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Aftermath

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Jin Zixuan didn’t even attempt to sleep, knowing it was a fruitless endeavor. He sat with Jiang Yanli and Luo Qingyang, and they did their best to keep him distracted. It would take time to search the mine, he knew. Jin Ziyao might be a little thirsty and hungry when they found him, but he would be fine.

“I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t legitimized him,” he said, turning Jin Ziyao’s hat around in his hands.

Jiang Yanli and Luo Qingyang exchanged a look, the kind of look he found ladies often exchanged around him, where they were silently communicating about what a dumbass he was. Jiang Yanli said, “Given his role in the Sunshot Campaign, he likely would have gone back to Cloud Recesses with Zewu-Jun.”

“Then I shouldn’t have!” Jin Zixuan said, feeling wretched. “His life would be so much better if he had done that. He and Zewu-Jun clearly care for each other so much, but Ziyao won’t accept his feelings because he doesn’t want to leave the Lanling Jin. Instead, because of how uncertain I was feeling, I selfishly put all my problems on his shoulders . . .”

“Mm hm,” Luo Qingyang said. “How very selfish of you to give him the one thing he wanted more than anything else in the world.”

Jin Zixuan frowned at her. “Are you making fun of me?”

Luo Qingyang shrugged, as if to say she didn’t have to admit it.

Jiang Yanli reached out and gently touched Jin Zixuan’s arm. “She’s right, Jin-zongzhu. All his life, Jin-er-gongzi wanted to be part of the Lanling Jin. You legitimizing him was a dream come true for him. And it isn’t as if he was blind to the fact that some people wouldn’t like it. It isn’t as if you lied to him about the fact that you needed him. There was nothing wrong with you asking for his help, or with him for granting it. I know that he is immensely, immeasurably grateful to you for giving him what your father would not. He told me that himself, when he first visited Lotus Pier – how much he dearly wished for your happiness.”

“But my happiness is coming at the expense of his own!” Jin Zixuan protested. “Not just because people are trying to kill him, as if that is not bad enough on its own! He has to stand every day knowing that people are saying such awful things about him, that people resent him – ”

“Because they are jealous of him!” Luo Qingyang interrupted. “Do you think their resentment bothers him? On the contrary, Jin Zixuan, he absolutely loves it. He loves the fact that they hate him so much for being in a place so high that they can never reach it. Nobody was ever, ever jealous of him before he came here.”

“Even so,” Jin Zixuan said. “He and Zewu-Jun . . .”

“Are grown adults who can make their own choices,” Jiang Yanli said. “Jin-er-gongzi isn’t giving up a relationship with him in return for nothing. He’s doing it because his place here, being a part of this family, is more important to him. That’s his choice to make, Jin-zongzhu. It isn’t yours. You can wish for his happiness, but you can’t decide what will make him happy. Only he can decide that.”

“Besides,” Luo Qingyang said, “you’re talking about it like he can be with Zewu-Jun tomorrow or never. Give him some time. In a few years, once you’re a little more sure of yourself and everyone has stopped giving you trouble, he might feel differently.”

“That’s what Zewu-Jun said, too,” Jin Zixuan said, and sighed. “I just feel bad.”

“You’re upset because someone tried to kill him,” Jiang Yanli said. “Of course you are. Today has been very hard for you. You’ll feel better once he’s back.”

Jin Zixuan felt like this was probably true, except then it wasn’t. He ended up feeling even worse when Jin Ziyao got back, his face covered in bruises, limping slightly, hair undone and face wan and pale. It was the worst Jin Zixuan had ever seen him looking, and not only was he seeing him like that, everyone had seen him like that, even Lan Xichen, who he admired so much. Jin Zixuan’s mouth worked for a moment, the tiny amounts of eloquence he had worked so hard to achieve during the previous six months completely abandoning him. He thrust out the hat and said, unnecessarily, “I have your hat.”

