Lan Wangji takes shelter at a brothel on a rainy night.
He waits it out at first—he takes a table in the furthermost corner of the room, far from the other patrons, and women draped over their lap. He asks for tea, oolong tea, and immerses himself in silence. He goes over the events of the night-hunt he’s just completed silently in his head, knowing he’ll have to report it in detail to shufu later. He sips at his cup of tea, and avoids the curious gaze of the other folk in the room. He’s sure he must look out of place in an establishment like this, a Gusu Lan cultivator dressed in his family’s finest robes, but the judgment of others does not concern him. Nothing ever has.
One hour passes after another. Once-sober men descend into drunken depravity, and then are led up the stairs by the women attending to them. The cycle rinses and repeats, and continues well into the night. Some of the women blow him a kiss when they pass by his table sometimes. Lan Wangji pretends not to notice.
Three hours till nine, and Lan Wangji resigns himself to asking for a room. He’s still a distance away from Gusu, and this brothel is the only establishment in this small town that can offer him a place to stay. Lan Wangji will just have to continue his journey tomorrow.
He leaves his table, finally, and walks up to the madam of the brothel.
“I require a room,” Lan Wangji says. He takes out his pouch of money from his sleeve, full of golden coins he hardly uses, and pays a deposit.
“Certainly, sir,” the madam is too happy to entertain. It’s not everyday she gets a handsome young man such as himself as a customer, much less an esteemed cultivator from the Gusu Lan sect. “If I may ask, the type of women you favour…”
“No women,” Lan Wangji answers, very politely.
The madam is left in awe. She takes her money, and is left nodding away to Lan Wangji’s words even as he takes the room key from her and begins making his way up the stairs. Somehow, as attractive as the cultivator is, none of the women in the establishment dare go too near him—or trespass the invisible boundaries he’s set around himself. It feels almost disrespectful to do such a thing, to a man who looks as dignified as he does.
And so, when Lan Wangji reaches his room down the hallway, and pulls open the door, he is expecting more rest and solitude for the night.
He certainly does not expect company—much less a man, clothed in red silk, lying in wait for him. Kneeling on the floor mat, right before the tea table in the middle of the room. Upon the opening of the door, the man’s slitted eyes pull open bright.
Silver, clandestine eyes stare right back at him. Lan Wangji cannot tell if the glint in his eyes is innocence, or mischief.
Lan Wangji pauses at the door, wondering if the madam had heard him wrong. “I said no women.”
Perhaps she had misunderstood his phrasing, and assumed he leaned the other way? This wouldn’t be the first time.
He’s just about to turn and head downstairs to request for another room, when the man speaks.
“Do I look like a woman to you,” he laughs, parting his rouge-tainted lips to reveal gleaming white teeth. He tilts his head to the side, his long hair falling into a heap as he does so. “Xiansheng.”
Lan Wangji gets goosebumps.
Something in his voice is—so sweet, so compelling, so inviting. Lan Wangji turns back, and casts another sweeping look at the man. The man sits, unmoving. His smile shifts in an instant from gentle to seductive, from seductive back to welcoming. There is an empty spot opposite him on the mat, waiting to be filled by Lan Wangji. If not Lan Wangji, then someone else; another customer for the night, perhaps.
Against better judgment, Lan Wangji steps in, and closes the door behind him.
The man sits so still, and so perfectly poised. He holds one wrist high up—delicately, like he’s been trained all his life—as he pours tea into a cup, readying it for his guest. Everything he does, it feels like a deliberate performance. And Lan Wangji loath to admit it, but he is enjoying the show.
“I simply wish to rest,” Lan Wangji says, even if every of his actions thus far has gone against that.
The man sets the pot of tea down. “I can do that,” he says, smilingly. “I’ve been told that being with me is very relaxing.”
Lan Wangji’s not sure why he’s still resisting—this. “Alone.”
“Without company?” The man gasps out, in mock horror. “Why, such a young, virile man like you… How sad!”
Lan Wangji’s mouth twitches. He should ask this man to leave, but something still stops him. He doesn’t want to. He wants to take in more of the stranger before him. Is it the man’s beauty? No, that’s ridiculous—Lan Wangji is unfazed by worldly indulgences, and has hardly prized beauty above anything else. No, there’s something far more magnetic and riveting about this man, a man who has come to attend to him on a rainy night in a brothel he never expected to be in.
There’s something in the way the man’s long lashes flicker up to meet his, silver eyes all the more accentuated by the darkness he hides himself in. The moonlight that falls upon him from the windows up above glisten in the jade hairpiece in his hair. The material is cheap, and made of inferior jade. It’s a popular choice of accessory amongst the common folk, in particular those in this brothel who need to routinely dress up but cannot afford better.
And yet on the man, it is made all the more exquisite. Nothing on the man appears lacking in any way; even the red silk robes he adorns cannot be too expensive, they are not even patterned, but all Lan Wangji can focus on is how tight it is on the man, and how it draws out the curves of his thin waist and wider hips. By all standards, however, the red robes are conservative. Compared to the women from before, the man does not show off skin unnecessarily.
Lan Wangji thinks the danger lies in this. The man has enthralled him, with his everything else.
When the man speaks, his hair dances along to every word. The long, dark tresses of his hair sweep across his shoulders, from place to place, exposing hints of his bare, unblemished neck. He is pale, very pale. Very fair, and so easy to bruise.
He soon notices Lan Wangji’s silence.
“So, do I look like a woman to you,” he asks again. “Xiansheng?”
Lan Wangji is still standing by the door, with a firm grip on his sword. “What does it matter.”
“Well, you said no women,” the man grins. “But I’m inclined to think… you are inclined to features softer in nature.”
“I am not inclined,” Lan Wangji clarifies. “To anything.”
“Not even me?” The man asks, with a sore pout. He swipes at his own lips teasingly, blood red rouge coming off onto his thumb. “And yet you haven’t taken your eyes off me for even a second since you stepped in here.”
Lan Wangji tightens his grip on bichen. “Shameless.”
“Oh? I’m shameless?” He asks, laughingly. “But I’m not the one with wandering eyes.”
Lan Wangji has no counter to that. He is right, and Lan Wangji cannot lie to his face.
“Xiansheng,” the man coos again. “It’s a beautiful rainy night, are you going to stand there all day? You said you wanted to rest, so won’t you come sit and drink with me already?”
When Lan Wangji takes his seat on the mat before him—hypnotised, he’s been hypnotised—he takes a look at the cup in the man’s hands, extended out to him like an offering, and realises it hadn’t been tea the man had been pouring. It had been alcohol.
The alcohol swirls endlessly in the cup. It’s as blood red as his lips.
(How did he miss it, Lan Wangji wonders. Missed the red, in everything the man does. Had the moonlight fooled him, or was it the man’s intoxicating laughter—how is Lan Wangji so unfocused, like he cannot register anything else, like he’s never felt this way before—)
When Lan Wangji raises his gaze back up to the man, he is very acutely aware that he is sinking—he is drowning. He does not need to gaze into a mirror to know the look on his face must be betraying his honest feelings.
But how can he stop the lust from clouding his eyes, when he hardly even knew when it had begun?
“How… long,” Lan Wangji begins, accepting the cup of alcohol into his hands. “How long have you been working here.”
He doesn’t say that he’ll wash the drink away in his system once it’s in, with the help of his core. He has never gotten drunk in his life, and tonight will not be the first. Not when he does not feel like he cannot afford to waste away even a single second of this man’s company.
“Oh, interested in me?” The man presses both hands to his chest, blinking with feigned innocence. He breaks into laughter a second later, humming whimsically to himself. He is so happy, so mesmerising, he is the star of his own show. Lan Wangji cannot look away. “I’ve been here since I was a child, xiansheng.”
A child. Lan Wangji is gutted to hear this, even if he somewhat already expected it. It is not rare to hear of orphans being taken in by brothels in exchange for being used as help, until they are of age to finally begin courting customers of their own.
When Lan Wangji glances back to the pair of hands that had handed him the cup from before, he sees how rough those palms are, and how deeply scarred. These are surely the hands of a servant, for years of dishwashing, cleaning and serving in this brothel must have toughened his skin. And still—the man has flowered into a priceless jade as an adult, unaffected by the many previous years of hardship.
He now sits in the room of men, waiting to serve them.
Lan Wangji knows this story so well. He just doesn’t like it.
“Do they take care of you here,” he asks, dryly.
For once, the man is the one caught off-guard.
“Yes,” he says. The bittersweet look in his eyes tells Lan Wangji he’s not lying about it. “And it’s certainly better than the life I could have had. Besides, how can I complain? When I’ve gotten the chance to meet the likes of you here,” he licks at his lips, leaning in. “Tonight.”
The red-robed beauty swipes at his first cup of wine, and brings it to his lips. He downs it like it’s nothing, downing it so fast droplets of the red wine are dribbling down past his lips. Lan Wangji only realises he’s been caught staring at his mouth when the man turns to him, and slyly winks.
Lan Wangji swallows. He feels so utterly revealing. So utterly transparent, and so honest with every heated emotion coursing through him; something about him makes Lan Wangji bring to surface the person he’s always detested himself to be.
Those long, slender fingers with red manicured tips beckons for Lan Wangji to raise his cup, and do the same.
“Xiansheng, it’s time to drink with me.”
Lan Wangji obeys the instruction, and takes the wine. He obeys, like he’s never heard anything more enchanting. He’s struck with a fear, suddenly. Those lips could tell him to do anything, and he would do—everything.
“Won’t you tell me your name? I’ll tell you mine.”
“Lan,” he says, before stopping. He does not want to ruin this. It feels like a fantasy; all of it. “Lan er gege.”
The man’s eyes shimmer in delight. “Gege,” he laughs, pressing his fingers to his chin. He leans right over the table, until his face is level with Lan Wangji’s jaw. Faint floral aroma spreads in the air, emanating off him. One second it smells like wisteria, another second it smells like gentian.
Lan Wangji wonders if it’s the same cheap perfume the other women in this brothel don, but he takes a second whiff and decides, no. Nothing on the man feels cheap; in fact, the man moves in ways so precise and calculated, Lan Wangji cannot imagine the man ever making a flimsy choice when it comes to dressing himself in anything.
