The pitter-patter of the rain created a shield around him. The sky was overhung with a blanket of grey, so much so that one could barely tell the difference between the sky and clouds. A gentle breeze brushed past his face, bringing rhythm to his hair, as he shivered at the untimely gust. Hurriedly, he tapped a box above the stack of yellow papers he had been working on. He sneezed once while he draped the white robe tighter around his body, wrapped his hands around the delicate handwarmer he had been using to keep the papers in place on the table, and went back to doing what he had been doing before he was interrupted by the wind.
A black shadow, enveloped in white, was seen sitting alone in one of the splendid pavilions just a few steps away from Jingshi. Despite its roomy structure, it still did not stop the wind from blowing through the pavilion and catching the man sitting within. Yet, the man didn’t seem at all fazed by the cold. He continued with what he had been doing since he found himself here in the afternoon, and by the time both Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi came over in the evening, curious about what he had been doing, he was already almost done with everything he needed to do.
“Wei-qianbei, why don’t you do it in Jingshi?” Lan Sizhui asked; just from the stacks of yellow-papers-turn-talismans on the table, he could tell as much that Wei Wuxian might be working on more talismans, like he always did when he was free.
Lan Jingyi, however, wasn’t as patient as Lan Sizhui, “What are you doing anyway? We already have more than enough talismans, enough to last us for another month! You don’t have to draw more for us.”
“Who said I’m drawing for you?” Wei Wuxian debated. “You think Laozu, me, have so much free time to be your buckshee talismans supplier? Speaking of which, it’s about time you learn how to draw your own talismans. I’ll let Hanguang-Jun know. Add that into your classes.”
It was too late for Lan Jingyi to regret everything he said. Like Wei Wuxian had always brought up, the young disciples in Lan Clan can be adept when it comes to memorising transcripts but when it comes to field practices…
Wei Wuxian sighed and shook his head. Lan Sizhui took that as a hint of exhaustion.
“Wei-qianbei, do you need us to help you?” he offered.
“It’s fine, I’m done soon,” Wei Wuxian said before he answered Lan Jingyi’s question belatedly. “These are Guyu Talismans.”
“Guyu Talismans?” the two disciples tilted their head, confused.
Wei Wuxian raised an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me both of you don’t know what’s Guyu?”
Lan Jingyi looked at Lan Sizhui, who could only return him with an uneasy smile; those gestures communicated their answers loud and clear at Wei Wuxian.
He leaned back and grinned amusingly at the young disciples. “Come, tell me what you know,” he said.
Lan Sizhui knew Wei Wuxian had seen them through so, prudently, he started with the bitty knowledge he had about Guyu.
“Guyu is the last solar term of spring, falling on the 6th solar term. On this day, the rain will fall heavier than usual to nourish the paddy fields, encouraging ecological growth.”
From his tone, Wei Wuxian knew right away that he was simply ransacking his knowledge from one of the transcripts he might have come across when he was studying in the Library Pavilion, which, technically, wasn’t wrong. One good thing about Lan clan’s disciples was that they’re good at remembering and memorising things thanks to their rigid upbringing especially in the area of education, which most of it consisted of squeezing as many transcripts as they could into their heads alongside unending paper tests. But being able to remember what they learned did not mean being able to understand them—which Lan Sizhui had shown transparently. Lan Jingyi, however, did not seem to think of Guyu as anything special. He listened to what Lan Sizhui described, thought to himself, and nodded a few times. He definitely had never heard of this before.
Wei Wuxian laughed, “Full marks for theoretical description but you would’ve failed on practise. Obviously you can't relate since you don’t have a paddy field here, let alone knowing how one works.”
“Wei-qianbei, have you worked in a paddy field before?” Lan Sizhui asked.
“Him, working in a paddy field?” Lan Jingyi interrupted before Wei Wuxian got the chance to answer.
“Wow, what’s with that tone? How rude. I’m still your senior, you know? Mind your manners. But for once, you’re right,” Wei Wuxian winked at Lan Jingyi but that didn't bolster Lan Jingyi’s vanity at all. For some reason, he kept feeling that this senior of his was teasing him in ways that he had yet to realise.
“Wei-qianbei, does that mean… you haven’t?” Lan Sizhui asked carefully. But Wei Wuxian could tell what he implied in his tone: How can you say that you know how a paddy field works if you, like the rest of us, haven’t worked in one before?
“Doesn’t mean I’ve never tried. But Burial Mound’s soil was hopeless. I can’t even get a potato to grow there,” Wei Wuxian pouted.
