"You're an idiot." He whispered from behind him, callused hands skillfully carding through his hair with gentleness despite the hiss that left the teen's lips.
"Maybe so." Wen Xu chuckled in amusement, intrigued with the way the other seemed to be a walking contradiction.
If someone had told him that he'd find himself being taken care of the Jiang Heir due to being an utter buffoon to get his attention and all of this happening in Gusu for that matter–
Well, Wen Xu would have ordered that person to be beheaded for such ridiculousness.
And yet here he was now.
He leaned back and let the sound of nature wash over him, smiling at the telltale grumbles before recalling how it all started.
Believe it or not, Wen Xu had met all of the other Sect Heirs. He didn't like the haughty "trying to be polite but failing, badly" Jin Zixuan, outright felt in danger in the presence of a scowling Nie Mingjue and felt an indescribable urge to punch the always smiling Lan Xichen just to see if he'd drop his mask.
Really, it was easy to place Jiang Wanyin at the top of his 'least likely to cause a diplomatic incident with, out of pettiness and/or violence' list.
It certainly helped that the other held no fear to fight back whatsoever when pushing his buttons just right, status be damned, the other wore his heart on his sleeve.
A ten year old him had found a five year old Jiang Cheng delightful as they yelled and shoved each other when no one was looking, their pride making them take the blows in equal measure.
Back then, he felt like he'd finally found someone who didn't fear his status of being a Wen and the Wen Sect Heir.
Wen Xu definitely recalled how his father even choked on his tea when he went to his guest chambers later that day to tell him that he wanted to take the Jiang Heir back to Nightless City.
"Son," Wen Ruohan had stressed, pride and exasperation leaking from his frame so Wen Xu knew he wasn't in any actual trouble, he'd always been a good filial child, "While I had said that if you want something, you take it. I'm afraid that's a bit more complicated with people."
So his request to take his playmate for that day back home had been denied and while he sulked for at least a week, he thought nothing of it.
Especially, when he was heading to Gusu to check up on his brother since he seemed to be taking his sweet time.
He was not thinking of the possibility of meeting the Jiang Sect Heir that he had definitely not been thinking about on and off for years now, those were all fleeting thoughts, it was normal to think about the other Sect Heirs, even if he thought about Wanyin just a little bit more.
Wen Xu frowned as he headed up the stairs, his entourage whispering how their Young Master shouldn't have to climb the stairs and sophisticated Lans while he contemplated his thoughts.
So, he may have actually been thinking about that young boy – who was most likely a teen now – that was attending the lectures in the very place he was visiting.
He may have an inkling on why but he'd rather not think about it, the Jiang Cheng he knew had most likely grown up with the stories of how Wens were, Jiang Wanyin would be scared of him now.
Wen Xu doesn't dwell on the fact that thought made his stomach feel heavy.
Ever since his father had started taking in outsiders, everyone's views on their Sect had worsened.
It was bad enough that people thought the Wen family themselves were ruthless when they only ever knew how to show affection in the roughest of ways in public, only letting the tender moments be seen in the dark for only them to know about.
The outsiders that had wanted to be a Wen had only looked on the outside and replicated them in the worst of ways, thirsting for power they did not hold and Wen Ruohan did nothing for Wen Xu knew the man had always been grieving over something only Wens – and maybe even Lans, to some extent maybe – could understand.
Something Wen Xu might come to understand if he ever came across the Jiang as he walked into the Cloud Recesses.
"Young Master Wen." The Lan disciple guarding the gates bowed, to which he bowed back, unbothered with the way the other twitched in displeasure as if Wen Xu should have smiled when clearly, the disciple wasn't going to greet him cheerfully either.
"Do you have an invitation?" The other Lan disciple asked, his tone almost condescending but his face still polite and Wen Xu wondered when the Lans were going to throw away their falsehoods and just scowl at them openly, it'd do them so much better not to repress their negative thoughts unless it spilled over the wrong person.
"I do." Wen Xu smirked, pulling out the jade token and a scroll indicating that Lan Qiren himself had given him permission to enter, albeit most likely begrudgingly.
There was nothing the disciples could do but let them in and Wen Xu moved forth with a flick of his sleeves, he never said Wens aren't petty as well, if they were going to act like this then why shouldn't he?
One of the Lans must have sent a missive since Lan Qiren and Lan Xichen were waiting for them at the top of the steps, the elder man frowned at him neutrally while the other had a mild smile.
"Thank you for letting this humble disciple into your sacred Cloud Recesses, Sect Leader Lan." Wen Xu bowed, this time much more politely, he had some respect for the man after all, even if his nephew still made him want to punch his jade like face.
Lan Qiren hummed in acknowledgement before huffing disappointedly, "Thank you for actually asking for permission unlike your younger brother, Young Master Wen."
Wen Xu sighed himself, the two of them closing their eyes in pained resignation, Lan Xichen glancing between them in curiosity as Lan Qiren flicked his sleeves in a general direction.
"He's at the guest quarters specifically catered for Second Young Master Wen. Xichen, lead the rest of the Wen disciples to their own chambers for some rest." Wen Xu nodded before turning back to the group, eyeing two of his cousins specifically who straightened up and gave him a look of determination.
"I shall go see my beloved little brother then, Sect Leader Lan." He bowed and left the two Lans, heading down the path in confident strides, looking around the peaceful scenery.
The sight made him scoff, his entitled little shit of a brother would have hated this place for being 'boring and so quiet' no doubt.
It was because of the tranquil silence that had let three voices be heard, one of them making him pause as it tickled his ears, deeper than it used to be and getting nearer—
Three teens rounded the corner, all wearing the customary guest robes catered to their specific Sect, one having the Nie green accent while the other two custom made for the Jiang's royal purple.
The one in the far right however, was the one Wen Xu focused on, forgetting how to breathe for just a moment as he took in how much the Jiang Heir had grown.
The once chubby cheeked child was now a tall growing boy, baby fat still clung to his cheeks but there were already traces of the handsome man he'd grow up to be.
"–yo, don't be like that, Shidi!"
"Who's your Shidi, huh?!"
Jiang Wanyin had yelled, his scowl much more sharp unlike before but somehow still having that boyish charm as he put the other disciple, most likely that so called Wei Wuxian, into a chokehold.
