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Mark me with your devotion

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When someone was born, they had pure, unmarked skin.

As the children grew older and reached the age of six that almost always changed. Their bodies bloomed with lively colours wherever they were touched by those who loved them truly and unconditionally.

They were not easy to acquire, even those who respected the other or harboured any sorts of affection would not brand them, as love in its untainted form was incredibly hard to come by. Still most had their marks from parents and family, those who believed blood to be thicker than anything.

To have a friend, someone unrelated who leaves even the smallest, faintest of smudge behind was exceedingly rare. Perhaps having family who cannot leave a mark behind would be worse than having any strangers do so.

Wei WuXian was like that.

His skin was pure and untouched, not a single person ever managing to stain it even with the flimsiest declaration of love. Their colours and intensity varied but most did not experience faded splotches at all. Someone either loved the other or plainly stayed civilised in their company.

His parents have died before he would have come of age, but at least Wei WuXian wished to believe that they would have left a sign behind to show that they loved him. He was taken in and raised well as the head discipline of the YunmengJiang Sect but even though he considered them family as well, leaving his marks on all of them, none managed to return his emotions.

Jiang YanLi took it the hardest. Wei WuXian still remembered her face, the amount of guilt that it projected solemnly because when he ran away and his Shijie came after him, catching him upon falling from the tree, her hands that were extended high coloured with a deep, maple-red but Wei WuXian’s skin did not even have the slightest of discolouration.

Later Jiang FengMian offered a hand when he was training to help him back onto his feet and leaving the red behind, Wei WuXian remained untouched again.

Jiang Cheng let him stay in his room and they were playing fetch when Wei WuXian caught his adaptive brother, marking his shoulder and neck, however, his palm remained undyed.

Even Yu ZiYuan had her palm reddened but Wei WuXian’s cheek was clear of her mark where she has slapped him. He was simply not loved in this world.

At first he was still hopeful, as a child he thought that he will certainly find people who would love him unconditionally. After a little while he grew older and with each passing year he realised that perhaps he plainly wasn’t cut out to be wanted. He decided to hope for just one. A single person who would leave the tiniest of discolouration would be enough. After all he will certainly attain a wife at some point.

He was now twenty and has long since given up on such ludicrous dreams. Learning to appreciate what he had, he was fine to love the Sect Leader and have his pity in return, to love Madam Yu and have discipline in exchange, to love his Shijie and receive her affection back and to love Jiang Cheng who might have been the closest to having plain devotion for him upon looking at Wei WuXian but too many things clouded it.

Raised to see Wei WuXian as competition, jealousy and rage always overruled whatever his Shidi would feel.

It was all fine.

Having more friends than anyone else, no one would be able to tell from the outside how unloved he truly was. He started to dress in more layers with each passing year and by now only the very tips of his fingers were visible.

Not even his own Sect was aware that he had absolutely nothing as Wei WuXian has never told any of them that they weren’t alone who did not mark his skin. Having nothing on his face, neck and fingers was not enough to raise questions in people and most actually assumed that he simply did not wish to leave his sign behind upon seeing the way he dressed. Thought of him as selfish, like he would hoard many marks under the layers of clothing but would not grant his own unless certain that he’ll have it back.

Might have been far from the truth but he figured it’s better to be known as such boisterous young master than what the actual truth was.

After putting on his outer robe, he made sure to wrap a silk band around the inside of his sleeve and the top of his glove so neither fabric would move around, deducting the chance of his pale skin showing.

His Shidi was already waiting with the rest of the Sect’s disciplines and once he arrived they all set off towards Cloud Recesses where they have to complete a whole year of education.

It took two whole days to arrive but upon stopping at an inn, they ended up losing their invitation and when they were told that they cannot enter without it, Jiang Cheng started to grow as purple as the mark Madam Yu left across his jaw.

Stepping in swiftly, Wei WuXian offered to go back alone, hoping that his Shidi won’t wreak havoc whilst he’s away. It took a long time and he figured that he deserved a little appreciation for the hard work, so he stopped at Caiyi Town and secured two jars of Emperor’s Smile.

Upon reaching Cloud Recesses’ gates for a second time, he saw that his Sect disappeared, leaving no one behind to let him know where they have went. Sighing heavily he broke through the ward by climbing one of the walls and soon found a sword pressing lightly against his throat.

Sparing a look to the side, his jaw dropped by the person who was standing there. The pale moonlight granted an air of ice, his jade-like appearance carrying a wail of frost almost as if an immortal would have come personally to threaten him.

Shaking out the invite, he pushed it into the boy’s face, showing that he was allowed to be here.

