Life’s Final Star is Brotherhood – 4/5 – 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 Thirty-One

Wei Ying shuddered as he could feel the push from the resentful energy that was swarming around the burial mounds. It was sneaking around him, teasing him, testing him. As though it was waiting for something so it could make its home within Wei Ying himself. Wei Ying shuddered as he started to hear the spirits that were merged within it. Just like with the Waterborne Abyss, it was pushing against him, pulling his mind. He could feel his mind starting to cloud over.

“Come one, give into us!”

“You wish for the strength to protect them, then take us in!”

“We can help you, we can make you stronger than your enemies!”

“We can help you protect those you love!”

Wei Ying could hear the voices as they got stronger in his mind. Trying to get to him, trying to confuse him. He shook his head and with what he could, he concentrated on the bell that was hanging by his side. Hoping that he could use just a sliver of his Qi to get it to ring. He knew that only a little bit of Qi would help. He struggled against the seal again and again. He could feel it bending a little, just a little.

“Yes!” he crowed as the Jiang Bell started to ring. The resentful energy that was trying to get into his mind was forced away. Leaving his thoughts to be nothing but clear. “I did it,” he grinned, happy that he had managed to get his bell to work. He settled down, knowing that while he was hungry and thirsty, he would at least be able to keep his mind safe from the resentful energy that was surrounding him.

The jingling of the bell was the only thing to occupy his time. Knowing that it would continue to ring for a while without him having to try and send a little more energy to it.

“Bored,” he muttered as he glanced around. He frowned a little as he began to concentrate on the energy around him again. He wondered if something could be done about it. He pulls on the energy around him, as he had done with the Waterborne Abyss. it was there, little tendrils all tied together, just like the Waterborne Abyss. He could do it, he knew he could. But he would need a lot more help, as soon as he started to break it down, he wouldn’t be able to stop. The dead that called it their home would want to attack, to try and protect themselves. Like the Waterborne Abyss that was made up of the dead that had drowned and gathered. The ones in the Burial Mounds were the murdered and the forgotten, tossed in there to never be thought of again.

Some were crying out for release, for freedom. Others wanted revenge, and a few just wanted to live still, even though they were dead. He left the energy where it was, not wanting to disturb it any more than it already was. He didn’t want to take the chance that he would start something that would put the town in danger. There were innocent people there still. No matter that the Wen’s had taken over.

Time ticked by slowly for Wei Ying and he was getting really bored. He had already redone the bell so that it was ringing nicely and loudly around him. Keeping his mind clear still. He could feel the spirits that were coming near him, some of them were more curious now. They didn’t push on him as most of them did. He wondered if he could do something to help the more curious ones, the hopeful ones.

“Do you want some help?” he called out, seeing if the spirit would come closer. Hoping that it would be able to understand him. There were things that could be used to speak with spirits. Mainly the guqin that the Lan Sect used. It was dangerous to speak with the spirits without something to aid them. This was because they were giving permission to the spirits to open a channel to their minds to get what they wanted across. Using the guqin stopped that danger. Corpses were easier to help because as soon as they were killed the spirit was free to move on. Empathy always had the danger of losing one’s mind in the past of a spirit.

One of the spirits came closer, brushing against the barrier that was protecting him. Wei Ying struggled a little, able to bring a hand just outside of it. The spirit latched onto it and the world around him changed.

XxXxX

A young woman smiled brightly at him, the red of her robes that she was putting away telling him that they were just married. “Can you believe it, married. We’re married and now we have our entire life together,” she told him, laughing lightly.

“I know,” he answered her, feeling a burst of joy fill him. He had looked forward to this day for such a long time. He moved closer to her, “Do you think we’ll be blessed with children soon?” he asked her, holding her in his arms as he breathed in the scent of jasmine that tended to cling to her.

“I’m hoping so,” she turned in his arms, “All I want is to be with you all my life. For us to have children and to be blessed with a long and happy life together. That… that is my hope and my dream,” she sighed happily.

XxXxX

It looked like some time had passed from the first scene. The young woman was now sitting on a chair, a baby in her arms and another by her feet. He walked over, the happiness and love he held for her was still there, though even larger than before.

“He came again,” she told him, fear in her voice as she looked up, “he won’t leave me alone. I’m so scared, A-Tao, so scared of what he would do to me and the children. He tried to grab A-Xiu, I was only just able to stop him from walking away with her,” she said, her voice now shaking as he took her into his arms and held her gently.

“I’ll speak with people again, see if they will do anything against him,” he told her, promising her that he would try something. “We can always go back to Lotus Pier if you wish. I’ll send you and the children ahead of time. Make sure that you’re safe A-Ju. You and those two are my life, I don’t want anything to happen to any of you. My sister and her husband are still in Lotus Pier. They’ll understand why you’ll be joining them there,” he said softly, moving back to look at her.

“I’ll go,” she agreed, “We’ll go,” she added, looking at him hopefully.

“You will go ahead of me. I’ll follow as soon as I’ve finished with things here,” he told her.

“Okay,” she smiled, happy that they would be getting away from the one that was trying to pursue her.

XxXxX

He watched as his wife and children left to go back to Lotus Pier. Their original home before they married. They had hoped to find a good place in Yiling to set up shop and to carry on the family business with another Inn in the town.

“How could you send her away!” a voice came from behind him.

He turned, seeing the man that had been trying to harm his wife standing there, “Deng Hai,” he growled, “She is away from you, the man that has tried to force her from my side, that has tried to kidnap my children!” he shouted. He made sure that they would all hear his words. “You have done nothing but try to harm her. So, I’ve sent her home so that I can keep her safe from you. We have asked you to leave us alone several times and you didn’t. You even tried to force yourself into our home!”

“She would be better off with me. She is a rare beauty that doesn’t belong to someone as pathetic as you,” Deng Hai sneered at him, not caring how around him heard him.

“Doesn’t matter, she chose me. She didn’t even know you existed until you started to bother her after we were married,” he told him, “Now leave me alone,” he said as he brushed past him to return to his home. He had a few more things that he needed to pack and send them on. He didn’t know that the man had followed him. The last thing he saw was one of the toys that belonged to his four-month-old son, Song Zhong.

XxXxX

Wei Ying jolted as he came back to himself, “Your son is Song Zhong?” he asked him softly, as the spirit called the barrier around him. A jolt went through him in answer. “He has a sister, Song Meixiu?” he asked, getting another positive answer from the spirit.

Wei Ying nodded and smiled sadly, “She works at the inn in Lotus Pier with her mother. She’s always there smiling. Your wife never remarried. She works with the owners of the Petal Inn. Song Zhong, he joined the Jiang Sect as a disciple when he was six. He’s a junior now, thirteen and good. He has a sword and courtesy name. He’s doing really well, but he has told me that he didn’t know what happened to his father. That he just didn’t come with them to Lotus Pier. I take it that the man there killed you?” he asked, waiting for an answer of some kind.

“Yes,” came a breath near him, “Threw me in here,” he added.

“Thank you for telling me. When I see them, I’ll tell them what happened,” he promised. He could feel the thanks in the air as the spirit faded away. In his hand was now a small trinket. He turned to look, it was a simple jade pendant, but he had a feeling it would mean something to the family when he got the chance to give it to them. He smiled as he wondered if there were any more, he could help. He may as well do something a little production and to pass the time. Maybe he’ll never be able to get one that would be able to help him get free. The bindings around him were slightly loose now. But not enough for him to get out of them just yet.

He sighed, he was in for a long night. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep at all while he was trapped there. The bell could stop ringing and he would be in trouble then. He looked around, waiting for another spirit to come towards him, hoping that doing this would help. “Can you free me at all?” he called out, hoping that a spirit would be able to get close enough to do so, even with the barrier. A spirit could manipulate the objects around them if they were strong enough. Though those that were, were mostly the ones that would contain the most resentful energy.

Spirits came to him, and like the first one, they told him their stories of how they ended up in the Burial Mounds. He listened to each of them, a few of them left a little something behind, like the first one. But most of them didn’t. He could feel some of them move on and the hostile aura that was being given off started to lesson around him. Though the ropes didn’t give way enough for him to get free at all.

It was as the morning sun rose that the bell stopped ringing. Before he could even start it again, he glanced around and could see Wen Zhuliu walking towards him. Wei Ying hadn’t managed to get free. Though some of the spirits had helped him put the trinkets within his robes, hiding them away. He just hoped he would be able to get out and take them to the families that were waiting for news.

“Well, how was your night?” he asked, smirking at the young man.

“Well, it was a little drafty, but the company here was a lot better than you,” he told him. A smirk grew on his face as Wen Zhuliu stared at him. “They are quite friendly here,” he added, laughing a little at the shock that quickly appeared and then disappeared from his face.

“You’ll be laughing for a different reason soon enough,” he growled, grabbing for Wei Ying after he dismantled the warding around him. He ripped the talisman that was on him off, though it was barely attached to him. He pulled him from the ground, keeping his wrists tied but cutting away the ones on his legs. He walked through the bottom of the Burial Mounds and headed into the town. There were only a couple of people around at that time of day, but the same thing happened. He was stared at for a second before they looked away, scared out of their mind.

Wei Ying would find no help from the general populace of Yiling. But he couldn’t really blame them for that. Since they were under the supervision of the Wen Sect at the moment. Yiling was on the border between the Yunmeng Jiang Sect and the Qishan Wen Sect. It was supposed to be a village of neutrality, which was why the Burial Mounds were getting as bad as they were. Wei Ying was taken back down to the basement and thrown down the last few stairs into it. Once more he was locked in there alone.

Chapter Thirty-Two

Wei Ying slept a little while he was alone. Only to wake up when a bucket of icy water was thrown over him. He gasped awake, eye wide as he looked around. He saw Wen Zhuliu and then another standing beside him. This one wasn’t in Wen Disciple clothing, but it did look like some kind of uniform to Wei Ying. The cloak shrouded them in mystery, and the hood that covered their head stopped Wei Ying from being able to see who the person actually was.

“What, selling me out to someone else now are you?” he sneered at Wen Zhuliu, shaking himself a little to get rid of the water that was in his eyes.

“Not really, just… outsourcing for a little extra help,” Wen Zhuliu grinned, “Everyone has their breaking point after all,” he added with a shrug as he glanced at the other person in the room.

“That is true,” the person in the room with them said. Wei Ying couldn’t tell if the person was male or female. “All we need to do is find it and exploit it,” they chuckled darkly, “Now that we’ve seen that small beatings aren’t going to cut it, haven’t we?” they added as they stepped closer. The person was shrouded in darkness, obscuring them from view as much as the cloak was doing so.

“No, it isn’t. I would crush his core but Sect Leader Wen is right. He’ll be more useful with it than without it. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get to play with him a little,” he chuckled darkly as he grabbed Wei Ying’s chin and stared at him in the eyes. “He will break, and then he’ll be ours, just ours,” he said.

“That he will,” the person said once more, as they turned to look at Wen Zhuliu, “You should make a start on breaking him. We do not know how much time we have left,” they reminded him.

“Yeah,” he nodded, “We don’t,” he muttered as he began to pull Wei Ying to his feet, using the binding on his arm, he straightened the man up and then hung him from a hook in the ceiling. “Now, we’re going to have some fun. You want to know what it feels like for your core to start to leave your body?” he asked him, smirking, eyes alight with joy as he pressed his hand towards Wei Ying’s dantian.

Wei Ying couldn’t help but cry out as he felt the energy bursting into his core. It burned, he could feel the energy starting to lesson around it and it just hurt. Then it stopped. He hung there breathing hard as he looked down at the floor. His core was still there, no longer sealed away. It was still there and he felt like he could cry when he felt it. But he didn’t, he stopped himself. He couldn’t, he just couldn’t let them know that it was harming him. That it was hurting him. He wouldn’t give them that at all.

Wei Ying closed his eyes as he saw the hand go towards him again. He felt the same burst of energy, this time it was a little stronger. The burning feeling from his core as he tried to fight the foreign Spiritual Energy that was threatening to take his core from his body. He could feel it move, away from where it should be and he shuddered, not wanting to cry out again. He bit his lip. He knew that they wouldn’t take his core at the moment. But that didn’t mean that they couldn’t play with it. That they couldn’t take it away a little and then let it settle back within his dantian.

“Well, he’s taking this better than I thought he would,” the person sneered from behind Wen Zhuliu.

“There’s nothing else that I can do with this,” he muttered, “I think we might need to go with the other plan,” he said as he stood up. He had tried a few more times in pulling Wei Ying’s core away. But nothing had worked, sometimes there was a little cry of pain. But when he looked into the young man’s eyes, there was still determination in them. He wasn’t breaking, not like most others would have done at this point.

“Then you do that. I need to return before I am missed,” they said as they started to head out of the room.

“I’ll keep you updated with how things are going here,” he said to them as he followed them a little.

“Do so, I don’t like failure,” they reminded him.

