“Oh?” Xue Yang’s left nostril twitches as he and Wei Wuxian study each other inside the remains of the Yueyang Chang hall. The sect still inhabits it, only instead of with living souls it is with gore and stray body parts. When Jiang Cheng had first entered, he’d drifted off to the side to discreetly unload his stomach.
Xue Yang is a messy eater.
Xue Yang is also a monster, and he does not pretend to be anything less. He does not fashion his cultivation around himself as a glamour; he does not pretend to be any less vicious than his instincts tell him to be. If you were to see this creature down an alley at night, you would see him as a monster, and know to run.
A glamour is a subtle thing, and because of such, it works on even the most powerful cultivators. It’s a trick of the eyes, not of the soul. A persuasion works in much the same way.
It does not, however, work on those of the same kind.
Xue Yang breathes the isolated scent of Wei Wuxian and knows him instantly. And for the first time, a flicker of genuine fear flashes across his features.
Regular cultivators Xue Yang believes himself capable of handling. He can overpower. He can grin and lie. He can persuade.
Another vampire is another situation entirely.
Wei Wuxian smirks. In his mouth his fangs ache and oh, he is thankful the rest are outside searching for something he can already predict they won’t find, because he’s not confident he can hide the way his eyes flash red. Xue Yang held up with his wrist above his head looks every bit the perfect meal—prey, truly—that Wei Wuxian hungers for. In his veins thrums the blood of dozens of Chang cultivators, Xue Yang having eaten gluttonously despite being so wasteful. He longs for a taste.
Other tactics rendered useless, Xue Yang turns to insults. “A dog of the great clans, are you?” he sneers, expression twisted and ugly. “A rabid dog kept and muzzled. How does it feel to be strangled by Lan Wangji’s leash?”
Wei Wuxian does not try to stifle his laugh. When he does, his fangs flash in the filtered light of the lantern.
“Mn. Whose dog?” Lan Wangji asks, suddenly and silently as Wei Wuxian’s shoulder. His timing, as always, impeccable.
Wei Wuxian continues his giggles as he leans into Lan Wangji, too familiar and comfortable to be a gesture of only fellow cultivators on a joint Night Hunt. It is against decorum, bordering on inappropriate, yet Lan Wangji does nothing to dissuade the gesture.
Both Wei Wuxian and Xue Yang watch as Lan Wangji brings two fingers—belonging to the hand not currently curving towards Wei Wuxian’s hip—slick and glistening with blood up to Wei Xuxian’s lips. The vampire wastes no time licking them clean.
“Fresh,” Wei Wuxian notes, questioning. Lan Wangji nods.
“A mercy killing,” he says. There’s no way to know if this is the truth of not. The only choice is to take these words at face value. Xue Yang is sloppy.
A hysterical, disbelieving laugh bubbles its way out of Xue Yang’s chest and into the hall of the used-to-be Changs. Two eyes snap to him. Not the gazes of two watchful cultivators. Two predators, unfeeling and hungry.
Yes, he must now be realizing how well and truly unfortunate his situation is.
A single vampire is unusual, especially these days. The years of unfettered darkness have long passed—other demons remain, but vampires have mostly been hunted out of existence. The ones who haven't learned to blend, adapt, offer their services. Occasionally they crawl out of the Burial Mounds or, like Xue Yang, out of some other pit of despair. They are extremely dangerous, but not an impossible task for a well-trained group of cultivators.
Two, however, two is a separate story entirely. Two is a clutch, and when vampires come together they coil like snakes, sharing blood and power. And there is something deep in Lan Wangji’s eyes, something possessive aimed towards Wei Wuxian.
They circle Xue Yang, sniffing out their caught prey.
“We could,” Wei Wuxian suggests. “Jiang Cheng would know to look away. If we say we killed him in combat, it’s not a lie.”
Lan Wangji jerks his head to the courtyard. Out there, the gentry cultivators search for the yin iron they’re sure not to find. Wei Wuxian lets out an annoyed huff, one that says he would consider consuming Xue Yang and going ahead and killing the other cultivators, too, if Lan Wangji agreed to it.
“Wei Ying.” Lan Wangji says, reproachful. Though, his left pinky twitches. For him, that’s a laugh.
