Wei Ying, what are you doing?
The tip of Wei Wuxian’s fingers continued to brush over his back, tracing with deliberate pace across what Lan Wangji could only presume were his scars. Abruptly, those touches ceased, and so did his breath. Neither the sounds of wind nor water could be heard, when the pounding beat of his heart was louder than the breath of the man behind him.
“Why did you lie?” the whisper, his voice, like a plea, no…it was more of a demand.
Lied? When? His chest ached.
“That’s probably the first for you, wasn’t it?” Wei Wuxian deduced, his open palm placed over the bare skin, a slow pressure as he moved closer, the surrounding ripples of the cold spring spreading. “Your melody stopped when I asked...I should’ve known. You see...,” Wei Wuxian’s voice lowered as though he wanted to keep his emotions in check, “because you never lie, I believed everything you said.”
I did not lie, I just did not disclose.
Lan Wangij’s mind disputed, though featherlight the touch was, the statement still felt like an attack. He moved forward, but the other followed, refusing to allow him to break contact.
“Your brother told me you went back to search for me,” Wei Wuxian continued, and so did his stroking, delicately over the scars unseen by others. “Lan Zhan, you went to Burial Mound, heavily injured as you were…defending a home that was no more.”
Your home, my home...they’re all the same...Wherever you go, I would follow. But...I would rather have you here. Shielded from the world beyond, hidden from those that would only bring you harm.
“That’s why you received these scars. HanGuang Jun, who never had a stain or smirch to his name, was tainted because of this Wei Wuxian. The Wei Dog that others cursed. Why....?”
Why should I care for such a name when I can’t protect this person of mine? And why...should you care?
“How painful were they?” Wei Wuxian asked, his hands continuing to brush over the lines, the tips pressed against the widest blemish. “These scars....they’re deep. But knowing you, you probably did not make a sound.”
Not as painful as losing you…Thousands of blades may cut this flesh, but nothing compares to the moment you let go of my hand.
“I was childish, stubborn...a blockhead. Stupid idiot,” he admitted through the bitter chuckle of his tone. Then, the most astonishing thing happened. Wei Wuxian rested his head on his shoulder, causing Lan Wangji to tremble, but no less than the shaking person who still held him hostage in his grasp. “But you…,” the words choked again, the vibrating pain exuded from his breath, “what made you become such a fool?”
The teasing voice that would haunt my nights,
To the cries of battle in fields of blood,
The arrogance of your plight,
Mustered beneath the fifth and mud.
Your smile, your tears,
Your wile, your fears.
The man I chose to be,
Fool I was, just for thee...
“Lan Zhan, enough is enough!” Wei Wuxian exploded, the pressure on Lan Wangji’s shoulder lifted. Releasing, yet, the arms around him were apparent, capturing him when he least expected. Wei Wuxian turned him around to meet his red shot eyes. ”You owe me nothing!
To this day, that’s still the kind of person you thought of me? Wei Ying, what do you fear?
“You’re kind. You’re honorable. The man I respect," Wei Wuxian reflected. "Without you, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I am forever indebted to you. I don’t think I could ever repay…I owe you more than this lifetime, even in the next I doubt I could ever repay it.”
A debt exists when it is owed. Yet, how can it be a debt when it is given freely?
Face to face, the other studied his features. Wei Wexian had never been the type who couldn’t form words when characters would spill out at their own accord, without regard for how they make others feel. But now, as their eyes locked, just like that night, he gazed back.
In silence. When only the lights shone through, beyond the bamboo shoots. Two souls…Between the branching shadows, continued their wayward battle.
“Lan Zhan, what happened that night?”
Why would you need to know? Better yet, are you ready? The uncertain one thought.
“I couldn’t remember much, just bits and pieces. But...did I…I mean, did we…” a blush appeared, despite the chill of the evening spring.
Wei Ying...how beautiful you are when your color turns scarlet. Not just your face, but your whole self. Soft...bashful, but no one else knows. Only I, Lan Zhan, could see this side of thee.
Unable to resist, Lan Wangji’s hand began to reach.
“Lan Zhan, did I embrace you?”
