Life’s Final Star is Brotherhood – 2/5 – Duochanfan

Title: Life’s Final Star is Brotherhood
Author: duochanfan
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)
Beta: Arete
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.
Artist: SilverCircuit



Chapter Eleven

Lan Xichen smiled as he looked at his brother from across the table. They had taken the quiet as an opportunity to spend a little time with each other. It wasn’t often that they got the chance. Not since Lan Xichen started to take over more of the Sect Duties since his Uncle wanted to go back to teaching full time again. As he had done before his brother and sister-in-law had been put into seclusion.

“Xiongzhang,” Lan Zhan said as his ears went red. A quick flash of annoyance and embarrassment when through his eyes, that Lan Xichen was only just able to catch.

“I’m just saying Wangji, that if you wish to court Young Master Wei, then you’ll need to say something. Maybe even find a gift for him that you know he will like,” he suggested softly, “He did after all give you two very cute little bunnies as gifts a short while ago,” he reminded him, trying not to laugh at how embarrassed his brother was.

Lan Zhan huffed as he sat there, almost pouting at his brother to get him to leave him alone. Lan Xichen couldn’t help the little laugh as he shook his head. He was about to tease him a little more when something popped up next to Lan Zhan and hopped over to him. It was a small, glowing little white bunny with a Lan forehead ribbon around its head and a tiny guqin on its back in a light blue colour.

“What is that?” Lan Xichen asked as he watched it nibble on his brother’s hand as he cautiously reached down to it.

Lan Zhan went a little redder on the ears as whatever it was, suddenly vanished, “it was a messenger,” he answered his brother, “Wei Ying was working with Young Master Nie and Master Meng on them,” he explained as he looked over at his brother. His brother looked curious, “The Jin Sect have their butterflies, but he wanted something that would be quicker than that because they will not share.”

“Ah,” he nodded, he had seen the Jin butterflies flying around the place a lot since they had arrived. He was startled again when another one came. This time it went over to Lan Xichen, though it was a little different than the other one. It was still a rabbit with a Lan forehead ribbon, but this time there was no guqin on its back. He held out his hand and felt a warmth when the bunny began to nibble on his hand, transferring the message into his very mind.

“Hello, Zewu Jun, I just thought we should try them out. If this works, can you and Lan Zhan come and join us in my room,” it was the voice of Wei Ying that sounded in his head.

“I take it that we are wanted in Young Master Wei’s room?” he asked his brother.

Lan Zhan nodded and the two of them got up, abandoning the tea that they had as they headed towards the disciples’ dorms. Lan Xichen knocked on the door. It opened with Nie Huaisang standing there, a large smile on his face, “We were called?” Lan Xichen said as a way to greet the young teenager.

“You were,” Nie Huaisang grinned, “Come on in. I want you to see what we’ve done so far,” he told them, ushering them inside. Meng Yao and Wei Ying sat at the table in the room. Both of them were writing a message on a talisman piece of paper. Wei Ying brought his up and then put a bit of his Qi into it. It transformed into a purple dragonfly with a small bell on it very much like the Jiang Clarity Bell. It flew off, darting towards the wall before it disappeared from view.

“What are they?” Lan Xichen asked him as he went over and sat down, waiting for an explanation.

“Well, I saw all the butterflies going around all the time. And only the Jin Sect have something like that. Now they take a while to get somewhere. I know that it takes at least six hours for one to get to the Jin Sect to the Jiang Sect,” Wei Ying began to explain.

“So, yours are faster?” Lan Xichen asked, nodding slowly.

Wei Ying smiled, “I think so, though we’re going to have to test them out. I want one to go somewhere we know how long a Jin Butterfly takes. And the only place I know is from the Jin to the Jiang sect,” he sighed.

“I know that it takes seven hours from here to the Nie Sect. Sect Leader Jin was complaining about it at one point. We needed to have Sect Leader Nie here as soon as possible for an issue,” Lan Xichen told him what he could.

“Right, thank you,” he grinned, “Now that we know that, we should send some to Sect Leader Nie. Maybe he would be willing to help out as well,” he suggested looking towards Nie Huaisang and smiled when the young teenager nodded his head in agreement.

“Sure, that would be fine. It would be nice to be able to speak with Da-ge more, maybe we can send him a letter as well, with a copy of the Nie Sect talisman?” he suggested, looking at Wei Ying.

“Oh! Good idea. I want to test how that would go as well,” Wei Ying said as he wrote something down on a separate piece of normal paper and then onto a talisman paper. He put the letter he had quickly written onto it, placing it on the seal for a second and then activating it. The letter disappeared. Once that was done, he activated it. It lifted from his hand and glowed for a second before turning into the special bunny for Lan Zhan and rushed towards the man. Disappearing and reappearing in less than a second by his side. Lan Zhan let it nibble on his hand as it turned into a piece of paper, fluttering into his hand.

“It works!” Meng Yao grinned, laughing as he couldn’t believe that it had really worked.

“What did you think would happen,” Wei Ying huffed and pouted at him, “I’ve been working really hard on these,” he told them, “Now we just need to put the talisman copy onto a piece of paper and sent it to Sect Leader Nie,” he added as he made a copy. But not of the one that he had just used. There was a different character on it, or rather two. He put the letter onto it and activated it again. Just like before it lifted from his hand and glowed. It turned into a dragonfly again and darted away. As soon as it had done so, he lit a measuring candle, so he could time it a little.

“Wonder how long it will take?” Nie Huaisang murmured as he looked at the candle.

“Well, all we can do is wait,” Wei Ying said as he looked at the two Lans, “Right,” he said, “Come here,” he grinned at them. “We have these for the Lan Sect,” he told them, “Though these ones are for Lan Zhan only,” he added as he put over the special bunny one that he had made. “This is for you,” he grinned at Lan Zhan.

“Thank you, Wei Ying,” he nodded, taking hold of the copy.

“Any time I want to talk to you, I’ll use this one as well, this one is just for us,” he told him with a smile on his face, “Now for the Lan Sect,” he said as he pulled out another one, “They are bunnies but only with the forehead ribbon,” he told them, “No guqin.”

“They are so cute,” Nie Huaisang gushed.

“I noticed,” Lan Xichen smiled as he had seen the little ribbon. It had taken him a moment to realise that the dragonfly that had left had what looked like a tiny bell attached to it.

“They all have something special attached to them,” Nie Huaisang told him, “The Jiang’s have the bell. The Lan the ribbon and the Nie have a mini sabre,” he smiled, glad that they had all been designed with the Sect that would be using them in mind.

“You’ve not done one for the Jin Sect?” Lan Xichen asked carefully.

“I did,” Wie Ying said, pulling a face, “They are peacocks, gold and all sparkle. They also don’t disappear like the others though. They aren’t as fast, but faster than the Jin butterflies. I don’t really care what they would want or like,” he shrugged. He wasn’t that impressed with the Jin Sect overall, so hadn’t worked hard on making them as good as the other three. And Lan Xichen knew better than to ask about the Wen Sect.

All of them were startled as a Hawk appeared in the room. It was a dark green and it held a little sabre on its back. Wei Ying held up his hand and let it land on it. It burst into sparks of green as the message was played back in his mind.

“It has taken less than five minutes for him to get the message and reply,” Meng Yao said, eyes wide, “That’s… that’s very impressive. It’s almost instant,” he nodded, grinning as he realised that the communications between the Sects was now going to be a lot faster. Information could be handed over about anything and everything within minutes instead of hours.

“It is very impressive,” Lan Xichen said, nodding, “What are you going to be charging for this?” he asked, curious as to what it would be costing the Sects.

“Nothing, I wanted to do it as I’ve got a bad feeling in my gut that one day, we’re going to be needing something like this. I just hope that all it will be used for is private messages between friends,” he said, thinking about what he learned about the appearance of the Waterborne Abyss.

“I understand,” Lan Xichen sighed, “But it is worth a lot for what it will be doing,” he pointed out to the teenager.

“Maybe it will. But at the moment, we can put that aside for now and just concentrate on having a bit of fun with them,” he grinned as he looked at the others. “I want to annoy Jiang Cheng, he said he wanted to train,” he said as he grabbed another talisman and began to write a message on it. Nie Huaisang was quick to do the same.

It didn’t take long for the door to the room to burst open and Jiang Cheng to come in yelling at them to stop, even trying to hit Wei Ying. It took him a moment to go red in embarrassment as he noticed the two Lan’s before stomping away muttering threats against Wei Ying. It was a while later when it was just Wei Ying, Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao left alone in the room. Though Lan Zhan had lingered with them for a while before leaving as well.

“So, want to message Nie Mingjue a little more?” Wei Ying asked the both of them, really wanting to test the range out.

“No,” Meng Yao said quickly, “He has a lot of work to do, it would be best not to annoy him,” he told the two of them. The two just watched him for a moment and shared a look.

“Yao-ge really likes Da-ge,” Nie Huaisang whispered to Wei Ying.

“Really?” Wei Ying grinned, “Does he like him back?” he murmured under his breath.

Nie Huaisang nodded, “Oh yeah. He’s always going on about wanting Yao-ge near him all the time,” he answered with a grin.

“He doesn’t like me,” Meng Yao told them, hearing a little of their conversation, “He just wants someone around that can actually help him instead of running and hiding at the first sign of having to do some actual work,” he said, brushing off the attention that the Nie Sect Leader gave him all the time.

“Yao-ge,” Nie Huaisang said, shaking his head.

Wei Ying grinned a little more as he grabbed a talisman and wrote on it. Before anyone could stop him, he sent it out, “There, now maybe he should get the picture that you like him back.”

“What… what did you say?” he asked.

“Just that you like him,” he shrugged.

“How could you do something like that?!” Meng Yao’s eyes went wide as he grabbed a talisman and wrote his own message to Nie Mingjue. Telling him to ignore the one from Wei Ying. Nie Huaisang then grabbed one as soon as Meng Yao began writing. Sending one from himself, to tell his brother that Meng Yao liked him, just like how he liked Meng Yao. And that he needed to do something about it as he had been having tea with Lan Xichen a lot recently. Even though everyone around Cloud Recesses could see that it was only friendship between the two. It wouldn’t hurt to make his brother a little jealous about someone else monopolising the time of Meng Yao.

XxXxX

Nie Mingjue sat at his desk as the last messenger finished relaying its message. “Does he really?” he muttered to himself. As he wanted to listen to the messages again from his brother and Wei Ying. He sighed as he pulled the paper that had arrived earlier and copied down the talisman. Writing the message in the right place like instructed.

The Nie Sect Leader stared at it before he decided to go with it and activated it. It rose up and glowed for a second before it turned into the dark green hawk with the little sabre on its back. With a flick of its wings, it darted towards the window and disappeared before it even left the room. He knew that it wouldn’t take that long for it to reach them. He just hoped that he would get a quick answer.

As he was about to pick up his brush again to get back to work, several messages began to enter the room. He got to each one of them and listened to them all, almost all of them were identical to the ones he had already heard. Except one of them. This one was a little different.

“You should come to Cloud Recesses and find out for yourself. But he does like you, and I heard from your brother that you like him. Stake a claim on him before someone else does. I know that he is enjoying the company of Lan Xichen at the moment.”

Nie Mingjue sat still for a while, before he gave a stern nod, making a decision on what he would do next.

Chapter Twelve

Wei Ying was the centre of the chaos once again. He had just finished teaching the other disciples how to use the messengers that he had created. It was going to be a lot of fun for them to be all over the place. He wanted to show the Jin Sect that keeping secrets wasn’t exactly a good idea. The butterfly messengers could have helped so much over the years with some of the situations that had cropped up.

“And that is it,” he said as he nodded to the last lot of disciples that he had taught them to.

“Thank you, Wei Wuxian,” one of the Nie Sect disciples thanked him, as did a number of others as they quickly bowed.

“That’s fine. Just let me go through the sabre forms with you sometimes. I’m getting closer to figuring something out,” he told them. Grinning as they all nodded eagerly. They all wanted a solution as well, while they all had a choice to decline learning the sabre, not one of them did. Not wishing to be disrespectful to their Sect. It was also a point of pride to them as well.

“Thank you,” they nodded again as they left him alone.

Wei Ying leaned back, happy that he had been able to figure things out for the messengers. Now, it was time to show the Jin Sect up, that they have no clue as to what they are doing when it comes to messengers. His were better and faster than theirs.

“You coming?” Meng Yao asked him as he stood in the doorway of his room.

“Yes, sorry, I was deep in thought,” he grinned as he sat up, “I can’t wait for the chaos to start.”

“Everyone is gathering at the training yard now,” he told him, “including the Jin Sect,” he smirked.

“Good,” Wei Ying grinned as he grabbed Subian and got to his feet. Walking out of his room. He was finally back in classes now, since everyone was sure that he wasn’t going to be falling over anytime soon and pass out. Though that hadn’t been a problem for at least three days. Everyone was just being over cautious with him. Since Jiang Fengmian and Jiang Yanli had left almost three days ago now, there was still a lot of tension between the Jin and the Jiang’s when they went anywhere near each other.

They settled down to listen to the lecture that the Lan teacher was giving them on the Lan Sword Style that they used. How it was different from the other sects. It was something that Wei Ying found fascinating since he was also learning a little more about the Nie Sect Sabre Style as well. He preferred the Jiang Style that he had been taught. It was faster than the Nie and less flashy than the Lan. Which really, they were all learning how to fight with the long sleeves all the time. While it looked pretty impressive when they fought, it just wasn’t practical to Wei Ying.

