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A breath, an embrace of you

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Song Lan comes to, his head aching and mouth dry. He’s lying on yellowed grass and as he pushes himself up into a sitting position, amongst unfamiliar surroundings. The sun is high in the sky, so at least he has not been unconscious till nightfall.

The daozhang brings a hand to massage his temple, thinking. The last he recalled was travelling the well-worn road travelled by villagers to Yi City, inquiring any travellers he saw whether they knew of a blind cultivator and then - nothing. An ambush, perhaps? He rolls his shoulders, feeling for any injuries. He doesn’t sense any serious pain, except for a general ache.

He hears it then, a faint intake of breath, a ghost of a gasp.

Song Lan’s head snaps to the direction it came from, fingers instinctively curling around Fuxue’s sheath before he sees, and all air is driven from his lungs.

He would know that figure from anywhere.

Xiao Xingchen lies a bit away from him, half slumped against an oak’s trunk. His dearest friend, if a bit thinner and emaciated than when Song Lan last saw him, right before his eyes. Just looking at the friend he has spent the last few years desperately looking for without so much of a hint to aid his way causes Song Lan’s entire frame to tremble slightly, a prickling behind his eyes he doesn’t dare to acknowledge.

The urge to rush over to Xingchen is overwhelming. Song Lan controls himself, forcing himself to relax. He won’t let a repeat of what had happened amongst the ruins of Baixue Temple occur again.

Song Lan rises, limbs stiff and clears his throat. “Xingchen,” he starts, and falters, voice shakier and rougher than he would like to admit. Many, many times as he searched for Xingchen since leaving the mountain, he had thought of what to say if - when they met again. Nothing had sounded sincere enough, to make up for the pain-driven words uttered at Xingchen at their last meeting.

Since the day he had woke up at BaoShan SanRen’s mountain, when with shaking hands he had touched the reflection of the too familiar grey eyes in the mirror, Song Lan holds his regret close to his heart, a part of him till the day he can reunite with his dearest friend and apologise.

Xingchen turns his head to his old friend and shock pierces through Song Lan, fear swiftly replacing it. Leaking out onto the snow-white bandages wrapped carefully around where Xingchen’s eyes would be were smudges of fresh blood, staining the soft cotton fabric. What lay beneath Song Lan knew more intimately than anyone.

“Xingchen!” Song Lan’s hastily placed cool demeanour cracks. Could it be whoever had knocked him unconscious had injured Xingchen as well? Or was Xingchen already previously injured? None of that was important now, only Xingchen’s condition. A breath more and he would have dashed over to Xingchen’s side before -

“Don’t come over!” the desperation in Xingchen’s voice cuts clean through Song Lan, stripping him of any illusions. Song Lan freezes, pain and guilt from those words weighing him down. Of course, after the way they had previously parted, it was entirely reasonable that no matter how much of a gentle soul Xingchen was the other no longer wished to have contact with him. Of course, after Xingchen had gouged out his eyes and given them to Song Lan the wounds would take at least years to heal, if they ever did.

Song Lan bows his head, tearing his sight from his friend.

Helplessly, unsure of what was the next course of action to take if he couldn’t go to Xingchen’s side, Song Lan examines their surroundings. He doesn’t see the well-worn path travelled by people to Yi City, but their surroundings do not seem completely foreign. Perhaps he had walked around this area before he had found the main road? Song Lan racks his brain to what could have happened for his path to cross over with Xingchen but his memories are at best hazy.

“Zichen.” Xingchen’s voice is breathy, faint even. He sounds terribly out of it. Song Lan’s turmoil only gets worse as he turns back to his friend, clearly in an uncomfortable state. Xingchen with visible effort, straightens his back against the tree’s trunk, posture stiff and head turned to the direction where Song Lan is standing, his lips pressed tight. Even that slight movement seems to cause the other distress and Song Lan pushes away his own selfish feelings, concentrating on what’s important: helping Xingchen.

“Xingchen, the bandages, you’re bleeding. Please, even if you do not wish for us to talk, allow me to help you.” Sorrow steadily stabs away at Song Lan as Xingchen shakes his head.

“It’s not –” Xingchen restlessly moves, shifting his legs slightly together and shaking as his body continues to tremble. The intense injury where his eyes would be must be a result from his current state and Zichen focuses on the other’s pallid face, thoughts racing.

