Title: Life’s Final Star is Brotherhood
Fandom: The Untamed/Mo Dao Zu Shi
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Family, Hurt/Comfort, Pre-Relationship, Slash
Relationship(s): Lan Zhan/Wei Ying, other pairings
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Major Character Death, Slavery, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Dark Themes, Abuse Domestic, Adultery, Death Minor Character, Discussion – Domestic Violence, Discussion – Murder, Discussion – Rape, Discussion Sexual Abuse, Discussion Torture, Disturbing Imagery, Violence Canon Level, Rape Off Screen, Murder, Miscarriage, Child Death (newborn)
Word Count: 122,600
Summary: Going to Cloud Recesses for the Lectures was going to be boring for Wei Ying. Instead, he finds a deep and lasting friendship with Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang. Their ideals and their minds could easily change the course of the Cultivation World will take in the coming years.
Meng Yao glanced around him as he walked into the Library Pavilion of the Lan Sect. There were so many scrolls, books and everything that a young man could wish for in the Lan Sect Library. So much information at his fingertips and he was almost too scared to even go near them. He was, after all, nothing but a glorified servant in the Nie Sect. he might be a cultivator, but he was so weak in his abilities that he barely counted as one. He would never match those in the Nie Sect. He knew this as did those he worked with. He walked over to one of the closer shelves and began to look through one of the books.
“Ah,” came a gentle voice from behind him, “Young Master Meng.”
Meng Yao almost dropped the book he had been skim reading, “Oh, I’m sorry Sect Leader Lan,” he said, putting the book back where he got it and quickly bowing to him.
“It’s fine,” Lan Xichen said, a soft smile on his face as he stopped him from bowing too deeply, “Please, I didn’t mean to disturb your reading at all,” he told him.
“I… I shouldn’t have been here really,” he said, putting on a pleasant smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Though most of his smiles never really reached his eyes. Unless he was around Nie Huaisang and occasionally Sect Leader Nie Mingjue. The two of them were the only ones that truly treated him as a human being, instead of someone that they could hurl abuse at.
“Of course, you should. This is a place of learning after all. There is nothing greater than a curious mind,” Lan Xichen told him, “You’re most welcome to remain here and learn more if you wish. You don’t have to return to the Nie Sect straight away.”
“It’s not really up to me Sect Leader Lan. I would have to see if Sect Leader Nie will give me permission to remain. He may need me back to help with any administration tasks,” he said, not believing that he would be worthy of such a chance.
“Then I shall write to him and ask for you. Mingjue-ge is a good friend and has been since we were very young. I’ve no doubt that he would be able to spare you for a while so that you can study here as well,” he told him, smiling.
“Then I shall thank you for the chance and hope that the reply is a positive one. I’ve heard a lot about the teachings of the Lan Sect from A-Sang… Young Master Nie,” he said, correcting himself from what he usually called the youngest Nie.
“I’ll make sure that you get a chance to learn from us,” Lan Xichen told him, both of them pausing their conversation as the door to the Library opened.
“Really, do I have to!” came the grumbling of Wei Ying as he was escorted into the room.
“Yes,” came the bland reply from Lan Zhan as he made the younger teen sit down at one of the tables and watched him as he started to copy the rules.
Lan Xichen spared his brother a small smile as he nodded to him, “Wangji,” we shall leave you to it,” he smiled, trying to hide the laughter as he could hear the grumblings coming from the Jiang Sect’s head disciple.
“Xiongzhang,” Lan Zhan nodded in greeting, before turning his attention back to Wei Ying.
Wei Ying pouted as he looked at the two of them. But went back to copying the rules he had been ordered to, for yet another infraction that he had been caught doing by Lan Qiren and Lan Zhan.
Wei Ying was in the library once more. But this time, he was there under his own violation and not because he was to copy the rules again. He wanted to do a little research into a prank that he wanted to pull on Jiang Cheng and Nie Huaisang. The two of them had teamed up against him when he kept talking about Lan Zhan. It wasn’t his fault that they didn’t see how funny Lan Zhan was. There were already a few guest disciples around the place, studying. Wei Ying was deep into his research a little while later when the door opened once more. The light breeze ruffling his thin robes that was the uniform he had been given to wear while attending the Lan Sect Lectures.
Wei Ying glanced up from the scroll he was reading, seeing the young man that Nie Huaisang talked fondly about all the time standing there. He looked so unsure as he went over to the shelves and looked through the books before pulling one out. He was about to say something when he heard one of the disciples nearby talking in a pretend whisper.
“I don’t know why the esteemed Lan Sect leader would let him stay here. You know of his parentage, everyone does,” one of the Jin Sect disciples muttered darkly. Looking at Meng Yao as he hesitated a little as he walked towards one of the unoccupied desks.
“Son of a whore, they’re always trying to get above their station in life. He should have just remained where he was born,” the second one sneered as he watched with beady eyes as Meng Yao tensed a little at the words.
“Shut up,” Wei Ying glared as he turned towards them.
“This is none of your business,” the first of the Jin disciples told him.
“Then why are you talking about it?” Wei Ying replied sharply, “It’s none of yours either,” he pointed out with a sneer.
“It is,” the first one began, “He’s Sect Leader Jin’s-” he was cut off as his friend elbowed him in the ribs.
Wei Ying smirked at the little slip, “Ah, so Jin Guangshan still can’t keep it in his robes. He really needs to learn how to honour his wife properly instead of spending his days hunting women. Instead of taking responsibility for the things that he had done, he shirks then, leaving them. He’s irresponsible. I don’t care that he’s a Sect Leader. he should know better than the average man on how to be an honourable and above reproach man,” he told them, staring at the two of them.
“He’s just the son of a whore!” the first one said as he stood up, facing Wei Ying down, trying to be intimidating.
Wei Ying glared at him, this upstart had nothing on Madam Yu’s glare and intimidation. “That has nothing to do with it. If Jin Guangshan didn’t want another son that wasn’t born of his sect then he should not have laid with someone other than his wife. You know that, I know that, and so does the rest of the world,” Wei Ying told him, sneering in disgust.
“How dare you say such things about an esteemed Sect Leader such as him!” another Jin disciples join in from across the library.
“So, are you telling me that this young man is the first of the children that have turned up at Koi Tower?” he asked, snorting in laughter as not one of them dared to answer him. “You’re really delusional if you think that at all. I know that there are at least seven more of his children out there. Each one of them he left, being a dishonourable man each time to them. Leaving a mother with a child, no marriage and ruined for others. They are women who fell for his so-called charms and were left without anything but the empty promises that he would make to them to get them to sleep with him. And some not even giving him permission to bed them,” he growled out, eyes flashing, much as Madam Yu’s had done when she had learned of those women.
“How dare you di-” another pipped up.
“Oh, shut up, get over it! I know all this for a fact as there are two such children, though they are now adults, that live in Lotus Pier. They once called Jin Guangshan their father. Though now they denounce him. They want nothing to do with him or even the Sect that he runs. Since they don’t believe anyone in the Jin Sect to be honourable. The only one that I believe is, is Madam Jin. And don’t even think of saying that Peacock! If he was, then he wouldn’t keep making my Shijie cry with his thoughtless words and actions. Now, get lost and get over yourselves. The Jin Sect may have money, but if you really think about it. There aren’t as many disciples from your Sect as there are from the other Sects here. This is because most people don’t think you are worth joining because of his actions. They would rather join the other Sects. Like the Nie, Jiang and Lan as outer disciples,” he finished his rant. “If I was you. I would think long and hard about what type of Sect you want to be part of before you try and disparage someone else’s life,” he finished as he then turned towards Meng Yao, a gentle and calm smile on his face.
“I…” Meng Yao went quiet, almost flinching as the Jin’s loudly complained as they stormed out of the library. Each of them talking about how they would inform their Sect Heir of his words and idle threats against Wei Ying and Meng Yao.
“Don’t worry about it, come on,” he smiled, “I could do with some fresh air after that stink from them,” he grinned as he began to tidy away what he had been working on. The prank could wait a bit. he could see that the slightly older teenager in front of him was at a loss for words. He had a feeling that there were many people that would stand up for him.
“Yes,” Meng Yao said with a small smile and a deep bow, “I think you for your kind words in my defence. You-”
Wei Ying laughed lightly, “nothing kind about them. They’re the truth,” he shrugged, putting the last of his things away and leading the way outside. He walked towards one of the pavilions, a quiet place where they could talk without being overheard.
“He… they were right though. I am the son of a whore. She…” he trailed off, looking away and waiting for the disgust to follow.
“They call me a son of a servant,” Wei Ying told him. “I know what it’s like to be constantly looked down upon. No matter what I do, they will always see what my father was before they realise that I’m also my mother’s son and my own person. My father wasn’t a servant, but that’s what everyone believes and they looked down on me because of it,” he told him. “Though I wouldn’t be too hot to claim Jin Guangshan as a father. I would be proud to know that my mother worked hard for me, and know that she loved me. It’s what I always try and remember about my parents. That my mother loved me a lot and that my father left his home, his very Sect to be with her. Be proud of your mother, don’t listen to the arseholes that are around. They have no bearing on you. Only those that are close to you should be able to affect you. If you let them all do so, then they win. Be proud of your mother and even what she did. Own it, don’t let the others put you down,” he added, hoping he was making sense.
“You… you know what it’s like then,” Meng Yao said softly.
“I do. Jiang Cheng and Shijie don’t really know how bad things can get sometimes with people. But I’m teased and bullied all the time. Even at Lotus Pier, it’s my home, but there are some that don’t want to see me as me. They still see me as a street rat or a servant’s child that was elevated when they believe that they should have been instead. It’s all jealousy in the end. I’ve nothing that you’re really smart as well. Your mind works in so many different ways, mine does as well. Jiang Cheng can’t keep up most of the time, but he tries to. No one sees me as just me, but what they want to believe me to be,” he sighed, “Sorry,” he laughed, “I’m rambling a bit,” he added, rubbing his nose as he grinned.
Meng Yao nodded, “You may be rambling, but I have a feeling you’ve not told anyone else this before.”
“No, I haven’t. I don’t want to hurt those that I live with, telling them what is going on. I bet you’re the same as well,” he said, glancing at him.
“Yes,” he nodded with a sigh, “Sect Leader Nie and I get along rather well. But he doesn’t know that some of his disciples, especially one of the captains of his guards tend to… bully me. I’ve been left with more than a few bruises when that happens. But I don’t want to cause problems. And I know that if A-Sang found out what was going on.”
“He would do something about it. he might appear like a shy flower, but he holds a lot of thorns underneath his leaves,” Wei Ying nodded, understanding the hidden nature that Nie Huaisang had.
“He does, and while he doesn’t fight with a sabre properly, he does actually know how to use other weapons. His brother wouldn’t leave him without a way to defend himself after all,” he smiled softly, “And thank you, for standing up for me,” he told him, grateful for Wei Ying’s actions.
“Welcome,” Wei Ying smiled back, “Us odd ones, we need to stick together. Show the world that we’re better than they could ever imagine. I work hard all the time to get where I am. They can look down on me all they want to, but the people that I really care about, those that care about me, they don’t look down on me. They are the ones that I listen to. Ignore the idiots that are around and hold your head up high, because you’re great. I’ve heard a lot about you from Nie-Xiong.”
“I will,” Meng Yao nodded as the two of them got up from where they had been seated. Nodding to Lan Zhan who was on the path coming out of a nearby pavilion they went back to their rooms to get ready for dinner.
Meng Yao smiled as he finished reading the letter from Nie Mingjue. His Sect Leader had been happy to give his permission for Meng Yao to remain at Cloud Recesses. As well as for him to attend the lessons being given with Nie Huaisang. Lan Xichen had offered for him to join the other disciples. Meng Yao was happy that he would be able to remain and learn a few more things while there. He walked out of his room and headed towards the training fields. The Nie Sect along with some of the Jiang Sect were already there, warming up. The Lan Sect had already done their morning training. The Jin’s, however, didn’t wish to mingle with them at all and were avoiding the training fields.
“Yao-ge!” Nie Huaisang grinned as he called over to his friend, holding his fan high in the air and waving it around to make sure he got the other teenagers attention.
Meng Yao smiled and walked over calmly. Seeing Jiang Cheng sitting next to Nie Huaisang said, grinning at something his young charge had said. “Young Master Jiang, Young Master Wei,” he added as the other young teenager walked over to them, “A-Sang,” he then greeted with a more relaxed smile.
“Did you get a letter too?” he asked, excitedly, “Da-ge said you’re fine to stay,” he grinned.
“I am,” Meng Yao nodded, sitting down beside Wei Ying as he did the same.
“Good,” Wei Ying nodded, a grin on his face as he turned back to watch the Nie Sect as they went through their forms. He began to frown as he watched them.
“Is everything alright Young Master Wei?” Meng Yao asked him, seeing the frown.
Wei Ying turned to him, his face relaxing, “Call me Wei Wuxian, don’t worry about titles for me,” he told him before adding, “Yeah, there’s something not quite right about what the Nie Sect do,” he answered him.
“It’s different from what the Jiang do and what they use as a weapon,” Meng Yao began to explain.
“Yeah,” Wei Ying nodded in agreement, “But there’s more to it than that. There’s like, a build-up of Yang Energy. A lot of it as they go through the forms,” he puzzled. It was the same type of energy that Resentful energy was made up of, just given a different, more acceptable name to use.
“The energy is formed when they go through the forms. It strengthens them to be able to use the sabre and the spirit inside it also helps to bring out the Yang Energy that is around a person and the user,” Meng Yao explained as best as he could. No one really knew the full reason why it happened. But they all knew the end result. Resentful energy, even with the label of Yang Energy, was harmful to the body and mind after all. That is what the Nie Sect cultivated as well as Spiritual Energy, Ying Energy.
“Then energy builds up and begins to affect the person that wields the sabre,” Nie Huaisang said quietly, looking into the distance.
“What happened?” Jiang Cheng asked him, turning from where he had been quietly correcting one of the Jiang disciples that were out on the field.
Nie Huaisang turned to him, “They become easier to anger. Anything can set them off. Even something as small as spilling a little bit of tea, or the ink running out as they write.”
“You… sounds like you know this from experience,” Wei Ying stated quietly, seeing the small nod that the teenager gave at the statement.