“Ready?” Nie Huaisang asked him as he and the others got out their talismans that they had prepared for this lesson.

“Ready,” he nodded, as others around them did the same. As the lecture finished and the students were left alone. The teacher nodded and bowed to the class as they returned to bow and thanked him for his instruction. He walked away and with a nod the whole area filled with dragonflies, hawks and even a few bunnies around as well.

“They work really well!” a Nie Sect disciples called out as a message flew to him and landed on his hand. Within seconds it was gone and the message had been delivered.

“I’m happy that you’re all happy with them,” Wei Ying grinned and then laughed as he saw the Jin Sect staring at them. Their butterflies were still fluttering around towards each other. As was the normal after a lecture. The Jin would often organise themselves to send messages to each other after one, a show of their ability to send messages to each other, a rub in the faces of the other Sects that they had them and they didn’t. “The playing field has been evened out,” Wei Ying finished with a nod, smirking at Jin Zixuan who looked pissed at the display of messengers that were shooting around the place.

“Have you even sent any to Father and A-Jie?” Jiang Cheng asked him as he walked over to his brother. He had sent off two dragonflies to some of their fellow Jiang Sect disciples.

“I have, and I sent the instructions for them as well. Shijie already sent one back and she said in it that she will be sending you one later tonight. Uncle Jiang said the same thing. Though you could always message them as well,” he pointed out, “There’s no stopping you from doing so.”

“Yeah,” Jiang Cheng nodded in agreement as he pulled a face before walking off.

“So, anything else you want to try and put your mind to?” Nie Huaisang asked his friend as he nudged him from where he was now staring at Lan Zhan who was talking quietly with his brother.

“Hmmm?” he asked, blinking as he turned towards his friend, not hearing the question that had been put to him.

“We want to know if the Nie Problem is the only thing that you’re now working on?” Meng Yao asked him, rolling his eyes at the teenager.

“Yeah, Mostly. There is something else that I’m working on, but that’s a private matter, and a secret,” he told them both, grinning a little as he thought of the little home out in the back mountains. He has spent the last two days drawing and painting some pictures of the two Lan brothers to take with him. He wanted Lan Zhiqiang to see what he was missing out on when it came to his sons. That to him, since he hadn’t really met them, they didn’t feel real. The drawings and paintings, he was hoping, would help with that.

“If you want our help with anything, you know you have it,” Meng Yao told him, a soft true smile on his face.

Wei Ying looked at the two of them, “I know, I know you two have my back with everything,” he grinned at the two of them, “Now, as for the Nie Problem, I’ve come up with a few ideas. But I really need to talk to someone who knows the forms really well.”

“Well, Da-ge is coming to Cloud Recesses, he should be here tomorrow. You could talk to him?” Nie Huaisang suggested.

“Arrange it for me please?” he asked his friend. He knew that he might have trouble being able to meet with a Sect Leader. He was just a disciple after all. He may be head disciple, but that didn’t mean much outside of his sect.

“I will,” he nodded, smiling.

“He’s coming here?” Meng Yao asked the two of them, a panicked look on his face.

“Yeah,” Nie Huaisang said, turning to him, “He messaged me about it last night.”

“I told him that he should come here if he wants to make a claim on you,” Wei Ying told him, “Looks like it might be that he likes you too,” he grinned, patting his friend on the back.

Meng Yao was pale, “He… he might not, he might want to… to… tell me to leave the Sect. I don’t want to lose my home,” he said, voice trembling in fear.

Nie Huaisang rushed over to him and hugged him tightly, “Yao-ge, Da-ge wouldn’t do that to you. I promise you,” he told him, trying to reassure him, “He likes you so much, and he has done so for a while. But you know Da-ge, he doesn’t know how to tell people anything,” he pointed out to his friend, to someone he thought of as his brother.

“Thank you,” Meng Yao said, though it was obvious to the two of them that he didn’t believe a word that Nie Huaisang had said. He then looked at Wie Ying and said, “Are you ever going to do something about your crush on Lan Wangji?” he asked him, giving him a huffy look.

“What, I don’t have a crush,” he said, eyes wide and taking a step back.

The two of them advanced on him, “Oh, yes you do,” Nie Huaisang told him, eyes glinting as he fluttered his fan a few times before snapping it closed and pointing it at him, “You do have a crush, all you talk about is Lan Zhan this, and Lan Zhan that. And when he’s around, it’s like only the two of you exist. All you do is talk to him, ignoring everyone else in the room with you,” he told him.

Meng Yao nodded in agreement, “Though, I have to admit it was nice of Sect Leader Lan to tell me that his brother liked Wei Wuxian as well. That he would love to court him too,” he added slyly.

“Lan Zhan… wants to court me?” his voice sounded small, as though such a thing could never happen to him.

“Yes,” Meng Yao nodded.

“But… why? I’m just… I’m a nobody,” he shook his head. He may not actually be the son of a servant, but he knew that the world saw him as such. And if he wanted a cultivation partner, he was at the bottom of the barrel for that. It was why he may flirt with people, but it was because he knew that no one would actually want him. He was high on the list of masters, but that didn’t mean anything when Madam Yu got involved. She was the one that was involved in those types of things at Lotus Pier. She had made sure that he had no prospects. No, he had nothing to give to someone if they wished to marry him.

“Wei-Xiong?” Nie Huaisang said as he saw the disbelieving and almost hurt look on his friend’s face as he spoke, “Why do you think he wouldn’t want you?” he asked him, frowning.

“Madam Yu,” he said softly, “I’m to remain at Lotus Pier, I’m to stay there to protect Jiang Cheng, with my life if necessary,” he added, his voice void of emotion at the end.

“That’s not for you to do,” Meng Yao frowned, shaking his head, “You’re your own person. It’s not up for someone else to decide if you should marry or not. The only one that might be able to decide would be Sect Leader Jiang. And that’s only because he has claimed you as his son. Madam Yu hasn’t. Everyone knows that she doesn’t consider you as part of her family. So, she should have no say in your life.”

“Exactly, I’m expen-” he began.

“You’re not nothing, you’re not expendable,” Nie Huaisang told him firmly, “Lan Wangji likes you, he really does and he wants to court you. You heard Yao-ge, neither he nor Lan Xichen would lie about something like that. Now think, really hard, would you like to be courted by Lan Wangji?” he asked him a little softer this time.

“I… I need to think,” Wei Ying said as he turned around and walked away.

Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao shared a look. They wondered if Jiang Cheng was aware of what Madam Yu had told Wei Ying. The two nodded as they went to find the Jiang Sect Heir. They both believe he should know of it, to make sure that Madam Yu wouldn’t be able to interfere with anything, should Lan Zhan actually go ahead with a courtship.

XxXxX

Wei Ying’s mind was going over what he had just learned. He really needed to talk to someone, but there wasn’t anyone that he could really speak to. He entered his room and sat down at his desk for a moment, seeing the drawings he had made. With a nod to himself, he got up and headed out. it didn’t take him that long to reach the little home. Knocking on the door with a sense of urgency he was soon let in.

“A-Xian,” Lan Zhiqiang greeted him with a smile, closing the door behind him. The older cultivator noticed how odd the younger seemed to be acting, “What is it?” he asked.

“What would you say if your son wanted to court another male?” he asked him bluntly.

“I would ask if they made him happy,” he answered straight away, letting the younger one inside.

“What about if that someone was me?” he then asked, looking so scared of what the answer could be.

“That I would say that he has chosen well,” he smiled at him, seeing the relief through his eyes as he got the teenager to sit down. “What has happened?” he asked him, pouring them some tea.

“My… friends, they said that Lan Zhan wants to try and court me. But I’m nobody, I’m not worthy of someone like Lan Zhan,” he said, as he began to list all his faults. Every single one that he could remember, including those that Madam Yu would often yell at him. “And… I need to stay at Lotus Pier, I… I’m supposed to protect Jiang Cheng,” he added quietly.

“A-Xian,” Lan Zhiqiang said softly, “Madam Yu can’t ask that of you, no matter what she feels like you owe her, or the Jiang Sect, she can’t ask that of you. You are your own person; you have a life to lead and it may not always be what someone else wants. Now, ignore all of those faults you listed, including the ones she has told you because not one of them is true,” he told him, “What I see before me, is a kind and joyful young man, one that has helped me a lot over the last few weeks.”

Wei Ying gave a nod and then held up his hands, showing him what he had brought with him, “Here, I thought that you should know what your sons look like,” he said, changing the subject abruptly.

Lan Zhiqiang took them and looked at each one for a while, “They have their mother’s eyes,” he said softly, tracing the face of his eldest son, tears in his eyes.

“They… they don’t know the truth about their mother. Or what happened to her. The person who should be talking to them, explaining things, is in here,” Wei Ying told him gently, “Don’t wait until it’s too late,” he told him.

Lan Zhiqiang nodded, “I’m planning to end my seclusion,” he told him, “let me… surprise them,” he smiled.

Wei Ying grinned and nodded, “Sure, and that reminds me, here,” he said as he went over and showed him the messenger talismans. “I made these, you can keep in touch and talk to me through them. If you want me to come and see you sooner, then just send one and I’ll come as soon as I’m free,” he told him as he instructed him how to use them before the two settled down for one of their long chats.

Chapter Thirteen

Nie Mingjue arrived at Cloud Recesses three days after the flurry of messages that he had received from his brother, Wei Ying and Meng Yao. His mind was still going over what they had said about Meng Yao. The young man had come into Qinghe from nothing and with barely anything to his name. Meng Yao had quickly become his most trusted advisor. He was smart and cared about Nie Huaisang, which to Nie Mingjue was a good thing. He was also cunning in a way that Nie Mingjue wasn’t, which he had to admit was needed with some of the people he had to deal with as Sect Leader.

“Da-ge,” Lan Xichen greeted him, a smile on his face as he waited by the entrance. The Lan Sect Leader had received a messenger hawk from him the day before, telling him to expect him some time today. He had missed his best friend, not having seen him in a good seven months. Usually, he would be able to get away for a little while to visit Qinghe, but since taking over the Sect Duties more, he hadn’t had much of a chance to get away.

“Xichen,” he greeted, smiling back. Always making a conscious effort not to grin too much. He knew that if he smiled widely like he wanted to, then he would be in for a world of comments, mainly about his dimples. He was a Sect Leader, and a fierce one, he shouldn’t have dimples.

“Glad you were able to make it. I know that A-Sang will be happy to see you,” he said as he led the man through Cloud Recesses and started to walk towards the main areas. Classes should be coming to an end soon, just in time for lunch. So, meeting with Nie Huaisang should be easily done.

“I’ve received a number of messages from A-Sang and Meng Yao, along with a few from Wei Wuxian,” he added, a little frown on his face. He knew of the name, and could just about recall the face as he had gone to Lotus Pier a few times in the past. He had seen the young and newly named Head Disciple as he had practised in a field alone. He had a good form from what he could remember, quick and agile as well. Not suited to a sabre, that was for sure.

“Yes, the place has been a flock of hawks, dragonflies and even bunnies for the last few days,” he said, laughing lightly as he knew that his brother had been one of the main ones behind the bunnies. He had been sending them to Wei Ying as much as he could get away with. Each one was just a little comment. But Wei Ying was always smiling happily after them. He still needed to talk to his brother into trying to speak to Wei Ying about a courtship.

“As was my office for around ten minutes. There were so many I didn’t know which one to listen to first. I understand that Wei Wuxian was responsible for their design?” he added as they walked. He had missed Cloud Recesses; it was always so peaceful here. Relaxing him like no other place bar his private room. Though he loved Qinghe and being at home, there were just so many responsibilities that he had to take care of there. That relaxing was usually the last thing on his mind. He was forever grateful to Meng Yao for coming into his life. The man had been a great help in keeping everything more manageable.

Lan Xichen nodded, “He came up with the idea thanks, he says, to Meng Yao and A-Sang. They helped him with the research for it,” he told him, “They have taken to working together on things. My brother is usually there as well, though he is more just watching them. As is Jiang Wanyin, but mostly you’ll find him training hard on the fields.”

“Keeping an eye on Wei Wuxian, my brother and Meng Yao,” Nie Mingjue nodded, knowing how young Lan Zhan worked most of the time.

“No, actually,” he said, smirking when he saw the look of shock on his best friend’s face, “he’s become rather… fond of Wei Wuxian. Spends so much time with him. He even has two bunnies that Wei Wuxian caught for him. They live in a small field near the back mountains. Wangji has even built a small fence to keep them in and a hutch, everything,” he laughed lightly, “I’ve never seen him so engaged and animated with someone that was myself,” he smiled, happy that his brother was coming out of his shell a little more each day he spent around Wei Ying.

“That’s… good,” he nodded, “How has A-Sang been doing this year?” he asked his friend. It would be the second time that he had sent his brother to the lectures. He had failed his first year, but Nie Mingjue was hoping that A-Sang would listen to what was going on and actually learn something this time.

“He’s doing better this time with the guidance of Meng Yao beside him and Wei Wuxian. They have struck up a very strong friendship between the three. They help each other with a lot of things,” he said, “And speaking of Meng Yao, he has become a very good friend,” he said casually. Having heard from Nie Huaisang what he had put into his message to his brother, along with Wei Ying. That they wanted to try and force his brother to do something about Meng Yao. Lan Xichen had agreed to help, having heard from Meng Yao himself, about his admiration of Nie Mingjue. With Nie Huaisang and how his brother constantly went on about Meng Yao all the time.