The wounds sting but compared to the relentless heat flooding his body, Xingchen could barely bring himself to care. And to think of all times and places, Zichen was here! Xingchen’s loosened the collar of his robes to let some heat escape, little did that help. It’s ridiculous, a farce that something this improper happens when chance leads him to meet once more with his dearest friend.

“That,” Xingchen grits his teeth, painfully aware of Zichen’s presence. Every word is an effort, when both mind and body is hazy with heat. It’s hideously inappropriate but down below, even though he rarely indulges himself, he’s hard, and horribly Xingchen wants to strike himself if only to give some relief but Zichen. Zichen is right there, so near and yet untouchable. Does Zichen know? Can he see?

“Shuanghua sensed a strange presence, a burst of spiritual energy.” Xingchen pants out, distracting himself. “I found you unconscious on the ground, surrounded by it. I – knew it was you from Fuxue.”

Despite the situation, Xingchen can’t help but smile even if it’s shaky. “Zichen. I truly am fortunate to be able to meet you once more.”

“Xingchen,” Song Lan murmurs. Xingchen’s words cause him great relief, although part of him wants to yell that it’s him not Xingchen who should be thanking fortune over and over for them to meet again. He’s still worried over the glaring bloodstains as well Xingchen’s face turned from pale silver to flushed roses in a matter of minutes. The daozhang takes a step forward to Xingchen and the other shudders. Not from deep pain but as though from Zichen’s mere presence he is inflamed.

“Let me finish Zichen,” Xingchen retorts, before hesitating. He needs to focus, he owns Zichen an explanation. Even if Xingchen can’t see his friend, his entire body is acutely aware of Zichen’s presence and it’s shameful to think of his friend in a coarse manner, but.


Xingchen wants to run his hands through Zichen’s hair to see if it’s as soft as he’s previously wondered, to wander his hands against Zichen’s body, to embrace Zichen’s body with his. His cock throbs harder with these thoughts and Xingchen furiously thinks that death may be a sweet preference at this rate.

“I carried you on my back to here, a little away from where I found you, in case whatever…or whoever it was came back. However, whoever did this, it did not seem to have any ill intentions but. Well. Left certain side-effects. Ah. That I am currently experiencing. It’s very embarrassing…” Xingchen stumbles over his words, face suffused with heat as he bows his head. Even without eyes to see Zichen’s reactions, he’s too embarrassed to look in Zichen’s direction.



Song Lan wonder if he’s still unconscious, if he’s hallucinating to hear Xiao Xingchen of all cultivators speak so. He feels his own cheeks flushing with heat. Song Lan looks again, properly at his friend’s state now and not just desperate quick glances. His friend’s robes are rumpled, loosened from their usual impeccable state. Xingchen’s hair is also in disarray, covering his face. Xingchen’s body seems incapable of remaining still, his friend trembling as he squirms ever so slightly on the ground and Xingchen pants softly as he moves and oh, if that doesn’t make certain images flash through Song Lan’s mind.

His traitorous thoughts thinks back to every sound Xingchen has made, even if unintentional, sounds positively indecent.

“I-I’ll give you some privacy,” Song Lan manages to strangle out, his face burning. Heavens, he’s sure half of his blood has now pooled down south from seeing Xingchen like this. He still wants to look at Xingchen’s injury and change the bandages even if the other man doesn’t seem in any immediate danger but with Xingchen’s words he doesn’t think he can think straight while doing so.

It’s the right thing to do, to give Xingchen space while he – well. It’s not as though no one does not seek release every now and then. In inns when it was late at night and his head was too full to sleep or a soak in a hot bath, Song Lan would please himself even if in recent years it wasn’t a frequent occurrence.

However, this is Xingchen.

To hear and see Xiao Xingchen – Xingchen his dearest friend since the day they had met, Xingchen who never so much as glanced at a pornography scroll, Xingchen who has always been the most modest and sincere cultivator Song Lan has ever spoken to – in such a state was –

Song Lan turns away, vaguely thinking he will just move out of sight before Xingchen’s panicked voice calls for him.

“Zichen wait, please!” Xingchen sounds even more desperate now, his voice raspy. “Please, don’t move. It…gets worse each time you move. Please, just stay. Close your eyes, forgive me.” The daozhang can’t think straight anymore, his thoughts scattering, and finally Xingchen gives in, his right hand shakily snaking down underneath his robes and undergarments, and Xingchen whines, hand wrapping around his cock at long last as he strokes himself, arousal shooting down his spine.