“My father,” he answered the unasked question, glancing at Wei Ying, “He started to get angry at anything not long after I was born. I’ve never known him to be anything else. But Da-ge… Da-ge said he was like me, a gentle person that loved nature, but was still as strong as Da-ge. He loved Da-ge a lot, and would spend a lot of time with him, taking him out hunting, camping out and fishing,” he smiled, sounding envious of the relationship that Nie Mingjue had been able to have with their father.
“But because of the way you cultivate with your sabre, it affected him?” Jiang Cheng frowned, looking at his friend. He had heard the rumours. But then again, who hadn’t about the Nie Sect. Though he had never met the former Nie Sect Leader. He passed away when he was still young. Before Wei Ying had even arrived at Lotus Pier.
“Yes,” Meng Yao was the one to answer, placing a comforting hand on Nie Huaisang’s back, “I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard a lot about it. And we both worry for Sect Leader Nie.”
“It just starts out with being easy to anger. Then comes the violent outburst. They are controllable to a point. Then that control just doesn’t exist. People start to get hurt. When it happened to my father, we lost two of our disciples as well. When he finally succumbed to Qi Deviation, I was about eight, going nine. I went to see him, I wanted to talk to him and show him the fan I was painting at the time. I dropped the fan and he became so angry at the noise it made. One of my father’s friends heard him yelling outside the room and rushed inside. He… father didn’t even recognise me. He tried to attack me. His friend stepped in the way, he… he was killed, another disciple that was passing also came in to help. But he too was killed. The… father’s sabre had been damaged before as well, which made things worse so much faster. But the energy that my father was giving off that day was so scary that I couldn’t even move. Right at the end, just before he killed me… he twisted the blade. Embedded itself into the stone floor and collapsed,” he told them. Looking at his hands, clasped around his fan in his lap. He remembered every detail about his father’s death. He glanced up, “He was dead before anyone else could get to him. I said I would never wield a sabre from that day on. I stopped learning, any time they tried to get me to train, I would just sit there and do nothing. No matter what was done. I refused.”
“He still does, and with what you went through, I really don’t blame you,” Meng Yao said as he rubbed Nie Huaisang’s back, soothing the upset young teenager.
Nie Huaisang gave a small smile, eyes filled with tears, “I know that Da-ge is displeased that I don’t train. Even though he orders me to train he doesn’t force it as much as he should. I know… I know how to fight with my sabre. Just don’t wish to anymore.”
“I…” Wei Ying said, thinking hard, “I want to try and find a way to help you. There has to be something that could help with balancing the Yang Energy that you cultivate.”
“I don’t know if you’ll be able to, but we would welcome you to try,” Nie Huaisang said. He had heard from Jiang Cheng that Wei Ying was rather smart. That he had been able to work through a number of problems that most would have thought impossible.
“I’ll work hard,” Wei Ying smiled at him, giving his friend some hope that what happened to his father, wouldn’t happen to his brother at all.
Wei Ying got up and headed over to the disciples to join them and do a little sparing while he had the chance. There was no one that really offered him that much of a challenge anymore. Though Jiang Cheng came the closest at the moment. Wei Ying really wanted to try and spar with Lan Zhan. Since those few precious seconds on the roof when he was trying to sneak in some Emperor’s Smile.
Jiang Cheng got up to go and do the same. Though he was more taking the time to walk through the disciples and correcting their forms when it was needed. Wei Ying corrected the one that he was sparing with as they worked.
Wei Ying stopped his sparring and turned, feeling that someone was watching him. He grinned as he noticed who it was. “Lan Zhan!” he called out as he sheathed Subian and rushed over to him.
“Wei Ying,” was the quiet response. He waited a moment before Wei Ying was beside him and then began to walk away from the field.
“Wait up, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying called out in a huff and followed after him.
Jiang Cheng sighed and shook his head as he went over to Nie Huaisang, who was now sitting alone in the grass. Meng Yao had left not long after Jiang Cheng had gotten up to head to the library again. “He keeps going off with Lan Wangji,” Jiang Cheng complained as he sat down beside his friends.
“I’ve noticed,” Nie Huaisang grinned, “And Second Young Master Lan does seem to enjoy his company as well,” he pointed out quietly, fanning himself.
“Don’t see why?” Jiang Cheng shrugged, “Wei Wuxian just hangs around him all the time. Following behind him like some lost little puppy,” he rolled his eyes, knowing that Wei Ying would take offence with that comparison. “All Wuxian talks about is what he last did with Lan Wangji,” he huffed, annoyed at his brother for always leaving him alone. It had been like that since he had first been punished by Lan Qiren and Lan Zhan was the one to watch over him. Wei Ying was either working on his punishment or walking around with Lan Zhan. He spent so little time with Jiang Cheng and the other Jiang disciples.
“There could be something more beneath the act,” Nie Huaisang suggested, snapping his fan closed and then opening it again.
Jiang Cheng looked at him and frowned, eyes narrowed, “What do you mean?” he asked, leaning a little closer.
“Second Young Master Lan doesn’t really talk to anyone in Cloud Recesses or outside of here. But he puts up with the antics of Wei-Xiong. Even forgoing punishing Wei-Xiong when he really should. Most of the time, the two of them will be spotted walking around Cloud Recesses, just talking. Or rather, Wei-Xiong talking and Second Young Master Lan listening to him and occasionally adding something,” he smirked.
“Yeah,” Jiang Cheng nodded, having seen the two of them around, “What does that have to do with anything? Most people are like that around Wuxian. He just talks a lot and most people can’t get a word in without shutting him up in some way.”
Nie Huaisang sighed, lowering his fan and snapping it closed with a little more force than normal. “I think that Wei-Xiong has a crush on Second Young Master Lan. And I believe that Second Young Master Lan has a crush on Wei-Xiong,” he told him bluntly, rolling his eyes.
Jiang Cheng reared back, eyes wide as he yelled, “What?”
“Wei-Xiong keeps following him around. Second Young Master Lan doesn’t react to it, he even comes and seeks out Wei-Xiong to talk with him. Why else would he have been here at the training grounds just? He already finished his training this morning,” he pointed out to his oblivious friend.
Jiang Cheng was quiet as he began to go through his memories of the interactions that the two of them had since their arrival at Cloud Recesses. “Fuck,” he hissed, “he does like him. Wei Wuxian usually flirts with people, but this time. He isn’t really flirting, he is… fuck.” He put his head in his hands as he tried to think of what he could do. He didn’t know if his parents would be accepting of such a relationship.
Nie Huaisang got to his feet as the Nie Sect disciples and the Jiang Sect disciples finished their training session and headed to bathe before their lessons with Lan Qiren began for the day. Thankfully they only had the one afternoon lesson. Since most of it was to be physical training that day. “Just have a think, and you’ll see,” he told him, a little smirk on his face.
“I know, I see it now,” Jiang Cheng bit out moodily as he got to his feet and followed the disciples from the grounds.
“Good,” he nodded and then asked, “What are you going to do?”
“Nothing. I’m not going to say a bloody thing. I won’t be telling my parents either. If they want to do something about that, then it’ll be up to them,” he huffed, pulling a face at the thought of telling Jiang Fengmian and Madam Yu that Wei Ying was a Cutsleeve. He knew his father wouldn’t really care. But his mother, she was all about the Sect and what its reputation was like.
“Then we should say nothing. Though Yao-ge has noticed as well, he was asking me what was going on. Though I can easily tell him to not say anything as well,” Nie Huaisang smiled as he raised his fan to cover his lower face again.
“Hmm,” Jiang Cheng nodded, agreeing with him.
The two walked towards the bathing areas. Quickly joining the other disciples as they cleaned up. It didn’t take them long to be ready to head to their lesson for the day. Jiang Cheng was easily able to spot Wei Ying and Lan Zhan as they neared the classroom.
“Lan Zhan, we should see about heading down to Caiyi Town for a bit tomorrow. We don’t have any lessons in the afternoon. We can even have some lunch and I can show you some of the best dishes I’ve found. There’s this awesome little place that I found the last time as well,” Wei Ying chatted as people began to file into the classroom. Taking their seats around the room. Meng Yao walked into the room not long after the last of them had arrived.
“Here,” Meng Yao said as he moved closer to Wei Ying, “This is everything that I know of the Nie Sect Cultivation,” he whispered as he placed down a sheaf of papers onto the table.
“Thank you,” Wei Ying smiled at him, tucking them away so he could have a look at them later on. He was curious as to what was in there, he knew that Meng Yao had a brilliant memory. So, there should be a lot of information that he would have remembered and gathered from the written manuals that most sects had for beginners.
Meng Yao nodded and took a seat near Nie Huaisang just before Lan Qiren walked into the classroom and the lecture for the day began.
Wei Ying was deep in thought and had been since getting the scroll from Meng Yao about the Nie Sect’s problem. It was resentful energy that they were bringing into the mix with the way they pulled at the Yang Energies. He glanced up at Master Lan Qiren, wondering if he would be able to ask him a question he needed to have answered. He might be able to get that little bit closer to figuring out a way to stop Qi Deviation happening to the Nie Disciples if he got the right reply to the answer.
Raising a hand, he waited a few moments before Lan Qiren turned his attention towards him, “Wei Wuxian,” he bit out, annoyed at the young man for daring to interrupt the lesson.
“I was just thinking about resentful energy. Can it be used at all, like Spiritual Energy can? How we cultivate with Spiritual Energy, can resentful also be used in the same way? They are both sources of energy so I was thinking it might be possible. One is more Yin and the other Yang?” he questioned the teacher, a frown on his face as he wrote down a few of the things he had thought of as he spoke.
“How dare you bring such a heretic question into my lesson!” Lan Qiren yelled at him, eyes aflame with hate and disgust at such a topic.
“I just-” Wei Ying began to try and defend why he wanted to ask the question.
“Out of my classroom. I will not have you in here if you’re going to have such fanciful ideas about energies like that. To do so will be going down the heretic path, the evil path!” he yelled, throwing a scroll at Wei Ying. The young teenager dodged out of the way, though he reached out and grabbed it before it could hurtle into the person that was sat behind him.
“I was only asking be-” he once again began to defend himself.
“Out! Now!” Lan Qiren demanded, throwing another scroll at him.
He caught the second one without even dodging. Wei Ying put them both down on his desk and got up. Giving a half-hearted and almost bordering on rude, bow, he left the classroom, his head held high. He didn’t believe he had done anything wrong. He was only asking because he wanted to know if the Nie’s would be able to use the resentful energies that were being gathered by their sabres. It would be a way to get rid of it, instead of having it linger around their Golden cores and their meridians.
Wei Ying walked through Cloud Recesses to the back mountains and to the stream he liked to sit at. He settled down, glaring at the water, annoyed that one more he was being singled out by the teacher. It was sometime later when he was told that he was going to be punished for his questions. He was going to have to copy the book of Virtues ten times. After class the next day he went to the library. Sitting down he spotted Lan Zhan following him inside.
“Lan Zhan, why are you here?” he asked, as the older teenager sat down at a nearby desk.
“Uncle asked me to watch over you. make sure that you do the work,” he answered him quickly.
“Master Lan isn’t a good teacher at all,” Wei Ying told him, after a few moments of silence he started to copy the rules.
“He is a renowned teacher within Cloud Recesses,” Lan Zhan frowned at him, not liking the disrespect that Wei Ying was showing towards his uncle.
“Lan Zhan, each time I ask him something, he wants to throw me out of the class,” Wei Ying told him bluntly. “Last week, he threw me out twice, and both times were for nothing. I was asking him a question about the work that he was going over. He also always asks me the questions he has for the class. Each time I get it right, he really doesn’t look happy about it. To see what happens when I get one wrong, I purposefully did so. He gloated over it. He really did. Even brought up my parents and even how my mother was too sure of herself and got herself and her husband killed. That isn’t what a teacher should be like,” he huffed. Upset once again at the thought of Lan Qiren using the deaths of his parents against him. That was the one lesson where the Jiang Sect had stood up as one and walked out. None of them were willing to remain in the classroom after Wei Ying had walked out at the insult to his parent’s memories.
“Uncle was in the wrong,” Lan Zhan said slowly. As though he feared being told off for saying such things about an elder. Though he knew that he spoke the truth. But disrespecting an Elder, his uncle in particular just felt wrong and it hurt to do so.
“He was. A teacher is there to help you and guide you. To answer the questions you have. No matter what they are. If they don’t do that then how are we to learn why things are the way they are,” Wei Ying sighed, looking down at the paper he was writing on, “He isn’t teaching me anything,” he muttered.
“I will speak with my brother,” he told him, glancing over at the annoyed and upset looking teen.
Wei Ying looked up at him and gave him a small smile. “Thank you,” he said, “But you don’t have to. I can put up with it. I’ll just have to do more research on things by myself.
“Resentful energy harms the body and mind, please… do not,” Lan Zhan worried for his friend.
Wei Ying’s smile softened even more, “I’m not planning on using them, Lan Zhan. I just wanted to know more about them because I’m looking into the problem with the Nie Sect and their Sabre practices. It builds up resentful energies you see when they use the sabre. It doesn’t happen with swords and I’m trying to find out why. Maybe even a way for them to use the resentful energy that their sabres gather. Instead of it going into the cultivator.”
“Hm,” Lan Zhan nodded as Wei Ying began to tell him everything that he could about the project that he was now working on. The book of Virtue and his copying of it was forgotten as he talked animatedly.
“So, you see, that’s why I was asking him, I wanted to know,” Wei Ying sighed, slumping where he sat, “He just never wants to answer anything that I ask. I know that someone else has asked the same question I did the next day after I asked once. He answered them, there was no yelling, no throwing of things. Nothing like that at all. But with me, he… hates me. I want to know why he does it. And why does he always bring up my mother? I… I don’t even remember her. I was only four when she and my father died,” he sighed, looking back down at the rules he had been copying. Though now in the margins were some small notes about what he was working on for the Nie Sect. He would have to write them out again, just in case, there was something there that he might be able to use later.
“I will speak with my brother,” Lan Zhan promised him once more. He had seen how upset Wei Ying had become at the mention of his parents. Even the other Sects had been shocked at the words that his uncle had spoken. He didn’t even blame the Jiang Sect for walking out of the classroom after that. It had been almost three days since then and the Jiang Sect had taken to surrounding Wei Ying and often asked questions for him. Since they would be answered properly instead of berated for doing so.
