking point!”

“That’s the deal.” Yiling Laozu smiles, Xue Yang hates it.

He tightens his hold on the knife, “I’ve got a deal for you.”

Springing forward, he manages to get a grip on the Yiling Laozus hair as he brings them both to the ground, knife pressed to the older mans throat. Pretty-Boy cries out in shock, and Eyepatch pushes him back. Stone-Face is finally showing some expression – he looks like he wants to strangle Xue Yang.

“Does this change things?” Xue Yang asks, he can’t help but run his thumb over the point where the blade rests against flesh. He can picture the way the blood would splatter on the ground and his hands.

“Not really.” Yiling Laozu doesn’t seem to care all that much about the knife at his neck. “I can’t do what I can’t do.”

Stone-Face takes a small step forward, and Xue Yang clicks his tongue against his teeth, pressing the blade harder, a thin line of red trickles from the cut.

“How about if I slit one of them open?” He jerks his head towards Pretty-Boy and Eyepatch, “Would that change your mind.”

Yiling Laozu sighs, “It’s not about changing my mind – I can’t do it! There are rules, and costs. If you can’t pay, you don’t get a wish.”

Xue Yang did not come all this way to fail now, he refuses.

The blade presses harder, and underneath him, Yiling Laozu shudders, letting out a little cough.

Then there’s pain.

Xue Yang howls, reeling backwards and grabbing at the arrow?! Sticking out of his shoulder?!

On the other side of the yard, a man who looks seconds from tears lowers his bow, hands only now starting to shake.

With one-fucking-hand, Stone-Face picks him up by his collar, the other hand locks around his wrists hard enough to bruise.

“Good shot, A-Ning!” Yilling Laozu calls out, rubbing at his throat.

Stone-Face then walks him to the gate, and fucking throws him out, he lands on the shoulder that has an arrow sticking out of it and howls again.

Yilling Laozu looks out at him, and Stone-Face leans down, saying something to him quietly.

“You’ll have to clean the windchimes.” Is the quick response.

Stone-Face takes Yiling Laozus hand in his own, “Deal.”

As Xue Yang shoves himself to his feet, he lunges forward once more – only to trip over air and end up sprawled in the middle of the alley he first found the shop.

What the fuck.

Chapter Text

She recognizes Lan Zhan when he knocks on her door, he doesn’t share classes with Jiang Cheng now, but they did before university. What takes her aback is the blatant expression on his face, his eyebrows furrowed and a frown on his lips.

He nods in greeting, already looking over Jiang Yanlis shoulder, “Is Wei Ying here?” he asks, voice barely a tone away from begging.

She shakes her head, “Ah, I’m sorry. We don’t know where he is.” She’s more concerned with Jiang Cheng, still in the hospital – they had only moved him from intensive care last night.

Lan Zhan freezes in place, “Missing?”

“Yes,” She watches his hands, held stiffly at his side, clench, “When the ambulance arrived for A-Cheng, Wei Ying was nowhere to be found.”

He continues to stare it her, “Missing…” He says again, voice much softer.

Reaching out a hand, she rests it on his forearm, “I’m sure he’ll turn up.” She isn’t, but judging from what Zixuan had said after she woke up – Wei Ying doesn’t seem like the type to just leave them without saying anything. He wouldn’t want to worry you, A-Li, had been her husbands declaration.

“Are you not worried?” Lan Zhan looks up, finally meeting her eyes, she almost flinches back at the look on his face.

“I…” She knows Lan Zhan as Jiang Chengs one-time classmate, not someone she herself was close with, there’s no real reason to tell him about her condition, but the way he said Wei Ying… “I don’t remember him.” She confesses, “I don’t know how, or why, but I can’t remember him.”

-

--

---

Even though she doesn’t remember him, Jiang Yanli thinks she misses Wei Ying. It’s in the little things, the everyday moments where they act without thinking and she can feel the place he used to be.

It takes almost a year for her to get out of the habit of setting an extra place at dinner.

Sometimes when Jiang Cheng tries to pick a fight with Jin Zixuan, they both pause, as though expecting someone else to cut in.

When Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng would fall asleep on the couch after playing video games and she brings a third blanket.

The small neglected garden in her backyard and the dying potted plants in Jiang Chengs dorm room – she does her best to keep them alive, but she can tell that there used to be a second set of hands helping her.

Sometimes she looks through the photo albums tucked away in the bottom of her dresser, her, Jiang Cheng and Wei Ying growing up together. Some of the photos she can match to specific stories that she’s heard from either her husband or her brother, sometimes – sometimes – she thinks she can almost remember them herself, only for it to slip away.

(The doctors have no idea how this happened, it’s not retrograde amnesia, or anterograde, one doctor had thought she had repressed the memory, but it had been too specific in what she couldn’t remember, another had thought it lacunar, but she has no brain damage to account for it.

After the eighth doctor had treated her as some sort of science project, a problem to be solved rather than a person to be helped, she and Zixuan had agreed to stop seeing them.)

There’s one candid photo that she thinks is one of her favourites, it’s off centre and slightly blurry – but she sees herself in her wedding gown, and Jiang Cheng and Wei Ying clinging to each other crying. She can barely make out Zixuan in the background, hiding his face in his mothers shoulder.

She sighs and sets the album down on her bed.

---

--

-

It’s odd, missing someone you don’t know.

It’s almost like thinking there’s an extra step at the bottom of the stairs, it’s unnerving – but ultimately it doesn’t hurt. It startles but doesn’t scare.

She sees how it affects Jiang Cheng and that hurts, sees how her brother blames himself for it – and she finds herself angry with Wei Ying for putting him through this.

Then Jiang Yanli takes a breath, and lets it go.

Her thoughts turn to Qin Su, the woman had only woken a few days ago. Jin Zixuan ought to be at the hospital with her now, as they attempt to sort through the mess of lies. It’s truly awful, what’s she’s been through, learning about what Jin Yao had done.

They plan to see if she’ll move in with them, her parents are on the other side of the country – and even if they weren’t, Qin Su is her friend, Yanli will do what she can to help ease her burdens.

She kicks one of the stones on the path in front of her, she had thought a walk would be nice – the cooling fall air, the fading sunlight – but instead she finds herself feeling melancholic.

She hears the sound of laughter on the wind, and pauses. Ahead of her, is a fence – barely visible between the trunks of the trees.

It’s an odd place for a house, in the middle of a park, but Jiang Yanli supposes she can see the appeal.

It may be rude, but she’s curious, so she finds herself peeking in through the gates as she passes them, and she’s taken aback by the sight.

Lan Zhan is there, sitting on the steps to a large, traditional-styled house, next to him and braiding dark blue flowers into his hair, is a man she doesn’t know. He snickers into Lan Zhans shoulder, and tugs on a lock of hair.

“Ah, Lan Zhan,” The man adjusts his position, resting his chin on Lan Zhans shoulder, “Look how pretty you are! Gentians suit you too well, this is unfair. I never look as lovely when the kids do this for me…”

“___ ____ does not need the flowers to look lovely.” Lan Zhan says simply.

As the man squeaks and blushes, lightly hitting Lan Zhans chest, Jiang Yanli shakes her head, that odd ringing in her ears…

“Rude! That was too much, you’re not allowed to compliment me without warning!” The man pouts, something about his expression makes her want to pat his head.

Lan Zhan plucks one of the flowers from the pile on the other mans lap, and gently sets it behind the mans ear. “Very lovely.”

“No! Nope! Not allowed!” The man drops backwards, lying on the wooden veranda and pulling his knees to his chest, flowers scattering on the wood around him, “That’s it, you’ve finally become more shameless than me. Why are you like this?”

Jiang Yanli can’t help but laugh a little, it’s sweet, she thinks, and somehow makes her feel very happy. And as if she was right about something.

At the sound of her laugh, Lan Zhan looks up, and meets her eyes, freezing in place.

“___ ____,” The odd static returns as he speaks, “It’s…” His voice trails off, unsure.

The man hums, before pushing himself upright.

He looks at her as if she has just broken his heart.

