Updated: Aug 18
In the words of Wen Qing, Lady Doctor of Qishen Wen Sect, more accurately of Wen Clan:
Jin Guangyao had kept her alive because she had a purpose to serve. Given his upbringing, a weak core was inevitable compared to his peers. To keep her under his control, he threatened the life of her Wen Ning, her brother. All those years living under his surveillance, she tried hard not to succeed, all-the-while keeping the most crucial observations to herself.
But keeping such knowledge required a price. A time of unknown past, not long, her voice taken before he could ask.
Jin Guangyao sought cultivators to create his living corpses. Although dead, their core is still as powerful as it was while living, given their powers that could destroy a whole army However, those cores are tainted by resentment energy. Only a portion could be preserved, barely a seedling in most cases, or none at all. Once gathered, fusing the fragmented cores is highly possible, Wen Qing explained. The more intact the core, the fewer living corpses they have to secure.
Unfortunately, there are not many highly cultivated corpses among the living dead since Jin Guangyao and Xue Yang’s deaths. Quality over quantity, but oftentimes, the choices were poor. The quicker they captured the selected powerful living corpses, the sooner they could create a golden core for Wei Wuxian.
While HanGuang Jun was ecstatic by the news, Wei Wuxian, unlike his usual talkative self, had left earlier without further words. It did not take long for Lan Wangji to find his solemn rabbit with a bottle of wine in his hand, sitting above atop a tree branch overlooking the Lotus Pier from the half-moon light. It did not escape him that there were several wine jars, most likely empty, under the tree.The person below didn’t want to disturb, nor could he leave.
This moment, this time, their past and present had aligned.
Lan Wangji understood the ramifications of Wen Qing’s words, yet, he could not let go of the possibilities. Not because he couldn’t protect the one he held dear, but Wei Wuxian never wanted to be protected. Once a cultivator of the blade, the Master of Suibian, at present, was unable to fight with his sword. No different than being a cripple of the cultivation world.
Miraculously, Wei Ying held on. Being a villain of the past and a hero of the present, he disregarded the discontented, ignored attacks of degradation from the cruelest words. Persisted because he could not conform.
His choice, his actions, as unorthodox as they were,
However, he was never deterred.
With each step forward, continually, he moves,
Despite those weighted shackles of reprove.
This man acted free from constraints,
Through all the complaints.
Despite their persistence,
He made his choice to ignore their existence.
Free, he was not,
Still, he fought.
Wei Wuxian had chosen such a path—neither black nor white, for there was no line in sight. From darkness, Yiling Laozu emerged. Although misled, Yiling Laozu’s reputation preceded. The fire that drew countless moths, yet, too close, they would burn. Many did, and they never learned.
Who wouldn’t be jealous of such a man?
Indeed, not with Jiang Cheng’s superiority complex. Thus, why did he need to have Wei Wuxian’s core restored or the Sect Leader of Jiang could never move past his guilt, or had it been shame?
Nonetheless, without him, they wouldn’t have this chance, Lan Wangji irritably acknowledged.
Far fetched, but still possible for the day, Suibian and Bichen could clash again. A swordsman may have many battles, but only the worthwhile opponent’s memories remain.
“Lan Zhan, are you going to watch me all night?” Wei Wuxian asked from above, never taking his eyes away from the sky, he took another sip of wine.
The gaze of the man below never faltered, Lan Wangji questioned, “Will you be up there all night?”
“I asked you first,” Wei Wuxian chuckled slightly, as he adjusted the wine jar to his side.
“My answer was given,” Lan Wangji replied solemnly.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian’s voice chirped suddenly. He turned to face the white figure from below, “Come up here.”
“Why?” Lan Wangji asked, knowing the answer but still playing along. The game had become a habit through the passage of time. Enabling himself to continue to pine.
“I want to show you something,” Wei Wuxian said with a half-smile. He patted the tree branch to his side.
Lan Wangji was elated, which caused his response to be delayed. This situation happened more than he would like to admit. Forever, questioning if the person above him was real. Did Wei Wuxian want him to come closer than where he presently was?
“Mmn,” Lan Wangji nodded, then quickly took flight. Lightly, his feet gracefully touched the branch by Wei Wuxian’s side, but...he was unsure what to do next. Standing was natural; sitting down was another matter. As Lan Er Gongzi of Gusu, he was accustomed to meditation and proper posture when sitting for all occasions. HanGuang Jun, Lan Wangji, the other Blue Jade, in fact, from his knowledge, both Jades of Gusu never had in their life tried sitting on a tree branch!
