Within the golden core, maintaining the stability of qi is a delicate balance, but once attained, it can enhance the immortal’s power significantly.
Among the cultivation methods, meditation is one of the most difficult to master. Hence, training through meditation is a skill that takes years or even decades to achieve fruition. Thus why, when such cultivation takes place, a privately secluded haven is a more ideal location.
Centuries ago, the founders of Gusu Sect chose to settle between two high mountain ranges, as being situated within these protective walls shielded Gusu from extreme atmospheric changes. Not surprisingly, the weather of Gusu Sect has always been mild and provided an ideal oasis.
As an Immortal practitioner, he could cultivate for days or even a half-moon's time without ever leaving his post. But it didn’t mean all was well. If one’s state of mind was not present, no matter the surrounding tranquillity, uneasy visions would appear. Disrupting all of one's efforts.
Today was like any other near-perfect day if not for one factor.
Someone was here.
Not just someone, a truly daring intruder. A person who possessed nerves as high as Gusu’s Mountain peak and skills far beyond the young Disciples of its residence. More importantly, no Disciples of the Sect would goad a Senior during the time of his isolation.
Seclusion, a private retreat for the mind and body. Only when one is away from the noise of life, can one reach enlightenment. Be it by choice or punishment, the goal remained the same. Isolation is an imposed separation of oneself, while solitude is a retreat of the mind.
Still, the fault was his, because he could so easily be distracted by the changing environment. A sign he had yet to reach peace of mind, no matter the fervor of his desire. However, what is needed and what could be obtained is not a guaranteed match.
Curiously, the uninvited guest hesitated for quite some time. As though he couldn’t decide if he should make himself be known.
The visitor was agile enough to sneak into his residence, without a sound or whiff on the wind. Even his breath was low enough not to be detected. Who else would it be?
An unforgettable scent, but with a touch of familiarity. The meditator had almost forgotten this unique aroma from that time.
Lan Xichen smiled as he gathered the fluctuating qi to settle it. “Young Master Wei, would you like to join me for tea?”
“Ah...Zewu Jun, you’re incredible!” the delighted voice chirped. “How did you know it was me?”
The approachable informality of Young Master Wei’s personality had always been a contrast with Wangji’s indifference. Lan Xichen opened his eyes, not at all surprised that Wei Wuxian was wearing Gusu Sect white garbs and making his way from the other side of the room. Wei Wuxian still remained as youthful in appearance as the first day he appeared in Lan Xichen’s presence, unable to speak due to Lan Wangji’s silencing spell.
At first glance, the statement may be true. But as of now, the lonesome dark horse who had once thrived within the herd may appear untethered, but his shackles from a lifetime of woes were still apparent. Those animated eyes were the same as the day when Lan Xichen made a visit to Junmeng Sect, where they shared the offered wine through an exchange of bittersweet words.
If he hadn’t warned Wei Wuxian back then, would the bloody aftermath of Nightless City have occurred? These loyal childhood pairs could influence each other without the need for spoken words. Although the brotherly intention to protect Wangji from being perceived as an accomplice was justified, the outcome could have been averted if he had chosen differently.
But the past is the past. At present, his guest had settled himself down across from the sitting table and asked, “What gave me away?”’
“Your scent, Young Master Wei.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Wei Wuxian scoffed. “These aren’t even my clothes. In fact, I should smell like everyone else here. These clothes are all the same, aren’t they?”
Lan XiChen chuckled at his oblivious guest, then gently remarked, “Master Wei, it’s been a while. I see you are as lively as always. You haven’t changed.”
“Are you implying I haven’t grown?” Wei Wuxian feigned an offended expression.
“I assure you that was not my implication,” Lan Xichen denied, but he couldn’t help but strategically add, “Given my seclusion, I’m afraid I am unable to judge.”
“Everyone here always seems to go into seclusion.” Wei Wuxian rolled his eyes, his head arched slightly to the side in a disapproving manner. “Besides your Uncle, I have never met any Gusu Elders, aside from your Ancestor Lan Yi. Still, even she could not be counted because she also hid within her realm. Why is your sect obsessed with locking yourselves up? It’s no wonder Lan Zhan is so quiet. He doesn’t know anything else besides meditation and Gusu Sect rules.”