“Thank you, but you really don’t have to. I know that he’s your uncle and you respect him,” he shrugged. He didn’t want to cause any problems for Lan Zhan and his uncle. He knew that his friend cared deeply about the man that had raised him after all.
“Mn,” he nodded and then said, “Finish your work,” he told him “Though not deserved.”
“I know and I will,” he smiled at him, a little brighter now as he went back to copying the rules. It took him until dinner time to do them, but he really didn’t care about being neat. Lan Qiren would just take them and burn them in the end.
It was the next day, Wei Ying was deep in his research and Lan Zhan was sitting beside him as he helped as best as he could. Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao came into the library. Both of them looked annoyed. Though Nie Huaisang was a lot more annoyed than Meng Yao was.
“I can’t believe that they can be so lazy as to use them to just send messages across the room to each other instead of just speaking. it’s like they’re showing off all the time,” Nie Huaisang huffed in complaint as he went over to his friend’s table and sat down at it.
“What’s going on?” Wei Ying asked, seeing the annoyed look on the slightly older Nie Huaisang’s face.
“The Jin Sect disciples,” Men Yao answered calmly as he joined them.
“What about that band of stuck-up snobs?” he asked, pulling a face at the very thought of the golden robed sect. That to him had more money than sense.
“They keep using their butterfly messengers to talk to each other. Even if they are in the same room. The air was full of them in the study session today,” Nie Huaisang complained, snapping his fan shut in anger.
“They won’t even share how they are made either,” Meng Yao said, knowing that the Sect had kept the secret of how they were made to themselves so far.
“Then… why don’t we make our own version of it?” Wei Ying suggested. He pulled a clean sheet of paper towards him and started to take down a few notes. Trying to think of a talisman or maybe even an array that could be used to make them.
“Would you even be able to do so?” Meng Yao asked him, curious as he leaned a little closer to look at the notes that Wei Ying was now making about the subject.
“Well, it’s possible. I won’t even need to look at the butterfly ones. I just need to remember what type of elements would be needed to make them. Something about form, travel, recording… Hmmmmm,” he hummed to himself at the end of his musing. Jotting down a few more things when he thought of them. He looked up, “It might take me a while, but I should be able to come up with something.”
“Then we’ll leave it with you to tinker around with,” Meng Yao smiled at him, “Though do ask me if you need any help. I might not be the best to come up with things, but I’m pretty good when it comes to researching things.”
Wei Ying grinned and laughed, “I know,” he nodded and then got back to work. Mumbling to himself as he came up with ideas and what might be needed.
Wei Ying got up and stretched, “I’m going for a walk, it might help me think a little,” he told the three of them. He had been working hard for the last hour, and he really needed to take a break. He had been working on the Nie Problem before the messages as well.
“Of course. I’ll clean up here for you, so don’t worry about that,” Meng Yao told him.
“I will take your notes to your rooms,” Lan Zhan said quietly, as though he didn’t want the other two to hear him speak at all.
“Thank you, Lan Zhan,” he smiled as he then headed out of the library and went towards the back of Cloud Recesses. He made a quick detour at the kitchens before carrying on. The back of Cloud Recesses was quiet and peaceful. A great place to go when he was working on something. Though there was another reason why he was going out there recently. He settled down near one of the embankments near the stream and knelt. Quietly he pulled out the vegetables that he had sweet-talked the kitchen staff into giving him.
It didn’t take long for the two bunnies that he had been stalking for the last week to finally make an appearance. He had gotten them used to him and now the last part of his plan went into action. He scooped the two of them up, one of them was black and the slightly larger one of the two was a pure white. With a grin on his face, and a mental thank you to Lan Xichen for telling him where it was. He headed towards the Jingshi, where he knew that Lan Zhan spent most of his time when he was alone and not in the library.
“Lan Zhan!” he called out, hoping for him to come out of his home. He was supposed for a moment to see Lan Xichen following his brother out of the Jingshi, “Oh, Sect Leader Lan,” he said, doing his best to bow with the two bunnies remaining securely in his arms.
“Young Master Wei,” he greeted him with a smile.
“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan questioned, wondering what he had been doing since leaving the library earlier and why he was there.
“I have a gift for you,” Wei Ying smiled as he walked over and gently placed the two bunnies into Lan Zhan’s arms.
Lan Zhan looked from Wei Ying and down at them, “Pet’s aren’t allowed,” he said, almost mournfully, unconsciously tightening his grip on the two little bunnies.
“They will be,” Wei Ying told him, shaking his head with a smile, “They aren’t really pets, they are… companions. To stop you being alone all the time,” he told him, glancing around, “I know that you tend to be alone a lot and that people are too much for you at times. So, I thought they would be nice for you to have them.”
Lan Zhan nodded, his ears going red, “Thank you,” he said softly.
“Right,” Wei Ying said as he looked between the two brothers, “I’ll leave you to what you two were doing,” he added as he then began to walk away. He spared a quick glance behind him, giving the two a little wave.
Lan Xichen smiled as he looked at his little brother, “They are very cute,” he told him, “There is a field near here where you will be able to build a place for them to live. They will be fine and safe there,” he suggested.
“Mn,” Lan Zhan nodded sharply, agreeing to do so.
Lan Xichen stifled a laugh as his brother walked back into the Jingshi, the two bunnies sitting calmly in his arms as though they had been with him for years and not just a few minutes.
Lan Xichen walked through Cloud Recesses; he had just finished speaking with some of the residents in Caiyi Town about a problem. With his Uncle away at a discussion conference in Qinghe. Lan Xichen might be Sect Leader, but many still thought him too young. He had only just turned eighteen. While Nie Mingjue had taken the role of Sect Leader at sixteen when his father had died, he had already had a strong presence as he had been working as Sect Leader for a while before his father’s death. Lan Xichen had been almost hidden away and his Uncle had taken the role of Sect Leader for so long. Instead, the young man had been called down to Caiyi Town, after reports of Water Ghouls had started to come into the Sect. While he was easily able to deal with them himself, when he had checked the problem out, he had found that there was a very high number of them. Lan Xichen felt that it would be better to have a little back to up make sure the problem was taken care of properly.
“Brother,” Lan Zhan greeted as he spotted his brother walking through Cloud Recesses.
“Wangji,” he smiled in greeting as he walked over to him, “How are you?” he asked.
“Well,” he nodded in answer, “Thought you were in Caiyi?” he questioned, a little frown marring his face. Though only Lan Xichen would have been able to spot it.
“I believe that the problem is a lot larger than we first thought. I’m going to take a few disciples down with me to help,” he answered him as they began to walk again.
“Mn,” he nodded, “Will come with brother.”
“Of course,” he smiled, “Do you think that Young Master Wei and Young Master Jiang would be able to help? I know that they have experience of Water Ghouls, and their skills in the area are rather well known,” he added, partially because he wanted their help, but the other reason was to see how his brother would react to the suggestion.
Lan Zhan’s ears went red, “Mn,” he gave a sharp nod.
“Then let’s go and find them,” he smirked slightly, coughing a little to hide the laughter that was bubbling up in his chest. His little brother was so cute when he was with Wei Ying.
It didn’t take them long to find the two Jiang Sect disciples out on the training fields. Lan Zhan had been the one to lead the way there, knowing where Wei Ying would be. They stood there watching for a moment.
“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying yelled out as he rushed over to them spotting Lan Zhan not long after he arrived. “Oh, Zewu Jun,” he greeted bowing to them both in greeting, “I didn’t mean to be rude,” he grinned.
“That’s fine Young Master Wei. I was hoping to speak to you and Young Master Jiang. We have a Water Ghoul problem in Caiyi Town and I’ve come to take a few disciples with me to help. I wanted to know if you and Young Master Jiang would like to come along?” Lan Xichen asked them, a soft smile on his face as he saw Lan Zhan take a step towards the young man.
“Of course, Jiang Cheng and I are really good at catching them and taking out Water Ghouls,” he nodded. He was all too eager to get out of Cloud Recesses for a bit and to do something other than just training would be a welcomed change. He missed going on Night Hunts as he would have done back at Lotus Pier.
“Thank you,” Lan Xichen smiled, nodding at him.
“Jiang Cheng!” he called out to his brother, “We’re going to be heading down to Caiyi Town, they have a Water Ghoul problem.”
Jiang Cheng walked over, “Right, I don’t mind helping out,” he agreed easily.
“Sect Leader Lan,” Meng Yao said as he and Nie Huaisang followed the two brothers, “Would it be all right if Nie Huaisang and I came along and observe the hunt?” he asked. He didn’t get much chance to get out and help, he wasn’t the strongest cultivator around. Neither was Nie Huaisang, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to observe such hunts.
“Of course,” Lan Xichen nodded in agreement, “You are both most welcome to join us and observe the hunt.”
“Thank you,” Meng Yao bowed, though Nie Huaisang didn’t look too happy.
“Meet us by the gate in half an hour. Be ready to head straight out, so make sure to bring all that you think you might need,” Lan Xichen warned them.
The four disciples nodded at the two Lan Brother then left them be. Though Lan Zhan lingered for a few moments before joining his brother in choosing a few Lan Disciples to go with them.
Wei Ying looked around as they travelled over the lake. He was in a boat on his own. At the back of the group was Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang. Another boat contained three more Lan disciples. Lan Zhan and his brother had a boat of their own. The two brothers’ boats were sailing smoothly beside each other. Jiang Cheng’s own boat was nearer to the back of the group. He wanted to keep an eye on Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao. Not wishing for something to try and attack them at all.
He stopped as he looked towards Lan Zhan’s boat again. “Lan Zhan!” he yelled out, purposefully splashing a little water towards him.
Lan Zhan seeing the look on Wei Ying’s face as he splashed, jumped and landed on Wei Ying’s boat. The head disciple of the Jiang Sect flipped the now empty boat. The three Water Ghouls that had attached themselves to the bottom of it were quickly dealt with by Lan Zhan. He unsheathed Bichen and sent an arch of Spiritual Energy towards them, cutting them up.
“Something isn’t right here,” Wei Ying muttered to himself. There was a large build-up of energy beneath them, he could just about feel it. It didn’t scream just Water Ghouls to him. There was something else there was something else there.
The water suddenly changed from its tranquil blue to a deep blue. Water Ghouls were beginning to attack the boats. Unsheathing Subian, he began to take them out. Lan Zhan beside him doing the same. Jiang Cheng was easily holding his own and defending himself, Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang. Though Meng Yao helped out when he could, taking out the occasional Water Ghoul with his sword.
“Take to the skies!” Lan Xichen ordered as he quickly did the same thing. Everyone was soon in the air, looking down at the lone disciple that hadn’t taken to his sword.
Wei Ying dived down seeing the boat spiralling around. He pulled him from the water as the tendrils of the being that was in the water began to chase after him. “Jiang Cheng!” he called out, passing the other disciple to him as he then led the tendrils on a merry chase above the water.
“It’s a Waterborne Abyss!” Lan Xichen called out, shocked at the sight of the monster that was swirling just underneath the surface of the water. The bodies of the dead, joining up to form a large beast.
Wei Ying could feel the energy from the Waterborne Abyss. It felt like a very strong version of the Nie Sect’s Sabre work, when they were practising. Very strong. He had been playing around with a few ways to neutralise the energy, getting a little help from Nie Huaisang only as he worked. Wei Ying turned, facing the water where he could see it swirling once more.
He hovered right before it, occasionally having to dodge as something reached up and tried to pull him down. He pulled at the energy that was within the Waterborne Abyss. The Abyss began to rise from the water, a ball of darkness before him, larger than all the boats they had been on put together. He looked like a speck of dust next to it. Tendrils rushed towards Wei Ying, who dodged out of the way as best as he could as he tried to concentrate on what he needed to do.
“If I can just…” he trailed off as he pulled the energy as best as he could. Trying to turn it against the Abyss itself. It’s what happened with the Nie Sect. The energy they gathered was turned against what they were fighting. Wei Ying shook his head, it wasn’t working. He pulled it into himself, hoping that his Core would be strong enough to be able to cleanse it. Then he would try pushing it back out against the Waterborne Abyss.
“Wei Ying!” came a yell as Lan Zhan flew towards him, seeing the dark energy was beginning to form around him.
Wei Ying ignored the call, “Just a bit more,” he gritted his teeth as he felt his Qi shift a little this time. Making everything so much harder, but he continued. He didn’t want to stop. Wei Ying huffed, as he pulled even harder and something else shifted. This time for the Waterborne Abyss. Pieces of it began to fall from the main body. “Kill them before they can hit the water!” he called out, glancing towards Lan Zhan for a second before he started to pull again, “If they reach the water they can reform!”
Lan Zhan looked at him, worried as he saw a large amount of energy that was now surrounding his friend. He nodded and jumped, almost hovering in the air as he grabbed Bichen and dived, killing off some of the pieces that were falling. Occasionally he hopped back on his sword, gaining some height before doing it all again. Lan Xichen and a few of the others saw what was being done and rushed over to help.
No one spoke as they killed off the Waterborne Abyss bit by bit. Wei Ying remained hovering for a while longer as he continued to try and purify the energy that he was taking in. Though it wasn’t working so well. He had only been able to do so with a little of it. The resentful energy felt like it was almost burning him. But he focused as he realised that there wasn’t that much left. There was the Core of the Waterborne Abyss. He moved closer to it, holding out his hand and calling the energy to him. He twisted it, using his Spiritual Energy to make a crack in it. Widening it as the last of the Ghouls that had formed the abyss fell from the sky.
Wei Ying sped towards the core, jumping off Subian and grabbing the hilt. He struck the core, putting the last of his energy into the blow, hoping to destroy it. It worked, with a long high screech, the thing burned in the air and turned to ash. Wei Ying tried to bring Subian under him again. But he was too tired. His eyes were beginning to close and he knew he wouldn’t be able to make it to land as he was beginning to lose consciousness.
“Wei Ying!” Lan Zhan called out to him, trying to get to him as he rose up on Bichen.
Wei Ying smiled as he closed his eyes, falling towards the water below him.
“Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng called out to his brother, horror in his voice as he hadn’t been able to help. He was still holding the Lan Disciple that had lost his sword on Sandu.
Lan Zhan reacted quickly and flew as fast as he could. Diving near the end to sweep Wei Ying into his arms. He rose above the choppy water and looked towards his brother, who was heading towards him.
“Wangji,” he called out to him, arriving near his side.