Lan Er Gongzi could only look down at Wei Wuxian with a blank expression. Instantly, his uneasiness was apparent to his other half, who couldn’t help but laugh at his predicament.
“Don’t worry. You won’t fall off. I’ll make space for you.” Wei Wuxian cheerfully pulled him down. Side by side, their bodies pressed, more because the other had dragged him close. With nowhere to go, Lan Wangji’s body involuntarily froze.
Not the first, not the last, a learned behavior from their past. He could only look ahead, away from the only person who ignites his fire. Thank goodness Wei Wuxian was too occupied with his childhood memories to take notice because he would chatter away whenever the atmosphere was silent.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I fell off this tree,” Wei Wuxian laughed as he reminisced. “Once, I even hit my head and passed out. You see there,” Wei Wuxian pointed to a large old log by the stump below. “Shijie found me at the bottom and nursed me back to health. I never learned my lesson, though. I still climbed whenever I had the chance, despite how much Auntie scolded me for climbing trees after each fall. And over the hillside there. There’s this watering hole, but to enjoy it, we have to jump into the hole itself! During the summer, when Jiang Cheng and I were kids, we would go there to cool off. Of course, Madame Yu would chastise us over the danger even when it was just myself at the watering hole. I guess I am a forever disappointment to her,” Wei Wuxian concluded with a laugh, but his pained expression was evident.
Tentatively listening, Lan Wangji realized -- Wei Ying, who never cares for others’ acceptance, the very Yiling Laozu who dismissed all authority of the cultivation world, whether they be true or false, to this day from the past comes the future -- only desired for one late person’s acknowledgment.
Madame Yu, the most feared woman of her time - not to all, but enough - even if it was just him. Wei Wuxian, to this day, still elevated her judgment above all others.
“You were not,” Lan Wangji refuted, thoughtfully.
The lost youth from the past, at present, asked. “What do you mean?”
“If Madame Yu did not care, would she have told you to stop?” He asked. From what Lan Wangji had heard of the legendary Madame Yu, Lady of Lotus Pier, she was a fierce mother. A protective Tiger mom, known across the cultivation world, for her lack of charm.
The message was clear. It only took the recipient a moment to reflect on what he already knew.
“You’re right,” Wei Wuxian admitted, “Given my clumsiness, Auntie must have cared for me somewhat. If she didn’t, she would have let me be. Because if she...”
The words broke, as well as the man who couldn’t finish the last strokes. Wei Wuxian’s fist tightened over the wine bottle. Cold, the knuckles turned white. Not quite habitually because it did not happen as often as he would like, Lan Wangji placed his hand over Wei Wuxian’s shaking fist. The gesture was enough for the other to continue words of which he would not have otherwise dared to utter.
“Because...,” Wei Wuxian paused, his unfocused eyes reflecting the forgotten past, “Because...she didn’t want me to lose my arm from that vile Wen’s whore. She...She gave her own life to spare mine. If only I had listened. A reckless being...If I wasn’t who I was…”
“There’s nothing wrong with who you are,” stated Lan Wangji, but he knew his words would not be accepted.
Wei Wuxian shook his head and tipped the bottle for another mouthful of the wine, but there was none left. He let the bottle slip from his hand. Falling, crashing on the other bottle as it landed. The sound must have woken the wayward rabbit somewhat because he hurriedly explained, “I should’ve packed some Emperor’s Smile, everything tastes like fresh lotus rainwater here.”
Ignoring Wei Ying’s attempt to change the subject, only half unaware of his drunken state still, Lan Wangji pointedly reminded, “Wei Ying, Wen Qing had explained to me the method to restore--”
“I get it,” Wei Wuxian cut him off. “This is no different than night hunting. We kill those things every chance we get to keep villagers safe,” Wei Wuxian acknowledged. “Technically speaking, they’re already dead. Those corpses would not feel a thing. Living in their hell, which they could never escape from. A-Qing was the same way. Even in death, she kept on discouraging others from entering Yi City. Still, they are not mine to take. What Wen Qing wants to do is to tear out what is essentially another’s flesh. Tell me, Lan Zhan, how would that make me different from Wen Ruohan, Jin Guangyao, and Xue Yang?”
“Unlike them, you are ending that which should not exist,” Lan Wangji answered logically.
“The existence of my own creation?” he asked, but more of a statement of fact. “I created the strongest corpses, raised them from the dead. Used them as my weapons. Those times I did not think because we-”
“Even more appropriate for them to end by your hands.”