Bemused, Lan Xichen ignored Wei Wuxian’s comment and began his preparations for their tea.
Even though Zewu Jun hadn’t had visitors for quite some time, his daily essential needs were well provided for. It didn’t take him long to produce a small fire stove by the sitting table to prepare fresh tea for his guest, who had yet to stop complaining about the thousands of rules from Gusu Sect.
Ironically, for someone who despised the ordinance of Gusu, Wei Wuxian could recite them by heart. What’s even more comical is the fact that Young Master Wei was seemingly unaware of his habit of connecting these regulations to Wangji. With the knowledge that some additional rules were added by HanGuang Jun, Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but over analyze the reasoning behind Wangji’s thoughts.
Lan Xichen had to suppress his inner laughter while the witty but still unaware man in front of Zewu Jun continued to bring up Wangji throughout his one-sided conversation. Honestly, Lan Xichen hadn’t yet had the opportunity to speak when the subject was hardly about himself.
“ZeWu Jun, I have to say, you don’t look worse for wear,” Wei Wuxian had finally focused on his host after a short while. “There’s no reason to remain here as it’s not like your Uncle ordered you to. Even though he loves to punish others, he rarely does with the two of you.”
“You’re right,” Lan Xichen admitted. “My Uncle did not punish me. However, I’m here by my own choice. Peace of mind, as you are well aware, is easier said than done. ”
“ZeWu Jun, I-I...aahhh….” Wei Wuxian mumbled apologetically. “I’m sorry Zewu Jun, I should not have disturbed your peace.”
“Young Master Wei, there’s no need for apologies,” Lan Xichen assured. “Between you and I, there were things we could neither control nor could we forget.”
The situation this time must be more delicate than it appeared.
It took until the third cup of tea for Wei Wuxian to change the subject, but the Young Master still held back what he wanted to address. Despite what these unlikely partners have gone through, from youth to adulthood, these kindred spirits were still remarkably indecisive when it came to realizing their feelings. In the past, Lan Xichen had intervened when the opportunity arose, but due to their personal fears, neither had been honest with the other.
Lan Xichen poured him another fresh cup of tea and asked, “Now tell me, what is the real reason for this visit?”
“Not only can you read your brother like a book, but you can even read my thoughts. You are an amazing mind reader ZeWu Jun,” Wei Wuxian complimented, half-jokingly, a habit of his when he felt uneasy.
Lan Xichen remained quiet, not wanting to take the lead until this wild horse made his approach.
“I need your help,” he finally admitted.
Lan Xichen’s tea was near his lips. “My brother?” he asked, but there was no need to declare what was as obvious as the setting sun.
Wei Wuxian hesitated, his hands could not remain on his lap, or on the table either. “You’re the only person who knows what he’s thinking.”
“I’m afraid Wangji has not come to me regarding his problems as of late. You’re the first guest I have hosted in quite some time. What has become of your relationship?”
Wei Wuxian chuckled bitterly, “Lan Zhan still won’t tell me why he’s upset. But I know he is. He refused to look at me directly no matter how much I tried to apologize for what I may have said. Honestly, I still don’t know what I said that made him this angry. If he doesn’t want me to be here, I could leave, but that is not an option either!”
Groaning in frustration, he stood up abruptly and started to pace back and forth.
“For one, HanGuang Jun hid all my things. I can’t find my belongings, and he won’t answer me about them either. Fine fine, it’s not like I have many valuables to begin with,” Wei Wuxian admitted as he threw his hands up dramatically.
Stopping abruptly, he turned back to the sitting table and slammed his fist down so hard the tea early spilled.
“But your brother, damn his powers!” he snarled. “He dares use my own techniques against me! You see this?” Wei Wuxian made the bright blue string appear on his wrist. An endless thread that seems to travel beyond his residence.
Lan Xichen blinked a couple of times before it disappeared again. “And this is?” he asked with a frown.
