Wei Wuxian was used to his inventions and talismans often exploding when working on them so he wasn't surprised when it happened again.
He walked out of his cave, coughing and trying to dissipate the smoke with his hands.
"Don't worry, I'm okay!" he said to calm down the worrying Wens. But when he opened his eyes and looked around, the Wens weren't there. In fact, he wasn't at the Burial Mounds at all.
"Aaaaah! It worked!" he bumped his fist to the air.
Finally! He was working on this transportation talisman for weeks! Though he did not plan on trying it out yet so Wen Qing will probably kill him for disappearing.
But right now Wei Wuxian didn't want to worry about the scary doctor's needles, first he needs to find out where he is and how to get back to Yiling.
Wei Wuxian looked around again. He was in a forest, birds were singing, a gentle breeze moving the leaves. The sun shone through the foliage in patches. It was beautiful. Calm.
Wei Wuxian took a deep breath. He smiled faintly.
Wei Wuxian startled when he heard a noise. Something or someone was walking in the forest.
Maybe an animal, he shrugged. Then he heard a quiet humming.
This melody… Wei Wuxian felt like he heard it somewhere. But he couldn't quite recall where. He looked to his right and saw a young man walking quite far from him. Wei Wuxian quickly hid behind a tree so the man won't notice him. He was the fearsome and wanted Yiling Laozu, the enemy of the cultivation world, he didn't want to get caught. What would happen with the Wen remnants if he gets caught here, who-knows-where?
When the person got a bit closer Wei Wuxian took a look at him. The man was handsome, just a bit older than him, maybe 28-30 years old. His long and unruly hair was collected in a high ponytail on the top of his head with a red ribbon. He wore dark robes but his outer robe was white with light blue clouds embroidered on it. He was far, Wei Wuxian couldn't clearly see but the man carried what looked like an armful of carrots. He happily hummed the melody as he was striding forward, the big outer robe fluttering behind him in the wind.
Wei Wuxian watched him until his figure disappeared behind a tree.
White robes and clouds… He was a Lan, huh. But he didn't have a forehead ribbon so he was probably an outsider disciple or he married into the sect.
And that means…
Oh, shit, I'm in Gusu! I have to get out of here immediately! Before…
He did not know how to finish the thought.
Before someone spots him? Before the Lans find him and lock him up? Before he meets Lan Zhan?
No, that can't happen. Neither of them. He has to get back to the Burial Mounds.
Maybe if he tries the transportation talisman again? That would do it.
But he didn't have any paper to draw on… There are a lot of trees he could paint on but someone might notice if it explodes.
And if it doesn't work?
He needed another way. And that option is going by foot. It would take days, even weeks to Yiling in his condition.
Wen Qing will kill him. She will stuck needles in him. Stuck needles then kill him. Or kill him with the needles. So many options.
Wei Wuxian followed the path where the young man came from, he hoped for a small village there. Maybe he can get information, where he is exactly.
He was lost in his thoughts about how to disguise himself (because he can't just roam around, someone will likely recognise the Yiling Laozu) when he noticed that someone is walking towards him.
Fuck, he probably already spotted me.
Wei Wuxian couldn't hide behind a tree this time. He couldn't move, he was mesmerised by the sight.
Those white robes, the forehead ribbon, the sword, that familiar handsome face… The golden eyes that were looking at him as he came closer and closer.
Wei Wuxian felt the urge to say something. To say something why is he here, in Gusu.
"Ah, Lan Zhan! Long time no see! Ahaha!"
Lan Zhan did not respond. He just kept going. Did not slow down a bit in his pace.
"Lan Zhan?" Wei Wuxian was confused, his friend was meters away but didn't stop. And he was staring ahead, above Wei Wuxian's head, like he is ignoring him.
Lan Zhan came closer and closer and Wei Wuxian started to panic. He walked backwards but Lan Zhan's leg was longer and thus were faster than him.
"Lan Zhan, what are you doing?" he asked. No answer.
Wei Wuxian stopped and waited for the collision to happen.
Lan Zhan walked past him. Through him.
Like he was a…
No, he can't be.
He turned around with heavy breathing and looked at Lan Zhan's back. He tapped his body then put his hand on his chest.
