For a few moments, there is only silence. Jin Guangshan’s face grows progressively redder, though Wei Wuxian can’t quite tell if it’s because of the clearly mistreated non-cultivators currently in the middle of the banquet hall, or the sight of his son and heir standing up to him, that too for a bunch of Wens and a demonic cultivator. His mouth is slightly open, like he is frozen midway through an admonishment and has forgotten how to speak. There is something resembling panic in his eyes, a fact that brings Wei Wuxian immense satisfaction.
Seeing that the Chief Cultivator wasn’t going to begin defending himself any time soon, Wei Wuxian takes the opportunity to look around the hall, just to see how the other sects seem to be reacting to this debacle. Lan Xichen is looking worriedly at his brother who is glaring at Jin Guangshan, while Nie Mingjue is alternately looking between Lan Xichen and the Wens, focusing especially on A-Yuan in Granny Wen’s arms. Jiang Cheng looks furious, but there is some hint of guilt in the way he looks at Wen Qing and Wen Ning.
The other sect leaders look around confused, wondering exactly what is going on. None of them dare to speak, and the air is heavy with the weight of their silence. Their gazes shift incessantly, from Jin Guangshan on his ostentatious throne, to Wei Wuxian, Lan Zhan, and Jin Zixuan, to the Wens, to each other. They must be so confused, Wei Wuxian decides to put them out of their misery. They had already decided that he would be doing most of the talking.
“Tell me, Sect Leader Jin,” he says softly, though his voice carries, the danger in it unmistakeable, “What exactly is at Qiongqi Path?”
Jin Guangshan immediately begins spluttering. “That is— you— Wei Wuxian! How dare you?”
“That isn’t an answer to my question, Sect Leader,” he replies in the same steel-under-velvet tone.
Jin Guangshan looks even more furious. “A-Xuan!” he exclaims, turning to his son for support he will not receive. “Control your husband!”
“And why should I, father?” Jin Zixuan asks, his distaste clear on his face. “A-Xian is free to say whatever he wants. Besides, I’m curious too.”
Wei Wuxian laughs at that, cold and unpleasant. “Answer me, Sect Leader,” he demands.
“Wei Wuxian! You dare barge into this banquet and interrupt us and then disrespect our sect leader? Have you no discipline?” Jin Zixun yells.
Wei Wuxian tilts his head inquisitively. “Barge in?” he asks. “I was under the impression that I was invited to this banquet. Was I not?”
“You were,” Jin Zixuan says firmly.
“Thank you, A-Xuan,” Wei Wuxian smiles brightly at him before turning back to Jin Zixun. “As you can see, I am here by invitation. There is no question of barging anywhere.”
“As you all well know,” Wei Wuxian continues, ignoring the interruption, “I’m not a particularly patient man. So in your own best interests, I suggest that someone answers my questions before I lose my temper.”
When an immediate response isn’t forthcoming, he frowns. He hadn’t expected this to be easy, but really, if the coward of a Chief Cultivator won’t confess to what he’s been doing, he’s going to have to explain this himself. He is interrupted surprisingly— or perhaps unsurprisingly— by Jin Guangyao.
“Forgive my impertinence, father,” Jin Guangyao says with an expression of distress that is almost certainly fake, “Isn’t that one of the prison camps for the living Wen cultivators?”
“A prison camp for Wen cultivators, is it, Sect Leader Jin?” Wei Wuxian asks.
Jin Guangshan, who has been glaring at Jin Guangyao as soon as he started talking, seems to be galvanized into rage by Wei Wuxian’s words. He snaps, “You son of a whore, I should have—”
“Let me tell all of you honourable sect leaders what I found at Qiongqi Path,” Wei Wuxian interrupts Jin Guangshan’s tirade. “Or better yet, I don’t have to tell you anything. You can all see the evidence for yourself!” he gestures at the Wens. “These elderly civilians, this child, these are the people our honourable Chief Cultivator had doing hard labour in a prison camp.”
The hall erupts in outrage. Minor sect leaders are yelling over each other in outrage. Some of them are screaming about the fact that there are Wens in their midst so soon after the Sunshot Campaign. Others are screaming about the clear mistreatment suffered by the people standing in the middle of the hall. Still others are looking at each other in confusion, yet to understand what is happening. The chaos is entertaining for a moment or two, but the longer it continues, the more irritating it gets, the more it grates on Wei Wuxian’s nerves.
“ENOUGH!” he yells, snapping them all to attention. The entire hall stares at him, stunned, as though they can hardly believe he dares to speak to them— or rather, yell at them— that way
Wei Wuxian steps forward, towards the dais upon which Jin Guangshan is seated. He is going to have the time of his life toppling this man from his throne. “Tell us, Sect Leader Jin,” he says in a soft voice, “Did it bring you joy, making helpless people suffer just for your amusement? Did it make you feel powerful?”
Every eye in the hall is on them. Jin Guangshan is turning a very unhealthy shade of red, and knuckles are turning white where his hands are clenched. Wei Wuxian almost wishes he could bring himself to feel any semblance of pity, but all he feels is a bone-deep satisfaction that this man is finally getting what he deserves. He digs in the final knife.
“Are you pleased, Chief Cultivator, at how much you have come to resemble Wen Ruohan?”
There is outrage once again. Those most loyal to Jin Guangshan are looking torn between defending him and distancing themselves from him. Those Wei Wuxian has already swayed over to Jin Zixuan’s side begin muttering about how they had always known that there was something that made them uncomfortable about supporting Jin Guangshan, how they had known they were right to trust Jin Zixuan more than his father. More than one person mutters about deposing Jin Guangshan, replacing him with his son. Wei Wuxian wants to laugh— as if any of them suspected the first thing about Jin Guangshan, as if any of them support Jin Zixuan truly and not because they have been manipulated by Wei Wuxian. Still, if this is what it will take to ensure justice, he is willing to let them pretend to have such foreknowledge..