In the end, the decision is taken out of their hands. No one notices, but the pair bristle with discontent, instincts flaming up, when the Nie clan show up and steal away their rightful kill.
Not even enough time to search out more mercy killings. A shame.
Living blood does not flow through Lan Wangji, but his golden core nonetheless beats in his abdomen. Wei Wuxian presses perhaps too hard there, in bed with him having crept from his own room in the Unclean Realm. The shadows are his friends and spill no secrets.
He can feel Lan Wangji is restless—he can feel it in himself, too. Xue Yang’s presence has riled up both their instincts, and the constant hunger they face is even more poignant tonight. If only they could have drained him earlier.
As it is, however, Wei Wuxian only has a small snack from Jiang Cheng upon their arrival in the Unclean Realm. He shares it now with Lan Wangji, rolling over onto his back and tilting his neck to the side, pliant and exposed.
“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian moans softly when the other latches on. He presses hard against Wei Wuxian, trapping his legs and crushing his chest. Wei Wuxian understands what this feeling is—he needs to feel strong in the absence of a proper hunt, like he has subdued Wei Wuxian all on his own.
Earlier, when Wei Wuxian had fed from Jiang Cheng, it had been a dainty affair, like always. Two small pinpricks at the hollow of his brother’s elbow. Like a little child taking nibbles of their dinner.
There is nothing delicate about the way Lan Wanji’s fangs dig into the juncture of his neck where the veins are full and ripe. Gone is the legendary composure of the Second Jade of Gusu. In his place is the beast.
There is also nothing more pleasurable than this—besides the fresh blood of a pure soul—seeing Lan Wangji come so undone and filthy. Lan Wangji’s glamour is so careful, if anyone were to see them like this with hair splayed out, robes bloody, they wouldn’t be able to accept what their eyes were seeing. They would call it an illusion, a nasty trick.
But he does it for Wei Wuxian because the two of them are those snakes coiled together for warmth, nearly inseparable and completely obsessed.
No one—not Lan Qiren, not Lan Qingheng, not even Lan Xichen—can come close to understanding Lan Wangji like Wei Wuxian does.
Oh, how he loves it. Oh, how he delights in it.
Lang Wangji may love his human trappings, but he loves Wei Wuxian more.
None of this would be happening, Wei Wuxian thinks sourly, if we’d just killed Xue Yang earlier.
From where he stands at Lan Wangji’s side, Wei Wuxian glowers. All eyes in the hall of the Unclean Realm are fixed on them. Jiang Cheng’s is one of fear, Nie Huisang’s—confusion. Nie Mingjue looks as though he will take up his blade at any moment. His fingers itch for it.
With his venom tongue, Xue Yang has torn away their glamours. Wei Wuxian knows his eyes burn red; Lan Wangji’s, gold. They aren’t those young cultivators out on an adventure anymore.
“Clan Leader Nie,” Lan Wangji speaks calmly. The pulses of persuasion swirl around the edges, only noticeable to Wei Wuxian’s sharp ears. “Wei Ying and I’s identities are known to our respective clan leaders. It would be imprudent to act against Yunmeng and Gusu.”
“They should have killed you long ago!” Nie Mingjue growls out.
“Clan Leader Nie is also aware that blood feeders are not considered demons by the major cultivation clans,” Wei Wuxian adds in with more snark than is helpful. That has not stopped these same clans from hunting vampires to near extinction, but he leaves that point out. Objectively, his point is correct. The two of them have survived to this point because of the sentimentality of their caretakers.
“Da-ge,” Nie Huaisang murmurs softly. Beside the younger Nie stands Meng Yao, that nosey assistant with a clever tongue that stands unusually silent. “I’ve never feared Wei Wuxian at all. And if the other clan leaders know, then...”
“Clan Leader Nie!” Jiang Cheng steps toward and bows. For once, Wei Wuxian is thankful for his brother’s brashness. It’s heartwarming that his brother is so willing to stand up for him like this. It would be, if Wei Wuxian had a heart.
