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冤家路窄 Keep your friends close

Chapter Text

“You!” Wei Ying gasped, a finger pointing at the boy in front of him with both shock and rage. 

“Hi, Young Master Wei,” the awkward, amused smile of Meng Yao answered, “so you remember too…” 

“I can’t believe you’re the first person I meeeeeet,” Wei Ying would whine later, kicking his legs around on the monkey bar, “I want my husbannnd! I wanna find Lan Zhan!” 

“Aren’t we a little… um…” Meng Yao’s face actually blushed a little, which is a surreal sight for Wei Ying, who remembered Jin GuangYao, “young?” 

“Never too young to find your soulmate! Lan Zhan and I are meant to be!” Wei Ying stood atop the highest peak of the playground set, fingers pointing to the sky with determination, the sun shone brightly behind him and halo-ed his head. 

Meng Yao politely clapped. 

 

Chapter Text

A shrill cry pierced through the hallway. 

A third-grader ran down the hallway crying. 

“What did you do to him?” Meng Yao asked, “he look like you’ve murdered his entire family.” 

“I don’t know??? I might have???” Wei Ying seemed equally bewildered, and a little distressed, “I mean… there was a point where I was a bad guy.” 

“You don’t say.” 

“I feel bad,” Wei Ying fidgeted with his napkin, “should I go look for him?”

“Probably not,” Meng Yao said sagely, before awkwardly patting Wei Ying the shoulder, “what we did in our past lives is out of our hands. Better not think about it.” 

“Still…” Wei Ying poked at his food. 

“Maybe I can check on him?” Meng Yao offered. 

“I don’t trust you though.” 

Eyeroll. 

“Thanks,” Wei Ying said. 

Wen Chao transferred out of their school the next day. Wei Ying never really got into any trouble for it, thankfully. 


“I hope I never run into anyone else who remembers,” Meng Yao said, “I had a lot of enemies.” 

“You don’t want to meet ZeWu-Jun?” 

“What do you think?” Meng Yao frowned, then sighed, expression looking a bit too mature for his age, “some things are not meant to be.” 

It sounds kind of funny coming from a first grader. 

“I think XiChen Da-Ge would look for you, though,” Wei Ying said, “you know, after you died he was always very sad. Me and Lan Zhan were pretty angry at you for that… Hey… Oh no… Don’t cry! Don’t do that! Stop crying!”

Chapter Text

“I don’t like any of you,” said Wei Ying, “I want Lan Zhan.”

“Well, I don’t like you either,” said Xue Yang, arms crossed.

“I am sorry that none of us are Lan Zhan,” Meng Yao patted the shoulder of Wei Ying sympathetically, looking completely amused.

“AHHHH Lan Zhan where are you? I am stuck with the forces of evil come save me!!!” Wei Ying lamented with his face buried in his palms.

“There, there,” patted one of the forces of evil.

“Why won’t he appear? Meng Yao? Why must fate be so cruel?”

Meng Yao made a non-commited hum.

“You don’t understand because you have never loved!”

Meng Yao snickered.

“I getcha, I wanna find DaoZhang too,” said Xue Yang.

“No!” Meng Yao and Wei Ying said simultaneously.

“Some things are not meant to be,” Wei Ying looked up seriously, and repeated Meng Yao’s words.

Chapter Text

Wei Ying can hear the Jaws theme playing in the background as Meng Yao and Nie HuaiSang stares at each other in frozen horror. 

“Alright, everyone partner up!” Mr. Xie clapped his hands, “HuaiSang, you can sit here, next to Meng Yao.”

Meng Yao just stared, unsure if he should glare or scoot away further. 

“HuaiSang-Laodi, hello,” Wei Ying helpfully broke the ice, “Have you seen my husband?” 


“So here’s my theory,” Wei WuXian but both hands on the table, “all of us are meeting our enemies from last life.” 

Xue Yang whistled, Nie HuaiSang nodded, and Meng Yao buried his face in his hands. 

“Now, important question. Does any of you hate Lan Zhan?”

“No… not really.” “No.” “There’s nothing wrong with HanGuang-Jun.”

“Oh come on! Xue Yang, we totally killed you together, you must have held a grudge against him.”

“He’s boring.” 

“You take that back. You, Meng Yao! We foiled your evil plan, you have to hold a grudge against him.”

“Well… it’s the two of you and you’re the easier one to hold a grudge against. But really it’s mostly this guy here,” Meng Yao pointed to HuaiSang, who shrugged. 

“Does none of you hate Lan Zhan???” Wei Ying threw his hands up in the air. 

“Well, if what you say it’s true, shouldn’t we, and by that I mean you and I mostly, worry more about surviving past elementary school? I know how many enemies you had,” Meng Yao politely interrupted. 

“I feel excluded,” said Xue Yang proudly, thumping a hand against his chest, “I’m sure I had more.”

Nobody commented on this. 

“Right, so we all know, our enemies will show up, and will keep showing up, and if they show up in a mob? Or if one of them is an adult, with a gun? Wei Ying? Why are you hugging me?” 

“Keep calm, Meng Yao, when you freak out you think about murder. Don’t think about murder.” 

“Oh, thanks… I appreciate it…” 

A few moments later, a piece of lined paper with the words “SURVIVAL PLAN” written in red marker is slammed onto the middle of the table. A few lines of much neater words are printed below with a pen. 

“1. Ace our group project,” reads Meng Yao.

“2. Everyone help find Lan Zhan.” Wei Ying beams appreciatively. 

“3. We make sure that all of us can survive past middle school, or until one of us moves,” Wei Ying announced determinedly, “even Xue Yang.” 

“Question,” Nie HuaiSang raised his hand timidly, “Am I obligated to protect Meng Yao? I don’t want to be the bad guy or anything. But you all have way more enemies than I do, especially Meng Yao. This doesn’t seem entirely fair. Sorry, San-Ge.” 

“Who’s going to do most of the work on our group project if I’m dead?” 

“Oh my god, you nerd,” laughed Xue Yang. 

“…Right. Of course. I’m down.” 

“Alright, since we all agree, let’s sign in blood! I got scissors!” Wei Ying exclaimed, taking out a pair of safety scissors. 

“Let’s not get in trouble with our parents just yet…” 

Chapter Text

“I don’t think this is good, spending your whole life looking for Lan Zhan,” Meng Yao said one day, sagely, “What if he doesn’t remember? What if he already has someone else?”

“You disagreed with me, am I going to die?” Wei Ying joked. 

Meng Yao rolled his eyes. 

“I’ve thought of it. Like, what if Lan Zhan is already married by the time I find him? If that were the case, I’d be very sad, but I’d also be happy for him. I mean… to be honest, we had a very good life together. I don’t need a repeat of it. I mean, obviously, he’s the perfect man, so I wouldn’t mind marrying him again, who would say no to Lan Zhan? But like… I just want to see him again and know he’s doing good, you know?” 

“I guess…” 

“Are there no one you’d like to see again?” 

“Maybe Su She?”

“Ehhhhhhhhhhhh… really? I didn’t think you cared, to be honest. Ow… Hey You can’t blame me for thinking that.” 

Chapter Text

Nie HuaiSang raised his math textbook and swung the corner towards the man’s head with all his 10 years old might. The man was knocked out cold, and fell on top of Meng Yao. 

Oh thank heavens! He didn’t know if that’d work. 

Meng Yao gasped for air, and didn’t move from his spot. With some effort, Nie HuaiSang rolled the man off. 

“Are you okay?” Nie HuaiSang asked rather awkwardly. No of course he’s not okay what sort of dumb question is that?

“Can you stand? We have to find an adult or a phone before he wakes up.”

Meng Yao stared at him without any comprehension on his face. Um… 

“HELP! SOMEBODY HELP THIS MAN TRIED TO ATTACK US!” He shouted aloud, on the off chance there’s someone nearby. He grabs Meng Yao by the hand and attempted to haul him up, which only caused Meng Yao to stumble. 


Help arrived soon enough. 

“In my past life, I killed his entire family,” was the first thing Meng Yao said to Nie HuaiSang after he managed to stop sobbing, you’d think it’d be “thank you” or something along that line. “He’s going to jail. I’ve ruined his life twice now.” 

