The Four Y’s – 3/6 – duochanfan

Title: The Four Y’s
Author: duochanfan
Fandom: The Untamed/Mo Dao Zu Shi
Genre: Action Adventure, Drama, Family, Hurt/Comfort, Kid!fic, Pre-Relationship, Slash
Relationship(s): Nie Mingjue/Meng Yao, others
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Incest, Major Character Death, Slavery, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Dark Themes, Abuse Child, Abuse Domestic, Adultery, Death Minor Character, Discussion – Child Abuse, Discussion – Domestic Violence, Discussion – Murder, Discussion – Rape, Discussion Sexual Abuse, Discussion Torture, Disturbing Imagery, Violence Canon Level, Rape Off Screen, Murder
Beta: Arete
Word Count: 151,000
Summary: Wei Ying is once against being berated by Madam Yu, instead of taking it and watching as his brother is verbally lashed, he stands up to her. Not wanting to see his brother hurt by his own mother again. The woman turns on him and drives Wei Ying from the Jiang Sect he starts to travel around the Cultivation World, picking up a few people on the way to add to his own misfit little family. His hope as he travels is to find a home for himself and those he now claims as family.
Artist: SpencnerTibbsLuvr



Chapter Twenty-One

Jiang Cheng walked alongside his father as he spoke, “I didn’t know that Wuxian lived on the streets before he came to Lotus Pier,” he frowned, “Why didn’t he ever say anything?” he asked his father as they headed away from another village that held no clue as to where Wei Ying had gone.

“A-Ying knew that you and A-Li would never have thought of such a thing. That when you had first seen him, he had actually been in my care for a month by then. We had slowly been making our way back. Since I didn’t want to scare him at all by flying with him. He was so scared of everything. I was rather surprised that he trusted me. And then one night, I went to wake him up,” he snorted, shaking his head at his own mistake.

“What do you mean?” he asked, pulling a face at his dad for cutting himself off.

Jiang Fengmian sighed and with a smile, “I have a scar on my arm, from A-Ying a day after I first found him. I didn’t know at the time that he had a knife that he kept on himself, even while sleeping. He kept it close to him, so he could protect himself,” he told him softly, thinking of all the things that could have happened to Wei Ying while he lived on the streets.

“What?” he exclaimed, staring at his father.

Jiang Fengmian tapped the part of his arm where the scar was. “I went to wake him up. I didn’t realise that he had a knife on him and I startled him badly when I did so. He lashed out. Stabbing me in the arm. He was extremely upset that he had done so. Thought that I would leave him there. That I wouldn’t be bringing him back with me. It’s when I told him that his father was my cousin, that we grew up as brothers and had sworn brotherhood to each other. I also said that he would always be family to me. He… didn’t believe me,” he sighed, “It took me a while to calm him down and we started to spend a few days at each stop we made along the way back. Once we even stayed a full week,” he told him, “I talked to him about you and A-Li and he couldn’t wait to meet you both. But each time I took him up on my sword, he would scream in terror. I learned that he thought I was just going to drop him. That he didn’t trust me.”

“You were a stranger to him,” Jiang Cheng mumbled, “He didn’t know to trust you yet.”

“Exactly. That’s why it took us so long to come back to Lotus Pier that time. Your mother wasn’t happy that I had done it that way, said I should have been there helping you and A-Lie,” he said, reaching over and patting his shoulder.

“But you had to help him, he’s my brother,” Jiang Cheng growled, “he was so scared of the dogs,” he added, frowning.

“He was, did he tell you why?” he asked him, curious as to what Wei Ying had spoken to his son about his life before Lotus Pier.

Jiang Cheng shook his head, “No, just that he was scared of them.”

“When he lived on the streets, there were a number of street dogs that would often try and attack him, trying to get what little food he had been able to find. He has a lot of scars on his legs from where he was bitten,” he told him, “That’s why I sent them to Meishan, I know that you loved them, adored them. But that first night, knowing they were around, he couldn’t sleep. He was barely able to breathe,” he said quietly, remembering that first night before he sent the puppies away.

“I didn’t know why. I hated him then, but now… I’d rather have Wuxian back than Jasmine, Love and Princess,” he muttered, feeling guilty that he had even thought that Wei Ying should have been the one to leave, so he could keep the three dogs.

“He wanted to try, but the panic was so bad, I knew they had to go, just for his peace of mind,” he said softly.

“Why does she hate Wuxian’s mother so much?” he asked, glancing at his father. He had heard a few people refer to Wei Ying as Jiang Fengmian’s bastard

“Cangse Sanren, she came into our lives like a storm. Wei Changze, myself and Cangse Sanren became good friends after she ended up calling Lotus Pier home. She had somewhat joined our Sect, though she would often travel a little and then come back. She was called a disciple of the Jiang Sect enough that she was able to go to Cloud Recesses for lessons, just as you will be able to in a couple of years,” he smiled, thinking back to a more carefree time when he didn’t have to worry about leading a Sect, pleasing a Wife that would never be happy with him, and making sure that his children were happy and failing at it badly.

“What were they like?” he asked, curious about them. He didn’t know if Wei Ying had ever asked him that question at all. He knew that he was only doing so because they weren’t at Lotus Pier and his mother couldn’t stop him from asking anything.

“Wei Changze,” Jiang Fengmian smiled, eyes going soft, “His mother and mine were sisters. They were very close. Both were born and raised in the Jiang Sect and were strong cultivators. When Wei Changze was born, his father wanted to travel a little. My aunt, she didn’t want to be alone, so with A-Ze, they travelled. Much like Wei Ying’s parents did when he was little,” he murmured. “When he was about ten, they passed away, an illness had spread through a village that they were staying at. They both caught it and passed away, but A-Ze recovered. After a while, he made his way back here. My mother took care of him, and my father adored him as well. And I had a little brother that had become quiet and isolated because of his grief. I was… almost seventeen when Cangse Sanren walked into our lives. She was around sixteen and A-Ze was only fifteen. We hit it off and became very close friends. We swore brotherhood together, the three of us. We were family.”

“So, if you were sworn siblings, why does mother hate her so much?” he couldn’t understand the jealousy that his mother possessed when it came to a woman that had been dead for almost ten years.

“I had an arranged marriage to the Yu Sect. One that an elder of the Jiang Clan had done and set up without the approval of my father. He wasn’t happy about it, but even trying to cancel it would have cost the Jiang Sect too much. So, in the end, we had no choice but to honour it. Yu Ziyuan learned of the fact that we had tried to break it,” he told him honestly, “She thought it was because I had wanted to marry Cangse Sanren since she was always around me. In reality, it was her and A-Ze that were going to be married,” he paused, snorting, “Cangse would rather put seaweed in my bed than to be in it herself.”

“She… sounds like Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng murmured, a little smirk on his face knowing that was something that Wei Ying had done to Madam Yu at least twice in the last couple of years. Not that there was any proof.

“They are very similar, but A-Ying has a lot more of A-Ze in him. He’s practical and a strong young man already. A-Ze was the same. Most think that it was Cangse that was the strongest out of the three of us. It wasn’t, it was him. She may have been trained by Baoshan Sanren, but Wei Changze. He learned from those that he met while he was travelling with his parents. And even when he was on the way back and got here, he carried on learning from anyone that would give him any time. Including Cangse, she taught him what Baoshan Sanren taught her, and me,” he told him, “Wei Ying has that drive to succeed from him. He was the strongest of the three of us, I… I was the weak link,” he sighed, “Father had told me a few times that he would have made a good Sect leader,” he laughed lightly, “And I agreed to it. He had a good head on his shoulders, and A-Ze made sure to teach me. Even though I was the older one,” he snorted, shaking his head.

“Wow,” Jiang Cheng muttered, “He was really that smart?” he asked.

“Wei Ying got that from his father, not his mother. He got her charm and smile, that’s for sure. But his father was smart as anything. He could make connections and talismans on the fly. And I know that Wei Ying can do the same,” he told him, “I adore what time I spent with them,” he sighed, “When I married, they were still living at Lotus Pier. Wei Changze was my right hand, my second in command of the Sect and she didn’t like that. Always calling him a servant, no matter what was told to her. She… always tried to belittle him. She and Cangse would often clash because of it. I told her that A-Ze was my brother, my family by blood.”

“She never believed it did she?” he asked, though he already knew the answer to that.

“No, not even when father or mother were able to get her to believe the truth. When they passed, just before A-Li was born, she decided that they would have to leave. She tried to drive them away. It didn’t work,” he smirked.

“But it did, they left,” he said, shaking his head, “That’s why they left.”

“As part of the betrothal and marriage, she was given Zidian, it had been my mother’s before then. And since she has used it again against a family member again, I will be taking it from her soon. Since it was part of the Ren Heirloom set, and not the Jiang Heirloom, then it can go to either you, your sister or A-Ying,” he began quietly, a deep hatred and anger built up in him as he continued, “She used it against Cangse, Wei Changze vowed that he wouldn’t live in Lotus Pier as long as she did. She had chased away my brother and sister. I have tried to love her, but from then on, I couldn’t and she knew it and used it against me whenever she could. Even when A-Li was born she tried to use your sister against me. And then you when you were born. I would often leave Lotus Pier with you both, meeting A-Ze and Cangse around the place. I even got to meet A-Ying when he was little, you got to meet him as well, he would take you around by the hand and A-Li would be watching and walking behind you both in case you fell,” he laughed lightly.

“I don’t remember,” he murmured, looking at the ground as he kicked a stone.

“You were only about three at the time, it was just before they died,” he told him gently, “It… wasn’t unusual for them to be out of communication for a few months. Even a year. So, I thought nothing of it when after their last message I heard nothing from them. it wasn’t until you were just gone eight that I learned that they had been killed. I set out to search for A-Ying then,” he told him, “I later learned that the missive that had come in to tell of their deaths and that their son had been left behind at the local inn had b-”

“Been intercepted by her, to make sure that you didn’t go and get him,” Jiang Cheng finished off with a snarl, “Why does she have to try and ruin our family? She’s taken so much from us all,” he said, anger bleeding into his voice.

“She has, but we’re taking it back. She will no longer be able to have any say in what you do and do not learn. You are the Heir to the Jiang Sect. She was to teach you a few things, but now, with what she has done. I can no longer trust her with my Heir, with my son,” he said as he pulled Jiang Cheng to face him, “And A-Li, we will teach her as well. The both of you will know everything you need to, to make sure that you will do well. Though I know that you will become one of the best Sect Leader’s the Jiang Sect has had,” he told him proudly.

Jiang Cheng looked up at him and smiled, “Thank you, and I know that we will and you’ll be able to teach Wuxian as well. Because we will find him and bring him home. We… we won’t let her run off another generation of our family from their home!”

Jiang Fengmian nodded, “You sound like your Aunt,” he told him, “You always did like to cuddle with her and listen to her as she spoke,” he told him.

“Tell me more about them?” he asked, wanting to learn about the family he didn’t remember.

Jiang Fengmian smiled and laughed, “Of course, and maybe when we find A-Ying, we can tell him a few things as well. I know he was always so scared of asking me about them. Especially when she would interrupt anytime we tried to speak.”

“Usually dragging me behind her,” Jiang Cheng snorted, “anyway, since we’re walking, stories please!” he demanded with a cheeky smile that looked too much like Wei Ying.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Jiang Fengmian and Jiang Cheng spent another month looking for Wei Ying, or any word on where he had gone. They hadn’t found anything. After a little coaching, Jiang Fengmian had even looked into the two teenagers that were travelling together. Though they said to be brothers, it didn’t mean that Wei Ying hadn’t found someone he could trust. They ended up coming across another town where the two had stopped and after talking with the local Sect, the Chang Sect, they had learned that they had been looking for their cousin, who they had found. Jiang Fengmian remained in the town, learning a little more about the three children. Though the townspeople he had talked to hadn’t said much about them. Just that they were travelling and happy to be together again.

“A-Cheng,” Jiang Fengmian called to his son as they headed back to Lotus Pier. They were almost there, the familiar sights and smells becoming stronger with each step they took.

“Dad,” he said as he glanced at him, “I really want to go back and look for him. Wuxian can’t have just… disappeared like that,” he said, looking hurt at the thought of his brother being out there and not even knowing if he was safe and that he was taking good care of himself.

“I know,” Jiang Fengmian agreed, a sadness in his own eyes as he spoke, “I want nothing more than to carry on our search.”

“So, why can’t we? What’s good about being the Sect Leader if you can’t do what you want?” he asked him, confused as to why they were returning to the Sect now instead of carrying on. They had only been away for two months, surely the place would still be standing in another three months’ time.

“Being a Sect Leader isn’t about doing what you want. It’s doing what is best for the good of the Sect. Sometimes that is putting aside anything you want to do and doing what is needed,” he told him, sighing heavily as he thought of the wish that he had. He had wanted nothing more than to join his sworn siblings as they journeyed around.

“So,” he murmured, “It means sacrificing all of your happiness?” he asked his father, looking at the ground beneath his feet, a heaviness starting to settle over him at the thought of giving everything up.

“Not always, but it does mean that you put others before yourself more often than not. I could have had happiness if someone hadn’t betrothed me to Yu Ziyuan,” he told him gently, “but then, I’m glad I was,” he added.