A smile twitched at Jin Ziyao’s mouth. “Thank you, xiongzhang,” he said, taking the hat out of Jin Zixuan’s hands and placing it on his head even though his hair was down.

“Are you all right?” Jin Zixuan asked.

“I’m very hungry and a little sore, but other than that I’m fine,” Jin Ziyao said.

“Oh, well, we should – food – that is, I’m sure we can – ”

Jiang Yanli stood and bowed to Jin Ziyao, smiling. “I’m glad to see your return, Jin-er-gongzi. I will get you something to eat.”

“Thank you, Jiang-guniang,” he said, returning the bow.

There was a moment of awkward silence, then Wei Wuxian yawned loudly and said, “Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m exhausted. This was one hell of a day. I’m going to go sleep for ten hours.”

“I will go with you,” Lan Wangji said. “Xiongzhang?”

Lan Xichen looked momentarily torn, but Jin Ziyao said, “Honestly, er-ge, I’m fine. I’m just going to have something to eat and then get some sleep; staying with me wouldn’t be very exciting right now. I’m sure that my brother has no plans to let me out of his sight so I’ll be fine.”

After a moment, Lan Xichen nodded. “Then I will see you in the morning, A-Yao.”

Jin Zixuan bowed to Lan Xichen and said, “Thank you for your help. All of you,” he added, and bowed to the others as well. “The Lanling Jin are in your debt.”

The Lan brothers and the Yunmeng brothers departed back to their own guest houses, although apparently Lan Wangji was going to stay with Wei Wuxian, surprising nobody. Luo Qingyang cleared her throat and said she would go help Jiang Yanli, before leaving the room. Jin Ziyao sat down somewhat gingerly with a wince.

“Are you injured?” Jin Zixuan immediately asked, going over to the tea they had been drinking, figuring that his brother might be thirsty and wanting something to do with his hands.

“Of course I am. They kicked the crap out of me. Plus I tried to climb out of the mineshaft a few times and fell every damn time. But nothing’s broken, I don’t think. I’ll be fine in a few days.” Jin Ziyao accepted the cup of tea with a nod of thanks. “It’s my ego that’s bruised the worst. I can’t believe how stupid I was. I was so intent on them not catching me as I came and went to my room that I never stopped to think they might just wait for me there. I should have gotten a guard to escort me back.”

Jin Zixuan nodded, then shook his head, not wanting his brother to feel bad. “At least it shouldn’t happen again. Jin Zixun is . . . no longer a problem, and his underlings won’t be stupid enough to come back after they hear you’re alive and he’s not.”

“True. Er-ge said you had kept it quiet, although I imagine people will figure out what happened when they see my face,” Jin Ziyao said. “I suppose I could head for Cloud Recesses, but I feel like people might question an extended absence right now. My visit might have to wait. Since I missed the closing ceremonies, I’m sure everyone is full of theories on why . . . an attempted assassination is probably less embarrassing than what they’ve come up with.”

“Do you wish I hadn’t legitimized you?” Jin Zixuan blurted out.

Jin Ziyao choked on his tea and nearly spit a mouthful of it onto the floor. He stared at his brother for a long minute before he pinched the bridge of his nose. “No, I do not. Now, I understand that you had a very long day today, xiongzhang, and I appreciate your concern, but I spent twenty hours at the bottom of a mineshaft and I am really not up to parsing whatever weird guilt complex you’re struggling with right now. So please accept that answer without asking for further discussion.”

“Oh. Um. All right.” Jin Zixuan hesitated, then said, “I don’t see any problem with letting people know that there was an attempt on your life, but perhaps we should make it sound like you didn’t need to be rescued.”

“Yes, I would prefer to be spared the embarrassment of that, thank you,” Jin Ziyao said, amused. His face brightened as Jiang Yanli and Luo Qingyang came back in, each with a tray. “My heroines arrive.”