"Oh my," Wen Xu blurted out before he could stop it, saving himself from embarrassment by smirking when the three jumped when they realized they had an audience, "Still as rough as ever, Young Master Jiang?"
He was ready for the other to ask when had they ever gotten to know each other to the point where he knew how rough the other was, ready to sneer and mock the other for forgetting, to hide the hurt that would inevitably crawl into his chest even if he didn't know why, ready for the fear to flicker into the other's eyes.
Wen Xu wasn't prepared for Jiang Wanyin to scoff and let go of his Shixiong, squinting at him suspiciously but there was no tension in his shoulders.
"Young Master Wen," Jiang Wanyin had growled at him, his silver eyes shining something bright with no fear for him whatsoever, he looked unimpressed actually, "I didn't think you'd still remember that time when you fell into the lotus pond."
He remembered and he wasn't even afraid of him.
Oh, that did things to Wen Xu's heart, something flickering back up, an old flame giving him a slither of warmth, unaware he'd been cold for so long.
Maybe, he was overreacting, a lot of people didn't actually fear him but those people were his seniors, this was different, even Nie Mingjue had looked at him with wary suspicion and hate, suspecting him of being cruel.
Not his spark, not Jiang Wanyin who glared up at him in both embarrassment and defiance that left his two companions gawking and wondering when the hell the two got acquainted.
"How could I forget?" He grinned sharply, stepping forward and felt a thrill of joy when the other somehow tensed in an honest way, it was really a feat, somehow he knew the other was ready in case he attacked but not because he was a Wen, but just because he was technically a suspicious presence in general.
Wen Xu didn't retrace his steps, that would be showing weakness, but he did lean back to make sure he wasn't looming over them, something akin to relief settling into the pit of his stomach when the Jiang Heir seemed to relax.
"I promised you I would duel you for such dishonor, didn't I?" He purred and almost felt like dancing when Wanyin had smirked back at him sharply, clearly excited for a good fight.
"That'll be for later, however." He hummed, chuckling slightly as his eyes caught the way the younger man seemed to slump minutely in disappointment, "I have matters to attend."
With a bow and a flick of his sleeves, he strode past the three teens as his chest burned brightly, amused at the hysterical whispers that reached his ears while he walked away.
"How the hell do you know, Wen Xu?!"
"Jiang-xiong, that was so scary! Why were you trying to pick a fight? I almost felt my soul leave my body!"
"I don't know, okay?! He was… something."
Wen Xu snorted, shaking his head and continuing his journey to most likely scare the shit out of his brother.
"Father, I wish to stay here a little longer, Wen Chao is heading home with the rest of the disciples." Wen Xu carefully wrote down on the scroll, ignoring the way his hands seemed to grip onto the brush tightly.
"Oh? Is there anything I need to know?" His father's strokes slowly appeared as if bored but he knew better.
"Wen Chao immediately requested to go back home because the lectures were uninformative."
"You mean he didn't understand anything because he was too busy trying to sneak over to the other side to leer at the Ladies of Gusu, most likely got embarrassed in class and almost got castrated by a Lan woman." He smiled at the sight of the quick almost exasperated strokes appearing, glad to see his father was in a pleasant mood, that's good.
"I'll make sure to discipline him, I've already given him a wife, he really should take care of her. Though, you know that's not what I meant, Wen Xu."
"I have found my spark, Father. It was him, it was Jiang Wanyin. When I met him again, I burned in the way you told me." Wen Xu finally wrote down, waiting patiently as he swallowed down his nerves.
"I will let you stay for the duration of the lectures, you better start courting him, Son." Came the immediate response, the characters almost sloppy with how fast they were being written, "Take it from me, do not let that Fire of yours be put out before it can even give light."
"I'm not planning to, Father. You'll like him too, bad at politics."
"Oh. I'm being serious here, Wen Xu. Get him with us right now, to have such an honest man will finally let me breath." He even left a little drawing of a pleased sun! Wen Xu couldn't help but chuckle, it was really a wonder how silly his father could be sometimes.
"As long as you start leading your Sect to help me prepare for the appropriate courting gifts, Father."
"Fine," The strokes slowed, definitely reluctant but the broad strokes showed his father meant it, "Anything for you, Son."
"Good, Mother would have kicked your lazy ass."
"I regret ever telling you to stop being polite, you're such a little shit."
"I am your Sun."
"Even using my own jokes against me. Betrayal."
Wen Xu put down his brush, sighing in relief, he wasn't there personally but with the way his father's strokes went from precise and sarcastic to lively and almost frantic, it was refreshing to see the old man feel some excitement in such a long time.
His father had secretly always been a romantic, the very reason he spoiled him and Wen Chao was because he had loved their mother dearly, burning so bright and warm for everyone.
Her death had threatened to put his father out completely, his body and cultivation still strong but his resolve and heart left weak, the Elders of the Sect using that weakness to pull the strings for they knew Wen Ruohan still valued them as family.
It had left Wen Xu tasting bile as he watched his father go along with it like a ghost, hopefully the life in him will come back soon, it might even be in the near future, he knew his father would go over the top to impress the Jiangs and that meant making sure the Sect stopped digging their graves.
He'd be embarrassed but frankly he's just very grateful he has his father's support in this, the feeling of wanting the best for his spark overwhelming his usual priority for simplicity.
Wen Xu didn't even know if he had a chance, so it was better safe than sorry, wasn't it?
As he cut off his father's sassy rant of him being an unfilial child to tell the other that he was going to prepare, he smiled at the last message before rolling the scroll up.
"Make sure to treat your little ember right, Wen Xu. They're what brightens up our day after all."
The next day, Wen Xu didn't even need to look for his ember, his spark had come to him instead, burning and itching for a fight.
How could he refuse when he was a hapless moth to the flickering flame?
"Fight me like you mean it." He told the young man, he wanted to see how Wanyin truly fought.
"Oh? That'd mean I'd throw away my honor." The Jiang Heir fought back but Wen Xu could see that he liked the idea with the way he shifted from different sword forms by just changing his position.
"Where would your honor be if you're dead?" He smirked in amusement, making sure not to look at the rustling bushes, already knowing the other's friends were watching.