“Oh…” Nie HuaiSang didn’t know what to say to that. Maybe he should have just let the guy finish the job. He did spend years of his past life plotting the total destruction of Jin GuangYao. Why did he save Meng Yao anyway? It’s just karma. 

Because he signed his name on a piece of lined paper back in second grade. 

“Stuff happens,” Nie HuaiSang said, after a while. 

Meng Yao didn’t respond to that. 

“Hey, HuaiSang” Meng Yao said, after a while, “I’m tired of it, being Jin GuangYao.” He smiled, it looked pretty bad with red eyes and runny nose and bruises on his neck. 

“I’m tired of being me.” 

That irritates him. It’s kinda irresponsible, to say that to Nie HuaiSang of all people. Nie HuaiSang has no forgiveness to give. 

But he understood the sentiment. 

“Well,” he said, a hint of spite and a hint of pity, “we don’t really get a choice there.” 

“No,” Meng Yao said, “I guess we don’t.” 

Nie HuaiSang called his parents to stay at Meng Yao’s house that night. They played video games until it was bedtime. 

Chapter Text

A series of loud dog bark scared the shit out of Wei Ying. 

“This is Su She, my therapy dog,” says Meng Yao, as he scooped up his Chihuahua and physically carried it into a room, “shush, he’s a friend now, silly. Shhh…” Annnnd… He’ll just lock that door right there. 

“He’s normally well behaved, unless you’re an enemy from the past-life.” 

“You’re a fucking traitor. This friendship is over,” Wei Ying crossed his arm and declares. Having never been chased by a dog in this life, Wei Ying’s fear of dog is at a manageable level. This doesn’t mean they’re pleasant to be around. 

“Woah! Language, Wei Ying!” 

“Wait did you name your dog Su She or is that actually…?” Frankly, Wei Ying doesn’t know which one is sadder. 

“I’m not sure. I recognize him,” Meng Yao shrugs, “It kind of… feels like him?” 

“OH MY GOD!” Wei Ying wailed, horror-stricken. 

“OH MY GOD WHAT IF LAN ZHAN REINCARNATES AS NON-HUMAN? WHAT IF- What if-” He didn’t dare continue that thought. 

“Calm down,” Meng Yao said with a placating hand on Wei Ying’s shoulder, “I’m sure HanGuang-Jun would be just as handsome and beautiful and human. He doesn’t seem like… the type?” 

“Right. Of course.” Wei Ying takes a deep breath. “Lan Zhan would never stoop so low.” 

Meng Yao wonders if he should feel slightly insulted on Su She’s behalf. Though judging from the number of likes Su She’s photos have gotten on social media, it seems like his companion is much more likable in this form than his former one. 

Chapter Text

It happened at the park. 

Xue Yang was happily crunching (yes, crunching, like a savage) into his popsicle when this tiny little girl came running towards him, and punched him right in the balls. 

“LI-LITTLE BLIND GIRL!” Xue Yang shouted, between winces as he curled in on himself. It was hard to tell whether it’s excitement or pain or indignation in his voice. 

“Yeah! You show him!” Wei YIng was laughing and cheering on the side, 0 intention of helping. Nie HuaiSang and Meng Yao made no moves. Well, their pact says to help one another with survival, no one said anything about fertility. ‘Sides, they don’t see any weapon and Xue Yang is grinning. 

“I’M NOT BLIND ANYMORE!” A-Qing shouted, before a parental figure came running. 

“A-Qing, what is wrong with you? I’m sorry I don’t know what came onto her-” Song Zichen came to a halt. 

“Ah… it’s you…” Xue Yang let out a laugh, a little breathless. He picks himself up, but Meng Yao and Nie HuaiSang are holding him back. What’s wrong with them? Can’t they see they’re having a moment? 

Wei Ying cuts in front of him, “Zichen DaoZhang, A-Qing… hey…” he greets, a bit nervously, “Nice seeing you guys. I signed a blood pack with this guy and we can’t let you kill him.” 

“Dao-Zhang!” Xue Yang shouted. Meng Yao’s goddamn claws were all about to dig right into his flesh. “Have you seen him? Have you found him yet?” 

Song ZiChen shook his head, “We’re not going to hurt him.” Then, realizing his mistake as he glanced at A-Qing, “I apologize for A-Qing.” 

“Did you find him? Did you find him?” Xue Yang asked again, no longer looking at Song ZiChen, only at A-Qing, hoping for a different answer. 

“No.” A-Qing said, she seemed to have more to say, but snapped her mouth shut and looked away. 

Xue Yang blinked, bent down, and batted Nie HuaiSang off. “Little blind girl…”He extended his hand and smiled. 

Meng Yao was muttering something to him, too quiet for him to hear, he bats him off as well. 

A-Qing stared at him, fear and incomprehension in her eyes, before her lips started wobbling and she started to wail. Song ZiChen picked her up. 

They watched as the two walked away without another word. 

“I’ll buy you another popsicle,” Nie HuaiSang said, awkwardly. 

“I don’t need your pity popsicle!” Xue Yang barked. 

They all pitched in and bought him a Cornetto, so Xue Yang couldn't exactly have said no. They could fly in the sky in the past-life, but nobody ever invented chocolate flavored Cornetto. 

Chapter Text

The elevator jammed. 

Well, it was technically a black-out. The snowstorm had struck down the power-cord, and so, two elementary school kids were stuck in an elevator, awaiting rescue.

“We-well?” 

“They said the repairs person is on his way, but it might take an hour or two, apparently a lot of powers are down,” Meng Yao explained calmly as he got off the phone, “You’re not claustrophobic, are you?” 

Nie HuaiSang shook his head, “You?”

“I’m okay,” Meng Yao said with a smile, “I guess we wait.”

And so, the two boys sat next to each other, awkwardly staring at the elevator door. The silence stretched, marked by the quiet ruffling of Nie HuaiSang’s jacket as he fiddled with its hem. 

“Hey, you don’t think we’ll run out of oxygen, right?” Nie HuaiSang suddenly said, clearly nervous. 

“I think we’ll be fine,” Meng Yao gave his companion a reassuring smile. “I can sort of feel a breeze so this elevator must be ventilated.” He said this with more reason and poise than a 5th grader ought to have. 

Nie HuaiSang sighed in exasperated relief. He supposed he should be grateful that it was Meng Yao he was stuck with, and not, let’s say… Xue Yang. 

Then again, Jin GuangYao always had a way of being reassuring. 

“Hey,” Meng Yao placed a hand on his shoulder, “we should talk about something else, ease up the pressure, you know? How ‘bout you tell me about the series you’re watching?”

It wasn’t a bad suggestion, really. But there was something else on his mind, something that’s always been there, ready to burst out. 

The two of them were bounded by shadows of their past. 

“H-hey…” Nie HuaiSang spoke softly instead, “I know you don’t like to talk about the past-life, but there were things I’ve always wanted to say to San-ge.” He dIdn’t ask for permission. 

Meng Yao’s smile dropped in an instant. 

“Well, I can’t exactly stop you from saying it, can I?” Smiling wryly again, Meng Yao looked away. 

Nie HuaiSang felt a little bad, just a little. Not bad enough to swallow his words, though. 

“I’m gonna call you San-ge for a bit, but it’s not directed at you.”

“Go ahead.” 

“Alright.”

“HuaiSang?”

“Ah, sorry, I got nervous.” 

Meng Yao didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. “Do you want to… maybe write it down first?”

“No, no, it’s okay. Just… give me a moment.”

“Alright.”

A short stretch of silence followed before Nie HuaiSang spoke again. 

“San-ge, I used to be terrified of you. But I think, even before that, I remember admiring you.

“You’ve always helped me so much, with everything. You were so nice. So when I found out what you did to Da-ge, I was pretty shocked. 

“I… tried very hard to beat you, to expose you. I thought, to defeat you, I had to be more cunning and ruthless than you were.” 

“Gosh,” Meng Yao said, “is this the monologue Nie HuaiSang never got to deliver to Jin GuangYao?”

“Something like that,” Nie HuaiSang answered, before continuing. “I used to be so terrified of you. Cause you were an amazing person who knew everything, and I didn’t think I could hide anything from you. I always thought… I always thought, any moment, you’d find out, and all of it will fail, and I’d never be able to avenge Da-ge. 

“I tried so hard. I tried so hard just to be at your level.”

