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Crow's Child

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Lan WangJi should’ve known better than to let Mo XuanYu run off on his own, especially after he just let loose the truth of his half brother and current Jin sect leader. Said man had gone after Mo XuanYu with the excuse of checking in on his ‘damaged’ sibling. Lan WangJi could see right through him. His brother could not.

Regardless of his urge to go find Mo XuanYu before Jin GuangYao could, he knew doing so would raise suspicion in both his brother and the other sect leader. As such he was left to walk with his brother towards the Library Pavillion. Apparently, his sworn brother had taken an interest in the building and the books within. Another thing that didn’t sit right with Lan WangJi.

“I hope A-Yao can find Young Master Mo. I’d hate for him to get lost in distress.” Lan XiChen sighed, shaking his head.

“A-Yao mentioned how one of his half siblings had snapped during his stay at Koi Tower and had to be removed for everyone's safety, but I didn’t think it was this bad.” Lan WangJi’s brow twitched at his brother's words, the only sign he let slip that he was bothered. Luckily, it slipped right past his brother, like many things. He chose his response carefully.

“Mn.” His brother nodded along, as though Lan WangJi had said a full sentence in that one syllable.

“Yes well, I’m sure time spent here will help heal whatever damage lies in his mind.” He smiles at Lan WangJi.

“I’ll leave him in your hands for now.” Lan WangJi made no response. He already knew Mo XuanYu’s journey would need his aid. He just needed to figure out how. Getting him away from his family would be the best first step.

Soon they arrived at the Library Pavilion, stopping outside the door. Lan WangJi debated bringing up the new information provided by Mo XuanYu, but he found no need to decide. Not when he could see the main subject of said information walking towards them. His brother noticed the man as well. Before he could call out to him, Lan WangJi stepped forward.

“Where is Mo XuanYu?” He questioned, trying to keep his voice calm. The Sect Leaders face gave no indication of offensense or other negative reaction to the deman, just a fake smile he’s been holding since he arrived. The new scuff marks on his robes further rose Lan WangJi’s suspicion.

“Ah, he ran off after I found him between some buildings. I’ll have to apologize to those in the buildings, my brother did get a little loud before taking off.” He sighed and shook his head.

“I’ll assume he’s making his way back to the Jingshi, being the only place he should know in Gusu.” Lan WangJi bites back his reaction to that comment. Instead he nodded and bowed to both sect leaders.

“I will go make sure he arrives safely.” His brother smiled as he bowed back, his sworn brothers’ smile as shady as the man himself.

Lan WangJi turned from the duo, setting off on what could be a next to impossible quest.

He first retraced his steps back to the entrance, hoping to find some help in the place he lost his ward. When he reached the front gate, he turned and followed, to the best of his ability, Mo XuanYu’s crazed path between the various buildings and foliage residing in Gusu.

After checking every dead end alley he could find, he finally stumbled upon the one containing Mo XuanYu. The man lay curled up against the end wall of the alley, his shaking the only sign he was still conscious.

Lan WangJi approached cautiously, unsure what state Jin GuangYao had left the man in. He purposefully makes his footsteps more audible in hopes of giving Mo XuanYu the chance to take charge of the upcoming interaction.

He managed to get within feet of Mo XuanYu before the man showed any reaction to his presence. Mo XuanYu simply lifted his head from his knees to look at Lan WangJi.

Lan WangJi stopped after a few more steps, meeting Mo XuanYu’s seemingly distant gaze. He caught the faintest hint of wariness in his eyes, further confirming what his curled posture already did. Clearly Jin GuangYao was not above hurting family to get what he wanted.

Although, if Lan WangJi’s suspicions were correct, this isn’t a surprising fact.

Focusing on the present, Lan WangJi scanned Mo XuanYu for any obvious injuries. He could only spot a few scrapes and bruises on his cheeks and forehead, the biggest one residing on the cheek previously resting on the wall. Lan WangJi could make a fair guess as to how that bruise occurred.

“Are you hurt elsewhere?” He questioned, hoping to get any response, as well as confirmation as to how badly his half brother had hurt him. Hopefully it wouldn’t be enough to keep Mo XuanYu out of helping Lan WangJi. That would put quite the roadblock in his quest to reunite with his soulmate and son.

Instead of answering, Mo XuanYu struggled to his feet. He managed to stay upright, surprisingly, albeit with the help of the surrounding walls. Besides needing help from the wall, his legs seemed to be faring well compared to his face.

As Mo XuanYu tried to stumble past him towards the open trail, Lan WangJi grabbed his arm to halt him. The man stopped, lightly pulling on the grip with a face that showed he knew he couldn’t get out of this.

“What did he say to you?” Mo XuanYu scoffed.

“What? Why do you think he said anything? Do you think I can’t handle a few sharp words?”

“No.” Mo XuanYu nodded, struggling to pull his arm free.

“Glad you understand. Now can you please let me go on my way? I don’t understand why you are so persistent-“

“I think you can’t handle threats that you could fix by running.” Lan WangJi interrupted. Mo XuanYu stood stunned, his back to the cultivator as he tried to figure out what to say to get out of this.

“… yes, well, isn’t it better for me to fix it? Rather than it result in something I could have prevented just by leaving?”

“No. Not when I am closer to closure than I have been in 13 years. Not when you running could hinder the search for my child.” Mo XuanYu flinched, turning with wide eyes to finally face Lan WangJi.

“… your child?” Lan WangJi nodded.

“Missing for just over a fortnight. Resentful energy during a night hunt vanished him.” Lan WangJi watched as Mo XuanYu processed the information, his eyes darting around with his thoughts. He waited patiently for the smaller man to finish.