“Roaming around past curfew is forbidden.”

“Friend, how would I know that?! I didn’t do it on purpose anyways, my Sect wasn’t let in without an invite and...”

“The YunmengJiang Sect was already handled and settled into their dormitories.”

“Oh well... how about I share some with you so you can forget you’ve ever seen me here.” Motioning towards the alcohol turned out to be a bad idea as the boy reached out to take them away, his tone flat and annoyed. “Alcohol is forbidden in Cloud Recesses. Bribing your superiors is prohibited.”

Wei WuXian jumped to the side then unsheathed Suibian and his sword clash against the stranger’s. The sounds of metals gliding against one another and the bright sword glares could have easily been seen from far away but Wei WuXian was busy as the man was exceedingly good.

“Friend how about,” grabbing the boy’s arms, he wrapped around the other and let their forms fall off of the wall. “I won’t say a word about you breaking a rule and you won’t either.” The boy’s face remained cold, his composure aloof as if not affected by Wei WuXian’s ingenious plan, sheathing his sword with one swift motion.

“Turn around.” Wei WuXian stepped down as well, discarding his sword while doing as told, first sceptic than just baffled. The wall, that he climbed over and now came back to be ahead, had crammed lines carved into it.

“The principals of the GusuLan Sect. For your stay here, you will follow each!”

The alcohol was taken for good and he was escorted to the rest of his Sect. As the morning rolled around he was immediately summoned to the Lecture Hall and punished by the stranger he has met yesterday along with himself. That was how he has come to know that the man he tried to outsmart was the Sect Leader’s son, the Second Young Master and part of the Twin Jades, Lan WangJi.

The boy was even more ruthless with himself, assigning more whips with the rod than to Wei WuXian, even though the later definitely broke more rules and willing at that, making him feel beyond terrible.

“Wait, no. I admit that I was wrong. Just don’t do it, it was me who shoved him off of the wall.”

His reasoning was ignored and both of the boys were severely punished. Wei WuXian watched Lan WangJi getting to his feet-as if they would not have received hundreds of strikes-and amble away. Wei WuXian was allowed to keep his gloves on as they truly protected against nothing so it was uncomfortable to have them stick to his skin from the blood inside.

Lan WangJi had a light blue hand print over his own hand, a gray one on his wrist and a pale lavender colour that adorned his neck. Wei WuXian did not know how much more he had, what showed was the only thing given but it was highly rumoured that neither of his sons received a mark from their own father.

Lan WangJi did not seem to mind such talk, seemingly never one to react at all but it has never been confirmed by anyone. Amongst the Lans only Lan XiChen and Lan QiRen had the pure white mark of Lan WangJi even though, unlike Wei WuXian, he never wore anything on his hands, he plainly did not love more than his closest family.

Jiang Cheng scooped him off of the ground, and carried him on his back while scolding him heavily. Wei WuXian decided against arguing on how he was left in the dark, the whole Sect leaving without a single word and instead whined about Lan WangJi’s boorish behaviour.

Nie-Xiong found it fascinating that Wei WuXian had the balls to call the boy out but he did not see why he should be careful. They were pretty much the same.

“Wei Gongzi, please excuse my brother.” Being dropped did not feel great but he understood as the other two bowed deeply to Lan XiChen.

“XiChen-Xiong, how could I? He was very mean to me.” Sharp pain erupted between his ribs from the jab, Jiang Cheng’s entire face reddening darkly but Lan XiChen only smiled at him. “If you wish to heal, I’ll let you in to the Cold Spring.”

He took the opportunity right away and after he was let in with the other’s jade token, he was left alone in a sacred part of Cloud Recesses.

Barely catching himself, he stopped unwrapping the band around his left wrist when his gaze fixated on Lan WangJi. He seemingly did not much care for healing, instead of using his spiritual power, he was meditating.

His robes were folded perfectly, pristine white left out on the rocks and Wei WuXian could see that unless it was on his lower body he truly had no more marks. Being loved by your mother, uncle and brother so deeply was an enormous feat so Wei WuXian had no idea why anyone would spread ill-intent towards the Young Masters of Lan for having none from their father.

Deciding against undressing, he still entered the water, the spring freezing so he was unable to stand still, fearing that his blood would harden and solidify. How the hell was Lan WangJi just standing there?

“WangJi-Xiong, why didn’t you invite me here? You’re so rude, only healing alone.” Eyes sharp, Lan WangJi did not seem happy by Wei WuXian who was continuously creating ripples by hoping up and down to stay somewhat warm. Close to Lan WangJi, he could feel the other’s warmth so he tried to draw nearer but that glare was enough to not stay overly keen on such idea.