“That’s good,” Nie Mingjue nodded, happy that his brother was finally taking things seriously for once.

Lan Xichen nodded as he headed towards the lecture rooms, it would soon be the end of lessons for that morning.

XxXxX

“I’m so happy that Da-ge is here,” Nie Huaisang gushed as they finished their final lesson for the day.

“I thought you would have been unhappy, since he is always trying to make you train,” Wei Ying said, looking at his friend. He had finally met the impressive Nie Mingjue that lunchtime. He was large and strong; he could tell that straight off without having to get closer to him.

“I still can’t believe you got him to agree to spar with Lan Xichen after lessons,” Nie Huaisang said, looking at him in awe. It wasn’t often that Nie Mingjue would spar with someone else. He mostly trained alone.

“Well, I needed to know what someone who has been training for a long time was like,” he shrugged, “it might help me a little to see them in action properly.”

“I know,” he sighed, “though I don’t know what da-ge will make of the fact that you are actually trying to find a way around our problem,” Nie Huaisang murmured as they rushed towards the training field. There were so many other disciples going that way. They had heard of what was going to happen from a gossiping Jin that had overheard the plans of the spar.

“So many,” Wei Ying muttered, he had hoped that it would only be just a few of them to watch, so he could ask questions.

“It’s not every day that two top Sect Leaders like them will spar with each other,” Meng Yao pointed out as he walked behind them. Jiang Cheng was beside him, looking a little annoyed to be there. Though that might be because Lan Zhan was walking on Wei Ying’s other side. Where he would normally be walking.

“True,” he sighed, as he nodded and carried on walking towards the training field, “We need to find a good spot as well, I want to be close to the action,” he added.

“Why?” Jiang Cheng asked him. He was still a little upset that his brother was barely spending time with him. But he had seen the other in the library more than anywhere else around Cloud Recesses. It was a little odd for the Jiang Sect Heir to see him be so quiet instead of getting into trouble all the time. It meant that there was no letter going home to his parents. Though Lan Qiren still tried to single him out every now and then.

“I need to see what is going on better. If I can find out what it’s like for an older person who practices the Nie Sabre Style. Then maybe I can find out what happens from the start to the end. And just maybe, I can find a solution,” he told him. His mind was mostly absent from what he was saying as he began to make theories as to what was going on with the Nie Sect again.

“Right,” Jiang Cheng sighed, letting his brother do as he wanted again. He could see that the gears were turning in his head already and knew that given time, whatever problem Wei Ying was trying to work out would be solved.

They entered the field, already there was a crowd of disciples there. Lan and the others. Wei Ying moved quickly as he saw the two Sect Leaders enter the field and went to find a good place to watch. He sat down on the grass, not really paying attention to his friends as they sat on either side of him. And just behind him. Though he did glance at Lan Zhan as their legs touched a little. He grinned when he spotted the rest ears. He had been told by Lan Xichen that the red ears was something he should look out for. It meant that Lan Zhan was embarrassed about something. His way of blushing and Wei Ying thought it was adorable.

Wei Ying shook himself out of his thoughts and turned back to the two Sect Leaders that had done a quick warm-up. He could already see the build-up of Yang Energies within Nie Mingjue as he started. The yin was there from his Golden Core, and it was really strong. It pushed against the yang constantly. But the Yang was starting to bring in something darker. Resentful energy. It was clogging a lot of the passageways that the Spiritual Energy would use, the yin energy. It was being forced to try and find new ways to get around it. He hadn’t been able to see these energies before when he concentrated. But since he had come into contact with the Waterborne Abyss for that split second when he had tried to kill it. He had become very sensitive to the energy. Over the last few days, he had begun to see them if he concentrated hard enough.

“So that’s what happens,” he muttered to himself as the resentful energy began to block all the pathways even more. It meant that the Yin and Spiritual Energy was pushing against them, causing the damage to the cultivator.

“What?” Jiang Cheng asked him, wondering what he was going on about.

“That Yang and Yin are out of balance,” he muttered. He could see that the Yan and Yin energies that were around Lan Xichen weren’t battling like the ones that were within Nie Mingjue. He concentrated a little more and saw that the sword that Lan Xichen was using was helping to regulate the energies better. The resentful energy was pulled in during the fight, which was mainly coming from Nie Mingjue and was quickly being cleansed by the sword that was full of Yin energy from Lan Xichen Golden Core. Wei Ying looked back towards the sabre. It was pure Yang, blocking and cutting off things. He had a few ideas that were beginning to form as to what he could do to counter it. He nodded, “I think I have an idea,” he muttered.

“What do you mean?” Nie Huaisang said, looking at him, hopeful that something would help save his brother.

“The sabre is yang aligned, and when we fight, we are pulling in the Yang Energies to help dispel the resentful energy within it, which kills the Yao’s, monster’s, daemon’s and that. We have our swords, but they are Yin aligned. But with a slight yang within them that draws the Yang Energy towards it. Our core is also yin as well. Spiritual Energy is made mostly of Yin with a slight hint of yang,” he told those that were listening as he watched the fight, “But resentful energy is all yang. Which is dangerous to us. Too much Yang and it can cause our sister to be overrun with resentful energy. Which causes a build-up. The sabre pulls in yang but doesn’t balance it out with the yin energy to let us cleanse it. The more you’ve practised the quicker this happens when you fight. You’ll be fine for a while, but it will kill eventually,” he added, “But if you have something to balance out that Yang in the sabre, then maybe it will be fine,” he murmured as he carried on watching. making sure to take a few notes on the paper and ink he had brought with him.

When the fight was over Wei Ying got up and rushed away before anyone else could say anything. Lan Zhan quickly following him, though not running like Wei Ying had been. His friends watched him leave, wondering what it was that he was thinking of that he needed to rush off before even speaking to Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue about the fight. Nie Huaisang went over to his brother, a large grin was on the Sect Leaders face. It wasn’t often that he could really go all out in a spar. As there weren’t that many that could face him and still be standing afterwards. And since Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue had been practising against each other for so long, they knew each other’s tricks and how to combat them easily.

Chapter Fourteen

Wei Ying had been working in the library for the last day. The only reason he had not been in there overnight was because Lan Zhan had dragged him back to his room, just before curfew. He had even missed lectures that morning since he was so intent on his research. Lan Qiren had tried to get him to go to the lectures that afternoon when he found him neck-deep in research. But Wei Ying just told him that he was researching something and went back to work. Nothing would move him, not even the threat of punishment would get him to attend the lectures. Wei Ying was making copious amounts of notes as Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang walked in, Lan Zhan walking in behind them.

“Wei-Xiong,” Nie Huaisang called to him as he walked over and sat down across from him. He glanced over the notes that Wei Ying was writing. He was amazed at how many papers there were. He looked at the pile of books and scrolls that had been brought out for him to read, and could tell that some of them were Lan only as well.

“What are you doing?” Meng Yao asked him curiously as to what was going on with the notes. He could barely make out the writing.

“I need to talk to Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue,” he said as he got up, ignoring the question.

The two shared a look before scrambling to follow their friend. Lan Zhan watched them leave but started to gather the notes that had been left behind and take them with him. In case they were needed.

Wei Ying rushed through Cloud Recesses after finding out that Lan Xichen was in his rooms with Nie Mingjue. He knocked on the door, his three friends quickly coming up behind him.

“Come in,” called a curious voice from inside.

“Sorry to intrude, Sect Leader Lan, Sect Leader Nie, but I’d like to speak with the two of you about something,” Wei Ying said softly as he walked in and bowed to the two.

“Of course,” Lan Xichen agreed easily as he gestured for him to come in. He spotted the others behind him and asked, “And the others?” He was curious as to what was going on to cause all of them, including his brother, to turn up outside of his rooms.

“If they want to listen, that’s fine,” Wei Ying shrugged. He didn’t care, they all knew what he was researching anyway.

“Okay,” he nodded. Wei Ying walked in fully and took a seat. The others quickly doing the same.

Lan Zhan went over to Wei Ying and sat down, “Wei Ying,” he said as he handed over his notes.

“Thanks, Lan Zhan,” he grinned at him, patting him on the head. Lan Xichen did his best not to laugh at the almost pleased look that passed on his brother’s face. Along with the red ears.

“What can I do for you?” Lan Xichen asked him, pouring them all some tea.

“Actually, I mainly need to speak with Sect Leader Nie. Nie Huaisang came to me about the problem with the sabre spirits. How they end up causing Qi deviation within the Nie Sect,” he said as he looked at Nie Mingjue, “I’ve practised the sabre forms a few times. To try and feel what happens. And I found out that there is actually a build-up of Yang Energy. It’s only since your spar yesterday that I was actually able to see that happen properly.”

“Oh,” Nie Mingjue frowned, “No one has been able to tell what’s happening to cause the deviation. Just that the spirit within the sabre gets more violent sending us the same way,” he told him. He wondered how Wei Ying would have been able to practice with a sabre. Not many of the Nie Sect would ever let another cultivator touch their Sabre. Though it wasn’t hard when he saw the little look on his brother’s face. He gave him a disapproving look, though Nie Huaisang just shrugged it off.

“When you use the sabre, they’re taking in Yang Energy. But they are also taking in resentful energy, which makes them more powerful. But, with the way that we fight as cultivators, we all take in the resentful energy of the being that we are facing and twisting it around, cleansing it. We’re then sending it back as Spiritual Energy. It’s what I did with the Waterborne Abyss. Or rather what I started out doing. Instead, I ended up taking so much that it pulled it apart,” he said as he went off on a small tangent.

“That is how cultivation works,” Lan Xichen nodded.

“Yes, but the sabre is different. The spiritual swords that we have are all made of Yin energy, the spirit is the Yang Energy. Just a little. They are balanced properly. The sabre, from what I can tell, is all Yang. Which, in turn, pulls in a lot of resentful energy. It riles up the spirit within it, that it pushes that energy to the wielder in larger quantities than a sword-wielding cultivator does,” Wei Ying explained what he had been able to find out. His mind worked overtime as he tried his best to explain it. While his mind understood it all, he didn’t know if he was able to convey what he knew to the others.

“What does that mean then?” Nie Huaisang asked him, “Can… can it be changed?” he added, unsure of what to actually ask his friend.

“Right, basics, our Cores are Yin, our swords are also Yin, but with a small amount of Yang. When we fight, Yang is drawn into the sword. The Yang in it pulls it in, but since there isn’t too much in the swords, it pulls in a small amount. Our Yin Core is able to cleanse it and send it back through our sword. Making our way of fighting powerful as well. With the Nie Sect. Their Cores, Yin, Their sabre, full Yang. It pulls in Yang more than what the body can handle to cleanse it. The Yin of the sword slows the force in which the Yang goes to our Cores. But the sabre can’t do that. In the end, the Yang and Resentful energy that is pulled in starts to block the meridians. That begins to build up in larger quantities as the Nie Sect fight. Eventually, Qi Deviation is what would happen. It needs to be balanced out. And the only thing that I can think of is to have something Yin as you fight, to help counter the Yang in the sabres,” Wei Ying told them all, looking mainly at Nie Mingjue as he finished explaining.

“So, you’re saying that we need to have our sabres made of Yin?” Nie Mingjue asked him, confused.

“No, the sabres are inherently Yang, no matter the way that they are made. They are Yang, a strong force. Swords are flexible. You’ll need to have another weapon that you can incorporate into your cultivation style. Something that Yin, like a short sword, daggers, even a War fan. They are all Yin based cultivation tools,” he told him, shaking his head.

“Right,” Nie Mingjue nodded.

“Each of them will have a bit of Yang in them, but that’s the spirit that resides within the weapon itself,” he told him, as he grabbed his notes and looked through them, “When you relearn how to fight. You’ll need to use your second weapon as much as you did originally for your sabre, for it to help in the end. But it will help dispel the build-up as you get used to it. So, it should work, even just having it on hand or on you should help a little bit. Not as much as wielding it would do,” he said as he pulled out the right piece of paper that he had written everything he had learned down on and handed it over.

Nie Mingjue looked at it and started to read through it. His eyes went wide as he looked at him, “So, resentful energy can be used?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

“It is basically what you are already doing. Your body, because their meridians are blocked from the Yang and Resentful energy can no longer properly circulate your Spiritual Energy and Yin. So, you end up using the Resentful energy as a substitute. And like they say, it damages the body and the mind over time as you use it. Which is what is causing the main lot of Qi Deviations,” Wei Ying answered him.

“Right,” he said, a little shocked. No one had thought that they were actually using a form of Demonic Cultivation.

“Get a secondary Yin weapon made for you and then start to use them both. it will also help with having a varying style within your Sect. You all rely mostly on the strength you have to wield the sabre. They are really heavy. But having another weapon that you can rely on should be able to surprise anyone that you may have to fight,” he grinned.

“Thank you,” Nie Mingjue said, “If this really does work and solve our problem. Then the Nie Sect will owe you a great debt, a very large one,” he added.

“I just wanted to help a friend,” he said as he glanced at Nie Huaisang.

“It’s the main reason why I won’t practice the sabre, I don’t… I don’t want to end up like my father, hurting those I love when lost in the madness,” he said softly as he looked at his brother.

“I know. I just want you to learn so you can protect yourself. I’ll have someone come by with some choices of secondary weapons for the disciples that are here,” he said as he smiled at his younger brother, “Now, what about you? A War Fan?” he guessed, smirking slightly.