“Of course not,” he smirked, “I don’t fail.”

“That’s true, you haven’t failed me once,” they nodded as they left the room and headed out.

Wen Zhuliu turned to him, “Now which one should I take. The lovely little Jiang Yanli or that Jiang Wanyin?” he muttered, smirking as he finally saw a flash of something go over Wei Ying’s face. “One of them is going to be joining you in here. But then again, you would want to protect them both. But Jiang Yanli, that woman… she would be the main weakness,” he said, laughing when he saw the fear in Wei Ying’s eyes. That was what he was after, the weakness of the man before him.

“You touch either of them and I will kill you. I will make sure that your last moments in this world will be the worst you will have ever felt,” he warned him, eyes flashing as he wanted nothing more than to attack and kill the man in front of him. Make him feel pain and worse before erasing him.

“You won’t ever get the chance to, boy,” he said as he then began to beat him. Wei Ying didn’t reach as he hung there. Swinging around a few times as his body hummed in pain with each hit to his body.

“Sick fuck!” he yelled out as he spat out some blood, aiming for Wen Zhuliu.

“Well, I have to take my frustrations out on someone, and really you’re just an easy target at the moment,” he snorted as he moved away after punching him one last time. He grabbed something and wiped the blood and spit from his robe, “We’ll heal you up and then I may get started into bringing Jiang Yanli here. Wonder what she would be like,” he smirked, lust in his eyes. Wei Ying’s imagination easily filled in what the man was going to do to his Shijie.

“You touch her and you will die, no matter what,” he muttered darkly as the man walked away from him.

XxXxX

It was a little while later that Wen Qing was brought into the room again. She was left alone with him, as Wei Ying hung there limply. “He beat you again?” she asked him as she started to work on healing him. She was pleased that she found his core to be unsealed this time.

“He didn’t seal it up this time,” he murmured, “Don’t think he expects me to be able to do anything,” he added bitterly.

“Good, let’s see if I can keep him away from you for a little longer,” she told him, leaning a little closer, “I’ve sent word to them, but I don’t know when they will be here. A-Ning is keeping an eye out for them. Hoping that he would be able to find them before they can get into the village.”

“Right, best for them to make a plan before doing anything,” he nodded, agreeing with her, “Heal me up as much as you can. I want to make sure that I’m going to be fit enough to fight if needed,” he said, looking down at her.

“I will,” she agreed easily, “I want you to help me get some people out of here. Wen Ruohan will try and harm them. A-Ning especially. I just want them somewhere safe,” she told him, her eyes almost pleading with him.

“At the moment nowhere might be safe,” he said softly, “But I’ll see what I can do. Tell them all to get things ready so they can leave at a moment’s notice. We’ll have to try some of the other Sects to see if they would be able to take them in for a bit,” he sighed softly as he felt his body healing a little. His core helped the woman as she began to do what she could in speeding things up.

“Thank you,” she told him, “Thank you, just… please keep A-Ning safe,” she murmured, “He’s the youngest one of us at the moment,” she added, “There is also a woman with him. She needs to be kept safe as well,” he finished quietly.

“I’ll do what I can,” he promised her, hoping that he would be able to do something to help.

“She’s pregnant, Wei Wuxian, only a few months along, but she’s fearful for her life. She came to me, sent away to get her out of a bad situation,” she told him, not giving him any more details about the woman.

“Right, I don’t care about where they came from. They need help and I’ll try and do what I can to keep them safe,” he promised her again. Nodding a few times as he wished that he could be taken down. He knew that Wen Qing wouldn’t have the strength to do so. But he needed to get down.

“Right,” she said back as she finished. Standing up straight she looked at him “You’re healed up as much as I can,” she told him, “I’m going to get out of here and wait for them, and tell everyone else to get ready to move out quickly,” she finished quietly as she went towards the door.

She banged on it a few times and waited. The door soon opened and Wen Zhuliu stood there, glaring at her.

“You’re done, I take it?” he asked her.

“I am,” she nodded.

“Good, get out of here. Hopefully, he gives in soon, or he’ll be needing your help again,” he sneered as he watched the woman leave. He didn’t like her, she was favoured by Wen Ruohan too much but he hadn’t found out why that was yet.

Wen Qing walked out of the building and towards her own official home that was set up in Yiling. She walked inside, seeing her brother waiting for her, “I thought you were going to wait out there for them to arrive?” she asked him, shaking her head and walked over, making sure that he was alright.

“I’m fine jiejie,” he smiled innocently, “I went and had a look around. They haven’t shown up yet. But that might be more because they are waiting for something,” he sighed, “Do you think they got the message?” he asked her, worried that it could have been intercepted by someone else.

“I know they would have got it. Uncle three is one of the best when it comes to getting into and out of places. He would have found them and got it to them quickly,” she reassured him, hugging him tightly for a moment before letting him go. “Wei Wuxian has told me that we should start getting everyone ready to leave Yiling at any moment,” she added.

“Leave?” he asked, frowning up at her.

“Yes, leave. Being here is going to bring Sect Leaders’ eyes towards us, and we can’t let that happen at the moment. Not with the way he’s acting,” she said, worried about the young woman that was now in her care.

“Then… I’ll start spreading the word that we could be leaving soon,” he nodded, smiling at his sister.

“It might be best to split people up and to choose another name to go by while we wait for the all-clear,” she sighed, trying to think of ways that she would be able to save her people. Most of them had been dragged from their mountain home in Defan to live within Yiling. No one wanted to be there, they all wanted their mountain again. But Wen Ruohan wanted them split up so he could control them better.

Wen Qing sat at her table, head in her hands for a moment before she glanced up, watching as her brother left the safety of their small home. He was to tell all the Wen of the branch family that they were to pack things up and to wait for the signal to leave. She was startled as a small bunny appeared in front of her. It went over to her and waited. She reached down to touch it and almost jumped back when it started to nibble on her hand. In her mind, she could hear a voice.

“We are on the outskirts of Yiling, near the back entrance of the village. Near the brothel,” was the steady voice that echoed in her mind for a moment. She didn’t recognise it at all, but it was soft and steady, someone who spoke with confidence. She closed her eyes for a moment and then almost fell out of her chance when she felt the bunny burst into sparks as she glanced down. There was no trace of the messenger now.

She stood up and walked over to the wall. Picking up her darkest cloak she covered herself up so nothing of her Wen robes would shop. It wouldn’t do for people to see her as she left. She needed to talk to those that had sent the message. Stepped out into the sun, she headed to where the group said they were waiting.

Chapter Thirty-Three

Wen Qing walked quickly to where they were hiding. She stopped for a moment as she spotted a young man standing there, he looked plain, his hair was mostly loose down his back. His grey and brown robes easily fit in with the dullness of those around him. He turned around and spotted the woman. A little smirk appeared on his face as he walked over, “Wen Qing,” he greeted her with a small bow, trying not to draw too much attention to himself.

“You know me?” she asked him, eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“I do,” he nodded, straightening up, “How can I not know one of the youngest and a genius doctor,” he told her, “My brother, I have no doubt has had need of your services while in the care of your Sect,” he said, hinting slightly as to who he was.

“You’re not the voice with the bunny,” she said, still wary of the man before her.

The man smiled, “No, I’m not. He would be… rather obvious if he stepped out here,” he said as he glanced around, “I’m more able to blend into these types of places that those with me,” he told her, “My name is Meng Yao, one of Wei Wuxian’s sworn brothers,” he told her, “come, I’m the only one that is actually within the village at the moment. I was going to go and find you if you hadn’t shown up soon,” he told her, “The others are in the forest surrounding it,” he added as he began to move.

She quickly followed him, but her hand had her needles at the ready should she need them, “I can’t be gone too long,” she warned him, “My absence will be noticed.”

“That’s fine,” he agreed with her, talking her through a few alleys as they exited the village through a broken part of the wall that surrounded it.

It didn’t take them long to meet with the others that had come with Meng Yao. There were a couple of Nie and Lan disciples standing off to one side. Though what shocked her was there were no Jiang Disciples with them. Though the heir of the Jiang Sect was there, pacing with worry etched on his face. The group spotted them and a man in white stepped towards her.

“I am Lan Wangji,” Lan Zhan said as he bowed, “These are Nie Huaisang,” who quickly waved a fan and then bowed to her, “And Jiang Wanyin,” he added, gesturing to the pacing man.

“Wen Qing,” she bowed back, “I’ve treated Wei Wuxian twice for what has been done to him. I’ve healed him up as best as I can this time. But I don’t know if he will be beaten again before we can get to him,” she warned them.

“What do they want from him?” Nie Huaisang asked her, eyes wide as he fluttered his fan in front of his face.

“They wanted him to join the Wen Sect,” she answered him easily, “But there is something more going on,” she told them all, “Someone else was with them yesterday. I don’t know who they were, they left just before I was able to go in,” she added.

“Right,” Nie Huaisang nodded, “I have a plan,” he smirked, “But I need to know who is around the building and which one?” he then asked Wen Qing.

“There are five Wen disciples with Wen Zhuliu. That’s all, the rest of the Wen’s in the village are part of my Branch. We’re healers, artisans and such, nothing more,” she told them as she began to give them the layout of the building. Using the ground and a stick to draw it out.

“Right,” Nie Huaisang nodded, “Then this is what we’re going to be doing,” he said as he began to outline the plan that he had already started thinking about.

“I need to go,” Wen Qing said suddenly, “I’ll go there as soon as I get the signal from you,” she added as she began to hurry back.

“Be safe,” Meng Yao told her.

“As long as Wei Wuxian’s promise is kept and that my people are taken in somewhere and kept safe, I will do all I can to help you. They are my priority,” she told them all.

“We understand,” Lan Zhan nodded, “Will message brother about doing so,” he added. Nie Huaisang nodded and promised to do the same. One of the places would be able to take them in. Even if they were to be settled into the nearby town and not the Sect itself. They would still be safe.

“Thank you,” she bowed to them once more before rushing off. The sun was now beginning to descend.

XxXxX

Lan Zhan went with the others, the signal had gone out and so far, they had been able to take down two of the guards that patrolled the building. They entered silently, Meng Yao and Wen Qing began to fight as Wen Zhuliu came out of the basement. The man went straight towards Lan Zhan and Jiang Cheng and the three of them began to fight. The two of them were doing their best to keep out of the way as they fought. Neither of them wanted to lose their core at that moment in time. Not with Wei Ying in danger.

Nie Huaisang looked at them and began to move around them. Meng Yao and Wen Qing stopped as the two guards they had been fighting were suddenly dead. Both of them had moved too close to where Lan Zhan and Jiang Cheng were fighting and had been taken down before they could do anything. The three of them headed down to the basement and found Wei Ying still hanging there, his breathing was hard and rough. The young man had been beaten again. They slowly helped him down.

“Took you guys long enough,” Wei Ying laughed lightly as he leaned against Meng Yao, grateful that he was now down on the floor again.

“Lan Wangji and Jiang Wanyin are fighting Wen Zhuliu,” Nie Huaisang told him before he could even ask. He knew that the two of them would have followed him and tried to find Wei Ying if they weren’t busy.

“We need to help them, he will just crush their cores. He’s… he really likes to harm people. He was telling me of the things that he was going to do to… to Shijie should he get near her,” he shuddered, glad that the man wouldn’t get the chance to, as long as they found a way to get rid of Wen Zhuliu.

“Come on then,” Men Yao said as Wen Qing finished doing a small patch-up job. He helped Wei Ying to his feet.

Wei Ying swayed a little, “I’m fine,” he said before any of them could say anything.

“You should rest here instead, we can deal with thi-” Wen Qing began only to be interrupted by the last of the guards that were left coming into the room. Meng Yao jumped to his feet, a cold look on his face as he was easily able to kill the man before he could do much of anything.

“You’re getting really good,” Wei Ying remarked as he patted him on the shoulder.

Meng Yao nodded, shaking a little, as he hadn’t taken someone’s life before now, the two guards upstairs had been killed by Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan in the end when the two men got in their way as they fought Wen Zhuliu. “I… I do not wish to become a monster,” he murmured, “I fear that I will sometimes. It’s there you know.”

“It’s in all of us to become monsters,” Nie Huaisang told him, “It’s how we live and choose that makes us who we are.”

Meng Yao nodded, “Come, we should get out of here, that was the last of them. I fear for Lan Wangji and Jiang Wanyin,” he said as he began to head out. Not wishing to think any more of what he had just done.

Wei Ying nodded and agreed with him as he followed him out. The first thing he saw when he reached the two was Wen Zhuliu, Jiang Chang and Lan Zhan all fighting. The two younger ones were teaming up well enough to keep Wen Zhuliu away from them, but getting in a couple of blows. But Wei Ying could see that there was some blood on Lan Zhan’s robes. He knew that the same would be on the purple of Jiang Cheng’s if he had killed as well. There was no way either of them would have been able to escape being harmed in some way. Wen Zhuliu was a highly accomplished swordsman after all. The Lan and Nie Disciples that had come with them had been told to wait outside and protect them from a counter attack should someone come upon them.