“How did you get in?”

“Your brother let me in, he, at least, has some manners. He told me your name is A-Zhan, so cute...I’m Wei Ying.”

Face blanking, Lan Zhan took a single breath and closed his eyes back, ignoring even his mere presence. Wei WuXian was not put out though and carried on chatting away, inviting the other back to Lotus Pier and telling him all sorts of anecdotes about Yunmeng.

The Cold Spring helped immensely so Wei WuXian was more than able to attend the lectures through the next weeks, enjoying his time with Lan WangJi when he was serving his punishment in the Library Pavilion.

Wei WuXian liked to entertain the idea that they were friends and Lan WangJi enjoyed his presences as much as he did. As he was lying under the Library Pavilion’s window, where he has just jumped out, he couldn’t help the grin that spread wide on his face.

It has already been a whole month and every single day Wei WuXian has graciously blessed Lan Zhan with his presence but now the reprimand is over so he had no reason to spend so much time together with Lan WangJi.

Leaving the other with the absolute mess that the two unruly rabbits were making, Wei WuXian was wandering around the premises, heading to the afternoon reading when commotion broke him out of the daze he managed to get himself into.

Walking towards Lecture Hall, he watched the guest disciplines talking animatedly and as he got closer, he was more than able to make out what was being said. They were talking about soulmates and asking Jin ZiXuan if he truly has made a bond with someone before.

Wei WuXian already knew the answer to such question, seeing how he was engaged to his own Shijie. It was so hard to imagine that you could know your whole life who you’ll love until the very end, the marks left behind were way too intense to be one of friendship according to their parents-which were also basically impossible in most people’s mind sometimes they just could not explain how smudges were left behind when someone was already married so people said it can be an exceedingly strong friendship-so it was organised for them to marry.

The idea of wearing such mark on your body made his stomach crunch. Wei WuXian could not even imagine what it would feel like to be so loved. To have someone who would give their life for him, a person who would talk to him, console him, try to make him laugh when sad and share his joy when glad.

Jin ZiXuan was not liked by either him or Jiang Cheng. He hid the rosy discolouration that Jiang YanLi left on him as if ashamed. He had no problem showing the ones from his family but YanLi’s was always covered, his forearm never staying without some sort of fabric masking what’s there.

“My engagement has nothing to do with my opinion on who would be the best amongst the young maidens.” The peacock ignored the others after claiming that and Wei WuXian lost it right about then.

“Who do you think you’re talking about?” Straightening up, Jiang Cheng stood tall next to him as well, probably just as furious.

“Why does that matter to you Wei-Xiong?” He could tell that Nie HuaiSang had no idea that the idiotic git was betrothed to their sister so he managed to keep his anger solely on the peacock. “Who do you reckon could be better than my Shijie?”

Murmurs erupted as Wei WuXian was tempted to punch him but another person from the LanlingJin Clan has stepped forward. “WuXian aren’t you just a son of servant? Just who do you think you are to talk like that to a future Sect Leader?”

“Wei WuXian is the head discipline of the YunmengJiang Sect, it’s you who should watch what you’re saying!” Jiang Cheng was shaking next to him and Wei WuXian could tell that he will lose it at any given second.

“Oh...how silly of me. I seemingly forgot that your father had quite the life. Are you mad that he loves his illegitimate son more? Is that why WuXian is always so bundled up?! Ha, it must hurt to see how much deeper your father’s affection is for him than you.”

Wei WuXian could tell, Jiang Cheng believed what was being said right away and his rage was not to be reckoned with. Stepping in between, he hoped to calm Jiang Cheng but his face seemed to further worsen the situation and instead of stopping, Wei WuXian felt numbness along his jaw that started to spread and hurt like he would have been punched by a brick not just his brother after a few seconds.

Losing his balance from the unexpected blow, he fell onto the ground in the exact moment Lan QiRen entered the room, as grumpy as ever upon none of his students occupying their seats properly. Jiang Cheng remained seething as he threatened the Jins to get to them later and Wei WuXian was left on the ground as they all took their seats.

Lan WangJi entered soon after his uncle, carrying scrolls for the old teacher, his eyebrows raising in the slightest from Wei WuXian being spread out in his way. He halted in his wake, nonchalantly waiting for him to gather himself off of the ground.

Touching his jaw softly, he took a seat as well trying to avert his attention to the pain that clasped at his face instead of the one that ruthlessly gripped at his heart. He had no idea how he’s gotten to the point where he was despised for being too good at pretending that there was anyone who would care for him.