“Call me A-Ying. I like it better that way.”
“A-Ying,” Lan Wangji is eager to receive it, grab hold of it, taste it. It all falls into place, it fits the raven-haired beauty so well. “A-Ying.”
“Yes,” A-Ying says, sliding his hand across the table to reach for Lan Wangji’s. When he squeezes Lan Wangji’s fingers in his grasp, Lan Wangji can feel how dainty his hand is in comparison. How small. How is every single part of him so delectable, Lan Wangji thinks, swallowing again. How is it even possible.
“Do you like me, er gege? I can’t help but feel you already do. Perhaps… even waited your entire life to meet someone like me?”
So audacious, so brazen.
So commanding of his attention.
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. He can’t even blame the alcohol anymore for this courage building in his chest, he’s cleansed it all out. It’s him—all him. All A-Ying. “I have.”
Drunk not on wine, but on him. Before he’s even noticed, he has A-Ying’s hand clutched within his one, lifted up to his lips. He presses a kiss down to A-Ying’s hand, hazy golden eyes flitting up to the silver-eyed beauty under the moonlight.
“Oh, how gentlemanly of you,” A-Ying praises, so sweetly. Lan Wangji can’t tell if he’s blushing, or if, it’s the powder on his cheeks. “Do you want to make me yours, er gege?”
Lan Wangji doesn’t even blink. “Yes.”
“Steal me away, keep me with you forever?”
“But gege, you hardly know me,” A-Ying plays it up, his eyes drifting to the side, his thin brows furrowing in concern. “And I hardly know you.”
“Where I am from, this will not matter,” Lan Wangji says. It’s like he has forgotten the past thirty-five years of rigid lessons—it’s as if he’s lost every single ounce of Lan restraint. A-Ying makes him so honest. Spurred by the loss of his inhibitions, disappeared in the face of ever-changing floral scents and blood-red lips.
A-Ying’s voice lowers, with realisation. The smile has disappeared from his face, only to return in his darkened gaze. “You have power.”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji answers.
When A-Ying tips his head up, looking impressed, Lan Wangji… feels a strange feeling of pride swelling inside of him. He has never once been concerned about his status; he is well-aware of it, having been born the second son into a prestigious family that chairs the Lan sect, but his concern goes as far as the responsibilities and duties he has to uphold as Lan Wangji, as Hanguang-Jun, and nothing else.
However, it’s in this very moment that he is terribly aware of how attractive it must seem to outsiders. To people whose lives can be lacking, in some ways. To people like A-Ying.
He has money, he has influence. Whoever he marries is guaranteed a stable, secure life of prosperity, and goodness. He is in a good position to take care of those that he love.
A-Ying might, perhaps, want that.
Soft laughter leaves the man’s ruby lips. Hypnotising, all of it’s so hypnotising.
Everything moves so slowly in front of Lan Wangji’s eyes—and then so fast.
Suddenly he finds A-Ying lying in his arms, his head nuzzled into his chest. Since when did he get so close? But Lan Wangji can’t complain. A-Ying plays with Lan Wangji’s hair, twirls the long ends mindlessly with his fingers.
“Gege,” When A-Ying speaks, he airs hot breath right against Lan Wangji’s neck.
“I’ve been waiting so long for a powerful man to take me away. Take me back, and hide me away. Don’t you think it’s too sad for me to be cooped up here, for forever?”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. He’s been thinking it, every second, for the past minute now. “You deserve a better life.”
“And I like you,” A-Ying whispers out, fingers moving up to cup at the little meat on Lan Wangji’s cheeks. His sharp nails make a dent on his skin. “I like you so much, Hanguang-Jun.”
Lan Wangji’s breath hitches. “You—“
“Of course I know who you are,” A-Ying grins, burying his head into the man’s neck. “People talk the most at brothels, spread tales.”
Always one step ahead of him, this A-Ying.
“Have you been waiting for me,” Lan Wangji murmurs. Their heads are so close, if A-Ying leans up any more their lips will meet.
He has never wanted to kiss someone so much.
“Do you want me to say yes,” A-Ying laughs.
He shifts away for a second, readjusting his body to make himself more comfortable—but Lan Wangji only grabs him by the waist, and pulls him right back.
“No,” Lan Wangji insists.
“No leaving,” he says, pointedly. A-Ying’s pressed up even closer to him in this position, than the one they were in before. “Ever.”
“Oh,” it’s A-Ying’s turn to get chills. “Hanguang-Jun.”
There’s just something about the way he utters his title in that voice that drives Lan Wangji entirely mad—
When Lan Wangji dips his head down to draw A-Ying into a furious kiss, the smaller man barely protests. He leans into it, even, like he’s wondering what took his Hanguang-Jun so long. Red, wine-stained lips press back against his ones, so needy and wanton. When he moans into the kiss, the sweetest, softest moan Lan Wangji’s ever heard, the taller man’s hand claws into A-Ying’s hair, desperately tugging at the strands. The jade hair piece twists out of place, threatening to slip out of the man’s silky locks.
“I will buy you better jade,” Lan Wangji manages to say, in between kisses. “You will look so beautiful.”
“Do you think I care only for jade,” A-Ying laughs, chastising. He breathes right against Lan Wangji’s mouth. “Do you really think that’s what makes a lowly man like me, at a brothel, happy?”
“No,” Lan Wangji answers. He’s biting at A-Ying’s lower lip again, pulling it open. “But I’ve always believed in providing for my furen, and giving them the best.”
“Oh,” A-Ying gasps into the kiss. “Furen.” He hadn’t even asked for it.
“Yes,” Lan Wangji affirms, growing even bolder. “Do you like the sound of that? Furen? Lan er furen.”
“Furen,” A-Ying sighs out dreamily, at the thought. “Wearing your jade, and all your clothes. Satisfying you every night, just like this, keeping you company. Making sure my husband is happy…”
Oh, the very fantasy is so clear in Lan Wangji’s head, so bright, so vivid. He can see it—being blissful forever, with A-Ying in his arms in the jingshi every night. He’s never wanted anything more.
“...Want, so much,” Lan Wangji says, urgency in his tone. “Want it with A-Ying.”
His one hand holds A-Ying close, and the other slides down to cup at his waist.
A-Ying perks up when he realises. “I’m not easy,” he pouts, hands playfully prodding at Lan Wangji’s chest. “I will not go further with you, until we marry...”
Dangling the very offer of marriage right in front of him. In other words, A-Ying is ready to accept, should Lan Wangji simply say the word.
Lan Wangji loses breath. “Of course. I understand.” Chastity is highly valued by the Lan sect. “However, if I may ask…”
“Yes?” A-Ying says, his smile so sweet.
“Has A-Ying given himself to others.”
It sounds like a ridiculous question—A-Ying works in a brothel, serving men, of course he cannot expect him to remain chaste. But Lan Wangji is desperate to know.
A-Ying’s eyes glimmer, like he’s been waiting to answer this his whole life.
“Er gege, what if I told you... I haven’t.”
Lan Wangji’s breath staggers out. Lust rushes back into his eyes. “You haven’t,” he repeats, digesting this information. Pure, chaste, untainted, a virgin for him to take. Lan Wangji has grown up in one way—and all thoughts in his head go wild at the very idea of being able to lay his claim to someone so… untouched. “You have not been deflowered.”
“Deflowered,” A-Ying laughs, when he hears term. “Such a word to be used on me, Lan er gege. Yes, I am a flower that is ripe, and have yet to be plucked. In fact,” and he tips his head up, lowering his voice into just a whisper at Lan Wangji’s ear, “I have not spread my legs for any man before, and so I remain as tight as can be. I think if you fucked me, gege, I would scream.”
Lan Wangji can’t suppress the growl that rouses at the back of his throat. He grows feverish with desire. To speak so crudely to him, in such close proximity—no one has ever done so before, and certainly no one as dazzling as A-Ying.
“Tight,” he repeats, in a daze.
“Tightest,” A-Ying bites down at the top of Lan Wangji’s ear. “Yours to stretch. Train. Teach. You could make me warm your bed every night. You should make me. It’d only be fitting for someone of your post. Your standing.”
A second growl leaves him, this time even louder.
“I would,” Lan Wangji says. He is losing grasp on the last strain of control he thought he had. “I will.”
“Make me,” A-Ying whispers. “Make me good and obedient, just for you.”
The hardness between Lan Wangji’s thighs presses up so painfully, digging into his white robes. It forms a wet patch that A-Ying so clearly sees.
He smiles at the sight, his hand hovering down to caress past the hardness, teasingly.
“Good boy,” A-Ying sings.
Lan Wangji loses control. Momentarily, briefly, for just a moment—
“If we,” Lan Wangji breathes out, heavily. “If we didn’t wait until marriage. If we consummated our would-be wedding, a little earlier,” he can’t even hear the words he’s saying, they leave him rushed and flighty and in an incoherent mess. “If I just held you down, now, had my way with you—”
“Xianggong,” A-Ying interrupts coaxingly, with a tight smile. He removes his touch from Lan Wangji. “Patience.”
Lan Wangji shudders. He’s never been called husband.
“Marry me, first?” A-Ying’s one finger slides underneath Lan Wangji’s jaw, tipping him down to meet his eyes. He’s in complete control—and he knows it. “You have to understand, someone like me… cannot afford to rely on spoken promises. If you take me tonight and leave me afterwards, what will I do? Where will I go? I would have no value.”
No, A-Ying’s right. It’s completely unbecoming of Lan Wangji to ask him to do so.
“I’ll wait,” Lan Wangji says, dizzily. “I can wait.”
He can do so, for A-Ying.
Love, he has fallen in love. He doesn’t know how, but he has. All within the span of a night—no, even less. This is black magic, surely. It has to be. But does it matter, ultimately? When falling has never felt so good, so free. Not when he has a nose pressed into A-Ying’s hair, and he’s suddenly breathing in the scent of water lilies. His floral scent has changed again. Gentians, a while ago. So familiar. So tailored.