“Hey! Wen Zhuliu!” he called out, grinning as the man gave little reaction. But there was still something. With his core free he could do something to help. He created a talisman in front of him and then pushed it. The shiny blue cord wrapped around Wen Zhuliu’s sword arm and he yanked it hard. Causing the man to spin around to face him.

Lan Zhan, seeing the opening that Wei Ying was giving them, took it. Soon enough Wen Zhuliu’s head was rolling on the floor as his body dropped to the ground.

“Well,” Jiang Cheng began grimly looking at the beheaded body, “That’s one problem taken care of.”

“Agreed,” Lan Zhan nodded, staring at Wei Ying.

“We should get you all treated,” Wen Qing said as she looked at the state of everyone.

“Would be a good idea,” Meng Yao agreed with her as she guided them to another room.

“Wei Ying?” Lan Zhan called as he went over to him, a hand on his arm and alarm in his eyes as he looked him over. Seeing all the injuries that hadn’t healed.

“I’ll be okay Lan Zhan,” he smiled at him, “Really I will,” he added as he leaned against Lan Zhan’s chest and sighed, the scent of sandalwood soothing his troubled mind.

“Right, everyone sit down and let me treat you all. Though I should go and get my supplies,” she ordered, as Lan Zhan guided Wei Ying over to a chair and sat him down. The woman moved as well, kneeling in front of the teen, since to her, Wei Ying had the most serious injuries.

“What do you need?” Nie Huaisang asked, “And is there anyone that would be able to get it for you?”

“My brother should be back in my office. it’s in another building nearby. He’ll know what to bring me,” she told him, quickly describing how to get to the building she used.

“We’ll go and get him,” Meng Yao said as he listened to exactly where her home was. He and Nie Huaisang, being the only two that were uninjured from the rescue party, left the room. Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan had been hurt, but they had easily been able to use their Spiritual Energy to stop the bleeding of their own injuries.

“Broken ribs,” she murmured as she carried on examining Wei Ying thoroughly, “You’re going to have to rest for a bit. While I can heal them again, you’re going to be in some pain for a while longer. Your body has gone through so much healing that it could become weaker at any moment. Rest and recovery will take a few days to a week at the very least, maybe even longer,” she told him, glancing up at the man.

“What do you mean?” Jiang Cheng demanded to know as he went over to hover beside Lan Zhan.

“Exactly that. I’ve healed him three times now. Each time his Qi and mind have done the healing. Speeding it up. Normally when that happens, you’re able to eat and replenish the energy and nutrients that the body has used to heal in such a manner. As well as rest to give him that time for his body to finish the healing. But he hasn’t been able to eat, and Inedia can’t be practised for this either. The body needs food to keep it going. Without it, it’s taking them from the body instead of food and causing weakness. He’ll need some time to recover. No matter what he does next,” she explained a little more as the door opened and her brother rushed inside, followed by Meng Yao and Nie Huaisang.

“Jiejie,” Wen Ning said as he went over to her and knelt, “here,” he said, handing over the small bag that contained everything that she should need.

She took in and looked inside, grabbing a few jars, “Here, drink these two, they will help you in recovering the nutrients that you’ve lost,” she said, handing them over and then going to the others and starting to heal them. Giving them one of the drinks that she had given Wei Ying, she was quick to order, “Drink them.”

“They’re going to all be fine, right?” Nie Huaisang worried, mainly looking at Wei Ying as the woman went around them.

“They will be just fine. Wei Wuxian will need some more rest than the others, but other than that, he will recover fully,” she answered him, giving him a reassuring look.

“That’s good to know,” Nie Huaisang smiled, sighing as he went over to his friend and sworn brother and sat beside him.

Meng Yao nodded in agreement, “No one outside of the building knows what has happened in here. That can work to our advantage,” he said, already thinking of the next step.

“Agreed,” Nie Huaisang nodded, “We can easily do things to make it seem like just a random attack,” he began.

“Or make it seem like I got out,” Wei Ying shrugged as he looked at the two Wen’s, “Look, we don’t really want to bring down the Wens onto any of the other sects.”

Wen Qing looked at him, “It’s going to happen no matter what. I don’t know what happened but… Wen Ruohan now wants power, he wants everyone under his command and rule,” she told them, shaking her head.

“Okay,” Wei Ying murmured, as he looked at the others. He was so tired, all he wanted to do was sleep. To have some proper sleep and maybe even something to eat as well.

“For now, we should stay here, rest and recover a little before we make our next move,” Jiang Cheng suggested, getting a nod of agreement from everyone.

“I can get you all some food and that for here,” Wen Ning said helpfully as he stood up. He was eager to help them.

“That would be nice,” Wei Ying smiled at him, “I’m really hungry. Not had anything to eat in a while,” he murmured, yawning.

“Get some food and then we can think more clearly,” Wen Qing agreed with her brother.

Wen Ning nodded and rushed out of the room. The rest of them fell into silence as Lan Zhan went over to Wei Yin and sat next to him. He let the younger man lean against him as he settled into a light doze, knowing that he was finally safe.

Chapter Thirty-Four

Wei Ying slowly came around after sleeping for a couple of hours after they had made him eat. He glanced at the others that were gathered in the room with him and smiled. They hadn’t left him. He had been half scared that they would have done so. He knew that it was just his mind playing on his fears of being left alone. “So,” he yawned as he sat up properly, leaning against Lan Zhan who was still at his side.

“We have a place, or rather the beginnings of one,” Meng Yao told him from where he was sitting at the table.

“Oh?” he asked, looking around at the others. He could see that Jiang Cheng wasn’t too happy about the plan that they were working on.

“I go undercover in the Wen Sect,” Meng Yao said, giving the basics of it.

“No,” Wei Ying was quick to shoot the idea down, shaking his head, “No, I don’t want you in danger at all,” he told him, “And you would be there. If you’re found out then you could be killed.”

“Not could,” Jiang Cheng muttered darkly, “Would. Wen Ruohan wouldn’t take what you’re doing well if he found out,” he grumbled.

“No, he wouldn’t,” Wen Qing sighed, “but it might be able to work.”

“How?” Wen Ning asked his sister, looking at her, “Uncle wouldn’t be happy,” he warned.

“We know that,” Nie Huaisang said quietly, “But, what else can we do? We need someone in there that will be able to feed us some information. Wen Qing would be able to do so as well.”

“But we need someone that doesn’t really have ties to people,” Meng Yao argued, “And while I and Mingjue are together,” he murmured, “I don’t really have anyone else that knows me but those in this room,” he finished with a heavy sigh, “I’m the most logical choice.”

“They wanted me to join them,” Wei Ying said, “Maybe… maybe we could use that instead,” he suggested looking around.

“No,” Nie Huaisang was quick to shoot the idea down, “You’ll be under threat to do things, to make them things. Even do what you did to the Waterborne Abyss again,” he warned him shaking his head, “You need to keep away from them. They may try again and take you. We need to make sure that they won’t be able to.”

Wei Ying sighed, closing his eyes, “I don’t want anyone in danger. I know you don’t want me in danger either,” he sighed, understanding where they were coming from. “But letting you go in there… do you really think it would be safe for you?” he asked Meng Yao, looking at him, “Da-ge, I don’t want anything to happen to you, you mean a damn lot to me. You’re my brother,” he told him.

Meng Yao smiled softly, a true and rare smile on his face, “I know, and that’s one of the reasons why I want to do this. I’m not the fighting type. Neither is A-Sang, but I think we could both help by doing this. I can relay anything I find back to all of you through the messengers,” he pointed out.

“True,” Wei Ying sighed, “Though,” he paused for a moment, “Maybe I can change it again and make it even smaller so that you can do it secretly. Like with a hand tucked into your sleeve maybe?” he murmured to himself as he got up and began to hunt around for some ink, a brush and some paper to figure out if it could be done.

They watched him for a few moments before Meng Yao brought them back to task, “We can make up a story of me based on the truth. The best lies are those that have their foundation in truths after all,” he gave a wry smile, “That I’m one of Jin Guangshan’s bastards, that he left my mother and I to rot,” he said as he started to tell a mostly truthful account of himself and about Jin Guangshan. “That maybe I want revenge on him, but showing him that I can be of use to people, that I can be powerful and such?” he suggested, looking at the others.

“Wen Ruohan might go for that. But he would want something from you first. To show him that you would be loyal to him alone,” Wen Qing told him, shaking her head. It was an almost impossible task to do.

“How about that I helped you here?” he suggested, “That I came across them fighting and while I wasn’t able to take them all out, I was able to save you and get you out. Though…” he trailed off.

“Maybe make it seem like one of us was injured by you. That you found out that someone killed Wen Zhuliu. He won’t be happy that one of his strongest enforcers was taken from him,” Wen Qing added, helping to build the story that would be told.

“If you have to, say that I’m the one that killed Wen Zhuliu,” Lan Zhan said as he looked at him for a moment, “We should head to the nearest Sect for Wei Ying to be able to rest and recover properly,” he added as he turned towards Jiang Cheng, as Lotus Pier was the closest to Yiling.

“I think it might be best if we can avoid Lotus Pier. My mother wasn’t happy about me leaving to help out and get Wuxian back,” Jiang Cheng grumbled, shaking his head at his mother’s reluctance to do anything that would help Wei Ying.

“I take it that Madam Yu isn’t being cooperative at all?” Wei Ying asked his brother, looking up from what he was working on. He had a feeling that would be the case. He had actually been surprised when he saw his brother there fighting alongside Lan Zhan. He thought that Madam Yu would have been able to stop him going unless she didn’t know that he was leaving.

“Should get in contact with Cloud Recesses, tell them what is going on and that you had to kill him. They may need to be warned that there could be retribution for it,” Nie Huaisang suggested to Lan Zhan, worrying his lower lip a little as he flicked his fan open and closed a few times. He stood, starting to place in the room. He was deep in thought of what actions that the Wen Sect could take against them with Wen Zhuliu’s death. Even pushing it out to the worst case.

“They would go for Cloud Recesses first, as soon as they learn of Lan Wangji’s involvement,” Meng Yao nodded, agreeing with what Nie Huaisang was saying.

“I will contact my brother,” Lan Zhan said as he pulled out one of the messenger talismans and activated it. A bunny soon appeared and rushed off. It was a few minutes later when one came back.

Lan Zhan reached down, letting it nibble on him as it transferred the message, “Brother and father are going to prepare the Sect,” he said, “The youngest and infirm are going to be evacuated to the Back Mountain Caves.”

“Cave?” Jiang Cheng asked, frowning, “Shouldn’t you be telling them to leave?” he questioned, wondering why they wouldn’t just leave Cloud Recesses.

“The cave system is more protected than the rest of Cloud Recesses. Only those with a special token are allowed back there. We can take others with us. But only if we volunteer to do so. Trying to force us will allow us to pass but not those with us. There are only eight tokens made at any time. I, brother, uncle and Father have four of them. One is with the head of the nursery and the head of the younger classes. One is with the Healers. The last of them is with an elder that is part of the mainline,” he told them. “They are not handed out to any other person but Main Clan Lans,” he informed him, “No one will be able to get to them there, and there is enough food to last many months for the entire sect, inner and outer disciples,” he added.

“You’re prepared for something like this?” Nie Huaisang asked him, a little shocked at how the most peaceful of the Sect would have something like this already set up.

“Several generations ago the Lan Sect was attacked by a minor Sect. We were… unprepared for such a thing and were almost wiped out. Only a few Lan Clan members survived, we were able to rebuild our Clan and Sect. But we have always made sure to prepare for such things to happen again,” he finished.

“I didn’t know about that,” Nie Huaisang murmured, as the others nodded in agreement.

“We do not speak of it,” Lan Zhan informed them.

“I can understand that,” Jiang Cheng said, nodding a few times as he then looked at him, “So they will be safe. But they are still going to fight?” he asked him.

“Yes,” he answered quickly, “Father will be fighting, I assume that brother will be as well. They will not go quietly. We… train for such things,” he added, “We will not lose again,” he said, his voice a little colder than before.

“Then I think we know where we need to go next,” Wei Ying said as he put down his brush.

“Cloud Recesses,” Nie Huaisang nodded, “I’ll send word to my brother to meet us there as well. To get there as soon as he can and to make sure that a strong force is still within Qinghe,” he added as he began to send his own message to his brother. Warning him that Cloud Recesses will come under attack soon.

“I’ve done it by the way,” he said as he held out another talisman, “Give it a try, and do so in your sleeve.”

Meng Yao took it, seeing that it was a lot smaller than a normal talisman. He tucked it into his sleep and then used his hand on top of the cloth. He was easily able to activate it. A moment later a small glowing orb appeared in front of Wei Ying. Another three more soon appeared in the room, one in front of Lan Zhan, Nie Huaisang and Jiang Cheng.