“Why, you wouldn’t be with mother if you hadn’t been,” he frowned, “And the Sect wouldn’t have it hanging over them either,” he pointed out to his father.

“Because being married to her, brought me two very special people into my life, and I wouldn’t have them if not for her being here,” he told him a smile on his face as he made Jiang Cheng stop and turn to face him, “With Yu Ziyuan at Lotus Pier, as my wife, you and A-Li were brought into my life. How could I regret something that brought me you two? I may not like her, but at least I have two very, very special people here to help me, to be with me. You have both lifted me up more than anything in this world. Yes, I do love A-Ying as a son, but you two do mean that little bit more to me,” he told him honestly.

“But you… he should be the same,” he said, frowning in confusion. It was what his mother had always told him. That Wei Ying was more special to Jiang Fengmian than his own children were.

“He does mean a lot to me, but you will always be just that little bit more special in my heart. A-Ying knows this, and understands that I do love him, but there is something between you, me and A-Li that he doesn’t have,” he added quietly, “I held you both when you were born. And that is something special that I was never able to have with A-Ying. He gets that, he knows that, and also, he doesn’t look to me as one would a father. He looked to me as an Uncle. There is that distance between us. He doesn’t call me father because of honouring his own and he doesn’t want to take that bond we have away from you.”

“But he should, you took him in as your own?” he queried, shaking his head and not understanding what Jiang Fengmian was trying to tell him.

“I know, but he will always be the son of my brother and sister, the son of two very dear friends,” he told him, “I did try and see him as my son, and I call him as such. But A-Ying himself is the one that told me not to. He was the one that told me that I should be considered Uncle and that he was happy as my nephew, that you should be my only son.”

Jiang Cheng went quiet at that. He had always thought, and his mother had always said, that Wei Ying was trying to become Jiang Fengmian’s son. To replace Jiang Cheng because he wasn’t good enough. But to find out that it was Wei Ying himself that was the one that stopped it. He wondered if that was what his mother had planted in his head, to make him see what she wanted him to, to twist him to hate his father and brother. “We should… we should carry on,” he murmured, walking forwards as he tried to think about the things his mother had said.

Jiang Fengmian watched him for a moment, “He loved you as a brother, never forget that A-Cheng, he does. He might not be here with you, but just like I know that A-Ze and Cangse still considered me their brother, I know that Wei Ying does the same. And we think of them as family, always,” he told him, walking beside him for a moment.

“Yeah,” he sighed with a nod, “I know, but he should be here, with us. Not out there alone,” he closed his eyes, feeling upset again.

“Oh, A-Cheng,” he said, pulling him into his arms, “I know. He should be here, and one day he will be,” he murmured, “For now, we will wait and then go and search for him again when we can,” he told him, holding him tightly for a moment longer. He let him go a little reluctantly, wondering if his son would still be alright to hug when they were back home. “Come on, let’s go home, A-Li is waiting for us,” he reminded him, smiling.

“Yeah,” he nodded, taking a shaking breath as he tried to calm himself down. He hated it when he lost his temper, he felt more and more like his mother, and he really didn’t want that. He thought of her as more of a monster than a mother at times.

“We know that he’s alive,” Jiang Fengmian told him gently, reminding him as he let his bed jingle a little.

“Oh,” he frowned as he took hold of his bell, pulling it from his sash,” How… how can I tell?” he asked, holding it aloft and hoped he would be able to do the same.

Jiang Fengmian smiled sadly, “Right,” he said, taking his own bell, he had hoped his son would know how this worked. But it didn’t matter, he didn’t mind teaching him, “I want you to push a little of your Qi into it,” he said, waiting for Jiang Cheng to do so. The small bells in their hands started to ring a little, and there was even a slight glow to them. Jiang Fengmian grinned as he added, “Right, I want you to think of Wei Ying, think of him and give a little more Qi into the bell, as though you were passing energy to Wei Ying himself,” he finished softly as he waited for his son to do so. The link between the bells can be felt no matter the distance between them. He would know when one of his disciples would pass, no matter how far away he was from them. It hadn’t worked with Wei Changze and Cangse Sanren because their bells had been destroyed by Madam Yu, and the ones they had received hadn’t been connected to his before they left. Jiang Fengmian had taken Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli’s and had changed their Bells to contain the same arrays that were with his. This was so that Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli would be able to sense the juniors and since Wei Ying’s bell had been linked with his before he left. They would be able to feel him, Jiang Cheng would be able to feel his brother whenever he wanted. To know that Wei Ying was well.

“He’s… okay,” Jiang Cheng said, eyes widening as the feeling came through, “I felt him, it was like an echo in my head that he was fine. But I don’t… I don’t know where he is,” he added, looking upset.

“Unfortunately, the arrays aren’t able to do that. I was going to ask A-Ying to have a look at them after you spent time at Gusu for the lectures. I wanted to know if he would be able to change them,” he sighed, it had been something that he had been thinking about for a while, especially when Wei Ying showed some skill with them.

“So, we know he’s okay,” he nodded as they began to head home once more.

Jiang Fengmian nodded, “Yes, we know that he’s okay, even if we didn’t see him.”

The entrance of Lotus Pier came into sight as they reached him. The guards bowed to the two of them as they walked inside Lotus Pier for the first time in two months.

“Welcome home,” Jiang Yanli said with a smile as she looked up from her work as they walked into the Sect Leader’s office. “Were you unable to find him?” she asked, noting that Wei Ying wasn’t with them.

“No A-Jie, we… we couldn’t find him,” he said, “But… but we know that he’s okay, just not where he is,” he added as he went over to his sister, dropping to the ground near her.

“I hope he’s safe” she murmured as she wrapped her arms around her younger brother, both of them missing Wei Ying.

“How have things been here?” Jiang Fengmian asked his daughter as he walked over to them, sitting before her.

“Things have been well, we have three teams of juniors and seniors out of Night Hunts at the moment. Training has been going well and I believe that I’m improving as well,” she smiled brightly as she looked at her father. Jiang Cheng broke from her hug as she spoke.

“That’s good to hear, we’ll go over everything that you’ve been doing later. Though I’ve no doubt that everything has been fine, I know I can trust you,” he told her, seeing the small frown on her face.

“But you need to know what has been done?” she asked him.

“Yes, I do. If I don’t know then I can’t see how well our disciples are doing,” he answered her easily.

“Mother did try something not long after you left. But all of the disciples are ignoring her. No one is paying any attention to her at all,” she smiled, feeling rather vindictive and happy about that.

“Good, she doesn’t deserve respect after what she has done,” Jiang Cheng huffed, happy with her being ignored. He knew that she was his mother, she had birthed him and he had thought she loved him. Though it always felt like that love was conditional, that he had to earn it and that it was never freely given to him.

“A-Cheng,” Jiang Fengmian said, shaking his head, “I know how you feel.”

“But she is still my mother,” he rolled his eyes as he looked at his father, “When she loved me for who I am and not what she believes that I should be is when I will give her any respect dad,” he told him, “I can’t do so otherwise. She… she made everything so hard, so much worse. She got into my head and I don’t want her to ever do so again. So, until she loves me without condition, I will show her nothing. She is mother in name only.”

Jiang Fengmian stared at his son for a while and then nodded, “Okay,” he agreed with him.

“Thank you, dad, for respecting my decision,” he told him as they began to learn what else had been going on in Lotus Pier while they were gone.

The door slammed open not long after they had settled down to go over things. Madam Yu stood there, nothing but rage on her face as she looked at the three of them seated around the desk, “So,” she sneered, glaring at her husband, “you’re back.”

“I am. Not that it should concern you, as matters of this Sect and my own coming and going are no longer in your preview,” he told her, all of them keeping a blank face.

“Of course, it’s my business to know, this is my home,” she snapped at him, taking a threatening step towards them.

“No, it isn’t. It stopped being your home the moment that you decided that you were going to harm Wuxian,” Jiang Cheng told her, staring at his mother and no longer seeing the woman as such, “As soon as I’m sixteen I want you gone. I… don’t even want you here now. You’re not a mother,” he told her bluntly.

“I am your mother,” she told him, eyes flashing as she looked at her son, “I raised you.”

“No, you constantly belittled me, put me down. You never once told me that you love me. Instead, you were always telling me that you were disappointed in me,” he shook his head, “That’s not what a mother should be like. Your love was conditional to me, and to A-Jie. If we did as you wanted, believed what you wanted, you cared a little about us. If we didn’t, you would put him down and show how displeased you were with your children.”

“In other words, Yu Ziyuan, leave the room. You’re not wanted here. The same rules apply while I am here. You are to dine in your rooms, alone or with your maids,” he told her, “If you wish to train, you have your own courtyard for that,” he added.

Madam Yu looked at her children, expecting them to come to her side. She was their mother, the one that brought them into the world and taught them the harshness of it, “A-Li, A-Cheng,” she demanded.

“Madam Yu,” Jiang Yanli said calmly, “Just because my father is home, does not mean that you are free to do as you please, return to your daily routine,” she told her, “We, at this moment in time, no longer consider you our mother.”

Madam Yu growled, but she turned and slammed out of the room, leaving the three to breathe a sigh of relief as they began to carry on with their work.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Meng Yao stood beside his brother and Zhao Zhuliu three days later as they were let into the fortress that was Qinghe Nie. The letter had given them the entrance to the Sect’s Fortress that stood at the far end of the town. The town itself was full of life. People were moving their way through it with happy voices and smiles. As they walked into the Fortress, they looked around in wonder, the place was impressive.

“So,” Sect Leader Nie said, “My scout informed me that there were only three of you, two teenagers and a very young child,” he added, noticing that there was an addition to the group.

“This one is Meng Yao,” Meng Yao bowed as he stepped forwards, “We found Zhao Zhuliu as we were heading here, after parting from your Scout. He was being attacked by others from his village and wasn’t fighting back. We saved him from severe injury. Though he is still injured and is in need of some medical help.”

“Are you?” Nie Mingjue asked the man at the back of the group.

“I should be fine a while longer, Sect Leader Nie,” he said, bowing, though everyone in the hall could see that he was in pain as he did so, “I am Zhao Shan, courtesy Zhuliu,” he told him, “I’m sorry for intruding on the three that you were looking at to join you.”

“It is fine, though, why was your own village doing such a thing?” he asked. Curious as to what the cause of such actions were. It wasn’t often that a village would throw away a cultivator.

“I… I have an ability that they fear,” he said, standing up straighter, pulling his hands close to him, “I can… crush the Golden Cores of people. They… they wouldn’t be able to cultivate after such a thing,” he said, seeing a few people take a fearful step back. Though Nie Mingjue just looked at him.

“Do you have control?” he asked him.

“I do now. But when I was young I didn’t. I… I crushed my father’s core and two others before I was able to fully gain control of the ability. My… they are afraid of me, and I don’t blame them or anyone else for not wishing to have me around,” he said looking down. He was ashamed of what he could do. He knew that he couldn’t help it, but he hated it. “I never want to use it again. The… the face that my father made when it happened, it haunts me every day. I wish there was some way that people could be protected against it,” he added, looking back up hesitantly.

Nie Mingjue could see the truth in his face and eyes and nodded, “Then let’s get you healed up, you will be given a probation period within the Sect to see if you fit in here,” he told him, “for now, rest and heal,” he said, gesturing to one of his people.

“Come on, I’ll take you to the healers,” a young man said, a shy smile on his face as he walked over.

“Thank you,” he said, going to bow again.

“Don’t,” Nie Mingjue stopped him, “I can see that it pains you at the moment,” he added as he turned his attention to the two teenagers and child that had been recommended for his Sect.

“Thank you,” Wei Ying said, bowing to the Nie Sect Leader, “I was afraid that someone might not wish for him to be here,” he added, as Zhao Zhuliu left the hall with a bit of help.

“If he’s a good disciple and fit, then he will be able to remain here,” Nie Mingjue told him, “if not, then I will make sure that he finds a place where he will fit well,” he finished.

“We are hoping that we will be able to stay here,” Wei Ying said, “Though we don’t know if we will fit in with the Sect. We know that the Nie Sect prefers Sabres.”

“That may be the case, but a disciple is free to use other methods should they find a better fit. The only ones that are truly required to learn the Sabre Style are those of the Nie Clan,” he told him, “Now, your names please?” he asked them.

“Meng Yao,” the oldest of the teenagers said, bowing once more, “I am only just learning the sword, but I am getting better at it all the time. I am somewhat proficient in talismans, though the drawing of them, I’m not that good yet.”

“I’m Wei Ying, courtesy Wuxian,” he said, hesitant about using his name. He knew that he could easily be asked to leave if it was known that he had been part of the Jiang Sect. It wasn’t often that a person would be forced out of one Sect and able to join another without problems happening between the Sects. “I am proficient at the sword and talisman. As well as Arrays, I do make my own and I have training methods that can help to strengthen the Core better,” he added, thinking of what he had done with Meng Yao and Xue Yang.

“And the young one?” he asked, as he looked down at the small toddler that was almost hiding behind Wei Ying’s legs.

“This is Xue Yang, he’s three almost four,” he said, “he also has the beginnings of a Golden Core.”