“Potato is quite hard to grow, Wei-qianbei,” Lan Sizhui smiled bitterly. His memories from his childhood weren’t complete but he vaguely recalled the many times when Wei Wuxian attempted to plant potatoes—he’d sit by the plot for hours, staring, wandering around, until when Wen Qing came storming at him, telling him that it was useless that he shrugged and went, like what he did now, “at least I tried”. In his impression, Wei-qianbei, Yiling Patriarch wasn’t one to give up until he tried and failed a few times. His Wei-qianbei would always figure out ways, try them, improve the solutions, until brutal facts told him that, yup, it’s indeed useless.
“Regardless if it’s potatoes or radishes or just any kind of crops,” Wei Wuxian continued, gathering the completed talismans into a box. “They’re not easy to harvest. But both of you are so sheltered that you don’t even need to plant your own food, let alone having to depend on them to survive. Count yourself lucky!”
“That’s why there’s this Guyu, isn’t it?” Lan Jingyi asked.
“Guyu is a blessing to the farmers,” Wei Wuxian nodded.
“Then what are these talismans for?” Lan Jingyi continued his question.
“These talismans are to help the common people chase insects and snakes away from their paddy fields. Rain is good, but it also attracts insects into the fields and some will even sneak into houses. It’s dangerous to both the farmlands and the people staying around them,” Wei Wuxian explained.
“But talismans?” Lan Jingyi refuted, upfront. “What’s the use of putting up talismans around the place? Isn’t it more effective to chase the insects and rats and snakes away with brooms or something?” If they can’t use swords or spiritual energy.
Wei Wuxian sighed out loud and shook his head.
“There’s only so much one can do. The talismans might not be able to help physically but they can give the locals a peace of mind. It’s the same logic as to how people tend to pray to deities for their wishes to come true. Even so, it’s still a form of support. My child, you are really too sheltered.”
“Indeed he is,” a new voice resonated, urging all three of them to turn around, just to find a Lan elder standing in the pavilion.
“Elder,” Lan Sizhui and Wei Wuxian greeted, while Lan Jingyi murmured “Father”.
“Young Master Wei, how about you bring him out with you this time? Assuming you’re heading out,” Lan Jingyi’s father suggested.
Wei Wuxian smiled, “That’s a great idea.” He winked at the two young disciples. “See, Elder Lan has opened his mouth, too bad you’re stuck with me now. Oh, and Lan Zhan too. Don’t worry, with Hanguang-Jun around, I won’t be able to do anything, hm, unkind to you.”
Lan Jingyi seemed like he was about to say something and would totally do if his father wasn’t around. He gave his father a cautious look before he said, “Okay. Please take care of me, Wei-qianbei.”
Wei Wuxian almost strained his stomach upon seeing the sight. Only in front of his father that Lan Jingyi appeared to be so obedient as though someone had snatched his body.
The Lan elder turned to Wei Wuxian then, “We have excessive raw materials that we can share with the locals too. Go ahead to the woodshed and take what you need. Then report what you took to the bookkeeping manor before the end of the day.”
Wei Wuxian wrapped his hands into fists and bowed a tad, “Wei Ying understands.”
Once the elder left the pavilion, Lan Jingyi rubbed his chest, sighing in relief. Wei Wuxian was surprised by the elder’s sudden appearance but he had been staying in the Cloud Recesses for a long time now and he hadn’t done anything inappropriate either so aside from being surprised, he wasn’t intimidated. Just like what people often said, “if you’re free of guilt you wouldn’t be afraid even if a ghost is to knock on your door in the middle of the night”; though Wei Wuxian wouldn’t be afraid either way, guilty or not.
He spun around and grinned brightly at the two young disciples. “You heard what Elder Lan said. We’ll depart tomorrow. Go and get ready. Read up on Guyu or something, in case your Hanguang-Jun asks you questions tomorrow and you can’t answer. In the meantime, I’ll let your Hanguang-Jun know about you coming along with us.”
Wei Wuxian only managed to talk to Lan Wangji at night, after dinner, who had shoved him into a barrel of warm water the moment he noticed how cold his body was. The water temperature was so comfortable, sipping into his flesh, warming him from the inside out. Lan Wangji’s slender fingers were so soothing on his body, rubbing delicately on his flushed skin, combing and rinsing his hair for him. None of them spoke anything as Wei Wuxian revelled in the mood—so relaxed that he almost forgot to tell Lan Wangji about bringing Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi out the next day. He was almost dozing off when a small-something nudged him in the corner of his brain, reminding him about his obligation.
“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, I need to tell you something important,” he speedily sat up, straightening his back.