“Well, you won in the end, didn’t you?” Meng Yao asked. And there’s a trace of spite in that voice, before a resigned laugh escaped his lips. “Nie HuaiSang did what he set out to do. Looking at it as a third party, I can respect him for that.” 

“I guess,” Nie HuaiSang said, looking down at the ground, “But, San-ge, you know, I didn’t want to be your enemy.” 

“I just wanted my brother back.” He felt his throat constrict and heard his voice crack. His head ached, his eyes ached. He buried his face in his palms. He didn’t want to look at Meng Yao right then, he didn’t know if he’d see Jin GuangYao staring back at him, he didn’t know if he wanted to. 

There was a long stretch of silence before two pairs of arms wrapped themselves around him. Nie HuaiSang let them. 

“I’m sorry,” Meng Yao said. 

“Is this from you, or from him?” Nie HuaiSang asked. 

“It’s from me.” 

“It’s not your fault.” 

“I know, I’m just sorry that you had to live that way.” To live with your heart in your throat, blood of a brother on your hands. 

“Hey, Meng Yao,” Nie HuaiSang said, after another stretch of silence. 

“Hm?”

“I miss Da-ge.”

Meng Yao’s arms stiffened for a moment but didn’t let go. 

“You’ll find him eventually, if you stick with me. Roads are narrow for enemies*, right?” 

“I miss San-ge too.”  

“…”

“You know,” Nie HuaiSang wrapped his arm around Meng Yao as well, and rested his chin upon Meng Yao’s shoulder, “maybe we were never meant to be enemies.” 

The arms around him tightened, and shook. 

“Hey, Meng Yao.”

“Yeah?”

“What if we just stay like this?”

“That’s pretty awkward.”

“Yeah but, it’s warm like this.” 

“I guess, yeah.” 

“Plus nobody will see us, and when they open the elevator we can hear them.”

“You know, Nie HuaiSang used to cling onto Jin GuangYao all the time. Do you really worry about being seen like this?”

“We’re not them now, are we?”

“No, I guess not.”

But when the elevator door opened, neither could stand properly due to being stuck in the same position for too long. 


"You know, Wei Ying and I made a bet on which one of you will come out alive," said Xue Yang, arm slung around Meng Yao's shoulder, "I betted on you, of course." 

"Aha, I get it now, Wei Ying," Meng Yao narrowed his eyes, "I see how it is."

"Gotta go by existing stats." Wei Ying shrugged. Nie HuaiSang gave him a fist bump. 

"It's too bad, we got a bottle of Milkies riding on it." 

"Well, since both of us are alive and well..." Meng Yao exchanged a look with Nie HuaiSang.

"You'll treat us both, right?"

 

 

Chapter Text

They meet Jiang Cheng at their middle school orientation. 

“Jiang Cheng!” Wei Ying’s eyes widened and his mouth split his face in half in a wide grin. He ran up to tackle Jiang Cheng, which the other boy dodged. 

It seems like their relationship had improved since GuanYin Temple, then. 

“What are you doing with him?” Jiang Cheng dodged the oncoming attack and held Wei Ying at arm’s length. He looked pointedly at Meng Yao.

“Come on, A-Cheng, give me a hug!” 

“Jiang-xiong,” Nie HuaiSang waved with an awkward smile, stepping in front of Meng Yao. 

Xue Yang stuck up a middle finger. 

Well then. 

“Don’t mind us, you guys catch up!” Meng Yao waved, dragging Xue Yang away. 

What he doesn’t expect is to see Wei Ying and Nie HuaiSang coming towards them at lunch. Well, he expected Nie HuaiSang, but not Wei Ying. 

“Jiang Cheng won’t listen to me talk about Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying shrugged. 

Meng Yao passed ¥5 to Xue Yang. 

Wei Ying rolled his eyes. “I’m not gonna ditch you just because I found Jiang Cheng. We have a pact.” 

“We drafted that in grade 2. And nothing in it says about sticking together all the time,” Meng Yao said with a laugh but made space for Nie HuaiSang to settle down beside him. 

“Alright, but would you ditch us for Lan Zhan?” Asked Xue Yang with a sharp grin. 

“Oh yeah, I’d ditch everyone for Lan Zhan.” 

“So is Jiang Cheng gonna sit with us now?” 

“Haha... No.” 


“What do you want?” Jiang Cheng asked, frowning at Meng Yao. 

“How were things with Jin Ling after?” Meng Yao cut straight to the chase before Jiang Cheng could chase him off. 

Jiang Cheng just glared for a moment. “You didn’t ask Wei Ying?”

“You’re his uncle,” said Meng Yao. 

“And you’ve lost the right to be his uncle after you put a string around his neck.” 

“I know. I just want to know.” 

Jiang Cheng continued glaring at him for a moment.

“He was a fine sect leader. He mourned for you.”

“Was he...” Was he happy? Did he marry? Did he have any children? Was he happy?

“He married Cang YueXu of the Cang clan, had two children, a son and a daughter, both healthy. He maintained a great relationship with the Lan Sect and built a deep friendship with Lan SiZhui, the Lan Sect Leader after Lan XiChen. Eventually, he expanded upon your Watch Tower project with Nie HuaiSang, and gained a lot of respect and influence.” 

“And yes, he was happy.” 

Chapter Text

"I-is that...” 

“Wei Ying, meet Xiao-Han, I’m his babysitter,” says Meng Yao, gathering the toddler into his arms, “Xiao-Han, this is Wei-gege! Say hi!” 

In his arm is a miniature Wen RuoHan. Wei Ying had no idea how this baby could possibly be Wen RuoHan, or how he could possibly tell. He just could. 

Wei YIng gaped. The toddler frowned at him, scrunching his little brows. 

“I know. I couldn’t believe it either.”

“Does he...” Wei Ying tapped his head. 

“Well, he’s still a baby, so no, it doesn’t seem like it.” 

“Does he have any...” Wei Ying waved his arms around like an idiot. 

“No??? Do you have any cultivation?” 

“Yeah but this is...”

“Yeah, I know.” Meng Yao did the equivalence of shrugging with his face, somehow. 

“Aw... he’s so cute,” Wei Ying said, poking baby Wen RuoHan in the cheek. 

It was then that baby Wen RuoHan decided that he really did not like Wei Ying, and batted Wei Ying’s hand away with a resolute “No!” before wriggling out of Meng Yao’s grasp and running off to his room. 

Later, Wei Ying learned that “Xiao-Han” is an incredibly moody child, who only takes to “Meng-gege” somehow. 

“So um... what happens once he remembers?” Wei Ying asked Meng Yao later. 

“Honestly? I have no idea.”

Chapter Text

Wei Ying is in a middle-class family with loving parents who support his “wild imagination” and mostly let him do what he wants. They find it very concerning that their son has an imaginary husband, because should sexuality even develop that early?? At some point they’ll have to realize it’s not a phase.


 

Meng Yao’s family is fairly well-to-do, rich enough to afford therapy, supportive enough to get it for him. (Though it has limited effects considering past-life memories can’t really be talked about.)

  • He lives with his mother and step-father.
  • He’s not close with his stepfather.
  • His parents always found it weird that their child never behaves like a child, but they trusted him so they never monitor him very strictly, not until he got attacked. (His mother was distraught. His stepfather got a bit more protective over him as well.)
  • His biological father didn’t part with his mother on good terms, so they don’t really talk anymore. 

 

Nie HuaiSang is from a kinda-rich family. He and Meng Yao live in the same condo-apartment. His parents don’t really care what he does as long as he keeps his grades up. So they’re happy when NHS started hanging around Meng Yao, who seems like the studious type. He often begs Wei WuXian for notes… Just like the old days. 


 

Xue Yang’s family is poor, but he got into a good school because he’s in the gifted program. His parents are decent people, but can often be stressed/cranky from work, so Xue Yang doesn’t like to spend time at home. He might not be a considerate/obedient child, but he actually tries to do as many chores as he can behind their backs.

He starts cooking as soon as his parents let him touch the stove, so his parents often come home with dinner on the table and a note that he’s at his friend’s place.

He uses to think about ditching his family as soon as he finds Daozhang, but the thought occurs less and less as he grew up. 


