Jiang Cheng did not know what to make of Sect Leader Nie’s visit to Lotus Pier. It had been a few months since the Guanyin Temple incident, but Jiang Cheng was still wary of him. Especially since the Sect Leader could have chosen any other time period to visit him, but he chose to visit Jiang Cheng when Wei Wuxian was temporarily residing under his roof.
Wei Wuxian had told Jiang Cheng that he would be staying for a while, just to take a break from travelling for some time before he resumed it.
“Apple must be tired from all of the travelling. She hasn’t been eating that well. Maybe I could take her to a vet one of these days,” Wei Wuxian had insisted.
Jiang Cheng hadn’t believed Wei Wuxian’s idiotic reasons for even a second, but he also hadn’t dared to hope for what the true reason might be.
This meant that when Sect Leader Nie arrived at Lotus Pier, Jiang Cheng stood at the docks to greet him along with Wei Wuxian, who actually seemed happy at the thought of meeting him again.
“It’ll be like meeting up with an old friend,” he had said.
“After everything that’s happened, how can you call him a friend?” Jiang Cheng had asked.
“It is because of everything that has happened that I still call him a friend,” Wei Wuxian had responded.
As Sect Leader Nie stepped off of the boat, Wei Wuxian greeted him with a hug. Sect Leader Nie hugged him back and Wei Wuxian whispered something to him that made him laugh.
Jiang Cheng observed that Sect Leader Nie’s fan was still tied to his robes. He never hid his face with it anymore, he didn’t cover up his emotions with it either. They were for the entire world to see now.
Sect Leader Nie approached Jiang Cheng cautiously, as though approaching a wild animal. Jiang Cheng’s reputation as the Sandu Shengshou was probably to blame for that. “Sect Leader Jiang,” Sect Leader Nie bowed politely to him. “It is a pleasure to be here.”
“Sect Leader Nie,” Jiang Cheng mirrored the gesture just as politely. “It is a pleasure to have you here.”
For a few moments, they just stared at each other. Nie Huaisang…Sect Leader Nie opened his mouth, as if wanting to say something to Jiang Cheng, but then he shut it and looked away. A knot appeared in Jiang Cheng’s throat at that, making him look away too.
“So, should we go inside? Because I’m starving,” Wei Wuxian said, walking past them and gesturing for them to follow him. Their path back inside, away from the docks was littered with leaves. Silence surrounded them as they walked on the wooden planks, the air thick and heavy with unanswered questions and stirred emotions ready to burst.
Jiang Cheng was startled out of his deep thoughts as he bumped into Wei Wuxian. He was about to berate him and ask him what he thought he was doing, when his eyes fell on the thing that had made Wei Wuxian stop. Even Nie Huai— Sect Leader Nie held his breath as he looked at it.
It was a pile of leaves. It almost reached up to Wei Wuxian’s knees. None of them moved a single muscle as memories of Gusu flowed through their minds. Of the way Jiang Cheng had fallen into the pile of leaves outside their rooms in Gusu with Wei Wuxian on top of him, and Nie Huaisang had chosen to join them by falling on top of Wei Wuxian.
“Wei-xiong,” Nie Huaisang spoke up, turning to Wei Wuxian. “I never did manage to ask you. Had you actually drawn yourself kissing Lan Wangji on the piece of parchment back then or had you just been joking with us?”
Jiang Cheng watched the back of Wei Wuxian’s neck turn red. “I had drawn us kissing.” And just like they had back then, Wei Wuxian and Nie Huaisang shared a look before dissolving into fits of giggles. Jiang Cheng sighed, wishing he could let go of old hurts and wounds as easily as his two companions could, and wishing he could be as carefree as they seemed to be in that moment.
“Huaisang, do you remember how we smothered Jiang Cheng with our love?” Wei Wuxian asked Nie Huaisang, and Jiang Cheng bristled.
“You didn’t smother me with love, you stupid fucker, you smothered me with your giant ass!”
Nie Huaisang and Wei Wuxian began another bout of laughter, making Jiang Cheng’s anger rise up. “Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian said, tears running down his face as he laughed. “You’re amazing.”
“Ah, Jiang-xiong, you truly are!” Nie Huaisang said laying a hand on Jiang Cheng’s shoulder, and suddenly, everything grew quiet. Nie Huaisang straightened up, pulling his hand away as he realised what he had done. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly.
Jiang Cheng swallowed down his anger, knowing that his terrible temper was to blame for the tense expressions on Nie Huaisang’s and Wei Wuxian’s faces. All he did was bring his bottled-up rage to eradicate fun wherever he went. His brother and his friend were better off without his particular brand of anger and hatred.
“For what?” Jiang Cheng asked, his voice cracking slightly. Nie Huaisang chanced a glance at him and blinked. Wei Wuxian’s shoulders seemed to relax too.
Nie Huaisang reached out to Jiang Cheng, hesitated, and then gently held Jiang Cheng’s hand between both of his. “For everything,” he said softly, sounding every bit as sincere as he looked. “I know it’s too little too late, but I truly am.”
And maybe, just maybe, Jiang Cheng was tired of holding life-long grudges and being angry all the time. Maybe for once, he just wanted to forgive and forget and be as carefree as the two men standing in front of him.
So, he nodded his head. “Okay,” he said.
He saw a hopeful look on Nie Huaisang’s face. “Okay?”
Jiang Cheng nodded his head. “I forgive you Huaisang. It’s alright.”
“You really mean that?” Huaisang asked, and Jiang Cheng realised that Nie Huaisang had been Jiang Cheng’s friend for almost two decades now, until the Guanyin Temple incident, and they had been awfully close during that time.
They had constantly written letters to each other, mostly gossiping and bitching about their elders and other sect leaders. Jiang Cheng had attended Nie Mingjue’s funeral and Nie Huaisang hadn’t left Jiang Cheng’s side during his sister’s and brother-in-law’s funeral. He had always been there for Jiang Cheng when he had become too wound up about Sect Leader duties or when he grew frustrated with Jin Ling.
Jiang Cheng in turn had always been there when Nie Huaisang had felt too overwhelmed by Sect Leader duties or to offer advice when he didn’t know whether he was making the right decisions for his sect and his people. So, their friendship probably meant just as much to Nie Huaisang as it did to Jiang Cheng.
“I really mean it.” Jiang Cheng reassured and saw Nie Huaisang’s features brighten and his eyes light up. He gave Jiang Cheng a genuine smile, and Jiang Cheng felt a warmth growing in his chest because of it.
“Now that you two have sorted things out, can I smother our Sect Leader Jiang under my tiny, sexy ass again or do I have to wait until Nie-xiong goes away?”
Jiang Cheng was inside his home, walking along the corridors of Lotus Pier before Wei Wuxian could complete his sentence.
“Oiii! Jiang Cheng, where did you go?” Wei Wuxian asked loudly.
“Jiang-xiong?” Nie Huaisang’s head peaked inside although his body was still outside.
“Huaisang, why don’t you let Wei Wuxian know that I have Sect Leader duties to attend to? I will meet both of you and talk to you later.” Jiang Cheng responded calmly. As soon as Nie Huaisang’s peeking head disappeared, however, Jiang Cheng sprinted away as though running for his dear life.