“It will send it to multiple people,” he grinned, “That is the default to it,” he added, “But you can also choose who gets it. When concentrating on the message you want to send, you need to concentrate on the person you want to send it to. They will only be able to send a short message. Enough to get a warning across or that something is going down,” he told him.

“That will be useful,” Meng Yao nodded, “and if I have a lot of information to send, I’ll use a normal one with a letter instead,” he agreed easily, a little relieved that he would have something like this at his disposal.

“Exactly,” Wei Ying smiled, “At least that’s sorted,” he murmured, sighing, “Now,” he paused as he went back to the table he had been working at, “This,” he said, brandishing a talisman. “This is a teleportation talisman. The normal ones can only go really short distances,” he told them, “Without a charge, this one will have enough within it to take you out of an area and a short distance. Like the normal ones. But, with us charging it up, it will be able to take you somewhere like Cloud Recesses, Qinghe or even Lotus Pier,” he told Meng Yao. He added some Qi into it and the ink started to glow, “All of you add some of your Qi into it please,” he said as he passed it around. The talisman began to power up. It flashed brightly, “Right, now it’s ready for use,” he said, “This, you keep against your very skin,” he told him, “On the inside of your inner robes, constantly. it won’t be detected by anything,” he added, “I’ve been working on this for a long time, but no one can power it alone. It takes a number of us to do so without draining ourselves,” he sighed as he handed it over, “Wen Qing, I’m going to do up another one for you, since you’ll be going back as well,” he told her.

“I am too!” Wen Ning said, not wishing to leave his sister’s side.

“I think it would be best if you and the other Wens that are here, disappear. Make it look like they were all killed here,” Wei Ying suggested, “This would give you both a good story for Wen Ruohan. We can also burn this place down to the ground. Power the fire with a talisman as well and it will leave nothing but ash behind it,” he added, smirking slightly.

Wen Qing nodded in agreement, “That’s good enough for me,” she said, “A-Ning, you can do more good by going with the others and helping to keep them safe. It will take you a while to get to Cloud Recesses and they will need help,” she added, looking at her baby brother.

“We will take them there,” Wei Ying said as he looked at Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan nodded, “Brother has already agreed to do so. He will be taking them in and guiding them straight to the back mountains so that they will be safe,” he told them, “I will protect them,” he promised.

“Thank you,” Wen Qing nodded.

“We should leave soon,” Lan Zhan spoke quietly, “Our disciples can help to gather everyone.”

“We’re going to slowly make our way to Qishan as well,” Meng Yao said, “Hopefully, it won’t take you that long to get to Cloud Recesses.”

“It will take us about three days to get there with the people that will be coming with us,” Lan Zhan nodded, doing the quick calculations within his head.

“Then we’ll try and take four then,” Wen Qing told him, “Now… I do believe that I need to be injured somewhat for this to be more believable,” she suggested looking at them.

“As do I,” Meng Yao agreed, “We need to be harmed, and the injuries need to heal over time, so we can’t do them when we get there. But now they would look as though we really have been healing for four days because they would be.”

“I-” Wei Ying began, his eyes betraying his despair at the thought of hurting either of them.

Nie Huaisang nodded, “Do so,” he said, “Though not too badly injured though,” he warned them, “It needs to be believable that you were able to get away without too much trouble.”

“Agreed,” Meng Yao said as the two that were going to Qishan nodded at each other and quickly mimicked a number of injuries that would be caused by fighting.

No one else got a chance to say anything as the two got to work, only for Wen Qing to patch the both of them up. As though the two of them had run out of Qi to heal themselves. And with that, the last of the preparations were made for them to leave Yiling, some of it burning to ash as the Wen’s left with Lan Zhan and Wei Ying and the others. The Lan and Nie Disciples with them, helping to carry things, and leading carriages.

Chapter Thirty-Five

They had been on the road to Cloud Recesses for the last three days and they had finally walked through Caiyi Town. Heading up the steps that led to Cloud Recesses, they were met by a number of disciples that started to help the civilians the rest of the way up. Lan Zhan spotted his father and brother standing there, helping a little here and there.

“Brother, father,” Lan Zhan greeted them as he walked over and bowed.

Wei Ying walked beside him, yawning a little. He was still tired from the journey and his body was still recovering from his captivity. Even with the help of the tonics that Wen Ning had been preparing for him as they travelled. Though he had a feeling he was doing better than he would have done if he had been without them.

“Good to see you’re safe Wuxian,” Lan Zhiqiang said quietly to the young man as he looked the young man over.

“Same here,” he grinned, “We’re going to get the Wens set up in the back mountains straight away,” he said quietly, “There is a pregnant lady among them. She is close to Wen Ning and he’s worried about her. Something almost killed her just before she found out that she was pregnant and she’s still rather weak from that attack,” he warned them.

“We’ll make sure that the healers can help where they can,” Lan Xichen nodded.

“Don’t really need to worry too much about that. Most of the cultivators that are being brought in are healers. There are only three that aren’t and they are fighters and are also willing to help in the fighting if you will trust them,” Wei Ying told him, glancing back at the three that he had been helping to keep everyone safe from anything that might attack them on the road. They had also done most of the hunting during their journey.

“My brother should be arriving within the day,” Nie Huaisang said as he rushed over to them from the back of the line, where he had been playing with the little children that were travelling with them.

“These are most of the Dafan Mountain Wens, there are still a few families up there on the mountain,” one of the younger Wens said as he walked forwards, “We’re all mostly healers,” he added, “We hope that we can be of help here while we seek refuge from the Wen Sect. Though some of us may leave to go back to Dafan and help protect the others that are there. Wen Ruohan knows that some are there, and won’t expect those there to do anything to help him at the moment,” he added, glancing at the two others that had walked over with him.

“That would be fine, I can understand wanting to protect your families,” Lan Xichen smiled kindly at them, “We’ll do our best to make sure that those that are here will remain safe, should anything happen,” he promised him.

“We thank you,” he said, bowing to the Lan’s, the other two doing the same, “We’ll stay until the attack has been repelled. We know that it will come. Wen Ruohan won’t be happy with his subordinate’s death at all. He will seek vengeance,” he added.

“Thank you, please, go and rest and have something to eat. Your journey was long,” Lan Xichen said as he directed one of the disciples to take them to the back. Where food had been laid out for them all and places had been set up for them to sleep, before they would be taken to the Back Mountains.

“Thank you,” they bowed as they went back to join the others once more.

“How are you Wuxian?” Lan Xichen asked him quietly. He could see that he was a little pale, not as bad as he would have expected to see from what Lan Zhan had told him about.

“I’m doing a lot better than I thought I would be, to be honest with you,” he answered him, smiling happily, “I should be fine in another day or two.”

“Wei Ying needs to rest,” Lan Zhan added when Wei Ying didn’t say so.

“That’s fine, we have guest rooms available for you all to use. You and Wangji must not share a room. I know you may wish to, but propriety after all,” Lan Zhiqiang said, giving the two of them a little knowing smirk as his son’s ears went a little red. While Wei Ying just laughed and smirked back.

Everyone was quick to settle in and were soon taken care of. And as the sun rose on the next day, they were all taken to the back mountain, to be kept safe until they would be allowed to leave.

XxXxX

Wei Ying was just getting up the next day when a hawk appeared in front of him. He held out his hand and listened to the message that Meng Yao had sent to him. He sighed heavily as he looked towards the window. He got ready and went out to find the others. As soon as he had been able to gather them all, he settled himself down at the table and said, “Meng Yao and Wen Qing have arrived at Qishan, Meng Yao was easily accepted into the Sect based on what the two have relayed. He believes that all the Wens that were in Yiling have been killed as well,” he told them.

“And what was his reaction?” Lan Xichen asked, he was worried for those around him after all, and he thought the Meng Yao was a good fit for his best friend, Nie Mingjue.

“Anger of course. Someone that he trusted with a mission has been taken from him. But he hasn’t said what he’s planning on doing yet. Meng Yao has gotten a place as a servant at the moment. So, he’s able to move around freely enough. He’ll be able to overhear things. Most of the servants are often ignored there, according to him,” he told them quietly. He was worried about Meng Yao and Wen Qing.

“All we can do now is wait until he has any information about an attack. He should be able to warn us with enough time to do something,” Wei Ying said, “He also said something about the barrier. That we should try and find a way to strengthen it to make it harder for them to do anything,” he looked up at Lan Zhiqiang, “I’m going to be working on that while we wait.”

The Lan Sect Leader nodded, “it’s a good idea,” he agreed.

“We’ll relocate everything as well,” Lan Xichen said, “We’ve already started, but we’ll start speeding it up a little more,” he finished looking at his brother and father. His uncle was already within the caves organizing those inside.

“I think we have a good idea of what we all should be doing,” Lan Zhiqiang said, “We’ll take the fight outside the barrier, leave Cloud Recesses safe.”

“If things go back, and we’re starting to lose, we will retreat. Head inside and follow one of us to the caves. Cloud Recesses can always be rebuilt in the end. Our lives are what truly matter,” Lan Xichen added, his voice sad with the prospects of a battle happening within his home.

They all nodded agreeing with what had been said. Wei Ying got up and headed straight for the library, and to the books that were still there. He hoped that they would have something about the barrier. If not, then he was going to have to hunt down people that might know more about the barrier. He needed to get this right, he didn’t want anything to happen to Lan Zhan or his family. Or those that were taking refuge within Cloud Recesses.

XxXxX

Nie Huaisang was nervous as he waited for his brother to enter Cloud Recesses, he should be there soon. He knew that the man wasn’t going to be happy with what they were doing. He wasn’t going to be happy about a lot of things if the young Nie Sect Heir was honest with himself.

“A-Sang,” Nie Mingjue said as he sneaked up on his brother. He hadn’t been able to see Meng Yao at all, and that was beginning to worry him. And now, seeing his brother pacing back and forth with that look on his face. It made his heart freeze in his chest, “A-Sang?” he asked, moving over to him.

“Meng Yao has gone into the Wen Sect,” he blurts out, wincing at how bad that sounded.

“What do you mean?” he demanded to know what his brother was speaking about.

“He’s gone to spy on the Wen Sect, to find out what they are going to be doing. He… he went with Wen Qing after we rescued Wei Wuxian,” he said as he looked up at him.

“What?!” He yelled, “Why would he do that, without even telling me that he was going to be doing something like that?” he demanded to know, starting to pace himself as he tried to reason with himself as to why Meng Yao would do it.

“He was right in saying that he was the only one without the connections that most would expect from a cultivator,” he said, “No one really knows of him outside of the Nie Sect, and no one there would dare to say a thing against him or about him,” he added, looking at his brother.

“Why would he do so without telling me?” he asked, feeling a little lost that the one he loved so much hadn’t said a word to him.

“Maybe because he didn’t want to argue with you, maybe?” Nie Huaisang suggested, “Or that we needed to make a quick decision to get him gone and there as soon as possible. It’s why we headed here instead of going back home,” he sighed, looking at his other brother, “Yes, look, this is going to take a while. We know that we’re up against a large Sect that have a lot of powerful cultivators at their beck and call. It’s why they wanted Wei Wuxian. He’s powerful and really smart. Wen Ruohan knows this as well.”

“So, we got him back, and you send Meng Yao instead?” he shook his head.

“No, Meng Yao decided to go. Wei Wuxian was against it, he was even going to do it himself,” he sighed, “But he would be fired and made to do things for them. We can’t chance it that they would force him to do something that may make them too powerful,” he murmured, shaking his head as he looked away.

“So, we’re now playing a waiting game,” Nie Mingjue muttered darkly, “he better remain safe A-Sang. I will hunt down anyone that harms him.”

“Wei Wuxian thought of that for him and Wen Qing. They both have a talisman that is attached to them that will transport that if they feel that they are in danger. It will only take a tiny bit of Qi directed into them and they will appear either here, Qinghe or Lotus Pier. Whichever it is that is safest at the time,” he smiled, “We did think of things before we let them go,” he told him, trying to reassure his brother of Meng Yao’s safety, “Yao-ge, he knows what to do to keep himself safe. He’ll make sure to come home to us. He won’t leave Wei Wuxian or I without a brother, and he won’t leave you without his betrothed,” he finished quietly.

“Okay,” Nie Mingjue sighed, “Let’s find the other. I want to know what the plan is,” he said as he turned around and began to walk away.

Nie Huaisang was hurt at the easy dismissal, but he knew that his brother was still angry at the moment. He followed him, only to walk into another argument.

“I won’t be leaving for the back mountains, you need every fighter you can at the moment father. I-” Lan Xichen was arguing against the man, shaking his head as he tried to get his point across.

Lan Zhan looked at his brother, “Brother, you are a healer more than a fighter, please listen to father,” he pleaded with him, wanting to keep the older man away from the fighting.