So many people made so many rumours about his choices of clothing but he’s never heard someone assume the cold, hard truth. Unwanted, unloved, undesirable.

The day came to an end and Wei WuXian managed to talk his brother out of a fight, reminding him how disappointed the Sect Leader and Madam Yu would be. After listening to him scream, on how that’s none of Wei WuXian’s problem since he is so valued by everyone, he was left forlorn.

October came around and that meant only one thing. Jiang Cheng’s birthday was only a month away. These celebrations weren’t grand at all, but it was part of their tradition to spend it with the people who you love the most, the ones that you’ve marked and they marked you back.

Even though there was a red print on Jiang Cheng and he let Wei WuXian be around on his birthdays before, this time he was told to stay at Cloud Recesses whilst his adaptive brother set off alone to visit home with special permission. This way he was allowed to leave at the very end of October to stay for a whole week home.

He was aware that he could have been included in that, he would have been let to go back to Yunmeng as well but Jiang Cheng told his father that it’s pointless since it will only be a few days anyways. ‘Wei WuXian will be better off staying where he was.’

So he did, it was ignored that his own birthday fell in the midst of it all and besides a letter from YanLi, his Sect seemingly forgot that he just turned twenty-one, too busy honouring Jiang Cheng’s twentieth birth celebration.

“Wei Ying?” He was out past curfew and clutching a whole jar of Emperor’s Smile on his own merriment, absolutely alone exactly how he was supposed to be until Lan WangJi has appeared. Obviously he wasn’t dumb, he was aware that he’ll be punished again but he couldn’t make himself care.

Even refusing to make the slightest of effort, he did not turn around, just stared into the forest surrounding Cloud Recesses with tears streaming down his face.

Lan WangJi also did not leave it at that and closed the distance between the two, crowding over his slouched frame. Whatever retort he had, probably about to recite rules that are being broken, it all got stuck in his throat as his gaze locked over Wei WuXian’s face.

“Lan Zhan, do you know what day is it?”

“Jiang Wanyin?” Smiling sadly, he thought that it was a decent guess. Wei WuXian’s mark was visible and intense for the world to see yet he was asked to stay away. What Lan WangJi did not know was the fact that it wasn’t some strange argument that the two were quarrelling over like good brothers.

Jiang Cheng didn’t just prove to be unable to love him but also appeared to not want Wei WuXian to think of him as a brother at all anymore.

“His birthday is still five whole days away. Today is mine.”

Lan WangJi said nothing when he choked up on the words, he wasn’t dragged away to be chastised and also wasn’t hugged to be comforted. Still Lan Zhan sat next to him in complete silence and did not get up.

Neither moved until the sky darkened further then finally the horizon was getting dyed orange. The Sun was rising and just like that it was not his birthday anymore, even if Lan WangJi barely considered him a friend, Wei WuXian managed to calm his hysteric panic that pulsated inside him as if he’d have to fight for survival.

Lan WangJi would never leave a mark on Wei WuXian either, yet he was kind enough to not let him be all alone when he was supposed to be surrounded by those who love him. It almost felt like he was thrown into a lake without knowing how to swim and people just passed by, watching idly as he drowned.

However, Lan WangJi stopped in his track and joined him in the pond, keeping him above the water enough to survive. The considerate assistance has managed to get him through a day that he usually shared with his adaptive siblings.

The people who took him into regards enough to at least bother and make an effort to lie even though all of them knew that they might say they love Wei WuXian, it was not truly the case.

Jiang Cheng came back seven days later and when Wei WuXian grinned at him waving, he turned the other way and swaggered off until he could not even see the retreating back of his brother. It hurt more and more even though he kept arguing with himself.

He was already given more than what he was worth so his heart should stop pretending that it had the right to obtain people’s love. He never did.

Rushing after, he caught up to his brother, both of them walking to Lecture Hall anyways. Wei WuXian just came to the entrance to greet Jiang Cheng but apparently he was still mad. Catching up wholly, Jiang Cheng looked mad, fuming silently and fastening his pace even further as if wanting to stay further away from him.

By the time Wei WuXian managed to grip his shoulder they were already in the Lecture Hall. Jiang Cheng looked like he was filled with rage and hatred, shaking his grasp off almost madly and shoving him back forcefully.

“What the hell A-Cheng? Are you still mad at me? Seriously?”

He actually raised his fist, seemingly about to punch Wei WuXian for the second time in such a short time period but Lan WangJi entered in that exact second, the scrolls arranged on his arms neatly so the class was probably about to start.

