For a moment, Lan XiChen had no idea who that voice belonged to. He could hear that the voice belonged to a woman – a not so gentle woman, and she sounded very angry and impatient, but if he had to identify which woman that voice belonged to, he could only say that he had no idea. He opened his eyes in a daze to see that there were many people in his room.
His younger brother.
“Even if you all want to hand me over to the Lanling Jin sect and get rid of me as soon as possible, do you all not think that you all should at least let me check and make sure your sect leader is fine before I leave? Or is killing me more important than saving your sect leader’s life?” questioned Wen Qing.
Everyone in the room fell into silence at her statement. Lan XiChen slowly turned to her in bemusement before he abruptly remembered that he collapsed when he had just returned from his elder sworn brother’s funeral. He tried sitting up, and everyone in the room immediately turned their attention toward him.
Both Lan WangJi and Lan QiRen were at the side of the bed in an instant, scrutinizing and checking if Lan XiChen was fine. Lan XiChen gave an assuring smile to the two before he forced himself to stand up. Lan QiRen and Lan WangJi stood close to Lan XiChen, preparing to catch Lan XiChen if he were to lose his balance and fall.
“Uncle and all my Gusu Lan sect’s elders, I will not hand over the Wen remnants to anyone. They have done nothing wrong and I have promised them that Cloud Recesses will always be their home from the time that they started staying here. I do not wish to break my promise to them,” stated Lan XiChen firmly.
The elders pressed their lips into a thin line, obviously dissatisfied with the result they had ended up with. The look on their faces was clearly stating that the Wen remnants should be handed over to the Lanling Jin sect as soon as possible as with them staying here, they would only cause trouble to the Gusu Lan sect.
However, when one of the elders stepped forward and was ready to convince Lan XiChen to hand over the Wen remnants to the Lanling Jin sect, Lan QiRen spoke a second faster, “Enough. The sect leader has not recovered, and he needs rest. I believe this matter is not that urgent and we should leave this matter aside until XiChen is well enough to address this matter again.”
The elders looked reluctant to put the matter aside, but as they glanced at their young sect leader again, they noticed he was looking rather pale. They hesitated for a while before all of them agreed to discuss this matter again when Lan XiChen was fully recovered. In order to have their sect leader recover as soon as possible, the elders wished their sect leader to get well soon before they left so that their sect leader could get all the rest he needed.
Seeing that the elders finally left, Lan XiChen turned to his uncle and said, “Thank you, uncle.”
Lan QiRen glanced at his nephews before he turned to Wen Qing and heaved a sigh, “XiChen, you still look pale. Get some rest and do not worry about the sect. If there is anything urgent, I believe WangJi and I can handle it for you.”
Lan WangJi nodded in agreement. Lan QiRen turned to leave as he could see that his nephews might need some time to speak to Wen Qing.
Once Lan QiRen left, Wen Qing turned to Lan XiChen and bowed to him, “Thank you very much, Sect Leader Lan.”
Lan XiChen quickly reached forward to stop Wen Qing from being so courteous to him as he said, “Don’t. This is what I should do. Maiden Wen, please rest assured that I will not let any harm come to you and your family.”
“Sect Leader Lan, I am happy to know that you are willing to protect us, but you do not know just how much the other sects, Lanling Jin sect especially, want us dead. With just you alone, I do not think it is possible for you to protect us for long. Therefore, I only have one request. If the time comes, please spare A-Yuan. He is still so young, whatever the Qishan Wen sect did, it has nothing to do with him.”
“No,” Lan XiChen said, and Wen Qing looked up at him in shock.
“I will not let any of you be harmed. Just as WuXian said, you all did not participate in the war, especially A-Yuan who probably does not even have an idea why his family is being loathed in the first place. Besides, before WuXian…” Lan XiChen paused, feeling disheartened to say the next word as he continued, “the only thing that WuXian was worried about after he left Cloud Recesses was the safety of you and your family. Both WangJi and I promised WuXian that we will never let anyone harm you and your family.”
Wen Qing looked surprised. She turned to Lan WangJi who merely stared back at her before she turned back to Lan XiChen who offered her a gentle smile.
“That idiot. Still thinking of us when he is clearly the one in trouble,” said Wen Qing, a hint of fondness could be heard within her voice.