“Ah,” He blinks, and forces a smile onto his face, as if she couldn’t see the tears at the corners of his eyes, “You…”

“Sorry,” She doesn’t know why she wants so badly to comfort him, it aches, “I didn’t mean to intrude – I only noticed Lan-Xiansheng, and…” And what?  She had felt like staying to tease them?

Where had that thought come from.

“Well if you know Lan Zhan, then you know he never lies,” The man says, tucking his shaking hands into his sleeves, “So I’ll have him do the usual introduction for me!”

Lan Zhan turns to the man, slight panic on his features, “___ ____...”

“It’s fine,” The man smiles up at him, it’s small and wistful, “Just use my title, okay?”

They share a look for a moment, and once more she feels the urge to tease them, even as she feels slightly embarrassed by the clear affection in their gazes.

“Mn.” Lan Zhan finally nods, “This is the Yiling Laozu, this is his Wish Granting Shop.”

Jiang Yanli blinks, “… I’m sorry?”

“A Wish Granting Shop,” This… Yiling Laozu repeats, “As the Shopkeeper I can grant any wish you have – for a price.” He pauses, “The cost is negotiable though, and you – you seem like a wonderful person so, so maybe I can wave the cost.” His voice shifts to an almost pleading, hopeful tone.

Lan Zhan frowns, “Do not push yourself.”

“Don’t worry so much,” Yilling Laozu pinches his waist, “I know what I’m doing.”

“Doubtful.”

The Yiling Laozu narrows his eyes, “Was that a joke? That was a joke, I’m sure…”

“I don’t have any wishes though,” Jiang Yanli thinks out loud, “There are things I want, yes, but this doesn’t seem the way to go about it.”

Once more, the Yiling Laozus face falls, and Lan Zhan speaks up, “You must have something.” He looks like he could be begging, “Something important.”

She thinks of that extra place set at dinner, of Jiang Cheng hunched over in his hospital bed trying to keep her from seeing her tears, of her own voice – higher and softer – calling A-Ying

“I don’t remember someone,” She starts, “I have a brother – he’s missing, but I can’t remember him.”

The Yiling Laozu, nods gently, and he takes a few hesitant steps away from Lan Zhan and towards her, she finds herself matching him, step for step.

“I can’t miss him,” She hasn’t… She hasn’t really spoken this out loud before – too determined to keep her A-Cheng from feeling upset over it, “I don’t remember him so I can’t miss him.”

“That makes sense,” The Yilling Laozu looks a second away from breaking into tears, “It’s nothing to feel bad about – “

“But I do miss him.” Her voice cracks, “I don’t remember Wei Ying but I know he was there and that I love him like I love A-Cheng. I set a place for him at dinner sometimes, or make something too spicy, or, or – “ She lets out a breath like a sob, “Why can’t I remember him?”

He is crying now, and he takes her hand in his, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry – you shouldn’t have to, have to feel like this.”

“I want him back,” She drops her head onto the mans shoulder, “I want my A-Ying back…”

He laughs.

She pulls away from him as he laughs so hard that he loses his balance, she grabs at his arms to steady him.

“Okay, I can – I can do that.” He looks at her with absolute trust, “Thank you.”

And he presses a kiss to her forehead.

For a second, she doesn’t understand – and then those memories, the ones that had been just the littlest bit different from A-Chengs, the ones he hadn’t even been able to tell her about, the ones she forgot. They’re there.

And when she looks back up, the face isn’t unfamiliar, the static is gone and she hears Lan Zhans voice saying Wei Ying, even as she couldn’t hear it before.

A-Ying.”

She pulls him back towards her and holds him as tightly as she can, he’s crying now, hiding his face in her shoulder as if he was six and it was his first night with them, he’s eleven and one of the neighbours dogs had chased him, he’s eighteen and Jiejie I don’t know what I want to do, tell me please.

“Oh, you silly boy,” She tightens her hold on the back of his robes, “What did my A-Ying do? Didn’t he know we’d miss him.”

“Jiejie I, I had to.” His voice is muffled, “I had to.”

“I trust you,” She runs her fingers through his hair, “But you have to come home now.”