Xingchen feels like he will come undone any moment like a mere teenager, he’s so unbearably sensitive and it’s shameful enough he’s doing this in public where any poor unsuspecting person could stumble upon him, let alone with Zichen’s gaze burning fire into his skin and Xingchen’s cock leaks harder at the thought.

What the hell is he supposed to say to that? Song Lan’s cock is painfully hard against his undergarments. Xingchen hadn’t taken off his robes fully and yet it’s obvious that he’s pleasing himself. The sounds alone is enough to make Song Lan stiff, his own cock throbbing, pressing against the front of his robes. Xingchen has always looked ethereally lovely, and now with his pallid face flushed pink, the glimpses of pale flesh exposed between his dishevelled robes, his toned legs spread against the grass,  the quiet gasps he emits intermittently, it’s far too much.

“Xingchen,” Song Lan exhales shakily as he gazes at the sight. He shouldn’t be staring at Xingchen. He should avert his eyes, let Xingchen have his privacy, should keep an eye out for any strangers that may come across them.

He can’t.                                

Song Lan’s renowned self-control splinters and he can’t help but kneel down, his hand slipping between his robes and undergarments to palm his own cock furiously. His shaft is sticky with pre-release already and Song Lan chokes down a moan as he firmly strokes himself, shame and pleasure tingling throughout his body relentlessly.

“Xingchen,” he breaths the other’s name as though it was a prayer, a hymn.

Xingchen groans in response, pressure tingling all over his body. It’s selfish of him but he is so, so very grateful to see Zichen again, metaphorically. He may not be well experienced in manners of the flesh, but he hasn’t touched himself in such a manner for a long time and every clumsy touch makes Xingchen shiver. He thinks of Zichen, wonders instead how Zichen’s fingers would feel brushing against his cock, his mouth against Xingchen’s, Zichen’s cock grinding against his own.

It’s just enough. His robes rub against him, maddingly warm against the oversensitivity of his body. He’s close and - Xingchen’s voice hitches as his mind goes momentarily white and he comes hard, his cock spurting sticky release over his fingers. Panting, Xingchen takes a few moments to register someone else’s hard breathing, before realising it’s Zichen. What must Zichen even think of him? Even worse - he wants to slap himself just for thinking that - his body’s release has barely given him relief. His cock is still painfully hard against his hand and he aches, for something to fill the emptiness inside him.


“Zichen, I…I am sorry to impose on- ” Xingchen begins before Song Lan cuts him off.

“Do not apologise. You never need to. I as well -” Song Lan’s steady voice breaks and Xingchen realises exactly what his friend is doing as Song Lan too groans and spills over his palm, Xingchen’s name leaving his lips.

Xingchen is sure the heat from his face has spread downwards to his ears and beyond. Had Zichen just…nothing about this situation makes sense and yet Xingchen’s traitorous body aches that it was his actions that made Zichen aroused enough to -

“Zichen - ”

“Xingchen - ”

Their voices are tremulous with need for each other and it’s the last hurdle that smashes their self-control.

Fuck it. Song Lan thinks, to hell with the consequences, he doesn’t care if headless corpses were to come across them, he wants, needs Xingchen. It would be a hilarious sight to any stranger passing by how the proud daozhang Song Lan practically collides into Xingchen from how desperately he moves forward, embraceing and kissing the other, heedless of their dishevelled states. Xingchen’s lips are warm against his own and then with a sigh they part for him, and Song Lan’s tongue slickly wraps around Xingchen’s as they kiss, bodies pressed firmly together, hands slipping under each other’s robes.

Xingchen may be unable to see any longer but every other of his senses can feel Zichen, his friend’s familiar frame against his own, his sinewy body well toned from countless training tingling, goosebumps dotting his skin as Xingchen trails his fingers downwards while tasting each other, exploring.

They part only for breath, both gasping. Song Lan is the first to clumsily talk, his mouth pressed against Xingchen’s ear as he trails his hands up and down Xingchen’s sides, awe at the sounds Xingchen makes as he does so.

“Xingchen, I have missed you so much. I am so sorry for what I said.” It barely covers what Song Lan wants to tell his beloved friend, though at this moment it’s what he can manage.

