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Sexy times with Wangxian

Chapter Text

Dinner at the Lan’s has always been a quiet affair, and tonight is no different.

 

Lan Wang Ji watches intently at how Wei Ying uses his hands to tear a steamed chicken thigh into two, and literally inhales the succulent meat off the bones. The older man picks up a wing daintily with chopsticks, and places it into Wei Ying’s bowl (which is still half-filled with rice and suspiciously-untouched bittergourd slices), to which the younger man grunts in appreciation through a mouthful of food.

 

He goes back to his bowl of rice and finishes off the dwindling plate of mixed stir-fried vegetables containing chopped cabbage, sliced eggplants and potatoes. He takes the last piece of tofu, dips it into a saucer of blended chilli with soy sauce, before taking an elegant bite. Wei Ying continues to slurp on chicken wing bones (and later, his fingers) noisily in the background. Wei Ying occasionally spots a larger chicken bone on the table (it doesn’t matter whose), nonchalantly grabs and cracks it to suck out the marrow with even more unsavoury sounds.

 

Wang Ji then takes a spoonful of the lotus root pork rib soup which Wei Ying specially prepared for their meal. They had already tried eighteen iterations of the dish courtesy of Wang Ji’s excellent cooking skills and his carefully-curated collection of recipes – all were good, in Wei Ying’s opinions – so, the ninetieth would be the first that Wei Ying made, and is now the subject of evaluation by Wang Ji’s discerning tastebuds.

 

He sips the light brown broth and savours the simple yet flavourful liquid. There is a richly sweet meatiness to it, and is well-infused with the refreshing nutty taste of lotus and a slight hint of salt. A bite from a slice of freshly-harvested lotus root that had simmered and softened in the soup for at least four hours – is good, to Wang Ji’s judgement. He looks up to say a few complimentary words about Wei Ying’s handiwork, but when he sees the younger man engrossed in downing a bowl of the soup in record time (Wei Ying even raised his bowl high above his head and tips it to let the last drops roll into his waiting tongue, no less), he smiles and shrugs wordlessly.

 

Wei Ying scoops another bowl from the main pot and Wang Ji notices the younger man’s greasy fingers. The cutlery, tableware and the ladle are probably covered with oily fingerprints, he notes. It is a fair price to pay (for the one who will be doing the dishes) to watch his younger lover enjoy a satisfying meal after a long back-breaking day. They had spent the morning harvesting the last batches of crops before winter arrives, so that Wei Ying can quickly sell them off to Old Merchant Zhu in the afternoon, while Wang Ji hurried to Huang village to stock up with herbs, spices and other provisions. The trails leading out of Burial Mounds may be buried during snowstorms, so they needed to be prepared for the worst.

 

Lan Wang Ji stared at his bowl, then carefully picks up a cube of lean pork meat with the spoon to take an experimental nibble off it. He usually keeps to a vegetarian diet, although ever since they started living together, he had been increasing his consumption of fish (his favourite, so far), freshwater shrimp and limited amounts of chicken and eggs from their modest farm. He wrinkles his nose at the peculiar taste of the meat. It is gamey and stronger than usual – though he would be hard-pressed to find the right description since he doesn’t eat such meats frequently enough to tell the difference. He pops the rest of the meat into his mouth and takes another bite of lotus root – the taste balances out perfectly and he thinks no more about it.

 

“How is it? It’s delicious, isn’t it?” Wei Ying asks from across the table, breaking into a brazen grin. He leans back and pulls one leg up onto the chair.

 

“Mn. It’s good.”

 

“Of course it’s good! Yiling Patriach has unrivalled skills in every known discipline, including the art of cooking!” He laughs cockily and points a thumb at himself.

 

Lan Wang Ji nods lightly, curving up his lips a little.

 

Wei Ying reaches for a clean bowl from the kitchen’s drying rack and proceeds to fill it with more soup (Wang Ji notes the oily fingerprints on the new bowl). Next, he recklessly dumps more pork ribs than lotus root into the bowl, probably for wanting to clear out the pot sooner (Wang Ji notes the amount of spills Wei Ying made). Then, he places it in front of the older man (Wang Ji notes how the new bowl is carelessly pushed against the one he was still having, causing more spills) and gestures him to, “Here, have more! Have more!”

 

“I’ve made a big pot just for you, so you have to finish it, Lan Zhan!”

 

“Mn.”

 

“Drink more, drink more!” Wei Ying chants encouragingly, as he goes for another meat-laden serving.

 

The ruckus and excitement eventually die down, and both men tuck into their soup peacefully to their (mostly Wei Ying’s) satisfaction.

 

There are no jars of wine on the table tonight; just a simple brew of oolong steaming inside a teapot.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“Ah.. Lan Zhan, I’m going for a stroll outside,” Wei Ying said as he stretched with a pleasant “Nnnh” and patted his tummy.

 

“Mn. Come, wipe your mouth and hands first,” Wang Ji instructed. He obeyed, leaned forward, and let the older man gently dab a clean damp washcloth over his lips and wipe the grease off his hands. Wei Ying gazed lovingly at Wang Ji, causing the older man to shyly avert his eyes and blush with the slightest tinge of pink on the tips of his earlobes. Wang Ji made sure to scrub clean each of Wei Ying’s fingers and nails, before taking the washcloth back to the kitchen sink.

 

“Go now,” Wang Ji said. Terse, concise, to the point. Wei Ying nodded and headed out from the kitchen. There were rustling sounds of him rummaging through their workroom, of putting on a thicker layer of robes and outdoor shoes, of hopping-skipping out of the entrance of their home – before silence finally befall their home.

 

Lan Wang Ji squeezed soapy water from the washcloth and resumed his kitchen clean-up. He felt a bit warm on the cheeks and opened the kitchen window to let cool evening air in. From where he stood, he could see the younger man rushing past with a freshly-plucked lotus seed pod in one hand, a bag of equipment in the other, and disappear to the fruit trees beyond their vegetable garden.

 

Wang Ji began to clean each bowl and plate. When he reached Wei Ying’s bowl, he noticed the leftover rice and some pieces of bittergourd. The warmth in his cheeks had spread slowly down his throat, and for a moment, he thought he might be coming down with a fever or a common cold. He took a piece of half-eaten bittergourd and popped it into his mouth, half-hoping that the cooling effects would help along with other medicinal herbs he’d just procured earlier that day.

 

Dinner at the Lan’s had always been a quiet affair, and that night was no different – yet.

Chapter Text

Not too long ago on one balmy summer afternoon, Wei Wuxian made an unexpected announcement while resting on his throne (actually, just a plain a wooden bench) in the shade of fruit trees which surrounds the expansive courtyard of his grand built-to-last-for-a-lifetime fortress (just a cavernous hole in the mountains, really).

 

With a proverbial lightbulb blinking above his head, the much-maligned and infinitely-feared His Royal Highness Yiling Patriarch decreed: that as long as he rules the Burial Mounds (no, he doesn’t rule the Mounds, it belonged to no one), the resident family of wild rabbits accused of encroaching his (actually, the husband’s) remaining soon-to-be-harvested carrot patch, would be spared from eternal hellfire (read: made into tasty barbeque). Instead, considering the recent string of events:

 

  • Of two carrots gone missing from the vegetable garden, the hour of the day of its occurrence unknown, however there is damning evidence of fleet-footed prints found all over the ground at the scene of the crime.
  • Before any punishment could be meted out to compensate for the economic losses and related aggravated damages (which in reality, the husband didn’t really care for, because it was only a mere two sticks of carrots; Wei Ying was just getting his rocks off by making a mountain out of a molehill – just another Wei Ying-ness), Gusu Lan Sect Rule #5501 was enacted by the highly-esteemed Royal Advisor (again the husband) which forbids the hunting and killing of rabbits.
  • The Rule is applicable to all persons of familial or marital relationships with Lan members (and therefore the Patriarch as well; the Patriarch himself does not openly speak about such relationships in broad daylight because he would die from sheer embarrassment and prefers to keep such intimate conversations to the bedroom. The husband, on the other hand, simply said “We’re already married”. End of discussion).
  • The Royal Advisor furnished a timely reminder about how rabbits are revered and kindly treated in his homeland, and he strongly advised His Royal Highness to follow suit (actually, he just tells his Wei Ying about Gusu Lan’s rabbit-keeping traditions and expects the latter to obey. End of discussion).

After evaluating all available options, and to avoid wasting time on unintellectual discourses about furry four-legged denizens, His Royal Highness Yiling Patriarch hereby unequivocally agrees with his Royal Adviser’s words: namely, to trap the rabbits and—

 

“—raise them with our chickens. What do you think, Lan Zhan?”

 

Lan Wang Ji opens his eyes, startled. Well, that was unexpected.

 

“They’ll keep the birds toasty and warm during the cold blizzard-y winter nights. It’s a win-win for both animals!” Bubbly laughter fills the air, as the younger man waves his arms energetically above him.

 

Images of cute rabbits armed with their thick, luxurious winter coats, surrounded by fuzzy little yellow chicks and their cluck-clucking parents — flash across Lan Wang Ji’s mind.

 

His face immediately breaks into an un-Han Guang Jun-like grin. Well, that was an extraordinarily pleasant thought.

 

“Pfft.. Ha ha! Lan Zhan, you’re smiling!” the younger man exclaims.

 

Lan Wang Ji catches himself and quickly sets his face back to one of Han Guang Jun-like quality. He clears his throat, closes his eyes, and gently nudges Wei Ying’s tummy with the back of his head, with a rather indignant-sounding “Hmmph” that seems to say “You’re talking nonsense. Get back to work”, wordlessly.

 

“Ah.. yes, yes, yes,” Wei Ying murmurs, mirth evident in his voice.

 

Wei Wuxian resumed his late afternoon duty (whenever they’re together and have plenty of time to spare – such as this particular balmy afternoon) of tending to his partner’s favourite pastime. He gave Lan Wang Ji a loving ear-cleaning with the latter’s favourite bamboo earpick (because it was of the precise length, and had the perfect angles and curves to reach his favourite spots; even the blunt edge of the scoop had the perfect degree of wear-and-tear that gave a flawless balance of abrasiveness, friction, relief and comfort simultaneously; along with how his partner caresses away stray strands of hair, how the fingers glide along the shell of his ears, down to the earlobes, warmly rubbing skin-to-skin all the way).

 

[It is said that the sight of Wei Wuxian twiddling a well-used earpick like a miniature-sized Chen Qing, could make Han Guang Jun go weak in the knees and become unusually docile and willing.]

 

Lan Wang Ji remained motionless as he lay down on the same wooden bench and rested his head on Wei Ying’s lap. Soft, appreciative sighs and nnnhs escaped from his lips, as Wei Wuxian meticulously scraped and scratched away, leaving no surface of the ear untouched.

 

Wei Wuxian did not stay quiet for long, and soon he talked (mostly to himself) in great lengths about his ambitious plans to house the rabbits with the chickens. The young man was that sort of person – whatever he promised, he will deliver. He detailed about how they could rear both animals together and kept them well-fed, expand the coop to accommodate additional residents, strengthen the structure in preparation for snowstorms that would make landfall in a few months’ time, fence-up the surrounding area with sturdier materials, and even recited a list of things he needed to buy from Liao’s General Store in Yiling City for these plans. The costs came up to—

 

“—twenty silver pieces, in total. But, if I salvage some scrapwood from the garden and chop down a couple of trees from the ‘Mounds, I think I can save a bit and get everything done with fifteen. What you think?”

 

A particularly nice spot is scraped repeatedly in slow, languid up-and-down motions, despite being cleaned out moments ago. Pleasurable tingles trickle from the neck and down the spine. He shivers.

 

“Nnnh. Tomorrow, we go,” Wang Ji simply states. His mind is hazy, and he finds difficulty not to mix unintelligible sounds into his very brief instructions.

 

“Huh…?” It seems Wei Ying didn’t quite grasp what he said.

 

“Tomorrow, we catch the rabbits… then go to Yiling City together… to buy… the materials you need,” he explains with much effort. The earpick scrubs the passageway in circular motions. He hnnnhs audibly, back stiffening into an arch. Barefoot toes curl (he prefers to leave the muddy boots and sweat-soaked socks on the ground to keep their wooden bench clean; he’d been busy harvesting their crops the whole day under the hot sun, and frankly speaking, his body did smell a little ripe), fingers clench into fists (because fuck, that feels so good – did he just swear?).

 

“Ah.. AHH! Lan Zhan, you really surprised me!” It seems understanding finally dawns on his partner. Surely, he knows by now that all requests can be granted, especially in the presence of a particularly favourite earpick.

 

“So, does the Royal Advisor agree with a budget of fifteen or twenty silver pieces?” He can feel eyebrows wiggling at him. Shameless.

 

“Twenty fff—fi—five,” because oh fff—f—fuck, did he just use one hand to massage and comb through his hair above the same ear where irresistible circles are being drawn inside, at the same time? It felt so incredibly good, that he mis-pronounce and stuttered the last word.

 

“Ehhh? Ehhhhhh? Did I hear correctly, that the Royal Advisor is generously offering twenty-five? Really, twenty-five?” The curious reply comes a little too excited and quick. Really shameless, also greedy.

 

“Mn. Twenty-fff-five. For... the Royal H-Highness.” He makes sure to lace the last few words with a hint of sarcasm. He would match with Wei Ying in terms of delivering promises in earnest, despite knowing that he was somehow tricked into doing this.

 

The tender ministrations on his ear and scalp picked up speed. Loss of sanity was imminent.

 

“The fff-five… extra silver p-piece…s are for fff-five jars… of Laozu’s S-Smile,” he struggles to find the right words, before succumbing to Wei Ying's merciless onslaught.

 

The earpick finds its way to Wang Ji’s weakest spot along the canal, and it vibrates with savage, skilled shallow thrusts. Waves of numbness and tingly pleasure spread from head to toes, his back curves like a bow (but Wei Ying’s grip on his forehead and jaws is strong enough that he doesn’t roll over and fall off the bench), he moans nnnghhs and aaaahs loudly, fingernails scratch the wooden surface, legs move restlessly and kick weakly into empty air — and could say no more.

 

Wei Wuxian whees and yays in response, interspersed with singing praises of “Er gong-zi, you’re really good to me. I like you so much!” to the half-paralyzed-half-struggling older man on his lap. He peppered chaste kisses on the forehead and cheeks whenever possible (really, the mere mention of Laozu’s Smile has that kind of brazen effect on Wei Wuxian even during the day; and Lan Wang Ji happily indulges the younger man, because he knew what follows when night falls).

 

The couple continued to enjoy each other’s company into the sunset. Lan Wang Ji, at some point between Wei Ying-style of ear cleaning, relaxing scalp and shoulder massages, and a plate of lotus seeds served with a pot of oolong tea — pointed out that there was no such thing as “Gusu Lan Sect Rule #5501”, because to his knowledge, there were only 4,859 when he copied the scriptures last summer in the Jingshi.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“S—Stop! I… I haven’t taken a b—bath… Unnh! Mmmh!”

 

Wei Ying continued to tend to the angry-looking slick-shiny red engorged shaft with the same zeal as his infamous brand of ear-cleaning. Quick shallow thrusts down into wet encircling tongue, careful not to bite but generous in gentle grazing with edges of teeth against the fragile blood-filled veins lining the hard flesh, and when he felt the underside of the length quiver with successive rolls of muscular contractions, he goes down deep until the slick cockhead bumps to the back of his throat and swallows very, very hard.

 

Wei Ying raked his fingernails along the quaking inner thighs, then caressed the older man’s sides, up the ribs, down the spasming lower back muscles, until his hands settled on holding down the hips against the wooden bench so that his lover could not escape, and kneaded clenching ass muscles in time with the spurts of day-old thick potent semen pulsing down his throat. He breathed in deeply with his face full of fine pubic hair while his throat muscles continued to massage and milk the twitching organ to the very last drop, and he inhaled a pungent mixture of sweat, sandalwood and the sweet musky scent of a man who orgasmed twice in a row.

 

Lan Zhan continued to moan weakly from where he sat on the bench, head lolling helplessly from side to side, breath heavy and strained, upper garment clinging tightly onto his pecs and abdomen that sweated profusely, and his pants pulled down to the ground with Wei Ying kneeling between his spread, smooth muscular legs. He covered his lower body with his wide sleeves and shielded the delicious view of Wei Ying giving him an incredible blowjob from the outside world, protecting what remained of his dignity and the younger man’s (because Wei Ying said he would die of sheer embarrassment if they were caught doing naughty stuff in broad daylight; though no one is watching).

 

Later, somewhere during his third post-orgasm haze while Wei Ying busied with playful tonguing with his balls and continuously pistoned hardening cockflesh between cum-streaked lips towards his fourth climax, a fleeting thought crossed his mind: he really should consider increasing Wei Ying’s spending allowance to thirty silver pieces.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

A fortnight later, to their amusement of the couple, not only was Wei Wuxian’s theory proven to be correct; in fact, the presence of clucking feathered friends calmed down the captured rabbits enough and allow their human handlers to safely play with them, just after a couple of days in captivity. This was especially delightful to Wang Ji, because he missed holding his favourite animal since he left Cloud Recesses the year before, and could not resist touching the scurrying balls of fluff every time he passed by the coop between doing farm work and hanging out laundry (plus numerous bedsheets) outside their home.

 

The downside though, was that the increased activities, sounds and odours naturally attracted local predators such as foxes and eagles.

 

On one occasion, they spotted an unusually large and hulking form on four legs on a faraway cliff, partially hidden by shadows from drifting rainclouds. At that time, Wei Wuxian anxiously gripped his partner's wrist, while Wang Ji clutched Bichen a little tighter than he was used to.

 

A mountain wolf, twice the size of any normal specimen and as massive as a bear, stared back at them with glowing crimson eyes. Dark spiritual energy not unlike the signature black aura from the long-gone Stygian Tiger Amulet, overflowed from its body and blends into the dark clouds blanketing the hills in the horizon.

 

The two men, alone in their estate nestled deep within the Burial Mounds, quickly made their way back to their cavernous home.

Chapter Text

“Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan! I’m back from my evening walk!” Wei Ying shouted gleefully with a wave of hands and a bag slung over his shoulder as he approached the entrance of their cave-home. He had just returned from a routine security check on the boundaries of their little estate nestled within the vast expanse of Burial Mounds. Every spiritual defensive net hidden amongst fruit trees lining their garden was correctly positioned, and every paper talisman correctly glued to strategic locations throughout their little estate.

 

“Mn. Is everything alright?” Lan Wang Ji asked when he emerged from the shadows with a towel and a change of clothes. He looked slightly damp, hair still wet though neatly tied with a couple of white ribbons to the back, and he was already wearing his satin-white nightgown. Wei Ying noticed that Wang Ji’s complexion was a healthy rosy colour – probably warmed from soaking in thermal spring-waters of their outdoor pool after dinner. Temperatures around the Burial Mounds tended to plummet after sunset these days, so hot baths were a necessity.

 

“Yeah.. although we didn’t lose anything from the fox intrusion last night, some of the energy threads had to be fixed because of the disturbance,” Wei Ying explained as he gladly took the change of clean clothes from Wang Ji’s hands and handed his bag of magical tools in return.  “The chickens and rabbits looked a bit wary, so I doubled up the barrier’s strengths around the coop,” he continued with a wink, “the hens should be feeling safe tonight and will continue to happily lay eggs for us!” and gave a toothy grin.

 

There was a soft golden glow in Wang Ji’s eyes, as he looked at his smiling younger lover: a ball of pure-hearted sunshine although covered with dirt, sweat, grime and dried autumn leaves.

 

The older man cleared his throat after realizing he had stared a bit too (uncomfortably) long, and nodded as he held Wei Wuxian’s bag of tools. He turned to walk over into a small workroom inside their home. It was filled with growing piles of unused furniture and an assortment of magical and non-magical tools, contraptions and half-finished inventions (and somewhere, a small indistinct partially-completed compass lay hidden-but-not-forgotten inside a drawer). “Well done, Wei Ying,” he complimented, as he placed the bag on the floor along with other tools.

 

Wei Wuxian absently tapped his boots against the foot of the entrance to knock off small pieces of dirt and gravel from the soles. “Right? This is how Yiling Patriach puts his awesome magical arts to good use, and everyone should appreciate this,” he huffed in response to the praise, thrill evident in his voice, and his grin grew wider.

 

Lan Wang Ji re-appeared at the entrance to their home. “Mn. Very good use,” he said. Then, he made little shoo-ing gestures with his hands. “Go now, and clean up,” he said crisply.

 

Wei Wuxian opened his mouth to retort at being dismissed so quickly. He closed it back though, when he noticed something different about Wang Ji. He leaned closer to the older man, an indiscernible glint in his eyes that spoke of inquisitiveness mixed with caution. He sniffed the air around the sides of Wang Ji’s face and towards the jawline.

 

Wang Ji stepped back immediately and caught a hand that was about to touch his forehead. He glared at Wei Wuxian as he gripped the younger man’s wrist and pushed it down.

 

“Bath. Now.” There was a hint of warning in the low gruff voice.

 

“Ahh… okay, okay,” Wei Wuxian yielded and nodded repeatedly, before backing off. He adjusted the pile of towel and clothes in his hands, scratched the back of his head out of habit, and headed towards the bubbling heated pool just around the corner of their cave-home.

 

Wei Wuxian was quite certain that Lan Wang Ji looked a bit more flushed than before, and his breathing was imperceptibly heavier than usual. He shook his head, and thought nothing more of it as he merrily skipped his way towards his much-needed bath.

 

Back at home, Lan Wang Ji sighed heavily, dutifully took a broom from the closet, and began the task of sweeping off dirt and gravel that his partner left on the cave's entrance.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

He laughed heartily, breathless, panting, body thrumming with sexual energy and he was close, oh so close to the edge. But he still laughed despite his cock demanding and protesting for release with angry twitches.

 

Wei Ying lay on the bed, drenched in sweat, hips lifted and supported by pillows, with a very agitated-looking equally sweat-drenched and panting Lan Wang Ji situated between his legs.  The older man’s penis, deeply sheathed inside his young lover, was still steel-hard, massive, pulsing and wanting.

 

“You… you came… twice? Already? In less than five minutes?” Wei Ying fell into another fit of childish giggles.

 

Lan Wang Ji looked absolutely devastated and red-faced; neither knew if it was from his embarrassingly lack of sexual control, or if he was just too flushed from the exertion.

 

“I.. I..” Wang Ji could not find the right words to fill their sparse conversation. His head was still abuzz, his limbs were quaking, his lower body still burning with unquenched desire, and his sexual qi energy levels were off the charts – exceeding all of his previously-known limits. It was beyond his mortal comprehension of what led him to this dire state.

 

He was still, very, incredibly, unspeakably, terrifyingly – horny.

 

“Was I that good? Hmm?” Wei Ying teased seductively, then bit his lips sexily (with a strand of hair from his bangs between his teeth, no less). “Has this Yiling Patriach finally vanquished the great Han Guang Jun with his sexual prowess and make him weak in his knees with desire? Hmm? What do you say… Lao goooong?” he purred and swayed his hips sensuously to emphasize the sweet nickname.

 

Wang Ji blinked off another drop of sweat that rolled down from his forehead. He usually used his golden core to quell any unwanted burning desires, but it had long depleted from overuse in the hours after dinner and before bedtime. Internally, he was exhausted, spent, emptied, yet lust was building up again from within, and this time, threatening to spill and take over his consciousness. 

 

Lao gong, your wife isn’t satisfied here yet,” Wei Ying cooed provocatively and whined at the same time, bouncing his ass on the pillows to shake his own weeping erection to prove his point. Wang Ji felt his lover sucking him in deeper with every tantalizingly squishy cum-slicked slide and every captivating squeeze of flesh and muscles around his cock.

 

“You shameless…!” The older man was beyond disbelief at the outrageous act but could not finished his sentence; tendrils of pleasure entwined his insides, and spiralled its way dangerously from below the belly to the tip of his erection. He finally caved in when the arousing sensations became too unbearable, threw away all caution to the wind and any remaining self-restraint, and proceeded to plunge into his lover, hard.

 

Wei Ying mewled happily when his body was lifted higher with inhuman strength, and fucked deeply at a very precise angles (the prostate the prostate oh yes that special spot mmmhhh!). He started to ramble nonsensically about how he (the wife) wanted to feel good, how only Wang Ji could make him feel really really good, how he wanted to be knocked up and have many babies with Wang Ji, and described in great detail how the older man’s seeds were swimming and making their way to impregnate him.

 

He used the analogy of their chickens and pleaded for his Gong ji to inseminate all the eggs inside him, because as the Mu ji he wanted to lay many, many warm eggs for his dear husband. He described vivid depictions of eggs sliding out of his butthole from his heavily pregnant belly, of how he would lay gently on the eggs and incubate them with his love, until they hatch into little Wei Yings and Lan Zhans.

 

And then, he talked on and on while being drilled, about how he was a beautiful yet vulnerable flower blooming in their vegetable garden patch. His pretty petals spread open and invitingly to any passers-by in broad daylight, and how he became surrounded, constantly assailed and pollinated by swarms of eager bees. He prattled on about how their furred winged bodies and legs caressed and excited him, causing him to leak out sweet nectar for them to feast, and how fertile male seeds were ejected in exchange, deep, deep inside his bloom that would eventually ripen into delicate tasty fruits like Caiyi Town’s pipa.

 

Lan Wang Ji moaned weakly with each obscene story, having totally succumbed to his desire, and utterly helpless against such vulgar words from his younger lover.

 

Wei Ying licked his lips hungrily, then locked his legs around Wang Ji to draw him closer, until there was hardly any room for the older man to pump his hips. Lan Wang Ji became desperate for any form of friction for his wildly pulsating cock and resorted to tight grinding motions against wet fleshy folds coiling and tightening around the entire shaft. Wei Ying continued to spout dirty descriptions of their lovemaking playfully, and worked his inner pelvic muscles with such vigour to give the imprisoned cock extremely pleasurable rolling massages from the base to the tip of the arousal, coaxing out more of the thick milky liquid out of it.

 

Within minutes, Lan Wang Ji orgasmed again in a splendid display of a contorted look on his face, eyes glazed and unfocused, lusty groans rumbling from throat that was raw from too much grunting, quivering limbs barely holding up, rhythmically-contracting muscles from his arched back to his hips in repeated undulating motions, his potent white seed spurting deep and coating another layer to his lover’s insides.

 

Wei Ying finally found his own release during Wang Ji’s third magnificent effort to breed him that night, somewhere between his lover’s second and sixth ejaculate, if he recalled correctly. In total, the results of their performance that night: Wang Ji – 3, Wei Ying – 1. It was enough. Wei Ying slumped bonelessly to the mattress with a satisfied sigh. He closed his eyes and smiled widely, welcoming the looming post-orgasm haze. He wiped off his cum off his belly with a ragcloth, and waited expectantly for Wang Ji to lie atop of him and hold him in a blissful embrace to sleep the night away.

 

Instead, the pillows supporting his hips were thoughtlessly yanked away. He yelped in surprise when Wang Ji grabbed his body and hoisted him up with their bodies still connected. The older man impatiently settled to a kneeling position on the creaky bed, and Wei Ying was crudely forced to sit on his lap. Wei Ying instinctively wrapped his legs around his lover’s waist to keep himself from falling.

 

“L.. Lan Zhan?? What.. what are you doing?? Didn’t you get e—enough??” Wei Ying stammered in astonishment. Lan Wang Ji held tightly to Wei Ying, his lips found the younger man’s nipples at eye level and he began to bite and suck feverishly.

 

“Ow… not… not so hard,” Wei Ying groaned. His lover suckled like a hungry newborn and moved his body back and forth; Wei Ying felt his lover’s cum-lubricated hard-on sliding in and out with the gentle rocking motion.

 

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan whimpered into the younger man’s chest; there was anguish in his voice.

 

Wei Ying caught on, and his face softened to one of pity and concern. “Is everything alright, Lan Zhan?” he asked, ignoring the throbbing pain of a swollen right nipple as his lover moved to abuse the other. Strong fingers roamed up and down his sides then to his back. Lan Wang Ji was trying to devour, and at the same time he was staving off the growing hunger with the act of feeding on his lover’s breast.

 

“Wei Ying, did you really cast a terrible spell on me tonight?” the older man asked directly, needy of the truth, face still buried in the younger man’s sparse bosom.

 

“No, Lan Zhan. You know I will never use my magical arts against you,” Wei Ying replied, cradling his lover’s head in a warm embrace. He began to move in tandem with the rocking motion, causing Wang Ji to break into moans of pleasure.

 

Lan Wang Ji reached up and pulled Wei Ying down into a scorching kiss. “Then, Wei Ying, did you put anything into my drink tonight?” he asked this time, between open-mouthed kisses, breathy gasps and tongue licking along the jawline. He was begging for an answer to his predicament, in which Wei Ying responded with equal fervour by plunging wet saliva-coated tongue into his.

 

Wei Ying rubbed soothing circles into Wang Ji’s scalp, lips still locked with one another. “No, Lan Zhan. We only had tea with dinner, and I’m not drunk tonight,” he breathed out between kisses.

 

Lan Wang Ji paused when he replayed the last few words in that sentence. He thinking process was clouded with delicious sparks of lust and pleasure dancing between his groin and brain, and he couldn’t process their meaning. But those words, those words that weighed heavily and echoed so loudly inside his ears–

 

Lao gong, I know what you’ve been up to,” Wei Ying whispered breathily into those said ears, causing Wang Ji to shiver inwardly as frisson of unexpected excitement ran down his spine. “I know you like to make me drunk on some nights, and have your way with my body when I’m defenceless – but tonight,” he placed a finger on Wang Ji’s lips to seal off any attempts by the older man to explain himself, “tonight, my conscience and thoughts are clear, and I have no intention to drug anyone’s drinks.”

 

“I just wanted to have sex with you once, and rest for the night. Who knew that you would be up and willing for so many more rounds?” Wei Ying’s voice dripped with honey and mischief. He ground his ass against Wang Ji’s groin in suggestive circles. Wang Ji groaned again, and bit into Wei Ying’s collarbone. The younger man hissed in response, and raked fingernails down Wang Ji’s back, leaving behind fresh rising welts along with the old scars of Gusu Lan’s punishment whips.

 

“Then, tell me, Wei Ying.. am I being punished for what I’ve done?” Lan Wang Ji pleaded with raw emotion and lust in his hoarse, trembling voice. His body felt like it had been set into flames that licked everywhere and especially along his impossibly hard arousal, a thousand needles’ worth of sexual poison filling his bloodstream, an infinite thirst for release that could never be slaked. Wei Ying continued to squeeze and milk his lover with impressive finesse, eliciting pained cries from a man who desperately needed to rest and could not cum any time soon, but felt another wave of pleasurable contractions welling up from behind his tightening balls.

 

“Mmm… I might have added a little extra something into the lotus root pork rib soup in tonight’s dinner,” Wei Ying whispered and gave a little peck on Wang Ji’s feverish forehead. The latter gasped hard for air, his heart pounded excruciatingly strongly against his ribcage, as excitement mounts and surged towards his next climax.

 

Then, without warning, Wei Ying pushed Lan Wang Ji down to the bed and pinned the older man down with strong arms. He kissed the older man hard, tongue lashing against one another between locked lips, and his hips rose up and down at a back-breaking pace with a rock-hard spasming cock in between butt cheeks. “Please forgive me, Lan Zhan, because I did not intend this to happen,” he murmured between the kisses, and felt another wave of liquid warmth swelling from his bottom. He smiled as Lan Wang Ji orgasmed the fourth time inside him.

 

“What is done is done, and I’m taking responsibility,” he whispered louder this time, both compassion and malice coating his sugary sweet voice. Wei Ying continued to ride his lover in earnest. Wang Ji struggled weakly beneath him, pleading for mercy with incoherent moans and groans.

 

“Let me make love to you tonight to your heart’s satisfaction, my dear Lao gong.”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Wuxian has always been, and still is, a man who helps the needy and the needful. During one of his daily trips to town, he ran into a hunter struggling with a net trap by the forest trail. When asked about what happened and whether he could be of assistance, he learned that the hunter was from the nearby Huang village and he had trouble untangling the trap after it caught a small wild boar.

 

Being an former resident of lakeside Lotus Pier, Wei Wuxian is no stranger to handling fishermen’s nets, and is a master with the intricacies of setting, tying and of course, untangling complex structures made of ropes. He quickly solved the hunter’s problems and the hunter was grateful for the help.

 

After skinning, gutting and cutting up the wild boar, he offered one of its legs as a token of thanks, along with tips on how to catch such creatures. The old bearded man pointed to Wei Wuxian’s satchel containing packed lunch, and said that with the correct trap, bait (such as flatbreads and dumplings) and patience, one could catch these elusive but meaty creatures to sustain hungry family members for the winter. Wei Wuxian appreciated the hunter’s gifts and after a short exchange of pleasantries, they parted their own ways.

 

On the way back, Wei Wuxian contemplated the many ways to cook the meat. There were countless ways – as many recipes as there are cookbooks in Yiling’s Library Pavillion – and with each idea and the accompanying mouth-watering images, he became increasingly hungry and impatient to reach home.

 

There was a catch, though. He wasn’t sure if his partner would like such wild gamey red meat, or if he even tried it before. He knew such meats could cause qi deviations for the uninitiated and the untested, with unknown consequences. The best option would be to boil away the blood and taste, however that would be a waste for such a precious and highly-prized meat.

 

Then, he remembered that his partner had made 18 versions of his favourite soup. He had watched and learnt how the soup was made in their small kitchen, memorized the ingredients used and techniques for preparation and cooking.

 

The picture of Lan Wang Ji, majestic in his silver-white inner garments, glowing ethereally in the golden evening sunlight that filtered through their kitchen window, standing in front of a bubbling pot of soup on the stove, one hand holding ladle of lotus root pork rib soup to his lips, the other resting on his back – is a memory that Wei Wuxian would forever cherish in this lifetime.

 

Having made his decision, he walked faster and soon broke into a sprint towards home. He felt accomplished for the day’s work and for the single slab of leaf-wrapped wild boar meat hanging from his belt. He would make a dish that both he and his partner can enjoy for dinner.

 

The results surpassed his expectations, to say the least.

Chapter Text

He woke up with an audible snort, drool pooling into (an unfortunate) someone’s collarbone, and his sleep-tousled long hair spread everywhere – even on that said (unfortunate) someone’s face. Ahhh, he dreamt of catching jungle fowls and bringing the fat ones back home when he heard rolling thunder from darkening cloudy skies behind him. He ran, and ran, two fattest chickens in tow, but couldn’t go fast enough, because his aching hips were killing him, he was limping as painfully as being skewered by his indomitable lover every night, and the mighty roar of countless thunders started to wreck his hearing and crescendo into.. the tune of snores…?! Heavens forbid, how could there be snoring thunder; even the darkest of magical arts could not conjure such a horrible-sounding weather phenomenon – at which point he was rudely awoken by that (unfortunate) someone’s loud snore, and he involuntarily added his own snort.

 

It took nearly a minute for him to regain his composure and calm down his breathing. Just a dream, just a dream, he chanted to himself. He stretched quietly like a cat and let out a satisfying nnnngh (the hip joints seem to pop and crackle in protest), before nuzzling (more like, rubbing his sleepy face all over) into the warm wide muscled chest beneath his cheeks where he felt strong heartbeats against the skin. It was re-assurance, contentment, happiness and relaxation all rolled into one. Just a dream, just a dream.

 

A cool autumnal breeze blew through their bedroom’s window, and Wei Wuxian shivered a bit. He snuggled deeper into the thick blanket covering his back, and pressed his body closer to the hot water bottle-warmth beneath him. He liked being sandwiched between blanket and boyfriend (or more aptly called, husband).

 

Before long, he settled into the crook of that someone’s neck (his sleep-hazed brain refused to even give a name to this “someone”), and scooted his hips downwards so that they lay snugly between that someone’s thighs. He took comfort that this nicely-intimate position wouldn’t cause any bodily strains from weird sleeping postures that he was prone to. Both his hands and legs hooked to that (unfortunately) someone’s torso and legs into a tight embrace, like a spider catching and holding onto its prey.

 

Lan Zhan made an adorable “Mmmh” sound when squeezed (more like, trapped) by Wei Wuxian, turned his head slightly to the side with a constipated look of discomfort on his face, and this was followed by an un-adorably rude snore. Morally righteous Han Guang Jun slept very well, it seemed, after what Wei Wuxian thought was a night of immoral and absolutely un-righteous acts of wild animalistic rutting in their love nest.

 

Wei Wuxian shut his eyes tightly, silently begging the snores to go away. The sun wasn’t up yet, though by this hour, surely Lan Zhan would already be busy with his morning routine of cleaning the house, feeding the animals and toiling the garden. Has Lan Wang Ji ever slept so well that he forgets his five-o’-clock? Does the noble Han Guang Jun, life-bound by the over-4000 rules of the Gusu Lan sect, even oversleep?

 

Another loud snore answered his questions.

 

Too early, too early, he berated those annoying throaty rumbling sounds. Nnnh, let me sleep. Five more minutes, please? He rubs the both his heels into Lan Zhan’s feet arches in sensual circles, a gentle unspoken request from the younger man which elicited a soft moan from the older one. That didn’t help, though, as Lan Zhan resumed his lullaby of disconcerting sounds (at least from Wei Wuxian’s perspective).

 

Wei Wuxian felt his lower body slid down when Lan Zhan moved a bit in his sleep. He wriggled up and started to draw sweeping, arousing circles with his crotch against his lover’s, making sure that that their cocks and balls rub each other’s thoroughly. To Wei Wuxian, the act felt like scratching an itch behind the balls, though he wondered how his lover felt. Lan Zhan’s member hardened noticeably.

 

Still, another snore tore through the air in the quiet bedroom.

 

Finally, unable to stand the sounds drumming right into his ears, Wei Wuxian roused himself up, eyes still half-open and face plastered with saliva (mixed with bits of sweet-sometimes-tangy-pungent flavoured cum that he thought belonged to Lan Zhan, maybe his, or both). He let the thick blanket slip off his body, and then he carefreely pulled up his legs so that he sat cross-legged on Lan Zhan’s groin (because Lan Zhan is that strong and has no problems holding up to his Wei Ying’s weight with just his hips or better still, just with his erection).

 

Out of habit and still half-asleep, he picked up one of Lan Zhan’s lovely locks from the bedspread, and started braiding absently into a messy-looking twist of hair. He grinned and snorted again at the ugly-looking thing, because it reminded him a little of Jiang Cheng’s.

 

One more snore, this time a really loud one. Wei Wuxian’s frustration was creeping up on him, and he wanted to yank the braided hair to stop the noise.

 

Wei Wuxian nearly woke his lover with a strong ass-grind into his lover’s crotch and loud whiny “Lan Zhaaaaan”, when he felt something slippery and warm trickle out from his bottom. The disturbing sensation jolted his senses fully awake and stopped him in his tracks.

 

Wei Wuxian quietly hopped off the bed in a single leap and bounded for the exit of their bedroom. He grabbed some clothes on his way out, though he didn’t notice that he left a small sticky unmistakably white-coloured pool on his lover’s fine pubes where he sat just moments ago.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Three layers of thick robes and pyjamas off, pants pulled down and carelessly flung far, far away (he hoped the silky-white apparel would catch on top of one of the bushes so that he didn’t have to look far to find it, later), the boots somewhere in-between – he “brrrr”s when wintry-cold temperature hit his skin like an electric shock, and quickly tip-toed to the stream. Foggy clouds hung heavily on ground level like steam puffing out from a kettle. Dawn was approaching and he could see slivers of a cloudy sunrise in the far, far distance beyond the Burial Mounds’ mountains.

 

He hugged himself tightly to ward off the chill; his body was entirely covered with hard and prickly goosebumps. He was lucky to find a shallow spot along a stream near their home within the first few minutes. His toes gingerly touched the clear running waters, and when he is assured that it was warm, he slid one foot in and “ahhhh”s in sheer satisfaction. At that point, he thanked all 108 known local gods for supplying the valleys in the Burial Mounds with Qishan’s volcanic thermal springwaters. The sound of insects continued to drone on in the background, with morningbirds’ chirpings added intermittently, as he finally (and gratefully) steps into the soothing mineral-rich currents.

 

Soon, he was squatting in knee-deep waters until his head and shoulders bobbed above the surface. He wasn’t there for skinny-dipping (he wasn’t the sort of early riser who willingly starts the day with healthy work-outs) or to catch the sunrise (there wasn’t much to see beyond their little cave home, the lotus pond, the vegetable gardens and the surrounding fruit trees – plus, the inhabitants of the chicken coop were still asleep). Instead, he busied himself with the first priority of his daily personal hygiene routine.

 

On this fine autumn morning, Wei Wuxian forced himself up at the crack of dawn, and fingered the crack of his ass while wading in a stream of hot-spring water. He reached behind to wash away streaks of cum that had crusted on the cleft of his buttocks, and tried valiantly to scoop out mostly-dried clumps of semen from his butthole.

 

Who would have thought that the almighty Yiling Patriarch Wei Wuxian – once feared as the scourge of Mankind, whose name still invokes fear and reverence amongst the realm of cultivators, and whose (greatly-altered) portraits continue to line the homes of the rich and famous to scare away thieves and potentially otherworldly visitors too – would be the lone figure hidden in the shadows of the wee hours of the morning, hunched in a small river trying to wash off evidence of intense love-making from the night before? Notorious reputation surely preceded him!

 

He winced at the twinges of pain that danced across his bare back, when the waters gently lapped at numerous bitemarks and fingerprint-bruises which decorated the skin, especially near the neckline and shoulders.

 

Wei Wuxian proceeded to prod through the sensitive puckered hole between his butt cheeks and reach deep inside. It was neither sexy, ticklish nor uncomfortable, rather, it was a very familiar sensation – though not one that he would like to perform on his own. One fingertip grazed the rather tender entrance and hit a particularly pleasurable spot. He moaned and started to blush lightly from the mix of cool morning air against his cheeks and from feeling embarrassed with the open-air (and under-water) display of ‘anal masturbation’, if he followed the descriptions of the textbooks correctly about such obscene acts of playing with one’s butt.

 

Ooh, last night was so, so wild, he sighed dreamily to no one in particular.

 

He remembered riding Lan Zhan wildly last night, splattering his own semen and other bodily fluids all over his lover’s waist with powerful ejaculations that spanned across the length of their bed. He remembered watching through hooded gaze: those lovely six-pack abs tensed up in unison and relaxed repeatedly, as he was lifted up and down while riding waves of jerking hip muscles. Lan Zhan’s furrowed eyebrows, a sheen of sweat on his forehead where the Lan family’s headband used to be (long, long ago), his long lush sweat-glistening hair carpeting their bed, Lan Zhan’s fingers gripping his ass so hard that he knew it would instantly leave tell-tale marks for many nights. Oh how Lan Zhan looked in the dim moonlight, spread-eagled underneath the great Yiling Patriach and totally at Wei Wuxian’s mercy, naked skin glowing with silverlight as ethereal as his silk-white garments, eyes shut tightly with pain-pleasure, lips parted trying to restrain lusty grunts through gritted teeth, breathing heavily as he gasped for air because he was straining so hard, so hard, deliciously thrusting as fast as their quickening heartbeats, sheathing himself balls deep right to the hilt, as he erupted into climax after climax. Lan Zhan lovingly filled young Wei Ying a little more, but he didn’t stop there, and continued to couple with his lover like rabbits in heat. 

 

Wei Wuxian moaned softly, lost in his reverie, as one finger dipped again into his ass, scraping out the stickiness and caressing the flesh that had been thoroughly pounded and stretched not too long ago.

 

His ass clenched involuntarily when he recalled memories of Lan Zhan plunging his oil-lubricated iron-hard cock endlessly into him. Lan Zhan slammed in deep from above him, while he, the great Yiling Patriach, was forcefully pinned down on all fours underneath the older man on semen-spattered bedsheets, clinging onto his dear life as his ass was deliciously drilled, his prostate lovingly abused from six different angles to the point where his entire lower body became a shuddering mess of numbness, tingles and shocks, his insides stretched and shaped by the invading organ, his whole body was hammered into the bed,  and he came, came again, consecutively, definitely more than six times that night because he lost count after that – without even touching himself, because Lan Zhan was that good at making him climax with just his ass alone.

 

Wei Wuxian curled, swirled, and scissored with two, then three fingers. There was a brief stinging sensation from stroking the abused passageway.

 

Just a few hours before, amidst his hoarse cries of Slow down Lan Zhan Ohgodplease Slow down, he remembered listening with his heart to Lan Zhan’s sex-dripping groans into his reddened ears, in time with the maddening pace of relentless fucking, occasionally his teeth nipped the earlobes, alternating with gentle bites along his jaw, his sex-flushed neck and shoulders, Lan Zhan’s fingers intertwining with his, his thin waist quaking with exhaustion from holding up against Lan Zhan’s merciless pounding force from above, the wet sounds of flesh slapping against flesh as Lan Zhan penetrates balls-deep before pulling out, and then diving in again. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t make sense of the bedroom rocking wildly in his vision, he felt so full, yet he wanted more, wanted to scream, orgasm fast rising, another wave of toes-curling pleasure riding from the base of his spine and spread through his loins like wildfire, coiling up his tired dripping twitching cock until –

 

Wei Wuxian sighed again, this time with a droplet of drool hanging off his lips, as more delectable, mesmerizing images flashed across his mind; of Lan Zhan pressing him down to the bed (and probably leaving a visual imprint into the well-tortured furniture), squeezing his muscular ass muscles rhythmically, every muscle and fibre in the limbs taut, his face twisted in pained, ecstastic agony, his deep growls echoing off the bedroom walls as natural instinct takes over and he tries to breed Wei Ying by planting warm virile seed deep side the younger man, some even spilling out of the swollen asshole because it was already overflowing, the sticky stains on bedsheets growing in number and volume with each passing hour into the night, and Wei Wuxian himself moaning wantonly for his lover, “Lao gong… Lao gong…”. Every breathy seductive call for Lan Zhan spurs the older man’s sex drive further, and not even five minutes passed after his last ejaculation, that he became hard again and pummelled Wei Wuxian deeply towards their next orgasm. Leaks become gushes as the night wore on, when Wei Wuxian’s ass becomes too full and spills onto the bedsheet, joining the growing pools of his own liberally oozing cum, and Lan Zhan drives his hips forward then sheathes himself completely into the younger man, loins burning with desire, balls and cock pulsing, sending fresh waves of semen flooding into Wei Wuxian.

 

Wei Wuxian sees everything. He had placed paper talismans all over their home and the surrounding areas. They look for intruders, monitor every living creature’s movements, eavesdrop to conversations and detect changes in spiritual energy levels; they also give Wei Wuxian the most intimate viewing angles of their nightly love-making and transmit juicy sounds that accompany the vulgar acts of men copulating with one another.

 

“Nhnngh,” he moaned audibly into the foggy chilly air, partly from his sex-hazed stupor and from a feeling of relief from his ass.

 

One particularly large dollop of dried semen was scraped out, and he caught a glimpse of gooey milky white rising up the water surface being carried away by the flow. He flicked his hands to make sure nothing stuck to his fingers. Eeew, he gagged internally.

 

He chuckled as he imagined the stringy chunky remnants of their wild passionate sex float along the stream that connected to their lotus pool, before dissolving away and disappearing into one of the tributaries leading to the major river system surrounding the Burial Mounds. He wondered if the fishes and shrimps residing in their pool actually fed on the extra protein; he also wondered if that explained why the fishes grew and fattened up exceptionally fast despite the cold weather, to the point where they were able to harvest at least one good-sized fish every few days. Wei Wuxian fell into a fit of childish giggles at such juvenile thoughts, leaving water rippling outward from his hunched form.

 

Then, revelation struck.

 

Lan Zhan loved eating boiled fish served with Yiling’s famous tofu and plain stir-fried vegetables from their garden. Oh merciful Goddess Guan Yin… the fish, the fish!

 

This time, Wei Wuxian broke into a guffaw of laughter and he lost his balance. He slipped into the shallow edge of the stream, continued laughing, choked when he breathed in water, nearly drowned, splashed helplessly with flailing limbs, surfaced for air, couldn’t keep his laughter down, drank more water in loud gurgles, and choked again.

 

“Wei Ying..?”

 

Wei Wuxian swallowed two more gulps of water before answering in-between laughs and coughs, “I’m here, I’m here!”. He waved energetically from where he sat on the riverbed, and splashed water around rather playfully.

 

Lan Zhan stood stiffly by the stream, clothed in layers of thick robes, a broom clutched in his right hand, his lover’s carelessly-abandoned robes, pants and boots already collected and arranged neatly on his left arm, and a very concerned look on his face.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

“Ah.. hahaha.. I was just (cough) washing my face... when I slipped a little (cough),” Wei Wuxian managed to explain hesitantly as he tried to catch his breath. He would die of sheer embarrassment if his lover had found out what he was doing out in the open just moments ago. He rose out of the water and intended to make a quick grab for his clothes from Lan Zhan’s hands before running off.

 

Lan Zhan’s eyes widened at the spellbinding sight of Wei Wuxian standing stark naked – a lean slightly built figure, pale skin pockmarked with countless faded bitemarks and kiss-reddened spots (mine, all mine, he growls inwardly), yet tinged with gold from the glow of daybreak against the still-dark cloudy skies, hair and body wet with rivulets of water dripping down like sweet juicy nectar from deliciously ripe fruits. He stumbled a step back, and marvelled at the entrancing banquet that was displayed before him, and he feels a kind of sexual hunger gnawing, desire rising, slow fire burning up, starting from his loins.

 

“Gimme my clothes,” Wei Wuxian ordered nonchalantly and reached out with one arm. Rather than the expected handover of garments, Lan Zhan dropped everything he held to the ground in a single thud, and Wei Wuxian stammered, “H—Hey! What are you doing?”

 

Wei Wuxian followed his lover’s stare and realized belatedly the state he was in. Hands flashed across his chest and downwards to his crotch in a useless attempt to cover whatever dignity he had left (really, are male nipples considered dignified, and why cover yourself when he’s already seen you naked a thousand times, an unheard voice said).

 

“Ahh! Don’t look! Pervert! Don’t!” he shouted, aghast, as he turned his back against Lan Zhan. Wei Wuxian’s face turned into six shades of crimson-red and he was internally dying six times from that aforementioned sheer embarrassment. He couldn’t stand being sexually harassed by his lover in broad daylight (is this really harassment, that unheard voice asked), let alone tolerate a kiss on the lips in public (but really, there is no one else watching you right now except for that guy, said that same unheard voice accusingly).

 

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widened in surprise when he heard rustling sounds of the older man disrobing and undressing in record time. Within a few heartbeats, Lan Zhan walked determinedly into the stream with such force, that it felt like the running waters parted to give way for the man in the nude to embrace Wei Ying passionately from behind.

 

“Lan Zhan! What… fuck, get off, you horny animal! Didn’t you have enough fun last night?” The younger man struggled and splashed water everywhere, but he was unable to escape from Lan Zhan’s strong grip across his abdomen.

 

“You tempt me from bed to the bathwaters here. You should control yourself better,” hot air blew into his ears, followed by nips at the earlobes and down the throat. Wei Wuxian shivered. One strong hand gripped his left thigh and lift it up abruptly. He nearly lost balance and fell back, only to be pillowed by Lan Zhan’s muscular chest as he teetered on one foot. A slimy warm throbbing meaty stick (yes, yes that’s how Wei Wuxian imagined it) jabbed gently at his exposed butthole.

 

“Stop rubbing your dick into my ass! I’m still sore!” The raging hard-on forced its way through the resistant ring of muscles, aided by traces of slick semen that still oozed out from his earlier attempt to clean up. The rather uncomfortable penetration was followed by a string of curses from the younger man; even Merciful Goddess Guan Yin’s name was not spared.

 

“And I’m still hard. Be fair to me, please,” Lan Zhan whispered hungrily and heavily into Wei Wuxian’s ears, and started to pump his hips. Wei Wuxian was quite horrified to see his reflection in the waters beneath him – of how his naked body was shamelessly displayed to the world outside their home, and how his half-hard penis dangled and shook with each thrust in broad daylight.

 

“Ahh! Not like this! I don’t like this!” He wrestled harder, intent on breaking free from Lan Zhan’s hold. His face was very flushed from being terrified and embarrassed at the same time.

 

Lan Zhan let out a dangerously impatient growl, and with admirable strength he lifted Wei Wuxian’s other leg. The younger man cried out at the unexpected move, as his body braced against Lan Zhan’s upper body and became completely in the latter’s mercy. Lan Zhan continued his steady pace of fucking his spread-eagled partner, held only by his arms and his impossibly hard erection. He made sure to fill his lover thoroughly with each thrust, and at times, thick white foamy seed from their love-making the night before was pushed out, trailed down the underside of his pistoning cock, before finally dripping into the rippling waters below.

 

“No one will see,” Lan Zhan answered, panting. Wei Wuxian’s angry shouts dissolved into rambling unintelligible moans, punctuated by soft cries every time the pulsing shaft slides in at different angles and generously assaults the quivering prostate.

 

“This.. this is… r– rape… nnnnh….” Wei Wuxian weakly protested, before succumbing into another wave tingly pleasure running up from the base of his spine to the tip of his pre-cum dripping cock.

 

“And last night wasn’t?” Lan Zhan voice became hoarse with lust; accusing too. He was sweating and his body trembled at the first signs of a rising orgasm. He loved how his Wei Ying continued to clench his inner muscles involuntarily every time he pushed deep to sheathed himself completely. Wild imaginations of breeding rabbits crossed his mind, and fuelled the burning desire to inseminate, and impregnate the man in his arms. To Lan Zhan, the pleasure that comes from Wei Wuxian’s body is both indescribable and divine.

 

“Fuck… you…. nggahh…” The younger man’s final feeble verbal attempt to fend off Lan Zhan was commendable, though ultimately futile.

 

“Mn. Maybe next time.” Lan Zhan gently bites the back of his lover’s neck, adding another ring of teethmarks to the many others lining the same place. He was very close to his first climax of the day, and he knew his Wei Ying isn’t too far away – judging from how the younger man’s back arched, toes curled in mid-air, fingers clawed and clutched at his forearms, the copious amounts of slippery drops trickling from the now-erect arousal, and how the breathy moans turned into a keening cry as he slammed his hips harder against Wei Ying’s ass.

 

“Don’t bother (别闹). No one will hear us,” Lan Zhan whispered heatedly, and comes hard.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

Wei Wuxian thought that he should try hunting wild boars. The meat is versatile and suited many types of cooking, and makes many filling meals for the coming winter season. He salivated and his stomach growled at yummy mental images of spicy braised pork, stir-fried ginger pork, wild boar curries, and countless other recipes that the Yiling Library Pavillion holds within its numerous bookshelves.

 

Lan Wang Ji thought that he should really avoid Wei Wuxian's lotus root pork rib soup, or red meat in general, for the time being. He couldn't fathom what really happened that night, but he suspected a particular kind of meat, at least. Boiled fish sounded better. After careful consideration, he nods to himself and plans on making more fish-based dishes for dinner in the coming days.

 

Dinner at the Lan's will never be boring again.

Chapter Text

After the mind-blowingly incredible (but embarrassing) open-air sex in the stream at dawn, Lan Wang Ji avoided all physical contact and kept a safe distance from Wei Ying, for fear of triggering another bout of uncontrolled carnal desires. Despite their seemingly endless sex marathon the night before, Wang Ji still looked in the pink of condition - his complexion was rosy, his skin practically glowed , and well-defined outlines of muscles were visible even through thick layers of clothes. Wei Ying, on the other hand, looked worse for wear due to the lack of sleep and a numb arse, but more importantly, from neglect from his lover since that morning.

 

The younger man looked unkempt and even a little haggard. No one helped to comb his hair, and subtle day-old stubbles began to show on his face. His clothes were in disarray - mismatched colours of white and dark browns, unbuttoned and wrinkled, and so were his footwear with each boot from a different pair. He had relied far too much on his lover for the morning routines, that he had forgotten what it meant to take care of himself.

 

The only indication that Lan WangJi still thought of Wei Ying was that the younger man found a bowl of wheat noodles steaming in meat broth, topped with two hard-boiled eggs, chilli peppers and vegetables, waiting for him on the dining table. Wei Ying ate breakfast quietly on his own in the absence of his lover - his first time having a meal alone at home since they moved into the cave-home over a year ago. He found his appetite lacking although there was nothing wrong with the food - it tasted just fine and the presentation was flawless, as usual. In the end, he gulped down as much as his queasy stomach would allow, and disappointedly left the bowl of then-chilled noodles on the kitchen counter. 

 

For the next couple of hours, Wei Ying was left to wallow in his own remorse in their home, alone.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“Brrr… It’s getting really cold! Maybe we should just forget about going ou-ou-ou… Achoo!!”

 

Wei Ying sneezed, before pulling his winter robes tightly around himself to conserve whatever that remained of his body heat. He crouched close to the bare vegetable patch and looked like an oversized turnip that grew from the ground. He was fully prepared for what he thought was his final trip to town for a while - a couple of empty sacks and a bag slung over his shoulder, ready to be filled with a day’s worth of purchase. 

 

He looked up dejectedly at the horizon. The morning turned out to be much grayer than expected. Ominous-looking nebulous shapes billowed down the hills and blanketed valleys with chilly temperatures and thick mists, leaving behind the first signs of frost in their wake.

 

“Ahhhh,” he groaned to the murky skies, “Would it be too much to ask for another day of fine weather? Can’t the heavens grant this young man one last safe passage to town?” 

 

Freezing winds picked up in intensity, sending whistling sounds screeching through barren fruit trees around the garden.

 

Wei Ying pointed a handmade bamboo flute at an enormous mass of snowy cloud approaching his line of sight. “This Yiling Patriach offers two - yes, TWO - jars of Laozu’s Smiles from Yiling City, in return for this life-changing request! What do you say?” he shouted at the direction of the flute.

 

Lightning struck, followed by a deafening thunderclap. Wei Ying cringed, quickly put away the bamboo instrument, and shrunk back to the ground.

 

He grumbled inwardly about bad luck. The first heavy snowfall forecasted later the day meant that mountain passes and trails would become impassable for at least a week.

 

Wei Ying had planned to make a quick trip to Liao’s General Store at Yiling City that morning. He needed to buy some metal tools from for some home improvement projects, so that he could keep himself busy and wouldn’t become bored during the bleak winter. He had procrastinated and sat on ideas for many months, and forced himself to finally do something when he realized that he’d passed their first anniversary of living together without much fanfare - because their cave-home and its dull and scant interior looked somewhat the same as when they first moved in. 

 

Really, what would SiZhui say when both he and Wen Ning visit during the next Spring Festival?

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

In Wei Ying’ mind, there was already a list of things that needed to be done, and he proudly thought he excelled in labor-intensive crafts that Lan Wang Ji usually avoided, such as carpentry, plumbing and general maintenance work for their cave-home (yes, Wei Wuxian always thought of himself as the Handyman Of The House) :

 

  • First, repairs on the furniture; because the chairs, tables and especially the creaky king-sized bed bought from second hand stores last year has seen better days, and he thought putting on a few lotus-themed timber carvings could add a more homely touch to their humble abode’s atmosphere. Also, he needed to build a new wooden bench to replace the one next to their lotus pond, because the last time he gave Lan Zhan an incredibly satisfying outdoor blowjob (which left the older man moaning and trembling in the throes of four consecutive orgasms without any breaks in-between), the structure finally creaked its final crack, gave way to the passionate strength of the couple’s oral lovemaking, and shattered spectacularly into numerous pieces with a resounding, climactic bang.

 

  • Secondly, digging a few more ditches to irrigate their winter crops of kale, peas, radishes and other root vegetables;  because the latest batch refused to sprout after a couple of weeks in the cold earth. He thought the scenario resembled the time when he tried to plant lotus seeds at his former home in the ‘Mounds, sixteen years ago - perhaps all that was needed was patience, tender loving care, and blessings from Qishan’s mineral-rich warm waters. Also, he had some vague ideas about building an elaborate bamboo piping system along the walls and underneath their home to ensure the interior is adequately heated all-year round (it is a great pity that Wei Wuxian did not patent this home geothermal energy-harvesting concept, otherwise his name would have gone down in history as a brilliant inventor ahead of his time - actually, he never thought about this, because all he wanted was to be able to laze around at home and have plenty of sex with his lover without needing to get out of bed every hour to put more firewood into the stove.

 

  • Thirdly, the number of half-finished contraptions in their small workroom had finally spilled into the rest of their cave-home; in fact, Lan Zhan’s guqin was already buried somewhere inside a small mountain of crafted wood and rocks, and he felt guilty for being the root cause of the owner’s distress whenever the latter wanted to play a calming instrumental piece to soothe frayed nerves (in which Wei Ying obligingly offers “happy hour” sex to a frustrated Er Ge ge, and makes sure his lao gong stays inside him long enough to drain and tire the latter, until the older man falls blissfully asleep snoring, and peace reigns in their household for yet another night). Most of the inventions still lacked some critical parts or a reliable energy source, and he thought that having the metal tools would at least solve part of the struggle to complete anything worthwhile.

 

  • Finally, he thought he should put more effort to enhance and extend their living space, such as:

 

    • Upgrading their cozy three-room home, including installing more lantern fixtures in the workroom because he needed more light for his crafting work (and to find stuff underneath the piles of more stuff), a wider kitchen to accommodate a new oven (so that he could finally convince Lan Zhan to bake those tasty spicy-sweet treats that he craved, after reading some interesting recipes from the Library Pavillion’s cookbooks), and adding a few more chambers to their cave-home (the dream of owning a spacious towering fortress in the heart of the ‘Mounds, fit for a Patrich, has to start somewhere, right?).

      Somewhere at the back of his mind, he also thought of trying out sex in different locations of their home, because he didn’t want to confine their lovemaking within the four walls of their bedroom. His mouth watered at delectable mental images of Lan Zhan mounting him frenziedly in various obscene positions and places, witnessed by many watchful eyes from every imaginable angle by Wei Ying’s voyeuristic paper talismans.

 

    • Expanding the storage cellar which was a small covered hole in the ground at the moment, because he calculated that their food storage space requirements would increase exponentially in the coming months from their crops and animals (rabbits were still off the menu, however they might start rearing goats and pigs if they could buy some young animals from other farmers - maybe at Huang village too -, and not to forget, the population of domesticated fowls in the coop were set to explode come next Spring since Wei Ying trapped a few more hens from the surrounding forests not too long ago).

 

    • Making better use of their vast, sprawling estate in the desolate Burial Mounds, by building tool or working sheds, or even a proper outhouse. So, having the right tools in hand would help him clear the land, take measurements, plan the construction work, and make preparations for a busy season of stone and woodwork. 

 

However, everything on Wei Ying’s list described in great length and detail would be for naught, if only he could find that little notebook hidden somewhere in the workroom. It contained all the plans, drawings and ideas he’d jotted down during summer; proof that he did not idle his time away by daydreaming or loitering around Yiling City for quality wines. He remembered stowing the book along with the guqin and its manuscripts - therefore, his first priority for the coming winter season was to equip himself with the said metal tools, then perform the much-needed spring cleaning to extract the crucial book from the mountain of stuff (also, to finally return guqin to its sex-satiated owner), and lastly, start working his ass off because his reputation of being the Handyman Of The House was truly at stake after a year’s worth of dawdling.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji’s heavy footsteps jolted Wei Ying from his reverie. The older man too, prepared to set out for a journey through the woods despite the worsening climate. He adjusted fur-lined sleeves, secured a few more button knots, and stood up straighter than ever. Clothes and long lush hair flared and flowed (almost elegantly, regally) every time the winds picked up. Seen from afar, Lan Wang Ji was an indomitable towering figure set against the gloomy, windswept landscape. 

 

“I’m going now,” he said coolly when he trudged past Wei Ying.

 

“Ah… L-Lan Zhan?” the latter called out with uncertainty. “Do you really need to go to Huang village again? That’s about two hours’ walk from here… in this weather!” the younger man exclaimed, “and we’ve already stocked up with enough provisions to last the whole winter!” 

 

The older man stopped in his tracks. He pursed his lips, turned his head slightly to give an icy glance, before his visage returned to its expressionless mask.

 

Wei Ying pouted sadly, disheartened at being ignored.

 

“Lan Zhan, I know you’re upset. I already said that I was sorry…” he whined as he sat on his haunches. He picked up a pebble and absently rolled it between his fingers. 

 

“You can stay if you want,” Wang Ji offered, without an ounce of emotion in his voice.

 

“But I want to go to Liao’s hardware store.”

 

“Then go,” came the harsh reply. The pebble dropped, soundless.

 

“Lan Zhan!” he called out twice, in vain, when Wang Ji marched ahead. 

 

It wasn’t really about who wanted to go, or to where.

 

In desperation, Wei Ying rushed forward on bended knees and managed to grab one of Wang Ji’s legs. “Can’t we talk about this?” he pleaded with his face buried into the older man’s garments.

 

“Please?” he clutched and shook the limb with a death tight grip, despite the owner’s unyielding struggle threatened to kick him in the jaw and slam him to the ground.

 

“Let… go! You can do whatever you want, and you don’t have to follow me anymore!” Lan Wang Ji shouted back in a rare display of fury. His patience wore dangerously thin at Wei Ying’s childish demeanour and uncharacteristic thigh-grabbing antics. 

 

“No! Please, don’t go! Not like this!” Wei Ying begged, his voice shrill and frantic. He tugged hard, and Wang Ji stumbled a few steps when he lost his balance. The older man let out an exasperated growl.

 

“Get. Off.” Wang Ji’s voice was dangerously low and seething with anger. For the first time since his return to the living world, Wei Ying felt immense fear and helplessness. He instinctively released his grip and stared at his own hands in horror. 

 

His fingertips throbbed with lingering warmth from Wang Ji’s clothes. His robes fell open when his shoulders slumped, and he shivered as wind swirled around the quiet courtyard. The tension between him and Wang Ji was as thick as winter’s deepest snowfall, and he could almost taste the bitterness in the air with his tongue.

 

Lan Wang Ji glared at the pitiful kneeling form for a full minute. 

 

“Don’t leave me,” Wei Ying’s wavering voice broke into a sob, and a single tear rolled down his cheeks.

 

No response. Another gust blew, sending clouds of dust and dry gravel rising into the air.

 

Wei Ying sniffled loudly, uncertain whether from the raw emotions that choked his throat, or if his nose itched from the dusty air. The silence was deafening, and he needed to fill the void with something, anything; a thousand words to clung to his lips, of begging for forgiveness and compassion, yet he was terrified to speak any of them lest he infuriates the Er Gongzi and destroy whatever that was left of his happiness.

 

“If… If you don’t care about me, then... there’s no one else in this world who would…” he cried softly and his voice faltered. Fingers clenched into fists by his side, and he dared not look up because he was afraid that he might lose everything if he sees his lover.

 

“Xian Xian is wrong, please… please forgive this fragile, flawed man,” he whispered, and then shut his eyes. He held his breath and waited on aching knees; here was a man whose fate hung by a thread, and he hoped that judgement would be swift, either in the form of the kindest or cruelest words, or of Bichen’s cold unforgiving blade going through his heart - the result would still be the same, anyway.

 

Wei Ying had to sniffle another time to hold back the tears running down his eyes and nose. He swallowed, hard. Saltiness mixed with bitterness, becoming sour when his stomach tightened with severe anxiety, and he felt the acid rise.

 

It seemed an eternity had passed, before Lan Wang Ji finally spoke.

 

“Promise.”

 

It took a moment for Wei Ying to figure out what the older man said. Countless possibilities raced across his mind, he didn’t know and couldn’t choose the right ones, and so he did not hesitate to utter everything that he had held back with bated breath. Words spilled and poured through, unbridled and overflowing as chaotically as his panicked thoughts.

 

“I promise! I promise! I will not repeat the same mistake ever! I promise not to do it anymore! I swear if it happens again, then the Heavens can take my life immediately and throw my soul back to the dead, never to resurrect, not in a million lifetimes! I promise to be good, I promise to be a better person, I promise--”

 

He didn’t realize that he held up a three-finger salute as he declared his promises, until he felt the other man grasping those three fingers. At that moment, he opened his eyes in shock, only to be greeted by the wonderfully heartwarming sight of thick broom/Bichen-calloused fingers clutching his hands and a soft, concerned expression on his face.

 

His resolve to face his worst fears crumbled needlessly with the forgiveness reflecting in Wang Ji’s eyes. When Wang Ji intertwined his fingers with the same hand that held the salute of spoken promises, Wei Ying cried .

 

Lan Wang Ji knelt and embraced Wei Ying with his other arm, shielding the latter from the cold with his wide sleeve, and at the same time enveloping both of them in a cocoon of relief and warmth. As the younger man heaved and shook with ugly bawling and hiccupy sobs, Wang Ji soothed Wei Ying by rubbing circles and patted on the back, softly whispering “Don’t cry, don’t cry.”

 

When Wei Ying finally calmed down enough, Wang Ji said, “Promise me that you’ll never do things behind my back.” 

 

Wei Ying nodded fervently, not letting go of their locked fingers. He looked like a mess - puffy red eyes and swollen eyebags, a face covered with tears and snot, his long bangs blew wildly in all directions along with the dishevelled ungroomed hair, and his rumpled clothes were smudged on the knees where he had knelt on the ground for too long.

 

“Promise me that you’ll be truthful, and there will be no secrets between us.”

 

Again, Wei Ying nodded.

 

“Promise me that you’ll never say to the Heavens that they can freely take your life away,” Wang Ji exhaled loudly as though in defiance, and his gaze hardened visibly, “because you’re worth so much more than that.” The older man leaned closer, until Wei Ying could feel hot breath caressing his flushed cheeks. 

 

“Don’t forget, Wei Wuxian, that you belong to me,” Wang Ji growled, golden-specked eyes stared straight into brown ones, glimmering brightly with intent and determination.

 

Wei Ying shivered at the last word, felt his earlobes turning pink and his heartbeat thundered instantly. He wanted to scream his answer, surrender to his lover’s gentle demands, to be enslaved to Wang Ji’s whims in exchange for the hard-earned forgiveness and a brighter, more fulfilling future for their blossoming love. 

 

However, yielding like that would be too little, too easy. 

 

Wei Ying edged closer to his lover. “Then.. Lan Er Gongzi , make a promise that you belong to me too, and that you’ll stay by my side,” Wei Ying whispered back, heavy lidded eyes closing, knuckles relaxing, first coils of desire and want rising from within, as he embraced back the older man - and finally, finally captured Wang Ji’s lips in a hungry, greedy kiss to seal their vow.

 

“Mn. Forever.”

Chapter Text

One of Wang Ji’s favourite pastimes is to spend some quality time with his new pets - a growing family of wild white and dark grey rabbits that Wei Wuxian caught after the fluffy denizens raided their vegetable patch. The price of two lost juicy carrots was well-compensated, at least for the owner of the patch, who fell in love with those undeniably cute creatures at first sight, and surely, at the first touch. 

 

He loves to feed them with surplus fresh herbs foraged from the forests, leafy greens from their garden, a few carefully-selected fruit slices, and unsurprisingly, chopped carrot tops too - because all harvested carrots are entirely destined for either their cooking pot, or to Old Merchant Zhu’s market stall. 

 

He also loves to keep them clean by cuddling each animal to keep them calm, use a moist ragcloth dipped into Qishan’s thermal springwaters, and rub dirt away from their plump rumps to flicking ears. As the rabbits were housed together with a flock of domesticated jungle fowls in a simple coop and its enclosure of loose gravel and grass, it is not uncommon to find feathers or bits of soil stuck to their fur. Wang Ji has the privileged pleasure of grooming the squirming warm masses with fingertips, occasionally getting a friendly warning nibble when he secretly lets his fingers roam and dig deep to caress the soft flesh underneath luxurious woolly coats.

 

When no one is looking (there never was), Wang Ji would act out his innermost fantasies of utmost perverseness allowed by his Gusu Lan-bound discipline. He would hold up a struggling rabbit, and at the most opportune moment, he would steal a lick to its nose, and deftly avoid lightning-quick swipes of angry paws. When the rabbit becomes tired, he would nuzzle and rub his face into the squealing animal’s belly, and enjoy a few minutes of a face full of warm rabbit fur.

 

He is usually too absorbed with the rabbits as he sits cross-legged by their outdoor pool with piles of those animals around him, that he forgets his worries for the day, and becomes unaware of his surroundings - such as of a figure hidden in the shadows of trees, silently watching him from a distance with great interest.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“Lan Wang Ji, please lewd the bunnies!”

 

The dry ragcloth that brushed against warm, moist fur, stills. 

 

Wang Ji spins around with wide-open eyes at the person who started this blasphemous conversation, and his facial expression speaks of unrestrained incredulity, horror, shock (and a slightly gaping mouth) - all rolled into one. 

 

Suddenly, there is a bright explosion and a loud “Poof!”, and Wang Ji squeezes his eyes shut from the blinding light. The still-wet rabbit in his arms scampers away, terrified, and the ragcloth drops to the grass.

 

When he opens his eyes and smells acrid smoke, he is bewildered by the sight that greets him; Wei Wuxian, face blackened from soot except for a wide toothy grin and a piece of handkerchief-sized cloth in his hand covered with bits of smouldering paper ash.

 

The younger man shakes the ash off from the cloth, and he proudly reveals his handiwork - there is a slightly blurred and ash-smeared, but clearly identifiable monochrome image of His Eminence, Han Guang Jun, holding a rabbit in his arms against a backdrop of forests and thick grass by the pool - and to the older man’s unspoken dismay, the dumbstruck stare paired with a gaping mouth on the not-so-handsome-anymore face, is etched into the cloth as well. 

 

Wei Wuxian hands the cloth to Wang Ji with glee, and the latter grabs it in a heartbeat. He examines it with great interest and scrutiny, marvelling at how his portrait was captured so accurately (though fuzzy around the edges), touching what looks like dried burnt ink on the surface, and periodically sniffing the material (he wrinkles his nose at the scent of scorched pinewood). The details are astoundingly fine - including his facial features, the folds of his robes, the furry outline of the rabbit, the numerous blades of grass in the foreground, the way sunlight gleamed and reflected from the pool at the side, even each tree trunk could be counted, and he does not miss the mountains and clouds at the back. Such an impossibly detailed masterpiece could never be created by the mere hands of man, not even the most gifted artists in the Middle Kingdom of their era.

 

He couldn’t fathom how the picture could be drawn or printed on the cloth, so he tilted his chin upwards, curious, wordless and in askance of the manner of such sorcery.

 

Wei Wuxian had already rubbed off most of the powdery soot from his face with his sleeves, and smudged his clothes in the process (Wang Ji tells himself that he should remember to wash them soon when he does the laundry that night, because he doesn’t like to see black spots dirtying the pristine-white robes that used to belong to him). Then, Wei Wuxian reaches into a pocket in his garments, and Wang Ji stares unmovingly, eager to learn the secrets of the mind-blowing act.

 

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Wei Wuxian remarks, amusement twinkling in his eyes. “Haha! Watch, observe and learn from the undisputable prodigy known as His Royal Greatness Yiling Patriarch!” he shouts with annoying pride, “who cleverly breaks the deepest taboos in the realm of cultivators, and redefines how magic can and should be used!” He pulls out three pieces of paper of different colours - red, yellow and black.

 

Curiosity gets the better of him, so Lan Wang Ji quickly rises from his seat and leans closer to study them. Wei Wuxian enjoys the attention from the older man, and he reciprocates to close the distance until their foreheads nearly touched. 

 

“See, the red one is a modified Eye Talisman,” the younger man explains when he holds up the first piece. Wang Ji nods; there are plenty of such talismans glued to the walls of their cave-home and on the surface of nearby structures such as the chicken coop and fruit tree trunks. These talismans, made by Wei Wuxian and which bear the mystic writing of “eyes” above a hand-drawn diagram of a stylized eyeball, serve as all-seeing monitors around their estate to detect intruders or provide visual live feed to the caster. He notes that the sketch of the eyeball on the talisman in Wei Wuxian’s hand  looks different - it was a crudely-drawn cat’s eye, and not a human’s. 

 

As if he read Wang Ji’s thoughts, Wei Wuxian adds smugly, “Yes, this one sees the finest details regardless of distance, and works well even in the dark. It can focus and hold onto an image, and reflect it outwards as light, which brings me to the second one--” and flips up the second piece.

 

“... Fire Talisman?” Wang Ji murmurs, questioningly.

 

Wei Wuxian lightly shakes the yellow-coloured paper. “Correct. I took some from the kitchen since they’re not used anyway when we’ve got enough firewood for the stove,” he said and grins sheepishly. “I know I’ve made a little too many of these last year, so they’re a bit aged and dog-eared by now... but the reduced power is exactly what I needed!” he exclaims. 

 

Wang Ji gives Wei Wuxian a dubious look, then down to the latter’s smudged sleeves. Wei Wuxian tries to hide his hand and sleeve behind his back from prying eyes, and his grin grows awkwardly wider.

 

“Ah.. I still need to lessen the fire’s intensity, so that it doesn’t blow up… like what you saw just now.”

 

Wei Wuxian clears his throat. He pulls out the last piece of paper. It isn’t a talisman, rather, it’s just plain paper coated with a thin layer of black, sticky substance-- “That’s actually the usual lampblack with a special glue added to it. I ordered the customized glue from Liao’s Store, and it contains some gunpowder,” he points at the shiny, glazed surface of the flapping paper. Wang Ji smells a strange mix of fragrant pine resin and the unmistakable chemical pungentness. He mulls over the three pieces of paper, as tendrils of ideas start to connect with one another.

 

Suddenly, Wei Wuxian plucks the cloth from Wang Ji’s hands and takes a couple of strides back. “Stop thinking too much, and let me show you how this amazing invention works!” he shouts with glee, and throws the talismans and cloth into the air. Wang Ji’s heart nearly panicked at the loss of his (first ever) portrait; despite the ugly mugshot, he still treasures whatever Wei Wuxian gifts to him with his own hands.

 

The younger man quickly chants something mystical under his breath, and points two fingers at the fluttering pieces. Wang Ji realizes that an altered version of Binding Spell has been cast, and watches fascinatedly at a bright blue thread drawn out from Wei Wuxian’s fingers, and penetrates through the centers all four pieces of paper and cloth. They float in mid-air, stitched and held tightly by the spell.

 

Wei Wuxian makes loud whooping sounds as he spins on his heel, and the talismans swivel around him as wildly as the caster’s movements.. He curls his fingers into a fist, and they move closer his face; he relaxes his grip, and they move further away. To Lan Wang Ji, it seems that the younger man has mastered the finer controls of the spell.

 

“You know, Lan Zhan, I could never understand why cultivators around the Middle Kingdom stick to using one talisman at a time,” he nods upwards haughtily, and gestures towards the hovering arranged pieces - first, the Eye Talisman, followed by the Fire Talisman, then the black piece of paper and finally, the reverse side of the cloth that held his (precious) picture. “Was there ever such a Magical Law enacted by the gods, or are we all just at the whims and fancies of stubborn sages who spend all day drawing up useless rules on the Council’s desk?” he asks with a mocking tone.

 

Lan Wang Ji is speechless. To think of breaking a sacred rule of the Grand Cultivation Council - was impossible even for the venerable Han Guang Jun, and yet Wei Wuxian is doing just that , right in front of his eyes. (note: his final act of kissing his lover in front of the Council on the day he resigned as the Chief, was in essence, not a taboo although it did cause an uproar among the bearded wrinkled old men - because same-sex couples do exist in the cultivation world).

 

“We used to spend hours making kite-trains for archery practice in Yunmeng, so this is really child’s play for me,” Wei Wuxian continues, and he wiggles his fingers, causing the talismans to follow suit. “It’s amazing that I’m the first person on earth to have thought of this - to use multiple talismans simultaneously !” he laughs heartily.

 

“And… when everything is in place,” he opens his palm and the arranged pieces rise higher. Each piece strains against the thread that binds them, and the cat’s eye in the Eye Talisman twitched as if to focus its other-worldly gaze on Wei Wuxian’s face, “I just need to say the magic phrase…”

 

Wei Wuxian turns midway, so that his back faces Wang Ji and the Eye Talisman stares at both of them.

 

Lan Wang Ji holds his breath, tormented by the long-awaited reveal of a grand miracle.

 

“I, Wei Wuxian, hereby… 

 

LEWD THE BUNNIES !!!”

 

The older man chokes and coughs, Wei Wuxian snaps his fingers while laughing jovially, and the bright blue energy thread breaks. The Eye Talisman flashes and disintegrates into a pinpoint of focused light, and immediately activates the Fire Talisman, which in turn, explodes (with a “Poof!”) and literally dissolves the lampblack-soaked paper behind it into a terrifyingly-expanding fiery blazing ball that threatened to swallow both men. Wang Ji had to squint his eyes as his world was illuminated, for a very brief moment, with brilliant golden incandescence as bright as Wei Wuxian’s mischievous smile.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji clutched the cloth with trembling fingers. Here was the most beautiful picture he had ever seen and silently, he swore to all 108 known local gods that he would cherish this masterpiece for a lifetime. A joyful image of his cute laughing Wei Ying was printed on the cloth. The picture was taken at a high angle such that his lover’s handsome youthful face, framed by lush long hair, occupied nearly the entire piece of fabric, his sparkling eyes crinkled with happiness, with a perfectly-formed nose, his luscious lips barely masking a row of shiny flawless teeth, and that small but very clear mole just underneath those same lips (he nearly wanted to kiss the cloth on that spot).

 

There was a small and goofy-looking flabbergasted face at the back of Wei Ying at the top corner of the cloth, which he tried to ignore - and of course, that annoyingly ugly mugshot on the reverse side of the cloth; these disgraceful and tasteless aspects of the ‘masterpiece’ will not be spoken of, for the rest of this story.

 

Wei Ying emerged from the thicket with a small basket containing two large napa cabbages. His sleeves were dirtier after he wiped off more soot off his face; he bore the brunt of the dazzling explosion which fortunately didn’t burn anything or anyone, but left a whirlwind of smoke and ashes from the destroyed papers in its wake.

 

“Aren’t I a genius? I can make more of such pictures, so you don’t have to hold onto it if it’s not that good—”

 

“No, I want to keep it,” Wang Ji interrupted, a little too abruptly  and anxiously. He quickly pocketed the cloth into his inner garment, determined not to let go of his latest Wei Ying-branded treasure (among his growing collection of many others).

 

Wei Ying laughed cheerfully before settling down with the heavy basket to sit next to the older man. The sight and smell of freshly-harvested cabbages attracted the rabbits, and within minutes, they crowded around the couple. Wang Ji continued to clean and groom (and cuddle) the rabbits by the pool, while Wei Ying fed their constantly-nibbling mouths with bits of cabbage leaves. Both men relaxed under the shade of trees during the peaceful, clear and sunny afternoon.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“Lan Zhan! Look at me! Look at me!”

 

Wang Ji was used to his lover’s antics, and calmly released the last rabbit he had cleaned from his arms. The little puffball sprinted away as fast as it could on all four legs. It squealed when Wei Ying stepped a little too close, and with a mighty leap, it bound into the surrounding bushes and disappeared.

 

The older man sighed. He would have to find the rabbit while wading through the thick grasses around Burial Mounds, later. 

 

“What is it…” and stilled when he finally looked up.

 

Two pieces of broad, long napa cabbage leaves, each skewered by a stick, were stuck loosely on Wei Ying’s hair on both sides of his face and roughly above the ears. Wei Ying posed with two loosely clenched fists like paws, one raised higher than the other, and he blinked several times adorably. 

 

“Do I look like a rabbit?” the younger man chuckled. Dressed in his white clothes, yes, he did look like one, Wang Ji told himself.

 

Lan Wang Ji could not control his own inner squealing and broke into a very rare and delightful smile. “M-Mn..” he struggled to stop his lips from curving upwards further.

 

Wei Ying looked around as if to see if there was anyone around - of course there were none, except possibly the presence of scampering rabbits. Assured that no one was looking, he turned around and went down on all fours. Amazingly - and this time Wang Ji grinned - there was a tuft of rabbit fur, rolled into an orange-sized ball, stuck on his clothes on his butt. 

 

Wei Ying looked back to gauge the older man’s reaction, and he was pleased.

 

“I collected them while you were busy grooming the bunnies, and coincidentally, there was enough to make this,” he said with a sultry voice and swayed his hips in a very suggestive humping motion. Wang Ji stared transfixed at the improvised rabbit tail, mesmerized by its pure-white softness and the way it moved. He felt a stir in his groin, and for a moment he was unsure if it was due to Wei Ying or if was due to the white ball of fluff dancing in his line of sight.

 

“Do… I look like a rabbit?” the younger man whispered huskily, tail and hips calling the older man to come closer, come closer, you know you want it, it cooed wordlessly.

 

“M...Mn…” Wang Ji swallowed hard and he crept towards his lover. He stumbled a little when Wei Ying pushed his robes to the side, raised his hips, and pulled down his pants in one swift move. Naughty Wei Ying did not put on any underwear that afternoon, and his exposed pale bare bottom soon rubbed the underside of Wang Ji’s hardening arousal. Wang Ji did not hesitate to squeeze the inviting buttcheeks with both of his hands, spread them apart and dry-humped his clothed cock against the puckered glistening entrance. Wei Ying moaned with profound desire, excitement rising in tandem with the anticipation of the afternoon's first lovemaking.

 

“Lan Zhan, please lewd this bunny?”

 

Wang Ji’s heartbeat thundered in his ears, rivulets of sweat rolled down from his forehead, his breathing picked up in intensity and speed, and he felt his blood boiling from liquid desire that rose from within his body. He did not waste time and hurriedly pulled down his own pants, kicking them off clumsily to the side.

 

Wei Ying growled lustfully when his lover placed his warm, broad hands over his, quivering, muscled thighs on both sides of his own, and felt his whole body embraced, captured, enveloped by Lan Wang Ji - the sounds of throaty grunts and heavy breathing, the sweet scent of a man intent on fucking him deeply into the ground, and the heated desire between them to mate endlessly into the sunset. 

 

Wei Ying cried with pleasure when Wang Ji finally mounted him.

Chapter Text

Tap, tap-tap-tap, tap, tap…

 

Lan Wang Ji flicks wooden beads nimbly up and down an abacus, and when he completes a particular sum, he writes out the total on a particular page. Feeling satisfied that the calculations are correct, he closes the book and sets it aside. Then, he pockets the few pieces of silver lying on the table top, and proceeds to pour a cup of pu’er tea from a steaming pot he had prepared earlier. 

 

With utmost Gusu-style decorum, he first appreciates the fine quality of the brew by taking a deep breath of its rich woody aroma, before taking a delicate sip. He smiles imperceptibly; the well-aged tea has been steeped at the right temperature and time, and the earthy taste is perfect for washing down the small plate of crispy shrimp and lotus root fritters he had made as a snack.

 

Mild cluck-cluck sounds softly calls for his attention. He nods knowingly, and drops a few crumbs. The hens happily peck on the ground for the tasty morsels, and soon a few more birds join the growing flock surrounding their human owner.

 

As Wang ji takes his second sip of tea, he relishes the constant breeze that provides some respite from the unusually warm afternoon heat. He leans against the backrest of the bench built using deadwood from the ‘Mounds, and enjoys the view of the courtyard under the shade of peach trees.

 

Wei Wuxian, dressed in a simple commoner’s light blue tunic and a pair of dark trousers, hummed and danced gracefully by the side of the lotus pond. He wore a makeshift hat made of a single large lotus leaf and tied by a handwoven string, probably to shield himself from the sun - but as he twirled delicately on his heels and his hands made intricate, sweeping movements, Wang Ji thought the younger man with his face partially hidden in the shadows, looked beautiful, demure, and mysterious.

 

Then, Wei Ying looks up to bask in sunlight, spreads his arms, and begins to sing. His voice is as clear as day, sparkling, bright. When he reaches the high notes, he shifts to Peking opera-style falsetto. Wang Ji closes his eyes in concentration, fully absorbed in the powerful, luxuriant and rounded timbre, and the raw emotions described within each syllable. He feels his heart beat and eardrums vibrate in tune of a heart-rending, tragic story - it describes a young man who told no lies and did no wrong, but was nevertheless widely misunderstood and persecuted by the people around him, despite his promise to loved ones that he would always uphold justice with an undying, loyal heart. 

 

As Wei Ying’s melodic tale eventually comes to an end, Wang Ji opens his eyes and breathes in deeply to hold back a multitude of feelings that could not be described by mere words nor be categorically coloured in shades of black, white, even grey. He raises his cup to toast to this man’s journey through life, death and resurrection, who now finds joy living with newfound freedom in a world that has largely forgotten his face, but not his name. Storytellers continue to spin wild tales of his past deeds, though Wang Ji knows a few truths that endure the passage of time - that this man continues to live a care-free life, often seen playing the flute, and accompanied with a cup of wine.

 

With sixteen years gone by in a blink of an eye… was everything just a dream?

 

He downs the third and final sip. The remnants of pu’er leaves, soaked for too long at the bottom of the ceramic vessel, leaves an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying made a courteous bow at his one-man audience, and wiped sweat from his brow and the sides of his face; the little entertaining gig he’d just performed made him pant from the heat and exertion. He had composed the song on his own, and learnt the beautiful moves from watching dance troupes that routinely perform in Yiling’s restaurants and teahouses. He enjoyed observing Wang Ji’s enthralled reactions, and secretly, he hoped to do an encore in the near future with a few additional passages of flute music.

 

He noticed the food and beverage laid out on the table, and had an idea. He trotted back to their cave-home, and along the way, managed to mischievously snag an innocent hen off the ground. She shrieked in terror and flapped her wings in vain, while she was swung high into the air, accompanied with obnoxious laughter from her (much-maligned) owner and “Did you enjoy my song? You did? Of course you did! Then, please lay more eggs for me tomorrow morning!”. The poor bird was fortunately, gently returned to safe grounds, after which she ran for her life towards her other (so much more beloved) owner.

 

(...and still, to this day, Wei Wuxian complains that animals tend to avoid him, while Lan Wang Ji has no problems to pick and play with any of them.)

 

The gratuitous spectacle was amusing, though Lan Wang Ji remained unfazed.

 

After a few minutes of searching the kitchen, Wei Ying emerged from their home with a small clay jar. As he neared the table, he saw that Wang Ji was busy tying his hair (again) although there were (always) a few errant strands that kept sticking out in odd directions and to his skin (which looked ticklish and uncomfortable, even to a passer-by). It was indeed a hot afternoon, and the older man had spent the better part of the day with cooking, household chores and back-breaking farm work, so he was fairly covered in sweat and grime.