 

Thanks to a suggestion by @yuzuria, Su She might not actually be a dog. (This is peak awkwardness)


 

Mo XuanYu will be working as a history professor. Perhaps not the most lucrative career, but he’s relatively respected in his field. Fortunately, he remembers nothing of his past-life. (Eventually, Wei WuXian will decide it’s best if MXY never meets Meng Yao or Nie HuaiSang.) 


 

Yes, Wen Ning and Jiang Cheng found each other already back in elementary school, but they don’t talk to each other. 


 

WARNING FOR ATTEMPTED SUICIDE: 

Wen Chao had always grown up with some unclear trauma. When he met WWX in grade 3 a lot of the memories came back in clarity and everything got worse. 

He was getting bullied in his new school and was found attempting suicide in the school bathroom. That’s when he met Wen ZhuLiu, his counselor. Initially, he blamed WZL for failing to protect him in the past life, which WZL accepted with professionalism.

Eventually, having someone who believes in him, who he can open up to, really helped. Though the PTSD never really goes away, Wen Chao eventually gets back on a functional level and starts socializing with other people again. He and WZL stayed in touch even after WC moved onto middle & high school. 

Chapter Text

"Xiao-Han, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Asks Wei-gege, Meng-gege's annoying friend.

“The Chairman.”

“…What kind of chairman?” Wei Ying asks cautiously.

“The Chairman of People’s Republic of China,” answers the 4 years old slowly, with a straight face, as if he's speaking to an idiot.

The annoying Gege and Meng-gege looks to one another.

“I-is that so?” Meng Yao asks with a smile.

“Do I have to say it twice?” Asks the child, pouting in displeasure.

“No, of course not. That’s quite an ambitious goal, Xiao-Han.”

“You don’t think I can do it?” A big frown. He doesn’t like being doubted. He know he can do it if he have a few years… Maybe 20. He’s already smarter than even the big kids, especially dummies like Wei-gege.

“I think,” Meng-gege rests a gentle hand on his head, ruffling his short locks, “it’s good to have big dreams.”

-

“Pst… you sure he doesn’t... uh…”

“To borrow from HuaiSang, I don’t know, I don’t know, I really don’t know!”


“So, are we going to protect Xiao-Han if he remembers?” HuaiSang asks, later, sitting on the park bench.

“It’s my call?” Asks Meng Yao.

“Well, you’re his babysitter.”

“I guess I have to. His parents pay me.”

Nie HuaiSang snorts, “You know what I mean.”

“I know,” Meng Yao says, “he’s a cute kid.”

“You’re literally the only person who thinks that,” Nie HuaiSang rolls his eyes. “You ever think he actually remembers, and just isn’t telling you? Would you say anything in his place? I know I wouldn’t.” I’d wait for the perfect opportunity to kill you goes unsaid.

Meng Yao shakes his head, “You or I wouldn’t, but I know Wen RuoHan, and I know Xiao-Han, he would tell me.”

“That’s what you thought about me before you died,” Nie HuaiSang says candidly.

“Point,” Meng Yao nods. He looks down at the dismembered leaf in his hand, he’s been carefully ripping it along its veins as they spoke. “Still, I don’t want anything bad to happen to him… I want to keep him safe this time.” Wen RuoHan had enemies, and there could be others who wants to get rid of him. Nie MingJue, for example.

“It might really fuck him up, when he does remember,” Nie HuaiSang says, though he doesn’t have too much empathy for Wen RuoHan. “It’s hard to reconcile the image of someone you trust with a traitor.”

“I know… If you wanna take over babysitting him, I can recommend you to his parents.”

“No way!” Nie HuaiSang crosses his arms in an X.

Meng Yao smiles.

Nie HuaiSang watches as Meng Yao continues to dissect the leaf, its pieces getting smaller and smaller.

“I’ll protect you when we meet Dage,” Nie HuaiSang says.

Meng Yao blinks.

“I guess I’ll have to protect Wei Ying and Xue Yang too, and… well… I’ll put in a word for Xiao-Han, but no promises on that one.”

“Shouldn’t you protect him from me?” Meng Yao asks. “None of us would expect you to take our side over Nie MingJue's, just like we can’t ever expect Wei Ying to chose us over Lan Zhan. It was chicken scratch on a line paper we signed in second grade, you’re not bound to it.”

“I do want to protect him,” says Nie HuaiSang, “but… from what I know of you, you’ll only harm him if you feel you’re in danger. I want you to know that as long as i’m here, you won’t be in danger, not from him.”

He grabs Meng Yao’s shoulders to make a point of emphasis.

Meng Yao’s eyes flickers cautiously between the hands on his shoulders and Nie HuaiSang’s face. Nie HuaiSang can see the gears turning in his head. Finally, he laughs.

“Aiya… I never expect I’d hear 'I’ll protect you' from HuaiSang… That was quite something. I’m telling Wei Ying!” He shifts a little and pulls out his phone.

“Eh? No! Wei-Xiong would never let that go! He’s gonna start shipping us like UPS!”

“Oh? You mentioned protecting him and Xue Yang too, if I recall.”

“They don’t have to know this! They’re not paranoid like you.”

“Too late, already sent.”

“Noooooooooooooooo! Whyyyyy? I feel so betrayed.”

“Oh, he got back to me… Oh, haha, he doesn’t even believe me.”

“Ahhhh that’s kind of embarrassing. Wei-xiong really don’t think I got game.”

“Nie HuaiSang.”

“?"

“Thanks. You’re… a good person.”

“…Oh.”

“…”

“This is really awkward, can we talk about anime?”

Chapter Text

Wei YIng's previous teacher had warned her about him when she saw his name in her attendance list. “He’s a troublemaker,” she had said fondly. So she expected trouble, what she didn’t expect was for the boy to burst into tears the moment their eyes met.

If this was the first day of kindergarten, it would have been natural. If this was the first day of elementary school, perhaps a bit embarrassing…

But this was high school, and Wei Ying was a teenage boy. So it was… alarming, to say the least. The other kids were too stunned to even make fun of him for it.

His friends didn’t seem alarmed though. They patted him on the back and told him congratulations.

When she tried to ask him what’s wrong in her gentlest voice, Wei WuXian studied her for a long time, before bursting into a big smile through his tears, “I’m happy, I’m too happy.”

Okay????

“Don’t mind him,” Xue Yang, the other trouble-maker she was warned about, barked out a laugh, “He’s can get a bit…” He tapped a finger to his temple.

Right...

“That’s not a nice thing to say about your friend, Xue Yang.”

“No, I’m really okay,” Wei Ying insisted, taking some offered tissue from Meng Yao, “I’m okay."

Thus begun the first day of Jiang YanLi’s teaching career.

A similar thing happened when she ran into another student in the hallway. One of Wei Ying’s friends from the other class, Jiang Cheng, if she remembered correctly. Jiang YanLi really doesn’t know what to think of it… but something about these two boys seemed… oddly familiar, not in a bad way.

After that incident, Wei YIng has pretty much been a model student, if not a bit overeager. As a professional and a woman, she really should be more concerned about these kind of things. Fortunately, underneath his jokester behaviour, Wei Ying seem to be a surprisingly mature kid. Neither he nor his friends ever invaded her boundaries.

His friends.

They’re outsiders, all of them. It’s a strange thing to acknowledge, considering there’s quite a number of them, and a few of them quite sociable. Wei Ying himself can probably even be considered popular.

But Jiang YanLi had begun to take notice after a while, the odd detached way they interact with others and amongst themselves. They’re close enough to be considered inseparable (she’s never caught anyone in that circle alone), yet they all seem to maintain careful boundaries.

She asked one of their previous teachers.

“I guess no one told you… A few years ago, Meng Yao was attacked by a parent after school. They don’t travel alone after that. If they try to take washroom breaks together, don’t stop them.”

Jiang YanLi isn’t sure what to make of that either.

“Hey Miss Jiang! I washed the black board for ya! Look, it’s sparkly clean!” Wei WuXian announced with a bright smile. “Did I do good? Do I get an A for this?”

“Uh, excuse you, we’re the ones who did all the work, you aren’t asking for us to have an A instead?” Xue Yang asked, with clean hands and tidy sleeves that suggested he did no work whatsoever.

Meng Yao snickered in exasperation. Nie HuaiSang flopped his body onto his desk.

All she can do is her job, and she’s going to make sure these kids get the best year possible.