Pardon? What did you say?
The water surface was only halfway breached, but the frozen hand, as well as the rest of Lan Wangji’s body, froze. Lan Wangji looked at him, disbelief in his eyes. Slowly, very slowly, hardly even a movement, but still noticeable. He shook his head, the correct response because he didn’t plan to lie. But before he could form the right words to clarify...the other let out a relieved sigh.
“Whew...That’s good to know. This whole time I thought I attacked you that night. I mean I was drunk, feverish. I was afraid you hadn’t stopped me if I had tried something like jumping you...”
You did, you were on top of me. But not for long. As weak as you were, there was no possibility that you would be embracing...
“Of course, HanGuang Jun wouldn’t have allowed such a thing to happen. What a relief, nothing happened!” Wei Wuxian excitedly exclaimed, but paused when he registered the other’s expression. Eyes averted due to shame, he tried to explain, “Um...I mean..Lan Zhan. You see...”
Was the experience so traumatic, you chose to forget the most crucial parts? It was their first time...it’s not like he knows everything. It wasn’t perfect, but it was perfect...There might have been moments when it went too far...and he couldn’t control himself, inexperienced as he was...Still, Wei Ying was begging for him to continue despite the pain, was he not? Even through his pleas...he..he...
Wei Wuxian anxiously rambled on and on, unaware that his every word repeatedly pierced through the other’s heart. “My dreams were a bit erratic...I mean I have no control over them. I didn’t mean to offend you. Let’s think of them as an unfortunate dream that I concocted in my head. Lan Zhan, I’m sorry for what I had imagined during my fever. Let’s just think of them as bad dreams…”
Lan Wangji could no longer listen to another word from this thoughtless being, did the only thing he could do. However, instead of his usual method, he snatched the other’s neck and shoulder, taking Wei Wuxian off guard as he shoves his head under the water!
Policy is lifeless, while the living is alive. A phrase often preached by the most lively person who graced the steps of Gusu. Upon awakening from nearly a fortnight of being bedridden, his energy returned within a day or two.
Senior Wei, Wei Gege, Yiling Laozu…Young Master Wei...numerous addressed, but no matter, because Wei Wuxian would always be the first adoptive father he knew.
Since his memories returned, Lan SiZhui’s life hasn't changed, apart from knowing it was okay to break rules every now and then. The stringent upbringing may be ingrained, but ever so often, he saw a glimpse of the past unchanged. The youthful life of hardship, but the warmth was there regardless. Memories of running and starving, were replaced by comfort and shelter. Those visions, restored day by day and night by night, until the current pages of his life were overwritten.
The forgotten hidden child of their past, exists now to bring his two fathers together at last. His fathers...Lan SiZhui bemused. Was he allowed to phrase them as such? No matter, because to him, they are the family he knew.
However, it did not mean he should keep spoiling the one who still refused to leave his quarters. Senior Wei had decided to stay longer than the permitted visiting hours. Earlier today, he even threatened to expose their little scheme to HanGuang Jun if they didn’t provide him with unlimited supplies of Emperor's Smile. Drinking wine in their quarters was one matter, but Senior Wei didn’t want to drink alone.
Thus why, into the wee hours, Yiling Laozu, along with Lan Jingyi and after the latter arrival of Jin Gongzi, all three had drunk themselves to oblivion. Lan SiZhui himself was saved from the pressure because Wei Wuxian demanded him to play his Guqin. Still, no matter how many songs he played, Wei Wuxian was not satisfied. After playing all the songs he knew, Lan SiZhui finally asked what song Senior Wei wanted to hear. Of course, he didn’t get the answer he sought, because Wei Wuxian didn’t know the name of the song either.
Meanwhile, Lan Jingyi and Jin Ling, after countless bottles had gotten into another round of incoherent arguments. Not surprisingly, this led to a physical altercation, again forcing Lan SiZhui to throw them out before they could damage his room. Luckily, they took their fight elsewhere as they were told.
“Senior Wei?” Lan SiZhui called the name gently after the boys left.
“What is it A Yuan?” Wei Wuxian smiled, intoxicated, he was unaware of the juvenile argument from a moment ago. “You stopped playing already?”