“My hands…,” Wei Wuxian looked down at his hand, with the palm facing up. Squinting his eyes, he attempted to focus, but the alcohol clouded his senses, the more time passed. Before he could make a fist again, Lan Wangji placed his right hand over Wei Ying’s. Holding on, the pressure light at first, but more determined to keep Wei Ying’s hand in his when the other tried to pull away. “Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian flushed, but he didn’t push him away. Instead, he was leaning closer.
Lan Wangji had been patient because he didn’t want to scare Wei Ying away. Through past and present, he waited. Taking his cue from the gesture, Lan Wangji slid his left arm around Wei Ying’s waist, while the other still held the other hand in place. Allowing the sleepy rabbit, who was still buzzed from the booze he partook in, to rest his head on Lan Wangji’s shoulder.
A hint of a smile lifted one corner of his mouth. Gently Lan Er Gongzi whispered, “Sleep.”
His rabbit heard and listened to the same voice that always soothed him so.
Wei Wuxian slept. On the tree, securely, and comfortably in Lan Wangji’s arms.
Unbeknownst to the pair of rabbits above...someone, more precisely, a few someones, were watching from below. Not near enough to hear their conversation, but close enough to see the man in white had pressed the man in black closer to himself.
Throughout the Purple Lotus’s childhood, Jiang Cheng had always been an early morning riser. All due to a certain person who, if left alone, would wake up past noon, or occasionally, the following evening if he drank the night before. As a kid, Jiang Cheng had had to share a room with his adopted brother who could sleep through a fire if there was one. Not metaphorically either as he'd come to know thanks to an ill-fated attempt to test the theory when he had run out of ideas due to excessive alcohol consumption by none other than Wei Gongzi, partaking in too much booze after the Lunar Festivity.
In Jiang Cheng’s defense, he had tried all the tricks in the book to wake up Wei Wuxian, but none had come to fruition. Knowing his mother, who would not take their absence lightly if they did not show up for early morning prayers to the ancestors, the young Jiang Cheng decided to take drastic measures.
Since water did not work, fire seemed to be the only option left!
At the time, the young Leader of Jiang Sect thought so and went to the kitchen to pull a half-burnt stick from the stove. Carrying the flame back to their quarters, he tried to get Wei Wuxian’s attention with the heat and smoke, all the while praying he would choke. He waited and waited. He did, but nothing!
The flame did nothing!
In an emotional gush, the Young Sect Leader at the time was in a rush. Jiang Cheng dropped all his sanity, including the burning torch in his hand. Unaware as he kept shaking and calling Wei Wuxian’s name. It did not take long for the fire to break. It was after the summer solstice when the hot air made everything more flammable. Even then, what shocked the young Jiang Cheng was Wei Wuxian’s ability to sleep through the catastrophe!
Slapped, dragged, and deposited like a sack of rice on the ground as others had come to put out the fire, astonishingly, Wei Gongzi continued to sleep…
Not the fire, not the pain, nor it was shouting of his brother’s vein.
Surprisingly, what did woke the youth who slept like the dead was the voice of none other than Madame Yu, Lady of Lotus Pier, the only woman Wei Wuxian feared. Jiang Cheng’s mother was furious, but that was probably an understatement. The fire burned a considerable section of the garden and both youths were tasked with rebuilding their quarters by his father, which was when they finally decided it was time to have separate rooms. Wei Wuxian’s room was a bit further from the family’s quarters since then.
When Wei Wuxian left to protect the Wen clan, Jiejie kept it spotless as she prayed for his return. But after the events of Nightless City, Jiang Cheng had destroyed the room and had sealed it off. Only recently did he return to the memories of Wei Wuxian’s space, which was filled with dust and broken pieces, now cleaned and replaced, with nothing out of place. But, no matter how much he tried, some things could not be erased.
Which was why, after he arrived at Wei Wuxian’s door, Jiang Cheng was still unsure. Taking a breath he desperately needed, Didi of the present was prepared to wake up Wei Wuxian as he did in the past, but Jiang Cheng didn’t expect the room to be empty. What’s more, it was untouched.
Did he leave? That thought ran through the head of Jiang Sect’s mind as he headed straight to the most likely place. Relieved but not surprised when he rushed into the guest quarters, finding Wei Wuxian was just rising from the guest bed, while Lan Er Gongzi was sending a butterfly messenger floating from the room.