 

Wang Ji automatically moved a little to the side of the garden bench when he heard Wei Ying’s  crunching footsteps. The hens that had crowded around Wang Ji’s legs made frightened warning calls and fled instantly. Wei Ying sighed at the loss of company as he sat next to his partner.  “Lan Zhan, how’s the tea?” Wei Ying casually asked and placed the clay jar next to the plate of snacks.

 

Lan Wang Ji nodded with a calm “Mn”, which caused a few more locks to slide away from the ring of white ribbon in his hands. The older man groaned in faint frustration, and Wei Ying nonchalantly reached out to help. He was pleased when Wang Ji relaxed and allowed him to take the ribbon without any form of protest or feelings of embarrassment. He remembered how Wang Ji combs and ties his hair every morning, so he had no difficulty to reciprocate the simple act of keeping his lover well-groomed.

 

“Liang laoban said his pu’er tea leaves are sourced from the Yunnan hills to the south, and are of the highest quality that five silver pieces can buy, weight for weight, when compared to all other types of tea,” he said and then chuckled, “I think he’s just bragging and trying to make a sale, but I got a better deal off him.” 

 

He nudged the jar towards Wang Ji, and continued tying the latter’s hair. It was quite a monumental task to bunch together heavy, waist-length locks of hair into a ponytail.

 

The older man stared at the innocuous-looking container for a while, before carefully lifted its lid. He saw a clump of inedible-looking brownish red paste inside, and with an unnoticeable look of disdain on his face, he started to close the jar.

 

“Ahh.. Lan Zhan! Not so fast! This is plum sauce from Liang laoban’s teahouse. He offered it  when I said that his tea wasn’t as good as his rival’s. Apparently, I was the ‘lucky customer for the day’, and with the purchase of a pack of pu’er , I could get a jar of sauce at half its cost for a rock-bottom price of just three silver pieces,” Wei Ying explained, excitement evident in his voice. Of course, he also intentionally omitted the fact that for three silver pieces, the amount of plum sauce that one could buy should, by all reasonable accounts, fill more than a clay jar. Liang laoban was a shrewd businessman, so he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play at his game too. 

 

“Wei Ying, the tea leaves used at Liang and Hu’s teahouses are sourced from the same merchant,” Wang Ji simply stated and raised an eyebrow. The container of the now-identified sauce looked more assuring than before, so he left it open although he still eyed it suspiciously.

 

The younger man snickered. “Exactly! So I told Liang laoban that if he continued to offer inferior free products just to draw in sales, he will eventually lose his customers and wind up his business within the next few seasons.”

 

Wang Ji sighed tiredly with a soundless, “You have the gall to call the laoban’s products ‘inferior’. How bold and shameless can you be.” (it was a statement, not a question).

 

Wei Ying lightly pulled a final loop of white ribbon and put the finishing touches on his partner’s hair. The longest locks from above Wang Ji’s temples were woven into twin loose braids to hold up nearly the entire length of hair, and where they intersect, Wei Ying placed a bow-tie ponytail to keep them together. It looked refreshingly neat. 

 

“Lan Zhan, you don’t have to worry, I just wanted to provoke him into taking… err, positive action..., and turn his misfortune to work in both our favours, that’s all.”

 

Wang Ji snorted, with an unspoken, “At his expense, of course. How outrageous.”

 

“You know me too well, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying quipped at their mostly one-sided conversation with a short laugh, and waved a hand dismissively, seemingly able to read his partner’s mind. He smoothed down the older man’s lush hair, and admired his latest creative design - especially the cute and extra-large ribbon bow.

 

Then, Wei Wuxian lightly tugs at the hem of his partner’s light brown shirt, wordlessly signalling the older man to “lift it up”. Wang Ji obliged and rolled up the back of his garment.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji enjoys being in the limelight of Wei Ying’s eyes. The younger man had fished out a bottle of oil from a pocket, and started to apply liberally on the old scars on his back. He catches a whiff of therapeutic herbs blended with floral perfumes, and relaxes into Wei Ying’s soothing touch. 

 

“So, I took the jar of sauce and said to him, ‘Look at this, your sauce is so plain and flavourless, how can you even think of giving this to your patrons?’”, Wei Ying remarks and he even raises his voice to mimic the expression of an upset customer. Next, he switches to the low gruffy voice of Liang laoban .

 

“Oh, Young Master, what should I do? My tea is never as good as that bastard Hu’s, and now my latest product offering is bound to fail too!

 

Rest assured, Liang laoban , because I know what your plum sauce lacks. I have a secret recipe handed down from generations that can make the sauce extremely tasty that I can guarantee you will have many return customers! Let me help you, in recognition of our long-lasting friendship and the many visits I’ve made to your humble establishment!

 

Thank the gods, Young Master, I am eternally grateful and owe you for saving this failing business! Pray tell, what will you do with my plum sauce, and what can I give to you in exchange for your kind deed?

 

Ah, Liang laoban , you flatter me too much! I cannot divulge my family’s secret but I can tell you at least this: something spicy, something tart, and something very flavourful can be added - and these ingredients can be found in most kitchens, although surely, you must understand that the exact amounts of each, and the techniques used, must remain forever with me. Let me use your kitchen and I will let you sample the results of my efforts within the hour!”

 

While Wei Ying skillfully and humorously alternates between the hoarse voice of Liang laoban and a shrilly version of Wei Wuxian in a monologue not unlike a classical crosstalk performance, Lan Wang Ji entertains himself with images of the young man gesticulating wildly behind him. He does not mind Wei Ying’s overdramatic theatrics, since the latter was doing wonderful things on his back.

 

As Wei Ying continues to narrate his fantastical story and unabashedly reveals how he improved the sauce ala Yunmeng-style, he draws circles, verticals, horizontals, diagonals, and squiggly lines, writes the names of the ingredients on his back (nnggh, scratching harder over there, yes over there), even prods, pokes and lightly digs into the skin to emphasize his conversation with the laoban (yes, yes, a little more to the left, please). The healing oil rub soothes muscle aches from labour-intensive farm work, and alleviates pain and swelling from insect bites because he was often shirtless when temperatures rise in the late morning. Broad sweeping movements of fingernails up and down the expanse of his well-muscled back elicit soft, satisfied nnnhs from the older man, as the day’s discomforts and itches are grazed away, tenderly and lovingly.

 

At some point, Wei Ying’s fingers trace along reddened welts on his shoulder blades; five tight lines on each side. They prickled and Wang Ji is reminded of how bold and dominating his lover can be, after downing just two jars of Laozu’s Smile over dinner. He couldn’t remember much in the aftermath, though he was convinced that he was probably coerced - no, forced - to stay inside Wei Ying for hours without any breaks in-between, as evidenced by the lingering feeling of being pleasantly emptied upon waking up, and a throbbing, numb waist. 

 

The alcohol did wonders to Wei Ying’s aggressiveness and libido, and apparently, loosened his inhibitions even as their lovemaking spiralled uncontrollably downwards into extremely taboo and depraved acts.

 

At least that was what Lan Wang Ji thought.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

- The night before -

 

Shortly before nine o’ clock, Lan Wang Ji huffed and groaned when he dutifully pumped at a calm, steady pace into his lover’s pillow-padded ass, missionary style. Wei Ying giggled drunkenly as he was drilled into the mattress by the pistoning shaft, then lifted up and fucked deeply again. He happily wrapped his legs around Wang Ji’s hips and grinned widely, “I caught you! I caught you, you naughty boy!”. It seemed harmless at first, like lovers playfully rolling and tumbling on the bed after an exciting foreplay of mutual masturbations and sexy blowjobs. 

 

Wang Ji thought Wei Ying’s thighs and calves were especially strong in holding his hips, despite the latter’s shorter, leaner stature, as it became increasingly difficult to pull out after each vigorous thrust. He closed his eyes, jaws slacked, back arched, as pleasure mounted and he felt the first tendrils of an incoming climax. It burned a trail from tightening ballsacks and grew into delicious contractions that danced along his melting, pulsating arousal. He moaned involuntarily as he was squeezed and milked rhythmically by fleshy folds of tight ass-muscles, which sent electric blazing through every nerve ending along his spine and spread gloriously throughout his groin.

 

Wei Ying seemed to sense this pivotal moment, and gracefully lifted his lower body so that the next, final plunge reached into the deepest recesses of his youthful body. Lan Wang Ji was held immobile on all fours on top of his lover, as he erupted into a powerful rippling orgasm inside his lovely Wei Ying.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Onetwothree.

 

Four.

 

Is it good?... Five. Surely, it must be good.

 

Filling me up just like that, does it feel like you’ve died and reached the heavens?… Six. 

 

Lovely, lovely little boy, drowning in your own pleasure... Seven. My, my you’re still going strong.

 

Do you know how defenceless you look right now? Exposing your naked self to the moonlight, your pale throat looks so vulnerable, and your shuddering body is ripe for the taking ... Eight.

 

Mine, mine, mine. Your body, your soul, your essence… Nine. Can you still give me more, even as I drain every single last drop?

 

You cannot escape. You’re mine. 

 

Ten.

 

The number of times you release your seed, is the same number of marks I shall claw on your heated skin and scar your back. From this point onward, memories will forsake you.

 

These ten marks bear witness to our intimate love. Remember that, if nothing else.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji took a full minute to regain his composure. Their bedroom was silent, tranquil, save for the sounds of two men trying to catch their breaths. He felt a twinge of pain on his sore back; Wei Ying clawed well with his fingernails, and he tried to raise his body to arch his back in an attempt to straighten the cricks from spine to rear, and also to lessen the discomfort radiating from ten rising welts. 

 

He froze in surprise - he couldn’t move, couldn’t pull out; Wei Ying continued to hold him in a death grip with his legs. The skin where their bodies joined felt sticky and sweaty; the air was still, warmed by their exertion, and began to feel suffocating. He struggled against what seemed like mountains pressing down on his limbs. 

 

By the time he realized he was locked in an inescapable warm, wet sexual prison, it was too late.

 

His eyes widened when he noticed yellow paper talismans clung on his hands and legs. Rustling sounds told him that a few more fluttered and landed on the small of his back, and he was immediately paralyzed by their massive weight.

 

Stunned, he could only turn his head helplessly to face Wei Ying, and was greeted by a sight he hadn’t seen in more than sixteen years  - the unmistakable vengeful sneer of Yiling Patriarch on the night he emerged from his birthplace, high above rooftops and the unforgettable inhuman crimson glow behind his eyes.

 

Lan Wang Ji’s blood ran cold.

 

Yiling Patriarch Wei Wuxian grins cruelly, and whistled.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Good boy, such a good boy, you didn’t even scream as my little creations emerged from the shadows of the night. Were you scared speechless? Has terror muted your cries for help?

 

The first whistling note, clear and ear-splitting, opens otherworldly doors for evil, vicious spirits to come forth. 

 

Do you feel fear or disgust at the thick stench of their bloodlust, when the cold, slimy tentacle-like wisps crawl and slide all over your defenseless, quivering body? They pause at all your unguarded meridians, relentlessly attacking and leaving behind multiple bite-marks on your vital areas, where copious amounts of sexual poisons are injected into your bloodstream, thus flaring your lust, and control your haze-pleasured consciousness. 

 

Your will weakens, and you surrender to my sadistic desires. You growl like a beast driven mad by the need breed and unload your potent seeds deep inside me.

 

The second note, shrilly and screeching, summons those who remained in the afterlife with lingering twisted, perverse intentions. They materialize from thin air, whisper seductive, vulgar words into your ears until your face flushes with unimaginable perverse scenes playing inside your mind. Do you fantasize of a young, sixteen year old Wei Ying spread-eagled beneath you, desperately and obscenely begging to be fucked harder and deeper, even as your adult self brutally screw into that nubile and immature body? Do you fall for his nonsensical rambles of being raped and impregnated repeatedly, despite your reputation as the infallible Han Guang Jun, until young, fertile Wei Ying truly grows a belly and gives birth to many babies, twins and triplets too?

 

As you try to purge such filthy thoughts from your head, are you afraid, or are you secretly delighted, when those blood-red spirits greedily seek, prod, stretch, penetrate, and violate every orifice they could find on your body, and imbue them with the aphrodisiac-laced fumes and nectar, further blurring your fantasies with the physical pleasures that your body experiences?

 

The third and final note, sharp and piercing, is a cry that mirrors my forbidden desires for you, moulded into the form of those repulsive-looking spectres who now surround and encircle your trembling figure.

 

Oh how your arms shiver and your exhausted thighs quake above me, and look at how your entire body seize with each bodily rapture, even as you are trapped by my talismans while my creations explore and find your deepest pleasure spots; invisible fingers caress, squeeze and vibrate the little gland inside you; a hundred tongues lick along the pulsating tube and its surrounding muscles within your sweet, sweet erection, coaxing and pushing bubbles of tasty seed out like a never-ending flow of ejaculations; ghostly lips kiss and suckle heatedly from plump balls, then along the rock-hard length and upwards to the cockhead, gently yet constantly assault the sensitive oozing slit at the tip; your thick liquid fire spurt sporadically when you become too excited and you cry out in agonizing ecstasy with each peak; as you become overstimulated and begged for a moment’s reprieve, phantom hands grip your convulsing cock nestled comfortably inside my clenching passageway, stroke firmly at a merciless pace, until you shoot again, repeatedly, inundating and feeding the growing pool of your life force inside me.

 

Your wordless, tortured pleas tell me that you are fatigued, shrivelling up, wrung dry to the bone, and close to succumbing to a lust-filled demise. I easily flip our connected bodies over with the help of my tentacle-like wisps, and soon, I eagerly ride you to your next climax no matter how much resistance you put up, no matter how many “There’s nothing left, there’s nothing left” you soundlessly try to convey with your weak struggles. 

 

I am angered. You cannot lie to me.

 

The number of undead spirits in the room multiplies exponentially, and they roar in unison; a blood-curdling warcry to destroy those who I choose, and I point my forefinger at the helpless dying man straddled between my thighs.

 

They rush at once in a hurricane of screeching wind, invade your body, permeate your insides, and molest every nerve and muscle fibre until everything tingles, swells and burns. Wraith-like ghosts clamber to your groin, dissipate through the skin and congeal into a living, viscous mass that swirl around the emptied testicles, force-filling them with until both fragile sacs fill to the brim. Then, invisible fingertips playfully squeeze and dribble the twin juicy ripe fruits, and your body quivers uncontrollably as they eject in extremely pleasurable-painful pulses through the tubes that lead towards a bulging, abused prostate lapped by many phantom tongues. Your mind fades each time those tongues glide with hot friction along your cock, propelling you closer towards the edge and your frayed nerves are set on fire once again. You cum inside me, yet you still feel full, and like an insatiable savage beast, you try to ejaculate a few more times with increasingly diminishing intensity, in a fruitless attempt to rid yourself of this endless curse.

 

I am merciless. I command a thousand wet lips and tentacle-like tongues to rain upon your nether regions, leaving you in a shaking, squirting mess. 

 

Do you not know? That my wrath is sweet and addictive.

 

Open your eyes. Look at me.

 

Do you see this? I hold your precious golden core in my palms, after I effortlessly reached through and into your chest with incorporeal fingers and pull out the throbbing sphere of energy. You watch with riveted gaze and a mortified look on your face, as I whisper endearing but immensely cursed incantations at the pipa-sized orb held by my thumb and forefinger, thus shattering its final barrier and becomes no more than a sumptuous treat for me to freely devour.

 

My tongue slowly licks its glowing glassy surface, and I begin to indulge in its complex flavours by absorbing vapours of its essence through lips and nostrils. When I grow bored of playing with it, you stare helplessly as I let the orb slide and roll into my mouth - still connected to you through energy threads emitting from your heaving chest.

 

Every time I suck on your golden core erotically like a piece of honey-coated candy and draw out your life energy, I let my sexual poison-laced saliva infuse into it, colouring the dimming light with slivers of wispy black; your body becomes overwhelmed with unfamiliar sensations, and you lose your mind even further.

 

Your body shakes, your mouth slacks, your eyes roll backwards, your fingers grapple feebly at the bedsheets, and I can feel fluids shooting inside of me from where we are joined, soon overflowing with warmth, and leak out generously when I could physically hold no more. You eventually fall unconscious, but I continue to make sensuous love to your immobilized body, by roughly gyrating and undulating my hips around your confined arousal for many more hours, so that you continue to jerk your hips and quiver from head to toes, as multiple dry-orgasms build, crest and wash over you. Dreams of our carnal passions continue to haunt you even during your restless slumber.

 

By the final hour, you look no more than a pale corpse with very flushed skin on the cheeks and on the chest. The only signs of life left are the periodic, reflexive, orgasmic tremors that run along the length of your still-hard arousal, lovingly encased inside my flooded love cavern. 

 

Good boy, such a good boy, never once did you scream throughout your ordeal. 

 

As a reward, let me kiss you. When our lips lock as tightly as how our bodies entwined during the sacred mating ritual from midnight until the break of dawn, I release your golden core and all the life force that I had taken earlier, and you instinctively swallowed. It is purified after I took only the venomous toxins caused by exposure to the air in the Burial Mounds for too long. The darkness nourishes me, and my hunger is sated, for now.

 

This is my parting gift to you, before the first light of day.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji woke up shortly before five in the morning. He sat up on the bed, dazed, his mind amazingly clear and qi energy pleasantly refreshed, though he felt sore and twinges of mild pain all over his body, particularly on the back - yet he couldn’t remember much of what happened after the first orgasm. He did feel emptied and lighter ‘down there’ - in a good way, and figured that Wei Ying must have done something wonderful to him during the latter’s inebriated state.

 

Several images flashed across his foggy memory, but he couldn’t piece together the full picture of the night’s events. Some were suggestive, some were downright pornographic. He felt his morning wood rise against his will when more fuzzy, indecent pictures tumbled into his mind, uninvited. Wei Ying slept soundly on his side, and feeling rather lonely in bed, Wang Ji leisurely stroked himself to full mast to relieve the rising urge. The younger man was blissfully unaware and (un)fortunately missed a mouth-watering spectacle next to him, instead, nuzzled into a pile of sleep-warmed pillows and slid his arms under them, and he looked absolutely like an angel swimming in a sea of messy blue bedsheets.

 

It was still dark outside and the roosters had not started crowing. Wang Ji unhurriedly snuggled back into the blankets, and proceeded to embrace Wei Ying's slender waist from the back to spoon him. He rubbed his swelling hard-on against the crack of Wei Ying’s ass, and occasionally reached down to splay his fingers over springy butt cheeks to massage them. Wang Ji grunted in appreciation when Wei Ying lazily curled inwards into a semi-fetal position and allowed full access to the older man. With a satisfied moan, Wang Ji slid in fluidly to the hilt into the tight, slippery passage. Some leftover seed from the night before leaked out at the intrusion, which he gladly pushed back in with his engorged arousal, and soon he started humping into his lover with a relaxed tempo and murmured soft mmmhs.

 

Lan Wang Ji did not manage to complete his first round of morning sex after such a strenuous night. He fell asleep soon after, contented and snoring, his softly-twitching cock left soaking in a mix of seed and other lewd love juices deep inside his Wei Ying.

Chapter Text

“... and so, in the end, this jar of improved sauce was given to me for free - yes absolutely free - together with promises of royalties from future sales. Liang laoban agreed to a ten percent cut, as long as I visit his shop on the days of the new and full moons to make new batches of sauce. Talk about getting paid employment! Can you believ— Lan Zhan? Lan Zhan?”

 

The mind-numbing and sleep-inducing scratching on his back stopped.

 

Lan Wang Ji blinks and is jolted from his daydreaming. He valiantly tries to clear away immoral recollections from events earlier that day. He adjusts his sitting posture on the bench in a futile attempt to hide his rising arousal under layers of cloth.

 

“Ah… I talked too much again, didn’t I? Here,” and then, Wei Ying unexpectedly reaches over Wang Ji’s shoulders, picks up a small shrimp fritter from the plate and dips it into the jar. Wang Ji’s heart is not ready for what comes next.

 

(At this point, Lan Wang Ji’s inner-self reacted in horror, because Wei Ying had been careless and his fingertips actually touched and scraped the surface of the gel-like paste for a full second, only to emerge from the jar when he held the crumbly edge of the snack between oil and sauce-slicked fingers. The fritter suddenly looked convincingly lethal to him, being contaminated with herbal oils that touched his grimy back just seconds ago.)

 

Wei Ying easily slips the sauce-dipped fritter between Wang Ji’s slightly-parted lips. 

 

(Oh god.)

 

Before the older man could spit out and protest about the ill-treatment of his appetite, his eyes widen in amazement; as the sauce mixes with half-chewed shrimp, tiny bursts of fragrant tart fruits including plum, zesty citrus and pineapple, engulf his tastebuds, balanced with the perfect levels of saltiness from the sea and sweetness of brown sugar, packed with an extra punch from fresh chilli peppers. The taste of the snack is drastically enhanced and becomes a culinary delight for his bland Gusu-trained palate.

 

“Try it with the lotus root fritter.”

 

Lan Wang Ji obeys without a second thought, dips another piece of fried snack into the sauce, and pops it into his mouth. He nods earnestly, relishing in his awakened sense of taste as he chews a little louder than necessary.

 

“Ha ha! Er gong zi , look at how you’re enjoying your food. It’s so unlike you!” Wei Ying laughs from the back, in between licking (eww, contaminated) sauce off his own fingers. Lan Wang Ji ignores the younger man, and reaches for his third piece of snack. No one is watching, and he does not need to mind his manners in their world of two (really, in self-defence, he could justify this act by saying that Wei Ying’s crude way of thinking is rubbing off on him, after living as a couple for more than a year). He mentally makes a note to himself that he should increase the size of the snacks in the future - at least three bites’ worth each - otherwise an entire plate may be gobbled up within minutes.

 

He pours a cup of tea for himself and another for Wei Ying in between satisfied chewing and hard swallows.

 

His lover resumes the back-scratching session (Wang Ji no longer cares if there was any sauce involved), starting from a tension-releasing nape to shoulder massage, followed by ten fingernails raking marvellously downwards, repeatedly, with the right amount of abrasion, pressure and speed, followed by ten fingernails scratching in glorious circles thoroughly over his entire oil-glistened back, leaving no inch of skin untouched; sometimes Wei Ying intentionally slides to the sides to graze the skin along ticklish ribs, and occasionally, with a mischievous giggle, he leans forward to reach the front in a loose embrace, then playfully flicks moistened fingertips over the older man’s sensitive pinkish-brown nipples, in which the latter stiffens and rumbles out mildly-annoyed nnnnhs. 

 

Lan Wang Ji remains unperturbed. With a tasty sauce-dipped fritter on one hand, a warm cup of pu’er tea on the other, and his mind becoming a ball of pleasurable fuzz with Wei Ying’s wonderfully tender loving care on his back - he tilts his chin towards the afternoon sky and closes his eyes; another breeze blows against his face, gently taking away the hot, humid afternoon heat. He feels at peace with the universe, does not have a care in the world.

 

(The half-erect arousal is not forgotten.)

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

By the third hour after midday, Lan Wang Ji knew he should be practising his daily cultivation routines to build and maintain his strength. The light would not be terribly bright to the extent of burning one’s skin, and performing energetic graceful movements at that time yields maximum benefits to one’s complexion and qi energy levels, similar to how Nature’s greens flourish and thrive under such ideal daytime conditions.

 

His prescription for one’s health and well-being is simple and practical - three half-hour sessions of cultivation per day, usually once in mid-morning, another in the afternoon, and the last round at dusk, preferably before dinner or if not possible, then shortly before bedtime (which results in better and higher quality of sleep, according to the highly-regarded medical books in Gusu’s Library Pavilion).

 

However, in the past months, he had managed only up to two sessions a day; the evening bout was frequently replaced by the couple’s nightly intense lovemaking that often leaves him exhausted though exceedingly satisfied (which wasn’t too bad, considering that he rests very well after that, if Wei Ying’s complaints about his snoring are to be believed). He is keen to keep his two remaining precious cultivation sessions - however, Wei Ying is an avid fan of disrupting his routines.

 

It usually starts with light, disarming banter, and the deal is sweetened by something that captures his attention.

 

Wei Ying had gotten up to grab a satchel by the lotus pond, while Wang Ji slumps on the bench in a post-coital, no, post-backscratch bliss (the after-effects are the same, nonetheless). Three sizable gold pieces roll onto the table, and sleepy Wang Ji opens one eye.

 

“A troupe of entertainers from Chang’an performed at Liang laoban ’s teahouse during lunch, so the place was packed with a full-house. I couldn’t help but to use my awesome salesmanship from months of selling paper talismans and magical gadgets, and charm those housewives to part with their fat purses for bottles of my plum sauce!” he points at himself smugly.

 

Wang Ji’s eyes glint and he picks up a piece and bit into it. It is real. Each is worth ten silver pieces, and his mind races to do the simple math - that's around two day’s worth of spending money on the table.

 

Wei Ying takes his seat at another bench opposite of Wang Ji. He faces the older man, props his chin on his hands, and grins. “Liang laoban was very pleased, even after giving my cut of today’s profits. He also let me take back some side dishes from his lunch menu - Liang’s famous fried chicken wings, fried tofu and spring rolls. So we only need to add some rice and vegetables, and have a sumptuous feast.”

 

“I’ll do the cooking, so dinner’s on me tonight, lao gong ,” he says with a wink.

 

Lan Wang Ji smiles, a rare sight for a man who constantly maintains a neutral expression unless something good happens to his lover, himself, or his household (in this case, their dwindling finances and when he gets some time-off from gruelling housework).

 

“Oh, apparently one of the housewives told me that my plum sauce goes very well with your favourite tofu,” he murmurs as he scratches the side of his cheek.

 

Wang Ji’s smile broadens.

 

“Ah.. and the chicken wings too. Sweet-sour flavours paired with fried foods is a heavenly combination, as they say.”

 

“M..Mn.”

 

“The spring rolls too. In fact my plum sauce is the perfect condiment all of our meals.”

 

“Mmm..Mn.” A faint blush accompanies the older man’s smile, which starts to look a little forced.

 

“Tomorrow morning, I’ll help you to make more fritters. Liang gu niang said they’re selling like hot cakes at their teahouse especially during brunch. She ordered two hundred pieces. That’s fifty more than today. What do you think, Lan Zhan?”

 

“Ah... hnnn... Yes,” Wang Ji groaned. He was having difficulty controlling his breathing, and his cheeks are flushed. He rests his forehead on the tabletop.

 

“Oh, before I forget, there’s a small tear on my shirt near the armpit - can you fix it for me tonight?” Wei Ying nonchalantly lifts up a sleeve, ignoring the older man’s distressed looks.

 

Wang Ji nods weakly into the table surface. He yields, and pants hard. 

 

“Hmm… Er gege , Liang laoban first offered to sell his plum sauce at half-price of three silver pieces each. And I ended up earning three gold pieces from selling an improved version of the sauce. So, how many bottles were sold today?”

 

Wang Ji tried to reach for his abacus with shaking fingers, but his hand fell down to his crotch, nearly knocking off the now-empty snack plate, and he moaned loudly.

 

Er gege , you disappoint me. I thought your maths were better than mine. You should be punished.” The sly, mocking tone in Wei Ying’s voice is unmistakable.

 

“Nnngh!”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Somewhere during their meandering conversation, Wei Ying's socked feet playfully slid between Wang Ji’s legs. Heels rubbed erotically against ankles, and toes glided their way up clothed thighs to reach their prize. Eventually, Wang Ji found his hardening erection deliciously rubbed in many directions. He clutched the offending feet with both hands in a futile effort to peel the limbs away, but Wei Ying seemed to know how to caress and massage at the precise tempo, speed and pressure; Wang Ji melted into a puddle of moans and trembling muscles under Wei Ying’s touch too fast, too soon. The younger man’s clothed soles stroked the throbbing flesh firmly at a very enthusiastic pace, and his toes rubbed along the underside of the heated, engorged length repeatedly until a growing sticky, wet patch formed where the tip tents at Wang Ji’s pants. 

 

Wang Ji missed his afternoon cultivation session - again. 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

During Wei Ying’s home-cooked dinner:

 

“Lan Zhan, Liang laoban said that as founder of the recipe, I could give this plum sauce a special name.”

 

“Mn.” followed by loud chewing, because the fried Yiling tofu dipped in sauce is Just. So. Good. Those housewives weren’t kidding with their claims about the deadly-delicious combination. He didn’t even bother to tell Wei Ying to eat his meal silently - because in Wang Ji’s mind, sauce-dipped tofu has been elevated above Gusu Lan’s over-4000 rules.

 

“It’s such a grand honour, to be able to name this precious baobei (treasure)… what should I call it? Liang laoban said that his family name brings prosperity, and also, everyone in Yiling will be able to recognise and remember it.” Wei Ying twiddles his chopsticks in the air, before absent-mindedly biting into one of them.

 

“...” because Lan Wang Ji was busy stuffing his mouth with rice and another spring roll. Liang laoban ’s tea may be ordinary, but the food is definitely extraordinary - with the sauce, of course.

 

“I want to add my name to it too. I shouldn’t use my family name, because it may attract unwanted attention from marauding Lanling Jin guards and those troublesome street brats. The second character of my name doesn’t have any useful meaning. So… maybe I should use... Xian?” Wei Ying asked himself with a smile, and rubbed his nose.

 

“Xian sounds good,” the older man replied briefly, as he gulped down a spoon of Wei Ying’s stir-fried mushroom and seasonal vegetables from their garden. It was actually quite tasty, especially when the spiciness was toned down.

 

“Liang… Xian. LiangXian? LiangXian’s Special Plum Sauce?”

 

The kitchen-cum-dining room fell silent.

 

NO. ” Lan Wang Ji stilled and glared at Wei Ying. A piece of spring roll skin hung from his lips.

 

Wei Ying froze and shrunk into his seat, his lips pursed and unspoken shock gleamed in his eyes as wide as saucers.

 

After two full minutes, Wang Ji wheezed out his breath (he had been holding it in, amazingly). He slowly picked up his chopsticks and plucked out a juicy fried chicken wing from a plate. Internally, he was beating up himself for displaying such an uncalled-for reaction, but he couldn’t find a plausible way to explain himself.

 

After all this time, he still had not told Wei Ying the name of their song. It was always “the song” or “our song”, but its name remained elusive to the person it was dedicated to.

 

“Ah.. m-maybe I should name it after myself only, right? S.. Since it’s my creation and all that…”

 

Wang Ji looked away and tried to busy himself with pulling out every last strand of meat from the chicken wing held daintily by the tips of chopsticks.

 

“... but you were my first true taste-tester and food critic, and I’m really grateful for your opinions. I wasn’t sure if those housewives bought the bottles just because of my selling skills or otherwise.”

 

“...”

 

“You look like you’re really enjoying my plum sauce. So I should devote part of this naming ceremony to you too. Which part of your name should I use? The Lan family name has good and noble connotations, and--”

 

“w.. wang” he whispered, almost fearfully, and stared hard at the half-eaten wing until he imagined that it could light up and disintegrate into ashes anytime.

 

“W.. what? Say that again?”

 

He cleared his throat, and looked straight into Wei Ying’s eyes. “Wang,” he repeated, clear and confident this time. He placed his chopsticks and the wing on his bowl.

 

Outside, the evening air was quiet and still. A rising moon against cloudless sky heralded the start of a long autumn night.

 

Lan Wang Ji worded the precious name, with as much passion and clarity as his lips and vocal chords could muster - two syllables etched into his deepest memories, that were sung and praised in his heart whenever he played it on the guqin or hummed its tune at night, but never mentioned in daylight even though his entire soul pleads for Wei Ying to hear, to recognise, to cherish the eternal love written in “their song”. 

 

This time, it was Wei Ying who dropped his chopsticks. They clanged emptily on the kitchen floor. Wang Ji noticed something was amiss and quickly understood what had happened. He quickly rose from his seat and rushed to Wei Ying’s side. Immediately, he pulled both of them into a crushing and very warm embrace.

 

“A… Ah. My eyes, are they tearing up? I… don’t understand. I… the name… I think I remember now. Sixteen, no seventeen years ago, at the Xuanwu Cave… did you…?” Wei Ying couldn’t form coherent words as his mind became momentarily confused, jumbled up with thoughts of the past and the present, and felt the heartbreaking pain of finally finding the last missing piece of his life. His mind struggled helplessly at torrents of long-lost memories unleashed at the recognition of the name and its significance. He couldn’t grasp it all at once. 

 

“Lan Zhan, all this time, have you waited for me…?” Wei Ying broke down into sobs before he could finish his sentence. Wang Ji held the Wei Ying as tight as he could, with the same determination and strength as his timeless promise to protect the only man he loves in this lifetime.

 

“Mn. I always have, and I always will.”

 

.

 

.

 

With sixteen years gone by in a blink of an eye… was everything just a dream?

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Not long after, Yunmeng Jiang's sect leader was seen holding a bottle of plum sauce that recently found its way to the shores of Lotus Pier, through merchants who frequent the trade routes between cities in the central parts of the Middle Kingdom. Servants gossip among each other, and some say that Jiang Wanyin had a very angry, seething look on his face and he gripped the bottle with such ferocity that even his knuckles turned white.

 

They couldn't understand what caused his dismay, as there was nothing particularly special about the sauce, other than that it had some familiar Yunmeng-style flavoured chilli in it, and on the bottle's label there was a cute picture of a black and white rabbit printed on top of its odd-sounding brand name.

Chapter Text

Lan Wang Ji pecked a kiss on Wei Wuxian’s forehead. “Feeling better?” he rumbled lowly, soothingly, at the younger man lying with his back against his chest and between Wang Ji’s bent legs. The ground was cold - a stark contrast compared to Wang Ji’s protective cocoon of warmed breaths, fur-lined sleeves and thick winter robes. He smoothed Wei Ying’s wildly-swaying hair to easily tie it into a neat ponytail. He adjusted the younger man’s messy clothes; despite being mismatched by colour, at least he looked more presentable after all his buttons were properly knotted. The younger man eventually stopped hiccuping in tears, and eased himself to an upright sitting position.

 

Wei Ying nodded hesitantly, still rubbing his eyes and face. He took a couple of breaths to calm down.

 

Wang Ji sighed. So much had happened, but there was no time to dally. “Daylight grows shorter. We should make a move soon,” he stated.

 

Wintry winds picked up in strength, signalling the arrival of a snowstorm. The first specks of ice began to appear, fluttering across the grey, gloomy and sparse landscape of their courtyard and empty vegetable patches.

 

Wei Ying hummed in agreement, quickly stood up with a renewed sense of purpose and straightened himself. He dusted off his clothes, and finally put on the correct pair of footwear. He even handed Wang Ji the older man’s satchel of rice dumplings and a bamboo flask of water, thus conveying his intention that he would at least cheerfully see him off, while he planned to stay back because the trip to Yiling was too far and unbearable in the worsening climate.

 

“Stay warm and come back soon, okay?” Wei Ying murmured, eyes gazing downwards, as he brushed off unseen snowflakes off Wang Ji’s shoulders and sleeves. His fingers lingered a little longer than intended on Wang Ji’s, before he released their hands with a loud exhale. Wei Ying looked up with his bright, trademark grin and his eyes crinkled up until they became narrow slits.

 

Wang Ji felt a little shaken by the sudden change in the atmosphere between them, and felt he needed to explain himself. After all, he had just patched their shaky relationship with promises of being transparent to one another, and not to hide anything behind one’s back.

 

“I- There’s something important I need to pick up from the Huang outpost before they close for the rest of the year,” he replied in a neutral, composed voice. He was cryptic and tight-lipped in his intentions, and unexpectedly Wei Ying did not probe further.

 

Wei Ying waved a hand dismissively with a few nods, “You’re right, Er Gong Zi . We should stock up with a few more packs of herbal medicines for coughs and colds during winter. I might need a couple more jars of healing salves, when I start with the woodwork to expand our home. Also, if you come across this month’s edition of Cultivation Times, buy a copy so that we can work on our cultivation techniques while we’re snowed in.”

 

“Mn. The order I made a few months ago will arrive today. I will buy those too,” Wang Ji replied cautiously, being rather surprised at the younger man’s polite interest in all things within their home, “though there are no bookshops that sell that magazine. I could get some reading materials related to the hunting, farming, or cooking.”

 

“Cooking ones sounds good. I might as well start upgrading the recipe for my plum sauce, before someone copies it and I lose my employment at Liang’s!” Wei Ying laughed light-heartedly, hands on his hips.

 

Wang Ji opened his mouth to retort about how slim chances were for anyone within Yiling to copy a Yunmeng-style recipe, but he decided to let go of the conversation. He relaxed his shoulders and clasped his hands behind his back, with Bichen in his grip.

 

From a distance, a thunder roared. The weather was becoming bleaker by the minute.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Huang village is an isolated farming community located at the westernmost edge of the Burial Mounds and generally, the Qishan province. Beyond the village lies vast tracts of uninhabited wasteland, sand dunes, and volcanic mountain ranges that extends from Qishan to the fabled Far West. Conditions are extremely harsh, and the area continues to be plagued by marauding wild beasts, resentful spirits from those who died trying to cross the land, and the occasional surviving fierce corpses from events that happened sixteen years ago.

 

The village also serves as a resting stop for the legendary Silk Road merchants and their highly sought-after goods, including rare herbs and spices, exotic perfumes and fragrances, precious stones, fine embroidery and textiles, and other treasures brought from the Far West. A few shops became outposts for these merchants - they receive orders from anyone willing to pay extraordinary sums for such wares, and with luck, the merchants would deliver their cargo on schedule for pick-up by hopefully satisfied customers.

 

Wei Ying hoped the special order Lan Wang Ji made wasn’t another set of jewelled accessories as another “proclamation of their love” (would this be called an anniversary gift, he wondered). That expensive mistake from last autumn sat in their bedroom’s closet in wooden box, never worn, and best forgotten. Wei Ying thought that the set of shiny hairpins, forehead jewelry, earrings, necklace, bracelets and anklets, despite bearing the signature of (suspicious-sounding) famous artisans, looked rather tacky in their colours and designs. They were too bright, too loud and simply too big for his tastes (the pipa-sized ruby earrings looked horrendous, as an example).

 

Wang Ji was at the edge of their estate when thunder struck again. He stood and stared ahead at the rolling clouds with uncertainty, fingers clutched at his thick winter robes as tightly as possible. He looked as if he was having second thoughts about a two-hour walk to Huang village; the snowstorm seemed to come in increasingly vicious wind-whipped blasts, and falling ice was starting to seep into the ground, turning the scenery into muddy white and browns.

 

Wei Ying shrugged and rose from his haunches at the sheltered entrance of their home. His booted feet were becoming numb from the cold ground, so he made little side-to-side hops. Out of habit and in need to fiddle with something useful, he pulled out two yellow paper talismans from his inner robe’s pocket, and wrote mystic words on them with his index finger. Both immediately burst into a ball of flame each, and floated closely to their creator. They burned for a while, though the warmth that emanated was comparable to a kindled matchstick held against a blast of icy blizzard. 

 

The younger man sent one of the balls of flame to Wang Ji’s side. The effect was immediately obvious; although it did not warm the air significantly around the older man, however a clear bubble surrounded him; neither snow nor wind was able to pass through, and they bounced harmlessly at the invisible barrier. Fire Shield was cast.

 

Wei Ying’s gaze inadvertently landed on his partner. The soft golden glow cast by the flames painted an intimate yet enchanting picture of his Han Guang Jun, and he couldn’t help but to be mesmerized by the beauty and kindness reflecting in the eyes of his soulmate. He realized that he had been self-centered at times and yet, since his return to this world, Lan Wang Ji has always been by his side, as a caring and supporting lover, and they worked things out together whenever possible. It felt right and timely to reciprocate his feelings towards his lover despite sometimes discouraging circumstances. Wei Ying felt his heartbeat quicken, his love and desire for the other man grew with eventual intensity; so, he made a silent decision to man up and solve their problems even if it meant making some personal sacrifices.

 

The ivory-white broadsword in Lan Zhan’s grasp seemed to hum and radiate just as the floating ball of flame bobbed right above Wei Ying’s head, and a proverbial lightbulb was lit. The younger man easily trudged through a growing layer of ice that seemed to melt upon contact with his shield; he literally mowed a path from their cave-home through a lawn of snow towards Wang Ji within seconds.

 

“Ahh… Lan Zhan! Why don’t you use Bichen to get to the village? I’ll tag along and help clear the way with my magic so that you don’t have to face the snowstorm during flight. I’ll also help to carry all the stuff, so that you can get around faster,” he suggested as he tugged at Wang Ji’s sleeve. “ Lao gong , let me be useful to you this time!” he added with a cheerful outburst, which left little puffs of white clouds that faded as fast as they blew away.

 

Again, those smiling, crinkled eyes, Wang Ji noted.

 

Bichen vibrated faintly, eager to be of service.

 

Lan Wang Ji turned to Wei Ying, with a gentle expression on his face that spoke volumes of gratitude, understanding, affection and tenderness - barely noticeable, yet as clear as day for the younger man. 

 

The older man nodded and then stared thoughtfully at the sword in his grip for a moment. He bent down to carefully place it on the ground, but hesitated slightly when he released the hilt. Bichen fell with a heavy thud.

 

Wei Ying watched intently at a frowning Lan Wang Ji as the latter squeezed his eyes shut in concentration, and directed an open palm towards at the blade, willing it to rise. 

 

After several minutes, Bichen remained on the cold ground, motionless.

 

Wei Ying scratched his head with a confused look on his face. Was something broken? Could the built-up of negative energy in the ‘Mounds be hindering Bichen’s response? Does magicks such as the Fire Shield interfere with Bichen’s ability? Is Lan Zhan alright? At times like this, oh why did the silly Wei Wuxian leave Suibian at Yunmeng Jiang’s family home? Is there any other way for Lan Zhan to reach the village in such a short span of time? His thoughts escalated haphazardly with the prospect that his heroic plan to save the day was foiled by a stubborn blade that refused to lift off.

 

“I… I used up the energy from my golden core last night. It will take… some time… to recover,” Wang Ji whispered slowly, spelling out his own dilemma, and his face hardened imperceptibly with anger and shame. His arms dropped to his sides, no longer calling for the sword.

 

Wei Ying blinked a few times, tried to connect the wildly passionate events from the night before to the scene before him. Bichen seemed crestfallen, and quietened down.

 

“Lan Zhan… I- I’m sorry!!” Wei Ying nearly wailed suddenly, his voice full of regret when he realized what had happened and the gravity of the situation. He grabbed one of Wang Ji’s forearms and shook it desperately to convey his sincerest feelings. “I didn’t know it would come to this! It’s my fault, it’s all my fault… I’m so sorry...”. He shook his head and mumbled to himself, “What should I do? The outpost will close after today, the snowstorm is already here, a two-hour walk at a time like this will be impossible…”



~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The mask over Wei Ying’s face disintegrates, revealing the true fear and anxieties that had gripped the young man’s heart since daybreak. Wei Wuxian is indeed a fragile, flawed man; one who is easily scarred by events from the past, overly sensitive to the pain and suffering of loved ones to the point of tormenting himself with self-blame and self-sacrifices; and yet he stubbornly continues to put on a brave front, alone, soldiering on even after others have praised, thanked, apologized or forgiven him - until there is no more path to walk on.

 

Words stuck to Wang Ji’s throat when understanding dawned on him. He knew that Wei Ying does not need comforting words. Promises are for tomorrow and the uncertain future; action has to be done, now , as proof that he lives up to his worth as Wei Ying’s Han Guang Jun .

 

In a flurry of furred robes, Wang Ji pushed away Wei Ying’s grip on his wrist, and intertwined his fingers with the latter’s. 

 

“Get on Bichen,” he ordered, his face remained expressionless.

 

Wei Ying was caught surprised. “W- W- What?”

 

Wang Ji pulled Wei Ying onto the sturdy blade so that both of them stood along its length. Wei Ying’s muddy boot smeared the shiny surface, but the older man remained unfazed.

 

“We… We’ve been… dual-cultivating… for more than a year. Your spiritual energy level should be strong enough to raise a sword, and…” Wang Ji struggled to explain his thoughts without embarrassing himself with such shameful descriptions, and had a hard time to verbalize each word, “... by now, there’s enough of me inside your young golden core.”

 

Wei Ying stared back in disbelief and wonder, and held his breath. The air around them was warm, though not necessarily from the fireshield. The mere mention of “dual cultivation” had coloured Wang Ji’s cheeks into multiple shades of red. 

 

“Wei Ying, Bichen recognizes you as much as it recognizes me as the master.”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Wuxian was at the verge of discovering a brand new world with cultivation and swords. He squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated on his budding golden core to call upon the fabled blade that is said to remain dustless for eternity.

 

The legend seemed to be true - Bichen hummed with living, sentient consciousness and glowed with spiritual energy. All forms of dirt and dust, including Wei Ying’s muddy footprints, disintegrated from the luminous, pulsating steel. 

 

Wei Wuxian had blushed terribly at Lan Wang Ji’s sudden idea of using the sword to solve their problem. As Bichen started to rise into the air while carrying both men in a fireshield, Wei Wuxian’s face too, coloured in as many shades of cute pinks and reds.

 

“Ah... Lan Zhan… m- maybe SuiBian would be a better choice for me, if it was here…” Wei Wuxian sheepishly said, trying to change the subject. They were at least as high as the barren treetops, the world beneath them started to look scary from their dizzying height, and soon, they started to inch forward - slowly and carefully, at first. In the world of cultivation blades, SuiBian could be described as an agile and light vehicle, while Bichen was notoriously as heavy and sturdy as a tank.

 

“Nnnh. My ride’s bigger. Come on, let’s get going,” Wang Ji replied casually. He tightened his grip with Wei Ying and nudged the latter to focus ahead. He helped Wei Ying to steer the bulky blade’s direction and within minutes, both were on their merry way, zipping through the snowy skies at an incredible speed.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

At one of the cliffs along the cold, parched mountains of Burial Mounds, a black wolf engulfed in dark spiritual energy turned its head upwards. Its muzzle twitched with interest as it sniffed the air. 

 

Suddenly, there deafening "Ya-hooooooo...!!!" that echoed in the surrounding hills and valleys. A tiny pinpoint of flying sword and its two passengers streaked through the skies, leaving behind a faint, misty white trail. The wolf growled as it recognizes the telltale signs of a Fire Shield spell vaporizing falling snowflakes along its journey.

 

The wolf instinctively responded, against its will, with an equally resounding howl that chills the hearts of all Men, including the two humans on their way to the village.

Chapter Text

Like a doting husband teaching his wife how to drive for the first time, Lan Wang Ji felt nervous every time Wei Ying tilted their ride too much to the side, or if Bichen sputtered and lost its lift temporarily, sending them both free-falling a few centimeters and Wang Ji’s panicky heart went crashing to the ground in as many times . He struggled, but managed to maintain his near-expressionless visage as the highly-esteemed Han Guang Hun, and stood as straight as he possibly could on their unsteady ride. Fortunately, Bichen’s ivory-white scabbard did not crack from the stress of its owner’s iron-hard grip (who was equally stressed as well).

 

“Ahhh! Lan Zhan! Your Bichen is too heavy! It’s hard to steer it to where I want to go! And it’s too bulky! My legs are cramped from pushing through enormous amounts of spiritual energy to get it to move !” (actually, his knees and calves were aching from self-inflicted strain by stooping low on tensed muscles.) 

 

“Shhh. Focus. Aim for the westerly direction. Don’t step too hard on the blade. Stand straight. Be gentle. It will respond accordingly,” the older man calmly instructed. He could not embrace his lover with both hands as they stood side-by-side on the broadsword’s blade, so he put an arm around Wei Ying’s waist to hook him in place, intimately.

 

Wei Ying, on the other hand, was too busy and excited with his new toy, especially after he started to get the hang of maneuvering the sword. “Ahhh! Look! Look! If I lean to the right, it really follows me! Oh! If I relax and wiggle my toes a little, it seems to pick up speed! Oh no, are we going too fast?”

 

A wild pigeon flew past and deftly avoided them.

 

“Mn. Our speed is alright. Focus, Wei Ying,” Wang Ji assured the younger man, and held him closer. He enjoyed having his cheeks tickled by Wei Ying’s wind-blown hair, and nuzzled into the ponytail, inhaling its heart-warming scent. Through their touch, he was able to send miniscule amounts of his own golden core energy to help propel Bichen forward at a comfortable pace.

 

They flew through the snowy skies for a while, before Wei Ying shouted (because he thought the stormwinds swirling around them were deafening, but Wang Ji could hear him just fine), “Lan Zhan! We need to stop! I have to re-cast the Fire Shield spell!” 

 

Wang Ji noticed the balls of flame that accompanied them had dimmed into flickers. He nodded, and pressed his body weight against the younger man. Both of them leaned downwards, and Bichen descended. They found a small clearing in the bushes to land. While Wei Ying set another yellow paper talisman ablaze, Wang Ji handed over his bamboo flask and Wei Ying gratefully drank a few gulps because his throat felt a little raw after all the excited shouting and screaming in mid-air.

 

The couple took off and made a few more pitstops, before reaching the outskirts of Huang village.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji pointed towards a pine forest glade - a rare patch of green in a vast landscape of grey-white. A small bubbling brook ran through it; its water still flowed despite the freezing weather, which easily identified its source as Qishan’s thermal springwaters. Wei Ying expertly landed Bichen on the snow-covered ground; he seemed to have mastered the basic skills of handling the sword in flight.

 

Wei Ying began to check his remaining inventory of talismans in his garment’s inner pockets, and Wang Ji proceeded to re-fill their bamboo flask. Boiling water churned from the streambed near certain banks, so he collected steaming water from those spots and dropped a pinch of pine needles to make a refreshing beverage.

 

The last Fire Shield had winked out of existence, and snow began to cover their clothes. Cold began to seep in; Wei Ying did not have a thick fur coat and began to shiver while counting the number of remaining pieces of coloured papers in his grasp.

 

Wang Ji thought for a moment. The young man had certainly redeemed himself by making good on his promises and showed surprising adaptiveness and ingenuity by delivering both of them to Huang village, safe and sound. As he approached Wei Ying with his decision, Wei Ying surprised him yet again -

 

“Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan! Look at this!” the bright smile was unmistakable - Wei Ying had discovered (or done) something again .

 

A train of talisman was proudly raised up to his attention. Between Wei Ying’s open arms was a complex layered arrangement of papers including Eye, Memory, and Fire talismans - bound by a bright blue line of Wei Ying’s Binding Spell. A dripping brush ink pen dangled from his fingers.

 

“Guess what it can do!” and the talisman train was jiggled enthusiastically.

 

Wang Ji frowned as he capped the flask and stowed it into the satchel. He would humour Wei Ying’s interesting question, because it was about possibilities as bright as younger man’s toothy grin - and possibilities is what they are after, in order to succeed in their race against the clock to complete their shopping mission, and return home before the snowfall became too heavy and buried all routes around the Burial Mounds.

 

He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Mn… first, write and transform the simple Fire talisman into its modified version, the Fire Shield. Then, the Eye talisman will record this mystical writing into the Memory talisman, so that the action can be performed again when it is laid upon the Fire talisman. This transformation can be repeated as many times as necessary, since the Memory talisman does not disintegrate like any other spells,” and then he gestured at an unfamiliar-looking dark blue piece of paper, “but what does that do?”

 

Wei Ying pulled it towards Wang Ji, stretching the paper tightly against the Binding Spell’s thread until it threatened to tear. Wang Ji’s eyes widened in amazement - there was a nearly-unrecognizable mystical symbol of “Time” on it, and a crude, hastily-written “five minutes” (五分) underneath. “Does… this work?” he inquired, astonished. 

 

One does not simply create and write on talismans without proper consultation with the Grand Cultivation Council’s exhaustive 1,151th edition of  ‘List of Allowed Symbols and Words’ and its hundred-page binder supplement titled ‘Official Procedures and Sequences for Writing Mystical Words And Symbols’. 

 

Legends handed down from generations of cultivation grandmasters, when inscribed onto books and paper scrolls, became holy scriptures and enforced as the Laws of Absolute Truth by the Council a thousand years ago. The laws decree that every mystical word and symbol must be used with utmost care and respect, and in particular methods as prescribed by the sacred texts. Certain divine elements must remain beyond the realm and reach of mortals, for obvious reasons. “Time” is one such forbidden word; the consequences of meddling with such a fundamental concept of the Universe were inconceivable and therefore, its usage was prohibited by the Council at the same time when the first laws were enacted. There are very few known examples of what a “Time” spell can do; such unlawful knowledge is limited to only those within the elite, such as the ex-Chief Cultivator Han Guang Jun - including but not limited to:  instilling a time-bound element to an object, or worse, to manipulate the passage of time itself. 

 

To break the taboo by creating a “Time” spell was unthinkable, and Wei Ying had just done that! 

 

“I counted the duration between each Fire Shield spell during our trip here, and five minutes seem just about right. The whole cycle of spell-casting should repeat itself every five minutes…” Wei Ying muttered to himself. He looked up and simply asked with sparkling, curious eyes, “Lan Zhan, do you think five minutes is enough? Or should I reduce it to four? I don’t want to risk being blinded by snow while flying through those nasty clouds! But I have very limited pieces of paper left, so I don’t want to waste them unnecessarily!”

 

Lan Wang Ji’s gaze became gravely serious and he opened his mouth to say something harsh - but then, he closed it back. 

 

Wei Wuxian would never intentionally hurt anyone. His bravado and resourcefulness goes so far as not even to question the permissibility of using such a spell, but instead, he was a step ahead by thinking about how to use it for their benefit. He is driven by his stubbornness to help in good faith, and Lan Wang Ji swears by Wei Wuxian’s good faith to pursue their lifelong promise, since more than sixteen years ago.

 

So, Wang Ji broke into a faint smile.

 

“Mn. Five minutes. Will… this... be alright?” he gestured at the same words written hurriedly on blue paper that designated the period between activations. 

 

Wei Ying scrutinized at the writing, and even traced fingertips on each stroke to make sure that he didn’t miss anything. “I guess so. You know, this isn’t an answer sheet to one of your Uncle’s examinations back in the Cloud Recesses… so I won’t be graded for the messy calligraphy,” he replied and giggled. He lay lightly on Wang Ji’s shoulders and exhaled, reminiscing about the time they spent together during their youth while playing with his newly-created train of talismans.

 

The older man adjusted his thick outer robes so that they partly cover the younger man too. Wei Ying muttered a word of thanks as he snuggled deeper against Wang Ji’s chest, enveloped by warmth and nostalgic memories of studying in the sterile classrooms, being scolded by Gusu Lan’s elders, throwing crumpled paper messages at classmates, and magically slapping portraits of turtles onto Master Lan Qiren’s back.

 

Then, Wei Ying’s stomach rumbled.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Wuxian was deeply embarrassed. How could the unexpected hunger interrupt such a precious moment with his partner!

 

“Um… I didn’t properly finish this morning’s breakfast, so…”

 

Lan Wang Ji sighed and planted a feather-light kiss on his forehead. Then, he took hold of Wei Ying’s wrist, and led both of them deeper into the glade. He made sure Wei Ying sat between his legs, still wrapped by the fluffy warmth of his outer robes, sheltered from the falling snow underneath one of the pine trees. He took out the contents of his satchel and offered a tantalizing-looking rice dumpling, which Wei Ying gratefully accepted.

 

Wei Ying gazed in wonder at his partner’s simple, wordless, yet affectionate act of kindness, while chewing noisily at the sticky rice. After a hard, dry swallow which immediately satisfied his hunger pangs, he found himself staring at an open bamboo flask.

 

“Drink.”

 

Wei Ying did not need to wait; Wang Ji gently tipped the flask to his lips, and soon he was enjoying a warm sip of pine needle tea. He made some happy mmmh noises while washing down the meal with the minty refreshment, and he leaned back into Wang Ji’s welcoming cuddle.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji pondered at his predicament while running his fingers languidly through the younger man's hair, tucking a few stubborn strands behind the ears when a chilly breeze blew.

 

Huang village was just a short walk from the glade; he needed to collect his special order from the outpost; snowfall was getting heavier; and he knows that deep in Wei Ying’s heart, the young man still wished to go to Liao’s General Store to buy much-needed tools for his winter home-improvement projects. There was nothing of suspect in Wei Ying’s intentions - so, could he somehow grant his lover’s desires?

 

His special order was supposed to be as described by its namesake - special, secret, and a surprise. In spite of his earlier promise not to keep things behind each other, this was an exception he was willing to make for his cause, as selfish as it sounds. So, how could he somehow procure his coveted prize stealthily, away from prying eyes?

 

Wei Ying licked his fingers clean one by one, after devouring the dumpling. 

 

“Wei Ying, I have an idea. Do you still want to go to Yiling City?”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“Mister Lan (蓝先生), will that be all?” the portly shopkeeper asked, and pointed her abacus on the pile of purchases. Packs of dried herbs and medicinal roots, clay jars of ointments and a couple of magazines were neatly arranged on the payment counter. The outpost, which also doubled as a sundry store, was quiet except for two other browsing customers from faraway provinces, dressed in ethnicwear of distant western origins.

 

The shopkeeper cleared her throat, and Wang Ji focused on the task at hand. “Um… Lady Shopowner (老板娘), can you add two blank notebooks too?”

 

“The standard sized ones?”

 

Wang Ji nodded hesitantly; he wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he needed to buy two.

 

The shopkeeper carefully maneuvered her round body around the payment counter, and stepped into the stationery aisle. She tiptoed to reach a stack of blue-covered stitched bound books which Wang Ji had not noticed before. There was an assortment of paper materials in all shapes and sizes on the shelves, and it seemed only the shopkeeper knew where to find what her customers wanted.

 

“No cooking ingredients for your wife this time? Spices from the Far West?” she asked, as she added to his orders on the countertop. She absently scratched a large mole at the bottom of her double-chin.

 

He blushed and vaguely shook his head. Although he remained as inconspicuous as possible, the shopkeeper had a keen eye on all her customers and learnt that he always bought household and kitchen-related goods - and always for two.

 

The shopkeeper started to pack the goods into a cloth bag. Wang Ji could not help feeling disturbed by the bright-red fingernails that scratched the countertop’s surface, as much as how the excessively glossed rosy lips moved when she talks. She wasn’t a friendly business owner, and exuded a rather overbearing demeanor - but she was professional enough to manage some light banter and be acquainted with her customers (and to keep them from running away). The outpost had a feeling of being a cozy family-owned business handed down from generations - bright and clean enough along the main narrow aisles but cob-webbed and dusty around the dim corners, boxes of stocks stacked up to the ceiling at the sides, and a mismatched collection of antiques, yesteryears’ paintings, and dog-eared poem calligraphies adorn the walls and atop dull, paint-chipped furniture. Incense smoke from a family altar permeate the air. It felt appealing especially to the rural folk and those who have a nostalgic taste for eras of the past.

 

“You should bring her here someday. We take pride in getting to know our customers and their families. I can recommend some good products and services that I’m sure all housewives are interested in,” she said with a solemn face, obviously trying to attract more sales, sans the persuasive smile needed to seal the deal.

 

He shrugged, and looked undecided. “Some... day,” he repeated her words, then murmured, “S-She (他) prefers to shop in the city.” He kept his gaze to the floor as the last items were inserted into the bag.

 

“Today too? In this weather?” her voice rose, incredulous.

 

“Mn,” came the curt reply. Wang Ji wanted to quickly pay for his purchases and leave the shop before his earlobes became too visibly red under her steely eyes.

 

“I see. Be careful, the snowfall is forecasted to be heavy this afternoon and all the mountain passes will close. We’ll be closing at lunch because of that,” the old lady said with a hint of concern in her voice and raised a fat open palm expectantly. “Including your special order, that will be two hundred, please.”

 

Wang Ji took out his money pouch. It contained his life savings, and he felt conflicted that he will miss the comfortable weight hanging from the sash around his waist.

 

The shopkeeper noticed something was amiss. “Where’s your sword, Mister Lan? You’ve always carried it with you.”

 

“I… I didn’t bring it with me today,” he replied reluctantly and handed over the two jade-lined gold bars that he had kept close to him since leaving Jingshi last summer.

 

She snatched the pouch, tossed it a couple of times and weighed it with an experienced hand. She could confidently feel through cloud-patterned silk for the jade dragon sculptures and Imperial Reserve markings on the surface of the precious metal. She didn’t need to peek into the pouch to be sure; these are hallmarks of an astute tradesperson who has mastered the fine art of counting money without needing to actually see or touch any. She did not even say a word of thanks before pocketing it away - it was just one of the many daily transactions for the outpost.

 

“Hmm. You know, it’s not in my position to question about your plans for the day, but I hope you will stay safe especially on your way back. The snow will be nearly impassable, and only the Heavens know what kind of denizens will come out to play,” she stated matter-of-factly. 

 

Wang Ji grunted a short "Mn" and picked up the cloth bag. He didn’t want to trigger further topics for discussion, so he remained silent. His purchases weren’t too bulky, and he managed to pack everything into his satchel. He consoled himself that the contents of the bag was worth the hefty price paid, and that his heavy, loaded satchel should feel equally comfortable on his shoulders as the two gold bars previously hanging on his sash. He bowed and impatiently rushed out of the shop. 

 

The lady shopkeeper felt uncomfortable seeing one of her favourite (and handsome) customers hurrying out to the icy streets, alone, so she followed him out of rare concern. At the doorsteps, she called out, “Mister Lan! Be careful and watch out for the wolves and bears! We hope to see you again when we reopen in three months’ time!”. She watched the man in his mid-thirties timidly bow again, and head off into the snow-clad street. 

 

Just then, a figure clothed in a white tunic and brown trousers hurtled from the sky on a shiny, shimmering sword.

 

“Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan! I’m here! (我来了!)”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying narrowly missed a stack of barrels, and thankfully, he managed to skid and pull into a complete stop right in front of Wang Ji without tumbling over unceremoniously from the fabled blade. Two full sacks, each tied to Bichen’s hilt, lay on both sides of the sword. If it had been SuiBian, Wei Ying would have never managed to get a lift off - he finally appreciated Bichen’s heavy-duty design and its impressive innate strength.

 

“I-I couldn’t find the glade, so I c-came straight to the village - j-just in the nick of time as you w-walked out of the s-s-shop,” he said through chattering teeth and plumes of frosty breaths. His face was pale and chilled, his hair was a little wet from melted snow, and his body shivered. It seemed his last Fire Shield spell was exhausted during the (second) journey to Huang village.

 

Wei Ying sniffled and sneezed. Snot ran down his nostrils, and interestingly, a couple of bird feathers too. They looked suspiciously like wild pigeons’.

 

Lan Wang Ji swiftly took off his outer robes and hung it around Wei Ying’s shoulders. The younger man gratefully settled into the lingering heat and pulled the garment close around his quaking form.

 

Fortunately, the street was deserted and only a few curious onlookers hung around from a safe distance after Wei Ying made his grand entrance. Soon, even these inquisitive stares disappear behind shuttering doors and windows as businesses closed one by one towards lunchtime. Huang villagers were quite used to seeing cultivators displaying their prowess with swords and magic; being on frontier lands meant they had seen plentiful of strange men flying around on even stranger looking things including weapons such as axes, halberds, quarterstaffs or whips , and magically-enchanted instruments such as plus-sized guzhengs, erhus, pipas or gigantic hulus.

 

“I’ve bought all the tools we’ll need,” he chirped gleefully, patted one of the bags and his feet nudged at Bichen; a heavy shovel was tied to the blade for ease of transport, “and Liao laoban was so happy for being able to clear his stocks before closing time, that he gave me a discount!” He pulled out a receipt from his sleeve and passed it to the older man. Wang Ji hnn’ed when he eyed the total written at the bottom of the slip of paper, thumb-printed in red ink by Liao laoban - thirty silver pieces, which was the amount he gave to Wei Ying as (extra) spending money for the day. It was quite a good deal; which is generally true for all last-minute Winter clearance sales. He pocketed the receipt; he would need to record the day’s expenditures into his account books when they return home.

 

While Wei Ying excitedly opened each bag to show Wang Ji what he bought - mostly crafting and construction tools made from bronze or iron (which the latter wasn’t too interested in - home improvement projects were Wei Ying’s forte anyway), another shout rang out from nearby.

 

“Young Master Lan! It is really you! Ai-yo-yo… What a small world we live in!”

 

An old bearded man dressed in a hunter’s get-up and a bow strung to his back trudged through the snow while pushing a wheelbarrow full of hunting gear. His hood was covered in white, and his smile had as many missing teeth as the number of wrinkles on his cheerful, wizened face.

 

The hunter shook Wei Ying’s hands energetically, and Wang Ji tipped his head downward in a respectful greeting towards the elderly man. He stepped back to let Wei Ying exchange pleasantries while he busied himself with tying the bags from Liao’s store, keen to blend into the background as much as possible. Till to date, he remained uncomfortable in crowds and noisy conversations.

 

“Young Master, how was the wild boar meat from yesterday?” 

 

Wang Ji’s eyebrows twitched, and he pretended to check the knots around Bichen’s hilt. 

 

“Ah…ha, ha… the meat…  was really good! We finished it in one go.” Sweet innocent laughter. A little too forced, a little feigned. Wei Ying’s shadow fidgeted.

 

“I really cannot thank you enough, Young Master. People say that it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks, but look what I have done this morning!” he exclaimed and pulled off a canvas top to unveil a heap of trap nets inside the wheelbarrow. “Using the techniques you’ve taught me yesterday, I repaired and strengthened all the nets I have. These will improve my catch and feed my family in the coming seasons!”

 

The old hunter reached into the heap, pulled out a net and chucked it into Wei Ying’s arms. “Young Master, please take this. All my nets are in great working condition now, and I have more than enough. Please use this to catch wild boars, deer and other creatures around the ‘Mounds that we’ve talked about yesterday. It’s a time-honoured tradition for hunters like us to keep the hunting spirit going!” The old man gave an encouraging thumbs-up to emphasize his point.

 

While the net was politely shoved back and forth with plenty of “No, no it’s alright!” and “Please take it, young man!” in between, the shopkeeper walked up to their side. She carried a bamboo umbrella and shielded the hunter from the falling snow.

 

“You! It’s about time you came back from the woods! We’re leaving soon, so pack everything up and let’s go!” she admonished at the old man, who mumbled something but bit his tongue when she stopped him with a deadly glare. 

 

The big-sized lady shopkeeper looked at Wei Ying with appraising eyes from head to muddied boots. Her gaze settled on Wang Ji’s robes on the younger man’s shoulders and she hmms loudly, almost suspiciously. Wei Ying took a step back, unsure of what that raspy sound meant, and promptly bumped into his partner’s chest, who had decided to finally emerge from the background. 

 

“Young Master Lan , it’s a pleasure to meet you,” she greeted Wei Ying with a rather haughty voice. Wei Ying clutched the net and nodded back politely, still shocked by the old lady’s sudden appearance and fierce outburst. “I see you’ve been busy shopping in Yiling ,” she stated and gestured at the two large sacks that bore large prints of the seller’s family name. “Liao’s store is an affiliate of the Qishan Merchants’ Guild which we’re also a member of, and all of us have agreed to close at noon today.” She took hold of the old hunter’s wrist and bowed slightly. “Please accept my apologies that I have to drag away this useless husband of mine before our caravan leaves at the scheduled time,” she added with a businesslike tone.

 

Lan Wang Ji stood beside Wei Ying, who was clearly intimidated by the woman’s presence. He loosely put an arm behind Wei Ying’s back to steady the younger man. With utmost Gusu etiquette, he made a bow with hands folded in front, and said, “Thank you for your concern, Lady Shopowner. We will take leave too.”

 

Thunder rumbled in the far horizon, and snow started to drift and swirl around them from icy winds. Heavier snowfall was imminent. 

 

“Have a safe trip back home on your sword , Mister Lan. And… take this with you,” she passed the umbrella to Wang Ji, and pressed its handle into his palm. Wang Ji was caught off-guard by her offer, and before he could respond, she walked off with her whining husband in tow. Just as she passed by Wang Ji, she whispered softly but clearly that only the latter could hear, “Take good care of your wife , Mister Lan. Come back when we re-open for business,” and gave a sly wink.

 

Both the old lady and the hunter waved their goodbyes and disappeared behind the shopfront.

 

Wei Ying was happy that they finally had some shelter from the snow, and he started to dust off ice from their clothes. “Lan Zhan… is everything alright? That lady was kind of scary, but she was also kind of nice to give us her umbrella, don’t you think so… eh? Lan Zhan?”

 

Wang Ji’s cheeks burned with six shades of red. He wondered how we would face the Lady Shopowner in the coming Spring.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

As Bichen put-puts its way back home with two big sacks dangling from its hilt, and two passengers standing firmly on its blade, Wei Ying tore yet another page from one of the notebooks that Wang Ji bought from the outpost. He appeared confident in casting magic while piloting the sword, and hardly wavered in his stance - his skills increased greatly with the additional practice between Huang village and Yiling City. 

 

Wei Ying wrote a very fancy mystical word with his fingers which left an indelible glowing blue mark - a never-seen-before combination of the “Eye”, “Fire” and “Light”. After a quick incantation, the page burst into flames and moulded into a gleaming ball of focused fiery-orange light. Wei Ying pointed forward, and a beam of amber light followed suit. 

 

“These fog lights are better than the white ones, don’t you think so, Lan Zhan?” he shouted to the back as they traverse through thick snow clouds.

 

“... Mn.” Lan Wang Ji made a delayed response as he mind was still busy trying to process Wei Ying’s ingenuity in using talismans; the latter had again broken millenia-old rules on Cultivation Arts, one by one, without batting an eye or hesitate at breaking such taboos.

 

First, he wrote multiple mystical words on one piece of paper , rather than forming a train of talismans - which made so much more economical sense, given that a piece of talisman usually costs up to a silver piece each. And it worked! If knowledge of such discoveries reach the general populace, it could practically turn the profitable talisman-making industry upside down, literally, and many paper mills would go bust. The only downsides were that the trick was limited to a few, perhaps up to a maximum of three or four characters depending on the size of the paper, and the lack of sequential activation which meant that the spells had to be cast simultaneously.

 

Second, and this one takes the cake: Wei Ying wrote the mystical words on plain xuan paper - the same ones used by children and scholars - instead of the standard Council-sanctioned, colour-coded and (awfully thin) enchanted ones. Even during his short tenure as Chief Cultivator, Lan Wang Ji did not manage to crack the secrets of making talisman papers, other than the fact that a vast, complex network of temples, shamans and paper mill companies with vested monetary interests was involved.

 

He grasped the bundle of net gifted by the hunter close to his satchel, and watched closely as Wei Ying used all five fingers to write tiny words of “Sparkles” on an edge of the following page. He carefully ripped five small squares (because they were flying through the air and he didn’t want to lose any of the written words) and handed them to Wang Ji. 

 

Lan Wang Ji had given up on trying to understand what Wei Ying was doing, or the science (or maths) behind his creative use of magic. He obediently took the paper pieces, each no bigger than the size of a fingertip.

 

“Here, cast one of these every time you see wild pigeons flying by. I was smacked in the face by a few on my way to the village, and had this idea of shooing those birds away with Sparkles. These pieces are small, so they don’t hurt and they last long enough to get the job done,” he said nonchalantly. When he noticed Wang Ji’s curious stare at the fistful of tiny scraps, he laughed and added, “Lan Zhan! Don’t look at them like that! I was so desperate on my way from Yiling and I ran out of talismans… so I had to make many Sparkles out of one receipt from Liao’s! It really works despite the size!” and patted Wang Ji’s shoulder to assure the older man.

 

(At the back of Wang Ji’s mind, an alarm sounded - on dear, Wei Ying burnt away one receipt! He would have to ask the younger man about it later, so that his books are balanced by the end of the day.

 

However, the conversation about Sparkles eventually made him forget about it.)

 

As Wei Ying continued to fly the sword back to their cave-home through snowy skies, he casted Fire Shields from carefully-rationed pieces of paper to keep them out of blinding snow, while Wang Ji threw Sparkles at passing flocks of birds. The start of Winter was a busy time for migratory birds, in fact.

 

Wang Ji fingered the trapping net in his grip. “Wei Ying, that old hunter… did he really give you some wild boar meat yesterday?”

 

Wei Ying stilled for a moment, and kept his gaze forward. “Er… yeah,” he muttered. He’s avoiding the subject .

 

Wang Ji sighed. A Sparkle chased away a crane from ramming into them (thus saving them from another roadkill). “Wei Ying, let me do the cooking from now on. Especially when making soups with pork ribs,” he stated. There was no room for negotiation.

 

“Uh… okay. I-I’m sorry for last nigh--”

 

The older man leaned into the Wei Ying and wrapped an arm around his waist. He gave a peck on the younger man’s cheek. “You did well, by helping the hunter. You didn’t know what the meat could do to me, and--,” and Wei Ying silenced Wang Ji with a tight embrace around the shoulders and a kiss in return. It was a shy but sweet, thank-you touch on the lips.

 

Wang Ji had to send additional miniscule amounts of his greatly diminished golden core energy to keep Bichen afloat, because Wei Ying was losing focus - which was all right.

 

The older man smiled faintly into the kiss. As he nuzzled and rubbed noses with his lover who was murmuring his name repeatedly, he thought of something.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“No more pork ribs for now. We’re having boiled fish tonight.”

 

“Ahh… Lan Zhan… again?” he whined as loudly as he could. He shook the older man’s wrists and pouted like a disappointed child. They just had that a few days ago. Sure, they were enough freshwater fish swimming in their lotus pond… but still...

 

“Boiled fish. Gusu style.” Inwardly, Wei Ying gagged. Bleargh.

 

“Ahh.. alright, alright (好, 好).. It’s your decision (随便你).”  He didn’t want to argue after causing so much trouble to his lao gong .

 

Then he snickered. And snorted. Boiled fish! Oh the boiled fish! Goddess Guan Yin, have mercy!!

 

“What.”

 

He waved his hands dismissively. “Nothing…”

 

A few minutes later, when their home was in sight, he asked, “Lan Zhan! How about one boiled fish... and one fried fish? There’s plenty of them from the pond, after all.”

 

“...”

 

“It goes well with my special plum sauce, you know.”

 

The grip on Bichen’s scabbard tightened with a clear clinking sound. 

 

“Fried stuff goes so well with the spicy, sweet-sour sauce.”

 

Lan Wang Ji swallowed, audibly.

 

“Nnh,” and the deal is sealed.

Chapter Text

“The year before”

 

It was shortly after the highly revered Han Guang Jun left his coveted seat at the upended Grand Cultivation Council last summer, that they started looking for a more, say, ideal home as newlyweds - and away from angry, hostile family members (including the in-laws).

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

His departure from the Council left a sour aftertaste, and this strengthened his resolve to completely sever all relations with those cultivators and their labyrinth of dirty politics, money laundering with ill-gotten gains, and conspiracies with outside forces to control the world of cultivation. He received an ample dose of the same bitter medicine that Wei Wuxian had to swallow for most of the younger man’s past life - that every individual, even those that bore little or no relation to the Second Jade of Gusu Lan, had something unpleasant to say or harbored selfish intention, towards his simple act of submitting a resignation letter and leaving the hall of upset bearded old sages right after the scandalous passionate kiss to his lover (now, “wife”).

 

Scores of wise men accused the ex-Chief Cultivator of many false, distasteful sins that “could have” led him astray. Gossips within the hallways are pervasive, including unbelievably wild theories about how he lured and slept with a hundred beautiful young men and women on lonely nights during his tenure (because he was always the last one to turn off the lanterns in the Council office, and jealous/lazy servants couldn’t find any other ways to tear down their fiercely disciplined employer from his throne); or how he secretly corrupted cultivation magic behind closed doors and summoned fierce corpses since attacks on people have almost become commonplace in the Northern regions; or how a thousand gold bars had gone missing overnight from the Council’s coffers, and so on. There was no evidence, other than the cryptic words of “I once heard…” and “People say…”

 

(The truth is, the Council members wanted the general populace to focus on the cultivation-superstar that had fallen spectacularly from grace, instead of their ineptness in filling the gap that Lan Wang Ji left). 

 

Rumour-mongering became rife in every teahouse in the Middle Kingdom, and every peasant, scholar, tradesperson and cultivator-kin joined the bandwagon:

 

Han Guang Jun is too young and inexperienced, so he must have surrendered his title after feeling humiliated that he couldn’t complete the investigation into the new invasion of fierce corpses, said the jealous cultivators queueing up for candidacy as the next Chief.

 

He must be forced into doing this because he’s found out some murky secrets about the Council and he was threatened to vacate his position (such as impenetrable secrets of the talisman-making industry), cried a group of business owners that supported him to break the monopolies involving key persons in the Council.

 

The story of Jin Guangyao’s web of treachery must have reached the eyes and ears of the Emperor! The fall of Han Guang Jun is the first of a series of steps carefully planned by spies from the Imperial Court, and soon, we will all suffer from His Majesty’s wrath!, postulated the scholars who have studied countless history textbooks and are well-versed with the eternal struggle between the Imperial Cultivators from the Heavenly Palace in Chang’an and the world of ordinary cultivators backed by the surviving Four Great Clans - Lan, Jiang, Nie, and Jin.

 

On the other side of the fence, multitudes of females from all age groups mourned the loss of their much-worshipped male god(dess) and manifested their sadness in various crazed, depraved acts ranging from: organizing mass gatherings where people sang praises and songs to hyperventilating and screaming audiences, re-enacted memorable events of Han Guang Jun’s life (which left many heartbreaks, sobbing and fainting), and cry together in an unsettling but extraordinary display of sisterhood in times of crisis; crowd-funding enough to buy up all advertisement space along the main streets of major cities, to prominently display banners, calligraphies and huge building-sized portraits of their beloved idol; ensuring that every product that was ever mentioned in the same line (or breath) as Han Guang Jun’s name, including his occasional product endorsements, would go out of stock for many months (he was once seen using a skin cream that helped to protect his angelic complexion from the damaging effects of summer’s sunrays, and that brand of skin cream went on to become a best-seller); and making sure that his eminent name would top the charts of competitions, awards and various other avenues of showcasing one’s talents (at one point, he ran a class for young aspiring cultivators and taught them some of his iconic martial arts moves - which eventually took on a life of its own and became “cool dance moves”, much to the delight of scores of adoring teenage boys and girls). Despite their support, such fanatic acts led to tarnishing the remaining good reputation of Han Guang Jun, for obvious reasons.

 

(Perhaps, if one were to live long enough into the next millennia or two, one will see that such trends would evolve into an every occurence of pop culture - but that is for another story.)

 

Nothing good ever comes out of being too famous and for the wrong reasons. All clans distanced themselves away from him at the height of the unsavoury events. Master Lan Qiren is said to continue to spit out blood at the mere mention of his nephew, and Jiang Wanyin would crack Zidian at anyone who dares to bring up the sullied name of this “troublesome” brother-in-law.

 

The successor, a rich member of the Jin family, eventually bought his way to the seat of the Chief Cultivator. He made sure to erase the mention of the Han Guang Jun’s name from all official records and texts (which pleased the bearded wrinkled old sages of the Council); generously paid off damages caused by disruptions in supply and demand for talismans and other magical goods as claimed by tradespersons - coincidentally, totalling up to a thousand gold bars (which turned the tide for support from business owners towards the new Chief Cultivator); made a few changes to the history books (which left scholars fuming and then retaliate by taking sides with the Imperial Court - with far-reaching consequences); created and spread new cultures to enthrall artisans and citizens, such as organising concerts, roadshows and live appearances with talented, beautiful young celebrities, thus garnering their votes and support with catchy extravagance-themed slogans such has "gold is in vogue" - thus wiped out the last dissenting voices about his bribe-laced appointment; and finally, he downplayed the fame and achievements of the Second Jade of Gusu Lan in the last sixteen years, which led to the current prickly state of affairs between the Lan and Jin clans (a cold war between these neighbouring clans was brewing, and either side was ready to raise a battle cry at the slightest provocation; unexpectedly, the Nie clan continues to feign ignorance).

 

Interestingly, the name of Wei Wuxian, once feared as the Yiling Patriarch, was hardly mentioned at all and has been largely forgotten. 

 

With Lan Wang Ji’s name taken out from the books, his fate would follow soon enough.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

They've pored over many maps of the Middle Kingdom, talked to a few well-connected estate agents, and tried to imagine spending the rest of their peaceful marital bliss in regions as north as the bustling Imperial capital city of Chang'an or icy-cold Heilongjiang, somewhere closer to the sea and Gusu's roots in Suzhou, towards the blistering hot tropics of Yunnan in the south, along the fertile valleys of the Long River (though a bit too close to Yunmeng for Wei Ying's comfort), or maybe just somewhere more isolated and peaceful in the volcanic deserts and grass plains just a stone's throw away from the Xinjiang plateaus, where the mountains of Qishan resides.

 

In the end, it was a call from their old friend, Mian Mian, who helped them find their new home. She sent a Fairy Messenger spell to Wei Ying who happened to be around Yiling City at that time, busy meeting with prospective landowners and property agents in teahouses (and getting them to pay for his meals and drinks while having meandering "serious" discussions that never bore fruit), and hunkered down in cheap inns because he was always short on funds. Mian Mian was indebted to the couple's good deeds and she did not forget their kindness and generosity towards her family; years later, her daughter would still recall their chance meeting with a handsome "rich" gege in white, who seemed vaguely together with another chatty but forgettable gege dressed in black - so, as soon as she heard about a piece of vacant land being put up for sale by the local town council, she just had to make the call.

 

The Burial Mounds, as the name aptly describes, is a place avoided by the living, and favoured by creatures of the night - gruesome horrors told by mothers to scare their little children to go to bed by nine. Surprisingly, and probably due to the lack of human encroachment, there is an abundance of wildlife, dense grasslands and forests that harboured plenty of fruit trees abandoned by past generations of farmers, and a well-hidden network of springwaters from Qishan. 

 

Still, nobody wanted to move in, although technically, the land was free for public use - until one day, the Mayor of Yiling City became desperate enough and decided to peruse a great marketing strategy. A price tag was put on the 'Mounds and a fancy land title was drawn up - for formality reasons. Mian Mian was the first to hear the news when her husband went to the city council's office to settle some tax dues and saw the proclamation posted on the noticeboard.

 

Mian Mian's family lived on the fringes of Yiling and in fact, closer to the 'Mounds, so she happily told Wei Ying that they could be good neighbours if he took up the offer - just a hundred gold pieces for the land title that spans across several hills, valleys and a cavern complex at the center.

 

A Fairy Messenger spell from Wei Ying and two days later, Lan Wang Ji rushed from Caiyi Town on a blazing Bichen with their modest possessions in tow. Without a question, he gladly paid with a gold bar from his money pouch at Wei Ying’s insistence. Although Wei Ying did most of the paperwork and negotiations with the Mayor (because he wanted to be friendly with the city’s most powerful political figure and also get free lunches at the city council’s cost, while waiting for his lao gong ), the land title was issued to Wang Ji’s name.

 

As the couple walked out of the city council office, Wei Ying started talking about furnishing their new home, having a simple outdoor barbeque house-warming party (because it’s always cool to have parties outside during the hot summer), and inviting Mian Mian’s family as well as Wen Ning and Sizhui. Wang Ji, on the other hand, started listing down the groceries they needed to stock up, and for a brief moment, he stole a worried glance at his money pouch. 

 

There were four gold bars left in there.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“The present year”

 

After unloading a basket of summer berries, fruits, and wild mushrooms foraged from the forests at Old Merchant Zhu's shop, Wei Ying headed off to Grandma Li's clinic to drop off a fresh batch of herbal candies and collect his dues. 

 

"You're such a hardworking young man, already up and about at this hour!" the sweet old lady praised him. The sun had just risen, businesses were opening up for the day, and people started to crowd at Yiling's markets to buy their daily groceries and have breakfasts of congee, fried dough sticks and dumplings. The clinic was conveniently located next to one such morning market, and close to Old Merchant Zhu's vegetable stalls.

 

She handed him the sales proceeds from the week before, a meagre but reasonable amount of twenty silver pieces. Wei Ying bowed in thanks, and sheepishly said, "It's only right that I work hard… I have to feed the family and pay the bills."

 

Grandma Li gave a serious, hard look at the younger man for a minute, before letting out a tired sigh and placed a palm on her forehead. "How I wish my son has half your character and none of his father's arrogance and laziness! Just because he is a certified doctor and works in a clinic inherited from his parents, doesn't mean he can turn up for work at any time of the day."

 

Wei Ying shrugged. He had met Doctor Li on a few occasions while delivering homemade medicinal confectionery made from herbs sourced from the 'Mounds and other ingredients such as flour and sugar from Liao's General Store. The doctor was a young man in his twenties, has a modern short haircut unlike most ordinary men in Yiling, always dressed smartly but unfortunately did not have a friendly, welcoming demeanour for a person practising the healing arts, unlike his mother who also worked as a dispensary nurse in the same premise.

 

Wei Ying scratched the back of his head. "Well, I used to sleep in late until my spouse said that I had to earn my keep," he joked to diffuse Grandma Li's agitated mood, "because if I didn't, I'd get kicked out of the house!" He continued cheerfully, "I'm sure someday, your son will find inspiration to work hard and commit to living up the Li's family name as well-respected medical practitioners in Qishan," then pointed at the storefront, "such as when it's time for him to officially take over the family's business," then thumbed at himself, "or when he settles down and realizes that he has other mouths to feed other than his!"

 

The old nurse sighed again and nodded in agreement. She took the fresh batch of herbal candies from the young man's hands. "You're married for a year already before moving here, and you're still so close and loving towards your wife. I wished it was the same as for me and my husband… our relationship cooled off by the following Spring Festival after our son was born… and now I'm ranting non-stop to a man half my age who delivers goods to my clinic every week. Ah, please forgive this old aunty!" she sighed again, exasperated.

 

Wei Ying wasn't an expert in matters of the heart, so he could not give her any better advice. He was very grateful for his current married life - he wakes up early every morning to a full breakfast on the table, his clothes neatly folded by the bedside, his mind alert and body fully energized for the day. He lives with purpose and there is a sense of fulfillment in everything he does.

 

Eventually, their conversation turned towards business affairs. Wei Ying took note of customers' feedback passed from the old nurse, such as an increase in requests for candies using summer fruit flavours, and in smaller sizes because children really liked them and the clinic usually sells out when large families drop by for their medical check-ups.

 

He thanked Grandma Li after taking next week's orders, and before he left, she gave him a few books, journals and magazines from the clinic "since the doctor doesn't need them anymore" and she doubted if the illiterate patients would be interested anyway. 

 

Lan Zhan would be thrilled to read the latest editions of Middle Kingdom Geographic and Cultivation Times.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

"Magics! Miracles! Mysteries! All for a silver apiece!"

 

"Three talismans for the price of two!"

 

"Fame and untold riches await those who wish to see their future! Have your fortune-telling done today!"

 

"Having a headache? Or a heartache? Step right in for a quick, relaxing acupuncture session! Free foot reflexology and palm reading, for a limited time only!"

 

Business is always brisk on clear, sunny days. People from all walks of life, especially rich housewives, thronged to his small cart for offers that few other street peddlers can beat. Wei Ying's A wesome S elling Skills and his sweet, charming personality made his customers buy more than they had intended, and return another day for more.

 

He usually starts by offering simple elemental spells, made easy by his self-named “Yin Tech patented technology” of putting a big red circle on each paper talisman. Housewives only needed to press the red mark to set off the spell, and no longer had to rely on their husbands to figure out the intricacies of spellcasting.

 

"Beautiful gu niang ! I see you've worked hard all day to make good meals for your family!"

 

"Oh? How would you know, young man? Don't try to sweet talk me into buying your cheap stuff!"

 

"Ah, of course not! I'm helping people by solving their problems, and all I'm asking in return is a small fee to feed my poor family. My wife also works hard with cooking and she's enjoying an easier life now with these talismans!"

 

"... What do you mean by 'easier'? How can cooking be made easier? Men like you probably never step into the kitchen!"

 

"That's very true, and I admit that my wife does all the cooking. But here," a Fire talisman is waved tantalizingly in front of the woman, "is something that helps to start fires in the stove, and these," three pieces are waved seductively, "will make sure your meat roasts are fully cooked, and your soups are kept warm throughout dinner. Surely you wouldn't want your children to complain about eating cold, undercooked food during mealtimes, would you?.... And, and,... Oh dear, did you sprain your wrist from fetching water from the town well?"

 

"How did you know?!"

 

"Look, there are ugly rope marks on the forearms. I will not be a dishonest seller and try to sell useless beauty creams here; so, please visit Doctor Li's clinic for the correct medication and any other minor ailments you may have. And while we're at it, please consider getting a few of these," a piece of Water talisman is flashed, "so that you don't have to fetch so many buckets of water the next time. Each will yield half a bucket, at least."

 

"You seem to be a sincere, kind-hearted person. I wish more street peddlers are like you, young man," the woman remarked, as she scrutinized the talismans with interest.

 

"You can always find me in the weekend morning markets. If there's anything that you're not satisfied with, you can address your grouses directly with me, the owner of the Yin Tech enterprise!” And he points at the odd-looking rabbit-themed company logo on each talisman. “If you don't mind me asking, does your shoulder hurt from carrying water or even that heavy-looking basket of vegetables? You can rest here,” he pulls out a low chair and gives it a couple of wipes from a cloth, “and I can give you a nice acupuncture session. Your husband can wait a bit longer ." 

 

A sly wink. That caught the customer’s attention.

 

"Hah! I'll take your offer and these," she points at the various stacks of talismans on the cart table, before proceeding to sit on the chair with a huff. "You're a smart boy, how did you know my husband is waiting on the other side of the market?"

 

Wei Ying smiled brightly. Whenever they visited the evening markets in Yiling, his lao gong would try to stand at the sides or keep to a couple of well-acquainted stall owners whenever possible, while Wei Ying would happily hop from one stall to another. Lan Zhan always commented with the succinct words, “Too crowded”.

 

As Wei Ying proceeds to prep the customer’s stiff shoulder muscles with a nice oiled massage while taking out his acupuncture equipment, he whispers to the housewife's ear with a rather sweet, seductive voice: "Of course I know what husbands do in the markets... I'm a married man too. "

 

Fifteen minutes later, Wei Wuxian pocketed another gold piece into his pouch.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying keeps a small notebook with him and he jots down useful ideas whenever they surface from his hyperactive creative mind. He knows that sometimes, he carelessly leaves the book in their home and Lan Zhan will pick it up for him - after reading it, of course; so Wei Ying intentionally puts some comments and questions for his lao gong in case Lan Zhan could contribute a few more suggestions to his train of thoughts. 

