The first time it happens, Lan Wangji doesn’t think much of it. Sizhui has been in his care since he was a small child, after all. It’s not uncommon for the boy to come to his guardian for advice.
When Sizhui finds him, he’s in the forest, quietly tending to the rabbits as the sun sets on the horizon. Their fur is soft under his fingertips and he feels at peace with this simple pleasure. That and the deep contentment that fills his every waking moment since he married Wei Wuxian, who is back at the main compound somewhere, probably stirring up trouble. Lan Wangji is unbearably fond of him.
“Hanguang-Jun,” Sizhui calls out, just loud enough for his voice to carry without startling the rabbits.
Lan Wangji nods in acknowledgment, silently beckoning the boy to come closer. He was enjoying the peaceful moment, but he has no regrets leaving it behind. Sizhui’s presence has never been a burden to him.
“Hanguang-Jun,” Sizhui says again as he approaches. When they are standing face to face, Lan Wangji’s brow furrows in slight concern, as he can see the way Sizhui’s hands twitch with nervous energy.
“Is something wrong?”
“Yes. I mean, no. Maybe.” Sizhui sighs and Lan Wangji waits for him to continue. He has never lacked for patience.
Sizhui bites his lip and looks away with uncharacteristic nervousness. Whatever is troubling him must be more serious than Lan Wangji thought.
“Hanguang-Jun… how do you know if you like someone? I mean, if you like them like that? And… how do you know if they like you too?”
He doesn’t show it, but the question takes Lan Wangji off guard. Sizhui has come to him for advice on music and his studies, on tending rabbits and strategies for night hunts. But never before for… romantic advice. He assumes this must be about Jin Ling. Lan Wangji isn’t blind to the connection that’s been growing between the two of them. He briefly considers sending Sizhui to Wei Wuxian for advice instead, before dismissing the idea. Sizhui sought him out in particular. Also, he can’t justify sending Sizhui to ask for romantic advice from the most romantically oblivious person on the face of the earth.
How do you know if you like someone and they like you?
Lan Wangji thinks back to his past experiences with Wei Wuxian, all the confusion, the mixed messages, the missed opportunities. The ways he might have done things differently if he knew then what he knows now. Their happiness has been hard-won. They have both suffered, stumbling in the dark. But still, sometimes Lan Wangji thinks that they had to experience those things before reaching this happy ending. As badly as he may have wanted Wei Wuxian back then, perhaps neither of them was truly ready.
But Lan Wangji doesn’t say any of that, finding it too hard to put it into words. Instead, he says:
“You don’t know. And then, you do.”
Lan Wangji judges his own words as woefully inadequate, and he can practically hear Wei Wuxian’s teasing laughter at his attempt. But Sizhui seems to latch onto something in them nonetheless.
“So you’re saying that it takes time to figure it out. You have to… you have to accept your lack of knowledge, to not fear the uncertainty.”
Sizhui’s eyes light up. “And through that uncertainty lies the path to self-knowledge and knowledge of the other person. An understanding of who you are to each other and where you stand.”
Lan Wangji nods. Lying is forbidden, but this is not exactly a lie. It seems that whatever conclusions Sizhui has drawn are helpful to him, so Lan Wangji decides to say nothing.
“I’ll just have to spend more time with him then.” Sizhui smiles at him brightly. “Thanks Hanguang-Jun!”
Predictably, Wei Wuxian laughs when Lan Wangji tells him about it that evening. Lan Wangji kisses him until his laughter turns into low moans and then all is forgotten as he loses himself in his Wei Ying again.
And it would have stayed forgotten if it weren’t for Lan Jingyi and Wei Wuxian.
The next time Jin Ling visits the Cloud Recesses, it’s clear that something has changed between him and Sizhui. When the lecture ends for the day and the disciples proceed across the courtyard, everyone pauses to take in the sight of Sizhui and Jin Ling across the way, standing close and smiling at each other. Lan Wangji wonders if he and Wei Wuxian were as obvious to those around them as these two are now. Thankfully, Sizhui is a sensible boy and has figured out what he wants far earlier than his fathers ever did. Lan Wangji allows himself a moment to gaze at them fondly. There will be plenty of time for him to chide the disciples about the perils of gossip and the importance of minding your own business.
Before he can speak a word, Lan Jingyi breathes out a dreamy sigh.
“You know, I’m glad it worked out for them. Sizhui seems so happy! I mean, the Little Mistress was a bit of a brat at first but he’s changed. They’ll be good for each other.” The other disciples nod and Lan Jingyi sighs again. “With these results, we should all go to Hanguang-Jun for advice!”
He can’t really fault Sizhui for talking to his best friend about his love life, but still, he wishes his very, very limited role in the whole thing hadn’t been mentioned. Maybe it would have died there, but in all their years of knowing each other, Wei Wuxian has never passed up a chance to tease Lan Wangji.
“Ah, so this is your doing then, eh Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian says, eyes wide with mischief. Lan Wangji glares at him. Wei Wuxian knows full well that Lan Wangji barely said anything to help Sizhui with this situation.