His only warning was Jiang Wanyin gritting his teeth before moving forward, it would have been startling for a few who were more experienced in waiting for a signal, if he had been a Lan or a Jin he would have definitely be shocked.
But Wen Xu was neither of those two and was experienced in the art of fighting smart.
Still, he couldn't help but be impressed as he dodged and weaved his sword in the way, keeping the other from actually stabbing his crotch.
"Now that's what I'm talking about!" He chuckled before taking the lunge.
Jiang Wanyin wasn't a prodigy in the art of combat but he was clever, he performed sure and quick strikes that would have otherwise sliced through skin if Wen Xu hadn't worn looser robes.
It felt like battling a tiger – ferocious and clawing for the spots that'll take you down and strangle you – but a young one, one still learning how to hunt their best and had yet to reach it's prime.
Wen Xu took full advantage of that.
It didn't take long for him to get the other to throw away their swords and pinning the teen down with a quick strike on the right pressure points.
"While you were certainly feisty, cub, I'm unfortunately years ahead of you." Wen Xu purred in satisfaction, chuckling when he saw the other struggling for his limbs to move.
"Shut the fuck up, this fight ain't over yet." Jiang Wanyin snarled from below, his hands twitching and even rising a few inches before the digits unanimously fell back to the ground, the action had made Wen Xu's eyebrows twitch up in surprise.
Quickly, before the teen could further harm himself, he alleviated the pressure and slightly backing away when the Jiang rolled onto his back, most likely groaning in pain since he forced his body.
"It was a good fight." Wen Xu amended, holding out a hand in tentative peace, patiently waiting as Jiang Wanyin eyed him in confusion and bruised pride before begrudgingly clasping it with his own.
He treasured the flood of molten lava trickling from his arm to his core, squeezing the hand lightly before letting go, smirking softly at the sight of the grumbling young man.
"How did you even do that?" Jiang Wanyin questioned, he was certainly a bit upset with his loss but looked at him with curiosity, already focusing on tactics and learning more to do better.
Wen Xu hummed, noting the fact that the heir didn't stew in his loss, nor acted like a sore loser, not like his little brother who would be upset for days and take his frustration out on others.
Even if Jiang Wanyin wasn't his spark, he felt like he would have come to admire what the young man could become, his respect only rose, feelings of satisfaction and nervousness mixing in his gut.
Now wasn't the time to contemplate whether or not he'll be a good partner for the other though, he was asked a question and the Jiang Heir had done nothing to warrant any rudeness from him.
"Hm, it's a bit complex. Why don't I teach you another time? I'm going to be here for a while after all."
The twinkle of joy in his spark's eyes was worth the price of having to fix his schedule to be able to have time.
Wen Xu felt like he was about to enter his father's office, only he could feel the sense of foreboding hanging onto his body as he stared down the wooden door.
With a weary sigh, he knocked on the wood and looked down to meet wide golden eyes who looked up at him in surprise.
"Oh, Young Master Wen, this was a bit unexpected." Jiang Yanli recovered and gave her greeting, her smile was soft but he could tell the woman was tense, which was certainly fair since from her standpoint, this was definitely unexpected.
"I merely wish to talk with you, Young Maiden Jiang– It concerns your brother, Jiang Wanyin." Wen Xu internally winced from his words after he rose up from his own greeting, tucking his hands behind his back to hide how tight he gripped onto his fists.
Something cut through the air and a shiver went down his spine at the sight of sharp eyes looking at him with a side of protectiveness.
No wonder Jiang Wanyin was so fond of his sister, she may have been known for her mastery in the kitchen but that didn't mean she didn't know how to wield a knife.
It only fed into Wen Xu's fear in being stabbed in the neck by a hairpin and only went inside after the young lady sweeped her sleeve in the table's direction.
"Young Maiden Jiang," Wen Xu called once he seated himself, he can see the hidden hostility in the woman's gaze, waiting for a reason to strike, definitely the daughter of the Violet Spider.
He licked his lips in nervousness before sighing quietly, "I wish to ask your permission in courting Jiang Wanyin."
Jiang Yanli blinked, the steel going away and he silently panicked, was she baffled that he thought he had a chance?
"I've already sent a letter to your parents but I wished to ask for your opinion as well as Wanyin holds you in high regard–"
"You really shouldn't be asking me, as I'm not the one you're courting, Young Master Wen." The young woman giggled, shaking her head in mirth, "But if it helps, I'll allow you to try and gain my didi's hand."
Relief settled on his frame like a heavy coat, his shoulders slumping as he breathed in a sigh once his muscles relaxed once more.
"However," Wen Xu flinched, head whipping up to see a mischievous smirk on Jiang Yanli's features, her eyes almost deadly, "You should be prepared for the consequences, should you ever hurt my didi, Wen Xu."
He nodded softly, clenching his jaw as he faced her gaze head on, "Of course, I shall let your family punish me as you'll see fit, I wouldn't have it any other way if it ever happens, physically or emotionally."
Jiang Yanli hummed in what he hoped was approval, he meant every word after all, Wen Xu knew that he could not hope to live a life without ever hurting someone for that just wasn't realistic, mistakes happen.
"Good, why don't you stay for some tea, Young Master Wen? I wish to hear about how you'll woo my precious didi." He flushed and looked away from the giggling maiden in embarrassment, rubbing the back of his head.
"You may call me, Wen Xu, Young Maiden Jiang, and um, if I'm not a bother." Jiang Yanli grinned happily, heading to the kitchen to get the kettle.
"Not a bother at all, Wen Xu! I need to know your gameplan if you're serious with this." She paused, looking back with an eerie tint to her grin, "Which you are, correct?"
"Yes, M-madam Jiang!"
"Oh, none of that, you may call me Jiang Yanli. No future brother-in-law of mine should call me Madam."
Wen Xu hummed softly, finally being able to breath once that stare no longer focused on him.
'Think of this as practice, Madam Yu will definitely be worse, take what you can get from this. It'll be worth it!'
At that thought, he remembered the way the Jiang Heir looked at him with bright eyes, the warmth that exuded from his frame and the urge to hold the younger man in his arms.
Oh, it'll definitely be worth it, he just hoped he'll be able to live long enough to reach it.
"Now," Jiang Yanli's voice interrupted his thoughts, placing two cups of hot tea onto the table as she settled herself across from him, "What have you got planned?"