“I as well.” Xingchen replies, as he holds Song Lan tightly, the other cradling him back. Song Lan’s words burns his ear, warmth searing his veins. From how tightly their bodies are pressed together, it’s easy to feel Song Lan’s want pressing against his own. More, he wants to feel Zichen bare against him.

“Zichen, there is no need to apologise, I understand why.” he murmurs into his friend’s neck as he gingerly reaches down, searching, before he finds and grasps Song Lan’s cock, ignoring his own aching hardness as he wonders at how warm Zichen’s thick length feels, leaking fluid over his fingers.

Song Lan bites back a moan as Xingchen’s elegant fingers wrapping around his cock, his fingertips rubbing the sensitive head as his friend’s hand unsteadily jerks up and down. It isn’t the best of techniques, but this is Xingchen pleasing him and so Song Lan is back to full hardness in barely any time at all.

Even though Xingchen is blind, Song Lan dips his head down, before tugging at Xingchen’s robes, his intentions clear. His friend doesn’t pause in his movements but shrugs off his robes and undergarments, pooling them beneath their bodies and Song Lan takes the opportunity to run his fingers over the visible stretch of Xingchen’s ribs, causing him to shiver and tighten his grip on Zichen unbearably so. Song Lan feels like time has rewound and he’s gone back to being an inexperienced teenager again, ready to come after only a few strokes.

No, not yet.

He can feel Xingchen’s own hardness dampening the front of his robes and that only deepens Song Lan’s hunger as he carefully trails kisses up Xingchen’s ribcage, before biting a hardened nipple and Xingchen’s entire frame trembles soundlessly. Xingchen returns the favour, pumping Zichen's cock with a calloused hand as he lightly kisses butterfly-wing soft kisses over the other's toned skin.

“Zichen, please.” Xingchen's voice is hoarse, sounding wrecked, voice hitching from need and want. His hand is covered in Zichen’s pre-release, and hazily he wonders what Zichen would taste like, so he brings his hand to his lips, tongue flickering out to taste. There isn't much of a taste except for a salty tang and yet it’s thick and heavy against his tongue, Xingchen thinks as he licks his fingers clean.

A hiss escapes from Song Lan’s lips at the sight. It’s painfully erotic and yet if it wasn’t for Xingchen’s crimson cheeks and his undressed state, no one would believe daozhang Xiao Xingchen could behave in such a manner.

Any more touches from Xingchen no matter how gentle and Song Lan will come so he kisses Xingchen one last time before removes himself from Xingchen’s grip, murmuring “Wait.”

Song Lan has never touched cutsleeve or any kind of pornographic scrolls before but from word of mouth at seedy taverns he’s aware what he needs to do to make it easier for Xingchen’s body to accept him. Oil used for Fuxue stored inside his robes and as he shrugs them off, Song Lan grasps the bottle shakily and unscrews the cap, applying it liberally on his fingers.

Song Lan returns his attention to Xingchen. There are fresh smudges of blood on Xingchen’s bandages and Song Lan’s chest clenches at the sight. He touches the sides of the bandages carefully, feeling Xingchen tense against him.

“I want to see.” Song Lan begins, determined.

Xingchen smiles almost painfully at his friend. “It cannot be a pleasant sight.”

“I don’t care. You did it for me.” Song Lan doggedly returns as he kisses the tip of Xingchen’s nose before reaching with his hands to untie the bandages from Xingchen’s hairtie, letting Xingchen's hair loose at the same time.

Xingchen weeps blood, and Song Lan kisses the trails away before they can drip down Xingchen’s cheeks, before pressing bloody lips against Xingchen's and he kisses him back, tasting the salty copper of his own blood on Zichen’s lips.

Song Lan’s hands trail down Xingchen’s body, down his ribs and hips, caressing them lovingly, going as slow as he deems Xingchen is comfortable with,before he continues downwards, cupping his ass and gently pressing slick fingers against Xingchen’s entrance but not entering.

“Xingchen,” Song Lan rasps against his skin, “May I?”

Xingchen almost chokes back a laugh if he wasn’t so desperate to be one with Song Lan. He wants to tease the other. So polite, Zichen. Vaguely he wonders if he was to say no, would Song Lan stop and disentangle himself from Xingchen? He already knows the answer from how honourable his friend is. “Zichen, there’s no one else I’ll rather be with,” he replies, smile shaky.