“Xiongzhang,” Lan Zhan said, worried about Wei Ying, who lay unconscious in his arms.
“We should head back, quickly,” he said as he led the way back to shore, “The Abyss is gone, there’s no trace of it left,” he murmured to his younger brother. In awe of what Wei Ying had done.
“Resentful Energy,” he said, gesturing slightly towards Wei Ying. He could still see the tendrils of darkness a little. Though they were dissipating fast.
“Yes,” Lan Xichen nodded, “He’ll need cleansing a few times, but he should be all right. Though we’ll make sure that a healer will examine him. Just to make sure,” he reassured his brother that he would do all he could to take good care of the young man in Lan Zhan’s arms.
“Family should be told,” Lan Zhan said as they neared the others that were hanging back. Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang were in the air as well. Though both of them were beginning to look a little drained at being on their sword and sabre for so long.
“Yes, I’ll send a letter to Sect Leader Jiang and tell him of what has happened,” he promised as they reached the others. “Nie Huaisang,” he called to him, “Why don’t you and Young Master Meng head to the shore, have a little rest,” he suggested.
“Yes,” Nie Huaisang nodded shakily as he and Meng Yao turned and headed for the shore. People were standing along it, watching what they had been doing.
“Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng called out, shifting the disciples in his arms around, so he could get a good look at his brother. He was still unconscious in Lan Zhan’s arms and he wanted nothing more than to swap with the other teenager. To hold his brother so he could better protect him. “Idiot,” he huffed, “You’re always doing something stupid,” he muttered though the anger in his voice wasn’t as strong as it usually was when it came to his brother’s antics.
“He’ll be fine, but we should head to Cloud Recesses and let the healers examine him to make sure,” Lan Xichen suggested, getting a number of nods. He paused for a moment before he added, “The Waterborne Abyss is gone, why don’t you land on the shore and head back. We’ll have him safe and in the infirmary as soon as we get to Cloud Recesses,” he added.
“Thank you,” Jiang Cheng nodded as he took one last look at his brother before heading to the shore so he could drop the disciple off and then rush towards Cloud Recesses.
Lan Zhan and Lan Xichen quickly flew home. Only stopping when they landed just outside the gates. Hurrying to take Wei Ying to the infirmary so he could be treated.
The healer had finished his examination of Wei Ying and moved away from the bed. The young teenager was still unconscious, which worried the healer slightly.
“How is he Healer Lan,” Lan Xichen asked, as Lan Zhan and Jiang Cheng joined him, both of them worried for the other.
“He’ll recover well, but it will take a little time. His Qi has been unbalanced, it’s what I tend to see when I care for any of the Nie Sect Disciples. The unbalanced state that happens when they practice too long with the sabre,” he answered him, his voice soft and quiet.
“What do you mean, unbalanced?” Jiang Cheng asked, looking behind the healer to where his brother lay, he was too still. Normally when asleep, his brother would be moving around a lot more.
“Do not worry Young Master Jiang. It’s only unbalanced at the moment. He’ll need to rest and to have Cleansing and Clarity played for him for a few days, and then he should be just fine. This is only the first stage of Qi Deviation, and at the moment it’s curable,” he reassured them all.
“The first stage,” Lan Zhan murmured, looking shake at what the healer was saying. Though only his brother could tell that he was.
“Yes, there are a few stages that lead up to a Qi Deviation, but this is the first. Most of the Nie Sect disciples will have this problem before they become adults. It’s one of the reasons why those of the Lan Clan will often visit the Nie Sect. So that we can play Cleansing and Clarity for them. It helps them with their healing. It’s the continued use of the sabre that will eventually lead to Qi Deviation,” he sighed. He, like many other healers over the years, had tried to find a way to stop the Qi Deviation in the Nie Sect from happening. But so far, they had no luck in finding out why nothing they tried had worked.
“Thank you, Healer Lan, I will leave him in our care. Young Master Jiang,” Lan Xichen then said as he looked at the teenager that was walking over to his brother’s bedside. “I’m going to write a letter to your father to tell him what has happened,” he said, walking with Lan Zhan after the Jiang Sect heir.
“Yeah, that would be a good idea. He wouldn’t want to learn what happened from someone else,” Jiang Cheng said absently nodding at them as he stared down at his brother.
Lan Xichen left and returned to his office so he could write a letter and send it out as soon as possible. He didn’t know how well Wei Ying would recover from what he had been through. Half hour later he returned to the infirmary to play Clarity with his brother, hoping it would help the young teenager to wake up that little bit faster. So far, he had remained unconscious since he had been brought in.
Wei Ying sat up on his bed, Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang were both with him. He had been there for almost an entire day. He had woken the day before, just before dinner could be served. He was still feeling exhausted, but was feeling a lot better than he had when he had first woken up. “I just can’t understand why it didn’t work,” he muttered mostly to himself. He had been able to sweet talk Nie Huaisang into bringing him some of his notes on the Nie Sect Problem so he could work on it while it was fresh in his mind.
“What went wrong do you think?” Nie Huaisang asked him, curious as to what his friend had done to destroy the Waterborne Abyss as he had done. The disciples and the guests were all talking about what he had done.
“Well, when I’ve watched the Nie Sect practice,” he began to explain, “You pull in a lot of Yang Energies, so much so that you also start to pull in Resentful Energy with it,” he said, “You all do the same thing when you practice. You pull in the Yang Energy and with it the resentful energy, though it’s really small. So, it doesn’t really affect you for a long time. I took in too much Yang Energy that was around the Waterborne Abyss. Unfortunately, the Waterborne Abyss had a lot more Resentful Energy mixed in with the Yang Energy that surrounded it,” he huffed, pulling a face as he didn’t think he was explaining it well.
“So, is that why you collapsed?” Meng Yao asked him.
Wei Ying shook his head, “No, it isn’t,” he pulled the papers toward him and grabbed one of the brushes, jotting a few things down. He looked up as he finally answered, “The reason for me is that the Yang Energies were blocking my own Yin energy. I couldn’t use my Spiritual Energy properly. It caused something to shift. Blocking my Yin energy. I think it was because…” he trailed off, continuing to make a few more notes on what he had felt during the event. “Yes, that’s what it was like,” he nodded to himself.
“What?” Nie Huaisang asked him, almost yelling as he wanted to know what had happened exactly.
“The Yang pulled in the resentful energy, and both of them worked together to basically block my Yin Golden Core from being able to cleanse the resentfulness that came in. If it was just Yang, or even just Resentful energy, then it would have been fine. But because it was both, they clogged things up you could say. It made it a lot harder to use my Yin energy and Spiritual Energy,” he tried to explain. “At first I thought that Yang and resentful energy is the same. But it isn’t. Yang Energy is thick, almost slow moving, while Resentfulness had chaos within it. Yin is thinner, and the Spiritual one we use has light and order to it. I just need to find a way to stop them from working together. Though I…” he trailed off again as he started to write.
“Really wish you would just continue to speak when you’re thinking,” Meng Yao complained a little. The other teenager just couldn’t keep to one train of thought before he needed to put something down onto paper.
“Sorry,” Wei Ying grinned sheepishly, he broke out into a yawn, “Sorry,” he repeated, a little embarrassed that he was still feeling so tired. “I think I might need to go through the forms like you do Nie-Xiong to know if I’m right or not. I need to feel how it works and not just see it,” he sighed, looking at the two.
“Maybe when you’re better,” Nie Huaisang said. He wasn’t too happy with the thought of him doing so, “It could be really dangerous. You… you’re at stage one of Qi Deviation, I know that most of the Nie Disciples get to that stage at around twenty. But… it’s still scary,” he worried.
Wei Ying smiled at him, reaching out and gripping Nie Huaisang’s hand, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Lan Zhan and Zewu Jun has been taking good care of me while I’m here. Lan Zhan was here earlier and was playing Clarity for me. It helped a lot. He said he was going to be bringing me lunch later as well,” he grinned at the thought of Lan Zhan coming by to see him a second time that day.
“He’s been with you all the time, not even Jiang-Xiong has been here all the time,” Nie Huaisang said as he tapped his lower lip with the top edge of his fan.
“Jiang Cheng has to make sure that the others are doing their training. They’ll try and slack off if one of us doesn’t make them do it,” Wei Ying grinned at them. He and Jiang Cheng came down hard on those that liked to slack off. Neither of them had the time for such things after all. Those that did slack off too much, usually ended up on probation within the sect and if they failed, they would be asked to leave.
“Hm,” Nie Huaisang hummed a little, he was the type to slack off as well. Though he still practiced other things when his brother wasn’t around.
“Try and get some rest,” Meng Yao told him as he saw Wei Ying yawning again.
“Hmm,” Wei Ying nodded sleepily, “I’ll try. But I want to get some more of my thoughts down while I can and while they are clear in my head,” he added as he began to write that little bit quicker.
“We should go,” Meng Yao said quietly as he looked at Nie Huaisang, “You have some practice to do. And don’t even think about trying to get out of it this time. You only have to do a half hour and then you’ll be free,” he reminded him, “And I will not let you do anything else until it’s done,” he warned.
“Fine,” he pouted as he got up, Meng Yao doing the same beside him, “I’ll try and stop by after dinner Wei-Xiong,” he smiled at the other teenager.
Wei Ying looked up and nodded, “Sure, and try and bring Jiang Cheng alone. I want to know how the disciples are doing and to make sure he hasn’t sent a letter to Uncle Jiang. I don’t want him to be worried about this.”
“Too late for that,” Meng Yao told him, shaking his head, “Sect Leader Lan sent out a letter yesterday, as soon as he found out that you were going to be alright.”
“Damn,” he cursed, huffing as the two of them left, “I really didn’t want to worry him at all,” he muttered to himself before going back to his work and making as many notes as he could.
There was a knock on the door to the room he had been put in after he had woken up. Wei Ying absently called out and Lan Zhan walked in. In his hands was a tray of food, “Wei Ying,” he greeted him, the other teen was half asleep where he sat, brush still in hand.
“Oh, Lan Zhan, is that lunch?” he asked him, getting a nod in return. “Did you bring something for yourself as well? I don’t like eating alone, Lan Zhan,” he pouted at him.
“I did,” Lan Zhan answered him, walking over and putting the tray down. He helped Wei Ying clear up before setting out their lunch for them both. Lan Zhan settled on the floor by the bed and began to eat.
The two ate in silence. Wei Ying knew that should he try and talk, Lan Zhan would find a way to keep him quiet. He was too tired to argue at that moment in time. He would wait for a battle he knew that he would be able to win against the older teenager.
“You know. I wish your brother hadn’t sent a letter to Uncle Jiang. I really didn’t want him to worry at all about this,” Wei Ying said as he finished the last of his lunch.
“Hm?” Lan Zhan hummed in question.
“Uncle Jiang worries about my health more than he should do,” he answered him. “I… I was a street kid for a while after my parents were killed on a night hunt when I was four. I was… around nine when he found me,” he told him, his voice quiet. He looked at his friend, “I was a bit sickly when I first arrived. I couldn’t eat a lot, and most of the food was too rich for me to eat. It’s one of the reasons why I love spices and that so much, I never really got to try until then and I adored the taste, the stronger the better to me,” he shrugged a little, a soft sad smile on his face.
“Do you… do you miss them?” Lan Zhan asked him curiously. He put the empty dishes onto the tray and stood up.
Wei Ying watched as he took the tray and placed it outside the room for a servant to come and fetch a little later. He nodded when Lan Zhan looked his way. “I do a bit. I don’t really remember them that much now. But I don’t want to ask Uncle Jiang. Madam Yu still doesn’t like the fact that I’m around. People kept calling me Uncle Jiang’s bastard because he took me in. No one really remembers or even believes that my dad and Uncle Jiang were sworn brothers. That my dad wasn’t actually a servant of the Jiang Sect, he was the head disciple. “Uncles right hand until he and my mother got married. Then they left the Jiang Sect, my mother… liked to travel,” he sighed sadly. He often wondered how things had been if they had still been part of a Sect.
“I… understand. I miss my mother,” Lan Zhan said quietly, taking his seat beside the bed once again. He had never spoken so openly with someone before. But the teenager in front of him would understand. “She passed away, when I was six. I… I have never met my father, he is in seclusion. I used to be able to see her once a month, when the moon was full. When she died, I didn’t understand what was going on. I waited for her for so long, to open the door and let me in,” he added, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying reached out towards him, taking a hand, “If you’re curious about your parents, then why don’t you ask your uncle. Maybe he would be able to tell you about them a bit more. Or maybe even Zewu Jun, he’s older than you, so he might know better if you are starting to forget.”
Lan Zhan nodded, “Same to Wei Ying, ask Sect Leader Jiang again,” he suggested to him.
Wei Ying smiled sadly, “I would. But I know that it hurts him to talk about them. And sometimes, when I do have the courage to ask, Madam Yu tends to get angry at me and at Uncle Jiang. So, I try not to ask too much. I don’t want to cause them any trouble.”
“Mn,” he nodded, feeling bad for suggesting it.
Wei Ying opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by a large yawn.
“Sleep, Wei Ying needs to rest, I will play Clarity for you later, when you awaken again,” Lan Zhan promised him as he began to clear up the notes that Wei Ying had been making. He was being careful with them as he knew that the research that Wei Ying was doing could be important, especially for the Nie Sect.
“Okay,” Wei Ying murmured, snuggling down into his bed, eyes already closing as he started to drift off, “Thank you Lan Zhan, for sharing your story with me,” he added.
“Mn, no need for thank yous,” Lan Zhan told him, as Wei Ying feel asleep in the middle of the day.
Wei Ying was finally back in his own room. He was feeling a lot better than he had for two days ago when he had first woken in the infirmary. He closed his eyes with a smile on his face as he let the music that Lan Zhan was playing wash over him. The older teenager was still playing Clarity for him twice a day. He could feel himself getting better with each time he listened to it. The music came to a slow stop, the last note hanging in the air for a few more moments before the room was silent.
“Thank you,” Wei Ying smiled as the music faded away. Opening his eyes, he looked at Lan Zhan who was sat at the low table, his guqin resting on it.
“Welcome, Wei Ying,” he nodded, “But there is no need for thank yous,” he told him once more. This time Wei Ying was awake for it.
“I still want to say it,” Wei Ying smiled at him, wondering why he would say that.
“Mn,” he nodded, “are you feeling better?” he asked softly.