“I speak on behalf of Clan Leader Jiang when I say Wei Wuxian is indeed correct. These two are under the influence of their clan leaders. I take responsibility for Wei Wuxian. Despite his tongue—” Wei Wuxian whines softly in protest, “—he obeys all the laws and morals of man.”
“Lan Wangji’s reputation is indeed spotless as well,” Nie Huaisang says timedly.
“And Lan Huan?” Nie Mingjue grounds out.
Anyone else would find this question brutally awkward. However, because this is Lan Wangji, he does not flinch when he says, “My brother does not share this trait.”
On his knees, Xue Yang laughs, obnoxiously reminding them all of his presence. “Oh, this is wonderful!” He cackles. “Truly delightful. Perhaps you should just kill us all and be done with it? Wouldn’t that be so exciting.”
“Clan Leader Nie,” Lan Wangji says, annoyance edging into his tone. He’s getting riled up—and Wei Wuxian loves it. “I would advise you not to listen closely to Xue Yang’s words. He is using demonic energy to attempt to persuade you.”
“He’s right about one thing,” Nie Mingjue says. “I should just kill him.”
Despite their differences, Wei Wuxian should truly be glad Jiang Cheng knows him so well, because as soon as the topic of execution is brought up, his brother shoots him a stern look that says he already knows what Wei Wuxian is about to suggest and would very much like him to keep his mouth shut. Naturally, that is not his style.
“Clan Leader,” Meng Yao says suddenly, his eyes downcast in deference. “May I suggest that Xue Yang is not a threat to us now—if we kill him, we may risk the retaliation of the Qishan Wen. Moreover, if we conceal his presence here for now, we have further opportunity to ask him about the whereabouts of the Yin Iron.”
“It’s not possible to question someone like Xue Yang,” Wei Wuxian says. He folds his arms over his chest, putting on an air of nonchalance. “And put him in the dungeon and he’ll find a way to slither out. While we can find alternative methods to locate the Yin Iron, a guy like Xue Yang is really so troublesome to have around.”
Nie Mingjue eyes him warily. Wei Wuxian flashes him a smile, fangs and all, and tosses a carefree arm over Jiang Cheng’s shoulder. He dips into his persuasion, just a touch. “I’d be happy to help rid you of your pest problem, Clan Leader.”
Meng Yao opens his mouth, but Nie Mingjue stops whatever words were gathering there with a hand.
“I want to watch,” Nie Mingjue says with no room for debate in his tone. Wei Wuxian makes himself bleed from the exertion of holding back an inappropriate joke. He can’t hold back his surprise, though.
“Meals should be taken in silence,” Lan Wangji narrows his eyes a fraction. “Not performances.”
However, the seed of thought has already been planted. A good, delightful meal is being offered up in front of them and Wei Wuxian salivates as he sniffs out the delicious, fresh blood of cultivators still fueling Xue Yang.
“Oh, Wen Ruohan isn’t going to be happy about this,” Xue Yang says. He’s actively struggling against his restraints. “Fucking idiots. You’ll be weeping blood when his wrath reaches you.”
“You believe yourself really so essential to Wen Ruohan?” Wei Wuxian frowns. He’s teasing now, playing with his food. Xue Yang does not have a pulse, but if he did, it would be thundering, music to Wei Wuxian’s ears. “I can guess that your knowledge of the Yin Iron is all that keeps you alive.”
“The Wens are people with no humanity,” Nie Mingjue spits. “It is fitting someone like you crawled from that pit. I’d be happy to send your body back as a gift.”
Wei Wuxian locks eyes with Lan Wangji. Or something that is not Lan Wangji, but is wearing his face. The hunger is there on the forefront, and it’s only his ironclad restraint holding him back from lunging at Xue Yang right then and there. Lan Wangji is a pure hunter, beautiful, sleek, and deadly; Wei Wuxian himself takes occasional pleasure in being cruel.
“You!” Xue Yang leans towards Meng Yao. “You’re the only one with a brain here. You understand letting me die is a silly, silly stupid thing. Come now, convince your master.”
“No more speaking,” Lan Wangji says curtly, that delightfully awful silencing spell ending Xue Yang’s tirade abruptly.
