When Lan Zhan returned to the Jingshi after a day of cataloguing new books in the Library Pavillion, he found it in a chaotic state: pieces of thin calligraphy paper strewn everywhere; books pulled off from the bookcase left in teetering piles, ink-dipped brushes drying haphazardly on a plate on his low desk, and there were clear signs of half wiped ink smudges on the wood. His husband was sprawled on the floor asleep, head resting on a half-open book, creasing the pages, and staining it with drool.
Lan Zhan sighed inwardly, but when Wei Ying did a little sneeze in his sleep and rubbed his nose, he couldn’t help but smile. He started gathering up the materials that had been left lying about.
Just as he gently tugged on the book underneath Wei Ying, the young man woke up and immediately reached for his arm.
“Lan Zhan, you’re back. I was waiting forever for you,” he said and gave a yawn, surreptitiously wiping his drooling face on that sleeve in front of him.
“Mm, I’m back.”
Wei Ying sat up, crossed his legs and stretched out his arms, before suddenly springing up.
“Oh right!” he said brightly and bounced to Lan Zhan’s desk.
“You know, all the books in here are just your boring Gusu philosophising type books, they were so bleh to read, the only interesting ones were about the history of your ancestor who set up the clan. So I thought, I should write one for you! A more entertaining story! Aiyo, where is it?”
Wei Ying started rummaging through the piles of paper that Lan Zhan had just stacked neatly together, and discarding the ones he didn’t want onto the floor again.
“Ah here it is!” He said, pulling up a paper covered in messy scribbles. “Come Lan Zhan”.
Wei Ying shuffled to one side, to make room for Lan Zhan by the desk and patted to the spot next to him. Lan Zhan walked to the desk, being careful not to step on the pieces of paper, and sat down next to Wei Ying. Wei Ying immediately pressed close against him, and showed him the paper.
“What do you think?”
On the paper were written the words in a rough calligraphy style: The Epic Love Story of the Dashingly Handsome Yiling Patriarch and the Fairest of the Twin Jades of Gusu.
“Don’t you think this is a good title?”
“Of the epic tale I will write about us.”
“It’s not necessary.”
Wei Ying gave a dramatic sigh, “Please, if it was down to the Gusu sect we would all be staring at stone walls and chiseling unreasonable rules into them, drinking nasty medicinal soup and never having fun because that is ‘unnecessary’. I seriously don’t know how your clan didn’t die out several hundred years ago, you’re all like stone monks! No offence.”
“Lan Zhan! It’s not about the necessary, it’s about the soul, what is good for the soul.” He said with a thump to his chest. “Also I’m bored okay, and I thought it would be fun to write our story, hehe.” He gave a cheeky grin, flipping his ponytail back.
Lan Zhan sighed, “What have you written?”
Wei Ying rubbed his nose, “Ah well, you see there’s this.”
“Well it’s so complicated and long and, just thinking out the storyline made my head hurt, and also when I started thinking about the present day part, I mean, who would want to read about the love story of a thirty-something year old? No offence.”
“So I thought I should revise it, make it more concise as it were, and focus on the good parts, everyone loves a story that transcends the boundaries. Conflict! Good versus evil! And everyone loves hot blooded teen heroes right? I mean you for one, can’t seem to get enough of this young body of mine.”
Wei Ying grinned wider, “Haha, I don’t feel good unless you say this to me at least once a day, or night.”
He leant towards Lan Zhan and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“My good Lan Zhan.”
Of course it did not show, but Lan Zhan’s heart still skipped a beat.
“So,” he continued, “I thought about it, and the most fitting part of our life story is back when I was the Yiling Patriarch, and when you came storming up to the Demon Slaughtering Cave to apprehend me and drag me away to Gusu.”
“You invited me to the cave.”
“That’s just a minor detail,” Wei Ying waved it away with a hand. “Don’t you remember though, you wanted to take me back to Gusu to punish me for my demonic ways?”
Lan Zhan lowered his eyes, and Wei Ying immediately sensed that he’d stepped on a landmine.
He landed a flurry of kisses on Lan Zhan’s nose and cheek to appease him. “Sorry, sorry, it wasn’t to punish me.” And because Wei Ying is never one to miss an opportunity to tease, he whispered low into Lan Zhan’s ear, “You just wanted to lock me up and have your way with me didn’t you?”