Nie Huaisang nodded, “I’ve… I’ve already been learning how to wield one. And while the sabre is supposed to be a two-handed weapon, it can be easily wielded in one,” he added cautiously.

“So, you’ve already started learning a two-weapon style?” Nie Mingjue murmured, a little unsure if he was hearing right.

Nie Huaisang nodded, “Yes Da-ge,” he answered quietly, “I know that you wanted me to be able to protect myself. But I couldn’t do it with the sabre. So, I learned something else. He then brought up the fan that he was holding and snapped it open a little differently than he normally would do. There at the tips were several hidden blades, “See,” he smiled, “I do know how, and I can use my sabre a little with it, but I’m still learning.”

“Okay,” he nodded, turning back to Wei Ying, “Thank you Wei Wuxian. And A-Sang, carry on, and don’t hide,” he told his brother after thanking Wei Ying for a second time.

“Right,” Wei Ying said, “Thank you for your time, and here are all the notes that I’ve made for this. You can look through them all, but I don’t think I’ve missed anything,” he said, a little frown on his face as he handed them over.

“Always best to make sure,” Meng Yao said, as he patted him on the shoulder, “I know how much work you’ve put into this.”

“Why don’t you stay here Yao-ge, and have some tea with Sect Leader Lan?” Wei Ying suggested. He had heard of the plan from Nie Huaisang that morning. To imply that Meng Yao and Lan Xichen were closer than they actually were.

“It has been a few days since we have had tea,” Meng Yao said, looking at his friend, “Though, Sect Leader Nie, would you… care to join us?” he asked.

“I would like that,” he nodded, eyes narrowing a little as he looked between his advisor and crush, and his best friend. Trying to gauge how close the two were.

“Right, we’ll leave you all be. We should head to the archery field. Nie-Xiong needs to get some practice in if we are going to beat Jin Zixuan into the ground during the next Master Competition,” Wei Ying grinned unrepentantly for what he did. He got up and headed towards the door. Nie Huaisang and Lan Zhan following him.

“A-Yao,” Lan Xichen smiled at him, “Shall we try that new treat that we found in Caiyi Town the last time we were down there?” he asked him. He was also in on the plan to make Nie Mingjue jealous enough that he would do something about his pinning.

Meng Yao smiled, “That would be lovely, thank you,” he then turned to Nie Mingjue, who was sitting rather stiffly opposite him, “How have things been in my absence?” he asked as Lan Xichen got up to sort out the new tea for the three of them.

“I miss you!” Nie Mingjue blurted out.

Meng Yao sat there and blinked, “M… miss me?” he asked, his voice quiet and small sounding as Lan Xichen took a step back and waited to see how things would play out.

“Yes,” he nodded, “It’s not the same without you there. I miss you and I really want to court you!” he yelled out.

“Really?” he asked him, sitting up straighter.

“Really, I…” he trailed off as he pulled something out of his robe. It was a small wooden box. He put it on the table, “In the Nie Sect, when we wish to court someone, we will present them with these,” he said as he tapped the box, “They are beads. They are woven into the hair to show that someone is courting you. The colour of them and the style shows people who exactly is courting you,” he added, “These, these belonged to my mother. They were her courting beads from my father. She gave them to me when I was a child. When she knew that she was dying. She told me that I should give them to someone that is worthy to be my partner in life. I can think of no other that would suit this role and no other that I care for in this manner,” he finished as he opened the box. There, nestled on silk were a dozen small beads. Most of them were silver in colour. The delicate metalworking showing the skills of the maker. But the designs were beautiful, full of flowers and vines.

“Would you… put them in my hair?” Meng Yao asked him, reaching over and placing a hand on Nie Mingjue.

Nie Mingjue smiled widely, dimples fully on show for the first time since he was younger, “I would love nothing more,” he nodded, getting up and walking around the low table to sit behind Meng Yao.

Lan Xichen smirked as he watched Nie Mingjue take apart Meng Yao’s hair. He silently sneaked out of the office. Leaving them be so he could go and report to Nie Huaisang and Wei Ying that the plan was successful. Though it didn’t need that much effort after all.

Chapter Fifteen

Nie Mingjue watched as his brother went through the sabre forms. But partway through, he brought out his fan, his sabre in one hand and the fan in the other. The forms had changed a little, but not enough that it could give him any troubles. Wei Ying was sitting next to him on the ground, watching intently. The young man puzzled him. He had given away the messenger talisman to all the Sects, bar the Jin, each of them had a special looking one. While a generic one had been made for the minor sects. Though he hadn’t handed those out just yet. Everyone would be able to communicate with each other soon enough, no matter the distance. But he had asked nothing for them. It wasn’t monetary gain or fame that he wanted. He just saw a problem and wanted to fix it.

When it came to the Nie Sect Problem, as most called it, he had done the same. He saw something that was upsetting his friend and did all he could to fix it. Even trying to learn a little of the sabre forms from his disciples. Nie Mingjue suppressed a smile as he spotted Meng Yao walking towards them. The small metal beads in his hair shining in the mid-morning sun.

“You’re happy,” Wei Ying murmured from beside him.

“I am,” he nodded, “Thank you, for the messengers and the messages, they helped me do this,” he told him honestly.

“Good, he deserves the best. He got a rough lot in life, especially with the Jin Sect around,” he told him, “They make fun of him because of his birth. Though they are the ones that should be ashamed, they left a Son of the Sect outside in the cold. Didn’t even think to take him in at all,” he grumbled, eyes narrowed as they glanced over at Jin Zixuan, who was practising his sword forms. Though he could hear some of the Jin disciples making fun of Nie Huaisang.

“They all need a good beating,” Nie Mingjue growled as Meng Yao reached then, “A-Yao,” he said, reaching up and taking his hand.

“A-Jue,” he smiled. It wasn’t the fake polite one that he would usually show people, but the truly happy smile he gave to those he cared about.

“I have an idea,” Wei Ying grinned as he got to his feet.

“Why do I suddenly have a bad feeling about this?” Nie Mingjue said as he looked at his partner.

Meng Yao laughed lightly, “Because you’ve got a handle on Wei Wuxian’s character already?” he told him, “Let’s just sit back and watch the chaos that he brings. It’s always entertaining.”

“Hey, let’s have some sparring sessions against each other. It’s a good way to learn our strengths and weaknesses better!” Wei Ying called out to everyone gathered.

“Why?” a Nie disciple asked, already seeing the glint in the other’s eyes and understanding what it meant. Most of those that had spent any amount of time around the Jiang’s head disciples knew that trouble was brewing.

“Like it would help anyone,” Jin Zixuan dismissed it with a roll of his eyes, “It’s not like you’d be hard to beat, any of you.”

“Oh,” Wei Ying said, “So you’re saying that you would be able to beat me easily?” he asked him, face still showing that easy smile, but others could all see the smirk.

“Of course, everyone knows that the Jiang Sect Leader favours you, and that is the only reason why you’re their head disciples. It’s not like you have any talents,” he snorted, rolling his eyes.

“Then please, Young Master Jin,” he smirked, “Join me in a sparring match. I’d like to see how long I can hold out against someone of your… calibre,” he finished.

“Fine,” he snapped, “watch and learn,” he added as he walked towards the centre of the field as everyone else got off.

Wei Ying walked over and faced the young master of the Jin Sect. The two bowed to each other and dropped into the usual stances. Though it didn’t take long until there was a clash of metal against metal. They watched as it went back and forth a few times. Several times it looked like Jin Zixuan had won, but Wei Ying always got back on track, barely slipping out of imminent defeat.

Jiang Cheng sighed as he watched his brother for a bit, “Wei Wuxian, stop playing around with your food!” he ordered, rolling his eyes at him.

“You sure I can’t play any more Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian called out, backflipping out of the way of a low swing.

“Yes, I’m sick of seeing you jumping around like a bloody idiot. Stop playing and finish the fight!” he called out once more from where he was standing with other members of the Jiang Sect.

“Okay!” Wei Ying agreed. Suddenly there was a change in his demeanour. With a speed that not many had seen, he rushed towards Jin Zixuan and with a very simple roll and upwards strike, Shuhua was ripped from Jin Zixuan’s grip and flung into the air. As Wei Ying stood up, he spun around and caught the sword in his other hand. Both of them levelled out at Jin Zixuan’s neck. “Don’t ever underestimate your opponent,” he told him, his voice serious, “You may think you have the upper hand with someone. But that is not always the case. Never go into a fight believing that you are the best. Not even I do. Something can easily change the battlefield,” he told him as he then tossed the golden sword back at the Jin Heir.

Jin Zixuan caught it, sneering as he started to speak, “Arrogant-”

“He isn’t arrogant,” Jiang Cheng told him, shaking his head, “He’s teaching you. That’s how he does it with all the Jiang Sect Disciples. He beats the shit out of them and then points out their mistakes,” he added. The Jiang Disciples nodded along beside him.

“And have you been on the receiving end of that?” Jin Zixuan snorted, not believing for a second that the Jiang Clan Heir would have had to put up with such behaviour from someone who was inferior to them and was considered by most of the cultivation world as a servant to the Jiang Sect.

“Yes, I have, plenty of times. And I learn from each and every single time I get my ass handed to me. Not one of the Lotus Pier disciples can beat him at the moment. The only ones able to do that are my parents and my mother’s maids. There is a reason why he is head disciple of the Jiang Sect at only fifteen. He’s quick and unpredictable, he learns just from watching people most of the time and then practising day and night to master it,” he told him. The Jiang Sect once more nodded along with him.

“He teaches us by showing us our mistakes. We get better each time,” another added his voice.

Wei Ying turned to Jin Zixuan, “You go into battle thinking you win, don’t. Your left side is open all the time as well, keep your guard up. When you thrust with your sword, your grip is too light, meaning when I hit it just right, it will go flying,” he said as he began to tell Jin Zixuan exactly what he was failing at, “I don’t what they teach you in the Jin Sect, but you might want to go through your forms with your teachers again. And if they say they’re fine, call them a liar. I’ve noticed that your slow with them. You don’t care for them and by the age you are, they should be second nature to you. You shouldn’t even need to think about fine-tuning them.”

“I-”

“Jiang Cheng,” Wei Ying turned to him, “With me, everyone else, pair up,” he told the Jiang Sect disciples, “I feel the need to go through some training with you all,” he told them all, grinning widely.

With a collective groan, they all paired up. Jiang Cheng walked over to Wei Ying and stood beside him. Wei Ying called up the first pair and let them begin with a spar against each other. As soon as the head disciple called the match, he did the same to them as he had done with Jin Zixuan and then sent them to the side to go through the first thirty sword forms. The others watched as the Jiang Sect went through the training. It ended with a spar between Jiang Cheng and Wei Ying. Once more Wei Ying teased his opponent before ending the fight, telling his brother what he had spotted was wrong, even mumbling a few things about his own fight.

“You’re quite strong,” Nie Mingjue told the young teenager as the Nie Sect Leader stood and went over to him.

Wei Ying turned to him and bowed, “I trained hard. Everyone here thinks that I stay in bed late all the time because I remained asleep for longer than normal once or twice. I’m usually up and training with the sun most days. The day’s that I’m not, I’m doing other things that take my attention away from training.”

“I can see, your training is a credit to you,” he nodded, “Now,” he smirked, “How about a little spar between us?” he asked him.

“I would be honoured,” Wei Ying bowed, almost bouncing as he nodded. They took a few steps back and the area cleared up as the two faced against each other. People gathered to watch around the edges of the field. They had just watched this young teenager fight against Jin Zixuan and Jiang Cheng and bat them around the field as though they were toys. They had also seen him go against the Second Young Master of the Lan Clan, Lan Zhan was one of the strongest cultivators in their world as well, and Wei Ying had been able to beat him at least once and fight him to a standstill a few times. Now he was able to face a Sect Leader. The two bowed to each other before they began the fight.

The crowd watched as Wei Ying was agile on his feet, attacking and testing, running for the most part. While Nie Mingjue was able to use his brute strength in knocking the young teen back. It didn’t take long for Wei Ying to be overpowered in the end. Though he lasted a lot longer than he had thought he would do. Wei Ying was panting and smiling brightly as he looked up at the Sect Leader.

“Thank you, Sect Leader Nie,” he said, standing up and bowing to him, “This disciple has learned a lot from our spar,” he told him, still grinning.

“And what have you learned?” Nie Mingjue asked him, a little curious as to what he would take away from the fight.

“That I need to build up a little more strength in my arms to fight against someone that has brute strength on their side, and maybe up my endurance training as well. The tactics that I was using were eating away at my energy faster than I would like,” he nodded, as he listed a few other things that he had figured out during their fight.

“Good analysis,” Nie Mingjue nodded, agreeing with the points that were brought up, “I need to work on my speed a little more,” he told him with a smirk as they two walked from the middle of the field and over to where their brothers were.

“You lasted so long!” Nie Huaisang looked in awe at his friend.

“I lasted longer than I thought I would,” he nodded, smiling as he flopped down next to Jiang Cheng, “That was soooo tiring!” he breathed heavily as he looked up at the sky.

“You did good,” Jiang Cheng told him, “There aren’t many in the world that would be able to go up against the Red Blade Master,” he pointed out to him, just that little bit proud of how well he had done against the man that was considered one of the strongest in the cultivation world.