Lan Wangji was scrubbing zaojia on his bare back when he did that. With that abrupt action, the cloth slipped from his hand, dropping into the water. But Lan Wangji picked it up with a deadpan expression on his face, his voice equally impassive when he asked,
“That you shouldn’t be working outside when it’s raining?”
Wei Wuxian was rendered speechless. Knowing that he’d accidentally made his Er-gege worry, he swiftly whirled around and cupped Lan Wangji’s face, kissing a few times on his cheek, then an exceptionally loud one on his lips.
“Er-gege, it’s my fault, I admit. Don’t show me that face, okay? Don’t be angry. I thought it'd feel cooler to work outside since it was raining but it was colder than I expected it to be. But it’s nothing, I didn't catch a cold. See! I can still jump on you and I can definitely do it three times with you tonight!”
Lan Wangji stayed silent. He took Wei Wuxian’s hand from his face and put it back into the comfort of the warm water.
“Next time, bring thicker robes along with you,” was all Lan Wangji said before he went back to washing Wei Wuxian’s hair for him. Wei Wuxian grabbed his hand over and nuzzled his cheek against his palm.
“Serious, Lan Zhan. I have something important to ask of you.”
His eyes were so genuinely serious that Lan Wangji stopped everything he was doing and returned Wei Wuxian’s gaze, equally serious, expression calm.
“When we go out tomorrow, can we bring along Sizhui and Jingyi?” Wei Wuxian started.
Lan Wangji raised an eyebrow. Seeing that, Wei Wuxian said,
“I bumped into them when I was working on the Guyu Talismans earlier. They had totally no idea what Guyu means to the locals. Elder Lan thought it’s a good idea for them to get some exposure this time too.”
“Elder Lan?” Lan Wangji, however, picked out a different focus.
“En,” Wei Wuxian nodded. “I also ran into Elder Lan, Jingyi’s father.”
“He also told me we have extra raw materials that we can share with the locals,” Wei Wuxian continued, fingers playing with the water, creating ripples on the surface.
“En, I have gotten those ready,” Lan Wangji said.
“Oh? ...Haha! As expected from Hanguang-Jun, always so punctilious!”
“We can bring them along,” Lan Wangji said again, returning to washing Wei Wuxian’s body for him.
“I knew Hanguang-Jun would agree too,” Wei Wuxian winked at him, coupled with a rascally smirk.
“Next time, work inside,” Lan Wangji continued.
“Hm?” Wei Wuxian narrowed his gaze at Lan Wangji, watching him suspiciously. He didn’t act this distraught when he mentioned bumping into the young disciples earlier, so that meant…
He burst out laughing, “Hahaha! My good Er-gege, don’t worry. The whole Cloud Recesses knows how much you pamper your cultivation partner. Catching me outside alone, shivering in the cold, won’t make it look like you’re mistreating me.”
This time, a layer of frost was added onto Lan Wangji’s face, and that was how Wei Wuxian knew that he’d accidentally spilled the wrong thing.
“Okay, my fault. Next time when something like this happens again, I’ll clarify that it’s me who wanted to do it, nothing to do with Hanguang-Jun, so no one will think that you’re mistreating me, okay?” he hastily tried to save the situation.
“It’s not that,” Lan Wangji said with great difficulty.
“I don’t want you to feel discomfited meeting the elders uninformed,” Lan Wangji said.
Wei Wuxian felt a leap in his heart. Lan Wangji was very considerate towards him throughout the entire time since he knew himーbut this was too much! He could totally deal with the elders even if he was to bump into them unknowingly, he was an adult after all! At this rate, he would be the sheltered one. Where can he put his dignity if this goes on?!
He launched himself towards Lan Wangji and yanked him over. Half of Lan Wangji’s body soaked in the water but he was too distracted by the wet kiss Wei Wuxian had been pouring on him the moment his lips met him to pull himself out.
“That’s it. I don’t care if you need to bathe a second, or third time! I want you to join me in the bath now,” Wei Wuxian demanded.
And that was the last he said before Lan Wangji pressed over and gave him a ferocious kiss in response to his wish.
Wei Wuxian’s voice was husky as he lazily slumped on top of Lan Wangji. In the end, Lan Wangji really did bathe for a third time, so did Wei Wuxian, even though the latter did it grudgingly. Wei Wuxian grunted as he searched for a comfortable position to cuddle on Lan Wangji. His gestures and voice were so squishy, like an overly attached kitten, that Lan Wangji can’t help but enfold him into a stronger embrace, literally shrouding him into the warmth of his own body. He heard a soft snore from the man in his embrace, thinking that Wei Wuxian had fallen asleep, when Wei Wuxian fidgeted and, subconsciously, kissed Lan Wangji wantonly on his collarbone. Lan Wangji’s entire body went stiff.