Ba-bam. Ba-bam. Ba-bam.
His heart was still beating.
He wasn't dead.
He wasn't a ghost.
Wei Wuxian calmed down and let out a breath.
It looks like the talisman has a side-effect. This way he doesn't have to disguise himself. It will probably wore off by time. At least, he hoped it will.
Wei Wuxian looked at Lan Zhan's distant back and after a second of thinking, he went after him.
After some minutes, they reached a clearing. That young man from before was sitting in the middle, robes laid out behind him like a fan. He was surrounded by a lot of small and white furballs.
Now Wei Wuxian understood the carrots.
Wei Wuxian stopped when they reached the edge of the forest, Lan Zhan, of course went on, towards the man.
He remembered when he gifted two bunnies to his friend when they were teens. 'No pets allowed in the Cloud Recesses' he said.
Lan Zhan was probably there to remind this man of the rules. Wei Wuxian huffed, smiling. This fuddy-duddy…
The young man looked up with a beaming smile. "Lan Zhan!" he shouted.
He calls him Lan Zhan? Like me?
"I missed you, my dear husband!"
Wei Wuxian choked.
Omg, this guy is more shameless than me… You better run for your life, fella!
But then, to Wei Wuxian's surprise, Lan Zhan picked up a bunny and sat down next to the man. Very close.
And Wei Wuxian did not count on the next thing either.
Lan Zhan leaned forward and kissed the man. On the lips.
Wei Wuxian's eyes went wide, his jaw dropped.
Lan Zhan is a… cutsleeve?
And he already has a husband? When did he get married? Why didn't he tell this to him? To his best friend!
Ah, right, now he is everyone's enemy.
After the kiss, the husband climbed into Lan Zhan's lap to sit there and chat while Lan Zhan hugged him, stroked his hair and listened attentively.
Maybe he thought I would judge him for it?
Wei Wuxian didn't hear what they were talking about but sometimes the husband laughed very loud and Lan Zhan looked at him softly. And smiled gently. Smiled.
He is happy.
Wei Wuxian felt like crying. He didn't know why. He was happy for his friend. Very happy that he found love. He couldn't be happier.
Why does he feel this weird pain in his chest? Why he can't breathe?
The resentful energy.
Wei Wuxian needed to go home. Wen Qing most likely has a medicine for this. He hoped.
Wei Wuxian turned around, away from the lovebirds and started his way back on the path.
Or he just wanted.
He heard noises from behind and when he turned, he saw the husband glide his way into the forest. Hm, he probably needed to pee.
Wei Wuxian stopped, since he was invisible, the man won't see him staring.
The man was really pretty, Lan Zhan has good taste. Glittering eyes, beaming smile, a nice body shape. He was slightly smaller than Wei Wuxian.
The husband glanced at him during his search in the bushes but he still went forward.
Then he suddenly froze and turned back his head very slowly. "A-are you really here or it's just my mind playing with me again?" the husband asked.
"You… You can see me?!"
"Yes, why do you think I can't?"
"I thought I'm invisible, Lan Zhan couldn't see me."
"Lan Zhan coul- Do you not know who I am?" the man asked, eyes wide.
Wei Wuxian furrowed his brows. "Lan Zhan's husband?"
"Yeeees, but beyond that?"
"He never mentioned you, sorry" Wei Wuxian shook his head.
The husband lifted one hand to his face and took a deep breath. "Then you are really here and not just my imagination" he mumbled. "Shit."
"So" he spoke in normal tone again. "Why are you here?"
"I didn't want to come here, I was just experimenting with my transportation talisman, it exploded and I got here."
The man frowned. "Transportation talisman?" he raised his hand to his chin and hummed. "I see."
Wei Wuxian tilted his head confused. "Are- Are you not afraid of me? I'm the Yiling Laozu, other people are afraid of me."
The man shook his head.
Is it maybe because of Lan Zhan? He doesn't want to resent his husband's friend?
"I used to…" he said. He didn't look at Wei Wuxian.
"I used to hate you. Sometimes I'm still angry when I remember what you did. But I try to get over it. It's hard, and at times it comes back…" he sighed. "Lan Zhan helps… a lot."