“Hanguang-Jun, I’ve heard you are a man of your word,” A-Ying sighs. “You won’t forsake me, will you?”
“No,” Lan Wangji says. The finger A-Ying has, is still underneath his chin. “Tomorrow, we’ll go home.”
A-Ying is satisfied to hear that. He removes his finger with a wicked smile, and pours another round of wine for the both of them.
This time, when Lan Wangji downs his fill, he doesn’t cleanse it. He simply embraces it. When A-Ying gets up and announces it’s time for bed—it’s well past nine by now—he takes Lan Wangji by the hand and guides him to bed.
They tumble into bed together, A-Ying lying curled up in his arms. It’s rather feline in nature, the way A-Ying buries his small face into his chest for comfort.
It’s the best sleep Lan Wangji has ever gotten in his life.
He dreams of A-Ying in Lan-styled wedding robes, heavy red robes with the Lan insignia woven into them. A-Ying, with bright beautiful eyes, smiling right up to him. Calling him xianggong, twirling around and showing off his new robes.
“Furen,” Lan Wangji murmurs out, in his sleep.
A-Ying smiles, when he hears it.
When Lan Wangji wakes at five, A-Ying is already seated on the mat, made up and prepared, waiting for him.
“Morning, Lan er gege,” A-Ying greets, sweetly. There is a wide spread of food already on the table, full of light delicacies like pork buns and porridge. “Breakfast is ready.”
The jade hair piece is back in his hair, fixed into place and holding his hair in place. Under the early morning darkness, A-Ying is still shimmering, like he belongs in the night.
“Good morning, A-Ying,” Lan Wangji greets back. His heart is still entirely besotted with the other man. Even after a good night’s sleep, the excitement and intoxication hasn’t worn off. Lan Wangji relishes in the fear that it never will.
After washing up, Lan Wangji takes his seat opposite A-Ying, who waits until he’s settled in to begin eating himself. Cute, Lan Wangji thinks. Cute, and so considerate of his husband-to-be.
Lan Wangji picks up a bowl of porridge, and A-Ying picks up a pork bun. When A-Ying eats, he takes care to only nibble, and take small bites. What great table manners, Lan Wangji observes in awe. How refined. He must have been trained his entire life to appear as graceful as possible in front of other men.
“After this…” A-Ying trails off, looking up to him, slightly unsure.
“We leave,” Lan Wangji says. “Together.”
A-Ying perks up, happy to know that their plans from last night haven’t changed. “Yes, er gege.”
“Will problems arise in your leaving,” Lan Wangji asks. “Will I have to… offer compensation.” He tries to word it as politely as possible; but he knows most brothels demand a price in exchange for taking away one of their workers.
“Oh,” A-Ying shakes his head. “No. I’ve paid off my debt long ago. Working here since I was a child sort of guarantees that. I’ve been meaning to leave, I just—I just never found a reason to.”
Lan Wangji should feel sorry, but all he feels is a sickening rush of delight. A-Ying found him a compelling reason to finally leave the only place he’s known his entire life.
“I am,” Lan Wangji only manages to breathe out. “Very fond of you.”
He’s not usually this honest. He isn’t. He could never have imagined falling in love—at first sight—it’s almost an insulting thought. But A-Ying defies every possibility; defies everything he thought he knew about himself.
A-Ying’s lips curl up into a reticent smile, “Er gege, if you continue saying these things without a warning, I won’t be able to take it, you know?”
Lan Wangji smiles.
When Lan Wangji settles the bill downstairs, A-Ying is nowhere to be found.
“I have to grab a few things,” he’d said. “I’ll meet you out front.”
Lan Wangji retrieves his money pouch from his sleeve, and hands over three gold coins—one as a tip.
“Thank you for the stay,” Lan Wangji says. It’d been beyond his wildest expectations.
“Our pleasure,” the madam answers. “We made sure to send no one up, like you asked.”
Lan Wangji pauses.
“Mn,” he nods, in acknowledgement.
Without the smell of water lilies stinking up the air around him, he can think a bit clearer.
He leaves the brothel, and sees A-Ying out front, already waiting for him.
“Lan er gege!” A-Ying calls.
Lan Wangji smiles softly. “A-Ying.”
The fragrance is back.
It’s only a short distance to Gusu from here, and an even shorter distance to Cloud Recesses from there. On his sword, they reach there in no time.
The moment they are at the doors of Cloud Recesses, the gravity and weight of Lan Wangji’s standing becomes known.
“Hanguang-Jun,” the junior disciples bow their head in greeting at the gate. “Welcome back.”
“Mn,” Lan Wangji nods, in return.
A-Ying clutches at Lan Wangji’s arm—has been, throughout this entire journey—with widened eyes. He’s clearly never been to a sect of sorts.
“This is…” the juniors look to A-Ying, unsure of how to address Lan Wangji’s companion. By Gusu Lan standards, A-Ying’s red lips and robes are considerably flashy. It is not difficult to deduce that A-Ying is from a place the likes of a brothel.
“A guest,” Lan Wangji says, leaving it at that. When he’s cleared everything with shufu, then he’ll make A-Ying’s status as his furen known.
They make their way in, and pass by more groups of juniors. By the scandalised looks on everyone’s faces, A-Ying is sure he’s the very first companion Lan Wangji has ever brought back to the sect.
“Cloud Recesses is so big,” A-Ying says with much interest, endlessly looking around the place. “A cultivator’s world is indeed very different.”
“And now, your home,” Lan Wangji says. “Forever.”
A-Ying smiles warmly, murmuring so softly it can only be for himself, “A proper home...”
Lan Wang’s ears pick up on it. His heart aches.
“So where are we going first, er gege?” A-Ying chirps, enthusiastically.
Lan Wangji takes care not to return a smile as bright as the ones he did back in the brothel, lest the rest of the juniors think he’s gone into qi deviation of some sort. “We have to greet shufu.”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. “I have to report the events of the night hunt, and I also have to inform him of our betrothal.”
“Oh,” A-Ying bounces in his step. “Do you think he will take it well?”
“No,” Lan Wangji says. “But he will have to. I am of age to have the final say in my own affairs.”
“Ah, er gege,” A-Ying nuzzles his head into Lan Wangji’s shoulder. “I knew I could depend on you.”
Shufu, of course, takes it as well as expected.
“A family name,” shufu asks of A-Ying.
“Wei,” A-Ying volunteers. “Wei Ying.”
It’s the first time Lan Wangji ever hears his name in full, too. He hadn’t thought to ask. It hadn’t mattered. A-Ying, at the end of the day, was his. Things like names and family history and whatnot, it would all eventually be revealed to him. Lan Wangji sees no point in trifling over the small details.
“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji repeats, on his tongue.
“I do not know of any Weis,” shufu says, displeased.
“I am not a cultivator,” A-Ying—no, Wei Ying—clarifies. “It’s no surprise you haven’t heard of me.”
“Not a cultivator,” shufu says, evidently in disappointment. “Then where have you come from?”
“A brothel,” Wei Ying offers up, cheekily. “Lan er gege so graciously picked me up from a brothel!”
Oh, shufu is nearly suffocating on his fury.
“Wangji,” shufu begins.
Lan Wangji turns to his brother, who has been in the background, watching on in amusement for a while now. “Xiongzhang, will you please take A-Ying to the jingshi, and arrange for attendants to tend to him.”
“Of course,” Lan Xichen says. He can never refuse his brother; he’s delighted, even, that Lan Wangji had brought a companion back of his own accord. “I’ll make sure Wei Ying settles in well.”
“Lan er gege, you won’t take too long, right?” Wei Ying pouts, tugging at his sleeve.
Shufu remains fuming.
“I will not,” Lan Wangji says. He smiles—smiles—and the very sight is enough to send both shufu and Lan Xichen stumbling, for a bit. “A-Ying, be good and follow my brother. I will find you afterwards.”
“Okay,” Wei Ying says, obediently.
He quickly falls into pace with Lan Xichen as he walks beside him, chatting up his soon-to-be brother-in-law as they begin to take their leave from the hall.
Lan Wangji turns his attention back to shufu.
“You are just like your father,” shufu says, a resigned look on his face. “Bringing an outsider in, doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Even though you share his blood, I had high hopes…”
“I am not my father, shufu,” Lan Wangji says, darkly. “I am a Lan.”
Wei Ying is in the wooden bathtub, completely naked, scrubbing at his feet. He is playing with a soap bubble when Lan Wangji knocks on the door, and enters.
“Er gege!” Wei Ying yelps, immediately submerging deeper into the waters to hide most of his body. “It’s rude to barge in!”
Lan Wangji simply answers, “We are to be wed. This is nothing.”
It’s extremely amusing to him that Wei Ying is afraid of being seen naked, when just last night his hand had just been pressing against his hardened crotch.
Wei Ying’s head tilts up, excitedly. “Your uncle gave his approval?”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. Begrudgingly, but yes. “I told you. I make the final decisions.”
“When will we be wed, then?”
“A month,” Lan Wangji says. “I tried to press for two weeks, but shufu intends to make it a grand banquet, and invite the other sects. And so, a month’s notice, for courtesy. The seamstress will also need the time to prepare our wedding robes, and the cooks, our wedding menu.”
“Oh,” Wei Ying’s eyes glisten at the news. “Er gege, you really came through for me.”
Lan Wangji takes a step closer, and kneels right next to the tub.
He cups a hand on Wei Ying’s cheek, “I did. For A-Ying.”
His golden eyes are opaque.
Wei Ying nestles into his touch. “Somehow, I think you’re even more impatient than me.”
“I am,” Lan Wangji says. “I am deeply fond of you. I do not want to waste any unnecessary time. I do not see the need.”
Wei Ying laughs his shyness away. “Afraid I will change my mind?”
“Yes,” Lan Wangji says. There is never a pause in between his answers. “If A-Ying were to get bored of me…”
“Never,” Wei Ying purrs, nuzzling into his hand. “Er gege is so good to me, I want to be yours forever.”
Lan Wangji’s heart is softening, and his lower robes—tightening. “I am not opposed to er gege. But if we are to be husbands, you should know my name is Lan Zhan.”