Lan WangJi lowered his head, feeling the pain in his heart returning at the mention of his ex-husband. He had been grieving for Wei WuXian day and night since he returned to Cloud Recesses, but when he heard his elder brother collapsed, he rushed to Lan XiChen’s room and as he was so worried about his elder brother’s condition, he had almost forgotten of the fact that he was grieving for a moment. Now that Wen Qing spoke of the man again and he was relieved now that he knew his elder brother was fine, he felt like crying again.
The next time Wei WuXian opened his eyes after he had fallen asleep in Nie MingJue’s embrace, the first thing he noticed was that he was in an unfamiliar place. He looked around and saw Nie MingJue standing not too far away from him. He suddenly remembered that it was Nie MingJue who brought him to this place to hide from the cultivators.
Just as he was struggling to sit up, Nie MingJue came to his side with a bowl of medicine in his hand. Nie MingJue helped Wei WuXian to sit up before he gently fed him the medicine. Wei WuXian who had no strength to take the bowl himself merely sat there and opened his mouth whenever he saw the spoonful of medicine nearing his lips despite how awkward he felt.
“You should eat something,” said Nie MingJue as he went to put the empty bowl of medicine away and returned with a bowl of congee.
It looked blank, but Wei WuXian could see the shredded chicken in it.
Again, Nie MingJue fed him the congee patiently. On the first taste of the congee, Wei WuXian could not help but frown a little at the tastelessness but he said nothing because after all, who was he to complain about the food? To put it bluntly, he was now considered to be a criminal on his run. He should be glad that he at least had food now. He continued to swallow the tasteless congee, and when he noticed Nie MingJue was still feeding him, he was about to raise his hands and tell him that he could eat it himself. However, before he managed to speak, he noticed the elder man’s fingers were injured. Wei WuXian slowly raised a hand up and held Nie MingJue’s fingers as he examined the wounds carefully. It seemed to be just a few small cuts, nothing the strong golden core could not heal in a short time.
Noticing that Wei WuXian was scrutinizing his injured fingers, Nie MingJue took his fingers out of Wei WuXian’s grasp and said, “It’s nothing.”
When the bowl of congee had been emptied, Nie MingJue walked away to probably wash the bowl. Wei WuXian moved, trying to get up to walk to Nie MingJue but ended up wincing in pain. He looked down at the part of his body that was in pain, and he finally remembered that he had stabbed himself with Bichen. Ignoring the pain, he did his best to stand up and walked to Nie MingJue. He felt guilty for only sitting and waiting to eat while Nie MingJue had to go out to get him food and even wash the bowl for him. The least he could do now was to help Nie MingJue wash the bowl.
“What are you doing? You should go back to rest,” Nie MingJue almost shouted in worry when he saw Wei WuXian walking to him.
Wei WuXian neither moved nor spoke, his eyes were fixed at what was placed in front of Nie MingJue. Besides the bowl that Wei WuXian had just emptied, there were four more bowls at the side which were filled with what should be considered as congee, but two of the bowls consisted of uncooked congee while another two consisted of burned congee. Apart from that, Wei WuXian could also see that there were a few broken bowls, and in the middle of those bowls were one dirty knife and one broken knife. As Wei WuXian continued to explore the mess further, he could also see –
Nie MingJue turned Wei WuXian around, refusing to let Wei WuXian stare at the mess he had created any longer as he guided him back to the bed. After telling the wounded man to rest, he went back to clean up his mess. He frowned at all those broken plates and the broken knife, suddenly feeling embarrassed that Wei WuXian had seen all these. Frankly speaking, this was his first time cooking. He did not expect that the knife and bowls could be so fragile, breaking almost as soon as he touched them.
Meanwhile, Wei WuXian who was on the bed was staring at Nie MingJue. He suddenly realized those few small cuts on Nie MingJue’s fingers must be formed from cooking. To have the great Chifeng-zun cooked for him (although it was tasteless), he wondered just what kinds of good deeds he had done to deserve it. For a brief moment, as he watched Nie MingJue cleaning his mess, he suddenly thought he saw the one washing the dishes was Jiang YanLi who had turned and smiled at him.
Wei WuXian was startled and he almost wanted to rush forward and embraced her, but he came back to his senses before he managed to stand. He knew she would not be here. He would no longer be able to see Jiang YanLi again. He felt tears welling up in his eyes at the thought of never being able to see Jiang YanLi again. He missed his Shijie so much.
