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jiejie 💜
A-Xian!!
I think I snagged a new commission for you 😊

Wei Ying
omg???
jiejie!! you didn’t need to do that!!! 😭😭
i can find my own work!!

jiejie 💜
I know you can! But this was just too tempting to pass up...
A-Xuan and I were at a gala yesterday evening, and I might have name-dropped you.

Wei Ying
ooooh a gala, so fancy
jiejie u cannot name-drop someone as unsuccessful as me
that only works with famous people

jiejie 💜
You are very successful!! Don’t be hard on yourself. 🙁
You won that fellowship last year, and one of your prints was just in The Art Press!

Wei Ying
yes but….
that’s not. anyways
you were at a fancy gala! tell me more!

jiejie 💜
We’ll come back to your self-esteem later. 🙁
Yes, we were at a gala. It was hosted by the Lan Academy of Music.
A-Xian, have you heard of Lan Wangji?

Wei Ying
i don’t live under a rock so. yes
doesn’t EVERYBODY know lan wangji?
he’s like the modern mozart
except chinese
and with twitter stans

jiejie 💜
That’s him. 😅
He was there.
He’s going to be performing at a charity concert in a few months, and we started talking about that.

Wei Ying
omg jiejie you MET LAN WANGJI
how do u feel?? now that u have been in the presence of a ~ god~

jiejie 💜
I don’t think I feel any different.
He was very polite, and very nice!
But A-Xian! Focus! The best is yet to come!

Wei Ying
OKAY I AM SORRY
🤐🤐🤐

jiejie 💜
Thank you 😊
Lan Wangji will be performing at the charity concert, and he needs promotional posters for it.
His marketing team has already put some art together, but he doesn’t like any of their ideas.
And… well, I thought of you!
I told him that my little brother is a very successful (!) freelance artist, and I thought he would be a great choice to design the posters!
I still have some scans on my phone... Do you remember the lotus pond you painted after we visited Yunmeng last year, and the mountains from Yiling? I showed them to him.
And he really liked them!
He agreed to meet with you!
Isn’t that exciting?
A-Xian, are you still there?

Wei Ying
i’m here

jiejie 💜
What do you think? 😊
This could be a great opportunity for you!

Wei Ying
i dunno, jiejie
lan wangji is fancy. like, Fancy, with a capital F
my work is totally not up to par

jiejie 💜
That isn’t true. 🙁
He was very receptive to the pieces I showed him!

Wei Ying
😬

jiejie 💜
Just meet with him. Please?
If you really get a bad feeling, then you can turn it down.
But you never know!
Plus, it would pay really well….
Do it for me? 😊

Wei Ying
you KNOW i can’t say no when you ask like that 😭
ok send me the contact info

jiejie 💜
Yay! 🤗🤗

***

Things That Wei Ying Knows About Lan Wangji
A List by Wei Ying

— plays the guqin
— old people love him
— but young people also love him?? literally has twitter stans???
— v classy v fancy v sophisticated probably lives in a mansion

***

Wei Ying does not know very much about Lan Wangji.

Hearing his name is unavoidable: they’re always mentioning it on the news, and on the radio, and on social media. But Wei Ying doesn’t really know anything about him. Just that Lan Wangji is famous, and last year he won the Sexiest Man in the World title or something, and the whole universe is apparently in love with him.

And now Wei Ying has a meeting with him: next Friday, one o’clock sharp.

The whole thing feels a little hopeless and overly ambitious, if he’s being honest. Wei Ying’s art has never made it past the local papers, and Lan Wangji is definitely not Local Paper Famous. He’s International Famous, and way too fancy to hire an obscure painter with no important accomplishments to his name.

But Wei Ying had promised to do this meeting for his jiejie, and he never backs down on a promise when his jiejie is involved. He really could use the money. And, hey — the Sexiest Man in the World! It will be a great story to tell at parties, even if it has to end with the Sexiest Man laughing Wei Ying out of the room.

He opens a new page in his notes app.