“Maybe, if you’d told me at the time what you really wanted back then, I might have let you.”
Wei Ying pulled back and watched the red tinge climb up the jade like earlobes, with a pleased smile. He stood up again.
“But you know me, my memory is atrocious. I want to get the scene correct, but there are probably details I’ve forgotten. That is where I need your help Lan-er gege!”
He held out his hand for Lan Zhan, who took it and stood up as well.
“Knowing you, you probably remember every single detail from the demon slaughtering cave right?”
Lan Zhan’s expression was non-committal but Wei Ying knew it was a yes. He led Lan Zhan away from the desk, and crossed back into the bedroom space.
“So let’s say the bed is the blood pool.” He went to their bed, pulled off the white bedding and pillows and dumped them a few feet away from the bed onto the floor. He knelt down to spread out the duvet a bit more. “This is the sleeping area.”
“Oh yeah,” he reached inside his robes and pulled out a stack of talismans. "I think I had these everywhere didn’t l?" Wei Ying scattered the paper talismans around the room, he then picked two cushion seats and set them near the door. “This was roughly where we set the table for tea, ah it’s probably not worth pulling the desk over, this will do for now.”
He stood back and put his hands on his hips, surveying his good work with a satisfied look.
“Wei Ying, what are you doing?”
“Huh, isn’t it obvious? I”m setting the scene.”
Wei Ying sighed and said impatiently, “For the Epic Love Story of the Dashingly Handsome Yiling Patriarch and the Fairest of the Twin Jades of Gusu.”
“A writer needs inspiration, if I want to make this story good, I need to step back into that frame again. Let’s go back and revisit that time and make it a hot blooded tale of youthful romance.”
The light outside was fading, Wei Ying lit a solitary candle. The flickering light cast long shadows in the room, and the dimness helped with the mood, or so Wei Ying insisted.
Lan Zhan and Wei Ying sat cross legged by “the entrance of the cave”. Wei Ying readied the brush and ink and a stack of clean paper.
“My memory of that day...is quite patchy. We met on the streets with Ah Yuan clinging to your leg,” Wei Ying gave a chuckle, “and then we ate at the restaurant and then the talisman burning and we went back to and Wen Ning waking up and going on a rampage.”
“He hurt you.”
“He did? I don’t remember, I just remember frantically trying to stop him and the fierce corpses, and the sound of your zither. What would I have done without you there?”
“Shouldered everything on your own.”
“Hah!” He exclaimed. He bit the end of the brush and thought for a moment. “I then asked you to stay for tea.”
“Wen Ning asked.”
“He did? Was he there?”
“Wen Qing too.”
“I don’t remember. I'll leave those two out. I think it won’t be appropriate to have an audience.”
“An audience for what?”
“For what came next.”
“I don’t understand.”
Wei Ying's eyes glinted in the candle light. “Wen Ning the fierce corpse regained his consciousness, I was wounded - ever so slightly - during the fight. I invited you back into the cave for a bit of rest and a cup of tea. So that’s how the story will go.”
“That’s not how it happened.”
“Revised edition, Lan Zhan, revised edition! What were your first thoughts when entering the cave?”
“That your naming sense was ridiculous.”
“Hey it was a good name!” Wei Ying protested. “Anything else?”
“... The smell of blood.”
“Good good, the smell of blood and putrefaction lingered in the air.” Wei Ying scribbled a few notes. “The pure Lan Zhan wrinkled his handsome nose at the smell.”
“I did not.”
“A frown of disapproval reminiscent of his uncle settled on the corners of his lips. Wait that’s not good, we shouldn’t bring your uncle in here, that will ruin the mood.”
“We’re getting to it… let's see. Lan Zhan frowns deepened, as he, um, as he surveyed the talismans scattered on the ground. Is this what the heroic Wei Ying had stooped to? Were the demonic ways so ingrained into his being? His eyes fell on Chen Qing, the dark flute tucked into Wei Ying’s lithe waist. The long and hard object so temptingly close to the obje-”
“Wei Ying!” Lan Zhan said tersely.
“Ah you’re right, that’s a bit too obvious … let’s scrap those lines. We can’t let the readers know how lewd you actually are. I better hold back a bit.”
Wei Ying dipped the brush in the ink plate and crossed out the last few lines on the page.