Now that Wei Wuxian has compared Jin Guangshan to Wen Ruohan, everyone in this room will think twice about speaking up in his defence or supporting him. And it is all the more important that this accusation comes from him, from Wei Wuxian, who was the greatest contributor to the Sunshot Campaign, who has spent some of the time since then being feared, yes, but who has spent the past year garnering goodwill. For Wei Wuxian to make that claim, avidly supported by Hanguang-jun, whose virtue is unquestionable, supported by Jin Guangshan’s own son— such a claim holds considerable weight.
Wei Wuxian has not, for a single moment, deluded himself into thinking any of these hypocritical sect leaders will be swayed out of pity for the Wen remnants. Some of them would be outraged at their treatment, perhaps, but it will not be enough to convince them to act. To get them to turn against Jin Guangshan, he needs to show them that he is going the same way the previous Chief Cultivator went, that he thinks himself all-powerful and above reproach, that he hungers for more and more power and will do anything to get it. It is this way that he will finally beat Jin Guangshan.
“Wei Wuxian! You go too far!” the man in question cries loudly. “Just because you married into my family does not mean—”
“Ah, yes, my marriage,” Wei Wuxian interrupts, unaffected. “I was wondering when you would bring that up. Very well, let’s talk about my marriage.”
He smiles at Jin Guangshan, hollow and derisive. Steps slightly further away and pitches his voice louder. “Sect Leader Jin, you were very eager for this marriage to occur, weren’t you? Even though it would mean that your heir would have no heirs of his own? I believe Sect Leader Jiang even pointed this to you, though you dismissed his concerns.” He taps his chin in a mockery of a thoughtful expression. “I wonder what motivated you to be so insistent on a marriage that offered no advantages to your sect.”
Wei Wuxian faked a gasp and widened his eyes mockingly. “Could it be that Sect Leader Jin was under the impression that the Yin Tiger Seal would be part of the dowry?”
Jin Guangshan simply glowers at him in silence, his teeth tightly clenched, horror and fury mingled on his face.
Wei Wuxian shrugs casually. “The only other explanation is that your son was madly in love with me and frankly—” he pauses, hears Jin Zixuan scoff, and grins. “Yes, I didn’t think that was likely.”
Wei Wuxian puts on an expression of dramatic faux pity. “It must have disappointed Sect Leader Jin so much when he discovered I had destroyed it.”
“The Yin Tiger Seal is gone?” yells a minor sect leader— Wei Wuxian thinks he might be Sect Leader Yao, but he isn’t sure of it.
He turns around immediately, grinning. “Oh, did our honourable Chief Cultivator not inform anyone? Well, that is truly a surprise.” He glances around the hall. “Just so everyone knows, the Yin Tiger Seal has been destroyed. It was destroyed well over a year ago, and Sect Leader Jin personally saw the evidence.”
Murmurs start up once again, but Wei Wuxian ignores them in favour of turning back to face Jin Guangshan. “What exactly was your plan, Sect Leader Jin? I admit I’m curious. Was it just the seal you wanted? Were you going to arrange for me to have an, ah, accident after you had it in your clutches? Were you going to leave your poor son to mourn for an appropriate length of time, then marry him off to a woman and finally have those desperately needed heirs?”
After all, I know you have no intention of letting your other son ever inherit, he doesn’t say, but he knows that Jin Guangyao hears it anyway, even if no one else does. He can see Jin Guangyao’s smile crystallize on his face too, at the reminder that his father cares nothing for him. His eyes hold that same strange light that Wei Wuxian had seen that day, when they had caught Jin Guangshan bad mouthing him.
Behind himself, Wei Wuxian can feel Lan Zhan stiffen at the mention of Jin Guangshan getting rid of him for convenience. He wants to send him a comforting look, but he cannot turn away, cannot get distracted when he is this close to cracking Jin Guangshan open.
“Or am I mistaken? Did you need me too, to control it?” he continues, speculating. “What were you planning to leverage against me in that case, I wonder? My family? My friends? Or would you have sunk low enough to use your own son against me?”
“You think too highly of yourself, Wei Wuxian!” Jin Zixun snaps. “My uncle simply wanted to establish an alliance with Yunmeng Jiang. Not everything is about you!”
Wei Wuxian raises an eyebrow. “Husband,” he drawls, “Remind me what this cousin of yours is called again?”
Jin Zixun’s face goes bright red. “You—”
Jin Zixuan sighs heavily. Wei Wuxian doesn’t have to see him to know that he’s probably pinching the bridge of his nose to ward off a headache. If not physically, then he’s doing it in spirit, at the very least. “Jin Zixun,” he answers in a long-suffering tone.
“Thank you! Yes, Jin Zixun, you claim not everything is about me? That strikes me as a very odd sentiment when expressed by the young master who has spent the past months telling me I was personally responsible for him losing face in front of the Lan sect. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Me, me, me,” Wei Wuxian shakes his head in mock disappointment. “Don’t you know any other words? You seemed to be speaking very eloquently when you were trying to convince Zewu-jun and Hanguang-jun to violate the precepts of their sect.”
Jin Zixun opens his mouth, possibly to make an argument, but more probably to say some other variant of ‘you’. Wei Wuxian raises his hand to stop him.
“Ah, ah, don’t try to change the subject, Jin Zixun. Maybe you’re right and this isn’t about me, but it most certainly isn’t about you, so leave the talking to those of us who know what we’re talking about, mm?”
The man opens his mouth to talk, but finds his lips stuck together by the Lan Silencing Spell. Wei Wuxian nods in acknowledgement at Lan Zhan, a small smile on his face.