Lan SiZhui had stopped playing for quite some time when he realized Wei Wuxian was humming a familiar melody. Hold on...isn’t that the song he played before at Dafan Mountain? How could he not know the name? And isn’t this HanGuang Jun’s song?
Another lesson he learned today, but Lan SiZhui knew it wouldn’t be the last lesson, especially regarding Yiling Laozu and HanGuang Jun’s past.
“Senior Wei, I think it’s best for you to return to HanGuang Jun’s...I-I meant your quarters.”
“What?” Wei Wuxian turned to him with a pout. “You don’t welcome me.”
Lan SiZhui quickly explained, “No, that’s not what I meant. I think HanGuang Jun is probably waiting for you to return...”
HanGuang Jun most likely won’t rest until you return to his quarters… Lan SiZhui stewed in his head.
Wei Wuxian tried to pour himself more wine, but the grumpy drunk still hadn’t figured out that the jar was emptied some time ago. Frustrated, he resumed their conversation, “I doubt he's waiting for me. HanGuang Jun is still upset about who knows what it is this time. Most likely he'll kick me off the bed if I try to climb on. A Yuan, can't you let me sleep here tonight?”
Lan Sizhui’s long lashes blink more than he could count. Are they really sharing a bed? His lack of response was of course misinterpreted.
“A Yuan, how could you? I raised you, didn’t I? Why are you on his side?” Wei Wuxian suddenly threw his unwarranted attacks. “Fine, HanGuang Jun was the one who raised you to adulthood, but doesn’t our history matter?”
Living near HanGuang Jun, Lan SiZhui had the opportunity to observe his benefactor in closer proximity than others. As he grew older, Lan SiZhui couldn't help but ponder, because every so often, he remembered those moments thought to be insignificant. Gusu Lan Sect walls and banners may be covered with mandated rules, but there were times when HanGuang Jun chose not to punish the child he raised.
Raised among rabbits, surrounded by Gusu brothers-in-arms, Lan SiZhui was indeed fortunate, compared to his family of daikon farmers. The child, nearly lost among the rubble, was brought back to the paradise of Gusu.
Why did HanGuang Jun save him, besides being a man of compassion? When others sought to exterminate his clan, the savior arrived on the forbidden land all on his own. What was he looking for?
The answer becomes more obvious by each passing day. It was never a what, but a who.
The truth could not be denied when the Cultivation pair, reminiscent of the Sun and Moon, stood side by side. Like the passing celestial orbs in the sky, one may not exist without the other, because living without your other half, would that be living at all?
While the world cursed for the eternal damnation of Yiling Laozu, HanGuang Jun, the purest Jade of Gusu Lan, had patiently waited for that person.
The person who had passed out, at the moment, and of this time; among the peanut shells and jars of wine. While the other called out, the name of the child they raised, who never had his doubt.
HanGuang Jun had appeared far later than expected. Entering the room without a sound, he took in the sight. Lan SiZhui swore he saw a glimmer of a smile from his face. Or was he imagining it? There was no way Lan Wangji would have smiled after catching them breaking Gusu’s rules of no alcohol!
Stomped, bewildered, Lan SiZhui rushed to explain, “Han-HanGuang Jun...You see...Senior Wei...he…he is…,” But with a quick glance from the cold Jade, the youth went mute.
Unbeknownst to the intoxicated man, Wei Wuxian had been murmuring HanGuang Jun’s personal name through his drunken talks. This time, Lan Wangji's eyes lifted, with a touch of yearning. He went to Wei Wuxian’s side, but his gaze was undecided. The act was brief, but felt long-lasting as he brushed the loose strands of hair from the other’s red-flushed face. Lingering enough for his features to soften, without a word, Lan Wangji helped his Cultivation Partner out of Lan SiZhui’s room.
Only after they left did Lan SiZhui crack a smile. His seniors, his saviors, his fathers...even to this day, had not found their way. One-sided, but it was not, yet, only the other was oblivious of their transparent love knot.
To be Continued....
Chapter 5 "Gusu Part 3"