Wei Ying nodded, “I am, feeling a lot better. Clarity really helps. And I’ve figured out some of what went wrong that day, and why it caused me so many problems,” he said as he got up from his bed and walked over to the table. Near Lan Zhan’s guqin were the notes that he had been making over the last two days about what had gone wrong with the Waterborne Abyss. He had wanted to get it down so that others may be able to do the same should another one strike somewhere else. It would be world-changing if they could do so, since there would be no need to seal a lake for ten or more years as they tried to drain and clean it. They were such a big problem for people since they took so long to kill. Ten years was a long time for a village to be without their main source of income from fishing and such.
Lan Zhan glanced at the notes as Wei Ying explained everything to him. He understood a little of what was being said and reminded himself that he should do some research as well. He wanted to be able to help Wei Ying with what he was doing. He saw a Lan disciple outside the room. He sighed, knowing that they had been sent to get him.
“Young Master Lan, Young Master Wei,” came a voice from outside as they knock on the door.
“Come in,” Wei Ying called out to them.
“Sorry to disturb you both,” he bowed to the two of them, “Sect Leader Lan and Master Lan wish to speak with Second Master Lan,” he said as he looked towards Lan Zhan.
Wei Ying looked unhappy about the thought of losing his friend. But knowing that the other teen still had duties to attend to apart from helping him recover. “I’ll see you at dinner, Lan Zhan?” Wei Ying asked him as the teen put away Wangji.
“Mn,” he nodded, “Will come and get Wei Ying,” he promised him.
Wei Ying smiled brightly, “I’d like that,” he told him as the two Lan disciples then left him on his own. Though it wasn’t long before someone else knocked on his door and walked into the room before Wei Ying could even say anything.
“Wei-Xiong!” Nie Huaisang wailed as he went over, flopped to the floor and draped himself over the younger teenager.
“Nie-Xiong,” Wei Ying rolled his eyes at the dramatics before he asked, “What’s wrong?”
“There’s going to be another test, and he’s crying because he knows he’s going to fail it,” Meng Yao answered him, rolling his own eyes at his charge’s antics. It was the same when he had to do things in the Unclean Realm as well. Meng Yao had no doubt that if the young master had decided to join a performance troupe, he would easily be their best asset.
“Right,” Wei Ying nodded slowly, suddenly glad that he didn’t have to go back to the lectures for another couple of days. They wanted to make sure that there was no resentful energy left behind before he re-joined his classmates.
“He’ll be fine, so just ignore his wails,” Meng Yao said as he looked at the notes on the table, “Oh, so you’re working on the messenger animals again?” he asked, seeing that the notes were the other set that Wei Ying had.
“Yeah, though I really want to make something really special for Lan Zhan as well,” Wei Ying said as he gestured to the piece of paper that had notes about other things as well.
“Ah, so you do like him then?” Meng Yao smirked as he looked up at him.
Wei Ying blushed, “Yes,” he muttered, “But, please, don’t say anything. I just… really like spending time with him and he makes me laugh,” he shrugged.
Meng Yao nodded, “Sure,” he smiled softly, “How are the messengers coming along?” he asked him to change the subject.
“Okay, at the moment though I think I need to look something up in the library. They said I’m not allowed to go to places on my own just yet,” he said, looking at the two of them hopefully.
“We’ll go with you,” Meng Yao chuckled, gathering Wei Ying’s notes so that he would have them with him. In case he needed to write something down, “A-Sang, get off him and let him get ready to leave here,” he admonished him, tapping him on the arm and glaring slightly.
Nie Huaisang pouted as he let Wei Ying get up, quickly getting to his feet to help his friend rise as he began to struggle. Meng Yao finished gathering the notes up. “You sure you’re up to going?” he asked, seeing that Wei Ying was now a little pale with being on his feet.
“Yes, I’m fine, just a little dizzy, I got up too quickly,” he protested a little as he smiled at Nie Huaisang, reassuring him that he really was fine and that going to the library would still be okay to do.
“If you say so,” he told him, still unsure if he should let his friend go to the library or not.
“Do you know where Jiang Cheng is?” Wei Ying asked, he hadn’t seen his brother since before lunch when he had stopped by for a moment to check on him before heading out.
“He’s training the disciples again. He wants to make sure that they aren’t slacking off because you’re not there to keep a close eye on them,” Meng Yao told him, he had been hearing Jiang Cheng grumble about it after the lectures had finished for the day.
“Right,” he nodded, “maybe we should go and stop by,” he wondered as they walked slowly out of his room.
“No, the library only. You’re still really pale and I’m not even sure you should be out of your room even with us,” Nie Huaisang told him firmly, making sure to keep him from going towards the training fields.
Wei Ying huffed a little but let himself be led over to the library and settled down at the table that he usually researched at. He soon got into the swing of things, looking through the different books and scrolls that Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao would bring for him. All he had to do was tell them what he was after and the two would go and search through the shelves. Occasionally they would need to speak with one of the Lan Disciples for a little help to locate something, but their system worked well. The two of them helped him come up with some ideas at times as well, writing them down for him to explore more thoroughly a little later.
Wei Ying looked up as he saw something flutter past him and heading towards Jin Zixuan, who was seated in another corner with a few more Jin disciples around him. “I really do wish I could get my hands on one of those to study them a bit,” he muttered, glaring at the butterfly for a moment.
“I doubt they would let you. They are treated as a Clan secret for the most part. No out disciple of the Jin Sect is allowed to use them unless there is an emergency,” Nie Huaisang said, shrugging when he heard Wei Ying huff at that.
“Well, I think I’m onto something at the least. Just need to start trying to test them out,” he told them as he brought out the paper where he had jotted everything down. He laid it out flat, “See, this is for speed,” he said, pointing to one part, “This for travel,” he added, “The message goes in this area right here. And this changes it from the talisman to a ball of energy,” he said, laughing a little when he couldn’t think of the right word to use.
“So, you’re ready to try them out then?” Meng Yao asked him, curious as to how far along the other was with them.
“Yeah, we should be able to try them soon,” he smiled. He was looking forward to giving them a try, “Thought, I still think they are missing something.”
“What are they going to look like when we use them?” Nie Huaisang asked him, looking at the talisman that he could barely understand.
“That’s it!” he yelled out, bouncing a little in his seat, “That’s what is missing!” he told them, grinning widely. “The shape. At the moment it will just be a ball of energy that will travel away from us. But we can change the shape, make them match up to the sects that use them maybe?” he mumbled as he started to plan out which sects would have what. The size didn’t really matter, they could be as large or as small as they wanted. It would have the same message ability. Though he didn’t know how long the butterfly ones were. But they would be able to hold a whole letter instead of just a short message with the way he had done it.
“And he’s off,” Meng Yao laughed lightly, shaking his head fondly at the teenager as he got wrapped up in his thoughts again.
“Oh, maybe if I do this, then they can turn into a letter and not just a message,” Wei Ying mumbled a little as he pulled a clean sheet of paper towards him and began to make another talisman.
“Young Master Wei,” came an unsure voice of a Lan disciple as they hovered nearby.
“Yes?” he asked as he looked up for a split second before turning back to his work.
“I’m sorry to interrupt what you are doing, but you have some visitors. They have just arrived in Cloud Recesses and are waiting for you in the Sect Leader’s Offices,” he told him.
“Ah, oh, erm, thank you,” Wie Ying muttered as he looked at his work.
“Wei-Xiong,” Nie Huaisang called to him, putting a hand over his work. “You really need to go now, Yao-ge and I will take the notes back to your room and you can carry on there instead.”
“Let me just get this last thing down before I forget it and then I’ll go,” he muttered absently as he moved Nie Huaisang’s hand out of the way and put down the last few things he needed before putting down his brush, “Sorry to leave you with putting everything away again,” he told them with a wince as he looked at his mess.
“It’s fine. I find the way you work really interesting,” Meng Yao smiled, reassuring him that it was fine.
Wei Ying smiled, “Thanks,” he said as he got up and followed the Lan disciples and headed towards Lan Xichen’s office.
The door opened after they had knocked on it, and Wei Ying was greeted by a warm hug and the song of his name, “A-Xian,” as Jiang Yanli held him and checked him over, making sure that he really was all right.
“Wuxian,” Jiang Fengmian greeted him, a worried look on his face, “are you alright? Should you even be up?” he asked as he looked his adoptive son over. Seeing how pale he was compared to normal.
“I’m fine Uncle Jiang, the Lan Sect have been really great in treating me. So, I’m fine,” he reassured him, hugging Jiang Yanli close for a moment before letting her go.
“Sect Leader Lan and Master Lan told us what you did,” Jiang Fengmian said quietly, still not believing what he had been told. “How on earth did you do something like that?” he asked.
“Well,” he said, as he began to explain what he had done to them. Letting Lan Xichen and Lan Qiren listen to the explanation as well, as they hadn’t had the chance to speak to him about it as he recovered. He finished his explanation of what he had done, and how he had come up with it. He finally ended with, “I really need to try out the sabre style of the Nie Sect, and maybe I can find out the problem that they are having,” he said, with an easy shrug.
No one in the room could believe that he would be able to figure such a thing out. So many had tried to find a way to drain an Abyss for so long. And the Nie Sect problem was something any healer would have tried to tackle at least once in their lifetime.
“Are you sure you should be thinking about doing so?” Jiang Fengmian asked him. He knew what the Sabre spirits did to their cultivators in the end.
“Yeah, I need to, Uncle Jiang. I really want to help them, especially Nie Huaisang,” he said, “He’s my friend and he doesn’t want to lose his brother the same way as his father.”
“Alright,” he smiled, “You can do so, but you need to be careful. I want to be there to observe what you do as well.”
“I’ll see if he’ll be able to show me now,” Wei Ying grinned, suddenly filled with energy at the thought as he darted off to find his friend.
“How do you keep up with him?” Lan Xichen said, shaking his head and then ducking a little, “My apologises, Sect Leader Jiang.”
“It’s understandable, he really doesn’t sit still for long. His mind is on everything and anything all the time. He’s extremely smart and will question everything he can. Even things that have been known for centuries he will question it. When he comes across a problem, he will do all he can to solve it as well,” he smiled at the young Sect Leader.
“I’ve noticed, I believe he will be heading to find his friends and then going to the training grounds. Do you wish to follow him?” he asked, standing up. His uncle doing the same beside him.
“I think it would be for the best. To make sure he doesn’t go and harm himself again, he doesn’t look well,” Jiang Fengmian agreed with a chuckle, though the end of his sentence had a small more sombre note in it.
“He is recovering well,” Lan Xichen answered him, “He needs to rest a little more, but he should be fine within another day or so. I would have advised against doing this.”
“But there is no stopping him,” Jiang Fengmian nodded, already knowing that would be the case.
“I believe your son will be there as well,” Lan Qiren added as they walked.
“Ah, that would be wonderful. It will be nice to see how he is doing. I was hoping to speak with him for a while,” he smiled as they walked towards the training ground. Where Wei Ying had already talked the Nie Sect Disciples into helping him go through their sabre forms with Nie Huaisang’s sabre.
Wei Ying grinned as he looked around him. The place he now found himself was a lot quieter than the usual areas of Cloud Recesses, even with the rules against noise. Jiang Fengmian and Jiang Yanli were talking with Lan Xichen while they could about some of the trade between the Lan and the Jiang Sects. The others were all still in lectures. He would be re-joining them in another two days after Jiang Yanli and Jiang Fengmian went home. He would miss having them here, since he, Jiang Cheng and the other two would have dinner together. It was so nice and relaxed when it was the four of them. Like they were an actual family, there was no tension like there was with Madam Yu, who was always ready to jump on one of them should they do something she didn’t like.
He carried on walking, stopping when he saw a small home a little further away. “That’s odd,” he said as he stared at it. it was so out of the way. So far from the rest of the Sect. He wondered a little if someone actually lived there at all. He walked over to it and knocked on the door. Hearing no answer from inside he slowly opened the door and walked in.
In the middle of the room sat a man, looking at the door and at Wei Ying as he entered. “It has been a long time since someone has come into my home. Most, hearing nothing from inside would leave,” he said.
“I’m not really like most people,” Wei Ying told him unabashed. He looked around a little more, the shutters were all closed, not letting any of the light from outside in, “It’s really dark in here, you should open the windows a bit more,” he told him.
“I’ve not really felt like doing so,” he told him, shaking his head.
“Then I will,” Wei Ying smiled as he went over to the nearest one and started to open it. He made sure to go slow. While the candle and the lamplight would illuminate a place, there was nothing brighter than the sun filtering into a hole. It could harm the man’s eyes if he hadn’t had them open in a long time. When he heard nothing, he carried on opening the others in the room.
“Thank you,” the man said from behind him.
Wei Ying turned and grinned, “You’re welcome.” It was then that he was able to get a good look at the man. He was older, around Lan Qiren’s age if he had to guess. Though his face was very familiar to him. “You… looking like Lan Zhan and Zewu Jun,” he said as he went over, “Are you… are you their dad?” he asked him.
“I don’t think I have the right to be called their father. I’ve not been much of one for them,” he said, shaking his head a little. He looked sad and wistful at the same time.
“It’s never too late to be someone’s dad,” he pointed out to him, “Lan Zhan and Zewu Jun, I bet they both miss you as well,” he told him, knowing that Lan Zhan felt something towards his father at least.
“How can they miss what they have never had?” the man questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“You look like Lan Zhan right then, when he doesn’t approve of something,” he grinned, almost laughing at the sight, “They miss you, I know that Lan Zhan does. He told me about his mother, how he missed her and then he told me of you,” he said softly. He moved closer and sat down, “That he never got a chance to meet you, that you’ve always been locked away here. That he was able to meet his mother and only had stories about you from her. But he was six when she passed away. He misses her every day, and he misses the man that she was able to tell him about,” he finished gently.
The man nodded, “I’m Lan Zhiqiang,” he said, introducing himself to the young teenager that was sitting across from him. With a shake of his head, he poured the two of them some tea.
“Nice to meet you, this one is Wei Ying, courtesy name Wuxian, I’m the head disciple of the Yunmeng Jiang Sect,” he introduced himself, “And you’re Lan Zhan’s dad,” he grinned.
“I am,” he said with another nod, “How… how are they?” he asked him, he hadn’t really seen anyone in years to ask them. And the one time his younger brother had stopped by had been almost four years ago now. He hadn’t said anything at the time, well, apart from calling him an idiot again.