Lan WangJi stepped in between, his glare fixated on Jiang Cheng but Wei WuXian did not pay any mind to that anymore. The bright red colour, always gleaming like the very first maple leaf on a clear autumn day faded on Jiang Cheng’s neck a bit.

It was there but nowhere as prominent as it used to be. Wei WuXian had no idea that marks can also do that and he also did not realise his emotions changing. Was he actually that hurt?

He felt angry immediately, furious at his own heart for betraying him like that. He should be better than this, more understanding. How egotistical can just one person become? How has Wei WuXian fallen so deep into his own mind and whining heart that he started to forget all the things that were done for him?

The mark was still there. Wei WuXian still loved him but it did not look like they were brothers anymore. Jiang Cheng was mad at him with a good reason and he would have preferred to be punched in that moment.

Anything would have felt better than the nausea that came over him as his heart convulsed and sweat started to break out on his skin as if he’d yet again be left lonesome facing mortal peril. The panic was ruthless as it violently surged through him, his throat closing and breathing becoming heavier by each second.

The last thing he managed to do consciously was turn on his heel and run. The addition of physical work appeared to be too much, his heart unable to provide enough blood, incapable to beat rapidly enough to serve him. His lungs failed to fill enough to aid his muscles for them to be able to withstand the labour forced onto them.

Wei WuXian’s vision blacked and he was unable to tell if he remained upright or fell. It was all too much and he could not do anything.

Eyelids heavy, it felt like a chore to even battle with himself to open them. His breathing was still somewhat rugged, throat painful and lungs burning. His face wasn’t tight like usually, the salty tracks of his sobs seemingly not present.

Once his vision managed to focus, he saw long wooden bars, indicating that he was inside. Someone has found him and took him into a building. Averting his gaze, his heart settled when he saw that seemingly he was fully dressed, not even his gloves removed by potential healers.

Lying in a bed, he was tucked in carefully his hands folded across his chest. He felt toasty but not like he would be boiled alive, the posture comfortable and the deep Sandalwood scent safe. He closed his eyes back, deciding against moving and tried to remember where he has smelt this aroma. It was familiar in a pleasant way.

The next time he awoke was to the feeling of something being removed from his forehead. He did not manage to open his eyes before it came back, the wet cloth almost appeared like ice against his feverish skin. His eyes never opened in the end.

Having no concept of where he was or what time it was, Wei WuXian felt incredibly meddled, placed into such an odd daze. However, the state that he forced his own system through appeared to have lightened and he felt almost normal when he was finally fully conscious, able to sit.

The room was exceedingly plain. There was a beautiful guqin on the table at the room but other than the stunning instrument, everything was plain. Throwing his legs over the side, he slipped his boots back onto his feet and walked to the window.

Dusk has arrived while he was playing around and all he could do was pray that he has only wasted a single day and wasn’t dramatic enough to be out cold for multiple.

He wasn’t in the guest quarters, but the room was very similar so he certainly was still in Cloud Recesses. Just as he decided to go outside to locate where he was the door opened behind him so he realised that even though he made a choice, his body never started to move away from the window.

Still a bit subdued, after instructing his body to turn around time and time again, going as far as addressing himself in his head, he managed to whirl towards the person who has entered. It was Lan WangJi.

“Lan Zhan,” aiming for a grin, he wasn’t actually certain what kind of expression he was wearing. “fancy seeing you here, what brings you around?”

“This is Jingshi.” For a second he tried to take that in, wondering why on Earth he would be in Lan WangJi’s personal place. “Well, it’s always nice to have you around.”

Lan WangJi, “...”

“So what have happened?”

Lan WangJi plainly stared back as if asking the same but Wei WuXian wasn’t sure he had any answers good enough here. “Did a whole day pass?”

“Mn.” Thanking the gods that it was only one, Wei WuXian couldn’t quite think as to what he shall do next. “Well, I’ll leave you to it...see you around Lan Zhan.”

He aimed to go to the door but his reaction time was still somewhat slow, so he was just staring at Lan WangJi, long enough to make him open his mouth but as he’s done so Wei WuXian’s body finally moved and he started to make advances a bit wobbly but determined.

“Wei Ying is fine?”

He just laughed, telling Lan Zhan that he’s cute but said nothing when he was yet again escorted to his own room, left accompanied by a steaming bowl of Miso soup with radish. Apparently Lan WangJi judged him lacking strength and in need of balancing his Qi as it was Xiao Xue and people tended to indulge in yang foods to provide the required remedy. He was uncertain if the decision of chaperoning him was made because it was already past curfew so as to ensure he wouldn’t wander off, or simply because Lan Zhan was worried if he’d even make it back in one piece.