Wen Xu nervously cleared his throat before gingerly taking out the booklet that was hidden in his sleeve, quickly moving through the pages and handing it onto the woman's waiting hand.
It felt like he was a child once more and was anxiously waiting for his tutor to make his evaluation, the only upside here was that he was no longer prone to fidgeting but it's a near thing as he focused on his twitching hands.
"I see," Jiang Yanli muttered, taking a quick glance and was amused at the sight of the nervous man, contradicting what others had said about him, "We have a bit of work to do."
She felt satisfied with the way Wen Xu looked up, almost hopeful and determined.
That's good, her little brother deserved a the best and the man before her, who was willing to listen and improve might just be the one.
"I give you my thanks for your help, Young Ma– Jiang Yanli." Wen Xu bowed his head gratefully before hesitantly flickering his gaze between the other's face and his booklet, "What do I need to do?"
Jiang Yanli's sharp gaze didn't look as terrifying as earlier, hopefully that meant he was getting used to it.
He really hoped it'll be enough to be able to brave Madam Yu's wrath.
It felt like he was in heaven.
"Gods– Again!" Wen Xu could do nothing but obey, though he didn't really want to refuse the young teen's command.
He chuckled quietly, keeping Jiang Wanyin's wrists pinned above his head, smirking at the sight of the teen squirming from beneath him.
"That's another win for me, Wanyin." He almost purred the other's courtesy name, gifted after two days of them agreeing to arrangment.
"Young Master Jiang is a bit of a mouthful, just call me by my courtesy name."
"It's because you're heavier!" Jiang Wanyin retaliated but the grin on his face was telling. Still, he got off the other and helped the other up before heading to his side of the grass field.
After their initial sword fight, Wen Xu had met up with the Jiang Heir to fulfill his promise in teaching him about the art of hand to hand combat.
The young teen came from a Sect filled with skilled archers and swimmers and while water combat was somewhat similar, it still had it's differences with close combat.
Wen Xu couldn't help but indulge the other with more training sessions, fascinated with the way the young man listened and replicated with sheer focus, sometimes when they sparred he was even taken by surprise with how Jiang Wanyin accounted for his flexibility and implemented it in his fighting style.
Though, it looked more like an elaborate dance of twists and turns which had the other's legs as the main weapon, which was a bit predictable once you were no longer confused by said flips and twists but with his new knowledge in close combat, the other had gotten a lot more dangerous and he had a few close calls.
The cub was used to leaping up to his prey in an ambush but now he had taught it how to sharpen it's claws.
Wen Xu had no shame in saying that was proud of the fact that he helped the other in reaching his full potential.
His father will let him off the hook for giving away some of the Wen's main fighting style for his spark.
"Just you wait, I'm going to kick you in the fucking balls!" Wen Xu grinned happily at Wanyin's challenge, getting into his stance as his blood slowly roared over his ears.
"Then why don't you come– shit!" He laughed hysterically, ducking under the teen's leg and quickly grappled onto it, swinging it to the side.
"Cheeky brat!" Jiang Wanyin roared happily, elated that he caught the older man by surprise and charged in.
Of course, Wen Xu had managed to pin the energetic teen once more, this time however, instead of the other cursing and squirming—
Jiang Wanyin– no, Jiang Cheng was smiling and laughing!
Wen Xu would have laid down if it weren't for the fact that he was already on the ground and on top of the giggling teen who seemed content to have him there.
"You're so fucking dumb, how are you cute– god damn it, I can't breath, wee–" Jiang Cheng wheezed, his hands curling into his robes, taking deep breaths to try and calm himself only to giggle once more.
By the gods, Wen Xu felt so warm.
"Did you just call me cute?" Wen Xu blurted out in a daze, heat rushing up to his head as wide silver eyes looked up at him.
Jiang Cheng spluttered and like a skittish kitten, hissed and pushed him away, or tried to but it didn't feel like he was putting any effort to it. In fact, the young teen seemed to cling onto him in embarrassment, looking away even if his tanned face was unable to hide his flushed face.
"No, I didn't! I called you dumb!"
"I think you're cute too." Fuck, Wen Xu couldn't stop himself from smiling goofily.
He expected the other to deny his claim, to push him away like he meant it and he'd move away because he respected the other's space.
"You do..?" There's something hopeful in the young man's gaze, something desperate, searching and reaching for– he didn't know what.
Wen Xu shifted lightly, rising up just a little bit to look at the other properly, so that the other didn't feel to suffocated, he didn't pull away too far with the way the other gripped onto his robes shakily and placed his own hand onto the other's trembling fist in comfort.
There was something vulnerable in there and he wanted the other to take him seriously, wanted to make sure the young man knew he meant it.
He felt like he needed that.
"I do." Wen Xu whispered, tracing circles over Jiang Cheng's hand, slowly soothing the other's shaking grip as he looked down on glossy silver.
"I've always thought you looked cute, good looking and you have a fiery personality."
"People don't like my 'fiery' personality." The teen growled, the familiar scowl crawling back up his face and it's so easy to see how the other used it as a defense mechanism to scare people away.
Jiang Cheng was utterly soft and vulnerable in the ways that many wolves wouldn't hesitate to clamp their teeth on.
"Yeah? Well, I'm a Wen. We've always loved fire. You? You're so bright and warm, Wanyin, I like that about you." Jiang Cheng frowned, glaring straight at him, looking for lies but Wen Xu had nothing to hide, not to his spark.
"How can you say that?" Something breaks in the other and he guessed it was the other's world views, forged in the many years of being overlooked that it left a solid foundation in his mind that told him that 'he didn't matter.'
"Because I see a spark in you, is it really that bad that I want to see your light?"
The silence is loud despite the twittering birds and the whistle of the breeze, the setting of the dying sun bathing the sky in hues of red and pink.
Silver eyes shined in the growing dark with something new and Wen Xu hoped the other believed.
"Tell me outright, Wen Xu." Jiang Cheng whispered, despite being the one beneath the other it felt like the teen was glaring down at him with the steel forged by his fire, "Why did you approach me?"
"I want to court you."
"What– why me? Why not– Why not, Wei Wuxian?" A crack. He didn't know if it was the other's voice or something else but Wen Xu was too puzzled with the others words.