Wei Ying’s silver eyes open in surprise. “Lan Zhan!”
“Lan Zhan, Lan er gege, Hanguang-Jun, xianggong,” Wei Ying sighs, happily. “I like you so much, Lan Zhan.”
Lan Wangji’s heart races. “Wei Ying, you are perfect for me.”
Wei Ying grins. “I know.”
The attendants deliver fine white robes, laced with Lan insignia and detail reserved only for those in the family, to replace Wei Ying’s red robes. Wei Ying gladly trades the old, plain ones for fresh, new material. Even the conservative silk the Lans use are several grades higher than anything he’s ever worn.
The second thing to go is the jade in his hair.
After Wei Ying’s bath, he seats himself before the mirror in the room, allowing Lan Wangji to kneel behind him and help him with his hair. Lan Wangji reaches for a comb, and brushes through every soft strand of Wei Ying’s long, wavy tresses, until he’s gotten every kink and tangle out. He’s the perfect image of a doting husband. When he’s done, he plants a kiss atop Wei Ying’s head.
“Wait here,” Lan Wangji says, lest Wei Ying begins moving.
He turns to his bed, and pulls out a jewelry box hidden underneath. He takes out a jade hairpiece—an elegant, impeccable one, made out of the most exquisite jade Wei Ying has ever seen.
He inserts it into Wei Ying’s hair carefully, taking care not to hurt him as he does so.
“My mother’s,” Lan Wangji explains, lovingly. “And now, yours.”
“Oh,” Wei Ying says. His heart is warm. The jade is probably worth more than his life. He stares right into the mirror, his fingers delicately reaching up to finger around it. “It’s beautiful.”
“Do you like it?” Lan Wangji asks, his hand falling to the base of Wei Ying’s neck.
“You like your new home, too?”
“You like all that I have to offer you? As my furen?”
Wei Ying’s skin tingles. “Yes, xianggong.”
Lan Wangji kisses him atop the hair, again. “I’ll give you a much better life. All that you deserve.”
“Mm,” Wei Ying smiles into his touch. “I trust you.”
Dinner is promptly delivered at six in the evening, in which Lan Wangji learns Wei Ying does not take too well to the vegetarian meals they serve in Gusu Lan sect. He is a fan of meat and spice, and so Lan Wangji endeavours to inform the cook to make changes to the dinner menu just for Wei Ying, first thing tomorrow.
Their first night together in the jingshi proceeds as well as the night in the brothel. Lan Wangji climbs into bed, and beckons for Wei Ying to lie next to him.
Wei Ying slides up next to his body, pressed against him like they were always made to fit.
“We’ll get a bigger bed, in time for our wedding night,” Lan Wangji says, reaching a hand over to palm at Wei Ying’s cheek.
“Mm,” Wei Ying nods. He’s not complaining about the current size of the bed, really, it’s still very comfortable by his standards.
“A-Ying,” Lan Wangji calls tenderly, his gaze full of adoration. He strokes past Wei Ying’s face. “So beautiful.”
Wei Ying blinks slower, smiling. “Er gege, you’ll make me shy.”
“Good,” Lan Wangji says. He lowers his head, and sinks his lips right against his. He repeats, “Beautiful.”
Their second kiss—initiated once again by Lan Wangji. Wei Ying whines lightly into the kiss, though he returns it with as much enthusiasm. Lan Wangji’s hand runs through his hair, pulling his long curls loose. When Lan Wangji draws apart from the kiss to allow Wei Ying a breather, those lips reattach themselves to Wei Ying’s shoulder, biting and bruising him in places easily discernible and uncovered by the Gusu Lan robes.
“...Look so good in white,” Lan Wangji praises in a whisper, nipping at his pale, supple skin. “Think you were always meant to wear my colour.”
“Er gege,” Wei Ying plays up his bashfulness, pushing and prodding weakly at Lan Wangji’s chest. “I said—will not go further—until we marry—”
“No going further,” Lan Wangji promises, even if it’s killing him to do so. He withdraws his mouth from Wei Ying’s neck. The boy is so chaste sometimes, especially in these moments—it’s hard to reconcile this with the Wei Ying who had hypnotised him into drinking a cup of wine with him back in the brothel. “I respect A-Ying’s decision. Even if it is difficult.”
“Thank you,” Wei Ying says, kissing him on the cheek. “The great Hanguang-Jun, a man of his word.”
“When it is time,” Lan Wangji mutters. “A-Ying should be prepared.”
Wei Ying gets the chills. “Confident, aren’t you?”
“Mm,” Lan Wangji says.
They both dissolve into smiles, facing each other.
Wei Ying falls asleep against him in the same feline position, and Lan Wangji dreams of the same—beautiful—dreams, of A-Ying.
Wei Ying is a spectacular sight to behold at formal events. When he first sweeps into the main event hall at Gusu Lan sect, his hand on Lan Wangji’s arm, at a formal meeting set up for him to meet the Lan elders finally in person; the entire room becomes drunk on him. Lan Wangji is starting to think this is not a coincidence—people are naturally drawn to Wei Ying, and attracted to every bit of him. Perhaps it’s the way he leans in when speaking to you, or the coquettish laugh he does at the end of everything you say; perhaps it’s just his silver foxy eyes and the way his long hair follows his every movement, dancing as he speaks.
Perhaps it’s the fresh aroma of water lilies on him. It’s his favourite scent to put on, Lan Wangji has noticed. Perhaps it means something to him.
When Lan Wangji takes his place before the guqin, as is expected of him during these formal meetings, to at least play a song or two for the elders—they have always favoured his playing—Wei Ying places a hand on him, and asks if he can have a go.
“You know the guqin,” Lan Wangji asks, stunned. He plays along, “Did you pick it up in the brothel?”
“We were expected to entertain,” Wei Ying smiles to him. “A lot.”
Wei Ying replaces him, this time. The elders were already warming up plenty to Wei Ying from before, despite their skepticism about his background earlier—Wei Ying is surprisingly adept at carrying conversation, even for the harder topics such as politics and recent happenings in the cultivation world. I hear a ton from my customers, Wei Ying had explained. Sometimes, all they need is a listening ear—Wei Ying being especially proficient at the guqin too, though, seems to be the cherry on top to winning over their complete approval.
When Wei Ying plays the guqin, he looks utterly majestic. Clad in Gusu Lan robes, his long hair pinned to the back with the help of the late Madam Lan’s jade hairpiece, showing off his small face in its entirety, now free of unnecessary rouge with his cheeks glowing healthily and rosily—and Lan Wangji thinks he has fallen in love a second time, at the very sight. Wei Ying’s manicured fingers pluck skillfully at every string, weaving endless notes into a sorrowful melody to which Lan Wangji has not heard the likes of before.
Wei Ying plays with a serene look on his face, ever-smiling.
Lan Wangji takes a look at the room, and realises everyone has fallen completely silent, paying attention to Wei Ying, and only him.
Wei Ying is well-suited to be his furen, Lan Wangji thinks. More than perfect.
The elders are full of praise for Wei Ying’s playing afterwards, and agree with each other that Lan Wangji and Wei Ying are well-matched as a couple. They congratulate Lan Qiren on the new addition to the family, applauding Lan Wangji’s good eye for a partner—even if Wei Ying cannot cultivate.
Wei Ying only smiles and meekly thanks them, even flashing Lan Qiren a lingering smile afterwards.
Lan Qiren turns away with a huff, but there is red tinting his ears. It seems even shufu is starting to give in.
When Lan Wangji finally escorts Wei Ying out and back to the jingshi, he breathes in the fresh air outside, and realises how pungent the smell had been back in the main hall.
The fragrance of water lilies—it’d been oozing, everywhere.
Lan Wangji wonders if it’d been the guqin.
Lan Wangji wakes up bright and early one morning, half an hour before he usually rises, to a softly nestled Wei Ying against him, in bed. The smaller man’s robes are loose—they come apart around his shoulders, exposing his white collar bones in its entirety, the silk almost slipping down his upper arms. He clutches at Lan Wangji’s robes as he snoozes, taking gentle breaths with every small rise in his chest. His long raven hair falls along his face beautifully, not a single strand out of place.
Lan Wangji, rather painfully, swallows down. His resilience is tested further and further, each day; it’s only by sheer willpower that he is able to resist taking advantage of the man before him.
Lan Wangji pries Wei Ying off him as delicately as he can, so as to avoid waking him up, and then places his two bare feet onto the floor. He gets up from bed, intending to make his way to the bathroom to wash up and get himself ready for the start of another day of classes.
His feet, instead, brush against loose soil, and he stops immediately in his tracks.
He glances down, and catches sight of mud prints on the ground. He takes one look out of the window in the jingshi, and sees that the sky is still recovering from a bout of loud thunder and rain.
Lan Wangji squints. He kneels to the floor, and follows the trail of mud. In his mind, the mud prints paint vivid imagery of what might have transpired just hours before: someone entering from the outside, through the front doors of the jingshi, only stopping short right before the bed—where the trail of mud prints end.
Usually, Lan Wangji would have made the obvious deduction by now that Wei Ying had gone out for whatever reason in the dead of the night, got caught in the rain and mud, and returned back to the jingshi to catch up on some sleep.
Except for the glaring fact that the mud prints weren’t human. Instead—they were animalistic in nature, and in the shape of relatively small-sized paw prints.
Wei Ying wakes up minutes later, yawning and stretching and rubbing at his eyes, moaning for Lan Wangji to come back to bed.
Robes slide further down his shoulders with every graceful movement he makes, almost distracting Lan Wangji from the mystery at hand. But he remains focused.
Lan Wangji points out, “A-Ying, I think an animal paid us a visit last night.”
Wei Ying is immediately jolted awake by the news. He’s quickly looking around, rather restlessly. “Ah? Did it? Is it still here?”
He pulls himself out of bed, pulling his two feet off the bed. Specks of mud loosely fall off the soles of his feet as he places them both onto the floor.