“As we’ve established,” Wei Wuxian says, addressing the gathered cultivators now, “Sect Leader Jin has been doing some things that are very reminiscent of the Qishan Wen Sect. I’m sure I do not have to remind all of you upstanding cultivators how that ended.”
Nobody would argue with that, it would be a blow to their image to do so. He has them now. He can use this.
“Did the Wen Sect not also make a habit of targeting those who couldn’t fight back just as the Jin sect has tried to do with these civilians? Didn’t they try to crush dissent, just as Sect Leader Jin has tried to do, right here in front of you? Didn’t Wen Ruohan thirst for power just as Sect Leader Jin has shown he does by trying to claim an artefact as dangerous as the Yin Tiger Seal?”
There are sounds of agreement from around the hall. Jin Guangshan and his allies— both within the Jin sect and outside it— are looking pale and nervous. There are many Jin cultivators, especially younger ones, who look outraged at the revelation of Jin Guangshan’s actions. Good, Wei Wuxian thinks. These are the cultivators who will help rebuild the sect, once Jin Guangshan’s influence is purged from it.
“I suggest that we show that we will not tolerate tyranny! We did not fight against Wen Ruohan and the Qishan Wen Sect only to be subjugated by the man we trusted to lead us as Chief Cultivator once more! Will we ignore his actions when they affect Wen civilians, only to have our own civilians and then our cultivators face the same treatment?”
In truth, there are already things they have let Jin Guangshan get away with. Too many other sect leaders already know of his lechery, of the fact that his philandering is not limited to prostitutes, but to those who work for him, of the way there is an unspoken agreement that none of the female cultivators in Koi Tower will be alone in a room with Jin Guangshan— something Wei Wuxian had only learnt of after he began living in Koi Tower himself, something that had made him nearly sick at the implication. It disgusts him that the people who are supposed to lead their world into progress let these things slide because they are ‘not worth the trouble of addressing’. But all of that is dismissed because they think it is ordinary.
This, though? This is not ordinary, not even by Jin Guangshan’s standards. This is more than an issue that can be brushed aside as the nature of a powerful man. No, the cultivation world will dismiss an issue that only affects the servants and female cultivators of Koi Tower, but they will not dismiss an issue that might affect them personally.
“We must show that we will not allow this abuse of power to stand,” he says. “No matter who they have the misfortune of being related to, these people did not participate in the war. They do not deserve to be prosecuted for the crimes of Wen Ruohan.”
Finally, he has gotten them to a point where they will actually consider that the treatment of the Wen remnants is something they should be concerned about, that punishing these people would be immoral.
Wei Wuxian is not certain they will agree on that though. He continues to watch them all warily, even as the Nie sect leader stands. “You claim that they did not participate in the war,” Nie Mingjue says. “But they did not oppose Wen Ruohan either. Against a tyrant like Wen Ruohan, silence is the same as compliance!”
Wei Wuxian wants to laugh at the hypocrisy of that statement. For years, the four great sects had stayed silent, had not protested as Wen Ruohan acted increasingly more tyrannically. They had all kept their heads down as smaller sects were swallowed up by the Wen sect. It had taken the destruction of two of the great sects for them to decide to finally fight back, but somehow Wen Qing and Wen Ning and their family of non-combatants were supposed to actively oppose Wen Ruohan when compliance was the only thing keeping them and their family safe?
“Chifeng-zun, how is it fair to expect a group of healers and non-cultivators to stand up against Wen Ruohan when even the Great Sects lost so much in doing so?” he asks instead. It would not do to antagonize Nie Mingjue, no matter how Wei Wuxian felt about his nature of seeing everything in black and white.
Unfortunately, the man bristles at the question. “The crimes of the Qishan Wen Sect—”
This again. “Exactly what crimes has that child committed, Sect Leader Nie?”
Wei Wuxian doesn’t mean to snap. He truly doesn’t. But his patience is wearing thin, and the statement had been too familiar, too close to what one of the overseers had said at Qiongqi Path. He couldn’t help but react to it. At least Sect leader Nie looks the slightest bit chastised.
“Besides,” Wei Wuxian continues in a slightly gentler tone, “I can attest to the fact that Wen Qing and Wen Qionglin did oppose Wen Ruohan, even if not openly. After the fall of Lotus Pier, Wen Qionglin was the one who ensured that Sect Leader Jiang and I got out of Lotus Pier, and he retrieved the bodies of former Sect Leader Jiang Fengmian and Madam Yu. He and Wen Qing sheltered us and treated our injuries at great risk to themselves, Wen Ruohan would not have been merciful if he had found out.”
Nie Mingjue may be a man who had very strict ideas about morality, but he was widely known to be an honourable man. He understood debts, at least. Even if he didn’t see the merit of Wen Qing and Wen Ning’s actions, even if those actions didn’t serve to prove to him that Wen Qing and Wen Ning did oppose Wen Ruohan, he would at least understand it if Wei Wuxian said he was trying to fulfil a debt to them. At worst, Wei Wuxian could use that to protect the Wens— could say that it was all a part of him fulfilling a debt.
Nie Mingjue looks at the Wens assessingly, then he turns to Wei Wuxian, a calculating look on his face. “There was truly a child in that place?” he asks.
“Sect Leader Jiang,” he calls, “Did Wen Qing and Wen Qionglin truly aid you as Wei Wuxian described?”
Jiang Cheng scowls, but nods.
Nie Mingjue turns back to look at Wei Wuxian for a few more seconds, then nods decisively. “I will hear you out,” he says.
“Da-ge, Er-ge,” Jin Guangyao who has stayed surprisingly silent through this entire ordeal interrupts. Perhaps this is yet another action of his that should not be surprising to Wei Wuxian— Jin Guangyao is the type of man who would try to assess a situation for as long as possible before coming to a firm decision. He turns a smile to his sworn brothers now, polite, even if hints of distress peak through.
