Updated: Mar 28
Jade of Gusu was a man who barely spoke. Only out of necessity would he say a word or more.
Rarely could others read HanGuang Jun’s thoughts, but more difficult was his intentions. At most a few astute individuals could communicate on his behalf.
A half dozen so far.
A generous number, especially, most dreaded close proximity with the chilled Jade, as his gaze was no different than the sharpness of Bichen’s blade. The ultimate goal of those without fear of death was to read HanGuang Jun’s thoughts. The chance to achieve high cultivation depended on their ability to act on the behalf of the stoic man. Especially when their Master, also known as the Chief Cultivator, still had not uttered a single word since the arrival of Sect Leader of Yunmeng Jiang Sect, Master Jiang Cheng.
Between HanGuang Jun and the Jiang Sect Leader, the silent battle didn’t last long, especially considering the latter’s temperament.
“Where is he?” Jiang Cheng demanded irritably, disregarding all niceties. A habitual behavior between the two leaders. Since Jin Ling, the Juvenile head of Lanling Jin Sect was standing behind his uncle, the ‘he' was obvious.
Other than Jin Gongzi, his beloved nephew, no one could have Jiang Sect Leader’s full attention. The man's obsession to rid himself of Yiling Laozu’s existence, despite killing him once, was fading. Had he changed his mind since the battle at GuiYang temple?
The Disciples’ postures instinctively reacted on their own, ready to battle if the first strike was dealt. Luckily Lan Jingji was not present, because Lan SiZhui had tactically kept him away, with a bit of physical force to persuade him to stay by Senior Wei’s side during this precarious meeting. Lan Jingyi’s uncontrolled outbursts may have its uses at times, but not today.
Meanwhile, the remaining well-trained disciples kept their emotions at bay, focused their attention on what the imposing Sect Leader might say. However, a few did steal a glance at Lan Wangji, whose eyes may appear to focus on his opponent, yet, at the same time did not appear to look at the Sect Leader at all.
Unsurprising to the Disciples of Gusu, HanGuang Jun did not answer nor did he react. If not for their presence, Jiang Cheng might as well be an invisible being before their Master’s sight.
Lan SiZhui, the most level headed Disciple among them, steeled himself as he took a tentative step forward and, answered on HanGuang Jun’s behalf, “Sect Leader Jiang Cheng, at the moment, Senior Wei is still recuperating at the Silent Hall.”
Jiang Cheng’s jaw tightened, yet his dark aura had always been his best feature. The shadows of past and present, followed this man wherever he went. The Master of Lotus Pier refused to bow down to others. He may not be the most powerful cultivator, but his temperament was on par with his late mother. Madame Yu, according to Jin Ling, who only heard through rumors among his elder, given he never had the chance to meet his late grandmother to be a reliable source.
“Bring Wei Wuxian out,” Jiang Cheng ordered, but the Disciples were not sure if the instruction was at HanGuang Jun, or themselves. Their Master, after all, is the Chief Cultivator.
What does he want with Yiling Laozu to travel this far? Wondered the bunnies of Gusu.
Lan SiZhui did not need to look at HanGuang Jun to deduce his displeasure of the Sect Leader's demand. From his recollection, the two men had never been on friendly terms. Their rivalry, if one called it that, including the current tension at present, involves the missing man of the hour. Their only connection, and their mutual obsession, which neither to this day could let go of.
Of course, Sect Leader’s instruction was followed by silence, invoking the wrath of the Fiery Purple Lotus from across the room. Zidian, Jiang Sect's family heirloom from his finger, sparkled brightly, but did not transform. Kept under control, at least for the time being.
“You may be a Chief Cultivator, but I am his martial brother. Stop using your boys to do your dirty work. You can talk, can’t you? HanGuang Jun, I don’t give a damn who you are. Chief Cultivator or otherwise. I never have. Send him out now, I need to speak to him. As his only family, I have my rights!”
As tension rose, Lan SiZhui hurriedly tried to intercede, “Sect Leader, we can make arrangements....”
“Shut it, boy!” Jiang Cheng snapped. “Children should not be interfering with adult matters. And here I thought Gusu Lan Sect with your thousands of rules would have taught you not to interrupt your elders!”