“Lan Zhan’s eyes fell on the handsome figure of Wei Ying, he took stock of the difference since they last fatefully met - his hair...oh that’s right, I had my hair tied different didn’t I? Do you remember what it looked like?”
Wei Ying dropped the brush and turned his back to Lan Zhan. “Do my hair for me?” He slipped the ribbon off his long hair and let it loose.
Lan Zhan sighed, but his hands immediately went to touch the long silky hair. He often brushed Wei Ying’s hair in the morning, when his husband was still in his sleepy state. He liked the scent and feel of Wei Ying’s hair, so it was never a chore.
Carefully with a cedar comb, Lan Zhan stroked through the hair. When his zither hardened fingertips brushed against Wei Ying’s neck, the former Yiling Patriarch shivered. Lan Zhan deftly pulled it up into a ponytail and tied it up, teasing out a few strands, to frame the face.
“Done.” Lan Zhan said, smoothing the ponytail down, and bringing the tips of the hair up to brush against his lips. Something that Wei Ying didn’t even notice.
Wei Ying found a mirror and surveyed it. “Oh I think it looks the same as always.”
“Mm” Lan Zhan said.
Wei Ying eyed Lan Zhan. Was his husband subtly teasing him? He couldn’t quite tell.
He sat back down on the cushion and leaned in close to Lan Zhan, clinging to his arm.
“Lan Zhan ah! Tell me, what were you really thinking back then. Weren’t you mad at me?”
“I wasn’t mad at you.”
“I always thought you were.” Wei Ying said sadly. “I thought, back then, I thought you looked down on me. We’d been equals..and then I…” Wei Ying’s voice faded away.
When it returned, it was quieter than normal.
“Do you remember, each time we met, you would ask me where my sword was.”
Lan Zhan softly brushed the side of his face.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Wei Ying pouted. “What for?”
“I was mad at you.”
“I knew it!” Wei Ying gasped.
“I was too ignorant then. I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t understand and I didn’t try hard enough.”
“That’s not true!”
“I walked away. I should have stayed. If you didn’t want to go to Gusu, I should have stayed with you there.”
Wei Ying clung harder to Lan Zhan and buried his head in the crook between Lan Zhan's shoulder and neck, inhaling that familiar clean scent.
“Lan Zhan surveyed the inside of the blood red cave, the tall proud Wei Ying standing in the middle. Their gaze met, and Lan Zhan wanted to tell him that he wanted to stay with him forever in a stinky cave.”
“What would Wei Ying have said back then?” Lan Zhan asked.
“Ridiculous!” Wei Ying laughed at once at his own joke.
Lan Zhan pinched his nose lightly.
Wei Ying tried again.
“The Yiling Patriarch laughed and said 'sure, but I only have one bed, we will have to share it.' Should I put that in the revised edition?”
Lan Zhan. “What else will you put in?”
“I was going to put in a fight between us.”
“A fight? We didn't fight at the cave.”
“I told you before! Conflict! Good versus Evil! As we battle it out, you are so impressed with my skills that you say, I mean not actually say, because that would be out of character. but you say to yourself, 'Wow I have truly met my match. This is it! He’s the one for me!' ”
Lan Zhan nodded thoughtfully.
“I guess that did happen.”
Wei Ying, sat up straight. “Wait it did?! Actually you have never said, when was the exact moment that you fell for me. Was it - don’t tell me - was it really love at first sight?!”
“No, you were annoying at first sight.”
“When Lan Zhan whennn?” Wei Ying tugged insistently on his sleeve, and nudged Lan Zhan with the weight of his body.
“Unbelievably annoying,” Lan Zhan continued.
“Wei Ying, the only man to ever break the jade-like cool exterior of the fair Lan Zhan.”
Lan Zhan smiled. “Yes.”
Wei Ying grinned back.
The candle chose that moment to flicker out and the Jingshi was enveloped in a soft darkness.
“Oh,” Wei Ying said. “I guess I can’t write anymore today.”
“I guess not.”
“I better think of something else to do.”
He shifted his position until he was practically in Lan Zhan’s lap, and Lan Zhan had no hesitation in pulling him in all the way.
Wei Ying placed his lips close to Lan Zhan’s ear and whispered, “I’m sure you can help with this too Lan-er gege.”
Lan Zhan smiled, pulling back slightly to take stock, before gently placing the first kiss of the night on Wei Ying’s lips.
*** The end ***