Chapter Text

“I don’t know, MinShan,” Meng Yao said to his dog, “do you think Wei Ying is being creepy? Miss Jiang seems okay with it.”

The chihuahua, being a chihuahua, didn’t answer, and trotted on with its little legs in its regular haughty manner. Another voice did.

“Sect Leader Jin…?”

Meng Yao’s head snapped back immediately.

Standing there, face to face, is an actual Su MinShan, though much much older than Jin GuangYao had last seen him.

The chihuahua launched at the elderly man with all its chihuahua strength.

“MinShan! Heel!”

The elderly man looked to Meng Yao, then at the growling dog.

Meng Yao wants to die.

“Um. I can explain.”

Why did he think the dog was Su She???

The man laughed, a bit breathless.

“That’s okay, I’m glad you remembered me...” he trailed off, looking uncertain.

“Meng Yao is fine. It’s good to see you, Min- Mister Su.”

“I-it’s fine, please, call me by my name.”

The dog growls.

“It’s okay, MinShan, he’s a friend,” Meng Yao picked up the dog. He looks to the elder apologetically.

They move to a bench.

“I didn’t think I’d find you in this life,” Su She, the human, finally said.

“I… I’m glad to see you well,” Meng Yao answers, a bit caught off-guard. Despite his age, Su She seemed healthy.

“You look like you’ve been doing well yourself, how has this life been?” Su She asked.

“It’s been good to me,” Meng Yao said, “sometimes I think it’s much too easy compared to the last one, to be honest.” He gives a bit of an awkward laugh. “Listen… I’m not—“

“I know,” She She answers, “me neither.”

“Has it been hard?” Su She asked, “the memories.”

Meng Yao can only nod. “It’s… I’ve met people to share it with. I’ve met Xue Yang.”

“Really? How is he?”

“He’s doing well,” Meng Yao said, “we’re all doing well, I think. How have you been?”

“I’ve also been well, I worked for the government for most of my life, and I’ve retired for a while now. My granddaughter just turned two*.”

“Oh. Congratulations!”

Su She looked to him for a moment, as if wanting to say something, before pursing his lips.

“When I was younger,” he said, slowly, “I spent a few years working in Japan. I… tried to trace down the location of the ancient ports, and found the place we were meant to dock. But I didn’t know where to go from there. Their records only goes two hundred years back. I visited the oldest cemetery, but I didn’t know if you would’ve changed your name.”

“I’m sorry,” Meng Yao said, “he never made it to DongYing.”

The old man gave a shuddering sigh. “That’s okay. I didn’t think he would, but I still wanted to look.” It made sense, the last Su She had seen of Jin GuangYao, he was barely alive. He looked like he wanted to know what came after, but he didn’t dare ask.

“Would you prefer to know?” Meng Yao asked.

“Only what you don’t mind sharing,” Su She answered.

“Jin GuangYao never made it out of the temple.”

Su She went quiet for a long time, before burying his face into his hands. The entire frame of him shook like a leaf with a single, muffled sob.

“I’m sorry,” Meng Yao apologized again, “but he appreciated it, everything that Su MinShan did for him. Thank you.”

“I’m sorry that I couldn’t be here for you, this life,” the old man said.

“You don’t have to,” Meng Yao answered, “you had your own life, I’m sorry you couldn’t live it sooner.”

“That’s okay,” Su She said, “it was my choice.”

Sensing his owner’s mood, the dog attempted to nuzzle and lick at his owner to get his attention, making low whiny noises until he got Meng Yao to smile.

“He’s very cute,” said Su She, the human, extending a hand to pet the dog. The chihuahua growled at him with vehemous hatred in its large beady eyes. Su She retreated his hand, and the dog went back to affectionately licking Meng Yao’s hand.

“I think I can see why you named him after me,” Su She said with a dry laugh.

Meng Yao smiled awkwardly.

They sat in silence for a while.

“Meng Yao,” Su She asked, “have you ever been to Japan?”

Meng Yao shook his head.

“I go there with my daughter every spring. The cherry blossoms are beautiful there. You should go sometime, it’s worth seeing.”

“I think I’d like that,” Meng Yao answered.

-

“If there’s anything I can help you with…"

“Actually, MinShan, there is something you might be able to help me with."

“Please, let me know.”

“Have you ever met Lan WangJi? Wei Ying is looking for him.”

“…I have, actually.”

“!!?”

“It was many, many, years ago, unfortunately.”

“How long ago? Where?”

“It must have been at least 14 years ago. I think I saw him as an infant at the airport. I couldn’t be sure, but… Well… You know how I felt about Han GuangJun in the past-life. I somehow felt certain it was him at that moment.”

“Do you know where he was flying to?”

“I’m sorry. I only saw him at customs, so it must have been an international flight. Maybe his parents were taking him on a trip. I really can’t offer any more help on it.”

“I guess he could technically be anywhere, at this point… Thanks for the help, MinShan.”

“Wei WuXian…” Su She asked,

“He’s a friend,” Meng Yao said with a smile.

-

Sometimes in the distant past, at the oldest cemetery of Japan, a single white poeny was left in front of every grave marker with the last name of Jin**.


Jeremy and Thomas Xie*** believed there was something special about their sons.

As second-generation Chinese-Americans, neither Jeremy or Thomas Xie spoke any Chinese at home. Their sons, Lan Zhan and Lan Huan, were adopted from China during toddlerhood and infancy. The most Chinese the kids were exposed to was when they visited their grandparents.

Yet, when they were at the age of six and eight, the boys started speaking to one another in fluent Chinese. Not standard Mandarin either. A dialect, with an accent neither of them recognized.

“It’s Shanghainese,” their Chinese linguist friend, Ling Wen, pointed out to them.

They could not have learnt that from Chinese class.

When asked, Lan Zhan simply said, “we remembered it."

“From Duolingo,” Lan Huan added, helpfully.

“The app?”

Lan Huan nodded, Lan Zhan looked to his younger brother, and nodded along.

They weren’t very good at lying.

“How did it teach you guys Shanghainese?”

“We just know,” was the most informative answer they got.

-

“You know,” Ling Wen said, "there’s a term called genetic memory, memories present at birth without conscious learning. There are quite a few recorded cases of savants, people who suddenly gained knowledge or skills they’ve never learnt in their life. I’ve never heard of knowing an entire language they’re never exposed to. Perhaps your sons have a gift.”

 

Chapter Text

Three notable news happened that week. Meng Yao hit 172cm (2cm taller than his past life), Nie HuaiSang got his first date, and finally, some information on Lan Zhan.

“If they saw him at an airport, then he could be anywhere! He could be in Venezuela, or Pakistan, or North Korea...”

“These are awfully specific locations. Anyway, his parents might have just been travelling. What we know is that he’s around the same age as you, and is a Chinese descent male just like us. So at least he’s not Su She or Xiao-Han’s age, or a dog, meaning you have a chance.”

“Hello, is no one going to congratulate me for getting a date?”

“That’s very nice, HuaiSang.”

“Thanks, I’m glad that my feelings are important to you guys.”

“Lan Zhan is alive!” Wei Ying sighed, a bit emotional.

“Anyway,” Nie HuaiSang ignored Wei Ying’s forlorn sighs, “Now that Wei Ying has Lan Zhan, and I have a date, have the two of you ever considered? You know… your youth? Finding love?”

Xue Yang responded with a gagging face.

“I’m more concerned about my university entrance exams,” Meng Yao answered with a laugh, “I think I’ll have to brush up on my English, I’m considering on studying overseas.”

“Oh. Way to drop the bombshell. I don’t even want to think about that right now.”

“Better if you decide sooner rather than later. You’ll need to prepare for it.”

“Xue Yang?”

“School sucks, I’m gonna start my own business.”

“You should really consider, Xue Yang, to survive in this society you have to play by its rules. Nowadays they'll ask for a bachelor’s degree for a job at McDonalds. Even if you want to start your own business, if you don’t have a degree, your credibility goes down.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s the truth.”

“I’m gonna stay in China,” Wei Ying chimed in.

“I thought we’ve just established that Lan Zhan might not be in China.”

“I know, but he could be. He could be anywhere, and I’ll go anywhere he is once I find him. But before that, I want to go into academic research for history or archaeology. Find some signs of Lotus Pier or Cloud Recess. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and it sorta gets me that there are no records of these places ever existing. Something something cultural revolution.”