Jiang Yanli laughed. “It’s just something simple. I figured you wouldn’t want to wait for me to cook something special.”

“You were absolutely correct,” Jin Ziyao said, and set to the food with a healthy appetite. “It wasn’t as bad as all that, you know. Of course I was cold and thirsty, and I doubt I’ll want to be in any dark, enclosed spaces for a little while. But I wasn’t frightened. I knew that you would find me.”

“I barely did any of the work,” Jin Zixuan said. “Other than telling the others you were missing . . . Jiang-guniang gets the credit for making Jin Zixun give up your basic location, and then the others went to get you and I had to stay here.”

Jin Ziyao sighed and looked at Jiang Yanli. “He’s just determined to be mopey and miserable about this, isn’t he.”

Gently, Jiang Yanli said, “He was very worried about you, Jin-er-gongzi. Don’t make fun.”

“All right, I’m sorry,” Jin Ziyao said. “At least a little. But they helped because you asked them to, because you trusted them and they trusted you, because, despite all the odds stacked against it, you’ve built strong alliances with good people. Give yourself a bit of credit for that, at least.”

Jin Zixuan nodded and said nothing while Jin Ziyao continued eating. Jiang Yanli and Luo Qingyang both said their good nights; Luo Qingyang said she would walk Jiang Yanli back to the guest house that the Yunmeng trio were staying in.

It didn’t take long for Jin Ziyao to eat everything he had been given, and then he yawned, rubbing both hands over his face. “Now, was I right when I said you would stay with me while I slept?”

“Are you going to make fun of me for that, too?” Jin Zixuan asked suspiciously.

“No. I – ” Jin Ziyao looked away suddenly and had to swallow before he continued to speak. For the first time since he had gotten back, he looked the way Jin Zixuan felt – small and young and frightened. “I would appreciate it very much, actually. If you stayed.”

“Then I will,” Jin Zixuan said.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Jiang Yanli came into the guest house to find Jiang Cheng already asleep and Wei Wuxian, surprisingly, meditating. Lan Wangji was sitting by the bed, playing the guqin, and Jiang Yanli could sense the cleansing spiritual power he was channeling with it. It was reminiscent of the days after the Sunshot Campaign, and she walked over and smoothed down Wei Wuxian’s hair. “Did you use resentful energy today, A-Xian?”

“Don’t be mad,” Wei Wuxian said, opening his eyes. “Lan Zhan already lectured me. But yeah. That mine was way too big and complicated to search physically, but a lot of people had died there, so I got them to guide me to where Jin Ziyao was tucked away.”

“I’m not mad,” Jiang Yanli said. “I’m glad that you were able to find him in time. It would have broken Jin-zongzhu’s heart if he had been killed.”

“Yeah, I know. I guess he’s not so bad,” Wei Wuxian said, with a dramatic sigh, and Jiang Yanli laughed quietly. “Hey, shijie. You were right.”

“Of course I was,” she said, smiling gently, “but about what?”

“I told Lan Zhan. About my golden core.” He glanced over at where Lan Wangji was sitting, and Lan Wangji looked up but did not stop playing. “I guess it does change things a little, but . . . not the important things. And I feel a lot better.”

Jiang Yanli smoothed down his hair again and said, “I’m glad.”

At this, Lan Wangji did stop playing. He put his guqin away and walked over to where Jiang Yanli was sitting in the chair beside Wei Wuxian’s bed, and bowed to her. “Jiang-guniang, thank you for taking care of Wei Ying for so many years, especially during this difficult time recently,” he said, and she could not help but smile slightly at the formality in his voice. “It was not appropriate to discuss it earlier because of the situation with Jin-er-gongzi, but I have asked Wei Ying to be my husband, and would like to ask you for your blessing.”

Jiang Yanli felt her eyes fill with the happiest tears she had ever cried. “Oh - oh, I am so happy for you both. Of course you have my blessing, Hanguang-Jun. Thank you so much, for loving A-Xian as much as he deserves.”