“I’m not surprised,” Wei Wuxian continues, “after all, Hanguang-Jun is the most romantic person I know!”
Lan Wangji can’t even be upset about it. Only Wei Wuxian could so effectively tease him and praise him all at once.
Murmurs of approval ripple through the disciples and Lan Wangji catches little snatches of “Hanguang-Jun is so wise!” and “Truly, Hanguang-Jun and Senior Wei’s romance is one for the ages!” and “Few understand love the way Hanguang-Jun does!” Wei Wuxian’s eyes sparkle with mirth and Lan Wangji sighs. He can already tell that this is going to be a problem.
If only he could have predicted just how much.
Lan Lihua is the first one who has the courage to approach him. After Wei Wuxian and Lan Jingyi’s words a week prior, Lan Wangji has noticed some of the younger disciples giving him curious stares. They seem drawn to him, overflowing with unspoken questions they’re not quite daring enough to ask. When the stares become too much, Lan Wangji shoots them sharp looks and they avert their eyes. Still, they haven’t technically done anything to warrant punishment. “Seek wisdom from your elders” is one of the Gusu Lan Sect rules, after all.
When the rest of the students leave the lecture hall for the day one afternoon, Lan Lihua stays behind. She approaches Lan Wangji and offers him a deep, respectful bow. Her robes are immaculate and her forehead ribbon is perfectly in place. Her bearing is graceful and her expression is resolved. Lan Wangji would expect no less from her. Lan Lihua is a model disciple, known for being kind and helpful. A little quiet, but this is far from uncommon for the Lan sect. She is more reserved than Sizhui and nowhere near as outspoken as Lan Jingyi. Something must be weighing quite heavily on her mind for her to seek him out.
“Hanguang-Jun, may I speak to you for a moment?”
“It’s about Lan Meifeng. I… like her. Very much.” She takes a deep breath before continuing, the words rushing out of her. “I do things for her to show her I care, but I don’t think she understands. But every time I try to tell her how I feel, it’s as if I’ve forgotten how to speak. I don’t know what I can do or say to get her to notice me.”
Wei Wuxian would have burst into laughter if he was here. Lan Lihua is the only thing Lan Meifeng notices these days and her distraction has gotten her into trouble more than once.
Lan Wangji takes the measure of Lan Lihua, considering the determination in her gaze, and the underlying softness, the vulnerability beneath it.
Determination and vulnerability.
A good combination for someone seeking love.
Lan Wangji hadn’t learned that until much later. He had always been determined when it came to Wei Wuxian, had sought to help him, to save him from the cultivation world and from himself. But it wasn’t until Wei Wuxian returned from the dead that Lan Wangji learned to show his vulnerable side, to show Wei Wuxian the burning heart that was the source of all his actions.
But just like with Sizhui, Lan Wangji doesn’t say any of that.
“Sometimes it’s better to say nothing.”
Lan Lihua is silent for several moments as she mulls over Lan Wangji’s words. Lan Wangji merely watches and waits. It seemed to work well with Sizhui last time.
“I wouldn’t know what to say to her, but perhaps I don’t have to. That’s what you meant, isn’t it Hanguang-Jun?”
“You’re saying that I must take action. The right action. I’ve tried to show her before, but she has misinterpreted me and misread my intentions. So... so I must do something unmistakable, something impossible to misunderstand!”
Lan Wangji nods. He simply prefers to avoid speaking if it’s unnecessary; there wasn’t much more to his statement than that. But Lan Lihua seems pleased with the conclusion she was able to draw from it and he is content to let it be.
“Thank you, Hanguang-Jun,” she says as she bows to him. She seems far less tense now, like a weight has been lifted from her shoulders. “Senior Wei was right, Hanguang-Jun truly is most wise in these matters!”
Of course Wei Wuxian has been fanning the flames of the situation. Just last night he’d told Lan Wangji this was the most fun the Cloud Recesses had seen in years.
Despite his slight annoyance with Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji feels his spirits lifted as he watches Lan Lihua leave the room and go off in search of her love. He leaves not long afterwards to go seek out his own.
In the following weeks, more Lan disciples stay behind after lectures to ask Lan Wangji for advice. Lan Wangji is thankful for his strong sense of discipline and self-control. It’s the only thing that keeps him from sighing in frustration when Lan Meifeng comes to him for advice about Lan Lihua. Hadn’t this issue been resolved yet?
“Yes, we go on night hunts together and she always defends me when I run into trouble, and she cooks my favorite food and—”
“And gave you her forehead ribbon.”
“Yes! Mine was snatched by a fierce corpse during the night hunt so she gave me hers. She even tied it on for me!”
Lan Wangji shows no sign of exasperation despite the fact that literally everyone in the clan has heard about this, regardless of the rules against gossip. It seems Lan Lihua took the advice she gleaned from him, taking action through an unmistakable gesture.
As members of Gusu Lan, Lan Meifeng and Lan Lihua are both very aware of what it means to give someone your forehead ribbon. They don’t have Wei Wuxian’s excuse of being an outsider. And yet Lan Meifeng still cannot see how much Lan Lihua so clearly loves her.