“True, and I’ve learned a lot from that as well,” he agreed, a grin on his face as he felt elated with how well he had done for himself. It was nice to be able to fight someone that could and would knock him down as many times as was needed. “Now,” he said as he sat up, “I think I need to go through the forms as well,” he added, taking a few more breaths before he lurched to his feet. Taking Subian with him, he went over to a quiet area and began.

“Why is he going through the forms now?” Meng Yao asked, frowning slightly as he watched his friend go through them with ease. He looked so very tired, yet he was still going through them with a lot of energy and strength behind each form. They were precise as well from what Meng Yao could tell.

“He goes through them to implement what he has just learned. We all do the same thing, as the advice is fresh in our minds, and while our bodies are tired, we have to work hard to keep the forms, which in the end makes us remember them better,” Jiang Cheng answered him, before getting up and joining his brother.

The Jiang Sect went back to their training after the bout, while the Nie Sect took a few moments before joining them. Some Lans doing the same as they followed their Second Young Master as he went to the front and stood by Wei Ying and went through the Lan forms. Meng Yao watched them for a moment, then nodded to himself, deciding to bring out his own sword and go through the forms that he had learned while at the Nie Sect. He was one of a couple of cultivators that lived there that didn’t use a sabre to fight. Nie Huaisang had been happy about that when his brother agreed not to try and force him to change to a sabre. The young Nie had been scared of something happening to his new friend. Meng Yao soon joined them with only the Jin watching, anger on their faces after the defeat of the Head Disciple and Heir.

Chapter Sixteen

Nie Mingjue stood on the steps as he got ready to leave. He looked at Meng Yao, a little sad that he would be leaving him behind, but he knew that this time when Meng Yao came back home, they would be together, and maybe they could even start planning a wedding. He already had a few ideas in mind. And talking with Nie Huaisang about it didn’t help to lessen the urge to marry as soon as possible. “I’ll get started on getting everyone a secondary weapon. I’ll also have some sent to you here for the ones attending the lectures,” he said, to Wei Ying and his brother.

“Good, I hope to hear how things are going from you soon,” Wei Ying told him, eager to know if it would make a difference.

“I will,” he agreed with the teenager, “Thank you,” he added as he bowed to them before turning to his best friend and saying his goodbyes there as well.

Wei Ying smiled and walked away, before rushing towards Lan Zhan when he spotted him standing at the back, “Lan Zhan, want to spar with me for a bit?” he asked, bouncing where he stood.

“Mn,” he nodded, turning and walking away. Wei Ying followed him, nattering on about everything that he could think of.

“I was thinking,” Wei Ying started, “about making more talismans that could be needed, but not sure of where I should start next,” he murmured. “I’m thinking about looking into what I did with the waterborne abyss as well. If I can get down what I did and what went wrong for me, then I might be able to work it so that others would be able to do it as well,” he said, mostly to himself.

“Wei Ying will figure it out,” Lan Zhan told him, looking down for a moment at the bright smile that was sent his way.

“Thank you, Lan Zhan,” he said, once more patting him on the head. He couldn’t help but carry on doing so after seeing his reaction when Jiang Yanli had done it to him. Now that he was, it was impossible to stop. He laughed lightly at the red ears and the small change in Lan Zhan’s face to show that he was pleased with the attention. he sighed, shaking his head and turned to face forwards again as they headed to the training fields, “I’ll have to have a good think over it and make a few notes.”

“It will help,” he nodded as they came to the field.

The two warmed up before facing each other. Their spar started and they soon gathered a small crowd to watch them. Wei Ying couldn’t help but be in awe of how elegantly that Lan Zhan moved when he was fighting. The style that the Lan Sect used worked well for him. Giving the Second Jade of Lan an ethereal beauty when he moved. He shook himself as he realised that he was getting distracted by what he was observing. He moved around Lan Zhan, almost able to knock the sword from his hands. But the grip tightened enough to stop it. The two fought each other to a standstill again.

“These are always so much fun!” he grinned at his friend.

“Mn,” Lan Zhan nodded in agreement as he sheathed Bichen, “You fight well.”

“I learn so much as well,” he told Lan Zhan as he moved closer, “Thank you for agreeing to spar with me. I… I don’t have many that I can do so with and really let go,” he told him. “Jiang Cheng is getting really good now and soon I’ll be able to do the same with him. I’m making sure to train him so he can beat me,” he added with a grin as he thought of his brother.

“Mn, same,” he agreed with him quickly. He worked a lot harder to be able to keep up with Wei Ying. he wanted to be just as strong so he could be by his side.

“I hope that I get the chance to go on a Night Hunt with you at some point as well,” he smiled as he looked up at him.

“We will,” Lan Zhan promised, nodding once.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying murmured, “What would you think about coming to Lotus Pier and seeing it for yourself. And maybe even seeing me, I can take you around the town and show you everything?” he suggested in a hopeful tone.

“I will,” he promised, a little twitch of his lips as they heard the others coming towards the field. They moved away from each other, both of them sharing a look that told the other that they wanted to remain by each other’s side.

“Wei-Xiong!” came the call of Nie Huaisang as he, Meng Yao and Lan Xichen walked to the field. Jiang Cheng was travelling a little slower behind them. He could see that his younger brother wasn’t happy to be there, that he wasn’t feeling as connected to everyone else as he had been at the start. While Nie Huaisang would spend some time with Jiang Cheng, Wei Ying had barely done so since they had arrived.

“Hey!” Wei Ying called back, smiling, though it wasn’t as wide as it had been when he was looking at Lan Zhan, “I was telling Lan Zhan that he should come and visit Lotus Pier some time,” he said as he looked at his brother.

Jiang Cheng nodded, “You should, actually, you all should at some point. Just a visit,” he added, as he looked at the other three that he had come with.

“I would like that,” Lan Xichen nodded a smile on his face, “I would be asking to come soon, as I wish to speak with your parents when I have the chance,” he said as he looked at Jiang Cheng.

“My sister has told me that you’ve been sending her letters and messages through the bunnies,” Jiang Cheng said, eyes narrowed slightly as he looked at the Lan Sect Leader.

“I have,” he nodded, “We’ve been getting to know each other a little more. I’ve never had the chance to speak with her before,” he told him, being honest as a Lan always was.

“We will be having words, now if you don’t mind,” Jiang Cheng warned him, walking to the side and waiting for him to join him. Lan Xichen nodded and the others watched as Jiang Cheng hissed a few words at him. With Lan Xichen nodding and smiling that calm smile of his until he talked. Then the group saw a passion in his eyes as he spoke. Though none of them could hear them thanks to how far away they were.

“Good,” Jiang Cheng called out with a nod as he turned and walked back over to the others.

“Soooo….” Wei Ying trailed off as he looked at the two, “What was that about?” he asked.

“Sect Leader Lan wishes to approach our parents about asking A-Jie about a courtship with intent to marry at the end if they both wish for it,” he said, a little formally when he looked at the eldest Lan.

“I do, I have admired her for a long time. I’m taking the time at the moment to truly get to know her. I have found a kind, gentle and wonderfully strong young woman that I would love to have at my side for the rest of my life. But only, only, if that is what she wishes as well,” Lan Xichen was honest as he talked.

“Then you have my blessing as well. I know that you’ll treat her right,” Wei Ying told him, “But the moment you hurt her, is when I will hunt you down,” he wanted him, “I don’t care if you’re Lan Zhan’s brother or not,” he huffed.

Lan Xichen nodded, “I know,” he told him, “Young Master Jiang has said much the same thing.”

“Jiang Wanyin,” he told the man, “If you want us to be family, you best get used to being informal.”

“Of course, Wanyin,” he smiled, nodding.

“A-Huan, A-Zhan,” came a voice as someone slowly walked into the clearing.

Wei Ying looked around and grinned widely, “You finally did it,” he whooped, clapping his hands as Lan Qiren, who was walking beside Lan Zhiqiang, looked disapproving at the action. Lan Zhiqiang was a still little pale but looked happier now that he was out.

“I did, your words were… honest, A-Ying,” he told him, “I thank you, for taking the time to talk to me and giving me a few home truths that never really thought of as I had stopped listening to my family,” he added, glancing towards his brother.

“Finally,” Lan Qiren huffed, “Now go and greet your sons properly, which you should have done years ago,” he told him, before turning and walking off.

“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan asked, looking at his friend, unsure of what he was now facing.

“Go and meet your father Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying said softly, turning the older man around and pushing him. Before he went and did the same to Lan Xichen. The two of them finally moving slowly towards their father.

Lan Zhan looked back at Wei Ying before doing as he was told and walking over to the man that had fathered him. A man that neither of them had ever met, and only heard of. The few stories that their mother had been able to tell them and the few that Lan Qiren had spoken of.

“Father,” Lan Xichen said, his voice suddenly sounding as though he was but a small child once more. It was full of fear and hope as he took in the sight of his father.

“A-Huan,” Lan Zhiqiang said softly as he walked over to them and pulled them into a hug. He held them tightly as he whispered over and over again, “I’m sorry.” He paused for a moment and took a breath, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you when I should have been. There is so much to tell you,” he told the two of them, loosening his grip on them.

“Why… why now?” Lan Xichen asked him.

“Because a certain young man came crashing into my seclusion and told me that I was missing the lives of my sons and that I should be out here, to give you both the chance to know me, and to really know your mother as well,” he told them. A sad smile on his face, “She might be gone, and I forgot that I had two sons waiting for me to come out. To see them and be with them,” he said, shaking his head, “I’ve let you down, but I’m here and I want to get to know you both. A-Ying has told me a lot and his drawing of you both is good, but seeing you, actually being in front of you. I had forgotten for the longest time that I could do that.”

“Father,” Lan Zhan nodded to him, still unsure what he should do.

“A-Zhan, you’ve grown so much, such a wonderful young man. A-Ying has told me a lot about you,” he said, eyes tearing up.

“What happened? Why did you remain away from us for so long?” Lan Xichen asked him, not noticing that the others that had been in the clearing with them had walked away, giving them the privacy they needed to speak.

“Why don’t we go to my rooms and we’ll talk then,” he said as he led the way to a set of rooms that he had been in only once that day. Before that, it had been twenty-three years since he had stepped inside of them and lived in them. They settled down at the low table and he sighed, “I know what you have been told about your mother. But she didn’t kill that teacher. It was a setup since I was taking the Sect in a way that a lot of the Elders at the time didn’t want. They were hoping that I would come to her rescue and kill the man attacking her. Instead, they found a way around what happened and pushed us both into seclusion. As I had married her to protect her. Though we did love each other, a lot of people thought that we didn’t. We were going to marry, but on our own time,” he sighed, “We were able to spend a little time with each other every year, which is how we have the two of you. As your sixth birthday came and went, your uncle was finally getting somewhere in finding the evidence we needed to prove your mother’s innocence. But not a day after he was able to get it and confront the Elders involved and get rid of them. Your mother went into labour,” he sighed softly, tears forming in his eyes.

“Labour?” Lan Xichen asked, “She was pregnant?” he asked, trying to think back if he noticed anything. While they only saw her once a month, most of the time she barely moved from where she was at the small table.

“She was pregnant, at the time she was almost seven months when she went into early labour. Something went wrong, and we lost them both. You… you would have had a sister, Lan Mei. She barely drew breath before she passed. And I lost myself to grief and remained in seclusion. I had thought, had hoped that we would all be able to be a family, but after their loss, I couldn’t face it,” he finished telling them what happened. He brought his sons close as they learned the truth of what happened with their mother. He spent a little more time talking to the two of them before making a proper public appearance at lunch for the first time in twenty-three years.

Chapter Seventeen

Time was passing quickly and Lan Zhiqiang had started to take over more of the duties as Sect Leader once again, so Lan Xichen was finally free to be the young man he was and even had the chance to go, Night Hunting, a little more than he had been able to in the last few years. He had also arranged to visit with Nie Mingjue at some point. He hadn’t had much chance to meet with his closest friend since he had taken over most of the Sect Duties.

“So,” Nie Huaisang said as he looked at the message that he had just received from his brother. He had sent one earlier that day, asking him something. Now he had his permission and he was going to ask.

“What?” Wei Ying asked him, from where he was laying on the grass, looking up at the clouds as they passed them by.

Meng Yao looked up from the book he was reading. It was one that Lan Xichen had suggested to him. He frowned as he observed the Young Nie. Narrowing his eyes as he saw something on the other person’s face, “What have you got planned?” he asked him bluntly.

“Well, I was thinking, we have become such good friends. And I really wanted to have it so that nothing and no one would be able to come between us,” Nie Huaisang said as he looked at the two of them.

“And?” Wei Ying prompted him, sitting up and looking at him as well.

“I was thinking that we could swear brotherhood?” he asked the two of them, snapping open his fan and hiding his face as he waited for their judgment.

Wei Ying froze for a moment, “Brotherhood?” he murmured, he had thought that he would be doing something with Jiang Cheng at some point in his life. But he had found out that he wouldn’t be doing so. Mostly because Madam Yu wasn’t too keen on the idea and had stopped them from carrying through it.

“I don’t mind, what does your brother say about it?” Meng Yao asked Nie Huaisang.

“He told me to do so if I feel that we are close enough,” he smiled, “I think that we are. Between us we’ve helped to do some amazing things,” he smiled, looking at Wei Ying and Meng Yao in turn, “Though most of it is because of Wei-Xiong, I really want to do this though,” he told the two of them truthfully.

“Madam Yu won’t care what I do,” Wei Ying shrugged, “I think it’s a good idea. I do feel rather close to the two of you. That you’d both have my back should something happen,” he smiled, he was happy with the thought of being able to have a brother, and both of them would be older than him as well.