***

Things That Wei Ying Knows About Lan Wangji
An Updated List by Wei Ying

— graduate of a v prestigious music school
— ugh the lans are so rich
— i should have guessed that. he knows jin zixuan
— eat the rich!!!
— lan academy of music etc etc
— his uncle teaches there
— his brother is a LAWYER why are these people so successful
— is it not enough to be rich???? u have to be smart and talented too???
— smh save some luck for the rest of us
— he doesn’t have any social media wow so ~cryptic~ and mysterious
— HDKJFKFJ#%DFJJS$%$% ?? HE REALLY LOOKS
— LIKE THAT?????//??/?
— omg his voice is so sexy
— like. when he speaks
— does he sing? he should sing too
— HE COMPOSES HIS OWN SONGS THOUGH
— THREE ALBUMS AND ALL OF THEM MULTI PLATINUM HOLY SHIT
— wait he plays really really well
— he;s so PRETTY
— his hair is so PRETTY
— he really likes traditional hanfu huh
— oh its like his stage Uniform. tm symbol
— sexiest man in the world ok yeah Deserved
— help

***

After Wei Ying finishes his tutoring session, he heads downtown to his studio to start on the sketches for next week.

It’s a stretch to call the studio a studio. It is a single room, only a little larger than the Jiangs’ dining hall back in Yunmeng, and he can only afford it because he shares it with three other people. They’ve each claimed a corner as their own; the middle area is the Neutral Zone, with a ratty old sofa and a table for snacks and alcohol. The stash is raided regularly by all four artists. There are a lot of existential crises between them, and wine helps.

The wall backed up against the street is one huge window, pouring sunshine across the scuffed wooden floor. This place has fucking great natural lighting, and it’s why Wei Ying just knew he had to get in on it when Nie Huaisang told him about the space for rent. The apartment that he shares with Jiang Cheng is fine, but the building faces another building and it’s almost always a little gloomy. Wei Ying needs light to work. He can get paint all over the floor here at the studio without getting yelled at, too, which is always a nice bonus.

And so he had paid his portion of the rent and taken over one of the corners by the window, where the sun hits his canvas at just the right angle. Nie Huaisang has the other window corner for his fashion school projects, and Mianmian is directly across the room from him with her pottery, and Qin Su has the last spot.

It’s mid-afternoon now, leaving a few hours of decent sunlight left for sketching. Wei Ying snags a packet of peanuts from the Neutral Zone, then drops his bag down on the floor in his corner and drags his stool away from the easel and towards a rickety little table. He’d picked it up from a curb, where someone was giving it away for free. It wobbles every time he puts his elbow on it, but now he’s attached and can’t bear to trash it. They’ve been through a lot together, Wei Ying and this little table.

So: Lan Wangji, and promotional art.

Musical genius and insanely good looks aside (seriously, how has Wei Ying never seen a photograph of this man? the universe has conspired against him), there isn’t much to be said about Lan Wangji. He is notoriously private. His interviews are methodical and matter-of-fact, talking about his work and very little else. It’s thrilling, in a way: trying to puzzle out someone like that, piecing together clues to make a picture of a whole.

He has a few pieces of the puzzle already. Wei Ying has never listened to a lot of traditional music, but Lan Wangji seems like a very traditional sort of person. There’s the fact that he got famous playing the guqin, of all things, and he only wears hanfu on stage, and he doesn’t even have a social media account. He is definitely the type who reads all of the title cards in museum exhibits, Wei Ying thinks, and his house is probably very stuffy and boring, with a bunch of expensive vases everywhere that no one is allowed to touch.

It’s the trade-off for being so attractive, Wei Ying decides, readying his watercolor palette. No one can be that beautiful and interesting. It simply isn’t fair.

He manages three sketches, in the end, all echoing a traditional Song dynasty style: a tall mountain, clouds clustering at the peak; an ocean wave, the swell rising towards the sky; and a kind of spoof on a classic imperial court scene, with a tiny Lan Wangji in a pavillion. He paints them in soft, muted colors, pale blue and sage green and a very faint red.

He’s a little disappointed with them. They’re nice enough, but they’re boring, and it feels like something he would have done in art school just to get a passing grade from a particularly stuffy teacher. But commissions are about tailoring work to the client, Wei Ying thinks; his own creative preferences come later, for personal projects. He eats another packet of peanuts, waiting for the paint to dry, and then he packs them carefully into his portfolio and steps into the hallway and locks the studio door behind him.

If Lan Wangji doesn’t like the sketches — well, that’s to be expected. Wei Ying should not have gotten this far to begin with. If Lan Wangji doesn’t like them, Wei Ying will just throw the drawings away, and forget all about it, and pretend this whole thing had never happened at all.