Xue Yang was giggling a little behind Wei Ying’s legs. Though no one was really paying attention to the toddler. Xue Yang was watching the young teenager that was standing near Nie Mingjue. He tilted his head as he thought before nodding to himself. Bringing his hands before him he concentrated just like his A-Niang had taught him. Slowly a little bird began to form between them. It was small, but it glowed a little and that was now beginning to attract the attention of a few people in the room. Xue Yang laughed brightly as he sent it towards the young teenager. Grinning and clapping as it reached him and flew around his head a few times before it burst into a shower of sparkles.

“A-Niang, A-Niang,” he called out, tugging on Wei Ying’s robes, “I did it! I got it to fly!” he yelled out, jumping up and down in his excitement.

Wei Ying grinned as he turned and picked him up, “I saw, Well done. I told you that you would be able to do it soon,” he smiled, twirling the toddler around and causing him to squeal in happiness at the action and the praise.

“Well done A-Yang,” Meng Yao said, patting him on the head and then with a nod from Wei Ying, he pulled out a small piece of candy from a bag and handed it over. He smiled as he repeated, “Well done,” hold out the candy.

“Thank you Yao-Gege!” he giggled before popping the candy into his mouth with a happy smile on his face. He rested his head on Wei Ying’s shoulder, sighing in content.

“A Golden Core? Already?” Nie Mingjue queried. He had read the report that his scout had sent to him. That they were teaching him how to do so. But he didn’t believe that it would be possible at that age.

“Yes,” Wei Ying answered him, “I taught them both using the same methods that I used to form my own four years ago. I’ve only been cultivating for four years, but I have the core of someone that has been cultivating since they were five.”

“That is very impressive,” he nodded, a few of those in the room murmuring their agreements.

“I’ve been cultivating my core for the last three months,” Meng Yao told him, “I also learned the way that A-Ying did. And I have to admit that I didn’t think that I would be anywhere near as strong as I am now, to be able to do all that I can do.”

Wei Ying went a little red with embarrassment at the praise, “Yao-ge,” he said softly.

“It’s true A-Ying, I never thought I would be able to wield a sword as well as I am, or even be able to use talismans like that in a fight. Not to mention that I can actually fly,” he told him, shaking his head as he praised the young teen.

“You had that potential beforehand. I just… helped a little bit,” he shrugged, focusing on Xue Yang a little more.

“How… How did he do that animal?” a quiet and almost timid voice spoke up as the teenager that Xue Yang had sent the bird to step forwards.

Wei Ying turned to him, glad of the distraction, “It’s a way of strengthening a Core and to help learn how to control your Qi enough to be able to use talismans.”

“Talismans don’t need any control to cast them,” one of the Nie Elders said from behind the two Nie brothers.

“Can I show you one?” he asked, “it will just create sparks of red in the air,” he added, as he got a sceptical look from the others.

“Of course,” Nie Mingjue nodded, curious as to what the teen was going to do.

Wei Ying began to draw in the air. His Qi was beginning to form a talisman. As soon as he was done, he pressed a hand against it and sparks shot up into the air, “Learning how to form your Qi outside of your body enables you to use talismans on the fly like that. This can also be used to create protection arrays outside of setting them on the ground and working on them slowly and properly. They aren’t as strong of course. But they are still good enough to protect others for a while and to help in a fight when civilians are around.”

“Impressive, and you say by doing as you have, in controlling your Qi you are able to do these?” the Elder asked, nodding as he observed the young teenager.

“Yes,” he answered, nodding, “I learned how to do them on the fly when my… when someone I cared about was in danger. It was then that I realised what was stopping most people from doing the same. So, I started to plan how to strengthen that control, to make it to a point where anyone could do it. The exercise that A-Yang was doing is part of it. Though they do have another ability,” he grinned as he thought of his more solid constructs.

“Oh?” Nie Mingjue asked, curiously.

“Yao-ge, can you?” he asked his friend, a little smirk appearing on his face.

Meng Yao nodded, “Mine aren’t as good as A-Ying, but I’m slowly getting better at them,” he said as he began to form a small cat. He then let it go over to the Nie Sect Leader and bumped against his leg.

“It’s solid,” he frowned, amazed as he reached down to pet it.

“It is, with enough training and as your Qi gets stronger you can make them solid enough to do things. I can make them bigger than that and send them after something to knock them down. They are only good once, maybe even twice at a push. But they are helpful in distracting the larger beasts that we come across,” Wei Ying explained. He wasn’t too happy about telling the man all his secrets, but he knew that the better the Sect Leader knew of his abilities and what he could do, meant that there was a bigger chance he would let him remain in the Sect. Even after being forced away from the Jiang Sect.

“Then I will have A-Sang here and Elder Nie to guide you three to a room. You will have to share for a few days while we find you some permanent quarters for you all. I take it that you would prefer to be kept together?” he asked, looking at the three.

“If that isn’t so much trouble,” Wei Ying said, as he and Meng Yao bowed. Though Wei Ying had a little trouble with Xue Yang in his arms.

“A-Sang, you know the room that I set aside for them?” he reminded his brother.

“I do, Da-ge,” he grinned, happy to take them. He wanted to know more about making the birds, as he would love to be able to do the same.

“I’m going to check in on our other guest and see how they are,” he said. He could see the sudden worry in the two teenagers’ eyes, “Do not worry, I’m not going to send him away because of what he can do,” he reassured them, “If he had control of it, then he is welcome here. If he hadn’t then I would have sent him to the border for a bit with a few disciples to learn control.”

“Thank you,” Wei Ying said once more.

“Welcome, now go and clean up. Dinner will be in the main hall soon, all disciples and those that work within the fortress eat there, though most of the servants prefer the small hall to eat,” he told them, giving a nod to his brother as he then walked away to go and see his other charge.

“We will,” Meng Yao said, as the three of them were led out of the room. They walked through the corridors further away from the greeting hall and to the corridors of rooms off to one side. Nie Huaisang opened the door and let them inside.

It was a large room, three beds were inside along with a small seated area. The two teens thanked Nie Huaisang, who quickly mentioned that he would stop by to collect them for dinner.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Meng Yao woke a little earlier than normal. He glanced around, shaking his head as he saw that Xue Yang had ended up in Wei Ying’s bed again. He got up with a smile on his face as he got ready for the day. He shivered a little at the cold. He walked out of his room after writing a note to tell them that he was up and out of the room. He spotted one of the disciples that was in the hall yesterday when they had first arrived.

“Excuse me,” he said, looking a little unsure, “I was hoping that there was a way to be able to speak with Sect Leader Nie for a moment? If he isn’t busy at all, “he bowed in greeting.

“Since you’re one of the new people here he won’t mind talking to you for now. He tends to want to learn about those that come into the Sect. But after time, he will be too busy with his duties to carry on,” he warned him, bowing back.

“I won’t, there is something that I think he should know about before he finishes making his decision on if we are able to remain,” Meng Yao said softly, following him through the corridors.

“Right,” he nodded, bringing him to a stop at a door and knocking on it. “This is the Sect Leader’s office. He’s usually in here most mornings. If not, he will be at the training grounds going through his daily practice,” he added as they got a call to enter the room.

Nie Mingjue looked imposing even sitting down at the desk surrounded by paperwork, “What do you need?” he asked, as he glanced up and saw his disciples entering.

“One of the new ones wishes to speak with you,” he said, as Meng Yao walked in behind him. Looking hopeful at the Sect Leader that he would agree to speak with him.

“Good morning Sect Leader Nie,” he bowed for a moment before rising. He stood up straight, not doing or saying anything else as he waited.

“You can leave us,” he dismissed his disciple and turned to the young teenager that was now standing before him, “You are Meng Yao if I remember right,” he said, a little frown on his face.

“Yes, Sect Leader I am,” he bowed again, “I’m sorry to disturb you, but I thought it might be a good idea to speak with you a moment before you made your decision about us.”

“Oh?” he said, gesturing to the seat on the other side of the table, “Then please, speak,” he told him.

“I saw your reaction when you heard A-Ying’s name,” he said bluntly. He didn’t believe that beating around the bush about something like this. It could do more harm than good.

“He is Wei Wuxian, Head Disciple for the Jiang Sect. Yet, he is suddenly here in the Nie Sect asking for a home. That’s unusual. I’ve been contemplating on if I should inform the Jiang Sect that their disciple has turned up here, and as to why he is no longer considering himself one of them,” his voice was grave as he spoke. It was an unusual situation. Most Disciples that left a Sect would avoid joining another.

“That is what I wanted to talk to you about,” he sighed, “I know that he was the head disciple of the Jiang Sect for almost a year. He told me that a little while after we first met. We call each other brothers, as we feel that we are the only family each other has. Xue Yang is our cousin, but in reality, he isn’t blood-related either,” he told him quietly, “We are a found family, one that came together because of Wei Wuxian. A-Ying… there are things going on in the Jiang Sect that he could no longer deal with. Nothing to do with his Uncle or his cousins. But Madam Yu herself. She… she whipped him and threw him out.”

“If he was thrown from the Sect then he isn’t exactly trustworthy,” Nie Mingjue argued, though he wasn’t really thinking that at all.

“He was kicked out because she was a jealous woman that couldn’t stand that he was close with her family,” he said in a rush, “I know that it looks bad but… he’s really scared to go back. There are scars on his back from when he was whipped since he had to leave before they could even be healed. I know that he misses his brother and sister, as well as his Uncle. But he can’t go back and he won’t go back as long as that woman is there, and I don’t blame him,” he explained more of the situation, shaking his head, “He really is a good teenager, he’s considerate and kind to those that he meets. He loves to teach A-Yang and I what he knows. He… he really just wants to find a place that can be a home. He didn’t think he would be able to remain here. But… I want him to be welcomed, because he said that he would leave me and A-Yang behind, to make sure that we would have a home, even if he didn’t,” he took a shaky breath, still upset with the thought of what Wei Ying wanted to do.

“And what makes it that he can remain here?” he told him, “What should I do? I could be going against another Sect?” he reminded the young teenager.

“He is no longer Jiang, while his Uncle will no doubt welcome him back to the Jiang Sect, he doesn’t want to out of fear. Fear that woman will not only hurt him but her own children. She had threatened that to get him to leave. She doesn’t care about anyone but herself and her standing. I’ve heard rumours about her, even from where I lived at the time. That she is extremely harsh on her disciples, detests the head disciple and nephew of the Sect Leader. She never even welcomed him home. Which is what Lotus Pier is, the home of his ancestors. From what I learned, the Wei Family has been part of the Jiang Sect since the beginning, where there is a Jiang there was always a Wei next to them,” he told him, “I can’t change your mind, but I hope that you will allow him to stay. To let him have a home where he won’t have to fear being kicked out because someone is jealous that he has a few extra talents and abilities,” he finished.

“I will need to speak to him, to see about his side of things,” Nie Mingjue told him.

“Please, don’t, it hurts him to talk about it. He only talked to me about it because he thought I should know. And I’m telling you this so you don’t have to ask him too much about it,” he sighed, looking at the Sect Leader, “I know I’m just a… a nobody, and that is how A-Ying feels as well. But he’s so smart and I think you would be making a mistake in letting him go,” he told him, a little bluntly, but it needed to be said.

“And what about you, what about your past?” he asked, putting aside the issue of Wei Ying for now. He wanted to get to know the young teenager in front of him.

“My… mother was a prostitute,” he answered, slightly hesitant about doing so, “To many, I should have remained there and become one as well,” he told him, knowing that was what most people would think about him should they learn, “But I am more than my mother. My father hasn’t been in my life since I was very young. He doesn’t want me at all, and I doubt that he ever will,” he looked away, towards the window that looked out onto the main training grounds.

“And who is your father? Do you know?” he asked, it was a rather rude question, but with Meng Yao’s mother’s profession, he knew that it was a legitimate question to ask.

“I do. He asked my mother to have me, he even gave her money to do so, for the loss of work that she would suffer from going through a pregnancy with me. But then he turned around and said he didn’t want me when I was around four years old,” he snorted, sneering at the thought of his so-called father, “The money he gave was to buy our freedom, in the end, it only brought my own,” he told him, still feeling the aching loss of his mother. It hadn’t been that long since her passing after all.

“Who?” he asked again.

“Jin Guangshan, the Jin Sect Leader. I know that I’m not the only child he has fathered in such a way and that there are many children he has had that were not his wife’s,” he sighed glancing back at the Sect Leader, “Sect Leader Nie, I want nothing to do with that man or the Jin Sect. they won’t be coming for me at all and added to what A-Ying has told me about him, I don’t wish to. I won’t be going to him either, I am my own person. I am my mother’s son, not his and I never will be,” he told him, keeping a stony look on his face.

Nie Mingjue nodded, “Very well,” he said, “I will think more on it and inform you all of my decisions at breakfast.”

Meng Yao blinked, “I didn’t think you would have an answer so soon. Normally, from what I’ve learned, this could take a few months, while you see if we were a good fit,” he frowned.

“Normally it does,” Nie Mingjue said, “But, you have been honest with me, it’s something that has been appreciated. I will still speak with Wei Wuxian, though I will not ask for many details,” he nodded to him before Meng Yao could say anything, “It’s to learn more about him from his own mouth,” he told him, “I won’t ask questions, and I will say that you have told me about his past.”