“Wangji, I’m a cultivator. I’ve learned how to fight just as you have,” he told his brother, looking somewhat betrayed that his brother thought he should be tucked away in the back mountains as well.

“I know you have,” he agreed, nodding.

“It’s not that we don’t want you there, but we’ll also need a few fighters back there. Just in case something happens to the last of the barriers or if something happens to the one around the mountains,” he warned him, “We don’t want anything to happen to those that are taking refuge within the caves. And since there is only one entrance, it will be easy to defend by you and a few others. I want you there to lead them in a last defence if it’s needed,” Lan Zhiqiang told his son softly, giving him a sound argument for why. “I know that you’re a fighter as well. But Wangji is right, you are primarily a healer. You’ll be needed when the fighting is over. I’ve no doubt of that. But you’re also a strong and capable fighter that might be needed should we all fail before we can retreat,” he finished quickly, placing a hand on his eldest son’s shoulder and squeezed it, “Please, listen to reason on this.”

Lan Xichen stood there, feeling helpless as he knew that his father and his brother were right. While he was a strong fighter, he was more of a healer. “I will agree to go,” he nodded slowly, slumping slightly, “But not until they are here. I won’t leave before them,” he added, getting a nod of agreement from the two as they then went back to planning their defence. Nie Mingjue and Nie Huaisang walked over and easily joined in with the planning.

Chapter Thirty-Six

Wei Ying looked at the chaos around him. He was working hard on trying to improve the barrier. He had been given the information from many of the other elders about the barrier. And he had been able to inspect it as well. He looked a little at the one that covered the back mountain caves. Not doing much to it as he didn’t want the chance that he could harm it at all. Especially since it was a lot stronger than what was around Cloud Recesses itself. But then again, it let a lot more people in and out of it than that of the back mountain barrier would.

“Have you been able to figure anything out?” Lan Xichen asked him as he walked over to the table that Wei Ying had set himself up at in the library. Though the books were no longer in there at all, they had all been taken to the back mountains. Where everything of value had been stored. Along with nearly the entire Lan Sect and the Wen refugees.

“I think we can add a little more to the barrier. Making it stronger as well. it would change it so those with a Jade pass will be the only ones to be able to enter. They won’t even be able to bring anyone else inside either,” he warned him, “It wouldn’t be like the tokens for the back mountains. They will only be able to enter once with the jade pass,” he added, wondering if that would be acceptable.

“I’m thinking that maybe we should change it to make it so that no Wen would be able to enter,” Lan Xichen suggested, wondering if that was possible at all.

Wei Ying sighed, frowning, “I think it could be done. But I don’t think we have enough time to change the barrier like that. All I can do at the moment is strengthen it enough that we can only go through it once after we leave it. When the fighting is over, we can put it back down to normal.”

“That’s fine then,” he agreed, smiling happily that something would be done to try and protect those that would be retreating at least, “How are you feeling now?” he asked.

“A lot better, fully recovered according to the healers,” he answered, grinning.

“The Nie are also doing well with adding short swords, daggers or a fan to their arsenal,” Lan Xichen said quietly.

“I know, it’s been working well with the energy flow. It’s moving more smoothly. A counterpoint to the Yang that was being drawn in,” he answered him.

“Yes,” he nodded, “Thank you,” he told him as he stood up again, “Nie Mingjue is a dear friend, and you’ve done a lot to help him. And you’ve done the same for us, so Thank you,” he said, bowing to him.

“You don’t have to do that. This will one day be my home,” he murmured quietly, “Lan Zhan and I may spend a little time at Lotus Pier occasionally, but here will be our main home I think,” he smiled and looked up at him.

Lan Xichen smiled back, “Y-” he began, only to stop when a small glow appeared in front of Wei Ying.

Wei Ying reached out and took hold of it as the message came through, “Wen Xu is the one that has been chosen to come here for the attack,” he said.

“You know that the attack is going to happen?” he asked, puzzled as to what the glow was.

“Yes, that was a message from Yao-ge. He overheard the plans for it. He will relay more information when he is properly free to do so. He said that they will be leaving soon and that Wen Xu is the head of it, and they will be coming to Cloud Recesses first,” he answered him as he got up.

“Then we should do the last of the preparations for the battle,” Lan Xichen nodded and the two of them headed out to inform the others what was going on.

They met up in one of the rooms as Wei Ying relayed the short message that he had received from Meng Yao.

“He’s safe?” Nie Mingjue asked him, there was worry within his voice.

“At the moment, yet,” Wei Ying answered, “He will ge-” he stopped as a hawk appeared and went over to him. He held out his hand as it landed on him, transferring a longer message this time for Wei Ying. He opened his eyes and nodded, “Okay,” he said as it disappeared.

“What was the message?” Jiang Cheng asked his brother.

“They are heading to Cloud Recesses, they will be coming here fast, so they will be here by tomorrow morning,” he answered, telling them more details of what Meng Yao had sent to him.

“So, we still have a little time before they get here?” Lan Zhiqiang asked him quietly.

Wei Ying nodded, “Yes, a good number of hours. We should be well-rested by the time they get here. I’m going to go around the barrier and start to strengthen it. Lan Xichen can tell you what I’m going to be doing. So, make sure everyone has a jade pass that is going to be going out there to fight,” he then stood up wanting to get out of there as fast as he could. He could feel Nie Mingjue’s heavy gaze on him as he left. The man just wanted to know that his beloved was fine and so far, he was. Wei Ying himself was scared of what was going to happen as well. Meng Yao was his sword brother and he didn’t want to lose any of his family at all.

Ne Mingjue got up and was going to follow Wei Ying. He wanted to know if it would be safe to message Meng Yao himself. He stopped when he saw a hawk appearing in front of him and heading straight for him. He reached out a hand and let it land.

“A-Jue, it’s safe for me to talk with you for a bit. I’m alone. I’m sorry for not telling you what I was going to do. But this is needed, we need an insight into the Wen Sect, and Wen Qing wouldn’t be enough to do this alone. She is a healer and not someone that can blend in either. Please understand. I love you.” the voice of Meng Yao echoed in his mind for a moment as the message came through. He rushed towards his rooms and began to form a message back.

“I love you as well. I just wish you had been the one to tell me what you were going to be doing first. I just want you to be safe. I love you so much and I don’t think I can handle it if something happened to you at all.” He sent back, hoping that it was still safe. It took a few more moments before another hawk appeared before him.

“I’m being as safe as I can. Wen Ruohan has taken a slight interest in me, but more of a case that I helped and that I want to ruin Jin Guangshan for what he has done to my mother and myself. He believes in that. And I’m happy with him doing so. He won’t be attacking them at the moment. He told me that it would be better to wait. I’m sorry A-Jue, I wish I could have spoken to you first, but we needed to make a quick decision before the chance to take this opportunity was closed to us.”

Nie Mingjue sat there for a moment before sending a reply. “Just be careful. I need you to know that you are loved and wanted so much, so please, just be careful with everything that you are doing. The slightest hint of danger and you get yourself out of there. Wen Qing as well. I understand that her brother and their family are mostly here.” He sent off the reply and then closed his eyes as he rubbed his face.

“Yes, most of them were taken to Yiling, a small number of them were left at Defan Mountain. That was one thing that I wanted to tell Wei Wuxian. Wen Qing is coming across prisoners here, we are pretending to kill them and shipping their bodies out. They are being sent to the Dafan Wens there. A few of Wen Qing’s branch are here and are helping us do so. They will be either kept in a coma-like state if they are too well known or if not, healed up and sent back home. So, expect a few people to show up occasionally. I need to go now, please, keep yourself safe as well. I love you A-Jue, with all my heart.” The message ended and Nie Mingjue sat there quietly in his room for a while, before he got up and headed out. He needed to tell the others what he had learned from Meng Yao about the prisoners and then to see if there was anything else that he would be able to help with.

XxXxX

Nie Huaisang was pacing once more. He would be sent into the mountains when it was time to fight. He would be going with Lan Xichen. He knew that he wasn’t a fighter, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t plan things. He had a few messages from Wen Qing about the tactics that Wen Xu always employed when he was battling a large group. And he would no doubt use the same here. Fire was always used, arrows alight with flames that would be shot over the heads of the cultivators lining up to battle. They would need something to stop that. And the only thing he could think of was either taking out the archers as soon as they showed up or something else. He wondered again if Wei Ying might have something up his sleeve. He tended to have a lot of things that he was working on at any one time. Maybe he could get something else from him to help with this problem.

He left his room, rushing around and searching for the man. He soon caught sight of him, along with Lan Zhan that was helping him in strengthening the barrier. “Xian-didi!” he called out, getting a groan from the other. He just grinned at the reaction. He rushed over, “Wen Xu uses fire, arrows,” he said, huffing a little, out of breath from the running. He wouldn’t normally but they needed all the time they had to prepare as best as they could.

“Hmm,” Wei Ying muttered, “The barrier may reflect some of them, but I doubt it would be able to stop everything,” he sighed, looking at it, “Maybe…” he paused, “No, I don’t think it would work. I think the only thing that could be used would be a Water Blast talisman,” he added, “I need Jiang Cheng. He’s good with that type of thing,” he said as he looked between the barrier and then towards the rest of Cloud Recesses.

“I’ll find Jiang Cheng and talk to him about it,” Nie Huaisang said as he then ran off to find the Jiang Sect Heir. It wasn’t hard to find him, out on the training field, getting a bit of training in while he still could.

“Nie-Xiong,” he greeted him, sheathing Sandu as soon as the other ran out onto the field, “Everything okay?” he frowned, seeing how out of breath the other was.

“Not yet, but maybe you can help,” he said as he took a deep breath and tried to calm the racing of his heart, “Right. The Wens tend to like fire a lot. And will often set fire to a place to try and demoralise people,” he said as he laid out what Meng Yao had told him, “Now, what we need is something to combat it. Wei Wuxian said that you were good with blasting water or something like that?” he asked, looking hopeful that he was understood. And that Jiang Cheng had something that might help.

“A small talisman, just like the fire one. Put a bit of Qi into it and make sure to direct it and it will blast out water in that direction. Can soak a lot of things at once. They can be pretty powerful. I’m one of the best at using them,” he smirked, “Even Wuxian has a little trouble with water,” he added, feeling happy that he was better at something than his brother. It wasn’t often that was the case.

“Can we get something set up so that they can be used by people from on high to take out the archers and the fire they would have?” he asked him.

“Yeah,” he nodded, “But it wouldn’t work for long. But if we can soak them enough, then it might take them a while to figure out how to carry on with wet things,” he muttered as the two of them walked off and began to plot on what they should, or rather what they could do to stop Cloud Recesses from burning if the Wen did bring Fire with them.

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Lunch was just about to start when the call went out. The Wen’s had finally been spotted and were quickly heading up the mountain path to Cloud Recesses. Caiyi town had been warned and most people remained within their homes to try and avoid any Wens that would be going through the town. Those that had remained within the main area of Cloud Recesses stood and headed to get ready for the fight. Nie Mingjue had tried to get Nie Huaisang to go and hide in the back mountains with the rest of the Lan Sect. But the man had ended up refusing. Wanting to help where he could. He wasn’t a fighter, but he had been working with Jiang Cheng with the talismans for the last two days and the other teenager had said he was as ready to use them as the next one.

The youngest Nie Clan member went with a number of Lan Disciples and climbed onto the walls that surrounded the Cloud Recesses. Between them and the approaching Wens. Each one was part of a pair. One to deflect arrows and the other to pot-shot the fire wielding Wen’s. Nie Huaisang almost looked at the disgruntled look one of the Wens had after he fired off a water talisman like Jiang Cheng had taught him and the others to do. Another burst of water flew from a talisman and drenched another Wen disciple before they could fire off a fire arrow. While the arrays and barriers would protect Cloud Recesses, it didn’t hurt to be cautious.

Nie Huaisang blinked as he watched the Lan Sect Leader fight. There was an elegant grace with each of his movements, but there was still a lot of power behind each strike that he made. He wasn’t fighting one or two of the Wen’s at a time, he was mostly taking out three of them with each moment he fought. “Sect Leader Lan is rather scary when he’s fighting,” he murmured, eyes wide when three Wens went down with only one swipe of his sword.

The young Lan disciple that was standing next to him. His partner for the battle nodded, “He is,” he said quietly, “But then again, Sect Leader Nie is just as terrifying,” he pointed out as they looked towards the Red Blade Master and saw him lift Baxia up high before bringing it down. Kill a Wen disciple and leaving a large gash in the earth along with a tree falling down and crushing four more Wens before they could get out of its way.

Nie Huaisang turned to spare his brother a glance and sighed, “He best be putting that tree back when he’s done. He keeps doing that at home, our aunt isn’t very happy with him most of the time. He keeps destroying her favourite places to go.”

“Hm,” the Lan nodded as he quickly deflected the arrow that was coming their way from harming Nie Huaisang.