Before Wei Wuxian can register it, he and Lan Wangji move into stalking patterns. He’s already handed Suibian off to Jiang Cheng—he won’t need it for this kill. His eyes flick to Lan Wangji’s, and he is momentarily filled with warmth from those molten gold eyes. An entire conversation happens in those eyes.
If Wei Wuxian wants the kill, it’s his. It is in his nature—to take, and take, and take—but Lan Wangji occupies all of the unusual parts of his heart. He gives the kill over to him with a slight gesture.
Over his shoulder, though, Wei Wuxian can see Nie Mingjue watching with rapt attention.
Lan Wangji goes for the kill.
Xue Yang’s inhuman screech could summon the dead back to the world of the living. Lan Wangji hums low into his bite, pleased.
Wei Wuxian remembers this first time he saw Lan Wangji like this. They’d known each other instantly of course, the moment they set eyes on each other at Cloud Recesses on the roof—Wei Wuxian had been having a snack, nothing to worry about, nothing human. Lan Wangji had been attracted by the scent of blood and had come prowling across his territory to investigate.
In Lotus Pier, Wei Wuxian had room to stretch his legs. Jiang Fengmian trusted him, and Wei Wuxian put on a perfect act. Mischievous and disobedient, but not dangerous. From what he’d heard, the esteemed Second Young Master spent most of his time sequestered away in the Cloud Recesses.
Back then on the roof, Wei Wuxian could understand why Lan Qiren did it. Lan Wangji was terrifying, even as a teenager. Wei Wuxian wanted him the moment they locked eyes.
Lan Wangji is always so perfectly hidden behind his glamours. It’s almost unfair that Wei Wuxain is the only person who gets to see how beautiful he truly is.
Well. That’s all changed now.
Wei Wuxian takes a broad sweep of their audience, drinks in their reactions. It’s incredible—the power they hold over them. It makes him feel drunk, makes him feel so much larger than these tiny human lives. His fangs are dripping.
He joins Lan Wangji on the other side of Xue Yang’s neck. The other vampire tastes sweet with the blood of warm golden cores. It’s always euphoric, this feeling of having life die out under his teeth. From the corner of his eye, he can see Lan Wangji’s pinky twitching against Xue Yang’s perfect white skin. The barest hint of a break in composure.
Oh, he’s going to get fucked well tonight.
When Xue Yang is well and truly dead, Lan Wangji detaches himself first. He’s always better about this.
“Wei Ying,” he murmurs, so soft it’s only a tiny whisper that he can hear over the last trickles of blood. “Wei Ying.” He tugs sharply at his hair, and Wei Wuxian pulls back with a soft whine. Only the oppressive atmosphere of being watched prevents him from nuzzling at Lan Wangji’s palm—he always feels his least human in these moments.
A thin stream of blood trails down Lan Wangji’s chin. This, he can’t help himself from swiping it away with his finger.
Together, they survey the scene.
Even Nie Mingjue looks paler. Wei Wuxian counts himself proud.
For the first time in his life, Nie Huaisang feels unsafe walking the Unclean Realm.
He grew up with his da-ge threatening to behead anyone who even looked at his little brother wrong. Now, in the shadows it seems everyone he looks he catches glimpses of glowing eyes looking out from the darkest shadows.
He thought he understood what ghosts and demons were all about. Finding one wrapped in familiar robes, throwing carefree arms around him and begging to see his lewd books when, in reality, he is familiar with things far more profane, things Nie Huaisang could never conceive of.
And not one, but two.
Well, well, well then. Wei Wuxian has turned out even more interesting than he thought.
It’s the most energized Wei Wuxian has felt since the first time he tasted Lan Wangji, sweet on his lips. He’s filled to the brim with excess energy, and by the look Lan Wangji is giving him, there’s truly only one way to burn it off.
Wei Wuxian tears at Lan Wangji’s clothes, going deep enough to break the skin in his haste. With their fresh meal, however, he heals in moments. A sign of good health, but far, far less fun in Wei Wuxian’s opinion.
They could like this for hours, all night, swapping Xue Yang’s blood back and forth. And they will, most likely, but first Wei Wuxian needs Lan Wangji inside him, and more than just his fangs.
The force at which Lan Wangji takes him has him clawing at the bedding—he’ll have to apologize to Nie Huaisang later, though he suspects his friend will have been entertained by the day’s theatrics.