 

The cover was plain blue in colour, which was the norm for every notebook found in any bookstore. Wei Ying decided to customize it according to his colourful personality, by cutting up coloured papers and using rice glue to stick them onto the dull cover. He formed the letters which became the name his little notebook; for the time being, since he was a peddler of all sorts of magical charms, talismans and trinkets, he named it “A wesome S elling Skills”.

 

Flipping page after page, A wesome S elling Skills is a treasure trove of messily scribbled ideas on how and what to sell to supplement their meagre earnings. There are also unusually neatly-written comments on the sides of the pages - they almost look like prints, except for the rare telltale ink smudges in some pages. An excerpt of a page from the notebook:

 

  • Be polite, courteous, and always SMILE.

 

  • Relate to the customer's problems. LISTEN. Put yourself in their shoes.

 

  • Always ask yourself, what else does the customer want and need (Wei Ying, please differentiate these two terms. Focus more on the wants)

 

  • Each customer must leave with at least THREE items. Helpful list for talismans:

Lao Gong please fill.

 

(Wei Ying, please start a new page for this section. There are endless uses for each talismans, and I listed a few here.)

 

Wood: cooking, substitute for firewood, quick fix for chipped furniture, fix wooden tools and instruments such as guqin and flute.

 

Fire: cooking, light up lanterns at night, reading in the dark, useful for chasing away wild animals.

 

Earth: potted plants, gardening and farming, quick fixes to stone sculptures or earthen floors

 

Metal: quick fixes on weapons, knives and metal kitchen ware. Wei Ying, don’t ever make silver and gold pieces with this spell. [Later, Wei Ying drew a turtle next to this comment]

 

Water: cooking, watering plants and farms, convenient for travel use, quick showers

 

Wind: cooling air during summer, fresh air, less sweeping required, drying laundry

 

Sparkles: entertainment such as fireworks, useful for chasing away wild animals

 

Shield: protection from external elements such as rain in case someone forgets to carry an umbrella, holding elements within a small area such as heat - good as heater when casted underneath blankets. Note: We should do this again during winter.

 

Binding: Keeping things tied together, laundry line, quick fix on tears in clothes. Note: It’s your spell. Think of something useful yourself, Wei Ying.)

 

Lao Gong - Your ideas are too boring, too repetitive. Need more ideas outside of the kitchen and the house. I will try to mix these up and come up with newer spells. Please write more ideas. Buy another notebook when this one fills up. 

 

(Wei Ying, please refer to the Laws of Absolute Truth by the Grand Cultivation Council. Combinations are prohibited, according to Law no. 201) [Later, a second turtle was drawn next to this comment].


Later the year, Wei Ying’s A wesome S elling Skills was eventually filled up. Lan Zhan bought another notebook for Wei Ying during his last trip to Huang village before winter closed in, on a snowy day while travelling on Bichen with dreams of having his favourite boiled fish and fried fish dipped in the lip-smackingly delicious special plum sauce for dinner.

Chapter Text

The days are peaceful, fulfilling yet busy for Lan Zhan. Sometimes he misses the calm in the Cloud Recesses, where he could meditate, read his books or play the guqin for many hours, uninterrupted. However, he has abandoned his previous lifestyle when he left Jingshi last summer, along with his past pursuits of becoming a bachelor cultivator, a scholar and a devout practitioner of Gusu Lan’s sacred rules within the protected mountains of the Cloud Recesses.

 

He tells himself again and again, that he is now a married man, that he lives for two , and that he is far away from home.

 

The path forward remains clouded in uncertainty, with little or no guidance from Gusu Lan’s over-4000 rules that he had memorized in heart, a lifetime ago. He knows that as he treads ahead, he will face new challenges, and will be forced to break new grounds; he also knows there is joy in discovering about himself and living a fuller life with his significant other, and that there is pain from despair when plagued with mistakes and troubles with no one around to help, not even his missing older brother or any other clansmen.

 

He tells himself that walking the path shrouded in murky darkness of the Burial Mounds - together with Wei Ying - is not too bad.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

It was shortly before six when Lan Zhan woke up - a late start for him. The first amber rays of sunlight filtered through curtained windows, bright enough to gently rouse him from sleep. He felt too comfortable to fully wake up to his senses; Wei Ying’s soft snores continue to entice him back to dreams of lovemaking and intertwining bodies; and the sweet, musky all-too-familiar scent of Wei Ying’s body odours and morning breaths are heavy on sleep-warmed pillows and blankets, that he wished he could bury himself deeper into the bed mattress and have his “five more minutes, please”.

 

The sounds of birds and insects chirping filled the chilled dawn air, accompanied by a stronger, sharper smell of sandalwood incense pervading the bedroom’s atmosphere; Wei Ying’s modified “slow-release” Shield spell seemed to have lasted the whole night, he thought, and silently he uttered a word of thanks to his lover - by lighting up incense resins and then casting a few modified Shield spells around their cave-home, they were able to hold some of the smoke in (just barely) and keep out pesky mosquitoes and other biting insects that are prevalent during nighttime.

 

The couple had slept in, for justifiable reasons. He stayed up late (beyond his usual nine ‘o clock) to fix Wei Ying’s clothes and sew a new pair of trousers from rolls of cloth. Under the same flickering lights of lanterns and Fire spells that Wei Ying casted over their heads, the younger man busied with mass-producing paper talismans in the workroom. He worked hard, crouching beside the workbench and squinted against the dim light to write out top-selling elemental spells by hand (his handwriting is still messy, even sixteen years later). An hour after Lan Zhan’s bedtime, when the older man gratefully climbed into bed, he saw Wei Ying putting the finishing touches on an assortment of knick-knacks to be sold in the markets. The constant sounds of hammering, carving, painting and tinkering that echoed from the workroom lulled him to sleep. Before midnight, he was jolted awake by an intrusive presence (Lan Zhan’s defensive instincts kicked in regardless of the time of day), and he was greeted by the sight of his lover, dark circles under his eyes, sitting up on his haunches on their bed while writing out ideas into a little notebook (annoyingly titled A wesome S elling Skills, but Lan Zhan knew it contained more than just that because he’s seen drawings about new gadgets, fixtures and home improvement projects between the pages). 

 

Wei Ying was particularly active during some nights when the proverbial light bulb sparks inside his mind, but Lan Zhan was adamant that both of them get enough sleep - so, after calling out Wei Ying’s name twice with terse instructions of “go to sleep” from where he lay on his side of the bed, he promptly plucked out the book and ink brush from Wei Ying’s fingers. He ignored the younger man’s protests and pulled him down to lie against his chest, so that his heart beat hard against Wei Ying’s cheeks. He hummed their song in a soft, soothing but deep baritone voice. The struggles eventually died down and Wei Ying finally found slumber in Lan Zhan’s snug embrace.

 

“Nnnnh. Don’t eat… my eggs.”

 

Lan Zhan’s eyes flew open and he blinked at the nude sleeping form in front of him. Wei Ying is the undisputed champion of moving around during sleep; the younger man usually changes his sleeping position at least six times during the night (Lan Zhan knows this, because he is often rudely awoken by a leg sticking into his face or a hand slapped across his chest; like clockwork, he patiently re-arranges his lover back to his side, tucking him neatly under their blanket, before going back to sleep). Somehow, the younger man’s sleeping garments had been flung to a far corner of their bedroom; this happens frequently especially during balmy nights. Wei Ying lay on his stomach atop the older man’s torso, face nestled against Lan Zhan’s crotch, butt high up in the air and legs tucked into Lan Zhan’s armpits. The younger man’s arousal was hard and heavy against his collarbone, and he felt it jerk with excitement; Wei Ying was probably having another lewd dream.

 

Lan Zhan remembered that both of them missed their nightly quota of lovemaking, and the welcoming sight of spreaded springy ass mounds thrust in front of his face - was truly a sight for sore (and hungry) eyes. His cock began to rise in his pants and called for urgent attention.

 

Soon, Lan Zhan tenderly licked and sucked at twin plump balls that jiggled invitingly with each swipe of warm, wet tongue. Muscles contract, retracting them close to the base of the younger man’s erection, but Lan Zhan refused to let his delectable prize go. He used his lips to gently retrieve each one into his waiting mouth, and continued to massage the delicate organs with flicking and rolling tongue until they quiver involuntarily in their sacs.

 

(Sometimes, after a hot bath, Wei Ying complains that one of his balls always hang lower than the other although there is no pain. Lan Zhan hmmms, because this is perfectly normal in any adult males, according to the medical texts from Yiling’s Library Pavilion. He also hmmms again, because he has a tendency to pay attention to one of the two during their oral lovemaking; so he tells Wei Ying to “lie down and let me check, just in case ” like an in-house doctor. When Wei Ying obediently spread-eagles on their bed without his pants, Lan Zhan hmmms again because he “thinks one of them looks suspiciously bigger than the other, so let me feel it, just in case ”, he would gently squeeze and milk the targeted, vulnerable testicle with his fingers while giving Wei Ying a wonderfully satisfying post-bath blowjob with lips and tongue. He does not let go until Wei Ying hnnghs and aaaahs repeatedly and jerks his hips wantonly into the waiting throat and ejaculates thick, heated spurts. He ends the medical check-up by saying that “now, both of them look about the same,” in which a flushed, post-orgasmic Wei Ying responds with tantalizing sways of raised ass, and sensuous whispers of “Hmmm, Doctor Lan, there’s something itching inside here, can you take a look and give me some medicine too, just in case ?”)

 

“Mmmh! Eggs.. don’t eat…” sleepy Wei Ying continued to ramble in his dreamy state. Lan Zhan watched, mesmerized, as the younger man’s genitals began to take on a deeper shade of red in colour with the relentless suckling stimulation. He could feel Wei Ying’s toes curling with delight, trapped in his armpits, and loud moans vibrate from the younger man’s lips straight into his pubes and pelvic bone. He picked up his pace of face-fucking Wei Ying’s crotch, making sure to lap at the sensitive perineum and poke it with the tip of his tongue until he could feel the outlines of a convulsing prostate. Every inch of Wei Ying’s erogenous zones were not left untouched.

 

“Whose eggs?” Lan Zhan then murmured into the sensitive line at the middle of the scrotum. He made sure his hot breath tickled every fold of skin that tightened rhythmically with waves of pleasure running along sexually-related meridians along the lower body, until uncontrolled delicious nnnnh sounds spilled out at the other end of the bed. Lan Zhan easily reached for their bedside drawer and picked out a bottle of their favourite massage oil.

 

“Mine… yours…” the younger man groaned, nearly incoherent. Lan Zhan’s rock-hard penis had found its way through the front opening of his pants, and he gratefully rubbed it against Wei Ying’s lips. Without looking, he expertly pulled open the bottle’s stopper and slathered a generous amount of oil onto his fingers. The rolling movements of hips by the older man didn’t seem to perturb Wei Ying’s sleep-deprived nonsense; as with the sensations of fingers invading through the tight anal ring of muscles and the tingling assault on wet interior with gentle jabs, stretches and plenty of squishy oily and creamy sounds. Wei Ying’s lucid dreaming continued, unabated.

 

“My… eggs?” Lan Zhan started to ramble too, when Wei Ying devoured his entire length in one sweet swallowing motion. He could feel his golden core energy drain alarmingly as he tried not to orgasm instantly at the delicious friction of moist lips enveloping his excited hard-on. At the back of his mind, he recited some of Gusu Lan’s rules to calm his impulses, and control the burning desire to flip his lover on the bed and screw Wei Ying deep into the mattress there and then .

 

“Both… mine, yours… don’t eat… they’re mine… this… tanghulu… too...” the younger man moaned nearly unintelligibly between humping his ass against Lan Zhan’s face, and bobbing his head greedily on the newfound treat.

 

“Tang...hulu…?” Lan Zhan panted, as his fingertips worked vigorously to stroke and graze the swollen prostate, which was filling up quickly with the milky nectar that he craves so much in the mornings; his other hand continued to cup and caress the trembling, contracting heavy scrotum, sending shivers running up and down the younger man’s spine; if there was ever a medical condition called ‘testicular orgasm’, Wei Ying was certainly having one. (Lan Zhan mentally noted this for his next trip to the Library’s medical section.)

 

Wei Ying responded in kind by fondling the pulsating rod in tandem with Lan Zhan’s lavish treatment on his bottom. He sloppily kissed the saliva-slicked engorged glans in his grip, tongued the tip persistently until pearls of clear liquid oozed out in copious amounts, and his fingers traced lovingly along veins that throbbed beneath the foreskin. Even in his sleep, Wei Ying seemed to have memorized Lan Zhan’s sweetest spots and had no trouble edging the older man close to completion.

 

“... it tastes like you,” he dreamily murmured into a mouthful of cock, and then, “I like it,” before swallowing the twitching flesh and the bountiful trails of viscous, slippery pre-cum that covered it.

 

Lan Zhan became harder than ever, and was very close to cumming into the inviting moist, warm cavern. He clutched at the bedsheets until they threatened to tear, and his knuckles turned white.

 

Then, from a distance, a jungle cockerel crowed.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

It was one of those strange, unforgettable mornings for Wei Ying.

 

There was a flurry of activity, lots of noisy clanging and pounding sounds, of clothes being thrown onto him with shouts of “Get dressed!”,  a flustered (!!!) and sweaty Lan Zhan running back and forth the kitchen. The older man was half preparing breakfast for them, and half machining boiled dumplings ( jiaozi ) from blurred hands that moved faster than the eyes could see (because he could move his limbs at inhuman speeds - yes, believe it). 

 

Lan Zhan had prepared the dough and kept it moist overnight, and quickly tore the lump into many smaller round balls of equal sizes, arranged neatly on a tray on top of the dining table. Wei Ying quietly munched on a fried pancake ( jianbing ) at the edge of the same table; he was afraid to say anything that may upset his agitated-looking  (!!!) partner. The sight of a rolling pin slamming those round balls in a whirlwind of flying flour, until they formed into perfectly-shaped circles of flattened dough-wrappers, reminded him of how Lan Zhan swatted his springy butt so terribly hard that he was rudely woken up from tasty dreams of eggs and tanghulus.

 

Next, Lan Zhan walked to the kitchen counter where a large bowl of meat filling waited for assembly. Wei Ying could smell the meaty mixture of tender fatty pork, flavored with fresh ginger, garlic, chives, shredded cabbage, pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce and other condiments - he was thankful that the jianbing in his hand had the same luxurious contents. It was delicious.

 

“Stand back.”

 

Wei Ying obediently scooted his chair to the far end of the kitchen, a half-chewed jianbing hanging from his mouth. He watched intently as Lan Zhan scooped a spoonful of meat filling, and with impressive accuracy and dexterity, he flung it over his shoulders and the dollop landed precisely on the center of the first dough-wrapper, which was less than thumb’s length in diameter. Wei Ying unconsciously clapped his hands at the marvellous display of Lan Zhan’s cooking skills (in which Lan Zhan is secretly pleased and he hmmphs with pride). Soon, the kitchen was filled with flying meaty projectiles and wet splats of each perfect landing on every wrapper on the tray. Along the way, Lan Zhan also managed to heat up a skillet on the stove, and made two silky-smooth sunny side up eggs for Wei Ying. 

 

As Wei Ying finished his hearty breakfast with a warm cup of soy milk, Lan Zhan too, finished pleating each half moon-shaped dumpling (perfection at its best - not a single pleat or fold out of place!) and he set them into a pot of boiling broth. While the dumplings were being cooked, Lan Zhan took the time to quickly comb and tie Wei Ying’s hair and adjust his light-coloured robes, and reminded him of the day’s instructions: he must reach Hu’s teahouse before nine in the morning, as there was a local wedding ceremony held at that time and the newlyweds had ordered two hundred pieces of jiaozi for their hungry guests. Wei Ying had less than an hour, and he could still reach on time if he walked briskly. (Running was out of the question, considering the delicate nature of the delicacy bouncing in the basket on his back!)

 

Lan Zhan calmed down when the steaming jiaozi pieces were finally packed into bamboo racks and placed into Wei Ying’s basket. “Careful, they’re still hot,” Lan Zhan advised, as he raised the heavy basket so that Wei Ying could tie the straps to the front of his body and ensure a safe, stable journey for the precious cargo. At the same time, Wei Ying slung his satchel of talismans, acupuncture equipment and a packed lunch over his shoulder. He was ready to dash off when Lan Zhan bent forward to give an unexpected light kiss on the younger man’s cheek.

 

“Have a safe trip, Wei Ying.”

 

Wei Ying stammered Mmm’s, Errr’s and Y-yes’es, and blushed into bright crimson like a teenager hopelessly in love. Then, he left the courtyard in a rush, wordless, with a swirl of dry dust trailing behind him.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan wiped sweat from the sides of his face and his neck with sleeves that smelled of meat and cooking oil. He sighed and silently prayed to the 108 known local gods that Wei Ying will succeed in delivering the goods on time.

 

He also berated himself to be more disciplined, to correct his flaws, and not to indulge too much in morning sex when there was work to be done. Honestly, he had forgotten about the jiaozi order from Hu’s teahouse, until the crow of jungle fowls told him that the sun was up and it was very, very late. He wondered if this was a sign that perhaps, they should consider rearing some chickens and especially roosters to wake them up on time. He would talk to Wei Ying about it later that day.

 

Lan Zhan heaved another sigh. He still had some gardening to do during the morning, and he hadn’t started on the laundry yet. Their vegetable patch was ruined after their first harsh winter in the ‘Mounds; fierce winds and icy blizzards destroyed every wooden structure he had erected in the gardens, frozen and wiped out most of their surviving root-vegetables, and the worst of the winter season had fallen a good number of fruit trees surrounding their home. He had spent most of early Spring ploughing and shovelling the thawing soil, and replanting the lost greens. He had learnt some good lessons in farming, and he was determined not to make the same mistakes the following year - by reading up on magazines on agricultural techniques (Huang village had plenty of those), and making sure that everything in the gardens will be stronger, healthier and sturdier to withstand the extreme weather conditions of the ‘Mounds.

 

As he returned to the cave and into the bedroom, and started to pull away the soiled bedsheets for washing, he soundlessly uttered a word of apology to Wei Ying. He had robbed the younger man of his first morning climax when he realized they had no time to spare (curse the cockerel’s crow!). He had swiftly cast a red-hued Numbing spell straight into Wei Ying’s nether regions to kill off all desires and sensations (a useful side-effect of the local anesthetic magic), followed by his standard bright-blue Healing spell so that Wei Ying felt relatively comfortable despite the turmoil within his body, and a soft-green Calming spell to send adrenaline and blood from the lower body back to the general circulation. He used up most of his own golden core energy to snuff out his own swelling lust - which is why he wouldn’t want to risk using Bichen to fly Wei Ying to Yiling, because he could not guarantee he had enough fuel for the trip to town and back home.

 

Lan Zhan promised (with the 108 known local gods in witness) that he will pay back the debt to Wei Ying at night.

 

With lots of interest, of course.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying was, frankly, still half-asleep when he walked through the fruit tree orchards that lined the edge of their estate. The slap marks that burned on the springy globes on his rear were clear reminders that Lan Zhan had been upset at himself for waking up late, and felt wholly responsible at the ensuing drama to ensure the jiaozi reached their destination safely. There were questions running through his sleepy head, but he decided to dismiss them because he was kind of lazy to think too much, first thing in the morning. 

 

His lower body ached and felt rather heavy . He wondered if this was due to not having their quota of “everyday” the night before - because he was very productive at that time of the day, especially when spring comes and summer looms ahead, and there is an abundance of business opportunities in Yiling, with plenty to see, to experience and to cherish in a lively sea of hustle and bustle typical of city life. Wei Ying hoped that they will have double the fun in the bedroom at night, and he smiled brightly at the prospect of riding both of them to multiple orgasms (and recording Lan Zhan’s exquisite facial expressions during sex, because every one of them is jaw-droppingly precious, and he has enough Eye talismans plastered all over their bedroom walls to “catch ‘em all”).

 

The heat from the steaming jiaozi started to burn his back. As he lowered the basket on the ground with a frown and a palm rubbed the reddened skin just above his buttocks, he contemplated about his immediate problem. He didn’t want to end up with blisters, but he had a cargo to deliver. He could carry the basket by hand, but the steam will still burn his palms and the unwieldy load would tire him considerably; fatigue would slow him down - he might miss the crucial food-serving event of the wedding ceremony!

 

Minutes ticked by, and finally he decided to throw the towel and unveil his trump cards. He looked around to make sure that nobody was around or watching. He took out a Fire talisman from his inner pocket and magically erased the mystical word on the yellow paper. Then, he pointed both second and third fingers to it and carefully wrote an ugly, inverted version of the same word that was deleted earlier. As he wrote, the strokes began to quiver and move - they slither, smear and bleed all over the paper like a living serpentine creature. Wispy black smoke floated off the surface, and the stench of curses and malaise fill the air.

 

Wei Ying wasn’t sure if this idea would work, but he was willing to bet a basket of valuable jiaozi for it to succeed.

 

Elemental spells are intended to create, modify or transform Nature’s elements, to a limited extent, but they do not take away . The act of inverting a spell is considered to be an extreme aspect of the dark arts, and forbidden at all costs - because such acts defy the divine laws of Creation and of the Living.

 

The talisman becomes sickly dark-purple in colour, and the hardly-visible blackened word “Cold” is formed. Wei Ying shivered as he held the piece of paper; he could feel his body heat seeping out from his fingertips where they touched the talisman. The young man rapidly cast the cursed spell into the basket and in a stunning display of freakishly dark luminescence, the bamboo rack containing the dumplings ceased to steam. 

 

Wei Ying heaved a sigh of relief that his experiment went well, and he was emboldened by the results. He knew he had wasted enough time and there was one last thing to do.

 

He took a deep breath and hauled up the cooled basket. “Forgive me, Lan Zhan, but I’m doing this for the both of us,” he announced to the surrounding woods, and to no one in particular. He prayed that the 108 local gods and Merciful Goddess Guan Yin were listening to his pleas, that they understand his circumstances, and ultimately, be compassionate to his cause. 

 

Five off-tune and ear-splitting whistles later, a terrible corruption emerged. To the naked human eye, it would seem an anomalous cloud of ash-black smoke appeared from thin air; in fact, in Wei Ying’s vision, there was a swarm of summoned demons and monstrosities of unspeakable names, invisible to the Living, tearing through the fabric of Space, devouring a path for their Master, consuming absolutely everything in their way with insatiable hunger  - all life, matter, sights, sounds, even intangible elements such as feelings and thoughts, and everything else connected to the world of Living.


Eyes glowing in unnerving evil-red, long hair flowing eerily with unseen breeze in the deathly silence of the woods - Yiling Patriarch Wei Wuxian’s grin became twisted as he stepped through the portal, with the basket of jiaozi in his arms.

Chapter Text

Lan Zhan throws another bundle of firewood tied by a Binding Spell (which he has learnt to cast by himself) onto another two tidy bundles already stacked atop his broad shoulders. One hand holds the firewood firmly yet precariously in place, while the other grips Bichen, ready to fend off any approaching wild animals. His body sags at the weight of dead branches, each as thick as a man’s thigh, and he heaves forward with two baskets tied to his back, brimming with the morning’s foraging from the forests. 

 

He shakes his head, blows errant locks of lush hair away from his face, and hopes his loosened ponytail will hold until he gets back home. Wei Ying had teased that he should get a haircut, especially with hotter summer days looming ahead; the younger man had trimmed off a few inches of unruly curled ends with Lan Zhan’s help (just with a pair of regular scissors purchased from Liao's store, not Bichen, because it is a terrifying experience to have the gigantic blade swing between one's nape and the carotid arteries).

 

Lan Zhan wipes off a few beads of sweat with his sleeve and he frowns when he realized he had probably added a few more smudges of dirt and grime on his forehead - his clothes are a bit muddied and scratched from climbing steep, rocky cliffs to reach the rare herbs for his best-selling medicinal candies, and from walking through dense, dew-covered bushes to pick native fruits, wild mushrooms and tasty roots. Most of them will end up in Old Merchant Zhu’s market stalls, but he makes sure to set aside the best ones for their dinner plates.

 

His daily foraging routines are carefully planned using renowned Gusu-trained cartography skills (he made mental maps of the 'Mounds, but still needs practice because miles and miles of featureless, rolling grasslands and stonefields can easily confuse any amateur navigator), and calculated according to the passage of time and the seasons (Lan Zhan does not just "stargaze" at night - although the sight of a handsome man in his thirties watching the night sky under the golden glow of a crescent moon does look quite romantic; he is a self-taught practitioner in the field of astronomy, starting shortly after venturing out from the Cloud Recesses. Plus, the 'Mounds offer spectacular opportunities to study the celestial bodies due to the lack of light pollution often seen around larger cities). 

 

He secretly taps into Wei Ying’s vast network of Eye talismans scattered throughout his estate to locate fruiting trees, valuable ginseng plants or shrubs of edible greens. He makes sure to visit each part of the land at the precise date to maximize his yields with the least amount of time and effort, and he also safeguards future harvests by planting new seeds at every stop (a valuable lesson learnt after the heartbreaking loss of his vegetable gardens last winter). Watching new seedlings sprout into young bushes and trees always put a faint smile on his face - this is the highlight of his morning walkabout around his estate.

 

Lan Zhan had deliberated on investing in an easier mode of transportation around his land. Unfortunately the rocky, uneven and unstable hilly grounds aren't suitable for travel by donkeys and horses, and without proper man-made trails, wheeled vehicles such as wheelbarrows and carts were out of the question. However, the extreme geography proves to be a blessing in disguise - occasionally, Lan Zhan stumbles upon veins of precious minerals on mountain slopes or rock faces, exposed by centuries of abrasive dusty winds. These sell well at the local blacksmiths and metal-crafting shops in Yiling City - especially after Wei Ying uses his Metal spell to transform the shiny bits extracted by pickaxes into convenient lumps of pure metal. 

 

(Lan Zhan continues to strongly forbid Wei Ying to forge silver and gold pieces out of the extracted metals, because any currency that does not bear the mark of the Imperial Reserve was essentially a fraud, and if caught red-handed, they will be thrown into the darkest dungeons beneath the Heavenly Palace in Chang’an. Wei Ying would stick a tongue out at the older man in defiance when he gets an earful from the older man, to which Lan Zhan will tell a tale about the biggest, meanest and ugliest canine waiting behind those impenetrable prison walls; and Wei Ying would promptly shrink back and cower instinctively with fear; which to Lan Zhan’s unspoken delight, he will promptly apologize about his far-fetched descriptions [the presence of a canine was true, though], and cuddle a quaking Wei Ying in his lap).

 

As he climbs over a small hill and grunts at the tremendous weight on his aching back and shoulders, thoughts about silver, gold and their financial situation came to mind. He left Jingshi the year before with five bars of gold, equivalent to five hundred pieces of gold. One was used to purchase the land title for their home, and two was spent - to his utmost disappointment - on an expensive set of jewelled accessories. It was an impulsive buy when a passing-by merchant from the Silk Road caravans showed him some shady wares while he was looking for exotic spices in Huang village to make his soups tastier. He was told that any lover would fall “deeper than ever in love” when presented with the “once-in-a-lifetime, match-made-in-heaven, complete and unique set of rare jewelled pieces to adorn a loved one from head to toe - a perfect gift for one of unparalleled beauty worthy of praise from the gods and goddesses”. He didn’t think much of the convoluted product description, other than how he would lose out if he didn’t get his hands on that jewelled set at that moment because “there’s another interested customer, so you better buy it NOW”. The infallible Han Guang Jun fell easily for the ruse, and effortlessly parted with two gold bars. 

 

Later, Wei Ying would tell him that a plain-looking bamboo flute that he could play together with his guqin music, was worth more than any sets of jewelled accessories that the older man could gift to him. At that point, Lan Zhan learnt a valuable life lesson - that Wei Ying’s love for him was immeasurable, and incomparable to any amount of silver or gold.

 

Lan Zhan’s thoughts are interrupted when he hears a panicked, shrill squeal from the direction of their cave-home. With superhuman strength, he dashes towards the source of the sound with full cargo in tow.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying patted his hands against his hips to rub away colourful residues on his palms and fingers; he didn’t like how the Council-sanctioned talisman paper were coated with a layer of fine coloured dust, which when handled too often by sweaty fingers, would leave the skin painted in an assortment of reds, yellows and sometimes icky greens and blues. He hoped the Council used safe food-grade colourings, and not some kind of synthetic substances that could cause toxic dermal side effects in the long term. Just one of the usual hazards of my profession , he scoffed inwardly.

 

After stowing his tiny wooden cart and the two low chairs at the back corner of Li’s clinic (the owner was generous to let him use the storeroom for free, in return for guaranteed timely deliveries of medicinal products from the ‘Mounds), he hoisted up his basket and then bid polite goodbyes to the doctor and his nurses, before walking out to the East Market Street.

 

Yiling City continued to bustle and thrive throughout the day. Although the lunch crowd had thinned and men returned to their workplace, people from all walks of life continued to mill about with their daily businesses, particularly in the shades of storefronts and inside noisy teahouses. Excited laughter and shrieks echoed the streets when children finished their classes, and ran towards waiting carts of snack sellers outside the school gates.

 

Wei Ying’s stomach rumbled loudly to remind the young man that he hadn’t taken his lunch yet - he had been busy all morning delivering jiaozi in a hurry, then, without taking a break, he demonstrated his A wesome S elling Skills to the delight of the guests at the wedding ceremony, which both entertained them as well as to lighten his satchel of handmade lucky charms and trinkets, in exchange for a few extra silver pieces. Later, he made his way to the morning market to compete with magic and talisman sellers from other religious denominations to peddle his wares and services. Sometimes, he reminisced the good ol’ times when he and Wen Ning would find a comfortable spot on streetside kerbs or on a flight of stairs in front of somebody’s store, and station themselves for hours doing nothing except selling radishes (Wen Ning did most of the work anyway). These days, Wei Ying had to trudge the dusty streets alone, pushing his tiny cart from from one market to another, then, further away, from store to store, and when he reached the residential areas at the outskirts, from house to house - while painstakingly belting out catchy advertising jingles until his voice became hoarse.

 

After circling the fairly sizable city on worn-out shoes, he returned to the marketplace where Grandma Li kindly offered a cup of cooling chrysanthemum tea with honey at her clinic. He also picked up his purchases at the market, when businesses wind down by midday, and sellers desperately gave out discounts to get rid of their merchandise as fast as possible. His basket was filled with leaf-wrapped minced pork, a bag of flour, condiments and spices, and some household tools from Liao's store. Meat was generally expensive and considered as a symbol of wealth in this day and age, consumed mostly during auspicious events or by the middle class; however, since it was the key ingredient to Lan Zhan’s dumpling recipes, therefore most of the day’s proceeds went to Old Butcher Niu’s stall. Wei Ying also noted, with slight despair, that everything in the basket was either for their fledgling food business, or for their household consumption - but there was none for himself.

 

Lan Zhan was truly fastidious and thrifty in their spending, especially after disaster struck their orchards and vegetable gardens over Winter, and they really had to tighten their belts in the following Spring - so, the older man made sure everything monetary piece counts. With all transactions completed, by noon, Wei Ying pocketed twenty silver pieces into his inner garment for safekeeping - this was the day's net profit, his spending money for the next trip to town, and more importantly, the amount Lan Zhan expects to see on the dinner table at sundown - and also five additional pieces of silver jiggling in his palm, attributed directly to his A wesome S elling Skills and their ability to charm the purses off rich housewives.

 

As Wei Ying pondered on how to spend the precious five silvers, he adjusted his straw hat when he walked by the Kitchen Of Prosperity. It was one of the larger and grander restaurants at the end of the North Market Street and near the city center, whose exorbitant prices were as unbelievable as the lavish dishes that its army of master chefs conjures on a daily basis, strictly to the rich and elite of Yiling’s society. He squinted through the bright afternoon sunlight and watched forlornly through porcelain-lined windows at boisterous crowds shouting " Gan bei! (Cheers!)". He was tempted to follow the mouth-watering smells of banquets, free-flowing wine, and the music of loud entertaining conversations mixed with echoes of hired opera singers permeating the air, all served in richly-decorated rooms lined with fine tapestries from the Far West. Sixteen years ago, he didn’t have the luxury to patronize such unaffordable establishments; sixteen years later, he had tea with the mayor in that restaurant - just once -  while negotiating the purchase of their estate in the ‘Mounds. At that time, he had a glimpse of the life of Yiling’s super-rich and famous, and promised to himself that someday , when he has earned enough, he would take Lan Zhan on a date and have dinner in that place.

 

Eventually, after turning a few corners and junctions, he reached the city square where he found empty benches under the shade of large, twisting century-old trees. There, he finally sat down with a heavy thud and a loud “Mmmh!” to his aching legs, where he unwrapped his lunch of two jianbing s (the same as breakfast’s, because Lan Zhan had no time to make anything else), a bamboo container of chrysanthemum tea (Grandma Li insisted she had a huge jug of it) and a juicy peach from their orchard (which he plucked on his way out of their courtyard earlier that day).

 

A few people walked past but they paid no attention to the dust-covered street peddler dressed in a simple dark-coloured commoner's attire. With the large straw hat that hid his face from the world, Wei Ying was able to enjoy his food in undisturbed silence while looking down disinterestedly at the floor, taking in every detail, such as at the cracks on surfaces, lines of black ants crawling by, and common weeds that grew at the edge of the city square. 

 

One particular stray calico cat approached and rubbed its body sweetly against Wei Ying’s legs, softly meowing and probably begging for scraps. Based on its ease around people and how easily it became friendly with his dusty shoes, he thought the cat was probably abandoned by its owner.

 

“Are you hungry, little one? This is the last bite of my jianbing . Here, you can have it,” he chirped and made smoochy sounds with his lips. The feline ate the meat filling and purred happily. Wei Ying took the opportunity to run his fingers along the cat’s back and patted its furred rump. It was calming and therapeutic experience, and he needed it after such a chaotic morning.

 

He continued to stroke the feasting cat until he noticed one particular shadow on the ground in front of him, and lingered for far too long. 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“Ssssh! Ssssh!” Lan Zhan hissed at the invaders while waving a broom angrily. 

 

A family of squirrels scurried on the floor of the kitchen, littered with dropped cutlery, broken clay jars and dishcloths painted with paw-prints, and they darted between clanging bowls and baskets of fruits to dodge the dangerous broom. Outside, a pair of foxes barked and hopped excitedly, trying to snatch the rodents when one of them edged too closely to the windowsill. The chaos was maddening, and in the heat of the moment, Lan Zhan threw the broom out the window to chase the foxes away, followed by the shrieking squirrels when the coast is finally clear of the predators.

 

When peace finally returned to the kitchen, he sighed heavily and began to pick his way through the clutter that was left behind. His hair was already in disarray and his clothes needed a good washing - and he had a kitchen to clean, re-organize and tidy up. 

 

I’m out of the house for just over an hour, and this happens, he told himself in a condescending manner. At times like this, he missed the days in the Cloud Recesses where wild animals were non-existent and there were plenty of servants to keep an eye out for intruders. He picked up a broken piece of clay, and noted sourly that it came from one of Wei Ying’s wine jars. A pool of liquor spilled carelessly on the floor, wasted. A few apples and peaches lay in disarray on the dining table around a tipped-over fruit basket, with bite marks on most of them.

 

When he regained his composure (after reciting a few Gusu Lan’s rules about keeping calm and maintaining one’s sane mental condition in times of crisis), he went out of the cave to collect the broom. “Ah,” he muttered, when he realized its handle was broken. He had thrown it with such unbelievably inhuman force, that the wooden bar splintered when it hit the courtyard grounds.

 

From a distance, crows nesting on the branches of fruiting trees started cawing, laughing at his predicament in horrid-sounding cackles. He gave them an evil eye, because those birds were extremely annoying and were known to steal his laundry clips and smaller pieces of clothing (including their underwear). He waved the broken broom head to shoo them away, but the useless gesture did nothing to the blackbirds, some of which were as big as cats. The birds were probably descendents of those who fed very well on corpses during the Wens’ reign, and they did not fear men. 

 

Lan Zhan decided not to squander another minute on the pests, and he marched back into his home with a very loud “Hmmph!”. He still had a basket of goodies from the ‘Mounds to sort through.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Xiao meimei (little girl), do you feel better now?”

 

She sniffled and rubbed her snotty nose while munching on a peach.

 

Xiao meimei … do you have a name? Are your parents around? Where do you live?”

 

She shook her head, intent on eating the fragrant fruit and ignore everything else.

 

Wei Ying gave her some of the chrysanthemum tea when she finished the peach. Correction,  his peach. 

 

He couldn’t leave the hungry girl alone when he noticed her staring at his lunch with teary eyes. He had finished the jianbing s by then (correction, the cat finished it) and only had his dessert to offer. She looked like six or seven years old, and her clothes were dirty and mud-speckled - but she did not look neglected nor unwashed, so she must have separated from her family and gotten lost. Wei Ying was relieved the child wasn’t a beggar or an orphan like one of those street brats; he wouldn’t know what to do if that happened (because he knows it takes a village to raise a child like A-Yuan, and he had no means to do it again, now).

 

People walked about the city square and minded their own business. No one spared a concerned thought or a rude stare at the sight of a dubious-looking (but quite handsome) young street peddler crouching in front of a young child, in broad daylight.

 

Just then, a snack seller passed by and Wei Ying quickly bought a stick of tanghulu with a silver piece - he knows the sugary-sour treat will win the hearts of any child, and true enough, the little girl smiled when the tanghulu was waved at her face. He handed it to her, and she took it in a heartbeat. She started to lick and chew on the first glazed fruit.

 

“See? This gege is a good person. Do you want to go somewhere? Do you want to see someone? Gege will hold your hand and we can walk together,” he said with his brightest grin. He offered her a welcoming, open palm.

 

Suddenly, a twig hit his face.

 

“It’s him! It’s him! The hei gui (Black Ghost) is over there!” childish laughter and shrieks filled the air. 

 

Wei Ying rolled his eyes with a vexed expression, muttered “hide behind that tree” to the little girl (and she obeyed without hesitation and ran for cover), then rose up with dangerous determination, and stomped angrily towards the fleeing boys. He rolled up his sleeves to show that he meant serious business (to the kids, no less).

 

“How dare you! Come back here! And stop yelling hei gui just because I’m wearing dark colored clothes today!” he shouted irately and started chasing the brats around the city square.

 

“The hei gui is very fierce today! Run for your lives or he’ll eat you up!”

“He says that the Yiling Patriarch was a good guy! Can you believe it? He’s crazy!”

“It’s a crazy hei gui ! Ha ha!”

 

“AHHHHH!!!!”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

It was midday and Lan Zhan finally smiled after the disaster in the kitchen earlier the day; he had taken a quick shower, the bedsheets and blankets were cleaned, fluffed and folded, and so were the numerous articles of clothing (including squirrel-paw-printed dishcloths) that were hung out to dry since morning. Everything in their house, including the foraged food, had been put in order. His universe has once again returned to its perfect, balanced state; and he strives to maintain this balance as much as he can.

 

The herbs were laid out on a wide canvas in the courtyard to bake under sunlight, and every hour, he would use a rake to spread and turn the shrivelled leaves over. His recipe for medicinal candies requires bone-dry herbs; any signs of moisture would result in a soggy batch that would spoil faster than usual. 

 

As he contemplated on what to make for a simple, quick-to-cook lunch (because he had to keep his vigil over the drying herbs, lest unexpected winds blow them away or the cursed crows return to wreak havoc), he noticed a tear on a pair of trousers that he was about to fold. 

 

“Ah,” he murmured to himself. Wei Ying sure wears down his clothes pretty fast, he thought. All the walking and the rough-and-tumble of his (nearly) daily adventures in Yiling must be quite tough on the young man, another voice added inside his mind.

 

Lan Zhan made a mental note to send Wei Ying to buy more rolls of cloth in his next trip to town. He gripped the pair of torn trousers tightly and looked up to the sky with a renewed sense of purpose, a vivid sparkle in his golden-hued eyes. He had a mission to fulfil for the coming days - one that consists of making new garments and trousers for his lover.

Chapter Text

“Ah!!! The hei gui caught me! Help! Help!”

 

“Stop calling me that, you stinky rascal!” Wei Ying growled when he held up one of the street boys by the collar. He really hated to be bullied by those kids, and like a child himself, he couldn’t resist taking revenge on them whenever opportunity presents itself.

 

“Eh…?? There are no candies in here today!”

 

Wei Ying turned around in shock to see another boy, around ten years of age and as filthy and dust-covered as the others, stick his greasy hands into Wei Ying’s basket. Packages of meat, flour and other groceries were rudely hurled to the ground; some of them were left opened and spilled their contents.

 

“Get away, you thief!” he hissed, and then realized too late that his grip somehow loosened, and the boy that he had caught just a moment ago managed to wriggle free. He reached for the fleeing child, but abruptly pulled back when an assortment of hard, unripe fruits and tree nuts flew at him. Snipers behind tree trunks used crudely-made slingshot and attacked from all directions.

 

Wei Ying was extremely flustered, having to deal with multiple brats at the same time, and raised an arm in defense from the aerial bombardment. Before he could react further, another boy ran past and kicked him behind the knee. Poor Wei Ying grimaced and fell flat on all fours to the ground with a painful thud. A couple of smaller boys scrambled behind some bushes and continued to pelt him with more twigs and rocks.

 

“Hit the hei gui ! Everyone wears white, gold and bright colours, but he always wears black! He must be dirty and smelly, like a really black ghost!”

 

“Yeah! Hit him! He says really strange things about the Yiling Patriarch, so he must be a mad man! Crazy old man!”

 

Then, two Jin guards appeared at a distance in full (and outrageous) regalia - they wore gilded armour with a magnificent white peony symbol imprinted on the chest plate, with flowing golden cape and equally shiny metallic boots. Both carried huge swords on their belts, and wore menacing looks as they approached the source of the commotion. People at the city square began to take notice of the scuffle with the boys, and politely (even apprehensively) dispersed to make way for the fierce-looking bearded brutes in their blindingly-bright outfits.

 

“It’s the Jin dogs! The dogs are here!”

“Woof! Woof!”

“Yeah! Nobody likes you! You think you can waltz in here and boss us around?”

“You’re not the police! You can’t catch us!”

“Woof! Woof!”

 

The noisy shouts from the street brats faded; the boys scattered at the arrival of the guards despite their brazen taunts.

 

Wei Ying didn’t realize he was holding his head down to shield himself from the brats’ projectiles, until both guards marched dangerously close to him. With each dreadfully heavy footstep, he felt his stomach tightened and his throat constricted with unease. He remained as still a mouse, and prayed that his identity would not be discovered - especially since a fair number of Jin soldiers recognized the much-maligned face of the rogue-cultivator, Wei Wuxian, who ran down the steps of the Carp Tower not too long ago with their arch-enemy Han Guang Jun, who killed many of their brethren.

 

A glaringly shiny boot stopped next to his cheek with a sickening crunch of metal against gritty sand, and a bead of sweat rolled down from his forehead. The air smelled acrid, and he wasn’t sure if it was from his rising fear, or from the plated boot.

 

“... what is this?” The tip of the sharp-edged boot painfully cut into his shoulder as one of the guards nudged him with his foot.

 

“... he’s wearing black and covered with dust. Must be one of those poor peasants,” the other guard replied gruffly.

 

Wei Ying squeezed his eyes shut and couldn’t really grasp the conversation above him; all he could hear were the alarmingly fast thumps of his heart against its ribcage and the roar of adrenaline in his blood. 

 

“‘Tch, what a useless fellow, to be knocked out by those street brats,” the first guard spat, and ruthlessly stepped on the back of Wei Ying’s head. Wei Ying winced when his lips and the tip of his nose scraped against the sand.

 

“... that’s enough, shidi (younger disciple). Let’s continue our patrol, otherwise the General is not going to pay our salary at sundown.”

 

“Ahhh, shixiong ! (elder disciple) It’s so boring to walk around and do nothing all day! I want to fight! I want to rough up people!” followed by swishing sounds of fists pumping into the air, “I want to shoot fireballs from my hands and burn things down! If only.. If only our General didn’t sign that treaty with the mayor, things would have been more interesting!” Wei Ying’s face and hair became covered with more sand when the first guard kicked up a storm of dust at his direction. The sound of footsteps became more and more distant, and Wei Ying finally heaved a sigh of relief.

 

The guards left as soon as they appeared. The city square remained deserted and very few individuals dared to venture to have a curious look, before scurrying off. 

 

When he was sure that it was safe to move, Wei Ying got up hesitantly to his knees, and started to dust away sand from his face and clothes. “Ahh..” he muttered, when he saw an ugly rip on the upper part of his sleeve. He had a lot of explaining to do when he gets home, he thought grumpily. 

 

Wei Ying was disappointed to find that the four remaining silvers he’d kept in the sleeves had disappeared; the street brats probably pickpocketed him during the tussle - again . He patted his chest and was relieved that the twenty silver pieces intended for Lan Zhan were safe and secured within the inner garment’s pocket. Still, he was sad that his extra hard work from the morning was for naught, his basket of goods was ransacked, and he was even beaten up by bratty kids, and stepped on by the adults. It was turning out to be a miserable day for Wei Ying.

 

Hei gege (Black elder brother)...?” a soft, timid voice called out from above, and he realized he had been frowning for the past few minutes.

 

Wei Ying looked up and was greeted by the sight of a tanghulu. The little girl waved the stick a little, inviting him to take a bite. He began to shake his head to refuse the offer; a sugary-sour treat wouldn’t make any difference on the ache he felt in his body - and his heart. 

 

The girl was persistent, and pushed one of the glazed fruits to Wei Ying’s lip, until he had no choice but to nibble the juicy surface. It was really sweet.

 

Hei gege is a good person,” she said. He was quite surprised to hear her talk, as she did not speak a word earlier. She used her sleeve and tried her best to wipe a smudge of dried dirt from his cheek. Wei Ying smiled, albeit wistfully, at her kind gesture. Xiao meimei is like a shining beacon of light during these dark times, just like how Shijie used to be, he thought. He felt a twinge in his chest at the girl’s actions, which resembled Shijie ’s comforting pats and wipes on his face when he fell down during his childhood days.

 

The little girl seemed to be able to sense his pain. “Don’t cry, gege ,” she whispered and wiped non-existent tears from his lower eyelids. Wei Ying couldn’t help but to make a muffled, choked sound when a wave of nostalgia hit him.

 

“Does gege want to go somewhere? Is there someone gege wants to see?” she asked, compassion and empathy in her voice.

 

Wei Ying took the girl’s sleeve and pressed it against his entire face. He didn’t want the world to see him cry.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan stretched his back with a satisfied nnnngh and a couple of creaks of stiff joints.

 

The afternoon sun was beating down on their home’s compound and he stayed within the cooling shade, on the benches by the lotus pond. A few pieces of cloth were strewn on the pondside table and on his lap; he was cutting and sewing up some fabrics in preparation for his next project. He had a few scraps that could be repurposed, but he would need a fresh new roll of cloth to make new robes for Wei Ying. The bright sunlight was ideal for doing any work that required his total visual concentration.

 

However, he’d spent nearly an hour hunched over the pieces of cloth after a filling lunch of Gusu-style plain porridge with plenty of garden vegetables and tofu; he thought it was time to move around a bit, and get his blood circulation going. 

 

Lan Zhan folded his handiwork into neat stacks on the table, and then took off his top. Wearing only his pants and shoes, he began his warm-up exercise under the shelter of the dense foliage of fruiting peach trees. Minutes later, he shifted his feet to a ready stance, and began to perform easy, graceful movements with his hands akin to the basic tenets of martial arts. He had learned all physical aspects and the multiple levels of cultivation arts by heart, and could effortlessly progress to more advanced and complex movements, kicks and punches with his limbs. 

 

Soon, his naked upper torso was covered his sweat, he panted from the exertion, but he felt  energized and refreshed. A healthy flush appeared on his cheeks and taut muscles on his body, and spiritual qi energy thrummed along his meridians. His golden core energy was replenishing at an admirable rate - a sign that his performance was flawless. However his cultivation hit its ceiling when he tried to take things to the next level - the psychological realm. 

 

Images of eggs, tanghulus and Wei Ying’s undulating plump ass continued to flash in his mind. As he recharged, so was his sex drive - and the fact that he didn’t manage to cum the night before, and earlier that morning, worsened his inexcusable mental state. Lan Zhan was pent up, and couldn’t drag his mind out of the gutter. 

 

He steeled himself for an afternoon of abstinence, and continued to cultivate as much as his body will allow - by executing every swipe of hands and sweep of feet exactly as dictated by the books he had memorized from the Cloud Recesses, and made every effort to perfect his form - except for the annoyingly erect tent in his pants that refused to back down.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“... tian,” the girl murmured into Wei Ying’s ear, as he gave her a piggyback ride towards the marketplace while hugging his basket of groceries at the front. It was a little awkward to walk with unwieldy loads on both ends, but Wei Ying managed to stride ahead at a reasonable speed. His heart felt light and he wanted to take the girl to her home in return for her kindness at the city square; he gladly ignored the curious stares of passers-by too, because the sight of a dodgy-looking young (don’t forget, handsome) man in his late teens or early twenties and carrying an innocent-looking six or seven year old girl, and both didn’t look alike at all - leaves a trail of noisy gossiping and suspicious stares among nosy housewives who endlessly speculate the nature of their relationship.

 

Tian (sweet)? ” he repeated in askance. He wondered if the girl was asking for another sweet snack.

 

“My jie jie (elder sister) calls me Tian Tian (sweet sweet, literally),” she replied.

 

Wei Ying was glad to know her name, finally. Her namesake precedes her, given her love for juicy peaches and tanghulus.  “Ah, Tian Tian! Where do you live, Tian meimei ? I was thinking of bringing you to the marketplace, where some nice shushu (uncle) over there will be able to help,” he remarked. Tian Tian bounced on Wei Ying’s back when the younger man picked up his pace. 

 

“Mmm.. jie jie is in the big red shop at Fragrant Blossoms Street. She was doing a delivery there, but she talked and talked to the customers. I got bored and walked around… and became lost, and hungry because we hadn’t eaten,” she explained carefully. Wei Ying was impressed at her grasp of vocabulary; most children at her age were still illiterate and wouldn’t know how to use some of the mentioned terms; he guessed that she was probably raised in a rich, educated family.

 

Then, realization hit him. He stopped in his tracks unexpectedly, and Tian Tian was also startled; she grasped at his collar to prevent her from falling over.

 

“Err… Fragrant Blossoms Street? Did you say.. Fragrant… Blossoms… Street?” He repeated each syllable, uncertain if he had heard her right. He stared warily at a westerly direction. They were actually quite close to her destination.

 

“Yes, gege . Can you take me there? Jie jie is probably waiting for me, and she will be worried,” Tian Tian answered.

 

Wei Ying swallowed with a hard gulp, and nodded hesitantly. He took a sharp turn and started to walk towards the aforementioned street. 

 

Wei Wuxian had spent a good portion of his life sixteen years ago, and sixteen years after around Yiling, and he pretty much knows the ins and outs of the sprawling city - he knows the names and locations of the bustling main roads, the windy streets and the vibrant shops that line them, and the dingy narrow alleys in-between; and of famous business owners and their establishments - both big and small. There was one particular district where he really wanted to set his foot into, unfortunately didn’t have the chance because of his notoriety and lack of funds in the past, and now - a lifetime later - he could , but he really shouldn’t .

 

Really, really, shouldn’t.

 

Fragrant Blossoms Street is one of Yiling’s best-kept secrets - a seedy red-light district rumoured to be “so good, that (virgin) men never come out intact”.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan checked the bamboo water clock near the entrance of their home. He filled it with a bucket from the lotus pond to make sure that it continued to function throughout the day. It was three hours past midday, and Wei Ying should be back soon, he thought.

 

The herbal leaves were almost done, and were as dry as the dust swirling in the afternoon breeze. So, Lan Zhan began to rake them into tidy piles, where later, he would pack them into convenient, measured bundles with paper; each paper package will be used for making a batch of medicinal candies.

 

As he started to arrange the leaves in long horizontal and vertical lines (it was a strangely calming and therapeutic experience for him), he contemplated on how to fill the remaining of his afternoon before Wei Ying returned. He had the options of meditating (after such a harried morning, why not?), playing guqin (he should brush up on his musical skills), reading a book or this month’s Cultivation Times magazine (it’s always good to keep one’s mind active, keep learning, and improve continuously), or have another walkabout around his estate (maybe he will find something of value, such as more edibles for tonight’s dinner or chance upon a mineral rock that could be worth several gold pieces - but what if the squirrels return?). 

 

Ah, so many choices, and there is plenty of time to think through them, he thought.

Chapter Text

The fate of Wei Wuxian’s heterosexual virginity hung perilously by a thread, as he stepped into the mother of all nests of hungry, sex-crazed females waiting to pounce on him. He imagined himself as a piece of fresh, juicy phallic-shaped meat being dangled enticingly in a sea of open jaws from various legendary depictions of sexually-deprived females, ranging from the Spider Demoness that seduced Tang Sanzang from the Journey to the West , beautiful huli jing (fox spirits), to vengeful nu gui (succubi). In his younger days, he had heard wild stories from boasting peers, and read erotic graphic novels with enough sleazy and sordid details to fuel his wild imaginations of what might happen to a man that dared to walk into a street lined with red-hued brothels and constantly seduced by prostitutes plying their trade on the side.

 

At least that was what he believed .

 

Ironically, he wasn’t devoured on the spot, let alone draw more than a couple of curious stares from the occupants along the street.

 

At mid-afternoon, when business opening times were still a good few hours away, Fragrant Blossoms Street was more deserted than most of Yiling. Most of the shops (likely prostitution houses, dingy bars, gambling dens, massage parlours and stores selling illicit drugs) were closed and few plainly-dressed women lay on reclining lazy chairs at the storefronts, fanning the heat away with enormous bamboo fans. They browless pale faces weren’t attractive, there was no make-up, their hair looked like messy bunches of tangled birds’ nests - and were absolutely nothing compared to the alluring courtesans portrayed in PeiNan magazines (陪男; “Accompany the Male”; read as PlayBoy (sic)). A tumbleweed rolled by silently.

 

Wei Ying took in as many details of the street as his wide googly-eyes could capture, despite the shockingly quiet entrance - he felt like a naive teenage boy who had just graduated into adulthood by walking into the red-light district. The roadside lamps, the benches that dot the storefront walkways, the few trees and flowering bushes that colour the dull browns and greys of aging buildings, the side alleys between shops, and the kinds of trash that litter the ground - everything was interesting to him.

 

Tian Tian led Wei Ying to the biggest, most impressive-looking structure located in the middle of the street - an imposing triple-storey red-bricked mansion that occupied more land than four teahouses joined together. A closed grand wooden door decorated with dragon and phoenix motifs, nearly fifteen feet in height, was framed by strings of lanterns and cloth-stripes that hung from the building’s balconies and window ledges; Wei Ying could only envisage the beauty of the building and its surroundings at night, when the skies turn dark and the area is patterned with seductive glows of dim lights and the shadows of moving bodies seeking the pleasures of the flesh. The words “ Tian Mi Mi ” (甜蜜密; Sweet Honeyed Secrets (sic)) were written on a dust-covered plaque at the side of the door, which was partly hidden by aged jujube trees that grew around the building’s compounds.

 

Wei Ying’s throat instinctively tightened, but he couldn’t swallow because he was very thirsty from the brisk walk in the dusty air, and from the heaving and huffing of carrying twice the load that his body was used to. He crouched to allow Tian Tian to hop off safely, and the little girl excitedly rushed forward to the door. She gave it a loud knock while holding Wei Ying’s hand.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan settled into one of the chairs in their bedchamber with the latest edition of Cultivation Times magazine in hand. Just when he opened the first page, a ball of amber light drifted through the window like a firefly. A silvery thread trailed behind it. 

 

He raised an open palm and cupped the fluffy-looking luminescence when it approached, and it immediately vibrated repeatedly with audible buzzes. Lan Zhan waited until the third buzz, then he closed his palm around the ball to give the immaterial substance a squeeze. There was a faint ‘click’ sound, and two seconds later, the Fairy Messenger spell connected.

 

“Hello. This is Lan’s residence.”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying had never bowed so many times in his life, and really, he wasn’t in the wrong.

 

A horde of young women - escorts and prostitutes of all ages, all in the process of putting on their (bawdy) make-ups and buttoning up their (revealing, nearly bare-breasted) dresses - hounded and clamoured around him in the dimly-lit entrance. The unwelcomed entry caused a furore of angry “Who the hell is this guy? Who let him in?”, stirred further with accusations of “Why is there a strange man holding hands with a little girl? Pervert!”, shaken with the shrilly screeches of “Who are you to this girl? Are you a kidnapper? Are you trying to sell her?”, and finally, topped with blood-curdling cries of “Get him, sisters!” when they saw him releasing Tian Tian’s hand (big mistake; a sign that he was on the verge of running away). Wei Ying became surrounded by angry, shouting women in the dark, each of them waving deadly-looking hairpins, heavy bottles of perfumes and skin creams, and finely-sharpened crimson-painted long fingernails. Someone closed the door behind him with a resounding ‘thunk’, and everything turned pitch black in the spinning, ear-deafening madness.

 

For a second, he truly feared for his life; he started to deny every accusation hurled at him, apologized repeatedly, and pleaded the threatening masses in the shadows to “please listen to me”. Few ghostly lanterns began to light up in the darkness, casting dusky rays on his trembling form, and he felt as though he was at the front of Hell’s gates, awaiting judgement. He kept bowing lower and lower, which to the other side, looked like he was admitting his guilt to a terrible scandal - and this riled up the women further.

 

Then, a lady in her early twenties in a satin-white dress, stepped to the front and raised a hand. Everyone stopped what they were doing, and Wei Ying, who was almost kowtowing to the ground at that point, froze in shock and swore he could hear a pin drop at the sudden silence.

 

Wei Ying’s saviour turned out to be Tian Tian’s sister, who promptly introduced herself as Liang gu niang , and she asked what was the commotion about. Wei Ying gasped - this is the eldest daughter of Liang laoban ! Her father owns the largest, oldest and the most successful of the three teahouses in Yiling, and people say that he runs a slew of other side businesses - not discounting the possibility of a few shops along Fragrant Blossoms Street. Wei Ying gazed at her and realized that the stories about her striking beauty, grace and intellect are indeed true. Liang gu niang ’s reputation precedes her as a magnet for men seeking a desirable woman’s hand in marriage; there are many tales told over titillating teahouse conversations about the lines of suitors that wait daily outside the Liang’s Summer Resort, seeking for an audience with the head of the family. Wei Ying could not believe his stroke of luck, and he was both in awe and humbled by her presence, which by the way, represented an epic business opportunity - if he could strike a deal with her family while the iron is hot.

 

Liang gu niang burst into tears when she recognized Tian Tian who was left standing in the middle of the entrance hall next to the (handsome) cowering dark-clothed young lad. She dropped to her knees and pulled her little sister to her ample bosom, and then without hesitation , she proceeded to hug Wei Ying while thanking him profusely in a strangely comforting threeway embrace (Wei Ying noticed that the gu niang did not have any make-up, because there were no ugly tear-streaks and her porcelain-smooth skin glows naturally. She smells of sunny warmth and summer blooms). Wei Ying felt relieved when tension finally diffused from the atmosphere, and he kept murmuring to Liang gu niang , “It’s alright, it’s alright.”

 

Later, when the situation calmed down, Tian Tian gave an abbreviated and exaggerated account of her ordeal - of how she was kindly given food to stave off hunger, and how the heroic Hei gege saved her from a gang of bullies and led her to escape from the watchful eyes of Jin guards (at this point, Wei Ying fidgeted nervously because clearly, the child had a very colourful imagination compared to what really happened). While narrating her story, Tian Tian held and lightly shook Wei Ying’s hand, and she even hugged his leg in gratitude, while smiling at her jie jie . Wei Ying’s lips curved up in response when he remembered about A-Yuan.

 

Liang gu niang apologized to Wei Ying for the troubles that Tian Tian caused. Her story mirrored what Tian Tian had said earlier - that she was caught up in conversations with the owners of Tian Mi Mi , that she did not realize the little girl had walked off on her own. She was supposed to deliver lunch to the shop and return promptly, and in fact, she had to leave soon, now that her little sister was found.

 

“But.. pardon me for asking, why did you bring your meimei (little sister) to… such a place?” he gestured at the main hall of the building. He realized belatedly of his reckless question, when scores of women started to chatter and complain about his choice of words. They remained in the background to give the elegant lady some space, clearly as a sign of respect for Liang gu niang and her teary reunion with her lost little sister.

 

Hei gongzi (Young Master Hei; black - Wei Ying had a nickname now), we’re very short-handed at the moment, so I can’t leave my little sister at the teahouse. There aren’t any servants with time to spare to care for her. So, she has to follow wherever I go. Besides,” she waved at the crowd around them, “these ‘sisters’ are really good people if you get to know them,” and Wei Ying heard a few cheers of “Yeah!” and “You've said it right!”.

 

Wei Ying steeled himself when he saw his opening, and made a dash for it, ignoring the loudmouthed and nosy women of Tian Mi Mi . “Ah, Liang gu niang , can.. can I ask for a small favour? Please, even if it's just to hear me out. You don’t have to agree if it’s not to your favour,” he politely asked.

 

She nodded, and wondered about the change of subject. “Of course. Please, Hei gongzi , go ahead and speak about your request. Tian Tian and I are indebted to you for what you did today.”

 

“My… spouse... and I run a small, modest food catering business. We have products and services that your teahouse could use, such as supplying some ingredients, side dishes, or even an extra platter of fried snacks in case the workers haven’t enough time to make them. Or, I could offer a quick delivery service for the teahouse to alleviate the immediate problem your father is facing, for a reasonable fee,” he explained and gave his most professional grin. Wei Ying had done his homework, knew the full menus and offerings from the teahouse, knew the kinds of people that hang out within its four walls, and what kinds of products sell like hot cakes (Liang’s fried foods are to-die-for!), and he’s also heard about the troubles bogging down the business due to having too much demand and too little manpower to manage them; a victim of its own success, as people say.

 

Liang gu niang paused and gave a thoughtful look. “I… could ask my father about it. He couldn’t sleep last night because one of his biggest customers will have a birthday party in the teahouse next week, and one of our chefs is on a long sick leave. He said he’s having trouble to fill an order for fritters and spring rolls for that event… would you or your spouse be interested to take up this order, under our teahouse’s name?” There was a hint of a business-like tone in her voice; certainly she was learning to take after her father when it came to matters on negotiations and franchising their business.

 

Wei Ying bowed with thanks and exclaimed, “Yes! I’m sure she (他) can do it! You would need to give us the details, though…”

 

There was a sharp rip of paper, a quick swish of a ink-brush pen, and Liang gu niang handed him a slip containing some mystical symbols. “If you can cast a Fairy Messenger spell and input this coded script,” she pointed at the symbols which contains the character for the Liang’s family name, “you will get in touch with my father. He’ll give you the recipe, the exact numbers, the flavours required, payment terms and any advance payments as needed, and other necessary details. I’ll talk to him tonight, so you can contact him tomorrow.” She handed the paper to Wei Ying, which the latter gratefully accepted. 

 

“Yes! Thank you, Liang gu niang !” and he bowed again spiritedly.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan nodded at the shining ball of amber light in his palm, although he knew very well that the other side of the line couldn’t see his actions.

 

“Mn. Stay safe. Don’t venture out tonight. I will be there tomorrow morning,” he pronounced his words as clear as the instructions being given out.

 

A muffled but emotional “thank you” emitted from the Fairy Messenger spell, and it flashed brightly, before fizzling out. The silvery thread that connected it to the other receiving end, dissipated too.

 

Lan Zhan calmly put down the Cultivation Times magazine on the dressing table, and walked to a small bookshelf next to it. He rummaged the shelves for a while, and picked out another book. The big bold words “Wild-life and Wild-deads of Burial Mounds - 2nd edition” were printed on its cover. 

 

He had some serious reading to do, and he hoped Wei Ying would return home soon.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~ 

 

After Tian Tian and her jie jie left, Wei Ying was invited to stay for a bit, as a gesture of apology and a showcase of Tian Mi Mi ’s hospitality. He didn’t dare to refuse the offer, when seven pairs of eyes keenly watched his every move. 

 

He easily changed his mask and slipped into the role of a meek underling begging for a piece of the pie owned by Yiling's grey underworld overlords (or, lordess). His theatrics were on-point that he convincingly mimicked greasy shopkeepers’ behaviors such as agreeing to everything that was said, constantly rubbing his palms as he talked, nodding excessively until his back ached, and grinning so broadly until his eyes became mere lines. He tried his best to assure Tian Mi Mi ’s owners that he was harmless, merely curious, and like everyone else along the Fragrant Blossoms Street, wanted to earn a quick buck for a living.

 

Over a pot of pu’er tea and a plate of roasted peanuts, sunflower seeds, and haw flakes, Wei Ying was secretly exhilarated and at the same time, feared for his life (again), to learn about the businesses behind Tian Mi Mi . Seven beautiful young women of different ethnic origins form the backbone of what is actually an extremely efficient, profitable, and well-oiled organization thriving in the underbelly of Yiling. Interestingly, each of them dressed in unique, colourful (also, revealing) costumes, with various levels of exposures of bare shoulders, generous cleavage, silky-smooth thighs and unsurprisingly, their pantylines too. When they stood in a line across the table, Wei Ying thought he was staring at a kaleidoscopic band of female adventurers taken straight out from the covers of fantasy novels. 

 

All are capable leaders, fighters and magic-users,and have admirable cultivation skills, based on how they introduced themselves, and frighteningly, the manner in which each demonstrated at least one of her martial arts skills (one of them introduced herself as the nth sister, and after a short, emotionless description about her background - including a brief stint as as the notorious "Demoness Scorpion of Chang'an" from two decades ago -, in a blink of an eye and a knee into his belly, Wei Ying was painfully pushed up against the chair with three daggers pointing at his throat. A haw flake that he was eating was cleanly sliced into two, and he was millimeters from having his jugulars done the same way. Wei Ying dared not spit out the food, and instead, he quickly and obediently swallowed the remaining half of the tart snack that lingered on his lips; the other half fell uselessly to his crotch.)

 

Each individual sister had their own unsaid stories and unmentioned circumstances - but fate led them to chance encounters with one another, forming bonds thicker than blood-relationships that established a powerful ruling class within the district of Fragrant Blossoms. Tian Mi Mi attracts the most and the richest customers, and dictates how much businesses go to the other shops along the street. Its clientele is as diverse as the kinds of merchandise and services that are passed behind the closed doors of its numerous guest rooms - whether the pleasures of the flesh, dealings with contraband such as illegal drugs, prohibited substances, unapproved weapons and magics, trafficking of exotic animals and plants, even unsavoury jobs that involve spying, assassinations, casting curse spells, and slipping poison into an enemy’s wine jar; and anything else that the Imperial Court deems punishable by jail, a fine, the loss of limbs, or at worst, instant beheading.

 

After such a brief but enlightening presentation about Tian Mi Mi , Wei Ying thought that it was too dangerous to get involved with the sisterhood of strong, influential and frankly speaking, deadly women. He started to excuse himself with explanations that it was getting late, and his spouse was probably waiting for him to get home. He also thanked the sisters for the gracious hospitality and the afternoon snack.

 

Just as he rose from his seat to take leave, two pairs of hands pushed him back down. He yelped and struggled, but the Second and Fourth Sisters were very strong , and effortlessly held him in place. 

 

The eldest, strictly addressed as Tian da jie (Big Sister Tian), also the tallest and the most voluptuous of the seven, leaned over the table and purred, “Hei gongzi … or should I say, Hei didi (little brother), it’s not nice to bid goodbye to your new sisters right after you’ve gotten to know them. Tell us about yourself.” She fluttered her eyelids demurely, and despite her attractive, exotic looks derived from mixed East and Western bloodlines, she exuded a terrifyingly dominatrix air around her.

 

“A-Ah.. what.. what do you mean? I’m just a h-humble delivery man. I really should leave, o-otherwise my w-w-wife will be worried,” he stammered. Suddenly, his right shoulder felt heavy with the weight of porcelain-white, ample breasts. Wei Ying’s eyes grew wide as saucers as he stared at those milk jugs . “You always talk about your wife at home… such a sweet husband you turn out to be… mmm I can taste her presence in your life just by touching you,” the Second Sister said with a drippy voice and slithered a hand over Wei Ying’s right forearms. He flinched away; her fingertips seemed to bite his skin.

 

Fourth Sister, determined not to lose to the Second Sister, followed suit and rested her chest in the same manner. “You’re a clever liar, Mister delivery man! I’ve seen you selling magical talismans at the marketplace. I can smell everything, and can sense powerful magic underneath your clothes!,” she sniffed behind his ear and hissed as she started to grope Wei Ying’s chest. Panicked, Wei Ying swatted the invading hand away. He had a pouch of twenty silver pieces to protect with his life, in his undergarments' pockets!

 

“Fourth Sister, don’t be rude and call him ‘Mister’, and get your hands off him. He’s a part of our family now, alright?” the Third Sister emerged from the shadows and embraced him from behind. Wei Ying blushed and gasped when twin mounds and a rather muscular set of abs pressed hard against his back. He was becoming trapped and couldn’t decide to remain docile (remember the three daggers!) or to flee (and have his jugulars sliced!). “F.. Family?” Wei Ying stuttered uncertainly, confused.

 

Fifth Sister, about the same age as Wei Ying, chirped childishly on his left, “Don’t you know? Once you sign a contract with the Liangs, you’re pretty much a part of the extended family - like us! Hooray!” She knelt next to his left leg and excitedly pounded his thigh with her fists (which was both painful and ticklish; he grimaced and tried not to make any weird sounds).

 

“But, I haven’t agreed.. unnnff! (the youngest of them, Seventh Sister, in her early teens, scrambled out from beneath the table and hopped onto Wei Ying’s lap; her scant, frilly dress was too inappropriately thigh-revealing, he thought) I haven’t even signed anything with the laoban !”

 

Hot-headed and pouty teenager Sixth Sister growled out from the right, “Details, details, who cares about details! Anyway, you saved our little Tian Tian. Didn’t you realize how different she looked from her elder sister? Or how her name resembles ours? Stuuuuupid old man!” She knelt besides Wei Ying and slapped his right thigh, looking rather exasperated at Wei Ying’s grasp of the situation at a frustratingly slow snail’s pace (when did she appear, he wondered).

 

Wei Ying was becoming dizzy from being surrounded by seven feisty females, and their thick perfumes and powder make-up almost made him gag. "Tian Tian… is one of you? But… how?" He was having a hard time to digest the new information, especially when the Seventh Sister started nuzzling his neck like a precocious ten-year old. Her soft hair tickled his Adam's apple.

 

“She is actually one of us, but adopted at an early age by Liang laoban . Do you want to know why?” Second Sister whispered seductively into his ear. He shivered when hot air was blown into the ear canal. He couldn't give a definite answer.

 

Little Seventh Sister bounced on Wei Ying's thighs, annoyed at being ignored despite the ongoing conversations. “Hey, Tian Tian is also my younger sister. Since she called you gege , she must really like you. Can I call you gege too?”

 

Third Sister cooed into Wei Ying's nape, “Silly girl, of course you can. We all should, since he’s already one of us. But I prefer to call him didi because he’s definitely younger than me. Just listen to him, I can tell from his voice that he’s dying to be loved and become the cutie-pie of our family, ” Her hands crawled to tickle his navel, close to where Seventh Sister's crotch rested. He let out a shrill "Hieeee!' sound.

 

“Ninth didi ! I like the sound of it!” Sixth Sister squealed with delight as she managed to push and dislodge her younger sister from the man; it seemed the girls were wrestling each other atop poor Wei Ying. Seventh Sister squeaked and with trained, lightning-quick moves, managed to grapple and hold onto his upper torso (owww, don't scratch my ribs, Wei Ying whined inwardly). In revenge, she kicked both Fifth and Sixth with a graceful split that sent both older girls tumbling to the ground unceremoniously with facefull of socked feet and bruised nosetips. Seventh Sister stuck out her tongue at Sixth.

 

Wei Ying was extremely unnerved by the turn of events and he gripped the edge of the chair anxiously. Something didn’t quite make sense in the last comment he’d heard. “Ninth…?”

 

Tian da jie walked around the table and stood next to the man helplessly swaddled with clambering females. Her shapely curves and ripped muscular body gleamed in the light of flickering lanterns, and Wei Ying gulped.

 

“Ah, we should have told you earlier… Tian Tian is the eighth in line of our family,” she whispered sultrily, and bent forward. Wei Ying arched his back as much as he could to avoid the looming boobs and curvaceous hips. “Sorry, but you’re the runt of the litter, didi ,” her lips twisted into an sugary-evil sneer and she patted on Wei Ying’s cheeks lightly. He deftly avoided being scratched by her long, red fingernails.

 

Fifth Sister scrambled onto her feet and with enthusiastic sparkles in her eyes and a disturbingly wild grin etched on her face, then she grabbed onto Wei Ying’s left thigh and shook it crazily. “Oh, I’ve always wanted a little brother! This boy is so cute! Too cute! I want him!” Wei Ying gritted his teeth at the agony - she was incredibly strong and he prayed she didn’t shake any of his hip joints out of their sockets.

 

With that, the hall erupted into burst of activity and noise. Shouts rang from above, “Fate has smiled on us, sisters. Let’s welcome our new little brother!”; somewhere from the kitchen, “Bring out the celebratory foods! The sweets! The candies! Tian Mi Mi cannot be Tian (sweet) without those!”; and somewhere from the basement cellars, “Servants! Where is the wine? We must have it for this occasion!”. 

 

Tian Mi Mi ’s women rushed around him; lighting up the entire interior of the building with red-amber lanterns and Fire and other light-based spells (Cultivators! There are scores of cultivators within the premises!); assembling and laying the table with an extravagant spread of food in all kinds of shapes, colours and textures that he’d never seen before. 

 

Wei Ying really started to panic and he struggled to escape the clutches of these crazed women . He managed to push through a tide of moving bodies and take two steps towards the closed entrance doors, before Tian da jie ’s long limb closed around his waist - he choked on his breath when he realized the arm was inhuman, elongated and scaly, and with gleaming turquoise and aquamarine specks on its five foot-long claws . Wei Ying instinctively shouted “No!” and “Help me!” although he knew he cannot be heard within the fortified walls of Tian Mi Mi , especially when the street outside was deserted during the afternoon.

 

Wei Ying reached for his bamboo flute, but realized that it was gone from his sash - curse those street brats! They must have stolen it when they pickpocketed his silvers away! He used his hands and legs to push against the seven sisters who grabbed and pulled him back to the table. Some of the sisters started to grow non-human body parts - revelations that their origins were not as simple and straightforward as narrated before - somewhere among the moving masses, he saw horns, fangs, spider legs, carapace shells, and even a shiny, raised scorpion tail. He squeezed his eyes shut as fear and terror gripped his heart. 

 

Something cold and hard touched his lips. 

 

“Take a sip of this wine and then we’ll share the same jar to celebrate this wonderful siblinghood!” He pursed his lips defiantly and clawed at unseen assailants that threatened to drown him with the alcohol, but strong fingers gripped his mouth and managed to prise his jaws open. Sweet aromatic liquor flowed into his palate, and straight into his lungs when he tried to breathe and cough simultaneously. 

 

“Drink! Drink! Drink!”

 

The flow of wine, flavored with honey and other unidentifiable tastes, continued to stream down his throat even as he choked, spit and swallowed. A fair amount spilled onto his face and down his neck, and he couldn’t open his eyes because of the stinging liquid.

 

Wei Ying pleaded for release in between hiccups and coughs, and he raised a hand. “I’m… really, I’m a married man! I have a lovely wife! I love her very much and will not cheat nor disobey her! I have to get back home! I can’t stay--”

 

One last hiccup, then Wei Ying felt a sharp, painful sensation shoot up his spine and into his head, and he immediately lost control of his senses. His vision spun and blacked, sounds and shouts from the hall became distorted and rose in volume until they became an ear-ringing drone, then his body slumped forward and he slammed his forehead onto the table’s surface. His right hand still held a three-fingered salute.

 

The entire hall (and the building) fell into murmurs, horrified gasps and eventually, deathly silence.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“Oh dear.”

“Oh my.”

“What happened?”

 

“... Sixth Sister, what wine did you serve?”

 

“What?! Are you suspecting me?! It’s just a regular blend of our magical Mi (蜜; honey) and a jar of Mimi mijiu (秘密米酒; Rice Wine of Secrets). What’s wrong with that, da jie ? I wanted to spend our first night together learning all about our new didi ’s secrets. There’s no problem with that, right?!”

 

Wei Ying giggled in his awfully drunken, near-slumbering groggy state. He hiccuped and then hummed the sounds “mi, mi, miii, miiii, mii, mi…” into the table.

 

“Tee hee hee… Didi ’s totally lost it! He’s so adorable, I wanna keep him like this, jie jie . Can I? Can I? Pretty please?”

 

“(sigh) It didn’t work as you described. Tell me exactly the question you casted into the Mi , before mixing it into the wine. And no, Fifth. You cannot keep him like a pet.”

 

“Huh?! Third Sister, I casted the questions: ‘Tell me your name’ and ‘Tell me about your wife’. There’s nothing wrong, alright?!”

 

“Sixth, don’t lie to your Third Sister. I can hear the truth even through your raised voice. And don’t shout at your jie jie . It’s disrespectful.”

 

“... OKAY! I wanted to know how he has sex with the girls, because… he’s my type, ALRIGHT?! I wanted to find out more about what makes him tick, which part of females make him horny, like whether he’s a boob-guy or a butt-guy, what’s his favourite sex position in bed when he’s with the wife, and all that stuff! ...FUCK!”

 

Wei Ying rolled over in his seat and fell to the ground in a messy heap. He mumbled something unintelligible, and snored softly.

 

“And if he falls dead drunk - like this?”

 

“I... don’t know, da jie . I really don’t, and it’s not my fault! It just means he cannot answer the question and the Mi spell failed miserably. That’s all I know! Argh, this is so embarrassing!”

 

“Oh! Oh! I know!”

 

“What, Seventh?”

 

“Something like this happened to me before. Fifth Sister, do you remember the time when we caught a stalker who spiked my drink at school?”

 

“Yeah! The mayor’s son! He knows how to use the Mi spell and tried those sleazy ways to find out about you! And I think he asked similar questions too…!”

 

“Mm-hmm! But it didn’t work on me, and I fell into a drunken sleep - just like what is happening to didi . Because I’m a virgin ! The spell couldn't ask me, a virgin, about a question related to sexual experience... so it failed!”

 

“What?! Really? A virgin?! Even though he has a wife?! I can’t…”

 

“Slow down, Sixth. Breathe. Just listening to the sound of his heartbeat, I can tell that he’s a really loyal husband, and very loving to his spouse. There is definitely someone special in his life, and he’s living just for this person.”

 

“Ohhh, such a sweet man, yet still a virgin despite having tied the knot for more than a year. I can taste just by touching his hands - he’s not alone and there is definitely a lover living with him for at least that amount of time.”

 

“Huh… I don’t smell any other women’s scent on him. Are you sure, Second and Third Sister?”

 

A full minute passed in silence, as each sister mulled about the mystery of Wei Ying's virginity.

 

“Fourth, our senses never failed us. Didi didn’t lie when he said he’s a married man and that he has a loving wife . I’ve figured it out.”

 

Six sisters looked up expectantly to their eldest - confusion, curiosity, and bewilderment clearly expressed on their sweet angelic faces.

 

Didi is in love with another man, and the spell failed because he’s never done it with any woman.”

 

Then, Tian da jie added, "I've seen it in his eyes the moment he stepped into our shop. There is a reflection of a handsome man in white, and it's always there.

 

Wei Ying mmmmhs on the floor and scratched his tummy, before letting out a satisfied snore.

 

Six soft “aaaahs” chorused in the hall.

Chapter Text

Lan Zhan calmly stirred a pot of boiling soup with a ladle. He watched quietly as diced root vegetables and dried dates swirled in the clear, aromatic broth with some chicken bones. Next, he added a few cut wedges from apples salvaged from the morning’s squirrel attack; surprisingly, he carelessly dropped one onto the kitchen floor.

 

Just as the soup bubbled, so did the turmoil he felt inside him. The sun was setting and he hadn’t seen nor heard anything from Wei Ying. He looked out with worry through the window (an expression that he seldom showed); the air was getting cooler and the forests surrounding their home had turned into an impenetrable mass of dark shadows beneath fiery orange skies.

 

He deliberated on whether to burn up an expensive Fairy Messenger talisman that costs four silvers, start up Bichen and rush over to the police station in Yiling, or simply wait a little longer. He looked longingly at bowls of seasoned chicken meat, freshly picked vegetables, wild mushrooms and sliced peaches (also rescued from the squirrels’ invasion) arranged neatly on the kitchen counter, ready to be turned into a tasty sweet-savoury stir-fry on the pan at a moment’s notice.

 

The aroma of steaming rice filled the air. He decided to prepare dinner first.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Seven women surrounded an angelic sleeping, albeit sloppy-looking Wei Ying, who lay on a wide couch-bed made of high-quality hardwood and lined by richly-embroidered pillows. He was covered with dust and dirt from a day’s work under the hot sun, reeked with the stench of alcohol that spilled onto his face and clothes, and he drooled endlessly onto the furniture. Seventh Sister tried her best to wipe her snoring didi using a wet cloth soaked in a shallow bucket of florally-scented water.

 

Fifth Sister munched absently on the celebratory foods the servants had prepared earlier - good stuff should not go to waste. These included candies, snacks and sweet breads and rolls. She picked up a bread roll spiced with cinnamon, a specialty from the Far, Far West, but localized to use ingredients found within the Middle Kingdom. 

 

Third Sister sighed and brooded over their didi . “Oh, what should we do? Will he be alright? Do we find out who he is and where he lives? Do we tell others? Do we hand him to the police and file a Missing Persons report? Do we let him stay the night?”

 

Sixth Sister, the most determined, impatient and stubborn of the lot, plucked the food out of Fifth’s grasp. She swung it high in the air and announced, “We have to help him find his way back, jie jie s. 

 

He’s a precious cinnamon roll that must be protected at all cost!” she harrumphs.

 

Everyone in the room agreed.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

A couple of hours after unwillingly inducting the young man into the sisterhood, the owners of Tian Mi Mi were in a quandary of how to locate his home and send him back safely with ample compensation for the inconveniences that stemmed from the huge misunderstanding.

 

Tian da jie is brilliant in strategizing solutions to the problem, and ruthless in delegating responsibilities to the sisters to execute her instructions with utmost proficiency. With a wave of the Heavenly Dragon’s Spear of Twelve Blazing Summers, one of the numerous enchanted weapons that she fluidly weaved out from thin air, she wrote the word ‘Heaven’ (天; Tian) in an impressive display of shooting lights, exploding fireballs (and awesome thundering sound effects), and channeled incredible amounts of qi energy to her sisters, to enable them to complete their tasks with divinely perfection as much as the Heavens would allow. 

 

(Somewhere high above the stratosphere, Qishan's 108 local gods trembled with fear when their heavenly abodes and earthly shrines quaked from the rippling sonic booms unleashed by the Spear. They rushed to the Golden Summer Resort Palace of the Heavenly Grandfather (天公; Tian Gong) to file a complaint to His Reverence The Jade Emperor, and grovelled repeatedly to seek temporary refuge from the unknown attack.

 

Tian dalaoye (天大老爷; Tian Great Grandfather) was understandably indignant when harassed by scores of such lowly deities while on his summer vacation, and thought it was time to have a pep talk with his rebellious great grand-daughter.

 

Ordinary inhabitants in the Qishan province of the Mortal Realm were blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding in the clouds above them, except for an unusually loud thunderclap that usually heralds the arrival of mid-summer storms after weeks of dry, hot weather.)

 

Seductive Second Sister was assigned to visit the Mayor's office to investigate all records and registers - both public and confidential -  on any individual by the family name of Hei . She made sure to charm all officers on site, and compelled them to check over a thousand pages of documentation in a span of less than an hour. Qishan’s provincial administration came to a standstill that afternoon, and all government-related businesses became disrupted. Ordinary citizens queueing to pay their taxes and to settle any city council-related matter complained, but there were used to frequent delays anyway.

 

Motherly Third Sister was in tears when she saw the woeful state of the contents inside Wei Ying's basket, and remembered the story of his heroic fight with the street brats, which she overheard when Tian Tian was in their shop earlier. The opened wrap of minced pork had footprints all over it and didn't smell fresh anymore; the bag of flour was torn, contaminated with sand, and spilled into the basket; packets of spices, salt, sugar and flavoured pastes lay crumpled, ripped and dirtied at the bottom; even the broom and dustpan set sold at her old friend's store, Liao's, was found bent and crooked. She immediately contacted all her friends in the Qishan Merchant Guild and spent some time lamenting about the pitiful, bullied young man, just as how mothers gather together for mommy-talks and to amass social and emotional support within their circles. The matriarchs of the Niu, Zhu, Liao and many other families responded without hesitation.

 

Fourth Sister only needed to sneak a peek into Wei Ying’s satchel to confirm her initial suspicions about the man’s occupation as a street peddler of all sorts of basic magics and useless handmade knick-knacks. She gladly replenished it with stacks of first-class talismans, finely crafted charms, bottles of healing salves, an assortment of potions jars, and actual, working magical gadgets (including alternate versions of Compasses of Evils) from her own inventory. It didn’t cost her anything, since she was one of the co-founders and owners of the top-selling Magics ‘R Us brand that is widespread across the Middle Kingdom, and known to every cultivator (they’ve always advertised on the front covers of every magic and skill-related magazines, including Cultivation Times). She noticed the satchel’s leather strap to be worn out, so she handed it to Fifth for repairs.

 

Fifth Sister is amazing with artisanal works. Despite her childish behavior and speech, she demonstrates skills that put some of the Middle Kingdom’s greatest artists, craftsmen, and smiths to shame. She mended Wei Ying’s torn garments and his satchel within minutes, and strengthened the material so that they could last a lifetime, if used with care.

 

Sixth Sister is the darling of the young, enterprising, innovative and creative. She may be going through a rough phase in growing up, and act cranky and moody at times, but she is the most gifted in that she can see and do things that others would not, or could not. 

 

When Second Sister came back empty-handed because there was no one with the surname of Hei that matched Wei Ying’s description, Sixth became upset and started swearing and throwing things around due to the seemingly futile attempt to help her (secret crush) didi . Third Sister advised her to “just calm down, and breathe”. She did, stopped her tantrums, and closed her eyes to meditate. Within the noisy murky darkness inside her mind, soon, a spark lit up and burst forth; her mind opened up to boundless possibilities and solutions (Tian da jie calls this phenomenon “ascending into infinite states of the mundane mind”; Sixth calls it “mindblown”). 

 

She took an identification-related spell from Fourth’s arsenal, and casted it on the basket in Third Sister’s hands to locate its origins. Then, after staring into her da jie ’s eyes to see captured image of the ‘handsome man in white’ (she felt a twinge of jealousy at that point), she plucked out the exact pages from binders titled “Burial Mounds” that Second Sister brought back, and found this man’s records written in a copy of a land title - indeed, a portrait of him was drawn on the document, although it was difficult to match it to the actual person. She asked the Fifth Sister to magically weave and modify a Fairy Messenger talisman that her Fourth Sister offered, and under her careful, detailed instructions to disassemble and re-code the spell, the piece of yellow paper was transformed into a Reverse Fairy Messenger spell. (Essentially, the sisters could "call the caller", despite not knowing the receiver's mystical call-code or symbol - a twisted and prohibited version of the common spell.)

 

Fortunately or unfortunately, Wei Ying continued to drift into a restful slumber, and missed the remarkable spectacle of seven human and non-human females fussing over him.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The softening peaches crackled and simmered in a bath of oiled chicken broth, and he stirred it slowly to thicken the liquid into a tasty, appetizing sauce to accompany fillets of chicken breastmeats and cooked greens. The mushrooms added a nice earthy taste, and helped to enhance the meaty flavours so that they balanced the sweet-sourness of the tart fruit slices.

 

In the background, the pot of apple chicken soup continued to boil at low temperatures and gurgle contently.

 

A ball of amber light floated through the kitchen window, with the familiar silvery thread tailing behind it. He wondered exasperatedly who would call at this hour, partly annoyed at getting more than a Fairy Messenger a day, and partly excited-worried that it could be about Wei Ying. He moved the pan away from the fire so that the dish would not become burnt. Naturally (and not really required), he wiped his hands on a dishcloth from oil and sticky fruit juices, before grasping the vibrating fluff of light. By the time he closed his palm into a squeezed fist, it had already buzzed eight times.

 

He was startled when the first sounds emerged from the pulsing light - a cacophony of explosive high-pitched female voices, all muddled into bursts of incoherent dialogue lines. 

 

“... Hello? Hello! No one’s in, let’s try-- wait, Hello?!”

“I hear the sounds of something bubbling and sizzling.. is that someone cooking?”

“What? Did we mistakenly call a takeaway or a restaurant?”

“I hear someone’s breathing! That whooshing sound… ooh! There! There!”

“Wait, I just thought of something.. How do we address him?”

“Holy shit, you’re right! Should we call him meifu (妹夫; younger sister’s husband)? But it’s didi ’s…”

“No… and we can’t use dixi (弟媳; younger brother’s wife) either. Then.. di ... fu (弟夫; younger brother’s husband)?”

Jie jie , I’ve never learnt that in school.. What’s difu ?”

“Hello? Difu ?”

 

Lan Zhan was shocked and horrified, and instinctively hurled the ball of light into the kitchen sink (of course, it was not possible to actually toss it anywhere, because it was immaterial and did not have physical mass). As soon as the ball of light left his palm, it merely floated a bit more, and fizzled out. The spell was disconnected.

 

He grabbed the kitchen counter to steady himself. It must have been a prank call, he thought. A very terrifying one, indeed.

 

Two minutes later, another ball of amber light drifted through the window. He tried to swat it away with a ladle and when that did not work, he used his sleeves. However, the fluffy luminous globe easily penetrated through all sorts of material, and merely trailed towards him. He rushed out of the kitchen and it followed him wherever he went until he was outside their home at the courtyard. The ghostly yellow-orange sphere lazily hovered closer him (it’s like the stuff of nightmares!), and Lan Zhan knew he could not escape.

 

He forced himself to calm down. It’s only a Fairy Messenger call… if it’s another prank call, you can always disconnect again, he assured himself repeatedly like a mantra. He accepted it with a courageous heart.

 

Lan Zhan cleared his throat when the spell connected, and clearly, calmly greeted the other side, “Hello. This is Lan’s residence.”