Having turned the tables on the Disciples, Jiang Cheng attacked his true opponent. “HanGuang Jun, you’re only making it difficult because you know he won’t stay with you if I ask him to come with me,” Sect Leader Jiang Cheng sneered. “Wei Wuxian is not the same as you. Another 16 years, he still won’t be yours. No matter how long you wait. Even if you try to tie him here, he won’t be staying.”
Lan Sizhui could have sworn he felt Lan Wangji’s hand on Bichen tighten. A flash of blue sparked from the blade at the corner of his eye. If the two leaders do battle, there is no way he could keep this quiet from Senior Wei.
On second thought, maybe it would have been better if Lan Jingyi was here.
“How do I know?” Jiang Cheng snickered at the man who still refused to show he was provoked. “Only an idiot like Wei Wuxian could not see what’s obvious. You see, despite his wild nature, he’s still innocent in these matters. If he felt anything for you, he would have accepted your feelings. Your hesitancy only means he has not. Am I right?” he jeered, his eyes lit up with renewed revelation, due to lack of response. “HanGuang Jun, who was never fazed by others, yet...as I come to realize, your loath for me was nothing but fear.”
Lan SiZhui felt it, everyone saw it. The moment HanGuang Jun's gaze lifted, his sharped eyes locked on to the Sect Leader’s. Could this be the first time their Master looked at Master Jiang Cheng, instead of through him?
Having caught the unwavering man’s attention for the first time in decades, Jiang Cheng commanded the dumbfounded rabbits, “Leave us!”
But despite his threatening aura, no one responded, nor would they dare to act, except of course Lan SiZhui, who knew it was time for them to depart.
“HanGuang Jun?” the youth turned to his Master.
Lan Wangji gave his approval with barely a recognizable nod and the youths quickly ushered out.
Since he was the last one to depart, Lan SiZhui closed the door for their privacy. He couldn’t help but crack a smile at the earlier sight of Jin Ling Gongzi making his escape like the Devil was upon him. His Uncle, Jiang Cheng was a scary man, but Lan SiZhui's adopted father was no saint either.
In truth, adolescents like them should not interfere when it comes to their Elders business.
There could be bloodshed today, it would be better for them to make preparation in case a battle came to fruition. With that thought, Lan SiZhui had only taken a few backward steps from the door, when his back bumped into someone!
Senior Wei! Lan SiZhui almost blurted out, but a hand covered his mouth, as the other hand gestured to him to be quiet.
How long had he been listening? The wide-eyed Lan SiZhui wanted to know, but this time, Senior Wei motioned him to leave. Reluctantly….and frightfully, he had to comply with the full knowledge that the two Leaders inside are still unaware of the person they’re fighting over is now eavesdropping on them.
Which begs the question, even though eavesdropping is one of the thousand-plus rules that’s not allowed at Cloud Recesses, would he be punished for allowing others to eavesdrop?
Lan SiZhui left the courtyard with those puzzling thoughts, hoping the latter would not come true.
Jealousy, a lowly emotion he'd been taught.
The dark feeling could consume even the most rational mind. Rarely would Lan Gongzi of Gusu succumb to drinking vinegar. The potent smell was maddening, but he couldn’t help it.
That person would plague his thoughts and his dreams, resurfacing again during his waking hours. Memories of the past resurfaced -- the arms that draped over others, the smiles he nonchalantly gave away. Those affectionate actions shown to passersby, at the same time could squeeze the heart that should be made of ice. It did not crumble but melted, and the pain was all too real.
Only ‘he’ could make his heart skip, then beat again, but faster than before. Every moment, each time, without fail. Innocent, thoughtless...those gestures were, but they were treasured time etched in his memories...his heart.
So was the sour with a touch of a bitter taste, given by the man before him more than anyone else. Countless others had made him sample the vinegar sip, but only Jiang Cheng made him choke. Wei Wuxian’s martial brother, his adoptive Didi, rarely had he acted as the youngest of the siblings, besides the lack of inner maturity.
The jealous brother who should have stood by Wei Wuxian’s side against unjust accusations. The beloved brother to which Wei Ying sacrificed his golden core to. The very same brother who took his life on the fiery cliff despite Lan Wangji’s pleas.
The face that filled him with anxiety, fear, and dread. Jiang Cheng, who had hovered over them, with sword in hand. Missed, upon the first strike, nearly cutting Lan Wangji’s arm on the cliff’s edge. But Wei Ying saw, knew...and acted all on his own. Without reservation, or a second thought. He chose to pull away from that desperate grasp and fall to his death.