Truly, Jin Guangyao’s potential response had been the cause for much concern to Wei Wuxian. He never quite knew what side Jin Guangyao would take. The past few months may have made it increasingly clear that his father found his presence in Koi Tower a hindrance, but Wei Wuxian knew how far filial piety went. He knew how far a man like Jin Guangyao might go in order to please a father he felt he owed everything to. He had been wary of what the man would say— after all, Jin Guangyao and his silver tongue were equally capable of ensuring his plans succeeded or crushing them.
If Jin Guangyao spoke in their favour, it would most probably convince the sect leaders almost instantly. It would be the word of four war heroes against that of the man who had avoided fighting until the end, and as Jin Guangyao’s sworn brothers, they would have the support of two more war heroes in Zewu-jun and Chifeng-zun. If Jin Guangyao supported his father, on the other hand, he was completely capable of turning the tides in his favour. Wei Wuxian’s skill at convincing people was nothing compared to Jin Guangyao’s. His reputation too— illegitimate birth or not— was, to some people, better than that of a demonic cultivator. Understandably, Wei Wuxian has been quite on edge about what he would say.
“Perhaps certain members of the Lanling Jin sect do have much to answer for,” Jin Guangyao says to his sworn brothers now, though the entire hall hears him. “I assure you, Da-ge, Er-ge, that I will personally help my brother root out those who have conspired to commit such actions.”
“Your help will be much appreciated, A-Yao,” Jin Zixuan says, offering his half-brother a smile which he returns.
“I apologize that it has come to this,” Jin Guangyao continues, despair and regret painted on his face. “Truly, I did not even think my father would act in an unjust manner. What filial son would want to think the worst of his father?”
Even as Jin Guangshan seems poised to interrupt, Jin Guangyao looks beseechingly at the gathered sect leaders. “I know very well what it is like to be in the service of a power-hungry man,” he says. “But where I once did it on purpose to aid our cause, this time, it appears I have unknowingly done the same thing. It is my only comfort that my brother and his husband have been able to uncover these deeds with the help of Hanguang-jun so that justice may be served.”
Lan Xichen looks at his younger sworn brother with overwhelming compassion, as though he is trying to communicate with his eyes alone how much he sympathizes with Jin Guangyao’s plight. Even Nie Mingjue seems to be slightly moved— though it is impossible to tell whether it is because of Jin Guangyao’s words, or if he is still pondering the presence of a child and many elderly people in a prison camp.
Wei Wuxian barely stops himself from sagging in relief. With Jin Guangyao’s support, they have an iron-clad case. Two of Jin Guangshan’s sons have spoken out against him, showing the entire cultivation world that his actions are so heinous that even filial piety isn’t enough to keep them from turning on him. Lan Xichen hasn’t spoken yet, but with both of his sworn brothers and Lan Zhan on the same side on this issue, the side that was also in the moral right, it wouldn’t be overconfidence to count on his support.
Wei Wuxian wonders what had made Jin Guangyao decide to throw his lot in with them. Did he think of them as the winning side? Had Jin Guangshan’s single, public ‘son of a whore’ comment sealed his doom? Or has this plan been in motion since that fateful day when Wei Wuxian and Jin Guangyao had caught Jin Guangshan badmouthing his son? Has Wei Wuxian simply offered Jin Guangyao the opportunity to publicly ruin his father?
Whatever had led to it, the hall is now abuzz with agreement, with condemnations of Jin Guangshan. None of these people truly care about the treatment of the Wen remnants, but it would look bad for them to oppose a publicly supported call to action. It is amidst these calls for justice that Jin Guangshan tries to defend himself once again.
“Now wait a minute!” Jin Guangshan exclaims. “You would listen to the word of a demonic cultivator? And this unfilial low-born son of mine?”
Immediately, Nie Mingjue— who had, until then been mollified by Jin Guangyao’s words and the promise of justice— throws a deadly glare at him. “You have lost the privilege to talk until you stop feeding us lies and obfuscating at every turn,” he growls. “I have had enough of you!”
“Wangji,” Lan Xichen calls, perhaps seeking to avoid his sworn brother outright attacking the Chief Cultivator. “Was the situation at Qiongqi Path truly that dire?”
Lan Zhan turns to his brother and nods. “The prisoners were greatly ill-treated,” he says. “Many were killed for no good reason. We saw an entire valley filled with bodies. Wen Qionglin was stabbed and left for dead because he tried to help his grandmother lift rocks.”
Now that is news to Wei Wuxian. He had not known why exactly Wen Ning had been stabbed. Given that Wen Ning had spent most of their journey unconscious, Wei Wuxian supposes it was Granny Wen or one of the others who had told Lan Zhan what had happened.
Lan Xichen looks pained at this. When he had heard that the casualties of the camp had filled a valley, he had looked aghast for a moment before schooling his features. He knows his brother is not one for exaggeration, knows that if Lan Zhan says the treatment of the prisoners was bad, then it truly was abysmal.
He turns to Jin Guangshan. “Sect Leader Jin,” he says. “This is undoubtedly a cause for great concern. We agreed to allow the Lanling Jin sect to handle the prisoners of war, but I believe we agreed not to seek retribution against the innocent. You told us this was a matter you would personally handle. Even when you informed us that all the stragglers from the war had been rounded up, you told us you had personally dealt with them.”
Jin Guangshan does not answer, probably realizing how much trouble he is in. If he had really assured the other sect leaders that this matter would be under his personal purview, he is clearly in more trouble than Wei Wuxian had expected. In all honesty, Wei Wuxian had fully assumed that Jin Guangshan would deflect the blame, make it out to be a matter of his subordinates mistreating the prisoners with none of his knowledge or intention. Now though, with Zewu-jun publicly revealing that he had committed to overseeing the camps, that he had promised to personally involve himself, he has no way of denying that he had knowledge of what was going on.