Song Lan’s oil-slicked finger presses inside him and Xingchen’s lips part as though he wants, must utter something, but nothing comes out. His fingers and toes curl into the grass instead, as he makes a shaky affirmation for Zichen to continue. One finger quickly becomes two and it’s a strange, sore feeling to be stretched inside that slowly becomes more pleasurable as Zichen continues to stretch him out. The indecent sounds forced from him as Zichen fucks him with two, three fingers are filthy enough for Xingchen to never have face for the rest of his life if anyone happened upon them.

For them to have placed aside their morals upon reuniting once more to do such an intimate act in the open, as though they were little more than animals mating, makes Xingchen's body feel all the more hotter.

“Zichen, Zichen there,” he repeats as Zichen’s fingers press against a spot that makes him whimper aloud. Zichen obeys, rubbing and and curling his fingers repeatedly against the bundle of nerves and then thrusts his fingers harder and Xingchen can’t control it and comes again with a whine, splattering Zichen’s chest with his release.

Song Lan can only bear to wait mere moments for Xingchen to recover before he slicks his cock with oil, positioning Xingchen’s legs over his shoulders. “Xingchen, I will go inside you now. Tell me at once if anything hurts.” Song Lan breathes, desperation and wonder in his voice as the other tenderly murmurs his name in response. He slowly penetrates inside Xingchen, squashing the urge to thrust all the way inside in one smooth movement, trying to go as slow as possible for Xingchen to adjust.

Xingchen pants as Zichen fills him, breath straining as he holds his dearest friend, confident his wounds are bleeding again but if this happens every time they made love, it was a price Xingchen was all too glad to pay.

“Is it…too painful?” Zichen inquires in a strained tone and Xingchen shakes his head firmly as he grasps Zichen, forcing himself to relax. He’s nearly folded in half clutching Zichen’s back as Zichen fills him and he can feel how tense the other is, how much he’s restraining himself back. So full.

“Zichen, move.” Song Lan thrusts deeper into him, his breaths harsh and loud and Xingchen groans, hypersensitive of how hard Zichen is inside him. “Faster.” Song Lan’s self-control snaps and he thrusts his hips forward again and again, supporting Xingchen as the other writhes against him, seeking the spot that had made Xingchen wail. He finds it soon enough when Xingchen cries out and claws at his back, leaving broad scratches down the length of his spine and Song Lan is glad, he will bear any marks Xingchen gives him.

Xingchen twists, shakes as he cries out as Zichen pounds into him, so rough it makes his head blank out with pleasure. Song Lan’s movements only seems to get bolder at each indistinguishable plea Xingchen utters as he quickens his pace, obscene sounds squelching out from where they’re joined together. Xingchen in return can barely think straight as he takes Zichen, legs tightly wrapped around the other’s broad back as Zichen fucks him full.

They’ve each wanted each other for so long, that any ounce of proper conduct has long been thrown away. Gripping the other’s ass hard enough to bruise, Song Lan raises his lover up and holds Xingchen by the waist, so the other’s weight is entirely being supported by him. Xingchen bites him in protest at the change of position, the ceaseless roll of Zichen’s hips against his own making it hard for him to string coherent words together.

Song Lan then presses his back against the tree and slumps downward, so now Xingchen is riding him. Like this Xingchen’s front is facing him, legs spread wide apart as he supports himself, still being fucked on Song Lan’s cock. It’s a darkly debauching sight that Song Lan has unbridled view of, and his eyes are shadowed with pure lust at Xingchen’s willowy body covered in love bites, his inky black hair flowing down his back, his pale thighs trembling to maintain the position, his swollen pink nipples, his fully erected leaking cock.  

“Zichen.” Xingchen’s voice is strained. In this position, Zichen’s cock feels even deeper inside him, rubbing and filling his insides with sticky fluid and if he stays like this any longer he’ll go mad.

Xingchen raises himself up, just enough so that Song Lan doesn’t slip out of him before slamming his hips down and both of them cry out at the burst of pleasure that fills them. Xingchen repeats it again, this time angling his hips so when he’s impaled on Zichen’s cock a second time it hits there and Xingchen would cry if he could from the overstimulation. They settle for a brutally fast pace, Xingchen propping himself up before slamming downwards while Song Lan thrusts upwards and both of them are shamelessly loud as they repeat the process, Xingchen’s entrance squeezing down on Zichen’s cock with each thrust.