“Jingshi is so quiet…” Wei Wuxian babbled.
“...and so clean.”
Lan Wangji lowered his head a tad, enough to catch Wei Wuxian’s closed eyelids. Perhaps he was sleep-talking. But Wei Wuxian raised his head in the next second, brushing off that assumption.
He probably fell asleep then woke up all over again just to talk to Lan Wangji.
“Second Master Lan barely needs to do anything to chase insects and mosquitoes away, even during summer, don’t you?” he asked with a sweet grin, a question that sounded both like a tease and not.
Lan Wangji opened his mouth and asked in a hushed voice, “Not sleeping?”
Wei Wuxian responded by inching even closer, then taking in a deep breath.
“Nnnn, Hanguang-Jun always smells so nice,” he praised. The sandalwood scent on Lan Wangji that had become his default by now was always pleasant to his nose. It was like a reassuring aroma that could effortlessly put him to sleepーit was also a scent that could make him feel safe. “I know why you don’t need to do much to chase insects and mosquitoes away now.”
Lan Wangji waited.
“Because sandalwood scent can do that too, isn’t it?” Wei Wuxian continued, half-asleep. Lan Wangji didn’t answer. All by himself, Wei Wuxian chuckled.
“But perhaps it’s not because of the sandalwood. Hanguang-Jun is simply too overwhelming that not even insects and mosquitoes would have the courage to come near you.” Lan Wangji felt another soft peck on his neck. “How lucky I am to be able to hold you like this…”
At this rate, Lan Wangji was sure that Wei Wuxian was plainly spouting whatever that came to his mind, half-conscious. And he let him be. Wei Wuxian was chatty by natureーit was something he’d come to know since their first encounter. He was always eager to share just anything and everything with Lan Wangjiーas if he intended to share the entire world with him. That was why, Lan Wangji would always let him talk. Even if it’s way past haishi now, he didn’t have the intention nor the heart to stop him, letting him talk for as much as he could until he fell asleep all by himself.
“Do you know, Lan Zhan?”
“When I was in Yunmeng, insects tended to sneak into my room.”
“Is that so?”
“En…” Wei Wuxian changed a position, snuggling his head against Lan Wangji’s chin. “So I made a lot of herbal sachets and hung them on the window and on top of my bed to chase them away.”
“What did you put inside the sachets?” Lan Wangji asked.
“Nnn… clove bark, mugwort, huoxiang… ah, there’s too many. Next time, I’ll bring you to gather the materials. There’s a lot of them in Yunmeng’s mountains,” Wei Wuxian listed with a yawn.
Lan Wangji definitely didn’t need a herbal sachet since Jingshi wouldn’t attract insects and mosquitoes but despite so, he stroked his fingers through the fine strands of Wei Wuxian’s hair as he said, “Okay.”
Wei Wuxian snickered happily at his response.
“In the Burial Mound too, snakes like to sneak into my blanket. It was normal for me to wake up to see a snake coiling around my ankle, sometimes my wrist.”
Lan Wangji’s hand strengthened around Wei Wuxian’s body. Feeling his agitation, Wei Wuxian quickly continued, “But I always managed to notice them before they can harm me, don’t worry, don’t worry.”
Lan Wangji could only imagine how tough life was for Wei Wuxian back in his Burial Mound days but knowing Wei Wuxian, he definitely would have had his own ways to make life more tolerable despite his circumstances. Still.
Silently, Lan Wangji hugged him stronger, his arms enveloping the entire of Wei Wuxian’s body, before he kissed him on top of his head.
“You don’t have to worry about those now,” he said softly, only for Wei Wuxian to hear.
Wei Wuxian smiled. “En, I know. Because insects are so afraid of Hanguang-Jun they won’t dare to come near, right? So I only need to stay by Hanguang-Jun’s side to have a good night of sleep.”
Lan Wangji smiled thinly, saying nothing. After a while of silence, he pulled the blanket up to cover both of them and with a swift wave of his hand, extinguished the candle on the bedside table.
The underprivileged villages in Gusu were isolated close to the bordersーsmall and humble with just a handful of population. Locals in these villages usually had to live with what they had, most of the time inadequate. And these were the villages Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian planned to drop by todayーon the exact day of Guyu when rain was the most. The rain had started falling steadily even before Wei Wuxian woke up. The good news was, it didn’t stop nor did it become heavier, merely falling in a harmonized mass that wasn’t too hectic to the extent of hindering travelling.
When Wei Wuxian took Suibian with him, Lan Wangji gave him a look. Reading the question in his eyes, Wei Wuxian said,
“Don’t look at me like that. This kind of rain can’t stop me from travelling on a sword.”