"He is a good husband, I suppose."
The man smiles and nods. "The best."
Wei Wuxian bowed down his head. "I'm sorry." The husband raised his eyebrows. "For what I did. I don't know what I did but I probably killed someone you loved."
"Mhm. My shijie. Her husband. His cousin. A lot of other people."
"I'm sorry," Wei Wuxian whispered.
"Mn," he shook his head. "I know it wasn't intentional. I know you aren't a bad person." He took a shaking breath and finally looked at Wei Wuxian. "Maybe this is why you are here. We- I need to sort things out." He stepped closer.
"I'm sorry," Wei Wuxian repeated.
"Hey," the man said softly. He slowly raised his hand and gently patted Wei Wuxian's head. Like his shijie used to. Before he escaped with the Wens to Burial Mounds. Before everything went wrong.
Wei Wuxian's vision got blurred.
The husband cupped his cheek and raised his head a bit so Wei Wuxian can look at him. His eyes were sparkling with unshed tears.
"I know. How you feel. Betrayed. Lost. Abandoned. Helpless. Lonely. Confused. Outcast." He took a shaky breath. "A failure. That you didn't do your best. But it's not true. Don't listen to those voices. You did your best. I know you had a reason why you turned to demonic cultivation. You aren't wicked like they say. I understand you."
"Shhhh," the young man hushed. "That's not important now. I know what you need. What I need. What we need." He took a shaky breath again and raised his other hand to cup Wei Wuxian's face fully. He looked into Wei Wuxian's eyes, seriously, a small smile playing on his lips. "I forgive you. For what you did and for what you will do in the future. You only wanted your family to be safe" he sniffled. "So I forgive you. I forgive you, Wei Ying."
That was the moment when the first tear escaped Wei Wuxian's eyes. The dam broke, and the salty tears were silently streaming down on his cheeks.
The husband did not shush him, he embraced him in a tender hug, placing Wei Wuxian's head on his shoulder, gently stroking his hair.
It felt so familiar. It reminded him of his shijie again. Who is this guy? Why does he know so much about him? How does he know how he feels? Why does he remind him of his shijie?
Wei Wuxian felt like something heavy got lifted off his shoulders, he felt light and safe in the strange man's embrace, like they didn't just meet for the first time minutes ago. Like he can let all his walls down before this person, he can trust him and just cry and cry until he runs out of tears.
So Wei Wuxian wrapped his arms around the other man tightly, whereupon the latter one huffed a surprised laugh.
"You haven't been hugged for a while, haven't you?" he sighed. His voice wasn't teasing, it was sad. Wei Wuxian's answer was only a muffled sound. "I'm here," he said as he continued to stroke his hair.
After some minutes, Wei Wuxian's silent tears slowed down then stopped but he didn't draw back from the warm and conformable hug.
"Who… Who are you?" Wei Wuxian's voice was muddy from the crying.
"Ah, right… You… You don't know who I am. I'm- Hm… You can, ah, you can call me, hm, Lan Ying."
"Hm" Wei Wuxian hummed. "Maybe Lan Zhan has a thing for Yings."
The other man laughed out loud. "You are right!"
Wei Wuxian withdrew from the hug so he can look at Lan Ying. The man let him and dabbed at his cheeks and eyes with his sleeve to wipe the remaining tears.
"You will dirty your white robe."
"Don't worry, it's not mine" Lan Ying smiled. Ah, so it's Lan Zhan's. "And I have a talisman to clean it."
"Is he happy?" Wei Wuxian asked silently.
The other man knew who he was referring to. "Yes."
"I'm glad" he nodded. It was true, he was happy for Lan Zhan but he felt bad at the same time, he didn't know why. "Aiyo, I'm so rude… Congratulations on your marriage!" he bowed.
"Ah, thank you!"
"Please take good care of my best friend!"
"I will, I will!"
"Or else the Yiling Laozu will hunt you down!"
Lan Ying laughed. "That's fair."
Wei Wuxian looked around then sighed. "Now I only need to get back to Burial Mounds before Wen Qing notices that I disappeared."