 

There were some unintelligible chatter in the background, and barely audible hisses of "sshhh, quiet down!". It sounded playful, and a nuisance.

 

"Hello? Is that you, Wei Ying?" he asked, voice firmer than before, and he sounded slightly annoyed. “Who is this?” he asked again, when the other side refused to identify itself. He reminded himself that the great Han Guang Jun stands above juvenile pranksters.

 

Finally, a female voice answered, "Wei… Ying…? err… Lan… ah! Is that you, Er gongzi ?" 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying woke up with a snort and found himself sitting cross-legged on bumpy ride. The strong winds against his face was biting cold and he slowly blinked open his frost-lidded bleary eyes to a marvellous sight of a starry night sky and a dazzling, bright half-moon. He stretched and yawned loudly, felt his muscles and joints pop, and realized that his throat was dry.

 

“Young Master? Are you awake?”

 

Wei Ying was surprised to hear another man’s voice, and he looked up to see a bearded middle-aged cultivator dressed in a pristine-white robes. He stood on a broadsword and - goodness! - they were really flying through the air! Wei Ying became fully alert, and surveyed his surroundings anxiously. They had just entered the Burial Mounds and he could see Mian Mian’s house on the fringes, the endless hills, grasslands and pockets of forests, and not too far away, the familiar sight of his cavern complex-turned-home.

 

“Young Master, please do not be alarmed. Let me inform you your current situation - a customer by the name of Tian gu niang contacted us at FeiEx (飞; Fei; Fly; for FlyExpress (sic)) to pick you up from Liang’s Teahouse, and instructed us to drop you off at your home. All expenses for this service have been fully paid. You’re in safe and good hands of Qishan’s most reliable and premium air transportation service, and we have plenty of experience in shuttling passengers in... various states… to their destinations. If you need any further assistance, please let me know and I can contact our ground crew to be on standby.” Wei Ying thought he felt a wink at the word “various states”, but he couldn’t see because he was facing the back of the cultivator.

 

Wei Ying grabbed the broadsword’s blade tightly, which was specially blunted and sheathed in soft, cushiony velvet, to steady himself on the ride (he wished someone would invent a safety belt or rope so that less able-bodied passengers would not accidentally fall off - another idea for his notebook). There was turbulence in the wind, and each time the sword hit a bump of rough air currents, Wei Ying feared that he would be thrown off from two hundred feet above the ground. He still felt dizzy from the alcohol, and remained sitting on the comfortable velvet surface, as motionless as possible, throughout the journey.

 

He wasn’t able to think clearly - the pounding headache was still there -, but he started patting his body and looked for his belongings. Fortunately, to his relief, his satchel was on his lap and he could feel the precious twenty lumps of silvers in his undergarments’ pockets. “ Shifu (师傅; Master / driver), have you seen my--” he started asking.

 

“Oh, please do not worry, Young Master! Your baskets are safely secured at the back!” the cultivator shouted through the din of whistling frigid winds. The shifu focused on piloting the sword and did not look away from the direction ahead. His back was straight, his booted feet was stable despite being near the narrowed tip of the blade, and he looked very professional and well-trained in carrying out his duty - so Wei Ying felt he could trust the man’s words. Wei Ying turned around and true enough, he saw his good ol’ basket dangling securely from a rope tied to the hilt. There was another, more brightly-coloured bamboo basket tied to the hilt which he didn’t know whom it belonged to. His curiosity piqued.

 

Shifu ! This other basket… whose is it? Are you delivering it to another customer after this?”

 

“Oh no, Young Master. We’ve checked-in both baskets under your name for this flight. The lady who sent for us said that you might not remember this when you wake up, so this is her message: one is your basket, and the other is a “Sorry and Thank You” gift from her establishment. It was given around the time you passed out from having too much to drink at a party, so you may have no recollection about it.. Young Master, I hope this makes sense? If you need more details, I could conjure a Fairy Messenger and connect with--”

 

Wei Ying waved a hand dismissively. His head throbbed at blurred memories of the horrors that transpired inside Tian Mi Mi . “It’s alright, shifu , I think… yeah, I guess it’s fine,” he grunted. He wasn’t sure how he got out alive, and he didn’t want to dwell on that, for the moment. He pinched the bridge of his nose.

 

“If it helps, your luggage was scanned with the Aviation Council’s spells prior to departure, which is a standard procedure for all FeiEx flights. There are certainly no contrabands or anything of that sort in those baskets, in case you’re wondering what’s in your luggage. According to the forms, your luggage was declared as containing foodstuff and common household items, which are not subjected to any tax. Rest assured, Young Master, we handle plenty of (inebriated) customers who are not able to complete the proper check-in procedure before their flights, so we go the extra length to do things for them - including paperwork, luggage checking and handling, and completing passengers’ preparations for launch on their behalf.”

 

Wei Ying nnnghs in vague agreement. He believed that FeiEx’s employees had at least gone through the meagre purchases inside his basket, and they must’ve been disappointed at the contents - for such a premium flight. As for the other basket - if there were only ‘foodstuffs and household items’, then it’s a safe guess that Tian Mi Mi didn’t put anything dangerous or illegal in it. He wondered if they also packed some of the colourful and yummy celebratory foods he’d seen on the tables in the mansion… maybe as an apology? (he hoped so, and his stomach rumbled a bit - he was reminded of how late it was.)

 

He started to piece the jigsaw puzzle of the day’s events (oww, oww, the headache), and at the back of his mind, a screeching warning blared about how the ‘Tian gu niang ’ knew where he stayed… but considering he was being air-lifted and nothing seems out of place - it sounded as though Tian Mi Mi sent him to Liang’s Teahouse for a safe and unsuspicious pick-up and was sincere in letting him go with no strings attached, he was all fine and dandy, and all his belongings were still with him, with an extra reward for his troubles. Fate certainly works in mysterious ways, he thought.

 

The shifu seemed to sense the shift in his passenger’s mental state to more calming qi vibrations. He called out with a deep, smooth and assuring voice, “Please sit back and enjoy the ride, Young Master. We’re almost there.”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Fifteen minutes later, Wei Ying stood unsteadily on his feet on the familiar courtyard while staring mesmerized at the sight of a silvery-white sword and its pilot lifting off into the night sky. He noticed that FeiEx’s name was clearly carved on the underside of the blade - it looked elegant and sophisticated, befitting its (probably) pricey fee, exceptional guest service, and comfortable seats (his butt was starting to warm up to the velvet, but he had to get off too soon). He wondered briefly if someday, he could try his hands in running a ride-hailing service - it looked like a profitable venture (there are plenty of drunken people that needed to get back home when the day is late), only needed a nice big sword as initial investment (easily available to order at the many weaponsmiths in town), and more importantly, Wei Ying imagined being able to zip through the air with a fancy blade that has his name splashed across it in bright red and black... and still earn a big buck (that would be so awesome !).

 

Then, he heard Lan Zhan’s voice. He turned around and felt his face light up into the brightest smile in the world - at the sight of his dearly-missed lao gong . All the pains, problems and worries from the day dissipated; he felt like he was walking on air, and his heart was tremendously relieved that he was finally, finally home to where he truly belonged.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan rushed out of their home’s entrance when he heard the telltale whooshing sounds of a sword in flight. He wore his white nightgown and had put on a thick outer robe for the chilly night. “Wei Ying!” he shouted at the top of his lungs as he dashed across the courtyard. Several gusts of swirling dust blew, but that didn’t deter him.

 

Wei Ying lumbered on wobbly footsteps as he dragged two baskets with both hands. He stopped when Lan Zhan stood in front of him. The older man automatically reached out and easily hauled both baskets with his left hand, while he put his right arm around Wei Ying and nudged the younger man to walk faster, because the night was quite cold. Wei Ying had hoped his spouse would say hello to him with hugs, flowers and fireworks - but he knows the aloof and reserved Lan Wang Ji too well, and that the man did not fancy such mushy or romantic kinds of greetings. In fact, he seemed preoccupied to get both of them safely into their home with the luggage in tow.

 

Wei Ying’s smile remained during the short merry walk back to the cave. “Lan Zhan, I’m back (我 回来了),” he murmured, and shyly gripped the satchel’s strap around his shoulder, while leaning closer to his partner; he’s grateful for the simple and kind warmth that Lan Zhan wordlessly offers with the embrace from his right hand.

 

“Mn.”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan was surprisingly patient with Wei Ying. He was calm, composed, and did not throw a barrage of questions as expected - in fact, he behaved the same just as any other day, except that it was past eight in the evening, and he was still serving up dinner. Wei Ying watched closely at his every move, and tried to determine if the unusual demeanour was due to an infinite amount of affection and understanding from his partner (he hoped so), or a 'silent treatment' that belies the feelings of disappointment and frustration (he really hoped not). Occasionally, Lan Zhan stole glances at the younger man, and sometimes he leaned a bit too close for comfort when he walked past; Wei Ying interpreted these as signs that the older man must've missed him a lot too.

 

Wei Ying gratefully slaked his thirst with half a jug of herbal tea waiting on the dining table (the kind that soothes hangovers and helped him to recover from his drunken state - did Lan Zhan know?), while the older man re-heated portions of chicken, rice and soup (still in his nightgown - he looks really pretty, Wei Ying thought). He thought very hard and mulled over his beverage about how to break the news of his daily adventures in Yiling, and was distracted when his socked feet kicked something solid. He bent down and retrieved a detached broom head.

 

“Woah... what happened to the broom?”

 

Lan Zhan sighed as he gently stirred the pot. While taking tentative sips to test the temperature of the soup, he gave a condensed account of his rather peaceful day. He gripped the ladle uncomfortably hard and seethed unnoticeably (Wei Ying could still sense the change in his voice, albeit very slightly), when he recounted about the squirrels that terrorised their kitchen, which contributed to the night’s fruit-laden menu. Wei Ying ahhs and hmms almost disinterestedly, though he was actually listening (and comparing notes with how he managed to survive Yiling to live another day ). 

 

The most exciting part of Lan Zhan’s day was when he received a call from Mian Mian. “Mian Mian! We met her two weeks ago at the evening market. How is her daughter?” Wei Ying interjected happily before taking another gulp of the tea, “Did she call to tell us about how her little girl passed an exam with flying colours?” and giggled a bit. Mian Mian’s daughter is smart, and has always been a top scorer in class; her mother always beam with pride whenever she talks about her daughter’s education.

 

There was a thoughtful pause. Outside their home, the sounds of crickets and other nightly insects were deafening. Lan Zhan shook his head, unsmiling, and continued to heat the soup. “Her neighbour’s staying over at her place, because they spotted a snake in their garden. She has her hands full with caring for an additional family, so she’s unable to do anything. I will visit them tomorrow, help to find the snake, and keep the families safe.”

 

“Hnnn…” Wei Ying hums. He didn’t know that his partner was running a local pest control service. However, given his perceived hatred for pests, it was not a surprise. Wei Ying didn’t comment further on his partner’s plans.

 

By the time Lan Zhan finished his story (which was very brief, since the man lives on brevity, spoke in short sentences, and each word carries the worth of at least another ten; unlike Wei Ying), he scooped out a steaming bowl; he made sure it contained balanced amounts of carrots, radishes, softened apple wedges and chunks of bony meat.

 

“Actually… Lan Zhan, I bought a set of broom and dustpan from Liao’s store. It’s a bit… crooked, but it’ll work fine. Here, let me show you,” he started to rise from his seat with an intention to reach the baskets at the dark, far end of the kitchen-cum-dining room, but Lan Zhan gently tapped on his shoulder in an unspoken instruction to ‘sit down’. A bowl of soup was placed on the table, and Lan Zhan hnnns at him with a nod. “Oh.. (哦)” and Wei Ying sits back, fully understanding that he should just enjoy the soup and let Lan Zhan do the work (at this point, Wei Ying’s heart melted a little more from his partner’s sweet gestures).

 

He observed attentively as the older man walked to the baskets, crouched in front of them, then opened each one to unload the contents. Wei Ying couldn’t really see much despite his high vantage point due to the dim lanterns, and he was starting to feel hungry as he slurped the warm, tasty soup; the slight savoury-tartness really whet his appetite! 

 

“Ah, Lan Zhan, the other basket is actually a gift from… err… I’ll tell you later. It’s alright, you can open it, it contains only foodstuff and household items for us. I haven’t seen it yet, though. Anyway, about the broom - do you know what happened to me today? Those street brats again, I tell you! They were all over me and I tried to fight back! I lost the extra silver pieces I earned from my A wesome S elling S kills because they pickpocketed me again… ahh! It’s so frustrating! Ah, don’t worry, I still earned the twenty silvers after delivering the jiaozi and buying all the groceries according to your shopping list. See? (pat, pats the pocket) They’re right here. Hey, if you see something weird in that other basket, don’t touch it. I’ll handle it later. By the way, the jiaozi s were really good, and the guests at the wedding ceremony ate them all! The jianbing that you made too -  I actually fed a stray cat with some, and he loved it so much that he rubbed himself all over me! That was so cute... Lan Zhan, we should get a cat someday, what do you think? And.. where was I? Ah, the broom. So, I was saying...”

 

The dining area eventually settled down to become a comfortable hubbub of Wei Ying’s perpetual babbling. Once he started to relate his view of his own adventures , in his own messy but endearing ways, with plenty of boasting, self-gratification, and a good dose of superfluous and exaggerated details, he became an enthusiastic and excitable box of non-stop chatter. It had been a day of tensions, bursts of panics and awkward silences, so being able to openly talk to Lan Zhan - felt akin to soothing his soul with a warm bowl of chicken soup; which incidentally, he just had one, and Lan Zhan wordlessly filled a second serving for him.

 

(He deftly avoided the story of saving a little girl and delivering her to a brothel, where he met a celebrity and became ambushed by ravenous prostitutes. Lan Zhan would murder , if he even broached that sort of topic. So he skirted around it and portrayed himself along the lines of graciously helping someone in need, and ended up getting drunk at Liang’s Teahouse after “winning an afternoon lucky draw for a basket of grocery goodies”. A few white lies wouldn’t hurt, he told himself.)

 

Lan Zhan methodically picked, inspected and put the contents from the baskets to the correct places. He started with the smallest parcels of groceries that were clearly written in the shopping list, such as the packs of spices and condiments, and slowly worked up to the bigger ones. As he shuffled back and forth between baskets and replenished the cabinets and shelves of their kitchen, he impeccably served Wei Ying’s dinner without the latter even realizing it. Wei Ying was lovingly pampered as he talked on and on, having bowls of rice placed in front of him and the accompanying set of chopsticks (Lan Zhan nodded, mmms and muttered yes’es occasionally to signal that he was still listening to Wei Ying’s convoluted tales). Lan Zhan seemed to be busy ferrying such a paltry amount of provisions, and for a moment, Wei Ying wondered if he really should stop eating and help out his partner (but he was really hungry thanks to the appetizing soup, and it’s way, way past dinnertime!). 

 

While he dined on Lan Zhan’s peach-marinated grilled chicken and a vegetable-mushroom stir-fry - when the older man held up not one, but three packs of wrapped minced pork (were they ever that big?), and assembled perfect lines of stuff on the kitchen floor and in the order of increasing sizes (Lan Zhan worked fast to lay out the baskets’ unexpectedly extensive amount of contents on the floor, spreading them out like a carpet - wait, what? When did he buy so much stuff ?!) - ranging from all sorts of bags of food, sacks of rice, kitchen supplies, household items, new rolls of cloth (what?!), and unearthed a mind-boggling stacks of talismans, magical equipment and bottles of whatnots from his satchel (but it didn’t feel heavy when he was carrying it…!) - Wei Ying’s facial expression became very grave and serious; he pulled out a half-chewed chicken bone from his mouth; and lowered his legs back to a polite sitting posture (his favourite [obnoxious] sitting position at home was: to bend and pull his left leg up to the chair, while leaving his right leg on the floor; and he would rest an arm on the left knee and lean backwards to a kind of manspreading, because he would look like a laoban and that felt good ).

 

Lan Zhan looked up questioningly at Wei Ying, resulting in the younger man nervously swallowing down a mouthful of meat that suddenly tasted very dry. 

 

“Wei Ying, these were not in the shopping list,” Lan Zhan stated the obvious. He also held up the broom apparently promised by Wei Ying - which, to the younger man's horror, looked very different from the (cheap) straw broom he bought at Liao’s store with just three silver pieces. Lan Zhan gripped the much-touted, latest model of Dasheng ’s Dustless Six-way Magic Cleaning Stick ( dasheng ; 大升; Dyson (sic)) (Dustless; equiv. to 避尘; Bichen ), which looked exactly as advertised in numerous flyers handed out in the markets!

 

"And Liang’s teahouse closes in the afternoon once a week, which is a day like today," the older man added and pointed at a calendar that hung on the kitchen wall. Wei Ying to clutch his chest in fear at that emphasized word, and when he realized he had marked on that same calendar the dates when teahouses closed - in red circles, no less -, his stomach turned queasy. Bad luck and busted .

 

“I… I can explain,” Wei Ying stammered, and stood up from his seat, hand on his heart.

 

He was at a loss for words, and then, he shook his head, “No, in fact, I can’t explain. I… I don’t know what happened!”

 

“Talk (说),” the older man’s terse instruction echoed in the kitchen. There was no room for nonsense. Lan Zhan pressed a button on the handle of the Cleaning Stick, and with a whirr of spinning gears and moving mechanical parts, it transformed into a solid, majestic-looking broom .

 

“Lan Zhan, you have to believe me! I didn't steal anything!” Wei Ying cried out in desperation. The older man appeared visibly livid, and Wei Ying felt himself shrivel under the sickeningly hard stare.

 

When Han Guang Jun slammed the edge of the Dustless Broom onto the hard kitchen floor, disappointment and frustration evident on his face, there was a bone-shaking boom and everything in the kitchen rattled. He looked like the incarnation of an angry, smouldering Guang Gong about to deliver his judgement.

 

The colourful basket (“not Wei Ying’s”) tipped over, and more stuff spilled out. A stack of racy magazines slid noiselessly to the ground. Among the titles include PeiNan’s, PeiNu’s (陪女; “Accompany the Female”; read as Play Girl (sic)) and - for the third time that day, Wei Ying feared for his life, when he saw PeiNi’s (陪你; “Accompanying You”; read as Peni’s) with uncensored pictures of homosexual men and women embracing each other in extremely indecent manners.


Wei. Ying.

Chapter Text

"You come home late, reeking of alcohol and women's perfume." No! I worked hard today! I was forced to drink wine in broad daylight! I don’t know why I smell like florally-scented water! (... can I really tell him that these happened while I was in a place with an unsavoury name as ‘Tian Mi Mi’?...)

 

"... with love-bites on your neck." Wha-- this? It’s those street brats! They fired nut shells at me and I was pelted all over! Look, my skin is pockmarked with bruises! (... but Lan Zhan doesn’t really believe in the existence of these ‘street brats’, because whenever he’s in Yiling, he only comes across cute children obediently holding their parents’ hands while in the markets...)

 

“... and a torn sleeve that was perfectly sewn back.” I know you’re disappointed that you weren’t the one who fixed the sleeve. And I know you’re jealous because judging from the perfect stitching, you know a girl had done it. (... What do you want me to say to this? How can I convince you that ‘it’s not what you think’?...)

 

“... with baskets of unexplained goods, and what more… THIS.” (The older man picks up the PeiNan’s, PeiNu’s and PeiNi’s, because the sight of any reading materials lying haphazardly on the floor somehow triggers him) No, no, it’s not what you think. I didn’t buy these. Someone put them in the baskets. It wasn’t me. Wasn’t me. Please.

 

"... And a story that doesn’t make sense, nor match with the facts.” Lan Zhan... don’t you trust me anymore?

 

Wei Ying stooped in front of his fiery (!!!) partner, face pale and grim, head lowered until his neck creaked, hands stiff on his side, and remained very quiet except for his heavy breathing. He had so much to say, but he quelled the desire and instinct to talk back because he knew he’d only be digging deeper into his own grave. The atmosphere in the kitchen was sombre, tense, thick, and tasted unpleasant to the senses.

 

“... and finally, the owner of a brothel called to say that they were sending you home. A Tian gu niang had to assure me that you’re alive, safe, still in one piece, and untouched . Because I couldn't even think of what to say at that time.”

 

At that moment, Wei Ying’s knuckles had gone white, and his body trembled. A million thoughts went through his mind - thoughts of being angry at himself for not telling the truth in the first place, which would have spared both of them from this heartbreaking outcome; of being distraught for no knowing what happened between falling unconscious in a sea of women, and waking up on the flight back; and of panicking on whether the nature of his relationship with his partner had been divulged while he was in a drunken state - the presence of the PeiNi’s was too convincing to refute the possibility - and, alarmingly, what else he could have revealed to the residents of Tian Mi Mi during that time. There was too much at stake for their home, their well-being, and their lives. Lan Zhan needed to know.

 

The older man sighed very heavily, and Wei Ying’s stomach dropped into an ocean of sinking, dreadful feelings. 

 

"Wei Ying, we're husband and wife, a couple, and soulmates for life. We’re working hard to make a living together, each in our own ways and for one another. Tell me, Wei Ying… have I done something wrong to deserve this?” His voice was solemn and steady, but towards the end, there was a quiver and an exhale of shaky breaths.

 

There are the unspoken implications in that last question.

 

Do you still trust in our relationship?

Do you still trust me ?

Do you still love me?

 

Wei Ying realized how vulnerable Lan Zhan was - his perfect man, the strongest hero, the laogong who devotes and sacrifices himself to the cause of his spouse, never putting his own concerns above anyone else’s. It seemed so wrong for the entire world, including Wei Ying, to blindly admire and take advantage of the infallible Han Guang Jun’s infinite patience, compassion, and even his love , without understanding what drives the man to act, behave, embody and value such virtuous qualities.

 

Lan Zhan is a selfish man. He gets jealous, and becomes needy. He experiences greed, lust and gets possessive at times. He has his ego and pride, wants to be praised,and doesn’t voices out his suffering. He can also be immature, emotionally volatile, and sometimes he doesn’t know how to handle situations that matter to the heart - not because of how he was raised in Gusu, but because he is just an ordinary man, with his own set of flaws and imperfections. He can become weak, confused, and disappointed, which leads to a vicious cycle of self-blaming and self-harm. He needs to be cared for, and he wants to be assured.

 

Lan Zhan really needed to know.

 

Wei Ying looked up, having finally seen the light, and he was determined to patch things up for the two of them. He takes a deep breath. 

 

“Lan Zhan, I was wrong (我错了),” Wei Ying admitted openly, with a soft, soothing but unwavering voice. There is guilt, and also the promising hope that he was taking the first step to mend Lan Zhan’s broken heart.

 

The younger man bravely reached out both of his hands and held his partner’s closed fists. He gazed deeply into his laogong ’s eyes, and fervently wished that his message was coming in loud and clear. “Can you give me another chance to redeem myself?

 

I’ll explain everything (我说).”

 

Lan Zhan nodded. His shoulder stopped shaking.

 “Mn. I will listen (我听).”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

There are times when Wei Ying laughs at his own silliness, and at other times, he swears using filthy words at his misfortunes.

 

He swings his fists up proudly at his victories, he thumbs his nose when there is mischief, he tucks one of his long bangs  behind an ear when there is discomfort, and he shrugs and droops his shoulders when he is helpless.

 

Then, there are times when he stutters nervously because he can’t think of the proper words to use, he blushes because of embarrassing moments, he pauses because of confusion or because of something that doesn’t make sense, and he grimaces because of pain, fear and disgust.

 

Listening to Wei Ying is as exhilarating and frightening as experiencing his incredible day fraught with danger, surprises and emotional roller-coasters.

 

Lan Zhan listens with his heart, and throughout Wei Ying's colourful storytelling, he did not let go of his gentle grasp of the younger man's hand.

 

When Wei Ying was done, Lan Zhan understood the reasons that compelled his lover to take such drastic actions and weave layers of white lies into the truth. 

 

Wei Ying rubs his teary eyes. Lan Zhan embraces him, and pats the back to comfort the younger man who struggles to hold back his emotions. 

He whispers, “You’ve done well, Wei Ying. You’ve done well.”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying was fully awake, giddy, light-hearted and and he hummed favourite pop tunes as he soaked in their outdoor pool. The thermal springwaters soothed the day’s aches, washed away dirt, grime and the bad smells of dried liquor and nauseous perfumes, and kept his body warm after a filling dinner in the chilly night.

 

Qishan province has many active volcanoes, and it is not uncommon for minor tremors to strike the ‘Mounds intermittently. Sometimes, these mild quakes result in small cracks on surfaces -  and where bodies of water are involved, tiny streams of bubbles and jets of heated (but not scalding) water spout out from unexpected places - which instantly transforms their bath into a jacuzzi pool that entertains (because one can get surprise massages) as well as causes distress (because one cannot predict when and where the fountains of water will hit).

 

Wei Ying was scrubbing his back with a hand towel when he felt his nether regions tickled by pressurized, swirling waters, and he nnnhs involuntarily. He was reluctantly reminded that he hadn’t done it for two days, and the ticklish bubbly waters tenderly fanned the fire in his loins. He reached behind and down towards the rear, but abruptly yelped when his shoulders twinged in pain; he must’ve pulled a muscle when he struggled to escape from Tian Mi Mi earlier that day.

 

After reviewing his options, Wei Ying decided to climb out of the water to the tiled poolside, lay the hand towel on the ground, and knelt on it. He used his fingers to draw the mystical symbol of “Water” with a few modifications, and casted three of them. Bright blue Water symbols appeared from thin air and they floated around him, eager to unleash their magical powers. 

 

He gingerly bent down on all fours (he wasn’t sure if he’d strained any more muscles), and then proceeded to control the spell’s movements in the air by flicking those same fingers that created them. As soon as he had all three floating symbols align perfectly behind his raised ass, he snapped his digits and the spell began to work. Tiny waterspouts spun out from the pool and weaved through the shiny blue symbols into three water fountains that gushed straight into his asshole. Wei Ying wiggles his butt, mmmhs satisfyingly, and made twirling movements with his forefinger to dial up and down the speed and volume. He loved to alternate between powerful sprays to the butt crack, gentle sprinkles on his heavy balls, and when nnnh it’s not enough, he turns all three streams into a powerful torrent to hose his insides (but sadly, not deep enough to hit the prostate), also, when he feels naughty, he rapidly taps his fingertips and he ngggaaahs at the sensations of wildly-pulsating water hitting his genitals.

 

After some time, his biceps ached from holding up his weight for too long, and he grudgingly rose back to his knees. Unfortunately, his thighs gave out from a sudden attack of pins-and-needles, and he unceremoniously slipped on the wet towel. The three Water spells followed suit, and swung to the front just as his ass hit the ground, and rained powerful torrents directly onto his crotch. His half-hard penis was deliciously assaulted by pressurized jets on its hardening length and the swelling pinkish tip. Wei Ying moans No’s, Stop’s, and plenty of Aaaahs, as he lay spread-eagled on the ground and started to pump his hips into a churning vortex of surging water that threatened to suck and stroke his dick ruthlessly to completion, because he had lost control of the spell the moment his fingers frantically clawed and deliriously grappled the towel beneath him.

 

Lan Zhan had just finished washing the dishes and arranged them on a drying rack, when he heard a soft cry from their pool. He peeked out from the kitchen window and observed with a hungry gaze of how Wei Ying played with the water (or rather, how the water played with Wei Ying). He restrained a smug smile at his lover’s clumsy mischief.

 

Lan Zhan adjusted his trousers a bit, and started to wipe the kitchen counter.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Later, an hour after Lan Zhan’s predetermined bedtime, he was still awake and lay on the bed to read up the last few pages of a chapter titled “Snake Ghouls” from his favourite book about the wild-life (and wild-deads) of the ‘Mounds. His nightgown rested inside the laundry basket after he discovered splatters of peach sauce on the sleeves, and since their bedroom was quite toasty (the cave’s walls are good for holding in summer's daytime heat), he decided to remain topless and only wore a pair of loose-fitting sleeping trousers. At times, he started to drift off to sleep, however, he forced himself to stay awake, at least until the last page. He scooted higher and adjusted the pillows behind his back for a better, more comfortable reading angle.

 

Wei Ying sauntered into the bedroom barefooted, with only a cotton shirt as the sole piece of garment on his thin frame. Lan Zhan raised an eyebrow but said nothing; it could’ve been worse and the younger man often spend his nights in the nude anyway. Earlier, Wei Ying complained that he couldn’t find any other pairs of trousers because the ones he wore was dirty, and his other one had a tear which hadn't been fixed yet. Lan Zhan replied that the younger man could wear his, if he didn’t mind, because there were at least two new pairs still in the ‘production line’ and unfortunately, those weren’t ready for use yet (Lan Zhan had quite a number of on-going sewing projects, including new clothes, outer robes, bedsheets and fabric covers for the furniture).

 

(Arousing images of Wei Ying catwalking with his pants and without any other undergarments flashed by - he salivated and swallowed at those raunchy thoughts, especially if he had creamed in those pants before and Wei Ying’s loins unknowingly rubbed against the same spots. It’s like licking your secret love’s washed spoon.)

 

Wei Ying stood at the entrance and continued to dry his hair with a towel. His cheeks were rosy-pink from the heated bath waters (in one way or another). Lan Zhan squinted his eyes and tried to spy on the younger man’s groin in-between flipping pages about pythons and rattlesnakes; to his dismay, the shirt was long enough to cover (just barely) Wei Ying’s lower regions. He sighed audibly to acknowledge Wei Ying’s presence. The bedroom was pleasantly scented with sandalwood incense and Wei Ying’s floral shampoo, and they were cocooned in a Shield-based spell to drive out any mosquitoes from their home.

 

“You know, Lan Zhan, I still find it hard to believe that Tián (甜) dajie is actually one of the Lan brothers’ shijie (elder sister disciple). We didn’t recognize each other when I walked into Tian Mi Mi .”

 

Lan Zhan flipped a page. “She was my elder brother’s classmate and a few years older than him, so logically, both of you didn’t become acquainted during our student days within the Cloud Recesses. Given the number of times you skipped class, and your lack of interest to learn about my clan, naturally you didn't get to meet every Lan clan-member," he responded matter-of-factly.

 

"In addition, both of you used different names, so that complicated the situation," he added, and diligently underlined a particularly useful fact about undead snakes with an ink-brush. Wei Ying nearly wanted to lash out a stream of complaints about street brats and their ugly tastes in name-calling, but he held back his tongue when he realized how futile that would be (Lan Zhan still did not believe that a bunch of bratty kids could bring down the much-feared Yiling Patriarch; so they agreed to disagree on this particular circumstance).

 

Lan Zhan was barely acquainted with his elder brother's peers due to their different age groups, interests, and his natural tendency to keep to himself despite Xi Chen's persuasive "come, come, let's make new friends" to a tiny Wang Ji who often hid behind his brother's robes. 

 

Tian shijie , whose actual family name is derived from Heaven (天; Tiān), was from an ordinary merchant family that ply the North-South trade routes along the Great Eastern Coast. Despite having such a prestigious family name, the family’s fortunes did not fare as well and were forced to move with the passing seasons and migrating animals, growing and selling seasonal produce, milk and cheese, livestock meats, goatskins and other commodities. According to his uncle, they had stopped by Gusu nearly four decades ago when shijie ’s father fell ill en route to the Yunnan hills to the South, and sought treatment from the Lan’s family doctors. Master Lan Qiren did not elaborate on the details about the family, or the nature of the illness that afflicted the father, as Gusu Lan’s rules dictate that one should not to pry too much into another’s personal matters. One thing led to another, and the Tians were welcomed into the folds of the Lan family as peripheral members. Shijie was born shortly thereafter. 

 

Lan Zhan further explained that the Tians had been operating mostly in the background due to their background as humble merchants and nomadic farmers; they shied away from disputes involving the cultivation world and political or military issues affecting the main Lan family branches, such as the Wens’ invasion and the following inter-clan conflicts, sixteen years ago - again, another reason why Wei Ying had not heard of this family even when he was still living with his foster parents; and why Lan Zhan barely kept up with the Tians or with this shijie in particular.

 

Wei Ying had asked, how did Tian dajie know Lan Zhan and eventually figured out his voice from the single call? The older man pondered and tried to piece together his earlier memories. He surmised that she must have been part of the crowd that attended the ceremony in Nightless City led by Jin Guangshan sixteen years ago - the night when all hell broke loose when Wei Ying broke the Stygian Tiger Amulet and later, fell off the cliff to his death -, because that was one of the biggest inter-sect congregations known in the history of the cultivation world, and all Lan family branches had been requested to send representatives to attend that ceremony. Lan Zhan remarked that he would have shouted Wei Ying’s name many times during the course of that unforgettable night (especially their final moments); Lan Zhan is adamant that any one would have easily remembered their faces and voices, and made the connection about their relationship. Wei Ying scoffed at the last sentence and hmmms knowingly. He bent over their dressing table and busied himself by combing his unruly curls in front of a silver mirror.

 

Lan Zhan could no longer focus on the book, as he watched his lover groom himself while the latter’s shirt rode up and exposed the springy ass. His fingers twitched with an innate desire to pinch and molest Wei Ying’s smooth skin.

 

“And you say that the entire Tian family disappeared after the incident in Nightless City, and was never heard from again. Then, sixteen years later, I chanced upon Tian dajie as one of the owners of Yiling’s biggest brothel, under a new family name that sounds alike her first one. I also found out, to the expense of my health and safety, that she and the other co-owners can magically transform into monsters when a tasty morsel like me walks into their sleazy dungeon, and tried to imprison me using familial means,” Wei Ying said, while applying night cream to his face (because all that walking around in Yiling under the hot sun was bad for his skin), and simultaneously tried to crack a witty joke about himself but failed miserably. Lan Zhan licked his lips when he caught a glimpse of balls between Wei Ying’s lovely tight thighs - he remembered his unfinished mission from the morning.

 

His nightly make-up ritual was completed, Wei Ying turned around, folded an arm and stroked his chin with the other, and he looked deep in thought without batting an eye to his partner. Lan Zhan inwardly whined with disappointment when the shirt fell back, and he mourned the loss of the tasty morsels from his line of sight. 

 

“And then, you say that somehow, she found the mystical code for our house, calls and tells you that she’d found me in her establishment with vague details of how I landed there in the first place, or why she’s even working in a brothel. Also, she very convincingly tells you that she remembers the good ol’ days with you and your brother, and even happily congratulates you because she knows about our relationship... which makes me terribly suspicious, because I didn’t know her, you barely knew her back then, and there is no way she’d know about us living together now ,” Wei Ying started to pace the room, and emphasized each finding with a wag of his forefinger to the air, at himself, then at Lan Zhan, before making a big circle for the both of them. Lan Zhan, on the other hand, had already put the book down, and he calmly placed both hands on his stomach - portraying a holy visage of a man in white pants lying in wait for his lover to come to bed -  while scrutinizing how Wei Ying’s shirt accentuated the curves of his waist and hips as the younger man padded back and forth in front of him. Sexy Wei Ying literally slow-burns his golden core energy.

 

Wei Ying seemed ignorant of the other man’s hungry gaze. ”She asks for our house address, which you conveniently gave to her, and she uses the information to buy an expensive FeiEx ticket, for the purpose of sending me back together with baskets full of valuables and goodies as ‘souvenirs from an old friend of Lan da ge ’, which as we know, landed me in hot water,” he raised his voice and gestured at the opened, half-read PeiNi’s on their bed; Lan Zhan had come to friendly terms with the smutty contents because he quickly learnt that by disregarding the vulgar (and irrelevant) pictures of men and women groping others of the same sex, there were actually informative, scholarly articles and nuggets of wisdom to help enhance their sex lives, including drawn pictures and descriptions of sex positions to try, technical tips and recommendations on lubricants and other assistive tools used during sex, guides on relationships, dating and romance, questions and answers from other readers, and so much more.

 

When Wei Ying realized that Lan Zhan hadn’t spoken for a while, he finally looked at his partner. “Lan Zhan, are you even listening?”

 

There was a hesitant pause. “Mn. What you’ve said… is factual and correct. There is no fault in your line of thought, however, as we’ve already discussed - I disagree with what you think of Tian shijie when you said that she turned into a monster along with the other owners of Tian Mi Mi . It’s not possible for a human to do this unless with intervention from the dark cultivation arts, and I’m sure shijie is not one of those - otherwise, we would all be in the know. It’s disrespectful to think of her that way, Wei Ying.”

 

Wei Ying shrugged with his palms up and conceded. He didn’t want to argue with Lan Zhan; he had enough for the day. “Yeah… maybe you’re right. It was chaotic back then and I didn’t feel well with the dizzying sights and smells of a seedy brothel. I might have seen something that wasn’t there.”

 

Lan Zhan nodded, pleased with Wei Ying’s effort to reconcile their relationship, despite having different perspectives and opinions on certain subjects. 

 

“But I still don’t like her, though. She spells trouble,” Wei Ying added.

 

“Touché.” 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

When his hair was dry, Wei Ying turned off the lanterns and crawled to bed. It was just an hour before midnight, and both of them were, rightfully, exhausted from a very long day.

 

He lightly tapped on Lan Zhan’s left forearm, and the older man automatically raised his hand. Wei Ying slid through, lay on the right side, and pillowed his head on the older man’s shoulder. Lan Zhan lowered his hand and encased his lover in a loose embrace. Wei Ying took a deep breath and gratefully inhaled his partner’s scents with happy nnnhs coming from the back of his throat - there is sandalwood everywhere, faint floral soap in the armpits, and the comforting natural body odours when his nose rubs against Lan Zhan’s chest. He could feel faint thumps of a strong, steady heartbeat against his cheeks, when he shifted his body and rested his face on the pectorals. Lan Zhan tightened his grip, and Wei Ying felt the older man nuzzle into his hair and the occasionally craned his neck to reach down and nibble on the tip of his left ear.

 

Wei Ying couldn’t sleep yet. His mind continued to buzz and process the day’s events and mysteries, and a list of things to do for the coming days. Thanks to the generous gift of Magics ‘R Us talismans, magical items and potions, he would not need to work on making new ones for a long while, and instead, he could rely on selling them (or using them up, whichever comes first). The twenty silvers in his undergarment pocket was unknowingly exchanged into twenty gold pieces , to the couple’s delight (and suspicion). Together with the bountiful groceries and upgraded household goods, they could take things easier for the next few weeks. He would still continue the food delivery business - because customer relations need to be maintained -, but there was less urgency to take up new orders. His thoughts eventually circled around the beautiful Liang gu niang , the desire of every man of marriageable age, and at the back of mind, he wondered if he will have the chance to meet little Tian Tian again. 

 

Lan Zhan seemed to be able to read his mind. “Wei Ying, I’ll make the call to Liang’s Teahouse tomorrow.”

 

“Eh? Why? I can discuss and negotiate the payment terms and details of the order.”

 

“I’ll do the talking this time. From chef to chef.”

 

Wei Ying sensed a hint of possessiveness sprinkled with a bit of jealousy. It was the older man’s way of saying End Of Discussion, in a more subtle way. 

 

“Sure, Lan Zhan. You’re the boss.”

 

“Mn.”

Chapter Text

“Lan Zhan, what are we doing tomorrow? We don’t have any food delivery orders to fill, and I can take a break from selling stuff on Yiling’s streets… so… can I tag along for the snake hunt? Can I?” An invisible doggy tail wags excitedly, though given Wei Ying’s everlasting fear of canines, the said wagging tail would have to remain - invisible. 

 

“Mn. First thing in the morning, I will cut some bamboo to weave a basket -” Lan Zhan has a list of things to do in his mind, meticulously arranged, planned, and sequenced chronologically - but high-spirited Wei Ying is all too happy to jump ahead.

 

“For the snake? You’re gonna find it, and put it into that basket, right? Right? Your baskets are strong enough to even hold a deer !” Wei Ying likes to rush in blindfolded and make wild guesses, and even more if all of them hit the targets - just like those archery events he used to participate during his younger days.

 

Lan Zhan nods sagely, and he appreciates Wei Ying’s praise about his basket-weaving skills. He’s strong enough to turn tough bamboo trunks into tools, while Wei Ying does not have the brawn but has the dexterity to make smaller, more delicate versions using smaller bamboo stems - these are quite hot commodities in the marketplace too, since housewives use them to carry their groceries, and teenage girls adore those that resemble cute purses and pouches to show-off to their friends while going on an all-girls shopping spree. “Catch it. Bring it to the other side of the ‘Mounds to hide it. Let it live in its natural habitat, ” Lan Zhan completes Wei Ying’s answer, and gives a thoughtful pause. “Maybe I will take a few more bamboo from the clump... Wei Ying, will you help to make some traps and set them around the house to catch those squirrels? They’re becoming a nuisance.” Building something with mechanical triggers and delicate moving parts is Wei Ying’s forte, not his.

 

Wei Ying looked hyper-excited to be able to team up with his partner to do something useful, and it looks to be an exciting day ahead - one that does not involve having to work his ass off to earn a couple of silver pieces, alone . “Of course! We’ll do all that, and then walk down the hill to Mian Mian’s. Right? Right?”

 

“... you’re very enthusiastic about this, Wei Ying.” A sharp observation from the older man.

 

“Ah… you know me too well, Lan Zhan,” and he scratches the back of his head and grins sheepishly, “I guess it feels like I’m finally taking a well-deserved vacation to visit our friends. Mian Mian said she’d show us her rice fields, and the chickens, ducks and goats in the barn, the next time we stop by. We could ask for some more vegetable seedlings, especially those chillies - they looked gorgeous last year with a bumper harvest. What do you think?” Again, that twinkle in those lively eyes.

 

The talk about farming and raising farm animals made Lan Zhan pause again. “Mn. And I would like to ask her husband about rearing chickens….” It’s time for him to invest in a clock that wakes him up on time . “... and we should bring a gift for the family too.” He owes a lot to the ex-Lanling Jin clan-member. During last winter, when fierce snowstorms hit the ‘Mounds, decimated parts of their estate, and rendered their cave-home temporarily uninhabitable (because snow and water kept leaking through, and they hadn’t completed the renovations back then), she was kind enough to let them stay at her home while her family moved south to live with her relatives. She said that since her family always moved out for the winter, so she had no qualms to let the couple house-sit and take care of the farm animals. For Lan Zhan, having a straw roof above their heads on snowy days, a warm blanket to cuddle in during blizzardy nights, and enough steaming hot food to last the crucial few icy-cold months - was a godsend. He makes it a point to always treat Mian Mian and her family well, and also gives his gratitude and thanks when he prays at Yiling’s Merciful Goddess Guan Yin temple during the weekends, in conjunction with a visit to the bustling evening markets just a stone’s throw away.

 

Lan Zhan thought about the surplus minced pork in the underground pantry. They’ve been preserved with marinades and spices, however there is still too much for consumption by two persons. “I can make some meat dumplings,” he offered. 

 

Wei Ying taps on his forehead, thinking. “Ah, I have some lucky charms left, and I saw many fruiting trees on my way out earlier today. I can put everything together to make a gift basket before you can say Alibaba! (阿里巴巴)” A wink and a bright smile.

 

“A.. ling.. de.. baba? (啊令的爸爸; A-Ling’s father; reference to Chen Qing Ling :-) )”

 

“Haha! It’s just a saying from the Far West. I also want to show Mian Mian’s daughter my latest composition; it’s a cute and cheerful folk song from Yunmeng… but…” the young man pats his waist instinctively, although he wears nothing except a shirt while lounging on their bed and unconsciously rubs his naked thighs against Lan Zhan’s - it drives the older man horny, but his golden core keeps it in check.

 

“... It is alright, Wei Ying. I’ll just take another piece of bamboo, and make a flute for you.” He knows Wei Ying is always delighted to see him carve out perfect tiny holes on a stick.

 

“Lan Zhan, I love you very, very much!” A bouncy bear hug on the bed from Wei Ying is too sweet.

 

“Mn.”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

He stared at the hypnotic rise and fall of broad, muscular chest muscles, but sleep evaded him. It didn’t help that Lan Zhan’s left arm - the one that currently embraced him - caressed the thin expanse of his back in increasingly wide circles. The older man’s hands were larger than his, with better muscle tone, stronger bony knuckles, and nicely calloused with daily use of household cleaning equipment, Bichen and in the near future, Liao’s Dustless Broom. Wei Ying sulked when he was reminded of how much bigger and better Lan Zhan was compared to him in almost every physical aspect; if Wei Ying was a narrow bean sprout that needed more nourishment, Lan Zhan would be freshly plucked snow peas - broader, with more defined beans (or muscles), worth a lot more per jin , and of course, tastier to the palate. 

 

The older man was slightly taller, but his body frame filled out much better than Wei Ying’s; the younger man was essentially skinny, has less muscles, and if he stretched upwards, his ribs, shoulder blades, pelvis and other bony protrusions were agonizingly visible. Furthermore, the older man was well-endowed compared to Wei Ying; he’d measure Lan Zhan’s penis with an Imperial Court’s ruler (to rule out any inaccuracies), and found that his partner was always two inches longer and significantly thicker regardless of his arousal state. The only aspect where Wei Ying was superior to Lan Zhan was the amount of body hair, as evidenced by his hairier legs and the treasure trail that led to rich, dense curls in the groin, but he wasn’t too keen on that kind of comparison.

 

Seemingly irritated, Wei Ying purposely reached out and tweaked the older man’s left nipple in apparent revenge against the gods who bestowed all the goodies to his partner instead of him. Lan Zhan’s lip twitched but he paid no attention, and instead, he focused on reading the last few pages. He was doing his homework to read up on the kinds of snakes they might encounter at Mian Mian’s neighbouring gardens - whether living snakes or malevolent spiritual or undead ones -, and made adequate preparations beforehand. Wei Ying, on the other hand, lives to disturb the older man’s routines, and nipple-tweaking was just one of the usual things he often did, because Lan Zhan’s chests were obviously meatier, more visually attractive, and therefore, more prone to molestation by the younger man.

 

In response to the nipple attack, Lan Zhan’s fingers crawled down Wei Ying’s back and slithered into the butt crack, and the younger man nnnnhs when he lets an invading digit tickle the puckered entrance. 

 

“Lan Zhan….” Wei Ying purred, not out of boredom (he should just go to sleep) or in need of attention (Lan Zhan is always on standby to respond to Wei Ying’s wishes), but because he was wide awake (he had slept enough during the FeiEx flight) and just needed to do something (because... just because). He cupped the older man’s pectorals, jiggled it and ran fingernails across it - for no particular reason other than the fact that those lovely muscles were the closest and most convenient thing to play with. Wei Ying squirmed and buried his head deeper into a cradle of armpits and biceps, and pouted. When he found no peace of mind in doing that, he restlessly sat up cross-legged next to Lan Zhan.

 

“Lan Wang Ji, Lan Er Gege, Han Guang Jun, Wang Ji Xiong… Lan Zhan, Lan Wang Ji, Lan Er Gege…” he started to chant his lover’s name in all manners of iterations - a habit he’d carried over from spending many nights with Lan Zhan at the silent, sterile Jingshi the summer before, and he still remembered rolling around on a giant study desk with nothing else to do, but to playfully annoy the older man and disrupt his routines all the time. Each time he chanted a name, he taps and slaps the pecs with both hands, and then drew circles and squares along the six-pack abs, and flicks the nipples in tandem. For a short while, Lan Zhan’s body became a guzheng (or a DJ's turntable in modern times) for naughty Wei Ying.

 

The older man sighed and finally surrendered the unfinished book to the bedside drawer. The coast cleared, Wei Ying happily climbed on top of Lan Zhan, scooted his ass, and straddled his helpless partner at the hips. The latter gave a mixed stern and quizzical look that wordlessly asked, What do you want to play tonight, Wei Ying?

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan enjoys frolicking and making out with his younger lover in a nest of body-warmed bedsheets and rumpled blankets. Their clothes lay discarded somewhere in the bedroom, totally forgotten.

 

He lets his lovely Wei Ying freely do all sorts of precious, adorable things to him - the incessant smooching along the jawline, nibbling his earlobes and blowing hot air into his ears before sticking a wiggly wet tongue inside, then sucking on each other’s mouths with sloppy wet kisses, making noisy mmmh sounds to exchange breathy moans, fingers raking and squeezing everywhere on his muscled torso, writhing and gyrating his nubile young body so that their hardening cocks rolled and rubbed together flesh-to-flesh. Wei Ying picks up his pace in desperation, hungry for Lan Zhan to reciprocate his seduction.

 

Lan Zhan, on the other hand, was infinitely patient throughout Wei Ying’s ordeal to excite and pleasure his partner. He responds only when needed, such as returning the sweet kisses, and paying particular attention on the mole near Wei Ying's lower lip, because he is tempted to peck repeatedly on that irresistible-looking dot; running his fingers along the younger man’s sides to encourage him to do more, yes mmm more ; pulling him closer so that despite losing the crotch-to-crotch contact, he could finally bring each of Wei Ying’s nipple to his lips where he tenderly tasted, abused, kneaded and sucked feverishly, until they look like little puffed erect brown-pink nubs on the flat chest, and a tell-tale sexual flush is slowly spreading on the heated sweaty skin; and fondling, massaging and spreading his favourite set of springy ass (because his hands are wide enough to entirely cup each of the glutes with all five fingers; he has no trouble to extend a third finger through the inviting rosebud; and he hmmms with a faint smile when he realizes that he could prod and probe rather easily, with no complaints from the owner whatsoever, the fleshy folds inside is satisfying pliable and soft, already generously slippery with warmed massage oil. 

 

Mischievous Wei Ying had prepared himself during his bath, and now he is ready for a night of intensely hard fucking. Lan Zhan did promise to pay his debt of love-making - plus interest.

 

Instinctively, Lan Zhan feels his rock-hard penis twitch, a pearl of pre-cum oozing out, fuel being tossed into the raging fire that burned from deep within his loins.

 

(He licks his lips in anticipation.)

 

Wei Ying senses a change in the bedroom’s atmosphere. He scoots downward along Lan Zhan’s legs. Wei Ying maintains a coy look on his face, picks up one of Lan Zhan’s hands and begins to lick and suck each thick digit suggestively, while stroking himself with a free hand. Lan Zhan’s breathing becomes slightly erratic, his qi is deviating, as he treats himself to a sumptuous, visually-stimulating banquet of Wei Ying performing oral sex on his hand while the younger man masturbates vigorously and bounces on the older man’s thighs.

 

Wei Ying moans sexily, as though he imagines self-sucking himself; his fisted palm tugs at his own throbbing cock in tandem with the speed of sucking Lan Zhan’s fingers from base, through knuckle to fingertips.

 

“Mmm… it’s all covered with my saliva,” he murmurs with an alluring whisper, when he’s done with all five digits - slightly reddened from the passionate sucking. He directs Lan Zhan’s drool-coated hand to wrap around his own cock, and gently yanks the fisted grip up and down - Lan Zhan understands that Wei Ying wants him to stroke his own cock, mimicking the masturbatory act by the younger man just moments ago, and Lan Zhan willingly obliged. Soon, the older man strokes himself, intentionally slowly, and lets Wei Ying enjoy the sight of the older man’s foreskin generously covering the weeping cockhead, before pulling back to fully expose the entire engorged purple-red glans, and Wei Ying takes the opportunity to dip his head to flirt the oozing slit with his tongue, like a shy maiden trying to cajole a lover with a game of hide-and-seek. Wei Ying even bashfully tucks his bangs and some errant strands of hair behind his ears, and this further excites Lan Zhan. The next time Lan Zhan pulls down his foreskin, already moistened and lubricated with Wei Ying’s saliva, Wei Ying lowers his head again and give the twitching slit an endearing kiss of puckered lips. Another drop of clear, syrupy nectar dribbles out, which Wei Ying happily sucks up with little fits of giggles.

 

Lan Zhan strokes himself, but he doesn’t want to cum just with his hands. Wei Ying seemed to read his mind, and leans forward to press his chest against the underside of Lan Zhan’s twitching penis. He slides up and down, lathering liberal amounts of pre-cum over his nipples in tune with Lan Zhan’s increasingly excited breathes. 

 

“Ah, this big snake is biting my breasts! It’s sucking me like a goat udder!” Wei Ying mocks, and nipple-fucks the cockslit. Lan Zhan groans at the incredulous display, and edges closer to climax. Wei Ying giggles and continues to pretend-play with the massive organ; Lan Zhan’s erection is well over six inches, bulging with impressive girth, and lined abundantly with thick throbbing veins.

 

“Lan Zhan, at the wedding ceremony earlier today, I overheard someone saying that if you smear semen over the breasts, they’ll grow larger,” he coos and makes sure the snake-like member devours each of his nipple, as he alternates between each side of his chest. Lan Zhan could only respond with a pained moans of “shameless”, “ridiculous” other accusational two-word iterations, because he was too busy trying to jerk his hips to relieve the surging pressure within his nether regions. Then, Wei Ying grips the pulsating arousal and slides it down to his navel. 

 

“Lan Zhan, another person at the ceremony said that the belly button is the doorway to the womb. Ah, you bad boy, why are you violating it? Do you want to spray your seed in there? Ah, you’re going to inseminate me! Such a naughty boy, I’m going to have many babies growing in my belly!” Wei Ying continued his loathsome incessant babble. Lan Zhan curses under his breath at the ludicrous thoughts, telling himself that Wei Ying was being nonsensical and he should be banned from joining such vulgar conversations during alcohol-infused wedding parties - however he also unwillingly enjoys plunging his spongy cockhead into the shallow, elastic dip on Wei Ying’s waist, and brush and scrape the insides in an illusory attempt to dig in. Wei Ying reaches down to caress and gently squeeze Lan Zhan’s scrotum, whispers sensuous the words of “mmmm fuck me, Lan Zhan, fuck me…”, and the older man knows he wouldn’t last much longer.

 

Wei Ying seizes the spasming rod just as Lan Zhan begins to shudder, arch his sweat-covered back, eyelids fluttering, mouth gaping. He teeters on the edge, fingers gripping the bed sheets, toes curled until they start to cramp, waiting for the impending climax that never came. He grunts out a cuss word when he realizes that Wei Ying managed to stop him in his tracks with an acutely firm grasp at the base of his cock. He growls Wei Ying’s name in a dangerously low voice - but is unnerved when Wei Ying smiles sweetly in return, leans forward, and drags Lan Zhan’s choked penis down a matted trail of hair from navel downwards to his lowermost regions, leaving strings of leaked pre-cum seeping through the bushy pubes. He pauses when the older man’s cock pokes in between the testicles.

 

Wei Ying whispers into Lan Zhan’s ear, “ Lao gong , you found my eggs . Does your snake want to swallow them one by one?” he shakes the hot, heavy, and extremely agitated erection until it slaps each ball alternately with sticky sounds, like a swinging pendulum. “What happens if it swallows the eggs… oh, it could end up looking like a tanghulu… lao gong , do you want to eat my eggs and tanghulu?” the younger man continues to seduce Lan Zhan with depraved, perverse images; as if there wasn’t enough pervading inside his lust-drunken mind. The older man moans and quakes his hips in a desperate attempt to rub anything to generate enough friction to shoot out his seed. The maddening pressure builds up inside his steel-hard cock, forming volleys of thick, heated seed ready to gush out in rapid-fire bursts, delicious tendrils of pleasure course through his spine, causing muscles all over his body to twist and convulse involuntarily. 

 

The impulsive movements around his scrotum served to provoke Wei Ying into unleash another barrage of extremely lewd and utterly preposterous descriptions, “ Lao gong , do you know what happens if you ejaculate at my balls? Ah, you’re a bad husband, you’re raping my eggs! Your seed will vanquish mine, I will have to surrender in defeat! Lao gong , do you want to fill my eggs so badly with your seed? You’re a terrible man, what happens if you ejaculate and flood my eggs? I will have to become your sex-slave, and carry your seed inside these eggs! Ah lao gong, lao gong, stop attacking my eggs, your snake will devour them!”. Wei Ying undulates his hips and lets Lan Zhan fuck along the folds of wrinkled skins of ballsacks and silky-smooth surfaces of the underside of his excited arousal. He makes sure to roll around the cockslit and the special spot underneath the glans, and makes sure Lan Zhan feels his testicles quiver and contract in delight.

 

Wei Ying finally releases his stranglehold on Lan Zhan’s madly-twitching penis. The older man heaves an agonizing, dying sigh, mutters a silent prayer to the Merciful Goddess Guan Yin, and explodes brilliantly until he could only see stars in a sea of blinding white.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying giggles, laughs, hiccups, guffaws, coughs, and gleefully chokes when he accidentally inhales dollops of rich, warm creamy semen that dribbled from his nose down into his wide-open mouth. His body shakes and bounces on his lover’s thighs with pure mirth, he smells of his lover’s essence, and his entire upper torso, neck and face is covered with thick opaque-white streaks that launched and blasted through the air in an incredible aerial display of a six-way eruption. Some gracefully peaked and nosedived like a bombardment to the floor, a few splattered at the ceiling and started to drip on Wei Ying’s hair and the bed sheets, and some forcefully shot into Wei Ying’s nostrils, mouth and coated his eyes too. He looks totally debauched, caked with crusting, drying  cum, but he is also a bundle of pure joy, happiness, recklessness and playfulness.

 

Lan Zhan is grateful that his manhood is still intact, and he is still trying to catch his breath after such an astonishing burst of exertion and qi release. He feels invigorated, and his cock is still hard. 

 

There’s still plenty to go around after two days of abstinence. His member twitches in agreement, and yearns for more.

Chapter Text

Lan Zhan lounges in the nude on the bed, his long untied hair falls freely and gracefully down his nape, with pillows propping his back, and he settles down for a comfortable read. As he flips through a PeiNi magazine under the soft glow of their bedside lantern, his thoughts linger on what (sexually exciting) activities will be in store for the remaining night. It is close to midnight, their home and surrounding courtyard and gardens are quiet, save for the sounds of chirping insects and the occasional frogs’ mating calls.

 

He yawns, but knows he will not get a restful sleep immediately, especially with the pitter-patter footsteps of a fully-awake Wei Ying in their house; the little gremlin is surely up to no good, again

 

As he turns to the centrespread and ogles at objectionable pictures of men having sex (ironically, he methodically checks off which positions he has tried, and mentally notes down those that he hasn’t), he hopes his lover will let him off this time , and (in the name of Merciful Goddess Guan Yin, please) stick to their favourite sex position (honestly, he isn’t too keen on trying new things at this late hour). He doesn’t mind lying down and have Wei Ying ride him to climax after climax; at least he can get some sleep with minor interruptions of brief wakefulness when he orgasms, and he is easily lulled back to slumber while lovingly encased by Wei Ying’s inner warmth and snugness.

 

Naked Wei Ying emerges from the dark with a tray of tea set, and a paper bag in hand. Oh no, he sighs inwardly, and his flaccid penis twitch-nods in agreement.

 

“Lan Zhan, here, have some chrysanthemum tea. Grandma Li advised that we should take more fluids, especially with the peak of summer approaching,” he says, as he places the tray on the bedside table and pours two cups from a jug. Lan Zhan daintily takes a cup, gives it a good sniff, and when he is quite sure it is plain tea (the fragrant floral smell wafts through the air; yes, it’s definitely chrysanthemum), he murmurs a word of thanks. 

 

He feels thirsty after a bout of sex marathon earlier that evening, which consisted of (1.) a grand opening with a spectacular six-way ejaculatory fireworks display (the aftermath: Wei Ying cat-licked semen off his hands and face; a stunning blended imagery of cutesy plus eroticness), (2.) getting deep-throated (Lan Zhan was caught off-guard when Wei Ying purrs ‘nom-nom’ and swallows him in one go, and he pleasantly erupts not long after that), and (3.) a standard fare of Wei Ying going down on all fours like a kitten in heat, butt grinding against Lan Zhan’s groin, while egging the older man to mount him with seductive whispers of ‘take me’, ‘i’m yours’, ‘breed me’ and ‘impregnate me’ - and he generously indulged this young lover’s request by plowing that familiarly hot, tight passageway until he emptied himself several times in rapid succession, because horny, nubile Wei Ying knows how to continue milking him using clenching and gyrating ass muscles with such exquisite finesse; he lost count after his fifth climax, that night.

 

Lan Zhan gulps the tea appreciatively, and watches Wei Ying down a few. “Ahh, this tea is so good! I walked the streets of Yiling under the hot sun today, and I still feel dehydrated!” he cheerfully remarks with smacking lips. The older man hmms in agreement and is secretly pleased that Wei Ying takes care of himself even as he works hard to put food on their table. 

 

Wei Ying sits down beside him, opens the paper bag and pours its content onto the mattress. An assortment of wooden objects roll out; they come in a variety of shapes including spheres, ovals and elongated forms; have plenty of curves and protrusions; and are very smooth to the touch - hallmarks of fine craftsmanship, unfortunately wasted on making such bizarre and meaningless sculptures. Some are as small as a thumb’s tip, others are larger than a palm.

 

“I found this lying on the kitchen floor next to the trash bin , and I’m going to make a smart guess that you don’t know what these are,” he says with a rather serious tone of a teacher examining one of its students. He holds up a pear-shaped object and gives it a light shake.

 

Lan Zhan, feeling refreshed after the tea, sits cross-legged, and plucks the item from Wei Ying's grasp. He peers and scrutinizes it intently, before returning the object to the younger man. "It looks like a fruit carved from wood. This one's a pear, with a stem growing out of the wrong end," he answers, sensible and straightforward.

 

Wei Ying snorts and puts down his cup on the table's surface. He picks another, and gives a questioning look with a raised eyebrow. 

 

Lan Zhan wasn't sure; the level of difficulty was ramped up and he hazards a rather reckless guess. "... A chicken drumstick? The trunk is distorted and swollen, or I could be wrong," he responds after some hard thinking.

 

Wei Ying cackles, and Lan Zhan starts to feel annoyed at playing the childish game without answers being revealed at the end. Next.

 

"... This one's clearly a cucumber or an eggplant. The tip is deformed, though. Whoever made this clearly has an eccentric taste in art and life." Lan Zhan states nonchalantly, and puts his own cup back to the tray, his thirst quenched.

 

The younger man keeps snickering. Another piece.

 

"... A string of… grapes? Or prayer beads. There's two of them, one is smaller, and the other has bigger beads... Wei Ying, why are you showing me these things from Tian Mi Mi? There's nothing good coming out from that establishment, and I planned to throw these ugly food replica when we've sorted through the baskets' contents," he complains, impatience evident on his face and his rising voice.

 

Wei Ying becomes bug-eyed, immediately grabs all the wooden objects and holds them dearly to his chest. He gives Lan Zhan a how-dare-you look. "Lan Zhan! These baobei s (babies; treasures) cost a bomb! They're worth at least a gold piece each!"

 

The older man could not possibly fathom the value judging from looks alone. So, he picks out the first item that was presented to his attention, from the bunch of others that Wei Ying cradled in his arms. “Wei Ying, we can get three fresh pears for the price of a silver piece at Zhu’s stall, why would you want to keep an inedible wooden model of it in our house?” Lan Zhan asks - patient but stubborn -, and rolls the fruit-shaped piece in his palm. He is the voice of logic and reason (also economic sense) in their relationship, and he stands firm on his position. (at the back of his mind, he also thinks of the consequences of hoarding collectables or garbage in their tiny abode - doesn’t Wei Ying realize who is actually doing the dusting and cleaning work at home?)

 

“Lan Zhan… why do you think it’s a pear?” Wei Ying questions in return, a mix of amusement, bewilderment and disbelief shining in his eyes.

 

There is an audibly silent “What?” from the older man’s scandalized facial expression. He starts re-analyzing the wooden sculpture in his hand and matches with all known objects he’s seen in his entire over-30 years in life. A minute of gear-spinning and database-crunching inside his head, and he still came up with the same answer. To the great His Eminence Han Guang Jun who has visited most of the Middle Kingdom, solved some of the greatest mysteries that afflicted the Grand Cultivation Council, and faced perilous dangerous and monsters both living and undead - it’s just a model of a pear carved from wood, with its stem sticking out on the wrong end of the fruit; clearly done in bad taste.

 

Lan Zhan gives his lover a knowing and smug smile, and shakes his head. I’m still right, you can’t make me say otherwise, it is what it is , his confident, wordless expression speaks volumes.

 

“Try it, then you’ll find out,” Wei Ying stifles hiccupy giggles, obviously entertained by Lan Zhan’s glaringly incorrect response.

 

Lan Zhan’s smile turns into a frown and he raises his eyebrows in increasing frustration. It’s very rare that he gets his answers wrong…  but Wei Ying has a valid point, he acquiesces, as he had been evaluating the thing visually thus far without validating his assumptions using his other senses. He gives it a good squeeze (it’s hard, like wood), sniffs it (smells like wood), shakes it (it’s solid wood), and at last, gives it a good thorough lick (doesn’t taste at all). He suspects it could have originated from an exotic hardwood - which may show subtle textures or aromas if examined closely enough  - so he sucks on the pear’s tip to extract any sort of information that his senses could gather.

 

Wei Ying finally breaks into a loud, obnoxious guffaw.

 

“Lan Wang Ji-ah (啊)-Lan Wang Ji, I really admire your scholarly wisdom and vast knowledge about the world, but this,” he points at the offending pear-shaped thing, and starts rolling all over the mattress like a madman, “is not a fruit. It’s the classic P-Cool (屁股; pigu ; buttocks) butt plug, which is an anal sex toy , and you’re sucking the tip that goes into a man’s ass ! AH HA HA HA HA!”

 

The older man stills for a full minute, and when realization and understanding dawns upon him, in the form of an angry tide of sheer disgust and embarassment that colours his face into six shades of deep tomato-red, Wei Ying’s armful of sex toys was confiscated in a single furious sweep. 

 

Poor Wei Ying was pelted with an assortment of sex toys as he rolled around the bed, then off the bed, thudded painfully onto the floor, and then continued rolling around the floor in circles - while laughing so heartily and uncontrollably until he nearly died of hicuppy suffocation and almost peed between his pantless legs.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji received an intensive crash-course on sex ed that night.

 

He learns about P-Cool’s branded butt plugs (anything that looks like a fruit, such as the cursed pear), prostate massagers (the appalling-looking chicken drumstick), dildos (vegetables, including cucumbers and eggplants), and beads for the penis, nipples and also for the ass (the grapes - Lan Zhan refuses to associate them with any religious or prayer objects because there is absolutely nothing sacred about those beads).

 

Lan Zhan picks up a small bead and asks with a poker face, "How does this work? One cannot simply just place it on a part of the body and feel pleasurable."

 

Wei Ying laughs again, his voice hoarse after coughing-choking too much from the hysterical farce earlier. "Lan Zhan, how did you even rise up the ranks to become a Chief Cultivator?! Use your magic, of course!" he jokes light-heartedly, and shows the older man how it's done.

 

Wei Ying casts a generic Energy spell to imbue tiny quantities of qi into the wooden objects on the bed, and they take on a soft whitish glow. He expertly twirls, points, wags and circles his fingers, similar to how he handled the modified Water spell at the bath. The objects begin to vibrate, spin, roll and shake - mimicking the movements of excited living, breathing beings, ready to fulfil their mission. 

 

Lan Zhan is all too familiar with the effects of an Energy spell, because Wei Ying’s favourite Paperman spell is derived from the same class of magic. However, the sight of a handful of vibrating beads and worse, a dildo, inching towards his naked crotch in the tune of a constant droning, buzzing sound, is extremely unsettling. 

 

He squirms away from the toys, but not before his fingers touched the edge of what looks like a slightly bent, cylindrical stick about the length of an outstretched palm. The stick was out of range when Wei Ying casted Energy, so it remained un-vibrating. He holds up the stick inquisitively, and had a gut feeling that it was the most harmless-looking object amongst the collection of sex toys. It was also pretty - there were some shallow bumps and delicate ornate patterns on its smooth surface; the other toys were plain and had no such decorative markings. He could probably like the stick a little more than the rest of its brethren.

 

"Ahh… Lan Zhan, give me that…" Wei Ying starts to reach for it.

 

He knows when Wei Ying wants to snatch something, so he instinctively pulls away with a petulant No! on his face.

 

"You… probably don't know how to use it anyway, and it doesn't have any… beneficial purpose…" Wei Ying's voice becomes hesitant, even shaky, as he valiantly tries to make a quick grab for the stick, which Lan Zhan deftly avoids.

 

The older man's stare hardens to a don't-you-dare. Wei Ying yields by withdrawing his hand to scratch the back of his head, feigning innocence.

 

"Explain." A single word and his voice booms .

 

Wei Ying stammers something incomprehensible.

 

" Wei Ying ." No more second chances. The younger man sighs in defeat.

 

Lan Wang Ji gets a side lesson about urethral sounding, and the secret of the bent stick is revealed in all its perverse and obscene glory. Physically, it feels comforting in his palm, because it resembles a tiny, deformed Bichen that could use a little more love, respect and recognition (he is partial to long, solid things, as opposed to short, rounded, squishy or lumpy ones). He grips the stick with a silent Mine! and holds it close to his chest endearingly.

 

Wei Ying swallows nervously and bites his lower lip.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Wuxian has a few regrets in the past and current lifetime, and one of them is to try and outsmart Lan Wang Ji without thinking too far ahead of the possible consequences. What started as a ploy to humiliate the holier-than-thou man by enlightening him about the existence of sacreligious sex toys, and revel in a once-in-a-lifetime, exquisite selection of mortified looks, horrified gasps, simmering scowls or a pure, unadulterated crimson blush appearing on a deathly-pale face (he got the last one right, at least) - backfired, and he was now on the receiving end of the joke, and he was literally dying .

 

Lan Zhan used (and misused) the knowledge of such things , together with an unexpected awakening of his arsenal of Healer’s spellcasting abilities, and Wei Ying was dying again, and again, everywhere in their bedchamber.

 

Lan Zhan had, with seemingly good intentions , ambushed Wei Ying with a medley of calming, relaxing and numbing spells that left the young man semi-paralyzed on the floor, and the latter was forced to watch his lover prepare, with painstaking care and detail, for another round of sex (which Wei Ying didn’t really mind) that involves the toys (which Wei Ying really mind, because he was the victim in this case - oh poor Wei Ying!). Lan Zhan first casted Clean on all the toys to disinfect them, slathered their favourite massage oils, and with scholarly rigour, tested each one on (and in) the younger man (of note, the prostate massager felt really good with its vibrations, but Lan Zhan didn’t want to feel lonely, so he rudely took it out and shoved in the anal beads instead). 

 

During the seemingly sterile surgical procedure, Wei Ying caught glimpses of toys being used on him, dipped into him, then taken out, and switched with another. In the end, Lan Zhan was satisfied with having a string of large anal beads inside Wei Ying’s ass, a dildo tied to the underside of Wei Ying’s erection with the string of smaller beads, and horrors of all horrors, the young man had to stare at a bent stick sliding through his cockslit; he wanted to scream NO NO NO, but the Numb spell left his throat gurgling, and his penis simply twitched in discomfort at the unnatural strain and stretch of delicate muscles that threatened to tear (because all his nerve endings had been de-sensitized as well). Wei Ying didn’t die at that time; he was caught between feeling terrified at getting hurt, and in a twisted way, very excited to try something sexually novel.

 

Then Lan Zhan casted a mild Dispel Magic to remove the Numb effects, and abruptly Energized the toys inside Wei Ying, and all hell broke loose. 

 

Wei Ying thought he’d died and gone to heaven to meet Merciful Goddess Guan Yin to seek forgiveness for all the sins he’d ever committed, but he was dying again and again on Earth with excruciatingly mind-numbing and soul-sucking pleasure, that he would soon go mad.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Wang Ji mmmms in satisfaction as sexy Wei Ying arches his back and bows his hips; the younger man’s asshole sucks his dick along with the beads with inhuman muscular force, and succeeds to draw out another orgasm from the older man - again . Lan Zhan doesn’t have much left, so only a couple of globs, probably diluted and rather clear in colour, pulse out weakly from his convulsing member. The rippling pleasurable waves that wash over his lower body still feels exceedingly good, though. Lan Zhan has taken a liking for the beads - the ones vibrating strongly inside the younger man; they roll around his arousal and provide added friction and pressure that spikes his lust like never before.

 

He only wanted to take a bit of revenge over the juvenile prank that Wei Ying (always) played on him - however, it seems Wei Ying has completely lost to the pleasure, as evidenced by eyes that roll back, slackened jaws that hold a drooling, lolling tongue, trembling limbs, quaking hips, incoherent speech and thought, and ah , the stick is sliding out when Wei Ying’s penis quivers and squeezes repeatedly; so, he gently pushes it back in with his fingertip and Wei Ying nnnghs loudly with (probably) another dry orgasm coming from his (man- and mis-handled) prostate; clear sexual fluids are leaking generously from his stuffed pee hole but Lan Zhan makes sure to cast minute amounts of Numb into the younger man’s nether regions to make sure that he doesn’t ejaculate yet (because if Wei Ying goes soft, and then the party’s over); and to mete out an additional punishment for being naughty, Lan Zhan tightens the vibrating dildo against Wei Ying’s crazily-twitching dark-red cock, and elicits a prolonged, desperate uuuuunngh from the younger man.

 

Lan Zhan groans as his over-sensitive cock is again assaulted by delicious contractions and jiggling beads. He continues to fuck Wei Ying into the floor, hard and raw, missionary style; and when the younger man tires, he pulls him up and slams him from behind into the dressing table, his hands rake Wei Ying’s chest and ribs to leave scratches and bruising fingerprints, and he generously bites and licks the sweaty shoulders and defenceless nape, because primal lust and burning pleasure drives his facial expressions to involuntary half-snarls, half-yawns, and half-grimaces and he needed to chew on something, and Wei Ying is the tastiest morsel in front of him; when the urge to plunge and rut into Wei Ying rises, he grasps the latter’s slim waist, pushes him against one of the stony walls, grabs and lifts one of the thighs, and continues his relentless mating following a timeless rhythm, and he thrusts so deep, too deep, and he cums again into a flooded, sticky mess because there was already a bulging pool of warm seed inside Wei Ying’s breed-worthy belly.

 

During the entire sex-crazed episode, Wei Ying continued to talk gibberish and moan unintelligble words, and Lan Zhan could only make out tasty high-pitched “ahhhn, uuuhn”, “feels so good”, thoaty lustful “more, more, please more”, “harder deeper faster”, low growls of “fuck me until I die”, and sobs of “I’m melting, I’m melting” and “I’m dying oh god I’m dying” in six different dialects, no less. Wei Ying couldn’t ejaculate, couldn’t reach his climax, because that accursed stick blocked all exits and Lan Zhan continuously weaves Numb spells into his lower body. Wei Ying’s stiff, engorged cock fills up, his balls fluttering and quivering from being over-massaged by the shaking dildo, liquid pressure and lustful urges swelling inside him, driving him mad, and he humps anything - the floor, the wall, any surface, the thin air - and try futilely to gain enough traction to flick those pleasure spots and launch his orgasmic reflex, and to shoot far, far away to relieve the boiling heat in his loins - which never happened.

 

At one point, Wei Ying mewls and pleads “pee… I need to pee”, because he drank too much tea and his bladder was throbbing from being overstretched with liquid, and the string of large beads found their way up in his rectum and pushed-pounded hard against the bladder’s walls until the loss of muscle control was imminent. It doesn’t help that his vulnerable prostate was attacked with equal ruthlessness (every time a bead rolls over the walnut-sized lump, Wei Ying gasps and loses a breath, he loses a little more voluntary muscle control, while Lan Zhan gets a shockingly delightful squeeze and he pumps his hips deeper; from the sensations and shape, Lan Zhan could, with medical precision, gauge the condition of the delicate gland - it is probably swollen with unreleased fluids, inflamed from being lovingly pummeled for hours on end, and irritated because it throbs and itches from the inability to eject and satisfy its orgasmic reflex). Lan Zhan indulges in Wei Ying’s cries (he was nearly in tears then), and lifts and spread-eagles both of the latter’s legs while still embracing the younger man from the back, and his cock still gently drilling in and out of the angry-red rosebud crammed with both cockflesh and beads; there is abundant wet, squishy sounds of leaking massage oil and occasionally, dribbles of cum mixed with love juices, when Lan Zhan carries Wei Ying to the outdoor bath and walks to the center until he was knee-deep in the swirling thermal springwaters.

 

“Shhhhh… let it go here, no one can see us in the dark… Shhhhh…” he makes these familiar whispery sounds into Wei Ying’s ears and licks into the shells and suckles the fleshy earlobes; the younger man shudders, protests, struggles weakly, because he is absolutely aghast at such an embarrassing display in open air (although there is no one watching). Lan Zhan persists and with some physical effort, manages to hoist Wei Ying while one of his heated palms presses below the navel, and moves in circles . Wei Ying cries again, discomfort mounting to critical levels, muscles flexing in agonizingly painful-pleasurable ripples all over his groin as he tries with his life to pee - when the tip of the sounding stick finally peeks out (and he breathes a sigh of grateful relief; it feels like giving birth through the cock), Lan Zhan hmmms thoughtfully, reaches out and pushes the slippery tip back into ‘where it belongs’, and Wei Ying wails . He starts swearing filthy words, calling his partner “a horrible husband”, “a terrible monster”, and “go to hell”, then plenty of “you rapist”, “you asshole” and “fuck you”; but Lan Zhan is used to Wei Ying’s antics and simply enjoys sliding the stick in and out of the pee hole, while lovingly fucking the ass, one hand massaging the about-to-breach bladder, and the other found its way to caress and gently roll Wei Ying’s scrotum (Lan Zhan is actually capable of mischief; he presses both heavy testicles against the vibrating dildo strapped onto their owner’s cock, and Wei Ying almost shrieks ). At long last, after a few minutes of absolute torture, Lan Zhan relents and pulls out the slick, vibrating stick with a satisfyingly wet plop. 

 

Lan Zhan whispers the Shhhhs again and again; Wei Ying finally surrenders, and lets loose. 

 

At the last second, in a cruel, ironic twist, the older man grins in the dark (it is a profoundly bone-chilling evil grin - the most Lan Zhan can muster - but nobody can ever see), then commands the rest of the toys to burst into life with enthusiastically-twirling and tapping fingers, before stroking the madly-twitching arousal with fist-pumps, and polishing the swollen cockhead with a chokingly strong finger-grip - using inhuman lightning-quick speeds as used to make jiaozi s. Wei Ying’s impending orgasm skyrockets , and his cock melts , figuratively speaking.

 

Wei Ying’s plumbing is thoroughly abused. He pees forcefully, then ejaculates so hard that Lan Zhan could feel all pelvic muscles contract simultaneously (because his cock inside Wei Ying’s ass is given the Greatest Massage Ever at that moment), and pees again because muscles were fluttering out of control, and soon, a frothy, semi-viscous mix squirts out in erratic, spectacular arches into the moonless night sky, which eventually fades to a duet of watery trickles and thick, wet splats into the bathwater. His keening howl, tormented sobbing, and shaky hiccups goes unnoticed, and Lan Zhan finally sets his young lover down to the ground, where he releases all the toys, tenderly strokes Wei Ying’s sweat-matted hair, rubs soothing lines on the trembling back, and coos to the dying man, “Good boy, good boy.”

 

It was getting cold and Lan Zhan didn’t like to stay out in the chilly night. He bridal-carries an exhausted, sex-and-shame-flushed, softly weeping Wei Ying back to their home, and to their bed. 

 

Lan Zhan is determined to show Wei Ying what their relationship looks like, in its purest form - without playing jokes and pranks on each other, without feelings of ego, arrogance and fear, without using fancy toys and spells, without any presumptions, mistrust and ulterior motives.

 

He makes sweet love to his Wei Ying one last time, that night.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The bedroom is quiet, tranquil, except for the sounds of bodies joining passionately in a mating-press, accompanied by shuddering moans and faint sighs, interspersed with whispers of words exchanged between lovers. 

 

(The mating-press is depicted in PeiNi’s centerspread, which Lan Zhan has not tried before but is extremely interested in. After this session, he makes sure to put a checkmark next to it; there are at least another ten other positions that he wants to try in the future.)

 

“Mmmm… lao gong, lao gong, lao gong …” Wei Ying murmurs affectionately, eyes closed and body thrumming mildly with the last leg of his sexual qi energy, as Lan Zhan continues to pepper light smooches on the forehead, cheeks and then gently locks lips with his, their tongues tenderly slide, swirl, encircle, entice one another, evoking feelings of warmth, of being loved and giving love, of being intimate and intertwining with a soulmate until two bodies meld into one - the same way as Lan Zhan lovingly pumps his hips with long, deeply satisfying downward strokes into Wei Ying’s sweet, drenched hole, then moves in toe-curlingly good circles so that every fleshy fold, every nook and cranny, every hidden corner is tenderly stretched and massaged by the hard, massive and throbbing arousal in the tempo of heavy balls slapping gently against the glutes. The couple embrace each other on the bed with such intoxicating closeness and with so much skin-to-skin contact, that they could feel their breaths on one another in the same way as they could with each other’s heartbeats.  

 

Lan Zhan reciprocates Wei Ying by lavishing sweet words into his lover’s ears that sends Wei Ying’s heart soaring to breathtaking heights. He tells Wei Ying that he’s the only one for him, that he is the most beautiful and graceful, the most desirable and the only one he needs, that his love for him is eternal in this lifetime and by god’s grace, in all other lifetimes as well, and that he truly loves the man named Wei Wuxian and no other. He grunts with pleasure and slides his cock as deep as he can with each incantation of love, and restrains his climax as much as possible. Wei Ying mewls and bends his flexible body a little more until his legs could hook around Lan Zhan’s neck, giving full penetration access to the older man into his deepest recesses.

 

Lao gong, lao gong … if you say you love me so much, then swear upon your words by writing it out with our lovemaking,” Wei Ying says with a wink and a smile that makes his eyes crinkle.

 

Lan Zhan gaze becomes unfocused, because he is trying hard to figure out what his lover means, and because Wei Ying suddenly moved his ass in a cock-squeezingly pleasurable square movement, and his twitching member brushed and slid in all four directions against Wei Ying’s slick, cushioned walls. “For example, this is ‘mouth’ (口)”, followed by, ”... and this is ‘rice’ (米).” Lan Zhan’s plump testicles pull up with sudden excitement and he nearly ejaculated when his heated, pulsating cock and the entire crotch grinds in six different directions against Wei Ying’s inviting ass; the exquisite friction and pleasure is nearly too much to bear.

 

Lan Zhan had to steady himself for the task at hand. Wei Ying waits with an expectant, but fond smile. He takes a deep breath and starts to move his hips to write Wei Ying’s courtesy name (魏无羡). Truthfully, Wei Ying’s ass-writing was quite messy and sloppy, and Lan Zhan aims to perform his best to convince Wei Ying that his written word is as good as the love from their joined bodies. His movements are extremely three-dimensional, dynamic in shifts of force, widths and depths, and mirrors the powerful strokes of calligraphy masters of the Middle Kingdom.

 

He trembles at the brink when he is done; his cock aches and springs painfully against its warm, fleshy prison, denied of release despite being ready to unleash a torrent of hot seed freshly made during their passionate lovemaking for the past hour.  He pants heavily, and his whole chest flushes red with sexual excitement.

 

Wei Ying kisses Lan Zhan’s lips, “Mmmm.. lao gong , you wrote my name first, and you wrote it correctly. Next…”

 

Lan Zhan grunts and heaves forward. He summons the remaining strength from his tired, quaking limbs to write his name (蓝忘机) using his hips. At the last word, when he makes an impassioned downstroke with a cock that was fast melting as orgasm closes in, he suddenly stills. His mind blanks, his breath hitches, his entire body seizes and convulses; a powerful shiver rips through the spine, crests over and spread like wildfire into the heavy loins in rippling, rhythmic contractions, and he finally falters with a dramatic HNNNGH.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

“AH HA HA HA HA...Lan Wang Ji-ah (啊)-Lan Wang Ji, how old are you? You cannot even write your name! Ahh... ah… my stomach hurts from laughing, my butt is sore, I’m so sleepy…” Wei Ying lay quaking and curled on the bed, rambling and giggling almost nonsensically, then yawned, before resuming another fit of tired giggling. He let out a rude fart in the midst of the body-shaking laughter, and he started to roll over and guffaw across pillows strewn haphazardly on the bed.

 

“HA HA HA HA HA… look what you’ve done, Lan Wang Ji, tonight you fucked me so hard and for so long, I have become loose,” another rude sound erupted from the ass, and Wei Ying nearly suffocates again that night because he couldn’t catch his breath anymore, “Ah, you’re a bad husband! Your wife is now ‘damaged goods’ because you used too much force, so you have to take care of me for the rest of this life… HA HA HA HA HA!”

 

Lan Zhan stares at his lover with an ever-stoic expression; there is infinite patience and love in his heart for his Wei Ying. He is used to his lover’s annoying, naughty, vulgar, and sometimes distasteful behaviours - but it is what makes Wei Ying the person he cherishes most, the person he’d sworn to protect and love, and the person who will stay by his side for this and many lifetimes to come.

 

Precious seed trickles from Wei Ying's inundated, twitching and exposed asshole, and Lan Zhan contemplates his next move. It is a little after two in the morning, and they really should get some rest because they have a snake-catching mission the next day. He tries his best to wipe the bedsheets with a small ragcloth from the bedside table, and rearranges the pillows so that giggly Wei Ying lies comfortably on his side of the bed with a pillow under his head, and a few more cuddled against his chest; Wei Ying likes to curl up and hoard the pillows during sleep (he still rolls a bit in his laughter, but Lan Zhan easily and gently puts him back to one of his favourite sleeping positions - lying on the side). Then, when he is sure he’d done everything he could, he turns off the bedroom lanterns and crawls to bed.

 

He embraces Wei Ying from the back and spoons the now-quivering Wei Ying, who manages to muffle his mirth into a pillow. Their bodies are a bit sticky from sweat and other love juices, but Lan Zhan is sure that the chilled night air seeping through the window will cool and comfort them. He easily slides his half-limp cock into the well-lubricated and stretched hole, and by tightening his embrace on Wei Ying’s waist and locking his groin hard against the springy ass, he is sure that his seed will stay warmed and soak inside his lovely Wei Ying until sunrise.

 

Lan Zhan starts to hum some old Gusu lullabies, and eventually lulls both of them to a peaceful, well-deserved slumber.



~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Three whistles sounded; distorted, resentful, with evil intent. 

 

The bedroom becomes misty and murky as a swarm of malevolent black-coloured ghosts and crimson-red bloodthirsty spirits circle the air, while more continue to pour through the open window. The bodiless forms seep into furniture and every object, and through the body of a naked sleeping man on the bed. He squirms and frowns as though he is having a nightmare, but he doesn’t move from his coffin-like sleeping position.

 

Yiling Patriarch Wei Wuxian leans down until his face nearly touches Lan Zhan’s neck. He gives it a lick with a saliva-coated tentacle-like tongue, and a poisonous purplish bruise appears on the skin where it touched, near the older man’s Adam’s apple. Lan Zhan coughs lightly and wheezes, still trapped in his dreams, and the bruise spreads in vein-like patterns down the shoulders and fans out to the entire upper body.

 

Wei Wuxian’s eyes glows red; his hair has grown longer and falls unfurling upon the older man’s body, like spilled black ink over pure white snow. He follows the purplish-black veins, smells the sweet scent of a healthy man that was slowly being poisoned, and when the vein-like patterns reach the heart, they congeal into a living, quivering mass of dark hues under the pale skin. He observes the rise and fall of the sleeping man’s chest and his smile twists into a sneer. Lan Zhan begins to sweat and murmurs deliriously in his restless slumber. 

 

Wei Wuxian chants something extremely forbidden and evil, so corrupted and warped in its meaning that any Living being cannot comprehend what is said. Black wisps emerge from almost every inch of Lan Zhan’s body, and Wei Wuxian inhales them through his mouth and nostrils. He licks his lips, apparently enjoying the taste and having his appetite sated, for the moment.

 

He kneels between Lan Zhan’s legs and spreads them with ease; there is no resistance nor response from the still-sleeping man. He lightly rakes the inner thighs with his long, claw-like black fingernails, and the same bruising colour appears in their wake - the scratch marks grow and spread along the blood capillaries and flow into the older man’s genital area. Lan Zhan moans and raises his hips; his body is reacting to very sexually disturbing dreams.

 

Wei Wuxian takes out and holds his own arousal - hard, wanting, throbbing, moist and alive ; it looks inhuman , monstrous, with grotesque and writhing parts and protuberances that growl and hiss. He presses the tip - a living, breathing head of a demonic creature - at the entrance, and savours the sensations of opening up the defenceless ring of muscle. 

 

At the same time, he bends down and puts soft kisses on Lan Zhan’s darkening chest, close to where his heart is - now covered by the swirling dark clouds that crawl and slither beneath the skin. The skin easily peels open on its own, without blood and without pain. Parts of flesh, muscles and bones seem to dissipate into the gathering dark masses that infect the entire upper body, revealing a radiant, shiny golden core.

 

He plans to have a taste of it.

Chapter Text

12.01 am

 

Like clockwork, Lan Zhan wakes up drowsily to find Wei Ying lying face up, and diagonally across the bed, with his springy rear resting atop Lan Zhan’s crotch. There are a few snores, and he notices the younger man’s toes wiggle (one of Wei Ying’s legs carelessly lounges on his shoulder, while the sloppy young man’s head is hopefully not breathing against Lan Zhan’s foot) in sync with the twitches of the owner’s cock - it stands proudly from a nest of pubes, beautifully lit by silver moonlight that filters through the curtained window, slightly curved in shape, and unsurprisingly, dribbling pre-cum in its excited state. Lan Zhan lets out an involuntary moan as the base of a vibrating prostate massager inside Wei Ying’s rear buzzes pleasantly against his own rigid arousal; he nnnnghs when Wei Ying gyrates his hips in lazy circles and catches that same rigid arousal in the butt crack. The captive penis is soon wiping circles against a vibrating sex toy.

 

Lan Zhan is close to cumming, but he doesn’t want to waste his seed on the exterior of his lover’s silky smooth ass, at the same time, he doesn’t want to pull out the toy either. (They’ve been experimenting with the toys lately, and he knows that Wei Ying gets plenty of wet dreams when things are stuffed into his bottom; the sight of rich, gooey cum spurting gently from a sputtering cockslit, trickling its way through the tuft of curly pubes and downhill to the dip of a shallow navel where it forms a milky, viscous pool; while the owner moans, thrashes on the bed and sometimes jerks his hips upwards in an illusory attempt for fuck something in his dreams - is impossible to resist. Lan Zhan succumbs to the temptation and laps at the offered liquidy sticky banquet, without Wei Ying’s knowledge [it is willingly offered , so there is no need to ask for permission, Lan Zhan reasons]. Wei Ying thinks that inserting beads, butt plugs or prostate massagers and leaving them inside makes him feel “lighter and so much more refreshed” in the mornings due to some kind of “mechanical stretching and massaging that helps to circulate the Male qi flows and counter-flows [pure nonsense, really]; Lan Zhan doesn’t tell him that at precisely 10 o’ clock at [every] night, he quietly Energizes the toys inside a snoring Wei Ying.)