Lan Wangji said nothing in response to that. He double-checked all the materials they were bringing with them then handed a pouch over to Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian took it and sniffed at it for a bit.
“Handwarmer,” was all Lan Wangji said before Wei Wuxian chuckled and kept the pouch into his Qiankun sleeve. Just a few days ago, when the weather turned colder, Lan Wangji had commissioned a copper handwarmer that fit right in Wei Wuxian's hands in any case he needed warmth when he wasn't around. As much as Wei Wuxian had his own golden core now, the core was still young and he still needed more strengthening to be able to warm himself up for a long period of time.
Lan Jingyi and Lan Sizhui were already waiting at the front door when both Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian arrived. The plan was to leave at wushi. They had a total of eight villages to drop by so they only had limited time to spare for each village before they could come back before curfew. Once the young disciples gave their seniors their greeting, all of them got ready to mount on their sword when Lan Jingyi voiced out,
“Wei-qianbei, you’re travelling on your own sword?”
Wei Wuxian looked offended by the question, “What do you mean am I travelling on my sword? Of course I am! If not my own sword, then Hanguang-Jun’s sword?”
Lan Jingyi, “...”
“Wei-qianbei, Jingyi is only worried of you,” Lan Sizhui, as usual, attempted to save Lan Jingyi’s back.
“He is capable,” Lan Wangji voiced out before Lan Jingyi could, effectively forcing whatever retorts the young disciple had down his throat.
Wei Wuxian raised a glimmering grin at Lan Wangji’s direction.
“You see, even your Hanguang-Jun said so! If you can’t trust me, you can definitely trust Hanguang-Jun, right?”
It had been half a year since Wei Wuxian cultivated his own core and it had been a month since Jiang Cheng returned Suibian to him. Truth be told, he didn't intend to use Suibian at all until he could properly live up to its strength. Throughout the month, he’d been catching up with his swords skill, often grabbing Lan Wangji over to practise with him, and over time, he’d gotten better. But it was not enough. Wei Wuxian can tell it himselfーhis sword skill now was still way, way weaker than how he used to be in the past. But one good thing was that he’d managed to perfect travelling by sword now so at least there’s that. And Lan Wangji was the best testifier for himーfor he was the one who’d witnessed how he succeeded throughout the entire time.
He wouldn’t use Suibian for combat yet, but at the very least, he was good enough to use it for travelling. It was kind of surreal to have his sword back with him now, even being able to use it. It felt both nostalgic and familiar to him. But above everything else, Wei Wuxian was just thankful that Suibian was returned to him. Of course, it was not like he didn’t want to travel on the sword with Hanguang-Jun, but he still knew of decency especially when they’re in front of disciples. There was no need to worry about not having the chance for Lan Wangji to carry him in his arms when he’ was travelling after all—he’d gotten enough share when he didn’t have his sword, and will have more chances when they were out by themselves. For now, business first.
In just half an hour, they arrived at the first village. Their task was uncomplicatedーall they needed to do was to give out the Guyu Talismans both Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian had prepared, one for each house. So, without wasting time, they arranged the talismans into two setsーone for Lan Jingyi and Lan Sizhui, and another set for Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian. This task shouldn’t be too challenging for Lan Jingyi and Lan Sizhui either. They were good at interacting with people, especially Lan Sizhui, who was always so respectful and courteous, coupled with his friendly face, surely it shouldn't be hard for them to get their job done in no time. Aside from that, despite the distinction between the common people and cultivators, the locals still knew about the renowned cultivation family, Gusu-Lan Clan, for their good deeds and hence, making it easier for them to finish their job.
But this wasn’t the whole purpose to why Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji wanted to bring the young ones out.
“Look, that plot in the paddy field,” Wei Wuxian pointed out when they passed by one of the bigger fields. Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi followed his gaze, finding where he was pointing at. “Do you notice what’s the difference between it and the others?”
Lan Sizhui, “It’s flooded.”
“The paddies are dying,” Lan Jingyi quickly added.
“Look closer,” Wei Wuxian urged. And both the young disciples followed.
After a while, both of them gasped. Seeing that, Wei Wuxian chortled.
“Populous soil,” Lan Wangji said by his side.
“What your Hanguang-Jun said,” Wei Wuxian nodded in agreement.
It was barely noticeable but if looked closely, one could notice that there were tiny insects floating on the surface of the flooded plot.
“Looking at the field’s size, the locals probably don’t have enough manpower and tools to loosen the soil before the Guyu rain arrives,” Wei Wuxian elaborated, glancing around.