"You said you were experimenting with a transportation talisman?" Wei Wuxian nodded. "Hm, I think I can help you."
"Yeah, I'm inventing new talismans and a kind of transportation talisman is in them too."
Lan Ying took out a clean paper from his robes, bit his finger and drew on the paper.
"Wait!" He almost sticked it to Wei Wuxian's forehead when he blurted it out. Lan Ying raised his eyebrows. Wei Wuxian bit his lower lip anxiously. "I- Can I ask you a big favour?"
The other man tilted his head to the side. "I'm listening."
"There's a kid at the Burial Mounds."
"Ah," Lan Ying smiled knowingly.
"Did Lan Zhan talk about him?"
"Mhm. The cute, little A-Yuan."
"I want to ask you and Lan Zhan that if…" Wei Wuxian took a shaky breath. "If something happens with me… please save him and take care of him! He is just a child."
"I promise." he nodded seriously. "He will be safe here, in Cloud Recesses."
Wei Wuxian breathed out, relieved. "Thank you!" He inhaled deeply. "Okay, now you can send me back" he said but he still eyed the talisman.
Lan Ying noticed it. "Don't worry, it's way past the exploding stage. And it works."
"Say 'hi' to A-Yuan for me!"
The man put the talisman on Wei Wuxian's forehead and the world went dark.
When the next time Wei Wuxian opened his eyes, he saw the ceiling of his cave. He was back in Burial Mounds and his head was pounding with pain. He winced and tried to sit up but two small but firm hands stopped him.
"Don't move!" ordered Wen Qing. "You hit your head very badly, you have a concussion."
"Maybe I hit it when I got back," he murmured.
"Wen Qing! My talisman worked!"
"Yeah, but I travelled to… somewhere!"
Hm, this is strange… Why can't he remember?
"Wei Wuxian! Stop this! You were unconscious for half a day!"
He turned his head and looked at the woman with wide eyes. "What?" he asked weakly.
"You just probably dreamed it. You were here the whole time."
So that light feeling he felt, the relief was also a dream? But he remembered… What was it?
"I met someone, I think? And there was Lan Zhan. He was happy. I don't remember why but he was happy and that's all that matters." He smiled.
Wen Qing sighed and stood up. "Of course you would dream about Second Young Master Lan."
Wei Wuxian gaped and slightly blushed. "Wen Qing! I'm no-"
"Now stay still until I bring you something to eat!" She turned and walked to the exit.
When Wei Wuxian tried to protest and propped up himself on his elbows, something whooshed past his face, flicking his hair. He turned his head and saw a small needle sticking out of the wall. The doctor didn't even look at him.
Wei Wuxian gulped and laid back on his rock bed.
It's better not to argue with Wen Qing.
This startled Wei Wuxian out of his thoughts, he didn't hear the approaching footsteps of the other.
"Aiyo, Lan Zhan, what's wrong? Why did you come after me?"
"Wei Ying was absent for too long."
"Did something happen?" Lan Wangji asked. Then he noticed his husband's red rimmed eyes and cupped his face worryingly. "Wei Ying, did you cry? Who hurt you?"
"Aiya, Lan Zhan, I'm okay! They were happy tears!" Lan Wangji narrowed his eyes at that. Wei Wuxian sighed. "I met someone… from the past." Lan Wangji hummed to him to continue. "The Yiling Laozu. He was really here this time, I did not imagine him. And I did it. I forgave him, Lan Zhan." He smiled up to his husband. "I feel so much better now!"
Although Wei Wuxian knows his past self won't recall this encounter because he remembered now that he had this conversation and that he thought it was a dream.
Lan Wangji looked at him softly (this look always made Wei Wuxian a puddle). "I'm happy for Wei Ying."
Wei Wuxian beamed. "Now Lan Zhan, let's go back to the rabbits! They are still hungry for carrots!"
He grabbed his cultivation partner's hand, intertwined their fingers like always and the two of them wandered back to the clearing, Wei Wuxian chatting about his meeting with his past self.
"Lan Zhan! He did not recognize me in Mo Xuanyu's body! And he congratulated us for our marriage! Hahaha!"
Wei Wuxian's voice and laugh was audible throughout the entire forest.