“More, give me more,” he begs.
Lan Wangji growls into his neck, leaving small bites that cover over almost immediately. “Harder Lan Zhan. Make me take it.”
Lan Wangji pounds into him with an animalistic fury, driven by the bloodlust. If only he were more like this actually drunk. The force of it makes Wei Wuxian’s toes curl. He feels Lan Wangji everywhere inside him, like the other is trying to carve out new places.
Wei Wuxian wants to howl, but that would alert the entire city to their activities. Though, they’ve already shown so much, already, what more would this amount to? Instead, he bites down hard into the juncture of Lan Wangji’s neck, tastes the euphoric rush of blood.
Only one of them ever speaks when they’re like this—it always feels like Lan Wangji is driven to a place beyond words, while Wei Wuxian can’t help but open his mouth and babble into his ear, providing a constant stream of filth. It’s okay. He knows Lan Wangji likes it.
“Tastes so good. Fuck me so good,” he pants. “Want to feel your pretty cock inside me for days, Lan Zhan. Want you to fuck me so hard you leave me open until the next time.”
“Maybe—” Lan Wangji thrusts so hard it temporarily knocks the breath out of Wei Wuxian’s chest. “You should fuck me out in the courtyard. That way everyone would know how I belong to you. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, everyone knowing I’m yours?”
Not that there was before, but there’s truly no saving their room after that. Lan Wangji fucks him with a furor, like he’s trying to fuck Wei Wuxian through the bed and floor until they’re mingling with the dirt. Even when he finishes, Wei Wuxian goades him into going again with his clever words and even sharper tongue.
The second time they really do fuck on the floor, because Lan Wangji pounced on him before Wei Wuxian could even get back to the bed.
In the moonlight, Lan Wangji combs Wei Wuxian’s dark hair with careful patience. Because “it’s only fair, Lan Zhan, that you do all the work making me presentable again if you’re the one who takes me apart.”
They sit in companionable silence—Wei Wuxian, for once, exhausted past speaking. He still feels drunk off the blood, comfortable and warm, plus the additional pleasure of Lan Wangji. It’s not until—surprisingly—Lan Wangji says something that the silence is broken.
“I would wear your blood,” he says quietly next to Wei Wuxian’s ear.
“Hmmm? Oh—Lan Zhan.” The other vampire had been, truthfully, drifting in and out of sleep until then. But now he grins and leans back until his head fits comfortably on Lan Wangji’s shoulder. “Always so romantic towards me.”
The coming seasons bring with them violence that paints the fields red.
Wei Wuxian drinks it in.
Somewhere, Lan Wangji is carried to sleep by the lullaby of maladies.
The thick scent of blood floats in the air. Even so far upstream from Yunmeng, it’s impossible to get away from it. Madame Yu—her blood smelled like fresh rice vinegar.
It is Jiang Cheng he’s concerned with, though. His scent grows weaker and fowler by the minute. It nauseates Wei Wuxian, but he can hide his repulsion behind worry.
Love. What a foolish thing. But the taste is addicting.
When he frees himself from his golden core, he feels unshackled. Unburdened by the persistence of light and goodness in his chest, that part of him, the monstrous part, unfurls and grows wild and free.
Oh, oh, this feeling. He must tell Lan Zhan.
When Wei Wuxian returns from whatever place Lan Wangji could not follow, he returns as a breathtaking nightmare. For months, Lan Wangji was stewed in the darkness and bloodshed that is war, grown in strength with the more bodies that fell. But he is nothing compared to Wei Wuxian, clothed in obscenity and resentment.
Lan Wangji knows he’s the one behind the trail of Wen murders the moment he and Jiang Cheng happen upon the first bodies. Jiang Cheng may see nothing but war in the mutilated corpses, but Lan Wangji’s sharp eyes spot the tears in the skin made by sharp, sharp teeth.
There is only one vampire with a grudge against the Wen Clan, as far as he is aware. He can nearly smell Wei Wuxian now.
He watches Jiang Cheng pick his way through the corpses and feels a startling pang of pity. They have been unlikely, even reluctant partners in this quest, but it is not that camaraderie that stirs emotion in Lan Wangji’s chest.