Wei Wuxian’s cheeks colored slightly, but he was smiling, the beautiful sunny smile that Jiang Yanli had so dearly missed over the past six months and change. “I asked Lan Zhan if he would come back to Lotus Pier with me for a little while, to, to be with me while I explain things to the disciples . . . ah, but shijie, if you’re going to come live at Koi Tower, shouldn’t I stay at Lotus Pier long term, to take care of Jiang Cheng? I can’t go live in Cloud Recesses . . . even if they did allow alcohol and things like running and, you know, fun.”

“Cloud Recesses is in good hands,” Lan Wangji said. “I will stay with you in Lotus Pier, as long as you need to be there.”

Jiang Yanli cried harder, because for the first time in months, she knew that her family was going to be okay. “Thank you, Hanguang-Jun.”

Wei Wuxian reached out to his sister and gave her a hug. “Come on, we should all get some sleep. It was a hell of a day. You’re amazing, by the way - in case I hadn’t said that earlier. You’re so strong - Yu-furen would be so proud of you.”

Wiping the tears away, Jiang Yanli said, “I hope so.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Jin Ziyao woke feeling about as well-rested as he assumed was possible in the aftermath of a serious assassination attempt. He shooed Jin Zixuan out of the room (although he did thank him for keeping watch over him; he had manners, after all) so he could wash up and get dressed. He winced slightly when he saw his bruise-covered body in the mirror. But he felt better once he was dressed in his formal robes, the blood washed off his face, hair back to its usual precise arrangement and hat fastened underneath his chin. He looked like himself again.

When he emerged, he found Jin Zixuan still waiting, and accompanied his brother back to his chambers so he, too, could get dressed and ready for the day. Several of the servants gawked at the bruises that were still visible on Jin Ziyao’s face, but he just smiled and didn’t mention it, asking them to prepare to have breakfast outside. He wanted a chance for the gentry to see him.

While Jin Zixuan dressed and prepared for the day, Jin Ziyao asked him questions about what had happened the previous day - who had said what, who knew that some of the other gentry were still there, what exactly had happened to Jin Zixun. When he was out of questions, he was satisfied that his brother had handled the whole situation about as well as could be hoped. He was also somewhat amused by the rumors surrounding his absence. “There’s a real lack of creativity there,” he said, and Jin Zixuan just gave him a look.

A lot of the gentry would be quite confused to see the Twin Jades and the Yunmeng brothers, especially after they had been seen departing the previous day. He was somewhat annoyed about this, although there really hadn’t been a better solution at the time since so many sects had been present. Making sure they all thought everything was normal had been paramount, but the Lanling Jin gentry would know something had happened as soon as they saw his face. So it would be easy to explain that the four men had decided to stay and make sure he was all right after somebody had tried to kill him.

With that decided, he sent servants to both the guest houses to invite them to have breakfast with them, and half an hour later, was directing the set up of the tables for the meal. He looked up as the Twin Jades arrived, smiled, and bowed.

“How are you feeling, A-Yao?” Lan Xichen asked.

“Much better now that I’ve gotten some rest,” Jin Ziyao said. Aware of the listening ears of the servants, he added, “Thank you again for all your help yesterday.”

“Think nothing of it,” Lan Xichen said. He, too, was clearly aware of the servants, and said, “May we speak privately?”

“Certainly,” Jin Ziyao said, since it would be at least another fifteen minutes before the food was actually served. He gestured for Lan Xichen to walk with him, and headed towards the gardens. He loved the gardens in Koi Tower. The Unclean Realm hadn’t had anything like them, and he found them particularly beautiful. He went to one of the inner courtyards and sat down on the bench, and felt his stomach give a nervous flutter as Lan Xichen sat down facing him and gave him a serious look. “Ah . . . I’m sorry if I upset you, er-ge. It’s just that . . .”