Lan Wangji fixates his gaze onto the pair of dainty, mud-soiled feet, then lifts his eyes back up to Wei Ying—warmth spreading throughout his chest at the revelation. “Not to worry. I believe it is gone.”
Wei Ying is hanging off Lan Wangji’s arm at the entrance of Cloud Recesses, exchanging cordial greetings with a visiting sect leader—Sect Leader Jin, and his wife Jiang Yanli—when his nose first wrinkles up and he, rather frightfully, detects the smell of… it.
“Oh no,” Wei Ying says, quickly turning his head around in a frantic bid to search for the incoming enemy. “Oh no, oh no.”
“What is it, dear,” Lan Wangji asks, concerned, placing a hand consolingly over Wei Ying’s arm.
“I have to go,” Wei Ying squeaks. He tries to pull away from Lan Wangji’s grasp, but the man holds him in place. “Lan Zhan! I’m being serious!”
“What is it,” Lan Wangji asks again, frowning.
Not more than a second later, and the infamous Jin heir is running up the stairs towards Cloud Recesses—chasing right after his spiritual dog, who’s in the lead.
Amazing, Lan Wangji thinks. Wei Ying detected the scent of a dog from a whole mile away?
“Oh no,” Wei Ying’s face loses all colour. Right away, he takes two steps back to hide himself behind Lan Wangji. “Er gege, I have to leave. Right now.”
“You’re afraid of dogs? I apologise, we should have informed you of his attendance beforehand,” Jiang Yanli asks, out of worry. She turns to her son, and outwardly chastises him for taking Fairy along with him. “Jin Ling, we’re making our host uncomfortable.”
“I did not know this either,” Lan Wangji admits, ashamed. He turns to Wei Ying, whose eyes are now bulging with fright, his knees shaking non-stop; and Lan Wangji’s heart squeezes.
Fairy, Jin Ling’s spiritual dog, steps back to look up towards Wei Ying, rather inquisitively.
As if sensing a hostile force, Fairy lets out a feral growl, and barks.
Wei Ying yelps, and visibly shrinks underneath Fairy’s gaze. “Help me,” he whispers out to his beloved Hanguang-Jun, tugging at the back of his robes.
“Alright, that’s enough,” Lan Wangji says. He picks Wei Ying up into his arms easily, bridal style, and softly kisses Wei Ying on the cheek. “A-Ying is not feeling very well, so you’ll have to excuse us for now.”
Wei Ying is sniffling when he nods his head to Sect Leader Jin and his wife, “Lovely meeting you both.”
“So the rumours are true,” Jiang Yanli gasps, in awe at the sight. “Hanguang-Jun really has been bewitched by the likes of a young, beautiful man.”
“A-Li,” her husband chides, bashfully. “Surely they will not appreciate being referred to as such.”
Lan Wangji pauses. Is that what people have been saying about him and Wei Ying? That he has been bewitched by the likes of a beauty, from a brothel?
“No, it’s flattering,” Wei Ying pipes up, to say. “I’m sorry I can’t stay long because of the dog, but I’m flattered you believe I have the power to bewitch anyone, in particular Hanguang-Jun. Thank you.”
He’s not being snarky—Wei Ying has never been snarky in his life.
Lan Wangji carries him all the way back to the jingshi, attracting much attention from the disciples around the sect. Wei Ying happily basks in all of the attention, clinging onto Lan Wangji’s front robes for dear life.
“I did not realise you were afraid of dogs,” Lan Wangji says, placing Wei Ying down onto bed. Thinking about it now, Lan Wangji should have known better.
“Yes, I am natural enemies with them,” Wei Ying jokes. Lan Wangji does not laugh. “When I say it’s life and death with them…”
“No more dogs,” Lan Wangji promises, kissing the top of his head. “I’ll make sure shufu instates a new rule for Cloud Recesses. No more dogs, if A-Ying does not like them.”
“I don’t want to be a bother,” Wei Ying sighs. But he’s fluttering his lashes, and turning his head coyly. “Will I be a bother?”
“No,” Lan Wangji says, with much certainty.
When Wei Ying smiles—Lan Wangji knows he’s immensely pleased.
Wei Ying is outside playing with the juniors, bare feet running around in the grass, shrieking and laughing as they give chase to him, and Lan Wangji is looking on blissfully—when Lan Xichen walks up to him.
“Wei Ying gets along well with the juniors,” Lan Xichen says, with his usual smile. “They respect and look up to him, even if he does not cultivate.”
“Mn,” Lan Wangji says. “A-Ying is a brilliant person.”
“Yes, far too brilliant,” Lan Xichen agrees. “For someone raised in a brothel.”
Lan Wangji’s eyes dart up to him. He should have guessed. His brother never begins innocent conversations with him. “Xiongzhang.”
“You have probably guessed much earlier than me,” Lan Xichen smiles, looking on. “That he has lied about his background. You knew even before you brought him back to Cloud Recesses, didn’t you?”
Lan Wangji purses his lip. “It’s not important to me.”
“Aren’t you the least bit curious?” Lan Xichen questions. “Why he has lied.”
“He must have his reasons,” Lan Wangji says.
“Ah, yes, you have also been blinded,” Lan Xichen says. “Just like shufu and me, but even worse. As the main target of his desire, the effect is most potent on you.”
Lan Wangji sucks in a breath. “Xiongzhang, you are insinuating—”
“Few spiritual creatures can do this,” Lan Xichen says. “And the one that we do know of, has become extremely rare in numbers and do not mingle at all with human civilisation.”
Lan Wangji turns his head. “It is not important to me what he is. He does not hold malice.”
“If he is marrying into our clan,” Lan Xichen says. “I have a right to be wary. He needs something from us. I will not place our clan in danger, all because you have been seduced—”
“Xiongzhang!” Lan Wangji snaps, his irritation crackling through him. Lan Xichen may be his older brother, and the eventual sect leader, but Lan Wangji will not stand for him disrespecting Wei Ying, too.
Lan Xichen understands he’s overstepped. “There are a few books that I’ve set aside for you in the library pavilion. I do not disapprove of Wei Ying—I like him—but I think it’d be good of you to read up on what he might be—and what he can do.”
Lan Wangji casts his gaze to the side. “Hu li jing.”
Lan Xichen’s lips spread wider. “You’ve already guessed.”
Wei Ying comes tumbling back into Lan Wangji’s arms soon after, with messy hair and loosened robes and jade hairpiece completely out of place, laughing and gasping as he sinks into Lan Wangji’s arms. The sweat makes his hair stick to his face so prettily, and Lan Wangji is overcome with love again looking at him.
“Xichen-ge,” Wei Ying greets, rubbing his face cutely into Lan Wangji’s shoulder as he does so. “Taking a break from teaching?”
“Wei Ying,” Lan Xichen smiles—this time, his gaze becoming particularly affectionate.
Lan Wangji can understand why. When Wei Ying is up-close, the influence is much stronger, much more compelling. He’d noticed this, many weeks back. Seen it happen one too many times to every person Wei Ying meets.
“The juniors like you,” Lan Xichen says. He does not add, who doesn’t. “It’s nice to see them carefree and having fun with you. They are usually more rigid in classes.”
“I like them just as much too,” Wei Ying laughs. “They’re good children.”
“Yes,” Lan Xichen smiles. “Perhaps, if you like children so much, you should consider…”
“Xiongzhang,” Lan Wangji interrupts. “Break time is over.”
“Of course,” Lan Xichen says, chuckling. “Wei Ying, Wangji, I’ll see you around.”
Wei Ying, still trapped in Lan Wangji’s arms, tips on his toes to give his husband-to-be an overdue kiss on the lips.
“Er gege, do you have to return to teaching so soon, too?” Wei Ying whines, squirming in protest in Lan Wangji’s hold. “I’ve hardly spent time with you today!”
Lan Wangji’s heart flutters. Wei Ying is very cute, when he’s whining. “I will endeavour to end class earlier today.”
“Lan Zhan! You’re so good to me,” Wei Ying coos. “I’ll wait for you in the jingshi, okay? Don’t take too long, or I’ll miss you!”
Lan Wangji does not care if Wei Ying is not human. He will never let him go.
“...will miss A-Ying too,” Lan Wangji whispers. He clenches Wei Ying closer, and manhandles him right into another kiss.
After ending his classes, a tad earlier than he usually does, Lan Wangji does make a pit stop first at the library pavilion, before returning to the jingshi.
As his older brother promised, books have been set aside for him. Lan Wangji knows where to look—last shelf in the library, top shelf, rightmost corner. He retrieves the three or so books, and flips through them.
狐狸精 hú li jīng, the text is titled. Fox spirits that have existed for a millennia. They are believed to be a creature of yin that consumes masculine yang energy. Extremely rare in numbers, especially after the rise in trend in hunting them down—for their mythical fox fur.
Lan Wangji’s eyes skim past the lines, Can be a force of benevolence or malevolence, depending on its individual nature.
...an expert at deception and seduction…
...extremely afraid of dogs, their fear may even lead them to transform back…
...weaker ones can only take on the appearance of a human during the day…
...known to steal humans’ life essence as they sleep to cultivate into immortality and divinity…
...their purposeful seduction is how they harvest essence in order to refine their spirit...
Lan Wangji slams the books shut.
That isn’t Wei Ying.
If Wei Ying was truly a malevolent spirit, he’d have done something to Lan Wangji by now. Instead, he spends his days joyful and merry and cooped up in the jingshi with his husband-to-be, pulling him into a dance and laughing at all the times Lan Wangji steps on his feet.
“Hanguang-Jun,” Wei Ying says, as he raises Lan Wangj’s hand up high and twirls himself into his arms. “You can’t be bad at dancing. You can do everything else, so why not dance?”
“A-Ying,” Lan Wangji’s ears are bright red, embarrassed. No one is looking, but Wei Ying always has the capability to reduce him into such shyness. “It is simply not an art form prioritised in the Gusu Lan sect.”
“I think you lot are boring,” Wei Ying teases, unfurling himself from Lan Wangji’s grasp.
Lan Wangji holds him still, and sinks his head into Wei Ying’s shoulder, from behind. “You think me boring?”