“Then I’ll ask Lan Xichen if he would be able to organise it for us,” Nie Huaisang almost sang as they agreed to it.

Wei Ying laughed as he flopped back down. He heard someone approach them and he sat back up as he spotted a little bit of white on the green grass. “Lan Zhan!” he called out as he looked up and saw his face. Getting to his feet he was about to dart off before he stopped and turned to the two of them, “I can’t wait until I have a couple of older brothers,” he grinned at the two of them before rushing over to Lan Zhan and talking his ear off as they walked away.

XxXxX

It wasn’t even a day later when the ceremony was ready for them. They weren’t going to be doing something public. Not one of them wanted anything to draw too much attention to themselves. So, something private was just right for them. Though if it was anyone else, they would have tried to get them to go big. The bigger the better for some people after all.

“Okay,” Wei Ying said, for some reason he was starting to feel a little nervous. He looked at his friend and smiled at them. He was on one end, with Nie Huaisang in the middle. Meng Yao smiled at him from the other end. Age order he noted. They stood before the altar. Lan Qiren was standing behind them, along with Lan Zhiqiang, Lan Zhan, Lan Xichen and Jiang Cheng. The last one had caused a bit of a problem when he had first heard what they were planning on doing. But Wei Ying had been able to talk to him about it all. Telling him that Madam Yu hadn’t wanted them to swear brotherhood or anything, that she didn’t approve of first. While with Wei Ying, she just didn’t care what he did. He wasn’t family in a sense, he was only on the edge of it.

“We three gathered before the ancestors to Swear Brotherhood to one another,” they intoned, their hands clasped before them as they knelt down. “We will be by each other’s side, their enemies shall become our enemies. Their trouble is our trouble. We are forever known as family, we are brothers.” They bowed as one, waiting there for a moment before they straightened up again, “Let none get between us,” they said as one.

They stood up after they had bowed one last time. Each swearing was different. They wanted something simple. Just an altar for their ancestors and themselves. While others would have the bow be different. They wanted something that would convey what they felt, for them, they were going to be family, brothers.

Wei Ying grinned as he looked at Meng Yao and said, “Da-ge,” he grinned as he then turned to Nie Huaisang, “Er-ge,” he giggled as the two of them looked at him. One in horror and the other in amusement.

“It will be odd to be called Da-ge,” Meng Yao said, but nodded in agreement that Wei Ying could call him such.

“I’m Gege!” Nie Huaisang realised, “Really, I thought you were the older one!” he exclaimed, “You’re so much smarter than me,” he pouted a little.

“You’re older than me by a few months,” Wei Ying laughed at him.

“Oh no,” Nie Huaisang cried as he flipped his fan out and tapped Wei Ying on his head, “No, you have to be the older one!”

“Not going to happen. It’s nice to have some big brothers for once,” he grinned, laughing again at Nie Huaisang’s pout

Jiang Cheng watched his brother, a little feeling of jealousy was there, but he knew that this was something that was just for Wei Ying. He could see that he was happy about it, having a proper connection to people, a family. It was one that he didn’t have with the Jiang Family since his mother wasn’t keen on them swearing brotherhood to each other. Wei Ying had told him, as did others as well, that he was still part of the Jiang Family. That he would just have extra brothers as well. Their bond just won’t be as recognised as theirs.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan said, stopping Wei Ying from teasing the two men even more.

“Lan Zhan,” He grinned up at him as he went over to him.

The two remaining sword brothers watched and shook their heads at his antics as he pestered Lan Zhan. Though the man did ask for it by bringing himself to the teen’s attention by calling his name.

XxXxX

The last few days were filled with last-minute lectures and exams for most of them. Though Nie Huaisang cried with happiness when he realised that he was free and that this time he had actually passed enough that Nie Mingjue wouldn’t send him back to go through the year a third time. Meng Yao had also passed with high marks. Which he had been rather happy about as well. Though he was older than the other students there. Just a year older than Jin Zixuan, who was eighteen, compared to most of the others that had attended who were fifteen and sixteen years old.

“Well, that was… fun,” Wei Ying grinned as he looked at those that had gathered at the field. He sighed, “I’m going to miss being here,” he murmured. He looked around, eyes landing on Lan Zhan, “Lan Zhan, you promised that you would come to Lotus Pier, don’t forget that!”

“Will not forget, will… miss Wei Ying,” he said, ears going red. But the others didn’t laugh or anything as they watched the two. Wei Ying shifted to be closer to his friend, his crush.

“Lan Zhan,” he said softly, “I’ll miss you as well, so expect me to message you all the time,” he warned him, eyes looking hopeful as they locked onto Lan Zhan’s.

“Will do the same,” Lan Zhan nodded.

“Oh, my word! Just kiss already!” Nie Huaisang snapped as he gave Wei Ying a little shove from behind. Everyone froze as Wei Ying and Lan Zhan’s lips met.

The two remained like that for a moment, their kiss deepening for a moment before they realised what was going on and shot away from each other. Apologies were spilling from their mouths as they thought that they had offended the other.

“Shut up!” Jiang Cheng yelled at the two of them, “Now, one at a time,” he told them, giving them a small glare as he gave Nie Huaisang a thumbs up.

“I’m sorry Lan Zhan, I… I…” Wei Ying tried to say something.

“Do you regret it?” Lan Zhan asked him instead, looking timid and scared as he glanced over at Wei Ying.

Wei Ying looked at him and then shook his head, “No, I don’t. I liked it… I like you,” he murmured looking embarrassed as he turned to look away.

“Like Wei Ying too,” Lan Zhan said, pulling something from his sleeve, “Have a gift for you, wish to court you,” he said, words coming in small halting sentences.

“Oh!” Wei Ying said, eyes widening as he took the gift that was offered to him. He opened it slowly, gaping at the gift that lay inside. It was a dizi, a pure white one, with a red tassel tied to it. It was beautifully carved. “Thank you,” he said, as he picked it out and played a small jaunty tune on it. he stopped and gave a beautiful smile at Lan Zhan, “Thank you,” he repeated.

“Glad that Wei Ying likes it,” he said, a small quirk of his lips was the only indication to anyone that he was smiling.

“Wonder if we should leave them alone?” Nie Huaisang asked the others as they watched the two as they spoke quietly with each other.

“Yeah,” Jiang Cheng nodded in agreement, “We have better things to do than watch those two try and out complement each other. We only have a day left before we have to leave,” he said, getting up. The others quickly followed his example.

XxXxX

“Jiang Wanyin,” came a calm voice as Lan Xichen walked quickly towards the departing disciples, “Sorry,” he smiled, “But may I ask that you deliver something to your sister?” he asked him quietly, “I would like to present a gift to her.”

“Of course,” Jiang Cheng nodded as he was handed a qiankun pouch, “Is it in there?” he asked him.

“Yes,” he nodded, “sorry to ask this of you, but I trust that you would be able to get it to her,” he smiled.

“I will,” Jiang Cheng promised, tucking it away into his robes. He then looked at him, “I know that Lan Wangji is going to be visiting Lotus Pier at some point, he promised Wuxian that he would. Will you be coming at any point?” he asked him.

“I will be trying to do so at the same time as Wangji,” Lan Xichen answered him honestly.

“Good. A-Jie has been talking about you in her messages to me. I know that she looks forward to your messages and to the letters that you send to her as well,” he said, refraining from pulling a face at the goings-on between the two of them, “Just, don’t let her down,” he told him once more.

“I won’t. I admire her greatly as you know. I look forward to asking her if she would be willing to court me,” he said, a smile appearing on his face. Not the usual polite one he kept up at all times. But the genuine one that he rarely showed anyone.

“Good,” Jiang Cheng nodded and turned, sighing he snapped, “Wuxian, stop pestering Lan Wangji, we need to get going!”

Wei Ying pouted at his brother for a moment before he turned to Lan Zhan, “Lan Zhan,” he called out again, “I’ll miss you, don’t forget that you promised to write to me and message me!”

“I promise,” he nodded, “Miss Wei Ying,” he said back.

Jiang Cheng sighed, having had enough of the constant goodbyes and miss you’s, went over and grabbed his brother, “We have to go, you already took ages to say goodbye to Nie-Xiong and Meng Yao,” he reminded him. Pulling him away from his precious Lan Zhan.

“Will miss you, Lan Zhan! Don’t forget that you are to come to Lotus Pier soon!” he called out, waving widely as Jiang Cheng pulled him through the gates.

Soon enough the Jiang Sect disciples were in the air and flying off. Lan Zhan remained at the gate until he could no longer see Wei Ying in the sky. The other teen had been saying goodbye all the time he was flying away. And if it wasn’t for his brother, there was no doubt that Wei Ying would have fallen from his sword a few times. Lan Xichen walked back with Lan Zhan to meet with their father. Lan Zhan missed his Wei Ying a lot, worried for him until a message came up to him telling him, hello and they had returned home safely, and that he missed Lan Zhan.

Chapter Eighteen

Nie Huaisang was regretting his life choices as he flopped onto the ground of the training arena in the Unclean Realm. He had been back in Qinghe for a few days and he wanted nothing more than to go back to Gusu. He would take the lectures any day over the training that he was now doing. “Yao-ge!” he called out, “Can I stop now!” he begged as he turned his pitiful eyes onto the man.

Meng Yao looked at him and shook his head, “No, now get back up and start again. You’ve only been here for half an hour,” he admonished, “I thought you said you wanted to show that peacock that you’re better than him?”

“I changed my mind!” he complained as he slowly got to his feet, groaning a little, just to be dramatic.

“Not going to happen. Now get up! We don’t want to disappoint our little brother Wuxian and his grand plan,” he added, giving a little smirk.

Nie Huaisang sighed but nodded. He picked up his bow and his quiver of arrows once again. He was practising his archery. He wasn’t too bad at it; he normally just hung back and did nothing for the most part during a hunt. He breathed in and out slowly. Letting go of his aches and pains and began to go through the practice routine once more. Thanks to his brother, there were even some moving targets to help him get better.

Meng Yao watched him, a smile on his face as Nie Huaisang was quickly to hit the targets that last time. He felt a hand on his lower back and turned, smiling at Nie Mingjue as he came over to him, “Hey,” he greeted.

“Hey, I still can’t believe he’s actually practising, and not just the things he likes. But everything. Even his sabre work has started to come along great,” he said, in awe of whatever it was that had caused such a change in his brother.

“Wei Wuxian wants to knock Jin Zixuan from the top five of the List of Young Masters. And Nie Huaisang is one that can be trained up to do so,” Meng Yao said, as he gave his intended a smile. The Nie elders had found out about their wish to marry. And, after a few days, they had agreed that the two of them were well suited and that they could use a surrogate mother to have a child.

“Well, it’s working and Jin Zixuan should be taken down a few pegs, along with Jin Guangshan. He keeps saying that his son could easily pass Xichen and Wangji if he pushes that little bit more. But I doubt it at all,” he snorted, “he’s too much like a little snot-nosed brat that hides behind his daddy’s name and money,” he added.

“He is, he’s nothing like what I thought a Child of the Jin Sect would be like. He’s full of himself, thinks that he’s better than everyone around him. Even after Wei Wuxian was able to beat him during a sparring match,” he said, shaking his head.

“Hmm, I know, I was there for that. And I heard about how he ended up insulting his betrothed as well and then having it broken off,” Nie Mingjue almost snorted again at the arrogance that someone of the Jin Sect was showing.

“Well, it’s his loss. It’s why we’re doing this, to show that he means nothing and that he isn’t worthy of her,” he said softly, “also you’ll be pleased to know that she is going to be asked for courtship soon,” he smirked.

“Oh, and who would be the lucky man that is vying for her heart?” he asked, curiously. He had to admit that he was a little isolated in Qinghe most of the time.

“Lan Xichen,” he smirked, as that caused Nie Mingjue to freeze for a moment.

“Really?” he asked, turning him around to look at him, seeing no deception in his eyes.

“Really,” he nodded, “It all started when she ended the betrothal. She had enough and went for a walk. He went after her to make sure that she was okay,” he smiled sweetly, “They kept talking. I found out that he has admired her and wished he could do something for the last five years. From the moment he first saw her. It’s rather sweet,” he laughed as he saw the look on Nie Mingjue’s face.

“Seems like I haven’t been able to talk to him as much as I like to. If I had to learn this from you and not him,” he pouted and grumbled, “I’ll send a message and see if he will be able to stop by one of these days so that we can really have a talk.”

“Don’t be too harsh on him, he kept it a secret because he thought it would never happen. And now that it is, he’s rather excited about it and very cautious about something going wrong,” he added, “I like talking to him as well, he’s a good listener,” he smiled as he saw the look he was getting.

“He is,” Nie Mingjue agreed.

“Can I stop now!” Nie Huaisang called out in desperation as he finished his practice run once more.

Meng Yao turned to look at the arrows and how far away from the mark they were. He nodded, “You did well, so I will let you off now, but you’ll do better tomorrow or I will make you train for twice as long!” he warned the young teenager.

“Er-ge!” he called out, pouting at him as he slumped where he stood.

“No, Er-ge nothing, you’re going to get better even if I have to drag you around kicking and screaming,” Meng Yao told him as the other walked over to them.

“Da-ge,” Nie Huaisang cried pitifully, “Er-ge is so mean,” he complained to him.

“He’s mean? He’s only making you practice with archery. I’d have you on the training fields for sabre work as well,” he told him.