Everyone stared at him.

“Maybe I can discover cultivation again, who knows.”

“Wow…” Nie HuaiSang broke the silence, “that’s deep…”

Meng Yao gave an awkward half smile.

Xue Yang gave a single laugh, and looked away. (When he was younger, he would have given anything to be able to be Cool again, to cultivate again. He still couldn’t quite accept the fact that he couldn’t. He didn’t know who he’d be if he could.)

“ANYWAY! What I meant to ask, Xue Yang, is whether you ever considered dating…”

“No, girls are stupid—Ow. Fine. Except for Miss Jiang—OW!”

“Try again.”

“Fine. Dating is stupid.”

“You’re… you’re not still waiting on your DaoZhang, right?” Nie HuaiSang asked. He didn’t know all the details about Xue Yang’s past life, at least, nothing past the headcount, "Wei Ying and Lan Zhan were married. From what I know, I think it’s fair to say Xiao XingChen wouldn’t want anything to do with you.”

“I know that,” Xue Yang rolled his eyes.

“Xue Yang,” Wei Ying warned, “even if we do run into him, I won’t let you step into his life and bother him. You can’t.”

“I know that,” Xue Yang snapped, “I’m not you. I don’t need to get married to him or hold his hand or fuck him or any of those gross stuff. I don’t need him to like me or play fucking house like we did in the past life. It’s not that. I just don’t want to date.”

“Sorry, we were being presumptuous,” Meng Yao apologized. Nie HuaiSang, who started this derailment, also apologized with awkward laughter.

“Still, if we know the reason you still want to look for him, maybe we can help.”

“Stop it, you’re being gross,” Xue Yang laughs.

“I just-“ He took a breath, "I want to know he exist.” (That he’s in one piece, that he’s whole again.)

There’s another period of silence.

“So,” Wei Ying finally offers, "do you want a hug?”

“Hahaha, die,” Xue Yang said with a snort.

“Anyway… What do you guys think I should wear on my date?”


 

Meng Yao was in the middle of making a smoothie for Xiao-Han when he felt something pointy and cold against his back.

Hopefully, it was just a pen or a ruler.

“Don’t move,” Xiao-Han said.

“Okay,” Meng Yao said, raising his hands in the air. It was hard to tell how serious this was from only two words, but he didn’t want to risk turning too sudden and getting stabbed.

Meng Yao held his breath. Nothing happened. It seemed like forever when Wen RuoHan finally spoke.

“You turned on me.”

Meng Yao sighed, “Yes.”

The object pressed against him with a bit of force. It was definitely not a pen or a ruler.

“You. Turned. On. Me.” Xiao-Han’s high, childish voice bit out one word at a time.

“Xiao-Han,” Meng Yao said slowly, “If you kill me here, you’ll never get to be the chairman of China. Please put the knife down.”

That seemed to have thrown him off, and the pressure was removed from his back. Meng Yao used this chance to turn around.

Wen RuoHan held a kitchen knife in a white-knuckled grip. He was glaring through red-rimmed eyes.

“I’m… almost done making the smoothie,” Meng Yao said awkwardly, “it’s pineapple lychee, your favourite. Why don’t we sit down and talk.”

“How can I trust anything you give me?” Asked the eight-years-old.

“You’ve trusted me so far. Plus your parents entrusted me with your safety, so I’ll be answering to them if anything happens to you.”

“My parents are powerful,” Xiao-Han considered, “they can take care of it if I do kill you.”

Meng Yao shook his head, “My friends know where I am.”

“You think I can’t take care of them too?” The child asked. It was clearly a bluff.

“It’s not that easy, nowadays,” Meng Yao shook his head.

Wen RuoHan raised the knife again, his arm shook with rage, before throwing it down with a loud growl.

Meng Yao let out his breath.

“I got so stupid,” Wen RuoHan pouted. With a child’s face, it looked petulant.

“You were overwhelmed,” Meng Yao comforts. He doesn’t bother pointing out the fact that Wen RuoHan is eight years old and—by the look of —likely doesn’t have all the memories in place.

(He himself still had troubles with knowledge gained from the past-life. A lifetime of knowledge cannot fit into an undeveloped brain.)

“I’m not,” said Wen RuoHan, a tad bit too defensive.

“You’ve had a lot to process, let’s talk about it over smoothies.”


A few minutes later, they were sitting on the couch with two glasses of smoothies.

“Xiao-Han,” Meng Yao said, “do you want to know what happened after your death?”

Meng Yao was glad he met Su She before this. It was good practice, he suppose.

Wen RuoHan didn’t stop him, so he took that as enough of a permission. He went through the political changes, all the way until his death. Wen RuoHan listened. By the time he finished, they were out of smoothies.

“You turned on me for them, and they all turned on you,” Xiao-Han laughed, too bitter from a child, “serves you right."

“Serves me right,” Meng Yao agreed.

“You thought they would love you for being a hero.”

Meng Yao didn’t speak.

“You killed me for your precious sworn brothers, only to die by their hands,” Wen RuoHan spoke louder, vindictive.

“I didn’t do it for them,” Meng Yao said, “everything I’ve done, I did for myself.”

Wen RuoHan was silent.

“By the end of your days, you were teetering on the edge. One day, I’ll mess up, and you’ll grow tired of me. Your subordinates feared and hated you. Even if you had won the war, I didn’t know if I could see it to the end by your side, or if there’d be anything left when you’re done.”

A moment of silence passed.

“Nie HuaiSang and Wei WuXian, they killed you. Why are you guys still sticking together?”

“I don’t know,” answered Meng Yao, “I just wanted to live, I guess.”

“I don’t want to be a bad guy,” said Xiao-Han, “I don’t want to die.”

“You don’t have to.” Carefully, Meng Yao sets a hand on Xiao-Han’s hair. Xiao-Han let him, so he patted it gently, “in this life, we can still be who we want to be.”

Wen RuoHan looked down to the leftover fruit bits in his glass, before finally speaking, “What do you want to do when you grow up, Meng Yao?”

“I want to travel,” Meng Yao answered, “maybe not the whole world, but… other countries. The cultivation world, it seemed so grand and all-encompassing back then, but it was barely half of China… Our world was so small.”

“Xiao-Han, I’m… going to apply for universities overseas, so we’ll have to say goodbye soon."

“You’re leaving?”

“Yes.”

“I never gave you permission.”

“Well, it doesn’t seem like you need me to babysit you anymore.”

“It’s not fair,” Xiao-Han said, “I just remembered you. I don’t even know what I want to do with you yet.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“It’s not fair.”

“I know,” Meng Yao answered. Carefully, he wrapped his arm around the child.

“It’s not fair,” Xiao-Han repeated to Meng Yao’s sweater.

“I know,” Meng Yao said, “but we’ll make this work, right?”

After a long pause, Meng Yao felt a nod.

Chapter Text

“Meng Yao, Wei Ying, you two are my only hope!” Nie HuaiSang clung to Wei Ying’s arm like a limpet.

“This really brings back memories,” Meng Yao commented, sharing a look with Wei Ying.

“My parents will disown me for real if I don’t get into a top ranking university. I can’t survive on the streets!"

“Your parents will not disown you, HuaiSang. They have one son. Have you thought of which one you’re aiming for?"

“No? I just wanna be a bum and read porn all day.”

“Right…”

“Well,” Wei Ying cracked his knuckles, “Time to bring out the training montage.”


 

On their last summer together, they took a trip to Japan, and stayed at cottage, courtesy of Su She’s friend. It was near the port, and had a idyllic country-vibe, not too much unlike Wei Ying’s shared dwelling with Lan Zhan later in life.

“We’ve never parted properly, when we schooled together back in Cloud Recess,” Nie HuaiSang said.

They sat on a beach, listening to the sound of the waves. Above them, the stars looked the same as it did thousands of years ago. (Well, more or less, some positions had probably shifted, but Wei Ying had never studied astrology.)

“Huh, I guess we didn’t,” Wei Ying answered.

There were too many things that proceeded after, but he suppose they had schooled together before. Considering all that’s happened, it was odd to think that at one point, he and Nie HuaiSang were friends.

“I’m glad we got to meet in this life,” Wei Ying said, “it’s been a good 12 years.”

“Now that you put it that way, it’s been a while,” Meng Yao said. He paused a bit, “Hey, guess what I brought?”