“Well, I don’t know much about Zewu Jun, but I know that he’s a really good cultivator. He’s taken over as Sect Leader at the beginning of the year since you’re in here. But I think he doesn’t really want to be just yet. Not many take him seriously either. So Master Lan Qiren is the one that has to go to things in his place more often than not. He doesn’t go out Night Hunting either, from what Lan Zhan told me though. He used to before he took on Sect Leader duties,” he answered him, telling him the little he knew of Lan Xichen, “He’s really kind and doesn’t look down on anyone at all,” he added with a little smile.
“Like his mother then,” he smiled back.
“Lan Zhan smiles like you,” he said quietly, “he doesn’t smile often, and most people won’t even talk to him. But that’s because he’s really shy. Really, really shy at times. But he follows the rules a little too much. I’m trying to get him to loosen up a little more, but it’s going to take a while. I think he’s scared that if he breaks the rules then something will happen to those he loves. The last time he broke the rules, he lost his mother. He didn’t understand death at the time, to him, he broke a rule and was no longer able to see her,” he told him quietly, remembering what Lan Zhan had talked to him about over the last week.
“Ah,” Lan Zhiqiang sighed, “I know that A-Ren always loved the rules a little too much. But I hope he would have dissuaded A-Zhan from that notion. Nothing that happened was A-Zhan’s fault at all,” he said, shaking his head.
“Maybe not, but to him, it feels like it. He breaks the rules and then is told that he wasn’t allowed to see his mother. He didn’t understand at all that she had died. All he knew was that he wasn’t allowed to see her. He waited out in the snow for her to open the door and welcome him once more. Lan Zhan told me that it took him a few more months before his uncle was able to make him understand that she was gone. He told me from then on, he always followed the rules. Not wanting something to happen to his uncle or brother. Since he didn’t have his father either, he thought he had done something really bad when he was very young to cause you both to be taken from him,” he told him, a little blunt but it was needed to get the man before him to see that he was missing out on things in his children’s lives that he will never be able to get back. There was so much missed already.
“It… it would have been hard,” he told him sadly, “I…” he trailed off, looking towards the window and looking outside for the first time in a long time. Lan Zhiqiang couldn’t remember the last time he had opened the shutters.
“I lost my parents when I was around four. I don’t remember them at all. Well, tell a lie, I do a little. The only thing I can remember about them is laughter and a donkey. My mother was beside me and my father was leading us along the path. That’s the only clearish memory that I have of them and I cherish it so much. Though their faces are beginning to fade from my memory, no matter how much I try to hold onto them. Lan Zhan cherishes the memories he has of his mother. He holds them close to his heart. But he doesn’t know you and he should, so should Zewu Jun. They both have the chance to know their father,” he told him passionately. He looked at him, “I would give anything to be able to spend that little bit more time with my parents. To learn a little more about them,” he said softly, “But I can’t. Just like Lan Zhan isn’t able to spend any more time with his mother. But he is able to be with his father. But you are being stupid and locking yourself away in here. You missed out on so much of their lives. Are you really going to lose the chance for them to get to know you? For you to be able to get to know them?” he asked him.
“It’s not as simple as that, Wei Wuxian,” he told him, shaking his head.
“Do you love them?” he asked him, staring at the man.
“Do you love them?” he repeated his question, “A simple yes or no.”
“Yes,” he finally answered.
“Then you’re being stupid. And, it is that easy. All you need to do is get up and go out that door. You’ll be able to find them easily, they both look just like you, so it won’t be hard to find them,” he told him standing up. “You have the chance to get to know your children. You never know what might happen in life. Don’t waste it. Take it and make sure that they know that their father loves them. Because Lan Zhan doesn’t know that you do. He doesn’t know you at all,” he pointed out to him.
Lan Zhiqiang nodded, “I shall think about it.”
“You shouldn’t have to think, you should know that they wait for you every day,” he added, moving to the door, “I need to go, no doubt lessons will be over soon and my brother will be looking for me.
“Thank you for coming inside and talking with me. You’re… welcome to come again. Tell me more about A-Zhan and A-Huan, please,” he told him.
Wei Ying smiled, “I will, but I hope that you will really give it some thought as to going out there and learning about them yourself by talking to them. I bet even Old man Lan misses you,” he added with a smirk.
Lan Zhiqiang laughed at what Wei Ying had called his brother, “It’s the beard, it makes him look older than he is,” he said, still chuckling.
“It does!” Wei Ying grinned, “Uncle Jiang told me that my mother shaved it off when she was here. He said that he looked younger and a lot better without it,” he laughed.
“He did, he actually looked younger than me instead of fifty years older,” Lan Zhiqiang smiled brightly. He paused for a second as he realised just who it was that was standing in front of him, “Wei Wuxian, is your mother…. or was your mother Cangse Sanren?” he asked.
Wei Ying nodded, “She was, my father was Wei Changze.”
“I remember her, bright and always willing to fight for the underdog,” he smiled softly as he looked at Wei Ying, “She shaved of A-Ren’s beard when he did something stupid during a Night Hunt. He wanted to follow the rules, but A-Mian… Jiang Fengmian and A-Ze, your father, their lives were in danger. He wanted to follow the rules which would have gotten them both killed. She didn’t and saved them both, and was then punished for it because A-Ren didn’t like it that she didn’t follow the rules. He never… apologised for what he did. So, she took her revenge against him,” he explained.
“Thank you,” Wei Ying said quietly, “I… I don’t have many stories about her. Uncle Jiang tends to get really sad when I start asking. I know that all three of them were really close. And that Madam Yu doesn’t like it when he talks about them, either. It’s caused a few arguments between them in the past,” he told him honestly, a small smile on his face.
Lan Zhiqiang nodded and then said, “When you smile like that, you look more like your father. When you grin, you’re more like your mother. I remember them both well. The next time you come, I’ll tell you a few of the stories that I know about them from when they both came here to study. I was a little older than them at the time,” he told him.
“Thank you, that would be amazing,” Wei Ying told him as he then opened the door and walked out, “Bye, bye Lan Zhan’s dad!” he teased as he left the small home.
Wei Ying walked through the mountainside once more, this time heading back to the main areas of Cloud Recesses. He glanced back just once, seeing a man now standing outside the door instead of being inside. It looked like he hadn’t been outside in so long with how pale he was. Wei Ying hoped he would take the chance he had to go and find his sons. He really shouldn’t miss out on anything more in their lives.
“Wei Wuxian!” came a yell as he finally reached the main area.
“Hey Jiang Cheng,” he grinned as his brother grabbed him by the shoulders, “What?” he asked.
“A-Jie was worried about you when we couldn’t find you in your room,” he answered, which translated to Wei Ying that it was Jiang Cheng that was worried about him. His younger brother always used Jiang Yanli as an excuse instead of saying what he really meant.
“Sorry, Jiang Cheng, I just went for a walk,” he said, not wanting to tell him, or anyone really, about meeting Lan Zhiqiang. At least not yet. He followed Jiang Cheng to go and meet with Jiang Yanli and Jiang Fengmian for an early dinner. He smiled and laughed with his family, a little bit of hope that Lan Zhan would soon be able to have the same.
Jiang Cheng and Wei Ying walked across the courtyard. Jiang Yanli was on the other side of it with some of the female disciples. A discussion was being held between them all. And there was a lot of giggling from the ladies that were with her. As well as some ribbing coming from the males that were with them as well.
“What’s going on?” Wei Ying asked as he walked over to the ground. Seeing that Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao were there as well.
“They are comparing the beauties of the female cultivators and the handsomeness of the males,” Nie Huaisang answered him, “You and Lan Wangji are two of the top ones,” he added, giggling as Wei Ying puffed up at that.
“Of course,” he grinned, before dropping the haughty look and laughing.
“What about Jiang Yanli?” someone in the crowd asked aloud.
“What about her?” someone sneered.
Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng were quick to turn to the person the voice belonged to. Neither of them was surprised to find that it was Jin Zixuan who had spoken.
“And what is wrong with Lady Jiang?” Nie Huaisang was the one to ask, a frown on his face. Everyone knew that the Jin Heir and the firstborn child of the Jiang Sect Leader were betrothed. That they had been since they were very young children.
“You ask me what is wrong with her?” Jin Zixuan snapped, taking a step towards them.
“She is a kind and caring young woman,” Meng Yao said, frowning as well.
“And what would you know about that? Coming from where you did,” he rolled his eyes before turning to look at Nie Huaisang, ignoring the fact that Jiang Yanli was right there as he carried on, “She is plain and useless. She isn’t a cultivator at all. She isn’t a suitable bride from the Heir of a Sect. No matter who her parents are,” he answered him, walking away from them, head held high.
“Ho-” Wei Ying started as he took a threatening step towards the Jin heir. Jiang Cheng, who was right beside him, was about to do some damage to the stuck-up bastard that had done nothing but hurt their sister.
Jiang Yanli put out her arms, stopping the both of them from doing anything, or even saying something with a look. With a calm face and her head held high, she looked at Jin Zixuan. “I am not the one that is useless. That would be you. You didn’t even think to find out if I am a cultivator or not. And for your information I am. I have a sword that I practice with, and I know how to kill troublesome Yao just as the rest of the Jiang disciples do,” she told him, her face blank, “I remain at home as I have duties to attend to as a Jiang Disciple and as Lady Jiang. My mother is busy training the disciples and she has made sure to train me just as well as A-Cheng and A-Xian have been trained,” she added with a slight sneer on her face.
“Then why don’t you have your sword with you now?” someone pointed out.
Jiang Yanli huffed, and with a wave of her hand, her sword was there. The lilac sheath and the silver detailing was delicately wrapped around it. TingLian (Graceful Lotus) befitted the young woman well, “I carry it as you do, out of sight with my Spiritual Energy,” she told him, rolling her eyes.
“Shijie knows how to fight, always has done. She just doesn’t like to most of the time,” Wie Ying said, bringing everyone’s attention towards him as he stepped up beside his sister.
“And you even have a servant defending you all the time. He follows you around everywhere like a lost puppy!” Jin Zixuan added with a look of disgust on his face as he turned back around. He hadn’t ever gotten along with Wei Ying from the first moment they had met.
“Take that back! I’m not a puppy!” Wei Ying yellowed out, horrified to be thought of as anything like those disgusting and terrifying creatures.
“Sect Heir Jin,” Jiang Yanli bit out, her eyes flashing in anger, “I’m not the one that isn’t worth anything. That would be you,” she told him, bringing the attention back to her. While Jiang Cheng did his best to calm their brother down, “You have made assumptions about me but have never really bothered to find out the truth of the matter at all. Instead, you just insult me, my cultivation and my standing within my family. And then you decide to insult my family, as Wei Wuxian is that. He is my brother, the adopted child of my father.”
“Adopted,” Jin Zixuan snorted, “More like his bastard!” he spat, glaring at Wei Ying who was still struggling a little against Jiang Cheng. Who was only just able to keep hold of him as he was still a little tired from what he had been through.
“Well, you would know all about having bastards in the family wouldn’t you Young Master Jin,” Meng Yao snorted, rolling his eyes, “Hello, one here, half-brother,” he smirked, going to stand beside Wei Ying.
“Uncle Wei and my father were sworn brothers. Uncle Wei was never a servant in Lotus Pier, and neither is his son,” Jiang Yanli told him, eyes narrowed, “How you treat people tells me a lot about you. You really aren’t worth my time, energy or happiness. You’re not even a decent human being,” she covered her mouth and then added, smirking and doing her best not to laugh, “You’re more like a high maintenance Madam instead of a Sect Leader’s son. You wish for everything you desire, well, you’re welcome to it. As for me, I’m worth more than you.”
“I do know you, I spent time with you, made by my own mother,” Jin Zixuan defended himself. Though to everyone gathered around them it sounded weak and pathetic.
“Yes, you were made to spend time with me and I was forced to do the same. I gave things a try, I tried to talk to you, and what did you do?” she asked him, giving him a chilling look, “You ignored me, you even ran off, leaving me alone several times. None of them are the actions of a young gentleman. But more of a spoiled princess that didn’t like it because they weren’t getting their own way. You’re petty and narcissistic. All you think about is yourself, and never others. I believe I shall be breaking our betrothal, as it’s clear to me that you do not care for me as a person or as a cultivator. While you wonder why you cannot find a bride. I’ve no doubt that I will one day find someone worthy enough for me. I hope that I will be cherished by them as they will be by me,” her voice was low and cold as she turned and walked away with all the grace that a Lady of the Jiang Sect commanded.
Wei Ying looked at him, “You have no idea what it is that you have lost. Though, when you do, I’ll be waiting to laugh at you,” he smirked, shaking his head for a second before he turned and walked away. Jiang Cheng following his two siblings while sneering at Jin Zixuan.
Meng Yao looked at his half-brother, “She is right. She will find someone that will love and adore her. But how many women will love you and not the money and power that you hold? You had the chance of something really good and you’ve messed it all up over your own petty ego in not getting your own way,” he sighed, “I don’t know if I should pity you or not.”
“Come on Yao-ge, we should try and catch up to them,” Nie Huaisang said. Meng Yao nodded and began to walk as Nie Huaisang turned to Zixuan, “You’ve fucked up. Sect Leader Jiang is here and he will end it with a single word from his daughter. I know that your mother isn’t going to be happy with you,” he smirked and then turned, following his friends from the courtyard as those that remained behind stared at them.
Wei Ying watched Jiang Yanli closely as she walked with her head still high. He knew that it wouldn’t take long for people to hear what had happened. Cloud Recesses might forbid gossip but that never really stopped them at all. He placed a hand on her shoulder, “Shijie,” he called to her, worry slipping into his tone.
“A-Xian,” she smiled, though there was a small hint of sadness in her eyes. She actually looked rather happy with what had just taken place, “Let’s find father. We can have a nice dinner together and I can ask him to break it all off. I do not wish to be with him anymore.”
“If, you’re sure?” Wei Ying prodded a little.
“I am,” she smiled at her brothers and then they went to find their father.
Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang caught up to them before they could. After making sure that everything was fine, they left the family alone.
“A-Li, are you alright?” Jiang Fengmian asked her, having heard a few murmurings before joining the three children for dinner.