Instead, he thinks of his own brother.
Until Wei Wuxian (mate , this mind thinks fiercely. Mate. Must find mate.) barged into his existence without so much of a courtesy, Lan Wanji was very practiced at playing human. Lan Xichen has always known, of course—although he hasn’t inherited this (curse? trait?), the tainted blood of their mother still runs through him, too.
But Lan Wangji, he has tried to keep the most violent facts of his existence from his brother’s view. He has only fed from his brother a scant handful of times, not like Jiang Wanyin, who offers his veins freely to Wei Wuxian.
Still, if it were Lan Xichen here, Lan Wangji would not want him to see.
They soon catch up to Wei Wuxian, in a small compound that already smells of death. The heavy aura of resentful energy hangs over the place, wet linen that blocks out air. But now that Lan Wangji is close he can also sense something else on the wind—a tune. A piercing melody that cuts straight through the hearts of men until it strikes bone.
“Do not come in,” Lan Wangji commands. Wei Wuxian’s scent is here—he’s certainly inside.
“Lan Wangji!” Jiang Wanyin hisses. “You do not mean to interfere with Jiang sect business, do you? You of all people should—”
“Jiang Wanyin,” he levels. He leaves no room for argument in his tone. Persuasion is not his art—so much more Wei Ying’s—but he pushes some into his voice now. The brothers argue, but he knows how dear Wei Wuxian’s brother is to him. Wei Wuxian would not want him to see. “Do not come in. I will bring Wei Ying here.”
In truth, if Lan Wangji is able to admit to himself, his own shame is a motivator, as well. He knows he will do unspeakable things inside. Worse than when they killed Xue Yang. He will not be able to hold himself back. He does not want to hold himself back.
He wants to send the souls of these wretched dogs screaming and paint the walls with their bodies.
“Safely,” Jiang Wanyin says. He’s asking Lan Wangji to promise, so he nods. No matter the Wei Ying he finds inside, he will bring him back. There is no alternative in Lan Wangji’s heart.
At first, Wei Wuxian believes his Lan Zhan has come to scold him. He does not smell happy. But as he sees Lan Wangji prowl the shadows Wen Zhuliu and that pathetic worm Wen Chao cannot see into, he cannot hide his growing pleasure from his face.
Lan Wangji is hunting. Not as a cultivator on a Night Hunt—he is hunting.
Wei Wuxian whistles something pretty and haunting, and in the fraction of a second Wen Zhuliu is distracted, Lan Wangji leaps from the shadows with his long, inhuman claws extended. Bichen stays sheathed. It may just be a trick of the light, but it seems as though the shadows follow him.
Wen Zhuliu ceases movement as soon as Lan Wangji’s claws plunge into the back of his neck. As always, his placement is perfect. With his spine damaged, Wen Zhuliu will not be moving for the rest of his, admittedly quite perishable, life.
One down. In the shadows and mist of the Burial Mounds, there was no one to hunt with. Wei Wuxian has missed being able to show off.
He turns his attention to Wen Chao and lifts Chenqing, but one of those beautiful hands catches his wrist. Together, they look upon Wen Chao’s pathetic, cowering body. Wei Wuxian is so hungry. He’s felt nothing like it before—no, that’s not correct. It’s similar to the fierce desire he feels for Lan Wangji.
“What did you do to him?” Lan Wangji tips his head forward and licks up the stray splatters of blood on Wei Wuxian’s fingers.
“Oh, nothing that won’t scar him for life. Why, disapproving of my methods?”
“Not a challenge,” Lan Wangji says, sounding almost annoyed. It’s true that Wei Wuxian is more accurately playing with his food than hunting it. This is not recreation, though. This is revenge.
“You are so beautiful when you’re killing for me,” Wei Wuxian purrs.
“Your kill. Do not be distracted.”
Yes, Lan Wangji is right. And he’s been planning this kill in particular for so long. For now, he returns Chenqing to his waist sash. He’ll do this the old fashioned way. Claws out. Fangs out.