All at once the wind-chimes hanging from the trees and the eaves ring, the pond full of lotus flowers sways in the wind, and with a loud click the front doors of the shop open.

Lan Zhan moves to step in front of them, and Wei Ying puts himself in front of her.

The woman who walks out of the doors is graceful, her hair silver and pinned back with a comb of azaleas and cherry blossoms, she’s dressed like Wei Ying, dark robes, layer over layer. She pauses after her feet pass the threshold, holding a hand out behind her slightly for another woman who follows. Just as elegant as the first, but dressed in blues and whites, an ornament of silver-wrought clouds and orchids holds back her hair.

“Well,” The woman in black says, “You were right.”

Wei Ying doesn’t let go of Jiang Yanlis hands, but he does step towards the woman, “Of course, Jiejie always saves me!”

Laughing, the woman comes forward, closing the door behind her, “I understand. Thank you for helping me.”

The woman in white sighs, “You left someone so young in charge?”

“I didn’t have much choice, dear,” The woman in black grins, “And I think he’s done quite well, look at my pond.”

The woman in white raises an eyebrow, “I don’t remember you digging it out.”

“But you did give it to me.” She tugs their joined hands.

Wei Ying clears his throat, “What happens now?”

The woman in black holds out her hand, “I’ll take back the Shop, and you and yours can be on your way.”

“Just like that?” Wei Ying tilts his head.

The woman in black says, “You’ll have to sort out what you’re going to tell everyone, unless you want to make another wish?”

“No thank you,” Jiang Yanli says firmly, holding Wei Ying to her side, “That won’t be necessary.”

Lan Zhan nods in agreement, “Mn, Wei Ying has done enough.”

“Wei Ying has,” The woman agrees, “So now you can take your people and take a rest.”

As soon as she finishes speaking, Wei Ying collapses, Jiang Yanli manages to catch him, before Lan Zhan quickly scoops him up and into his arms.

“A-Ying!”

“He’ll be fine,” The woman in white says, gently, she moves to steady the other woman, “Transferring ownership takes a lot of energy.”

“He is free now?” Lan Zhan asks, not taking his eyes of Wei Ying.

“A part of the Shop will stay with him.” The woman in black says, “But he won’t be able to do any wish granting out there.”

Jiang Yanli sighs, “Let’s take him home then.”

“Don’t forget the others.” The woman in black says.

“Others?” Echoes Jiang Yanli.

Lan Zhan sighs, “Many others.”

Turning back to her brother, Jiang Yanli brushes his hair out of his face, “A-Ying… You’ll have a lot to explain when you wake up.”

That’s fine though.

He’ll have help.

Chapter Text

With a last kick aimed at Jingyis ankles and dodging Zizhens attempt to put him in a headlock, Jin Ling scurries across the crosswalk and towards his home.

“Don’t forget to send me the notes!” Jingyi shouts, waving his arms wildly, even as Zizhen begins to drag him away and further down the street.

Jin Ling does not stick his tongue out, that would be immature. Instead, he rolls his eyes and texts a quick knife emoji. He can hear Jingyi squawking in response from half-way down the block.

Smirking, he digs through his pocket to get his keys in order to unlock the front door. The small lotus keychain rings a little as it knocks against the metal of the doorknob.

The first thing he notices are the many, many pairs of shoes that have been shed in the entryway. He blinks.

Pressing himself against the wall to keep the floor from creaking too badly, he slowly makes his way out of the entryway and to the main room. The sound of voices drifts his way – he narrows his eyes, he can’t remember if mom or dad said anyone was coming over today.

He carefully peeks into the room.

There are a dozen people in robes? Laying the spare sheets and blankets out? Jingyis uncle-or-cousin (he doesn’t know how Lan Zhan is related to his friend, and they’ve known each other too long now for him to ask) is carrying an unconscious man in his arms? Jin Ling watches his mother help an old woman seat herself on the couch, and at least that part makes some sense.

He debates moving past the door as quickly and quietly as he can (his mom would be disappointed, so the idea is immediately dismissed), or just backing out and calling from the front steps – he can pretend he forgot his key.