“My blue binding thread technique, which your brother called boring and useless among other insulting names in the past! It used to only connect two people by five meters at most, but your brother added a few more strokes to the talisman, allowing it to extend beyond the old spell. Which turns out to have its benefits, or I wouldn’t be able to have any freedom on this mountain,” Wei Wuxian explained, his eyes had turned red from rage.
“However, it cannot be taken off!” Wei Wuxian glowered. “Only the original person who cast it can remove it. I can only go as far as the gates of Gusu or any barrier set up by your Sect. Do you know how I know this?”
Zewu Jun could only shake his head in response. He had always feared this day would come. Really, the apple did not fall far from its tree.
“Once I reached your front gate,” Wei Wuxian explained irritably, “I was suddenly dragged back by this bloody thread, and it would not stop dragging me until I reached your brother’s side.”
The image was hard to imagine, but there was no doubt the younger Jade had taken after their stubborn father. The man was highly respected among his peers but had done the unthinkable due to love. His blood certainly ran through their veins. Luckily for Lan Xichen, he must have taken after his mother. Be it due to instinct or environmental deterrent, he had closed himself off from such attachments.
“So fine,” Young Master Wei continued his rant. “I tried the other side of the mountain. The same thing happened once I reached the barrier. I attempted North, South, East, West, any direction I could think of, but in the end, I’m still being pulled back to your beloved brother, who seems to have grown a few heads since taking his Chief Cultivator seat!”
One began to wonder, how far would his possessive brother go?
Thinking back, the time the two Blue Jade of Gusu spent time with their father was the same, but Lan Xichen couldn’t help but wonder if their father really taught Wangji these methods when he was not around.
“There was no difference from being dragged by your brother when we were in school, besides the fact that I show up while he’s meditating, training, eating, or even conversing with your Uncle. And... you should’ve seen the expression on your Uncle’s face when I fell into his study due to this bloody string! He thinks I was interrupting them on purpose!” Wei Wuxian growled.
“Which tells me I can’t test my luck anymore or I might end up crashing into Lan Zhan’s bath or some other embarrassing situation. Being literally strung along by your perfect untouchable Brother, and being blamed for it is a first! I may be a shameless person, but it all comes from my own actions.”
“Young Master…” Lan Xichen tried, but he wasn’t fast enough, because Wei Wuxian cut him off.
“Now tell me,” the impatient man demanded, “Zewu Jun, how can I get your brother to remove this? And, what have I done to offend him?”
“He’s keeping me from leaving when he obviously can’t stand the sight of me,” he concluded without reservation.
Really, how long would these two continue this? Lan Xichen sighed heavily.
Feeling exhausted, he asked, “Have you asked Wangji why he cast this particular spell?”
“You think I didn’t ask? He wouldn’t talk to me…He had stopped talking altogether!” Wei Wuxian's growl sounded more like a groan. His energy was obviously drained from the days of his many attempted escapes.
The defeated man sat back down, his voice softened, “For someone who could so expertly cast the silence spell, he seems to have placed one on himself. This is some kind of twisted punishment because I'd rather have him put the silence spell on myself. At least, after an incense or two, we could be on friendly terms again.”
Lan Xichen did not know when it would be appropriate to laugh, so he held back his smile. Considering everything Young Master Wei had described, the situation was quite ridiculous, yet nonetheless, laughable.
From his recollection, there was never anyone who wanted the silence spell to be cast on themselves, especially from his own brother as he would often add more time to the spell because he doesn’t think an incense is a long enough punishment for some.
Lan Xichen had known his brother had invented quite a few talisman spells over the years. He had seen them all, because Wangji always asked for his opinions. However, this particular spell was obviously kept to himself. Not surprising, since it was created for one person only.
The person Wangji never wanted to let go of. And this time, he won’t.
“Zewu Jun, please help me,” Wei Wuxian begged as a man who is figuratively at the end of his ropes. “I feel like if this isn’t resolved, I’ll be stuck here forever.”
“Young Master Wei, why are you still running from Wangji?” Lan Xichen asked.
“Haven’t you heard? Lan Zhan cast this….”