Wei Wuxian whistles a little tune as he stalks towards Wen Chao huddled in the corner. “I’ve been hunting you for so long,” he sing-songs. “Did you feel like a big, strong predator when you murdered Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan?” He crouches down close, and Wen Chao releases a pitiful cry of fear. The sharp, unmistakable scent of urine hits his nose. “This is how it feels to be hunted by a real beast.”
He grabs at Wen Chao, all of his anger bubbling up to the surface at once, and he nearly tears the human’s arm off in the process. The euphoria that fills him when he sinks his fangs in is beyond description—not just the burning pleasure finally feeding brings, but the sharp, bitter joy of hard-earned revenge finally seen through.
It will not be enough just draining Wen Chao. He will tear him limb from limb, claw and bite until there’s nothing left of this human stain but pulp, until his screams are burned into his fondest memories—
Wei Wuxian comes to kneeling halfway in a pool of blood. Lan Wangji has him mostly cradled in his lap, where he’s taking his time in cleaning Wei Wuxian with his tongue. When he notices Wei Wuxian has returned to his senses once more, Lan Wangji pulls back and looks down at his mate with eyes of glowing gold. Free of his glamours and belonging every inch to Wei Wuxian.
“Wei Ying is beautiful when he feeds.”
“You’re beautiful always,” Wei Wuxian pouts. “My Lan Zhan creates such unfair beauty standards.”
“What happened to you?”
“Is Jiang Cheng with you?” Wei Wuxian asks instead.
“Yes.” Lan Wangji confirms. “Outside. Waiting.”
“Good.” Best to wait to see his brother until he can tuck himself back inside his glamours. Although, he doesn’t know if he fully can anymore. Jiang Chen has seen past them plenty of times, but he has never seen Wei Wuxian quite like this.
“You have... grown,” Lan Wangji says, evidently thinking along a similar path. Wei Wuxian knows he has not grown ways favored by decent cultivators. “Wei Ying is magnificent,” his mate assures. Wei Wuxian tilts his face into Lan Wangji’s palm and every so slightly, purrs.
“I’ll tell you everything Lan Zhan. There’s so much for you to hear. About the Burial Mounds—”
Please, Wen Qing had begged. Please, I’ll do anything.
Oh? Wei Wuxian had raised an eyebrow at her. It was not as though her cries didn’t affect him at all. But you do not make a deal with the devil casually. Anything?
Yes. She had said with conviction. Wei Wuxian admired that trait about her. Save my clan and I’ll do anything.
The lives of twenty humans is inconsequential to Wei Wuxian. Certainly not Wens, who Wei Wuxian has been feasting on but he finds Wen Ning’s is not. Wen Ning, who never once looked at him with fear, only with the same gaze a small, broken thing looks at something it admires. Wen Ning, whose blood tastes like a clear mountain stream free of impurities, who gives generously to Wei Wuxian everytime his tongue runs over his lips in hunger.
A vampire is a possessive thing. They want to own.
If you make a deal with the devil, do not be surprised if you come to regret it.
Wei Wuxian looks like he belongs in the Burial Mounds. It feels like he does, too. His presence there does not disturb the spirits that moan restlessly there, but instead, he slinks through the mist and it always seems to part for him. The shadows always bend in just the right ways.
The Wens all know to keep away from Lan Wangji when he visits. Unlike Wei Wuxian, he doesn’t look like he belongs, but Burial Mounds are no less opposed to him than they are their master.
Dark things with sharp teeth. Eyes that glow in the night.
This is what A-Yuan overheard which he should not have:
“Come back to Cloud Recesses with me.” Rich-gege said. He spoke to Baba in a way no one else did. Granny and his aunts and uncles were always so polite to Baba.
“Why?” Baba snarled. His voice made A-Yuan want to cry out. It made him so upset to hear Baba like this. There was the sound of something sharp, like a knife cutting through deer. “So these humans can take more from me?”
“Drain the humans. Their lives do not weigh on you.”
This, A-Yuan did not understand. Didn’t Baba care about them all? They were all so happy living here. Baba watched over them, kept them safe. It was so much better than the wet darkness of their home before.
Baba laughed, but not like he did when he played with A-Yuan. “I never thought I would see the day Lan Zhan would be advocating for such outright murder.”