“A-Li, I’ve got the – A-Ling?” Jin Ling sighs as his father comes up behind him, grocery bags in his arms, to completely blow his cover.

Jiang Yanli leans out from the doorway, “Thank you, love,” She smiles at Jin Zixuan, before turning to Jin Ling, “A-Ling, you should have said something, why are you hiding in the hall?”

He makes a face, “Why are there so many people over?”

His mother usually smiles, but there’s something about this smile that seems brighter than usual.

“I’ve found someone very important on my walk earlier,” Jiang Yanli says, “And he seems to have gotten himself into quite a situation while I wasn’t around to look after him.”

What does that even mean?

His father seems to agree, and Jin Zixuan asks, “What do you mean?”

Jiang Yanli grasps them each by a hand, and half-answers, half-laughs, “I’ve found A-Ying!”

Jin Zixuan almost drops the bags he’s carrying, Jiang Yanli barely catching them as they slide out of his fingers – Jin Ling just stares.

“Are – are you sure?” Jin Zixuan asks, face twisting, “A-Li, you don’t – it may be someone trying to take advantage of – “

She shakes her head, “It’s him. I remember him. It’s quite a story.” She places the bags down, before bringing up a hand to cup Jin Lings cheek, “When he wakes up, would you like to meet your Dajiu?”

---

--

-

It’s not until he’s in his room, sitting cross legged on the bed with Fairy tucked against his side that he realizes his mother never explained the robed people. Or Jingyis uncle-cousin. Or if she had called Jiujiu to tell him.

And when she said she remembered! How?! It doesn’t make sense!

His phone dings from where he’d tossed it onto the pillows earlier, and he spare a quick glance to the video of a couple of puppies playing together that Zizhen has sent – ignoring Jingyis pleading text for the history notes.

Hopefully things will actually make sense in the morning.

He doubts it…

-

--

---

What he wakes up to, is shouting.

And while having his Jiujiu shout first thing in the morning is not uncommon – is in fact, a regular occurrence when Jiang Chen is around – what is weird is the contents of his shout.

“- Like an idiot! Talk! About! Your! Problems!” Jin Ling can almost hear the way Jiang Cheng is grinding his teeth in frustration, “Do you know how much fucking trouble you are?! I’m going to break your legs and – “ He’s cut off by a weird thumping noise.

Jin Ling takes his time getting dressed, before opening the door and letting Fairy out ahead of him.

She seems excited by the prospect of greeting Jiujiu, and bolts down the hall. Immediately someone screams, voice shrill in terror.

“Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan save me!

What Jin Ling walks into is this:

His Jiujiu laying on his stomach on the floor, the robed strangers sitting around the living room, his dad trying to hold Fairy back by her collar, and Lan Zhan holding a grown man in his arms as if the guy weighs nothing at all while his mom gently rubs the guys arm.

“A-Ying, it’s okay,” She says softly, “Fairy is a good girl.”

The main wails, hiding his face in Lan Zhans neck and trying to curl up into a smaller target.

“A-Xuan, could you…?” Jiang Yanli starts quietly.

Jin Zixuan nods, “Fairy, outside time. He’s enough trouble without you scaring him.” He leads Fairy out into the backyard, which is absolutely unfair – she hasn’t gotten her food yet!

Jin Ling is about to say this, but then his mom is there, holding one of his hands between both of hers, “Come on, A-Ling.” He falls silent, and follows her.

By now, Jiang Cheng has gotten up, and he glares at the man in Lan Zhans arms, “I’m not done with you! Wei Ying, what the hell were you thinking? When I woke up you weren’t there, and no one knew-!” He stops to catch his breath, “I’m going to kill you.”

The man finally leans out of his hiding place, but makes no attempt to get out of Lan Zhans arms, Jin Ling recognizes his face quickly – there are enough photos of Wei Ying in the house for him to know his Dajiu.

“Jiang Cheng, be nice to me.” Wei Ying says, pointing at Jiang Cheng, “Jiejie said you’re not married yet, and this is why. You need to be gentle with – “

“Oh, I’ll show you gentle.”