Forgive and forget, HanGuang Jun could never do. When that nightmare never ceases, the present becomes the past. Once the past catches up, so did the words he had kept mum.
“Nightless City, did you yield?” the accusation was brought forth, making the other man pause.
A slight hesitation followed, but his words were resolute. “I cannot change what was done,” Jiang Cheng answered calmly. “I won’t blame you for being angry all these years. Nor could you blame me for my anger towards him. But lucky for both of us, he’s alive, and the person he needs is me.”
Lan Wangji’s brows lifted at that statement. “Where have you been?”
“Lan Er Gongzi,” Jiang Cheng said without hiding his disdain, “You haven’t left Gusu until recently either. I am not the only one who kept his distance. We both did. However, unlike you who just stayed on this mountain pining away for something you can never have, I’ve been searching for a way to save that idiot brother of mine.”
For the second time in HanGuang Jun’s life, Jiang Cheng had his full attention. He couldn’t mean...?
“Are you referring...”
“His golden core? Aahh, yes...” Jiang Cheng cut him off with a triumphant grin on his arrogant face. “I’ll be damned if I have to owe him for the rest of my life. If you want Wei Wuxian to have his Golden Core restored, release him to me.”
Spoken Instinctively, but it was more than that. He never wanted to give Wei Ying to anyone. And of all people, this man. The one who never stopped reminding Wei Wuxian of his faults and failures. How can he, Lan Wangji, possibly allow history to repeat itself? Wei Ying had endured enough. He should be kept safe, sheltered from all harm from this unforgiving world.
“What?” Jiang Cheng asked, an unbelievable expression crossed his face. He had underestimated his opponent again, as he had many times before.
“I won’t give him to you,” Lan Wangji answered, voice lowered with an eerie calmness that others fear.
Jiang Cheng would have to defeat him, and that would not be possible, unless the sun decided to rise from the west. They both knew their own strengths, but even if they were equal, the one who has more to lose will still be the victor.
“Did you not hear what I said?” Jiang Cheng growled. “I could restore Wei Wuxian’s golden core. He won’t be vulnerable like he is now. Despite his skills, he’s still powerless against direct attacks. Lin Jing already told me he’s been bedridden for days, and is still recuperating after being snatched away from some damn three-legged crow!”
Lan Wangji’s brows furrowed at the last sentence. He felt a bit of satisfaction that Jiang Cheng was also deceived by those children. However, Lan Wangji refused to disclose the real reason why Wei Ying was feverish for days.
“There’s no assurance of success,” HanGuang Jun clarified, then followed, “You have not confirmed the method for restoration. ”
Jiang Cheng exploded, “Why the FUCK do I have to answer to you!”
“He could’ve died the first time,” Lan Wangji reminded. “And he did die at your hands.”
“Don’t you think I am not aware of that? That is why I spent 18 moons trying to find a way for him to have his core restored! Once Wei Wuxian knows he could have a Golden Core again, he would agree to it.”
“He would,” Lan Wangji agreed reluctantly, “Wei Ying chose to give up his core for you in the past. To appease your guilt now, he would risk his life again if you ask.”
“It won’t fail, I can guarantee it with my life,” Jiang Cheng vowed, but still, HanGuang Jun only stared at him silently and was about to shift his eyes away, when Jiang Cheng muttered under this breath before admitting, “Because...I found her.”
“The most powerful medical doctor of the Cultivation World. Who else could it be if not Wen Qing?”
Jiang Cheng’s words barely registered when someone crashed into the room. Within a flash, the intruder grabbed onto Jiang Cheng.
“What did you say? Wen Qing? Wen Qing is alive?” Wei Wuxian asked, his body visibly shaking from the news, caught between excitement and concern.
“See what you made me do? It was supposed to be a surprise! HanGuang Jun, you just had to ruin it! ” Jiang Cheng angrily broke away from the painful grip and shouted, “And you! Wei Wuxian! What the hell are you wearing?”
“Why does it matter what I am wearing?” Wei Wuxian frowned at the question. “I want to see Wen Qing. Tell me...”
Instead of listening, Jiang Cheng took in the sight of Wei Wuxian’s clothes. Gusu Sect garb, not the same as the Disciples here, but it was still very similar to their school days. His face turned even redder and shouted, “You’re not a student here anymore. That was over a dozen years ago. You’re Yiling Laozu! Yiling Laozu, do you hear me? Why are you embarrassing your title like this? And where are your clothes?”