One of the overseers, seeing a way to garner some sympathy or leniency shouts out, “It’s true! Our reports were addressed to Sect Leader Jin himself! His nephew delivered the orders, but his seal was on them!”
Seeing this, the other overseers began to yell their agreement as well, each scrambling to offer enough information to take down Jin Guangshan alongside themselves, at least. It continues until a well placed glare from Wei Wuxian made them quiet down. As much as their accusations were having an impact on the observers, their interruption might derail the proceedings— something Wei Wuxian did not want to risk when there were finally sect leaders questioning Jin Guangshan.
“Sect Leader Jin,” Lan Xichen turns a shocked gaze back to the man who was looking murderous. “These are serious accusations. How do you answer them?”
Jin Guangshan does not respond. Perhaps he knows well that there is nothing he could say to make this situation better. Everything about his demeanour screams guilt though, and Wei Wuxian only hopes that other people can see it as clearly as he himself can.
Lan Xichen does, at the very least, and he shakes his head, a mixture of disappointment and disgust on his face. “These prisoners cannot be under your control anymore,” he says with authoritative finality.
Jin Guangshan still stays silent. There is nothing he can do to worm his way out of this situation, not now that he has been challenged by a sect leader as well-respected and known for cautious action as Lan Xichen. If even such an even-tempered man objects to his behaviour, the rest of the cultivation world will follow his example.
His nephew, on the other hand, seems to lack the intelligence to figure that out. For the first time, Wei Wuxian wishes the Lan Silencing Spell lasted longer.
“Retribution against the innocent? Please,” Jin Zixun scoffs. “They’re Wen-dogs! Innocent? There is no such thing as an innocent Wen-dog. Why should we have to justify our treatment of them? The fact that so many of them are still alive is disgusting. We should exterminate every last one of them!”
Wei Wuxian levels him with a glare that makes him shrink back, but he still stands there, doesn’t revoke his statement. Wei Wuxian stalks towards him, his fingers gripping Chenqing so hard that a normal bamboo flute would shatter from the pressure. He stops when he is close enough to tower over Jin Zixun, close enough that the other man can see the murderous rage on his face.
“By that measure, you aren’t innocent either,” he says, his tone deceptively calm, though his eyes reveal the true extent of his fury. “So if I kill you right here and right now, would that be justified?”
Jin Zixun’s eyes widen in fear, as he finally realizes exactly how angry he has made Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian, who was so ruthless that whole armies fled in terror at the sound of his flute. Wei Wuxian, who had become a firm fixture in the nightmares of allies and enemies alike. Wei Wuxian, whose anger was now solely directed towards him.
“And if I do decide to kill you,” Wei Wuxian says, “Who would stop me? Do you truly believe anyone would dare to stand against me on your behalf?”
Jin Zixun trembles slightly, something Wei Wuxian notes with cold satisfaction. Maybe finally, finally, he will learn that he should really keep his mouth shut in situations that do not concern him.
“Be aware, Jin Zixun,” Wei Wuxian gives him an imperiously dismissive once-over, something he had learnt from watching a younger Jin Zixuan do. “The only reason I’m not killing you is that it would be a waste of my effort and my talent.”
Wei Wuxian intentionally turns his back on Jin Zixun, his body language screaming you could hardly be considered a threat, if Jin Zixun cares to observe it. “Now, back to matters that are actually important, Zewu-jun, I believe you were rudely interrupted by this man. As a part of his sect, I apologize for it. Please continue.”
Lan Xichen looks a little startled at the display in front of him, but he makes a valiant effort to pretend it didn’t happen, soldiering on. Wei Wuxian is impressed by that, truly. The man is very… unflappable, for the most part. It reminds him of Lan Zhan and the way nothing seems to truly faze him for long.
“If these prisoners are truly innocent, then they have been unjustly punished enough. They must be offered restitution,” Lan Xichen says. “These people are healers, are they not?”
Wen Qing, Wei Wuxian, and half of the Wen remnants nod simultaneously. Lan Xichen smiles gently at them
“If I may, as the Sect Leader of Gusu Lan, I would offer the Wens refuge in exchange for knowledge of their healing practices. Is that acceptable?”
Wen Qing stares at him with narrowed eyes for a moment, slances quickly at Lan Zhan, then nods. “That is an acceptable trade, Sect Leader Lan,” she says. “On behalf of the Dafan Wen, I thank you.”
That was so much easier than Wei Wuxian had anticipated. He had expected that finding a place for the Wens to live— a place where they wouldn’t be killed for being Wens— would take just as long, if not longer, than convincing the sects that they shouldn’t be in prison camps. With Zewu-jun stepping in though, it had taken just a few sentences— apparently his little brother’s testimony and what little he had seen himself was enough to convince him. The offer in itself isn’t surprising— Gusu Lan valued knowledge in all forms, and they would be eager to learn new healing techniques, even if they came from people who shared blood with Wen Ruohan. And with gossiping being forbidden by the Lan precepts, the Wens would probably find a good home there. The ease of it though…
Wei Wuxian had prepared himself for a fight. It makes him almost uncomfortable, how quickly this has happened. Some paranoid part of him wonders if this is a trap, though he supposes that the Gusu Lan sect, known for righteousness, and headed by Zewu-jun, the least deceptive man he has encountered— and that was including Lan Zhan— would be the last people to set a trap. Besides, Lan Xichen did look truly regretful about the hurt suffered by the Wens, and from what little Wei Wuxian had learnt— all second hand and third hand information— he had been the one to initially argue that Wen cultivators who had been rounded up should be imprisoned, not slaughtered indiscriminately. Perhaps the man also understandably felt some measure of guilt, if the camps had been a bastardization of his idea of a humane solution for captured cultivators.