Jiang Cheng refused to talk to him for three consecutive weeks now. They were getting ready to go on a night-hunt and Jiang Cheng acted as prissy as ever making Lan XiChen frown. It was only the four of them, headed to check out a water ghoul and it certainly wasn’t ideal to have a member in your group who would sooner throw you to a yao than help.

Lan WangJi was seemingly also not in high spirits, but his features were controlled and Wei WuXian could only see the mild annoyance when he really tried to pay attention. Lan XiChen saw it too and has not uttered a single word when Lan WangJi stepped into a boat with Wei WuXian almost as if he was possessive and concerned that Wei WuXian’s brother might strangle him.

Since the option of letting the two ride together sounded even more dangerous, Wei WuXian sadly watched how the only reasonable person was drifting with his brother. Lan WangJi settled further once the two boats had some distance between them and they were left to head towards the middle of the river.

Soon enough they found what they’ve come for-more specifically it found them-and tried to eradicate the threat. Such nuisance was not easy to exterminate so they needed to put up a decent fight.

Wei WuXian sent out Suibian to protect his brother but a sudden force pulled him straight into the water in the meantime when he was defenceless. He was grabbed roughly and pulled back with force, hearing the cracking snap of their boat breaking.

Lan WangJi was holding him by the collar, riding his sword. It was quite amazing how steadily they rose into the air. Carrying such additional weight by one’s sword was no easy feat but Lan Zhan did not even appear pressed about it as if it took him no more effort than flying alone.

Once they were on solid ground, he saw that Jiang Cheng was carried similarly to himself, Lan XiChen actually holding his hand instead. As they landed as well, his brother ripped away the hold, clearly furious as he sauntered off to the side to wash off some of the mud that covered his body.

“Please excuse his manners, he is genuinely grateful for your help XiChen-Xiong.” It wasn’t a lie, Jiang Cheng was mad at himself but the Twin Jades of Lan were probably not aware of this and could only see how indecorous his brother was.

Lan XiChen just smiled politely and handed him his sword so Wei WuXian thanked him as well. “Lan Zhan I owe you one.”

“Wei Ying is fine.”

“No, seriously. You saved my ass out there, I’m grateful for the help.”

“No need.”

It will take long years to fully get rid of the ghoul but for now they’ve done what they could and headed back to Cloud Recesses.

“May I talk to Wei Ying?” Wei WuXian stayed behind once they reached the entrance, Jiang Cheng not pressed whether or not he was even alive, let alone following him.

He has genuinely tried, using many different methods, but his mark refused to intensify. Wei WuXian has started to believe that Jiang Cheng was somehow suppressing it by the sheer power of this new-found hatred he harboured for him.

Jiang Cheng never addressed him after the mark became one-sided when they were mere children, not trying to prove it wrong nor swearing that he does love him. Wei WuXian thought that maybe it was out of pity but now he assumed it was cowardice. He, himself, did not know what to say to his own brother. What is there to say?

Following after Lan WangJi, he was preoccupied with such thoughts as he trailed behind until they were in a small clearing. Wei WuXian has never taken note of this place but he could see Jingshi from here. Lan WangJi pulled lettuce from his sleeve making him laugh loudly.

Hushing him softly, Wei WuXian watched how little balls of fluff were hopping over and crowding around Lan WangJi as if he was a god for them to worship. He chuckled more on that, walking closer and trying to grab one of them.

“Lan Zhan, I knew you loved them. You refuse my gift then go and start a whole army of rabbits.” Failing multiple times, the bunnies were not happy to be disturbed by him while there were two separate ones that stood against Lan Zhan’s ankles as if keen to be noticed and get up.

Bending forward, Lan WangJi was easily allowed to pick up one of them and handed it over to him. The rabbit was kicking against his hold but Wei WuXian was stronger and smarter, kneading the petite white puff between his digits.

They remained standing, the white crisp snow crunching under their feet. Turning to face Lan WangJi, Wei WuXian let the bunny escape his torture as he grinned widely. “So what may I do for you Lan Er-Gege?”

“The Sect received a request due to some heavy resentful energy. My brother is expected to travel to the Qinghe region and told me to bring someone else. Would Wei Ying join?”

“Of course, that will be so much fun! Where are we going?”

“Yi city, I will head over to ask permission for our departure. I will wait for Wei Ying at the entrance tomorrow six in the morning.”