“Yes,” Wei Ying says, laughing and kicking and thrashing in his grip. “Boring ol’ Hanguang-Jun. Don’t you want to excite your young, handsome, lover?”
“You really think me boring,” Lan Wangji asks again, the baritone of his voice emphasising on the last bit. His large hands wound around Wei Ying’s waist, tightening. “When I do so much just to make you happy, A-Ying.”
“Er gege,” Wei Ying titters, nauseatingly. “If you don’t step up your game and entertain me, maybe I’ll run away?”
“I’ll catch you, always, and take you back,” Lan Wangji hums. “Do you think I won’t be able to find you? Do you think you can ever escape me?”
Wei Ying gasps, and turns in his arms so his silver eyes are directly facing his. “Lan Zhan, you are secretly so monstrous.”
“I can get worse,” Lan Wangji says. He embraces Wei Ying closer, and presses his lips to his bare neck. “You already know how much I want you. How badly I need you.”
“Oh,” Wei Ying bites at his lip. His cheeks flush red, and the hair on his arms stand. “Er gege…”
“Don’t ever dare run away,” Lan Wangji sinks his teeth into his neck. “Or I’ll hunt you down, drag you back if I have to.”
Wei Ying laughs, snuggling his head against his. “How could I, Lan Zhan, when you’re the most interesting human I’ve ever met.”
Lan Wangji doesn’t even flinch at the odd choice of words. “Good to know,” he says, pressing butterfly kisses to his skin.
That night, Lan Wangji doesn’t sleep. He channels the strength of his golden core, and puts up a very convincing pretence of falling into unconsciousness. His breathing sinks and slows down, and his hands fall apart around Wei Ying’s lower waist.
Three hours into this pretence, and Wei Ying—who’s been feigning sleep himself—makes his first move.
He raises his head, and presses his forehead against Lan Wangji’s. He giggles, as if enamoured by the sight of his sleeping Lan Zhan. He presses a soft kiss to the man’s eyelids, then downward his nose, and finally to an empty spot near his mouth.
“Er gege,” Wei Ying whispers, in child-like excitement. “You’re so much cuter when you’re asleep.”
Oh. Lan Zhan’s heart tugs, at what hears. He really loves me.
It’s not as if Lan Zhan ever doubted him; well, perhaps xiongzhang had planted the smallest seed of doubt in him—because if he truly hadn’t, he wouldn’t have chosen to forgo sleep today, in exchange for finding out the truth.
If he truly is here for something else, if he truly is here to live off my human essence…
Wei Ying spends a good half-hour admiring Lan Zhan’s countenance, stealing sneaky kisses in between. When he’s finally content, he pushes gently at Lan Zhan’s hands, and pries them away from him.
Huh, Lan Zhan thinks. He does not seek to steal my human breath. He does not even contemplate it as an option, because if he truly had, Lan Wangji would have felt the effects of it long ago. He would have begun feeling listless, tired, and inexplicably drained. Instead, he’s the most invigorated he’s ever been these days, full of lust and passion for the only person he’s ever felt this way for. No, Wei Ying has not come close to stealing an ounce of his essence, not even once.
So what does he get up to in the middle of the night? He clearly leaves the jingshi, even to the detriment of doing so, such as that night with the deafening thunder and rain.
Wei Ying leaves the bed, humming a soft melody to himself as he does. His voice is light and airy, and remarkably easy on the ears. Lan Wangji loves the little glimpses he gets of Wei Ying’s singing voice; the man is indisputably musically-inclined, but he’s still reserved and shy enough to hold back on demonstrating most of his abilities to Lan Wangji, unless necessary—like the guqin had been, to win over the sect.
Wei Ying sings a foreign song to himself as he slides his feet into the white sandals by the door, and pulls the doors of the jingshi open.
Then, in a flash, the man jumps off the wooden ledge, and disappears.
Lan Wangji immediately sits right up in bed. Where did he go?
He gives it a minute or two, then leaves the bed himself and takes care to tip his toes across the wooden floorboards of the jingshi. He sidles up to the front doors, and hides himself behind the paper doors.
From a good distance, Lan Wangji spots him. His wildly beating heart finally settles down when he does; he sees Wei Ying, out on the open, grassy field, sitting cross-legged and falling into a meditative stance.
Wei Ying is… meditating. Amongst all the other plausible explanations Lan Wangji had come up with, as to what Wei Ying may be getting up to during the night, this hadn’t been one of them.
Meditating is core to a cultivator harnessing his spirit and improving his cultivation, and it’s a purification practice particularly emphasised within the Gusu Lan sect. Wei Ying isn’t a cultivator—or so he’d liked to claim—and so Lan Wangji hadn’t imagined he would participate in such a practice. Even if Lan Wangji’s suspicions are correct, and Wei Ying is what he thinks he is, he’s still never heard of a fox spirit emulating human cultivation practices.
It’s… adorable, actually, to witness this side of Wei Ying. His eyes closed, his face deep in concentration, his breathing so shallow. He perfects the meditative stance, his posture so upright, his shoulders so straight. With every new breath he takes, the more relaxed he grows, and the more his face radiates. Soon, dark, plush fox ears pop up from beneath his hair, and the hint of a tail begins to swish underneath the back of his Gusu Lan white robes.
It’s—it’s the most ethereal thing Lan Wangji has ever seen. The tail slips out for a bit under the robes, showing it has white and red accents. Under the moonlight, it shimmers—sparkles, even, acting as playful as its owner when he is conscious. Another hour of meditating, and the second tail slips out, causing Wei Ying’s robes to look a tad bit fuller. They dance in the moonlight, full of suppressed energy and life when Wei Ying is at his most relaxed, in his natural form.
It’s just as Lan Wangji had thought. Hu li jing, he caresses the words with his lips. He was sure they’d gone extinct, or into hiding, by now. It’s no wonder they’re so hunted for their mythical fox fur—their tails are said to be magical, with divine healing abilities and immortality-granting properties. For one to be so out in the open, co-existing within the human world, even taking on a human lover to marry… it’s something that’s completely unheard of.
Lan Wangji feels blessed, of course. For Wei Ying to choose him, to seek him out, of all people, when he could have easily had anyone else—Lan Wangji cannot fathom not having Wei Ying in his life at this point, and so he’s grateful Wei Ying had picked him, for a lifetime partner. Fox spirits can cultivate into immortality, but so can human cultivators, if they’re very good. Lan Wangji does not think Wei Ying is simply choosing a partner for the sake of having a partner; he has chosen Lan Wangji for life.
More tails unveil themselves by the hour, until finally there are nine. And still Lan Wangji’s questions go unanswered: if Wei Ying’s intentions are so innocent, why does he simply not tell Lan Wangji the truth? Why hide his true nature? Why is he so afraid of letting Lan Wangji know anything? Why is Lan Wangji so special to him—why does he want to be his?
Lan Wangji wants so badly to step out of his hiding spot, and confront the fox. Instead, he slinks back into the jingshi, and savours the image of Wei Ying with fox ears and tails in his head.
Perhaps, Lan Wangji thinks. He is waiting for marriage. He is adamant on giving himself to me only on the night of our marriage, and so maybe it is fear that consumes him. Perhaps he needs confirmation that I will not turn on him; perhaps he wants the validity of us to be united, in name, before he is comfortable revealing everything else to me.
And so, Lan Wangji slips back under the covers of the bed, and counts down the days till he gets to embrace Wei Ying—in his entirety.
My A-Ying, Lan Wangji smiles to himself, at the thought. He chose me.
When he rises at five in the morning, Wei Ying is already back in his arms, back to drooling against his chest.
His fox ears and tail have disappeared.
He must be high in cultivation to be able to hide them during the night as well, Lan Wangji thinks.
“Time to wake up, A-Ying,” Lan Wangji says, hand brushing through the man’s hair. “Be good for your xianggong.”
When the time comes, I’ll ask him. And he’ll tell me, because he loves me.
Their wedding is a ridiculously big affair. All important sects in the land are invited, including their smaller sub-branches. The traditionally white Gusu Lan sect is ostentatiously decorated in red, everywhere. Phoenix and dragon lanterns litter the place. All guests dress in their palest shade of blue. Only Wei Ying and Lan Wangji are clothed in the brightest vermillion red.
Lan Wangji does not even get to see Wei Ying’s face, throughout the entire ceremony. His bride’s face has been covered by the thickest veil, translucent only at the hems where Lan Wangji can make out the shape of Wei Ying’s cupid’s bow. Painted with red rouge, his lips blend in seamlessly with the rest of the veil. Lan Wangji can only detect it parting at times, with the slightest hint of his signature smile of mischief.
The ceremony is short, but tedious. They stand at the family altar, and prostrate to heaven and earth, then the Lan ancestors, and then to each other. They kneel before xiongzhang and shufu, and respectfully offer them cups of tea with lotus seeds within. The pair are eager to accept—they smile upon the couple, and utter blessings for their marriage.
“I hope you will soon bear fruit,” Lan Xichen says, smiling down to Wei Ying.
Wei Ying’s red cheeks are indiscernible through his veil.
“Xiongzhang,” Lan Wangji says.
And with that, the ceremony is over. Lan Wangji gently guides Wei Ying out of the hall, conscious that the wedding robes and veil are overly conservative and extraordinarily heavy on his slender frame. Behind them, the guests are gently ushered to attend the grand banquet that’s been prepared for them.
It’s no matter that they might be missing out on some grand feast; Lan Wangji is simply glad they’re finally alone, now.
Mid-route back to the jingshi, Lan Wangji grows impatient, and so he carries Wei Ying up into his arms and power walks back.
Wei Ying laughs all the way back, a hand placed against Lan Wangji’s chest. He curls up in Lan Wangji’s arms, and just lets his husband do what he wants.
By the time Lan Wangji sets him down against the bed, he is barely holding himself back from ripping the veil off Wei Ying’s head. The only reason he doesn’t do so is because his mother’s jade hairpiece is still sitting in Wei Ying’s hair, holding his braided bun and veil tightly together.