 

The older man sighs and slides off from beneath his lover. Alone, Wei Ying starts to squirm and hnnnghs on the bedsheets as the toy starts to dance and spin wildly inside his rectum; hitting all the good spots on his quivering, swollen prostate. The base of the toy has a long, curled stem which presses deeply on the perineum, giving the abused gland more torture than it deserves. Wei Ying sweats as much as his heart begins to race while being imprisoned by an extremely pleasurable wet dream.

 

Lan Zhan stifles a yawn, returns with a jug of water and a couple of cups, and places them on the bedside table. He sits on the bedside and strokes his dick languidly so that he doesn't lose his hard-on, while observing his lover continue to pump his hips into the empty air. The droning buzz from the prostate massager is comforting; no longer a nuisance in the nights.

 

He admires how Wei Ying can easily ascend towards climax without any physical contact on his wildly-twitching leaking penis. When Wei Ying’s pelvis starts to convulse uncontrollably and a low, muted keening “ahhhnn” escapes from his throat, Lan Zhan moves in to properly spread his lover’s legs and kneels between them. He grasps the shuddering cock to keep it still. His other hand waves an intricate pattern, and a urethral sounding rod slooooowly peeks out from the fluttering cockslit, which was already nicely coloured in a shade of angry-purple-red due to the prolonged invasion of a foreign object. The silver-white rod grows longer, and extends a few inches out from the tip of the erection.

 

(P-Cool’s latest models of sounding instruments are made of high-quality, medical-grade metal - not wood. They have a variety of functions, which can be accessed, commanded and executed with tiny amounts of Energy spells. Lan Zhan is already accustomed with movement-related functions, such as vibrating, spinning and sliding. Just a few nights ago, he discovered a set of next-tier functions when he increased his Energy outflow into the rod - such as the ability to extend both edges, to hollow out into a tube, and much more. 

 

To Lan Zhan’s pleasant surprise, when he tried to extend the edge that goes into the urethra and eventually to the prostate [yes, it can grow that long], the rounded tip unravelled beautifully into multiple fine hair-like extensions, like a blooming flower. He recalled seeing a diagram from a book on human anatomy from Yiling’s Library Pavilion, and he thought the way the hair-like extensions unfurled looked similar to a cross-section of the prostate gland and its surrounding areas - including ducts, delicate tubules, vesicles and all.)

 

Lan Zhan bends down, then wraps his lips around the extended edge. Another twirl of fingers, and the rod hollows into a tube. He sucks and enjoys a light midnight snack of fresh unejaculated milky-white seed, direct from source. 

 

(It doesn't have any of the typical bitter or pungent odours, and actually tastes rejuvenating, faintly sweet, full of Wei Ying-flavoured proteins.)

 

Wei Ying groans desperately in his sleep, as his sexy dreams become increasingly twisted and distressing. The massager continues to stimulate his tired prostate, forcing it to contract and squeeze out its remaining juices into the straw-like tool. He experiences several consecutive dry orgasms in a matter of minutes, to Lan Zhan's delighted palate.

 

Lan Zhan does not stop massaging his lover's testicles, and continues to caress and lightly squeeze the springy glutes and inner thighs, just as how a youngling goat sucks and coaxes its mother's udders for more, please give me some more .



12:25 am

 

Having thoroughly drained a shuddering Wei Ying, Lan Zhan decides to deactivate the sounding rod-turned-tube. Suddenly, just as his fingertips touched the metallic surface, he involuntarily burps (because he swallowed excess air bubbles while enjoying the exquisite beverage), and accidentally channels extra qi into the instrument. 

 

He watches, mesmerized, as he hears soft whirr from within Wei Ying's groin, followed by agonizingly pleasurable cries of "ah, ah, ahhhhn" and muscle spasms ripple and undulate erotically across the young man's pelvic region. 

 

Lan Zhan successfully activates the instrument's Level Three functions (as advertised, but never attempted, until now). Fine, microscopic hair-like extensions penetrate and violate every structure, duct, tube and vesicles around the shriveled prostate, and tiny electrical currents run through them in quick, rhythmic bursts. Wei Ying's breath hitches, his entire lower body seizes, sweaty ass clenches, and after a few seconds of toe-curlingly powerful quaking muscle cramps, a droplet of clear fluid finally emerges from the tip of the tube. Lan Zhan darts his tongue to sample the divinely nectar.

 

Mmmmm, crystal-pure, seedless, one hundred percent intensely Wei Ying-flavoured essence , he concluded. He postpones his plans to switch off the instrument, and instead, opts to extract a few more precious drops from lovely Wei Ying.

 

Wei Ying, on the other hand, experiences nightmares of having frenzied sex while desperately wanting to pee and trying to give birth to baby Wang Jis via his cock, then getting electrocuted by raging lightning storms straight into his loins. He never really achieved any ejaculatory release.



12:45 am

 

Lan Zhan is absolutely certain that there is nothing left inside Wei Ying. He inhales, sucks and hollows his cheeks through the straw-like tube, and comes up empty.

 

The tasty episode left him tremendously turned on, and in a heated moment of sleep-deprived lapse of (rational) judgement, driven by primal, lustful instincts to dominate and breed his young lover, he strokes his cock furiously until he feels the onset of an incredible orgasm. Then, he growls when he is momentarily overpowered by a streak of possessiveness ( my Wei Ying, mine, all mine... ), and sticks the open end of the tube into his twitching cockslit. Lan Zhan arches his back and groans loudly as he rides his climax and ejaculates to his heart's content. He continues to rub the pliant foreskin along his twitching member, until every single last drop is milked out and oozes into the tube.

 

Lan Zhan makes sure to extend and retract the finer parts at the other end of the tube repeatedly - pushing, mixing and stirring as much of his warm, thick seed deep, deep into Wei Ying. After finally pulling out the sounding rod and switching off the vibrating prostate massager, he generously kneads Wei Ying's stiff, over-sensitive penis from tip to the base . The older man diligently massages every bit of his still-warm semen through the abused stretched urethra, and onward into their new home . (It's like squeezing out toothpaste, but in the wrong direction.)

 

Wei Ying shivers and goosebumps all over from the uncomfortable sensations of being violated and forcefully filled. He dreams of baby Wang Jis crawling and diving into his bulging, stuffed genitals.

 

Shortly before one in the morning, Lan Zhan drifts into slumber, cradling a squirming Wei Ying in his arms. He also dreams, with very kinky images of sperm cells (as seen illustrated in medical textbooks) swimming through the aforementioned cross-section of the prostate, and towards a set of testicles. He wishes, as impossible as it may sound, that his virile seed will find Wei Ying's prized defenceless eggs and fertilize them soon.



4:30 am

 

On generally good days, and his intuition tells him that today is one of such days - Lan Zhan wakes up a little earlier than usual, feeling a little more refreshed than the norm, stretches and yawns a little to get the blood flow going, his eyes open a little , and he’s greeted by a mass of sweet-scented sleep-messed unruly hair. Wei Ying slept soundly in Lan Zhan’s embrace; Lan Zhan lies on his back, while Wei Ying snuggles into his neck while lying atop his broad, well-muscled chest. He is reminded of the first night they slept together shortly after Wei Ying's return to the world of living.

 

He spends a minute watching his young lover rise and fall with his deep breathing, like a delicate leaf floating upon the ocean's waves; in terms of bodyweight, Wei Ying is a feather compared to the other things he’d carried before, and with only one hand - coffins and corpses, stone statues, bundles of firewood heavy enough to crush an average person, and so on.

 

Lovely Wei Ying has been unusually obedient since midnight, and hardly changed sleeping positions at all - probably the young man was too occupied with the discomfort churning inside his genitals. 

 

Out of habit and due to an urgent ache in the bladder, Lan Zhan slips away into the dark and relieves himself in the outdoor bath (which is conveniently connected to their bedchamber), before tip-toeing back to the bedroom. He drinks another cup of water and feels revitalized in the silence of their home; even the chirping insects have gone to rest. He smiles imperceptibly when his gaze lands on Wei Ying’s raised ass - his lover lay prone on the bed with all four limbs tucked under the body; like a little ball of kitten trying to keep itself warm. His cock twitches fondly in agreement.

 

Lan Zhan carefully approaches the slumbering form, and pulls out the prostate massager with a squishy pop (he is pleased with the results of a night-long stretch - the succulent rosebud looks inviting, moist and deliciously supple). He crawls on top of Wei Ying, his limbs encircle the smaller man in an intimate embrace from the top, and proceeds to mount him with a well-lubricated erection (he silently thanks another small bottle of massage oil, sacrificed for this morning’s conquest). He nuzzles into Wei Ying’s neck and dives for the nape. He uses his nose to part the long uncombed hair, until the tip of his nose bumps into a patch of exposed warm skin, and he inhales deeply a breath of earthy, musky, and homely Wei Ying . He peppers light kisses, and lets his teeth graze on old bite marks left from previous wild lovemaking sessions. 

 

His hips busy with clumsy attempts to insert his heavy, excited arousal, dripping with pre-cum, into Wei Ying’s entrance; maneuvering without looking, and relying solely on his sense of touch. At the first plunge, he slips past the tantalizing target, and Wei Ying mmmhs at a twitching cock slapping against his butt crack. A little to the left . Lan Zhan tries again and presses down blindly, greedily, but his glistening cock slides at an off-angle and is too slippery, and pokes at one of the glutes instead; Wei Ying hnnnhs unconsciously in his sleep. A little more to the right, please. Increasingly frustrated and needy of friction, Lan Zhan decides take his time; he prods along the exposed anal cleft, inch by inch, until he finally finds the coveted ring of muscles. Wei Ying aaaahs as though he celebrates Lan Zhan’s victory as well; Lan Zhan gently pries open the entrance with the bulbous head of his cock and slips into welcoming warmth and rows upon rows of tight fleshy folds, until he is fully sheathed inside his lover. Wei Ying is fully relaxed (after a night with the massager), and happily moans when Lan Zhan drills into him at a slow, unhurried pace, typical of pre-dawn lovemaking that the couple knows very well.

 

Lan Zhan makes sure to plant at least two rich, full loads deep inside Wei Ying to warm up the younger man’s tummy -  his first gift to his love for the day.

 

When Wei Ying nnnnhs audibly and signals that he also needs to find release, Lan Zhan turns him around and continues to fuck him, missionary style. He watches, hypnotized, at how his erect and lively member continues to slide in and out with moist squishy and frothy sounds, covered with his creamy seed and his lover’s juicy fluids. He proceeds to jack off a mewling, floundering, still-sleeping Wei Ying, and the latter, at long last, squirts out abundant shots of whitish gel-like volleys high into the air. Lan Zhan was a little disappointed at the spillage - because that was his seed being flung recklessly away - and tried to scoop up with his fingers as much as he can from the bed sheets, pillows and all over Wei Ying’s trembling body. He deposits them into Wei Ying’s half-gaping mouth, and instinctively, the younger man swallows appreciatively with cat-licks. Lan Zhan becomes aroused again, and eventually works towards his third orgasm inside his lovely Wei Ying.

 

(Later, Wei Ying would complain that there’s a strange, but not unpleasant nor unfamiliar, taste in his palate.)

 

Shortly after half-past five, Lan Zhan dons his garments - a simple attire of a white top (modified from one of his old Gusu Lan robes), and a pair of dark brown trousers (because he plans to take a walk around the gardens, and the path may be a bit dusty or muddy), combs and ties his hair, and takes a final look at the silver mirror to check himself out - he hnnns in satisfaction when everything is prim and proper, without a single strand of or a button out of place. 

 

Before he leaves the bedroom, he leans over the bed and gives Wei Ying a sweet “good morning” kiss. Wei Ying mmmhs with a precious, shy smile, and snores away.



7:00 am

 

The laundry is done and the laundry line is full of hanging clothes, robes, washcloths, towels, bedsheets and underwear too. (Lan Zhan managed to lift Wei Ying’s prone sleeping form with one hand, changed the bedsheets with the other, gently placed his lover back on the bed and tuck him under a fresh blanket without any problems). The sun has just risen into a glorious golden-hued sky with little cloud cover, and it looks to be a sunny, bright day ahead.

 

Dustless Broom made cleaning breezy and effortless; the floor looks exceptionally spotless, shiny and waxed, the furniture dusted and stainless; and it feels comfortable and safe to walk barefoot inside the cave-home. The courtyard still needs to be swept using a traditional straw broom (because of larger debris such as twigs, dried leaves and pebbles); Lan Zhan has this in his daily to-do list.

 

A Magics ‘R Us modified Water talisman makes a gardener’s life so much easier. Lan Zhan only needs to channel a tiny amount of qi, then snap his fingers, and tiny waterspouts appear to draw water from the lotus pond and sprinkle their vegetables and fruit trees. He twirls his fingers, clockwise, to dial up the volume of water, especially for the water-hungry trees, and spins his index finger in an anti-clockwise direction to give the chilli plants a lighter shower. Mian Mian’s chilli seedlings grew very well, and Lan Zhan suspects the mineral-rich waters from the pond enhanced their development; it usually takes a few seasons for the plants to reach maturity and grow chillies, however their crop is unusually healthy, reaches waist-level heights within a few weeks, and starts fruiting within the same season. It will be a bumper harvest for the Lan’s, and Wei Ying will be happy with more home-cooked chilli dishes. 

 

(At the back of his mind, Lan Zhan wonders about the miraculous effects of the water from their pond - the lotus plants flourish and multiply extremely well, to the point where they can continuously harvest roots, leaves and seed-pods daily and sell to Old Merchant Zhu; the vegetables and surrounding vegetation sprout and thrive at full speeds; even the fish and shrimps spawn and fatten up incredibly well. He traces the source of the pond water to their outdoor bath, however there is nothing extraordinary there. He presumes it must be the doing of Qishan’s permanently warm thermal springwaters which feeds into all their water sources.)

 

He also feeds and changes the drinking water for their farm animals at the chicken coop. A kind-hearted farmer gave him surplus bags of grains when he purchased some wheat and corn in Huang village, after he briefly shared his story of trying to raise a family of chickens (the farmer does not speak much and seemed a little aloof at first glance; Lan Zhan finds an instant connection to people of similar character - he only needs to say a few words, and a fruitful conversation and friendship is born among introverts). The chickens love the grains, and have learnt to recognize Lan Zhan as their favourite owner; the hens crowd around Lan Zhan’s legs the moment he enters the fenced compound with a bowl of their favourite meal. Lan Zhan also carried a bundle of wildgrasses and other natural vegetation cut from a neighbouring swathe of lush green meadows and pastures (actually, he just stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking their vast estate, ties an open sack to Bichen’s hilt, and sends the blade flying through the hills and valleys. With his high mastery of cultivation, he is able to remotely control the blade, and it easily slashes and mow through the fields with lethal efficiency; the cut grass collects into the open sack, and Bichen returns with a full harvest. Lan Zhan credits Wei Ying for this ingenious use of the ivory-white sword). The skittish domesticated wild rabbits are well fed with the grass, and their diet is supplemented with fruits and other seasonal vegetables from their garden; the chickens take their fair share as well.

 

Breakfast is a big bubbling pot of meaty pork ribs simmering in a richly-flavoured broth of herbs and spices. Wei Ying picked up the recipe from one of Hu’s customers while making a delivery of meat dumplings; he’d wander around the teahouse and try to be friendly with those who didn’t mind sharing a jar of wine with him (and Hu laoban doesn’t mind, because a chatty charming Wei Ying attracts more business for the establishment at no extra cost). That customer spoke at length about his hometown from Fujian, a province south of Gusu, and he talked a lot about life in lively coastal cities. The required ingredients were easily available, especially from the farmers’ markets in Huang village where trade in common and exotic herbs and spices with Silk Road merchants is widespread. 

 

Lan Zhan notes that the pork ribs needed to stew for another hour, so he starts cooking the rice, and prepares a plate of simple stir-fried fresh greens, tofu, mushrooms, and some fried dough sticks to accompany the mouth-watering porky-flavoured broth. He does not forget to lightly roast a few handfuls of mixed nuts and seeds on a hot pan; Wei Ying loves to snack on crunchy food later during the day, and Lan Zhan insists on healthier choices - he includes a generous serving of pumpkin seeds with known beneficial properties for prostate health.



8:00 am

 

It is a relatively free day for the couple - today is Wei Ying’s twice-a-week ‘home improvement project’ day, so he will stay at home during the daytime (and hopefully, start clearing out their increasingly-crowded workroom - something that the younger man procrastinates a lot). Lan Zhan calculates the contents in the pantry, and knows they have enough groceries and provisions. There is no need to forage, harvest or shop for more, at least for a few days. A bag of medicinal candies lie at a corner of the kitchen, waiting to be delivered to Grandma Li’s clinic after the weekend. 

 

He’s completed his morning reading of thought-provoking philosophical texts, magazines on cultivation and agriculture, and the week’s printed periodical containing news from the local province and beyond. He takes note about: the upcoming mayoral election (he thinks he’ll place his vote for the current Mayor, because he is somewhat indebted to the politician for letting them have an estate within the ‘Mounds), the on-going spat between two of Yiling’s largest teahouses (Wei Ying’s plum sauce has a hand in it, and he finds it disconcerting that their favourite song’s name is mentioned in the same article as a drawn cartoon of two wrinkly old laoban s locking horns with one another); and advertisements about the latest discounts and offers from the marketplace and other businesses (he zooms in for the weekly coupons offered by Qishan Merchant Guild, which he happily cuts out, and keeps them in a rice-paper album for future shopping sprees). 

 

Interestingly, there is a report from officials from the Imperial Court denouncing the current Jin member heading the Grand Cultivation Council, condemning him and the entire council for the poor performance and mishandling of the general affairs of the cultivation world. There are scathing remarks of how the current council office “prioritizes populist actions rather than putting their Jin (gold (sic)) to where it really matters”, accusations of misappropriation of funds in running “useless, irrelevant activities, such as pop concerts, roadshows, and meaningless investments in cultural and fashion-related programmes (including changing the colours of city banners to gold)”, and the inability of the current council to stem the tide of fierce corpses’ attacks still coming from the North. The report is accompanied by drawn pictures of Cultivation scholars protesting in front of the Lanling Cultivation University for the “shameful and humiliating” acts of the current council which “degrades the standards of the Cultivation World”. The commentaries that follow, written by a prominent Jin General, simply says that the Imperial Cultivation Council (who serves the Imperial Court in Chang’an) knows nothing about the changing times, and that “Grandmaster Gao should just retire and let the young ones lead the Imperial Cultivators”. 

 

Lan Zhan is glad that he no longer holds office during such chaotic times at the council.

 

After reading, Lan Zhan busies himself with drawing up the schedule for the next seven days. Immaculately drawn horizontal and vertical lines (without the use of any ruler) form the columns and rows of a table on a wide sheet of rice paper. With a fine ink brush, he delicately writes - actually, prints - short, concise descriptions of activities planned for both of them. He intends to hang the paper on one of the kitchen cabinets for easy reference (Wei Ying probably doesn’t look at it, let alone the calendar on the kitchen wall).

 

A soft rustling sound comes from the bedroom. He smiles, barely visibly, and puts down the pen.



8:30 am

 

It takes a long time for Wei Ying to finally emerge from their bedroom. He comes out (with a welcoming ‘pop!’ that signifies the breaking of the Shield spell that had kept the nocturnal insects at bay) but rather than a cheerful, squawky greeting of Lan Zhan’s name (usually twice), he appears sulky. He shuffles barefooted to the kitchen-cum-dining room with a frown, wearing only a light brown cotton shirt (only), and his sleep-tousled hair sticks in various directions. One hand scratches his tummy absently, while the under seemed to grip the crotch barely covered by the shirt.

 

Wei Ying complains that when he woke up and went to pee, he felt a strange swelling sensation obstructing the flow, and couldn’t completely empty his bladder. Worried, he drank the whole jug of water at the bedside table, waited, and went to the outdoor bath again. Once more, even after dribbling out as much as he could, there’s always “a little bit more” that he couldn’t push out.

 

Lan Zhan becomes anxious - was last night’s spur-of-the-moment decision too excessive? He lets Wei Ying sit down on a chair, legs splayed open, then he wipes down the genitals with a towel soaked with warm water, and crouches to inspect his lover’s penis.

 

“Lan Zhan, is there something wrong with my wee-wee?” Wei Ying whines with pouty lips. Lan Zhan closes his eyes in concentration, and casts a series of comforting light blue Healing spells and a green Diagnose spell into the half-hard member. He cups Wei Ying’s balls to test their weight and gently rolls them to feel for any abnormal lumps; he also presses into specific points around the groin area to check for any other unusual signs - around the lymph nodes, blood vessels and meridian points. 

 

He opens his eyes, and looks relieved. He tells Wei Ying that there are some globs of sticky substances inside the urethra that needs to be removed - other than that, there is no injury, no infection, no growths and no other medical concerns for the perfectly healthy adult young male. He proceeds to pour another jug of water, and adds some powdered herbal tea - the diuretic type - and instructs Wei Ying to drink. The younger man whimpers disgruntledly at the mammoth task to down a second huge tank before breakfast, but Lan Zhan insists; and Wei Ying relents.

 

As a reward, Lan Zhan gives Wei Ying a mind-blowingly wonderful blowjob; one that involves plenty of tongue action around the glans beneath the foreskin; flicking rapidly on that special spot beneath the glans with the foreskin fully retracted; delicious suction along the throbbing length when he deep-throats; and he does not forget to use his fingertips to massage circles to the underside of Wei Ying’s arousal to “push out the globs of sticky substances”. Wei Ying starts to not enjoy the treatment when his bladder fills up to the point of bursting; he squirms and protests, “Stop, stop, I... I need to pee again!”. Lan Zhan releases with a plop! sound of wet lips, then nonchalantly leads him to the outdoor bath even as the latter struggles to walk with shaky steps; his hands never leaves Wei Ying’s arousal during the short trip to the pool. 

 

He continues to lovingly stroke the twitching rigid flesh with one hand even as Wei Ying grimaces and orgasms-squirts explosively, alternating between trickling pee and spurting seed; then spurting pee and trickling seed. He kisses Wei Ying’s cheeks and earlobes and nibbles on them affectionately, his other hand runs fingernails in broad circles around the younger man’s trembling back and quivering naked ass as he rides his climax, before reaching to the front to knead on fluttering muscles between the navel and the base of the penis, in an endearing attempt to coax the entire genitourinary system to flush everything out; from bladder to prostate and everything else around them.

 

When Wei Ying is done, completely exhausted, he remarks tiredly that he feels completely and pleasantly emptied - Lan Zhan’s treatment worked. Wei Ying’s legs gave out, so he sits on the tiled floor and tries to catch his shuddering breaths. Lan Zhan sits next to Wei Ying and acknowledges the success with a “Mn”. As another reward for Wei Ying’s good behaviour, he gives Wei Ying a five-minute penis-polishing session, which leaves the younger man shuddering uncontrollably and absolutely breathless.

 

 

9:00 am

 

The couple finally has breakfast together at nine in the morning. Lan Zhan casually picks out well-stewed and nutritious pig's offals - pork liver, stomach and intestines - and multi-layered pork cuts, and puts them on Wei Ying's bowl of rice, which is already drenched in tasty brown broth flavoured with spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seeds and garlic. Wei Ying gobbles everything up noisily, spoonful after spoonful, and doesn't take a break even as he tries to crack the rib bones (it's an impossible task, really) and suck the marrows out. Lan Zhan partakes his meal politely, mainly with the vegetables, and helps to polish off tofu and mushrooms that have nicely simmered in the pot and absorbed the meaty flavours.

 

Lan Zhan finished his bowl of rice first, and helps to fill a second bowl for Wei Ying. There are still plenty of pork ribs in the steaming pot, and Wei Ying is hungry for more (after such a strenuous night, who wouldn't?). Lan Zhan realizes that Wei Ying is still in his shirt, and pantless underneath. Lan Zhan doesn't mind oogling at the younger man's dangly bits and the swaying springy ass, but he really needs to know why; the warm morning doesn't exactly translate to a plausible reason for Wei Ying to do this. 

 

In between bites, Wei Ying says that he couldn't find a fresh clean pair of trousers to wear. Lan Zhan replies that he's already working on a new pair using the roll of cotton cloth bought from Yiling City just the day before, and it'll be done shortly after breakfast. Wei Ying interjects that the new pair, when completed, needs to be washed "because all new cotton fabrics feel hard and rough to the touch, and there are chemical dyes and stuff on the cloth that makes my skin itchy". Lan Zhan acquiesces; it does need to be washed at least once in warm water, and freshened by drying in the sun, before it can be worn comfortably. Lan Zhan tells Wei Ying to put on one of his older pair of trousers first - the ones with Gusu Lan's patterns -, so that his legs are at least protected and "bugs will not bite you down there". Wei Ying sticks out his tongue, and tells off Lan Zhan that he will simply put on a robe if he really needs to go out (the image of Wei Ying with an inner shirt and a robe, pantless - the horror, and the delicacy!).

 

Lan Zhan stills as he hands the bowl of rice to Wei Ying. What do you mean by "if I really need to go out", he asks.

 

Wei Ying cheerfully answers, between loud chews, that he plans to stay at home during the daytime, pantless. He winks at the older man, as he daintily plucks out the bowl from Lan Zhan's hand.

 

Lan Zhan swallows and nods. His heart starts to beat a little faster, and his mind tingles at the possibilities of an exciting morning ahead. He turns to the kitchen stove, heats up a pan, and picks out some eggs from a basket on the counter. 

 

They'll need all the protein they can get.

Chapter Text

To celebrate Wei Ying’s “No Pants Day”, he offers to help Lan Zhan cook some eggs as a side dish for their hearty breakfast. He daintily swats away Lan Zhan’s hands from the pan, and gingerly swipes the bamboo spatula from his grasp. Lan Zhan gives way, brimming with amusement at the younger man’s amateurish demonstration.

 

“Stand closer, lao gong ,” he says, “because I want you to observe and pay attention to my cooking skills.” 

 

Lan Zhan is very well aware about their proximity when his chin rests on Wei Ying’s shoulder, and obeys his lover’s instruction to study how Wei Ying’s eggs are cooked (no pun intended); his rising erection pokes out of his trousers and practically rubs against Wei Ying’s naked butt crack. Wei Ying is cognizant as well, and happily gyrates his hips in sensuous circles to signal to his man that, yes, yes, he wants it too. He mutters something about the inconveniences of having oil, sauces and stuff spilling onto clothes, such as “a fresh, clean pair of trousers”; Lan Zhan takes the hint, and has no trouble to untie and drop his pants to the floor. After that, he continues to hump against the springy ass, occasionally steals a dip between them to graze his length on the inviting rosebud - and is pleasantly surprised to find that it’s still moist, slippery and streaked with lubricating cum; naughty Wei Ying hasn’t washed himself yet since their pre-dawn lovemaking; his mind is filled with perverse images of an inundated love canal soaked with his fertile seed, and kept lovingly warm at body temperatures for hours. He feels an overwhelming sense of intimacy, and starts kissing, gently biting, smooching, licking Wei Ying’s ears, neck and down to the shoulders, while his hands busy themselves on Wei Ying’s chest, nipples, and at times, rub his tummy in sexy circles around a ticklish navel.

 

Wei Ying hnnns and tries to focus on the task at hand. He delicately picks two large brown eggs from a basket on the countertop, then cracks them into a bowl; at the same time, he bows his legs a little, captures an excited rigid penis between his thighs, and squeeeezes it between them. Lan Zhan had to embrace Wei Ying from behind to steady himself against the exquisitely tight sensation. As the younger man whisks the eggs, he mimics the movements with his thighs; the slick, squashed arousal gets an incredible massage between smooth taut flesh, and Lan Zhan gets a taste of how it feels to ascend to the heavens. Soon, his member grew exceptionally long and hard, and he starts to rub between Wei Ying’s balls and the base of Wei Ying’s hardening length. Delicious groany sounds escape from the older man’s throat, as he envisions himself fucking the tight channel and straight into Wei Ying’s ‘eggs’. Wei Ying’s arousal twitches and dance in rhythm of their swaying hips, skin-to-skin, and soon, he wants more. 

 

Wei Ying adds some seasoning into the bowl, and pours the well-beaten egg mixture to the heated, oiled pan; simultaneously, he raises his hips and shifts his legs apart, and makes a cute wiggly, come-hither motion with his ass. Lan Zhan does not need to be invited; he instinctively makes a beeline and dives into the welcoming entrance with a loud, satisfied mmmmh. Wei Ying trembles as he tries to spread the egg-mix on the pan with a shaky spatula, flip it around and again; while Lan Zhan ruts into his lover, further aroused by the fact that the warm, encasing and tight passageway is painted with gooey stickiness, and every time he screws in deeply, he can feel folds of flesh compress, and pressurized, squishy thick juices backflows , trying to wring itself out. However, since his massive arousal fills up Wei Ying completely to the point of being airtight, he concludes that with every passionate thrust, his seed gets propelled even deeper into his lover. 

 

It goes without saying that Wei Ying gets a marvellous massage to his (still throbbing) prostate. A contractile shiver runs along his cock and balls, and he ejaculates onto the egg omelette still steaming on the pan; he shouts swear-words when he peaks and makes noisy, lewd groans, with a smile etched on his blissful facial expression.

 

Later, Wei Ying murmurs that he’s cooked Lan Zhan’s portion, so the latter should reciprocate in kind and make one for the younger man. Lan Zhan mmmns in (distracted) agreement while still diligently pumping his hips. Then Wei Ying suddenly pulls out, leaving the older man grieving at the loss of contact. Before Lan Zhan could raise any complaints, Wei Ying turns around, kneels down, and starts stroking the cummy goo-covered angry-red iron-hot penis with one hand, and plays with the tightening scrotum with the other. He happily cat-licks pre-cum off the spasming cockhead everytime it peeks out from its rolling, veiny foreskin sheathe, and in between tender grazes of teeth over exposed glans, he challenges Lan Zhan to fulfil his side of the bargain now and cook an omelette for him now .

 

Lan Zhan actually succeeds in making an appetizingly tasty two sunny-side up eggs, to Wei Ying’s disgruntlement, while getting a cock-meltingly skilled handjob - but not before being forced to make muted rhythmic, agonized, hnnngh-y grunts as he climaxes between Wei Ying’s puckered lips and a curved tongue thrusting into his fluttering cockslit, welcoming fresh spurts of seed into the younger man’s waiting mouth. Waves of pleasure washes over him, and his limbs quakes uncontrollably - but he manages to turn off the stove (with a Dispel Magic to the Fire spell) before the food starts to smoke.

 

In the end, The couple gets an additional side dish for their breakfast. Pantless Wei Ying’s sunny-side up eggs are slightly burnt. Lan Zhan enjoys an omelette with an extra dash of crusty Wei Ying-flavoured creamy white sauce.



9:20 am

 

It’s official - Wei Ying has stolen Lan Zhan’s pants, and the older man is forced to go pantless too.

 

In a moment of post-orgasmic bliss clouding his judgement, Lan Zhan felt too comfortable resting his naked butt on the chair and enjoyed his side dish without his trousers on, that he’d forgotten about the significance of keeping one’s decency - even at home. (Then again, with Wei Ying around - nothing is decent nor sacred anymore). Lan Zhan was too relaxed and was caught off guard when Wei Ying pretended to put dirty plates into the kitchen sink, where he sneakily picked up the abandoned rumpled dark brown garment from the floor, slinked away to somewhere within their tiny cave-home, and returned to take his seat at the dining table.

 

“Wei Ying, where are my pants,” Lan Zhan orders rather than asks, in a very scandalized manner, when he realizes that his rump feels drafty, and sees no signs of the said garments anywhere in the kitchen.

 

Wei Ying gives an innocent wide-eyed “Huh?” look, before breaking into giggles and snorts - because he could never hold back a joke -, then falls off the chair in hiccupy cackles, and rolls around the floor. Lan Zhan is slow to grasp the situation, but eventually he understands what is going on inside the younger man’s twisted mind. 

 

It’s not the first time they’ve played such naughty games. He steels himself for a monumental task ahead.



9:30 am

 

Just as Lan Zhan deposits the last of the dirty bowls, pots and plates into the kitchen sink, Wei Ying rushes ahead and stands between Lan Zhan and the items that direly need a good washing.

 

Lan Zhan gives an annoyed “What are you doing” look. Wei Ying grins back with a “tee hee hee” giggle and wiggles his hips to signal a playful “You’ll have to get through me first”. The older man sighs in feigned weariness. 

 

Lan Zhan reaches from behind Wei Ying, takes a sponge and soaps it up with one hand, then scrubs the plates in his other hand. At his tall height, he has no trouble overlooking Wei Ying’s unruly hair to see what he’s doing in the sink. It doesn’t take long for Wei Ying to expertly maneuver his ass so that Lan Zhan slips in from behind and soon, Lan Zhan finds himself pumping his still-sensitive penis deep into his lover with squelchy sounds (they had just done the deed fifteen minutes earlier - and Lan Zhan has to perform, again - poor Lan Zhan!). The older man works painstakingly from one plate to another (while multitasking to gently fuck Wei Ying’s ass), and lines the cleaned ones tidily on the drying rack. Wei Ying’s body shudders repeatedly and he couldn’t stifle his moans, because Lan Zhan knows all the sweetest spots and does not hold back in attacking the (always throbbing, and much abused) prostate.

 

Wei Ying nnnghs as he splatters the remaining soapy bowls, pots and cutlery in the sink with his semen;  Lan Zhan’s perverseness peaks a little more at the sight of runny milky seed coating their eating utensils, and he ejaculates a little - just a couple of small, excited spurts into lovely Wei Ying; a mere fraction of the burgeoning load welling up from his loins - at the same, he squeezes the foamy sponge too hard and squirts detergent onto the kitchen’s walls. His legs tremble a little from the pleasurable release of pressure from his balls, and he tells himself that he really needs to stay focused and keep going.



9:45 am

 

It is futile to try and avoid staring at Wei Ying’s exposed ass. In the workroom, where Lan Zhan mistakenly thought it would be the least sexually attractive place to hide (due to the amount of piled-up unfinished wood and stonework), the young man purposely pulls up his shirt, then trots around while swinging those springy glutes. Wei Ying randomly bends down to pick some discarded half-carved wooden sculptures from the floor (oh that inviting, well-lubricated rosebud!), and randomly performs stretches on the worktable, and deliberately thrusts his crotch towards Lan Zhan’s face; Lan Zhan salivates at the mouth-watering sights of dangling, plump genitals and an increasingly erect penis; he swallows hard, mentally slaps himself, then promptly shuts off by chanting Buddhist scriptures. When Wei Ying does not get the response he wants, he sits in front of Lan Zhan - his crotch at Lan Zhan’s eye level -, spreads his legs, grabs his own dick and starts masturbating furiously and moans sexily. Lan Zhan’s recital of the holy verses drones into incoherent mumbles.

 

The moment pantless Lan Zhan looks away out of sheer refusal to submit, the equally pantless Wei Ying takes the opportunity to reach down and touch him - a playful pinch on Lan Zhan’s naked butt, hands sensuously roam the exposed thighs, a quick grab on Lan Zhan’s delicate genitals, and when Lan Zhan is too slow to react in defense, Wei Ying grabs hold of the prized half-hard still-sensitive penis, and fiddles it with his fingers for a few seconds. Lan Zhan’s face flushes onto shades of tomato-red and he groans and jerks his hips once. Wei Ying abruptly releases his hand, turns around and saunters off, leaving the older man panting, wanting, lustful.

 

Wei Ying’s dominating, frisky side feels unnerving. Lan Zhan is constantly lured by Wei Ying’s raunchy acts, then he struggles to escape, before being wheeled in further with the promise of more risque fun. The couple plays a cat-and-mouse game; Wei Ying being the horny predator and Lan Zhan being the prey. 

 

They shuffle between the rooms, and Wei Ying happily tails, molests and seduces Lan Zhan in all kinds of unthinkable titillating manners:

 

Lan Zhan stands by the kitchen counter and takes a drink to calm down. Wei Ying creeps up from behind, runs a hand over the nude ass, gives it a good spank and a painful nip on the firm butt-muscles, and glides down between the legs, where he gives Lan Zhan’s balls a tender loving squeeze. Lan Zhan chokes on the water, Wei Ying walks off;

 

Lan Zhan squats and opens the trapdoor that leads to their underground pantry (the hole in the ground). From his vantage point, he counts the number of leaf-wrapped spiced meat on the shelves (it’s not just to take inventory; it’s also like counting sheep to cool off his head). Wei Ying passes by and crouches as well - behind him. The younger man blows hot air into Lan Zhan’s right ear, then slides both hands underneath the old Gusu Lan shirt, and tweaks the vulnerable nipples - hard . Lan Zhan nnnghs and tries not to react (because any response will provoke Wei Ying to do something wilder- and weirder). Wei Ying’s hands move to Lan Zhan’s crotch to find that the nipple-tweaking had its desirable effect; in the form of a hardening arousal. He fluffs up the fine patch of dark pubic hair with his fingers, before letting his fingertips play a game of ‘draw as many circles and flowers’ with Lan Zhan’s cockhead and the dribbly cockslit. Lan Zhan growls a warning when the first delicious rolling contractions run up the underside of his cock, and he really doesn’t want to shoot his load into the pantry. Wei Ying lifts his hands away, and disappears like a shadow in the night, to the older man’s about-to-burst frustration;

 

Wei Ying managed to snag a couple of large juicy summer peaches from the pantry; each as big as his palm. He casually tells Lan Zhan that he’s making a quick dessert. Lan Zhan huffs and puffs on the dining chair, head resting on the table and he wills his burning desire to stand down . Wei Ying asks if he wants the peaches cut into slices or wedges. Lan Zhan had no mental energy left to tackle such a trivial question. Slices or wedges, Wei Ying asks again, this time more impatiently, and he nudges and rubs a peach fruit’s ‘cleavage’ against Lan Zhan’s fully-erect penis. The older man groans when tingly peach fuzz tickles his erection and he unwillingly coats the fruit with a trickle of pre-cum. S-Slices, he wrestles internally to make the choice.

 

Wei Ying uses martial arts to pit the peaches; he pokes a finger through a fruit, and the seed flies out from the other end. He cuts cross-section slices that look like perfect yellow juicy rings. He places a plate on the table and tells Lan Zhan to “eat up, otherwise they’ll turn brown”.

 

Lan Zhan struggles after his second mouthful. Wei Ying sneaked under the dining table, placed the remaining peach rings over the twitching cock, and relishes in the sweet fleshy fruit topped with syrupy, colorless Lan-Zhan flavored pre-cum. He continues to lick and nibble long after the rings have been consumed, and makes sure every penile vein, every inch of heated foreskin, and the entire throbbing length, does not go untouched

 

For the nth time as he rushes head-on towards a spine-tingling, explosive orgasm, Wei Ying withdraws and watches with amusement at how the desperately-angry penis jerk and pulsate in the empty air. This time, Lan Zhan grunts out Wei Ying’s name audibly; 

 

Agitated, hot and bothered, Lan Zhan marches out to the entrance because he knows Wei Ying will not follow him out of their home without his pants on (Wei Ying is shy of public displays of affection - or humiliation, in this case). Wei Ying is drunk with playful giddiness; he sticks close behind his lover and follows his every heavy footstep; he continuously gropes Lan Zhan’s buttocks and jiggle the defenceless balls and cock at every opportunity. When the older man stands firmly with arms akimbo at the open entrance, and faces Wei Ying, (his smooth butt moons to the outside world in broad daylight - but there is no one around), the younger man remains unfazed and simply kneels down. “Stop this,” Lan Zhan says with a rather upset tone. 

 

Wei Ying proceeds to give a vigorous handjob at the leaking cock jutting out proudly into the air. Lan Zhan repeats his words but falters at the last syllable. “ Lao gong , if you want me to stop, then please be a decent man and put on your pants. Otherwise, I’ll say that you’re tempting your lover by strutting around the house naked, so you cannot blame me,” Wei Ying cheekily replies, and continues to stroke the weeping rod, and he adds tender licks to the shuddering cockhead and Lan Zhan’s breath hitches then his back stiffens, his hips surges forward because the fiery liquid is overflowing, sending mind-numbingly pleasurable electric shockwaves rippling from balls to prostate to the tip and begging for sweet, sweet releas--

 

Wei Ying lets go and laughs merrily at Lan Zhan’s agonizing , “Auuugh!”. There is a momentarily lustful, half-grimaced, conflicted look on Lan Zhan’s face. A tiny droplet of white sputters out from the heavily engorged cockhead and its semen-loaded urethra, because it got too excited and squeezed just once , before that same excitement dies down with the loss of delicious friction and pressure. Wei Ying swipes the droplet and licks it off from his fingertip, and mmmms at the rich musky taste. He rises, then walks off with swaying hips, and calls out with a dismissive wave of a hand, “Blame yourself for losing your pants!” and his clear hearty laughs echo off the walls of their dimly-lit cave-home.

 

Lan Zhan had to remain standing for a few more minutes to regain his composure (because he was afraid that any bodily movements may unintentionally trigger another wasteful spurt from his fried nerves and twitching muscles). His pale-white but muscular buttocks warms up in the morning sunlight, and a breeze tickles his dangly bits.



10:45 am

 

An exasperated, flushed Lan Zhan sits on the bed and reads out holy scriptures from a paper scroll; he thinks that by physically holding the reading material, he is more capable of fending off Wei Ying’s seduction. Wei Ying peeks out from the bedside, then crawls onto the bed and creeps between Lan Zhan’s legs. Lan Zhan knows it’s pointless to cross his pantless legs or kick the intruder away, so he concentrates on his reading.

 

Xiao Wang Jis (Little Wang Jis), xiao Wang Jis, do you want to come out to play?”, Wei Ying murmurs into a face full of fine dark pubic hair, balls and cock. He breathes hot hair to the throbbing wrinkly balls, each the size of a small chicken egg. He bathes the scrotum with liberal amounts of warm saliva, and flicks his tongue into every ridge, every fold of skin, and relishes in the textures of smooth firmness, lumpiness near the top of each testis, and the muscular cords and fibres that hold the Lan Er Gongzi ’s family jewels together. The balls convulse repeatedly and rise until they are snug against the immensely swollen erection.

 

“Ah, ah, don’t be shy, come back here,” Wei Ying softly calls out, and uses his lips to suck on each cute chubby testicle and gently tugs them down. Lan Zhan moans at yet another prolonged oral sexual assault; his reading is thoroughly disturbed. Wen Ying rolls each juicy plump ball inside his welcoming heated mouth and makes little indents with the tip of his tongue - he kneads, presses and massages, in the hopes of coaxing xiao Wang Jis to find their freedom. 

 

Lan Zhan drops the scroll and lets his hands hang carelessly to the sides; he lies down tiredly the bed, squeezes his eyes shut and he sweats profusely in anticipation-preparation for another onslaught from the cursed incubus . Wei Ying giggles in a small victory at the sight of Lan Zhan yielding, and climbs up to his lover’s waist. He straddles a trembling Lan Wang Ji, and starts sliding his butt clef along the achingly stiff, pre-cummy cock. 

 

“Uncle Wei wants to take xiao Wang Jis to his sexy fertile tunnel of love,” Wei Ying leans down to kiss and hum into Lan Zhan’s lips, and the older man reciprocates (because he really, really could not hold back anymore). As Wei Ying rides along Lan Zhan’s polestick, he makes sure to let the cockhead poke at his cum-lubricated rosebud, tease it by letting it peek through the pliant ring of muscles - just enough for the cockslit to feel Wei Ying’s body warmth -, before slipping out and robbing the organ of a good healthy fuck. Lan Zhan breathes hard, intoxicated by the sweet unspoken promise of carnal pleasures waiting inside his young lover, and starts to thrust his hips in quick successive intervals, driven by primal instinct to dive, plunge, plunder, and shove into lovely Wei Ying.

 

The couple sucked and slobbered at each others’ faces like lovers in the throes of passionate lovemaking. Wei Ying’s hands busy themselves in many ways to excite and pleasure the older man; he plays with Lan Zhan’s ears, runs his finger into the long lush hair and massage the scalp; he tweaks the sensitive nipples repeatedly and cups the muscular breasts until they swell up a little; he tickles the ribs and mmmmhs when he caresses the quivering, contracting abs covered with a sheen of heated sweat. 

 

When their lips separated for a much-needed breathy break, Wei Ying coos, “... or, does Lan Er didi want to make new friends with my baby Wei Yings?” He scoots backwards, rests on Lan Zhan’s thighs, and gyrates his hips in so that Lan Zhan’s crying arousal is wiped, squashed, swabbed, flattened, deliciously moped against Wei Ying’s crotch. Then, without warning, Wei Ying lifts one of Lan Zhan's muscular legs and fits his crotch snugly against the other's, in a scissors sex position. Two pairs of jiggling balls kiss, touch and roll over one another. Wei Ying squeezes his pelvic muscles playfully, and let's Lan Zhan know that his testicles are as excited as his own. 

 

He whispers sweetly, “My baby Wei Yings want to play with your xiao Wang Jis too.”

 

Lan Zhan shivers.



11:00 am

 

At eleven o’ clock sharp, the postman arrives with a basket of written letters, parcels and junk mail. He honks rudely outside the Lan’s residence.

Chapter Text

The postman is actually a magical Postbird, in the form of a large, majestic white crane enveloped in a cloud of white wisps, and it wears a large light blue sash across its body imprinted with the words “Qishan Postal Services - Airmail - Do Not Shoot”. Fundamentally, the bird works and behaves similarly as the magical blackbirds used by the Wens to spy on their enemies, long ago. Such birds are created from spirits of dying feathered creatures, where their souls are exchanged with a magical power source - such as a tiny piece of Yin Metal, or a drop of the spellcaster’s blood - and they are bound to serve their masters’ commands with limited sentient intelligence. 

 

(These days, the younger generation of cultivators prefer more coveted, money-making, and glamorous jobs such as acting in theatres and singing in pop concerts to the welcoming screams of delirious fangirls and fanboys, piloting fancy sword rides sponsored by FeiEx, going on exciting, much-advertised and well-rewarded night hunts, or simply serve as highly-paid guards to rich old politicians without really having to lift a rock, much less to swing a blade at an opponent. Menial tasks such as being sent to the frontlines of battles, manual labour, or even using flying swords for various boring, un-glamourous services - are increasingly relegated to the kinds of sub-humans and beasts of burden.)

 

The beautiful red-crowned crane lands gracefully near the vegetable gardens, where it gently drops its cargo and starts to honk like an angry goose.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan pulls out with an excruciating, flustered groan after his sixth seed-laden spurt inside that heavenly sweet tight love canal, and continues to shoot wildly on his lover’s crotch and streak across the belly until the tenth twitch, because his cock is still too excited and bulging with unreleased seed after the build-up from the flirting and teasing since that morning’s omelette fiasco. He is terribly disorientated, his mind is in a cloud of sex, lust and mantra-like whispers of “little Wang Jis playing with baby Wei Yings”, and it takes a few extra seconds to untangle their limbs from what started as scissoring crotches that morphed into flailing legs that locked around each other’s hips and torsos until it’s hard to tell whose curling toes belong to whom.

 

The honks become louder, impatient.

 

Sweat-drenched Lan Zhan, still remarkably pent-up, fully drunk with pleasure and flushed from a half-ruined orgasm, drags his heaving leaden body off the soaked bed. He distantly remembers something that Wei Ying said about putting on a robe "if I really need to go out", so he grabbed one of those from the wardrobe before stumbling through the bedchamber’s doorway. The loathsome Postbird keeps honking and honking so loudly that surely, anyone standing next to it will go deaf, and Lan Zhan has never been late in receiving his mails, and that damn ear-splitting honking continues and grates on his nerves so badl y, that he actually yells through gnashing teeth, “Coming!” as he ties the belt to the flaring robe while marching through with virtually bloodshot eyes and a vein about to pop on his forehead; and then he shakes, ruffles and runs his fingers through his long hair so that hardly any strands fall out of place, he does not forget to adjust his hairpiece, and uses his sleeves to wipe off sweat and any traces of bodily fluids from his face, and finally, finally, amidst the obnoxious honks - he takes a deep, deep breath at the main entrance’s doorsteps, 

straightens his facial expression,

huffs out in a polite, restrained sigh,

and looks up to the sunny blue skies with one hand at the front, and another at the the small of his back.

He looks one hundred percent, gorgeously, perfectly, the Han Guang Jun - minus any footwear. 

 

The Postbird falls silent.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying is left on the bed, eyes wide open, alone, panting, his asshole still stretched, the anal sphincter muscles loose and visible through the o-ring muscle, leaking cum and other sexual fluids, his bent legs quivering with ruined aftershocks, and his fingers frozen like claws on the bed sheets. 

 

The young man screeches an exasperated, agonizing “Auuugh!”, rolls over on the bed into an infuriated ball of “Lan-Zhan How-Could-You” mumbles, and lets off a rude fart when his thoroughly-abused ass couldn’t hold back any longer.



11:05 am

 

Wei Ying sits behind the doorsteps, half-hidden in the shadows inside their dim cave-home, and watches the outside world, disinterested. He’d found a plate of lightly toasted mixed nuts from the kitchen and brought it with him to munch on, accompanied with a cup of herbal tea. He picked mostly the pumpkin seeds, and out of sheer boredom bordering kinkiness, he scoops up the crusting cum on his chest and belly-button with each seed, before popping into his mouth with a satisfying, squelchy, crunch. He does not even bother to wipe a small pool of thick, molten-hot whitish liquidy mix forming between his thighs where he sat.

 

Lan Zhan makes a respectful bow with hands folded in front to the crane, which was as tall as a man, before it flew off. Wei Ying snorts, he actually politely greets and bows to a magical servant - a postbird, no less! The young man observes how the older man effortlessly carries a big, loaded basket with just one hand, and when he strays from the path towards the billowing bedsheets and other laundry pieces, his other hand easily picks off some of the smaller, sun-dried garments.

 

Suddenly, a look of shock and anger flashes on Lan Zhan’s face, and he neatly puts everything to the ground in an orderly pile, before rushing off through tall grassy bushes while waving both hands like a madman. Wei Ying perks up, and squints to see his partner trying to shoo away a flock of crows on some of the laundry lines. A summer breeze blows, carrying with it the sounds of a daily quarrel between man and the mischievous birds.

 

The birds flutter away, but not before one of them snagged a bright red underwear (Wei Ying’s favourite boxers) from the ground and dropped it onto the treetops. Lan Zhan pats his right hip, looking for Bichen (and probably thinking of flying himself up to the trees with the sword to rescue Wei Ying’s precious garment - but since he’s pantless beneath the robes, he didn’t have it with him. Lan Zhan’s shoulders drooped in apparent disappointment, and he stooped down to collect some of the nearly-stolen laundry clips off the ground.

 

Wei Ying shrugs, wiggles his fingers and an invisible hand picks up the red underwear among the dense foliage. He swishes his index finger delicately to lower the floating flapping undies, and when he snaps his fingers, the garment drops onto Lan Zhan’s head with a pfff (and graciously covers the metallic hairpiece and the high top-knot; from an angle; he looks like a beautiful bride with a red veil on her head). 

 

The younger man chuckles, Lan Zhan looks astonished and mutters a word of thanks to the Wind deities.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan was surprised to find Wei Ying waiting for him at the doorsteps. 

 

“You rotten man, you’ve come back (臭男人, 你回来啦),” Wei Ying mutters in a mock-condescending manner and stares at him. His erection has wilted and grown cold long ago.

 

Lan Zhan responds with a polite “Mmn” without looking back, while scrubbing his feet on the doormat to get rid of as many pebbles and sand off as possible, before stepping inside. One hand holds the heavy basket, and the other cradles a pile of sun-dried laundry - mostly the thinner bedsheets and washcloths are done, and the others should be dry in the next couple of hours.

 

“Leaving your spouse in the middle of sex when a mail-order arrives, you’re worse than the shopaholic housewives I’ve met at the marketplace!” Wei Ying chides, and absently scratches a red, raised bump on his outer thigh. Sometime during their earlier sexcapades, summer insects have invaded their home and bitten the hot-blooded Wei Ying, despite having multiple sandalwood incense-pots permeating mild smoke throughout the cave.

 

“Mn. I know. I was wrong (知道了. 我错),” Lan Zhan openly admits, and bends down to place a soft kiss on Wei Ying’s forehead to soothe any indignation in his lover’s heart. “Some of the purchases are perishables,” he tips the basket to let Wei Ying see a jumble of stuff inside - fresh produce, meats, breads, dry provisions, kitchen goods such as a set of cutting knives, pots and pans, and a new chopping board, spices and condiments, shampoos and soaps, writing supplies, packaged goods and more packages, both big and small, “and if I didn’t receive the delivery, then it would be sent back. The goods will spoil, and we will be charged for re-delivery services.”

 

Wei Ying hnnns in understanding, because Lan Zhan is a logical, rational man who does not act frivolously without reason. “I used one of the Merchant Guild’s coupons when ordering these via a Fairy Messenger spell to their call-centre. We’ve saved at least twenty percent,” Lan Zhan adds with a faintly-noticeable smug on his face.

 

The younger man hnnns again and nods, a little disinterested (because he doesn’t really read the printed periodicals, so he has never set foot into the wonderful world of couponing). Then, he points out, “Ah… whatever. You better get inside and sort out the goods. Your robe is untied and you look like a flasher in the dark alley with your dick hanging out like that.”

 

Lan Zhan’s smugness falters, and he blushes six shades of red when he realizes that Wei Ying is right. He doesn’t have any extra hands to pull the opened robes together, so he shuffles quickly to the kitchen, pantless, his still-hard and leaky cock jutting proudly in the air.

 

Wei Ying snickers, and whispers fondly to no one in particular, “You rotten man! (臭男人)” (“you jerk!”)



11:15 am

 

Wei Ying walks into the kitchen while applying some ointment on the insect bite near his naked rump. Lan Zhan had disrobed (and wearing just his shirt), and finished casting some Preserve spells on the meats, leafy vegetables and other perishables. He opens the trapdoor leading to their underground pantry to start stocking up. Wei Ying makes a “wow” sound, and is impressed at the organized assembly of stuff laid out on the kitchen floor - goods are grouped according to their respective categories, lined up according to names, sizes and uses; there are still more stuff inside the basket (how much exactly did Lan Zhan buy?!). Even the dried laundry has been folded and stacked up in neat piles on the chairs.

 

The younger man knows his lover has an unhealthy obsession “to uphold righteousness and what is right”(so no lying, cheating, harmful pranks or sick jokes are allowed in his vocabulary), “to put things in order” (the balance in his universe must be preserved at all costs), and “to where they belong” (despite their tiny living space, everything is arranged and packed so perfectly that there’s plenty of room for more stuff and mail-orders - except the workroom which has become a nightmare of hoarded trash, and is placed under Wei Ying’s supervision, unfortunately). Wei Ying is aware that the dysfunctional behaviour worsened when they started living together after leaving the Jingshi last summer, particularly in a secluded life in a small home. Good and bad - whatever that came with the package after he brazenly kissed the Han Guang Jun in front of the Grand Cultivation Council and declared their married, bonded status - Wei Wuxian will take it all in stride, and love his Lan Wang Ji as the person he is, and will become.

 

There are some exceptions to the bizarre behaviour though, such as their bedroom games and the playful (naughty) antics between lovers being madly in love, in which Lan Zhan will happily take liberties and twist the rules to his favour - such a selfish man! - but so far, everything has worked out well for their domestic and marital bliss. (Wei Ying crosses his fingers and prays that this happiness will last for a long time, if not forever.)

 

Lan Zhan points to a few groups of stuff and a stack of fresh clean bedsheets, pillow covers and some towels, and mutters, “Bedroom”. Wei Ying takes the hint, and follows his partner’s instructions; no questions needed to be asked.



11:30 am

 

Wei Ying isn’t as perfect as Lan Zhan, but he knows which items go where, at least. Even if he’s not sure of the order (from smallest to biggest? By use? By name?), he will deposit them as a bundle nearby, and let his partner sort it out later - they’ve worked out many mutual agreements after a year of blissfully wedded life together. Wei Ying also changed the bedsheets (he’s getting better at housework!) with a fresh one, but knows that they’ll probably need another before night time.

 

He wipes off some sweat from his forehead and exhales; housework is quite a strenuous chore which requires Lan Zhan-sharp focus, impeccable management skills, and a good memory of what goes where; he considers this to be vastly different from his usual profession of crafting talismans and charms, befriending laoban s and prospective customers, peddling in the streets or simply delivering goods on time - which require little or no brain power, for him at least. He takes off his light brown shirt, which is already soiled and sweat-soaked, and destined for the laundry basket (he’s completely in the nude; fortunately it’s summer so it’s not cold).

 

Suddenly, he spots the rescued pair of strawberry-red boxers, and makes an excited whooping sound (and conveniently forgets about putting on a new shirt). He gingerly wears them, and nnnnhs at the soft, velvety material rubbing his private parts. Tendrils of forgotten pleasure start to tickle his loins, subtly reminding him about what had transpired earlier in the morning, and what should happen next, for many hours to come.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan has done his part, and realizes that Wei Ying hasn’t come out from the bedroom. He sighs; Wei Ying takes as much time to handle one room’s worth of stuff, as the duration needed by Lan Zhan to re-organize their home. He doesn’t blame the young man for sloppiness or tendencies to procrastinate; it’s just Wei Ying being Wei Ying, and he’s come to love this man and vowed to stay by his side forever - juvenile pranks, unbelievable kinkiness, warts and all.

 

He walks to the bedroom but stops in his tracks when he is greeted by the sight of lovely Wei Ying, wearing only the exquisitely appealing (and revealing) red underwear. The young man consciously caresses his own ass and crotch, while checking out the snug curves, and when he thinks he sees something smudgy on the fabric, he pulls up the waistband to get a closer look. Lan Zhan’s blood pressure spikes because he spies twin cute plump balls in a nest of dark curls peeking out from the bulging front side of garment, and the back side rides up enough to show the lovely firm arch of springy glutes.

 

“Ah, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, look - there are some muddy patches on the hem,” Wei Ying says as he pulls up the edge of the boxers. Lan Zhan blinks and focuses on the offending spot - indeed, there is a splotch of caked mud, which probably happened when the crows tried to steal the garment, then dropped it to the ground (which was moist from previous rain showers), before picking it up again when Lan Zhan appeared with vicious intent of making roasted birdmeats out of them.

 

"It's dirty," Wei Ying's voice lowers, a hint of seductiveness in there. Lan Zhan exhales a shuddering breath when his own arousal responds instantly because there's still a warm aching, itchy throb in his cock that softly demands for release. He steps closer to Wei Ying, and the couple's gaze fall on each other's groins.

 

"I'll wash them," Lan Zhan murmurs, not really paying attention to his words or his line of rational thought. His fully-erect, cum-stained cock touches the bulging fly on Wei Ying's boxers (a wet patch is forming on the apex), and he could see the younger man's tantalizingly half-hidden erection from the open, stretched vertical fly of the pants.

 

"Lan Zhan, it's very dirty…" Wei Ying repeats, his sultry voice thick with need and lust. He lifts the fly with a finger and opens it wider, and Lan Zhan slides in with a hungry groan, and nearly jerks his hips at the sensation of gliding against the smooth, veiny surface of Wei Ying's heated foreskin. Merciful Goddess Guan Yin , he pleaded, as he violates and fucks through the fly and his mind bursts with many lewd pictures of Wei Ying taking out his penis through that same hole to pee, to masturbate, or to reach in and scratch his balls.

 

"If it gets too dirty, I'll have to wear this sticky, smelly underwear for the whole day. Ah, Lan Zhan, can you imagine, my cock and balls will be covered and soaked… what if some of it gets in?” Wei Ying coos with sweet, syrupy temptations filling up Lan Zhan’s increasingly smut-filled mind. The younger man sways his hips gently, and pulls Lan Zhan’s twitching member deeper into the tightly-packed underwear, letting the older man’s slide over and around his own like fleshy snakes trying to fuck and devour each other.

 

Wei Ying tip-toes a bit and whispers into his lover’s ear, while hugging them both in an embrace, “Little Wang Ji, baby Wei Ying is waiting for you,”

 

Lan Zhan shivers (for the second time that morning).

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying goes wild with being fucked non-stop around their home. Lan Zhan seals his golden core, so that he does not even think about holding back at all. 

 

The couple rutted like a pair of breeding rabbits, from bed mattress to the walls of their cozy bedchamber, then over the dressing table. For every ten or so thrusts, they switch to another sex position and start fucking again. Lan Zhan has memorized countless drawn erotic pictures from the PeiNis, and has no problem maneuvering their bodies to his whims and desires. They fucked all the way to the workroom - with Wei Ying walking with his hands while the older man holds his legs up and pistons non-stop into his ass without taking a break, like pushing a wheel cart - and in that dingy-looking crowded room, there’s plenty of flat, wide, protruding, smooth, textured and bumpy surfaces to lie on, rub against, roll their hips on. Next, Lan Zhan carries a moaning, sweaty, breathless Wei Ying in his arms while the younger man embraced him with all four limbs, happily bouncing on the cum-dripping polestick, while they moved to the kitchen and the dining areas, and continued to fuck against the table and kitchen counter. 

 

Poor Wei Ying is pinned between his lover and the furniture, bookshelves, tables’ edges, windowsills, even the floor; he becomes desperate to grab, clutch, and claw anything to hold onto his dear life as he is ravaged, slammed and drilled so hard and fast and deep, that he cries and pleads and screams from “Wait! Be more gentle! You’re too rough!” to breathy chants of “Yes, yes, harder mmm I’m cumming oh god I can’t aaaahn uuuuh ooooh… w-wait, wait I just came ah ah ah OH GODDESS GUANYIN STOP STOP I’m cumming again HNNGH GGGHK HHHGK”, drowning in pleasure and being screwed even as his swinging cock sputters out dribbles of increasingly watery cum almost continuously, and when he’s emptied he squirts out pee because his entire lower body contracts and spasms and spirals out of control when the nerves have short-circuited and the muscles and all sorts of organs, ducts, glands are thoroughly abused and squeezed and pounded mercilessly by Lan Zhan’s pistoning massive over-six inches of pulsating throbbing cockmeat sweetly grinding against that shaking walnut-sized fleshy lump that sparks more than joy and electricity when it contracts from the endless assault.

 

Wei Ying is as noisy as Lan Zhan is silent. The older man does not say much, preferring to save his energy to perform his husbandly duties to mate, breed, impregnate (in his fantasies) his lovely, and stubbornly mischievous Wei Ying. He makes sure Wei Ying’s ass is totally wrecked when he draws circles, squares, stars and write each other’s names inside that sweet cum-drenched cavern with his mighty cock-pen - and he gets a generous share of pleasurable sensations too being encased inside his hip-jerking, thrashing, writhing lover, and he loses count of how many times he’s released inside Wei Ying, because after the fifth or sixth round, everything mixes and gels together like a frothy warm thick soup of seed and love juices, moulding into a stream of delicious contractions along his perineum, fast-emptying testicles, and twitching muscles along the cock until the aching cockhead, and he climaxes so many times that his seed just flows out continuously from explosive eruptions, to heated pulsating spurts of all sorts sexual fluids, and eventually settling down to a gushing stream deep into his lover, until Wei Ying complains that he hasn’t bathed, his ass is already shaped like Lan Zhan’s penis, and he smells like Lan Zhan because his insides are full to the brim with swimming little Wang Jis. Lan Zhan grimaces at the dirty talk, and flips Wei Ying onto his back, so that he can fuck the younger man, missionary style, while enjoying the sight of Wei Ying looking terribly flushed and strained, mouth gaping, tongue drooling, drowning in a haze of blinding pleasure. Wei Ying responds in kind by hooking his legs around Lan Zhan’s hips and pulls him down so that their bodies intertwine so closely until Lan Zhan grinds his balls-deep into Wei Ying’s ass and there is no more cock-length to spare, so that Wei Ying can lick and claw the sweaty broad muscular chest and feel their heartbeats racing together, and that he can suck and play with Lan Zhan’s nipples at his own sweet pace and bring the older man to greater heights of bodily pleasures, in which Lan Zhan growls lustfully and orgasms inside his Wei Ying again, and again, as he murmurs “Mine, mine, mine”.

 

Having fucked everywhere inside their tiny cave-home, the couple left many pools of bodily fluids all over the floor in the aftermath, and some trickled into their underground pantry as well. Lan Zhan, panting heavily and completely out of breath, finally pulls out with thick, foamy cummy strings still connecting his cock to Wei Ying’s blooming asshole. He wipes his forehead, then tenderly Wei Ying’s too, then slides a thumb between Wei Ying’s parted lips. Wei Ying moans, fatigued but extremely satisfied of having his fill of Lan Zhan’s love, closes his lips and sucks on the finger fondly, contentedly like a baby feeding on breastmilk that only the husband can provide. Both collapse on the floor near the entrance in a messy heap.

 

 

Close to 1:30 pm

 

“Wei Ying, are you hungry?”

 

“Hnnn” is the only response.

 

“I… can’t cook. Too tired. Let’s do a take-out.”

 

“Mmmm” is all Wei Ying could manage, lying in a pool of either or both of their cums, sweat, saliva and all sorts of sticky, thick, warm and rather pungent fluids.

Chapter Text

”Dustless Broom makes your sweeping, mopping, scrubbing and glazing... so wheezy breezy and easy peasy!” Wei Ying hums the cute advertising jingle tune that comes with each flyer from Liao’s General Store. (There is a footnote that directs customers to “press the red circle on the upper right corner of the leaflet”, in which an embedded, pre-recorded Voice spell activates to belt out that annoyingly adorable song; Wei Ying wished he could incorporate his Yin Tech company soon, earn enough money and hire patent lawyers to secure the rights to his ‘Press The Red Circle’ concept.) 

 

He walks into the bedroom from the outdoor bath, his skin flushed and steaming from the sauna-hot waters in the middle of the day, then puts on a clean pastel green shirt that smells of fresh sunlight and summer blooms - and nothing else underneath. He strolls to the kitchen to get a drink while twirling his wet hair into a loose braid, because he felt thirsty in the increasingly muggy afternoon heat. He steals a glance at his lover who was effortlessly pushing the aforementioned cleaning stick across the floor at the entrance; it swiftly glides on the surface, sucks-scrubs-cleans mechanically as it moves with soft whirring sounds, and leaves a trail of sparkly shiny smoothed stone floor in its wake. The image of a handsome, strong man with bulging, contoured back muscles, as he bends and stretches gracefully like performing a qigong exercise routine, dressed in a fresh new white shirt - and nothing else underneath -, set against a backdrop of afternoon blue skies with rolling white clouds in the distance... is both breath-taking and cock-tingling for the younger man.

 

(Lan Zhan has many such white or light-coloured shirts, tunics and robes embroidered with the same Gusu Lan’s cloud-patterns in his wardrobe, and they all look alike, of the same cutting and style, and of the same lengths - it’s not really all that monotonous; Wei Ying has come to terms with Lan Zhan’s sense of fashion - it’s about finding Perfection and being able to reproduce it in as many occasions and all of its subtle variations.)

 

Wei Ying hnnns to signal to his partner that he’s done with his bath (Lan Zhan has also taken one earlier - and much faster), then finds a seat at the dining table with a cup of tea; it feels quite nice to sit bare-buttocked on the chair’s cooling wooden surface. Lan Zhan had emptied the basket and the contents of the last package has been opened and laid out on the dining table for Wei Ying’s inspection. (Lan Zhan is meticulous in his item-sorting capabilities, so any unclassified or unresolved ones has the unspoken instruction of “Wei Ying, please take a look at these.”)

 

There are two distinct piles of stuff , each clearly grouped into smaller categories, and to Wei Ying’s trained eyes (because he’s lived long enough with Lan Zhan to perceive what the older man sees - which is absolutely indistinguishable from an outsider’s perspective), he sees invisible lines demarcating the sender of each so-called category.

 

The package has a large, loud print of  “To our beloved Ninth didi , with lots of love from your jiejie s” with no return-address, but Wei Ying already knows where it comes from - it doesn’t take long for his nostrils to pick up the heady and migraine-inducing floral perfume of Tian Mi Mi wafting from the crumpled brown packaging paper. The owners of the shop have been sending packages regularly by airmail, and on Wei Ying’s insistence (because really, it makes their lives much easier to take than to give back) and Lan Zhan’s initial protests-turned-reluctance, they accepted what they’ve termed as “souvenirs from friends from Wei Ying’s unfortunate encounters”. Wei Ying managed to meet and keep in touch with some of the owners from time to time due to his frequent trips to the city.

 

The pile of stuff to the left side of the table, which Wei Ying instantly recognizes as “The husband’s” (in their household’s language), due to the visibly housewife-y nature of goods:

 

  • From Third Sister: an assortment of Qishan Merchant Guild’s vouchers, coupons, discount cards, member cards, loyalty cards, leaflets about summer sales, buy-one-get-three-free offers, and all sorts of perks and rewards from the guild’s participating member outlets and businesses. Wei Ying could never comprehend the astounding range marketing gimmicks aimed to lure the shopaholic female population, so he stayed away, and clearly, mentally marked the mountain of colourful papers and bamboo-cards as “Lan Zhan’s”.

 

  • From Fifth Sister: A gift-box set of sewing apparatus, containing (what he sensed to be) magical sewing needles, pins and an accompanying peach-shaped pincushion, a set of coloured sewing threads, knittings sticks, a variety of scissors and fabric shears, buttons and other fasteners, and a roll of measuring tape. Again, Wei Ying doesn’t thread needles nor stitch the tears on his own clothes, so he shakes his head as a symbolic gesture of “not mine”.

 

  • From Seventh Sister: That child is so sweet, Wei Ying tells himself, as he opens a paper bag marked “Gege, I baked these for you!” and peeked into it; there are chilled cinnamon rolls! He closes the bag with a smile, and makes a mental note to ask Lan Zhan to put them into the oven later the day for their afternoon snack.



Next, the pile of stuff to the right. 

 

  • From Second Sister - a pair of expensive, heavy 古气 heeled shoes (gu qi; Antique Spirit) decorated with patches of finely embroidered designs of gold and silver, of tacky designs of dragons, phoenixes and bald old sages (ugh), and adorned with precious stones (the shoes weigh as much as rocks). They look classy, flashy and scream of luxury - no wonder only sons of rich men (such as the Mayor’s son) dare to parade around the town with these footwear. He appreciates that the sisters noticed his worn-out shoes due to his frequent walkabouts around Yiling to peddle his wares and services - but his inner self quips an unapologetic “nnnnnnope” and turns up a nose, and he politely pushes the shoes to the left pile. Lan Zhan will figure out what to do.

 

  • From Fourth Sister - Wei Ying’s heart leaps in joy as he clutches a limited-edition boxed set ot the Magics ‘R Us Infinity series - the Infinity pouch (it self-replenishes!)! The Infinity stones (and all five colours too!)! The Infinity talismans (printed on high-grade Council-sanctioned paper that will not leave any colored dust)! The Infinity Bag of Holding (look at how deep it goes!)! The Infinity spellbook (with every spell included!)! He peppers nerdy kisses on the precious priceless paper box that only a selected few in the Middle Kingdom will ever lay their grubby hands on, including Grandmaster Gao of the Imperial Cultivators and the Emperor of Chang’an himself.

 

  • From Sixth Sister - Wei Ying was still feeling high from opening his Infinity-themed presents and his mind was filled with praises for the charitable Fourth Sister (great magicians think alike!), when he excitedly picked up Sixth’s handwritten note. There was garbled writing all over, and he couldn’t make sense of it other than a big black arrow pointing to a thumb-sized red circle at the bottom of the note. He instinctively presses it without thinking (because it's perfectly natural for Man to Press The Red Circle whenever he sees one), and the note glows.

 

Wei Ying squeals as he releases the piece of paper, and it floats up into the air. There is a buzzing tingle and bright spark, and a silvery thread shoots out from the cleverly-camouflaged talisman . The thread weaves itself through the kitchen window and onward to the outside world. 

 

“Ah!!!” Wei Ying cried panickedly when he realized in horror that he had activated a Reverse Fairy Messenger spell. The levitating talisman burns itself up and transforms into a shimmering amber ball of light. 

 

There is a loud click, and immediately, the whole kitchen booms with screeching and shrieking female voices,

 

“HE CALLED HE CALLED DIDI CALLED! Hello, you fool, I love you! Did you miss me? Were you thinking about me?”

 

“What?! I was the one who received the spell, Sixth! He was thinking of ME when he called, because my Infinity goodies are right up his alley!”

 

“Girls, girls, back off! Fourth, Sixth, stand down, now!” Second Sister’s voice can be sexily silky and tremendously intimidating at the same time. Wei Ying imagined her in stunning figure-hugging black leatherwear, and picking the two girls up by their collars before dragging them away. Third’s motherly “Hush, be quiet”, Fifth’s “I want him I wanna keep him” chants, and Seventh’s squeaky “Can I talk with gege please” echoed somewhere from the background.

 

Just then, Lan Zhan entered the kitchen with a spotless Dustless Broom and a bucket of water, and asked with a concerned voice, “Wei Ying?”

 

Di fu !!!” the whole kitchen booms again, this time with seven females’ voices in unison.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The couple spent a few minutes in awkward conversation over the Fairy Messenger spell, but Wei Ying manages to wing it through with his witty charm (thank the A wesome S elling S kills), pleasant talk about the weather and the latest gossips in town, cute jokes, and little white lies and promises (the younger ones - Fourth to Seventh Sisters - fell for it) that yes, yes he misses them too, and no, he won’t be able to drop by anytime soon because didi is very busy with work, but maybe they can meet up somewhere while he’s in Yiling such as at Liang’s teahouse, and yes, please remind Liang gu niang to place more orders of fried foods for this loving and hardworking didi and his quiet, reserved difu . The eldest sister, who spoke the least throughout the call, remarks that fried foods go very well with plum sauce, and Lan Zhan nods unconsciously in agreement.

 

At one point, when everyone’s had their turn with the call, Tian dajie takes over and exchanged pleasantries with the couple. Then with a hushed tone, she tells Er Gongzi that she needs to talk to him in private for a while because of something she’d heard from a customer regarding the Cloud Recesses. The chattering voices of the other sisters soon disappeared, and Wei Ying also takes leave because he felt burnt out from talking to seven lively females in a row (Lan Zhan was fortunate - the serious-tone, no-nonsense difu only needs to Mmn and Hnn vaguely, before the girls turn their attention to the more chatty didi ). Wei Ying hand-signals to him “I need a break and will be outside for a while, okay?”, in which Lan Zhan makes an “o” with his thumb and index finger, “OKAY”.

 

On his way out of the kitchen, he opened the paper bag and fished out a mini-tanghulu made of candied grapes and strawberries skewered on a bamboo stick. Seventh Sister told him with a whiny voice that she'd made the snack and placed them underneath the rolls because she didn't know where else to pack them (she sounded so adorable, he thought). Wei Ying takes a bite of a syrupy strawberry; it tastes tart, fruity and cinnamon-y.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying finally has some time and room for his own thoughts, as he stands outside their home in his robes and sandals, under the shade of a peach tree, chewing on a blade of grass, and enjoys the fresh afternoon breeze that soothes and rejuvenates his harried soul. He knows he should be thinking about the afternoon (it's a 'home improvement project' free day, but all he's been doing so far was rolling around the bed - and house - with his lover), the evening (should they go to the evening market? There's a local fun fair and some summer festivities going on. But the rolling clouds look threateningly dark, and it might rain later that day), the night (he really should stop procrastinating and work on more talismans and magical gadgets to sell for next week), and many other smaller, trivial matters (should he help to weed the garden? Spend quality time with the cute rabbits? Work out with martial arts and cultivation? - he's way behind in his practice, really.)

 

So many choices, and there is plenty of time to think through them - NOT, he tells himself while ruffling his hair with a grumpy “aaaaah!”, then smirks and sniggers at his own self-inflicted misery of thinking too much . He is really becoming a second Lan Zhan, he thought.

 

First thing’s first, he needed to pee because of that herbal tea he’d drunk after the bath. He unbuckles the belt of the robe and aims for the tree’s roots.

 

[Somewhere high up in the clouds and within the millenia-old Sacred Orchards of the Golden Summer Resort Palace, the wizened, all-powerful, His Reverence The Jade Emperor takes a break from dining on an afternoon snack of Peaches of Immortality surrounded by his royal court servants, and decides to take a peek into the Mortal Realm. He had been plagued all day by whispers and rumours from celestial servants of his Heavenly Court, especially the latest hearsay that his beloved but rebellious great grand-daughter - the one who slipped out of the Palace into the world below - had adopted a little brother

 

The Emperor was most displeased (which resulted in thunderstorms and rain showers the night before; the Underworld was shaken by a terrible earthquake and his friend and confidant, the Lord of Hell, became concerned and called him up to ask what is wrong), because he was used to seeing his great grand-daughter making friends with the other females (mortal, undead, spiritual, or celestial - it does not matter; the girl has a mind of her own and is tremendously in tune with the changing times) and sometimes calls them as ‘sisters’ (it’s a harmless teenage girl thing, his wife the Great Heavenly Mother Queen, said, because she’s growing up and needs to find her own identity and form her circle of friends. She will grow out of it soon, the wife also said). However, by declaring a male being as a (unconfirmed) member of the great, divinely Tian (天; Heaven) family, there are many familial, structural, socio-cultural and political ramifications to the heavens and its governance - beyond the comprehension of mere Men.

 

With a twirl of fingers, he opens a viewing mirror into the Mortal World, and then, with a wiggle of his thumb, the mirror zooms in to the offending individual. At first glance, he sees an orchard of peach trees (a known symbol of longevity), which told him that at least this man is cognizant, if not worships and reveres, the cultures, legends, traditions and the mythical gods known to the Middle Kingdom. He smiles - perhaps this is a cultured person worthy of his godly attention.

 

Then the image of Wei Wuxian appears (technology has advanced that much in the heavens - the man’s name is automatically subtitled on-screen during a live broadcast), with his robes open, and a loose shirt - looking very much like a sleazy flasher in a dark alley with lots of bodily hair and nothing else underneath -, and performing a very unsavoury act on one of the said peach trees.]

 

Wei Ying yelps as lightning strikes and thunder roars in the distance, and for a second, his pee misses its target. It’s definitely going to rain soon, he thought.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

When Wei Ying ambles back to the kitchen with an emptied bladder, the Fairy Messenger spell had long dissipated away, and Lan Zhan was preparing empty plates and bowls for the dining table - his stomach rumbled to remind him that it’s way past their lunch time, and the much-awaited food delivery should arrive soon.

 

“Wow, did you hear that thunder? It’s going to rain cats and dogs, definitely. I think the evening fair won’t be happening and the fireworks will be cancelled,” Wei Ying remarks as he neared the table. He helps to set the cutlery.

 

“Mn. We should cover the vegetable gardens and the chicken coop with tarp. Make sure the windows are reinforced and closed properly. By the way, your foster sisters send their warmest regards. They hope to catch a glimpse of you at the marketplace. You’ve been working very hard ,” Lan Zhan replies and relays the parting message from the call earlier, with a hint of teasing at the end.

 

“Huh… I wouldn’t know what to do with seven sexy young women by my side and they’ll probably scare away my housewifey customers. By the way, Lan Zhan, you should also meet them too, they are your in-laws , you know,” Wei Ying taunts back.

 

Lan Zhan gives an indignant Hmph as his only response.

 

Wei Ying notes that the ‘left’ pile on the table is gone - Lan Zhan has sorted them and probably stowed them safely around the house ‘to where they belong’. He works on his pile - which is just the Infinity boxed set that is now gently secured in his left arm (he can’t wait to dig out a niche in the crowded workroom and set up the boxed set in there like a shrine), and - wait, the gaudy-looking shoes?

 

“Hey… these shoes… I thought I’ve given them to you,” he asks uncertainly, while holding up the heeled shoes (his feet ached by just looking at them). He hoped the shoes will find a better owner in a better person like the kind, compassionate Han Guang Jun.

 

To Wei Ying’s relief, Lan Zhan takes them off his hands without any hesitation. He gives a serious, knowing look. “Wei Ying, what’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is yours. If you say that I should have these, then I’ll keep and use them on your behalf,” he states his words clearly. The younger man’s heart melts a little more at the sweet words about how they divide their assets in holy matrimony.

 

Wei Ying’s inner self chuckles at an image of his stoic, handsome Han Guang Jun in full Gusu Lan cloud-patterned robes and regalia, equipped with those flamboyantly eye-watering gu qi shoes - the striking contrast! The fashion disaster! The appalled looks on the Lan family members’ faces! “Yes, yes you can take them, have them, use them - it’s all yours! You don’t have to give them back to me!” he quickly replies and his body quakes with uncontrolled giggles.

 

Lan Zhan raises an eyebrow, wordlessly asking, “Are you sure?”

 

Wei Ying repeats himself, “Take it! I don’t want it! It’s all yours! Ha ha ha!” He couldn’t stifle his laughter anymore, because of the bone-tickling images playing inside his head.

 

Lan Zhan turns the objectionable footwear around, and to Wei Ying’s surprise, a pouch rolls out from the left shoe. Lan Zhan grasps the pouch and jiggles it in his palm; there are plenty of attractive clinking and tinkling sounds. The pouch loosens and Wei Ying’s eyes became as wide as saucers at the shiny glowing contents. He staggers, jaws hanging open, and is amazed at the sight of at least twenty gold pieces resting inside the silk pouch - no wonder the shoes weigh like rocks!

 

The older man deftly closes the pouch and slides it into his shirt pocket. He turns around and walks out of the kitchen without a second look. “Tian shijie said she’d hidden it inside the shoes, away from prying postal service workers’ eyes. Like you said, they’re all mine… and just in time,” there is loud shrill cry from the outside, “I’ll pay for lunch.”

 

As Lan Zhan leaves the room (with an outer robe in hand), Wei Ying helplessly calls out, “... Lan Zhan!”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Earlier that day, the couple debated on whether to order a take-out from the Kitchen of Prosperity at North Market Street of Yiling. Wei Ying loves the colourful presentation, abundant portions, and the dizzying varieties of East-West cuisines as seen on the glitzy, glossy and (probably enhanced, edited) lavish-looking menus on display outside the restaurant. Lan Zhan said that he shouldn’t judge by the pictures alone, because people are easily tricked by such cheap marketing ploys. Wei Ying has high regard for that famous establishment despite its exorbitant prices, and refuses to believe that they would use anything ‘cheap’. Lan Zhan sighs, knowing that it’s futile to educate his young lover about how people are tricked into paying more than they should - so, he flips to another brochure from his curated collection from various junk mail that they had received over the past months.

 

The huge big picture of rice and noodles swimming in lethal-red soup, and the bright yellow words “TASTY DELICIOUS MUST TRY SPICY HOT! HOT! HOT!” plastered over it with a kitschy big stylized thumbs-up, instantly hooked Wei Ying. Lan Zhan preferred the dishes from this smaller, quieter restaurant (actually just a small shop down the South Market Street) that serves great food at more affordable and reasonable prices. It does not attract much of a crowd due to its low-traffic location and lack of proper signages; but Lan Zhan has a keen eye for such hidden gems in the large, sprawling (and relatively high-cost of living) city - and once he’s tried it, liked it, talked to the shopowners and found them to be a friendly, low-profile, slightly reserved husband-and-wife couple running a humble food business (Lan Zhan feels an immediate spiritual connection to this restaurant), he’d kept their flyers every time he comes across them in the mail or somewhere in the bustling streets of Yiling.

 

A magical local mountain eagle, much less regal and majestic-looking than the earlier Postbird crane, arrives to deliver a plain (but sturdy) recyclable carton box from Great Eats From Gojoseon.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan holds his chopsticks and begins to pick out the meats - ground chicken and chunks of grilled beef - and places them into Wei Ying’s bowl. Wei Ying helps to sprinkle the pre-packed sesame seeds and generous drizzles of sesame oil from a small (cheap, disposable) ceramic vessel, onto their ordered food. He also opens the leaf-wrapped packs of sweet-sour radish pickles into a saucer, plops two servings of salted spicy fermented cabbage side-dish (kimchi) onto another plate, and finally pours out a wooden container of beef broth with meat slices into a separate bowl. Unsurprisingly, two portions of hot chilli pepper paste goes straight into Wei Ying’s bowl.

 

Lan Zhan enjoys his mixed rice (bibimbap) of at least six types of vegetables including sauteed mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, bean sprouts and spinach and other greens.

 

Wei Ying, on the other hand, munches on his cold buckwheat noodles - which is a summer favourite even this far within the Middle Kingdom -, garnished with shredded pear, cucumber and some vegetables, and a pile of stir-fried beef fillet, mixed in red spicy sauce. He realizes that there’s plenty of meat in his bowl, so he gives his hard-boiled egg to Lan Zhan, which the latter readily accepts together with his fried egg on the rice.

 

Their meal costs only a mere four pieces of silver including the delivery charges, with a free pack of unbranded green tea leaves (which Lan Zhan makes a teapot of brew to accompany their meal), and a small bottle of soju for Wei Ying, at no extra cost (because Lan Zhan and the shopowners know each other by name, and the wife happily includes an extra beverage for him).


Later, a happy, satisfied Wei Ying sits on the chair with one leg up (like a laoban ) and a full belly, entertains himself (and dawdles his time away) by throwing toasted peanuts into the air and try to catch them into his mouth (some of them fall onto the floor - which is perfectly alright, now that they have the Dustless Broom at home). Lan Zhan drinks the last gulp of scallion-topped broth so that nothing goes to waste (Wei Ying has already slurped off the beef slices). He feels a twinge between his teeth, and takes a toothpick from the table to politely pick out a piece of spinach (he covers his mouth with his hands while doing so - a perfect gentleman). Wei Ying observes the older man, starts feeling something similar and prods fingers into his teeth and gums too. After several attempts, Wei Ying gives up and reaches out expectantly with saliva coated fingers. Lan Zhan does not hesitate to hand over the used toothpick when he’s done, and Wei Ying uses it to pick his own teeth - then, success. The younger man continues to suck and chew the used toothpick out of an annoying, but endearing, post-meal habit, with small burps in between.

Chapter Text

2:30 pm

 

Lan Zhan passes a pair of clean, sun-dried trousers (the same one that was worn the day before, washed) to Wei Ying, but the latter politely refuses with a shake of his head. At that moment, his tummy feels nicely filled and a bit rounder, and he’s gotten so used to walking around the house without his pants, that putting them on now feels foreign to his bare skin and rump.

 

The older man hangs the trousers on the backrest of one of the chairs. He sits down and pours a cup of green tea for himself, and another for Wei Ying. An empty bottle of soju lies carelessly on its side. 

 

“Lan Zhan, if you don’t mind telling, was there anything important from Tian dajie about the Cloud Recesses?” Wei Ying asks with a chewed toothpick inside his mouth, breaking the silence. His eyes trained on his partner; he tries to detect any signs of distress or any hints of emotion on the usually expressionless face.

 

Lan Zhan takes a moment to respond. He looks thoughtful as he stares off-focused at the table’s surface. The hooded eyelids, the long eyelashes, the slightly parted, moist lips, perfectly shaped nose, chin and cheeks, and the long lush hair with nary a strand out of place framing the flawless facial features - Wei Ying admired Lan Zhan’s handsome face as he waits patiently for an answer.

 

“... Wei Ying, do you know about the scholar protests? At major cultivation universities and learning institutions around the country,” the older man puts forth a question. He carefully chose his words, and Wei Ying interprets that as an indication that there will be some context and information that will not be easily divulged.

 

“Well, I don’t really read the periodicals, but I’ve come across stories from teahouses and gossips at the marketplace. I’ve heard about how useless the Jin Chief Cultivator is; how the fierce corpses and monster attacks continued to spread to villages mainly around the coastline and southward; and yes, there are groups of cultivators protesting against the ineptness of the current Council in handling these attacks, amongst other troubling tales I’ve heard about the misuse of the Council’s funds and power… Ah, Lan Zhan, your… the Cloud Recesses - is everyone alright?” Wei Ying hands grasps the table’s edge tightly, anxious.

 

Lan Zhan remains neutral in his expression, serious in their topic of discussion, eyes focused and sharp. “As far as I know, everyone is in good health within the Cloud Recesses… but...” His voice wavers a tiny fraction; unsure of how to proceed.

 

“But…? Has something happened… around the Cloud Recesses? Or the people that are involved and related?” Wei Ying probes gently, covering a wider circle than he originally presumed.

 

The older man purses his lips for a moment, and his index finger twitches slightly on the smooth ceramic surface of the teacup, Wei Ying looks on with the patience of a spouse that can read and understand the subtle body language of his significant other.

 

“Caiyi Town,” Lan Zhan starts, “is one of the latest areas to be afflicted by the attacks. Three weeks ago, a few bodies turned up near the main river. The townspeople sought assistance from my clan.”

 

Wei Ying nods thoughtfully, and takes a sip of green tea. He tries to disperse the heavy atmosphere. “Hah, as expected, the commoners always turn to the cultivators when they can’t use their police and military might to solve the problems--” he holds up both hands when he notices Lan Zhan’s widened eyes and a clearly antagonized look, “-- which is a good thing, really. I’m.. I’m glad they went to your sect, which was the closest to them anyway,” he nods repeatedly to show that he’s really on his partner’s side.

 

Lan Zhan sighs and his shoulders drooped. He continues his narration, “It is expected. A group of junior disciples was dispatched to investigate, and a week later, they gathered at the townhall - with no answers in hand, and an increasing body count. They could not find the creatures that killed, and kept killing the townspeople.”

 

Wei Ying scratched the back of his head, and looked up to the ceiling in reminiscence. “... Well, you weren’t able to solve the killings either during your short tenure as the Chief - there shouldn’t be expectations from anyone in the cultivation world to create miracles and clear this up instantly. I still blame that useless Jin Chief; he and his lackeys are nothing but trouble!” He swings his fist in mock-anger - Wei Ying has many bones to pick with anything marked with the Jin’s family emblem (especially judging from the way he or any like-minded civilians in Yiling were treated by the guards).

 

He stops at mid-swing of fists. “So… what happened at the townhall? I don’t think your juniors simply got off with a gentle verbal lashing from the town mayor or the families of the victims. If news of this reaches as far as Yiling, something bigger must have happened, right?”

