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1. Lotus Sation

Wei Wuxian bounces with excitement as he follows his siblings down one of the long corridors of Lotus Station. They are on their way to board the shuttle that will take them to Yunmeng, and thence Cloud Recess Station, where they are invited to study for a year. This will be the longest journey the three of them have taken by themselves and by far the longest Wei Wuxian has been away from Lotus Station since he came to live there. It’s going to be an adventure!

One side of the corridor is full of windows looking down on the watery planet, with small fruit trees and benches set between the windows. A sliver array inlayed into the floor between the trees provides this section of the station with clean air and gravity. The other side of the corridor is lined with market stalls. Behind the stalls, the wall is painted with a mural of lotus-filled lakes. The familiar environs feel safe, but also a little confining.

The stalls sell a mix of things: food, jewelry, mugs and tea sets; ink and paper; and of course talismans and charms. Wei Wuxian notices a stall selling translation charms, next to a stall selling luck talismans. The charms are written in hebrew letters with geometric patterns. It’s a different spiritual tradition from the cultivation that Wei Wuxian has been trained in, but he’s seen the charms in use and knows they work.

For a moment he considers buying a few for the journey, but they won’t be stopping anywhere long, so he’ll be fine with just the Mandarin and Spanish he already speaks. While Wei Wuxian has stopped to consider the translation charms, his siblings have continued walking and are quite far ahead of him, so he hurries to catch up, laughing excitedly.

2. Yunmeng

At the spaceport planetside, after they have checked their bags, the siblings wander. Yunmeng is a water planet, but the space port is on one of the few large islands.They are in the empire proper now, so most of the ships are large and bulky, relying entirely on mechanical means to jump through the gates that connect planets, not any of the spiritual traditions practiced on the outskirts of the empire.

Wei Wuxian is still impatient to be properly on their way. He often visits Yunmeng and he wants to see new and different things. Still, they have some time to kill so he may as well look around. As he wanders, window shopping, Wei Wuxian finds a shop selling purple and green pottery. The shop window features a dark wooden shelf with rows of bowls. Wei Wuxian ducks inside for a closer look. Inside there are more wooden shelves lining the walls, with a display table in the middle. The shapes of the vessels are simple but elegant. A sign on the wall explains that they are reproductions of an ancient earth style of pottery called “Jun ware” It’s some of the most lovely pottery Wei Wuxian’s ever seen. He considers buying himself a tea set, or just a bowl, then he could look at it all the time. There’s one bowl in particular, with an elegant flare to the rim, a purple spot on the inside, that Wei Wuxain’s gaze lingers on. He’s still looking at it when Shijie finds him.

“There you are!” She says. “It's time to board the ship; let's not be late.”

Wei Wuxian turns toward the door. “I’m coming, don’t worry! But aren’t these lovely?”

She looks around properly for a moment, eyes finally taking in the fine tea set on the table in front of her, “Oh, they are! But still we have to go.”

“No problem.” But as Wei Wuxian follows her out of the shop, he tucks one of the artist’s cards into the pocket of his red jumpsuit. Perhaps he’ll buy something when he returns home, maybe as a present for Shijie.

3. Baling

Wei Wuxian and his siblings are squished into one bunk, watching a historical drama, when a voice over the intercom tells them to prepare for landing at Baling. After five jumps they are to change ships here, on the planet known for its lush forests, with half a day's layover. Wei Wuxian is glad to be able to stretch his legs after a few days spent mostly in a small passenger cabin. He’s been to Baling, but only very briefly, as the family spent most of the trip on Ouyang station which orbits the planet. Now the three of them have some time to explore.

The tram takes them from the noisy space port to a station halfway up the mountain. Wei Wuxian spends the whole ride looking out the windows and exclaiming about things. The forest near the spaceport is deep green and full of bird song. It’s a different noise than the buzz of life on Lotus Sation but Wei Wuxian finds it charming, like a kids media program come to life. Shijie wants to see the local temple, so the three of them walk up the stairs and up the stairs and up the stairs until they reach the temple. The three of them light incense and leave offerings of oranges in front of the Three Pure Ones. They pray for a safe journey, and Wei Wuxian spends a moment thinking hard about his siblings' safely. Afterwards, they wander from room to room admiring the art and the views. The temple is pretty, but the best part of the afternoon is spending time with his siblings, sharing their excitement.