“Cloud Recesses is my territory.” Softer Rich-gege said, “If it is mine, then it is yours. The other clans cannot touch you there.”
“I made a deal with Wen Qing,” Baba sighed. He sounded like he did when he admitted to Auntie he didn’t sell any turnips. “Protect her clan and they’re mine forever. Sounds much better to me than playing human politics at Cloud Recesses.”
“Would you come with me if this did not stand in your way?” A long silence stretched before Baba broke it. A-Yuan could hear the rustle of two different fabrics sliding together.
“Ah, Lan Zhan, you know I want you the most out of everything in the world. I want you here, or Cloud Recesses, or anywhere else in the world you could take me to.”
“Send Wen Qing and Wen Ning to me. Kill the rest. We will tell them the cultivators invaded.”
“And A-Yuan,” Baba said quickly.
Silence. “The child?”
“That’s me!” A-Yuan said in delight. He sprang out from his hiding place near Baba’s work things, which he was never supposed to be, but Baba had such fun toys! With the excitement of a child running to his parent, he flung himself into his Baba’s arms, unnoticing of how hard and still he was.
“Ah, A-Yuan, always getting into my things!” Baba smiled. In the lantern light, his teeth glinted. “How many times have I told you not to come in here? What if you got hurt?”
“No reason to be worried, Lan Zhan, put your claws away. Here, A-Yuan, look into my eyes and let me sing you a song...”
“They think I’ve corrupted you,” Wei Wuxian whispers over Lan Wangji’s pliant body, the curve of his neck. His blood blooms against the white of his robes spread out beneath him on the floor. They will need to be scrubbed again.
Red is smeared across Wei Wuxian’s lips, and Lan Wangji growls when he reaches up to kiss it away. The blood is sweet like spring blossoms—the aftertaste of Lan Xichen.
The corner of Lan Wangji’s mouth twitches upwards. Yes, the thought that Wei Wuxian has corrupted Lan Wangji is laughable. “My beautiful monster. My wolf in sheep's clothing.”
“You are too fearsome to hide.” Pleasure races through Wei Wuxian’s spine—Lan Wangji’s brutal honesty is always welcome. Shijie believes the best in him, still. Jiang Cheng won’t look him in the eyes. But Lan Wangji—terrifying Lan Zhan—loves him just like this.
“If they come for you, I will kill them.”
“Bathe me in their blood?” Wei Wuxian rips at Lan Wangji’s inner robes, tearing his claws down that broad chest. Above where he can feel Lan Wangji’s golden core pulsing, Wei Wuxian sinks his claws in until Lan Wangji is arching into the pain and that dark vampire blood runs over his fingers.
It is a good thing the jingshi is isolated beyond the main compound, because otherwise there would be far more stories about the esteemed Hanguang-jun and the Yiling Patriarch then there already are. The garden path is not well-traveled by disciples, and Wei Wuxian cannot believe this is all an accident. It appears as though this is the designated home of monsters in Cloud Recesses.
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says simply. He owns Wei Wuxian completely. He says things such as this on purpose, because he sees the flash of arousal in Wei Wuxian’s eyes every time Lan Wangji’s fierce protectiveness shows its head.
Wei Wuxian would let this man collar him, if he so desired. That would get the cultivation world talking.
Jin Guangyao’s words stick to him like summer humidity.
Love. Wei Wuxian does know it, that feeling. He knows completely, throughout his vile, tainted core, that he loves Lan Wangji. His Lan Zhan, his mate. He’d rip the beating heart out of any living creature for him and knows Lan Wangji would do the same for him. His feelings go even beyond love, to dark places of possessiveness, obsession. They are each other’s territory.
But he’s been lucky elsewhere, too. Ever since Jiang Fengmian brought him to Lotus Pier, a snarling ball of rage and fangs. He’s known the love of a sister, a brother, a father. And then there’s the Wens, as well.
Does he love them? Of course—like a master loves any of his pets.
The exception is little A-Yuan, whose blood sings to him and whispers tantalizing thoughts. When A-Yuan is old enough, he and Lan Wangji will bite him together until the rot takes in his core. Together they’ll teach him a different kind of hunt. And then they’ll really be a family. Forever.