“I just don’t know how she feels, Hanguang-Jun,” Lan Meifeng says, the picture of dejection.
Lan Wangji pauses, considering his words. For the first time since this ridiculousness began, he thinks he actually knows what to say. “Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one.”
Lan Meifeng sighs. “Why would she do all those things for me? And the ribbon… I know what it means, but…” she trails off, brow furrowing as she works through the problem. “She knows what it means too. And… and that’s why she gave it to me! We were not far from home. I could have gotten a new one when we returned, but she gave me hers anyway.”
A series of emotions flicker rapidly across Lan Meifeng’s face.
Lan Meifeng’s face breaks out into a broad smile. “I have to find her immediately! Oh, thank you Hanguang-Jun!” She bows several times as she continues to thank him, but he can see that she’s itching to go find Lan Lihua and confess her love.
As she turns and rushes out of the room, Lan Wangji resists the urge to chastise her for running in the Cloud Recesses. In this case, he’s willing to let it slide.
Later that evening, Lan Wangji cooks a meal for him and his husband. His own dishes have simple flavors, while Wei Wuxian’s are chock full of a ridiculous amount of spices. Lan Wangji has never understood how Wei Wuxian’s taste buds can endure it, but if this is the food his husband wants to eat, then Lan Wangji will gladly provide it.
He brings their meal to the jingshi where Wei Wuxian is already waiting for him, a big smile on his face when he sees Lan Wangji enter. Lan Wangji carefully sets each dish down on the table and kisses Wei Wuxian before sitting down to eat.
Since they married, Wei Wuxian has actually made an effort not to talk so much during meals but inevitably fails after five minutes or so. Though he’s sure it gives his uncle a headache, Lan Wangji finds it endearing, as he does so many other things about Wei Wuxian.
Wei Wuxian looks at Lan Wangji with a playful glint in his eye before he breaks his silence. “I saw that Lan Meifeng and Lan Lihua finally got together. It was very romantic! Was that your doing, Lan er-gege?”
“Aw, look at all these Lans coming to you for love advice,” Wei Wuxian teases.
“With your encouragement.”
“Come now, Lan Zhan, I barely did anything! And my encouragement is hardly necessary because all you Lans are such hopeless romantics,” he says, shaking his head and gazing at Lan Wangji with a fond smile on his face. “All those rules but this is truly the defining trait of your sect.”
Lan Wangji says nothing. He knows himself and he knows his sect. He cannot say Wei Wuxian’s assessment is entirely wrong.
“Hahaha, you know I’m right!” Wei Wuxian grins. “Don’t worry, I think it’s cute, Lan Zhan. You’re so cute. What am I going to do with you?”
He answers his own question by climbing onto Lan Wangji’s lap and giving him a kiss that warms him through and through. Dinner can wait.
If giving advice leads to Wei Wuxian pressed close and kissing him, then it’s not so bad.
With Lan Xichen out of seclusion and sharing Chief Cultivator duties with him, Lan Wangji now has more time to travel with his husband. They make their preparations and then set off for an extended journey together. They will be able to travel as they please, going on night hunts and enjoying each others’ company. Lan Wangji is greatly looking forward to it.
Sizhui, Jingyi, and a few other Lan disciples set off with them. They wanted to go on a night hunt with their two seniors and Lan Wangji hadn’t the heart to say no. It had been awhile and he knew how much Wei Wuxian enjoyed more… hands-on teaching methods. The next day, they could all go their separate ways and Lan Wangji would have plenty of time to spend with his husband.
They travel through the countryside, Lan Wangji in front leading Wei Wuxian on his horrible donkey and the junior disciples bringing up the rear. Wei Wuxian plays his dizi, tells stories to the juniors, teases Lan Wangji, rambles on about nothing, and generally makes a nuisance of himself. Lan Wangji just guides them on, smiling a secret smile. It’s perfect. He’s perfect.
The terrain changes as they walk, from the wide-open spaces of vivid green fields to the damp earth and towering trees of the forest. When the sun fades from the horizon, they stop to make camp and are soon joined by Jin Ling, Ouyang Zizhen and a couple other disciples from their respective sects.
Lan Jingyi grins and waves as they approach and Jin Ling and Sizhui are immediately drawn to each other like lodestones. They’re not big on public displays of affection. Sizhui is self-aware and in touch with his emotions, but he’s still a Lan. And Jin Ling doesn’t quite know how to handle this kind of affection at all, let alone publicly. But still, they stand close enough for their arms to touch as they smile at each other.
“Lan Zhan, aren’t Jin Ling and Sizhui cute? Ah, to be young and in love!” Wei Wuxian says, speaking in a stage whisper loud enough for everyone to hear.
Jin Ling’s face flushes bright red as he turns to glare at Wei Wuxian.
“You married into Gusu Lan, right? Isn’t it against the rules to stick your nose into other people’s business?”
“Come now, Jin Ling,” Wei Wuxian says as he laughs and shakes his head. “Have you forgotten who you’re talking to? I’ve never met a rule I couldn’t break.”
“Well… stop staring at us or I’ll break your legs. Or I’ll tell Fairy to do it!”