"He's better than– Wait, what do you mean, 'Who's that'?!"
"Is it that noisy gremlin that hangs off you like a monkey?" Wen Xu frowned, the name was somewhat familiar but he couldn't care less, "What's so good about him?"
"I– You're dumb, you're a fucking dummy." There's a lightness in the other's voice, it had gotten a bit dark so he couldn't see the other's face clearly but he was pretty sure Jiang Cheng was smiling shakily.
"And cute, don't forget that."
"Shut up and get off, you're heavy!"
They head back to their rooms in silence but it's a good kind, something easy and contemplative with it.
If their hands brushed as they walked through the hallway, well, they don't really talk about that.
After that unexpected and in hindsight, very complex and confusing heart to heart talk, Wen Xu liked to think the other wasn't too opposed with his tentative attempts at courting.
He was so caught up in the euphoria of Jiang Wanyin accepting his gift that he almost forgot about having another matter that he accidentally pushed to the side.
"So, cousin, I have some good news and bad news." Wen Xu stated, matching Wen Qing's frustrated walking pace, though he was more keen on admiring the surroundings than look at Gusu's defences.
"Just give me both of the news, Wen Xu." The woman sighed tiredly and he awkwardly patted the other on the back.
"Does it have anything to do with you smiling like a loon? Do I need to concoct a poison to put you and everyone else out of their misery." He huffed and gave her a light slap for that, looking away when the other merely raised a brow in amused confusion.
"Father's going to be a menace again."
"Oh god, that's good and bad. Ultimately, good but–" It was almost amusing to see Wen Qing flit through different expressions of relief, elatedness and regret, probably remembering the goblin incident.
Wen Xu immediately regretted ever thinking of the goblin incident, they do not speak of that crime.
"Yes, well, there's some more news but it's not about Father–"
"Just give it to me, you obviously want to boast about something, I know you too well, unfortunately–"
"I found my spark," Wen Xu muttered, it was true, what Wen Qing had said, he wanted to scream it to everyone who could hear but they wouldn't understand, so this was very refreshing.
"I found my god damn ember and I'm courting the fuck out of them, Qing-er–"
"Fuck, you're so smitten, you only call me Qing-er back when we were kids and that was when you were high on happy and stupid–"
"Shut the fuck up, be happy for me!"
"You shut the fuck up and I'm happy for you! Just don't do stupid–"
"No, Fuck you–!"
"Why do you keep slapping me?! Stop slapping! You're high on dummy too!"
"Well, why wouldn't I be?! I don't have to walk around Gusu without being able to admire the forest– I'll stop slapping if you stop slapping, bastard!"
"Fuck no, bitch! Stop slapping first–!"
They spent at least an hour having a happy slap fest while hurling insults until Wen Ning found them and also joined in since he had a real mean slap.
Wen Xu left that battlefield with pride and maybe a scar that took up his entire left cheek but he'd heal that later.
"Why in fuck's name are you up there?" Wen Xu perked up at the sound of his spark's voice, looking down to see the other's amused face and smirked.
"I'm not sure that's how the phrase works– but if you must know, the view is very lovely. Though, I'm getting some good sticks." He shouted back, showing off his little bundle in his hands.
"What are they even for?!"
"They're for–" Wen Xu spluttered when he tipped over, getting a face full of leaves but managed to land safely, spitting out some that got into his mouth spitefully.
"Pfft, for what?" Jiang Wanyin scoffed while tugging on his sleeve, leading him to the more open grass field and away from the forest.
"For the– pleh, lanterns, the sticks the Lans provide aren't the best quality for the sturdier parts. I thought I'd save us the trouble of a wonky lantern and get some." Wen Xu smirked softly and was delighted at the chuckle he was rewarded as he sat down under the shade of the tree.
"You're an idiot." He whispered from behind him, callused hands skillfully carding through his hair with gentleness despite the hiss that left the teen's lips.
"Maybe so." Wen Xu chuckled in amusement, intrigued with the way the other seemed to be a walking contradiction.
"Hmph, good thing I know how to take care of idiots." He hummed softly at that, letting the young man pluck the leaves and twigs stuck in his hair, sighing contently.
"I got a letter from mother."
"Hm? What did she say?"
"You're really planning on marrying me?"
"That's how courting works, right?" Wen Xu turned around and raised a brow, "Well, unless you don't want to be married to me."
He waited patiently as the young man opened and closed his mouth, eyebrows furrowing as he grumbled under his breath.
"I just– I still don't get why you chose me."
"Other than the fact that you're the light of my life? Well, there's the fact that I like you as a person." Wen Xu rumbled pleasantly, leaning into the other's space, a trickle of heat contently settling into his chest as the other playfully pushed away his face.
Jiang Wanyin sighed quietly, glaring at him as they carefully entwined into another cuddle, patting his cheek, "What's that whole fire thing you've got going on? You called me, your spark, yesterday too."
"If the Lans have their 'fated ones'. Wens have their sparks and lights. Ours encompasses a lot more relationships though, like brothers and friends." Wen Xu muttered, his hands lightly tugging on the young man's bang playfully.
"So, what– is it just like nicknames with a fire aesthetic?"
"Not quite, my ember. These lights, these embers and sparks, are essentially like sharing our strength, or will of fire, I suppose." He gently took the other's hand and placed it on his chest.
"Go ahead, feel my core." Jiang Wanyin gave him a skeptical look before closing his eyes and concentrating, his breath hitching when he not only felt the other's core so easily but also felt warmth fill his entire body.
"Oh. Oh." The young man shivered when he pulled away, the heat still buzzing in his skin, leaving him in a pleasantly flushed daze.
"Feels good, right? That's what we feel when we find our spark, they're the ones that give us that warmth."
"Holy shit, A-Xu, it feels so warm." Wen Xu blinked up in surprise and was stunned to see the other flushed and smiling dazedly.
"Wanyin, are you okay?!"
"I'm fine, you idiot! Stop shaking me!"
"I thought I got you drunk!"
"How the fuck can you get drunk with that– actually, I can see it but I wasn't! It just felt really safe, you idiot."
"Oh, thank god, you were smiling and I got worried."
"Oi, just because I'm smiling– what that's supposed to mean?!"
"Wanyin, please stop smacking me– ACk! My rIBs–!"