“I’m upset because you didn’t tell me,” Lan Xichen said. “I had no idea anything was wrong. If we hadn’t been attacked during the crowd hunt, I only would have found out when you went missing. Why did you hide it from me?”

Jin Ziyao looked away. “You know that we had to handle it ourselves.”

“I absolutely do not know that,” Lan Xichen said. “I’m your sworn brother!”

“And if the threat had come from outside - if there was some other sect that was threatening us - of course I would have gone to you and da-ge for help. But that’s not what was happening. It was an internal matter. To invite interference from the other clans - ”

“Is that what you consider my concern? My protection? Interference?”

“Yes!” Jin Ziyao bit the word out and then looked away. “Er-ge, please don’t be angry. My place here - it always feels so precarious to me even though intellectually I know it isn’t. To need to be taken care of - to need to ask someone from another sect to protect me - how could I do that? Don’t you realize how weak that would have made me look?”

“Nobody thinks of you as weak,” Lan Xichen said. 

Jin Ziyao managed a weary smile. “If they didn’t yesterday, they certainly will today.”

“No, they don’t,” Lan Xichen said. “I don’t. Nobody expects you to be able to take on the entire world and win. Alliances are important for a reason. Sworn brotherhood is sacred for that same reason. Because nobody is alone in this world, A-Yao.” Quietly, he added, “Especially not you. How can you not see how loved you are?”

There was a long silence. Finally, Jin Ziyao said quietly, “I think a part of me will always be at the bottom of the steps of Koi Tower.”

Lan Xichen let out a breath. “A-Yao, what your father did to you was horrible. I know it must be difficult to move past it. But he is gone. Try to let it go, if you can.”

“I do. Every day, I do.” Jin Ziyao sighed. “But I’m not used to relying on other people, er-ge. When someone wanted to hurt me, I always handled it myself. Whether it was a bully on the street when I was a child, men spreading rumors in Qinghe, underlings in Qishan who were jealous of how quickly I gained favor with Wen Ruohan - I never had anybody else to rely on. Maybe I would have been able to ask you if things between us were not so . . . complicated.” He looked away from Lan Xichen and said, “I’m not what you want me to be, and I hate to disappoint you.”

“A-Yao, nothing about you is a disappointment to me,” Lan Xichen said gently.

“I beg your pardon, er-ge, but I know that’s not true. I know you wanted me to go back to Gusu with you, after the Sunshot Campaign. I know you thought we would - ” He couldn’t bring himself to say the words aloud. “But I chose the Lanling Jin.”

“You didn’t owe me anything, A-Yao,” Lan Xichen said. “On the contrary, I was in your debt. Of course you would choose the Lanling Jin. I was never upset with you about that. I would not have wanted you to turn away a chance for your dream, just for me.”

Jin Ziyao said nothing. It was rare for him not to know what to say, but Lan Xichen seemed to bring out that quality. He always felt so torn whenever he was with Lan Xichen, wanting to love him unreservedly, but not wanting to make promises he couldn’t keep, knowing that his priority would always be the Lanling Jin. 

Since he didn’t speak, Lan Xichen continued, “I was, and am, happy for you. I know how important being legitimized to you was. I know how devoted you are to your brother, who granted you what your father would not. Nothing about that troubles me, A-Yao. Nothing about it disappoints me. I love you as you are, and would not want you to be any different.”

“But does it not bother you?” Jin Ziyao asked, still not looking at him. “That I cannot accept your feelings?”

“We are young, A-Yao. I am not in any hurry. Stay with the Lanling Jin. Help your brother turn it into the sect he wants it to be, a sect you can both be proud of. Plan his wedding, dote on his children, support him in his endeavors. A day may come when you can accept that being with me does not mean you are not part of the Lanling Jin. Where you can live in both worlds at once without feeling like you are neglecting one or the other.”

Jin Ziyao shook his head. “That day may be a long time from now.”