“I am, but I do wish to talk to you about the engagement between myself and Sect Heir Jin Zixuan. I wish for it to be broken as soon as possible,” Jiang Yanli answered as she began to dish out the food that she had been able to cook for them. Though Jiang Yanli thought that the cooks had heard what had happened because they had all been most helpful in showing her where everything was and helping her in cooking the meal.
“Is that what you truly wish for?” he asked her. Wanting to make sure it was. He knew that doing so was going to make Madam Yu angry at him, but he would take that anger any day if it meant that his children would be happy.
“I do,” she told him softly, “Father, he’s not worth my time or energy. He has made that clear on so many times over the years when he has left me alone when he visits. But he has also caused a few problems for me in the past with his behaviour. He has also insulted A-Xian several times in calling him a servant and that Uncle Wei was a servant as well,” she huffed. She wished that the truth would be told about the two of them. Though she had found that no one believed them when told that they were not servants at all.
Jiang Fengmian sighed, people, classing Wei Changze as a servant wasn’t something new. It had been happening for years. Even before he had gone to Cloud Recesses for lessons. A Servant wasn’t allowed to attend the lectures after all. He knew for a fact that the Jin servants that Jin Zixuan had brought along with him had been forced to return to Koi Tower. Meng Yao had even been brought into question. But as it turned out he was an advisor and a cultivator and had been granted permission to attend the Lectures. With the way things were done at Cloud Recesses, it meant that the students were to take care of themselves. Washing their own clothing, doing their own bathwater, everything. The only things they weren’t allowed to do was cook the meals. And that was because the last time a student cooked a meal, they were so spicy only three of them were able to eat it. And yes, it had been his generation that had ruined the taste buds of generations to come. Cangse Sanren had been the one to over spice things, he, Wei Changze and Cangse Sanren had been the only ones able to eat the food. Though Jiang Fengmian often wondered if she had done it on purpose because of the three bowl rule being overruled because of the waste no food rule. Jiang Fengmian shook his head, going back to the topic at hand and not his own memories.
“I will see what I can do about that. It should be well known that I have adopted A-Ying,” he frowned, wondering if Madam Yu had done something to that again. it wouldn’t be the first time she had done so. He knew that she was scared that he would choose Wei Ying to be the next Head of the Sect. But he knew that Jiang Cheng was the best choice. He was smart, strong and was a born leader. He had a level head that Wei Ying just didn’t have. He did so well with the disciples and he was able to keep them working. Wei Ying could do that, but he would often rush off for something else as soon as he was done. While Jiang Cheng would remain with the disciples, speaking with them and going over more of what they were going to be doing next time.
“You don’t have to do anything Uncle Jiang, I don’t care what they say about me. I know the truth and those that know me also know it as well,” Wei Ying said, knowing that Madam Yu was the one that kept bringing it up. She didn’t really like him at all. And while he may not like her that much. He still cared about her and didn’t want to cause her any trouble. Or not much more than a prank at least.
“It still shouldn’t be flaunted as the truth A-Xian,” Jiang Yanli told him.
“A-Jie’s right, you’re our brother. If we let these rumours continue that it can harm you in the future,” Jiang Cheng was the one to point out to him. And it could harm him if he wanted to marry someone. Most in the cultivation world would look down on a servant’s son.
“If you say so,” he sighed, he shrugged and began to eat again. He didn’t really care, he just wanted to keep Madam Yu happy enough that she would leave him alone for the most part.
They spent a nice meal together, talking about what Jiang Cheng and Wei Ying had been learning. Though they both wished that Jiang Yanli had been able to join them. But Jiang Fengmian had needed her help in keeping Lotus Pier running since Madam Yu didn’t really take care of that part of being the Lady of Lotus Pier. All she wanted to do was train the disciples and while that was part of her duties, that was all she did. There was the household that she should have been managing as well. And helping out with some of the Sect Business. But she left that for her husband to deal with all the time. The meal ended and Wei Ying went back to his room, ginning when he found Lan Zhan waiting there for him, so he could play Clarity once more.
Jiang Yanli was glad of the breather from her brothers. They had taken to being beside her constantly during the morning meal. She walked through the back mountains of Cloud Recesses, enjoying the beauty of the area near one of the streams. She looked up and behind her as she heard someone walking towards her, “A-Xian,” she smiled, shaking her head at her brother as she added, “Aren’t you supposed to be resting at the moment?”
“I just… wanted to talk to you about yesterday. Without Jiang Cheng or anyone else here,” he said quietly as he joined her.
“Oh,” she murmured, “What about it?” she asked, with a smile on her face, keeping the look pleasant and welcoming, even though she didn’t wish to speak of what had happened.
“Are you really alright with breaking things off with the peacock?” he asked her. He had been wanting to get the truth from her when she had brushed him off that morning and the evening before they had dinner.
“I am,” she reassured him, “I’m done with trying to be pleasant to him all the time,” she sighed, stopping her walk and turning to look at her brother, “He has insulted and belittled me from the moment he met me when he was seven. I will not put up with it anymore,” she answered him honestly.
“If you’re sure,” he told her gently.
“I am, A-Xian. I was told all my life that I would marry him and fall in love with him over time. I believe it. I even believe that I loved him and I’m just figuring out that I actually feel nothing but contempt for him, no affection,” she added, “I’m actually free now, for the first time in my life, I don’t feel as though I have a boulder chasing behind me.”
“I understand, I hope that the next person who you fall for, actually does love you as you deserve,” he told his sister, taking her hands, “Because you deserve the best in the world.”
“I hope so as well. How could I be with someone so crass and… horrible as that,” she giggled as she let go of one hand and moved Wei Ying’s hair out of his face. The two froze when they heard people approaching. Both wondered if lessons were already over for the day.
The two turned and Wei Ying’s face lit up, “Lan Zhan!” he called out, letting go of Jiang Yanli’s hand as he rushed over to the Second Jade of Lan. Who was standing beside his brother.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan greeted back as he was almost dragged towards the stream.
Jiang Yanli watched as her baby brother talked almost non-stop at the young teenager that was beside him. She moved away, letting them talk without her right there next to them. She smiled as she approached Lan Xichen, “Sect Leader Lan,” she greeted him with a polite bow.
“Lady Jiang, a pleasure to meet you properly,” he smiled, returning the bow and then turned to watch his brother, “I am more grateful than you know towards your brother. Young Master Wei has helped him to open up a little,” he told her.
“And you,” she smiled back, giving him a nod, “And yes. A-Xian is a very excitable person. But he speaks about his… forgive me,” she chuckled, “Lan Zhan, all the time. Never stops at all.”
“I have seen,” he nodded and then frowned slightly, though his smile was still there, “I heard about what happened. How are you doing?” he asked her gently.
“I feel as though a weight has been lifted from me,” she smiled, giving him an honest answer, “My mother wanted me to marry the child of her best friend, her sworn sister, to further connect them together. My entire life from when the betrothal was set in place, revolved around that. My mother wanted me to be the perfect wife for him, demure, kind, gentle, know how to run a house and help with Sect Duties. But she forgets that I am a cultivator as well. I’m not that strong of one, I admit. But I’m trained. Now though, I’m free to find someone that I can truly love and not be forced to do so. And that may be, they will love me as well,” she smiled.
“It’s admirable,” Lan Xichen told her, “That you have chosen such a thing. Most women wouldn’t, I’m rather glad of it,” he added quietly as they went back to watching their brothers.
Jiang Cheng looked at Meng Yao, Nie Huaisang, Lan Zhan and Wei Ying. The last one had gathered them all together, dragging them to his room after dinner that night. Though Lan Zhan didn’t look too happy about having to share his usual alone time with Wei Ying with them all.
“So,” Jiang Cheng began, sitting across from his brother, “Why have you brought us all here?” he asked, gaze narrowed as he wondered what his brother was up to this time.
Wei Ying grinned, though he looked positively evil to the others in the room. “Well, I want to make sure that Jin Zixuan will know for sure that he’ll never be worthy of Shijie. And I have a way of doing that, but I need you all to help me with this,” he started, turning to the Second Jade as he said, “Lan Zhan, you’re going to be talking to your brother about this when we’re done here as well.”
“Mn,” he nodded, agreeing that he would do so easily without even knowing what the Head Disciple of the Jiang Sect had planned for them.
“And what’s that?” Meng Yao asked curiously as to what the cultivator had up his sleeve.
“Well, at the moment Jin Zixuan is third on the list of Young Masters. Only the Twin Jades of Lan are ahead of him. I was to kick him off the top five spots,” he to them all, smirking, “With him being so high. He’s going to have a lot of prospects when it comes to a wife. Especially if he goes to a matchmaker. I was made to go by Madam Yu a few months ago, and while I’m fourth on the list and the supposed son of a servant,” he rolled his eyes at that as he carried on, “I still have over forty that would happily match with me. I turned them all down though,” he added. Lan Zhan beside him clenching his fists tightly at the words.
“The lower down the list, the harder it is to find a match for a cultivator,” Nie Huaisang grinned. As he was low down as well, as well as his brother. And their uncles were all trying to get the two of them matched, though both had been able to drive away the very few women that had come forwards. He knew that Jiang Cheng, being fifth, didn’t have good prospects, though that was also because of the list that he had for his requirements, or so the rumour went.
“Exactly, no one wants a sixth-place Young Master. Hell, most don’t even want a fifth place either. I know that Lan Zhan gets a number of proposals as does his brother because they are so high up. They both turn them all down. And Jin Zixuan gets a few, even though he was engaged to Shijie. He made a point of bragging about it last year when he came to Lotus Pier for those two weeks,” he wrinkled his nose as he remembered how upset that Jiang Yanli had been with his bragging. He had even brought the letters with him to show her that she was unworthy, that there were better out there for him. He shook his head, “So, we bump him down the list as far as we can. We show him that she is worth so much more than him. And this he is the one that is at the bottom of the rung,” he smirked as he looked at the others.
“It would be even better if we can find someone that will be able to court her that is in the top five as well. Though two of you are already out,” Meng Yao suggested, gesturing towards Wie Ying and Jiang Cheng, “You two are her siblings. So that leaves Sect Leader Lan, Lan Wangji and Nie Huaisang.”
Lan Zhan didn’t like the thought of that and shook his head, “Not me,” he told them quickly.
“Okay,” Meng Yao sighed, “That leaves two. Your brother Lan Wangji and A-Sang,” he muttered and added, “Wish there were some more that would be able to help.”
“We have what we have. So don’t worry about it,” Wei Ying said, “as long as we’re able to knock him off the top five. We’ll be okay doing just that,” he told him.
“Make him feel as worthless as he has made her feel over the years,” Jiang Cheng growled, clenching his fists on the tabletop.
“I really like Lady Jiang, she’s so sweet and kind,” Nie Huaisang said as he hid his face with his fan as Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng looked at him, “But she is more like a sister. She helped me a little yesterday,” he finished quietly.
“Brother will not wish to do so. He would not want to hurt her at all. He wouldn’t play with people’s emotions like that,” Lan Zhan said, taking his brother from the running as well.
“Then we’ll just have to contend ourselves with kicking him out of the top five on the list,” Wei Ying smiled, “It’s fine. He’ll be so humiliated if Nie Huaisang takes him over anyway,” he grinned at the Nie Disciple.
“Hey!” Nie Huaisang protested, snapping his fan closed, “I’m not that far down the list!”
“I know, but everyone sees you as useless. We know differently, but if you go past him, and into the top five. Then to him it will be seen as humiliating,” Wei Ying told him, “I know you let things go most of the tie. But you’re going to have to work really hard to get into the top five,” he warned him before asking, “Are you willing to do so for Jiang Yanli?”
“I am,” he nodded, tapping his fan on the table, “If I can make that peacock regret giving her up, then all the better,” he grinned viciously.
“Good,” he nodded, “Now with that, you can all disappear,” Wei Ying grinned at them all, “I have something I need to do. I promise that I will be back in my room before curfew Lan Zhan!” he said as he saw the warning look on his friend’s face.
“Mn, better,” Lan Zhan told him as the others started to rise, “I will check,” he warned.
Wei Ying laughed and nodded. There were around two hours left before curfew. It was plenty of time for what he wanted to do. He waited for the last of them to leave his room before he headed out and towards the back mountains again. He had been by Lan Zhiqiang’s home a few times since their first meeting. It had been nice getting to slowly know the man that had been practically locked away for almost twenty years. He reached the small home and knocked on the door, he waited for an answer this time instead of just walking in.
“Lan Zhiqiang!” he called out as he finally got an answer in the form of the door opening up for him.
“Wei Wuxian,” he smiled as he let the teenager inside.
“Thanks,” he grinned as he went past, “still dark and mopey in here. You really need to cheer up,” he told him as he sat down. This time there was tea waiting for the two of them on the table. Freshly poured. “Oh, so you were expecting me?” he asked, looking at him as he walked towards the table.
“I guess I was hopeful that you would come again soon. It has been a long time since I felt as though I was part of the world,” he told him, sitting down opposite him and picking up his cup. He took a sip, smiling, “it’s nice and hot.”
“Thank you,” Wei Ying smiled, “Why won’t you go back?” he asked him, blunt but he didn’t think that tiptoeing around the situation would help them. Especially if he wanted to try and get Lan Zhiqiang to come and see his sons at the very least.
“Before A-Huan was born. I used to Night Hunt regularly, all over Gusu,” he smiled wistfully, “A-Ren would take over the duties so I could spend a little time away after our father passed away. I met a young woman, lively, fun to be around. So nice to talk with, and not impressed with who I was. When I asked to court her, she turned me down. But I was… persistent, and eventually, she allowed my courtship. We fell in love. We were happy and then we were to be married. A few weeks before the wedding, she killed a teacher of the Lan Sect, my own teacher in fact. Everyone called for her blood. But I knew that if I wanted to stop her from being killed by them. I would have to marry her right there and then. So, we did, we married and the Sect couldn’t do anything against us, against her. But the Elders, they had a lot of power, from when my father died and from when I went Night hunting all the time instead of being a Sect Leader. They grasped the rest of the power from me when they found out that we had married. Forcing the two of us into seclusion, separately. They used talismans and arrays to stop us from leaving or even meeting each other. The only time I got to see A-Mei was when they realised that they couldn’t access a lot of the things that a Sect Leader can. The ancestors knew the truth and didn’t give power to them, or to my brother.”
“Brother, that’s Lan Qiren,” Wei Wuxian nodded, making sure in his mind, he wanted to make sure that he took in everything that he was hearing.