The Violet Spider was in the Cloud Recesses.
Wen Xu would have been able to handle that, probably, since he's been silently training himself with Jiang Yanli's equally as terrifying hidden knives and sharp eyes but—
Wen Ruohan was also in the Cloud Recesses.
One look at Wen Qing and Wen Ning told him all he needed to know even before he walked into Lan Qiren's office.
The tension in the air was so thick, Wen Xu wondered if he could swim in it. The only silver lining was that his spark was there and he was allowed to sit next to him.
'Worth it.' He thought even if he was desperately ignoring the very heated glare of Madam Yu, too busy greeting everyone with his head bowed, only catching a glimpse on each of their faces.
"You're the one that wishes to marry my son?" Yu Ziyuan thundered and while her voice was as smooth as silk, hidden under that silk was a bed of needles and knives and one mistake would lead to that silk being pulled from underneath his feet.
"Yes, Madam Yu, this lowly one wishes to be with your son for as long as he'll have me." Wen Xu nodded but didn't bow down, determined to never break away his gaze from the woman, he will not show weakness.
"He is the heir to Yunmeng Jiang, and you to Qishan Wen. Are you saying that he'll become your bedwarmer? That the Jiang Sect will be under the Wen's rule?"
At this, he took a deep breath for these questions had plagued his mind for countless nights.
"Qishan Wen has another potential heir, I am willing to adopt the Jiang name if it comes to it. However, me and my Father have considered making it a complete alliance in which me and Jiang Wanyin, as both Wen and Jiang."
Cold seeped into his bones and Wen Xu willed himself not to shiver, he wanted to be worthy for his ember and he didn't want to show weakness to the mother who was a protective tigress in all but form.
Warmth trickled into his chest and Wen Xu couldn't help – he would never be able to stop himself – but look and softened at the sight of Jiang Wanyin placing a comforting hand on his thigh, hidden from the table.
"Why," He flicked his gaze back to the powerful woman, newfound determination and heat coursing through his veins as he watched the violet sparks slightly flicker across her form, "Do you call my son by his courtesy name? Why not Jiang Cheng?"
"Respect, Madam Yu, but Jiang Wanyin hasn't given me permission to call me by his birth name yet and I respect his decision. We're still courting after all, I only wish for him to go at it on his own pace and…"
Wen Xu looked back when he felt a surge of warmth that almost overwhelmed him, unaware of the smile that creeped up his face as he gazed at the blushing teen fondly, "I want to walk with him."
The snap of Madam Yu's hand slapping on the table had jolted him from his daze, blinking blearily in surprise at the sudden noise and wondering why Lan Qiren looked amused, his Father looking very smug and Madam Yu somehow being much more terrifying with a neutral expression rather than her previous thunderous one.
"A-Cheng." Jiang Wanyin looked up at his mother, clearing his throat as he willed the heat on his cheeks to go down.
"Do you want this... Sunny boy?"
'Sunny boy? Where did that come from…?'
"I do." Wen Xu's breath hitched as the other took his hand and entwined their fingers, his whole body flushing and mind blanking for a second.
"-od. Wen Xu." Huh?
"Yes, Madam Yu?" He stumbled, did he overheat—
"Please, you better get used to calling me your mother-in-law. We'll talk more about the wedding, for now just go off and make sure to take care of my son."
"I-i, yes, absolutely, I'll bring him to his rooms by nine–" Wen Xu spluttered and could only hear his spark chuckle beside him, tugging him out of the room.
"Just call me by my birth name, we're getting married for god's sake–"
"A-Cheng, we're getting married."
"...Can we go celebrate by cuddling under the tree again?"
"Where do you think we're going, idiot?"
Wen Xu could now officially say that his favorite cuddling position was with Jiang Cheng on his lap.
"Ha, you're like a fucking kitten with all your purring." His spark muttered in a heated daze, chuckling as he rumbled once more, the vibrations tickling the other who devolved into pleased giggles.
"Oh my gosh, what have you done to my Shidi, he looks so drunk!" WenXu paused, looking up in confusion to see a young man looking at them as if they were in a scandalous position and another who hid his face behind his fan.
"Oh, Young Master Nie, greetings." He mumbled lazily, smiling when he felt Jiang Cheng chuckle once more.
"A-ah, greetings, Young Master Wen, may we inquire on what happened to Jiang-xiong?"
"Oi, I'm not an invalid, you fucks! I'm just enjoying my time with my fiance–"
"Oh, that's good, I thought I would have to do protocol number four which is taxing for me–"
Jiang Cheng huffed and turned away from his rambling martial brother, hiding his face in Wen Xu's neck which he was very happy to offer, holding the other closer.
Nie Huaisang smirked at the honestly romantic scene and carefully tugged Wei Wuxian away with his Nie strength as the other continued his confusing shovel talk.
"And another thing about the rabbits–!"
"We'll leave you to it then, Jiang-xiong! Place your robes on the ground, you'll thank me later when you don't have dirt on your knees!"
"OH MY GOD, HAVE YOU DEFLO- Mmph! Hmmph!!"
"Wei Ying, Loud Noise is Forbidden in the Cloud Recesses."
"Oh, good. Wangji-xiong, take Wei-xiong away to cool off!"
Wen Xu blinked at the sight before shrugging and nuzzling against the dozing young man.
"Hmn, since when were Nie-xiong and Lan Wangji friends…?"
"I think it's because of their brothers, my spark."
"Go to sleep, my ember. I'll carry you when it gets dark and you haven't woke up."
"Idiot, just wake me up like a normal person, your legs will be asleep by that time."
"But A-Cheng, your sleep is important–"
"Shhh. Don't fight me on this, wake me up so we can go to your quarters and cuddle there, I don't wanna deal with Wei Wuxian right now and he's going to shriek that you're kidnapping me if he catches you carrying me to your quarters."
"...You just wanted to carry me, didn't you, you cheesy ba–"
Wen Xu sighed in exasperation as he watched his father's very elaborate float festival, the other Wens (who were family) celebrating like it was the end of the world or the beginning of a new era while the rest (not family) were confusingly following along and while some partied with vigor, they didn't match the literal burning intensity of the actual Wens.