“That’s fine, I left a note telling him that I would be doing so. So, he knows. I know he doesn’t like to speak of it, so I thought I would on his behalf. He won’t be too happy with me, but I’d rather not see him hurt because of it all again,” Meng Yao said softly. He stood up, “I thank you for your time Sect Leader Nie,” he bowed.

“Yes, you’re welcome. No, if you don’t mind, I have some paperwork to do,” he hugged as he looked at it all.

Meng Yao looked down, biting his lip, “Would you… like some help?” he asked, a little unsure if he should have.

“Do you have any experience with the Books of businesses and houses?” he asked him, “This here isn’t what most places would have though.”

“I helped out a lot at the offices in Yunping to earn a little money. I also did the books for a number of businesses around the city along with the brothels books,” he added, “If you show me what is needed to be done then I should be able to help,” he added, sitting back down as Nie Mingjue nodded and quickly began to show him what he was doing.

“Think you can do those?” he asked, gesturing to the pile that would be along the same lines as the one that he had shown him.

“Yes,” Meng Yao nodded a slight smile on his face as he began to work.

Nie Mingjue watched him for a moment, as the young teenager worked. The Nie Sect Leader could see he was working faster than he had been doing. He would have to check it over afterwards, but from what he had been able to glance at, it was correct.

XxXxX

Wei Ying walked around with a large smile on his face after breakfast. He had spoken with the Nie Sect Leader, still a little annoyed with Meng Yao for spilling his past. But he had understood that Nie Mingjue had needed to know. Now, he had been told that they would be allowed to remain with the Nie Sect as their disciples. Zhao Zhuliu looked up from where he was sitting up in bed as Wei Ying walked into the room and over to him. The older man was still in the healer’s wing, staying there until he was fully healed. There had been an infection in some of the cuts which is what had caused his healing to stop. He had been told he would be given a room of his own near where the three boys were the next day.

“Wei Wuxian,” he smiled softly, happy to see the young teenager as he walked in and over to him.

“So, how are you feeling now?” he asked as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Doing well, I should be able to get out of here tomorrow morning at the earliest. How are things?” he asked him.

“Well,” he grinned, “They’ve agreed to let us stay, going against the norm and letting us in without a full probation period. Though you’ll still have a probation period to see if you’re a good fit,” he told him, “And we’re going to be housed near each other in the fortress, they think that the room that we already have is going to be fine for us to carry on using for a while. That’s mainly because of A-Yang, when he’s older we may be moved somewhere else, or go to disciple quarters,” he smiled.

“That’s good to hear, I’m glad that the three of you are able to remain together,” he smiled.

Wei Ying looked at him, seeing that he was still hiding his hands away, as he had done each time someone was around him, “I’m going to try and find a way to make a charm or something to protect people from your ability. I don’t want you to be scared about it anymore,” he told him, tilting his head as he had a quick flash of an idea, “Oh, maybe even some gloves that will be able to stop it,” he told him, grinning.

“Thank you,” he nodded, “That would be great. I hate knowing that I could harm someone. I feel sometimes that I shouldn’t even exist.”

“You should, we’re grateful to have you here. I don’t think A-Yang would be happy if his Zufu wasn’t going to be around anymore,” he laughed, seeing the look on Zhao Zhuliu’s face at the title of grandfather.

“Really need to change his mind about that,” he muttered, pulling a face. He didn’t like the name because it made him feel old, even though he was only twenty-three years old.

Wei Ying laughed, “You know it’s not going to happen. Toddler logic after all,” he reminded him, shaking his head, “You’re old to him, therefore you are Zufu,” he grinned, looking at him. He saw that he was pulling a face, but he didn’t really see any annoyance at the title.

“Ugh,” he muttered, “As long as he’s a good boy, I’ll let him get away with it, but only because he’s rather adorable,” he added, shaking his head.

Wei Ying laughed even more as the two of them then started talking a little more before Wei Ying had to leave. He had his first training session with the Nie Sect. He walked towards the training grounds, bowing to a few of the disciples and Elders that he met during his walk. He looked around as soon as he got there and then settled into the training easily.

Chapter Twenty-Five

It had been a week since they had settled in Qinghe. Wei Ying had been able to sort out a good time table for them all to make sure that they all got to spend time with each other and for Wei Ying to be able to continue teaching the two of them. They entered the small courtyard that they had found to be abandoned most of the time. Settling down in the small grassy area that they had cleaned, they started to meditate.

“Okay,” Wei Ying said gently as their meditation time came to an end. The teenager had noticed that someone else was in the courtyard with them. He turned and glanced behind him, he could see Nie Huaisang standing there, watching them, the older teen had done so a few times over the last few days.

“Are we going to do the animals, A-Niang?” Xue Yang asked, clapping excitedly as he hoped he was going to be making the cat. It was his favourite one to make.

“Yes, we are,” he smiled, gesturing for Nie Huaisang to join them on the grass for a bit.

“Okay!” he yelled out, raising his hand and waving hello to Nie Huaisang as he walked over and sat down with the three of them.

“Are you sure that it’ll be alright for me to be here? I’m not going to disturb you, am I?” Nie Huaisang asked, biting his lip as he hoped it would be fine. He had always waited by the doorway to the courtyard, not wanting to disturb the mismatched family.

“It’s fine, really Young Master Nie,” Meng Yao reassured him, “Maybe you can even join us more regularly,” he suggested.

“I don’t think I will be able to,” he said, shaking his head, “My Core isn’t very strong, so I might need to build it up to be able to do anything,” he told them looking away, a little ashamed of that fact.

“Don’t worry about that, we can always help you build that up as well,” Wei Ying told him, “I have a few exercises that you can do to help,” he smiled, “Come on, let’s get to doing the first thing. Yao-ge, can you teach A-Yang for a moment?” he asked him.

“Of course, want me to continue with the animals?” he replied.

“Please,” he nodded and then turned his attention to Nie Huaisang, “First, we’re just going to create a ball of your Qi in front of you. I want you to close your eyes,” he said, beginning to go through the steps that would leave him holding a ball of his Qi energy.

Nie Huaisang did as he was told and then slowly opened his eyes, “I… did it?” he exclaimed, looking wide-eyed at the shining little ball.

“You did, you have some Qi, it might not be strong, but if you use it, it should start building up better,” he told him, smiling, “Now, you want to try and form an animal, that is going to be a little harder. And you may need a little more Qi than you have at the moment. But maybe you will be able to form something small like A-Yang does,” he said as he tried to get a gauge on the other teenager’s core size. While it worked well for small cores as well, and it did help to build them up. It also took Xue Yang a little while before he was able to form an animal. And that was with a little more time in building up his core.

“Can I try?” he asked, “I really want to try and make the bird he did,” he said softly.

“Okay,” he nodded, “Then let’s go through it,” he smiled as they settled down again. Wei Ying began to talk him through it. Going through each step as slowly as he could. Nie Huaisang followed them, though he started to have a little trouble as it was beginning to form.

Wei Ying winced as the ball burst without taking a full shape, “It’s okay,” he said as he saw the upset look on the Young Master’s face.

Nie Huaisang looked away, seeing the little cat that Xue Yang had formed and was making began to move around, “But he was able to,” he whispered dejectedly.

“But he has also been practising for a good number of weeks and has also built his core up. So, his core is slightly stronger than yours. Because he has been exercising it in a way that I tell him to. You have to think, you’ve been training in a different way than we have,” he pointed out, “That can change how well you do something,” he said softly, reaching out and patting his arm.

“But I really want to do this,” he told him, almost whining.

“I know,” Wei Ying laughed lightly, “I can see that you really want to learn this, otherwise you wouldn’t have been hanging around waiting for a way to join us,” he told him, “You are welcome to always come back here and we can also see about working on your core a little so that you’ll be able to do it,” he suggested to him. He had been there a week and he already knew that the Youngest Master of the Nie Sect didn’t train like the other disciples of the Sect. That his brother also let him off with it, even as he shouted at him for not doing anything.

“I… I would like that,” he said with a small smile.

“Then you are welcome to join us, we’re going to be coming here every day at around this time,” he smiled.

“Thank you,” he said as he got up, “I should leave you be,” he added as he began to rush away.

Wei Ying watched him go, shaking his head as he went back to paying attention to Meng Yao and Xue Yang, starting them on something new to help them with their Golden Core’s and to build them up.

XxXxX

Wei Ying walked through the corridors and out into the main training grounds. He had done his training that morning with the other disciples. Meng Yao had joined him before going off with the Sect Leader for a bit. Though Wei Ying was puzzled about how those two had gotten so close so shortly after they had arrived. But the Sect Leader had come down to the training grounds and had called Meng Yao by name.

“Zhao Zhuliu,” he called, as soon as the training session ended and the man had put away his sword.

“Wei Wuxian,” he smiled at him, going over to where the teen was waiting for him

“How are you doing?” he asked him, walking towards another of the large open areas, one of the places where they would be able to sit and talk for a bit without being disturbed.

“I’m doing well, the other disciples here are welcoming and they… they aren’t scared of me,” he said, as though it was a novelty that he thought would wear off soon when they all realised how dangerous he really was.

“They don’t need to be, you have control of your abilities,” he told him, “Though that is part of why I’m here,” he added with a grin as they sat down.

“Oh?” Zhao Zhuliu questioned as he sat beside him.

“Yeah, but I think to do something about it, I might need to know more about your ability. Like, how does it work? What does it do to a core? How do you feel when it happens?” he said, wincing a bit as he threw the questions out. He knew that they sounded bad, but it was information that he needed to know.

“Well,” he paused, sighing, “When it first happened, it felt like there was a build-up of something in my hand and then it shot out,” he said, not hesitating much, as he could see that Wei Ying wanted to help, “I… it felt off, like there was something wrong and then suddenly there was a warmth in my hand.”

“That would be the core that you had taken hold of?” he asked him, wanting to make sure.

Zhao Zhuliu nodded, “it is, the warmth from it is… it’s nice but then the energy that was in my hand starts to go into it, making it pull closer and closer to me and then it just seems to shatter into nothingness.”

“So, it overwhelms it, puts pressure on the Core,” he nodded, “Right,” he added slowly, “Then it’s the energy that you’re using in your hand, that gathers there that causes the damage to the core. And in the end, because of the way it was done, it also hurts the meridians?” he asked, turning back to him for a moment as he tried to put some order to his thoughts.

“It does, my own energy surrounds it, and then it chases after any bit of the golden core that might try and escape,” he answered him honestly.

“Thank you,” he smiled, “I know that was hard, but thank you.”

“It was, but if you can really help me with this, that would be great and well worth it,” he said hopefully.

“I’ll try, but it might take a while, I’ll need to do a lot of research,” he told him, “Though, how do you make it work now that you have control?” he asked.

“When I use it, when I was learning how to control, I would start with the build-up of spiritual energy in my left hand. It… it doesn’t seem to work well with my right hand, though I can do it with either of them in the end,” he continued, “The build-up can almost become painful if I hold onto it for too long. As soon as I touch a person it disappears into them. But it doesn’t harm them unless I aim for the dantian.”

“So that’s why when you spar with someone, you never go near someone’s stomach,” he nodded in understanding.

“Exactly,” he smiled, “I don’t want to hurt someone accidently. Though I know there isn’t any energy around my hand, I don’t know if I could still cause them any damage, so I’d rather avoid it than chance it.”

“Right, thank you Zhao Zhuliu,” he smiled, “I might ask you to try a few things when I get further along in my research.”

“That’ll be fine, I’d be glad to help, this will help me in the end after all,” he told him, getting up, “I’m going to do a little more training.”

“I’ll join you,” Wei Ying grinned as he walked alongside the older man and went back to the training fields.

XxXxX

Meng Yao walked behind Sect Leader Nie as they went towards his office. This was the second day in a row that the man had come to the training grounds and called for him by name. Yesterday he had spent the day doing the paperwork alongside the older man. The sixteen-year-old was happy to help, he enjoyed the quiet busy work more than the training. But he wasn’t going to neglect that at all. He wanted to prove to himself that he could be just as good of a cultivator as the next. And Wei Ying was doing his best to help him, so he didn’t want to disappoint him either.

“Thank you for coming with me again,” Nie Mingjue said after clearing his throat and walking into his office.

“It’s fine Sect Leader Nie, I’m glad that I’m able to help at all,” he told him as the two of them sat down at the desk. The pile wasn’t as large as it had been yesterday. Though the two of them had worked through a lot of reports, some of which had been dated for two weeks ago. Meng Yao had to wonder what the man was doing since it was so backlogged.

“As am I, my strong suit isn’t the paperwork that needs to be done as Sect Leader,” he said, a grimace on his face as he looked at the pile.

“I see,” he nodded, “I don’t mind helping, I used to do this type of work a lot,” he smiled, “Now shall we get to it, maybe we can finish early and we both can get some more training in,” he added, settling at the desk and waiting for the Sect Leader to sit across from him.

Nie Mingjue smiled slightly and nodded, sitting down as the two of them got to work on the pile that was there. It was mostly information about the trade that was going on within Qinghe, nothing too important. But the things that needed to be recorded down if they were going to get a good understanding of what was going to be needed when winter hit the different part of Qinghe Nie Sect Lands.

“And done,” Meng Yao smiled as he looked up, the last piece had been filed away and the numbers were all in, “So, to me, it looks like these three villages might need a little extra to get them through the winter. The rains didn’t come as they normally do there, their production of grain and rice is extremely low compared to these two villages that have it in abundance,” he said as he pointed them out to his Sect Leader.