 

The older man bows his head, and his jaw tightens slightly. “There was… infighting and finger-pointing… among the disciples in front of the public,” it was Wei Ying’s turn to widen his eyes in amazement - that’s at least five Lan’s family rules broken simultaneously, “when tensions escalated between both sides.” Wei Ying recounts a similar experience, but not as hostile nor messed-up, on the night the Mo’s family was slaughtered nearly a couple of years ago. Lan Zhan seemed to be struggling internally - probably in a state of disbelief - with the fact that his disciples were thrust into such bad limelight.

 

“So, Lan Zhan, what was said? What happened next?” Wei Ying raises his cup in a gesture to nudge his partner to ’go on, I’m listening’.

 

“During the arguments, the traveller whom Tian shijie spoke about, was among those who were present as a civilian observer. He said that the youngest disciples blurted out about how they, like so many others within the Cloud Recesses, received no training nor guidance prior to being sent out to missions - and so, they felt they had been treated unfairly for this failed mission. Apparently this reinforced the disciples’ beliefs that the scholarly protest movement had been right all along - that the current weak leadership is ultimately to be blamed for the sufferings of commoners and cultivators. They go on to say that they are already part of this movement - and assumingly, many others within the Cloud Recesses too.” Lan Zhan looks a little tense, uncomfortable, a hint of restrained anxiety flashed across his face.

 

Wei Ying gripped the table’s edge again and fidgets his feet. He leans forward. “I heard that Lanling University and almost every major institutions have joined the movement too - but to think this is happening to your birth home...” he shakes his head in bewilderment. Surely those disciples would have been expelled the next day! One of the Gusu Lan’s rules included a clause of non-affiliation to other kinds of movements or groups, especially those that allow or promote acts of civil disobedience, including protests, infighting and provocative arguments. He pauses, as one glaring fact burned inside his mind.

 

“Lan Zhan, I understand you’re telling me that there is some kind of non-violent unrest happening within the Cloud Recesses - but still, it doesn’t explain why disciples are sent out to potentially harmful missions without proper teachings and I’m assuming adequate magical and spiritual hunting equipment too. Where are the upperclassmen? Or the senior members? Wouldn’t the group be led by at least one or two of them to calm everyone down and avoid such sensitive information to be revealed in the eyes and ears of the public?”

 

The older man sighs again, and furrows his brows. He stares at his cup - still filled to its brim with steaming green tea -, the disquiet and disconcerting feelings are carefully controlled so that they do not overflow and break that cup, figuratively speaking. “The remaining, older disciples tried to pacify their shidi s in the townhall. The man that spoke to Tian shijie overheard something about all the elder members being involved in meetings at the Carp Tower, and therefore were not around to guide them. The youngest disciple then mentioned several rumours - about how each sect is compelled to pledge their allegiance against the scholar protests, and enlist their best and most talented cultivators into the Jin’s army,” in which Wei Ying interrupts with an upset, “That’s worse than the Wens!” and Lan Zhan continues, “about how protesting scholars from other sects will undermine the sanctity of the Cloud Recesses and take over, if the leaderless state prolongs any longer; and about how the younger disciples are running out of patience; there are efforts to search for my brother, to bring him back and lead the sect... as a last resort.” The last couple of sentences clearly impacted Lan Zhan, distraught now clearly on his face and strained voice.

 

Wei Ying rises from his seat and walks over to stand by Lan Zhan’s seated, trembling figure. He embraces the older man’s shoulders and cradles his head against his stomach. Wei Ying gently sways side by side. Comforted by the warm presence and scent of his young lover, Lan Zhan leans in and lets himself be carried along by the soothing motion.

 

“Tian shijie advised that I should lay low for a while, avoid the crowded parts of the city, and that my presence must never be revealed to the Jin guards at all costs. She’ll head to the east in the next few days to find out more, and will contact the smaller, more distant branches of our sect along the way for support. She promised to send a Fairy Messenger as soon as she can,” he says, eyes closed, and probably fervently praying that things aren’t as bad as the rumours say.

 

The younger man rubs soothing circles on Lan Zhan’s back. “She’s right. Let’s wait for news from her, before deciding our next move. I’m sure your uncle is fine, he’s still as fiery and spirited as I remembered. And I’m sure Xichen da ge … well, if he is found and decides to take charge - that would still be a good thing, right?”

 

Wei Ying can feel Lan Zhan’s smile on his navel. He pats the older man’s shoulder; a gentle timeless rhythm for consoling both the young and old.

 

Then, a hitched breath. “... our next move…?” 

 

Wei Ying laughs softly, a crystalline sparkle for the older man to grasp and hold onto, despite being mired in a murky, muddy prison of uncertainty, unanswered questions and unsettling news about his few and only remaining immediate family members.

 

“Lan Zhan, what’s yours is mine; you’ve said this before. Your troubles and worries are also for me to shoulder. We’ll get through this, together ,” and he bends down to place a soft kiss on the older man’s top-knot.

 

Lan Zhan sighs one more time, and this time, he relaxes into the embrace.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying is the first to break the quiet, peaceful atmosphere with a muted chuckle.

 

“Mmmn?” a sleepy noise, pillowed by thoughts that are no longer stressful, and the physical cosiness of Wei Ying’s warm, full belly.

 

“Lan Zhan, you know… if someone were to take a look at us right now, holding one another and pantless, what would they say?”

 

Lan Zhan snorts.

 

When the older man feels sufficiently re-charged by Wei Ying’s motherly hug, he stands up and starts touching Wei Ying in the way that lovers do. They start to make-out in the kitchen, exchanging breaths and kisses, hands caress, grope, tickle, intertwine and soothe each other, and their bodies slide pleasantly and languidly against one another, taking their sweet time and pace because after such a delightfully draining morning and an emotionally-taxing revelation after lunch, Lan Zhan doesn’t have anything else to give other than gratitude - but that is fine, because as Wei Ying nuzzles into his lover’s neck to comfort and encourage, and leaves kisses and faint bite marks on the collarbone to tell him not to think too much; because there’s really nothing much they can do now. Lan Zhan accedes, and wordlessly asks for a long string of pleasure that will help him forget, to take his mind off everything that bothers and disturbs the delicate balance of his Perfect universe; he peppers light smooches on Wei Ying’s forehead, earlobes and moist lips, leaving the younger man tingling with rising intense feelings of being cared, being loved, being worshipped, being wanted and needed by the fragile man named Lan Wang Ji. Wei Ying responds with his own brand of playful liveliness, by letting his fingers roam everywhere especially since his partner is pantless and everything is a playground for him.

 

Lan Zhan lets Wei Ying gently pull on his pubic hair, lightly rake his inner thighs with circles, stars and flowers. The older man continues to kiss the tip of his lover’s cheeks and nose, and even breaks into a small, pleased smile when Wei Ying starts to play with his penis with naughty wiggling fingers, by bouncing it, tenderly stroking it, rubbing in circular motions over the tip that peeks out from the foreskin, and along the slowly-swelling flesh; Lan Zhan takes a long time to become erect because he feels so relaxed and pleasantly emptied earlier; but Wei Ying is patient as well, and continues to leisurely roll the pampered penis in his palm until it firms up a little more, grows longer, filling up unhurriedly with sweet sweet slow-burning desire; and when it’s hard enough to barely point to the front, Wei Ying takes the increasingly excited organ and slides it along the cleft between two fingers to mimic the ageless action of a lusty sexual intercourse, and when Lan Zhan nnnnhs, he feels Wei Ying’s other hand reach down and caresses his scrotum, lovingly rolls each testicle as they rise, and fall, and rise again, because Wei Ying takes it so gently and slowly that their pleasure is drawn out as long as possible - at some point, Lan Zhan becomes drowsy with the immersive full-bodied pleasure pulsating from his loins that dances along his spine and tickles the nerve ends, his mind starts to unwind and patches of his scalp and the accompanying thinking processes shut down - one by one - and become happily numb, and when his head dips at the sleepiness that overwhelms his relaxed body, Wei Ying coos his name, “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, don’t fall asleep here, let’s go to the bed,” and he lets the younger man gently, mindlessly guide him through his sleepwalking, and Wei Ying’s hands never left his twitching penis that is continuously caressed and stroked all the way to the bed mattress.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan thoroughly enjoys a slow, relaxed pace of lovemaking with Wei Ying. There is no rush to reach climaxes, no one to keep track of how many times either of them comes, and no pressure to accomplish something mind-blowing using creative sex positions or novel toys. 

 

His universe consists of his body, mounted on top of Wei Ying’s, on all fours, moulding and joining repeatedly in an age-old rhythm of mating, of copulating, of giving and receiving love and pleasure, of their souls dancing with one another, in increasingly closer and tighter circles until they fuse into one.

 

Lan Zhan immerses himself in the physical pleasures of the flesh as he pulls out completely, his arousal hard and throbbing, then he rubs Wei Ying’s inviting and gaping rosebud, teasing it a bit, before pushing and plunging deep, deep inside into the tight heat. He moans breathily of Wei Ying’s name with each thrust, and Wei Ying answers his calls with his hands graciously spreading his ass by holding them apart, allowing him the deepest access to his innermost recesses, and Wei Ying mmmmms in a welcoming invitation to do more, more, please Lan Zhan, more, take me, love me, make love to me.

 

The older man continues to pump his hips, balls-deep, until he gradually reaches a low-grade climax; he pulls out completely one last time, then strokes his cock furiously outside Wei Ying, and watches, mesmerized, pleased, with quaking hips, at the sight of weak spurts of diluted white shooting into the waiting, open gaping hole that he’s fucked for what seems to be hours on end.

 

Lan Zhan is absolutely drained after one round. He collapses to his side of the bed, exhausted, panting, flaccid, and ready to fall into slumber anytime. He has nothing else to give. Wei Ying crawls up and whispers seductively to him, “Lan Zhan, before you take an afternoon nap, do you want to pee?” A wet tongue slides into his ears, telling him that Wei Ying has a lot more in his mind than just to relieve oneself. Lan Zhan grudgingly nnnhs, and gets off the bed, eyes half-closed, to pee into an enamel chamber pot waiting by the bedside. As he slides back to the bed, Wei Ying gently wipes his genitals with a soaked washcloth. Then, Lan Zhan closes his eyes, docile, and slips into the well-deserved darkness.

 

There are periods of wakefulness, or at least they felt real enough not to be lucid dreams - he half-opens his eyes to find himself lying prone on the bed. He gets a full-body massage with oils from the bedside drawer (the fragrance is familiar), and relishes especially the lovely kneading movements on his shoulders, back muscles, tired biceps, aching calves, the soles and balls of his feet, and even between the toes. Fatigue melts away with Wei Ying’s expert ministrations with palms, knuckles and fingertips. By the time those hands reach his genitals for what he anticipates to be a titillating sexual massage, he snores away.

 

The next time he becomes conscious - eyes still closed - he was caught unprepared and was hit by sudden intense orgasmic waves that seems to go on and on. Sexual qi energy circulates wildly and strongly within his groin, hinting the use of tantric sex methods, and his hips continue to undulate against his will, his stomach muscles quiver uncontrollably, his limbs thrash on the crumpled bedsheets, every organ, vesicle, gland, duct, tube inside his lower body seem to contract and empty themselves repeatedly, and the pleasurable throbbing continues unabated for many long minutes. He does not remember if he ejaculated or not, but remembers fingers pinching and twisting oversensitive, swollen nipples until his moans echoed off the walls of their bedroom.

 

Next, he awakes to a sensual, fulfilling ear-cleaning session on Wei Ying’s naked lap. He breathes in Wei Ying’s musky scent as his nose and lips touch the younger man’s arousal, and his ears tingle in delight at the gently, rhythmic scrapes and scratching of a bamboo earpick; mimicking the movements of lovers fucking at a slow motion. He groans, refusing to open his eyes in the fear that this could be a dream that he’d never want to wake up from, and feels his voice has gone a bit hoarse and feels raw around the vocal cords. Wei Ying seemed to read his mind, because soon, he feels the edge of a cup against his lips, and he only needed to part his lips to be served a few refreshing gulps of tea. Then he resumes his semi-fetal lying position, nestled on Wei Ying’s groin, followed by an earpick gently invading the most desirable spots along the ear canal. Satisfied with the pampering, a few moments before he returns to his dreams, he nnnnhs when fingers play with his sensitive penis, again , and stroke him lazily towards the next climax.

 

Some time later, he wakes up again facing upwards, and nnnghs to weak but still pleasurable rolling pulses from his tingly, burnt-out cock and prickling oversensitive nerves all over the groin; his shaking, tired, sweaty and extremely emptied body tells him he’s been orgasming a lot more in the past hour (hours? He can’t tell the time anymore) than the whole of the morning, although there is nothing else to unload. Wei Ying continues to ride and milk him as he falls into comfortable sleeping-wakefulness cycles, alternating between sweet up-and-down fucking hip-motions and extremely arousing circular grinds when he’s deeply sheathed inside the incredibly slick, hot tunnel. 

 

Lan Zhan appreciates that Wei Ying knows their bodies very well and has mastered the physical and physiological sexual responses - particularly Lan Zhan’s. Wei Ying has said once, that he always counted at least “twenty twitches” in each of Lan Zhan’s orgasm; and naturally, this number goes down over time and frequency of climaxes - if unaided . This time, Wei Ying uses all sorts of techniques, including exciting body caresses, playing with the balls and ass, and unknowingly slipping well-oiled fingers through the coveted ring of muscles to reach the prostate - to ensure that Lan Zhan gets his twenty twitches for every orgasm that afternoon - even as the sun arches and begins to set in the west, and light shines at an angle through the curtained window on Lan Zhan’s constantly straining, restless and trembling body.

 

Lan Zhan feels his inner muscles shudder again and again the next time he slides downhill into a sleepless coma, and could only offer seedless, clear fluids which Wei Ying happily extracts with his bouncing and clenching ass muscles.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The sun is setting, and Wei Ying stands at the entrance of their home, skin fully flushed from a wondrous workout from the inside out and sticky from drying sweat, still pantless and a mix of frothy opaque liquids running down his thighs, a mug of pu’er tea in his hand, and a silly half-drunken smile etched on his face. 

 

He sips the tea and leans against the door frame, and then sighs. The touted evening thunderstorms never made landfall, despite the loud crack of thunder earlier that day.

 

He really wants to go on a date to the evening market with Lan Zhan. 

 

He peers behind at the snoring slumbering figure in the bedroom, lying on thoroughly soaked and soiled bedsheets.

 

Several tiny voices in his head tell him that life can be unfair sometimes, and he can’t always have his cake and eat it too. 

 

Unless.

 

Wei Ying peeks outside to see no one in the courtyard. A couple of thicker garments still hung on the laundry lines (because Lan Zhan was unavailable to collect them - they’re probably bone-dry by now). The fast-growing weeds had sprouted in greater numbers around the vegetable gardens within a day. They’d forgotten to give the farm animals their afternoon meal, so the chickens are scratching the sand for non-existent bugs and the rabbits are nibbling at the fences because the only thing left to eat are the weeds that grew around the fence posts - Lan Zhan would be unhappy when - if - he finds out. And Wei Ying’s workroom is… still the same.

 

Wei Ying tells his heart that he wishes to have two or more cakes and eat them all.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Yiling Patriarch Wei Wuxian weaves Corruption magic like no other. On this occasion, he doesn’t need to summon any infernal servants to do his bidding, because this Grandmaster of the Dark arts desires the effects for himself only , and any other chosen living beings that he wishes. With a wave of hands, terrifying ash-black smoke-like projectiles appears from the earth and the blazing orange skies; they hurtle through the air and penetrate all physical obstructions effortlessly; they gather around the Patriarch and swirl and spin around him, surrounding their summoner in gradually increasing speeds and density until the man becomes encased in flickering shadows as black as the starless night, impenetrable by light. The figure walks towards the cave-home’s bedroom, and reaches out to the defenceless human sleeping peacefully on the mattress. Upon contact, Lan Zhan becomes instantly enveloped and devoured by the shadowy substance.

 

With a snap of fingers, the blackness surges, bloats, bulges and finally explodes spectacularly outwards in in rippling spherical waves. As the dark waves sweep through everything in its path, they leave behind the same living and inanimate objects, matter, sights, sounds and intangible elements such as feelings and thoughts - except that they have been shifted to their state and location of about five hours ago.

 

A blip happens in the flow of Time. 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The Jade Emperor sneezed. 

 

Heavenly court servants rush to His side in record time, faster than Nezha’s spinning fire wheels. They bowed to the floor, panicked, grovel for forgiveness and for mercy for their insignificant lives over the unexpected sneeze. 

 

Tian dalaoye is compassionate, and he waves his hands to dismiss them. He hadn’t felt a tickle in his nose for a very long time, and he wondered if this was an omen. He had been watching the mortal through the magical viewing mirror (subtitled “Wei Wuxian”) while enjoying a bite of the Peaches of Immortality - but not really tasting the fruit because of the unsavoury and rather repulsive acts he had to visually endure on-screen, which he believes to be rather common of mere Earthly creatures of the flesh. He’d watched until the point the offending individual completed those nasty acts, and wanted to turn off the mirror when he sneezed and missed a few more scenes. 

 

However, the matter is insignificant, like missing the end credit roll (and any post-credit scenes) of a trashy movie that was never in one’s to-watch list. 

 

There was a thoughtful pause, and then the Jade Emperor called back one of his faithful servants. He enlists the fearful celestial being on a simple mission - to contact the Merciful Goddess Guan Yin, his favourite counsellor and the greatest advisor in the Heavens, amongst many other marvellous titles given to her.

 

Wei Wuxian’s act of peeing on a sacred peach tree reminded the Emperor about a nearly forgotten memory about the Monkey King that took place aeons ago. Perhaps Goddess Guan Yin can enlighten him on how such creatures (lowlifes, really) can be dealt with.

 

The timestamp on the viewing mirror flickered a bit just before the Jade Emperor felt the tickle of the nose, like a bad VCR recording. However, since the flow of Time in the heavens run vastly different from the Mortal Realm (it is said that one day in the heavens equate to a century on Earth), so to the naked eye of any gods, there is virtually nothing out of the ordinary. 



It’s still 2:30 pm, by the way.

 

Lan Zhan yawns and stretches in a sea of body-warmed pillows. He feels extremely… hmm, emptied has a negative connotation, so he decides on the choice of the words “happy, relaxed, peaceful and contented”. His universe seems perfectly balanced, everything seems to be in the right places to where they belong. 

 

The afternoon sun shines brightly into the bedroom, and everything takes on yellow-white hues. He sits up and squints through the light; he thought it was strange to have slept so well after such an intensely raw heartfelt confession, followed by an hour (hours?) of passionate lovemaking (he couldn’t remember much after the first orgasm), only to wake up just a short span of time after that.

 

Pantless Wei Ying walks in with a tray and a teapot of pu’er tea. Something else smells really good, and his stomach rumbles - despite just having his bibimbap lunch, if the bright midday-ish sunlight is an indicator of the current time. “Good afternoon, you sleepy head!” he calls out cheerfully. 

 

Wei Ying sets the tray on Lan Zhan’s naked lap, and the older man sees a plate of freshly re-heated steaming warm cinnamon rolls. Wei Ying pours him the tea first, which he gratefully gulps down because he must’ve slept so well that his throat became dry. Then he picks up a roll and munches on it. It tastes absolutely delicious.

Chapter Text

“Wei Ying, can I--”

 

“Shhh! I’m trying to concentrate here!”

 

“...”

 

Lan Zhan looks on, arms crossed and infinitely patient, at the young man in front of him, standing proudly without his pants on and blocking the main entrance to their home. He shuffles to the left, then to the right, but he couldn’t find an exit.

 

Wei Ying huff-huffs as he performs an energetic workout - side stretches, waist twists, front and back bends, ten times each. Then he steps up his game and sets out on a more (at least from the younger man’s perspective) gruelling regime of rigorous skipping, throwing punches into the air, and ducking and parrying an invisible opponent. He shadow-boxes for a full minute as though he’s ready for a fighting tournament until a sheen of sweat covers his entire body.

 

“Wei Ying--”

 

“... can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can...” he chants a mantra and steels himself for a seemingly historical moment. When he’s fully warmed up, he stops and exhales loudly. There are a few anxious stretches of neck muscles, rolling of shoulder blades, then he cracks his knuckles and other joints and grits his teeth.

 

“Yeah, I can definitely do this… I do NOT see anyone watching me. There is NO one watching. Yup, absolutely NO one around. Gotta seize the day! (huff, huff) You only live once! (phew)” Wei Ying is ready to tear down illusionary walls and break new frontiers.

 

“Wei--”

 

The spirited young man takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and leaps over the door’s wooden threshold. Immediately after he lands, he barks out a cheerful wide-grinned “YES!” (with little fist pumps), raises his hands in victory and then claps to himself for a job well done. Feeling emboldened and the crazy rush of adrenaline in the bloodstream, he jerks his pelvis towards the sky and sticks out his tongue in an ‘up yours!’ manner.

 

(fortunately, the heavenly Jade Emperor isn’t looking.)

 

Wei Ying bellows out hearty laughs. “Ha ha! See? I did it! I’m pantless outside ! Yaa hoo!”

 

Lan Zhan sighs and shakes his head. He steps across the wooden threshold casually, with a washed, dripping-wet robe in his arms, and squeezes between Wei Ying’s door-blocking buttocks and the door frame to get through to the outside. Once he’s past the obstacles, he walks across the courtyard into the afternoon sunlight, barefooted, towards the nearest laundry line.

 

“L.. Lan Zhan! Bu--But you’re p-p-p-p-pantless!” Wei Ying’s sputters, jaw dropped more than just a few inches, and his index finger automatically points at the mooning twin pale globes. Lan Zhan wore only a light shirt and nothing else.

 

Lan Zhan pauses in mid-step and looks back, eyebrows raised. His face spoke of either “What?” or “So what?”; Wei Ying couldn’t determine which.

 

“Don’t you feel, well, illegal and indecent walking around like that ?!”

 

Lan Zhan sighs again, and goes back to the laundry line. “There’s nothing illegal in being comfortable in one’s own skin under decent circumstances,” he says, as he retrieves some clips from the line and arranges them in a linear sequence - with perfectly measured spaces between each bamboo clip, “Our ancestors walked around without much on, and some of the poorer communities in remote villages are fine with little or lack of clothing. There are no rules currently in force around our home that dictate what one should wear.” 

 

Wei Ying becomes a little agitated at being outsmarted and out-explained by his partner. He pantlessly stomps towards the older man and huffs, “You say there are no rules here about clothing, then what does your virtuous Gusu Lan sect’s teaching say about not wearing anything underneath in broad daylight?”

 

Lan Zhan does not even bat an eyelid on the annoyed shorter man. He lifts the heavily-soaked robe and spreads it. Then he gently shakes away the excess water. “When we were kids, we used to play, bathe and run around in waterfalls and springwater pools within the Cloud Recesses. We’d go topless, pantless or with no clothes at all with close family members. Adults do that too. Our family rules teach us to dress up according to the occasion - that’s all.”

 

Wei Ying puts a hand to his temples and tries to massage a non-existent headache away. “It’s… It’s a bit difficult for me to grasp this. I never knew you Gusu Lans can be so… so bold in showing off your junk… even around your home grounds,” he groans and shrugs, “You make it look so easy , like you’ve been doing this every day!”

 

Lan Zhan begins to attach laundry clips to the robe’s sleeves, then the collars. “Wei Ying, I sometimes walk around our home and garden in the nude too,” he dead-pans, and Wei Ying gasps audibly, “Clothes are easily soiled from being in the farm, from housework and cooking; so it makes sense to take them off before starting on any heavy-duty work.” He turns around and is imperceptibly smug at the look of shock and disbelief on Wei Ying’s face. “You’ve probably never seen me naked like this because you’re always at work in the city during the day,” he adds.

 

A few meaningful seconds passes in silence. So many questions race across Wei Ying’s mind - “how, where, when.. and what have I missed all my life?!”

 

“Can you hand me those washed garments too? They’re in the bucket next to the dining table,” Lan Zhan calmly asks and point towards their home. Wei Ying is finally startled into action, and he nods shakily. Before he trots off, he asks the older man, hesitantly, “Lan Zhan… do you sometimes cook wearing only an apron and nothing else ?”

 

“Of course.”

 

Wei Ying cries rivers of invisible tears at the missed opportunities and chews bitterly on his sleeves as he goes to retrieve the said bucket.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Earlier, Wei Ying slipped into Lan Zhan’s outer robes to harvest a few herbs, fruits and vegetables in the hot afternoon sun, because the older man had carelessly left it near the main entrance and it was convenient to grab ‘n go with it. Then, following an age-old recipe given by Grandma Li some weeks ago when summer started, he crushes, grinds, slices and dices the ingredients according to the instructions, and makes a jug of icky-looking brownish-green paste. It smells sweet, fruity, citrusy, green-y with a zest of lemongrass and other aromatic scents - not too bad, actually. 

 

Wei Ying perfected Li’s classic summertime mosquito and insect-repellent paste, upon his first try. He praised himself again and again at his newly-discovered talent of compounding and making medicines, and indulged in lofty daydreams of his first foray into the medical profession - then, his dreams come crashing down when he realized he was still wearing Lan Zhan’s robes and everything, everywhere - including his pastel green shirt, the kitchen floor, the table surfaces, and yes, his partner’s beloved robes - was messily splattered with the medicinal icky-looking goo.

 

He knew Lan Zhan would wake up hungry because it’d be close to his actual dinnertime when it was just after mid-day, so he thought of re-heating the cinnamon rolls as a peace offering to the older man, before he got found out.

 

Later, Lan Zhan wordlessly d-brooms* the kitchen (for the nth time) and did the laundry for both of them (again).

 

* dustless-brooms

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan is secretly pleased at Wei Ying’s sudden burst of motivation and determination to get things done. He couldn’t fathom what drives the young man, but he does not question either. He presumes that if it isn’t from feelings of guilt or want for something , then it’s just one of those random, unknown mysteries in his Perfect universe which he conveniently (and endearingly) calls using the blanket term: “Wei Ying-ness”.

 

The couple had decided (at Wei Ying’s insistence) to care for the farm animals first. The afternoon sun is blazing hot although there are a few clouds in the sky, so any garden work is out of the question until later in the day. Lan Zhan only had to open the gates at the fences, and the chickens crowd around (even flew out from the stuffy coop) and obediently follow him, much to Wei Ying’s envy and disgruntlement (because no animals with enough intelligence will follow him). They gently collected the rabbits, who are still wary of their owners, placed them into a broad basket, and brought all the animals to a grassy, shaded meadow near a stream.

 

As they settle down on a bed of grass and wildflowers under the shadows of dense forest foliage - Wei Ying with the chickens and Lan Zhan with the rabbits by the stream -, Wei Ying simply asks, “Lan Zhan, help me put on this insect repellant?”, in which the older man Mmns.

 

Lan Zhan crouches beside Wei Ying and diligently slathers the repellant paste on the younger man’s legs, thighs and buttocks. Wei Ying, on the other hand, is engrossed with having fun with innocent animals naive enough to approach his open arms; he happily lures brown baby chicks with worms, grasshoppers and other crunchy snacks (bugs) he’d caught during their short walk to the meadow, and stowed inside a small basket purse. He is good at catching insects, and Lan Zhan gladly leaves that sort of work to him - because deep down, Lan Zhan has a phobia for pests that eat his precious fruits and vegetables, and is more inclined to exterminate them immediately than to keep them in a basket purse. Wei Ying happily picks each snack (bug) and plays a carrot and stick game with the birds - he’d dip the morsel into the waiting open beaks then pull back up at the last second, then moves his hand in circles and (wickedly) laughs when all the chicks desperately follow the wriggling insect between his fingertips with hungry, loud chirps.

 

Lan Zhan tries to ignore the obnoxious behavior, and continues to coat the younger man’s skin with the fragrant paste. When he is almost done, he nudges at Wei Ying’s groin with a soundless question, “Here too?”. Wei Ying nods absently, as he giggles and grabs the chicks that come too close, bounces them on his palm, rolls his fingers over the incredibly fluffy down from beak to wriggling tummy to the tiny nub of featherless tail (“molest” is the more appropriate word), before putting them back on the ground; he acts nimbly and fast, to make sure the chicks do not panic and cry for help (otherwise their mothers will come hurtling through the air). From a distance, hens and roosters busily peck on scattered grains between meadowgrass; Wei Ying is certainly under the birds’ watchful eyes, but the presence of their favourite owner (the “not Wei Ying” human) is reassuring enough. 

 

Lan Zhan sighs at Wei Ying’s distracted state, but is confident that Wei Ying knows the medicinal paste is safe enough for one’s nether regions, and can be applied there as well. He proceeds to spread the paste on the delicate genitals; he has no ulterior motives other than to dutifully protect his lover from biting insects, but he also takes sneaky delights in massaging the vulnerable soft cock, deliberately tugging back the foreskin to expose the pink cockhead, just a little - because one never knows when and where insects will bite - and lets his coated, slippery thumb and forefinger play with the cushiony glans, and slide over the shy-looking cockslit repeatedly until it quivers just a tad bit without hardening, before he moves his hands lower to caress those lovely sacs, lightly kneading each of the two spongy eggs through folds of warm scrotal skin, and he says a silent prayer that they will fill up abundantly and serve as another night’s worth of delightful midnight nourishment. 

 

When Lan Zhan has completed his task, he found that his lover was gazing at him with loving, shimmering eyes. Then, a chick peep-peeped and jumped onto one of Wei Ying’s thighs, and the younger man’s attention is once again diverted towards the balls of fluffy cuteness.

 

Lan Zhan is aware that he should focus on feeding and cleaning the rabbits, so he takes his seat properly next to Wei Ying. He finds it enjoyable to have velvety warm-bodies mingle and crowd over his naked lower body. They run up and down his thighs, slide down his legs, and when he lifts his knees to sit cross-legged, they hop underneath and play merry-go-rounds. Soon, Lan Zhan has a sea of wriggling rabbits captured between his crossed legs, and he wibbles and shakes and screams internally because of their unbelievable cuteness . Some of them attempted to lick the paste off his skin - which elicited pleasurable nnnhs from his throat - while the younger ones comfortably nibbled on his toenails; a few explored with tiny paw-steps, others burrow into the cosy newfound nest of Lan Zhan’s groin, and then gently snuggle against - to his horror and delight - his hardening arousal, and he was too frozen in fear, absolute humiliation, and a foreboding sense of perverseness to move any muscles lest he surprises any of the skittish creatures and send them scampering away.

 

He looks to the left, only to be greeted by the sight of a shameless Wei Ying doing the same with his cross-legged sitting posture. A handful of chicks helplessly squirm and struggle in a tight prison of Wei Ying’s legs and thighs, and they peep-peeped in increasing distress. Wei Ying seemed to blatantly enjoy the sensations of soft, warm fuzzy bodies wriggling around his genitals (as evidenced by his half-closed eyes, tilted chin upward into the sky with lips slightly parted - that silly and familiar orgasmic face), and Lan Zhan didn’t know whether to feel scandalized or mesmerized by the utterly distasteful act - especially when Wei Ying’s erection stands at full mast in its own sea of brown downy baby chicks.

 

Then, a hen flies and lands on Wei Ying’s thighs - apparently acting on the chicks’ distraught calls. Wei Ying was surprised by the flutter of feathers and the scratchy pain of thick claws gripping on his leg, and could not react in time. 

 

In retribution for the outrageous conduct towards her children, the angry hen pecked the offending cock.

 

“OWWWWWWW!”

 

~~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

As the clouds roll across the sky, there are brief windows in time when the afternoon heat subsides and it becomes safe to walk in the open without any fear of getting sunburnt (Wei Ying has enough of those from his daytime job in the city). 

 

Lan Zhan squats on one of the garden patches and pulls out a few weeds. They thrive as well as the vegetables, probably because the plants are fed with the same nutritious fertile soil and rich mineral waters from their lotus pond, he thought, and the weeds become a troubling nuisance when they grow so fast that they curl and choke the smaller-sized crops such as Wei Ying’s favourite chilli plants.

 

The younger man also lends a helping hand - and Lan Zhan is grateful, because they accomplish much more, and much faster, together - although he is frequently distracted by other more entertaining things besides plucking unmoving weeds:

 

Wei Ying would find an anthill and poke it with a twig (just for the fun of it) unless it’s full of red ants in which he’ll yelp at getting stung and leaves those ants alone; 

 

come across small birds’ nests hidden in bushes or between blades of grass, and excitedly bring them to Lan Zhan, in which the latter Mmms in acknowledgement and calmly tells Wei Ying to please put it back where you found them; 

 

collect an assortment of empty snail shells, pebbles with intriguing designs, frail but beautiful insect moults and shells such as those from cicada’s, in which Lan Zhan Mmms again and tells Wei Ying to leave them on the ground because they belong to mother nature - especially the insect sheddings because his skin crawls from the sight of those yucky things; 

 

spends an inordinate amount of time looking under leaves and grass, because he might chance upon caterpillars or other bugs and put them into his basket purse of goodies for the chicks (he hasn’t forgiven the hen yet, but he’s alright with her babies - there’s a small bandage around his aching flaccid cock after Lan Zhan casted a few Healing spells although there are no injuries to the precious organ - just an angry-red nip-mark on the delicate foreskin, which Lan Zhan then applied some herbal antiseptic cream and wrapped a strip of cloth around it. It looks adorable with a white ribbon bow around it. Lan Zhan could not resist giving the pink fleshy tip a kiss after his tender loving treatment - he says it’s a healing kiss, but Wei Ying mutters that Lan Zhan is a heartless pervert for taking advantage of his suffering to decorate the victimized cock); 

 

At some point, Lan Zhan feels an urge to relieve himself after having a few more cups of cooling herbal tea during their afternoon farm-work, so he stands up, dusts himself and prepares to find some bushes or run to the nearest irrigation stream. Wei Ying catches on quickly, quietly creeps up from behind and then playfully ambush the older man with a tight embrace. Lan Zhan groans with an irritated voice, Wei Ying, let go; in which the younger man shakes his head in defiance, and starts whistling straight into Lan Zhan’s ears and causes the older man to shiver and shake in ticklish discomfort. Wei Ying reaches down to the navel and starts tickling ruthlessly all over the quivering (but well-muscled) abdomen; he runs wiggling fingers up and down the ribs, all over the chest and even the brown nipple nubs are not spared; the attacks continue ruthlessly on the most ticklish and weakest spots with ghosting, scratching and scraping fingernails. Lan Zhan squirms and struggles a little, going breathless, trying his best not to burst into giggles at the maddeningly intense sensations; but he knows, Wei Ying will never let go until he yields to his playful games.

 

Later, red-faced Lan Zhan is forced to pee on a healthy young chilli plant, his twitching penis still held captive by Wei Ying’s hands. The mischievous devil flicks and swings the helpless organ around, creating circular and arching sprinkles into the air. Lan Zhan groans again, not because of the sheer embarrassment from being made to perform aerial displays of pee, but because Wei Ying’s terrorizing antics goes up a notch and he starts stroking the tired flesh vigorously while cupping and massaging the balls and groin areas. Lan Zhan is in no condition to reach another normal orgasm because he’s still in his refractory period after such a wonderful morning, but he hardens anyway as an instinctual physiological reaction from those relentless masturbatory hand-fist pumps, that Wei Ying manages to make it stiff enough, excited enough, engorged enough to fill the tube leading to the cockslit with a minimal but reasonable amount of pre-cum, sexual fluids mixed with just a tiny, tiny amount of potent seed that his hardworking body is able to produce so far - and he orgasms very weakly in shuddering breaths and trembling hips trying valiantly to hold his legs standing up, and dribbles out a meagre stream of watery ejaculate flavoured with tasty rhythmic moans and heated flushed complexion.

 

Wei Ying makes sure his young chilli plants get all the nutrition they need. 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The sun shines at a lower angle, so they worked around the courtyard - sweeping up dead leaves into tidy piles, chopping firewood, taking out the garbage (and compost the kitchen waste), then taking in the dried laundry (including Lan Zhan’s bone-dry outer robes), and other menial household chores. Wei Ying remarks that the cleaned courtyard looks inviting for a cultivation session, so both of them stood side by side, and performed a twenty-minute routine together with Lan Zhan leading, and Wei Ying following (actually, he just copies the movements without much thought - they still sweated and huffed and felt their qi energy flow and rise within their bodies; so it must be working). 

 

Lan Zhan decides to work on his mini-project of making a new pair of trousers for Wei Ying. Sitting on the bench by the lotus pond, he sews using the magical needles and threads gifted by Fifth Sister. It takes a little effort to set up the spell - he needed to thread the needles, then align the pieces of cloth he’d cut using the fabric shears (which cut amazingly accurate according to the marked lines on the cloth, and there are no split edges either). Then, he follows the written instructions that came with the sewing kit, and channels minute amounts of qi and Thought (the booklet says “to imagine, with as much focus as possible, on every single detail of the garment, every curve, dart, fold, seam, pattern and design that is intended” - Lan Zhan perfectly masters this with his exceptionally three-dimensional visualization of the trousers, so rich in realistic detail that an imaginary topless Wei Ying in the said garment catwalks across a rainbow runway in his mind). The needle vibrates and thrums with living energy, and starts to float, dive, twist and turn gracefully on its own through the pieces of fabrics, and bring them together into Lan Zhan’s first magically-created tailoring masterpiece - Wei Ying’s new beige-coloured trousers with fine silky-soft cloud-patterns. 

 

(In modern terms, this is a predecessor of the sewing machine.)

 

As Wei Ying wipes his sweat from the afternoon heat, he discovers that his bamboo rodent traps had caught three squirrels near the kitchen’s windowsill. Undecided on what to do, he shows them to Lan Zhan, who had just finished folding the new pair of trousers. Lan Zhan shakes his head, but makes it clear that he doesn’t want them scurrying nor stalking near their home ever again

 

Wei Ying gave the older man’s words a thought, and finally voiced out his well-kept intention and asked if they could go to the evening market - because he could drop off the squirrels there, and find a buyer for those doomed pests. At market price, three squirrels could go into someone’s wild-game hotpot in exchange for a silver piece. 

 

Lan Zhan nods dismissively, because that would reduce their amount of problems living in the isolated estate in the middle of nowhere of an uninhabited forest by three squirrels, and he was fine with that. He also adds that he’d like to stretch his legs and go for a walk at the markets, because - he voices out his own well-kept intention of perusing Third Sister’s coupons and cards, and he is looking forward to see how many points he can earn, and what kinds of household stuff he can redeem with those points. Wei Ying scratches his head with a “Huh?”, clearly not understanding the mechanics of member and loyalty cards.

 

Wei Ying then asks, if Lan Zhan’s conscience is clear about selling off innocent animals to the slaughterhouse; because he is worried at that hint of sneer that flashed across the older man’s face when they talked about the squirrels destined for someone’s dinner plate.

 

Lan Zhan replies curtly that there are too many pests around the ‘Mounds. And that he allows that one piece of silver to be exchanged for a jar of Laozu Smiles, for tonight.

 

Wei Ying brightens up and hums. No further questions, he remarks.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan catches himself yawning although it’s just a little after four in the afternoon, and he was sure he had a good sleep earlier that day. He decides to take a short break and leans forward in his seat on the wooden bench, his chin resting on his hands on the table, observing his lovely Wei Ying treading in the shallow waters of their lotus pond.

 

Wei Ying walks towards the deeper centre of the pond and then goes down on all fours with a splash. He crawls along the pond’s bed, his head sticking out amongst the upright blooming lotus flowers, and his hands roam around to find a good-sized lotus root underwater. Although the water is clear, however, the oversized lotus leafs covered a significant area of the surface and gives ample shade to the pond, so it is impossible to see through the dark, shadowed waters.

 

Lan Zhan enjoys the view of Wei Ying’s naked ass weaving among the pink blooms, and he thought how nice it would be if he was feeling up for it, dive into the waters, grab his tantalizingly vulnerable lover by the hips, and make sweet amorous love with that puckered inviting rosebud as pink as the flowers surrounding them in their pond of blissful passionate love. He’d feel so homely and comforted, he would likely stay inside his lovely Wei Ying for the rest of the day - if he wasn’t feeling so sleepy at the moment (he yawns again, just as he spies a pair of slightly hairy balls jiggling between lean thighs).

 

Soon, Wei Ying is immersed in waist-deep waters, at the centre of the pond. He starts to giggle in the rippling waters and tells Lan Zhan that the fishies and shrimpies are nibbling and tickling all over his body. Lan Zhan explains with a neutral tone that they’re probably just eating up any dead skin, cleaning his toenails, and giving a free beauty spa. Wei Ying refuses to believe him, and shouts out that of all the animals that he’s encountered around the ‘Mounds - almost every single one of them avoids him except for these unintelligent freshwater creatures; so it must be because they’re trying to be friendly with him. Lan Zhan hnnns and nods off drowsily, because he knows it’s not worth his time to argue on trivial matters regarding how impossible (and absurd) it is for fishes to become friendly with a human.

 

The next time he wakes up with a rude jolt, Wei Ying cried for help in splashing waters.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Unbeknown to the couple, Wei Ying enjoyed immensely being tickled (and loved, he imagined) by the friendly community of freshwater creatures. He giggled, chortled, and hiccuped with so much laughter his quaking stomach began to ache. Naturally, the wavy movements of involuntary muscles sent bubbles of gas out from his rump and into the pondwaters. 

 

The denizens of the lotus pond have been feeding on all sorts of stuff , including waste and non-waste substances from their human owners, and have come to like, even actively seek out for, tasty morsels that are imbued with incredible amounts of life-giving and high-growth qi energies. They’ve also learnt that there are two sources of the said precious food, with one being more superior and tastier than the other. 

 

When those bubbles of gas erupted from a particular human’s rear, the creatures detected and immediately reacted with excitement - it’s the superior-tasting morsel of food that they crave so much. (Because Wei Ying did not clean the insides of his ass after such a wonderful morning with Lan Zhan; aftercare is primarily Lan Zhan’s job, after all)

 

Like a swarm piranhas bathed in a pool of their favourite meal, the fishies and shrimpies go berserk and head towards their superior-tasting food.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan is drenched from head to toe with pondwater and ends up with torn lotus flower petals, leafs and broken stems hanging from his body and clothes, when he heroically runs into the shallow pool and drags out a flailing (but not drowning) Wei Ying. When they make landfall and safely climbed onto the edge of the pond, he is stunned and astonished; even as teary-eyed Wei Ying cries, shouts swear-words at all sorts of marine and freshwater species he’s learnt in school, curls up his body into a ball and with hands grabbing blindly at his rear, he tries to pull out the wriggling, writhing invading creatures worming into his asshole.

 

Lan Zhan has come to accept that at times, there will be occasions and mind-boggling levels of Wei Ying-ness that shakes, breaks or makes his Perfect universe spiral out of control into something different altogether - for better or worse.

 

He shakes his head and has no words to describe what he thinks or how he feels. Gently and methodically, he helps Wei Ying to extract fish, eels and shrimps and place them into a basket. After a quick Healing spell directly into the gaping canal, and a Diagnose spell to make sure there is nothing else to worry about, he cradles a traumatized, quivering wet and red-flushed Wei Ying in his arms by the pondside. 

 

Lan Zhan mentally notes to investigate further into this unbelievable phenomenon, and then educate his lover about how fishies can (not) become friendly with a human.

 

That evening, the planned dinner menu: freshwater extravaganza hotpot, boiled fish, egg fu yong with lots of shrimps, stir-friend mixed garden vegetables and sliced lotus roots, and steaming hot rice.

Chapter Text

Extra scenes from the previous chapter

 

Wei Ying pulls out all the stops when it comes to making Lan Zhan’s daily life as joyful and fulfilling as possible, especially on the days when he doesn’t need to work in Yiling (because his daytime job is exhausting, and he comes back tired with little energy for anything else), when he isn’t in a rush to spread his legs for the older man (because there’s plenty of ‘everyday’s, on every day), and when his mind isn’t distracted busy hatching up new pranks (it’s just Wei Ying being Wei Ying; no further explanation needed). 

 

For example:

 

When they herded the chickens and carried the rabbits to the meadows, Wei Ying would start by humming an old Gusu folk tunes he’d learnt during his student days in the Cloud Recesses. Then, Lan Zhan would unconsciously sing a few lines because he knows the words by heart, and together, they end up chorusing in perfect harmony;

 

Even after suffering a (brutal) nip to his birdie - now tied with a cute white ribbon bow -, he accompanies Lan Zhan to play with the rabbits. He knows the older man has an unhealthy obsession in observing the creatures’ behaviour, movements and natural habits. Wei Ying deliberately nudges the fertile does toward the energetic bucks, and unsurprisingly, Lan Zhan becomes transfixed in watching a soft porn flick of rabbits attempting to mount each other repeatedly. Wei Ying casually coats his palms with the gooey medicinal paste (which acts as an excellent lubricant), then sneaks his hands into the older man’s crotch and starts fiddling with the hard-half meaty arousal. Lan Zhan becomes terribly conflicted because he doesn't know whether to admonish Wei Ying, keep watching the breeding rabbits, or just give up and let Wei Ying indulge in his secret kinky fantasies and playfully stroke him in time with how the buck pistons speedily into the doe’s rump. While struggling to make a choice, his breathing becomes erratic, he loses focus and images of mating furred creatures blur into fingers that keep circling, curling and squeezing until he knows that he will lose to the pleasurable waves throbbing from his melting dick surrounded by a sea of rutting rabbits. His indecision proves to be his downfall, to Wei Ying’s delight and giggles;

 

As they weaved through the many rows of growing cabbages, carrots and other greens to check for undesirable weeds or insect pests - Wei Ying walks side by side with his spouse, suddenly grabs his hands and intertwines their fingers, and he happily swings the joined hands back and forth. Lan Zhan would blush with a tiniest tinge of pink on his cheeks, at such a childish and subtly sweet, romantic display of affection from his lover. His hands grow warm in Wei Ying’s firm grasp;

 

When they walk close enough to each other, Wei Ying switches gears and takes advantage of their proximity and pantslessness. He starts touching Lan Zhan at every opportunity, just like in the morning. At first, the older man tries to be patient and tolerate the frisky fingers that slide underneath his shirt to molest the heated skin and muscles - not to forget the nipples - until they tickle and tingle with pleasure. He starts to groan Wei Ying’s name in warning, but that falls on deaf ears and it is futile to ward off those pesky hands that keep pinching and swatting his defenceless buttocks, slide between his moving thighs and jiggle his jewels, and naughty grabs at his harassed semi-erection. Lan Zhan feels bothered, restless and his nerves become a little more frayed, the gentle liquid flow of his Perfect universe becomes disturbed, stirred, swollen, rising, rising and finally overflow their riverbanks. Lan Zhan growls, pulls Wei Ying by the wrist and yanks both of them into a bush. Then, he crudely pushes the young man to the ground pillowed by freshly watered grass and summer flowers, and he has no problem spreading Wei Ying’s naked legs between his hot and bothered convulsing paste-lubricated cock. Wei Ying laughs and cries rape and mockingly accuses the venerable Han Guang Jun of taking his virginity and sexually assaulting his abused ass. Then the cries fade and turn into shameless moans;

 

While practising cultivation, Wei Ying doesn’t need to think or recall the intricate steps and limb movements, because he copies Lan Zhan’s moves perfectly fine. He easily becomes bored and starts chattering while drawing wide circles with his hands, sway his body to symbolize the eternal flow-patterns of yin and yang , and throw sharp punches and kicks to cultivate, develop and raise the qi energy levels in his body. He talks about something he remembers from sixteen years ago, something about the sudden heavy rains during the day before, something about manufacturing a particular order of talismans for a customer later in the evening, and something about his plans for the next few days. He goes on and on about his views, his hopes, his dreams, his wants and what he likes and dislikes, while mimicking Lan Zhan’s every moves. Lan Zhan does not appear distracted, and his face remains perfectly expressionless; he listens attentively and takes on a ready-stance;

 

When Lan Zhan exhales after performing the final Eighth Level stance, and starts wiping sweat from his face and neck with a towel to wrap up his cultivation practice, Wei Ying hastily skips over and grabs the older man’s wrists. He bounces excitedly and tells Lan Zhan to Let’s go there, over there, right over there, come on, COME ON!; in which the Lan Zhan gives a confused look that speaks multitudes of What is it, Why, What’s happened, Where are we going, Why are you dragging me; but Wei Ying is thrumming with joy, glee and his feelings of anticipation and his fluttering heart soars high with re-charged qi batteries that he nearly hauls the older man into a patch of dense grass because he’s impatient, he wants it, WANTS IT NOW DAMN IT. Minutes later, Wei Ying flings Lan Zhan’s sole garment (the poor shirt) high up to a tree’s branch, pushes the older man down and straddles him hard , and proceeds to fuck himself vigorously on Lan Zhan’s (tired and fatigued, and already lovingly emptied excessively too many times) lovestick with rolling hips and balls-deep thrusts. Lan Zhan helplessly moans and claws and kicks the grass and nnnghs rhythmically on the ground for quite a while after that. The day’s cultivated qi pleasantly drains into Wei Ying’s quivering ass in forced, excited spurts;

 

Lan Zhan sits on the wooden bench next to the lotus pond, fully naked, and needs only a minute to fix the small rips on his shirt - a victim of Wei Ying’s passionately aggressive seed-sucking lovemaking powered by qi -fuelled lust. He sighs and tells himself he should be more aware of Wei Ying’s mood swings, which can be susceptible to qi energy levels. When he’s done with the shirt, he prepares to fix a couple more garments and make a new pair of trousers for Wei Ying. 

 

Wei Ying approaches with a tray of tea and a plate of light snacks including a mix of toasted nut, reheated bread rolls and sweet bean dumplings. (His face is shiny and smooth, his complexion glows, plump and moisturized; he looks to be in the pink of health.) As he places the food on the table, he bends down and fondly kisses Lan Zhan’s left cheek. Lan Zhan Mmns in acknowledgement, and feels Wei Ying’s naked groin rubbing seductively against his back. He feels something familiar twitch. Wei Ying licks his lips.

 

Wei Ying certainly livens up Lan Zhan’s day.



4:00 pm

 

Lan Zhan also livens up Wei Ying’s interesting time-twisted day, although the older man has no knowledge nor recollection of the usage of such prohibited spells; other than feeling rather sleepy after the afternoon snack.

 

(In modern times, it wouldn’t be too far off to say that he’s no good with jet lags.)

 

After the terrifying episode involving un friendly denizens of the freshwater pond, Lan Zhan gently bridal-carries Wei Ying back to their home, where he dries off the shaking teary-eyed man with a towel, gives plenty of hugs, and lulls him to calmness with back-and-forth rocking motion in his embrace and sweet murmurs of “It’s alright, it’s alright”. 

 

He tells Wei Ying that he promises to take him to the evening market, so he needs to be a brave boy, and brave boys don’t cry. Wei Ying nods fervently like a child listening to a parent’s advice, and sniffles to get rid of runny snot in his nose. Lan Zhan continues to rub soothing circles on Wei Ying’s back, and asks if he’s alright to have a delicious seafood hotpot dinner with the fishies and shrimpies (because there’s a whole bunch of them waiting in the basket on the kitchen counter). There is a meaningful pause, before the younger man nods cautiously and agrees. Good boy, Lan Zhan says with a smooch on the forehead and a ruffle of hair at the back, and adds that Brave boys will be rewarded with yummy food and a memorable trip to the market. Wei Ying “En!”s cutely, feeling better, and dark memories of those creatures violating his ass a while ago dissipates like gossamer in the summer breeze.

 

Lan Zhan tells Wei Ying to wait outside the kitchen while dinner is being prepared, so that they can leave for the evening market earlier. He creaks his neck muscles and cracks the knuckle joints while wielding a large, deadly-looking chopping knife. He cuts up the still-wriggling, immobile creatures in the basket in the worst, most gruesome, and inhumane ways - leaving blood, entrails and splintered heads splattered all over the kitchen counter; it’s his own way of expressing his utmost rage at the fishies and shrimpies that dare to touch his beloved Wei Ying.



4:20 pm

 

Wei Ying stays in the workroom and starts writing out talismans to be sold in his next trip to the marketplace. A few housewives have placed advanced orders of useful household spells, especially the elemental ones. When he’s done writing the twentieth talisman (and feels awfully bored and mentally exhausted from doing so - because it’s as boring as copying Gusu Lan’s scriptures), he notices the opened gift-box set of sewing stuff . With his typical overwhelming curiosity, he reaches for it and starts taking apart the box and its contents. As he takes out each needle, thread and other indescribable items, analyzes and fiddles with them, his back knocks against the Dustless Broom. The older man had stored the cleaning stick in the workroom after using it to clean their house (more than once a day). 

 

Wei Ying grins, and decides that he can write the rest of the talismans later.



4:30 pm

 

Lan Zhan finished chopping, cleaning and arranging the ingredients on the counter - in perfect sequence, shapes and sizes. His apron is splashed with bloody red, so he takes it off, soaks it in the kitchen sink for a bit, before throwing it to the laundry basket. Next, he goes to the outdoor bath for a quick rinse because there’s so much blood on his hands , and when he returns to the bedroom in search of something to wear from the wardrobe cupboard, he sees from a distance a hardworking Wei Ying hunched over on the workroom’s table.

 

Lan Zhan thinks he should reward his brave and hardworking boy.



4:45 pm

 

Wei Ying walks with springy steps to the kitchen with lively shouts of “Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan! Look what I’ve--” and the noise dies down. 

 

Lan Zhan turns around with two bowls of freshly slaughtered fish, eels and shrimps in his hands. A hotpot containing clear meat broth has been set to boil at the center of the dining table, and several plates of prepared side dishes surround it, including an ugly-looking boiled freshwater tilapia, an egg dish and stir-fried vegetables. 

 

Wei Ying is more than thrilled, not because of the sumptuous feast laid out in front of him; Lan Zhan wears only a new apron and nothing else.



5:00 pm

 

“Wei Ying, five more minutes. The broth will boil and we’ll start dinner.”

 

“En!” and Wei Ying happily mmmfs into a face full of firm fleshy glutes and nuzzles and breathes in deeply through the butt crack. He sits on a chair and lovingly embraces a standing Lan Zhan from the back, and has been spending the last many fulfilling minutes molesting the naked broad back, feel every rise and dip of perfectly-contoured muscles, skimming fingers down the ribs on the side and the small of the back, where he lick lick licks the valley along the spine and then he feasts on the appealingly smooth, toned ass. He bites, licks, swats, pinches, caresses and does whatever he wants to his heart’s content.

 

Lan Zhan squeezes his glutes, alternating between both sides. Wei Ying cheerfully chomps on each. 

 

“Do the thing you always do when you’re in bed,” Wei Ying murmurs sexily into the ass cleft.

 

Lan Zhan sighs and humours Wei Ying’s pointless request (it is pointless, because it happens in bed everyday anyway), takes a low squatting stance, and starts shaking his hips and wiggle the springy muscled mounds of flesh.

 

Lan Zhan is surprisingly athletic and flexibly, and twerks well. Wei Ying becomes an excited ball of Yes Yes More Yes Do It Oh Yeah Baby, and starts grabbing and spanking the enticing ass.



5:05 pm

 

As expected, the broth boils, the raw food is dumped unceremoniously into the hotpot and sweetens the bubbling liquid into a tasty, nutritious and wholesome simmering seafood soup, to whet the couple’s vengeful appetites of the fishies and shrimpies.

 

Wei Ying revels in the sights that accompany their dinner, especially when Lan Zhan purposely parades around the kitchen to grab the salt shaker, pass a spoon, pour another serving of soup, top their rice bowls, and put the dirty bowls and plates into the kitchen sink one by one - and Wei Ying takes every chance to swipe, fondle, touch and jiggle whatever his fingers can reach, each time the older man passes by.

 

After a satisfying dinner, they strolled to the outdoor bath with Lan Zhan feeling Perfectly accomplished and composed for having scored perfect tens in keeping his lover happy after a long, long morning and afternoon. Wei Ying reciprocates and snakes his limbs erotically all over Lan Zhan, seducing and sexually coaxing the older man to do the deed, as an unspoken gesture of thanks, and they have a quickie in the splashing, rippling bathwaters.

 

To celebrate the end of Wei Ying’s No Pants Day, the couple kissed passionately with their bodies closely intertwined and joined; Lan Zhan yawns mid-way into the kiss, and Wei Ying cast a few spells, including Energize, and the older man enthusiastically resumes their amorous, intimate act until Wei Ying is left breathless above, and underwater.

 

6:30 pm

 

“Wei Ying… are you sure?”

 

“Yes, yes, let’s hurry up and get this done! I wanna visit every stall in the funfair, and I don’t want to miss the fireworks!”

 

Earlier, Wei Ying had shown Lan Zhan his latest invention, which consists of the detachable round head of the Dustless Broom affixed to a plain wooden plate. One of the magical needles gifted by Fifth Sister was glued to the plate, and it is surrounded by a dizzying array of colourful talismans plastered on the same surface including modified Eye, Memory and Energy spells, bound by a complex pattern of bright blue Binding Spell threads. 

 

Lan Zhan correctly guessed that upon activation, somehow the needle will point to the desired directions, similar to how it can gracefully float, dive, thrust, spin and twirl when sewing fabrics together. Wei Ying has channeled qi into number of modified Energy talismans that act as a temporary, portable power source for the needle, so that it is able to generate enough momentum to move the entire structure; especially since the needle is tied to threads connecting the Energy sources. 

 

Wei Ying lifts the plate to Lan Zhan’s eye level, and instructs the latter to touch one finger to the needle, and the other to the Memory talisman. The older man goes along with the request, though he feels a bit silly doing so. Following the next set of instructions, Lan Zhan closes his eyes and tries to imagine his daily routine of d-brooming the floor around their cave-home. He recounts his steps, the junctions where he turns, the furniture that he avoids, and also walking along the edges right until he hit the corners - in perfect high-resolution images and tidily executed sequences inside his mind. The modified Memory talisman glows yellow as it absorbs the thoughts through the man’s fingertips, and that same luminescence travels into the needle, which starts to vibrate animatedly.

 

Wei Ying takes away the humming d-broom, taps two fingers on the enhanced Eye talisman “to make sure this thing can see where it’s going”, and then gently places it on the ground. He unnecessarily shouts his nonsensical mystical phrase of “Alibaba! (阿里巴巴)! A-ling de baba! (啊令的爸爸)” with raised hands, just for the sake of entertaining himself.

 

“It’s… alive!” his voice quivers and goes up an octave. 

 

The dinner plate-sized d-broom whirrs alive and starts to move on its own. Lan Zhan stares at the cleaning stick-turned-automaton as it slowly drags itself on a path that Lan Zhan is familiar with, leaving behind a trail of shiny cleaned floor surface. He is astonished, speechless and doesn’t know how to feel besides absolute awe; although, somewhere deep inside, there’s a small prickly bitter-sour feeling in watching a nonliving object taking over one of his favourite and eponymous role and identity at home (because Lan Zhan is to Bichen as Bichen is to the Dustless Broom, and they all get rid of the dirt and dust in their own worlds) - is there a foreboding sense of impending helplessness and redundancy?

 

He didn’t have time to ruminate through his thoughts, as Wei Ying grabs him by the wrists and rants non-stop about the waiting snacks and candies vendors, of funfair games, and maybe finding a few rabbit-themed lanterns to buy at the evening market.

 

D-broom continues to teeter-totter unsteadily around the empty cave-home following its predetermined route, after its inhabitants leave on a sputtering flying Bichen to Yiling.

Chapter Text

There are three main evening markets in Yiling and numerous vendors throng the streets and set up their stalls to lay out their wares after six pm. The markets span several more districts during the weekends to draw a bigger crowd; during festivals, school holidays and certain celebrations, those streets become packed because of special attractions organized by the townspeople, such as concerts, funfairs and fireworks displays. Summer is in full swing, so evenings in Yiling are teeming with locals and visitors from nearby provinces, enjoying the vibrant nightlife that the city has to offer.

 

Wei Ying had asked Lan Zhan if he was really sure to go on a trip to the evening market, while both of them blazed on Bichen at full throttle against a backdrop of fading deep orange-red hued sky at dusk. Lan Zhan merely nods, adamant on keeping his promise despite Tian dajie ’s advice. He tells Wei Ying that they’ll take extra precautions, and confidently says that “It will be alright.” Wei Ying leans closer and tightens his grasp on his partner’s hand.

 

Eventually the sun dips below the horizon, welcoming a clear night sky with few silver-lined clouds. From a distance, between forested hills that encircle the sprawling city, hundreds of amber lanterns light up and dot the Market Streets, creating a beautiful gold-speckled landscape that mirrors the starry heavens above.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Heavy swords are forbidden in the main market areas during active business hours, as gazetted by the City Council, for safety and security reasons. In the past, local police officers were posted at the entrances and in booths located around important junctions, and there have been occasions where rogue cultivators swoop in and cause a ruckus in the streets, or worse, rob unsuspecting pedestrians in a typical hit-and-run fashion; they’re known as “pirates from the skies”. 

 

However, in the recent months, Wei Ying has noticed a disconcerting increase in the presence of fully-armed (and often aggressive) Jin patrol guards, which have kept the townspeople on their toes, and kept the streets’ crime rates very low; although pirates and robbers no longer dare to emerge in broad daylight, there is always a sense of fear and unrest from the people due to the constant checks and harassment by the guards - especially those who linger in the streets for too long, boast interesting-looking equipment such as fancy swords or luxury items of high value, or those who are clad in dark colours (which run against the Grand Cultivation Council’s latest gold-themed socio-cultural programmes aptly named “Gold Is In Vogue”).

 

“Lan Zhan, watch out - I see some Jin guards at the main parking lot,” Wei Ying barks out in warning as they approach an empty plot of land just a stone’s throw away from the Market Streets. His eyes stare at a glowing reflection from an activated, modified red Eye talisman that allows him to spy far distances in the dark with sharp vision (the same talisman used with lampblack for burning detailed pictures onto fabrics, such as one with Wei Ying and Lan Zhan ‘lewding the bunnies’, not too long ago). A few unwary cultivators have landed their swords on that lot, and unsurprisingly, they were approached by some burly-looking men in gold-plated armour. One with a particularly wide broadsword and a drunken, flushed complexion, and sported filled money pouches dangling from his sash, was inevitably apprehended and led away with his legs kicking in mid-air. (Wei Ying sniggered inwardly - that man probably has his sights set on the gambling dens in Fragrant Blossoms Street, which isn’t too far from the evening markets.)

 

“Mn. We’ll land a little farther ahead,” Lan Zhan replies with a neutral voice. There is no concern, as he’s well-versed about where to land their blade albeit in further and probably illegal parking spots.

 

It seems a number of people have the same idea, and soon, the couple found themselves stuck in a sort of traffic congestion of clashing swords, cultivators pointing and swearing at each other, and blades cutting into others’ queues. The hectic scenery is not uncommon, especially during dinnertime peak hours and people rush to find any remaining available parking space on small patches of illegally-cleared bushland on the fringes of Yiling. 

 

Fortunately, Lan Zhan is able to maneuver Bichen with amazing dexterity and finesse despite its bulky and heavy-duty design, and avoid any untoward accidents (having the cutting edge of a blade poke into another’s shoes can be an unpleasant and bloody experience). They had to allow a few unruly (young, with ridiculous punk hairstyles and garish robes) cultivators who swerve too close and rudely pushed everyone aside to cleanly insert their sword at the front of the queue. Wei Ying shouted a few cuss words but his voice was drowned by angrier older men and women on even bigger rides.

 

Lan Zhan remains unfazed at the disturbance, and focuses on steering Bichen slowly to the next available slot. One ambitious couple overtook them and side-skidded in. Flustered Wei Ying starts to swear again but Lan Zhan’s reaches up to push down the younger man’s shaking, accusing pointing index finger, signalling him to calm down his ruffled feathers. At last, after guiding Bichen to fit on a narrow strip of grass, and sheathing the blade into its scabbard to lock it, the couple got off with a heavy sigh - in some way, they were mentally exhausted - but victorious; solving their parking woes means half of the battle is already won. Lan Zhan pays the fee of a silverpiece to a shady-looking man dressed in black layered cloaks, and off they go, to the evening market.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wearing light-coloured clothes and not carrying anything that may attract unwanted attention, the couple easily blends into the moving masses of commoners, scholars, farmers, merchants, artisans, cultivators, martial artists, magic-users and all sorts of folks, locally and from other provinces. Wei Ying is especially thrilled with his new pair of beige trousers, and he doesn’t hesitate to walk with a spring in his steps and an extra sway in his hips, while twirling a small burlap bag with his fingers.

 

The crowd increased in size as they approach via the West Market Street. At the sight of two Jin guards at the junction leading into the evening market, Wei Ying instructs Lan Zhan to seal his golden core to avoid detection; during his hair-raising street peddling adventures, Wei Ying has seen a fair number of Jin magic-users, and they are adept at wielding many kinds of spells, including those that sniff out their own kin and gifted people who possess suspiciously high levels of qi or golden core energies. The older man obliges, makes a cross-mark sign on his chest with a zwip! sound, and they walk ahead.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying “Waaaah!”s with gleeful sparkles in his eyes when greeted by colourful bright lights, blaring music, noisy chatters, and miles upon miles of people and their families meandering amongst rows of market stalls and shopfronts. The couple walked slowly side by side, and when Wei Ying spots some interesting wares he’d grab Lan Zhan’s wrist and drag the older man to the targeted stall. There is a variety of vendors selling touristy (such as shirts with brash loud “I-Love-Yiling” prints with a big heart for Yiling’s “Y”) and cheap fashionable clothes and footwear; dodgy-looking souvenirs and collectables (woven scarves, handbags and purses, embroidered goods); antiques (counterfeit terracotta statues sell very well), shiny accessories (with fake precious stones made with questionable craftsmanship); and even normal household goods. A few street peddlers tried to sell them twisted and useless versions of Yiling Laozu portraits and magical gadgets, which peeved Wei Ying to no end, and Lan Zhan had to grab his wrist and drag away his disgruntled lover.

 

During the leisurely stroll, Wei Ying would try to keep their physical contact without being too obvious:

Sometimes he when passes Lan Zhan, he’d momentarily hook their index fingers before letting go; Lan Zhan feels his fingertip throb a little;

Wei Ying would excitedly hop from one stall to another, and when he swivels to the next vendor with Lan Zhan at his back, he pretends to lose his balance, and place a palm on the older man’s chest to steady himself. Lan Zhan lets Wei Ying massage his muscled breast for a few seconds, and even a couple of flicks on his nipples through the shirt with a naughty thumb;

While hunching over a cart to scan a tabletop full of bangles, earrings, necklaces and anklets made from cheap glass and low-grade jade, Wei Ying knows all eyes are on the goods and not towards the floor. He sneakily slides one leg to the side and rubs the top of a foot against Lan Zhan’s calves in seductive circles.

 

As the crowd swells, Lan Zhan began to trail behind Wei Ying with a thinly-masked look of discomfort; people start to squeeze each other, and strangers’ hands start to rub and hit one another unintentionally; he appears especially constipated (distressed) when tailed by buskers, street performers, peddlers, even the odd beggar and people dressed in bizarre costumes preaching some kind of exotic cult or religion (one of his nightmares, really). Wei Ying, on the other hand, has a time of his life haggling or having a shouting match above the din with vendors hawking their goods on wooden carts or even on a piece of canvas on the dusty ground. He’d find out the kinds of colours or shapes available, then ask about the prices and try to bring them down, then happily declines and skips away without any thought or regret; Lan Zhan used to find this behavior to be strange - why would a person ask about the goods, and not buy them? - but these days, he doesn’t question Wei Ying’s logic anymore.

 

At certain times, Lan Zhan finds himself caught between haphazard streams of market-goers. He’s not good in dealing with such situations, and usually stands petrified with a distraught look on his face until a window of opportunity appears to escape; however such windows are rare - when Wei Ying realizes Lan Zhan has gone missing, he sighs at his partner’s ineptness and backtracks to (easily) find him (Lan Zhan is slightly taller than the average adult male, and his exceptionally good looks draws attention from younger female shoppers - especially when he halts in the middle of the street and becomes very conspicuous). Wei Ying would wedge himself between the older man and the sea of squirming moving human bodies, then, with a wrist grab, gently guides Lan Zhan to relative safety, usually in front of another stall. Lan Zhan finds himself forcibly pushed into Wei Ying’s back when people continue to knock into them, and finds his crotch snug against the younger man’s ass. He blushes when his slowly-hardening arousal rubs through his trousers along the butt crack - in public, no less. Wei Ying lets Lan Zhan remain in position (again, petrified), and rocks back and forth on his heels. He hums idly while browsing the stall’s wares, and Lan Zhan’s blush deepens.

 

By the time the couple emerged from the West Market Street with a few small purchases - mostly household goods that Lan Zhan needed for the kitchen (such as an extra ladle for his pots, a pack of laundry clips because the crows have stolen many of them before, and at Wei Ying’s insistence, a set of two tacky-looking heart-filled mugs with the words “You’re Mine” on one of them, and “I’m Yours” on the other; Wei Ying successfully bargained down the price of their purchases to half of their original values), they arrive at the funfair’s open grounds. 

 

Lan Zhan adjusts his trousers a bit, and follows a hyper-excited Wei Ying with a basket bag of their purchase held tightly in front of his crotch.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

A row of booths stand ready for Wei Ying to try his hand on fun carnival games. 

 

There were the typical games such as: ring toss, spin the wheel, scooping goldfish, card games, throwing balls into moving baskets, hide-and-seek with coins and papercups, and shooting at straw toys with children-sized bows and arrows. Some of the games have been rigged, so the couple knows they will win some money, and lose some - all in good fun;

Also, more family-oriented ones such as bumper carts, exciting horse-driven rides through overgrown bush trails that swerve and spin their passengers violently (Wei Ying loves to lift his hands and scream YAYYYYY while Lan Zhan grips the edge of the bamboo seat with a pale face), and carousel rides themed with the twelve mythical Middle Kingdom Zodiac animals;

There are a number of organized team games including friendly matches of bouncing jianzi (featherball), spinning tops, and handball. Lan Zhan prefers to watch Wei Ying enjoy these games (and play against other children ); he does not participate willingly, unless Wei Ying shouts “I need another strong man in my team!”.

 

At one point, when the couple sat down to have refreshing bowls of cooling herbal tea sold by a beverage vendor, a particular booth owner proudly announced that for every five targets hit in the bullseye consecutively, the winner can choose any toy prize displayed on the shelf; for ten targets, a grand prize of a beautiful paper lantern. Wei Ying wasn’t interested in the selection of straw dolls, wooden toys and porcelain animal figurines; but has his sights set on the lanterns that hung from the top rack.

 

He hands his half-drunk bowl to Lan Zhan, and says, “Hold my tea.”

 

Wei Ying loves to be the darling in everyone’s eyes. He raises his arms to welcome the gathering, curious onlookers filing in from other booths. Then, he struts back and forth in tune to the increasingly curious murmurs, and postures with the bow and arrows. Several children in the audience squeal in excitement. Finally, when he feels the heat of anticipation radiating from the circle of mesmerized observers, he raises the bow horizontally, loads it with five arrows at once and unleashes them in a blink of an eye. Five straw targets are hit on the mark, and the spectators cheer - and then challenge him to do something crazier. 

 

Wei Ying thumbs his nose and smugly shouts out to his new fans, “Look at me! Look at me!” (in which Lan Zhan does with a barely-noticeable smile; his inner self applauses like a lovestruck fan, and his heart skips a beat). He then blindfolds himself, grabs a handful of arrows (they look more like palm-sized darts) and slides them into his belt, then gracefully spins around and draws his bow again. He hits the centers of three sets of straw targets in rapid succession - five targets for each set, stationed next to one another. The crowd goes wild and Lan Zhan calmly claps his hands (his inner self is left screaming breathlessly with adulation for his idol-lover-spouse-hero, and his heart skips two beats).

 

The booth owner was stunned, but concedes to Wei Ying’s win to the delight of the people surrounding the stall. For a total of twenty targets struck by Wei Ying’s amazing archery skills, he picks out two large unlit lanterns with rabbit designs - these are intended to be hung on the front entrances of homes, and their bamboo frames can be folded into small, compact discs. Lan Zhan adds these to his basket bag.

 

Just then, a squad of stocky and heavily armed Jin guards jostled through to check on the commotion. The crowd immediately starts to disperse; Lan Zhan was caught in the moving tide and was pushed to some distance away; some people dashed helter skelter, while others politely give way. The guards eventually reach their target and loom over the shorter Wei Ying menacingly. Lan Zhan stiffens, and was ready to pull out his newly-bought ladle from his basket bag, and throw the laundry clips at the intruders (they can function as lethal missile projectiles in the hands of a great cultivator); Wei Ying shakes his head a little towards the older man, signalling him stay out of the encounter and remain hidden. Lan Zhan nods once, then slips into the shadows in-between two nearby deserted stalls. He is extremely tense and vigilant.

 

Wei Ying transforms immediately to his jolly, humbled, airheaded self, and uses his A wesome S elling S kills to disarm the guards with plenty of praises to the Jins, and a crafty story that he was a hunter, and was skilled with bows. He even showed them the contents of the burlap sack slung over his shoulder; two guards wrinkled their noses in disgust at the sight of knocked-out squirrels. The third guard was a little more cautious and hovered a glowing palm over Wei Ying's chest. " Shixiong , I sense a very weak core in this man, but there is magic-using potential in him. I do not know how far his spellcasting abilities go, though.”

 

The second, mustached guard, leans very close and eyes Wei Ying from head to toe, before drawing back with a surprised “Ooooh!”. “I’ve seen this man before - he’s one of those peasants that peddles cheap magical talismans around here at daytime. To think that he hunts in the bushes for wild game to eat or sell, how poor and wretched can he be?” he remarks with disdain and laughs mockingly. The guards are handsomely paid and live the lives of elites; they are pampered with food served on gold or silver platter, and the thought of having to walk into the forest to kill something to eat is repulsive.

 

The magic-user guard, an experienced cultivator himself, agrees and adds salt to the wound, “For all we know, he could have enchanted the arrows with low-level spells before making those so-called perfect shots. What a cheap trick, and a disgrace to the cultivation world!" The guard snorts incredulously. In response to that, Wei Ying kowtows repeatedly and mumbles, “Yes Yes Yes! Young masters, you’re all are correct, I’m just a poor man trying to earn a free meal here, using all sorts wily ways that I can think of… I’ve learnt my lesson now, I’m really a useless man, I won’t do it again… can you let me go just this time?”. His servile attitude attracts more scornful laughter from the trio.

 

The biggest, meanest Jin guard steps up, and the other two retreats as a sign of respect for their eldest. A bearded imposing man of an impressive height over seven feet tall and a gold-plated armour twice as magnificent, he towers above everyone at the scene. He stoops and stares down at a frightened-looking Wei Ying for a few seconds. 

 

Lan Zhan's hands trembled, and grips the handle of the ladle tightly.

 

"You’re really hopeless; admitting your guilt before we even strip you down and do a body search,” he bellows out a threatening laugh, “Very well!" then hoists Wei Ying by the front collar until the younger man had to tip-toe and bend his back at the same time to avoid nasty sour breaths fuming out of the giant's nostrils. "So, troublemaker, we find you guilty for fraud and misuse of magic in public. We're taking you to the nearest police station for questioning, so save your pitiful excuses when you face the magistrate!" His roaring voice was so loud that any explanations died inside Wei Ying's throat.

 

"Ahh, da ge (big brother), do we really have to? The General told us to look out for particularly gifted and talented people with strong cores and abilities. A scrawny, weak magic-user like him isn't cut out to be part of the army. There’s really no need to meddle with the city’s affairs. Plus, I'm really hungry now…," the second guard interrupts with a whine, and his stomach growls in agreement.

 

" Er ge (second brother) is right. This is the local police's job, not ours. Our patrol shift was over half an hour ago and we should be having dinner at the Kitchen of Prosperity by now," the third guard chimed in.

 

The leader weighs the words of his men for a while, and then sighs. With a strong muscled arm, he shoves Wei Ying to the ground and snarls, "Fortunately for you, troublemaker, we have other better things to do. So… scram! Don't let me see your face again on these streets." The guards march away with heavy steps, leaving a cloud of dust on Wei Ying and the third guard kicked his shin before they left.

 

Wei Ying coughs when the breath he’d held is finally released with a loud wheeze. Lan Zhan rushes to his side, and helps Wei Ying up. He grabs the burlap sack that had fallen to the ground during the confrontation, and together, they quickly leave the empty fairgrounds before the crowd returns.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

They headed southward, opposite of the direction of the Jin guards. Wei Ying was fine and escaped with a few bruises on his back from being thrown (slammed) to the ground by the brutish leader. Lan Zhan knows that Wei Ying had been roughed up by the guards on many occasions during his daytime trip to the city, but this is the first time he’s seen it with his own eyes - and his heart clenched in fear and with great anger. 

 

As they weaved through rows of market stalls and stayed close to the lantern-illuminated roadside curbs where there are visibly less people, they talked about what they’d heard from the guards. Wei Ying guessed that some of the rumours are true - that the Jins, who have widespread influence and presence across the Middle Kingdom, are actively seeking out cultivators and forcing them to join their side. He was surprised that the army would go to such lengths to bolster their numbers, to the extent of abducting people from faraway cities and settlements using crude and intimidating methods. He starts to wonder aloud about what they plan to do with the captured cultivators, how the prisoners are enlisted into the army, are the Jins really as bad as the Wens, what is going on in the Carp Tower and how this is related to what is happening Yiling - or worse, the neighbouring cities towards the Far West.

 

Lan Zhan remains silent as Wei Ying talks on and on, even when they’ve found a quiet spot in a nearby park, and away from prying eyes. There were very few passers-by; these were mostly residents living close to the markets and hurried through the empty green space with their purchases. A few lanterns lit a trail that circled the park, casting dim amber hue to everything within.

 

Lan Zhan isn’t able to cast any spells due to his sealed core, so he retrieves a bottle of medicinal paste from his sleeves - the same one that repels insects, which also acts as a soothing, nourishing balm for wounded skin -, then slowly peels off Wei Ying’s modest upper garments, before applying the paste with light dabs on the purplish bruises that mar his back. 

 

“Ah, ah, not so hard, it’s quite painful, you know,” Wei Ying groans on a picnic bench, his back facing the older man. He takes a sip of the cooling herbal tea from their bamboo container that Lan Zhan had packed from the beverage vendor earlier. 

 

“You were brave, Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan finally breaks his silence. A breeze blew; the night air is cooler in the park, and the sound of crickets is louder than the murmurs of lively conversations and the cacophony of any typical bustling evening market filtering through the dense foliage.

 

Wei Ying turns around, and both of them straddle the same bench, facing each other. He takes Lan Zhan’s paste-coated fingers and places them on the naked left chest, above the nipple, where he lets Lan Zhan feel his racing heartbeat. Sixteen years ago or so, Wei Ying had a burning brand mark at that same spot; now there are only Lan Zhan's fingerprints on the smooth skin.

 

“I was brave, wasn’t I? It was scary, and it was also painful, Lan Zhan,” he whispers sultrily into the dark, and leans forward until their lips almost touched.

 

“Can you comfort me just a little?” he asks, sweet, innocent, wanting.

 

“Mn.”

Chapter Text

“Ah, ah, slow down… breathe in… then out… that’s it, breathe in again… ah, ah, don’t shoot so fast… stop, please, otherwise it’ll overflow too fast… and spill down my thighs... breathe in… then out...”

 

Lan Zhan bites his lips to mute an agonizingly prolonged groan as he struggles with one of the biggest challenges of his life - still, he’s on the verge of failing, and failing spectacularly. 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Earlier...

 

“Wei Ying, I.. I don’t think I can do it. I’m empty. Let’s just… hug each other?” A gentle, kind request.

 

“Speak for yourself. Look at your didi here.” One hand pulled down the trouser’s waistband for the world to see his lover’s crotch. His fingertips expertly reached in and unabashedly played with the exposed penis, nestled safely in a bush of fine pubic hair. They jiggle and bounce the hefty weight, caress the silky foreskin, draw lines and circles along the veins, fondle the contracting muscles along the underside and skimmed all over the swelling flesh, before dipping in and out of the slit at the edge of the spongy tip, repeatedly. He easily enticed pearlets of clear, slippery liquid out of the rising member.

 

“Ahhhnn…W-Wei.. Y-” Lusty and incoherent.

 

It’s so easy to arouse Lan Zhan, Wei Ying thought.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The couple made out passionately on the picnic bench under the shadow of tall, dense shrubs. They kissed, groped, touched and licked each other’s heated skins, moaning each other’s names into each other’s heavy breaths; Lan Zhan made love with hot, wet kisses on the lips and entangles their saliva-coated tongues passionately with sensuous sliding, rubbing movements, mimicking what he plans to do inside Wei Ying later on; Wei Ying nnnnhs breathlessly under the sweet, sweet oral assault, then slid his hands underneath the older man’s shirt; he runs his fingernails over the broad, muscled chest, raking the sensitive nipples in the process, before descending down the smooth hilly abs and glides inside the trousers to reach his prize. There, he leisurely strokes the older man’s cock and cups the large ballsacks with gentle squeezes; Lan Zhan had been aroused earlier by Wei Ying’s flirting at the market, and in no time he was hard as a rock again. Lan Zhan easily edged towards his climax, much faster than his younger lover - until they heard the sound of approaching footsteps crunching on gravel trail. 

 

They froze in heart-stopping suspense for a minute, still in each other’s embrace, and waited with bated breath until the person walked away. Wei Ying was apprehensive to continue on the bench, so he grabbed his shirt and their bags with one hand, held Lan Zhan’s wrist with the other, and led them deeper into the inky-dark thickets.

 

When they reached the more secluded parts of the park, away from any lantern light and walking trails, Wei Ying sighed in relief and lay against a tree trunk. He yelped lightly at the pain from his bruised back, so he turned around to lie the other way around; his face against the chilled tree bark; he needed to catch his breath after the brisk walk. Just as he put back on his shirt, his trousers fell loose. Broom-Bichen calloused fingers fumbled at his underwear in the shadows, and when it didn’t yield, they curled claw-like and started to paw at the delicate cloth. Wei Ying groaned in exasperation - but with understanding as well - he reached his behind, adjusted that last piece of garment covering his lower body, and pulled aside the strip of cloth. His ass cleft and balls felt drafty.

 

(Wei Ying wore a simple red loincloth - think fundoshi, or something that resembles a loose thong - because his favourite red underwear was soiled earlier, mostly with his lover’s semen. Lan Zhan had no qualms to wash it for the second time that day, and it will probably hang on the laundry line overnight.)

 

Strong, clammy hands gripped his naked hips from the back, then Wei Ying felt a slimy-coated rod part his glutes and poke hungrily at his rosebud. Wei Ying gritted his teeth and forced his lower muscles to relax, allowing entrance for the invading organ into his love canal. He couldn’t see in the dark, but the fruity herbal scent told him that the medicinal paste was used as lubricant, and the huffing, increasingly desperate groans into his ears, interspersed with gentle nips on the earlobes, his nape and shoulders, sent shivers down his spine, and he knew that Lan Zhan would not last much longer despite just a couple of minutes of bareback fucking. One of his legs was lifted, and the tempo and depth of each powerful thrust increased; balls slapped deafeningly loud against his ass as his lover snapped his hips and pounded forcefully in a shared, timeless rhythm that only the couple knew. Wei Ying felt the cock was literally sawing into him, the tasty growls behind his ears were getting too much, they were going too fast--

 

“Lan Zhan! You horny animal… slow down, or you’ll make too much noise!” Wei Ying hissed softly into the dark.

 

Just then, they heard the unmistakable swish of robes of another passer-by. The couple stopped again, this time in mid-fuck, unnerverd and sweaty. Something swelled inside Wei Ying, and pulsated a couple of times - nearly in tandem with his wildly-beating heart. His one leg - the one that was still in contact with the ground - trembled in fatigue from holding up the body’s weight, and from the excitement and fear of being discovered - they were like insatiable lovers trying to consummate their relationship with illicit trysts in the darkness of the night.

 

Wei Ying felt a trickle  - just a drop - of gooeyness leak from his asshole, and it slowly rolled down his perineum and to his left testicle. He quickly pulled out, and winced when he felt a throb inside his stretched passageway; they hadn’t done enough foreplay and preparation before the intercourse. He quickly reached down to the ground, felt the grass a bit, and picked up a leaf.

 

“Did you cum?” he asked bluntly in a whispery voice, as he wiped that drop he’d felt on his left ball. It was gummy, and still warm.

 

“A.. a little,” a guilt-laden, panting voice answered. Lan Zhan must’ve felt too good and couldn’t hold back his excitement, Wei Ying thought - with a little proud smile.

 

He turned around, but all he could see was pitch darkness. Still, he could imagine where his lover was, what he looked like, what posture he was holding - he easily made a swiping motion with a hand and perfectly slapped Lan Zhan’s still thick and erect shaft. The older man ahhnnhs shakily.

 

“We can’t go on like this, at least not in this park. It’s not secluded and people can see or hear us anytime. You can’t cum inside me, otherwise I won’t be able to walk the rest of the market with your stuff constantly leaking down my thighs,” there was a slight moan (from the imagery), “and I won’t be able to sit down properly when we have supper later.” 

 

Wei Ying felt around blindly until he found his favourite twitching rod. He gave it a few firm strokes accompanied by squishy sounds of lubricant paste, sexual fluids and leftovers of a pre-ejaculation, eliciting shuddering breaths from the other man. He likes to edge Lan Zhan as much as possible. “I can’t calm you down using my mouth because it’s covered with, you know,” he polished the tip with a curled palm and made juicy sounds to emphasize his point; Lan Zhan was probably losing his balance with his quaking knees by now, “so I guess we’ll have to make do with handjobs.”

 

Wei Ying re-adjusted his underwear and pulled out his own semi-erect cock through one of the openings of his underwear; he also needed to finish with Lan Zhan, so that they can get on with their market trip; the vendors will not wait! Soon, the couple stood face to face in the inky blackness - not too close, because that would be too suspicious if someone chanced upon them - and Lan Zhan rubbed their cockheads together with a housework-roughened fisted palm. Wei Ying relishes in running his fingers everywhere on Lan Zhan’s sweaty crotch and therefore covertly molesting the man who was about to reach his climax; as well as pleasuring himself by lightly dancing fingertips on his quivering balls until they start to rise and tighten.

 

Lan Zhan must have had a brilliant streak (blame his nightly reading of PeiNis magazines), because he suddenly pulled his foreskin and stretched its opening over Wei Ying’s glans. Wei Ying nnnnghs at the silky soft sensations of elastic skin rubbing over each other, and each time their cockslits kissed, Lan Zhan massaged their cockheads simultaneously with his wide meaty palm. The little enclosed pocket of foreskin and penises began to fill up with warm watery slickness not unlike pre-cum, and after a couple minutes of docking, there was again that familiar two-pulses of very excited, spasming flesh - this time, a heated, thick glob slid out to mix in the frothing pool of liquid between the quivering, engorged tips; Wei Ying could probably guess who it belonged to, and that it must’ve felt really, really good for him. The older man’s breathing became erratic.

 

Wei Ying shifted restlessly while standing on the grass, languidly jerking his hips as pleasure burns its wildfire inside his loins, and he stepped on his own rumpled trousers. Something clicked inside his mind.

 

“L… Lan Zhan, you… you can’t cum yet!” The pumping, perspiring hand ceased moving immediately. Wei Ying could feel a pair of eyes staring at him in utter disbelief, and flared nostrils inhaling-exhaling in distress to hold back whatever waves that was about to rise and crash over. “If you - we - cum, they’ll spill to the ground and dirty our clothes!” Wei Ying wheezed.

 

Suddenly and for the third time that night, they were interrupted in their quest for a quickie - by the sound of leaves rustling in the bush next to them. In a moment of unthinking mindblank and panic, Wei Ying swats Lan Zhan’s hand away with a frustrated growl, and pulls back his dick - taking along his lover’s tightly-docked penis straight into his snug, bulging loincloth wrap.

 

Hei gui !!!” (黑鬼; Black ghost) A young boy’s bald head popped out from the top of the bushes, a small lantern in his grasp, and Wei Ying’s blood ran cold.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan struggles like a dying man in front of his lover and an unknown child. He’s lost all dignity and pride, incontinent in his control of a rising, rising and cresting, plateauing orgasm that was held back for so many times, too many times; the lustful liquid fire welled up from deep within, his hips jerk upwards once, twice, and that heavenly, unstoppable sequence of delicious rolling contractions start from his balls, through his full and swollen prostate, bursting forth from the base of his lava-molten cock--

 

He doesn’t have his golden core to turn down, snuff out or even delay the inevitable explosion. All he can do is to muster all possibly and humanly controls in his entire nether regions to stave off the mind-blowing orgasm that has already started its countdown. Having his twitching cock squashed against the warmth of Wei Ying’s genitals doesn’t help at all.

 

“Ah, Hei ge ! (黑哥; Black Brother) Why are you here?” the boy asks with a big toothy smile - with two teeth missing -; he’s no more than six or seven years of age, still brimming with childish innocence.

 

“Ssssh! Go away! I’m busy! Shoo!” Wei Ying hisses panickedly at the boy. He waves away desperately at the boy, nearly slapping the small round face.

 

“What are you doing? What’s going on down there--” the lantern is lifted a little higher, to illuminate a wider area on the ground. Lan Zhan is horrified, and starts to pray that Goddess Guan Yin’s would show mercy upon his current life-and-death predicament. The first prayer verses are disrupted at the same time the first volley shoots out into the warm cavern of Wei Ying’s cosy loincloth.

 

“NO!!! Look here, A-Bing! You look at me and listen to me!” Wei Ying almost shrieks (because he felt the first heated spurt), and stares more than daggers at the boy (there is also horror reflected in his eyes at the realization of what is happening inside his underwear). The boy jumps back a little bit, startled. 

 

Ah, ah, slow down… breathe in… then out… ” Wei Ying seemed to whisper to the side, unheard by the boy and directed only to him.. Lan Zhan has closed his eyes and knows that they’re somewhere rolled to the back, because the sweet, sweet waves of ejaculation keep coming. He squeezes all the voluntary muscles in the pelvic region, to stop, prolong, and Guan Yin help him, please just slow down this torturous excitement.

 

The boy sounded offended. “What? And why are you wearing white today? You can’t fool me, because you’re always hei (黑; black) anyway, Ha ha ha!” Lan Zhan tries to focus on Wei Ying’s words, by controlling his breathing. With each faltering breath, another pleasurable roll of contraction runs up his cock, spilling out another rich dollop, painting both cloth and his lover’s flesh with hot seed.