Jiang YanLi was the only one who had treated him with the most kindness wholeheartedly in this world. That was what he thought ever since he left Cloud Recesses, but was she really the only one? He turned to see Baxia left on a table not too far away from him and turned back to see Nie MingJue.
Nie MingJue was the sect leader of the Qinghe Nie sect. Wei WuXian was sure this man had never cooked before, let alone washing dishes. This man was doing everything he had never done before for him. Nonetheless, by saving him, this man had lost his great reputation as the well-respected Chifeng-zun. He was nothing more than an accomplice of the Yiling Patriarch right now.
He felt both saddened and warmed at the thought.
He was saddened that Nie MingJue was here because of him. He should not be here. He should have been at Unclean Realm, continue being his well-respected Chifeng-zun.
At the same time, he felt warmed to know that someone was willing to be by his side even now. He had thought that the moment Jiang YanLi died, there would be no one else to stand by his side, and that was why he destroyed the Stygian Tiger Seal and even stabbed himself with Bichen. He felt there was no reason to live. He should leave the world and accompany Jiang YanLi, she must have been so lonely there.
He thought he could die in peace, and he certainly did not expect that someone would be rushing to Lanling to save him, and the one who saved him was none other than Nie MingJue. Did he even deserve to be saved? Why did Nie MingJue save him in the first place?
He remembered. Nie MingJue told him that he was important to him because he…
Now, that was another surprise for Wei WuXian. Since when, he wondered. He tried to think back on the time spent with Nie MingJue lately, and now that he thought about it, he realized he had been spending most of his time with Nie MingJue lately, especially since he and Lan WangJi had divorced.
No wonder Nie MingJue brought him back to Unclean Realm and even went to Burial Mounds and invited him to return to Unclean Realm with him. He was starting to think that if Jiang YanLi was not dead and he was not being accused of killing his senior martial sister, perhaps he would still be in Burial Mounds and would be staring at Nie MingJue who was really going to stay with him in Burial Mounds.
He wondered if Nie HuaiSang knew his elder brother was in love with him and he was suddenly interested in what type of expression his friend would be wearing. After all, Nie HuaiSang once joked about his elder brother was in love with him –
That was not a joke, he realized. Nie HuaiSang was trying to inform him and hoped he would reconsider his decision to get married to Lan WangJi back then.
And what did he do at that time?
He laughed and told Nie HuaiSang that he should not joke around or his elder brother would break his legs in anger.
He felt his face burning up in embarrassment. What a fool he had made himself to be. Nie HuaiSang must be laughing at his foolishness!
But then if it was true, did that mean Nie MingJue was in love with him even before he and Lan WangJi got married? Did he attend his wedding with a broken heart?
Wei WuXian clenched the bedsheet, too surprised with what he had just realized. Nie MingJue was too good. Too good for him. Even now, he stayed by his side at the expense of ruining his own reputation. Wei WuXian felt he did not deserve such a good man to stay by his side. Nie MingJue should leave him as soon as possible.
Hearing his name, Wei WuXian looked up to see Nie MingJue calling out to him worriedly. Wei WuXian stared at the man before him and he could immediately feel his heart beating a lot faster than usual for an inexplicable reason. He looked away from him, feeling that if he continued to stare at the man, his face would be in red soon.
"Is something wrong?" asked Nie MingJue.
Wei WuXian was in complete silence. He was about to shake his head when his eyes fell on those small cuts on Nie MingJue’s fingers, and he was immediately reminded of the fact that it was all because of him that Nie MingJue had those wounds on his fingers.
Wei WuXian clenched the bedsheet even tighter as he looked up, “Sect Leader Nie, you so openly saved me and got me out from all the cultivators, your name must be ruined by me by now. However, these people will never give up. They will find me and before they reach here, Sect Leader Nie still has the time to regret your choice. I will not mind if you hand me over to them or kill me here.”
“They will not find you. Everyone probably thinks you are dead by now,” said Nie MingJue.
“What is that supposed to mean?” asked Wei WuXian, bewildered.
“I… I made Burial Mounds exploded so everyone probably thought both of us are dead by now.”
“You… you actually did something like that?” Wei WuXian asked in disbelief.