“I will see that the food is sent to them,” he nodded, making a few notes to put that into motion as soon as possible. As he finished, he glanced up, seeing Meng Yao was still there. “Shall we get some training in? I hate sitting in the office for too long. Feels like I’m rushing up like an old sword that isn’t cared for anymore.”

Meng Yao laughed brightly, “Then I think we should before you start to flake,” he nodded, “We wouldn’t want the Sect Leader to become an Old Sword before his time.”

Nie Mingjue smiled back and the two of them got up, heading for the training fields once more.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Wei Ying was sitting at the side of the training field. He had been working hard over the last few weeks since his arrival at the Nie Sect Gates. He had finished his daily training and Xue Yang at the edge of the training field had started crying for his attention for the last few minutes of it. So, when he had done, he had rushed over to him and settled the toddler on his lap as he watched others carry on with practice. Wei Ying was watching the sabre practice, he was also pinging his Qi a little to make sure that none of the disciples accidently got too close to where he was sitting. He didn’t want to put Xue Yang in any danger while they watched.

Wei Ying started to frown as he could feel that there was a build-up of resentful energy within each of the sabres being used. Though it wasn’t going near the disciples at the moment. Wei Ying could sense that the resentful energy was being stored in their sabres. He wondered if that was how they were used. That they were so strong because of the resentful energy in them. He sighed and decided to puzzle it over at another time. Though he wanted to see about finding some of the older disciples, those that had been using the sabres for longer, to see how they were doing with it.

“A-Niang,” Xue Yang said, tugging on Wei Ying’s robe, “Can we go, I’m bored,” he pouted.

“Sure,” he smiled down at him, since he now had the rest of the day off, he decided that it might be a bit of fun to head into town for a bit.

“Yay!” Xue Yang yelled as he jumped off Wei Ying’s lap and looked up at him expectantly.

Wei Ying laughed and stood up. He walked inside and went to where he knew Meng Yao was. The older teenager was speaking with the Nie Sect Leader, “Yao-ge, we’re going into the town for a bit, do you want to come with us?” he asked.

Meng Yao turned towards him, “I think I’m going to stay here for a bit. I have a little work to do with Sect Leader Nie,” he smiled.

“You can go if you wish, you don’t have to help me,” Nie Mingjue said as he looked at the two younger ones. Seeing a very impatient toddler bouncing on his feet.

“It’s fine, I think it would be nice for A-Yang and A-Ying to spend some time together. I know that A-Yang has been missing his A-Niang,” he said, a teasing tone in his voice as he looked at him.

“I have,” Xue Yang nodded sadly, “Yao-Gege is fun, but miss A-Niang.”

Wei Ying picked up the toddler, “Okay, then let’s have a day for just us,” he smiled, knowing that he had been spending a lot more time training than spending time with Xue Yang. He just wanted to make sure that he was seen as an asset to the Sect. So, he worked hard, trained just as hard, maybe even more than he did back at the Jiang Sect.

“Yay!” Xue yang clapped as the two of them walked out of the Sect and towards the town. It was a pleasant day, not too cold, though the seasons were changing. The harvests were coming and Xue Yang’s birthday was coming up. He would be four. A month and bit after that would be Wei Ying’s own birthday, he would be fourteen. He felt a pang as he thought Jiang Yanli and Jiang Cheng, how they would be without him there for their birthdays. He had already missed Jiang Yanli’s, he had left before her birthday after all.

Walking around the town they went around the stalls in the market. He had a little money on him, the savings they had were still kept secure. And as disciples, they also got a little pay as well. The two teens were beginning to get a good bit of money together. Enough, that should something happen, that they would be able to rent a small home for a couple of months as they establish themselves somewhere else.

“Okay,” Wei Ying said as he knelt before the toddler, “Do you want a toy?” he asked, a smile on his face.

“Please,” he answered, grinning widely as they made their way over to one of the toy stalls. Xue Yang bounced around as he looked at them all. He spied a little windmill toy, the bright colours attracting him easily. Along with the small kite that was set up next to it, “A-Niang,” he said, as he pointed to the two of them, “These?” he asked, his eyes going wide as he took on a begging look.

Wei Ying sighed and shook his head, “You really want the both of them?” he asked gently.

“Please A-Niang, A-Yang be a good boy,” he said, pouting as he thought he wasn’t going to get them both. He had been told only one after all.

Wei Ying smiled, “Well, you have been a really good boy since we arrived,” he said, “And you’ve been doing well in your training,” he murmured to himself before looking at Xue Yang, “Okay, you can have them both. But that is because you have been such a good boy for me and Yao-ge.”

“Yay,” he giggled, he watched eagerly as Wei Ying picked up the kite and the little windmill and brought them. The teenager handed over the windmill but kept hold of the kite as they carried on looking around the town.

Wei Ying treated him to a few sweets as well, and then a nice meal at one of the inns. He wished a little that Meng Yao had been able to join them. But it looked like he was getting along rather well with the Nie Sect Leader. Walking back as the sun was beginning to set, he had Xue Yang in his arms. The kite held tightly in one hand and the windmill dangling with it.

Meng Yao had been there to greet him, taking the two toys as they went back to their rooms. Quietly they talked with Wei Ying telling the older about his day and how it didn’t feel quite right without Meng Yao being there with them. He was their older brother, after all, he was family. Meng Yao promised that he would make sure he went with them next time.

XxXxX

Wei Ying had been looking into the cultivation that the Nie Sect does and what it actually does. He had found a few things out that made it more dangerous than what he had first thought. While the sabre took in the resentful energy, it didn’t dissipate it like the spiritual swords were built to do. The design of the sabre housed it instead, and the spirit within them taking it into themselves and becoming more violent and bloodthirsty as time went on. But it was what happened when the sabre spirit could no longer take any more resentful energy in that worried Wei Ying

When the sabre became full, it still took more in, but instead of it going back out, it went into the one that was wielding the sabre. It began to build up in the cultivator, slowly affecting their temperament and their Golden Core. It would attack it, trying to destroy it, the more energy they took in the harder that attack was. It would slowly crack a Golden Core before it would break apart and shatter. Usually, the final burst of energy would kill the cultivator, sometimes it would leave them to a very slow death. But occasionally when the core shattered it would send the cultivator mad, the energy going to the mind and attacking there. The cultivator would then attack any and all around them, not knowing who they were, not recognising family or friends.

Wei Ying glanced around as they arrived at the sight of their Night Hunt, he was out with a few other disciples, Zhao Zhuliu and Sect Leader Nie with them. it wasn’t going to be a long hunt, just a small one. The Sect Leader had decided that he was going to go along as well since he was getting annoyed remaining inside the Sect walls all the time. Meng Yao had been offered the chance to go and had turned it down as soon as Xue Yang had learned that Wei Ying was going. The young toddler didn’t want Wei Ying to leave and had kicked up a major fuss about it. Losing his temper and crying his little eyes out. He was still scared that Wei Ying would leave him. With a promise and Meng Yao remaining behind with him, he had stopped arguing and had tearfully said goodbye to his A-Niang and Zufu, much to the embarrassment of the older man when some of the disciples that he had become friends with had caught the title.

“Spread out,” Nie Mingjue called out as soon as they were all on the ground, “There are three beasts out there, large and dangerous. Pair up!” he ordered them.

They yelled out in agreement and began to pair up and spread out a little, making sure to keep in sight of each other. They knew better than to be too far away from the others. A cry went up when the first of the three beasts made their presence known. Nie Mingjue moved fast to intercept it before anyone else had been able to. Another disciple joined him and they began to fight it as the other two jumped into the area, the rest beginning to join them as well.

Wei Ying hung back, jumping up and releasing a number of talismans to slow the three that they were facing down. Giving the others time to injure them enough to be able to kill them. The last cry of one of them went out as it lost its battle against them.

“Done,” Wei Ying grinned as he cleaned off the blood from his sword. A scream went up from one of the cultivators. Wei Ying turned and could tell that the resentful energy that had been building up had finally cracked the core open. It was breaking. Wei Ying’s tie to the Natural Qi that he used, was the only way he could see it.

“Qi Deviation,” someone whispered.

“His core is breaking,” another called out.

Zhao Zhuliu looked down at his hands, “I… I could stop it from killing him, but he won’t be a cultivator anymore. He won’t have a core, but he would live,” he said as he looked at the Nie Sect Leader.

“Then do it, please!” he ordered, “You will face no repercussions, he has a wife and children and I know that he would rather be with them as a normal man than gone and leaving them alone in the world,” he said as he saw the doubt on Zhao Zhuliu’s face. He knew, just like Nie Mingjue did, that a cultivator’s core was so deeply part of them that most would rather die. Those in the Nie Sect would live without after they finished as cultivators, just to be with their families.

Zhao Zhuliu nodded and with a look of trepidation, he began to gather the energy in his left hand. He rushed forwards, dodging the blade as he watched trying to hit him. The madness that had taken over the cultivator obvious in the dazed eyes. He pressed his hand against the man’s dantian and began to push his energy around the core. Instead of crushing it like it normally would. It began to fuse it back together, the shards that had shattered began to melt back into a core. As soon as Zhao Zhuliu realised what he was doing, he backed up, letting the rest of the energy he had built up to focus on himself instead of trying to release it.

The man collapsed to the ground, breathing harshly as the madness began to recede and the Qi levels started to drop. While the core was still there, it was faint as though it was now trying to heal the body.

“What happened?” Nie Mingjue asked, frowning at the state the man was in.

Someone rushed over to the man’s side, checking him over, “He… he still has a core?” he puzzled as he looked at Zhao Zhuliu.

“When I was… was crushing it, it came together. I don’t think it will last long. But… he…” Zhao Zhuliu trailed off, “You should get a healer to look at him. I don’t know what it is that I did, but I don’t think anything can be done to heal him. But… I think no more needs to be done. He should… maybe.”

“Okay,” Nie Mingjue said as he nodded to the cultivator beside the fallen one, “Help him home, we’ll go as well. You two,” he said as he looked at the last two, “I need you to remain here and deal with the remains and then head home,” he finished his orders.

The group began the journey back home. The man mumbling a little in his semi-conscious state, Zhao Zhuliu and the other, helping him home, talked to him softly. Reassuring him and making sure that he didn’t lose full consciousness and didn’t give in to the madness that normally came with losing a core. Wei Ying was beside the Nie Sect Leader, glancing back every now and then, trying to figure out what the Qi around the man was trying to tell him.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

They arrive back at Qinghe with little fanfare. Wei Ying walked beside Zhao Zhuliu, he knew that the other was upset somewhat by what he had almost had to do. He knew that the man had never wanted to crush someone’s core again. Especially after all he had been through because of his ability. The two followed the healers, both of them needing to learn what happened with the other cultivator.

Wei Ying hung back with Zhao Zhuliu, waiting for the healer to see the man and tell them what was going on. The female healer walked out of the room after she had finished examining him and went over to the Sect Leader, who was waiting with them.

“How is he?” Nie Mingjue asked her.

“He will live. The crushing of his core has fused the pieces back together. It saved his life and let him keep the Golden Core that he has cultivated. It will still heal him, keep away sickness, like all those with a Core. But he won’t be able to use his sabre again or even train to use a sword. One more large push fighting and it will cause his core to shatter once more and kill him. This time though, Zhao Zhuliu’s ability will not be able to fuse it together,” she explained, she turned to Zhao Zhuliu, “It’s thanks to you that he will be healthy for the rest of his life. He still won’t be able to be a cultivator again, but he will be a healthy man that will be able to be with his family and work as any other mundane man can,” she bowed to him slightly.

“Is… is he awake?” Zhao Zhuliu asked hesitantly.

“He was for a moment. When we explained the situation to him and what had happened, he was fine with it all. He knows that you did as you did to save his life. He’s grateful for that, and he said that he doesn’t care that he would have lost his core. He would have at least kept his life and gone home that day to his family,” she smiled at him and then glanced at his hand, “What happened?” she asked, her voice serious as she went over and grabbed his hand.

Out of reflex, he pulled them back, “I… they were hurt when I pulled back.”

“What do you mean?” Nie Mingjue asked, taking a step towards him.

Wei Ying looked at his friend, putting a hand on his shoulder, reassuring him, “When you built up the energy, you didn’t use it all, didn’t you?” he asked him.

Zhao Zhuliu nodded, “It had to go somewhere, and if I had just let it dissipate, it would have just lashed out at me even more than this,” he answered, explaining more of what he had done with the energy.

“So, you let it harm you?” the healer asked him, shaking her head. She reached out again, this time she moved a little more slowly as Zhao Zhuliu let her take him and assess the damage done to his hand.

“Yeah, if I let it stay inside to dissipate the damage to myself isn’t so bad, it’s only in my hand,” he shrugged, “If I push it out, it burns my hand even more and can even hurt the rest of my arm and some of my body as it will backlash on me. Last time that happened, it broke some of my ribs and knocked me unconscious,” he explained, “I learned quickly how to control it when I got old enough to better control my Qi,” he added, “I think I’ve broken more ribs doing that than any of the Night Hunts I’ve ever been on,” he snorted as he looked up.