“Then why plant more than they can manage?” Lan Jingyi asked.
Wei Wuxian didn’t answer right away. He diverted his attention to Lan Sizhui instead.
“What do you think, Sizhui?” he asked.
“Er…” Lan Sizhui pondered. A minute passed and he wasn’t able to come out with an answer. Out of desperation, he sneaked a dire look at Lan Wangji, who was wearing his usual unexpressive face. Wei Wuxian caught that, of course.
“Hahaha! Hanguang-Jun, your Sizhui’er is seeking help from you, can’t you see? Do you want to save him from his misery, hm?”
Lan Sizhui coughed lightly and looked away. Wei Wuxian was still laughing, not at all trying to stifle his amusement when Lan Wangji finally spoke,
“A backup measure.”
Lan Jingyi and Lan Sizhui, “?”
Wei Wuxian sighed out loud, “That’s why I said both of you are really too sheltered. You don’t have to worry about not having enough food to eat because everything is prepared for you or you can buy them yourself with your allowance. But these common people are not as lucky as us.”
He squatted and used a wilted straw to swipe the bugs out of the way, checking the damp soil.
“No one can guarantee all the plots in this paddy field can grow decently. Out of a hundred of them, maybe only seventy of them could produce rice. So the locals rather do more than less, just to increase the possibility of success. Am I right, Hanguang-Jun?”
“But… that’d be a waste,” Lan Sizhui voiced out his opinion.
“Indeed,” Wei Wuxian agreed, throwing the straw stick into the inundated plot. “Even so, there was nothing they can do about it. That’s why if even the crops that are growing healthily get destroyed by insects, snakes, and bugs, then they would be left with nothing. The rain can help them grow but it will contribute to more problems than before too—it’s a double-edged sword. And when you don’t have enough resources and assurance, you need to do anything just to survive.”
Lan Wangji gave Wei Wuxian a look at the end of his words. But Wei Wuxian was still smiling as he gestured the rest towards the first house they saw, closest to the paddy field.
The house was resided by a family of four. When they knocked on the door, the wife was the one who greeted them with shock written all over her face, astounded by the fact that people from the cultivation family would visit them in this pitiful village all by themselves. Wei Wuxian’s beam was very welcoming as he dutifully stated their purpose. But the woman was so dumbfounded that she couldn’t make out what he was telling her until when her husband came over to check out what was taking so long that she came back to herself.
“Y-You are saying that…” she stared startlingly at the stack of Guyu Talismans Lan Sizhui was handing over to her. “You’re… giving these to us?”
Wei Wuxian grinned. He spoke in a polite manner, “Yes. Hanguang-Jun and I prepared this in place of Gusu-Lan Clan to help you out with the Guyu season. By putting these around your paddy fields, bugs and snakes won’t be able to come close.”
“Furen, you don’t have to be too courteous with us. We only wish for our effort to be of help,” Lan Sizhui assisted.
“B-But, young masters, we already have the talismans,” the man said, sounding equally astonished by the unexpected support. He showed them a stack of talismans on a table inside the house. They were old and even torn in some corners. The runes on them scribbled messily, as if they were attempting for a hit or miss.
Something in their reaction clenched Wei Wuxian in his heart.
“These are different,” he said. “I drew them and they have Hanguang-Jun’s spiritual flow in the arrays. They are definitely way more effective than the ones you’re using now.”
The couple looked at each other, asking questions through their expression. Wei Wuxian didn’t need them to voice out loud to understand what they’re suspicious about. They didn’t know who Wei Wuxian was and why the talismans he drew would work better just because he was the one who drew them. He hadn’t pointed it out loud because he didn’t want to make things worse. But maybe coming out clean would be better. People are more afraid of what they didn’t know rather than what they knew after all.
“I’mー” he started, but was soon interrupted.
“He’s Yiling Patriarch.”
It was Lan Wangji. The couple gasped, so did Wei Wuxian.
“Yes! Yiling Patriarch’s talismans are always very effective! Even we use his talismans all the time when we’re night-hunting. They never fail us!” Lan Jingyi chipped in, much to Wei Wuxian’s bemusement.
“Indeed. Wei-qianbei, maybe you can explain moreo so they can have a better idea?” Lan Sizhui asked Wei Wuxian with a smile.
Wei Wuxian definitely didn’t expect things to turn out this way. But he understood why the Lans were doing it. He was the one who said it himselfーif he can’t be trusted, then at least people can trust the Lans, what’s more when it was Lan Wangji who was the one to say it. He regathered his composure. Can’t let the Lans down!