Nie MingJue kept his silence, head bowed down like he was ashamed to face anyone at the moment.
“Fine. Then what about the Nie Sect? Are you ready to see your sect ruined by me?”
“HuaiSang knows my intention, so he promised to take my place as a sect leader.”
“You mean your brother, Nie HuaiSang?!”
Nie MingJue looked at him, not offering an answer.
“You are so confident that you can leave everything to Nie HuaiSang and that he will definitely take care of the sect well?”
Nie MingJue looked hesitated for a moment, but he still nodded as an answer after a while.
“You are doubting your decision.”
“You said before that HuaiSang is smart in his own ways. I believe you. Besides, I have said it before and I will repeat this to you as many times as needed. Right now, you are more important than anything else in this world.”
Wei WuXian was left speechless as he stared at how determined Nie MingJue was on this matter. The both of them were silent until Wei WuXian decided to speak up again, and what he said next made Nie MingJue felt his heart broke.
"You should not have done so many things for me. I am not worth it."
Nie MingJue dashed to Wei WuXian's side and grasped his arms, "Do not say that. I have told you before and I will repeat this to you as many times as needed. WuXian, you are very important to me. I am willing to do anything for you."
"Sect Leader Nie…"
"Don't think too much. You need to rest more. Although Lan WangJi did not stab any of your vital organs, you still need to rest more so that you can heal properly," said Nie MingJue.
Wei WuXian blinked his eyes in confusion, "Sect Leader Nie, I think you have misunderstood. Lan Zhan did not stab me. I took Bichen and stabbed myself."
Nie MingJue was infuriated, "Do you still intend to make excuses for him even after how he had hurt you again and again?!"
"What?" Wei WuXian was confused and surprised, "No, Sect Leader Nie. Lan Zhan really did not -"
"Fine," interrupted Nie MingJue, "if you really think so, then let's just pretend that this is how it really is!"
"Pretend? No, like I said, Sect Leader Nie -"
"Enough!" exclaimed Nie MingJue. He was still infuriated, but as he saw Wei WuXian frowning, he suddenly felt guilty. He had let his jealousy got the better of him and even shouted at an injured man.
The silence between the two men were getting awkward, and Nie MingJue suddenly remembered he needed to get out to buy more bowls and knives (in case he might be breaking more of them in the future), and he needed to buy more food too, so he took the chance to get out.
“I am going out for a moment. Stay here and rest,” stated Nie MingJue.
Wei WuXian watched Nie MingJue left and pouted. In the end, Nie MingJue still thought Lan WangJi stabbed him. But then again, was it really necessary to get so angry?
Perhaps, it was time to play him Cleansing to help calm the man?
But he had no flute. He felt he should ask Nie MingJue to buy him one next time, when he was not so angry at him.
Speaking of which, he had been staying here for a few days, yet he had no idea where exactly he was. He slowly walked towards the door and opened the door slightly, peeking outside and when he was sure there was no one, he started walking out of the cabin. It seemed that they were staying at a cabin located in the middle of a forest, which was great. Here, they could really hide away from the cultivators.
As he looked around, his eyes fell on those bamboo trees. He could make a bamboo flute with them. He walked to the trees and took out the knife that he had just taken out before he came out of the cabin. He cut down one of them and with the bamboo in his hand, he started making a few holes there. When he had finally made a complete flute out of it, he smiled in satisfaction.
Looking around, he realized he had been out for a while. He walked back to the cabin, only to see a furious Nie MingJue looking around and bumping into him. Widening his eyes, Nie MingJue quickly pulled him into the cabin and closed the door after checking that no one else was outside.
“Where have you been?!” questioned Nie MingJue, enraged and anxious.
“I just went out to get this,” said Wei WuXian as he showed Nie MingJue the bamboo flute he had just created. He stared at Nie MingJue worriedly, and when he saw that Nie MingJue seemed to have calmed down a little, he heaved a sigh of relief.
“Sect Leader Nie, please calm down and take a seat,” said Wei WuXian as he placed the bamboo flute under his lips and started playing Cleansing.
Seeing that Wei WuXian actually went out to make a bamboo flute merely to play him Cleansing, Nie MingJue could no longer be angry. He sat down and closed his eyes, seemingly relaxing more as the music continued.
Wei WuXian smiled, happy and glad that at least there was something he could do for Nie MingJue.