“Thank you,” the young Nie said as he threw up a talisman and slammed it with his open palm. Shooting a jet of water from it towards the Wen archer that was about to fire an arrow that was alight with flames.

“Your aim’s improving,” the Lan smiled at him.

“Don’t tell Da-ge,” he muttered as he sent out a second jet of water.

Wei Ying moved quickly as he darted towards a very drenched Wen that was now taking part in the fighting instead of trying to fire off flaming arrows towards Cloud Recesses. His movements were typical Jiang Style. They were quick, sharp movements. His blade singing with each strike it made on a Wen. While it took a blow or two to kill some of them. He could usually get in quickly enough to do some serious damage. Lan Zhan was fighting beside him. Moving around him in graceful steps. Bichen sang just as much as Subian was. Though the strength behind it was a little more than Wei Ying’s strikes.

Wei Ying smiled at Lan Zhan for a split second as he moved quickly past him. Ducking under a swinging sword before twirling around and using his own momentum to slit the throat of his enemy. Lan Zhan moved with speed to his partner’s side. Taking out another Wen before they could even get near enough to harm Wei Ying.

“Concentrate,” Lan Zhan muttered, giving Wei Ying a pointed look.

Wei Ying nodded, “I am,” he told him, darting towards another small group of Wen’s that were heading towards them. Wei Ying was nimble on his feet, jumping over one of the Wen’s and slashing at another. Before spinning out of the group before they even realised that he was there. Lan Zhan followed him and took out the Wen that Wei Ying had jumped over. They spotted Wen Xu heading into the fighting. Though it looked like he was concentrating on getting towards the Lan Sect leader and taking down anyone else that was in his way.

Lan Zhiqiang fought with the same grace as his youngest son. His movements were strong, the Lan arm strength wasn’t anything to joke about as he took down two Wens with a single stroke. His white robes were beginning to become dirty from the blood that was now drenching the ground. The other Lan’s that were fighting were having the same trouble. The hem of their robes began to turn a dirty red. While they were charmed to repel most stains, blood was one that was hard to fight against when the robes were bombarded with it in such large quantities that you would find on a battlefield.

“Wen Xu,” Lan Zhiqiang muttered, a dark look on his face as he saw the two Lan disciples taken down by the eldest child of Wen Ruohan. They could see that the young Wen wasn’t as graceful or as strong as his father. There was more of the young man’s mother in him/ A rashness that would often lead to them almost getting killed before they were able to fight their way out of danger. The late Madam Wen was such a woman. Rushing headlong into danger, getting injured enough that she would sometimes need help to get her out of it. Usually, it was Wen Ruohan to do so. Though much had changed since he had secluded himself. Wen Ruohan seemed to have changed drastically from the man that he had once known.

Wen Xu sneered as he saw the Lan Sect Leader. He was to burn down Cloud Recesses and take some of their young disciples and the Sect Heirs for the indoctrination camp that was being planned. Lifting his sword, he rushed towards the man and without a care, he charged and swung.

Lan Zhiqiang almost sighed and rolled his eyes at the action, “So much like his mother,” he murmured as he parried the blow easily and started to fight against the young man.

“You will surrender and you will let us burn the Cloud Recesses down to the ground. You have gone against the Wen for long enough,” Wen Xu demanded of him.

“There isn’t a chance of that happening. We will prevail,” Lan Zhiqiang told him, shaking his head slightly as he carried on parrying blow after blow that rained down on him. Ignoring the mutterings of the young man as he continued to drive him away. Wen Xu had a little skill that was able to block anything that was aimed to kill him. Lan Zhiqiang had to give it to Wen Xu. He was holding his own, though was easily being driven back.

Jiang Cheng was using the same approach as his brother. Nimble movements and speed were his friend. Sandu was studier than Subian, but just as well made for speed as the slightly lighter blade. The only thing that was majorly different between himself and his brother was that Wei Ying tended to use talismans in a fight as well. Jiang Cheng didn’t. Instead, he relied only on his sword. Ducking under another frantic swipe of a sword, he used his scabbard to thrust into the Wen’s sternum. Sending him flying backwards. Using his own moments Jiang Cheng turned around, bringing up his sword and gripping it with two hands for once, swinging it heavily at the now exposed neck of the young Wen cultivator in front of him. The head fell from the body, but instead of the one thud, there was a second. Wide-eyed Jiang Cheng saw the head of Wen Xu, who had been back to back with the cultivator he had been fighting.

“Wen Xu is dead!” a Wen cultivator yelled out, shock in their voice as a cry went up with the remaining Wen’s that were still fighting. Over two-thirds of their forces had been taken down. Some of them fought even more while a few others turned tail and ran away from them.

Nie Mingjue huffed at those that were running away as he slammed Baxia into a few more Wens that had dared to get too close to him. It didn’t take much longer for the last of the Wens that had remained to fall to the blades of those protecting Cloud Recesses.

“This is going to be one hell of a clean-up,” Nie Mingjue muttered darkly as he gave a nod to his disciples and they quickly got to work in taking the bodies of the Wen away to be burned respectfully. They may be enemies but that doesn’t mean they should leave them restless in their death.

“Start gathering those that had passed and the injured to be taken to the healing pavilion,” Lan Zhiqiang ordered his own as he gave Nie Mingjue a nod.

Jiang Cheng slumped where he stood. He had taken out a Sect heir. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked into the concerned eyes of Lan Zhiqiang. “Sorry,” he said as he stood up straighter.

“That’s fine, are you alright?” he asked him gently.

“I’m just a little shocked that Wen Xu went down like that,” he muttered, trying to pretend that the death hadn’t affected him.

“You did well,” Lan Zhiqiang told him, “You fought with honour and you only did what needed to be done,” he told him, reassuring him as he guided the young man away from the battlefield.

Wei Ying leaned against Lan Zhan, “It’s over,” he sighed, relieved that they were safe.

“Mn,” Lan Zhan nodded as he hugged his betrothed tightly for a moment before the two of them headed through the barrier. Nie Huaisang joined them as he climbed down from the wall.

“That was…” Nie Huaisang said, shuddering a little. He may be in a Sect that often hunted, but that was animals. He never went on any type of hunts where there was a bandit or a person was the one that they were after.

“Yeah,” Wei Ying said, drained. He had been on a few hunts where they had gone after bandits and criminals and had to kill them. But Jiang Cheng hadn’t. Madam Yu had refused to let him go on those types of missions. Wei Ying had been the one to be thrown on them. It had been hard the first time he had to kill a person instead of corpses, monster or such. But he had gotten through it. He knew that Jiang Cheng had pushed back what he had done in Yiling, worried about an attack on Cloud Recesses. Wei Ying wanted to get to his brother to see how he was doing. now that most of the danger had passed, he would finally be feeling what had happened all at once.

Wei Ying came to a stop, seeing Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhiqiang quietly talking. He gave a soft smile as he saw the Lan Sect Leader hug his brother. “I think he’ll be okay,” Wei Ying murmured as Jiang Cheng froze for a moment before hugging the man back. Taking that offered comfort. He knew that Sect Leader Jiang tended not to show much love towards his son. Always expecting the best from him all the time. He did show more care for Wei Ying at times and Wei Ying hated the look on Jiang Cheng’s face when it happened. He would often push the man away and go to his brother instead.

“Mn,” Lan Zhan nodded as they carried on walking towards the dining hall, where they would be able to rest for a while before they would head into the back mountains to tell those that had taken shelter there that they were now safe. That the battle had been won, but they didn’t know the cost at the moment, how many had been killed in the battle.

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Jiang Cheng looked at Lan Zhiqiang, “Thank you,” he told him sincerely, “I…”

“I know. It’s hard to know that you’ve taken someone’s life. And of someone that you knew, even if you didn’t know them well. It can get to you at times,” he reassured him, a soft smile on his face, “You did really well,” he told him once more, “You are a good fighter, your skills are excellent.”

“Thank you,” Jiang Cheng murmured again, looking a little odd with the praise that was being heaped on him from the Lan Sect Leader.

Lan Zhiqiang placed a hand on his shoulder, “Why don’t you head to the dining hall, they are going to be serving some warm food soon. I know that your brother and Young Master Nie have taken to hounding the cooks as soon as they returned to make sure that some flavour was to be added to the meals,” he said, smiling at the young man.

“I will,” he nodded, sighing deeply before standing and bowing to the man before leaving.

Lan Zhiqiang sighed as he saw his eldest son approaching him. The young man had gone straight to the healer’s pavilion to help out there as soon as he came out of the back mountains. “Xichen,” he greeted him as his son came to a stop by his side.

“Father,” he greeted, a worried look on his face, “We’ve lost nine disciples. The Nie have lost three,” he told him, “We have a dozen more that were injured,” he added, glancing back towards the healer’s pavilion, “We… we may lose another two disciples before the end of the night. They are fighting, but we don’t know if it will be enough to keep them alive for their Spiritual Energy to replenish enough to start the full healing,” he sighed heavily. He had been so glad to see that his brother and father were fine. That neither of them had been injured. That had been his deepest fear when he had been forced to take shelter in the caves. He had felt like a failure to be staying there, where he would be safe and others were out there fighting.

“I have no doubt that our healers along with the Wens that are helping, will be doing their best to make sure that they keep on fighting,” he reassured his son, placing a hand on his shoulder and squeezing it gently.

“I know,” Lan Xichen gave him a tired smile, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

XxXxX

“Wei Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng said as he saw his brother, who was sitting rather close to Lan Zhan once more.

“Jiang Cheng,” he grinned happily as he got up and hugged him tightly for a moment. A small brush of Qi went through the young Jiang Heir and he knew that his brother was checking to make sure he was okay. “I’m glad that you’re okay,” he sighed in relief as he let him go, gesturing to the space on the bench next to Nie Huaisang.

Jiang Cheng gave his brother a small nod and a smile, he went over and sat down, “I… I killed Wen Xu,” he said quickly, “I… there were some Wens that escaped. I know that they are going to be going back and telling them that it was me that did it. That I killed a Sect Heir. Wen Ruohan will want to make an example of the one that did it.” His words were strong, but Wei Ying knew his brother well. He could detect the worry in his voice.

“I agree that he will try,” Nie Huaisang said, nodding as he gripped his fan tightly. Their world was under attack by the Wens. It had been for a long time, but now it was out in the open instead of hidden behind whispered words and worries of the minor Sects.

“I… They,” Jiang Cheng closed his eyes, sighing as he opened them and looked down at the table and the congee that had been placed in front of him.

“I know. They’ll try for Lotus Pier next,” Wei Ying said, there was no trace of the usually jovial man as he spoke, “Look, Jiang Cheng,” he said, waiting for his brother to actually look at him, “I have no doubt that Wen Ruohan was already planning to attack Lotus Pier some time soon. I’m going to send a message to Wen Qing and Meng Yao. Telling them what has happened here,” he muttered as he brought out a talisman and did just that.

“It’s that dangerous for them?” Nie Huaisang asked him, looking as the message was being written down.

“No, I modified it so that it won’t appear until they are alone in a room,” Wei Ying mumbled as he sent the message out, “Do you really think I would put either of them in danger?” he asked his friend, rolling his eyes.

“No, I didn’t think that. I just wanted to know if you had modified it,” Nie Huaisang smiled at him, snapping his fan open and quickly covering half of his face with it.

“Right,” Wei Ying snorted, “Jiang Cheng,” he said as he looked at his brother, “Wen Qing and Meng Yao will tell us what goes on after. So don’t worry too much. We’ll head out to Lotus Pier in the morning. To start preparations and make sure that everyone is safe and ready for an attack like we did here,” he added, standing up, patting his brother on the shoulder, “I’m going for a walk,” he murmured.

Lan Zhan watched him go and for a moment he hesitated before getting up and following him. He walked beside Wei Ying as they wandered towards the back mountains. Most of the people were back from there now, settling in once more. The Wens that had sought refuge had been given the guest disciples’ rooms for now, until something more permanent could be arranged for them. Wei Ying and Lan Zhan came to a stop when they heard soft crying.

Wei Ying walked towards it, seeing a young boy of around five sitting and huddling against a tree, “Hi,” he greeted as he went over to him and knelt next to the little Lan.

“I… I’m sorry,” he sniffled as he spotted Lan Zhan behind Wei Ying.

“Nothing to be sorry about,” Wei Ying reassured him, “Why are you crying?” he asked as he sat down on the ground next to the small child.

“Father is gone, he…” he said as he broke into fresh tears.

Wei Ying looked pained as he realised what was going on. He gathered the little boy into his arms and held him, “It’s okay to cry. I know that it hurts so much,” he said as he glanced over at Lan Zhan, who walked over and sat down beside the two.

“Why?” he cried, “Why are they gone,” he snuggled, holding onto Wei Ying tightly as tears continued to stream down his face.