“Jiang Cheng, are you even listening to me?” asked Wei Wuxian, who didn't seem to catch the drift either. While Lan Wangyi and his Brother, Lan Xichen, never had issues with communication, when neither barely spoke. How these two, with their endless chatter, managed to communicate in the past is a mystery.
“I want to know about Wen Qing. Where is she?” Wei Wuxian persisted, closing in on his martial brother, but Jiang Cheng backed away and stood his ground on the matter.
“I am not telling you anything until you change out of that mourning Gusu outfit! That’s what you called them back then, don’t you remember?”
“Fine, fine, I’ll take them off!” Wei Wuxian began to strip off his clothes faster than Lan Wangji could react.
He’s stripping again! Lan Wangji’s inner thoughts shouted. Nearly overcoming his senses, as the urge to hide this half dress man away almost made him snapped.
The outer layers were removed at lightning speed, then the next, down to only a thin layer of white silk. Flipping his hair over his shoulders after shaking off the layers, Wei Wuxian asked, “There, are you satisfied? Jiang Cheng, now tell me where…”
“You’re still wearing white! Shit! Those aren’t even your undergarments,” Jiang Cheng exclaimed, his face red with fury, but now had turned accusingly at Lan Wangji.
“Jiang Cheng, you can’t be serious? I am not stripping any further, unless you want to see my naked ass. Now tell me where….Uh...Lan Zhan? What are you doing?” Wei Wuxian was flabbergasted upon realizing Lan Wang had draped the outer robe over his shoulders.
“Cover yourself,” Lan Wangji answered firmly. Moving closer, he adjusted the robe in place. The silk undergarments were thinner than most, and in the light, the outline was visible.
“Umm...Lan Zhan, I’ve recovered already,” Wei Wuxian's face colored slightly pink from their proximity. Even so, he did not push Lan Wangji away, as he had grown used to his attention. Yet, unknowingly, his eyes slightly averted. “There’s no need to...”
“Cover yourself,” Lan Wangji repeated, leaving no room to argue when it came to Wei Ying’s well being. Although this time, his motivation was no different than marking one’s territory.
Thus inducing raging eyes still set upon them because Jiang Cheng’s presence was completely ignored whenever the latter spoke. Jiang Cheng cursed again, leaving no question of how Jin Ling has such a foul mouth at such a young age. He took one step towards them, but Lan Wangji only pulled Wei Ying closer as he readjusted the robe again. Not shielding him completely, but his movements were obvious. He would fight him if Jiang Cheng tried to take what was his.
At the crossroads, the two men silently battled. But neither were aware they were both sharing the same bowl of vinegar.
Jiang Cheng immediately changed tactics. “Wei Wuxian, come back to our home.”
Immediately, Wei Wuxian’s attention caught, as one who knew him well. “Our home?” he echoed for verification.
Knowing his brother, Jiang Cheng made his offer, “Come back with me, and you’ll get your answer. Wen Qing is there. You want to see her again, don’t you?”
Wei Ying’s face flickered, then quickly changed to longing with a bit of sorrow, but earnest nonetheless…
Lan Wangji’s mind began to roar. Even if he were to scream out loud, would they even hear? Only by Jiang Cheng’s request would Wei Ying do anything he asked. His life, his future, in the hands of the man who took it not once...twice!
Would he have to endure the same pain again? Would he return? Survive?
Further, further, Wei Ying drifted away,
The brotherly banter had come to play.
Barriers which they were,
History had reoccurred.
A lowly emotion indeed...
To be Continued...
chī cù means ‘to drink vinegar’ = Jealously
Author's Note: I know I know, my chapter was delayed for weeks! I assured you I plan to finish all my stories, no matter how long it may take. As readers, you may be stuck with me for years considering how much of a perfectionist I am when it comes to posting.
Meanwhile, many things happened, including the COVID-19 spreading all over the world and AO3 drama from app to China banned. Work and classes are still overloaded, but a few days ago my location is enforcing self-quarantine, which means I may be able to post more works.
However, my outdated amateur website is in desperate need of revamping, due to changes made for the new blog program by April 1st, which means I will be busy updating instead if I am not writing.
Thanks, everyone for reading, commenting, subscribing, following, and advertising my stories. I appreciate all the love from readers, even if I am not replying as often as I should. Stay safe and healthy!