“The talismans will draw in field spirits to stand guard for you throughout the day. Don’t worry, they won’t harm you. These spirits are low-levelled and innocuous but they’re enough to drive insects and snakes and rats away for you. So please be rest assured that nothing will happen as long as they’re contained by my arrays.”
“En,” Lan Wangji agreed. Yet that one word was more than enough to have Wei Wuxian’s heart skipping a beat.
Of course they wouldn’t suspect Wei Wuxian’s skills. The common people might not have a clear idea about Yiling Patriarch’s deeds aside from the dreadful ones but at the end of the day, those were only rumours. Having seen the real person themselves, who came along with a pristine person like Hanguang-Jun alongside two very trustworthy Lan Clan disciples was enough of a proof to prove Wei Wuxian for his prestige and capability. Besides, no one knew a second person who was as cogent as Hanguang-Jun so certainly, whatever Wei Wuxian said wasn’t a lie, definitely wasn’t one that would endanger them either. Because then it’d affect not only Lan Wangji but the entire Lan clan’s reputation if it turned out otherwise.
Finally coming back to themselves, the couple thanked them over and over again as they accepted the talismans, telling them that they would be giving them some of their share of harvest after the season.
Just to be rejected by Wei Wuxian.
“You’re already having difficulties meeting ends, you don't have to give us any. In fact,” Wei Wuxian paused. He looked at Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi, who nodded and went off, coming back soon after with a basket of raw materials in their hands. The couple’s eyes brightened, flabbergasted. “Here's some raw materials we would like to give you on top of the talismans. It's nothing much but we would be very appreciative if you can accept them too.”
It sounded too good to be trueーbut the truth was, it was true.
They left the house after stopping the couple from kneeling and praying to them. Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi stayed quiet all along, perplexed by the scene they’d experienced. They didn’t do much, so they never thought they deserved to be commended in such a dramatic way; the couple looked like they were ready to worship them as if they were deities.
Wei Wuxian caught that and laughed.
“Children, ah, children, you seriously need to come out more often. Perhaps we should have a night-hunt where we get the children in our clan to stay out as common people for a month. Hmm, we can get a village, let each house adopt one of our disciples and they’re forbidden to use cultivation skills throughout the entire time when they stay with them. What do you think, Hanguang-Jun?” Wei Wuxian fleetly hurled the question over at Lan Wangji.
“I will consider,” Lan Wangji said. Wei Wuxian laughed out loud at the horror-struck expressions on the young disciples’ faces.
By qiushi, they were already done with the last house they needed to drop by for the day. Most of the villagers frantically wanted to return their thoughtful gesture with something of their own but they humbly declined them, knowing well that they didn’t have the luxury to be giving out gifts when they were depending on them to survive themselves. Besides, Gusu-Lan Clan wasn’t a clan that was used to receiving gifts. Usually, even by courtesy, they’d only take what was necessary, and usually, only what that they could use. So by right, it was not their principle to be accepting gifts that would only take up space in their quarters.
At the end of the day, the only thing they ever accepted was a basket of Guyu tea leaves. The Guyu tea leaves, also known as Erchun tea leaves, were plucked only on Guyu, and was exceptionally great at getting rid of excessive heat in a person’s body. Lan Wangji had decided to accept the gift out of two considerations: one being how there might be a risk of Wei Wuxian catching a cold if it so happened that he had dormant heat in him that had yet to blow up from the cold weather he was subjected to the previous day, and another being the fact that the young disciples had yet to try out this kind of tea leaves, so it would definitely serve as good exposure for them.
After making sure that they had done everything they needed to do, they found themselves in a hinterland area, sitting in a parochial abandoned pavilion. The tea, nicely brewed, was set on the table in the pavilion as they sat and admired the view in front of them.
During Guyu season, it was rumoured that a broad field of peonies would blossom before and after the rain. And at this exact moment, they were witnessing the authenticity of the rumours for themselves, with their own eyes. A spread of bright-yellow peonies bloomed magnificently in front of them. The rain had stopped, leaving behind fresh clear air and water droplets hanging on petals. At first glance, the widespread of the yellow field looked like a paddy field but if one was to watch closely, they would notice that these were not straws, but peonies. Freshly flourished peonies.
The aroma of the tea was refreshing on his tongue, the scent of the peonies pleasant to his nose. A good flower field scene with a pot of exquisitely brewed tea, accompanied by the best people in the world. What else could he ask for?
Wei Wuxian finished one cup of his own tea before he prodded on Lan Jingyi.
“So do you understand why Guyu is important for the locals now, and why they need those talismans?”
“Yes! And don’t poke me!” Lan Jingyi refuted.