With Xingchen’s body moving in sync with his own, Song Lan feels…he doesn’t know what the right words would be to describe it, all his feelings for Xingchen overflowing. The pleasure from filling Xingchen’s body with each slap of their skin when they join is enough for his own eyes to tear up and ironically, Song Lan thinks he must be crying for both of them. Xingchen’s eyeless sockets still trickle blood but he’s smiling, such a tender beloved smile that Song Lan wants to always see on his beloved's face, for the rest of their lives.

Song Lan’s breath grows harsher, feeling his peak approaching so he reaches out and grasps Xingchen’s cock, pumping hard while his other hand kneads and gropes Xingchen’s ass as he thrusts harshly, thighs straining from the effort. Xingchen wordlessly cries out as he comes and Song Lan comes shortly after his lover does, warmth filling up Xingchen’s insides. They stay prone in that position for what could be an eternity or a heartbeat, too overwhelmed to move.

So long they're together, they don't need anything else.

Reluctantly, Xingchen raises himself off Zichen, shuddering at the feeling of Zichen’s come dripping down his thighs before he entwines himself with Song Lan once more, kissing the other and they continue to hold each other in a sweaty shaky mess, coming down from the high together.

Once Song Lan feels he can speak in coherent tones again, he asks, “Xingchen, how do you feel? Does anything hurt?” He hesitates during the pregnant pause, guilt and happiness ensnaring him. Guilt because their first time together should have been on a comfortable bed in an inn somewhere, and not out in the woods for heavens’ sake.

A giggle emits from Xingchen’s lips as he cuddles Zichen harder, sensing his beloved’s self-deprecating tone. Now that his head has finally cleared, he's almost giddy from pure gladness that he and Zichen have reunited, even if under...unusual circumstances.

Xingchen nudges Zichen's ribs. “Zichen, please do not worry. It feels good. Indeed, I didn’t know you could be so passionate.” Xingchen teasingly says while giving him a tiny smile and Song Lan wants to die on the spot. He still can’t help smiling so wide his face aches as they continue embracing. They stay that way for an indeterminable time, enjoying the other’s presence as time trickles by. Eventually as the sun gets lower in the sky, Song Lan reluctantly disentangles his body from Xingchen’s.

“The sun will be going down soon. We should find somewhere safe indoors to rest and recuperate”. The two of them will be sore tomorrow, Xingchen particularly so and Song Lan doesn't want him to be overly strained.

“Mn.” Xingchen is content to just bask in his friend’s presence.

Song Lan rearranges his robes to something resembling decency and then helps Xingchen tidy himself. Their robes are covered in damp grass-stains and semen. At least Song Lan’s robes are dark and don’t show the stains as terribly as Xingchen’s formerly white robes. They continue to attempt to make themselves presentable, their clothes irrevocably rumpled but short of finding a river to wash in, it’s the best they can do for now. Song Lan doesn’t have bandages on hand, so he tears a strip of his robe to cover Xingchen’s eyeless sockets, kissing the edges of each hollow very gently as he does so. Xingchen trembles and murmurs his thanks before pecking the other back on the lips.

Finally, the two of them shoulder their possessions to depart. Xingchen can sense Song Lan’s hesitation. He reaches out and immediately Zichen’s hand grasps his. “I’ve been staying at a coffin home in Yi City with two others while night-hunting,” Xingchen begins softly, as he squeezes Zichen’s warm hand. “I’ll like to introduce you to them. A-Qing is blind like me but that doesn’t impede her brightness at all. The other - a youth I found badly injured, A-Qing and I nursed him back to health and he just sort of stuck around.” Xingchen shakes his head, smiling wryly, “He’s a handful but he’s not a bad person.”

“Of course, I want to meet them.” Song Lan agrees, his heart full of light, listening to Xingchen speak. Wherever you go, I will as well.” He vows silently they will not be separated again.

Xingchen smiles, happiness bubbling up inside him. He feels more alive than he has felt in a long time if he was willing to admit to himself. Even with A-Qing and ‘that bastard’ as A-Qing not so affectionately called the other youth, it was lonely as compared to the past when he and Zichen had travelled around, cultivating, sharing their thoughts and ideas, their dreams of building a sect together.

Now, with Zichen joining their small group, warm contentment flows through Xingchen’s blood, reaching down to where Song Lan’s hand was entwined with his. “Just like old times?”