 

...that’s it, breathe in again… ” Lan Zhan furrows his eyebrows in absolutely conflicted delight as a particularly large viscous glob gently gushes through fluttering urethral muscles and cockslit. The feeling is indescribable. He’s fearful that the next load will be too much.

 

“Wei.. Hnnnngh… Hhn, Hhn, Hhn… Hhhhwei…” he hears himself groaning for help unintelligibly.

 

...ah, ah, don’t shoot so fast… ” three quick successive shots adds to a growing pool of sticky cum inside the cup-like vessel that wraps his lover’s groin.

 

“Eh, Baishe de shuaige (白色的帅哥; The handsome brother in white colour), are you alright? Are you a friend of hei ge ?” the question is directed at him, but he no longer hears anything except his own racing heartbeat and the rhythmic, satisfied growls he’s trying so hard to keep inside his throat.

 

“Ahh.. Ahhhnn.. Ahh.. Ahhh” It’s too much, he’s reaching the apex of his climax, he cannot control what comes out from his vocal cords. He feels his thighs tremble, fast losing strength, toes curling into the grass, his fingers balled into knuckles.

 

“Are you going to sneeze? Are you having a flu? You look like you have a fever, bai ge ,” (白哥; White Brother). Lan Zhan can feel a pair of innocent childish eyes peering closely at him. He sweats profusely, and he arches his back in spastic motions, his nostrils flared, jaws slacked and gaping wide because he wants to shout out his surging pleasure the same way his seed is being unloaded in lovely, glorious pulses. 

 

… stop, please, otherwise it’ll overflow too fast… and spill down my thighs... ” Wei Ying sounds extremely vexed, having to deal with the nosy boy and his orgasming lover in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Lan Zhan tries with his might to draw out each ejection, so that it flows gently like a stream rather than in forced squirts. Again, and again, the creamy warm milk escapes out of him.

 

“A-Bing, go away, NOW! I’ll give you candies tomorrow if you listen to me. GO!” Wei Ying loses his patience and barks at the innocent boy.

 

There is a hesitant pause, in which during this time Lan Zhan hnnnns audibly with another long orgasmic contraction. “Ehhh… you’re so weird, hei ge . All right, I’ll go now. Give me a candy tomorrow, and give one to bai ge too. He looks like he needs it.”

 

… breathe in… then out... ” he’s at his tenth or twelfth twitch, or maybe fifteenth; he’s lost count. It’s still spewing out like a freshly dug-out spring. He’s losing his breath, his ears are ringing, and he feels light headed from the rippling electrical shocks tingling all over his lower regions. His deliciously spasming cock already feels wet and sloshing in something thick, and he doesn’t want to know why.

 

Wei Ying, on the other hand, is chasing the boy away with whatever ruse he can think of. “Yes, yes, yes, I’m giving one to him now. I beg you, please go away, otherwise bai ge will get very sick from the flu, and spread it to you too!”

 

“Ahhh… okay, I’ll really go now. I don’t want to get sick!” the boy shouts back, maybe sticks out a tongue, and there is already the sound of running footsteps across bushes, fading away, gratefully, thank Goddess Guan Yin for her mercy.

 

After a couple more choked breaths, and when he’s descended from the heavens of his climax, Lan Zhan finally opens his eyes, his body still shuddering and wreaked with involuntary jerks. He thinks he’s done twenty twitches, performed according to his lover’s instructions and to the best of his mortal abilities. He hopes, and says another silent prayer, that Wei Ying’s loincloth held up well.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying’s loincloth underwear is fortunately - or not - one that comes with extra padded layers on the front; these layers absorb and hold fluids well, and when used according to instructions, they keep the owner dry and comfortable all day long (think sanitary pads/napkins that can be washed, dried and re-used).

 

In desperation, the younger man had cast a very tiny Fire spell that worked like a small torch aimed at a particular direction. He peeked through the waist strap of his underwear and surveyed the aftermath.

 

“Ahh, look at what you’ve done… my underwear is really soaked and everything is a sticky mess,” he whined into the dark. Wei Ying's erection had wilted when A-Bing appeared. Lan Zhan sat on his rumpled trousers on the ground, still trying to catch his breath. He looked relaxed and rather dazed. Post-orgasm sleepiness threatened to overwhelm him, and he tried to concentrate on what his lover is trying to say - he remained silent.

 

“It’s a swimming pool in there, and if I try to adjust or move the cloth, some of it will leak out. Lan Zhan, you’re a really perverted beast! I can’t take this off, because if I do, I will have nothing to wear underneath the thin trousers, and everything will still dribble out,” Wei Ying complained with a high-pitched voice. Lan Zhan thought his lover was being unreasonable - because Wei Ying was the one who instigated the whole chaos, not him. (really?) His Gusu Lan-honed virtues told him that baseless accusations need not be responded to; just as how certain inferior clan members can be considered as not qualified to speak to him, in an incident around the ‘Mounds not too long ago. (hint: Su She)

 

“... there’s no candy delivery tomorrow, ” he finally remarked. Truthfully, it’s the only erroneous fact he needed to correct during the entire fiasco.

 

“What?” Wei Ying gasped and sounded flabbergasted.

 

“The next scheduled delivery of medicinal candies is after the weekend. Not tomorrow. Do not lie to children, Wei Ying,” he clarified clearly word by word, taking a leaf out of Gusu Lan's over-4000 rules for the last part of his words. He gazed stoicly at the dimly lit and agitated young man.

 

Wei Ying’s facial expression turned from surprise to confusion then to exasperation. “Ahh, Lan Zhan, you rotten man, is that all that you can think of?!” 

 

“…. Mn.”

 

"A-Bing is one of those street brats, by the way," Wei Ying pointed out. Street brats are his mortal enemies, and should not be treated with dignity.

 

"He looks like a good child. Do not call children as 'brats', Wei Ying. It's disrespectful," Lan Zhan calmly recited another of his family's rules.

 

Wei Ying threw his hands up with a groan and a wordless “I give up!”. He pulled up the loincloth’s waist strap to make sure it was tight against his crotch (one warm, sticky opaque droplet leaked out to his right inner thigh, but Wei Ying didn’t care anymore), then put on his trousers and angrily stomped past Lan Zhan towards the main market streets.

 

He paused a little when he was beside Lan Zhan, and whispered hotly into his ears: “Let me tell you this, Lan Zhan. Your little Wang Jis are bathing inside my underwear right now, and I’m going to rub out my baby Wei Yings to play with them. Just imagine both of them swimming in a warm, comfortable sticky nest of womb and ripe eggs, waiting to hatch out more and have plenty of family fun.” Lan Zhan shivered.

 

“You can sit there and think about lying to bratty children about candies, or you can follow and make me feel better for the rest of this trip,” Wei Ying added, before he switches off his Fire spell and walks away, leaving a flushed Lan Zhan in the dark.

 

Lan Zhan groans; he’s hard - again.

Chapter Text

Lan Zhan is as apologetic as Wei Ying is forgiving when it comes to working out their petty arguments, just like any other loving married couple in the Middle Kingdom:

 

The older man openly admits, with a rare display of sad puppy-looking eyes, about his wrongdoing of dirtying his younger lover’s underwear, but Wei Ying insists that he’ll be fine because after a while, it gets crusty, sticky and almost solidifies into a mass of gel, and so, it doesn’t run off like, say, raw egg whites  - which is still inconvenient, but can be easily washed off by rinsing in running water;

 

Wei Ying also says that there has been a great deal of times when Lan Zhan carelessly left his semen in many other places on the body besides the usual orifices, so he is pretty used to cleaning and picking up after the older man - undergarments included. It happens as often as, say, the number of times when Wei Ying scatters his clothes and other loincloths all over their home during their regular drunken sex (where Wei Ying is known to twirl the straps, and slingshot them to the furthest reaches of their home, rooftop included) - so who is he to complain about a mere sticky pool inside his underwear that his husband promised to wash off?;

 

Finally, Wei Ying turns around and gives Lan Zhan a sweet smile, and murmurs shyly that they’re already husband and wife, that they share their bodies, feelings and souls together for this lifetime, and therefore matters concerning bodily stuff - semen being the least worrying of all - should be as everyday as their Everydays;

 

Lan Zhan becomes speechless, embraces Wei Ying for a whole minute, and kisses him full on the lips, which the latter returns with a cosy warm bear hug under the shadow of trees.  

 

The couple leaves the park via an unlit thoroughfare into the South Market Street, with Lan Zhan carrying all their belongings and he tries hard to contain a barely-noticeable giddy smile on his face. The road was deserted, so they walked side by side and leaned into each other with their hands intertwined in between. When a horse cart approached, Lan Zhan gently pulls Wei Ying towards his body, and the latter lands with a soft uuunf into a pillow of the older man’s muscled chest and abs, while Lan Zhan’s puts an arm around Wei Ying’s waist. Lan Zhan breathes in the scent of Wei Ying’s hair, and for Wei Ying, he is comforted by the strong, steady heartbeats against his heated cheeks. They stood together in silence for a while. 

 

Lan Zhan asks, what about the child named A-Bing and the so-called bratty children that he meets at work in Yiling. Wei Ying considers the question carefully, and tries to imagine beyond juvenile name-calling, stolen candies, thrown twigs and stones, being kicked in the leg, the odd silverpieces lost during the scuffle - and sighs into the older man’s collarbone. Wei Ying concurs that they are all actually good children, but raised in hardship, poverty, without education and without parents. There was a tremor in his voice in the last couple of words. Wei Ying goes on to say that some day, when he has earned enough, he would like to set up a school or a home for underprivileged children in the city. There, little boys and girls like A-Bing need not go hungry in the streets, need not fear being chased by bad adults like the Jin guards, nor the stray animals that roam the city all day.

 

From a distance, they heard the echoes of dogs barking into the night.

 

Lan Zhan tightens his grip around his lover.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Following their hastily-drawn evening itinerary, the couple stopped by the food court corner of the South Market Street. Rows of small shops, some of which are mere hole-in-the-walls, which are mostly empty and quiet during the day, become packed with hungry patrons during the evenings. Small time vendors and humble family-owned businesses converge to turn this part of the street into a kaleidoscope of colourful, brightly lit food stalls with equally big brash signages, boasting cuisines from all over the Middle Kingdom, at jaw-droppingly affordable prices - perfect for Yiling’s middle and lower class citizens (which is the opposite of what one would find around the North Market Street with wares and fares more suited for the upper echelons of society). The air is filled with an eclectic, exciting mix of steaming hotpots and dumplings, fragrant stir-fries and fried foods, boiling noodle soups and a variety of broths and teas, and mouth-watering smoke from barbeque grills; and is lively from jolly and zesty folk tunes played by groups of youngsters as they meandered from one dining table to another, seeking fair donations for the live entertainment.

 

Although the night was chilly, the atmosphere significantly warmed up in that area (to the extent that one’s clothes will end up smelling of food due to the amount of steam and smoke everywhere), so the couple decided to find a table in the open-air section. Wei Ying easily dropped off the squirrels at a vendor who specialized in wild meats (and they know each other quite well; Wei Ying has become more than just the occasional supplier from the ‘Mounds); the timing was perfect - it was past dinnertime, people are still streaming in to look for ‘heaty’ suppers, the vendor was running out of meat and he still had a queue to serve - so, Wei Ying happily pocketed two silvers at the end of the hurried transaction, and said a silent prayer for the unfortunate family of rodents.

 

Wei Ying beamed with a cheerful grin when he caught sight of Lan Zhan, who found a table at a corner of the jam-packed food court. Lan Zhan waved his hands anxiously to make sure he was seen because there were so many people walking by. By the time, he approached the small table with three wooden stools, he carried a freshly bought twin-pack of Laozu's Smile in his hand.

 

Lan Zhan had ordered their food and laid them neatly on the table (one can draw symmetrical lines between the dishes, if needed): a bowl of steaming plain vegetarian noodles in soup, two bowls of spicy congee - one with minced chicken, and one with pork and offal -, a bowl of cooling mung bean soup, and a pot of tea. Wei Ying waved the two Laozu's Smiles in front of the older man, but Lan Zhan waved back one index finger (there is no need to question where the extra jar comes from - Lan Zhan trusts Wei Ying enough to know that the man has his own cunning, but acceptable, ways of getting more than what he bargained for). With a knowing smile, Wei Ying packed one of the wine jars into the basket bag sitting on the third wooden stool, and uncorked the other.

 

As they dined and drank, Wei Ying chattered mostly about everything under the sun and particularly some of the latest gossip he’d heard, his thoughts about those gossip, other people’s thoughts, and what he thought about other people’s thoughts. Lan Zhan hardly comments on Wei Ying’s animated stories, but he Mmms and nods to tell his lover that he’s listening well, and yes please do go on. Sometimes, he adds some very brief and sharp, snide remarks, and Wei Ying bursts into joyful laughter and “I can’t believe you said that!”s. During their light banter and between chews, Wei Ying unconsciously, wordlessly picks out the minced chicken meatballs, dabs them against the bowl’s edge to rub off the spicy oil, and plops them into Lan Zhan’s bowl. The older man accepts without question, and slips them into spoonfuls of noodles, leafy greens and tofu. There are still traces of spiciness, though.

 

Wei Ying remarked that he was glad they’d taken their dinner before going to the market, “otherwise I would be heartbroken to want to eat everything here and spend all our money just on food alone” - and he’d just bought a foldable hand-fan made of cheap rice paper from a street peddler mingling among the crowd, right after his first bowl of congee and when he’d just started on the second, because he was sweating from the spiciness and enjoyed every mouthful with delightful mm-mmmh sounds; Lan Zhan opts not to mention about the ill-fated fishies and shrimpies, and keeps to his factually-correct and financially-acceptable explanation that ‘it’s easier on the purse strings’.

 

Wei Ying remained talkative throughout the meal, and he even made a few acquaintances around them. A family of six sat at the table next to theirs, and by the end of a brief exchange of pleasantries and idle chat about the weather, he had captured a potential customer who promised she would find him at the daytime marketplace to buy his Wind talismans to keep the summer heat out of her house. A foreigner-looking young scholar dined alone at the table behind the couple, and judging from his uniformed attire and a scroll titled “Cheatbook for Cultivators: How To Ace The Exam In 100 Ways - International Edition” visible from his carelessly-left open backpack, Wei Ying correctly guessed that the young man in his late teens was on his way to the annual Imperial Cultivation Examination. Wei Ying gave some (useless) tips involving bravado, recklessness and out-of-the-box thinking, which clearly made the man uncomfortable (because he was spooked by such unorthodox thinking by a man claiming to be a master and yet appears not much older than he; in addition, the foreigner scholar spoke little of Middle Kingdom’s main languages since he hails from the Far, Far West) and quickly finished his food before leaving. Wei Ying wondered what was the hurry, Lan Zhan mentally noted a useful informative tidbit: that the Imperial Cultivation Council in Chang’an had recently stepped up recruitment by offering potential candidates with ample living allowances and other benefits, and the recruitment drive spans deep into the Far, Far West. It would be intriguing to observe how the conflict between the growing armies of both sides will pan out - the Imperial Cultivators bolstered with numbers from regions beyond the Middle Kingdom, and the Grand Cultivation Council led by the Jin sect and its (unwilling) alliance with other major sects inside the country.

 

When they were done with supper, Lan Zhan hesitantly inquired about the state of Wei Ying’s loincloth, especially after sitting down for at least half an hour in the muggy heat. The younger man chuckled that it felt like he was incubating a serving of mashed herbal jelly between his balls and thighs (in which Lan Zhan choked at his last gulp of tea) - and he apologized promptly for speaking in jest - that actually, he’d gotten used to the sensation of half-dried cum coating his genitals, and little Wang Jis are probably squashed between his eggs and baking in their heat (at that point, Lan Zhan coughed terribly hard, and drew a few stares from other concerned patrons in the food court).

 

Truthfully speaking, Wei Ying revealed, his loincloth weighed uncomfortably heavier due to having absorbed much of the seminal fluids, there is some residual but tolerable warm stickiness on the skin, between the sensitive skin folds, and even underneath his foreskin, and he felt an all-encompassing, suffocating anxiety that something might be squished out if he sat too hard on the padded layers because the loincloth feels horrifyingly leaking wet at least inside his mind . He appreciated how women feel during their monthlies, and empathized with their struggles and suffering.

 

(Back in the day, female sanitary pads/napkins weren’t as absorbent as their modern-day counterparts)

 

Lan Zhan regained his composure, then surreptitiously adjusted his trousers (or the nth time, because he kept eyeing on Wei Ying’s crotch for no real reason, and that sparked a weird, fetishy feeling tickling from his nether regions), before they continued along the South Market Street. 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying started humming some old, well-known Yunmeng tunes as he walked with a spring in his step, a slight flush to his cheeks, and an index finger (brazenly) hooked to Lan Zhan’s. The older man kept a straight face when they passed some market goers - sober and drunk ones - and he politely waved at the husband-and-wife couple manning the Great Eats of Gojoseon when they walked past their storefront. Wei Ying probably will not remember that Lan Zhan fanned both of them, especially the younger man, with the just-bought hand-fan, for nearly the rest of their evening date on the market streets.

 

More traders line the street and they chant sing-song catchy messages to attract customers. The selection of goods is more localized and less touristy than that from West Market Street, and consist of a greater proportion of foodstuff, groceries, clothes, sundry, and other kinds of daily provisions. Several shops open until late hours, including bookstores, medical shops, businesses selling prayer items, talismans and other magical and religious goods, and so on. Further ahead, skilled practitioners offer various services for health and well-being, including massages, acupuncture and acupressure, cupping, fortune-telling, beauty and aesthetics including removal of body and facial hair, warts and other minor procedures. 

 

The couple briefly browsed the wares and services and picked up a bag of plum candy because it goes well with their afternoon tea. They also browsed, in a fortunately quiet corner of a lingerie store, and purchased a box of regular loincloths. Wei Ying remarked that it was very romantic for two men to shop for underwear together, in which Lan Zhan hmmphs and said that it was out of necessity; since loincloths come in free sizes and both of them can share their underwear. To Lan Zhan's dismay, Wei Ying refused to change his soiled loincloth because "it's still holding up fine", and in some weird, fetishy way, piqued the older man's interests.

 

As they passed more shops, Wei Ying paid particular attention to his potential competitors of magical talismans and gadgets (and tried to learn their secrets and techniques), while Lan Zhan preferred to spend some minutes freely skimming through magazines, periodicals and other reading materials; he didn’t forget to quietly pick up a pack of prayer scented candles as well.

 

Wei Ying wondered aloud if he should try one of those body hair removal services, especially since the hirsute curls on his legs looked unappealing (when compared to ink brush-drawn models as seen in the lingerie store) and probably unsuitable for the hot summer months. Lan Zhan replied that Wei Ying looks perfectly fine and there's no need to shave something that would grow again by winter. He also made a soft, barely audible, off-the-cuff remark that the sensation of the younger man's legs rubbing against his while they're in bed, just before waking up - is a comforting, reassuring feeling.

 

Wei Ying squealed, grabbed the fan from Lan Zhan's grasp, then covered their faces with that said fan from the people around them, and gave his saccharine-sweet-and-shocked Lan Zhan a hard kiss on the lips, and a caress of soft tongues.

 

(Wei Ying is overtly concerned about his body image; but isn’t aware that he also enjoys the physical features of his partner. For example, when they cuddle in bed late at night, Wei Ying often finds himself awake and staring at sleeping Lan Zhan’s broad muscular pectorals, devoid of hair - except around the nipples. He would fondle, sweep, twiddle, and skirt his fingers on the ring of fine hair around each brown-pink areola, playfully tug at it to see if any strands will come off, and then when each one puffs up from the relentless stimulation, he’d feel a childlike urge to lock his lips on each of them, alternately, and suckle the nipples like a newborn. Lan Zhan would nnnh in slight discomfort, moves a bit in his disturbed slumber, and Wei Ying falls asleep too, lips still happily massaging each brown nub for his partner’s non-existent breastmilk.)

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying happily munched on eight skewers of classic tasty street foods, held between his fingers on both hands - spicy lamb and beef, marinated savoury chicken and pork, two kinds of grilled sausages and another two types of seafood fried meatballs. Lan Zhan held a fruit skewer and a stick of fried tofu dipped in plum sauce in one hand, and a small brown paper bags containing sweetened buns and sugar-roasted chestnuts in the other. The older man said, between some a-hem a-hem throat-clearing and a blush on the cheeks from that earlier passionate kiss, that it was a rare, once-in-a-blue-moon treat “due to the windfall they received earlier from Tian dajie ", and Wei Ying mmmf-mmmfs vaguely with a full mouth. 

 

Lan Zhan doubted if Wei Ying was aware that their snacks cost a whopping (at least in his perspective) single gold piece, or the fact that he was clearly contradicting his earlier words about thriftiness; but when Wei Ying cutely nibbled like a hungry rabbit from each skewer in perfect sequence from number one to number eight, then looked at him expectantly, in which Lan Zhan picked out a sweetened bun from the paper bag and Wei Ying took nibble number nine; Lan Zhan thought that all of Wei Ying’s nibbles were too precious, too priceless, and can never be quantified in terms of gold. After a satisfying gulp, Lan Zhan let Wei Ying have a bite at a sweet flavourful chestnut, because he had to see through to the end to complete a Perfect tenth nibble - after which he felt a soothing tingle in his head, his muscles relaxed a little more, and his senses told him that the stars in his inner universe had completed a flawless orbit around its core, warranting another repetition. Wei Ying didn’t mind a repeat performance; Lan Zhan became intensely (nearly obsessively, hypnotically) focused on feeding his lover, nibble by nibble, despite drawing a few curious glances from other customers in the snack foods corner.

 

Later, a very contented, zen -like Lan Zhan walked a cloud full of nines, hand in hand with a very full and euphoric Wei Ying. The latter’s cheeks are full-blown red, eyes half-lidded, and he’s singing folk tunes from Gusu modified to pop-rock version at the top of his lungs, with crude burps in-between. He held the empty jar of his second Laozu’s Smile, and kept stumbling over the curb and clumps of small plants. They stepped out of the streets and headed towards a clearing on a rocky outcrop nestled amongst a ring of dark, dense bushes, just a stone's throw away from the market’s southside; most of the crowd had gone to the north where a grand podium had been prepared for people to gather around and watch the fireworks. 

 

Reaching their destination feels like arriving at the doorsteps to a second home; or a kind of private sanctuary where they’re alone in their little bubble of paradise, away from prying eyes and with no one around to eavesdrop on their precious piece of heaven on earth. It’s a little secret garden, far away from the rest of Yiling’s locals and visitors, with an awesome view of the market streets and the city’s night lights that cast a soft yellow glow upon the surrounding hills. They’ve had spent many evenings together at the same spot, after going through the same routines of realistically-romantic dates at the market, having meals together, shopping for daily necessities of a shared married life, before coming here, again and again - on the days when the skies are clear or when there are clouds that threaten to bring in rain, on weekdays, on weekends, on holidays and during festivals. It doesn’t feel as exciting as the first few times, nor does it feel repetitive; and it’ll never be boring for either of them. It’s something the couple have come to experience, accept and enjoy as part of their blissful, peaceful outing in Yiling.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Wei Ying’s inappropriate singing had toned down to off-tune hums and la-la-las when Lan Zhan led him to a familiar cluster of thickets. It’s become a sort of a landing pad for them in their regular and highly-anticipated pee-prepare-penetrate routine. Wei Ying deposits the empty jar on the ground, drops his trousers in a messy pile on his feet, peels off his damp, heavily-soaked underwear (he recklessly flings it away and it splats on Lan Zhan’s hairless shins, but the older man nonchalantly collects it anyway), then challenges himself to take aim at the ceramic vessel with drunken sniggers. Lan Zhan stands next to him, with all his lower garments neatly folded on his arm, and relieves himself as well without care about Wei Ying’s childish games. When he notices that Wei Ying has trouble to pee into the jar (of course he would, he was swinging his hips wildly from side to side in tune with a fast folksy number), he reaches out and holds the soft, spongy knobbled cockhead perfectly in place. Wei Ying grins, hiccups and ahhhs (while still swinging those springy ass globes). Before they left, Wei Ying staggers, accidentally kicks the jar and it topples over, so Lan Zhan’s efforts are, really, for naught.

 

Lan Zhan worked meticulously to prepare the perfect picnic spot - he disrobes and spreads his outermost garment on the grassy field. Then, he carefully unpacks the basket bag and places the bamboo container containing herbal tea, an opened bag of roasted chestnuts and the pack of plum candy on the side. He also casts a few tiny Fire spells to light up scented candles he’d arranged in a circle around them. 

 

When Wei Ying emerges from the bushes, as pantless as either of them, Lan Zhan pats on the makeshift bedding and coaxes the younger man to sit down, because he wants to apply the medicinal paste on their exposed skin before the fireworks show starts. There are insects buzzing around during the humid summer nights, and Lan Zhan doesn’t want Wei Ying to sport lovebites other than his. Instead, to the older man’s consternation, Wei Ying wobbles his way to an old, abandoned picnic table at the fringe of the clearing, and takes his seat on its bench. 

 

Lan Zhan gently calls out to Wei Ying again, thinking that perhaps his drunken lover had misunderstood what was asked. Wei Ying, on the other hand, and in his inebriated state, dawdles time away by inspecting the table’s worn surface, ‘walking’ his fingers along the weathered edge before settling to poke interestedly at a corner. The older man watches, initially upset then turned fascinated, at how his younger lover fishes out a crumpled ball of the loincloth (somehow Wei Ying must have snagged it from the basket bag), spreads it daintily over the table’s corner like an overhanging tablecloth, and smooths the wrinkles (including the dried crusts, crumbles, goo and all) - like he was realistically trying to prepare the picnic table. Then he stands up unsteadily, gingerly leans over and slides that slick, covered table corner between his thighs. Wei Ying nnnghs as he starts to hump the creaking wood.

 

The silhouette of a panting, moaning and flushed Wei Ying trying to make love with an aged piece of furniture - is tantalizing beyond words. His rigid arousal rubbed into the cum-stained cloth, leaving behind web-like strands of dried seed mixed with fresh droplets of pre-cum, and makes very tasty rhythmic, squelchy sounds. At times, he tires a little, then scoots forward to settle his weight on the table; he spreads his thighs further onto the surface, and starts to draw circles with his plump scrotum and moves his ass accordingly. His back arches into an “S” and his hips rolls sensuously in vigorous pumping motions; Lan Zhan gets a captivating, mouth-watering view of how Wei Ying’s side-profile looks when he rides someone in earnest - or in this case, some thing .

 

Unable to get Wei Ying to sit on the ground, Lan Zhan goes to the younger man instead. Soon, he fusses over his lover and diligently applies the paste on their legs, thighs and crotches; he also takes his sweet time to piston one, two, then three paste-lubricated fingers into Wei Ying’s sweet, defenceless rosebud even as the latter continues to (futilely) mate with the cum-coated corner of the sex-blessed table. When he feels that Wei Ying is properly prepared - as indicated by the softened entrance, and relaxed fleshy walls within - as a sign of his thinly-veiled irritation of having to do all the work by himself: he picks up two laundry clips and leaves them biting on the vulnerable nipples, to Wei Ying’s weak, drunken protests. 

 

The table was quite low, its height is at crotch-level; so Lan Zhan only needs to thrust his hips horizontally, and his twitching penis slides effortlessly into the warm, welcoming cavern. He starts to fuck his lover in a slow tempo even as the latter continues to try the same on the wood. Lan Zhan’s hands roam everywhere on Wei Ying’s sweaty and heated skin - they grabbed and massaged the quivering thigh muscles; skim upwards along the sides and tickle the ribs; move to a passionate stranglehold around the neck (because he needed the traction to screw his cock deep, deep into the convulsing passageway, and makes sure he hits Wei Ying’s pleasure spots, and assault that lovely gland with hard knocks and jabs with his meaty cockhead); fingers slide into the younger man’s mouth so that Wei Ying unconsciously starts to lick the broom-Bichen-calloused fingers and tries to make oral love with the digits; then descends downwards the thin chest where he flicks the laundry clips and Wei Ying aaaahs loudly for his poor abused nipples; and when Lan Zhan palms Wei Ying’s trembling cock and presses the jerking rod hard against the wood, Wei Ying grunts lustfully like an animal; he’s coming, and Lan Zhan can feel rolling convulsions welling up from within his lover, massaging his drilling cock and pulling and sucking him deeper, tightening and raising his balls, spiralling both of them towards their climaxes. 

 

The older man starts to breathe shakily and his eyes roll up to see stars in the night sky and from something else; he grunts rhythmically at first, then the throaty sounds begin to waver and come out at faster intervals, converging, surging forward, just as how the liquid fire in his loins has reached its boiling point and starts to bubble and spill over; his hips slam as hard as possible and seizes between the parted springy ass mounds, and grinds in curves, hooks and any other shapes he can think of that would allow him to push deeper, dig deeper beyond already fully sheathed inside his lovely warm Wei Ying. 

 

“L… Lan Zhan, you… you can’t cum inside!”

 

Lan Zhan groans in extreme frustration and tries to pull out before the inevitable explosion - his body and nerves were too sexually excited from the feverishly hot friction and squeezes inside his lover, from fluttering muscles rolling and contracting in mind-numbing waves all around his loins, the incredibly pleasurable sensations running up and down and in circles from base to tip of his massive, swollen, wanting cock, he free-falls and wants to succumb to that primal urge to finally, finally breed his younger lover - then rudely, shockingly, agonizingly withdrawn into the chilly, lonely evening air. He’d hit the brakes and despite using his entire arsenal of superior mortal abilities - his tormented, rebellious cock still managed to eject a single thick, rich drop right at the entrance of the convulsing canal. It sags under its own weight, rolls off Wei Ying’s bulging perineum, and plops into the grass below, wasted.

 

“Lan… Zhan… hnnngh… (hic) can’t… my trousers… ahnnnn… dirty….(hic)” pantless Wei Ying moans drunkenly as he happily rides out his own orgasm and nearly ruined his partner's. Lan Zhan felt insultingly incredulous at Wei Ying's semi-conscious state (because Wei Ying dreamt of the time when they were still in the park). In a twisted way of exacting his revenge, Lan Zhan whips out the ladle he'd bought, lubes its handle with paste, and rudely sticks it into Wei Ying's gaping ass. The younger man nnnhns deliriously at the assault of shockingly cold hard steel sliding so deep, too deep into his bottom. The handle has a curved edge with bump-like indentations for a better grip, and these serve well to scrub and rake deliciously at the spasming prostate, especially when Lan Zhan plunges the tool repeatedly at the perfect angle that only he knows too well. By the time Lan Zhan has satisfied himself with pulling, twisting and playing with the clips on the nipples, Wei Ying comes the second time in a series of sexy writhing, shouts, swear words (including Goddess Guan Yin’s name) and incoherent rambles, on the thoroughly ruined, dripping loincloth that still clung onto the table's corner.

 

Just then, the first fireworks shot up and lit the skies, followed by booming thunderous sounds. From afar, Yiling’s populace cheered at the spectacular displays of blooming flowers of reds, greens, blues and yellows in the clear night sky. 

 

Lan Zhan hauls a half-trembling, half-sedated squirming Wei Ying off the scandalized table, and realizes - when his arms reached around the waist - that Wei Ying does have quite a rotund full belly, from the constant, abundant and sumptuous feasts he had throughout the evening. He thinks for a moment, again diving into his mental database of PeiNan, PeiNu and PeiNis centerspreads, and opts for a sex position that’s suitable for partners encumbered with large bellies (read: pregnant). 

 

Lan Zhan settles to a sitting position on the bedded ground against a tree, and lets Wei Ying sit on his lap, with his back facing Lan Zhan. Lan Zhan grips Wei Ying’s waist and hips, and gently guides his lover to rock back-and-forth in an ageless rhythm on a heated meatstick. One hand rubs perpetual circles on the rounded belly (Wei Ying mnnns at the loving caresses), and his index finger dips into the ticklish protruding navel (Wei Ying giggles drunkenly). 

 

He intended for both of them to view the fireworks together in this intimate position, while snacking on the chestnuts and plum candy, and enjoying a beverage of herbal tea with their newly-procured “Yours” and “Mine” mugs - however, as Wei Ying continues to grunt and moan gibberishly while his ass bounces and slides up and down a rock-hard penis that’s so swollen with unreleased pleasure that its girth stretches the rosebud to an extraordinary size, resulting in his own cock twitching madly and streams out cum and other sexual fluids; Lan Zhan doubts if the intoxicated Wei Ying will remember anything from the night’s fireworks show. Still, they managed to finish half of the snacks and emptied the bamboo container (Lan Zhan loves to feed Wei Ying with the chestnuts and plum candy, nibble by nibble, as the younger man becomes exceedingly confused between trying to chew, swallow, breathe, moan and gasp)

 

At the height of the fireworks, when the biggest, brightest ones burst brilliantly into a field of multicoloured blooms against the jet-black backdrop, Lan Zhan closes his eyes, moans as loudly as he wants (because no one else can hear), and lets his body shudder uncontrollably, delightfully at the peak of his long-delayed excitement. He pulls out, orgasms to his heart’s content and ejaculates at least six thick spurts and another six lighter ones - on the ruined loincloth-turned-ragcloth (he remembers Wei Ying’s pleas). Then, he slips his still-hard penis back into Wei Ying’s gaping ass (the younger man constantly mewls like a cat in heat, still drunk as hell), and continues his gentle fucking until the next climax, and again, again, again. The cloth, brimming with active little Wang Jis and baby Wei Yings, is placed on Wei Ying’s bobbing arousal, and Lan Zhan strokes and polishes the cockhead with it with increasingly squishy sounds during the rest of the fireworks show (Wei Ying continues to shout, scream, swear and squirts at the agonizing torture - but no one else can hear). He makes sure to cram as much of the gooey drenched cloth hard and deep into the cockslit with his fingertips, just for the sake of satisfying the twisted, dirty imagery playing inside his mind.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The scented candles have long burnt out by the time the fireworks show winds down to the applause of thousands of spectators at the north side of Yiling. Wei Ying lies curled up in Lan Zhan’s outer robes, and the owner gently pats the (fascinatingly cute, slightly rounded) tummy. “Wei Ying, Wei Ying, wake up, it’s time to go home,” he gently coos. The younger man, however, rolls to the other side and drools in a drunken sleep with mumbles of nom-nom-noms. Lan Zhan rubs the tummy again, and this time, it rumbles a little more with squeals in between - probably from too much food, and irritated at being rubbed constantly during their intense, hours-long lovemaking. In response to the unsolicited harassment, the indignant stomach rumbles again, and Wei Ying lets out a soft fart.

 

Lan Zhan smiles contentedly, dresses Wei Ying, and starts packing up their little evening picnic. As he bridle-carries his lover back to the streets and towards the (illegal) parking lot - Wei Ying is without underwear, so the lines of the soft ass-mounds can be clearly seen - with the filled basket bag in an arm, he realizes that he’s not alone. Hundreds of market goers - both young and old, of peasants, warriors, merchants and cultivators, the rich and the poor, the unmarried and those with families - walk the market streets in various states of merriment, inebriation and consciousness. He struts between a family of eight with chattering children, and a large man - probably a stallion fighter of some sort - with two knocked-out half-nude women on his shoulders. Lan Zhan does not look any different from the rest of the people with a peacefully sleeping Wei Ying cuddled in his arms, so he blends in and soon, reaches the secured Bichen.

 

Getting out and lifting off from Yiling was easy with the dispersing crowd, and soon, Lan Zhan sits straddling Bichen and holds a balled-up Wei Ying, and they zip across the starry night sky.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

11.00 pm

 

It was frankly quite late by the time they reached home. Lan Zhan marvelled at the flawlessly cleaned floors, with not a single spot left untouched - but he still harbours some conflicted feelings at the D-broom unit that lay quiet below the dining table. He would talk to Wei Ying about his latest invention, tomorrow.

 

With a little less cleaning to do, he filled the laundry basket with their dirty clothes, and quickly bathed them both (it was fascinating to watch thick, soupy white tendrils drift downstream when he rinsed the ruined loincloth in the outdoor pool. The battered, tattered piece of underwear was left to hang on the laundry line next to Wei Ying’s favourite red boxer as a final sign of respect; Lan Zhan plans to fold it nicely the next day, and store it with his secret stash of collectables that remind him of fond memories with his lover - such as the cloth with Wei Ying’s face burnt with lampblack, not too long ago in an episode of ‘lewding the bunnies’). All the day’s purchases were either washed, dried, unpacked and sorted, then kept in their proper places to where they belong.

 

When he took out the lanterns, he found that they were quite plain in design - there are small rabbits in a background of bamboo, and plenty of white space. He added a few skilled and well-practised strokes of calligraphy writing onto the paper, before lighting them up. The lanterns hang on either sides of the front entrance, and illuminate the courtyard with the words “Lan’s Residence” (蓝家) shining brightly into the night.

 

Finally, before crawling to bed (it has been an exceptionally long day, he thought), he lit up incense pots around their home and cast one of Wei Ying’s Shield talismans to keep the bugs out and to ensure a restful slumber for both of them. On his side of the bed, he fluffs up the pillow - and found that Wei Ying had hidden his dark brown trousers underneath it! (no wonder he couldn’t find his trousers in the morning, and was forced to go pantless for most of the day). Lan Zhan chuckles softly, takes the now-unused trousers to the laundry basket, then returns to bed and spoons a snoring still-pantless Wei Ying underneath tucked blankets. (Wei Ying doesn't need to wear new loincloths or underwear while in bed, he decided)

 

It has been a good day, indeed.

 

@@@~~~@@@

 

12.15 am, the next day

 

Lan Zhan is restless, and his forehead is creased with worry. He could not sleep, and in fact, he is wide awake, buzzing with energy - just like the start of any other day.

 

(Lan Zhan’s body clock is still five hours ahead. It’s technically after five in the morning for him.)



1:00 am

 

He tossed and turned on the bed, recited multiplication tables inside his head from one to hundred, washed and hung every piece of garment, swept the floor one more time with a straw broom (he couldn’t figure out how to activate the alien creature called D-broom), checked the pots, pans and cutlery in the kitchen, prepared the ingredients for the next day’s meals, and even counted the number of leaf-wrapped minced pork and other provisions inside their pantry. 

 

He couldn’t sleep.

 

Finally, he figured he’s missed out something from his nightly sleeping routine. He reaches under the bed, and takes out a box. He picks out his favourite bent stick and a well-used P-Cool prostate massager.

 

“Wei Ying, Wei Ying, are you awake?”

 

Wei Ying continues to snore at the buzzing sounds.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Later...

 

“Lan Zhan, I was so drunk last night, I didn’t even watch the fireworks!”

 

“Mn.”

 

“Was it beautiful? Was it magnificent? Did people have lots of fun during the show?”

 

“Yes. Beautiful. Magnificient. And very fun.”

 

“Can we go there again? I really want to catch the show while summer’s still at its peak”

 

“Mn. Tomorrow evening. I’ll take you there.”

Chapter Text

"Three on the right!"

 

Lan Zhan staggers to the back, barely missing a trio of gaping maws that streaked across the front of his chest. Each comes equipped with a pair of black-tinged fangs, and one grazed the back of his right forearm. The residual liquid - pearlets of dark, sticky substance - melts through the protective sleeve, and dissolves his skin. Lan Zhan grits his teeth when he feels something sizzle, and it’s painful.

 

“Lan Zhan, are you alri--”

 

“Keep playing the flute!” he barks, ignoring the throbbing pain in his arm and the beads of sweat rolling off his shoulders. His grip on Bichen trembles, so he switches the sword to his left hand. It wasn’t as skilled, and he was having trouble to fend off the frightening leaping snakes. They burst out from the bushes in groups, emitting black wisps from their serpentine bodies, and hurtled through the air with spine-chilling hisses with bared venomous fangs.

 

Lan Zhan dodges another cluster of snakes arching above his head, before he rolls to the left, and uses his sword to parry four more that launched themselves directly to Wei Ying’s face. The cursed reptiles, almost formless due to the heavy mists that blanketed their bodies, slap onto the thick blade and cleave cleanly into two. Thick, liquefying chunks drop wetly to the ground, then evaporate into thin air within seconds. 

 

Both men were trapped between snake-infested thickets and a high vertical cliff face behind their backs; Lan Zhan continued to strike - almost blindly - both left and right, with increasing desperation and fatigue, at snakes that pummel suicidally at them. They come in different sizes, from the size of fingers until as long as a man’s arm - which makes it extremely difficult to swing and cut them down with precision, while avoiding those that crawl from behind. Both men had suffered multiple bites on their feet from the smaller ones - despite the harmless size, they were camouflaged by the shadows of the overhanging cliff, and easily ambushed the men from the roots of smaller shrubs; their fangs puncture the shoes, inject small amounts of paralyzing venom before being stomped or stabbed to death.

 

Lan Zhan loses his balance with a loud yelp, and falls to one knee. One such attacker latched by its fangs to a calf muscle. Barely two notes into his flute music, Wei Ying shouts in panic and uses the bamboo instrument to whack it away, flinging it far into the thickets.

 

“K--Keep… playing--” the older man groans, dizzy, and uses Bichen’s toxin-encrusted blade to steady himself from collapsing to the dirt. The metal shines in the dim pillars of light filtering from the canopy of trees atop the cliff above them, it does not dull with the poisons.

 

It was too late. The pause in flute music intended to tranquilize the largest beast in the vicinity - an enormous mist-enveloped serpent that towered in front of both men, as tall as three adults - allowed it to wake up. It jerks its muscles with renewed energy coursing through its body, and it hisses and roars fiercely. Venomous spit rains on its desired prey, melting patches of clothes, flesh, grass, even rocks that litter the ground. The acrid smoke of burning material fills the air, choking both men further with the stench of being suffocated, poisoned and the fear of being devoured alive.

 

Wei Ying starts to write a mystical word to cast some kind of spell, but the ritual is disrupted when he lets out an agonizing, anguished cry; one of his arms is chewed by a sizable snake that had appeared out of nowhere. Rows of serrated teeth dig into the bloodied shoulder sleeve, and the bamboo flute drops to the ground with a hollow thud. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Lan Zhan frantically spins on his heel and lurches upward with his remaining good feet to grab onto that snake’s tail in an effort to pull it away, even though he knows he’ll probably rip off a good part of Wei Ying’s skin and flesh from that act - he’d do anything, anything to save his lover from harm.

 

In mid-dash, fingers splayed out to reach as far as possible towards the tip of the wriggling attacker, suddenly a tremendous force slams into his abdomen, and he crashes back to the ground with a sickening crunch. The impact whiplashes the bones, forcing air out of his lungs and his vision spins wildly. Searing pain runs through his entire body - he was broken, crushed and torn alive. He couldn’t move his limbs, his ears are ringing, and he tastes blood that pour from his throat and through the nostrils. He tries to look downward at what is holding him back from reaching his beloved Wei Ying, but he sees only red-tinged blurry images of black mists and scales; of hideous obsidian fangs and teeth dripping with poisonous saliva; of cold, massive jaws that enclose around his bloodied, mangled body and his arms stuck out in odd angles; and those terrifying jaw muscles flex, tighten, squeeze his bleeding organs, threatening to break his ribs and slice him into half. His vision becomes a mess of red, moving masses, and he loses focus.

 

Lan Zhan shakily looks up; he knows that he is mortally wounded and needs to see his lover’s face one last time before darkness overcomes his consciousness. “Wei… Ying…” he gurgles softly through gushing blood, wants to reach and touch, to say Sorry that he could not save both of them, Sorry that he wasn’t strong enough to make his own decision and take them to safety, Sorry for all the pain they had to go through during their brief time together on this wretched world - but he no longer has the arms to hold lovely Wei Ying, nor any breath to say anything else.

 

Wei Ying stands in silence, the distance between them as pronounced and stark as night and day. One is living - a look of horror on the face, tormented by the pain of being devoured alive by biting, chewing and gnashing teeth and poisonous fangs. One is dying - a look of peaceful calm, no longer feeling the pain of the world and wants just one last touch of warmth.

 

A single teardrop rolls down the younger man’s cheeks.

 

.

 

.

 

What started as a noble effort to locate the source of snakes that terrorized Mian Mian’s neighbours, became an exciting treasure hunt for clues starting from shedded snakeskins, regurgitated animal carcasses that grew in size, until Lan Zhan became anxious and wanted to retreat to call for back-up from the other cultivators - but Wei Ying insisted with his reckless bravado, that it’s there, it’s there, just over the next clump of bushes, just past next rocky slope, and they went on, and on, deeper into the unexplored, shadowed parts of the ‘Mounds - until they walked into a dead-end of the said cliff face. 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan, do you know how much you mean to me?

 

You’re my soulmate, you’ve saved me countless of times, you’re the only one who stood by me when everyone else would not. You’re the light of my darkness, you’re the only person who stands in the right when everyone else is wrong.

 

You laughed, listened and loved me. You would never hurt me.

 

Seeing you in pain, right at this moment - it angers me; that you love me so well, and yet the world does not love you. Even the heavens do not spare their love for either of us.

 

It angers me, that this world, the people, the creatures, the gods - everything, is unfair.

 

Everything is wrong, wrong, wrong.

 

Those that wronged me... you…. us - are unfair. They hurt. They hurt so hard, that they deserve to feel my anger and wrath.

 

Seeing you lying in a pool of your own blood, right at this moment - it angers me; It hurts so much. It burns.

 

Everything burns.

 

.

 

.

 

Lan Zhan, do you really know how much you mean to me?

 

I will show you.

 

I will show those who dare to hurt. 

 

I will burn everything down - this world, the heavens, everything - to show how much I really love you .

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan wakes up gasping audibly for breath, and his body is covered with sweat.

 

The bedroom is dim, quiet, save for some soft, bubbling sounds coming from the kitchen and some birds chirping outside their home. The curtains sway gently from a cooling breeze blowing in through the window. Judging from the angle and brightness of the sunlight, it seems to be early in the morning, just after sunrise.

 

As soon as he catches his breath, he tries to push himself up to rise, but groans when pain shoots up his left arm. He steadies himself on the other good arm until he is able to sit with his back against the pillows and bedframe. He pushes the blanket away; it feels rather warm in the room.

 

Lan Zhan realizes that he is topless and wears only his short summer underpants. His left forearm, lower right leg and the entire midriff are heavily bandaged - thick, secure and cleanly wrapped with strips of cloth. He tries to bend a little, twist slightly to the side, wiggle his fingers and toes - the wounds ache, but the rest of his body is fine, if not rather stiff from lying in a supine position for too long. There are some minor cuts and bruises, especially from the waist down, but these have healed and the marks and scabs will probably disappear in another day or two.

 

He swivels around at the bedside and lets his feet touch the floor gingerly, barefooted. Just as he was about to stand up, Wei Ying appeared at the entrance of the bedroom, wearing a beige shirt and a pair of brown trousers. He carried a tray containing a steaming bowl and a bamboo container.

 

“Lan Zhan, you’re awake! Oh, you’re awake!” the younger man squeals with immense delight. He quickly rushes in, puts the tray on the bedside table, then sits on Lan Zhan’s right side. He takes the older man’s good right hand and starts stroking the forearm. 

 

“Wei…” Lan Zhan calls out his lover’s name because those are the first words he desperately needed to say-scream-shout at that moment; Lan Zhan blinks his eyes hard when they suddenly prickled with uncried tears; his mind races with a multitude of unasked questions between being trapped in the jaws of death and waking up to his beloved angel’s touch; his heart soars with gratefulness that he is alive and breathing, that all is well in their bedroom, and that lovely Wei Ying is cheerful as always. He leans in to embrace his love - he’d missed Wei Ying’s warm scent and so much more -, until a twinge of pain from the abdomen caused him to grimace and halt in mid-hug.

 

“Ah, Lan Zhan, don’t strain yourself. You’ve just woken up and your body still needs plenty of rest,” Wei Ying gently admonishes, as he places a hand on his back and above the woven dressing to steady the older man from falling back into the bedcovers. A small smudge of red appears on the bandage above the navel, and Lan Zhan groans with an audible “arrrgh!” at the stinging sensation. The pain fired through his spine and causes an uncomfortable squeezing sensation in his temples - that’s when he realized that his forehead was bandaged as well.

 

Wei Ying becomes wide-eyed at the patch of bloodied dressing, and starts shouting towards the curtained window, “ Didi ! (little brother) Get your san ge (third brother) in here right now! He’s awake!”. Lan Zhan reels from the growing, pounding pain inside his head and stomach, and his mind couldn’t quite figure out what Wei Ying was trying to say, or to whom.

 

Da ge ! (big brother) The wound’s opening up again! We need new bandages and gauze!” this time, Wei Ying barks out orders towards the door leading to the outdoor pool.

 

“Who…” Lan Zhan groans again, his gaze fixated on the dark stone floor to stop a throbbing headache from tearing out of his head. He hears footsteps shuffling into the room, and he becomes alarmed at the sudden presence of an intruder - no, multiple intruders - shadows, sounds, breathing - surrounding him… and Wei Ying is still sitting by his side, in possibly grievous danger! 

 

Another pair of hands gently holds up his bandaged left arm. Lan Zhan turns his head to that direction, tensed, ready to jump off the bed and kick whoever that dares to touch his injuries. He froze.

 

“Wang Ji xiong , you’re awake! There’s no need to rush, so please take your time to recover. I-- ah, I’m sorry, my clothes are a bit dirty with mud… I had to take care of the weeds and the chicken coop, and also catch a couple of fish from the pond,“ another Wei Ying appeared in his sight, but he looks fairer, thinner and younger - just as when they first met at the Cloud Recesses, more than sixteen years ago. He places Lan Zhan’s arm down and gives a wide, energetic grin, then sheepishly wipes his soil-speckled hands on the hem of an oversized light blue shirt - but his gaze never left Lan Zhan. He pulls up a leg onto the bed, and Lan Zhan notices the black trousers that he wore are a little baggy; when Lan Zhan scans this ‘other’ Wei Ying from head to toe, he couldn’t help but stare incredulously at his dirt-smudged bare foot on the bed.

 

Another face pops into his vision, near to the dirty wiggling toes against the clean bedsheets. It’s a young boy, barely ten years of age (probably), and he looks very much like a miniature version of Wei Ying - albeit with shorter hair; the bright sparkling eyes, chubbier cheeks and the tell tale toothy smile - it’s all Wei Ying’s. The boy rests his chin of the bedside and looks up adorably. “Lan er gege , you must get well soon, okay? I did all the housework for you in the last few days while you were sleeping. So please, don’t worry!” And that angelic smile again. Lan Zhan feels his world is spinning in absolute confusion, and yet his heart melts at that endearing, cuddle-worthy smile. He nearly reached out to pat those cute plump cheeks too - but withdrew his hand in horror when he realized that the boy was wearing one of his old cloud-patterned white shirts which was too large for the tiny body that it slipped off one of his shoulders to bare his smooth, adolescent chest; that the boy was wearing the shirt and nothing else underneath ; and that the boy knelt between his open legs and his face was so, so close to his crotch that he could feel the heated, quick breaths tickling his thinly-covered thighs.

 

Then, a pair of long muscled, tanned arms tenderly embraces him from behind, weaving around the armpits and locked right above the edge of the dressing at his midriff. The swish of long, slightly unruly, lush hair that fans on both sides of his shoulders, the musky warm scent that accompanies the comforting hold, the lower sultry whispery yet firm voice into his ears - are unmistakably Wei Ying’s.  “ Lao gong , you’re up (你醒啦),” followed by a light peck on his neck - right at the sensitive skin above the jugular vein - “I really missed you (好想你)” the husky, yearning voice exudes a sense of maturity and desire, and its brevity in words signifies familiarity and possessiveness. Fingertips start to toy the edge of the bandage and lightly graze, then circle a nipple. The friction of fingernail against the woven material scratches the sheathed brown nub with precise abrasion and pressure, and Lan Zhan shivers a little when tingly goosebumps rise up from spine to scalp. “Don’t be shy, Han Guang Jun. Let's undress you and wrap you up nicely, alright?”

 

Lan Zhan looks to his right, at the first (and original?) Wei Ying; the older man’s strained facial expression speaks volumes of confusion, stress and panic. The younger man smiles sweetly in return, and caresses Lan Zhan’s remaining good hand.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

At this point, lanzhan.exe has stopped working. Figuratively speaking, of course.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Goddess of the Silvery Moon, Chang ‘e, watches from her celestial throne with her faithful follower, the Jade Rabbit, on her lap. 

 

The Mortal Realm of the Middle Kingdom is but a husk of ash, charred beyond recognition. Great fires continue to sweep across the lands and burn, burn forever, wiping out all life on its surface, and leave smouldering basins that stretch endlessly where the Dragon King of the Seas once ruled. The scorching heat delivers its fiery carnage deep into the Realm’s living core,  where widespread incineration turns even the hardiest of metals and precious stones into useless dust. With that, the immense mythical roots of Mount Kunlun, the Pillar of the Skies, disintegrates and can no longer hold the infinite weight of the Heavens. Huge swathes of clouds and divinely material crumble and rain upon the Realms; leading to a perpetual cycle of death and destruction.

 

The deities of the earth cry, “O Dragon King of the Seas, we’re burning, burning alive! Please save us from this unbearable heat!”. However, there is no response, as the oceans have boiled over and evaporated into the air.

 

Then, they grovel on the ground and raised their palms up towards the skies, “Your Greatness, O Jade Emperor of the Heavenly Court, we beg for your mercy to save our pitiful existences! Please let us take shelter, away from the punishing fires and the rain of death!”. Again, there is no response. The Heavenly Palace lies in ruins.

 

Desperate, they plead, “O Great Heavenly Mother Queen, we have no one else to turn to, please show us the way to escape this mindless destruction, beyond Mount Kunlun, even beyond the Heavens!” There is only silence in return. Once revered as the cradle for countless legends and a fertile birthplace of gods, there are only earthquakes, spewing volcanic mountains and sinking craters left.

 

Having exhausted their options, the earthly deities approach the one god that none would ever think of - until now. “O Most Eminent of All, Lord of Hell, if you hear us then please allow us to hide in the Underworld, at least until the firestorms die down, we will forever be in your debt.” The fires in Hell have long burnt out, displaced by the raging inferno that originated somewhere in the west of the Kingdom.

 

All eyes turn to the final saviour of the Mortal Realms and the sacred Realms of the Gods.

 

Merciful Goddess Guan Yin is at a loss for words. Her compassion is limitless, but Compassion cannot undo the reality that almost all Creations are lost forever to the ashes. She turns to the grandest of them all, the all-knowing omnipresence in all cycles of birth, existence and death. 

 

Lord Buddha, The Enlightened One, finally opens His eyes, after what seems an eternity of peace and meditation. 

 

Chang ‘e never really got along well with the Realm of the Gods, after her banishment to the Moon. She crosses one leg, relaxes into the throne, and continues to watch with interest from her lunar pedestal.

Chapter Text

The inaugural settlement of the Lan family outside of Gusu, Lan’s Residence within the ‘Mounds of Qishan, has undergone a population explosion, the fledgling patriarch realized. He rubs both temples, trying to massage the throbbing headache away as stress and fatigue pile up one after another, threatening to overwhelm his muddled consciousness.

 

Wei didi and his san ge bicker and quarrel over a muddy footprint left on the bedsheet. The small boy pummels the older teenager with his small fists while shouting angrily that he’d just washed it, while the other parries each punch and retorts that the sheets can be washed again, and working on the farm to put food on their table is more important than the laundry.

 

Wei er ge (the one he recognized as his beloved) tries valiantly to yell above the din while shushing the youngest two. He’s just blown the first spoonful of steaming congee and paused in mid-air, as he talked with one hand cupping beneath the spoon in case there was any spillage. “As I was saying - STOP IT BOTH OF YOU! - while we were looking for the snakes’ nest, you walked ahead into some thick morning mists and fell off a sharp cliff. Lan Zhan, you really scared me to death back then! It’s as though you slipped off some rocks, and then, Whoosh!, you were gone from my sight! - ENOUGH, STOP ARGUING! - I rushed down the slope and found that you’d crashed over some rocks. You had cuts and lacerations all over your body, hence the bandages,” he points the steaming spoon in all directions towards Lan Zhan’s body, except for the half-opened mouth. “You’re very lucky that there were no broken bones! Ah, Lan Zhan, did you know, you’re very heavy and it took me a while to carry you back - I was afraid you’d bleed too much! - ALRIGHT THAT’S IT! -” and Wei er ge stands up in anger with a scowl on his face, bloodshot eyes and flared nostrils included, then throws the spoon back into its bowl with a loud clang, and slammed the bowl on the surface of the bedside table so hard that the creaky wood rattled. He marched off and pushed the two fighting boys out of the room.

 

Lan Zhan sighs and closes his mouth because he thought Wei Ying would feed him with a spoonful of warm congee, but that spoon no longer hovered in front of his lips. He stares with regret at the ill-treated cutlery sticking out from a messy puddle of food.

 

Wei da ge continues to wrap fresh new bandages around his ribs patiently, but at a faster pace. “Lan Zhan, let me finish this last bit, then I’ll get the congee for you,” he murmurs apologetically. His voice is the lowest among them all, almost baritone in quality, and soothes the ringing ears and frayed nerves. Lan Zhan feels unnerved at the strange situation, and despite the calmness of this older Wei Ying, he imagines that the fingers moving in circles around his midriff belongs to a stranger instead of his lover that’s been aged up about ten or so more years. He uses his good right hand to pick up the spoon, carefully scoop up the congee from its bowl on the table, and slowly maneuver to his lips. He’s too nervous to stay still, at the moment.

 

“You saw it, didn’t you? The nasty gashes on your waist. You scraped yourself badly when you fell through the jagged surfaces. The volcanic rock is very sharp,” Wei da ge seems to pick up where the er ge left off. Lan Zhan blows some steam off the spoon, half-expecting the conversation to continue in their typical one-sided manner.

 

“I cast a Fairy Messenger spell to get Doctor Li to make a house call, and begged him to come as soon as he could. Thankfully his grandmother was with him, so they managed to clean up the mess on your body. The blood… was all over the bed and floor… so Grandma Li helped to wash up too. She taught me how to disinfect and keep your wounds clean, as well as to bandage them properly,” Wei da ge says, and nudged at the final knot on the side of the body. Lan Zhan notices that he wore a grey shirt - one of Lan Zhan’s older modified robes - and it fits well on the larger muscled body frame - almost as good as the original owner.

 

Lan Zhan places the spoon to his lips, and took a sip - but it was still scalding hot, and he “ahhhs” softly and jerks away his fingers. Wei da ge managed to catch the falling spoon with one hand, and a spilled glob lands on the back of his other hand. “Ah, careful, Lan Zhan,” he warns with little indication that he’s bothered with the piping hot liquid other than a quick shake of the wrist, and nonchalantly climbs off the bed.

 

Lan Zhan blinks at the other man, expressionless, although the pounding headache continues to hammer the insides of his skull. The room is at least peaceful and quiet, so the pain receded - but barely. He observes how Wei da ge casually licks the spilled puddle off his hand, and proceeds to scoop another spoonful of congee. He turns around towards Lan Zhan and starts to blow the steam off the spoon. He seems patient and relaxed, and hung on to the spoon longer than Lan Zhan did.

 

“... how?” Lan Zhan mouthed, soundless.

 

Wei da ge apparently caught the question despite the silence pervading the room. He raises an eyebrow, wordlessly asking What, Which, Who with that little gesture.

 

Lan Zhan clears his throat; it feels clogged, scratchy and raspy despite having already drunk a cup of tea from the bamboo container. “How… did you bring me back?”

 

Wei da ge continues to blowing, and in-between breaths, he explains, “I won’t lie to you, I used powerful spells to transport us back here. I can explain more later, and show you if you’re interested,” and finally raises the cooled congee to Lan Zhan’s lips. The other man, however, still harbors some suspicions of a stranger trying to feed him with plain liquidy food containing bits of minced chicken, egg, finely chopped cabbage and boiled carrot cubes, garnished with sliced scallion and drizzles of sesame seed oil. He leans away.

 

Wei da ge sighs. “The doctor’s fee, including the emergency FeiEx transport, bandages and medicine, totals up to four gold pieces. I took them from your money pouch and I’m sorry I had to use them without your permission,” he calmly explains and points at the said pouch lying in one of the bookshelves - it looks awfully thin -, “... but I promise to find a way to earn back the money. The four of us have been trying our best; but with the losses from cancelled food delivery orders to the teahouses, compounded with the fact that we’ve been spending more than what we can pocket from selling a handful of under ripe crops, hurriedly-written talismans and knick-knacks; and that we’ve used up nearly all the gold pieces inside that pouch especially since we’ve been having take-outs lately,” and he looks back at Lan Zhan with a hardened and very anxious gaze, “the situation is very dire… So, dear husband of mine, eat up, get well soon, and for goodness sake, please sort out our finances, food, clothing and everything else in our household!”

 

Something inside Lan Zhan stirred from the impassioned, and sincere speech. (It comes with financial figures, and beckons him with pleas to restore the balance of their Perfect universe.) He cautiously takes a bite of the chicken congee. It tastes quite good - not spicy at all, and just a tad bit savoury - enough for his Gusu-trained palate to give it a four out of five stars.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

It takes a while for Lan Zhan to wrap his head around how Wei Ying struggles to survive with him out cold on the bed - for two weeks, at least; even the water clock outside their home ran dry (because no one remembered to fill it), so it was impossible to determine how much time had passed, without checking any external sources of information such as the weekly periodicals). The four of them explained - in various states of highly-strung emotions and sometimes, with arguments among themselves to dispute their own facts and beliefs - just verbally explained and did not need to show, because Lan Zhan absolutely refuses to want to acknowledge, let alone witness (because Heaven forbid if such acts are used without care nor thought of the possible disastrous consequences!) -, about how prohibited or never-heard-before spells are cast, to make up for their inherently appalling lack of skills in domestic work and housekeeping.

 

The first thing the young man had in mind, right after Doctor Li and his grandmother left, was to tackle the insurmountable challenge of “how to Lan Zhan their home and estate”, with his name carelessly used to define “doing the things that Wei Ying doesn’t do”. Apparently, he was desperate enough to cast an extremely forbidden spell related to the concept of Creation - which is second only to Time-manipulation in terms of the severity of illegalness in the cultivation world - and made an extra copy of himself. Lan Zhan has no idea how the spell is cast, how it works, how a new human being is formed using that spell, what are the effects nor the long-term consequences; the books in Gusu Lan’s Library Pavillion only makes brief mention about the name of the spell’s circle, and a paragraph of vague, but harshly (and horrifically)-worded description to deter anyone from reading further.

 

Wei Ying knew he had to continue making his trips to Yiling and sell his talismans and magical gadgets (and take up the labour-intensive task of foraging, since he covers the most ground among the four Wei's). The earnings are miserable compared to the value of the food deliveries (that he was forced to cancel), but it was the only reliable source of income he had in mind. Thankfully, the laoban s of the teahouses were understanding and believed his petty excuses of “the wife is sick” and “our kitchen is undergoing some renovations”, and were agreeable to defer the orders at least until the following month with little or no contractual penalties. Grandma Li was very kind and immediately gave him a box of medicine after seeing Lan Zhan’s condition, so he’d save up on medical fees. She said the herbal candies could wait too. And Wei Ying absolutely refused to call up his foster sisters unless it was the last straw, because he really couldn’t handle them all (Lan Zhan’s inner self nods vehemently in agreement).

 

The first copy would be someone skilled and strong enough to man the farms. When Wei Ying was in his teens, he’d already learnt the basics about planting and maintaining vegetable gardens, harvesting and caring for livestock - as evidenced by his lively rural childhood growing up in Yunmeng and befriending many farmers and fishermen around Lotus Pier. A fifteen year old Wei Ying was created, and tasked with watering, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting the vegetable patch, fruit trees and the lotus plants (with some blunders - he’d pluck out unripe fruits, thinking that they’re fit for sale and consumption - to Old Merchant Zhu’s consternation); feeding the chickens, rabbits and fish (he made some expensive mistakes - he didn’t know where to get their food or what kinds of food they ate, so he walked all the way to Huang village to buy bags of animal feed, which cost a lot . He still supplemented the birds’ and fish’s diet with bugs and insects caught from the surrounding forests, and for the rabbits, cut grass that fringe their estate because he was sure that there were no poisonous plants around there); and hunting for jungle fowls and other wild game (which worked fine, and the family of four could still get decent meals every day, courtesy of the abundant wildlife in the ‘Mounds).

 

Farming and hunting took up a lot of time, so by the end of the first day without Lan Zhan leading their domestic affairs, Wei Ying made another copy of himself for housework. He was aware that by the age of nine, he was already good with cleaning the house, making the bed, doing the laundry (he still had problems with folding large clothing items and bedsheets properly with his small hands), washing the dishes and other menial tasks inside the home - Jiang Fengmian had taught him well back then, because he bore the brunt of Madam Yu’s ire, and was always forced to help out his shijie or the other servants since Jiang Cheng was too young (and also because Madam Yu disapproved her true gong zi son from even holding a broomstick during those times). Nine-year old Wei Ying also helped to watch over their house, such as taking in the laundry before it rains, receiving parcels from the Postbird, flipping through the periodicals and cut out the coupons (they’re left in a messy stack inside a box for Lan Zhan to sort out when he wakes up), and play with the animals or doodle in his notebooks when he has time to spare - because he’s still a small child.

 

However, there was an unforeseeable consequence when he created the youngest version of himself - something became unstable in the space-time fabric (Lan Zhan didn’t really grasp the concept, but he listened on to Wei Ying’s animated explanations), probably because of the difference in age between him and the copy - and with a lightning flash and a thunderous boom, an older version of himself appeared alongside the nine-year old too! The thirty-year old Wei Ying (he thinks it’s thirty, but he’s not sure) did not have any work planned beforehand, so he was tasked to help around at home and the estate, such as: reaching for things that are too high up in the cupboards for the nine-year old; helping to dig ditches to irrigate the crops or carry straw baskets of harvested fruits and radishes, because he was much stronger than the fifteen-year old; and toil on talismans, charms, magical gadgets and other projects in the workroom - because he seems more experienced and is able to get the job done faster than the current Wei Ying. The eldest Wei Ying also helped to prepare their meals and is currently experimenting with their nineteenth version of the lotus root pork rib soup - it’s still in progress, though; although fifteen-year old Wei Ying could clearly remember the taste of his shijie ’s soup, he had difficulty to pinpoint, let alone describe, the ingredients and recipe needed to perfect the dish. 

 

Unfortunately, Wei Ying has limited knowledge of cooking and recipes (because he didn’t cook much in his past life, and judging from the eldest’s pitiful ability with the wok and pots, it seems Wei Ying has come to rely too much on Lan Zhan for his meals - at this point, Lan Zhan’s heart skips a beat in secret delight) - so, after a few days of simple and similar-tasting spicy fried rice, fiery stir-fries, chilli congee and peppered barbecued meats, the four had enough (the youngest started experiencing diarrhea from the endless stream of spicy food) and began ordering take-outs; which drained the money pouch a lot faster than intended, and worsened their financial situation.

 

Hence, despite having four copies of himself existing and working side-by-side, as predicted, Wei Ying admits that he couldn’t Lan Zhan their home and estate as well as the real owner. The cave-home is a mess, the animals aren’t eating much, the vegetable gardens didn’t look as healthy as before, the laundry isn’t folded properly, and stuff are piled up in places where they clearly do not belong .

 

However, there are still some silver linings despite the looming black clouds over their heads:

 

Nine-year old Wei Ying managed to keep the floors clean and have fun at the same time - he loves to sit and ride on the D-broom as the unit weaves its way around their house. He helps to clear any obstacles, such as stacks of folded laundry left carelessly on the floor or other bits of machinery, wood or stonework that the eldest is working on, so that the magically enhanced automaton could complete its duty smoothly. Then, the boy would take the filled attached bag and dump its dusty and dirty contents into their outdoor pool - twice a day, at least. 

 

Fifteen-year old Wei Ying had been frustrated because he’s a ball of excited teenage energy that cannot find release through farmwork alone - so he helped to dig, gather and pile loose boulders and rocks from the fields to build stone walls around their gardens. While doing that, he practised his elemental spellcasting skills and increased his physical strength at the same time; 

 

The current Wei Ying had a bit more time to practise his cultivation, pen down and actually realize more ideas from his notebook - in their increasingly packed workroom, there are prototypes of a bamboo piping system for carrying Qishan’s heated springwaters into their home, shower heads that can be installed at their outdoor pool (it’s easier to wash one’s hair with a sprinkling shower than to dunk a bucket of water over the head), half-completed lantern fixtures to make their rooms brighter at night, and even a half-constructed oven that’s too big to fit into their kitchen (so it lies in a graveyard-like pile of construction materials, sawdust and chipped stones at a corner of the courtyard, covered with tarp). There are a few new benches around the lotus pond too, which makes the atmosphere around their estate more welcoming for any visitors.

 

Thirty-year old Wei Ying made few but very meaningful contributions to their home. He single-handedly designed an automated washing basin after watching how the youngest of them struggled with four times the amount of clothes and other laundered items. He’d built it using stone, wood and a kind of hardened malleable mix that consists of limestone, clay, water, sand, gravel, pebbles, high-level Fire spells and iron bars moulded using Metal spells; essentially it is a spinning basin with an axle in the center attached to multiple paddles, assembled into a watertight box, and pasted with a complex array of Memory, Energy, Water, Wind and other talismans. The invention functions as it should, but barely - due to the lack of a constant reliable source of energy, and a mechanism to fill the basin with washing water when needed. At least the clothes are washed and left half-dried by the time the basin stops spinning. (Lan Zhan observed a brief demonstration of how the contraption worked, and thought that hand-washing is still the preferred option.) There are also notes written in Wei Ying’s notebook about future plans to add a low-grade long-lasting Fire spell to help dry off the washed laundry inside the basin. (At this point, Lan Zhan thought Wei Ying should just rely on the sunny weather to dry off the cleaned fabrics - in this day and age, nobody washes their clothes during cloudy or rainy days.)

 

Another idea that the thirty-year old came up with is a set of drawings for an automated dishwashing basin; however due to the lack of space in their small kitchen, and the delicate nature of clay and ceramic, Wei Ying continues to work on the idea within the safe confines on paper (and avoid breaking their precious tableware). For a very brief moment, Lan Zhan felt personally attacked by the thought of letting a mindless magically enchanted equipment wash their dishes, because washing dishes - along with cooking - are essentially what defines Lan Zhan’s identity in their kitchen. He hums disinterestedly (even his inner self rolls his eyes sarcastically), hoping that Wei Ying’s idea would fail and he’d drop the whole ridiculous idea once and for all.

 

The eldest Wei Ying also showed Lan Zhan how they’d handle the caught wild game during his absence - since none of them knew how to preserve meat with spices and marinades, nor thought of casting Preserve spells (which is a fundamental spell in a Healer’s magical arsenal) - when he opened their pantry to show him the leaf-wrapped meats (also to brag at the expanded cellar space, because the youngest Wei Ying spent time digging more little caves beneath the kitchen), Lan Zhan was taken aback initially at the freakish dark light emitting from the bottom of the hole. There was an instant dip in the kitchen’s temperature and Lan Zhan could feel a shiver running up his fingertips from an indeterminable chill. That Wei Ying reached in and took out one of the wrapped meat. Lan Zhan sniffed it (it smelled alright) but refused to touch it, for now (it looked frozen and covered with ice crystals even in the heat of summer; he thought his eyes deceived him, and that it must be some kind of untouchable curse that only Wei Ying dared to conjure). Lan Zhan knows that Wei Ying is wise and crafty in the ways of magic, and although he couldn’t identify the spell used to conserve the freshness of a two-week old chunk of deer meat, he did not openly dispute on whether the meat can, or should be consumed; he could remain as a vegetarian for a long time, anyway. He did ask though, whether it's safe to eat anything else stored inside their pantry, now that a cursed (he presumes) thing emitting the cold dark light has taken up residence in there. Thirty-year old Wei Ying answers by asking him how he felt after eating the two-week old minced chicken in the congee earlier that day. Lan Zhan knows Wei Ying will not harm anyone on purpose, so he lets the question slide and prays that his stomach doesn’t protest.

 

Lan Zhan sighs. He hobbles on a handmade crutch (just a smoothed T-shape wood that fifteen-year old Wei Ying crafted from a couple of branches), and slowly makes his way out of the kitchen with all four Wei Yings by his side to survey the rest of the aftermath, and how he can put things back in order for his - their - little growing estate in the ‘Mounds.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan is, truthfully speaking, beginning to warm up to his extended family much better than he'd predicted.

 

It helps that all four Wei Yings are the same person, have the same history and memories, behavioural traits and personality, intelligence, wisdom and knowledge, latent and manifested skills, and spellcasting capabilities; they differ mostly in terms of physical strength, motor skills, and maturity in their thinking process. Simply put, take one Wei Ying, make three more copies, and squeeze each into different moulds of increasing sizes, and let the resulting lively quartet run along in their own separate ways (or circles). Since they are independent individuals with what Lan Zhan suspects as limited unseen telepathic connections amongst them, each Wei Ying can be regarded as a different aspects, or distorted mirror images of the same character. 

 

There are probably more obvious and subtle quirks that he’s not yet discovered about the after-effects of the Wei Ying’s quadruplication, so he puts on his scholarly hat, and with his hand on his heart, vows to thoroughly understand his four spouses and prosper the Lan’s Residence.

 

The first order of business that morning is to sort out their cave-home - and the first things he noticed are unusual balls of crumpled bedsheets around their abode - one near the kitchen stove, one under the dining table, another by the bed, and the final one at the entrance by the doorsteps. When he asks about those, the current Wei Ying explains that they agreed to let Lan Zhan lie on the bed to rest and recover, so they chose to sleep elsewhere. Since they tend to move around and land punches and kicks while dreaming, each picked a different spot around their tiny home to spend the nights lying on a piece of bedsheet. Nine-year old Wei Ying was able to fit into a narrow strip of floor space between the wall and the bedside table; fifteen-year old Wei Ying preferred to sleep under the dining table where he could comfortably stretch his legs; and thirty year-old Wei Ying curled up near the stove where he sometimes lit a Fire spell to the firewood and kept them warm. Lan Zhan knows that the entrance is the coldest of the four spots, especially when chilly winds blew in during the summer nights. His bare feet taps gently on the floor’s surface - it is hard, and can be unforgiving as well.

 

Lan Zhan bends down as much as the crutch would allow, and unsteadily opens his arms as widely as possible. All four Wei Yings gently approach and embrace him from all sides, in a wordless gesture of “Welcome back”.

Chapter Text

Lan Wang Ji is truly the Grand Patriarch of the Lan’s Residence.

 

He sits on his palatial throne (a plain stool that nine-year old Wei Ying brought out from the dining area), right at the main entrance to their home, and casts long shadows to the interior like a grand, imposing figure (even that elongated hairpiece looks awe-inspiring from an angle). With both hands resting on his royal sceptre (actually, the crutch), a solemn look on his face (he’s always expressionless anyway), he easily commands four royal subjects (would queens, mistresses, concubines - or heaven forbid, slaves - be more fitting?) to pander to his whims and slake his unshakable thirst to mend the broken, relocate the misplaced, replenish the missing, and make his universe Perfect once more.

 

It’s a sunny summer morning, and the heat is rising fast within the cavernous walls - so everyone is topless and wears only their underpants or trousers; except for the nine-year old, because there aren’t any garments suitable for his size, so he dons a baggy undershirt and goes pantless.

 

Lan Zhan already knows that the fifteen-year old doesn’t get along well with the youngest, and due to the small stature, the boy wouldn’t be able to contribute much to their home re-organization effort - so he asks the nine-year old to grab a chair, a notebook and an ink-brush pen, and sit by his side obediently . Wei didi immediately shows familiar traits of the beloved Wei Ying: he giggles, then pecks Lan Zhan’s left cheek as a gesture of appreciation, and rushes off. Wei da ge wordlessly follows the boy into the kitchen, with a long arm over the little one’s shoulder, to help the latter pick out a small chair suitable for his size. Lan Zhan understood immediately, at that point, that the eldest cares for the youngest the most - and makes a mental note of it. 

 

Meanwhile, Lan Zhan sets his sights on the other two individuals that he’s most familiar with. Earlier, while being spoonfed chicken congee by Wei da ge , and the other three talked non-stop about their despair and misery for the last couple of weeks, he noticed that all four Wei gong zi s have already established a basic and intimate level of understanding, relationship and hierarchy among themselves - including how they addressed each other appropriately and respectfully in a brotherly manner. 

 

“Wei er ge (second brother), san ge (third brother), we’ll start with the kitchen first, then the pantry next. Take out everything from the cabinets and shelves, group them, then show or tell me what you have - or don’t have,” he starts issuing orders in his no-nonsense voice, and both men quickly scuttled away without hesitation; both seemed thrilled to be addressed as elderly brothers ( ge ge ), probably reminiscent of a distant memory sixteen years ago when Lan Zhan was made to say Wei gege ’s name in his first drunk experience at the Cloud Recesses.

 

The remaining two emerge from the kitchen and narrowly missed colliding with the er and san ge s, carrying the requested items. Wei da ge brought an additional tray of tea and a plate of hastily-steamed store-bought dumplings - Lan Zhan recognizes that the eldest has a mind of his own, is cognizant of the situation around them, and always takes the initiative to do something - which may or may not be necessary. Without a word, da ge places the chair on Lan Zhan’s right side, sets the tray upon it, and pours a full cup next to the tea pot. He hoists the little boy who held the blank notebook and a dipped pen, and places him on the throne (actually, still the plain-looking stool), between Lan Zhan’s open legs. Then, he pecks Lan Zhan’s right cheek lightly, and whispers into the blushing right ear that little Wei Ying likes to be close to his gege , just as how little Wang Jis like to hang out with baby Wei Yings. He takes both of Lan Zhan’s hands and gently wraps them around the nine-year old by the small, slightly chubby waist (like a seat belt), before giving a good squeeze at the intertwined fingers locking right above the boy’s navel and murmurs, “Hold him tightly, I’ll do what is needed,” before leaving the two alone.

 

Lan Zhan didn’t realize he’d been staring at the long-haired man sashaying away until Wei didi tugged at the older man’s underpants. The boy looks up with a pout and a few irresistibly cute blinks of big brown eyes. “ Gege , can we start now?” he asks adorably and starts kicking his bare feet restlessly into the air; his body doesn’t touch the older man’s injured torso or lower right leg. Lan Zhan sighs and rests his chin on the child’s head. Wei didi smells like Wei Ying, though a little milder and sweeter.

 

“Mn.”

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Nine-year old Wei Ying is adorable and docile in the presence of a serious gege . He listens to the instructions and acts as Lan Zhan’s trusted scribe and (underaged) secretary - he studiously fills page after page of the blank notebook with messy handwriting on what needs to be fixed, to be purchased, and needs to be replenished. Soon, he’d written a shopping list, a comprehensive planning schedule, and to-do lists for each part of their home, and later, around the estate; during which Lan Zhan enjoys cuddling the soft, warm body that still holds some baby fat. When it comes to re-folding some wrinkled fabrics , he happily hopped off the stool and asked with an charming grin, “ Gege , can you teach me how to fold your shirt? I want to make sure that you will look the best every day!” - Lan Zhan couldn’t refuse. Later, when Wei didi returned to his seat between the older man’s legs, turns around and puts on his biggest smile while holding up two cut-out red coloured coupons, one on each cheek - Lan Zhan smiles back (!) and rubs a thumb to the little boy’s nose to wordlessly say how precious the child is to him.

 

The thirty-year old, on the other hand and quite frankly, leaves Lan Zhan feeling rather disconcerted - partly because of the oft-surprising ways he behaves - he gets caught off-guard by moments of helpfulness and thoughtfulness, then sometimes he’s subtle and seductive, and at other times brazen and proactive - however, the actions are almost always done at the right time, and under the right circumstances. It feels like as though Wei da ge can read into everyone’s minds and knows what to say or do - and what not say or do (and he keeps telling himself, this is still his Wei Ying, and later with another nervous sigh, that this could be the future Wei Ying that he’d spend the rest of his life with.) 

 

Another reason for the anxiety that’s undermining his confidence in dealing with the da ge , is that Lan Zhan had been ingrained from his childhood years to respect the seniors; and this Wei Ying looks to be of equal, if not of older, age and status compared to him. Although on the surface it feels easier to talk to the eldest Wei because he isn’t as bouncy and bubbly as the rest, at the same time, there is a lingering fear that if they speak too much, Lan Zhan may offend Wei da ge , or that he may be outmaneuvered in a conversation involving his wits (it’s really a baseless concern, but Lan Zhan has his own insecurities). So he remains polite towards the oldest of the four, and tries not to react impulsively to every question thrown at him (when da ge holds a ladle - the one that was bought from Yiling’s evening market not too long ago - that was carelessly left in the kitchen sink, he sends a lusty look at the older man, gives it a barely noticeable lick along the length of the handle, an asks: where should I really put this?), or every well-intended but thinly veiled suggestion ( da ge would pick up cushions scattered haphazardly around the house, fluff them up, and tell Lan Zhan that they should just leave them on the bed instead of storing them inside the cupboard - because the cushions will be needed at night, and they’re especially good for supporting one’s neck and buttocks. Lan Zhan initially agrees about the usefulness of the cushions, until he catches the underlying hint that they - he and all four Wei Yings - will be spending the night together on the bed; he’d made it clear that none of his Wei Yings will ever need to sleep on the cold hard floor again. Then, he inadvertently zooms into the last word in da ge ’s suggestion - why would a cushion be needed to support one’s buttocks? Lan Zhan shivers, coughs loudly, and mentally tries to swat away inconceivable images. Wei da ge laughs and starts arranging the said cushions against the bedframe).

 

Unexpectedly, Wei da ge ’s superior magical abilities come in handy even when no one asks for his help. He’d cast Wind spells to keep the everyone cooled, conjure Invisible Hands when something is about to topple from a high cupboard, tap into a freshly created network of Sensing talismans (which works infinitely better than the Eye talisman) to locate things that have gone missing or were forgotten, or Levitate his er and san di s if he sees them tip-toeing to reach for the top shelves - and expectedly, receive no thanks in return. Lan Zhan also appreciates - but without saying anything about it - when Wei da ge nonchalantly stands behind him and starts massaging his stiff shoulders, and imperceptibly send minute amounts of Energy to make him feel better.

 

Lan Zhan finds interacting, talking and ordering the fifteen-year old Wei san ge to be as breezy as his lovely twenty-something Wei Ying. The teenager knows the ins and outs of their home, so, by saying something as vague as “Put the plates with blue designs on the second shelf to the right, and a bit behind the Mine and Yours mugs”, he is still able to execute the orders with perfect tens - if he puts his heart and mind into it. 

 

However, he has a rebellious streak in him, as evidenced by a shouting match between them after the first hour of work - teenage Wei Ying starts muttering “you’re not clear enough” (in which Lan Zhan rephrases to simplify his sentences that are already abbreviated, and he gets annoyed doing this for at least three times per given instruction), “What? You didn’t tell me” (Lan Zhan says it again, followed by and exasperated “Now you know” after the third repetition) and “I can’t hear you, so speak louder, old man” (which riles up Lan Zhan a bit, because how dare Wei Ying call him an old man !), and when he deliberately misplaced something or doesn’t tell the truth (teenage Wei Ying loves to confuse his lefts and rights with Lan Zhan’s), the current Wei Ying would catch him red-handed and shout out “Lan Zhan, he’s lying! Look at what he’s actually doing!” (and yes, teenage Wei Ying is all smiles and grins when he succeeds in confusing and irritating the older man) - all of which further exacerbates the older man’s headache, and he thinks he’ll need another bandage around his forehead. 

 

Lan Zhan decides to punish the fifteen-year old by giving him more hard labour work - such as lugging out the bags of grains for the chickens from the shed, sort out the newly harvested batch of fruits under the hot morning sun to pick out the unripe ones, and complete some unfinished stone walls by hauling and adding layers of rocks and capstones - until the teenager is utterly exhausted. In some ways, it feels cathartic as though he’d gone back sixteen years to give Wei Ying a good scolding for all the annoying things he’d done; only that this time, Lan Zhan is more forthcoming in disciplining the teenager.

 

Wei da ge steps up his shoulder massage, then knowingly gives Lan Zhan a pleasurable double-circular back-scratch around the unbandaged part of the body (Lan Zhan's favourite scratch style) - to pacify the old man whenever he’s agitated by the teen.

 

The last and current Wei Ying gets off scot-free, because he’s at his best behaviour.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

By lunchtime, they’ve fixed most of the chaos that nearly ruined their home and gardens, and all Wei Yings have received valuable life lessons in housekeeping and handling domestic affairs. Everyone agreed that Lan Zhan is a superhuman that deserve the utmost appreciation and rounds of applause, cheers and celebrations - over a simple but extremely satisfying meal of rice (congee for Lan Zhan - the wound on his stomach hasn’t healed up yet), herbal chicken soup, home-style steamed minced pork patty, boiled fish with tofu, sauteed garden vegetables, and a pot of pu’er tea. (Lan Zhan had ordered the excess jars of impulsively-purchased Laozu Smiles to be kept in locked cabinets and away from nine-year old Wei Ying’s grasp.) However, Lan Zhan politely declined the fanfare, and asked everyone at the round dining table to have their meal in silence, following Gusu Lan’s family rules; all four Wei Yings gladly abide by their husband’s orders.

 

Lan Zhan took a moment to mull over the food laid out in front of him. He was prepared to be contented with just with his bowl of plain congee and a few pieces of patty and vegetables within his reach due to his limited mobility (he couldn’t really lean into the table due to the bandages, and his limbs still hurt from the wounds) - just then, his current Wei Ying rose up, took the seat on his right, and like well-oiled clockwork, everyone else shuffled accordingly in unison. 

 

Wei da ge scoops a spoonful of the chicken soup with precise portions of meat, wolfberries and sliced edible herbal roots, blows a couple of times, and puts it to Lan Zhan’s lips. Lan Zhan takes a sip of the refreshingly warm savoury liquid, which whets his appetite. Wei Ying, next to him, says, “Lan Zhan, you’ve been taking care of me all this while, so let me - us - take care of you this time.”

 

San ge uses his spoon to deftly cut the pork patty into smaller pieces, and uses his chopsticks to place them into Lan Zhan’s bowl. “That’s right. No matter how old you are, or how ill you become, I - and all of us - will always stay by your side. So, don’t be shy, and eat up!”

 

Didi , who now on Lan Zhan’s left, puts a bundle of boneless fish meat and cut tofu into the same bowl. “I’m very good at picking the meat off the fish bones, and have been doing this since my youngest days. I’ll keep doing this for you, so you better eat all the fish that I’ll be serving to you - every day, every week, every month and even every year!”

 

Da ge works diligently to strip chunks of meat from a drumstick, and doesn’t need to look up when he casually speaks. “We’re husband, wife and children to you. There’s no need to let ego and pride get ahead of you, no need to restrain yourself, and certainly, no need to hold back from asking for more, because we’ll always give you the best and the most, lao gong .”

 

Wei Ying puts a full spoon of congee and a bit of every dish on the table, already blown a few times, to Lan Zhan’s lips. “As you’ve said, let’s eat quietly. Lan Zhan, take your time… say aaah...  (慢慢吃...啊...)”

 

Lan Zhan felt his eyes prickle a bit with tears, and relishes a mouthful of his family’s cooking. It’s one of the best he’s had since leaving Jingshi the summer before.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

After nourishing his body with the heart-warming lunch and a cup of tea (and Wei Ying helped to wipe his mouth too - how sweet!), Lan Zhan casts a couple more healing spells on his bandaged wounds. His speed of recovery is nothing short of amazing when coupled with a Healer’s abilities to seal open wounds, repair broken, bleeding flesh and skin, and restore the blood circulation. He estimated that he’d need to keep the bandages on and use the crutch for a few more days.

 

All four Wei Yings “Waaaaaaah” in unison at the soft blue beams of light, and Lan Zhan feels his pride swell a little more. They crowd around him like his biggest fans, and he doesn’t feel any discomfort at all - they’re all his Wei Yings, and his only Wei Ying, after all, regardless of being topless or pantless. He’d seen the eldest fumble like a child when he accidentally dropped a raw meat patty to the floor while preparing lunch, the youngest doing something adult-ish such as giving very meaningful insights into the shopping list, and the teenager doing more than what is asked when he puts his heart and mind into it, picks up new knowledge swiftly and puts what he’d learnt to good use. In the span of a few hours spent together working in their household, he realized that all four are essentially the same person, the same Wei Ying, regardless of age and size. Any misgivings or feelings of anxiety dissipate as quickly as their first lunch together is polished off from the dining table.

 

“Lan Zhan, you’re really great! Not only can you fix yourself so quickly… you’ve fixed our entire home and estate, and even prepared a list of things to buy, and a planner for everyone so that we know what to do, and at which day and time. It’s very efficient!”

 

“You’ve taught me how to differentiate ripe apples and peaches from the unripe ones, and how to tell which vegetables can be harvested sooner or later! That’s real talent!”

 

“Under your guidance, I learned how to make delicious meals today, and you taught me how to use your collection of written recipes. Thank you, Lan Zhan. You’re a master chef, indeed.”

 

Gege , your techniques for folding clothes is awesome! I’ll fold them better the next time! You’ll not be disappointed!”

 

Lan Zhan coughs quietly at the barrage of praise that made his heart soar higher than the heavens. “It’s my job to care for all of you. And teach you what is needed,” he remarks casually, and keeps his eyes on the tea cup, before taking another sip. He leans backwards against the backrest of his chair, his good right hand resting on his filled belly, and accidentally let out a small hiccupy burp because he’s had two tasty bowls of congee with full toppings. The current Wei Ying tilts to the side and gives a small smooch on Lan Zhan’s cheek, in which the latter responds with a satisfied but impassive Hnn.

 

“I-- We didn’t know you’d store the grains for the animals in the shed. I’m so sorry to have overspent the money on the animal feed!”

 

“He’s right. If only we knew how much those coupons could save on our grocery bills… We’re sorry for spending money unnecessarily, Lan Zhan.  At least now we know - especially didi - how exciting couponing can be.”

 

“I.. I’m also sorry for making paper kites out of your periodicals! I know you wanted to read them.. Sorry.. I won’t do it again…” (Lan Zhan couldn’t resist patting the boy’s head in response)

 

“Lan Zhan, I-- we’ve made a lot of mistakes in the last couple of weeks. I started everything by casting those terrible spells… I’m sorry as well, I know I shouldn’t have, but…”

 

Lan Zhan puts a warm right palm on current Wei Ying’s cheeks and shakes his head. “No need to say anything else. What is done is done,” and he looks around at the others, “I’m not angry at any of you. We should focus on the task ahead. Do not be disappointed in yourselves - you’ve all done well.”