"Your father is on fire." Jiang Cheng grinned from where he sat, at least he enjoyed the show, watching in amazement as the various Wens did their complicated and lively fire dance to the beats of the war drums.
"Yes, he is. That's a thing."
"Can you do that too?"
"...Why are you asking…?"
The Jiang Heir was about to answer only to gasp as he saw Wen Ruohan – who really looked cool with his blazing molten lava hair – pull out the ceremonial sword which was also on fire.
Wen Xu wondered how there were no massive fires yet.
A quick look solved that inquiry as he saw some Jiang volunteers accompanied by Wen Ning happily and skillfully putting stray fires out in the air with water talismans they shot from their bows which added to the hype as the people either let themselves be showered by magical water or have a fun game in weaving away from it.
Huh, nice to know his cousin had managed to crawl out of his shell, this alliance was certainly a good thing.
"Did you guys descend from any creatures?" Jiang Cheng asked out of nowhere, though he was still looking on in the spectacle.
"I think there were rumors that Wen Mao was blessed with the three legged crow's fire?"
"Hm, we hailed from sirens ourselves."
Wen Xu hummed, almost keen on hiding his face when the firefalls came in and would have sent the float up in flames if it weren't for the fact that the float was made up of stone.
"Wait, sirens, like jiaorens?" Jiang Cheng smirked and looked at him mischievously, sending him a wave of warmth and honestly, whatever his spark was it didn't really matter.
He still loved his ember all the same.
"Wen Xu, you can't–"
"I won't get caught I promise!"
"Wen Xu, that's my dad–"
"Wen Ruohan has a big enough ego for two dad spots!"
"Pfft, you can't A-Xu. Don't look at me like that, you overgrown puppy."
"If I was a dog I could have been able to bite his dick off–"
"But you are not. Also, please don't even say that again."
"That's fair, I regret ever saying that but maybe I could just use my sword–"
"If I unfortunately can't castrate Wen Chao, you can't do that to my father."
"...You punched Wen Chao–"
"Fuck, no! Wen Xu, don't you dare–!"
"FOR YOUR HONOR!!!"
"I now fully approve of your son as my son in law."
"Ah, what did my gremlin of a son do?"
"Ew, no. The moment that ChaoChao of yours grows some balls and can face women with respect and without stripping them with his eyes, I'll begrudgingly place him in the tree."
"Oh, what did my buffoon of a son do then?"
"Punched my husband."
Tea was spat.
"Oh? Oh, truly? Good for him! Haha, that's my boy, let me guess– For Wanyin's honor?"
"You owe me."
"Yes, yes, what do you take me for? An oathbreaker? Please."
"What other matter do we need to attend, by the way? Your husband is too scared to confront me about your Sect, so–"
"Help me find some viable matches for my daughter first, or even some friends first."
"Haven't you gotten an agreement with your sworn sister?"
"Yes but her son is a little shit, he unfortunately inherited that Guangshan's high horse personality and the only reason I haven't cut it off is because Yanli likes him and Yang-jie wants to give it a few more years."
"Ah, I see."
"That doesn't mean I should isolate my daughter though, she can handle your Wens."
"Very well, how about my niece then, she'll appreciate the feminine company."
"Hm, can I ask you a question relating to 'feminine' things?"
"What pray tell, may that be?"
"How did you make your nails looks so good with that black paint, they haven't even chipped–"
"Finally, someone who appreciates the aesthetic–"
"Oh, if you want more aesthetics Yang-jie is all for the luxury."
"Send that woman a letter now, I can see why she entered a marriage with that rat then."
"Let's get her insights on how the wedding can look extravagant as well, give her the experience in planning it– with you, too."
"Finally, someone who kind of understands women!"
"I try my best, bitch!"
"That's more than what most do, fucker, I'm raising you up on my least dislike list."
Yinzhu and Jinzhu coming in to tear the lazy servants of the Wen Sect a new one were a blessing to the workers that actually did their duty and a curse to the freeloaders.
Like Wang Lingjiao– or whatever, her name was.
The moment the two maidens heard her particular record, she'd been kicked to the cleaning the bathrooms with Wen Chao while being watched over his wife which was also her former master.
Who was currently having tea with those two servants, the hypocrites! They weren't even bothering with them.
"You know, if you cut off your marriage ties with Wen Chao–" Yinzhu or Jinzhu said– it was a bit hard to tell the twins from each other when they're like this, when the two weren't even trying to hide their pettiness, "You'll bring him disgrace and we can take you to Madam Yu, she's great."
"Ahaha, maybe I can visit and see what it's like, how's the wedding arrangements though? I heard Xu-ge is having the time of his life sampling the food with Cheng-er."
"Oh, yeah! You and ChengCheng really hit it off, huh– it's going great, you should join in, planning it is real fun."
"Hm, maybe, we'll see, would you two like to accompany me?"
"Definitely!" "Of course."
"Wen Chao, why can't we have a wedding–"
"Shhh! They'll hear you! It's cause Father is mad with me and I'm already married. Something about not having any polygamous agreement."
"What does that even mean–"
"I don't know, ask Father–!"
"That's a death sentence!"
"Oi, you two, keep cleaning, the room isn't even that big!"
"We're going to have to wait for a few years, that's okay with you, right?" Wen Xu scoffed, settling his hands on his fiance's hips, resting his chin on the other's head, smiling at the sound of the young man's snort.
"If I could survive fifteen years without your presence, surely I can wait for three or five more with you."
"Cheesy fucker." Jiang Cheng grumbled fondly, leaning against him and Wen Xu couldn't help the happy rumble as he wrapped his fiance in a tight hug.
He grunted at the familiar fist jabbing into his ribs though, laughing sheepishly when silver eyes glared at him in the dark.
"A-Cheng, I was just hugging you–"
"Yeah, hugging me to death!"
"I couldn't breath!!"
"But A-Cheng, my spark, light of my life, hope in the dark, I can't breath whenever you look at me like that–"
"Why don't I choke you so you can't breath everytime I look at you–!"
"Ahaha– aCk–! A-Cheng-– ghnk– I love you!"
"Stop being cheesy!!"
"Jiang Cheng, are you excited?!" Wei Wuxian laughed, slinging an arm around his Shidi, eyes glosst but twinkling in mirth, "You're going to get married soon!"