“Hahaha!” Wei Wuxian laughed. Lan Wangji discreetly refilled his tea for him, the shade in his eyes soft and ravishing. That was the first thing Wei Wuxian saw when he turned around, immediately blinded by the beauty in front of him.
Behind Lan Wangji was the majestic spread of peony field, the gleam of the flowers forming a backlight on Hanguang-Jun’s body that made it look as though a wispy light was pulsating off him. He looked so stunning that Wei Wuxian’s throat bobbed and down as he hastily snatched his cup and downed the tea in one gulp. As much as his urge to kiss Lan Wangji was overwhelming him now, he couldn’t lose his decency in front of the children.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he spoke again, a barefaced attempt to distract himself, all the while cursing how dare Lan Zhan be so beautiful to himself.
“Remember what I taught you in Yi City?”
“Which one?” Lan Jingyi blurted.
“I’m asking you a question and now you’re asking me back? No manners,” Wei Wuxian reprimanded.
“The… door sill?” Lan Sizhui guessed.
“Congratulations, correct at first guess!” Wei Wuxian exposed him, unashamed.
“What did you teach them?” Lan Wangji asked after not speaking for a while.
“Ah, right, you weren’t there. Remember in Yi City, we went ahead and hid in a coffin manor while you were fighting with Xue Yang? There was a very tall door sill in the coffin manor and the children didn’t understand why the sill needs to be that tall. So I acted as a walking corpse to demonstrate why it's so important for the locals to do that,” Wei Wuxian explained.
“En,” Lan Wangji said, drinking his tea after. Just one look at him told Wei Wuxian that he’d gotten his point, so he returned to the two disciples.
“What you saw today has the same logic. A lot of things common people do might look childish or naive but the point isーthey work, and that’s the only thing that matters. As much as cultivators like us have our own ways to deal with things, they have their own ways too, and all of us do this for only one purposeーthat is to survive and make life easier. So we shouldn’t laugh at their methods even if they seem foolish in our eyes. Like I said before, common people have their own intelligence that not even us cultivators can achieve too.”
“Understand, Wei-qianbei,” Lan Jingyi and Lan Sizhui said in synchronisation.
Wei Wuxian drank another cup of tea and continued, “But I’m seriously considering letting Lan clan’s disciples spend a month out of their comfort zone and live life without using their cultivation advantage.” He nudged Lan Wangji’s arm with his elbow, smirking. “What do you think, Hanguang-Jun? If you say yes, I will write a transcript when we get back later and propose the idea to ZeWu-Jun.”
Both the disciples stared frighteningly at Lan Wangji, waiting for his answer. But Lan Wangji simply drank his tea in full composure, looking like he didn’t intend to answer Wei Wuxian at all.
Wei Wuxian pouted. “Hanguang-Jun, don’t do this to me. At least give me an ‘en’?”
Lan Wangji put his cup down. “En.”
Wei Wuxian chuckled, “So that’s an okay or a not okay?”
At long last, Lan Wangji lifted his gaze, his orbs crashing right into Wei Wuxian’s own orbs.
“If you think it’s okay, then it’s okay,” was what he said after, which wasn’t helping to soothe the tension both Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi had been feeling.
Wei Wuxian erupted a pelt of laughter. The wind blew, carrying the peony’s petals with it, creating a sight as though it was raining flowers. Mesmerised, Wei Wuxian left his seat and stood outside the pavilion. With a smooth action, he caught one of the floating peonies and smiled delightfully at it, like a small boy who found something he liked. When he returned, he carefully tugged the peony on Lan Wangji’s ear.
If the scene earlier was how the yellow field brought out the beauty of his very beautiful Lan Zhan, then the scene before him now was how his Lan Zhan brought out the beauty of the flower beside his head.
“I knew it,” Wei Wuxian grinned satisfyingly. “A peony looks nice on you after all!”
He’d always wanted to put a flower on Lan Wangji’s head, be it when he drew that portrait of him when he was fifteen, or when he threw a peony right at his head when he was twenty. As luck would have it, he was able to do it all by himself now, no longer needing to imagine it for himself, nor did he need to carry out all sorts of small gestures just to admire how stunning his white moonlight was.
They didn’t need to do it now, but one day, when they retired to their modest cottage, away from the rest of the world, perhaps then they’d be able to make good use of the skills they learned from the common people—be it ways to loosen the soil, be it how to choose the right crops to plant, be it making talismans for Guyu, or even, making herbal sachets that they might actually need to use when they weren’t sleeping in Jingshi, just to stop snakes and rats and mosquitoes and insects from sneaking into their room when they slept.
Regardless of what they learned from the cultivation world or the world of the common people, those were an intelligence of their own after all.