“Your hand is burned a little, but not much. it will heal, but a paset on it will help with the pain and help it heal without any problems,” she told him as she took his wrist and pulled him to another healing room so she could treat him.

“You don’t have to wait around,” Zhao Zhuliu told them, pausing long enough to speak, “I’ll be fine,” he said as he looked at Wei Ying, he could see the teen was worried about him.

“You sure?” Wei Ying asked him.

“I will,” he nodded and then followed the healer inside.

“I’m going to go and see Xue Yang and tell him I’m back,” Wei Ying turned and bowed to Nie Mingjue, “Sect Leader,” he said as he then headed off.

Nie Mingjue stood there alone for a little while before he decided to follow the healer. He wanted to talk to Zhao Zhuliu about what he had done. He hoped that the young man would do what he had just done for any Nie Sect member that was near Qi deviation if he was around them. But he was unsure if he should even ask since it harmed Zhao Zhuliu, he didn’t notice when the man walked out of the healer’s room.

“Sect Leader Nie,” Zhao Zhuliu frowned, his voice soft, hesitant.

“Ah, Zhao Zhuliu,” he nodded as he looked up at him, “I was hoping that we could talk for a bit. Before you return to your room. to rest,” he queried.

“Of course,” he nodded in agreement as he followed him to his office.

Nie Mingjue walked into his office and sat down at the desk. Zhao Zhuliu sat across from him as soon as he gestured to. “Now,” he said, “I want to thank you for what you did. You saved his life, and that is a precious gift you have. Especially to us who know that our time as cultivators is limited. Most of us know that when we eventually fall to Qi Deviation, that its. We’re dead. But you, you have given us a chance to carry on with what we do and still be able to live afterwards. I’ve no doubt that there is hope being spread around with what you’ve done.”

“I didn’t do anything special,” he told him, “It was just… it’s an ability I have feared all my life,” he added as he looked up.

“To us you did,” Nie Mingjue insisted, a small smile on his face. “I want to ask if you would be able to do it again for those that end up suffering from Qi deviation. But since I’ve learned that it harms you as well. I don’t think I have the right to ask this of you.”

“I’ll do it,” he said quietly as he looked up from his hand, “Look,” he began before the Sect Leader could say something, “All my life people have feared me and the ability I have. But here, you… you believe in me, that I could do something to help. I’m willing, and a little pain that will be gone within a day is worth it to make sure that someone lives for a longer time. I’m willing, more than,” he added, nodding once. Looking proud now that he would be able to do something to help them.

“Thank you,” Nie Mingjue bowed slightly, “I’ll do what I can to help you with this,” he said as he then dismissed the young man to go and rest.

XxXxX

It was a few days after the hunt and Meng Yao was beginning to worry. He had been given the position of advisor to Sect Leader Nie. He had been getting a few funny looks as well, as he walked around the Sect. Some of the Elders of the Clan had stopped him and talked to him. And each time that Nie Huaisang saw him he would giggle behind his new fan and say hello. Though he had started to call him Yao-ge, just like Wei Ying and Xue Yang did. It was confusing to him, along with worry that he was attracting too much attention to himself. He didn’t want to do something that would bring the wrong kind of attention after all. Doing that always led to trouble.

Meng Yao hurried to his room, which he still shared with Wei Ying and Xue Yang, though they had been moved to a slightly larger one. “A-Ying,” he called out as soon as he walked into the room, starting to take out the hairpiece that Nie Mingjue had gifted to him when he had been appointed as an advisor. He had only been part of the Nie Sect for less than two months. But, to the teenager, he felt like he had always been there.

“Everything okay?” Wei Ying asked him, frowning at the worried look on his brother’s face.

“No,” he said, almost miserably, “I just keep having people talking to me. They walked up to me and started talking to me, about anything and everything that they can think of. I know that they might be welcoming me in but… it still feels odd for them to do so,” he said, shaking his head.

“You’re doing well though Yao-Ge,” he smiled, “You’ve been promoted to an advisor to Sect Leader Nie, he listens to you a lot,” he added, proud of him.

“A-Ying,” Meng Yao bit his lip, “I… I like him. A lot. It’s hard to know that he would never see me as more than an advisor. But I… I don’t want to leave his side and not help him,” he sighed, placing the hairpiece to one side. It was a lovely piece, reminding the new advisor of the Sect Leader himself, with the intricate carvings of the Qinghe Nie Set Crest. It was beautifully made, and Meng Yao felt like it was a little too much of a gift for just an advisor. But, Nie Mingjue had insisted and assured him that it was a suitable gift for him.

“I know, you’ve told me a few times and I keep saying that you’ll be seventeen next year. Xue Yang is now four and I’ll be fifteen next week. He’s not even twenty yet. He’s not that much older, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he pointed out to him, shaking his head.

“It’s not that which worries me,” he sighed, “I worry that I could bring attention to us. That something could happen and that. That we would end up jeopardising our place here. I don’t want to do that to us,” he sighed taking out the braids he had started putting into his hair.

Wei Ying got up and went behind him, helping him, “Who taught you to do these?” he asked, he was a little curious as to where they had come from. After he had been made advisor, he had started wearing the new hairpiece and then the braids had appeared the next day.

Meng Yao smiled softly, “Sect Leader Nie,” he told him, “He taught me how to do them, and said that I now have an image to use as his advisor. That we will be seen as a strong and solid front to everyone that we needed to meet with.”

“Yeah, I can see that. They look like they take you a while to put in though,” he murmured as he finished the unbraiding of his brother’s hair.

“Thank you,” Meng Yao smiled as he picked up his comb and began to run it through his hair. The waviness from the braids annoyed him a little. But Wei Ying could see that the look gave him a softer and younger look.

“You look… different with your hair like that,” he told him, going over to the bed. Xue Yang was on the floor, going through the writing exercises that the two of them had set for him to do after dinner. He looked down, “A-Yang,” he called out, “How much have you got left to do?” he asked since it was getting closer to the four-year-olds bedtime.

“Not much A-Niang,” he smiled as he looked up, there was a little ink on his face, and his brush bristles were a little erratic. But it would be easy to fix them. It was something that Wei Ying and Meng Yao had done each night before going to bed. The nursery that housed Xue Yang during the day helped with some of his lessons as well. Though in the afternoon Meng Yao would collect him and he would stay with the toddler for a bit. Having some playtime together, sometimes he would end up having to go back to his office and do paperwork, but Xue Yang was well behaved and would be quiet while he played in the room. Wei Ying would end up with him for the evening until Meng Yao was finished and dinner was over.

“Good, when you’re done it’s time for you to go to bed,” he reminded him, ruffling the toddler’s hair as he smiled.

“Okay,” he smiled back and then went back to work, his little tongue poking out as he concentrated on his strokes.

Meng Yao stood and walked over, looking down at the work being done. He smiled brightly as he saw how well he was coming along with it all, “You’re doing really well A-Yang,” he praised, he had improved over the last few weeks of practice he had been doing. Xue Yang smiled happily, humming as he carried on with his work.

Wei Ying smiled at the two and settled in with his research as he let Xue Yang finish before tucking the toddler into bed after cleaning up the ink on his hands and face. The two brothers talked a little more before they went to bed as well. Meng Yao remained awake for a little while longer, thinking about what he felt for the Nie Sect leader and how to hide those thoughts.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Nie Mingjue looked at the letter in his hand and then across the desk to his best advisor so far. Meng Yao had been a Heaven-sent blessing as far as he was concerned. While most of his advisors were helpful, they were those that had worked for his father and while loyal, they often clashed with the Nie Sect Leader over the changes he wanted to put down. “Meng Yao,” he called to his friend.

“Ah, Sect Leader Nie,” he said as he looked up from his work, “What are you needing?” he asked, setting aside and paying attention to him.

“I’ve received a letter,” he said as he glanced back down at it, “There is going to be a Discussion Conference at Koi Tower,” he said after hesitating for a few moments.

“Ah,” he nodded slowly, trying to see what that had to do with him, “And that should concern me at all?” he questioned, doing his best to keep his voice even. He had heard even more about his father since he had arrived in Qinghe Nie. His father was not a good man in every sense of the word. His greed for women and wealth was well known, that any female disciples of the Nie Sect would often go on Night Hunts any time he was to visit. It often gave the illusion that there were no female cultivators within the Sect.

It had been Wei Ying that had informed him that the Jiang Sect also did the same thing. That often, Madam Yu would take out any female cultivators and have the staff watched closely, when he came. Unless his wife was in attendance. As the two were friends. Even Jiang Yanli had been taken aside to try and hide her from the lecherous man.

“Since you are one of my top advisors. You would be one of the ones that I would want to attend with me. I’ve no doubt that Jin Guangshan will try and get something else around us, even with the Wen Sect in attendance,” he added, “Those two are like peas in a pod. They are very similar. At least the Wen Sect admires most of their women though,” he snorted as though it was the novelty that the Wen Sect was better than any other at something.

“Jin Guangshan may have… fathered me,” Meng Yao began with a small sneer at the name, “But he has never been such to me. I last saw him when I was four years old and he told my mother that I wasn’t worth the money he had paid her,” he told him, “I think… I think he just enjoys knowing that he has other children around. He doesn’t care about us.”

“No, I doubt he does, he has his heir in Jin Zixuan, but I do know that the child is arrogant. He’s around the same age as you I believe,” Nie Mingjue said, a little frown between his brows as he tried to remember.

“Sect Leader,” he paused for a moment, “I was… I was born on the same day as Jin Zixuan. Our birthdays are the same. Same day and same year. The only difference is that there was only one that attended to my birth, a fellow prostitute named Sisi. My birth was only ever celebrated by her and my mother. She is special,” he told him, “Not even the Madam of the brothel cared, she wasn’t happy that Jin Guangshan had bought my mother to birth a child for him. Even promising her that he would take my mother away should she give him a son. That he would pay the… the ransom that held her at the brothel.”

“Right,” he nodded, “I… I didn’t know that you were the same age,” he spoke quietly.

“I was going to go there you know. To meet with my father on my birthday. I didn’t know at the time that it would also be his legitimate son’s birthday as well. I met Wei Wuxian at the same time, he was able to speak with me, telling me about Jin Guangshan. I changed my mind about going to see if I could meet with him,” he told him.

“I’m glad that you didn’t go, he wouldn’t have acknowledged you at all,” he said, shaking his head.

“I know that now, but I didn’t before. I had been told that I was a child that had been bought. My mother did love me and dote on me as any mother would. But I always felt… different from most children. I wasn’t a child from love or anything like that. I was a child that had been paid for. My mother was given a lot of money to carry me, and then when I turned four, nothing. I was thrown from my father’s life. I have vague recollections about him visiting. Not that he paid any attention to me. He was all about being with my mother for the night. I was usually shoved into a little room somewhere else to sleep,” he explained, sighing heavily, he had never really talked about his childhood, not even to Wei Ying. “I have no love for him. As I said, he sired me, but was never a father,” he finished, “Now, as your advisor, I will go with you. I doubt my sire would even recognise me at all,” he said, a self-deprecating smile on his face.

“Very well, I’m glad that you’ll be coming with me,” he smiled, happy that Meng Yao had agreed to go.

“I would ask for Wei Ying as well,” Meng Yao mentioned, “I know that he has been missing Jing Yanli and Jiang Wanyin a lot. He talks about them often at night,” he added as he glanced out of the window.

“He would be welcomed to come, often we have a few disciples who are brought to these conferences. Though this one won’t have any competitions this time,” he added, looking through the letter to make sure.

“Competition?” Meng Yao asked.

“Yes, it’s usually to see who would be on the List of Young Masters. They are held every two years. Any time after a disciple turns ten, they are allowed to take part in them. The last one was last year. It’s how I recognised the name was because of that. In his first showing, Wei Wuxian took fourth place. Jiang Wanyin was right behind him in fifth,” he explained.

“Oh, I didn’t know that. I wonder why A-Ying would often only give his birth name and not his courtesy,” he murmured.

“It would be a way to hide. Only a courtesy name is used during these events. My friend is at the top of the list at the moment,” Nie Mingjue smiled, thinking of Lan Xichen, “I was fourth myself, well, until I went over to the Sect Leaders Listing. My friend will be going to the list as well, and then I’ll be second again,” he muttered, rolling his eyes at the thought of the lists that people liked to make.

“Sect Leader Listing,” he puzzled, shaking his head, “I didn’t know that there were more lists.”

“Our world likes them,” he snorted, “They are Unmarried Sect Leaders, Married Sect Leaders and then Disciples, which is the Young Master’s List.”

“That’s a little overboard I think,” he said, covering his mouth as he tried not to laugh.

“Jiang Fengmian is at the top of the Married Sect Leader list. Sect Leader Lan, though in seclusion is second. Jin Guangshan is third at the moment. Wen Ruohan, he was relegated to fourth recently. He wasn’t happy about that. Though they aren’t made to fight for them like in the Young Masters Competition,” he muttered, sighing.

“Oh,” he finally laughed, “Let’s… let’s see about getting some work down. I’ll see about talking with A-Ying to find out what he would like to do.”

“Right,” he nodded, knowing that if he would be joining them, he would have to send a message to the Jiang Sect Leader about his missing Head Disciple. And that he would be accompanying him. He had learned that Wei Ying was still somewhat scared of being found by his home Sect. Which was the only reason why he hadn’t sent anything yet.