Wei Wuxian tenses up and grips Lan Wangji’s arm hard, ready to hide behind him at a moment’s notice. “You didn’t bring him, right?”
Jin Ling scoffs. “No, of course not. I knew you were going to be here.”
Wei Wuxian breathes a sigh of relief and loosens his grip on Lan Wangji. “See, I knew you cared about your poor Uncle Wei! You talk tough, but you really do have a good heart underneath.”
“Senior Wei is right,” Sizhui says, smiling fondly at Jin Ling. Jin Ling’s scowl fades and his face softens into something happy, something almost sweet. In that moment, he reminds Lan Wangji of Jiang Yanli.
Taking the opportunity to end the conversation before things get out of control, Sizhui takes Jin Ling by the hand and begins leading him away. “Come on, Jin Ling, let’s go start setting up camp.”
Wei Wuxian laughs as he watches them go. “Setting up camp? Is that what they’re calling it these days? Still, I’m glad they’re happy together.”
“And all thanks to Hanguang-Jun!” Lan Jingyi says. Whatever Lan Jingyi planned to say next is cut off by the Lan silencing spell.
“Ah Lan Zhan, don’t be so hard on him.”
Lan Wangji slightly raises an eyebrow, his equivalent to a shrug. “It will wear off.”
Wei Wuxian laughs. “Lan Zhan, you’re too funny! Come on, I think we should go set up camp too.”
Wei Wuxian is sorely disappointed when setting up camp is all they actually do.
“Really, Lan Zhan?” he complains as they tend to Lil’ Apple.
Lan Wangji answers him by stealing a kiss that leaves Wei Wuxian breathless. He doesn’t want his husband to have any doubts about his intentions. Wei Wuxian doesn’t complain as he helps Lan Wangji start a fire and begin to prepare a quick meal, satisfied now by the promise of what’s to come.
They will all sleep under the stars tonight. When the disciples are asleep, he and Wei Wuxian will of course steal away to have their everyday activities. But first, they sit and warm themselves by the fire while the young disciples talk amongst themselves. Wei Wuxian reaches over and takes Lan Wangji’s hand in his. The heat of him warms Lan Wangji better than any fire ever could.
Soon they’ll head deeper into the woods to find the restless spirits who have been causing trouble for the local villagers, but for now they can rest for awhile after traveling all day.
“Another hopeless romantic,” Wei Wuxian says, gesturing to Ouyang Zizhen who is enthusiastically talking to his friends. Lan Wangji remembers what Wei Wuxian told him about his time with the juniors in Yi City. “That’s why he hangs out with Lans so much, they’re kindred spirits!”
“Mark my words, Hanguang-Jun. That boy will definitely ask for your advice.”
To Lan Wangji’s dismay, Wei Wuxian is right. Ouyang Zizhen approaches Lan Wangji the next morning before he and Wei Wuxian leave to continue their journey.
“Hanguang-Jun… could I ask you something?”
Lan Wangji wants to say no. While no one was seriously injured, the night hunt lasted a little longer than he would have liked and he’s eager to get on the road. But then he sees the longing on Ouyang Zizhen’s young face, the kind Lan Wangji had been so afraid to openly display at his age. He can’t turn the boy away.
Lan Wangji nods and Ouyang Zizhen smiles. “Oh, thank you!”
He launches into a somewhat convoluted tale of an adventure he had on a night hunt, where he met a young woman from the Lanling Jin Sect. Eventually, Lan Wangji is able to sift through the noise to find the heart of the matter. As a sect leader’s son, his father expects him to enter into an arranged marriage. But Ouyang Zizhen is headstrong and doesn’t want to marry if he isn’t in love, a sentiment Lan Wangji approves of.
“It’s just that Jin Lifen is so amazing! I want to keep spending time with her, but Father doesn’t listen when I tell him I don’t want to marry someone I don’t know. How can I convince him?”
Lan Wangji considers the situation. Ouyang Zizhen’s feelings could just be the fleeting infatuation of youth, or perhaps they’re something more serious. Still, the boy should be allowed to explore finding his own way, sect leader’s son or no.
Lan Wangji thinks of his uncle then, of how he’s never been able to convince him of Wei Wuxian’s merits. He cannot see that Wei Wuxian hasn’t ruined Lan Wangji’s life, but instead made it worth living. But Lan Wangji knows that it’s possible to stay true to one’s sect, to one’s principles, and one’s heart regardless of the approval of others.
Ouyang Zizhen’s face falls. “I can’t convince him.” Sadness settles on his features for several moments and Lan Wangji worries he has failed the boy with his taciturn nature. But that sadness begins to fade and something more hopeful takes its place. “I can’t convince him… but I don’t need to!”
Ouyang Zizhen’s eyes widen, understanding dawning on him. “I can’t change his heart unless he wants it to be changed. But I can follow my own!”
Lan Wangji only nods. Ouyang Zizhen is already a fairly outspoken young man. He just needed a little push.
“I think I understand now. Thank you for your wisdom, Hanguang-Jun!”
After that, word spreads like wildfire.