“No!” he cried, throwing himself at his Da-ge and being held tightly so he didn’t fall to the ground, “No more, please, I’m soooo tired. I did horseback riding and all the things needed for that. And then I did some archery as well,” he told him, “I have calligraphy and music already down for that. I’m at third for those,” he said as he went through everything that he needed.

“It’s just the more combat side of things that let you down,” Meng Yao told him, “and you’re improving a lot,” he told him. He smiled, “Wei Wuxian has sent a few things along to help with your archery. Your equestrian abilities are already good, and they are improving a lot as well. You weren’t exactly last with that. Just need a little bit of fine tuning and you’ll be fine.”

“I know I am,” he sighed as he pulled away from Nie Mingjue, “I’m going to paint some fans,” he huffed as he walked off.

Nie Mingjue shook his head as he watched him go, “I don’t know where I went wrong with him,” he murmured.

“You’re too kind to him all the time. Your father made you train, made you believe that was all you could do. You didn’t do that to A-Sang. Instead, you loved him and let him enjoy a life that you couldn’t,” Meng Yao told him, remembering what Nie Mingjue had told him of the previous Sect Leader. He sighed, “He was your father but he wanted you to be just as strong as he was. Just like he was. He loved you and he loved A-Sang, but he wanted to make sure that you could protect yourself. You just want A-Sang to live life freely.”

“Mn,” he sighed with a nod, “I do. I hate having to yell at him to do some training. I want him to be able to protect himself as well. I had no choice but to be as big and as strong as I could as fast as I could. The weight of being the next Sect Leader was heavy. Dad… he knew he might not have enough time to watch us grow up and wanted at least one of us that could protect the other. I was the oldest so it came down to me,” he said as the two of them walked off for a late lunch. A private one that he had organised for the two of them.

XxXxX

Nie Huaisang smirked as he watched his brother and Meng Yao leave. He had just finished another day of training and he was bored with it. He looked around and nodded to himself as he climbed out of the window and down to the ground below him. The fan wielding Nie was going to follow them. He really needed to know how things were going. Since Cloud Recesses and Meng Yao walking to him with the metal beads in his hair, braided just right for courtship. He hadn’t been able to get it out of his mind. He needed to know how they were doing. Since neither of them was telling him something, he was left with only one choice, and that was to sneak behind them and watch and observe them.

“A-Yao,” Nie Mingjue said as he took the man’s hand and they walked towards the Market Place, “Is there anything that you would like to do today?” he asked him.

“There are a few books that I was looking at the last time I was here,” he said, a smile on his face, “Would it be alright to go there and see if they still have them in stock. I could get them while we are there.”

“Of course,” he nodded as they walked towards the bookstore that Meng Yao liked to go to when he went into the town surrounding the fortress.

“It’s nice to be able to leave our duties behind for a while. There’s no pressure to run from one end of the fortress to the other,” Meng Yao said, “Or trying to find out where you’re hiding when there is paperwork to be done,” he added, giving him a look and smirking.

Nie Mingjue tried his best to look innocent as he could, but it didn’t really work on the man at all, “I need to train occasionally at least. Wouldn’t do if something were to happen and I’ve become rusty and unable to fight.”

Meng Yao snorted a laugh, “that would never happen. You’ve been training for most of your life, you’ll always be ready to defend the people of Qinghe,” he told him, shaking his head.

“Maybe,” he muttered, as they reached the bookstore. The two walked through the door and Meng Yao quickly disappeared off to talk to the clerk and see if they had something. Nie Mingjue hung back, watching with a fond look on his face. Though he refrained from smiling outright. He didn’t want people to see his dimples again, once again, he contemplated growing a full beard so he could hide them better.

He turned, just as someone else walked into the shop, trying to be sneaky, “A-Sang,” he said, a dangerous growl in his voice.

“Oh Da-ge,” he smiled, “I didn’t know you were here,” he said, as he looked at his brother.

“I don’t believe that for an instance,” he told him, rolling his eyes, “Now, what are you doing here?” he asked. Pausing a moment before adding, “The truth as well, or you’ll be training for the next week with the sabre, with no break to be able to paint your damn fans,” he warned him

“I just wanted to see how things were going between the two of you. I really love the fact that you’re both together,” he said, looking sorry for himself as he wondered if he would talk himself out of any type of punishment for following his brother.

“Go home, and if you do, I won’t punish you,” he told him, knowing what his brother was thinking. It was easy to tell most days.

“Thank you Da-ge,” he said, smiling, “And maybe take him and get him a new hairpiece,” he added as he then quickly left the shop and rushed back home. Knowing that his brother would be on the lookout for him from that moment on.

Nie Mingjue shed and pinched his nose. He then jumped a little when he heard someone come up behind him and say, “Everything alright?”

“A-Yao,” he said, shaking his head as his heart calmed its frantic beating, “it’s fine,” he answered, shaking his head.

“A-Sang followed us, didn’t he?” he asked, laughing lightly when the other nodded in answer.

“Yes, he does that sometimes, when he thinks that something is going on and he wants to know about it,” he muttered. Thinking back to the time he was showing Lan Xichen around and his baby brother was hoping to set him up with someone.

“He’s just worried about you and wants to make sure that you’ll be happy. I’m not what most would wish for in a spouse after all,” he said, a soft smile on his face, though it didn’t reach his eyes at all.

“You’re perfect for me and he knows that. He’s been trying to talk to me and get me to talk to you for the last two years,” Nie Mingjue said and then noticed the books that were in Meng Yao’s arms, “Are those the ones that you want to buy?” he asked him, changing the subject.

“Oh, yes they are,” he smiled, “I’m about to get them-” he was cut off as they were taken from his arms.

“I’ll get them for you,” Nie Mingjue told him as he took the books and headed over to the counter. He quickly paid for them. With them tied up, he tucked them under one arm. He used his free hand to catch Meng Yao’s and led him from the store and through the market.

When they returned, they saw Nie Huaisang looking out of a window above them. Giving them a large smile when he saw the new hairpiece that had already been woven into Meng Yao’s hair.

Chapter Nineteen

Wei Ying was bounding around Lotus Pier. The bunny that had come during the night had told him that Lan Zhan was on his way to Lotus Pier. His Lan Zhan was coming and the place had to be perfect for him. Not only that but Lan Xichen was also coming to speak with Jiang Fengmian and Madam Yu as well as Jiang Yanli. He walked into the kitchen again, Jiang Yanli was there cooking once more.

“Shijie!” he called out, a whine in his voice as he went over to her, “No soup?” he asked her, not seeing the usual pot that she used to make her soup in.

“No, A-Chen sent along a book of foods that they cook in Cloud Recesses, while they are rather plain, I did send him a warning message that I would be adding a few things to them. So, they will be a bit more… enjoyable, I think. But it won’t be so bad that they wouldn’t be able to handle some spices, unlike how you like things,” she added before Wei Ying could become too excited about the change in the recipes.

“But they really need to taste proper Yunmeng Jiang Food!” he pouted at her.

“But they are our guests and they should have some food from home as well. They will get to have our delicacies later on. But they do have a no-meat diet, don’t forget,” she reminded him. Tapping the back of his hand out of the way before he could even try and sneak a taste of what she was making.

Wei Ying sighed heavily as he reached out again. This time towards the jar of spices that he was going to add to whatever was cooking. It was taken from his reach, throating his plans, “Shijie,” he whined again.

“No A-Xian, why don’t you go and make sure the rooms for the two of them are sorted out. That they are nice and ready for them,” she told him, trying to shoo him from the kitchen before everything she was cooking became too hot for anyone to handle.

“Okay,” he sighed as he was pushed from the kitchen. He walked down the hallways and headed to the guest rooms to make sure they were ready.

XxXxX

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying called out as soon as he and the others had landed and rushed towards them. No one had a chance to grab the back of his robes before he ended up in Lan Zhan’s arms.

“Wei Ying, careful,” Lan Zhan warned him, as he made sure to keep the other teen upright and then let him go, “I must greet the Sect Leader,” he told him.

“Yes, of course, I’m sorry Lan Zhan,” he said, a little smile on his face as he walked with Lan Zhan and Lan Xichen, who had landed beside his brother, over to where Jiang Fengmian and the others of the Jiang family were waiting for them.

“Sect Leader Jiang,” the two said as they bowed, “Madam Yu, Maiden Jiang, Sect Heir Jiang,” they greeted the four of them in turn.

“Young Masters of the Lan Clan, welcome to our home. We’re glad that you were able to come and join us for a while,” Jiang Fengmian smiled at the two of them. He had heard a lot about them, not only from his sons but also from his daughter. Who had only been able to speak with the two brothers for a few days while they had visited when Wei Ying had been hurt.

“Sect Leader Jiang, Madam Yu,” Lan Xichen said as he straightened up, “I would like to speak with the two of you for a moment, would that be at all possible?” he asked them. The twenty-year-old was beginning to feel nervous, though only his brother could tell that he was.

“Of course,” Jiang Fengmian nodded, “A-Ying, you’ll be able to show the Second Young Master Lan to his room?” he asked of his adoptive son, who was already trying to convince the other teenager to go into the town with him and look around.

“Of course, Uncle Jiang,” he grinned, nodding as he grabbed Lan Zhan’s arm and said, “Come on, I helped prepare your room. So, it should be really nice and just right for you,” he told him, babbling a little as he explained everything that he had done to prepare Lan Zhan’s room.

Lan Xichen smiled at Jiang Yanli and bowed, “I hope that later on, we may be able to speak,” he said to her, his voice soft and almost reverent.

“Of course, I look forward to it. I will finish off the preparations for our dinner tonight,” she added, as she bowed back and then took her younger brother with her to the kitchens. Though the young teenager was grumbling as he wanted to listen to what Lan Xichen had to say to his parents.

“Come, we’ll go to my office,” Jiang Fengmian said as he led the way. Lan Xichen looked around as he hadn’t been to Lotus Pier in a long time. Nothing had really changed at all since that day he had first seen Jiang Yanli. It was still noisy, the laughter and the yells from disciples as they trained and had fun. They walked into the office and sat down.

“Now, what is it that you wish to talk to us about?” Madam Yu asked him, being rather blunt and even a little rude to the young man.

“This one would like to ask for your blessing and permission to ask your daughter about entering into a courtship with me,” he told the two of them.

“What do you think you could offer my daughter?” Madam Yu snorted, “My daughter is already promised to the Heir of the Jin Sect,” she added.

“And that has ended at our daughter’s behest,” Jiang Fengmian stopped her, “Do not forget that My Lady, A-Li asked for that herself.”

“She was mistaken, such a marriage could still go ahead. The young man is just a confused child,” she told him, glaring at her husband. The man glaring back at her.

“Then you would be happy to see your daughter belittled? Told that she isn’t worth any time? Or even any effort to see that she was happy?” Lan Xichen asked Madam Yu, aghast that she would still consider her daughter betrothed to Jin Zixuan.

“She will be happy, she loves him. There is nothing you can do about that,” she snorted as she turned to the young man.

“She doesn’t love him. She was told, by you, that she should love him, and she had no choice but to believe it, to keep hope in her heart that she would be able to have a happy marriage,” Lan Xichen told her bluntly. “You constantly told her that she would love him and marry him. Instead of having someone that would stand beside her, as she deserves, she had someone that has done nothing but hurt her all the time. Made her cry constantly with his disregard for any feelings she had. That is not a marriage that someone as kind and wonderful as Jiang Yanli deserves,” he added, frowning as he shook his head, “I’m sorry if I speak out of turn. But… I saw this young woman stand up for herself against a man, just a few months younger than her, who had just belittled her, and her family. He is still a child. He may be of age to marry, but he is nothing but an arrogant child, and one that has been spoiled as well,” he finished.

“He will grow up,” Madam Yu said, determined to have her way, “And they will get married and be happy.”

“No, they won’t,” Jiang Fengmian said, “I will not allow my daughter to marry someone that has caused her so much pain. You may wish for her to be in an unhappy marriage, but I do not. It will be up to A-Li what she wishes to do with her life. Not us,” he finished.

“She will marry him. I will make sure of that,” she snapped at Jiang Fengmian, eyes flashing in anger.

“And you are not the Sect Leader or the head of the Jiang Family. I state that she will not and so she will not. You have no say,” he told her, “I only gave you permission to start this betrothal as long as she would be happy. Since she has asked for it to be ended, then there will never be a marriage. No matter how much you and Madam Jin wish to have it. He does not deserve my daughter. And you, if you want her to be so unhappy in life, then you can go and tell her that you want her to be unhappy!”

Madam Yu got up, “You are intolerable,” she sneered at him, Zidian even sparking a little on her hand.

“I have done my all for you, My Lady. I love you, you have never once believed it. I love all my children, all three of them. Yet again, you never believed it. You spite me at each turn and turn my own words against me every single time I speak. I have kept my quiet, out of my respect and love for you. But you are quickly losing it with your inability to see what you are doing to your own daughter!” he yelled at her in the end. For the first time in their marriage, he had raised his voice at her, “Now, either you can sit down and listen to this young man as he makes his request that could see our daughter happy, or leave and be no part of it,” he said, giving her a choice.

“I will have no part in this farce, A-LI will marry Jin Zixuan,” she said as she turned and stormed out of the room.

“She has no say in what our daughter will do. Since I am the head of this family. She can’t even put the betrothal back into place either. She can make her wishes known, of course. But in the end, the decision is mine and A-Li’s. She is determined to never be near Jin Zixuan at all,” he said as he looked at Lan Xichen, “My apologies for what you had to witness.”