“With people or – “

“Get down from there so I can strangle you!”

Jiang Cheng lunges for him, but Lan Zhan takes a step to the side, neutral expression shifting into a frown.

Luckily, Jin Ling has the worlds best mom who immediately solves all the fighting.

“A-Ying, come meet my son.” She pulls Jin Ling closer towards the fighting.

Wei Ying finally pats Lan Zhan on the chest, “Okay, okay, you can put me down now.”

Lan Zhan does not.

Watching this – this – whatever this is, Jin Ling feels his face start to heat up. Most of the other strangers are distinctly looking away – a young woman with an eyepatch covers the eyes of a boy Jin Lings age, while a young man does the same for a girl who looks even younger.

“Come on Er-Gege,” Wei Ying did not say that. He did not speak those words. “Be a good boy.”

Wei Ying is the worst, he’s awful, Jin Ling doesn’t know why he ever wanted to meet someone who acts like this.

It does, mercifully, mean that Wei Ying is put down, though he doesn’t move out of Lan Zhans arms.

Then Jin Ling is dragged in front of him.

“Ah,” Wei Ying leans in to look at him, “You have Jiejies eyes…”

Jin Ling is used to being told he looks like his father, and acts like his Jiujiu – this is, no one has –

Wei Ying pinches his cheek, “Jiejie! Your son is so cute! Having you in his life must have cancelled out all the damage A-Cheng and the Peacock would have done.”

He doesn’t even have any time to think of response to that, before Jiang Cheng snaps, “What do you mean damage? I’ll damage you!”

Jiang Yanli laughs, “A-Ying, stop picking on A-Cheng.”

“But Jiejie, he’s only yelled at me.” Wei Yings voice goes nasal and childish, “I missed you all so much and he’s being mean to me.”

“Does my A-Ying want a hug?” Is his mom playing along?

Wei Ying opens his arms, pouting.

This leads to Jin Ling being pulled into what might be both the worst and best hug he’s ever had. It’s him and his Dajiu and Jiujiu and mom all hugging in the middle of a room filled with robe wearing strangers, but it’s warm and feels safe too.

Over his head, Jiang Cheng says in the quietest voice he can, “I missed you, idiot.”

“I’m back, didi.” Wei Ying says, just as quietly.

From outside, Fairy barks – and Wei Ying screams again right in Jin Lings ear.

That’s it, hug over.

Jiujiu does most of the work, shoving Wei Ying back into Lan Zhans arms, scowling once more. The eyepatch lady and the guy with make-up try to hide their laughter.

“Xia Lian, Xuanyu,” Wei Ying says, “Why are you laughing at me? How could you do this after everything we’ve been through?” and Jin Ling has a moment of wait, what – because he said Xuanyu like –

“Do you mean Mo Xuanyu?” Jiang Yanli asks, looking towards the young man.

The man nods, “Um, yes, that’s me?”

Jiang Yanli claps her hands together, “Oh, you should have said! You’re one of A-Xuans little brothers!”

Mo Xuanyu blinks, head tilting slightly, but Wei Yings face falls, “He’s related to the Peacock? But our A-Yu is a good kid!”

“Are you saying my dad isn’t good?!” Jin Ling puts his hands on his hips, and scowls.

Wei Yings face falls, “Oh that – I – well…”

Clicking her tongue against her teeth, Jiang Yanli brushes Jin Lings hair back, “A-Ying, be nice to my husband. Alright?”

“Yes, Jiejie…”

Jin Ling leans against his mom, as she puts her arm around her shoulder, and breathes out. This is going to be A Lot to get used to.

“A-Cheng, can you get A-Xuan?” Jiang Yanli says, still holding Jin Ling, “He should introduce himself properly to his brother.”

From his spot on the floor, Mo Xuanyu makes a face, Jin Ling can’t help but understand his discomfort. Being introduced to relatives you don’t know is weird, but at least –

“Wait.” Jin Ling stares at Mo Xuanyu, “So he’s my uncle too?”

Mo Xuanyu stares back at him.

Wei Ying cheerfully claps his hands together, “What a coincidence! Of all the people to wander into my Shop it was the guy I share a nephew with!”