“It is, A-Ren, did his best to try and find evidence that would prove A-Mei’s innocence in what she had done. A-Huan was soon born, they were hoping that keeping him away from me and his mother, that he would be theirs to mod. But A-Ren took him in, instead. Made sure that they wouldn’t be able to see their mother if I would forgo seeing him. Then they tried the same thing again. Let A-Mei and I meet for a while, and then A-Zhan was born. A-Mei loved our children so much. And I loved her, the only time I would be able to hear about them was A-Ren would come or I would have the chance to see A-Mei, once a year, and never on the same day,” he sighed.
“So, what happened, did Lan Qiren find out what happened?” Wei Ying asked him, pouring them both some more tea.
“When A-Zhan was around five. A-Mei became pregnant again. Not long after he turned six. A-Ren finally found the proof of what happened. My old teacher had attacked her, trying to make sure that she wouldn’t become the next Madam Lan. But she fought back and killed him. Found out, she wasn’t the only one that they had driven off trying to keep their power. A-Ren was to be married to a nice young man not long after I went into seclusion. He was run off as well. We don’t know where he ended up. A-Ren was never able to find him afterwards. We found the proof of what some of the Elders were doing, proof of the attack on those that took an interest in us, and in A-Mei. But, before we could leave seclusion together, someone poisoned A-Mei. She went into early labour. I was by her side as she tried to bring our daughter into the world. Unfortunately, she was miscarrying, and I lost them both. The Elders were tried and executed for what they had done. But to me, it wouldn’t bring back my wife or daughter,” he sighed sadly, putting his cup down. He looked at him, “I went back into seclusion. Leaving A-Ren to take over the Sect now that the power was gone from the Elders. I was grieving and forgot about A-Huan and A-Zhan. I remained here, letting A-Ren continue being their father figure.”
“Even though your wife and daughter are gone. They missed out on their mother, father and sister. One of those can return to them, you know. Don’t leave them all alone this time. They have barely any memories of her, but they have none of you at all. Only what she told them of you. Don’t… don’t leave them alone. It’s… hard,” he said softly as he looked at the man. He could see how upset Lan Zhiqiang was talking about his wife and daughter.
“It hurts me to know that they don’t know much about her. That they didn’t have the chance to spend the time with her as they should have done. But I don’t even know how to go about talking with them, telling them what happened. The truth behind everything. I know that A-Ren hasn’t told them the truth. That he is waiting for me to speak with them,” he said.
“It’s your right to tell them,” Wei Ying said, giving the man a sad smile, “I would do anything to spend just that one little moment with my parents. I know you feel the same when it comes to your wife and daughter. But you still have two sons that love you and wish to know you. Don’t… don’t forget about them anymore,” he added.
Lan Zhiqiang nodded, “Yes,” he smiled, “Now, tell me what you have been up to then?” he asked, wiping a few tears away and hoping for something more pleasant to talk about before he spent the night in meditation, hoping to come up with an answer.
Wei Ying grinned and went into what he had been doing over the last few days. Including his plans with Lan Zhan and the others and the List of Young Masters. He only just made it back to his room in time, before Lan Zhan came to check on him that night. Making a vow to see Lan Zhiqiang in a day or two, instead of four.
Jiang Yanli was watching her brother as he and Lan Zhan were sparring together. Their eyes were shining and their footwork was fast. They flew around each other with the ease of people that have been sparing together for years and not the weeks that these two had.
“They work very well together,” Lan Xichen said as he walked up behind her.
“Oh!” she gasped, startled out of her thoughts by the voice that spoke behind her. She turned to see who it was, doing her best to calm her breathing down.
“I’m sorry, Lady Jiang. I didn’t mean to startle you at all,” he apologised, as he gestured to the chair at the small table she was seated at. There were a few dotted around the training grounds. More for the elders to watch the students as they sparred. He smiled as he asked, “Would you mind terribly if I joined you?”
“Of course not, please, I even have tea,” she smiled pleasantly as she gestured to one of the seats.
“Thank you,” Lan Xichen said as he sat down and the young woman poured the two of them some tea.
“Is everything okay?” she asked him, she could see that the young Sect Leader was thinking deeply, there was an almost invisible frown on his face.
“Things are… well,” he said, sighing a little at the small lie. He turned to where the two teenagers were sparring. He smiled slightly, “They are well suited for each other. I know my brother, Lady Jiang, and I know that he has taken quite a liking to Young Master Wei.”
Jiang Yanli ignored the lie and went with the change in topic as she nodded, “I know. I can see it. And I can see that my own brother feels the same,” she was quiet for a moment as she watched them. The teasing tones of her brother were easy to hear by the two of them.
“Young Master Wei gifted my brother two bunnies a while ago. Wangji has them set up near his home, so he can spend time with them. Though I believe he would rather spend more time with Wei Wuxian,” he chuckled lightly, it had been easy to see that wistful look on his baby brother’s face when he found him in the bunny pen a few days ago.
“All I hear from A-Xian each day is, Lan Zhan this, and Lan Zhan that. A-Xian never stops talking about him,” she sighed, “I leave tomorrow morning and part of me wishes to remain so that I can watch what happens next between the two of them,” she smiled, giggling as she heard and saw her brother cry out as he landed on his butt. The teenager was quick to get back up and started the spar again. All the while heaping many praises upon Lan Zhan.
Though, much to their siblings’ delight, Lan Zhan did return it with a very quiet, “Wei Ying is very good as well.”
“How… have you enjoyed your time here? I know this is the first time you have come to Cloud Recesses,” he then asked her.
“It’s so peaceful and beautiful here. I could walk through the back mountains forever and never get bored with what I find,” she smiled at him, “Lotus Pier has its own charms of course. But this place… it makes me feel at peace,” she added softly.
“What is Lotus Pier like? I’ve only been a few times, and each time I’ve only ever been to the Jiang Sect compound, I never had the chance to explore the city surrounding it,” he asked her as he drank some of his tea.
“Noisy, there are always so many people around, and they don’t realise how loud they can be sometimes. A-Cheng is one of them, as is my mother. They like the hustle and bustle of the city, the noise it brings,” she chuckled lightly, “My father and I, we enjoy the quietness. We seek it out more often than not. A-Xian, however, can switch between the two. There are times when he is very quiet, you don’t even know he’s there. Mostly that is because he’s researching something, or trying to figure something out. The other, when he’s noisy, tends to be when something has reminded him of his time on the streets. The quiet, the loneliness, being invisible to others. When that happens, he’s noisy, tends to keep close to someone. He’ll talk louder than he needs to and has more energy than ever,” she said, thinking of her adoptive brother.
“I’ve noticed that he is different at times. I think he is quiet and calm when he’s around my brother. Though sparing seems to bring out his loudness,” he laughed as Wei Ying was yelling out at Lan Zhan as they spared, teasing his little brother something fierce. He could see that Lan Zhan’s ears were red, the only show of embarrassment that anyone would be able to see on the stoic Jade of Lan.
“Yes,” she laughed alongside him, “So, what brings you out here?” she asked him, “I know that you say that things are well. But I can see that they are not,” she said, wondering if he would say something.
Lan Xichen sighed, “You are rather perceptive,” he smiled at her.
“Of course, I am, I need to know when my brothers really need my help and not just playing around for attention,” she told him.
“The Waterborne Abyss that Young Master Wei was able to destroy. We found out where it originally came from. Some of the bodies that were part of it have finally washed ashore near Caiyi. I’ve been dealing with making sure that they are returned to their homes for proper burial. It has… not been easy to find out where they belong,” he added cryptically as he pointed towards the sun.
“Ah yes,” she nodded, “Father mentioned something like that as well. Ears and eyes should be kept on the lookout,” she agreed.
“Yes,” he agreed with her, as he then changed the subject, “Have you been down to Caiyi Town yet?” he asked her.
“No. I’ve not had the chance yet. I know that some of the artisans down there are the best around. Their hairpieces are said to be unparalleled to those made elsewhere,” she smiled, happy to talk about other things.
“I will be going down with one of the healers soon, I would like it if you would join me?” Lan Xichen asked the young woman.
Jiang Yanli smiled, “I would love to,” she told him, “I will have to inform my father before I leave, but I don’t see him saying no,” she added as she looked at the young Lan Sect Leader.
The next morning Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng surrounded their sister as she was getting ready to leave with their father. Jiang Fengmian watched his children with a fond smile on his face.
“Lady Jiang,” came the soft voice of Lan Xichen as her brother moved away from her, to let him through.
“Sect Leader Lan,” she bowed, “Good to see you this morning,” she smiled as he bowed back to her.
“And you. I’m sorry to see you go, it has been very pleasant talking with you these last few days,” he smiled, “I… I have a small gift for you,” he said, almost hesitated as he pulled out a cloth-covered gift.
“Oh, thank you so much,” she smiled as she held it in her hands. Hesitantly she opened it and saw the beautiful comb that lay within, “It’s beautiful,” she whispered as she ran her fingers over the carvings of clouds and lotus flowers that decorated it, “This… this is the one that I saw in town, yesterday,” she said.
“It is,” he nodded, “I thought you should have something to remember your visit by. I’m hoping you would not think it too forward of me to write to you,” he asked of her, a hopeful look on his face.
“I would like that very much,” she smiled beautifully up at him, holding the comb to her chest as she answered him, “You can tell me more about what our brothers get up to as well,” she giggled.
“I will do my best to keep you informed,” he laughed, nodding at her request.
“I… I look forward to your letters Sect Leader Lan,” she bowed once more, comb still held tight in her hands, as though she may lose it if she let it go.
Lan Xichen stood there as he then watched her say her final goodbyes to her brothers again before she followed her father from Cloud Recesses. He couldn’t help but remain there for a few more moments until he could no longer see her fly away on her sword, back to her home at Lotus Pier.
“Tea, Sect Leader Lan?” Meng Yao asked from behind. He had waited until the Jiangs were no longer in sight before saying anything. He had noticed that the two older siblings had been getting along rather well. Talking and just spending time with each other. Even going to Caiyi town, with a healer as a chaperone. With everyone now seeing the gift that he had given to her, gossip was already beginning to form about the two of them.
“Ah, A-Yao, yes that would be nice,” he answered, turning to look at the young man.
The two walked to a quiet pavilion out of the way and settled down. Meng Yao had already set it up with tea and a few treats for them both. Having taken the time to visit the kitchens to do so. “So, you have talked with Lady Jiang a lot since she broke off her engagement to Jin Zixuan,” he mentioned quietly.
Lan Xichen ducked his head as he looked at the tea Meng Yao was pouring for them, “I… I have admired her for a long time, A-Yao. But never did anything as she was betrothed. I would not wish to put her in an awkward position should I reveal my feelings towards her. She is a kind and gentle woman. But there is a strength to her that most forget about,” he said.
“Oh, and may I ask what caused this admiration of Lady Jiang?” he asked him, handing over the tea and settling himself down to listen.
“It must have been five years ago. I was visiting Lotus Pier,” he said, a soft smile on his face, “I was there with Uncle. Talking to Sect Leader Jiang about the trade between the two Sects. I was there to learn. I wasn’t very happy as I had to leave Wangji behind here, alone. He was still so young then, only ten,” he sighed, “So, I came here, must not have been long after Wei Wuxian had started living there either. I remember him, he was so timid back then. Scared of a lot of things. And he would turn around and latch onto the nearest person that would let him, which was usually Lady Jiang,” he said.
“So, you saw her then, and did nothing at all?” he asked, wondering if that was it.
“She was so kind to this child that had latched onto her. She helped him, reassured him and even treasured him. Just as I did with Wangji when he would let me,” he smiled, “How could I not admire a woman that cared about those around her. She was gentle, kind and helpful to everyone she came across, even those coming to the sect for help. She made sure that if they were injured that a healer was called to help her,” he told him, sipping the tea.
“So now that the way is clear, you wish to try and court her?” Meng Yao asked him.
“I do, though I will be asking permission from her family first before I ask her,” he answered with a smile.
“Good,” he nodded, “They wouldn’t be too happy without being able to make sure that you’re suitable for their sister. They are very protective of her, have you even heard what they are planning to do?” he asked him, a little smirk on his face.
“Wangji has told me what they are trying to do. In taking over the top five spots on the Young Master’s List,” he laughed. Lan Zhan had told him the day that they had planned it. Part of him couldn’t help but agree with it. Jin Zixuan has no idea what he had given up with his careless words. There was also no chance that Lan Xichen would let this opportunity to court Jiang Yanli pass him by.
“So, what are you going to be doing?” he asked his friend. He had enjoyed the few times that they had been able to have tea together. They got along well and both of them enjoyed their talks.
“I’m going to write to her, get to know her more. And hope that she will be able to get to know me as well. When the Lectures are over, I’m hoping that I will be invited to Lotus Pier, or I will ask to come. So, I can speak with her parents about trying to court her. But only, if she wishes for it. There is no need for her to be told what she is to do again. I don’t want her to feel like she is being forced to. I want it to be her own choice,” he added, thinking of what she had said about her betrothal to Jin Zixuan.
“Forced?” Meng Yao asked, frowning as he drank the last of his tea and poured them both some more.
“Yes, forced. She felt like she had been told all her life that she should love Jin Zixuan. Not even realizing that the feelings that she had were not even really until she had broken things off. Instead of being upset like she thought she would, she felt relieved and free,” he told him, “So I want her to have that choice in what she wants to do.”
“That’s nice. And It’s nice to know that you have a plan in place, even if rather basic,” he told him, picking up his refilled cup, “Now, what is going on between Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian?” he asked him, smirking.
“I believe my brother wishes to try and find out if Wei Wuxian would be open to a courtship between them. Don’t know if we will get very far with that,” He said, thinking of the subtleness that Lan Zhan possessed. It was lost more often than not on Wei Ying.
“Ah,” he nodded, “We can do some subtle hints towards Wei Wuxian. but it might take something a little larger for him to gather a clue as to what Lan Wangji is trying to do and what is going on. Even when it comes to Wei Wuxian’s own feelings,” he laughed lightly as he saw the look of despair on Lan Xichen’s face.
“We’ll have to think about it a little more,” Lan Xichen said, “Since I have a plan for myself, maybe we can both talk Wangji into doing the same and making a plan,” he agreed.
Meng Yao nodded, already thinking on what he could do to steer Wei Ying the right way, straight towards Lan Zhan.