“I know,” Lan Xichen said, “but you are worth the wait. Of this, I am certain.”

Feeling his cheeks flush pink, Jin Ziyao ducked his head. It didn’t work, because Lan Xichen put a finger underneath his chin and tipped it up, making Jin Ziyao look at him for the first time since the conversation began. Jin Ziyao wanted to pull away, but he also didn’t, and Lan Xichen was so beautiful that he could not help but stare a little. “I can’t ask you to wait for me.”

“I know,” Lan Xichen said. “But just because you can’t ask, doesn’t mean I can’t wait.”

All Jin Ziyao could do was nod. “I do love you very much.”

“I know,” Lan Xichen repeated, and smiled. “Then do this for me - next time you’re in danger, tell me, so I can protect you.”

Jin Ziyao nodded again. “All right.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Wei Wuxian tugged on Lan Wangji’s sleeve as Lan Xichen emerged from the garden with Jin Ziyao, whose cheeks were faintly flushed pink. “Hope they were having a good time in there!” he whispered, and Lan Wangji rolled his eyes slightly. “Come on, let’s go grab him before they start serving. We need to tell him we’re getting married so we can spend the rest of the day celebrating.”

“Shameless,” Lan Wangji murmured, with a look that made Wei Wuxian suddenly feel extremely warm. But he did not argue, instead approaching the two of them and saying, “Xiongzhang, Wei Ying and I would like to speak to you.”

“Then back into the gardens I go,” Lan Xichen said, clearly amused. He gave Jin Ziyao a lingering touch on the shoulder before Jin Ziyao bowed to the three of them and headed towards the breakfast table. “What is it that you wanted to tell me?”

In the exact same tone of formality that Lan Wangji had used with Jiang Yanli, something that amused Wei Wuxian to no end, he said, “I have asked Wei Ying to be my husband, and he has accepted.”

“That’s wonderful!” Lan Xichen said immediately, smiling broadly. “Not exactly what I expected, but - I am so happy for you both.”

“What did you expect?” Wei Wuxian asked, curious.

“Oh, well - I thought perhaps it was about your golden core,” Lan Xichen said. “Given what you said yesterday . . . about how the three of us had our golden cores to keep us warm . . . it did make some pieces suddenly fall into place.”

“Ah, yeah.” Wei Wuxian rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “I wasn’t really thinking about that, but I guess I knew subconsciously that I was giving myself away. I was going to start telling people about it anyway . . . I guess I’m finally ready to do that. I gave mine to Jiang Cheng . . . that’s how he’s still able to cultivate.”

Gently, Lan Xichen said, “I am sorry for your loss, Wei-gongzi. I hope you know that you are one of the most courageous, selfless people I have ever met. I’m glad you’re finally able to talk about it.”

Wei Wuxian didn’t really want to dwell on it, so he said, “I asked Lan Zhan if he would stay with me at Lotus Pier for a while, to help out while I, I adjust to the way things are going to be there from now on. I hope that’s okay.”

“Of course,” Lan Xichen said, and smiled at his brother. “I will miss you, Wangji, but I believe you know best where you need to be.”

Lan Wangji nodded and said, “Thank you, xiongzhang.”

“Since Jin-zongzhu has already announced his engagement, we should let them have their wedding first,” Lan Xichen said, “but I will begin making some preliminary arrangements, as I have a feeling that you two will not want to wait too long.”

“Agreed,” Wei Wuxian said, and smiled. “I want to be Lan Zhan’s husband as soon as possible.”

“Mn,” Lan Wangji agreed.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

They sat at breakfast far longer than they really needed to, and Jin Zixuan found himself relaxed and smiling for the first time in days, possibly weeks. Jiang Yanli was on one side of him and Jin Ziyao on the other. He managed to compliment the earrings she was wearing without sticking his foot into his mouth. They discussed wedding plans and Lan Xichen announced that Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian were now also betrothed. Jin Zixuan was the only one who was surprised, but he was happy for them.