This is going to be weird, watching his dad go through what Jin Ling is feeling right now is going to be so weird. He takes a breath in as his dad enters the room alongside Jiujiu.

“I guess I should call you Jiefu, huh?” Is the first thing that Wei Ying says when he sees Jin Zixuan.

Judging by the look on his fathers face – if people could actually spit blood like in his moms dramas, he would.

Chapter Text

She looks up at the full moon overhead, not a cloud in the sky, and holds up her wine in a toast.

 

“While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;

Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;

And I hear, from beyond Su-chou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,

Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.”

 

She pauses, because that’s good, but maybe…

 

“The reeds along the water are frosted in the night.

A cold moon and distant mountains have all gone grey.

Whose voice comes to me across the miles this night,

Dreamlike, distorted, as if from forts along the border?”

 

Better, perhaps, Baoshan Sanren thinks, tossing back the wine. Wondering how Lan Yi fares in whatever place she’s found herself. As she drinks the last of her wine, she closes her eyes, laying down on the cool tiles of the roof. The cries of night-bugs and distant birds. Outside her gates, she hears two boys talking, one breaks into a lighthearted laugh.

She doesn’t know how long it’s been since someone has come by. How long it’s been since she’s rested with Lan Yi tucked against her side, the two of them together forever as immortals ought.

The crunch of metal and a scream rings out, before the sound of a car, tires screeching against the pavement in their haste to leave.

Then soft pained noises.

She leaves the wine jar on the roof as she jumps to the ground, landing lightly and making her way to the entrance of the Wish Granting Shop.

There are two young men, both bloody and bruised, one of the two is awake, and gently shakes the others shoulder.

“Jiang Cheng?” His voice cracks, as he clings to the others side.

She can tell from here that this Jiang Cheng is not going to make it.

The other man looks up and around, his eyes meeting hers, “Please! Can you call an ambulance?”

They’re not to far from the front gates she thinks, perhaps…

“If you come here, I’ll see what I can do.” Baoshan Sanren says.

He nods frantically, pulling Jiang Cheng into his arms, repeating “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’ve got you A-Cheng.” Quietly under his breath.

He collapses as soon as they’re inside the gateway, blood dripping on the stones and lawn. “Please, please, help him!” He begs, “I’ll do anything!”

“It’s serious,” She says crouching next to them, “Tell me your name first.”

“Wei Ying,” He replies, “But my brother, he – “

“Would you make a deal with me, Wei Ying?” She sees her reflection in his eyes, tall, white-haired and red-eyed as the power of the Shop takes hold.

Wei Ying freezes, before tightening his hold on Jiang Cheng, “If you help him, yes.”

“It would normally take many years for him to return to normal after this,” She’s not sure how much medicine has advanced these years, but with the state his spine is in… “For all the years it would have taken to heal him, you’ll work here.”

Nodding, Wei Ying agrees, “Okay! I’ll do it!”

“There’s more.” Baoshan Sanren says, “That’s only the price for his long-term healing, there will be another to keep him alive.”

Wei Yings eyes widen.

She takes a breath, “He’s important to you, so you must give up something just as important. You have a sister, too, yes?”

“I can’t – “ Wei Ying starts shaking, “Jiejie…?”

“She’ll forget you.” Baoshan Sanren says, “She won’t remember you unless she wishes it herself.”

He closes his eyes, letting out a weak breath, “But she’ll be okay?”

“She’ll be fine otherwise.”

“Then I’ll do it.” Wei Ying says, “If they’ll be okay then it’s fine.”

“Your sister will have to find this place of her own will, if she is told to come here – or led here – your brother will regain his injuries.” The boy has to understand.

His eyes are determined.

“Alright.” She says, and places her hand on the top of his head. Immediately Wei Ying collapses to the ground, and she watches as the deep laceration on Jiang Chengs shoulder closes to a thin red line, listens as bones click and grind into place. She pulls him from Wei Yings arms and carries him to the gates, setting him down just outside the threshold. As her arms cross over – she sees them grow thin and wrinkled, time catching up with her slowly, if they remain outside for too long, they’d turn to bone and then dust.