“But gege, we won’t have classes then, can’t we leave at like eleven?” Lan WangJi turned his back and started to saunter away from him, the rabbits scrambling to follow his lead. “Six, sharp!”

Sighing heavily, he was certainly left alone now, even the puffy little devils abandoning him so he could do nothing but amble towards his room as well, thankful when HuaiSang asked how their little adventure went. At least someone cared enough to question.

Only eighteen minutes after six, Wei WuXian arrived at the entrance, his face red, lungs struggling and hair an absolute mess. Lan Zhan was gracious enough to wait for him and even granted ignorance towards his tardiness.

The pair set off, descending on the mountain idly. Wei WuXian was still half asleep so they were wrapped in complete silence, their surroundings tranquil as well. Once they reached Caiyi Town they got on their swords and flew for hours.

They only stopped once, to walk a short distance so they could warm themselves properly with both spiritual energy and some movement. With their tempo, they soon passed the Gusu region and found an inn in a small village when night has fallen.

“We made some great advances, we should reach the town by tomorrow night.” Lan WangJi walked beside him, entering the tavern where Wei WuXian intended to eat.

After the meal, Wei WuXian inquired about where the closest inn was and the two set off right away. Thankfully Lan WangJi paid for two rooms without any difficulty so they parted and agreed to meet at six again to get breakfast.

Stripping off all of the layers, Wei WuXian felt his heart dislocating as if genuinely twisted but he ignored it. Before he could have wholly undressed, he heard commotion and his blood ran cold when moments after a scream, swords clashed together.

Without thinking he was out of his room, rushing to the railing only to see two drunken men arguing loudly. It was none of his business so he shook his head annoyed and turned to head back, only to come face to face with Lan WangJi.

His gaze locked onto Wei WuXian’s but he could tell what he was thinking. He was still wearing his inner shirt and trousers, not much of his skin showing but it was very rare to have a soul mark on for example your back.

Lan WangJi said nothing and he just went back into his room, closing the door loudly. Lowering himself to the ground, Wei WuXian rubbed his face forcefully, letting himself to bask in self-pity for a few miserable minutes where he assessed just what his life has come to be then granted a few additional seconds to pick the pieces back up and decided to just rest. This day was long enough already.

The water in the basin has already turned cold but he did not bother to reheat it. It would not make much of a difference anyways.

The next morning the two of them started their trip right away, buying two buns that they ate while walking out of the village. Once they reached the border, they finally got on their swords and set off to finish the journey as soon as possible.

They did arrive at Yi City fairly late in the afternoon. Dismounting their swords, they remained finishing the distance to the haunted burial ground on feet. They were pointed towards a nearby forest that appeared quite serene on first glance.

Heading through, the trees became denser and the pine needles exchanged the snow. Even though they were completely separated and alone, Lan WangJi did not question Wei WuXian’s lack of stains on his skin so he started to relax, figuring that Lan Zhan will not question him at all.

As he stopped fretting over the matter, they just came to a strange line of bushes and Wei WuXian grabbed onto Lan WangJi’s shoulder, pulling him back.

“There’s an array, it’s a trap.”

Nodding his head, Lan WangJi unsheathed Bichen at the same time as he did Suibian and two swords, fuelled by their spiritual power, crashed into the defence line and broke it into tiny pieces. “Let’s be more careful.”

They carried on and without much of problem, found the grounds. It was a sinister wasteland, where no animals stayed and no flora rooted. Littered on the mud, were pieces of stone and wood chips, showing that once this was truly some sort of burial place.

Even though they were out of the line of the trees, the snow did not remain, melting into nasty puddles as if the dirt itself refused to be covered by anything.

Walking around, the resentful energy was prominent but Wei WuXian was uncertain as to what exactly could be causing it. Looking off at the edge of the cliff he was standing by he called out thoughtfully.

“Should we try Inquiry?”

“Do you think it’s a spirit?”

“Not sure, worth a try though.” Lan WangJi looked like he wanted to say something but he pulled his guqin and played a few tones while Wei WuXian peeled of his gloves to touch the ground, trying to determine what kind of entity would cause such effects. Instead of an answering strum, black smoke gathered in an eerie mist and it split charging towards both Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi.

He pulled his sword, but it did nothing to something non-corporal, however, the vapour had enough force to shove him backwards. The only problem with taking a step back was the deep trench behind him as he was standing on the very edge of the precipice.

With his reflexes, he managed to pierce the boulder with his sword, hanging by his grip on the hilt. He had no idea for how long that will hold but he wasn’t sure he’d have enough time while falling to do the hand seals and get onto his sword.