The two went quiet as they began to work, going over reports and only speaking of matters that needed to be addressed.

XxXxX

Meng Yao stretched his arms above his head as he walked into his quarters later that night. He could see that Wei Ying was tucking in a sleeping Xue Yang into his bed. “Sorry for being so late,” he said quietly, so as not to disturb the sleeping four-year-old.

“It’s fine. I know that your work is important and that you’re enjoying spending time with a certain someone,” he smirked as he walked over to the far side of the large room that they now had. Activating a talisman around the sleeping area so that they wouldn’t disturb Xue Yang as he slept.

“I see you finished putting them all up then,” he said, glancing around the room, there was a faint glow from them all.

“Yeah, I did so this afternoon when I had a bit of free time,” he grinned, sitting down, “Now, what’s going on. I can see that little frown between your eyes that tells me you’re overthinking something,” he added, waiting for the other to join him at the small low table.

Meng Yao sighed as he went over, beginning to undo his hairpiece and braids, “You’re right,” he admitted easily, “I do have something on my mind,” he glanced over at him for a second before answering, “I’m going to be going to Koi Tower, as an advisor to Sect Leader Nie.”

“Oh?” he paused for a moment and then nodded slowly, “Discussion conference?” he asked, receiving a quick nod in answer, “And what are you going to do?”

“Oh, thank you,” Meng Yao smiled as Wei Ying got up and began to help take the braids out, “I didn’t know if I should go at first. But I should… Shouldn’t I? Just to see what he… he thinks of me now?” he asked, still unsure if he was doing the right thing in going.

“Yao-ge,” Wei Ying sighed as he moved around him, “Look, you need to make up your own mind about him, one way or anything. This is an opportunity to meet with him now that you’re all grown up and doing well for yourself. It will be fine,” he smiled, reassuring him.

“I know,” he huffed, “A-Ying,” he then said, looking at him, “This is also an opportunity for you as well,” he murmured.

Wei Ying frowned down at him, “What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, he said that you could go along as well if you want,” he smiled softly, he could see the hesitation in Wei Ying’s eyes, “He said that you could see the Jiang’s again if you wished.”

Wei Ying shook his head as he dropped the comb onto the table and began to pace. He was deep in thought for a moment before he turned to face him, “No, I can’t not yet. Look Yao-ge, I miss them all so much. I always will, but the Jiang Sect, it… it wasn’t my home. It was a place that I lived, yes. A place where I was only semi welcomed thanks to Madam Yu’s behaviour towards me. And we both know and have heard that she still lives there. If I… meet with them, they will want me to go back to Lotus Pier and I can’t Yao-ge, I just can’t,” he said, tears beginning to form in his eyes.

Meng Yao got up from his seat and went over to him, holding him tightly in his arms, “A-Ying,” he murmured as he rocked the teenager.

“I can’t Gege,” he said, his voice sounding small, more like a child’s than the usually strong and sure teen he normally showed, “I can’t. I love them so much, but it wasn’t home. Here… this is home and if they find me, they’ll want to take me back. I know they will, Jiang Cheng and Shijie, they’ll want me back by their side,” he babbled over and over again as he clung to Meng Yao and cried. Meng Yao did his best to guide them over to the sleeping area, passing through the silencing talisman. He helped the young teen lay down, helping him to undress quickly and taking out the last of his braids before doing the same. For the first time since they were on the road, the two of them shared a bed. Wei Ying was still clinging to Meng Yao as he drifted off into a fitful sleep. Meng Yao felt guilt in his heart, sorry that he had even thought to bring it up. But at least he could share with the Sect Leader that they weren’t to tell the Jiangs where Wei Ying was, at least, not yet.

XxXxX

“Sect Leader Nie,” Meng Yao greeted the man as he walked out to see what the commotion was about. It was two days after Wei Ying and his little breakdown. And now he was to go on another Night Hunt, with Zhao Zhuliu and two other disciples. Nothing that was unusual. But Xue Yang, after waking up during the night and seeing his A-Niang had been crying, had latched onto him even more. Often refusing to let him go anywhere and screaming and crying when he was taken away.

“Don’t go! Please don’t go!” Xue Yang cried as he clung to him once more. His arms locked tightly around his neck.

“A-Yang,” Wei Ying sighed, tears in his own eyes as he held him just as tightly, “I have to go on a night hunt, but A-Niang promises to be back soon,” he vowed, “And I’ll even bring you something nice back for you since I know that you’ll be a very good boy for Yao-ge,” he coaxed him as he stepped over to where Meng Yao and Nie Mingjue were standing and watching.

“But I don’t want you to go,” he pouted, tears falling down his face, “A-Niang was sad, don’t want you sad,” he added, sniffling.

“But I’m okay now and I need to go. You need to be a good boy,” he told him a little more firmly as he finally managed to get Xue Yang’s arms from around his neck and handed him over to Meng Yao.

Xue Yang burst into tears again as he realised that he had been passed over to someone else. He cried and reached out for Wei Ying.

Wei Ying gave him a wet smile as he then went off on Subian. Joining the others already in the air.

“It’s alright A-Yang,” Meng Yao soothed, “A-Niang will be back soon,” he added, rubbing the child’s back as they walked back inside.

Nie Mingjue looked a little lost as he said, “Wei Wuxian will be back soon, don’t you worry,” he said, as the two of them joined forces to try and console the little boy as he cried out for his A-Niang.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Xue Yang was still crying as he began to struggle in Meng Yao’s grip, not moments after they walked inside.

“A-Yang,” Meng Yao said, patting the child back once more and rocking him as he walked. He was only just able to keep a good grip on him. “Come on now, A-Niang will be back soon, he just needs to do a Night Hunt and then in a few days he will be back and you can hug him all you want,” he promised him. It was something that he had promised him a number of times when Wei Ying had to go off for a Night Hunt.

“I want A-Niang,” he demanded, his face red and blotchy from all the crying.

“What’s wrong?” Nie Huaisang asked as he walked over to them. He had been in lessons, much to his annoyance, though he had finally finished them and wanted to go for a walk into town.

“Are you done for the day?” Nie Mingjue growled at him, the warning in his voice that he had better have been finished and not trying to sneak out again.

“I have finished, done all the work too,” he huffed, pouting at his older brother, “Xue Yang,” he called out to the child, “Why are you crying?” he asked as he went over to Meng Yao and looked at the child.

“Want A-Niang,” he said, beginning to cry again, “I want to go with A-Niang,” he sobbed as he clung to Meng Yao, as though he would be the next one to leave him.

“Wei Wuxian has gone on a Night Hunt?” he asked, as he looked from Meng Yao to his brother.

“Yes, a small one. Should only take a day or two for them to be done and on the way back. Most of the time should be taken up by travelling there and back, even on sword,” Nie Mingjue answered him, shaking his head at the show that Xue Yang was putting on. Though it had been the same each time Wei Ying was to leave on a Night Hunt. The child would scream, cry and shout. He would become really upset with everything and everyone until Wei Ying would arrive back. Then he would be attacked by the teenager for a few days, barely letting the teen training let alone out of his sight without causing a ruckus.

“He needs to learn that Wei Wuxian will always come back,” Nie Huaisang said, “I always did the same when Da-ge had to leave. I would cry a lot too,” he said as he looked at Xue Yang, “A-Yang,” he called, “Come with me please,” he said, taking him from a shocked Meng Yao’s arms. “Now, you are going to listen to me, this is silly,” he said, mirroring what his father had said to him when he was young, before he had died.

“I want A-Niang,” he sniffled, pulling such a sad face that Nie Huaisang was tempted to hand him back to Meng Yao.

“I know you do. And he will be coming back, just like my Da-ge always came back for me. I miss him all the time when he has to go away, even now. But I know that he will come back. Do you know why?” he asked the child.

“Why?” he sniffled, his lower lip trembling still as he was still wanting to cry.

“Because he promised me that he would always come back to me. I believe him when he says it. I’m scared that each time he goes out, but he always promises me that he will come back. That is how I know he will,” he smiled as he looked at his brother, “When He goes out now, he still comes to me and promises me that he’ll come home. Because I’m here waiting for him,” he finished as he looked back at Xue Yang.

“So… A-Niang, promising me that he will come home, will?” he asked, blinking his wide eyes as he looked at Nie Huaisang.

“Yes, he will, because he loves you and adores you,” Nie Huaisang smiled, “Now, you have to be a good boy. You don’t want to make your A-Niang sad by misbehaving and crying all day. He would want you to be happy and have some fun. So, you can have lots to tell him when he comes home,” he added, with a nod and a smile.

“Okay,” he nodded once with a small grunt at the end, “I make a pretty fan with Gege?” he asked as he saw the fan that was gripped in the other hand.

“Sure,” Nie Huaisang grinned brightly as he walked off, leaving Meng Yao and Nie Mingjue behind him. Not even thinking about letting them follow.

“Well,” Meng Yao said after a few moments of silence, “Let’s hope that works,” he muttered, looking at Nie Mingjue, “We have work to do. No doubt that he will bring A-Yang back later,” he added a small smile on his face.

“He will, he likes the boy, and this gives him an excuse to paint as well,” he snorted, rolling his eyes as he headed for his office.

Meng Yao chuckled and nodded as the two of them walked inside and got to work. They only stopped when Meng Yao headed to the training fields to get some training in. He still pushed himself to be a good cultivator, putting in the work thanks to all the lessons that Wei Ying had taught him.

XxXxX

Wei Ying walked beside Zhao Zhuliu after they had finished their Night Hunt. He was on the lookout for something for Xue Yang, and maybe even something for Meng Yao as well. He hoped that the child was being good while he was away. He had heard stories from those in the nursery that he would scream for his A-Niang if he was late to pick him up. Though most of the time it was Meng Yao that would be picking him up.

“How well behaved do you think Xue Yang is being?” Wei Ying asked as they walked around.

“Don’t know. But if it was anything like the last time you went on a hunt, then he’ll be driving everyone crazy about wanting you to come back home. And crying so much he won’t be eating much,” he told him sighing. He knew better than to try and lie to the teenager. Wei Ying had an uncanny ability to see through them.

“Yeah,” he sighed, “I really need to get him to understand that I will always be coming home to him, always,” he muttered as he stopped at another toy stall. “Do you think I should get him another toy?” he asked looking for a little advice.

Zhao Zhuliu snorted, “That kid already has a lot of toys,” he pointed out, “I know that he likes to paint with Sect Heir Nie Huaisang occasionally when you and Meng Yao are busy. So why don’t you get him some of his own paints? I know he doesn’t have those. Though try and make it so that he won’t be allowed them unless he is using them and with someone to watch him,” he suggested as he saw a small child set.

“Hmm,” he hummed in contemplation as he went over to the set that was there. It was small, a child’s set he could easily tell, but he knew that it would be enough for Xue Yang to use to make some pretty pictures with. “Yeah, I think it might be nice for him. You’re right he does like to paint with Nie Huaisang,” he smiled, picking it up and paying for it. He stored it away and turned towards him.

“Is that all you’re going to get?” Zhao Zhuliu asked him, looking around for something for himself. Though he wasn’t really the type of the frivolous trinkets that most of them would get while they were out on a Night Hunt.

“I’m going to see about getting something for Yao-ge as well. I know that he likes to practice his calligraphy a lot. And he needs a new brush, A-Yang got hold of his best one last week. The brush was ruined, Meng Yao was a little upset about it. Though it was only a cheap one, it was the one he had brought with the money he made off hunting game for the first time without my help,” he said, shaking his head. “I should get him a really nice one. I never did get him something to congratulate him on his new position as Adviser,” he smiled.

“How was he punished for that?” Zhao Zhuliu asked him, wondering how they dealt with the discipline of the young child.

“He was put into a time out and isn’t allowed sweets for a week. He will be able to have some by the time I get home. Unless he misbehaved again. Sweets… they tend to be the best thing to use against him as a punishment. He loves them a lot,” he laughed lightly as they carried on walking around the small market the town had.

“Sweets,” he snorted.

“Yeah, works well. He cried a lot and kept saying that he was sorry and he wouldn’t do it again. But we didn’t let him get away with it. He already knew that he wasn’t allowed to touch Yao-ge’s things,” he said, “It’s the same with mine. He’s not allowed to touch. They are too important to be messed with. We do keep everything up and out of his reach. But sometimes, things like the brush are often left on the desk for when Yao-ge brings something back to work on.”

“Hmm,” he nodded, “At least he knows not to do it again,” he chuckled.

“I can only hope. He does like to test the boundaries at times. Though we both think it’s because he’s waiting for us to leave him. To him, everyone else he had has left him. No father and a mother that died when he was around two, leaving him on the street. They may not have been able to take him in, in the village, but they would often hand out a little food when they could. Or to make sure that their wood hut would be open for him when it was cold, a blanket inside for him as well. It wasn’t a rich village and the local Sect in that place often took any of their earnings. Though they stood up to them finally. I also pointed Qinghe in that direction as well,” he added.

“Sounds like they would have taken him in if they could,” he murmured.

“I think a lot of them would have done, he is adorable,” Wei Ying chuckled, shaking his head, “But he is a mischief-making child after all,” he reminded him.

“Yes, the mud in the dorms wasn’t very fun,” he rolled his eyes, “I don’t think it was a good idea, a lot of us were annoyed with it.”