Baoshan Sanren pulls her arms back in, and as they regain their youth she looks over Wei Yings cuts and bruises.

She’ll give him a free one, heal his injuries herself – what are a few more scars?

After, she shakes him awake, and he blinks blearily at her. “Mhmm.”

“Wei Ying, I have another offer for you.”

“What is it…” He sounds half-asleep, and the guilt hits her, but she continues.

“There’s someone I… I miss greatly. I would like to let you take over the Shop – at least until I find her.”

“Okay,” He closes his eyes again, “Missing someone isn’t fun…” He falls back asleep.

Baoshan Sanren leans down, resting her forehead against his, she thinks, you will be the Shopkeeper until I return. I will not find her until your sister finds you. The price seems fair, a promise of reunion for them both – but only after the parting.

He probably won’t wake up until after she’s left, but for now Baoshan Sanren picks him up and carries him into the Shop – while the night is clear here, it may not be when the Shop next moves. She decides on setting him down on the chair in the main room, and lays an outer robe over him.

Then she walks back out and to the front doors, placing her hand on the wooden carvings and pausing before sliding the door open.

“We promised, Lan Yi,” She says, “You built me this home, and I said I would save you.”

When the door closes behind her, she hears it seal shut.

She begins her search.

-

--

---

Lan Yis head is heavy in her lap, it’s comforting, and Baoshan Sanren continues to stroke her hair – both of them ignore the menace lying on the porch next to them.

“ – So they teamed up against me! Can you believe that? Both of them!” Wei Ying flings his hands up, clearly doing his best to have the light catch of the ring on his finger, “Qing-Jie always bullies me, but for Jiejie to join her?”

She wonders if she can reach the plate behind her without moving Lan Yi – while his visit was unexpected, he was polite enough to bring a treat – she hasn’t had nian gao in a while…

“At least I have my Lan Zhan to defend me.” He continues, “Hmm – what else do you need to know… Oh! Qing-Jie cut her hair, it looks very good on her.”

“Hmm,” Lan Yi hums contentedly, “Perhaps she can visit us later.”

Wei Ying sits up fiddling with something around his neck, “I’ll let her know.”

With a sigh, Baoshan Sanren asks, “I’ve looked through the records, that necklace was a price, yes?”

“Yeah,” Wei Ying pulls out the small jade pendant, “It still works, actually! If Lan Zhan needs me, he has an idea of where to go.”

She’s not surprised – wishes wouldn’t just stop because of a new Shopkeeper – in fact as a one-time Shopkeeper, there’s probably even more effects it should be having on him.

He twirls the chain around his fingers, the silvers clicks gently against his ring.

“Anything else to say?” Baoshan Sanren asks, finally giving in.

The reaction is immediate, Wei Ying throws his hand towards them, “I’m getting married! To Lan Zhan! Can you believe it? Ah, he’s so good – I must have done some real good in my past lives to have earned this!”

“Congratulations,” Baoshan Sanren says, “It’s good to have someone to spend your days with.”

“And nights.” Wei Ying cackles, “But I did come here for a reason! Is there a way I can get you two out of here for the party?”

It’s sweet, he doesn’t really know them that well – but consistently makes it a point to visit, he’s a good kid, Baoshan Sanren thinks.

“You want to invite us?” Is what she says, looking down to see Lan Yi smirk.

“Of course!” Wei Ying chirps, “If I hadn’t met you, what would have happened to my brother? And I’d never have met the Wens or Xuanyu, and who knows how long it would have taken for me and Lan Zhan to finally get together?” He crosses his legs and bounces in place, “So what do I have to do to get you to come?”

“Perhaps it would be better for you to visit us after,” Lan Yi closes her eyes and reaches for the plate, “We’re not quite good with crowds anymore.”

He leans forward, “Are you sure?” When Baoshan Sanren nods, he shrugs, “We’ll make sure to bring some food for you, it’s not going to be for a while though.”

“I suppose that means you’ll be visiting again before then?” Baoshan Sanren says.

Wei Ying winks, “It’s a deal.”