Neither of them had the words to comfort the child, so they held him, rocking him. Lan Zhan placed a gentle and reassuring hand on the little Lan’s back. “I know that it hurts,” Lan Zhan said slowly and carefully, “I understand. I thought that I had done something wrong when Mother never opened the door again. I didn’t understand that she was not there to open the door again. That the last memory I had of her would be the only thing I wish to remember of her.”

The little Lan looked up at the Second Young Master of his Sect, “You… you lost someone?”

“Mn,” Lan Zhan answered, “My mother. She passed away when I was around your age. I didn’t understand what was going on. Thought that I had broken the rules and that I wasn’t allowed to see her. Took a long time to realise, but I remember her. I smile at the thought of her now, but it still hurts as I miss her still.”

“It does,” Wei Ying added, “I lost my parents when I was very little, both my mother and father were taken from me and I was left all alone. It hurts a lot sometimes. But I have people that I love around me now,” Wei Ying told the little boy softly, “I don’t remember my parents very well, just one or two things about them. But what I do know I keep in my heart,” he said gently, looking down at the wide eyes of the little Lan.

“It is okay… to be sad,” Lan Zhan told him softly.

The little Lan nodded as tears welled in his eyes again. He curled up in Wei Ying’s eyes and taking the permission from Lan Zhan he cried. The two remained with him until he finally cried himself to sleep. Carefully, Wei Ying stood up with Lan Zhan’s help. Carefully, Wei Ying stood up with Lan Zhan’s help. The sleeping child in his arms as they made their way back to the main living areas of Cloud Recesses. It was Lan Xichen that saw them first.

“Oh, thank goodness,” he said, sighing heavily as he spotted the child in Wei Ying’s arms, “His mother told us that he had run off after being told about his father’s passing,” he told them, “We’ve been looking for him since.”

“Near the Waterfall path,” Lan Zhan told him quietly, “You’ll take him home,” he added.

“Yes, of course,” Lan Xichen nodded, “His mother will be happy to know that he’s alright.”

Wei Ying hesitated for a moment before handing the child over, “He’s really upset about his father. He cried himself to sleep,” he told him.

“I’ll make sure that she knows,” Lan Xichen nodded as he walked away with the sleeping child in his arms.

“I didn’t want to let him go,” Wei Ying murmured, wrapping his arms around his waist, “I… I hope that he’ll be okay,” he sighed as he leaned against Lan Zhan.

“Will be,” Lan Zhan said, wrapping an arm around his betrothed, “Will check on him again,” he promised.

“Good, we should go and get something to eat. We’ve been gone for a long time,” Wei Ying said, smiling up at him.

“Mn,” Lan Zhan agreed as they headed towards the dining hall to see if there was any food still available.

XxXxX

There was still some time before curfew and Wei Ying was laughing brightly as he was being chased around by some of the smaller Lan Children that were still awake. They were a little unsettled after the events of the last couple of days. Not many of them had been able to go to sleep. So, the adults had let them gather in one of the fields so that they could expand a little of their nervous energy and hoped that it would help them in sleeping that night.

The little Lan that they had found, had latched onto Lan Zhan. Taking hold of the young Jade’s hand and not wanting to let it go. Jiang Cheng walked over to him, watching his brother as he played with the children.

“He does this a lot back home. Taking the youngest disciples out and playing with them. He told me that he wanted to make sure that they knew that they could have fun as well as they worked hard to become cultivators,” Jiang Cheng said quietly.

Lan Zhan spared him a glance, “Mn.”

“Yeah,” he smiled, “I think it was because he never really had the chance to be a child himself. He had to grow up really fast on the streets. Learning how to survive and take care of himself. So, whenever he gets the chance, he’ll drag them off to play. Making up as many games as he could. Though… each one of them had a lesson in it as well,” he shook his head as he watched Wei Ying pick up one of the Lan children and swinging them around before getting calls for him to do it again with someone else.

“He is… a good person,” Lan Zhan said softly.

“He is,” Jiang Cheng sighed heavily, “We’ll be leaving in the morning after breakfast,” he told him, “I don’t know if you’ll be coming with us or not? I would understand if you wanted to stay here and help out,” he added quietly.

“No need,” Lan Zhan answered, “Will go with Wei Ying, I will help.”

“You’re leaving?” came a trembling voice of the child that had latched onto him.

Lan Zhan knelt and nodded solemnly, “Yes. There was fighting here as you know, and Wei Ying’s home, there will be more. I wish to help Wei Ying keep his people safe as he helped keep you and those around us safe,” he told the child.

“But I don’t want you to go, please stay,” he begged him, eyes filling with tears as his lower lip trembled.

Jiang Cheng winced and looked down at the child, “I know they would both love to stay here with you. But my home is going to be attacked as well,” he told the child, joining Lan Zhan on the ground, “I need help to save everyone. Lan Wangji and my brother are really good fighters and can make sure that all my little Shidi and Shimei are going to be safe,” he told him, a gentle smile on his face.

“They’ll come back?” he asked, looking from Lan Zhan to Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng nodded and smiled, “I’ll make sure of it,” he promised him.

“Okay,” he mumbled, still not really believing that they would come back to him. His father had promised the same and he hadn’t returned.

“A-Yu,” came a gentle voice, “It’s time for bed,” a woman said as she walked over to the little group, “Young Master Lan, Young Master Jiang,” she greeted politely with a bow, “Thank you for watching over A-Yu,” she said, a weak smile on her face as her son ran to her side and latched onto her robes.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Jiang Cheng said as he bowed, Lan Zhan doing the same, “He is a delightful child,” he added.

“Thank you,” she bowed back as her son quickly did the same before walking beside her as they went home.

Wei Ying walked over to them after a few more minutes and flopped onto the ground. The children were all being taken away by their parents or guardians, it was now their bedtime. The adults finished clearing up and headed to bed themselves. Tomorrow was going to be a long day after all.

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Meng Yao hung back as he listened to what was going on in the throne room. Wen Ruohan had just received a few Wen disciples that had come back from the attack on Cloud Recesses.

“Sect Leader Wen,” they greeted the man as one. Bowing before him, prostrating themselves before the powerful man.

“What news of the Cloud Recesses and the state of the Lan Sect do you bring me?” Wen Ruohan asked them, his voice casual. It sounded as though he was bored with the proceeding, as though what he was about to hear was what he expected to hear.

“We regret to inform you that the battle at Cloud Recesses was a failure,” one of them answered him, his voice shaking just as much as his body was.

“And how was it a failure?” he asked, looking at the four men kowtowing before him.

“We were unable to set fire to the Library Pavilion. We were not even able to pass through the barrier. The Lan Sect were joined with a number from the Jin Sect and two others that were recognised from the Jiang Sect,” another answered quietly. Almost as though he would be able to pass the notice of the Sect Leader should he do so.

“And where is my son?” he asked, as he noticed that his eldest, his heir, wasn’t even with them.

“Sect Heir Wen Xu,” one of them began, looking even more nervous and scared as he finished, “He was killed in battle.”

“And how was my son killed and by whom?” he demanded to know. His eyes glowing with hate as he stared at the four men that had dared to leave his son’s side.

“Jiang Wanyin, the heir to the Jiang Sect,” one answered, trembling as he could feel the Spiritual Energy that was now coming off of Wen Ruohan in waves at the news of his son.

“How dare they!” he yelled, slamming his hand on the arm of this throne. “I will make sure that they will pay for their insolence,” he growled as he stood from his throne. He stood, walking down the steps to where the four men were trembling, “Leave,” he ordered, eyes flashing.

“Sect Leader,” they quickly stood and bowed, practically running out of the room to get away from him. The door closed as they could hear his yells and the screams of some of the prisoners in the room were tortured once more.

Meng Yao shuddered as he heard the screams. He quickly moved away and waited until he was summoned. It didn’t take long for him and Wen Qing to be called into the throne room. The two walked in, doing their best to ignore the five men that were on the ground. Three of them were clearly dead from the torture. The other two still clung to life, but for who knew how long. The two walked forwards, bowing to Wen Ruohan and waited for him to speak.

“A-Qing,” Wen Ruohan said tiredly, “See if you can heal them up. I will… turn them,” he told her, gesturing to the two men still alive.

“I shall try Uncle,” she bowed once more.

“Do your best,” he nodded and then looked at Meng Yao. “Bring me my son, I want him here. He will be leaving for Lotus Pier in the morning. We will attack them and see how they like the death of their entire Sect!” he growled out, eyes flashing once more.

“Yes, Sect Leader. I will see him brought to you,” he bowed, before quickly leaving the room and searching for Wen Chao. It didn’t take him long to find the man. Since everyone knew he would always be spending time with his concubine and nowhere near his wife. Though she had almost died a few days ago. Wen Qing had told him that the woman had been poisoned. And the healers there had added that it wasn’t the first time. Meng Yao and Wen Qing both suspected that Wang Lingjiao was behind it. There was a reason why Wen Xu’s wife had been secreted away from the Sun Palace a few months ago. “Young Master Wen,” Meng Yao called out as he knocked on the door loudly.

“Go away, I’m busy!” came an annoyed yell through the door, a giggling accompanying it.

“I am sorry for the interruption of your activities but your father has requested your immediate presence in the throne room. He has just killed three prisoners. I do not believe that he will be happy to be made to wait,” Meng Yao said as he then moved away from the door as he heard a lot of movement going on inside. A whine from the woman about Wen Chao dressing and leaving her all alone. Meng Yao made a face of disgust before schooling it as the door began to open.

Wen Chao blustered out of his room and glared at Meng Yao. “This had better be important,” he growled at him.

“I believe that it is, Sect Leader Wen is not in a good mood,” Meng Yao replied as he led the way back to the throne room. Wen Qing had already gotten the two still alive cultivators out of the room, while the dead ones were only now being taken away.

Wen Chao looked at the prisoners and spat, “Serves them right. They should know better than to go against the Great Wen Sect,” he stated as he walked over to where his father sat on the throne and bowed, “Father.”

“Sect Leader Wen,” Meng Yao bowed, knowing better than to leave without permission. The first time he had made that mistake he had been whipped for it and Wen Qing had to heal him up.

“Chao-er,” Wen Ruohan spoke tiredly, “Your brother is dead. You will be the one to avenge him. You are to head to Lotus Pier in the morning. You will take our forces and you will make sure that not a single member of the Jiang Sect remains alive. Fail and you will join your brother!” he told him, eyes flashing once more.

“Of course, father. I will not fail you,” he sneered, bowing respectfully to the man, “I will make sure that they tremble in fear of the Wen Sect before they die by my blade,” he promised.

“They had better, now leave. Meng Yao, make the arrangements,” he ordered the man.

“Yes, Sect Leader,” Meng Yao bowed once more.

“And Chao-er, your whore remains behind. I will not have you distracted by her,” he told him, glaring at his only remaining son.

Wen Chao was only just able to keep a wince off his face. He hated to leave her behind. But that did mean that he may be able to have his way with other beauties he would come across. Meng Yao shuddered at the lustful look that was on Wen Chao’s face as he walked away. Meng Yao moved quickly to make arrangements for the attack before he was able to go to the privacy of his own room. He had been able to check for anything that would have given him away and found that there was nothing in there that would cause him problems. Wen Qing had been the same with her own rooms, cautious and careful. Wen Ruohan trusted her even more after she made words about vengeance on those that had rescued Wei Ying from Wen Zhuliu. She had told him that they had killed her baby brother. It was a good ruse to use to make sure that he would never suspect her.

Finally reaching his room he walked inside to find Wen Qing there, waiting for him, “Is everything alright?” he asked her, slightly worried about her being in his room.

“I was able to send the two prisoners out with some of my Wens,” she told him, “They’ll be in Dafan within the next day or two. They’re from the Ouyang Sect. They should be fine, my cousins in the mountains should be able to make sure they finish off healing them. I’ve already informed Wen Ruohan that they are dead. He wasn’t happy, but accepted it,” she added, sighing deeply. “He… he was actually crying I think,” she frowned when she looked up at Meng Yao.

“Crying?” he queried, sitting down.

“Yes,” she nodded, “about Wen Xu. I didn’t think he would at all. Not with the way he has been acting over the last several years,” she sighed, shaking her head, “Anyway. We need to inform them about the attack on Lotus Pier. Do you have the numbers for the people that are going?” she asked him, changing the subject. Her uncle had changed a lot over the years. He was no longer the uncle that had smiled and helped her and Wen Ning after their parents had passed away when illness took over their village.

“I do, I have everything needed to send a message, and the approximate time they have until they reach the Pier,” he murmured, already composing the letter that he would be sending instead of the usual quick verbal message. He wanted to tell them about the cultivators that Wen Qing was sending to Dafan as well. He knew that the two Nie Cultivators had already been sent. One of them had recognised him, but he had quickly been able to get him to remain silent. He finished the letter and activated the talisman, sending the letter with it. Knowing that it would appear in front of Wei Ying within a few minutes, “Do you think they will get to Lotus Pier in time?” he asked her.