“It’s fine,” he nodded, “Though I do ask your blessing to ask her to allow my courtship. I’ve admired her greatly for a number of years, and would love the chance to get to know her some more, and maybe to even marry her if she feels the same.”

Jiang Fengmian smiled, “I give you my blessing, though it is up to A-Li if she wishes to go through with the courtship.”

“Then I thank you for the blessing and later after dinner, I will ask her to speak with me,” Lan Xichen said as he rose from where he had been seated.

“That is fine, I shall show you to your room now,” Jiang Fengmian said as he too got up and led the way.

XxXxX

Jiang Yanli smiled as she finished the food, putting it into the dishes, she activated the talisman that would keep everything hot until it was served. She turned just in time to see her mother striding into the kitchen, “Mother,” she greeted, her voice gentle and curious.

“A-Li, you will be marrying Jin Zixuan,” she informed her daughter.

Jiang Yanli’s smile dropped from her face, “No, I will not,” she told her mother, finally standing up to the woman. She shook her head, “I will not be marrying that little… rat,” she said, taking a breath, “I will not marry someone that can’t understand basic human compassion. Who only thinks of himself and no other.”

“He will grow up. You will be able to help him to grow up and change into a good man,” she told her daughter, taking a step towards her.

“I will not marry him, mother, no matter what. I would rather be left out on the streets than to be with him,” she shook her head, “I am not going to marry him. I will never marry him. He is more delicate than a… a princess!” she yelled out. “He demands to be treated like a prince all the time. He expects everyone around him to get out of his way because he is Jin Fucking Zixuan. And I will not bow before him, in any way. He didn’t like it when I stood up to him, he hated it and lashed out at me, at my brothers. I will never marry someone who doesn’t have an ounce of respect for those around me,” she told her mother, staring at her. “If you want me to be miserable, then fine. Then from this moment on, you are no mother to me!” she told her as she walked past her and out of the kitchen.

“A-Li!” she called to her, “I’m trying to make sure that you will be well taken care of, why can’t you see that?” she asked.

“No, you’re not. You’re trying to make me as miserable as you are in your marriage. But father has at least tried with you. And you do nothing but rebuff him all the time. He tried to treat you like a Queen, and you think he is treating you like trash. You are so much like Jin Zixuan, thinking only of yourself and your own desires. You don’t care about the hurt you are causing to those in your own family. Father loves you, and you’ve hated him since I could remember,” She told her, turning to face her for a moment, “I think you need to take a good and long look in the mirror mother and find out what exactly is staring back at you,” she told her as she turned and walked out of the room. Clutching at her chest, at the hurt she was feeling at her mother’s callous words.

Madam Yu stood there and watched her go, hut in her eyes as her daughter turned away from her. No one seemed to understand that she was only trying to make the best for her family. What she didn’t understand was that her own attitude of always believing what she thought was true, had turned most of the family away from her, no matter what she did.

Chapter Twenty

Jiang Fengmian looked at the full dining hall. Lan Xichen and Lan Zhan were eating with them tonight. The others were all talking happily, though the two Lan were silent. Though there was one thing hanging over them and that was the sour look that was on Madam Yu’s face. He had been told of what had happened in the kitchen by his very irate daughter. Demanding that he not listen to his wife, as she wanted to make her own choices on who she would marry from now on. Her choice had been made not a few moments later when she accepted the courtship from Lan Xichen.

“We’ve received a missive from the Wen Sect,” he said, interrupting the joyful talk as Jiang Yanli told of the courtship gifts that she had received. The new silver comb was already in her hair, shining in the light that was coming through the windows of the room.

“Oh, and what doesn’t the glorious Wen Sect want this time?” Madam Yu snapped, glaring at him.

“There is to be another discussion conference,” he said mildly, ignoring the anger that was directed at him. He had ample time to get used to it, and he had become immune to the glares and the snappish attitude of his wife. He paused a moment before finishing, “They are going to be going through the competitions for the Young Master’s List as well. it hasn’t been done in the last couple of years. So, they have decided that it was time to do so again.”

“Good,” Wei Ying grinned from where he was sitting near Lan Zhan.

Jiang Cheng laughed, “Yeah,” he nodded, looking at his brother, the two of them radiating mischief. Only the two Lans knew what they were up to.

“It’s not like either of you will rise any higher,” Madam Yu sneered at both her son and Wei Ying, “Neither of you care to improve yourselves at all,” she said, “It’s a waste of time. Everyone knows that the list is going to remain the same. It hasn’t changed the last two times the competitions were run,” she huffed as she went back to eating.

“That may be so, but it gives the boys some time to work on their pursuits,” Jiang Fengmian said as he looked at his wife as she put down her chopsticks and rose from her spot.

“Pointless,” she repeated as she turned and walked from the room.

“Mother is still not happy that I have refused to even think of agreeing with her choices for my life,” Jiang Yanli said softly.

“Then she can go and marry him herself,” Wei Ying huffed as he smiled at his sister, “If she’s so determined to have the connection to her sworn sister in that way. Then she can put up with the Peacock.”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan said gently.

“I know, don’t speak ill of others. But is it really fair that he has disregarded my shijie’s feelings all the time? I wouldn’t mind him actually apologizing for his actions. She deserves that at the very least,” Wei Ying said as he glanced over at Lan Zhan.

“Mn,” he nodded, “he should apologise,” he agreed easily.

“See,” Wei Ying grinned as he looked at Jiang Yanli, “You deserve the very best in this world, Shijie,” he told her.

“And we both agree that the First Jade of Lan is one of the very best,” Jiang Cheng added, smiling at her, “If not the best.”

“No, Lan Zhan’s the best,” Wei Ying argued, “She has to have second, sorry Shijie,” he grinned as he looked at her.

Jiang Yanli laughed brightly as her brothers began to fight over which Lan was the best. With a shake of her head, she finally intervened, “To A-Xian, Lan Wangji is the best. But to me, A-Chen is the best,” she said with a gentle smile on her face as she looked towards the now blushing First Jade of Lan.

“To me, you are the best person around,” he returned the compliment, “As I’ve said, I’ve admired you for some time, I’m glad that I’m finally having a chance to truly get to know you,” he smiled at her.

“And I you,” she said, giggling a little as she covered her mouth with her sleeve.

“This is sickening,” Jiang Cheng muttered as he then noticed that Wei Ying was now right next to Lan Zhan again and talking to him. Though it was a little too close to just be a talk.

“It is love,” Jiang Fengmian told his son, with a light smile, “Maybe one day you will find someone that you will love as deeply and truly as they do each other.”

“I’ll leave that to them,” he pulled a face at the thought of having to find someone to love and marry, “At least they are leaving in two days, and I won’t have to put up with it any longer,” he grumbled under his breath.

Wei Ying glared at him, “I don’t want Lan Zhan to leave, Uncle Jiang, can’t they stay a little longer?” he asked him, glancing towards the Jiang Sect Leader.

“Unfortunately, Wei Wuxian, we’re going to have to go. I wish we could remain longer, but with the conference coming. Well, we’ll need to prepare for it as well,” Lan Xichen said softly.

“Yeah,” he muttered, “Which reminds me I need to message Nie-Xiong, see how things are going for him. Yao-ge is training him hard. He’s so annoyed with it all,” he grinned, a light of mischief in his eyes as he spoke.

“I take it that young Nie Huaisang isn’t having a very pleasant time after he returned home?” Lan Xichen asked him, smirking slightly.

Wei Ying shook his head, “Nope. Yao-ge has taken to drilling him with something each day, to make sure that he is getting better. And I sent over a few tips for the archery one as well. Yao-ge has reported that he’s doing really well with it. Even Sect Leader Nie is impressed with how much he’s improved,” he grinned, “Jiang Cheng and I have been training like mad as well.”

“I’ve seen,” he nodded, impressed with how well they were doing. He had even joined in a few times with them. It was nice to practice his skills with others. Most of the time, he and his brother would train alone. Giving them the aloof air that they were mostly praised for.

“What are you all up to?” Jiang Fengmian asked as he had been listening to the conversation going on around him.

Jiang Cheng turned to him, “Wait until the conference and the Young Master competitions,” he grinned at him, “And then you’ll know,” his grinned growing into a smirk.

Jiang Fengmian shook his head at the group and left it, “All right, I’ll leave it be. But try not to cause too much trouble,” he warned them gently.

“And if we do, don’t get caught,” Wei Ying added with a nod and a grin at his brother.

“Yes, that,” Jiang Fengmian snorted as he stood, “I shall leave you all be, have fun,” he told them. He knew that he could trust Jiang Cheng to keep an eye on the two couples.

XxXxX

Two days later Lan Zhan and Lan Xichen left. Wei Ying moped around for most of the day after they had gone. Then the very next day, he was back to normal and sending as many messages as he could to Lan Zhan. And everywhere that the Jiang Head Disciple went, cute little bunnies would pop up to give him a message back. The same could be said for Jiang Yanli. A bunny would suddenly appear by her side before she had dinner with everyone, and she would send a little purple dragonfly back. A happy smile on her face.

The two brothers went back to their training in getting ready for the conference. They wanted to make sure that Jin Zixuan was as far down that list as possible. They even took to training the other disciples that would be taking part in the Young Master List. Just in case they could bump him down a little bit more.

Messages flew from Gusu to Qinghe, from Qinghe to Lotus Pier and back again as they all kept in touch with what they were doing. Though Nie Mingjue had sent a letter and a large thank you gift to Wei Ying. Wei Ying had looked at the gifts. Shocked that he would even receive anything. He had only helped out because he wanted to help his friend. To make sure that his sworn brothers would be able to keep the one they loved so much alive and well.

“What is all that?” Madam Yu asked as she glanced at the things that were in front of Wei Ying.

“A letter from Sect Leader Nie,” he answered her, “And a gift of thanks,” he added, as he glanced at the letter again, shaking his head.

“And why would someone that prominent be sending a gift to you? You’re a servant of this household,” she sneered at him.

Wei Ying ignored her as he began to read through the letter. “It’s the Qi Deviation problem of the Nie Sect that I helped to solve,” he said absently.

“And how would someone like you even think to help them!?” Madam Yu exclaimed, not believing it for a second, “I’ve no doubt that you just took someone else’s idea and passed it off as your own,” she snapped at him.

“No, he solved it himself,” Jiang Cheng said, going against his mother’s words, “I watched him go through all the research into it, and even going to the Nie Sect Disciples and asking them to teach him their forms and that with the sabre,” he said, looking with pride at his brother.

“They’ve had no more problems with Qi Deviation since, and most of their symptoms, with the help of the Lan Clan’s musical cultivation, have lessened as well,” he grinned, “it really did work. It worked!” he laughed as he looked at Jiang Cheng, “Now Sang-erge won’t have to worry about using his sabre.”

“Don’t know if Nie-Xiong would be happy about that,” Jiang Cheng said drylining, rolling his eyes.

“True,” Wei Ying laughed, “But at least it’s done and he doesn’t have to worry about Sect Leader Nie now. Yao-ge must be really happy about that as well. I know he was scared about something happening to him as well,” he said with a soft smile appearing on his face as he thought of his sworn brothers.

“Considering that the two of them are together, then yeah, he would be happy,” he nodded in agreement. Both of them ignored the woman in the room and the door opening.

“Well done A-Ying,” Jiang Fengmian nodded at him as he walked over.

“How could you let that rat show you up?!” Madam Yu snapped at her son instead of congratulating Wei Ying, “It should be you that would get the praise. it should be you to think these things up. Why are you so-”

“My Lady, that is enough,” Jiang Fengmian yelled as he looked at her in shock “A-Cheng had done well for himself too. He has been able to train the disciples even more,” he told her.

“Jiang Cheng is getting stronger each time. He worked extra hard too,” Wei Ying nodded, thinking of the sparring that they do each day.

“And you still beat him, you really don’t know your place,” she sneered at him.

Wei Ying stood up, “If you don’t mind Uncle Jiang, I think I will have dinner elsewhere for now. I’d rather not be in a room with a woman that had done nothing but blame a child for her own failing,” he said as he turned around and walked out before Madam Yu could even respond to him.

“How dare that… that…” Madam Yu raged, Zidian crackling around her wrist.

“And what has he said that is false mother,” Jiang Yanli asked her, “You have taken the fact that he is Aunt Cangse and Uncle Wei’s child out on him from the moment he stepped into Lotus Pier. Into his home.”

“You compare us all the time. But you don’t ever see what I’ve actually done. Or what he has done as separate. My strengths lie elsewhere, and that was proven to me time and again. Yes, Wuxian is better than me. But he has trained so much more so he can better teach us,” Jiang Cheng said as he and Jiang Yanli stood from where they had sat down for dinner and walked out. They had both had enough of a woman that has continued to belittle one of their family members.

Jiang Fengmian watched them go and nodded. “They are right, you know. You haven’t changed a bit since I’ve known you. Always jealous of others but never seeing what it is that you actually have in your life. We have two beautiful and wonderful children. And you fail to see it,” he told her with a deep sigh. He got up, “I think I will join them for dinner, you may enjoy yours alone,” he told her, as followed his children out of the room. He had enough of her belittling them all the time. He had put up with it for so long, but now he was done. He wanted them to be happy, and she didn’t help them at all. Madam Yu was left behind, alone in a room with a meal not even touched by her family. Anger boiled in her heart and mind as she looked around.


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