Lan Wangji chooses to kneel right before the bed instead, right before Wei Ying’s knees, laying his head against Wei Ying’s lap—in an unbelievable act of devotion. He takes Wei Ying’s hands into his, and kisses them ever so sweetly.
“Furen,” Lan Wangji calls, properly for the first time.
Wei Ying is giddy when he hears it. “Yes,” he answers, lifting his hand to Lan Wangji’s lips.
“We are finally married,” Lan Wangji says, breathing against Wei Ying’s skin. “Just like you wanted.”
“Just like you wanted,” Wei Ying teases. He is smiling through his veil.
“Just like you proposed, that night at the brothel,” Lan Wangji continues.
“Yes,” Wei Ying says, wondering if Lan Wangji is getting all sentimental on him.
“Just like you planned it.”
Wei Ying’s breathing halts. Turns out, his husband isn’t.
“Well,” he hides his fear very well. “I already knew you were Hanguang-Jun.”
Lan Wangji lets out a sigh.
They are already married, and Wei Ying is still not relenting.
“A-Ying, will you… not tell me why you sought me out at a brothel you don’t belong to?”
Wei Ying’s hand pulls back from his grasp in a snap. “Lan Zhan, what are you suggesting?”
“We are already married,” Lan Wangji says, peering up to him. “And so I am already yours, as you are mine. Your answer will not change anything.”
Wei Ying turns his head, affronted. The fragrance that emits from him is especially pungent.
“A-Ying,” Lan Wangji tries again. “If I have been bewitched, on purpose, at least tell me why.”
Wei Ying’s hands curl into small fists, then unfurls again. Sharp red nails extend from his fingers, like claws—in an extremely defensive action.
No matter how you look at it, it’s inhuman.
“Bewitched,” this time when Wei Ying speaks, it’s sharp-tongued, and beyond cutting. “You believe I have bewitched you? Just like all the others say? Have you lost your mind, Hanguang-Jun?”
“Did you not,” Lan Wangji flat-out states. He does not fancy arguing with Wei Ying over this matter. “And even if you did, does it even matter?”
Wei Ying gasps, taking full offense. Lan Wangji’s hands reach up to tear the veil away. Wei Ying simply lets him. When they come face to face with each other—Lan Wangji gazing up from where he is kneeling on the floor—his heart is aching when he sees the wounded look on Wei Ying’s face.
“Do you love me,” Wei Ying asks, his voice low.
“I have loved you,” Lan Wangji is patient when he answers. “Since that night.”
Wei Ying finally gathers the courage to meet his gaze. “Then, do you believe it’s real?”
Lan Wangji does not hesitate. “Yes.”
“Have you never questioned it,” Wei Ying asks further, anxiously. “How a man like you, how the great Hanguang-Jun, can fall in love that easily?”
Lan Wangji is honest when he answers. “Yes.”
Wei Ying’s smile is wry. “Then… then you’ve figured it out by now, haven’t you? You already know. What I am. What I have done to you.”
Lan Wangji’s voice is unbearably kind.
“Hu li jing.”
Wei Ying’s eyes are looking everywhere, but him.
“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice,” Wei Ying’s voice finally cracks, giving into the fear he’d been holding onto for so long. “Till much after the wedding.”
“Why,” Lan Wangji asks, fingers tipping at his jaw. “Do you think I would have turned you away if I knew?”
The idea is laughable.
“I don’t know,” Wei Ying says. “But perhaps you would have started questioning everything. Whether your love for me was genuine, whether everything you felt about me ever was.”
“Do you think it is genuine,” Lan Wangji asks.
“I,” Wei Ying looks on the verge of tears. It twists at Lan Wangji’s heart. “I don’t know.”
“It is,” Lan Wangji attests, hands tugging at his. “Even that night—all of it was.”
“Aren’t you mad?” Wei Ying whispers out, horrified. “Aren’t you angry I deceived you, did this to you?”
“No,” Lan Wangji says. “I always trusted you had your reasons. For coming to me. For seeking me out. Do you?”
Wei Ying nods, again. “I do,” he breathes. “I do—I’ve been so alone, Lan Zhan. And loneliness is so painful.”
Lan Wangji waits, and only continues when Wei Ying doesn’t. “But it’s more than that. You chose me for a reason.”
“You—you already know,” Wei Ying answers. “You know we’re being… hunted, don’t you? You know we have been so vilified—I swear, I’ve never caused harm to a single man…”
“Your life is in danger?” Lan Wangji questions. It’d been one of the few possibilities he’d entertained in his head.
“Yes,” Wei Ying confesses, fingers clenching down onto his. “Yes, I couldn’t take it anymore. And I thought, I thought you could protect me. That’s all I ask for. Hanguang-Jun—I’ve heard every tale about you. Defender of the weak, you bring light to your people. You have a good heart. And good hearts are the easiest for us to swindle—to attack—I’m sorry. I’ve never used my power for the worse. I swear to god—I could have, so many times—I never did. I’ve lived my entire life in fear, and I just need a home. If I could just get my hands on the kindest one, the kindest man, to love and protect me forever—I could be happy.”
“A-Ying,” Lan Wangji says, digesting it all, caressing his fingers in comfort. “You’ll be safe here. With me. Forever.”
Wei Ying’s lower lip trembles. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done this to you—”
“No,” Lan Wangji says. “No, I am not as powerless as you think. If I didn’t want this, I would have stopped it much earlier. I chose you, as you chose me.”
“How do you know you could have fought against it,” Wei Ying swallows. “I have lived a hundred years.”
“...Just as how you could have hurt me all those nights,” Lan Wangji points out. “But you didn’t.”
Wei Ying purses his lip. “So you know. You know I slip out at night to cultivate.”
Wei Ying’s not been the only one keeping secrets.
“It was a surprise,” Lan Wangji says, gently. “I didn’t know fox spirits cultivated like us.”
“We do, for those who wish to ascend properly,” Wei Ying answers. “I absorb essence from nature, instead of human men. Our spirits become purer, much more refined this way.”
Lan Wangji hums. “I would have let you, if you wanted. Take my breath, steal my essence. If it would have helped.”
Wei Ying’s eyes widen. “I wouldn’t dare.”
“For you,” Lan Wangji says, leaning up slightly only so he can kiss his bride’s forehead. “I’d offer up anything.”
Wei Ying smiles, wincing only slightly underneath the kiss.
They bask in a few moments of silence, before it finally occurs to Wei Ying.
“If you know… then your brother must know, as well. Doesn’t he? That’s why he wished me…” his cheeks burn, turn rosy. “He knows I can carry.”
“Oh,” Lan Wangji is delighted at the news, his heart leaping to his throat. “It is true, then. Fox spirits can bear children, regardless of gender.”
Wei Ying turns even redder. “I, I can,” he says, suddenly turning shy. “If xianggong wants.”
“I want,” Lan Wangji insists, golden eyes boring up into his. “I want a child.”
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying averts his gaze, embarrassed by his earnesty. “Maybe we should talk about this more, talk about the implications of having children with a fox spirit—”
“I believe we’ve talked enough,” Lan Wangji concludes.
Lan Wangji has bided his time, has been so good and patient for his A-Ying, right from the very moment he’s met him.
“Want you so much,” Lan Wangji says into the kiss, tumbling down into bed with him. “I want you more, each day, A-Ying.”
“I’m sorry, I’ve already tried to tone it down—”
“No,” Lan Wangji says. “No, it’s not that.”
Wei Ying is a fox spirit, yes, but Lan Wangji has always held the will of a monk. Somehow, when it comes to Wei Ying, all of that falls apart—hu li jing pheromones or not.
“I want A-Ying so badly,” Lan Wangji murmurs again, into the kiss. His hands are all up in Wei Ying’s hair, Wei Ying’s cheeks, caressing and fondling and still not getting enough of him. Red rouge from Wei Ying rubs off onto his own mouth, smearing all around his lips. “Want to put a baby in you, want you to have my family. I’m obsessed, you drive me so crazy—”
“Er gege,” Wei Ying whines. His lips have been yanked and bitten and are so bruised from all the kissing; he has nothing left for Lan Wangji to take.
Lan Wangji peels at his wedding robes, disrobing the both of them in record time. “My hu li jing,” he mouths against his neck. “My furen.”
The red robes fall to Wei Ying’s waist in a heap, and when Lan Wangji finally pulls at the jade in his hair—all the braids come apart, falling from the bun. Wei Ying yelps as he falls back against the pillows, gold chains and jade bangles on his wrists chiming against each other with every forceful movement Lan Wangji makes.
When Lan Wangji’s teeth trace the back of his nape, biting down at a particularly sensitive spot, Wei Ying’s fox ears come out. They emerge from the top of his head, soft and plush and so sensitive to the touch. Lan Wangji tugs at them, and kisses up those ears, licking up at the fur. Wei Ying leans into it, moaning aloud, extraordinarily loud, his ears cowering into relaxed folds—and then stopping himself when he realises how embarrassing it is.
“No,” Wei Ying hiccups, pushing at Lan Wangji’s chest. Like it does anything. Lan Wangji continues sucking and licking, and biting and teasing. “No no no, er gege, please don’t—”
Lan Wangji only ceases the biting long enough to say this, “It’s xianggong.”
“Xianggong,” Wei Ying cries, very obediently.
A tail pops up from behind him.
Hm, Lan Wangji thinks. It seems the more he is bullied, the more he gives into his true nature. There is only one easy solution, then.
Wei Ying is pressed into the bed next, red wedding robes pushed up to his stomach. As Lan Wangji forces Wei Ying’s knees up, slick begins to freely run down his thighs—proof that he’s already become heavily wet with natural slick. Lan Wangji has heard the tales, that fox spirits can do incredible things in bed, that they are meant for depraved fucking, that one should always beware of them because they are so lethal—
—so then why is the hu li jing in his bed shaking like a young, maiden virgin?
Lan Wangji kisses up his inner thighs so very gently, and finally plants a soft, sucking kiss at the entrance. Wei Ying is pleading, protesting, a wild mix of both, Lan Wangji can’t tell, his cries only egg him on further. He dips his tongue in and swirls it, getting his first taste of all that slick. Lan Wangji moans when it first slides down his tongue—it’s so, so sweet. So addictive, almost too much for his Lan palate to take.