“Gusu is slightly closer to Yunmeng than Qishan, so they should be able to get there in time,” she reassured him, “Wei Wuxian isn’t stupid either. He knew that with Jiang Wanyin killing Wen Xu that Lotus Pier would be next.”

“Yeah,” Meng Yao sighed, “I just hope they are alright. They’ve told me nothing about how the fighting went at all. Just that they are fine. That could mean so much and so little. Fine to someone like Nie Mingjue means that he isn’t dead yet but on the verge of it. For A-Sang, it would mean that he’s scared out of his mind and making sure that his brother doesn’t know about it,” he trailed off, sighing heavily.

“I understand, but we have to trust in them. That they will tell us if something happens,” she said, giving him a small smile as she stood up, “Try and get some rest, who knows when Sect Leader Wen will want to see us again,” she pointed out to him. Heading to the door she turned and looked at him, “There is still a chance for you to leave,” she reminded him.

“I know I have that choice. But you know that I’m not going to take it. I want to stay and help here,” he told her, shaking his head and giving her a reassuring smile. “I’ll speak with you in the morning,” he told her, letting her leave the room. He sighed as he got ready for bed and fell into an uneasy sleep again.

XxXxX

Meng Yao was summoned once more to the throne room of Wen Ruohan, “Sect Leader Wen,” he greeted bowing politely once more.

“I saw my niece coming from your room,” he said, his voice cold and hard as he glared at the man.

“She has become a friend, Sect Leader,” Meng Yao was quick to answer, “She has lost her brother and I was there when it happened,” he pointed out, “I wish I could have done more to help. To save young Wen Ning. She talks about him to me occasionally,” he said, keeping a bow.

“She is my beloved niece. She has lost all her family. Do not take advantage of her,” he warned him.

“I will not. She is a friend and I know… what it’s like to be alone, to have no family,” he said softly, “We understand one another in ways many cannot. Though she does have an uncle that she loves,” he added.

“Leave and be warned,” he said, waving a hand to dismiss the man.

Meng Yao bowed low once more before he left the throne room. He took a steadying breath as soon as the large doors closed behind him. Hearing a commotion, he turned to see Wen Chao and Wang Lingjiao noisily saying goodbye to one another. It seemed like one of Wang Lingjiao’s sisters was going to be going with Wen Chao. Though Meng Yao had no idea why she would want her sister near the man when she had already claimed him. He shook his head and went to find Wen Qing. He would have to tell her that they might need to be a little more careful when they were meeting. Since it was obvious that Wen Ruohan still cared about Wen Qing enough to worry about her reputation. Which was a little odd considering all that was going on.

Chapter Forty

Wei Ying flew quickly as they headed towards Lotus Pier. They had taken to the skies as soon as they received the message from Meng Yao. Telling him that the Wen forces were already on their way there. He knew that they would be cutting it close if they walked the rest of the way. While flying would take them considerably less time to get there. But they would drain themselves somewhat. He knew that the Wen were using horses to get to the City surrounding the Sect and then they would march the rest of the way. They had found a number of the Wen’s horses in Caiyi town when they had left Cloud Recesses that morning.

“We should be able to get there in good time,” Wei Ying called over the sound of the wind, “We’ll talk more with Uncle Jiang and see about getting the people out of Lotus Pier.”

“He could attack the civilians with the orders he was given,” Jiang Cheng agreed. He glanced back at Nie Mingjue who had his younger brother on his sabre with him as they flew. The Nie Sect Leader, his brother and a couple of other disciples had joined them in heading towards Lotus Pier. While Lan Zhan was with them with a dozen Lan Disciples that wanted to help. The three Sects were banding together to try and fight off any of the Wen Forces that were coming after them. There had been nothing about them heading to Qinghe yet, but it was bound to happen sooner or later.

They landed a few hours later, exhausted from pushing themselves more than normal to get there as quickly as possible. They were welcomed back, but instead of dallying around, they headed straight to find the Sect Leader.

“A-Cheng!” came a shout as Madam Yu spotted them and glared at Wei Ying, “And where the hell have you two been?” she demanded to know.

“Madam Yu,” Wei Ying greeted with a bow, “We need to find Uncle Jiang, where is he?” he asked instead of answering her.

“Mother, we need to find father now,” Jiang Cheng added before she could say anything else towards Wei Ying for ignoring her question.

“His office,” She answered, giving the two of them a glare, “Go and kneel in the ancestral hall. I’ll be speaking with y-” she was cut off as the two brothers rushed off. Lan Zhan, Nie Mingjue and Nie Huaisang quickly bowed before following behind them. Madam Yu watched them go and then followed as well. Wanting to know what kind of trouble Wei Ying had brought down on Lotus Pier for the Nie Sect Leader, his brother and the Second Young Master of the Lan Clan to all follow the two back home.

“Father,” Jiang Cheng said, knocking on the door and walking in as soon as he was given permission, “I’m sorry to interrupt you.”

“I’m glad that you’ve arrived back home safely A-Cheng, is everything alright?” he asked, as he then saw Wei Ying and three others walking into his office.

“I’m sorry to say but it isn’t,” Jiang Cheng said, “Wei Ying was kidnapped by the Wen Sect. We were able to get him free. We then headed to the Cloud Recesses and the Wen attacked us there. We were able to fight them off with minimal losses,” he added, explaining a little of what had happened so far.

“I see, and you are all here because of that?” he asked them, looking from his son to the others in the room.

“I killed Wen Xu,” Jiang Cheng admitted quickly, looking down, “Wen Ruohan is sending his son Wen Chao here with his forces to attack and decimate Lotus Pier. They want no Jiang Sect of Clan members to be left alive,” he told his father before looking up, “We need to evacuate the people in the city. Send them away, tell them to get as far away as they can until word comes that Lotus Pier is once safer for them. We need to make sure that the youngest and the weaker members of the Sect and Clan are gone as well. The elders, Shidi and Shimei,” he added, staring at the man.

Jiang Fengmian looked at his son and then smiled proudly, “I will se-”

“They are making this up,” Madam Yu protested as she had been listening in on her son’s explanation of the problem.

“Madam Yu,” Wei Ying said as he turned to her, “What we have said is the truth. The Wen are on the way now, and they will be here within a day or two at the very most. We need to make our move,” he added, shaking his head as he then looked at the woman, imploring her to believe him. That for once she would listen to them instead of trying to run over them and ignore their words of warning.

“The We-” Madam Yu began only to be cut off as Nie Huaisang started to cough, hiding his face behind his fan as he finished.

“Madam Yu,” Nie Mingjue said, getting what his brother was trying to do, “I just came from the fighting at Cloud Recesses myself. I saw as Wen Xu lost his head and the Wen Sect tried their best to burn the place down. Now if you wish to call me a liar then try it!” he blustered, almost glaring at the woman. He had no respect for the woman that would often cause trouble for those that she didn’t like. He knew that she had said a few things about Nie Huaisang at one point. And that, to him, wasn’t going to wash well.

“My Lady, why don’t you leave,” Jiang Fengmian told her, finally standing up, “It’s obvious that A-Cheng has some good ideas that we need to put into action. If you don’t wish to listen then leave so that I can,” he told her, gesturing for the others to sit down at his desk so they could plan out what needed to be done.

XxXxX

The planning was done. Disciples were sent out into the town warning all civilians of the incoming danger. Since there was no time frame of when they would arrive. They knew that they would only be able to get so far away from the town. They wouldn’t even be able to reach another village or two before the Wen would arrive, at their latest. Jiang Yanli had been put in charge of the civilians and the youngest disciples. Wei Ying was busy making as many barrier talismans as he could. To try and help protect some of the areas well outside of the city that the civilians would be taking refuge in. Small hidden camps were being set up for them to use since not all would be able to make it further away. A flare would alight the sky when it was safe for people to return. Hopefully, they would be able to repel them and that the people could return to their homes and businesses.

“Okay,” Wei Ying said as he set up another barrier, “as soon as the signal goes, the youngest should get here, they will be safe,” he said as he glanced over at Jiang Yanli who had been working with him. The little Shidi and Shimei had refused to leave with most of the civilians. Some of the eldest hadn’t been able to leave either. So, a few places around Lotus Pier itself were being set up as safe zones as well. Three buildings were designated as such and Wei Ying after finishing the camps had taken to protecting them as best as he could along with the Talisman and Array’s Master of the Sect. Jiang Yanli would be the one that would be taking the youngest to hide in them.

“Thank you, A-Xian,” she smiled at him. He could see the fear and the worry in her eyes as the hours were quickly ticking away and their time to prepare was running out.

“Welcome, and please make sure to keep yourself safe as well,” he begged her, taking her hands, “I don’t know what Lan Xichen would do if he lost you. He wanted to come with us, but…” he trailed off sighing.

“He’s needed in Cloud Recesses at the moment,” she nodded, “I know, he sent me a message as soon as the fighting was over. He wasn’t happy about being left out of the battle. He wanted to help,” she told her brother as they walked away from the buildings that were a little further away from the Main Sect Compound. They were mostly used for guests during the Conferences that Lotus Pier held.

“I know, but he’s a Healer first before a fighter. It could harm his skills as a healer if he fights too much. It’s why the Dafan Wen may practice the sword but they don’t fight. It impacts their Healing,” he explained.

“I know,” she sighed heavily, “But he is both. Don’t forget that. While it’s true that his main focus is healing. He also made sure to keep a good balance so he could cultivate as a fighter as well. Like you and A-Cheng,” she reminded him. The Lan Sect Heir had messaged her a lot over the last few days, explaining all he could about what was going on. Her mother had stopped her from talking to their father about them. The messages that Wei Ying and the others had sent hadn’t been believed because of Madam Yu as well. She had made sure to refute everything that came from her son and Wei Ying. Though when Jiang Fengmian had been confronted by his sons and the others, he had finally believed them and had done so quickly.

“That’s what he said,” he nodded, “But it was best for him to go into the Back Mountains. He would have been able to protect those that had taken shelter there, some of the fighters were with him as well,” he pointed out, “And someone would be needed to lead them if something had happened. And your man was the right one for the job,” he added, laughing as Jiang Yanli blushed at his words.

“A-Xian,” she admonished playfully, smacking his arm before she took hold of it and they began to walk towards the main compound, “Do you really think we will be alright?” she asked him, there was a slight tremble in her voice.

Wei Ying looked down at her, “Yes. We’re determined and we have some of the best fighters in our world by our side as well. We also have a number of healers that came too, and they are waiting for their time to shine,” he told her, trying to keep the talk light. He didn’t want to worry her. He knew that Lan Xichen hadn’t held back when he told her of the attack on Cloud Recesses. He wished that he had, but understood why not.

Jiang Yanli sighed and nodded, looking just as determined as the others as she said, “I hope we will, I’ll be bringing my daggers with me,” she told him as they reached the walkways and headed to find some of the others.

“Good, make sure you take a little time to practice with them. No doubt that Madam Yu’s maids would be happy to spar with you to make sure that you’re still good with them,” he smiled encouragingly at her.

“I will do so before dinner,” she told him, “I don’t have long,” she murmured.

“It will be fine, we’ll all be fine,” he reassured her once more as they came to a pavilion that looked out on the water of Lotus Pier. Madam Yu was there with her two maids beside her, “Why don’t you go and ask now. I’ll go and see what everyone else is doing and tell Uncle Jiang that the building should now be secure enough for people to hide in and keep safe.”

“Yes, I think I will,” she smiled as she walked away, heading to where her mother was.

Wei Ying watched her for a moment as she spoke to the two women that had protected Madam Yu since they were children and then he walked away. It didn’t take him long to find Lan Zhan and Nie Mingjue. The two were at one of the training fields, along with Jiang Fengmian, helping to train and ready the disciples that would be fighting alongside them against the invading Wen’s.

“Lan Zhan!” he grinned as he rushed over to the man as he stepped away from correcting one of the disciples, “I didn’t know that you knew the Jiang Style?” he puzzled as he saw the corrected action was to fit with the Jiang Style and not the Lan, which the man would know better.

“Mn, watch Wei Ying train,” he answered him, a soft look on his face as he went over to Wei Ying and stood beside him.

“Oh,” Wei Ying blushed, though he had done the same with Lan Zhan.

“Wei Ying is very good,” he praised.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying whined as he blushed bright, trying to hide his face away. Those around them shook their heads at the two of them. This had been the normal state of the two of them when the two Lan brothers had come to Lotus Pier a while ago. Lan Zhan and Wei Ying flirting with each other were normal to the Jiang Sect.

“Are they always like this?” Nie Mingjue asked his brother as the fan wielding man walked over to them.

Nie Huaisang fluttered his fan in front of his face, “Oh no, this is… tame. They can be a lot worse. You should have seen them when we were at the Cloud Recesses for lectures. Wei Wuxian wouldn’t leave him alone most of the time.”

Nie Mingjue nodded and sighed, going back to the Jiang Disciples and the Nie and Lan ones that had come with them and started to get them ready for battle again.


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