“Yeah, he was punished for that one as well, once again, no sweets for a few days and he had to help with washing the bedding that had been dirtied,” he said, “Though even I was helping with that because he’s mine,” he shook his head as they made their way to a store, “Let’s go in here,” he said as he noticed what was over the door. He walked inside, Zhao Zhuliu following behind him.

Wei Ying was already off in the stacks of books, seeing if there was anything that would be of interest to either himself or Meng Yao. Zhao Zhuliu did the same, he enjoyed a little novel to read occasionally. Though there wasn’t as much choice as you would think. But a different village and town would have access to different writers and books.

“Oh,” Wei Ying said as he spotted one that Meng Yao had been talking about. They didn’t have a copy of it, but it was something that Meng Yao had heard about when he was in the brothel. He plucked a copy off the shelf and grabbed two more books that he had skimmed through that sounded somewhat interesting. He then went over to the far corner, looking over the brushes that were on sale. They were all nicely made, but one of them caught his attention. It was a dark cherry wood, carved with leaves and then going into a smooth finish that would rest well in the hand. The brush itself looked fine. The white bristles were tightly packed, but looked loose enough to get a good well of ink on them, and won’t end up splattered across the paper.

“That’s what you want to get?” Zhao Zhuliu asked, walking up behind him.

“Yes,” he nodded, signalling the clerk and getting it wrapped. He made his purchases and waited for Zhao Zhuliu to do the same before they left.

“Right, we should start heading home now, a few hours and we should be able to make it back before dinner,” Zhao Zhuliu smiled as he and the other disciples that had gone on the Night Hunt gathered and started to fly home.

When Wei Ying arrived home, he went straight to his room and was hugged tightly and happily by Xue Yang who had greeted him. The child was ecstatic with his new paints, telling him all about painting with Sang-ge. The new brush for Meng Yao had been well received as well. Wei Ying couldn’t help but smile as he listened to how well behaved that Xue Yang had been this time. Wei Ying knew it was making him feel better about having to go away a little more on Night Hunts. He was already the one that went on them the least because of the child, but now, he might be able to go a little more.

Chapter Thirty

Nie Mingjue was at the head of the procession as they arrived at Koi Tower on horseback. They had been travelling for a week to arrive on time. Stopping at the town near Koi Tower to refresh themselves a little before making the last part of their journey. They dismounted as they saw the Jin Sect Leader and his wife waiting for them at the top of the stairs that led up to Koi Tower.

“Serious, why do they need so many stairs,” Nie Mingjue complained under his breath to Meng Yao, “They really just love to show off their wealth all the time,” he added as he spotted all the golden accents given to nearly everything that they passed as they walked up.

Meng Yao was a step behind, and behind him were a few of the disciples that they had brought with them. He stifled a laugh as he gave a subtle glance around. This was the home of his father, the man that had brought him. Meng Yao wanted nothing more than to ruin it, to do something to make him hurt as much as Meng Yao did when he thought of being nothing more than a commodity.

“You all right?” Nie Mingjue asked him quietly, he could see the sudden tenseness out of the corner of his eyes when he glanced over.

“Fine, just wishing he knew what it felt like to be worthless,” he muttered back.

“You’re not worthless, not to Wei Wuxian, Xue Yang or Zhao Zhuliu, to them you are a treasured brother. Never forget that, and to me, you are a… good friend,” he added, glancing back at him a second time as they finally reached the top. He then turned to Jin Guangshan and bowed, “Sect Leader Jin, Madam Jin. Thank you for the invitation to the conference,” he told them, as those behind him bowed as well.

“Welcome to my home Sect Leader Nie,” he greeted back with a benign smile on his face, and there was even some disappointment within the look he gave as he saw that there were no women within the party. “I shall have my lovely wife take you to your rooms,” he added.

“I thank you,” he bowed once more as Madam Jin gestured for them to follow her, “Madam Jin, it’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“You as well Sect Leader Nie. I do hope that all is well in the Unclean Realm?” she added, looking at him, though her eyes narrowed as she passed over Meng Yao.

“They are,” he nodded in answer, “Has everyone else arrived yet?” he asked her.

“No, the Jiang Sect are still to arrive. I understand that there was a slight problem with something so it has delayed their leaving,” she answered him, “They will be arriving by tonight,” she added as she then left them be.

She walked away, her hands clenched in her sleeves as she had looked at the advisor that had come with the Nie Sect. It wasn’t as though it was hard to see that the teenager was a child of Jin Guangshan’s. Another one that no doubt wanted something from the Sect. It wouldn’t be the first time that one of them had come to Koi Tower demanding money, prestige or even a place within the Sect. Each time her husband had just thrown them away, and once more she had lost face because of his wanderings.

Meng Yao watched her go and shuddered, there was something cold about the woman as she walked away from them. He vowed that he would try and do his best to avoid her. Though he knew that Sect Leader Jin hadn’t recognised him at all. Even though the man had looked directly at him for a moment. With a shake of his head, he followed his Sect Leader into the room to rest and refresh themselves before the meal later that night. it would follow just after the Jiang Sect were due to arrive.

“What does Wei Wuxian want you to do?” Nie Mingjue startled him as he walked up behind him.

“He gave me a letter. He wants me to try and get it to the Jiangs without letting them know that he is associated with the Nie Sect at all. So, I brought some of my own plain robes to see if I can get close to one of them and slip it to them,” he said, trying to think of what he was going to be doing. The letter was heavy, not exactly a small one. Though he had watched as Wei Ying had been writing it, adding more and more to it from the moment he had woken up after his breakdown.

“Then do that tomorrow, when we’re getting ready for a meal,” Nie Mingjue suggested.

“I will,” he sighed as he began to head towards the washing area, to wash up and decided if he was going to change his robes to something a little more comfortable or not.

Nie Mingjue waited for him to come back out of the washing area. Having poured the two of them some tea as his disciples went into the adjoining rooms to set themselves up as well. Meng Yao would be remaining in the same room he was in, since there was a second bed. They most likely thought that they would be having Nie Huaisang with them as well. Since that was often the case when Nie Mingjue went anywhere. But since Meng Yao was leaving, he had decided that his brother would remain within Qinghe, with Wei Ying, Xue Yang and Zhao Zhuliu doing their best to run the Sect. Though his brother had been doing all the lessons on how to run the Sect, he knew that Wei Ying had also been giving those same lessons to be able to support Jiang Cheng when he became Sect Leader.

“Everything alright?” Meng Yao asked as he walked back out, in fresh robes and found his Sect Leader staring out of the window.

“Oh,” he blinked, turning, “Yes, I’m fine, just thinking about Wei Wuxian and how he was trained up to help a Sect Leader,” he murmured.

“Yes, he was looking forward to being Jiang Wanyin’s right hand,” he sighed softly, “Just like his father was to the current Sect Leader Jiang, well, until he was chased away from the Sect,” he muttered as he went over and sat down.

“Here, some tea,” he smiled as he pushed over a cup.

“Thank you,” he smiled back, “A-Ying misses them a lot,” he said, glancing towards the window, “But he’s so scared about going back,” he murmured, taking a small sip.

“I can understand with what you’ve told me about what happened,” Nie Mingjue agreed, nodding.

“Hmm,” he hummed, “Oh, I want to try and get a chance to go around the town a little later, when there isn’t anything going one, if that would be alright. I want to see if I can get a little something for A-Ying and A-Yang, and maybe your brother as well.”

“He’d like that, he loves getting gifts,” he smiled, “A-Yan…” he trailed off with a sigh.

“A-Yan?” Meng Yao questioned.

“A-Sang’s birth name. I’ve not really called him that to his face in a long time,” he answered.

“Oh”

“As you know we have different mothers. His mother married my father when I was around five. She was a wonderful woman, I loved her as my own. His mother always called him that, A-Yan, and so did I. But after she had passed away, each time I called him that he would just burst into tears. So, I stopped and never called him that again, well to his face,” he smiled fondly, though there was some sadness in his eyes as he thought of the kind and energetic woman that was Nie Huaisang’s mother.

“Ah,” he nodded, “then yes, I can see why he would. It would remind him a lot of his mother,” he smiled, “There are a few things that will remind me of mine. The smell of lavender is one of the main things. Anytime I smell it, it makes me miss her that much more.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Nie Mingjue said, feeling a little awkward.

“Thank you,” he nodded, sipping his tea, “Well, I suggest that if we have a little time before things begin, we should make the most of it.”

“To the town?” Nie Mingjue perked up at the thought of doing something. There were a couple of hours before they would need to get ready for the feast.

“Why not?” he smiled back.

The two stood up and walked out of the room. Nie Mingjue made sure to inform his disciples that he was going to be going out. So, they wouldn’t think that something happened to him if they found him and Meng Yao missing.

XxXxX

The dinner had been a quiet affair. Though Jin Guangshan had tried to get things to liven up by having some female dancers to be brought in. No one had paid them any mind and, in the end, they had been dismissed. Meng Yao had taken the time to observe the Jiang Sect. He had easily seen that they looked rather subdued. But they were still sitting tall, and talking to people around. Jiang Cheng was often looking around, as though he was hoping to see someone there. Meng Yao had a strong feeling that the young teenager had been hoping that Wei Ying would have been there.

Meng Yao stood, bowing to Nie Mingjue as he made his excuses to leave the room a little while after the meal had finished. Seeing that some of the others had left as well, he didn’t feel so bad at doing so. He walked down a corridor and stopped when he heard someone speaking. Not wishing to get in the way he kept out of sight.

“How could you trap her within the confines of Lotus Pier! She is the Third Lady of the Yu Sect and your wife. The Lady of Lotus Pier,” Madam Jin was hissing. Meng Yao glanced around the corner a little and he could see that she was speaking with Jiang Fengmian, the Jiang Sect Leader.

“I have already told you that she will be confined to Lotus Pier until such time as A-Cheng reaches sixteen. Then she will be sent back to Meishan Yu in disgrace,” he told her, his voice even and calm, “She has violated my trust too much over the last few years. I trusted her to teach the Jiang Sect disciples the Sect Style and techniques. Instead, she left them to the wayside and did nothing that was told to be her duty to the Jiang Sect. I asked and trusted her to do the one thing that makes the Jiang Bell work the best and she did nothing of the sort. She didn’t do it either time. She has disgraced my Sect for the last time Madam Jin. I don’t care if she hung the moon or brought the rain. She is no longer the Lady of Lotus Pier. That title now goes to my daughter. And at the moment, I am now waiting for her to decide if she wishes to continue the betrothal to your son.”

“And why would you be wishing to break that?!” she exclaimed in shock, she never even thought that would be in jeopardy.

“That is simple, it’s because your son has never made an effort whereas my daughter has done all she could. I have had to comfort her twice because of the callousness of your son. Once more, I will terminate it without her saying so. And I will also do so if she asks for it. She is her own woman and she will be able to choose who she wishes to marry. No one else, and especially not the woman who has basically harmed my Sect, its reputation and made it lose face by chasing off my nephew!” he told her, eyes flaring with anger.

“He isn’t even part of your family!” she yelled at him, “Why do you claim him so?”

“Why does everyone believe that!” he shook his head, frustration in his voice as he added, “You’re lacking in your knowledge. My mother and Wei Changze’s mother were sisters. They were extremely close sisters, considering they were twins. They were both part of the Jiang Sect. Disciples within it when they met their husbands. My father and his second in command courted them. They married and then myself and A-Ze were born. He is my cousin and when he came to live with us after his parents were killed because of an illness in another village, he also became my sworn brother. She never believed and maybe you don’t. But others do and we have lost trade and such because she has harmed him and threw him out of the Sect. Because of that, she is now no longer to have any power within the Jiang Sect. She can’t be trusted with it to do right by the Sect and not for her own greed and jealousy over a relationship that never was there.”

“This will come back on you Jiang Fengmian, you just wait. I would see about doing something and letting her out to be seen,” she warned him, eyes narrowing at the man, still not believing the words that he was speaking.

“Don’t worry, something has been done. The Yu Sect have already been informed of their daughter’s disgrace and of her breaking the contract clauses in the marriage for her refusal in teaching the Jiang Disciples the full Jiang Style. Because of that, she is to be confined. I may not be able to kick her out of the sect yet because of other clauses in the contract, but they know that she will be returning to them as soon as A-Cheng is sixteen. Her own children want nothing to do with her now. They don’t even call her mother any more, just Madam Yu,” he snorted, rolling his eyes, “She has done nothing but disgrace the Jiang Sect. And because of that, she now has nothing within the Jiang Sect, no love, no respect and no power and that will remain like that until she leaves,” he finished as he turned and walked away from the woman, not wishing to discuss it anymore.

Meng Yao watched him walk away. He knew that this was something that Wei Ying would like to hear. He turned around himself and went another way to get back to his rooms. He wanted to get the letter and deliver it, he was going to have to hurry and get it to them. Observing them after they got it would also help him know what he could tell Wei Ying about them. He could already see that Jiang Fengmian was still worried about Wei Ying with the way he was speaking to Madam Jin. Meng Yao spared a thought to Jiang Cheng, the teenager had looked hopeful only for it to be stomped on when he couldn’t see Wei Ying anywhere. He shook himself off as he reached his rooms.


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