Jiāng Chéng was known by many names. His given name (the first name he got, the name he called himself in his head) was very fitting for a young master of the Yúnmèng Sect. Clear river . His parents had called him A-Chéng until he had been given his courtesy name but Wèi Wúxiàn
had used to have an apparent dislike for his courtesy name and had kept calling him A-Chéng. His jiějiě had called him A-Chéng when she felt like she had to reach him, when she wanted to reassure him or when he got angry with Wèi Wúxiàn for his antics that he always dragged Jiāng Chéng into because he had never told him no or…
He cut himself off. It didn't matter. No one called him A-Chéng anymore, except for the ghosts of his past. Not even the ones that came back to life.
(Wèi Wúxiàn hadn’t dared to call him by his name since his return. Jiāng Chéng didn’t know if he could handle hearing it from him after all those years of being called anything else but his name.)
His courtesy name, given by his father, was very pretty, for the lack of a better word. Jiāng Chéng had a very large vocabulary, mind you. He had to. He was a Sect Leader and diplomacy, choosing the right words, was part of that (his obvious frustration with it notwithstanding). Of course he was no Jīn Guāngyáo, he had no tongue coated in honey, but he had his own tactics. (They were mainly conditional honesty and lies of omission. He had found that staying silent during a conversation had as many benefits as arguing it.)
Still, he had no description of it as no one seemed to use it, ever. They had once, very briefly, in those years between getting his courtesy name and getting his reputation. Lán Wàngjī had yelled it once, on that cliff. He tried not to think about that. He tried not to think about many things.
(Like how Jiāng Wǎnyín fit him so well because sometimes and he caught himself staring at the wall or a letter or anything anything anything at all until time disappeared. His soul wanted out out out and he had to bind himself to the earth itself in hopes of staying there. Mourning seemed to be all he did, sometimes. His family, the disciples he lost or that one girl she was barely 16 and she had turned to demonic cultivation and attacked her family for what they had done to her and she had died at his hands and sometimes he felt that he died somewhere along the way too because he didn’t feel alive.)
Then there was Sect Leader Jiāng. He had known he was gonna get that name eventually. He was his sect’s heir, he was his mother’s (never, never his father’s) son and he would lead Yúnmèng one day. But he had thought that he would have his family by his side the whole time. His shīxiōng as his right hand. In the end, all he had gotten had been the ruins of the only home he knew. He had rebuilt it, had laid down the wooden planks himself when he had to, wrecked his brain trying to figure out if that window had been there or what was that door like and what color was of that damned carpet-
His sister had helped, of course. She had memorized everything, knowing she would have to leave one day. Then she was gone and Wèi Wúxiàn was gone and nothing was complete and no one knew where that was supposed to go because no one was alive, no one was there.
But there was jiǔjiǔ still. There was Jīn Líng, so tiny that he feared he would crush him when he held him. He looked at him and thought that the world would take him away too. There were sleepless nights spent singing to him and playing with him when he had the time (and making time when he didn’t because that was his jiějiě’s son and damn it he was going to raise him properly) and teaching him how to swim and shoot an arrow and telling him what his mother was like. There was Don’t run off like that again A-Líng I was so worried concealed in his yelling. He tried and hoped for the best and smiled a bitter smile when A-Líng hugged him after not seeing him for months because he was not Yúnmèng Jiāng’s, he was not Jiāng Chéng’s. He was the Jīn Sect’s heir and they were going to take him away when the time came but he was so small still and ran around the piers like a golden puppy and Jiāng Chéng loved him so much it hurt.
There was Sāndú Shèngshǒu. Scared glances at him, at Sāndú and Zǐdiàn. People stumbling and getting out of his way when he was outside of Yúnmèng. (His people knew better, of course. They paved his way out of respect, not fear.) (Those silences, the lies of omission? They had come in handy many times with people who called him Sāndú Shèngshǒu. It was so much easier to not say anything and just let people assume things about him. And if the topic ever come to the demonic cultivator that went missing near Moling, surely it had nothing to do with his right hand woman. His heir in everything else but blood who had seemingly appeared out of thin air to be a Yúnmèng Jiāng disciple. The demonic cultivator was dead, of course, killed by Sāndú Shèngshǒu’s own hands. Of course he didn’t brag about it, when had anyone seen him do so?)
Then there was-
Then there was Lán Xīchén, smiling at him from across the room. There were joyful and bitter and sanguine and calm conversations lit by moonlight far past the Lán bedtime and a soft kiss that made him so scared but oh so hopeful at the same time and there was
My heart. Lán Xīchén, Lán Huàn as he was these days, called him his heart. He held him like he was worth more. Like he was a person instead of a concept, far out of anyone’s reach. Like he was someone precious, someone to be treasured, someone whose actions didn’t just reflect his sect but himself too.
Lán Huàn shined like he was the moon itself and Jiāng Chéng held him until he shined even brighter, the way he used to when they were young and Jiāng Chéng had looked at him and seen only kindness. Jiāng Chéng held him and told him that his understanding wasn’t a weakness and it was not his fault that he was used, it didn’t make him worth any less. Because Jiāng Chéng had essentially raised Jīn Líng with that man and he hadn’t seen it. No one had seen it.
Jiāng Chéng held him when his love grieved for the man he knew, the man he had called brother, and kissed his tears away.
Jiāng Chéng fell asleep with him in his arms, with Lán Huàn’s beating heart pressed against his back and his breath tickling his nape and smiled.
Jiāng Chéng gave him his Yúnmèng Jiāng courting bell and watched Lán Huàn wrap his forehead ribbon around his arm and kissed him and kissed him and
Jiāng Chéng woke up in his home with his love smiling at him through the sunlight coming in from the window and kept him in bed for a little longer, A-Huàn we don’t have anywhere to be and had to hide a very telling bruise on his neck but he had hope and he felt alive and he was happier than he had been in a long time.
He wanted to spend the rest of his days by his side and he told him so. The answering smile almost made Jiāng Chéng pull him back to the bed, but they still had duties to attend to as two sect leaders. Lán Huàn was set to leave in three days. It didn’t bother him. They had all their days and one day they would step down and make way for the next generation, as was their duty, and they would stay together for good. They wouldn’t have to compete with time itself to see each other. But for now they had this and Jiāng Chéng had two homes and he didn’t mind that. He didn't mind at all.