As he and Wei Wuxian continue their trip, young cultivators come to him for advice in every town they stop in. Lan Wangji mostly just listens and nods, occasionally saying a few words here and there. At the end of each conversation, their eyes light up and they thank him profusely. Perhaps he’s getting better at this. Or perhaps it doesn’t really matter what he says and they just want someone to listen to them.
He tells Wei Wuxian as much one evening in a small town on the outskirts of Lanling. They’re warm and comfortable in their lodgings, seated and pressed up against each other while Lan Wangji has tea and Wei Wuxian enjoys the local wine.
“It’s both,” Wei Wuxian says. “Lan Zhan is a good listener. Who wouldn’t feel better after having Hanguang-Jun take the time to listen to their problems with that serious expression? I know I always do.”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji says, his ears flushing bright red. Wei Wuxian is the one who often says his heart can’t take it when Lan Wangji is sweet to him, but Lan Wangji feels much the same. Though he’d never say so, his traitorous body always gives him away.
Wei Wuxian laughs and leans closer into Lan Wangji’s side.
“But it also matters what you say because it’s you. Lan Zhan doesn’t speak that often, but when he does people listen closely.”
“It’s all just common sense.”
“Which is exactly what young people in love are lacking!”
Wei Wuxian presses a kiss to his cheek and then smiles that brilliant smile Lan Wangji loves so much.
“You’re a good man, Lan Wangji.”
Lan Wangji’s ears flush red again. Wei Wuxian just laughs and wraps an arm around his shoulders. They sit and finish their drinks together, basking in the warmth of the room and each other. Afterwards, Lan Wangji takes Wei Wuxian to bed and shows him just how good he can be.
When they return to Gusu, the letters start.
Perhaps he should have seen this coming, but the idea that people would actually write to him for relationship advice never crossed his mind. The whole situation is utterly ridiculous.
And yet he finds he cannot just turn a blind eye. These people need help. Lan Wangji always goes to where the chaos is, and what could be more chaotic than matters of the heart?
And so he begins to answer them:
I need your advice most desperately! My sect brother and I have been close ever since we were children, always side by side. He is a cut-sleeve, but this has never bothered me, as nothing could lessen my regard for him. I have never judged anyone for being a cut-sleeve, though I’m not one myself. Still, I find myself deeply upset when I see him express interest in other men. He is my closest friend and I don’t want to lose him. How do I move past my discomfort?
Sometimes people are more alike than they realize.
A couple years ago, my sect sister and I fell in love. We were together for a time, but things came to an end. The fault was largely mine; I was young and foolish and didn’t always appreciate her as I should have. Still, she has not held a grudge and I’m lucky to count her as a friend. The problem is that I have never stopped loving her and I still feel guilty about how things ended between us. She has recently found another partner and they seem happy together. But still, I ache to confess my feelings to her. Is there still a chance for us? What should I do?
The path to true friendship is a selfless one.
I’m having a problem with my cultivation partner and I need your help. Whenever we go on night hunts, he buys ugly jade figurines in every town we visit. He puts them everywhere and now they are taking over our home! I have built him shelves and even a chest to store them in, but he uses neither. I can hardly take a step without tripping over one of them and I fear I may lose my mind if this continues. He doesn’t seem to see the problem and thinks I’m simply overreacting. What should I do?
Wei Wuxian is, of course, delighted by this new chapter in the relationship advice saga. It’s a quiet evening, the two of them sitting at the table in the jingshi as they look over the latest stack of letters. Wei Wuxian offers his commentary but leaves the actual answering to Lan Wangji.
“They want to hear from the esteemed Hanguang-Jun! And my sloppy brushstrokes would immediately give me away.”
Lan Wangji picks up another letter, surprised to see where it’s from.
“What is it?”
“From a disciple of Yunmeng Jiang.”
Wei Wuxian’s eyes sparkle with mirth as he laughs. “Why are you surprised, Lan Zhan? Who can the Yunmeng Jiang disciples go to for advice? Jiang Cheng??”
Lan Wangji nods, conceding the point. Jiang Wanyin is definitely the last person he would want to go to for relationship advice.
“Hm,” Lan Wangji says when he opens the next letter.
“What’s this one?” Wei Wuxian asks, picking up on another hint of surprise in Lan Wangji’s voice. He comes closer, resting his chin on Lan Wangji’s shoulder so he can read the letter too.
“A thank you letter.”
“Ah yes, you mentioned this one before! The young man from Qinghe Nie Sect who thought he wasn’t a cut-sleeve despite clearly being in love with his sect brother.”
Lan Wangji never expected to receive thanks for his replies. He barely says anything, after all. But still, to know that he has helped feels… nice.
Wei Wuxian shakes his head as he finishes reading the letter. “It really is so much easier to notice when others are being oblivious than when you are yourself, isn’t it? Well, good for them.”
The next letter Lan Wangji opens is another thank you, this time from the young woman with the inconsiderate cultivation partner. He is glad to see that she has moved on and found another partner who treats her and her living space with respect.
Wei Wuxian chatters on and Lan Wangji answers a couple of letters before putting the rest away for the night. They can be answered later, as he has other commitments to attend to.