“Of course,” Lan Xichen continues, “We would prefer your cooperation in the investigation into the conditions at Qiongqi Path, if you will oblige us. Your testimony will help us prosecute the perpetrators in a fair manner.”
Wen Qing exchanges several meaningful glances with members of her family, before nodding once again. “We will cooperate to the best of our abilities,” she says, “but there will be restrictions on the questions asked to certain members.” She pointedly looks at A-Yuan.
Lan Xichen nods understandingly. ‘
“The overseers,” Wei Wuxian adds, pointing them out, “If you care to question them. They were very intent on offering justifications for their actions, but none of them denied anything. And of course,” he snorts, “They seem to be very willing to talk about who was pulling the strings.”
“Their testimony will also be taken into consideration.”
Wei Wuxian nods.
“For tonight,” Nie Mingjue says, joining in from where he had been silently watching his sworn brother question Jin Guangshan, “I call for Jin Guangshan to be stripped of his position and be held in custody until a trial can be held to determine the extent of his involvement.”
Jin Guangshan’s eyes widen as he puffs up with rage. “A trial? I am the Chief Cultivator! You can’t—”
“Silence,” Nie Mingjue hisses. “You have been accused of multiple crimes, and you have offered no adequate defense for any of them! You have, at the very least, proven you are unfit to lead the Lanling Jin sect, much less the cultivation world! A loss of rank is the least punishment you can expect!”
“Stop them!” Jin Guangshan yells, and immediately, the Jin cultivators still loyal to him unsheathe their swords and move towards him with the intent of protecting him. Wei Wuxian does note with satisfaction that the number of his supporters seem to be dwindling as public opinion changes.
Before the cultivators can get into position to protect Jin Guangshan, they quickly find themselves held at swordpoint, either by a Jin cultivator who is loyal to Jin Zixuan, or a member of some other sect that is unaffiliated with a great sect, but still disapproves of Jin Guangshan’s actions. Jin Zixun, to Wei Wuxian’s grim amusement, has both Bichen and Suihua pointed at his throat. If Wei Wuxian was still capable of wielding his sword, he supposes that Suibian would also be pointed at Jin Zixun. Not because he is a threat, of course. Simply because he is just that irritating.
Nie Mingjue walks up to Jin Guangshan’s seat and unsheathes his saber, Baxia practically humming with power. “Surrender, Jin Guangshan,” he says through gritted teeth. “You and yours are outnumbered, and I will not hesitate to kill another tyrant.”
For a long moment, the entire hall is at a standstill.
Then, with the air of a cornered animal, Jin Guangshan surrenders.
A lot happens in the days that follow. So much, in fact, that some of the events blur together in Wei Wuxian’s mind, barely making it past the mind-numbingly long list of things that suddenly become his crucial responsibilities. He barely has time to process the events as they happen with how busy he is being kept and with just how many different things are happening nearly simultaneously. It is with great effort that he keeps himself going— he is, truth be told, quite proud of how he handles all of it without cracking even once.
The Wen remnants are offered temporary sanctuary at Koi Tower while they heal, personally guarded by people who are unshakably loyal to Jin Zixuan, each with additional protection in the form of a talisman that alerts Wei Wuxian to any threat they may face. Jin Zixuan too, is highly invested in this— he wants to make amends for the actions of his father, cousin, and others of his sect in any way he can, and helping the Wens is part of that. Aside from making amends though, he is genuinely sympathetic to them, and wants to do whatever he can while also managing his new responsibilities.
A combination of Lanling Jin’s considerable resources and Wen Qing’s genius and expertise ensures that most of the Wens will suffer no lasting consequences— at least physically. One of her aunts has lost an arm though, and another uncle a leg, and several of them have been branded with peonies. Those injuries, Wen Qing cannot heal, but she can ensure their comfort, which she does. The nightmares though, the fear of leaving each other's sight, and they way most of them flinch subtly away when they see gold robes— which is, of course, extremely common in Koi Tower— those are scars that will take much longer to heal.
A-Yuan, who is thankfully uninjured physically, has taken an enormous liking to Wei Wuxian, and refuses to leave his side. The little boy is adorable and he knows it, and he uses every bit of this adorableness to firmly attach himself to Wei Wuxian— mostly figuratively, but very often literally as well. More often than not, he gets a firm grip on Wei Wuxian’s leg, so that even when he walks around, he takes the child latching on to him along for the ride. Wen Qing theorizes that A-Yuan has come to associate Wei Wuxian with safety— it had been him sharing a horse with A-Yuan as they left Qiongqi Path, after all.
A-Yuan is also endlessly fascinated by Wei Wuxian, and wants to hear stories from him, wants to play with him, wants to be fed by him, and wants him to put him to bed every day. It is a bit of a challenge to balance with his duties, but Wei Wuxian adores A-Yuan, and quite frankly, has no complaints about taking care of him. With most of his usual caregivers busy healing or giving their testimony, someone needs to take care of A-Yuan anyway, and Wei Wuxian is happy to do it, especially if it means that the little boy feels safe. Five days into this arrangement, he discovers that for the most part, A-Yuan is happy to sit next to him, playing with his stuffed toys while Wei Wuxian works. He interrupts now and again, to ask a question or tell a story, but he is quiet and well-behaved. Too quiet and well-behaved— and once again Wei Wuxian seethes as he thinks about what it must have been like at Qiongqi Path that A-Yuan would be so silent all the time.