“What?”

“Our contract from Grade 2.”

“Oh my god.”

“Survival Plan,” Meng Yao read aloud.

“One, ace our group project.”

“Done and done. Every single one of them.”

“Two… Oh… I guess we still got to work on this one. Everyone help find Lan Zhan.”

Wei Ying gave a forlorn sigh. “Help keep an eye out for me in America,” he made a fake motion to wipe invisible tears.

“Yeah, we’ll do that.” He received a few sympathetic pats.

“Three, we make sure that all of us can survive past middle school, or until one of us moves.”

“Well, we’re all alive, right?”

“Physically, but my heart is slowly dying everyday I spend away from my husband.”

“Poor Wei-xiong,” HuaiSang also wipes an invisible tear in sympathy.

“And here’s our signatures with red marker.” Meng Yao traced his finger over his own name fondly.

Nie HuaiSang sighs, “my signature was so ugly.”

“Yeah, look how gorgeous mine is,” said Xue Yang, full confidence.

It really wasn’t. No one commented on that.

“Well, you and Nie-laodi can keep looking out for each other in America.”

“With that Chinglish skills? Yeah, I’ll be translating for  him.”

“Thank you, Yao-ge. You save my life.”

“Keep looking out for XiaoHan for me, Wei Ying” Meng Yao asks.

“I guess I gotta,” Wei Ying laughed, “Xue Yang and I will make sure to bully him plenty.”

“The fact that you don’t ask me hurts my feelings,” Xue Yang said.

“You don’t have feelings, Xue Yang.”

“Yeah okay."

“Anyway,” Wei Ying pulled a few bottles out of his backpack, "I managed to acquire Sake, let’s get drunk.”

Chapter Text

On Meng Yao and Nie HuaiSang's second year of university in America, Su She passed away.

It was an inopportune time, right before finals, but still, death don’t wait.

Still, Meng Yao had offered to be there for Su She’s funeral, but was kindly rejected.

“Won’t you give me a chance to mourn for you this time, MinShan?” Meng Yao asked, in a video chat a week prior to Su She’s death.

“I really appreciate that, but… A-Yao, there’s something I need to tell you. It’s my granddaughter—” At that point, the video froze.

Meng Yao waited patiently for a few moments, a few seconds later, Su She was staring at him with concern.

“Sorry, there must have been some connection issue, I never got that last part. What about your granddaughter?” Meng Yao asked.

Su She stared back in intense awkwardness.

“She’s Qin Su,” He finally said.

“Oh,” Meng Yao said.

“Are you okay?” The elderly man asked. He wasn’t sure whether the chat was frozen or if Meng Yao was in shock.

“Yeah,” Meng Yao’s image blinked on the screen, “I’m just… a bit surprised.”

“She doesn’t remember,” Su She said, “I don’t think it’d be good for her to meet you yet.”

“I understand,” Meng Yao answered.

“You should focus on your exam,” Su She said, “you still got a long life ahead of— Shouldn’t let me —tract you. And if you — let— know.”

“I’m sorry, you’re cutting in and out,” Meng Yao said awkwardly.

“Why don’t I switch to audio,” Su She said, “I don’t think you need to see this old man in his hospital bed anyway.”

“Would you like me to keep my video on?” Meng Yao asked.

“Let’s keep it on for now, until you cut out again.”

“Alright.”

“I was saying, if I make it that far, you should tell me that when you passed your exams, which I’m sure you will.”

“I will,” Meng Yao said.

“I’m really glad I got to meet you in this life, A-Yao.”

“Me too, I’m sorry I couldn’t have found you sooner. I wish… that I could have gotten to know you better.” He wondered what Su She was like this life when he was younger, was he anything like the Su MinShan of the past?

“Perhaps it’s for the best. Right now, this old man is embarrassed for you to see him when he was younger.” There was a chuckle that turned into a series of cough on the other side. “Sorry, I’m okay. Well… to the next life.”

“MinShan…” Meng Yao said, “promise me you won’t look for me again in your next life.”

There was a pause, before a soft sigh, “I promise. But you have to promise me to have a long happy life this time.”

“I’ll do my best,” said Meng Yao.

“Your best is good enough… That’s… something I always wanted to hear when I was younger.”

“Thank you…” Meng Yao smiled.

“I’ve lived a good life,” Su She said, “I’m not—I don’t feel ready to leave. I still want to see my granddaughter grow up, and I finally got to meet you… I don’t want to leave because I’m finally happy… I’m just too happy.”

“…”

“I’m sorry… this is a heavy topic to say to a young man.”

“It’s okay. I remember dying, so I understand. But I’m glad you’re happy this time,” Meng Yao paused, “I don’t want you to look for me, but if chances allow, I hope we meet again in your next life.”

“I hope so too,” Su She said, “I hope so too.”

Chapter Text

Jon Snow: Hey WY

YiLing Daddy: who this?

Jon Snow: It’s Nie HuaiSang.

YiLing Daddy: omg long time no talk. What’s up? Did you and MY decide to get married now that America legalized gay marriage and you’re inviting me to your wedding for hooking your up?

Jon Snow:
Jon Snow: The fact you typed that up in 3 seconds makes it look like you’re expecting this.

Jon Snow: No but I do have exciting news.

YiLing Daddy: You guys had sex?

Jon Snow: Heh. More exciting.

YiLing Daddy: You found your Da-ge? Is MY alive?

Jon Snow: Yeah, we did, and he’s alive.

YiLing Daddy: Wow congratulations. Does he approve of your relationship?

Jon Snow: idk he still have a lot to process. We found Er-ge too. btw why are you awake? Isn’t it like, 3 at night in china lol?

YiLing Daddy: Wow how did that happen.
YiLing Daddy: stfu don’t tell me how to live my life.

Jon Snow: We met at the supermarket. Er-ge and MY saw each other across the dairy aisle and then they had a supermarket chase scene. 
Jon Snow: But like, less parkour and more speed-walking cause you know what they’re like. So anyway I was looking at canned soup back then and heard the commotion and apparently so did Da-ge
Jon Snow: who blocked Meng Yao cause he thought Meng Yao was shoplifting or something. 
Jon Snow: And then it got really awkward lol

YiLing Daddy: Holy shit.

Jon Snow: Yeah.
Jon Snow: Anyway everyone’s okay. Nobody’s dismembered or arrested.

YiLing Daddy: Is MY and Er-ge okay?

Jon Snow: Mostly.
Jon Snow: I mean I think they’re dealing with it on their own. Idk about Lan Huan but he seemed okay when we parted. MY is… 
Jon Snow: well you know the way he is, Functional Adult™.

YiLing Daddy: Geesh. I hope Da-ge’s doing okay. Sorry, LXC, not NMJ. I’d love to meet him again. If only I am with Lan Zhan... 

Jon Snow: Oh yeah, speaking of.
Jon Snow: Lan Zhan and Lan Huan are adopted by the same parents.
Jon Snow: So I have his contact lol

YiLing Daddy: WHAT?
YiLing Daddy: SEND ME SEND ME!
YiLing Daddy: WHY DIDN’T YOU START WITH THIS?

Jon Snow: heh
Jon Snow: I was gonna. Then you started guessing and it’s funnier

Jon Snow wants to share a contact with you.

YiLing Daddy: omg what should I open with? Does he remember me? What if he doesn’t and I come off too strong?

Jon Snow: Er-ge told me he remembers.

YiLing Daddy: Thank you thank you thank you may you have the best sex life and finally get laid I love you so much.
aggressive-kiss.gif

Jon Snow: Gross. I’m taken. Save this for your husband.

...

YiLing Daddy: I’m buying tickets for USA rn

Jon Snow: Don’t you have to get visa first?

YiLing Daddy:
YiLing Daddy: Fuck
YiLing Daddy: so close, yet so far..
YiLing Daddy: man-crying-on-beach.jpg


It took 5 weeks for the visa to process, and a month for Wei Ying to book an affordable ticket. The international terminal of the airport is a place of reunion.

There he was, Lan Zhan, HanGuang-Jun in the flesh, dressed in a simple white sweater and grey vest.

There he was, Wei Ying, dressed in full hanfu, in the dark colours of the YiLing Patriarch, as if attending a wuxia convention…

Of course he did.