His one hand clutches at the base of Wei Ying’s left thigh as he licks, while the other hand slips underneath to play and pull at the sensitive end of Wei Ying’s tail—a new one had popped out mid-way, in uncontrollable pleasure. Wei Ying arches his back off the bed, fully, sobbing and writhing and making feline mewls from the back of his throat.
“Er gege, er gege,” he cries out, over and over again. “Please, I’ve never—oh—I’ve never done this, please be gentle—ah, wait! Lan Zhan!”
Lan Zhan pulls at his tail the same time he fucks his tongue ruthlessly into his sweet, tight hole. Wei Ying loses it.
“Fuck,“ Wei Ying’s scream is caught in his throat. “Fuckfuckfuck, Lan Zhan! Xianggong! Please please please just—right there—so good oh I’ll be your Lan furen forever, Lan furen Wei Ying—”
Lan Zhan is eating him out so good, the entire jingshi is full of his noises. Wei Ying’s eyes flit downwards, just to spare a look, take a look, see how his husband’s doing; when he meets golden eyes, gazing right back into his, looking so terribly handsome and imposing and unbelievably devoted and Wei Ying cannot help it, he cums so easily with a high-pitched cry, spurts white all over himself, in that very instant.
Lan Wangji does not even give Wei Ying a moment to breathe. He immediately pulls Wei Ying right up to the edge of bed, and plunges a finger into him. The hu li jing is extremely wet, slick gushing more than ever. More than well prepared—Wei Ying’s body is begging for it.
Lan Wangji doesn’t hold himself back any longer. He raises his hips, and sinks his cock right in. The first inch of his head fits in, but nothing more.
“Oh,” Lan Wangji’s lips part into a groan. “Oh, A-Ying.”
“Can’t fit,” Wei Ying wails out, in an exhausted cry. His face is soaked with sweat, his wavy braided strands of hair sticking to his neck. “I told you—not had a man before, not even once in a hundred years—“
Lan Wangji likes a challenge. He takes his time, savours every bit of it. He kisses Wei Ying’s fearful tears away as he slides in every inch, until they’re fully pressed together.
“I love you,” Lan Wangji kisses him stupid. “I’ll always love you, take good care of my furen forever.”
Wei Ying is so happy to hear that, he doesn’t even notice when he licks at Lan Wangji’s face. “I love xianggong, too.”
Lan Wangji goes feral, after that.
He picks up pace, and begins wildly thrusting. His hands intentionally pulling at the sensitive part of the ears, the tails, his teeth deliberately sinking into that one spot in his neck. Lan Wangji fucks him relentlessly from below, and kisses him without care from the top. The fox spirit is rendered into an incoherent mumbling mess in his arms, his delicate mouth pressed into Lan Wangji’s shoulder, moaning non-stop off the walls of the jingshi. With every new thrust, much precum and cum pours into weiying, only to spill back out when they trickle down the back of his thighs—and onto the sheets.
There’s so much of Lan Wangji to take, it’s even too much. Wei Ying greedily accepts it all though, even clenching his thighs tighter so less of his cum can spill out.
“Let’s make a child,” Lan Wangji says, fucking up into him. “Tonight.”
“Er gege,” Wei Ying chokes out mid-moan. He wants it so much.
“Are you not willing,” Lan Wangji asks. “Hm? As my furen? Did you not marry me, just to be able to let me breed you? Be my little hu li jing, be my little brothel whore?”
Wei Ying shudders, in pleasure, “If xianggong wants me to bear him children, I’ll bear him children.”
“Oh,” Lan Wangji feels himself coming close. “A-Ying, when you say things like that—“
“I’ll give you all the Lan heirs you want,” Wei Ying promises, pretty face entirely red and breathy from all the relentless fucking. He casts his long lashes up, and blinks deliberately slowly. “So you better breed me well, Hanguang-Jun.”
And breed him well, Lan Zhan will.
“Breed,” he pants out, losing his mind. “Mark your words, A-Ying.”
He takes a five minute breather, before he goes again.
There are multiple rounds of breeding attempts to be had, that night.
Wei Ying holds a red fan up to his face, unveiling only his moonlit silver-grey eyes to the crowd seated in the hall. He laughs as he twirls his body gracefully in a dance, his other hand raising the hems of the white silk robes he’s donning. He takes the centre stage in front of the whole of the Gusu Lan sect, all fully enraptured by their one and only Lan er furen.
Usually they would not be so lucky to receive such a treat, but it’s Lan Wangji’s birthday today, and Wei Ying had thought to surprise him during the celebratory dinner shufu had arranged for him. His husband is, admittedly, pleased and delighted by the surprise performance, though he does frown when he notices others looking a bit too closely at Wei Ying.
With a teasing smile to the crowd, Wei Ying snaps the fan to a close, before raising it up high above his head. His hips swaying to the sound of guqin being played in the background, Wei Ying snaps open his fan again, when he begins to feel dizzy.
He shakes himself out of it. He takes a step forward, tipping his feet forward and raising his soles, prepared to do another graceful twirl—when he stumbles back from another wave of—nausea, this time, and he’d have collapsed right down onto the floor, had his husband not harbour the foresight to rush over the minute he noticed discomfort on Wei Ying’s face.
“A-Ying,” Lan Wangji says, looking devastatingly concerned. He has Wei Ying in his arms, holding him protectively close. “You’re unwell. I’ll take you to the physician.”
“I’m fine,” Wei Ying weakly protests. His face is abnormally pale.
Even xiongzhang has made his way over, looking deeply distressed. “I’ve readied the physician. He’s waiting just outside.”
Lan Wangji picks Wei Ying up in his arms, and takes him to a place more appropriate to be checked out.
That’s how they first realise that Wei Ying is pregnant—and that Lan Wangji is potent, far more potent than anyone could have hoped for. Wei Ying’s gotten pregnant in… slightly less than a month, it has been, since their wedding. His seemingly miraculous pregnancy is also how the rest of Cloud Recesses finally comes to catch wind of Wei Ying’s real identity, as a hu li jing.
Whoever dares protest against his status as Lan er furen, is thrown out. By shufu himself.
(Cloud Recesses has also since instated a formal ban on the hunting of all fox spirits within Gusu grounds—as far as they possibly can control.)
Six months later, five pups—cute, little fox spirit-human hybrids—are born, the first to lay claim to the Gusu Lan throne.
All hunting on fox spirits immediately ceases, everywhere else. With the blood of fox spirits now infused within the very bloodline of the Lan family itself, no one will risk incurring the wrath of the great Hanguang-Jun, or the rest of the lot.
(Wei Ying is treated very well at Cloud Recesses. Doted and spoiled on by the likes of his husband, brother-in-law, uncle-in-law, the elders and the juniors, Wei Ying has not had a better time in his one hundred years of living.)
“Er gege, er gege, he looks just like you,” Wei Ying says excitedly, cradling the baby in his arms. Their son, wrapped up in a blanket patterned with the Gusu Lan cloud motif. “He’s not even crying! He’s never cried, he’s so well-behaved, I think he’s going to grow up to be another Hanguang-Jun.”
Lan Wangji himself is carrying one of their daughters close to his chest, smiling as his hand caresses past her cheek. She gurgles happily, leaning into his fingers, making loud noises of contentment. “Our daughter is very lively, just like A-Ying.”
“And this one looks just like shufu,” Lan Xichen’s voice pipes up from behind, poking at the cheek of the baby Lan Qiren is cradling. The grand-uncle looks so pleased, so blissful with the amount of grand-nephews and nieces he suddenly has—with not enough arms to carry them all—he’s almost teary. “Shufu, I have a feeling you’ll be doting on him the most.”
“I don’t play favourites,” Lan Qiren sniffles, saying, which is a blatant lie. Anyone can tell Lan Wangji has always been his favourite nephew, growing up.
One of the babies, in the arms of an attendant, begins wailing, and Wei Ying perks up with attention.
“It’s feeding time,” Wei Ying announces, apologetically. The other babies are quickly following suit, chiming in with all of the crying. Except little Lan Wangji, of course. Little Lan Wangji only remains silent and curious, his big eyes peering at little A-Ying and wondering why his sister has begun making a ruckus.
“Shufu, xiongzhang, please leave the room,” Lan Wangji insists, firmly. Wei Ying laughs—his husband is so strict about no other man witnessing feeding time, even if they’re family.
“You can come back after we’ve put them to sleep,” Wei Ying says, sweetly. “Alright?”
“If we have the time,” shufu says, as if he won’t be dropping everything just for a chance to return and see the children again as soon as he is allowed to.
“We’ll return later,” Lan Xichen laughs, promising.
Lan Wangji looks on at his family, his heart full.
Lan Wangji hurries to take shelter at the jingshi, on a rainy night.
After a long day of lessons, he’s finally descending upon the doors of the jingshi, and sliding them open. He folds the umbrella he’d been using, shakes it dry, and leans it by the door.
He raises his gaze back up, and startles.
Seated on the floor mat before him is a beautiful man, draped in Gusu Lan white silk that comes apart around his fair shoulders. He draws apart his lips, ones that are naturally cherry red in colour.
His soft, fox ears sway with the light breeze that enters in through the doors, his long hair done up in an intricately braided bun behind him, leaving only a couple of stray wavy strands by his cheeks.
“Xiansheng,” the man greets, with a coy smile. He lifts his wrist up high, and begins pouring tea. “It’s a beautiful rainy night, are you going to stand there all day? Won’t you come sit and drink with me already?”
Lan Wangji takes in the amorous sight—and the absence of his five pups, the rambunctious lot of them surely must have been handed over to the likes of xiongzhang and shufu who would, of course, have been overly delighted to take care of them—and realises Wei Ying must have planned for this; for tonight.
Lan Wangji slides the doors close behind him, a knowing smile hovering over his lips. “I simply wish to rest,” he says, playing along.
“I can do that,” Wei Ying smiles, setting the pot of tea down. “I’ve been told that being with me is very relaxing.”