There is a bit of an… issue with Mo Xuanyu. In the aftermath of everything that had happened, A-Yuan constantly clinging to Wei Wuxian had made Mo Xuanyu extremely jealous. He would constantly glare at the younger boy, and would make a show of stealing Wei Wuxian’s attention away from A-Yuan for himself. He is not rude outright, but he managed to convey a very strong sense of I was here first every time he caught sight of A-Yuan.
“Just because A-Yuan is here doesn’t mean I’ll forget about you, A-Yu,” Wei Wuxian had taken him aside to say one time, after catching him glaring for the third time in a day.
“But… but what if Shifu likes A-Yuan better than me?” the boy had asked tearfully.
Wei Wuxian had sighed and ruffled his hair fondly, his heart already melting. “I like both of you equally, okay? I’m not replacing you with him.”
After those fears are assuaged, they seem to get along relatively well. Mo Xuanyu practically adopts A-Yuan as a little brother, and is very protective of him. A-Yuan enjoys having a playmate closer to his age, even if Xian-gege remains his favourite, as he proclaims one day while being put to bed. Wei Wuxian is just glad that the two kids have each other to keep them company in Koi Tower, especially when all the other things happening call his attention away from them.
Two weeks after they become friends, Wei Wuxian catches A-Yuan running away as Mo Xuanyu chases him, shrieking in delight as they duck and weave through the corridors of Koi Tower, and he cannot stop the smile that spreads across his face as he watches these children finally being able to act like the children they are.
The overseers’ testimony is collected by what is meant to be an unbiased panel, headed by Zewu-jun and filled with representatives from both major and minor sects. Whatever was said in those meetings culminates in a joint execution of all of them. Nobody tells Wei Wuxian the extent of what they had done— something he himself insists on, because if he finds out, nothing will stop him from rousing their spirits and tormenting them for eternity. The visceral anger he had felt at them, the raging resentment he had felt from those who had died at their hands, means that in this, he is not objective and he cannot be. It is for the best, really.
Jin Zixun and a few other higher up members of the Jin sect are implicated by the overseers' testimony, and are swiftly dealt with as well. Nothing as final as execution is done to them, but they do lose their positions and are sentenced to imprisonment in most cases. There are double standards here too, in how these people get a lighter sentence than the people who had incriminated them, simply because the ones giving the orders are part of the gentry, or because they did not directly get their hands dirty even when they were complicit, or even endorsed those actions, but that is not something that can be changed in a year or two of work.
Jin Guangshan too, is tried for his crimes, and Nie Mingjue, in a completely unprecedented action— given how powerful Jin Guangshan is— launches an investigation into his actions. The things that come to light paint an unmistakable picture— the evidence that he had knowingly imprisoned Wen civilians for no good reason; that he had known about their mistreatment because he received reports of the number of those who had been killed and had ignored or even encouraged it so the ‘Wen-dogs could be wiped from the earth’ in his own words; that in the aftermath of the war, he had employed people to try and recreate demonic cultivation, to create a copy of the Yin Tiger Seal, and how their collective failure had prompted him to force a marriage between his son and Wei Wuxian; how he had publicly sown malicious rumours about Wei Wuxian, had tried to turn the world against him and his demonic cultivation, only to turn around and try to get his hands on demonic cultivation anyway.
On the fifth day of the trial, a group of women arrive at Koi Tower to present their testimonies to Nie Mingjue. There are women from all strata of society— cultivators, members of the gentry, servants, prostitutes, merchants, tradeswomen— all with stories of Jin Guangshan’s despicable actions. Reports of rape— of the use blackmail and his considerable influence to coerce them into letting him bed them. None of it was truly surprising to anyone— for too long, people, especially those who had lived in Koi Tower, had suspected that Jin Guangshan did not limit his sexual activity to those who were receptive to his advances, or those who had been paid. It was simply that none of the women he had targeted had any hope of getting justice before— and accusing the Chief Cultivator of being a rapist was not something that could be done with ease. The ongoing trial of his crimes though, had given many women the hope that they might be believed if they came forward with their stories. Each woman’s testimony is recorded and added to Jin Guangshan’s comprehensive list of crimes.
On the seventh day of the trial, Sect Leader Qin and Madam Qin arrive at Koi Tower without their daughter, and Madam Qin seeks a private audience with Jin Guangyao. When they part ways, Madam Qin is pale-faced, and Jin Guangyao seems troubled under his usual polite smile. When Wei Wuxian talks to him about it later, he simply says that he and Qin Su have decided not to formally court or marry.
“I thought you really liked each other,” Wei Wuxian says. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
“There’s nothing to it,” Jin Guangyao shakes his head slightly. “Qin Su is needed to make an alliance with a sect that is not Lanling Jin, and in any case, I am simply far too busy to marry now. I will be helping A-Xuan with the sect, and well,” he nudges Wei Wuxian gently, “He might be losing his husband to Gusu Lan soon enough.”
“Are we really that obvious?” Wei Wuxian mutters, really hoping the answer to that is no.
“Not at all,” Jin Guangyao assures him, looking amused. “Er-ge simply talks about you two a lot.”
On the tenth day of the trial, Jin Guangshan is sentenced. His crimes are many and varied, but he is an important man, and a member of the gentry, so he receives privileged treatment. There are too many people who would protest if he was executed, and a world that is just recovering from one war cannot stand another. Exile was considered as an option, but there was far too much risk that even without the backing of a sect, Jin Guangshan would still be able to gain support, or harm people. At the end, it is decided that his meridians will be sealed so that he cannot cultivate any more, and he will be imprisoned by the Lanling Jin sect.
Gusu Lan does not have the provision to keep someone imprisoned— or so they claim; it seems far more likely that they are worried about having the Wen remnants and Jin Guangshan in close proximity to one another— and both Qinghe Nie and Yunmeng Jiang understandably want nothing to do with the whole mess. Lanling might be more risky, since it is the base of Jin Guangshan’s power, but those who decide his fate are insistent that he be Lanling Jin’s responsibility, as an act of restitution. Wei Wuxian personally thinks it is a stupid idea, but when has anyone listened to him?