No wonder he saw many butterfly messengers today.
“Morning, Jiang Cheng, why are you here?” Wei Wuxian yawned.
Throwing all formalities out the windows like the numerous butterflies escaping the room. Jiang Cheng asked, “Why are you sleeping here?”
“You’re right,” Wei Wuxian agreed after his unfocused eyes scanned the guest room. He turned to ask HanGuang Jun, “Lan Zhan, why am I sleeping here?”
Lan Wangji, who had ceased sending off his butterflies, answered, “You fell asleep after drinking.”
“Aaaah...Of course, I did. Thank you, Lan Zhan. If it wasn’t for you, I would have slept under a tree somewhere.” Wei Wuxian stood up, did a quick stretch, and headed to the water bowl by the window to wash up.
Wei Wuxian’s nonchalant behavior somehow only irritated the Master of the Lotus Pier. He turned his attention back to HanGuang Jun. “Lan Er Gongzi, I can’t help but wonder, why didn’t you bring Wei Wuxian back to his room?”
Without even sparing a glance towards Jiang Cheng, Lan Wangji said, “I could not.”
Jiang Cheng came to the table to place the tray he held in his hands this whole time. He continued to probe, “And...why would that be?”
Despite their proximity, their distance hadn’t shortened a bit with the tone that followed, “The host had not disclosed the location of Wei Ying’s room.”
“You could have asked one of the maids last night,” Jiang Cheng pointed out, taking note of HanGuang Jun’s habit of using Wei Wuxian’s given name. Only his sister and occasionally his father would ordinarily do so.
Lan Wangj turned his head slightly, not much, but enough for their eyes to meet. Probably for the first time in a decade or more, he finally acknowledged Jiang Cheng’s presence. HanGuang Jun, concisely and without a hint of fault, admitted, “I could have.”
He could...but he didn’t?
Too shocked for words, Jiang Cheng was taken aback by the admission. As soon as when his senses returned, he quickly turned to his oblivious brother, “Wei Wuxian, did you hear--”
“What is this?” Wei Wuxian interrupted, closing in on the tray, which carried a large bowl of Lotus Pork Rib soup Jiang Cheng had personally prepared before dawn even broke.
“What else would it be?’ Jiang Cheng replied cheerfully, while enjoying the pleasure from HanGuang Jun’s expressionless face, darker since Wei Wuxian’s interruption.
Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened, his lips moistened. “Jiang Cheng, you do love me. You brought what I missed for all these years!” Hurriedly, Wei Wuxian began to help himself. “Mmmmm, tastes just like how it used to. Wait,” he paused after taking a spoonful of the lotus root, “I know this taste, did you...how did you…?”
“How I got the root from Lotus Man’s pond? After hearing you were coming back, he dropped these off a few days ago. I had to keep them in the pond because you took your sweet time coming home,” Jiang Cheng explained, but what he didn’t tell Wei Wuxian was he also asked the Lotus Man to teach him how to make the soup the way he had taught his sister.
His mother, despite her talent, was not a great cook. More accurately, her cooking could kill someone with a weak constitution, thus why the skill fell into the hands of Jiang Yanli, the true elegant lady of Yumeng Jiang Sect. Their sister took the role instead of learning cultivation of martial arts all to save them from their mother’s cooking. Wei Wuxian was one of the few people who could survive Madame Yu’s cooking skills, due to his many years living in the streets.
Although a ruffian is still a ruffian, half-listening to what Jiang Cheng said as he busied himself slurping away, the soup spilled from the corner of his mouth. Jiang Cheng was about to tell Wei Wuxian so, but before he could, even though he should not be surprised, he still was. A handkerchief appeared in HanGuang Jun’s hand, and the soup on Wei Wuxian’s lips was wiped away.
“Slow down,” Lan Wangji reminded softly, gentle only to this man, it seems.
Wei Wuxian smiled, a smile like the blooms of the morning sun followed by a soft pink blush on the side of a lotus petal, he offered, “Lan Zhan, do you want some?”
HanGuang Jun shook his head.
“Lan Zhan, let me tell you about the Lotus Man. We called him Lotus Man because he’s of the oldest residence of Lotus Pier. His pond had been around for generations before Jiang Sect started settling here. His lotus is the best, the seeds are sweeter than most, the roots are flavorful, and the stems are great for pickling! I thought he only gave Shijie his stock, but this means he’s also fine with my looks,” Wei Wuxian shamelessly bragged, then pleaded, “Come on, have a bite.”