“For now, I must go back to Lotus Pier,” Jiang Yanli said, as they finally parted. “But I will see you very soon, I am sure, as we begin preparations.”

Jin Zixuan nodded and said, “I’ll count the days until I see you again.”

A few minutes later, the guests were gone. The servants began clearing away the dishes.

“Well,” Jin Ziyao said, “looks like I’ve got a wedding to plan.”

“Plus we need to start work on developing your cultivation,” Jin Zixuan said. “Remember, we said we would start those lessons after the crowd hunt was over.”

Jin Ziyao nodded and said, “I’m looking forward to it.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Jiang Yanli watched the others as they started down the road back to Lotus Pier. Wei Wuxian was talking loudly and excitedly about the wedding, but also about his plans for the future in general. He could still teach archery and sword forms, he said, while Jiang Cheng focused more on things that required spiritual power. Maybe Lan Wangji could even teach them a few techniques - although, Wei Wuxian teased, he doubted that anyone in Yunmeng had the rigid discipline necessary to use Gusu Lan technique.

Jiang Cheng listened to all of this and rolled his eyes and made some jokes about how once Jiang Yanli had gone to live at Koi Tower, Wei Wuxian would have to cook for all of them. Lan Wangji gave a quiet shudder, so apparently he’d had Wei Wuxian’s cooking at least once.

Wei Wuxian agreed, saying, “Nobody wants me to cook for them. We’ll have to hire somebody. I’m not just going to sit around and be a wife, you know!”

“Nobody thought you were,” Jiang Cheng said, then added, “It’s not like Mom did the cooking.”

“True,” Wei Wuxian agreed. “What about you, Lan Zhan? Can you cook?”

“I have basic proficiency,” Lan Wangji said.

Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng exchanged a look. “Yeah, we’ll hire somebody,” Jiang Cheng said.

Jiang Yanli laughed quietly at the offended look on Lan Wangji’s face. “Come now, Hanguang-Jun, you do not want to be responsible for this. Believe me, they can eat an enormous amount. Hiring someone will be better.”

“Mn,” Lan Wangji muttered, and Wei Wuxian grinned at him, bumping their shoulders together as they walked.

Jiang Yanli had no doubt that Wei Wuxian’s good mood would dissipate after a little while. He would continue to have good days and bad days. He was healing, and she knew it would take time. But she also knew that as long as they gave him that time, gave him their love and support, that he would heal.

“I wonder if Wen Qing can cook,” Wei Wuxian said thoughtfully, and Jiang Cheng flushed pink. “Ah, doesn’t matter, since someone can’t manage to confess his feelings to her.”

“I keep telling you, I’ll do it when the time is right!” Jiang Cheng said. “You took six months to confess to Hanguang-Jun, so you can’t talk!” He looked wounded as Jiang Yanli hid a smile behind her sleeve. “Why are you laughing? It’s not funny!”

“I’m just so happy to have so many little brothers now,” Jiang Yanli said. “I started with two and now I’ll have four. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

“Seems like it would be the opposite,” Wei Wuxian said, chuckling. “Having to look after all of us.”

“Not at all, A-Xian. Having little brothers is one of the best things in life.”

“I bet the only thing better is having a big sister,” Wei Wuxian said, smiling at her. “Ah, Lan Zhan, you have a big sister now! Can she call you A-Zhan? That would be so cute!”

“Mn,” Lan Wangji said, fortunately with a nod.

“You’re so lucky, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian said, nudging him again. Lan Wangji slid an arm around his waist, pulling him close, probably to stop Wei Wuxian from continuing to bump up against him. “There are a lot of big sisters in the world, but none like shijie. She’s one of a kind and absolutely amazing.”

Jiang Yanli smiled and linked her arm with his, then pulled Jiang Cheng over so she could walk between them. “Yes, I am,” she said, “and so are all of you.”



~fin~