He remembers falling, his voice going raw from his screams. He remembers the fear and then nothing. When he wakes up in the dark, he doesn’t know who he was or why he is here. He doesn’t feel fear, or pain. He doesn’t feel anything. He isn’t a person anymore, he is darkness. He can feel it, his heart doesn’t beat but power runs through his veins. It is dark and wild. It is strong. It controls him, changes him and he is glad. The power, it doesn’t hurt, it feels warm, like maybe he isn’t alone in the dark.
He doesn’t sleep and the dark never lifts so he doesn’t know how long it has been since he fell. It could be days or years, he finds that he doesn’t really care. He doesn’t get bored but after a while he starts to grow restless. And so, he forces himself up and starts walking down the mountain.
The change is gradual and the dark shadows surround him but as he walks he sees the light. It doesn’t reach him but dances around the edges of his shadow. He doesn’t like it. It is too bright and he wants to be back in the dark where he can just sit and time doesn’t affect him. And so he goes back and the darkness greets like an old friend.
He sits in the night and his power grows. He doesn’t know what he will need the power for but it is nice so he lets it consume him.
The next time he “wakes” it is to the sound of screams. The sound is familiar but he can’t remember why. The loud sounds are full of feeling and he doesn’t like them. He just wants to be alone and warm again, the screams are disturbing him so he decides to make them stop.
He doesn’t open his eyes or move but darkness flows from him and the town of Yilling is plunged in the dark of night. He can’t feel the weak spark of power from the screaming people. They are too weak to be of any importance to him. He pushes the darkness farther and then he feels it, the beast that must be causing all the noise. It is stronger than the people but nothing compared to him. He wraps the beast in shadows and feels as it’s power becomes his own. He smiles, the movement feels weird, surely it is the first time he has done it but the gesture feels familiar. As the darkness makes its way back to him, the screams die down. It is finally quiet again and he can let himself drift.
Word of the darkness that inhabits the mountain tops of Yilling soon spreads to the rest of the Cultivation World. The town people take to calling him the Yilling Patriarch. No one knows who or what controls the shadows but everyone knows to fear him.
As the shadows grow, many a cultivator will make the journey to Yilling. All those who climb the mountain never return. Those who stay in the village bring back reports of storms and a gathering of resentful energy in the Patriarch’s mountain.
The long flowing robes and sword aren’t an unusual sight for the villagers but everyone stops to stare as the man in white walks past. His robes are spotless and impossibly bright as if he radiates light, his hair a flowing mass of gleaming silk behind him.
The beautiful stranger walks silently to the foot of the mountain. The villagers want to warn him not to try and challenge their Patriarch. Many have tried but none survives.
He knows he probably had a name once but he doesn’t know it. The people call him their Patriarch. He doesn’t mind, if people fear him then less will come and disturb his rest. It was fun at first, urging the power he now called his own to capture his enemy, the rush of energy as he claimed their life as his own. But it had gotten too easy, no one was strong enough to even try and fight. He would much rather just be left alone.
He doesn’t know what has woken him this time. He doesn’t hear any screams and the shadows would have told him if someone had stepped foot on the mountain he had claimed as his own. Pushing the power outwards, he searches for the disturbance.
He doesn’t look far, at the foot of the mountain stands a man. Dressed in white, he seems to glow with a light bright enough to fight the shadows. The Yilling Patriarch doesn’t like it.
He hasn’t left the darkness of the mountain top since he first tried to leave. He has never had a reason to but this man, who stands perfectly still at the foot of his mountain, stares unflinchingly at the shadows as if waiting for him. The darkness tells him this man is a bigger threat than any he has ever faced.
The darkness closes around him and he is at the bottom of the mountain, face to face with the unmoving man. He brings the night with him but the dark only seems to make him shine brighter.
The darkness becomes restless as he stares. He feels empty, cold, as if he is missing something. He feels. That wasn’t something he should be able to do anymore. Feelings were for people and he wasn’t a person, he was just darkness and shadows. And darkness didn’t feel.
The man hasn’t moved and is staring right through the darkness. Could he see him through the shadows? Did he even exist when you took away the dark?
The weight in his chest grew heavier and if he could feel pain in his chest than surely he was more than shadows, he must have a body and if he had a body then he could talk.
He had screamed once, back when he was falling, before the shadows had claimed him as theirs. If he had screamed then, maybe he could talk now.
“What do you want?” The words are ruff and he doesn’t recognise his own voice.
“You.” The white clad man’s voice is clear, musical, the opposite of the growl like sound he had produced. It made him feel light.
“Who are you?” His voice is a little clearer now but there is no mistaking him for a human. He is a monster, a man made of night. A god of the dark, the Yilling Patriarch, feared by all.
“Lan Zhan.” He is sure he has never heard that name before but he can’t ignore the shadows whispering in the dark. He is dangerous. He could destroy us. Don’t let him leave. He is ours.
He doesn’t know if it is his idea or the shadows but the thought that he could keep Lan Zhan, could have him as his own. He wants it. For as long as he can remember all he ever wanted was to be left alone. Now he wants more. He wants this man. Wants to wrap him in shadows and keep him by his side.
“I want you. Can I have you?” He can see the man swallow at his question, he recognises fear as it flashes across his face but then it is gone. The hesitation was replaced with determination. Strength.
“Yes.” The shadows react to the word before he can even tell them to. Lan Zhan doesn’t try to run as the shadows surround him.
He summons all the power he can feel buzzing under his skin and pushes it into the man before him.
Lan Zhan lets out a single cry as the darkness closes in around him. He can’t see, can’t feel, can’t breath. A pain so intense he feels like he is dying shots through him but then, just when he thinks it is all over, the shadows lift.
The darkness is no longer before him but around him and only a couple feet away, he can finally see him. Wei Ying. After years of searching, he has finally found him. He isn’t the boy he remembers, it’s even a man anymore but he is glorious.
As he watches, a wisp of shadowy darkness reaches out from his body to cup the man’s check. He can feel the cold skin of his face, so different from the soft, warm skin of the boy he loved but hard and strong. As the shadow reaches back to wrap around him, he realises what he probably should have straight away. His heart no longer beats in his chest, blood doesn’t flow in his veins, instead it is only darkness, power. Looking down at his body he realises that the white of Gusu Lan robes have been changed to following robes of black and red. Lan Wangji, twin jade of the Lan Sect is dead and he has never felt freer. Wei Ying is watching him, the smile on his face terrible and twisted but Lan Zhan smiles back. He found Wei Ying, he found him and the power running through his body feels so good. He can tell this new life is going to be so much more fun than the last one.