Jiang Cheng watched with bemusement as HanGuang Jun looked at the spoonful of the piece of lotus root in front of him. His body tensed, obviously so, still, he dutifully opened his mouth and took an awkward mouthful, of which a dignified Lan Er Gongzi would never have done so if not for Wei Wuxian’s insistence. He quickly wiped his mouth due to someone’s clumsiness.
Wei Wuxian would have continued to feed HanGuang Jun, if the latter had not declined. Quickly, he went back to savoring his soup. “Hmmmm…I can eat this all day,” Wei Weixian remarked to Jiang Cheng. “And you didn’t steal all the meat this time.”
“Why would I steal the meat when I made it for you?” Jiang Cheng shot back. The unbelievable scene caused Jiang Cheng’s soul to return finally. Even as an observer of their acts, he still felt like he was a distance away. Then he realized that his clueless brother didn’t pay attention to their earlier conversation. “Wei Wuxian, HanGuang Jun said--”
“Did you make extras?” Wei Wuxian suddenly asked, gnawing on a pork rib like a child. How the proper HanGuang Jun did not shutter at the sight is beyond him.
“Yes. Do you want more?” Jiang Cheng asked, momentarily distracted again. There was still more soup in the current pot.
Wei Wuxian waved the pork bone at Jiang Cheng, “Did you bring any to Wen Qing?”
“This is whyyy…” Wei Wuxian emphasized. “You still can’t find a wife. Am I right, Lan Zhan?”
“Mn,” Lan Wangji’s answer was obvious, but the way he looked at Jiang Cheng was not. He looked at him as though he was disappointed...DISAPPOINTED!!!
“HanGuang Jun…” Jiang Cheng growled.
“Instead of barking at us, you should warm up her soup,” Wei Wuxian chastised. “What is wrong with you? She’s staying here, and you’re not even courting her.”
“I am courting her!”
“And you are here..why?’
“I...umm…,” Jiang Cheng faltered. A playful spat, because they were brats. Suddenly, the conversation became real. Though not to the former, the latter. In truth, he had not gotten far. A respectable distance, just like in the past, he was afraid of approaching her.
“I, I, I...what? Have you made any progress with her since you found her? Instead of focusing on making her the next Lady Jiang, you put her to restoring my core. What kind of husband material are you? Look at Lan Zhan, he may not be much of a talker, but he’s ten times better at playing the husband and father than you. Our son, Lan Suzhui, is a prime example. If I were a woman, I would have snatched him up.”
“Our son?” stunned Jiang Cheng.
“Husband?” repeated Lan Wangji.
“What?” Wei Wuxian looked at them both, still oblivious to the significance of his words. Now it was Jiang Cheng’s turn to pity the other man, but not enough to smack Wei Wuxian senseless while beating the truth into his head. Especially given what he said next. “What I said is true, go to her Didi, or someone else will.”
“Who?” Jiang Cheng’s attention caught.
“Anyone who is by her side right now, literally anyone, because you’re not.”
Snatching the bowl in Wei Wuxian’s hand, Jiang Cheng gathered the pot of the remaining soup on the tray. “No more soup for you,” Jiang Cheng announced as he quickly got up.
Wei Wuxian sat back and smirked, “It’s fine. I ate all the meat already.”
Before he could leave the room while cursing Yiling Laozu under his breath, Wei Wuxian was not done with him yet.
“Did you make sweet lotus seeds soup in the kitchen?”
He wanted to say no, Jiang Cheng did, but at the end of the day, he knew he could never win. “Yes,” came the grudging reply, all the while knowing that person was smiling from behind.
On his way, only a short distance away, the leader of Yumeng Jiang Sect did not expect to hear what they were about to say...
“Yes, my husband.”
Author's Note: I am back! That took some time, but much had happened in my life for the last several months, and I'm sure it's the same for others too. I hope everyone are staying healthy and keeping themselves busy. My attempt to garden failed, so I will focus on painting.
For those who actually read my author's note, I did mentioned I would delete demand from the same accounts who ask for updates, and refrain from updating all together. Surprisingly, there were quite a few who didn't read my author's note, so thus why the chapter was delayed. However, my friend told me I shouldn't punish the whole group for actions from a few.
From now on, if anyone tell me to update or post in a hurry, I will tell them the story is discontinued, before deleting their comment. Not because it's discontinued, it's to keep readers who are not reading my author's note from coming back. Let's keep us our little secret from those who don't read the fine line...XD