“Spell or no spell, no one can bind you here if you do not wish it. On the first day of arriving on our steps, you breached our shield without a sign of a breakthrough,” Lan Xichen reminded the Young Master of that time, all the while enjoying the look of surprise he had elicited.
Wei Wuxian smiled, then picked up the jade cup. He raised it to his eyes, scrutinizing the crane design with the trace of his thumb. “Zewu Jun, you think too highly of me.”
Undeterred, Lan Xichen continued, “When it comes to casting spells, Wangji's skill may be above most, but as Yiling Laozu, there is no one better than you. How long are you going to amuse me with your ‘suffering’ due to Wangji’s actions?”
Caught, Wei Wuxian could no longer keep up the act, “I admit, I do have a flair for the stage.”
“Although high above the audience, it is only a temporary escape. Young Master Wei, you have dragged Wangji onto your stage many times in the past, had he ever denied you before?”
Wei Wuxian’s thumb paused over the wings of the crane design, his jaw tighten at the words.
“Young Master Wei, why are you avoiding him now?” Lan Xichen asked, hitting his mark. The younger man’s gaze darkened.
The mask may have lifted, yet Wei Wuxian still turned away as he answered, “I have my reasons.”
“Have you forgotten what I told you the last time you were here? The scars on his body, the pain he endured, and the time he waited for your return? My foolish brother could only do what he could not say. As a man of few words, his actions spoke as clearly as the light of day.”
“Lan Zhan has repaid more than a lifetime’s worth of debt to me. At the temple, I have already told him…”
“Forgive me for what I am about to say, Young Master Wei,” Lan Xichen interrupted, beginning to lose his patience. Wei Wuxian, despite his astute nature, still did not understand the full extent of Wangji’s attachment.
But as an elder Brother, Lan Xichen had to rudely ask, “How long have you been so blind?”
Flabbergasted by his reproachful questioning, the taken aback Wei Wuxian was still gathering his thoughts when a calm voice broke through.
“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian jumped up in surprise. He was so engrossed by their conversation, he was not aware of Wangji’s presence.
Meanwhile, Lan Xichen simply acknowledged his younger brother with a nod, “Wangji.”
Wei Wuxian didn’t miss a beat as he dashed out of Lan Xichen’s residence, yelling as he went, “Zewu Jun, I realized I have plans to go to the spring with the boys to catch fish. Thank you for the tea! I will see you again another day!”
On the other hand, barely acknowledging Wei Wuxian’s departure, Wangji asked, “Had my guest disturbed you?”
“No, as a matter of fact, Young Master Wei has been a delightful visitor. He wouldn’t stop talking about you while he was here.”
Wangji’s face softened somewhat. Obviously, his brother was overjoyed by the news.
“Then, I will take my leave.”
His brother turned around again.
“If you don’t tell him, Young Master Wei will not be aware of why you’re upset. I don’t know what happened this time, but he’s concerned about your friendship.”
Wordless, Wangji did not respond.
As someone in seclusion, Lan Xichen should not interfere, but this is the brother he had raised. Wangji’s logic may be sound, but his actions were questionable at times.
“Wangji, I have to ask. Your method…the spell you placed on him. Why?”
“He’ll run otherwise,” Wangji answered.
Lan Xichen couldn’t contain his grin. Clearly, these two haven’t progressed since their school days.
“A wild horse has to run,” he gently explained, “It’s his nature.”
What the elder brother didn’t expect was for Wangji to reply, “But he’s already mine.”
Lan Xichen’s dark brows lifted, “Yours?”
Without a doubt, his brother's possessiveness was on par with their late father's. Lan Xichen had come to realized he couldn’t hold his brother back even if he tried. But...a small reminder was better than none.
“Does Young Master Wei know that?”
To be continued....
Author's Note: I love the meddling brother of Lan Wangji's. There's no way I wouldn't bring him back. Without Lan Xichen, Wei Wuxian would not know the extent of Wangji's sacrifice.
In stories or in real life, having the support of loved ones is a blessing. Giving others support is a gift.
So do so in your everyday life, especially during this time. Call a friend you haven't spoken to for a while, tell your family you love them and smile to strangers passing by. You never know, how much joy you may give to those who need it more than other days.