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying sprinted forward, luggage left on the floor. Meng Yao, Nie HuaiSang, and Lan XiChen smartly dodged out of the way. Lan Zhan opened his arms.

But Wei Ying did not throw himself at Lan Zhan or leap into his arms. Instead, he stopped before Lan Zhan, and put his hands forward in a small bow, a traditional greeting.

“Lan Zhan,” he said, a dazzling smile, "it’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve missed you.”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan nodded in greeting, a ghost of a smile over his lips. He waited for Wei Ying’s hands to drop before slowly closing the distance between them and wrapping his arm around the other man.

“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying returned the embrace, closing his eyes.

Lan Zhan’s sweater felt softer than Cloud Recess linen, and it was odd, to hold him without the feeling of his long hair in his hands.

But their hearts beated against each other’s all the same.

Behind them, Nie HuaiSang and Meng Yao had started clapping, and a few people from the crowd followed. A few scattered cheers arose. 

A security guard awkwardly stood behind them and said, slowly, in English, “Sir, it’s very dangerous to run in the airport.”  

Chapter Text

"So when’s the wedding?” Nie HuaiSang asked over coffee.

"Actually, we’re taking it slow.” Wei Ying said, sagely.

“Oh?”

“We’ve both had a new life, you know? We have to get to know each other again,” he laughs, “I think it’s kind of nice, that we’re getting to know each other and dating first, like normal people.”

Nie HuaiSang raised an eyebrow. Wei Ying had been calling Lan Zhan husband ever since they were eight, even before that, if Meng Yao’s words were anything to go by.

“What does Lan Zhan think about all this?” He asked.

Wei Ying’s face grew serious, as an imitation of Lan Zhan himself. “'Wei Ying is still Wei Ying,’ he said,” a fond smile broke across his face, “he hasn’t changed at all.”

“Well, have you?” Nie HuaiSang asked.

“Who knows,” Wei Ying answered.

“Change isn’t a bad thing,” Nie HuaiSang said.

“You’d know,” Wei Ying laughed, “if someone told me 16 years ago that you’d be holding hands with Meng Yao, I’d have questioned their sanity.”

“I’m going back to China on Sunday,” he continued, “you know, before my university fires me. Lan Zhan’s going to come along, and try to get a Work Visa while he’s there."

“Easier for him than for you, I’d imagine,” Nie HuaiSang commented.

“Legally, yeah,” said Wei WuXian, but he seemed to hesitate, “the thing is… Lan Zhan’s never really grown up in China this life, and it’s so different now. I…” He sighed, “I don’t think he’d like it.”

Thinking of the rapid pace of the Chinese life, the aggressive commercialization, the social-political climate, Nie HuaiSang could agree. He and Meng Yao had their fair share of culture shock when they came here for school, and still Meng Yao didn’t want to go back. He couldn’t imagine someone like Lan WangJi living in modern China.

“You guys could move to the countryside, start a organic family farm, like you did in your past life,” Nie HuaiSang suggested, half-jokingly.

“Would we be dirty capitalist landlord or poor impoverished farmers?” Wei Ying laughed, “that’d be easier here than there.”

“The thing is,” Wei Ying sobered, “I really like my research. I like my job. I think I found traces of the Cloud Recess, but I can’t be sure yet.”

“Maybe you really should come here before the government censors you for spreading occult,” Nie HuaiSang grimaced.

“Haha, I know what I’m doing. Nie HuaiSang, would you believe it if I say that… I just… really like China? Even with the way it is. I know it’s a shithole and the air is bad. But the thing is. The thing is. I like the change and chaos and the smell of street markets and crowded city parks with children and elderlies exercising in the evening and the people and I… I grew up there this life and Lan Zhan hasn’t. A life in China is a life in the closet. I can’t subject him to that. And I’d leave all of it behind to be with him here. But...”

Nie HuaiSang waited for Wei Ying to continue for a few seconds before hazarding a guess, “But you don’t know if you should.”

“I have family and friends in China,” Wei Ying said, “from two lives. Jiang Cheng, A-Jie, Wen Ning, my parents, Xiao-Han, Xue Yang, my colleagues in university. I’ll keep in touch with them over social media. It’s not a big deal.”

He paused.

“Last life, Lan Zhan and I never fought. He always deferred to me, and I was always trying to make him happy, because he gave up so much for me. And if I had just asked, he would have given me everything.”

“But in this life, if I leave everything behind and then one day I changed. I can’t let Lan Zhan bear the weight of my happiness.”

And if the most important words in the world were “thank you” and “I’m sorry”, then the word that should never be said is “if only.” One can vow to live with no regret, but no one knows what they’ll end up regretting in the future.

“Wei Ying, not to get too philosophical or anything, but… in the past-life, you two were happy, right?”

“Of course."

“Do you think, uh… how to say this? Do you think you’re trying too hard to replicate that happiness?”

Wei Ying looked at him, before sighing, “You know you sound more and more like Meng Yao nowadays?”

“What? Really?”

“And you dress like each other too, your fashion are slowly becoming a hipster-office-worker hybrid.”

“He lets me dress him and buys me cloth, it’s great.”

Wei Ying snorted, “I don’t know.”

“What?”

“The answer to that deep philosophical question. I don’t know. That’s why we’re taking it slow.”

“And Lan Zhan?”

“He wants to learn more about me too. Hence coming to China with me. I think we’ll try to spend some more time in both countries first, see each other as often as we can afford to.”

Nie HuaiSang nodded, “You know. Knowing you and Lan Zhan, you two will always be the odd ones out, no matter where you end up living. I mean, I don’t think any of us can ever be ‘normal’ with memories of our past lives, but people like myself and Meng Yao, well, we’re fine with pretending to be. I’m sure even if Lan Zhan end up living in China with you, the two of you will manage to make a space for yourselves, somehow.”

Wei Ying smiled, “Maybe I’ll rediscover cultivation here in America, start a modern Hogwarts.”

Nie HuaiSang snorted, “That’s England, and copyrighted.”

Wei Ying laughed. "You know, I think it's nice that we get to worry about these things and take our time deciding without the pressure of life-or-death." 

"That's how it's normally like," said Nie HuaiSang, "welcome to the real world." He patted Wei Ying on the back. 

“Hey," Wei Ying smiled, "we should get together again, have a high school reunion. You, me, Meng Yao, back in China. I wanna show Lan Zhan the neighborhood we grew up in. We can message Xue Yang on weChat… though I don’t know how Lan Zhan would feel about meeting him, I'll ask. Did you know that Xiao-Han’s in middle school now? That’s almost drinking age—”


It was an odd gathering, to be sure. Most of the people in the room barely knew or liked each other. They were tied solely by the fact that most of them tried to kill each other in their past lives, and the fact that they all knew way too much about Lan Zhan. Still, there was food, non-alcoholic drinks, and karaoke.

"Alright everyone,” Meng Yao tapped on the karaoke microphone, “we’re playing Lan Zhan trivia.”

“Over the years,” Meng Yao said calmly, in his PR voice, "we’ve clearly know too much information about the esteemed HanGuang-Jun from our dear friend Wei Ying, now is a chance for the man himself to hear what’s been said about him. Everyone may participate except Wei Ying and Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan, you may be the judge.”

Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes and deliberately took out his phone. Xiao-Han buried his face in his hands in profound pain.

Lan Zhan looked to Wei WuXian, who said “oh no! My friends are embarrassing me! Save me, Er-Gege!” and nodded co-operatively.

“Great! Question one, describe the colour of Lan WangJi’s eyes.”

“Clear autumn sky!” Shouted Nie HuaiSang.

“Wrong. Xue Yang?”

“I have no idea, I tuned out whenever Wei Ying started on one of those.”

“Yellow?” Chanced A-Qing. Song Lan nodded from behind her.

“You got the colour right, but Wei Ying would go for something a bit more poetic.”

“B-bright moon on a clear autumn sky,” said Wen Ning quietly.

“That’s definitely what I meant to say,” said Nie HuaiSang, “Bright moon on a clear autumn sky.”

Meng Yao glanced at where Wei Ying and Lan Zhan were sitting. Wei Ying gave a big thumbs up, and Lan Zhan nodded timidly, with a distinct blush upon his ears.

“That is correct, one point for Wen Ning. Next question, name the top five impressive feats Lan WangJi has done—"