At the very least, Jin Zixuan is making sure that only people who are definitely loyal to him are involved in his father’s imprisonment, and Wei Wuxian is working on some ways to reinforce his prison, so he can neither influence the sect from his cell nor abscond from justice. Of course, Wei Wuxian does notice the glint in Jin Guangyao’s eyes when he looks in his father’s direction, and honestly, he will not be surprised if he hears of Jin Guangshan’s tragic but completely natural-looking demise someday soon. He resolves to firmly look the other way if Jin Guangyao ever decides to take the matter into his own hands.
Fifteen days after being freed from Qiongqi Path, the Wens are finally in a fit shape to travel. They say their goodbyes to Wei Wuxian and Jin Zixuan as they leave with Lan Xichen and Lan Zhan— who had left for Gusu immediately to make preparations after Jin Guangshan’s surrender only to return to escort the Wens to their new home— and some of them are clearly more eager to leave than others. A-Yuan clings to Wei Wuxian’s leg, insisting tearfully that he doesn’t want to leave his Xian-gege, no matter what arguments Wei Wuxian makes, no matter how he tries to convince A-Yuan to go with his family. Finally, it takes him agreeing to visit Gusu regularly for A-Yuan to agree.
“Every week,” A-Yuan insists, making Wei Wuxian laugh.
“If I come that often, you’ll get tired of me,” he says to dissuade A-Yuan. When he widens his eyes and shakes head rapidly, Wei Wuxian merely chuckles. “Even if you don’t, I’m sure the adults will get tired of me,” he says looking at the Lans for support.
Lan Zhan simply levels him with one of those awfully sincere looks. “We would never tire of Wei Ying,” he says.
“My brother is quite correct,” Lan Xichen says, his polite smile turning into a more warm one. “Your presence certainly made Cloud Recesses more lively.”
“Lively?” Wei Wuxian laughs. “Zewu-jun, is that a polite way of saying I ruined your uncle’s life?”
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say that,” he replies, his eyes twinkling, “But you were one of Uncle’s more… ah… challenging students.”
“And I take great pride in that!”
“Nevertheless, you will always be welcome at Cloud Recesses. It seems A-Yuan would be very happy to have you there.” His knowing smile, though, implies that A-Yuan won’t be the only one who would be happy if he went to the Cloud Recesses.
A-Yuan whoops in delight. “Every week,” he insists again.
“I’m afraid your Xian-gege is needed here,” Jin Zixuan says, amusement colouring his tone. “He is helping me with some very important work.”
A-Yuan’s eyes widen again. “Like making sure the bad men go away?” he asks, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Exactly like that,” Jin Zixuan says, nodding gravely.
“Oh,” A-Yuan says. For a moment, he looks serious. The very next moment though, a wide grin lights up his face. “Every month?” he asks, hopefully.
Wei Wuxian laughs. “I’ll try, A-Yuan,” he says. “I’ll definitely try.”
Before they leave, Lan Zhan falls back, speaking softly to Wei Wuxian alone. “If you wish,” he says, giving Wei Wuxian a meaningful look, “I will personally escort you. We can fly together.”
Wei Wuxian is stunned by this offer, not only by the shocking sincerity of it, but the fact that Lan Zhan had figured out that he wasn’t going to use his sword— maybe even that he couldn’t— and had decided, instead of questioning him about it continuously, to simply accept it and offer support in his own way. He wants to laugh. He wants to cry. Just how good is Lan Zhan?
This is Lan Zhan acknowledging that he might not want to use his sword, but that he was welcome to come to Gusu anyway, knowing that Wei Wuxian is still unsure about that. This is a show of trust, a declaration that even if he will not tell Lan Zhan everything, Lan Zhan will still be there for him. Maybe Lan Zhan will never say this in words, maybe he will, but that does not matter, not now— it’s actions like these, little things like this that made him first fall in love with him.
“Look at that,” Jin Zixuan says after they leave. “Now, you have two reasons to visit Gusu.”
Wei Wuxian cannot even bring himself to tell his husband to shut up.
At the beginning of the trial for Jin Guangshan, Jin Zixuan had hurriedly been declared the Acting Sect Leader. Many of the higher ranking members of the sect had thought of it as a temporary measure until Jin Guangshan’s name is cleared— because even with him incriminating himself, even with the serious accusations and the piles of evidence against him, even with the fact that the leaders of all the other three great sects were openly disapproving of his actions at that now infamous banquet, people still believed that Jin Guangshan's name would be cleared, that he would take the mantle once again. To be fair, Wei Wuxian did have a contingency or two in the case such a thing did happen, and he’s sure Jin Guangyao did too. The more and more accusations had come out, the less and less justified it became to keep Jin Zixuan as merely the acting sect leader.
Until the end of the trial though, there are still one or two people— people who cannot actually be ousted until Jin Zixuan is truly the sect leader and isn’t being seen as someone who is holding the post until his father returns to it— who had held out hope desperately that Jin Guangshan might redeem himself, that someone else would take the fall for what he had done, that he might be seen as too important to dismiss. Unfortunately for those people though, the parallels Wei Wuxian had managed to draw between Jin Guangshan and Wen Ruohan had made everyone involved in the trial wary and suspicious. After that comparison— a comparison that would stick in their minds— they wouldn’t let him off so easily.
And so it is, that on the eighth day following Jin Guangshan’s sentencing, three days after the Wens had safely left Koi Tower for the sanctuary of Gusu, in a rushed ceremony, Jin Zixuan officially becomes Sect Leader Jin.