 

In a sudden flurry of open arms and clambering legs, Lan Zhan receives four heart-melting kisses on his mouth and cheeks at the same time - there was a ticklish sensation, above his lips and on his chin. He realized belatedly that in the last two weeks or more, he had started growing a mustache and a short beard while he was bedridden. It doesn’t help his embarrassment that Wei da ge kept stroking his facial hair the most (and he’s brazen enough to kiss him on the lips - he tastes the same as any of his Wei Yings, but a little more mature and musky in flavour).

 

He blushes intensely. When Wei da ge finally stopped plunging his tongue against his, when Wei er ge and san ge stopped leaving love bites on the cheeks and jawline, and when Wei didi stopped rubbing his nose tip into his ears with squeals of “I like gege very much!”; he clears his throat and murmurs loudly that they still need to fill the water clock outside their home.

 

It is a shockingly affectionate display of their love and gratitude, and really, a sombre reminder that his married life is no longer the same as before - but he should be used to many levels of Wei Ying-ness by now, Lan Zhan tells himself quietly.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Or not.

 

“Wei Ying, there’s no need--”

 

Sssssh, sssssh, ssssh, all four Wei Yings whisper.

 

“Wei Ying, I can do this by myself--”

 

Lao gong , I watched you drink a whole pot of tea this morning, so you really don’t need to hold back. It’s perfectly understandable.”

 

“Yeah, Lan Zhan, just let it go. We’re all your wives and your family, so there’s no need to be shy.”

 

“Old man, don’t get so worked up. Your don’t have any free hands at the moment, and you’re on a crutch, so we’re giving you a helping hand. Just do it!”

 

Gege , all boys have it and do it. I also want to do it.”

 

Lan Zhan grits his teeth and squeezes the roll of wash cloth in his right hand - right after lunch, he’d unassumingly left for the outdoor pool with his crutch for a quick bath to scrub away any grime and sweat on his body. All four Wei Yings tailed him without his knowledge. He thought he’d relieve himself first, so he carefully loosened his pants by the poolside, and was immediately ambushed by four hands - one from each lovely (and pantless and therefore naked) Wei Ying. 

 

Wei didi was the fastest, so he called dibs on the only part that he could reach and comfortably hold on with his tiny fingers - the base of the vulnerably flaccid penis. His er and san ge s struggled a bit (even tried to flick each other’s fingertips off) and eventually settled on co-sharing the few inches of prime estate along the penis’ length. The da ge ’s large meaty palm looms from the side and nearly (impressively) covers all the other threes’ hands from the top. He skillfully uses his second and third fingers to peel away the foreskin and expose the pink cockslit.

 

Sssssh, sssssh, ssssh, all four Wei Yings whisper again.

 

Lan Zhan shudders silently as he lets go. All four Wei Yings also pee into the pool together with their husband (their Patriarch). 

 

Wei da ge doesn’t forget to shake the dribbling tip when done, and follows-up with generous rubs on the sensitive, wet slit and against the special spot at the base of the glans with the roughened pads of his fingertips.


Lan Zhan re-assures himself repeatedly that he should get used to four times the Wei Ying-ness - now if not soon - while growing hard in front of his spouses.

Chapter Text

After a short game of rock-paper-scissors between the four fully-naked Wei gong zi s, which Lan Zhan suspects to be rigged due to the eldest Wei’s uncanny ability to read everyone’s mind and see through their deceptive strategies and tricks, the quartet unanimously agrees to split into two groups in order to save time and get their household back on track. 

 

Wei er and san ge , considered as being at the peak of their youths and therefore given the thickest stack of work schedules to deal with, grudgingly took a quick, cleansing and much-needed cooling dip (just a splash into the pool and go), before returning to the cave. In all seriousness, they really had no time to dawdle, given how dire their situation is, and could be , if sustainable remedial actions are not applied immediately.

 

San ge works to dispel (“get rid of”, in Lan Zhan’s words) the unidentifiable (Cold) spell in the pantry with his enhanced elemental spellcasting abilities, and consequently spices, marinades, salts, smokes and pickles the meats and vegetables inside, before arranging them in the correct order on the underground shelves to where they belong. Lan Zhan made it very clear that he didn’t like the chilly dark light emitting out of their food store (because he doesn’t know whether it was a creature, a curse or something that only Wei Ying knows and no one else), and preferred the fragrant smells of spice every time the trapdoor is opened. San ge has a list of instructions on how to preserve perishable food, which was written by the youngest Wei under the guidance of their Patriarch. Later, he has his hands full with foraging around their backyard, more farmwork, and tend to the animals - he is tasked to pick and prepare two fully grown chickens by dinnertime, because (of the cruel reality that) there are so many more hungry mouths to feed in the coming days.

 

Er ge is in charge to make Fairy Messenger calls since his voice is recognizable by the people he works with. He’d make calls to their suppliers and customers to reinstate their orders at the next possible opportunity - after a quick mental calculation of their monies, Lan Zhan believes that “next month” will be too late to save their financial situation. A long list of order for provisions was also made to the Qishan Merchant Guild call center - this time, they used as many coupons, member cards and the other stuff that the Tian Third Sister usually sends, to get the best discounts as possible. With a written script full of impressive and pretentious-sounding business jargons (as dictated earlier by Lan Zhan, and penned down by Wei didi ), Wei er ge managed to convince the manager of the trading centre to send the goods first by Postbirds, and they agreed on an extended three-month payment term. Shortly after midday, he leaves the cave-home for Yiling; he could still make a quick buck by street peddling during the afternoon, and meet up with customers who couldn’t be contacted by Fairy Messenger spells. 

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

With the two noisiest gone, Lan Zhan can finally concentrate on getting his body washed - because he feels sticky, and actually smells quite ripe - especially around his armpits and groin area. He suspects that during the preceding two weeks, he’s been given minimal (even inadequate) attention on personal hygiene and in general, patient care. 

 

He’d been so absorbed in saving their household, that he hadn’t thought of how or what is needed to wash himself with bandages all over his body, other than to carry a small washcloth and try his best to wet and scrub wherever he could reach with his remaining good hand - while still standing on the crutch (an impossible feat, really). He didn’t need to think hard; Wei da ge told the youngest to fetch a fresh, sun-dried bathtowel from the laundry line, a low stool from the kitchen, and ‘the long thing that sprinkles’ from the workroom; while he untied the older man’s hair and took away the crumpled underpants. Da ge made fleeting remarks that Lan Zhan may find similarities in the current situation with his younger days - when adults and kids used to bathe and play together in the nude at the springs behind the Cloud Recesses -, and the latter is silently thankful for the soothing thought. It relaxes him, and reminds him that it’s still, and always Wei Ying who is beside him, even if he looks strangely older, and busily picking up his underwear from the floor.

 

Since both men in the early or mid-thirties are naked for a while, Lan Zhan takes the time to admire Wei da ge ’s side profile, as the latter crouched by the poolside and washed the underpants with solid scrubs and a generous dose of powdered soap (handmade by one of the Wei gong zi s during the last couple of weeks, since Lan Zhan hadn’t seen this form of cleaning substance before). Wei da ge has an aged look - leaner face, deeper set of eyes that look more downcast, jaded and weary for his age, more defined cheekbones and a couple of wrinkles here and there; and against the sunlight, Lan Zhan could make out the tanned, firm, well-muscled body frame that both accentuates and refines the contours, bulges and curves on across the sinewy expanse of his back, limbs and tight buttocks too. He wondered briefly if in ten or so years’ time, his lovely Wei Ying would grow taller, more mature, muscular, and masculine - because there’s a whole lot more body hair especially on the chest, abs, that bushy treasure trail leading from navel to a forest of dark curls surrounding the genitals - which spreads luxuriously to the thighs and legs too.

 

“Yes, and my ass is hairy as well, if you’re interested to know,” Wei da ge casually adds, while rinsing the suds off the white garment.

 

Lan Zhan is taken aback. Could he--

 

“-- read your mind? Yes, I can. Read everyone’s mind? Yes, I can do that too.” Rinse, rinse, rinse. “But I don’t always say or act on it, so understandably, you didn’t know.”

 

Lan Zhan frowns, takes a step back and steadies himself on the crutch. He inhales a deep breath and tries to collect his thoughts - it’s an unexpected threat, as well as an opportunity that presents itself in a daunting way, in the form of a cunning and intelligent Wei Ying who is clearly above his league.  “Wei da ge , then you know all the questions in my mind, and you know how to answer them. Is that correct?” 

 

Wei da ge does not even bat an eye towards Lan Zhan. He lathers a particular spot on the crotch of the garment with an extra pinch of powdered soap. This Wei Ying is disturbingly akin to Lan Zhan when it comes to cleanliness and perfection of a piece of undergarment. He sighs, “Lan Zhan ah (啊) Lan Zhan, we’re husband and wife for such a long time, and yet you still harbour such creepy, distasteful and disturbing thoughts about me,” he pauses in mid-scrub and spares a rather unimpressed look at the older man, ”so yes, I know the questions, and can choose which to answer, and how to answer them.”

 

Lan Zhan narrows his eyes, just slightly. Wei da ge has the upper hand in their conversation - and in fact, the power dynamics of their relationship too. “You… you were sincere when you told me about what happened after I fell, and during the past couple of weeks where everyone struggled without me. Can I get your assurance that you’ll at least be honest with me, if you decide to answer my questions?” Lan Zhan places a hand over his heart and does not flinch nor mince his next words, “I have my principles, and I promise not to react badly even though the truth may be absurd or may hurt.” He is determined to level their playing field even if the eldest Wei decides to play his mind games on him.

 

Wei da ge stares at Lan Zhan for a few seconds, incredulous. Then he stands up and bellows out a hearty laugh. “Lan Zhan, what’s with this tense and hostile atmosphere between us?! Ha ha ha… after what happened the night I met with the Tian sisters, I wouldn’t even dare to craft silly stories for your entertainment, because you can’t take a joke as a joke. But if you really insist--” he pulls up his three-finger salute with one hand, and rests the other on his hips - with the half-washed undergarment as well - and seem to recite a passage directed to the midday skies above them, “-- I swear by the name of the song you’ve given for the both of us, that I will only tell the truth, the entire truth, and absolutely only the truth. And my husband here swears on equal terms that he will not treat me badly or kick me out of the house, no matter what truths I may say.” He puts down his salute and leans forward. “Happy now, lao gong ?”

 

Lan Zhan is stunned, but nevertheless, nods shakily.

 

Wei da ge -- “Oi, stop calling me that when we’re alone. I’m technically still younger than you, but don’t go calling me Wei didi either because I might end up feeling inferior,” Wei Ying says when he goes back to washing Lan Zhan’s underpants. He hasn’t cleaned that spot on the crotch yet.

 

“Let me truthfully answer to your immediate and most pressing questions, for those questions that I choose to answer, and decided on how to answer them,” in which Lan Zhan winced, because Wei Ying had cleverly succeeded in setting his own perfect stage for answering the older man’s questions, “First off, all four of us - and not just the one you call ‘lovely Wei Ying’ - are alive, in the flesh and blood, of equal importance but not in physical proportions, and born of the same individual. So, we will not disappear into thin air on one fine day like a time-limited magical spell. We’re really here in this world, and are subjected to the effects of the Creation spell which you refused to want to learn more of. All I can say is that we’re created in the ways which you see us now - for example, I’m Wei Wuxian in the early thirties, physically, mentally, spiritually and in every aspect except that I’m not from the future,” Wei Ying points at himself proudly and leaves soapy suds on his chest, “There’s a bit of a temporal effect in what I’ve become, but don’t let that drag us down with too many details, alright?”

 

Lan Zhan stands still, and listens intently. Wei Ying pokes at the spot on the pants, because he finds it strange that after two rounds of hard scrubs with powdered soap, the stubborn smudge hasn’t come off yet. He rinses the garment in the pool again, which becomes foamy over time.

 

“Second, don’t be surprised that I can use powerful spells such as those related to Creation and heaven forbid, Time as well. I can definitely use it, at least in my advanced age and state. The twenty-something Wei Ying can too, with some experience, practice and encouragement. He’s a handful, isn’t he? Always resorts to crazy ideas and even prohibited spells to worm his way out of trouble. In hindsight, it would’ve been better to just send you off to Yiling City Hospital, put you under the care of Qishan’s best doctors, and have you recuperate much faster. We could deal with the hefty hospital bill later.”

 

“So why didn’t you?” Lan Zhan cuts in, almost in retaliation.

 

Wei Ying pauses in mid-rinse and looks up to the passing clouds, trying to figure out a plausible answer. “Hmm.. I don’t know. I seem to resort to tricks and spells to solve my own problems. I’ve been doing that since at a young age. Since my days at the Cloud Recesses. Since picking up the dark arts. Since meeting you, and definitely since living with you.” Then, he continues to slam the abused underpants into the rippling water.

 

Lan Zhan touches the bandage on his forehead, seemingly more relaxed since they’re on an agreeable topic at the moment; he knows Wei Ying loves to use spells on anything - Fireballs to distract the giant turtle in Xuan Wu cave, Binding spells to tie them together, Energized papermen to spy on others, even Invisible Hands to open up big wooden doors, and so forth. “Wei Ying, have you cast powerful spells all over our home and estate before?”

 

“Of course. I’ve set up plenty of Eye and other talismans to keep our surroundings safe, and cast spells on my inventions such as the D-Broom to help out with the housework, as examples.”

 

Lan Zhan absently scratches the side of his face. He feels a few a stubbles sprouting along his jawline - he hoped the younger Wei Yings did not feel turned off when they kissed him earlier. “Have you cast such spells on me too, during our time here together?”

 

“Absolutely. I helped to Energize you when you’re feeling ill, though I’m not a trained Healer so I don’t have the full arsenal lined-up in my hands. I also used elemental spells on you, such as Wind to keep you cool, Shield to protect you from the natural elements while you’re at home or out on the fields, Fire to keep us warm at nights when we run low on firewood, and many other instances.” Wei Ying grumbles something in-between his smooth answers to the questions, when he rubs a thick paste of soap into the spot one more time since he’s steadfast in removing that tenacious stain. “Oh, and actually, all of us find your stubbles to be quite cute,” he adds with a short manly giggle, and resumes trying to impregnate the garment with soap with his index finger.

 

Lan Zhan snorts derisively, but it is barely audible. He throws the next question amidst the rather sarcastic, self-deprecating moment. “Then, did you also use those powerful spells when I was bitten by the snake ghouls, two weeks ago?”

 

Wei Ying stops his giggling, and his face turns pale, grave.

 

“Wei Ying? Answer me.” Lan Zhan asks again, serious. He sighs when there is no response, and limps towards Wei Ying. The latter flinches when Lan Zhan towers above his haunched figure by the poolside, the crutch seemingly like a massive pillar casting a noon shadow over him beneath the brilliant sun directly above them. 

 

“I had a nightmare before waking up this morning. We were hunting for their nest, and we were ambushed by the snakes. My right arm was hurt, yet I woke up with a bandage on my left forearm,” the older man coolly states, and touches the aforementioned bandaged arm.

 

“It’s a nightmare, you say. So, it’s just a nightmare. Right or left arm, does it really matter?” Wei Ying does not look up. The underpants are no longer being washed, and they float on the surface of the water.

 

“Wei Ying, I’m asking you to choose to answer this question truthfully. So, how will you answer me now?” Lan Zhan presses on. Wei Ying dips a finger into the water, and starts to draw circles. A small, gentle whirlpool forms.

 

“I died, didn’t I? When the giant one tore me up. I felt it. And saw it. What is your answer to that?” Lan Zhan continues, and piles up the questions one after another.

 

Wei Ying heaves a heavy sigh and his shoulders droop. He stares at a vague distant spot on the opposite edge of the outdoor pool. “…Can I tell you a story? You may find it unbelievable or even ridiculous. It could be a fairy tale, or just a re-telling of a bad nightmare. You don’t have to take it seriously if it doesn’t make sense.”

 

“Mn.” Lan Zhan verbally nudges the other.

 

Wei Ying takes a deep breath. “Let’s suppose there’s a very powerful magician - a wizard, a sorcerer, whatever you may want to call him - who wished to save a life of someone dear to him. That someone’s body had been crushed, and the soul was destroyed by a very cursed evil element, such as from ghouls and other undead creatures. He cannot turn to anyone in this Mortal Realm, because no one is able to bring a dead person back to normal life under such circumstances. Even I can’t do that either, since the most I could manage is by using magic and the dark arts to force life back into the body - in this case, the body has perished, and the soul has been scattered and therefore cannot be retrieved,” he says, and crosses his arms in his crouched posture. He still stares at a clump of bushes in the distance, under the shade of fruit trees.

 

“Go on.”

 

Wei Ying swallows; his throat has gone dry. “So, this magician seeks the heavens as his last resort. The heavens did not spare their mercy upon the man’s request, because the whole incident was from his own doing. His carelessness and recklessness caused the death of the person dear to him. He became disappointed, angry and furious at himself and at everyone, everything in this world. He swore to burn down everything. Even the heavens were not spared. Everything was annihilated in his anger, and using his magical powers, he re-created everything the way things should have been - including the Mortal Realm, the heavens, and the person dear to him. Everything you see today is born of the magician’s desires,” he exhales, “.. and... The end.”

 

Lan Zhan stares at Wei Ying with a glaring look of disbelief for a full minute it takes his mind to process what he thinks is a grand cosmic joke - and he doesn’t find it funny nor laugh-worthy. Then, he utters, “It doesn’t make sense. It’s disrespectful to the gods. And it has a very rushed ending. It’s a bad-written script. That’s my honest feedback, but I promised not to react badly,” and he sighs, “So, I accept your story in good faith.”

 

This time, Wei Ying finally moves - he grabs the underpants that threatened to float away from the mini-whirlpool earlier, and stands up. “You’re right. So you better not believe it. You wouldn’t have any way to verify it anyway, since it’s the stuff of dreams and nightmares, and in all likelihood, cannot be real,” and he turns around with an uncomfortable grin on his face.

 

Lan Zhan does not budge from his stance. He scrutinizes the other man, hoping to pick out any other clues to this puzzle that had mystified him since the moment he woke up that morning. “Theoretically, you’re right. If everything is destroyed and re-created - both this world and the heavens - then there’s no way to check if any of this had happened.”

 

Lan Zhan blinks and notices a beautiful, faint white Moon hovering on the horizon, between clumps of bamboo, even at midday.

 

“… unless, I could try and ask the Moon or the stars behind it,” he continues, and gestures with a tilt of his chin towards the second brightest celestial body in the midday sky. Surely you jest, he imagines Wei Ying chuckle back at him. It’s his first attempt to crack a joke that day.

 

Wei Ying does chuckle loudly, and turns around towards the direction that Lan Zhan pointed. He hums for a bit and stares, before responding nonchalantly, “Then I will use my powerful spells to burn them down too.”

 

Lan Zhan does not respond to his own joke, nor Wei Ying’s brutally honest answer.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Burning down everyone, everything - those who angered, hurt, wronged. 

Then, re-create everything with these two hands, for the two of us.

 

“I do not deserve what you are doing for me. (我不值得你为我这么做)” Lan Zhan says, his eyes gazing far in the distance.

 

“You're worth it. (值得)” the other replies in a heartbeat.

 

Lan Zhan, do you know how much you mean to me?

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

A full minute of silence passed between them as they peered at the setting daytime Moon, which would soon disappear into a horizon of bamboo and mountain forests. A faint breeze blew.

 

Lan Zhan unconsciously clicks his tongue and faintly huffs out the breath he’d been holding in, “You’re incorrigible… and this conversation is going nowhere,” and starts to walk away from Wei Ying. In the end, does it really matter? I’m still in my Perfect universe, we’re still a couple, I still have a family to raise and grow, I still have mouths to feed and bills to pay, I still have housework to do and make our home flourish and thrive - nothing has changed, hasn’t it? he asks himself, almost like a mantra of questions.

 

A strong grip on his good wrist stops him. Lan Zhan stares at what Wei Ying is holding - the other man lifts up the dripping wet underpants. “You’re absolutely right on all accounts… and you have a problem. I just realized that I’ve scrubbed your underwear too hard and now there’s a hole at the bottom.” Wei Ying wiggles a finger through a tear at the crotch of the garment.

 

Lan Zhan sighs tiredly. He mentally adds another item to a list of things he needs to teach Wei Ying while he’s still incapacitated - sewing. Wei Ying leans forward and lightly pecks Lan Zhan directly on the lips in sincere appreciation, and doesn’t miss the chance to give quick licks at the growing mustache.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Just then, Wei didi emerged with the requested items. The small boy apologized for taking the time, because he nearly couldn’t locate the long thing that sprinkles - which turned out to be a novel-looking showerhead (it looks like a lotus seed pod - Wei Ying’s trademark design, no doubt) attached to a store-bought garden hose made of animal hides (from Liao’s store, probably - another expensive purchase, no doubt as well).

 

As Wei didi gently guides Lan Zhan to sit on the low stool without straining any muscles or break any tender skin, Wei da ge casts an unidentified spell which forms a pinkish bubble that grew and grew in size; then he directed the bubble to Lan Zhan’s abdomen and it envelops around the waist like a thin, semi-transparent but crinkly membrane. It is also a little stretchable and completely waterproof, he realized. Lan Zhan looks up curiously to Wei da ge who silently mouths, “Powerful spell - don’t ask.” Wei da ge sets pink bubbles on the bandaged parts of the left forearm and the lower right leg, before handing the showerhead to the youngest Wei. 

 

(Thus, the plastic bag is borned.)

 

He casts a Water spell and snaps his fingers; a waterspout is drawn from the pool and flows into the hose, which in turn, sprinkles out through the showerhead at an extraordinarily gentle, constant rate - unlike the erratic, sometimes random spurts of a typical raw Water spell. With the aid of the tool, both adult and child Wei gong zi s pamper Lan Zhan while the trio takes a bath by the poolside, together. 

 

Wei didi easily holds the showerhead with one hand while the other soaps Lan Zhan’s body, helps to scrub grime and sweat away, and wipes off foam using the washcloth. It is especially useful for washing the hair when Wei da ge levitates the showerhead, and didi runs shampoo and fingers deep into the long lush hair, massaging the scalp and the nape with his small soft fingers, under a shower of clear sun-warmed springwater.

 

Wei da ge does what any loving, responsible spouse would naturally do after not having ‘it’ for a fortnight; he crouches in front of Lan Zhan and starts doing very inappropriate things to the husband.

 

“Your.. d--didi is here! S.. Stop…!” and he hisses in mid-shiver; a pleasurable groan cuts short his pleas for decency. He grips on his crutch shakily as though he may fall off from his seat at any moment.

 

Wei da ge enjoys rubbing his face into the matted pubic curls that smells of two weeks’ worth of husbands (if a husband can be quantified in such a manner), and he breathes in deeply, before blowing hot breaths on Lan Zhan’s hard-on. His fingers languidly run up and down the retracted foreskin and tickles along the throbbing veins, but doesn’t grip nor stroke the rock-hard, twitching arousal. He caresses the engorged, bulbous head with the tips of both thumbs, but no more than that. He gently tugs at the opposite sides of the pinkish cockslit, and let them open and close like lips trying to murmur something. It leaks and oozes out generous amounts of clear, sticky pre-cum. One fingertip traces the trail of the nectar, sliding down and back up on quivering underside - and no more.

 

The da ge is terrifyingly patient and exercises extreme levels of self-control never seen before in (any) Wei Ying(s). Lan Zhan’s will power is close to crumbling down and he really, really wants to grab da ge ’s large meaty hands and force him to give him a satisfying handjob, if not a blowjob. The fingertips and tickles are maddeningly, sexually frustrating him to no end.

 

“Shhhh, let me savour this exquisitely aged liquor with its subtle and complex flavours, like a jar of perfectly made Laozu’s Smiles,” he whispers and licks off the droplets of pre-cum, peppers feather-light kisses on the edges of the unwashed angry-red cockhead - and promptly slides his nose tip along the length, inhaling deeply with satisfied nnnhs. 

 

It doesn’t help that da ge cast Invisible Fingers (a modified version of Invisible Hands that requires very high mastery of magical flexibility and manipulation) that seep into his groin and they tenderly massage the convulsing swollen prostate and continually squeeze and drain sweet thick liquid out of it; and another set of Invisible Fingers slide into and through the irritated urethra, bodilessly and gently finger-fucking it, leaving Lan Zhan an incredible urge to pee, ejaculate and squirt whatever that is molesting and obstructing the flow and prolonging his much-needed release. Liquid-heated waves of pleasure roll up and down the helpless penis from base to tip and back again; it wants to contract and shoot a glorious load, yet it simply cannot. Lan Zhan starts shaking his hips in a futile effort to shake off the intruding digits, only to be rudely splashed with a bucket of water over his head.

 

“Ahhh, didi , you’ve got me wet and you’re washing away all the good stuff!” da ge grumbles loudly as his head becomes a dripping mess of long wet locks sticking all over his face, neck and shoulders. He pulls away from Lan Zhan, but the Invisible Fingers continue to do their dirty work.

 

“Sorry, da ge , I can’t see anything from where I’m standing!” the boy cheekily replies from behind Lan Zhan’s back, while he holds an upturned empty bucket above them.

 

“Hey, both of you! Don’t you dare start the show without me! I want a piece of the action too!” Wei san ge ’s shouts echo from the kitchen; his hands are full of spices, marinades, and pickling juice.

 

Lan Zhan has trouble breathing and thinking straight, because the massaging fingers are truly driving him mad with lust and desire. “Wh.. What…”

 

Wei da ge works to push his thoroughly drenched mane aside. “Your third pressing question? Sure, I can relay feelings, thoughts, senses and experiences to and from the other three Wei xiongdi s. They can choose not to receive them, but usually everyone wants to keep tabs on each other,” and he ties his hair into a crude (and soaked) bun behind his head (with unruly curls sticking out).

 

(Thus, a primitive version of the wi-fi router concept is born.)

 

Lan Zhan couldn’t grasp the explanation, as his consciousness is inundated with the first of a series of dry orgasms and he drops his crutch with a heavy thud. He grips the edge of the stool for his dear life and starts jerking his back and hips uncontrollably.

 

Didi puts both his arms around Lan Zhan’s waist to steady the older man. He says with his squeaky voice, “Don’t worry, Lan gege , I remember that I started playing with my wee-wee at a young age. So watching an older me play with your wee-wee… isn’t strange to me at all,” then he tip-toes to Lan Zhan’s ear and whispers hotly, “Don’t forget, I’m also one of your Wei Yings. Think of me as a baby Wei Ying, and I want to play with your little WangJis tonight, gege .”

 

Wei da ge sends out a group message (which is akin to the modern e-mail, SMS or group chat function) to all other three Wei Yings, and he also adds Lan Zhan as a recipient in copy - that they’ll continue the day’s proceedings as usual, and prepare for a grand feast by the evening to celebrate their husband’s return. 

 

And catch up on two week’s worth of husband-time, as well.

Chapter Text

Eventually the Invisible Fingers dissipate, and Lan Zhan heaves a sigh of relief and mutters a silent word of thanks to Merciful Goddess Guan Yin. His whole upper chest is sex-flushed with deep shades of red, his heart rate starts to drop from a high plateau he’d maintained during the exceedingly long string of dry orgasms, and he pants heavily to catch his breath. Fortunately the stool did not break, despite the strong, punishing grip of the resident patriarch.

 

He didn’t realize that during the mind-blowing milking session, Wei da ge had cast green bubbles from his hands, and they encase his sputtering, twitching cock. It forms a snug fit with an extra stretchable bubble at the tip, where the constant dribbling and oozing of his precious pre-cum form a bulging balloon of warm, frothy clear liquid. Da ge easily pulls off the wrinkled green sheath when they’re done, which loosened considerably after that single use. He is careful not to spill the harvest, and trots off towards the cave-home. 

 

(Thus, the condom is born.)

 

As Wei da ge passes his didi , he sticks out a tongue out and says, “There’s none for you, you rascal, because you dunked a bucket of water over my head,” and heads off. Then, he shouts at the top of his lungs, thrilled, “ San di ! I’ve got some for us, and remember to keep a bit for er di !” before disappearing into the dim cavern.

 

Lan Zhan retrieved his fallen crutch, and leaned tiredly against it. He feels he’s been emptied many times, and yet he’s still hard, pent-up, tensed, and tremendously bothered with disconcerting feelings of unfulfillment. His balls ached, still craving for release, and feels very heavy.

 

“What… What happened?” he mumbled out between wheezes.

 

The nine-year old boy starts toweling the gasping older man. He cocks his head to one side for a brief moment, then nods to no one in particular (and a cute, soft “Enn!”), and replies, “Wei da ge says that he’d already thought ahead about the problems that you’ll face when living with us, such as, how to treat each of us fairly and accordingly to our needs. Everything needs to be shared as best possible although there are limits from being one person alone - for example, your love for us, among many other things. Ermm… am I making sense? I’m just repeating what da ge tells me inside my mind.” The boy squeezes Lan Zhan’s long locks of hair between fluffy folds of dry towel, and makes sure to absorb as much moisture as possible. “I don’t need that stuff in the green bubble, anyway. It’s as boring as those stupid wine jars that da ge , er ge , and san ge drink every night and they go crazy all over the house while I’m trying to sleep!,” he harrumphs and helps Lan Zhan stand up to his feet.

 

Lan Zhan palms his forehead - it’s no longer bandaged as the wound has partially healed, thanks to his Healer’s spells after lunch. He feels a slight ache coming from within, and guesses that he has a lot to learn about managing four times the mayhem of Wei Ying-ness in his life. He doesn’t even want to think about what happens when three Wei Yings are fed with two jars of Laozu’s Smiles each, at nights, and allowed to run freely berserk inside their tiny abode (it’s a miracle that nothing had collapsed so far).

 

“Also, Lan gege , I’m sorry about what I said just now about being a baby Wei, and wanting to play with little Lan brothers. It’s really rude, isn’t it? I really didn’t mean it - Wei da ge made me speak those nasty words. He always does that whenever er and san ge gang up on me and da ge . He likes to control my actions and speech because I’m the easiest to handle, compared to the other two,” Wei didi whispers apologetically, and lets Lan Zhan lean a bit closer for better support from his wounded leg. The kindness shown by the boy, and the change in the topic of discussion helped to soften his erection, and give his tired penis a well-deserved break.

 

Wei didi is truly a kind-hearted and innocent child, Lan Zhan thought, as he hobbles on the crutch with only a towel around his waist, and is assisted by the boy. He sneaks his fingers into the boy’s wavy hair and gives it a friendly ruffle of gratitude. 

 

The da ge , on the other hand, is an overpowered tyrant and a ringleader, who works behind the scenes, mind-controls and manipulates everyone to get what he wants - especially by abusing the youngest and the weakest of them of them all - if he didn’t already have all the Wei gong zi s wrapped around his little finger first.

 

“I heard that, you despicable rotten man!” a shout booms from the kitchen. Lan Zhan winces.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Back in the kitchen-cum-dining area, this time, it was Wei didi who helped to change the bandages (a monumental task, considering his small size versus Lan Zhan’s - imagine the small boy going around and around the older man, just to roll the bandages in place!); he’d learnt that after watching his da ge perform the procedure in the morning. He applied some medicinal ointments from Grandma Li’s before carefully rolling clean strips woven cloth around the injured areas. The cuts and lacerations have shrunk slightly in size, and rather than bloodied weeping open lesions, they have healed into large scab-crusted gashes; patches of tender new skin grow over deep punctures, scrapes and scratches.Wei didi also made an effort to put a light kiss on each bandage that he’d completed, as a prayer that Lan gege will get well soon. The adorable and sweet act made Lan Zhan’s heart squeeze a little more.

 

Lan Zhan held the remains of the pink bubbles - crumply crinkly thin material that had torn into thin, translucent pieces between bath and the new bandages. He squashed them into a ball and wanted to fling it into the kitchen bin, but Wei da ge stopped him in his tracks. He shakes his head and said, “This is not biodegradable, so it has to go into the recycle bin. I’ve prepared a barrel just for this purpose, and it’s sitting at the edge of the courtyard, with a triangle-like symbol on it - you won’t miss it. Here,” and he flicks his fingers - the ball of crumpled pink material floats into Wei san ge ’s hands just as the latter is about to exit the house to start on much-needed farm work. He had a bunch of gardening tools in his arms and the ball gently balances itself at the top of the pile of tools. He groans, rolls his eyes at the bossy da ge , and struts out.

 

Before Lan Zhan could ask about the strange terms that Wei da ge used, he was tersely instructed to cast his Healing spells. “After that invigorating session by the poolside, don’t you find your qi levels replenished and as full as it’d been on any other good days?” the eldest Wei adds teasingly. The older man admits that the other man is correct, and - striking the iron while it’s still hot - he starts to cast another bout of blue-tinged spells into the freshly dressed areas on his body. Lan Zhan gets a verbal crash course on Pink Bubbles during the process - the newest additions to the household’s grimoire.

 

The pink ones are plastic, Wei da ge explains. Upon casting, bubbles emerge from the hands and they can be moulded and shaped according to the whims and desires of the spellcaster. The resulting bubble can be made into light reusable bags, low-grade and light tools, and other useful everyday items. Given the pink bag example, Lan Zhan remarks that he prefers using hand-woven bamboo baskets because they look more durable and not as flimsy. Wei da ge agrees, and praises Lan Zhan for his incredible foresight, because in two thousand years or so into the future, the pink material will be ubiquitous and used in almost all aspects of mankind’s everyday life - and will become one of the biggest threats to mankind as well, especially to the environment. At this point, Lan Zhan raises a hand to stop the conversation, because he does not want to violate any further Creation and Time-related rules of the universe.

 

The green bubbles, on the other hand, are elastic, the da ge continues from where he was interrupted. The resulting material, which can also be moulded and shaped accordingly, can be stretched impressively and upon release, return to its original form. Lan Zhan learns about some of its infinite uses, including elastic bands to tie waistbands, packages and even their long hair, replace the showerhead hose if necessary, and yes, the condom too. (Lan Zhan learns another new word today - and ponders why would a healthy young man want to store his seed in a green bubble, and how that stored seed could beneficially used.)

 

In relation to that last invention, and as a forewarning of things to come, Wei da ge warns Lan Zhan that from now on, every time he shows his love to one of the Wei gong zi s, he must think about the other three individuals too - because all of them love their husband dearly and expect a fair share in return, in order to maintain the harmony of their marital bliss and the peace and stability of their beloved Lan’s Residence. An acceptable way of sharing had been demonstrated before his eyes, da ge says, in that for each ejaculatory load intended for one of the Wei brothers, he should find a way to divide them into three if not four equal portions (at this point, Wei didi thankfully squeaks with a tongue stuck out that he doesn’t want the stuff in the green bubble). Otherwise, Lan Zhan will be penalized and will be forced - whether by physically aggressive or mentally subversive manners - to produce the desired number of loads to satisfy all his spouses.

 

Lan Zhan swallows nervously at the very crude, calculative, detailed, and very relatable explanations, and feels an immensely heavy burden has been placed upon his shoulders as the Patriarch of the Lan’s Residence (and his sex life - also the poor, overworked penis).

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

San ge ! We’re going to help you forage for food and herbs, and take Lan gege for a walkabout!”

 

San di ! Just keep your mind open and you’ll get a live telecast from my side. We won’t cheat, I promise. Also, when you catch those two chickens, tie them up and leave them by the kitchen counter. I’ll deal with them when we return!”

 

Teenage Wei Ying wipes the sweat pouring down his cheeks and neck, and truthfully, he feels grateful to have such wonderful xiongdi s. In another past life, he’d helmed a family of three siblings and carried the burden of the orphaned Jiang children, along with the pain of betrayal and mistreatment by the cynical, twisted world of cultivation - alone. Now, he could rely on a much (over)powered older brother (self), a very useful older sibling who talks and thinks like him, and a hard working, kind-hearted younger one. Sure, they have trivial arguments of who gets to be the boss or whose chores are more burdensome, however, by the end of the day, when everyone sits at the dining table and have meals together - especially after sharing many jars of wine - it feels comforting to know that there’s someone else doing and feeling the same - whether laughing, crying, or arguing - and that someone is family, a twin, a triplet, no… a quadruplet of your own.

 

He puts down his shovel next to a row of thriving chilli plants, and waves at the trio leaving the courtyard. As expected, he tunes in to the da ge ’s live feed and watches them enter the forests leading to the vast expanse of their estate. He taps on his temples once.

 

Are you watching this too, er ge?

 

Yeah, but I’ve seen our orchards many times before, since I walk past them almost every day.

 

… What’cha doin’?

 

Buying stuff. I sold some talismans in front of a flower shop just now, and the owner came out to find out what I was doin’. Turns out she’s planning to hold a small family gathering for her little girl’s birthday in three days’ time, so I convinced her to order twenty sweet bean dumplings and a plate of party snacks from us.

 

Swwwweet! Are you getting the ingredients now?

 

Yeah, I’m on my way to the marketplace. I plan to station myself there later and hopefully sell more charms, talismans and do some fortune-telling.

 

Hey… can ya also get some of those creamy candies? Y’know, the ones with the white rabbit on its wrapping paper.

 

Sure… did didi do something nice? You usually reward that brat with candy.

 

Naaaah. Just feelin’ like giving everyone a treat for all the hard work we’ve put in. Da ge really helped to set things up and hold the house together. Also, don’tcha call didi a brat. He’s not the same as A-Bing or the rest.

 

Huh, wait till you find out how brats behave… err… talk to you later, I see a potential housewife-y customer comin’. See you in the evening if nothing else comes up!

 

Yeah, sure. We’re gonna have so much fun tonight, with the great Han Guang Jun begging for mercy!

 

.

 

.

 

Somewhere among the blossoming peach trees, Lan Zhan sneezed. He thought there was an awful lot of pollen drifting in the summer air.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan bounces up and down violently in the empty wooden cart, secured only by hemp rope straps from the corners that wrap around his shoulders, and with a shrieking Wei didi on his lap, as he hangs onto the sides for his dear life. While both man and child are thrown around like ragdolls, Wei da ge at the front turns his head a little and shouts, “Hold on, I’m going to jump across the stream and it’s gonna be swell!”

 

“... Wei Ying! There’s nothing at the opposite side except for stonefields!” Lan Zhan screams and squeezes his eyes shut. He tightens his grip around didi ’s waist and prays that this is just another form of Wei Ying-ness or they’d end up unceremoniously splattered among rocks and boulders.

 

The makeshift rickshaw manned by the da ge propels forward as the tall muscular man leaps once, twice, and then with a mighty push, sends the trio and the rickety cart soaring through the air.

 

Later, Lan Zhan tells himself that he needs to be careful of how (any) Wei Ying (except the youngest, probably) tend to exaggerate their stories with disarmingly deceptive descriptions.

 

Lan Zhan had been reluctant to go on a “tour” around the estate under the hot afternoon sun, however after some cajoling by the bratty san ge who teased about “becoming too old to even get some fresh mountain air”, and da ge ’s persuasive assurances that the grand old patriarch is fit enough to take a ride in a hastily-built transport made of scrapwood, tree branches and a couple of wooden wheels recently salvaged from a landfill for broken, abandoned farming equipment just at the outskirts of Huang village - he finally agreed and was rewarded by a didi -hug (so sweet) because it meant the little boy gets to go out too. It’ll help to get reacquainted with the land, da ge quipped, since the flowers and fruit trees missed seeing their owner for the past couple of weeks.

 

They’d maneuvered carefully through a narrow dirt trail through the surrounding orchards, and Lan Zhan thought they’d turn around after the first couple hundreds of meters, because that’s when the trail disappears into steep, windy rocky paths unsuitable for wheeled vehicles. To his surprise, da ge took sharp bend at an unknown junction, and the passageway leads to an open field connected to a well-constructed, paved road. Da ge calls it a highway that connects the main hills around the Burial Mounds, and it cuts off near the entry and exit points to neighbouring towns such as Yiling city, Huang village or other populated areas. Lan Zhan stares and squints hard against the bright sunlight in silence, as he marvels at the sight of a vast expanse of landscape that looks different from what he’d remembered , stretching miles upon miles into the horizon under the clear blue skies - in all directions. There are still many hills and mountains, craggy and rugged grasslands, dark forests and volcanic rock-strewn fields - however, there are a whole lot more fruit trees, cultivated land and crops he’d never seen before, and even a few reservoir lakes and waterways feeding into the river system where valleys used to be. He also noticed, fleetingly, signs of civilization in this desolate area - well-maintained hedges and dug trenches by the roadside, signposts pointing to trails leading off the highway, empty unmanned hut-like outposts scattered among forest clearings, suspicious-looking strings of talismans or danger signs hanging between tree trunks or pasted on rock faces, and a handful of watch towers dot the hilltops. The scenery has the characteristics of an early settlement, except that the entire region is uninhabited.

 

After a few minutes trudging calmly along the quiet highway, Wei da ge asked, what would His Majesty the Patriarch of Lan’s Residence like to see - Lan Zhan, in his confounded state and not really listening to anyone anymore, absent-mindedly muttered something about the herbs, because at the back of his mind, he loudly wondered if any of his secret locations for herbs, wild vegetables or even mineral veins along the slopes are still around in this brave new world. Da ge immediately seemed impressed of his prediction, because he barked out that er ge has just received an order from Li’s clinic for a batch of medicinal candies; he banks wildly to the side, and they go off-road into an unmarked trail and descended towards the aforementioned stream at a jaw-dropping speed.

 

It takes a few minutes to regain his composure after being scared to death by the wild joyride of a rickshaw flying over the afternoon sun - but he'd been resurrected once before, so surely there's no need to fear death anymore, correct?

 

Didi giggles as he helps Lan Zhan out of the cart parked under the shade of a huge tree, and into a beautiful, rockless , large meadow of yellow wildflowers, dense patches of grass and plenty of herb shrubs. Summer cicadas songs fill the air, butterflies flitter past along with floating dandelion seeds. Wei da ge wastes no time in tearing out the shrubs and shoving them into a sack in his hand. He mumbles something about san ge telepathically giving a disappointing score of five points out of ten for the river jump, and he barely seethes out his comeback comment that he'd like to see the teenager try to pull off the same stunt with a heavy cart carrying an adult and a child, and impress all the other Wei brothers. (Apparently, cart-racing has been a source of entertainment for the Wei's for the past couple of weeks, at least.)

 

" Gege , you don't have to worry. Da ge is very talented in pulling carts because he's so strong!" the youngest one chirps as he tumbles out of the cart, safe and sound, "and da ge tells me to tell you that you're absolutely right, you won't die, so you don't need to be afraid of his cart rides." The nine-year old crouches next to the nearest herb shrub and emulates his eldest brother, by uprooting the plant with his tiny fingers.

 

"Wei Ying, where are we?" Lan Zhan finally asks, one hand on the crutch, the other steadying his body with a shaky grip on the side of their transport. He continues to look around, astonished that the stonefield he had in his memory has been replaced by a sea of green and flowers.

 

"We're at your estate, of course. You didn't think the magician would re-create the world without any extra goodies, did you?” Wei da ge shouts out from a short distance away - he’d already filled half a sack of leaves, roots, topsoil, and pebbles.

 

Lan Zhan suddenly feels light-headed from his overstimulated senses and thinking process, so he slides down against the cart and sits on the bed of soft grass. Wei didi squats in front of him, his big brown eyes brimming full with innocence, “I made sure there are fewer squirrels around, and also foxes and other animals that might go after our chickens and rabbits. Some things have changed, some others didn’t. I didn’t make more money for us, because you said that we’d be caught and thrown into jail in Chang’an with a big evil dog in it,” and he frowns with a look of childish fear. The boy picks his way onto Lan Zhan’s lap and snuggles against the older man chest for comfort (so sweet, again). He twirls the freshly-plucked shrub in his hand, as big as his head, and asks, “ Gege , can you teach me how to properly harvest the herbs? Otherwise da ge over there is going to rip out all the plants from this meadow.”

 

The older man sighs, and realizes the boy is correct. There are more immediate priorities to take care of. He shows the little boy how to pick only the young, juicy shoots and leaves, similar to harvesting tea leaves.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan learns that his world, at least until the boundaries of his estate, has been re-modeled quite significantly over the past two weeks. The two Wei brothers fill him in on the details, though at the moment, he cannot possibly fathom the long-term consequences or what needs to be done to familiarize with and make use of his expanded assets - even his ability to mentally work on complex calculations and numbers, broke down after he tried to tackle the challenge of valuing the new tracts of field crops and what kind of sales or profits they could bring in. He decides to leave things as they are, and focus on getting their household back on track.

 

“Wei Ying, can I trust that you will somehow manage all of these,” he makes a tired, wide wave with his hands to gesture their peaceful surroundings, “until I can figure out something?” Wei didi bows and raises a bamboo container to his lips, and Lan Zhan drinks from it, without lifting a finger. Wei da ge continues to fan their patriarch with a folded fan bought from Yiling’s evening market not too long ago. “Certainly. I will be discreet and honest in my ways. Though, I might need your signature red thumb-print on certain forms and cheques,” he says.

 

“Mn.”

 

Later, Wei didi played a game of ‘Kiss Kiss Fall In Love’ to appease if not pacify their troubled husband. Under the cooling shade from the afternoon sun, he sits on Lan Zhan’s lap and instructs the older man to try and catch him on the lips, while staying stationary. The rule of the game is simple: stay as still as possible, and try to kiss and avoid being kissed. Lan Zhan was confused at first, as he had not played such a childish game before; however, the moment didi nimbly dodged and avoided a hesitant thrust of puckered lips that missed their target and into thin air, thus leaving the older man in an embarrassing state, something stirred within Lan Zhan. It became a kind of competition to try to outmaneuver each other from flying kissy lips, with Lan Zhan indulging himself in sending air strikes of lips onto the hapless but very agile little boy. Didi is a little short and hardly reached Lan Zhan’s chin, so he tricked the latter by tickling the ribs, causing Lan Zhan to curl up momentarily and at that moment, the boy caught his lips with a feather-light and adorable “muah”. “I kissed you! I love you!” he squeals in delight. Lan Zhan feels miffed at being beaten in such a simple game, and pulls the boy into a tight hug. He starts peppering his own kisses all over the helpless boy’s face, to the sounds of joyful shrieks, cheerful laughter, and the pat-pat of tiny fists pounding onto his chest. “I kissed you too. And I love you too, Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan murmurs, the fine hair above his upper lip tickling the boy’s plump cheeks.

 

Lan Zhan welcomes the brief distraction and after several rounds of successfully kissing Wei didi , the da ge returns with a full sack of properly-harvested herb leaves - and wild vegetables, mushrooms, melons and gourds too. Lan Zhan thinks that perhaps, the new world isn’t as bad as he initially thought; he could convince himself that it’s actually better than Perfect.


Wei da ge places a wet smooch on Lan Zhan’s forehead while carrying the heavy sack behind his back. “Of course it’s much better. If Your Majesty is ready to leave, let’s take you on your royal carriage back to your Kingdom,” da ge chuckles.

Chapter Text

What did he mean by "until I can figure out something"?! Just sell all the crops, rent out the land, become a landlord, and earn thousands of gold! I won't need to do farmwork anymore!

 

San ge, we're talking about a virtuous man who upholds his family rules like none other; 

 

a man who questions the goods in a basket that aren't written in his shopping list; 

 

a man who doesn't turn gold nuggets picked from mineral rocks - even at his doorsteps - into gold bars.

 

… Auuugh! He's so frustrating, er ge ! Any man has his own weakness, especially when it comes to material wealth! We just need to identify Han Guang Jun’s and exploit them to our advantage!

 

… stop acting like a brat, san ge.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

The return journey from the meadows turns out to be much more pleasant. Topless Wei da ge puts on a straw hat, chews on a blade of grass and pulls their little rickety cart filled with produce and herbs - and a robed (technically disabled) old man and a pantless young boy -, along a different and unpaved trail. Where in the past there were eerie, murky forests or windswept fields filled with dark, dank mists that stank of decay and malaise, remnants of the deaths caused by the Wens decades ago - now there is a fertile, flourishing garden of paradise in the middle of the Mounds with limited development and public amenities, consisting of acres of cultivated land and natural (and normal) picturesque forests dotted with springs, waterfalls, rivers, a wide variety of plant and wildlife, fertile valleys, sun-warmed cliffs and brightly lit rolling hills set against a backdrop of azure blue skies. 

 

Wei da ge explains that the estate is still fringed by inaccessible steep cliffs and a natural barrier of thorny thickets and dense foliage, which have deterred visitors so far - unless the Patriarch wishes to open up his fledgling estate to the outside world and possibly engage in more high-valued commercial activities, such as intensive agriculture, mining, fishery, forestry, turn it into a transportation hub to the Far Far West, urban development such as building new villages, trading centers or even theme parks, or even delve into eco-tourism - at which Lan Zhan raises his hand again to stop the conversation, because he's learnt that any strange terms used by the da ge meant they were getting close to breaking another Creation or Time-based rule. (At this point, both Wei brothers roll their eyes because really, Lan Zhan is clearly stubbornly stuck to his old-fashioned Gusu Lan's way of thinking.)

 

Just then, didi cleverly suggests that if Lan gege isn't interested in sightseeing or listening to da ge 's ridiculous rambles, he could spend the time healing himself before they reach the next rest stop. Lan Zhan becomes surprised because didi is absolutely right--

 

"After that kissy-kissy game, you felt invigorated, didn't you? I can tell. I can read your body much better than you do," Wei da ge interrupts his thoughts. Lan Zhan hmmph's indignantly at what the other man is insinuating. "Hah! It takes a wife to know the husband's body," da ge scoffs and continues chewing on the blade of grass. Lan Zhan immediately busies himself by casting the healing spells. Didi starts playing a simple folk tune on a tiny flute that Lan Zhan crafted from bamboo canes. Da ge had cut some sticks from a bamboo grove during the journey, and he remarked that Lan Zhan’s flutes are still the best; there are a few more handmade flutes strung to da ge ’s waist sash; gifts for the other Wei gong zi s when they return home.

 

An hour away from mid-afternoon, they stopped at a breathtakingly scenic river crossing, by a sturdy wooden bridge connects both riverbanks. Rocky mountains from the Far West plateaus break into spectacular cloud-covered gorges, ravines, and steep cliffs where mountaintop streams of springwater rush downhill through numerous mist-curtained waterfalls; they soon share the paths of low lying bubbling crystal clear brooks and eventually converge into a few large rivers meandering through more coniferous forests, cultivated land and rice paddies; the river mouth leads into a huge lake - its waters are crystal clear and as blue as the skies, and its edges are full of thriving lotus and other aquatic plants. The region is a haven for birds, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals; flocks of cranes and other wildbirds fly overhead, calling loudly as they make their way to their nests.

 

It’s a match made in heaven, Wei da ge says, because on one side are the Cloud Recesses, and on the other, Lotus Pier; both epic worlds collide and coalesce perfectly into a stunning panoramic view worthy of becoming the new capital of Lan’s Kingdom - if the patriarch would kindly give his consent to start on the needed construction work. Lan Zhan chokes while drinking from a bamboo container of pine-needle tea, as he’d heard residences turning into a sprawling estate, and now, kingdom. The eldest Wei points at various grottos, cliff faces, flatlands and hilltops suitable to build homes, castles and even fortresses, and the abundant natural resources surrounding the area ripe for their picking.

 

Lan Zhan gets distracted mid-way during the narration (or hard-selling by Wei Ying’s A wesome S elling S kills), when the didi brought a handful of edible sweet summer berries collected from nearby bushes and placed them on the picnic table. Lan Zhan enjoys munching on the juicy nutritious fruits while resting on the bench with a little boy sitting on his lap, happily feeding the older man a berry at a time (in which Lan Zhan returns a light peck on the boy’s cute cheeks every time he gets an extra sugary sweet berry). 

 

Wei da ge sighs and acknowledges his defeat at trying to gain their husband’s attention, and trots off towards a clump of pine forests and caves. He returns with wild pigeons shot by using his god-tiered archery skills with a makeshift slingshot (just pick up a broken branch with two extensions, cast a Green Bubble for the band, and stock up on pebbles from the riverbank), rare mountainside lingzhi and other medicinal mushrooms, and a small bag of swiftlets’ nests harvested using a few Invisible Hands (and Fingers) spells. He asked in passing whether Lan Zhan knows how to process the latter two harvests into (very) profitable products, and Lan Zhan gives the affirmative because those are famous exports from mountainous Gusu, and he’d learnt the trade from his elders. With that, da ge heaves a sigh of relief because lingzhi pills and bird’s nest soup are of highly-sought after by Yiling’s rich and famous, and they can be readily sold at greatly inflated prices although processing them will take some time.

 

Didi, on the other hand, simply asks, what happened to the eggs in those empty nests. He holds one of the torn strips of black-stained whitish cups, and absently picks out tiny feathers and bits of eggshells.

 

Lan Zhan and Wei da ge exchange uneasy glances, in which the latter shakes his head, ashamed, and looks away. The gesture speaks volumes about some things that needed to be sacrificed in order for others to survive.

 

Wei da ge puts on a forced grin, then crouches and pats the little boy's head. He said that he'd placed the eggs into other intact nests, so the entire colony of swiftlet mommies and daddies can raise them up to healthy baby birds. The little boy “Enn!”s and draws parallels by saying that he’s also orphaned at a young age, then raised by a loving foster family, and wants to love others back when he grows up. 

 

Lan Zhan feels his heartstrings tug, and embraces Wei didi for no particular reason. He wishes that Wei Ying does not need to lie to anyone - even to himself. However, sometimes there are no easy answers.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Er ge , er ge , how can our little brother be this bratty yet cute?! *sniffles*

 

Hush, hush, it’s alright. 

 

And why doesn’t the old man immediately say Yes when offered a bigger, more spacious house?! I would like to have two bedrooms for my own, five storeys of living space, and not live in this boring, cramped cave surrounded by a small garden of stupid fruits and vegetables! 

 

Hush, hush. Do you remember when we- I moved with in Lan Zhan - he’d spent three days writing an elaborate love poem, but a kiss is all he really needed? 

 

Or the time when he spent a fortune on the jewelled accessories that’s now sitting inside our cupboard and gathering dust, because a handmade flute is worth so much more? 

 

I love him in the simplest ways that cannot be measured by gold or silver pieces.

 

And now, by refusing to profit from fertile, flourishing land given freely to him, and showing no interest in upgrading to a more luxurious and likely complicated lifestyle - isn’t he telling us something?

 

… that he loves us in the simplest ways which cannot be measured by gold or silver pieces... Is that what he means?

 

I think so, san ge .

 

I take back my words from before. Han Guang Jun is a great man indeed.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

There are a handful of times when Wei Wuxian shedded tears - whether for himself or for others.

 

He’d cried when threatened by ravenous dogs over a discarded half-eaten dumpling, when he was betrayed by the cultivation world, when his shijie took a swordstrike to save his life, when he has no choice but to let go of bloodied hands and sacrifice himself for Lan Zhan’s own good - and now, when he leaves a sack of heart wrenchingly cute wiggling masses on Old Niu’s table in exchange for a paltry sum of three gold pieces - just enough for one to two days’ of provisions for the new family of five.

 

He mentally punishes himself and imagines slapping his own cheek three times, each for a pet rabbit sent to the butcher’s knife. It’s a harsh lesson learnt from failing in his - their - harrowing trial in home economics and financial management. Old Niu sensed his distress and pacified the young man that he’d ask around if anyone, especially the rich and famous of Yiling, would be interested in raising them - however he could not promise that none or some of them may be turned into skewered meats for the evening markets, or pelts to be made into furred robes for the winter.

 

Da ge turned off the live telecast momentarily shortly before, and makes sure the youngest does not see nor hear what is said after the prospect that the rabbits could be adopted.

 

Twentysomething Wei Ying is exhausted after running a marathon to reach Yiling, peddling his wares and services at his usual haunts and hunting down or seeking new customers. The hot afternoon sun is beating down on his sweaty skin and he’s thirsty. Despite san ge ’s ongoing telepathic cheers of Keep It Up (加油; Fighting!! (sic)), he feels he’s at the receiving end of everything; the wise eldest somehow prospered with his maniacal ways; the cocky teenager is all bark but no bite - which is fine since he can be as irresponsible as he wants and he’s not of legal age yet; and the youngest gets pampered and loved to bits by their husband. He needs to man up, take up the responsibility of being (possibly) the sole breadwinner of the expanded family, and live up to his name as a Yiling patriarch (matriarch?) suited to walk beside the grand Patriarch and owner of the Lan’s Residence-cum-estate-cum-kingdom.

 

After sniffling away tears and snot from the painful slap on the wrist of selling off the precious rabbits, he opens a cloud-patterned pouch tied to his sash to deposit the money. There are some silver and gold pieces, a couple of gold bars - and unexpectedly, his fingers touch what he instantly recognized as the outlines of the Jade Token.

 

Earlier, Lan Zhan asked Wei Ying to carry the pouch with him, in case he faces (extreme) financial difficulties to purchase and replenish provisions needed for the next few days - it contains their life savings after all. Wei Ying knows that although the Jade Token cannot be used in monetary transactions, it can be pawned off for a respectable sum at Yiling's banks. Wei Ying also knows that the Jade Token is possibly Lan Zhan's only precious memento and his key to return to the Cloud Recesses; without it, the magical entrance gates will not permit access, and the last time they left, Wei Ying sensed that most of the Lan clansmen including Master Lan Qiren have distanced themselves from the couple who have brought nothing but disrepute to the sect lately. In the preceding couple of years when rumour-mongering and naysayers are rife within the halls of the Grand Cultivation Council, it is safe to say that the Second Jade Twin has probably been disowned by the elder members of the prestigious family.

 

Wei Ying lets his fingers glide on the cooled surface of the heavy, finely crafted piece of enchanted jadestone. There are sculptures of beautiful clouds blanketing Gusu's lush forested mountains. They embody trust - that the clouds continue to nourish and protect the forests, while life in the mountains maintain the peace and stability needed for the clouds to exist for millennias, if not forever. Wei Ying feels his throat tighten - Lan Zhan entrusts the token in Wei Ying's hands, as much as he gives Wei Ying the right to decide what is best for his, and their, only way back to the Cloud Recesses.

 

A pair of cranes in flight is delicately chiseled into the scenery, with such minute detail and depth, that each feather can distinguished by touch. It is said that such splendid physical symbols shape the enchantments imbued into the power of the stone; in this case, the Jade Token can be used by Lan Zhan and his destined partner, as represented by the pair of majestic birds. 

 

Wei Ying tries to blink back a tear, when he realizes that Lan Zhan knew, had known and knows that Wei Ying will forever be the only one in his life; based on the age and wear on the jade, the token was likely created shortly after Wei Ying’s death sixteen years ago , when the man had decided - and willingly sentenced himself - to a life without looking for another partner. Wei Ying feels immense gratitude at how Fate works in bringing him back to life, thus sparing Lan Zhan from a lifelong of regret and loneliness.

 

Finally, the name of the Lan family is inscribed onto the token. Wei Ying caresses the entire palm-sized jade, and does not feel any discomfort, twinge of pain or resentful feelings of rejection emitting from it. The token is said to have magical sentient thought, as it can recognize its master and his destined partner, and unravel and understand the feelings and relationships between them. Deep in his heart, he “hears” what the Jade Token is trying to tell him: that the man named Wei Ying, with his courtesy name as Wei Wuxian, is recognized as a Lan.

 

Wei Ying grips the Jade Token hard and tries to swallow down a snot and the stuffiness inside his nostrils. The act draws a few curious stares from the crowd around the marketplace, so he rushes off.

 

The pouch will grow throughout the afternoon with Wei Ying’s hard work, and neither the gold bars nor the Jade Token ever needed to be used. When he met up with Liang gu niang who was somewhat concerned about his sudden disappearance during the last couple of weeks, Wei Ying convinced her father’s teahouse to place an order for fritters and other fried snacks to re-start their business relationship after the so-called “much-needed vacation break”. He politely tells Liang gu niang that she can still address him by his nickname Hei ge (Brother Hei), or use his real name. She agrees and has no problems to call Wei Ying “Young Master Lan” from henceforth.

 

All three Wei gongzi s telepathically clapped and cheered for their er ge , with da ge daintily dabbing his eyes while san ge mentally sobbing himself into an emotional wreck in the background. Didi is especially thrilled to see a pack of White Rabbit candy inside the er ge ’s basket on his way home. 

 

Wei Ying hums a happy tune (a rendition of their favourite song) while carrying a full basket of rice, salt, sugar, rolls of cloth, spices, and additional cooking utensils, tableware and cutlery, and other provisions.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan is a little surprised when both da ge (suspiciously teary-eyed and sniffling; he said it’s due to the pollen in the air) and didi (strangely grinning ear to ear; he just said he feels happy, that’s all) helped him out of the slightly battered cart at The Junction - judiciously named because Lan Zhan now knows that turning at this spot will lead him to his ‘paradise on earth’, at least within his humble estate within the ‘Mounds.

 

Wei da ge said that with the amount of harvest, it would be difficult, even hazardous to try and pull the cart through the rocky narrow trail back to the cave-home, because it could topple over at any time along with its delicate passengers. In addition, he plans to leave the cart near The Highway for easy access and use in the future; so anyone would just need to walk the short distance between their home to The Junction, then be able to take the cart to anywhere within the estate via the Highway. Lan Zhan nods in agreement and before he can voice out another question about their baggage - Wei da ge is already a step ahead and maneuvers himself to the front of the older man, bends down, then grabs his thighs carefully to avoid touching the bandaged areas, and hoists him up, piggyback style. 

 

Lan Zhan gasps and clutches Wei da ge ’s back for balance and-- “Lan Zhan, you don’t have to say anything. Let me carry you back home this time, for old time’s sake if not anything else,” Wei da ge grunts out between trying to clear his throat (is he getting emotional over something, Lan Zhan thought off-handedly), and he carries the sacks at the front; Wei da ge is a strong person indeed. Didi holds on to the crutch and a couple of smaller, lighter sacks such as the birds’ nests, and runs off ahead.

 

Lan Zhan leans into the muscled back, and relishes in the warmth and comfort of being cared for by an older Wei Ying. He rests his chin on a firm shoulder and closes his eyes, buoyed by gentle footsteps and the crunch of pebbles and dry leaves, the fragrant smell of ripening apples and peaches, and a hummed tune that’s familiar to them.

 

“Mn.”

Chapter Text

Lan Zhan wonders if something nice had happened between lunch and the quick tour around his new estate. All Wei gongzi s have been on their best behaviour when he emerged from the orchard and into the welcoming arms of teenage Wei san ge ; the previously-obnoxious san ge started referring him by name rather than “old man” - which is a relief for the patriarch, and he is getting used to calling all his Wei Yings, just plain ol’ “Wei Ying”.

 

Wei da ge gets to work as soon as they returned to the courtyard, by unpacking and sorting out their harvests from the foraging and from the farm. He takes the two chickens selected by san ge , and the handful of caught wild pigeons to the backyard, and promises Lan Zhan that he’ll deal with them in a “discreet and honest” way (Lan Zhan is beginning to think this phrase has become a part of the da ge ’s vocabulary with the same connotations as the strange terms he’d been using all day). Armed with written instructions from the morning and an album of carefully-curated collection of recipes from the patriarch himself, he only needed to ask Lan Zhan “if he is allowed to plan, prepare and manage the night’s dinner” - which pleasantly surprised the latter, because cooking has always been his domain and maybe, just maybe , it’s time to delegate this mundane task to one of the Wei gongzi s - and Lan Zhan gives his consent in the form of a “Mn” and “tell me if you need anything”. With the green light, Wei da ge proceeds to station himself inside the kitchen for the next few hours.

 

In some ways, Lan Zhan feels just as any hard working worker would when he receives an unexpected promotion. The tasks he’d been doing for the last year or so, are suddenly taken up by a subordinate - in this case, one of his spouses - and he is forced to see the world in a whole new light, and from a higher-ups perspective. He scratches his chin absently while ruminating on the thought, and toys with his brand new beard while sitting in one of the few shaded hammocks that the Wei gongzi s have constructed in the last couple of weeks, along with many more tables and benches around the courtyard. There is a forlorn feeling of discomfort, emptiness and uncertainty for leaving his comfort zone, and yet, there is also an underlying and hopeful promise that he is no longer shackled by his daily routines, and therefore, can soar to greater heights and do greater things in his blissful married life - perhaps the latter feel-good feeling is a result of Wei Ying-ness rubbing off on him, and he smiles faintly when he reminisces how much he’d changed over the course of a few years with this wonderful man-turned-spouse. He starts to mentally lay out his strategy for the family for the future:

 

Wei da ge is admirably intelligent, skilled and capable, and can manage the household if given enough instructions. In practice, he could supervise the other younger Wei Yings when Lan Zhan is busy.

 

Wei er ge will continue the task of selling their goods and bringing in the money, since he’s (arguably) the spokesperson, the face and voice to their suppliers and customers.

 

Wei san ge is the power horse of the house and he can do what Lan Zhan does every day, out in the fields - farming and taking care of the livestock, foraging and hunting, chopping firewood, and so on.

 

Wei didi is adept at housework, and with the help of Wei da ge who also doubles as their chef in the kitchen and their in-house skilled magician, they can sort out the cleaning, laundry and cooking tasks, assisted by the D-Broom and possibly - if things go according to Wei Ying’s wishes - other magically enhanced inventions.

 

That would leave Lan Zhan--

 

“... as the great patriarch of our household, and his task is to watch over us, and love us as we love our almighty husband,” Wei san ge interrupts and gives a kiss on Lan Zhan’s cheek, as he brings a tray with a big bowl of cooling guilinggao black herbal jelly, balanced on top of a round basin filled with clean springwater from their outdoor bath. “Is that right (对不对), Lan Zhan?” he adds cheekily with an awkwardly big grin. The older man remains impassive, as usual.

 

Da ge can freely read yours and everyone’s thoughts and project them to us; although sometimes, he can choose to alter or filter certain parts according to the situation,” he continues, as he places everything on the ground, and then taps on the older man’s shoulder as a silent gesture to let Wei san ge - Wei Ying - take off the robes. “For example, I’m glad both didi and I didn’t need to hear about the fate of the three rabbits, and only didi doesn’t need to know where the pigeons come from, because he still thinks they’re cute while the rest of us love to munch on grilled birdmeat,” Wei Ying says as he starts to peel off the older man’s robes and garments from the upper body, layer by layer, “Coming back to your strategy, da ge said that we’ll follow your lead.”

 

“What about you?” Lan Zhan asks as he raises his good arm to facilitate the undressing, “How do you feel about this?” He stares at Wei Ying, trying to gauge the younger man’s response - or the da ge ’s, if there’s an element of mind manipulation involved.

 

Wei Ying blinks once. Then, he unexpectedly grabs the dripping washcloth from the same basin and slaps it harshly against Lan Zhan’s naked shoulder. “Me? Hah! I’ll show you how much better I can be in doing your outdoor stuff, you-- ! (he stops just before he accidentally mouths out “old man”, and turns a pointed finger back into a balled grip of dribbling washcloth) --Just watch me shovel the soil twice as fast, and grow all the chillies we’ll every need!” The cloth scrubs roughly against the skin - it hurts a little, but definitely cleans off the dust and grime from the walkabout. Lan Zhan relaxes - he knows that his initial suggestion is acceptable, and that da ge relinquished his mind control over the attending san ge , for the moment.

 

Wei Ying seems enthusiastic in wiping down Lan Zhan’s upper torso, and he even takes his time to painstakingly dab around each whip scar on the back - perhaps he’s catching up on what he’d miss during their midday bath. Lan Zhan looks at the bowl of black jelly on the ground, and wonders about the teenager’s priorities being in the right order or not; he sighs, and bends down as far as his bandaged waist would allow, to pick up the big bowl on his own with both hands.

 

“Ahh… Lan Zhan! I’m supposed to serve you my homemade dessert, but you’re ruining my chance already,” then he quickly switched gears from meticulous back-cleaning to smacking the washcloth all over the back (where significant parts of his upper body remain unwiped), sending water drops flying and trickling everywhere, and both their clothes become soaked. He rushes to the front, crouches and helps Lan Zhan’s feet into the basin; he lets the tired soles soak a bit in the warm water.

 

Wei Ying rests his chin on the edge of the hammock, and gives a flashy toothy grin that Lan Zhan remembers all too well from the days they spent together in the Jingshi as punishment from the former’s misbehaviour, more than sixteen years ago. “Lan Zhan, try it, is it good? (好不好吃?)”

 

He takes the first mouthful of the fragrant, soft and sweet jelly. Not too bad, except that he tasted salt as well; Wei Ying must have accidentally put a spoon of salt when he was looking for sugar in the pantry - both are stored in similar jars and look quite the same (which could be easily avoided if he'd chosen rock sugar instead, but Wei Ying wouldn’t know about it anyway).

 

"Ai-yooo... Don't shout at me, da ge ! I really didn't know!" Wei Ying shouts into the air and winces, clutching at the side of his head.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

It’s another one of a string of surreal experiences that Lan Zhan needs to go through for the day. He watches and listens patiently, as Wei Ying talks animatedly with high and low pitches, with lively hand and limb movements, vibrant and full of life, about what he’d done in the farm, how he’d taken care of the animals, what he thinks about their expanded estate-turned-kingdom, what he wants to do (with shameless demands for more spending money and a bigger home), and so on. It’s like a (mostly one-sided) conversation with a wife, a lover, and a kid all at once, except that this person resembles - actually, is - his teenage crush, sixteen years ago.

 

He wonders if this is a chance to redeem his failure in the past, or to live out one of his longstanding fantasies, where none of the absurd events involving the war-mongering Wens or the accursed Yin Metal ever happened - would they have peacefully studied in the Cloud Recesses, take their sweet time in getting to know each other, tolerate then accept their vastly different personalities, quirks and oddities, and eventually... fall in love? 

 

Would they gradually find themselves in each others’ arms, and maybe - just maybe, still get hitched even though at a barely legal age? Would they somehow end up like the present; having moved out of their family nests, to strike out on their own just like any young, hopeful adult males would - and then, after getting their fill of youthful adventures and travelling around the Middle Kingdom, settle down together in a beautiful, quiet countryside cottage situationally similar to their current cave-home; and lovely Wei Ying caring for him as much as he cares for Wei Ying - just as how Wei Ying is presently tending to his tired feet and trying his best to cook delicious food through trial-and-errors that both of them will learn together, laugh together, and grow fonder with one another with the passage of time.

 

In the end, does it really matter? he asks himself.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Both topless men enjoy a brief respite from the afternoon heat. Lan Zhan leans back into the remarkably huge hammock tied between two of their largest apple tree trunks, and Wei san ge gives a nice warm footwash. Lan Zhan knows Wei Ying is trying his best to emulate the age-old practice of caring and respecting for an elderly, though he doesn't seem to make much of an impact with his clumsy scrubs along the foot of the arch, which resemble a mismatched mix of tickles and sprain-inducing presses. 

 

"Wei Ying… just… just a... n-normal massage will do…" he tries hard to maintain his neutral expression, as he teeters between ticklish giggles and teeth-gritting pain. Fortunately, that turned out to be the right decision, as (this) Wei Ying has inherited (shared) the experiences from the older Wei Ying in the art of pleasing another’s body with comforting, refreshing muscle rubs. Soon, Lan Zhan receives a proper treatment of foot massage dipped in warm water, and Wei Ying expertly kneads away the fatigue; he focuses particularly in force-spreading the joints between the toes, stretching the ligaments between roughened pads on the soles, rolling his knuckles over the tendons above and below the arch of each foot, and giving circular rubs on the ball of the heels, and also around the ankles, in which Lan Zhan audibly nnnhs in delight - two weeks’ worth of stiffness, and a tour around their estate using the crutch, seemingly unwind magically into Wei Ying’s firm yet delicate touch. 

 

The mid-afternoon air is warm and humid, accompanied by the sounds of birdsong and cicadas’ mating calls, and soon, he starts to feel drowsy and relaxed inside the cocoon of the hammock under the shade of apple trees, pampered lovingly by Wei Ying’s massage that soon dulls his senses into a sleepy fluffy cloud, and feels his feet droop in such a relaxed, maybe slightly swollen state that he’s melting into a puddle inside the hammock, which stirs up tendrils of pleasure from the soles of his numbed feet, riding up to the thighs and pooling inside his loins, and those tendrils seem to spread his legs a bit and flick on the sensitive junctures at the crotch, and then swirl, swirl closer towards the scrotum and encase his balls in hot wetness, which is followed by slippery back-and-forth slides along the underside of his hardening arousal and it envelops into sweet, sweet delicious liquid heat--

 

Lan Zhan awakes with a jolt from his nap in the hammock, and finds himself moaning into a half-asleep, prolonged mmmmnnnnnh when Wei Ying dips his head between the spread legs and starts nursing the half-hard erection. Lan Zhan pushes himself up as much as he could on the gently swaying hammock, just in time to see-feel the teenager poke a moist wet tongue underneath the sensitive foreskin and bathe the sheathed, still-soft and spongy glans with the expanse of his warm tongue, and he attempts to penetrate, jab and prod the tip of his tongue into the lightly-twitching erection and knead into the shallow crevice peeking from the center, while one hand presses and holds down Lan Zhan’s pelvis and the other busily grazes tightening balls with fingernails - and is graciously rewarded with a droplet of glistening pre-cum.

 

“Wei Ying…” he groans, and forces himself not to react to the exquisite friction rubbing into his cockslit, as he lets the teenager - his Wei Ying, his spouse, his destined partner, who has all the permissions and rights to Lan Zhan’s body - continue to play with the increasingly excited and swelling penis; luscious young lips enclose, draw in and suck voraciously in a steady yet relentless pace; he deep-throats as much as his long neck will allow and Lan Zhan had to squeeze his eyes shut when the tight cavern encasing his throbbing rod convulses in a hard swallow, and his cock is assaulted by an equally long tongue that circles, wraps and curls around the entire length, barely missing the teeth, and Lan Zhan hnnghs involuntarily when he loses a little muscular control and jerks his hips once, when Wei Ying makes a series of swallowing motions without gagging, milking the organ again repeatedly in undulating squeezes, before going up and down again on the iron-hard flesh veined with adrenaline-flooded blood in the searing rhythm of a magnificently deep and mind-numbing blowjob; he could feel the tip of Wei Ying’s nose hitting on his pubic bone, hard. He thinks Wei Ying managed to extract abundant amounts of pre-cum with each swoop, but he couldn’t see, couldn’t tell, because of the delicious contractions forcibly extracted out of his quivering cock and all he could see are the canopies of apple trees and ripening fruits because his head is already tilted upwards and his back is arching, his own mouth refuses to seal away the tasty, keening groans emitting from inside his burning, burning body, sweating in the middle of the afternoon; excitement starts to tingle and burn excruciatingly the nerves around his lower body, sending acute spasms into the tiniest of fluttering muscles, further swelling the fantastically excited, engorged organ, and again, and again, the rising fluid heat from the base of his cock, loading and filling up for the first grateful shot deep, deep into Wei Ying’s sweet mouth and into that sweeter endless throat chasm-- 

 

Lan Zhan realizes, belatedly, - to his secret delight and horror - that as much as da ge is a master of hands and fingers, handjobs and soft touches that require a great flair in restrain and fine movement controls, teenager Wei Ying shows his sexual prowess with greedy, sometimes clumsy but always earnest efforts with seemingly experienced lips and tongue, and he is an expert in lustful oral lovemaking--

 

Lan Zhan blinks his eyes open, face covered with sweat and panting hard to catch his breath, his quaking body bowed over the hammock and hovering at the very edge of the precipice of an incredibly powerful orgasm, and his stiff cock trembling, twitching angrily in the breezy, empty afternoon air. Wei Ying stands above him, next to the ropes that suspend the improvised bed between apple trees, slurps down the remaining slurry of herbal jelly from the bowl - and makes a revolting gagging sound and a distasteful scrunch of eyebrows. He pulls out a couple of curly pubic hair from his tongue as well - Lan Zhan doesn’t know if Wei Ying finds the salty dessert or the hair disgusting to his palate.

 

“Eww, you should have told me it’s this bad before downing half a bowl of this stuff,” and picks his teeth to pull out another hair followed by a “bleargh” sound (how many strands of pubic hair did he lose, Lan Zhan wondered absently), “but anyway, you should feel invigorated now, right, Lan Zhan?”. Wei Ying audaciously wipes his mouth and sweat from his upper body with Lan Zhan’s trousers - somehow, he’d snatched it sometime between the foot massage and the frustratingly wonderful blowjob.

 

Lan Zhan wheezes out a very heavy, reluctant sigh - surprisingly, Wei Ying has his priorities sorted out well. He sits up with an agonized groan, adjusts himself to a cross-legged meditation posture on the hammock, and ignores the tremendously agitated, lonesome erection. He begins to cast another medley of blue healing spells onto his bandaged wounds. The ones on his left forearm and right lower leg are healing well, and he hopes to take off the dressings sooner than intended.

 

~~~@@@~~~@@@~~~

 

Lan Zhan learns that there are more than a few ways to replenish his qi energy which then feeds into his golden core. The mechanics are similar to pouring water into streams that lead into a lake that grows larger over time, with increasing levels of mastery over martial arts, spellcasting, and cultivation.

 

A simple hug, a sweet touch of lips, a brisk walk around the vegetable gardens or around Yiling's evening markets, meditating, reading a good book, playing music, cuddling furry pets, or even doing housework for a couple of hours, equate to adding a few drops into those streams. Such activities usually have more impact on one’s psychology rather than on energy levels.

 

More strenuous and exciting exercises, such as performing cultivation moves, martial arts practice, running away from predators (in Wei Ying's case, dogs), backbreaking hard labour, or regular nightly sex with eventual release and resolution - although physically draining and exhausting, can be visualised as a few sizable bowls into the ever-flowing river.

 

Extremely distressing situations, especially those that sends adrenaline pumping into blood for prolonged periods of time - such as sexual torture or edging; or at the other end of the spectrum, incredibly pleasant experiences that uplifts a soul to the greatest heights - such as a kissy game with Wei didi -, is like pouring big buckets straight into the lake.

 

Lan Zhan does not dare to imagine what activities would break open dams and fill his golden core to the brim. However, he tells himself that he's now living with three, possibly four living batteries for his qi energy levels - whether this bodes well for his well-being or not, remains to be seen.

 

However, just as energy can be generated and replenished, it can whittle away with use or neglect. Qi spiritual energy is necessary for piloting flying swords, unleashing power attacks such as energy blasts from guqin’s strings, casting spells, and in Lan Zhan’s case, for controlling or snuffing out sinful desires (in his elder brother’s example, to magically transform consumed alcohol into pure distilled water). Golden cores are bite-sized marbles full of cultivated qi , and are highly sought after by dark, evil creatures that prey on the living and feast on such spiritual energies. Such heinous beings, being in the same class as the undead and the fierce corpses that continue to haunt the Northern lands of the Middle Kingdom, usually move at night and catch their unsuspecting, vulnerable victims when they are asleep or unconscious. 

 

It is said that one’s life force, and therefore his or her Fate in this world, is tied to the golden core, however neither cultivation practitioners nor scholars have been able to confirm nor refute this fact, since no one in written history has attempted to consciously gouge out his or her own core and witness the effects of such a terrible extraction. There are rumours that one of the horrible Wens had successfully performed the procedure about sixteen years ago; however, according to the historical texts, since they have gone extinct, therefore the stories and subsequent investigations by the Imperial Court of Chang’an have met their dead-ends as well.

Chapter Text

Didi will be up soon from his daily afternoon nap, so you better hurry. That brat will wake up into a feisty ball of energy,” Wei Ying mutters as he sits opposite Lan Zhan on the gently swaying hammock. Both men sit cross-legged and perform some basic cultivation moves to cross-share their qi energy; Lan Zhan focuses his good right hand to point two fingers and direct healing energy to each bandaged part, while his left hand rests on his legs with a curved palm-up stance; Wei Ying performs intricate martial arts movements with his hands to generate and cultivate energy from within his body, then strikes at the main meridian points on Lan Zhan’s body to transfer the qi , thus boosting the latter’s ability to heal further.

 

After a while, surprisingly but not unexpectedly, Wei Ying becomes a bit bored after he’s transferred enough energy for the healing session. He spends a few minutes staring and scrutinizing at a meditating Lan Zhan who has closed his eyes and furrowed his brows in intense concentration (Lan Zhan can feel eyes boring into him, and that makes the older man a little anxious, because dear Goddess Guan Yin, can’t Wei Ying just sit down quietly and meditate with me?!, he asks futilely). Wei Ying fidgets quite a bit, and Lan Zhan keeps hearing rustling sounds of Wei Ying’s trousers rubbing against the hammock’s canvas - and strangely, the tinkling of a ceramic bowl and wet mushy squishes.

 

Lan Zhan feels his qi deviate slightly, when he hears sniffing sounds near his earlobes, feels warm breaths puffing down his collarbone, even an accidental, startling touch near his unprotected and nude armpits. Lan Zhan clears his throat with an intentional “A-hem”, and the teenager shrinks away, but not before succeeding in a mischievous pull - and a painful twinge prickling the sensitive skin - on one of the armpit hairs; he wonders briefly, and gets distracted from the healing procedure, if Wei Ying is as obsessed with his armpit hair as with his pubes too.

 

After another minute, Lan Zhan cringed inwardly at the sensation of two fingers “walking” their way along the top of his left thigh, “hops” to the bandaged forearm where the fingers danced quickly across the woven material, and straight into the open palm. They hook around the curved fingers, and swing gently in a naughty “Lan Zhan Lan Zhan, are you awake? If you’re not then I’m going to play” manner. The older man decides to ignore the immature teenager and keep his eyes closed, at the risk of blundering the healing spell (which wasn’t all that important anymore, since he’s almost done with the session), or more interestingly, to find out what frisky Wei Ying has in mind.

 

Wei Ying takes the free left hand and puts the palm against his chest; Lan Zhan feels the strong heartbeat under the heated skin. The fifteen-year old boy opens and spreads each finger carefully across his thin left chest, and asks loudly without expecting an answer, “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, look at me, do you think I was much thinner when I was fifteen years old? There are some muscles,” he purposely lets the fingers flick his nipple, and then uses the index finger to draw circles around the areola, “but I must’ve looked quite gangly in your eyes. I’m all skin and bones, and not attractive at all.” 

 

No, Wei Ying, you were and still are, the most beautiful of them all, the older man replies, wordlessly, and keeps his eyes shut. He wants to complete the healing as soon as possible - and later, if time permits, hold lovely Wei Ying in his arms and convince the teen that beauty is certainly not skin-deep. 

 

Wei Ying swipes Lan Zhan’s hand across his chest like a paintbrush, allowing the latter to touch both sparse pectorals and nipples. “Ahh, wouldn’t it be nice if we can frolic all day behind the bushes with neither care nor concern for the world?” The sensation of satiny, youthful skin is enticing; then Wei Ying curls Lan Zhan’s fingers to pinch the other brownish-pink nipple, and the teenager mmmhs loudly at his own self-made sexual gratification. “Ah, ah, if you spend an hour massaging these everyday, maybe my breasts will plump up and I’ll grow more meat on the bones. Plump, round breasts are great for making lots of milk. Won’t you like that? (喜欢吗?)”

 

Lan Zhan frowns in his concentration, and tries to mentally swat away the Wei Ying-ness that dared to intrude into the final lap of his healing marathon. The spell wavers visibly, as the blue thread starts to wriggle. To his consternation, his limp cock hiding underneath the trousers begins to stir with interest.

 

Wei Ying chuckles lightly, and unhurriedly drags Lan Zhan’s left hand down to the boy’s slender waist. Wei Ying guides the hand to rub wide circles from ribs to navel, then dipping slightly below the trousers’ waistband, before returning back up. “If you touch me here... there… now... and everyday - you’ll be able to indulge in all the touches you’d missed since we were in our teens. Ah, Lan Zhan, does my firm, youthful supple skin, feel good against yours? Or will it feel better… beneath you?” he whispers sultrily. Lan Zhan bites his lower lip at the unspoken implications. The shiny blue thread sputters erratically.

 

"I'm fifteen years old again, and less than half your age. If I call you Daddy, it would sound like you’re a really young father, just as when A-Yuan first hugged your leg in Yiling and drew the weird attention from the surrounding crowd. I would cry softly to you, ‘Daddy, daddy, please punish little Wei Ying for the naughty mistakes he’s made’," Lan Zhan's fingers are zealously angled to caress and plunge into the soft, shallow navel in rhythmic strokes. He is painfully reminded of a joke not too long ago about where the navel leads to (i.e. the womb). Lan Zhan grits his teeth in an excruciating effort to maintain whatever sanity he needs for the spell, which has started to break down; the blue thread corkscrews into crazy spirals.

 

"If I call you Dada, which I had learnt from your disciples to mean ‘elder brother’ in Gusu dialect, then you’ll be a very old brother, and it would be strange for us to walk in the streets while holding hands, don’t you think so? Or do you want to be a bad dada, and do this,” Wei Ying leans forward, tugs the imprisoned hand to reach behind his own trousers, and presses the spread fingers generously across one clothed ass-mound. 

 

“Ah, ah, dada, dada, please don’t spank my buttocks. Little Wei Ying is wrong again!” Wei Ying moans sexily into Lan Zhan’s red-tipped ear. He jiggles the imprisoned hand, resulting in jiggling the springy glute as well.

 

Lan Zhan exhales loudly, signalling his disagreement to the preposterous acts. The healing spell fizzles out with a fwip! sound, due to the intense turmoil in the older man's qi flow. His eyes flew open, wide as angry saucers. Wei Ying forms an “o” with his mouth for an “Oops”, then slowly leans back to their original position - sitting cross legged and facing each other.

 

Prankster Wei Ying brazenly scoots closer, takes each of Lan Zhan’s hand into his and sways them playfully, like little children holding each other’s hands. Seeing no response from the upset older man, he does not hesitate to spread Lan Zhan’s legs, bounce forward between them until he closes the gap, and their hips touched. At such proximity, he pretends to be contemplative and concerned, and brushes off invisible dust from the older man’s nude shoulders. Then, he gives the saddest-looking puppy eyes with the cutest hamster-cheeked pout towards the unmoving, stern gaze.

 

"‘Tch… Lan Zhan, you’re no fun at all. Alright, I’ll be less childish in front of you and won’t ask you to play along. But I’m serious that you need to be more enthusiastic with me, otherwise, I’m afraid your body won't be able to handle my virginal youth tonight. Alright? (好不好?)” and Wei Ying breaks into his usual cheeky grin.

 

Lan Zhan’s breath hitches at the blasphemous word. He tries to back away and raises his hands up in defense, but there is little space to maneuver inside the hammock. Wei Ying easily bridges the divide between them until he nuzzles against Lan Zhan’s neck (like the said hamster), and slides their naked torsos skin against skin, inside the cocoon of woven stretchy canvas cloth.

 

Wei Ying flutters his eyelids against a twitching Adam’s apple, and coyly mewls, "Aiyaaaaa… don’t be shy, Lan Zhan. You're not young anymore, and you’ve done it so many times by now," the teenager grabs both Lan Zhan's arms, more violently this time, and thrusts them into his (Wei Ying’s) own pants. Lan Zhan tried to withdraw his captured limbs but Wei Ying’s grip is unusually strong. “Surely you can see and smell my virginity from afar, Lan Zhan," Lan Zhan inhales the smell of Wei Ying’s shampoo’ed hair - flowery, summery, and full of zest -, “Don’t look at me like that, my body is still innocent and pure, and doesn’t know anything about sex - compared to yours. Is that right? (对不对?),” Wei Ying purrs coyly. Lan Zhan realizes that naughty Wei Ying didn’t put on his underwear, and is half-tempted to wrench his grasp away, while another inner voice coos at him to dig in, deeper, deeper. Fifteen-year old Wei Ying feels and smells vibrant, fresh, succulent and very tantalizing, like a tasty morsel dangled in front of his hungry lips. He could theoretically push the young boy down and have his way with him!, that nasty inner voice seductively whispers.

 

Wei Ying wiggles his hips and responds breathily, "That’s right, this body hasn't done it before. I may be tight and very sensitive, so please treat me with plenty of care and love tonight. It's my first time, you know," and Lan Zhan feels the heated outline of an erect cock. His fingers tremble, not knowing where else to hide inside the confines of Wei Ying's pants. He stares mesmerized at their clothed crotches, sliding against one another when the teen circles his hips in a suggestive manner, and he watches with morbid delight at how his fingers instinctively curl around the rigid throbbing pole underneath Wei Ying's fly.

 

The boy cries at the first contact, "Ah, Lan Zhan! You greedy sex maniac, are you trying to grope me in broad daylight? Are you imagining yourself as an energetic, virile teenager too, unable to hold back his lust? Ah, ah, you’re playing with my penis! Oh, dada, your hands feel so goooooood…" and the circular motion of hips start to become elliptical, thrusting, frantic, implying the thrilling timeless act of sexual intercourse.

 

Wei Ying pauses in mid-molest, and shifts Lan Zhan's reluctant hands to the rear, "Or... are you actually a lecherous old man, who hungrily paws young, helpless virgin boys and bed them nightly to satisfy his depraved desires?" Wei Ying must have struck gold with those morally corrupt words, because Lan Zhan's own arousal twitches visibly in his trousers, and Wei Ying continues his incredulous nonsense, "Ah, ah, daddy, you pervert! Now you’re grabbing my defenceless buttocks!", in which Lan Zhan actually grips the naked springy bottom so hard and rake fingernails over the mounds, that both knew tell-tale marks would be left there for days to come.

 

Wei Ying takes the absurdity to the next level; he grabs both index fingers, one from each hand around his ass, and lets their tips touch his moist rosebud. "Ah, you dirty old man, don't stick your filthy fingers in there, otherwise you'll deflower my sweet, precious purity. I'm saving it for tonight… with you… nnh, nnh, don’t stretch it too much… are you so eager to take my first time? How shameless!" his grin turns coquettish. Wei Ying lifts up his hips, and proceeds to gratuitously fuck the fingertips. Lan Zhan no longer wants to see what he's being forced to do, and squeezes his eyes shut again, cheeks burning with shame. His fingers are sucked in, feeling hotness, wetness, tightness and lubricating squishiness all at once, and his cock convulses, desperately begging for the same burning friction. The ring of muscle is pliant and welcoming, and Lan Zhan shudders to think what the teenager has been up to to prepare himself so well for this undeniably steamy sexual assault.

 

His thick fingers slide in and out repeatedly, mimicking the motions that he know