As they head back to port to catch their ship they walk through a courtyard full of stalls selling food and souvenirs. Shijie, who loves to feed people, buys them all some chuan’r. The spiced meat is the perfect snack, and Wei Wuxian finishes his skewers quickly. After wiping his fingers, he stops to pick up a snow globe featuring the temple, turning it over to make the white flakes fall. Wei Wuxain has never seen snow in person, as Yungmeng is a warm planet, and all the inhabited islands are in climates too warm for snow. Snow is a thing for dramas and paintings, not for daily life on stations, though it's rumored that it can snow in Cloud Recesses Station. He thinks the real temple would look lovely dusted in snow. But the snow globe is heavy and a bit tacky, so he puts it back down and walks on, happy to have gotten to see some new sights.

4. Caiyi

By the time they get to Caiyi, Wei Wuxian is almost glad that the trip is coming to an end. It’s been cosy traveling with Shijie and Jiang Cheng, but he wants more space, and more things to do. Caiyi is a bustling port, with exciting things to look at everywhere. The buildings are a hodgepodge: blocky new official buildings, mixed with the older pyramid-shaped buildings popular fifty years ago, and older wooden buildings with peaked title roofs. It’s a lot to take in, and Wei Wuxian can’t help craning his neck, unused to having so much up to look at. Everything is laid out in a neat grid that’s common in imperial settlements. The narrow streets are lined with shops and only pedestrians are allowed. It would be charming if they weren’t trying to rush through the crowds to catch their shuttle in time.

Even as the other two hurry, Wei Wuxian can’t stop looking around. It's all so new and different. His eye is caught by a shelf of small stone animals at a street seller’s table. He stops walking to look. There’s a grumpy looking donkey, an elegant swan, a sleeping cat, and more. He’s about to ask how much one of the rabbits is, when Jiang Cheng grabs his arm.

“Come on! We don’t have all day!”

With one more glance back, he allows himself to be hurried along.

5. Cloud Recesses

Cloud Recesses Station is a hollowed out asteroid. From the shuttle it looked just like a big space rock, but inside it is breathtaking. Like Lotus Station, the Cloud Recess relies on cultivation to make the station habitable. Some things, like the arrays embedded in the floors and walls and the plant life everywhere, are familiar. Other things, like the huge spaces full of light, are not. Wei Wuxian can’t stop staring. This is where they are going to stay for a whole year? It’s beautiful in an austere way, with soaring spaces painted in pale colors with dark accents, carefully tended paths, moss covered rocks and tall stands of bamboo. Wei Wuxian doesn’t quite know what to make of it.

Just off the docks, there’s a passageway with shops on one side and delicate stands of bamboo set among white rocks. The ceiling is very high, very blue, and decorated with a stylized cloud pattern. Wei Wuxian stops to admire a black silk coat in a shop window. The Cloud Recesses is known for its silk production, and the coat is glorious, with gold embroidery around the edges, and a dramatic sweeping cut. He knows that the coat is far more than he can afford, and anyways while he’s here he’ll be wearing student jumpsuits most of the time. But he allows himself to think about how he would look wearing it, and how the silk would feel under his hands, before he turns away.

+1 Caiyi Again

Cloud Recesses being an asteroid, rather than orbiting the nearest planet, means that it's much farther from Caiyi than Lotus Pier is from Yunmeng. Having already taken the shuttle between the planet and the station and back again today, Wei Wuxian is very aware of this fact. He aches with tiredness and impatience. As he heads back to catch yet another shuttle, now with his sect’s invitation to study at Cloud Recesses Station firmly placed in his pocket, he sighs, not looking forward to another trip. But he wants to get back as quickly as possible since his siblings are stuck in the public area available for tourists and traders, rather than being allowed into the main area of the station. He wants to get them properly settled as soon as possible.

Just before he reaches the shuttles, he spots a shop with round white jars: the famous local wine, Emperors Smile. He’s been dying to try some, and surely it won’t take long to buy a few jars? He ducks into the shop and quickly buys two, which he swings over his shoulder. Now he has something to look forward to, other than arguing with stuck up Lans. Feeling much more cheerful, he continues on his way.