“Were they near anywhere particularly infested with resentment?” He seemed to already know the answer.

“Mn… Burial Mounds.”

Mo XuanYu was lost in his thinking again, but the chill in the afternoon air was beginning to sharpen enough that his small core would soon not be able to protect him from it, if it was even doing that now. Lan WangJi noticed the shivers beginning. He used his grip to guide Mo XuanYu towards the Jingshi, the other hardly noticing, busy with his thoughts.

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As they entered the Jingshi, Lan WangJi released Mo XuanYu to grab a spare robe, hoping to chase off any remaining chill from the weaker man's core.

By the time Mo XuanYu had sorted his thoughts fully, Lan WangJi had situated himself at a low table, a tea set laid out before him, two cups filled with fresh tea set on the table.

Mo XuanYu himself had been led towards his seat, standing before it as he came back to the present. He took his seat before Lan WangJi, taking a sip of the tea before clearing his throat.

“... I believe the first place to look would be the Burial Mounds. It is possible that that energy came from the Yiling Patriarch, if he still resides there.” Lan WangJi nodded along, already having planned to take a trip to Yiling ever since his son went missing. He tried immediately after A-Yuan disappeared, but his uncle had shut it down without a second thought, stating that letting Lan WangJi near ‘that foul place’, filled with desperation and worry to find his son safe, would just lead to disaster.

Lan WangJi wouldn’t deny that the elders were most likely not worried about Lan SiZhui. They knew of his past, and refused to look past his past to see his incredible progress and leadership amongst the juniors. If they strongly protested large searches for his son enough, there wasn’t much that his brother and uncle could do to help him.

He had long since acknowledged that his wish to reunite with the two most important people to him would only be fulfilled by himself. Perhaps now the disgraced Jin sect disciple as well.

“It would probably be best to leave soon, before my-” He stopped himself. “-before Sect Leader Jin can expose our plan to your brother. Or to anyone else who would seek to stop us, or possibly even use this as an excuse to escalate the situation and cause another war with the Patriarch.”

“Mn.” Lan WangJi agreed. He wouldn’t put it past the world to use his son's kidnapping as an excuse to cause more harm to his soulmate.

Decided on their plan, Lan WangJi stood from his seat and made his way towards a small chest in the corner. He unsealed the talismans on the back of the chest, allowing him to open the lid and reach inside. A single bag rested inside, full of any supplies he thought he would need if he ever ran to Yiling, including coins and other valuables that would be needed to support the Wens, his soulmate, and himself. He originally made this bag while he could still visit Wei Ying, in the hopes that his love would accept his visits fully enough to comfortably move to the Burial Mound settlement.

Lan WangJi set the bag on the table, pulling another empty bag from it. As Mo XuanYu examined the contents of the first bag, Lan WangJi filled the second one with clothes and various medicine to last their trip. He hoped he wouldn’t need to use much money outside of food and inns, so he could still have enough for when he finds his family.

Returning to the table, he picked the first bag from the table and set them by Bichen on her stand.

“We will leave after nine, to avoid any groups.” Mo XuanYu agreed with a nod. He opened his mouth to respond, but a crash and shout outside the door startled both of them.
Lan WangJi grabbed and unsheathed Bichen, making his way slowly towards the door. He could hear whoever it was outside scramble to stand, and took advantage of their unsteadiness to throw open the door.

The last person he expected to see sneaking around his home was sprawled out on his front step.

Lan JingYi.

The boy quickly returned to his feet when he made eye contact with Lan WangJi, his cheeks red with embarrassment.

“H-Hanguang-Jun! Haha, funny seeing you here!” Lan WangJi continued to only stare at him, unamused with the boy's attempt at humor. Lan JingYi realized this, and quickly switched to a more somber mood and dropped into a low bow.

“I… I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I swear! I just…” He paused for a long moment, only continuing after Lan WangJi finally moved, guiding Bichen back to her sheath.

“It doesn’t matter!” If Lan WangJi was less in control of his reactions, he would’ve jumped just as Mo XuanYu did at the outburst.

“I heard your plan! And I want in! I want to find SiZhui and make sure he’s safe, and bring him back so he can continue showing the elders that they’re wrong!” He took a deep breath, his face still red, both from his emotions and the chill in the air. He met Lan WangJi’s eyes once more, and the older cultivator could see a line of tears gathering in his eyes.

“I just want my friend to come back home.” He finished.

Lan WangJi studied the boy for a moment, allowing Lan JingYi enough time to recover from his emotions and realize he just yelled at HanGuang-Jun. He bowed again, his mind rushing with shame.

“Apologizes, HanGuang-Jun. I did not mean to let my emotions get the best of me. I’ll accept any punishment you deem fit to give me.” Inside, he was cringing at the thought of copying the rules or doing headstands for hours again.

“Hm.” Lan WangJi nodded, stepping back from the disciple.

“You will carry the bags. Care for the rooms and camps we stay in.” He concluded, turning back to walk inside the Jingshi.

Lan JingYi rose from his bow, confused as to what Lan WangJi meant. Turning to close the doors, Lan WangJi met his eyes one more time.

“We leave after everyone else has gone to bed. Pack what is necessary and leave anything else.” He waited for the disciple to catch one, bowing one more time.

“I will be back then!” He hesitated for a moment, before adding, “Thank you, HanGuang-Jun!” With that, he hurried back to his own room, intent on packing quickly and making sure he was on time to return.

Closing the doors, Lan WangJi sighed softly and returned to his seat at the table. He drank the rest of his cup of tea as he settled down from that encounter. Setting his cup down, he met Mo XuanYu’s questioning eyes.

“It appears we will need to account for one more person on the trip.”