“Lan Zhan, come here,” Wei Wuxian calls out as he reclines on their bed. His tone is seductive, his expression even more so.
Lan Wangji doesn’t have to be told twice. He crosses the room in a few quick strides and joins Wei Wuxian on the bed, pulling him close and kissing him deeply. He helps Wei Wuxian slip out of his sleep robes, all while pressing hungry kisses to each newly revealed bit of bare skin. Wei Wuxian moans in appreciation and though his pupils are blown near to black with desire, that ever-present spark of mischief is still there.
Lan Wangji bites down hard on Wei Wuxian’s shoulder. Wei Wuxian only laughs and continues on otherwise undeterred.
“My husband is insatiable, always ravishing me every night. He’s so good to me. But he makes me come so many times that I can barely walk the next day. What should I do?”
Lan Wangji places Wei Wuxian’s wrists above his head and firmly pins them down on the bed.
And so Lan Wangji proceeds to devote himself to the thorough worship of his husband’s body. He knows all Wei Wuxian’s sensitive spots and he uses that knowledge to devastating effect. He runs his hands and lips over Wei Wuxian’s heated skin until an endless stream of filth spills from his mouth and he’s a trembling mess, begging for more. Only then does Lan Wangji take him in his arms, settling his weight on top of Wei Wuxian before pushing deep inside him.
“Oh Lan er-gege, Lan Zhan, what you do to me,” Wei Wuxian gasps and Lan Wangji loses himself in the scent of his skin, the taste of his lips, the hot, tight clench of his body pulling him in deeper. For as long as he lives, Lan Wangji will never be able to get enough of Wei Wuxian.
Heat pools in the base of Lan Wangji’s spine as they rock together, exchanging desperate kisses. Wei Wuxian clings to him and chants his name again and again as pleasure overtakes him, and Lan Wangji is helpless to do anything but follow him over the edge. They collapse in a boneless heap, trembling with the aftershocks of pleasure.
In the afterglow, Wei Wuxian smiles sleepily and presses kisses along Lan Wangji’s jaw. It’s obvious that he enjoyed himself very much.
“Hanguang-Jun truly gives the best advice.”
On the first day of every week, Lan Wangji spends the afternoon having tea with his brother. It’s a practice he began during Lan Xichen’s year of seclusion.
His brother belongs in the world in a way Lan Wangji never has. He needs to be with people. And so Lan Wangji made it a point to be there for his brother, to tether him to the world in whatever way he could. After Jin Guangyao’s crimes were exposed, Lan Wangji would have liked to travel with Wei Wuxian indefinitely, but he couldn’t abandon his brother in his time of need. Not after all Lan Xichen had done for him during those 16 years of waiting. Though Wei Wuxian and Jiang Wanyin have made inroads in their relationship, Lan Wangji has seen the pain their estrangement has caused for both of them. He would never allow such a thing to happen between himself and his brother.
Aside from Lan Wangji’s visits, Lan Xichen did not interact with anyone during that first year. It was Lan Wangji’s wedding to Wei Wuxian that first started to draw him out of his self-imposed shell. In the two years since that joyous occasion, Lan Xichen has gradually stepped out of seclusion. Though he is still kind as ever, his smiles often fail to reach his eyes in the way they used to. He has returned to them in body and mind, but not entirely in spirit. The impulse to withdraw is still there. Lan Wangji’s weekly visits are his way of making sure that impulse doesn’t win out in the end.
It’s a beautiful spring day in the Cloud Recesses despite the bite of winter chill that still clings to the air. When he enters the hanshi, the warmth of the room and his brother’s presence leaches the cold from Lan Wangji’s bones. Lan Xichen is seated at the table with the teapot and cups ready and waiting.
“Wangji,” Lan Xichen says as he looks up, a fond smile on his face. Lan Wangji bows and sits down across from him. The space is as neat and orderly as always, elegant furnishings with decorative accents in the shades of blue that Lan Xichen has long favored.
Lan Xichen pours them each a cup of tea, the sweet, woodsy aroma of oolong rising in the air. While they wait for the tea to be cool enough to drink, Lan Wangji tells Lan Xichen about his morning spent tending the rabbits with Sizhui, who had just returned from an extended journey. They were joined by a delightfully grumpy Wei Ying who insisted on tagging along despite the hour, eager to hear tales of their son’s travels.
“How is Sizhui?”
“He is well.”
Lan Xichen nods, his expression warm. “I also heard about Sizhui and Jin Ling. I’m pleased for them both.”
Though they sip their tea in companionable silence, Lan Xichen keeps glancing at him with an odd expression on his face that Lan Wangji can’t quite place.
“Wangji, can I ask you something?”
Lan Wangji’s eyes widen, unable to suppress his shock. He knows that expression now, and he recognizes that tone of voice because so many of his conversations these days have started similarly. Is Lan Xichen… is Lan Xichen really going to ask him for advice?
Lan Xichen smiles. “I’m only kidding, Wangji. It’s a good thing that you’re doing. And it is rather cute seeing the young disciples come to you for help.”
“Wei Ying also thinks so.”
Lan Xichen’s smile widens. “Of course he does. He thinks everything about you is cute.”