"Why do you look like you're crying then?" Jiang Cheng frowned but didn't pull the arm away, leaning against his brother's side, breathing contently at the warmth he exuded.
Wen Ruohan had taught him the art of Fire and the different lights they brought to different people and it felt amazing.
His fiance's fire was linked to his and Wei Wuxian's own warmth helped stave off the cold since they weren't allowed to be together when they're shopping for their attire.
"Ah, well, I'm just happy for you." The other grinned, bringing him closer as they looked over the many silks and designs that could be implemented on the wedding robes.
"...You won't forget about me, right…?"
Jiang Cheng scoffed and lightly nudged his side, sending a trickle of comforting warmth as he grumbled.
"As if I'd ever forget about your whiny ass, A-jie's with peacock now so she can't take care of you as much, I don't shirk off my duties like you."
The wet grateful laugh that tickled his ear told him that the other needed to hear that.
"Jiang Cheng, ah, you're the best Shidi!"
"Damn right, though, you always have Wangji if I'm ever busy, you know."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"...Please tell me you know that you and Lan Wangji are dating."
"Wei. Wu. Xian."
"Me and Lan Zhan???"
"How are you so dumb?!"
"No, Jiang Cheng– Why did you think we were dating?!"
"How did I– everyone knows that you're dating!! Why else would Lan Wangji indulge you at every opportunity, you're the only one who calls him by his birth name, you idiot!!"
"Oh my god, what–"
"Xian-ge, how are you so fucking dumb–"
"Wait, A-Cheng, please don't cry, oh fuck, you called me Xian-ge, too. You only do that when you're really frustrated–"
"Of course, I'm frustrated, you utter buffoon!!"
"Um, Young Masters, how's this pattern?"
"Oh, that's a good find, please place that in the pile."
"Think you can find one with a bit more sun motifs too? These look a bit small."
"Ah, of course, right away!"
"You're talking to Wangji after this–"
"Wait what, Jiang Cheng, have mercy– wait, what's with the communication talisman?"
"A-jie, please remind Xian-ge to talk to Lan Wangji about their relationship, the idiot didn't know they were already dating–"
"Jiang Cheng–! Why are you pulling up another one?!"
"A-Niang, Wei Wuxian is a dummy and the reason he hasn't said about an alliance with the Lans is because he didn't know he had an alliance–"
"THIS IS WHAT YOU GET FOR BEING FRUSTRATING FOR ME AND WANGJI-GE."
"SINCE WHEN DO YOU CALL HIM GE–"
"SINCE TWO MONTHS AFTER YOU TWO STARTED DATING–!"
"I have found the pattern! How's this look?"
"Holy shit, it's perfect, thank you!"
"Oh my god, Cheng-di it'll look so good on you, we'll have that one be tailored onto the robes!"
"Ah, right away!"
"If you talk to Wangji-ge, I'll call you Xian-ge for one day."
"A day I can pick."
"I choose the day of your wedding!"
"Wait, no, not fine! What the fuck, Wei Wuxian!"
"No, you basically said it's fine! Come on, Cheng-di, I'll talk to Lan Zhan! Right after this, in fact!"
"Hnhnnng, you better."
"Even Wen Chao."
"Oh. Huh. A lot of things make so much sense now."
"I am in awe at your genius of dumbassery. Literally, no one will be able to surprass you and frankly that's fucking fine with me."
"You say that and yet before Wen-xiong made his intentions clear, you thought he was trying to train you up to become his eternal rival–"
"We do not talk about that."
On the night of their wedding, the couple dined like kings, they did their three bows and celebrated the day with flowing fire and sparking water, courtesy Wei Wuxian who wanted to contribute to his Shidi's important day with the help of the Lan Sect, courtesy Lan Wangji who was approved by Lan Qiren to bless his old friend's son's wedding.
The event had a mix of all the Great Sects with the Jin Luxury, Jiang Practicality or Chaos with a little Yu flare, Wen Extravagance, Lan Simplicity and surprisingly, the wedding had Nie Warrior Bands.
The wedding planners – who were rumored to have drunken ten jars of Emperor's Smile before planning the wedding in one sitting – were known to be Madam Jin and Luo Qingyang from the Jins, Madam Yu and her Spiders with some help from their Head Disciple from the Jiangs, Wen Ruohan and his daughter in law from the Wens, Lan Qiren and the Twin Jades from the Lans and Nie Huaisang from the Nies.
Rumor has it that the Nie Sect Leader threw a huge fuss that almost driven him into a near Qi Deviation though more frantic rumors are being spread when guests had seen Wen Ruohan and Nie Mingjue somehow having a very passive aggressive conversation with each other.
It was quite frankly, the most confusing wedding that has happened in centuries, even for the cultivators but most would rather have this than the potential war that had loomed over their heads.
As for the married couple?
"What the fuck," Jiang Cheng hissed to his husband as he watched Chifeng-zun and his father in law duke it out right in front of their table to make it seem like it was a planned event, "What the fuck."
Wen Xu idly sipped on his wine, carefully placing his frozen husband onto his lap and rubbing his arm soothingly.
"Let them fight, Nie Mingjue will realize the misunderstanding once he's got it out of his system."
"Uh, that his own father may have kinda asked mine to do something to get his wives back but it kinda backfired and he accepted the consequences then went home which ultimately lead to Chifeng-zun blaming my father…?"
Jiang Cheng groaned softly, letting his head rest against his chest, sending him another wave of heat leaving the both of them in a pleasant daze once more.
"And why, didn't father in law say anything?"
"Well, for one, Father isn't really the best at conversations and Nie Mingjue kind of, pieced some things together but didn't have the whole picture and it's kind of awkward to change his mind, like–"
"We're all disasters–"
"You count too."
"I said, we, Xu-er."
Wen Xu chuckled, relaxing once the two have finally stopped and smiled when he felt his husband tuck his face into his chest to hide his yawn.
The roar of the applause was almost background noise as the warmth of their fire and the haze of alcohol made a little bubble just for them.
"Take me to bed?"
"Depends, can I carry you this time?"
"Hmph, I thought you said you'd walk with me."
"Always, A-Cheng." He pressed a kiss onto the other's forehead, sighing in content when he felt the other melt into his embrace, letting the tidal wave of heat and love wash over him.
"I'll walk with you, always."