Lan Wangji’s ears flush bright red with embarrassment, but he’s not overly upset about it. He doesn’t mind being teased by the people he loves. His brother has learned to smile again and that’s all that really matters.
Lan Xichen pours them each another cup of tea as they settle into a conversation about plans for the upcoming discussion conference Gusu Lan will be hosting and other sect business.
They lapse into silence, this time one that’s less comfortable than usual. Lan Xichen’s shoulders are tense and he seems lost in thought. Perhaps there really is something pressing on his mind after all. As always, Lan Wangji is content to wait.
Lan Xichen swallows hard. “I do actually have a question for you, Wangji,” he says finally. “How did you endure it?”
Lan Wangji knows exactly what he’s asking. It’s a question he’s asked himself many times.
How did he endure losing Wei Wuxian?
In the beginning he had been so lost, drowning in his regrets. He couldn’t turn back time and he couldn’t remain as he was, wallowing in the pit of despair. All he could do was move forward and do as Wei Wuxian would have done, finding little points of light in the darkness. And so he raised the son Wei Wuxian could not and provided service to those in need. He carried Wei Wuxian’s memory in his heart and hoped for his return, but expected nothing. Above all, he had tried to live a life Wei Wuxian would be proud of.
But Wei Wuxian and Jin Guangyao were so different. They both came from humble beginnings, but Wei Wuxian sought to protect others and Jin Guangyao sought to control them. Maybe things could have been different if Jin Guangyao had been taken in by someone kind like Jiang Fengmian, or if his father had not been such a loathsome, despicable man.
But he’d made his choices, choices that led to Wei Wuxian’s death and Lan Xichen’s broken heart. This, Lan Wangji will never be able to forgive. But none of these musings would be of help to Lan Xichen. Unsure of what to say, Lan Wangji returns to his brother’s original question.
“I endured by living my life to honor him and the things we both believed in.”
Lan Xichen sighs. “The things I thought we both believed in… they were all lies. I thought I knew what he was capable of, but after all the things he did…”
It was not hard to hear the unspoken questions underlying Lan Xichen’s words. If Jin Guangyao was capable of such heinous acts, then how could he be capable of receiving the love Lan Xichen so clearly harbored for him, let alone returning it? Had the man Lan Xichen thought he knew ever existed, or had it all simply been a cover for the monster lurking underneath? Lan Wangji had learned the hard way that the world was not so black and white.
“I think Jin Guangyao only ever loved two people in his life.”
Otherwise, it wouldn’t have mattered who struck the killing blow. With all of Nie Huaisang’s machinations, he could have manipulated any number of people into killing Jin Guangyao in his quest for revenge. He chose Lan Xichen for a reason. Perhaps he had done it solely to wound Jin Guangyao as much as possible, or maybe it had also been a retribution of sorts against Lan Xichen for missing what was going on under his nose for so long. They will likely never know. For his part, Lan Wangji has never felt the need to judge Lan Xichen for his blind spot; no one could judge his brother for that as harshly as he judges himself.
“Everything I tried to do for him… it wasn’t enough. Why wasn’t it enough?”
The “why wasn’t I enough?” remains unspoken, but Lan Wangji can hear it all the same. He wants to say that Jin Guangyao isn’t worth all of this, that he doesn’t warrant Lan Xichen’s mourning. But people told him the same thing about Wei Wuxian and it never helped. It was never what he needed to hear.
“Brother… there was no flaw in your heart.”
Lan Xichen doesn’t say anything for several moments, and Lan Wangji worries that he may have said the wrong thing. As soon as he thinks he has a handle on this advice-giving business, a new problem comes along to throw him out of his depth again. But when Lan Xichen looks at him, eyes bright with unshed tears, and says, “Thank you, brother,” Lan Wangji can see that his fears were unfounded. He nods at Lan Xichen and they finish their tea in contemplative silence.
“Will you play for me, Wangji?”
Lan Wangji nods as he pulls out his guqin. This is typically how their afternoons together end. Lan Xichen cannot bear to hear Cleansing Heart Song, but there are other Songs of Clarity and Lan Wangji knows them all.
“Join me?” Lan Wangji asks. In the early days of seclusion, Lan Xichen would always decline, but now he chooses to join in more often than not.
Lan Xichen’s xiao rests on a shelf against the north-facing wall, while his guqin rests on a table across the room, untouched. Normally he does not even spare it a glance, content to leave it there collecting dust. But for the first time since Lan Wangji began these visits, his brother seems torn about which instrument to choose. He rises to his feet and stands there for several moments, body tense with indecision. With a nearly imperceptible shake of his head, he turns to retrieve his xiao.
Lan Wangji is not disappointed in his choice. Today is not the day, and that’s fine. It’s enough to know that his brother can imagine a world in which he might take up the guqin again.
With both of them settled and ready, they share a quick glance and begin to play. Playing music with the ones he loves is like coming home and his brother is the first person he ever played with, the first one who understood the way Lan Wangji uses music to express the things he cannot voice.
As the song flows on, Lan Wangji notices the way Lan Xichen’s fingers seem a little more nimble as he plays and the sound he produces is a little brighter, a little sweeter today.
But there’s no need to comment on it. The music speaks for itself.
Between his regular duties, the advice letters, and the final preparations for the discussion conference, Lan Wangji is incredibly busy over the next few weeks.
One afternoon a week before the conference, Lan Wangji once again finds himself working at his desk in the lecture hall after the disciples are long gone.
“Lan Zhan! I’ve been looking for you,” Wei Wuxian calls out as he enters the hall. Lan Wangji smiles softly at the sight of him. Wei Wuxian crosses the room and crouches down beside Lan Wangji, greeting him with a kiss.
He glances down at Lan Wangji’s desk. “More letters?”
Lan Wangji nods. He received three more today, one from the Lanling Jin clan and two from the Yunmeng Jiang clan. The Yunmeng Jiang disciples always seem to be the most in need of advice.
“Ah, I was hoping we could have lunch, but Lan Zhan is too busy for me!” Wei Wuxian pouts.
Lan Wangji’s eyes widen in concern. He would never want Wei Wuxian to feel neglected. “Wei Ying-”
Wei Wuxian laughs. “It’s fine, it’s fine, I’m just joking. Finish up your letters. I’ll see you tonight,” he says, pressing a kiss to Lan Wangji’s cheek. Then he’s gone and Lan Wangji feels like all the warmth has been sucked out of the room with him.
Lan Wangji weighs his actions over the past few weeks. He is still a devoted lover to Wei Wuxian, just as he promised to be. Wei Wuxian has had no complaints in that area and hasn’t seriously complained about him being absent or unavailable at other times. But then again, this is the second time this week he hasn’t been able to eat lunch with Wei Wuxian because of his work.
Was Wei Wuxian truly joking? Lan Wangji knows he often tries to hide his true emotions behind jokes and bright laughter. The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes there was indeed a hint of true disappointment in Wei Wuxian’s eyes.
Helping so many others with their love lives has now reached a point where it’s cutting into Lan Wangji’s time with the person he loves.
This has gone too far. Something will have to be done.
The discussion conference finally begins. Cultivators from all the sects arrive en masse, the colors of their robes bright against the austerity of the Cloud Recesses. The Cloud Recesses have not seen this level of activity since Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian’s wedding. That was a much happier occasion for Lan Wangji than this discussion conference, but duty calls. It’s not so bad really. The conference has given him the perfect opportunity to say what needs to be said.
At the end of the first day, Lan Wangji makes his move. Lan Xichen has just made his closing remarks and all the cultivators start chattering and getting ready to exit the hall, until Lan Wangji’s voice cuts through the noise.
There are hushed whispers as Lan Wangji stands to address the room. He holds his head up high, waiting until there is complete silence.
“Many of you have come to me for advice on matters of the heart,” Lan Wangji begins. “It is not wrong to seek help from senior disciples. But in answering your questions, I had less time to spend with the person I most cherish.”
He glances at Wei Wuxian who is smiling back at him, his eyes slightly damp.
“This cannot continue. And so I must take my own advice and stop answering your questions and letters. You will all find your way. That is all.”
With that, Lan Wangji takes his leave and exits the hall.
People shoot him admiring looks during dinner that evening, but thankfully no one approaches him for advice. On their way back to the jingshi after the meal, Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian overhear a few disciples talking.
“Ah, Hanguang-Jun is such a devoted husband!”
“He truly is. And he was right. We must stop asking him for advice, it’s a crime to keep him away from Senior Wei!”
“Did you see the way Senior Wei looked at him? It’s obvious he knows how much Hanguang-Jun adores him!”
“And how much Senior Wei adores him too,” another disciple says with a sentimental sigh.
Wei Wuxian rushes them along to the jingshi, barely holding back his laughter.
“You know, they’re not wrong,” Wei Wuxian says once they’re safely inside, slipping off their shoes. “Lan Zhan truly is the most devoted husband. I’m lucky to have him.”
Lan Wangji helps Wei Wuxian out of his outer robe and carefully hangs it up. He can feel the warmth of Wei Wuxian’s gaze on his back as he finishes.
“It was fun while it lasted, but I’m happy to have Hanguang-Jun all to myself again.” Lan Wangji turns to face Wei Wuxian, who wraps his arms around him and pulls him into a searing kiss. “You really are the best, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Wangji smiles softly and gazes at Wei Wuxian, letting the depth of his love shine through his eyes. He doesn’t speak. He’s all out of words today, but that’s fine. The tender look on Wei Wuxian’s face makes it obvious that he can hear Lan Wangji just fine.
Word spreads about Lan Wangji’s speech at the conference. The tale is of course heavily embellished for dramatic effect because people love a good story. Lan Wangji’s simple words become florid poetry and Wei Wuxian either wept because he was overcome with emotion, declared his love back to Lan Wangji in equally romantic language, or outright swooned (and sometimes all three).
Lan Wangji doesn’t let it concern him. There are worse fates than the cultivation world knowing how much he loves his husband.
Still, every once in awhile, Lan Wangji receives a letter from a lovesick junior disciple.
He answers every single one.