Lan WangJi was right above him, almost immediately though and lying on the ground he extended his hand. Wei WuXian was positive that with a single, tiny leap he could grab onto with his other hand but as he raised it he saw that he was not wearing his gloves.

It seemed stupid to worry about such thing when he was on the brim of death but he promised himself to never touch anyone again. He could not handle leaving a mark on another person, so ready to give his entire being only to see pity when it was not mutual.

Compassion was not what he needed from people. It was almost impossible to wrap his head around the fact that in such a huge world, with so many people in it, there was not a single one who would ever find him worthy of their time and effort.

Gathering the remainder of his sanity, he got over his childish behaviour and extended his hand further. The sword was shaking from upholding his weight and he knew that it had to happen right away or it will come loose.

Lan WangJi scooted even further down, then probably realised why he hesitated. The hand retreated just as Wei WuXian tried to clasp it but before he would have fallen a grip tightened securely around his wrist.

With pulling his body up, Suibian slipped out wholly, the stone and dirt crumbling away where he has stabbed but Lan WangJi was quick enough to not let him fall. He was soon hoisted over the edge and that’s when he realised why he was not able to reach out himself.

In the moment everything happened so fast but when he went to close his hand over Lan Zhan’s, he pulled back to shake the sleeve of his robe down further. His hand wrapped into the wide fabric of his billowing robe thus he made no contact with Wei WuXian.

Once they were both safely up Wei WuXian couldn’t help but lower his head. “Sorry, your robes...”

Seemingly Lan Zhan was thinking about something entirely different, only then looking down to see himself covered in mud. “Wei Ying is fine?”

“Yes, thank you Lan Zhan. So I guess that did not work,” getting back on his feet, Wei WuXian appeared way cleaner due to the fact that his robes were at least black to start out with. “to me it feels like everyone who was buried here is craving revenge.”

“This amount of resent is not usual. I do not think this was just a normal burial ground, I think that a certain group of people was massacred and then hidden away at this place. Probably not even buried just thrown over the edge and then whoever was here afterwards tried to make a sort of memorial.”

“Perhaps.”

“Let’s place out a few talismans to cleanse the territory. If we place these at strategic points to cover the whole premises then if we manage to activate them all at once it should do the trick. The only thing is that if any spirits are powerful enough, they might materialise and then we would need to terminate.”

Lan WangJi extended a hand, his pale, slender fingers waiting so Wei WuXian handed him some paper he kept in his qiankun sleeve at all times. Biting his pointer finger, he drew the first one and gave it to Lan Zhan so they both copied out enough to make a decent border.

Once they were distributed, they stepped into the middle and mirroring each other, their hand seals matched up perfectly as they both touched the ground at the same exact moment, sending waves of spiritual energy towards their talismans.

Activating all at once, screaming filled their heads, smoke rising all around them but it soon cleared nicely, leaving the two with a mucky cliff but no lingering resentment.

It has fully darkened by the time they got out of the woods so they agreed to find an inn and set off tomorrow morning. This time Wei WuXian needed a more thorough cleaning, so he filled a whole tub and just submerged his entire body while thinking.

Certainly Lan WangJi would never leave a mark on him but would Wei WuXian? He liked Lan WangJi and highly enjoyed his company, almost always finding his mood suitable to share with the other but did he consider him that good of a friend?

Friendships very rarely left anything behind, the bond needed to be exceptional to stain someone’s skin. It was silly of him to even concern himself over such thing. Of course they wouldn’t mark each other.

When the next morning rolled around they just set off towards Cloud Recesses, quite similarly to how they reached Yi City.

Once back, they reported to Lan QiRen then separated to rest as it was already night time. Wei WuXian wasn’t sure if Lan WangJi could tell how uncomfortable he was around the topic or he plainly did not care but he has not once mentioned anything about the marks.

Even though it would have been reasonable for him to scold Wei WuXian for ever faltering and risking his own life to mull over the option of touching someone. Also not bothering to mention the lack of marks, despite the fact that it was almost impossible to not have your hands dyed.

Jiang Cheng did not care for his adventuress trip with the Second Young Master of GusuLan but HuaiSang was considerate enough to listen to his telltales even if he did not truly concern over it.

A few days later, Lan Zhan was not in class and he could not find Lan XiChen either to ask where his Didi was. Wandering around after the lectures were over, he was actually found by Lan Zhan instead of the other way around.

“Wei Ying”

“Lan Zhan, where were you today? Did you miss me?” Lan Zhan started to walk muttering a soft ‘shameless’ but Wei WuXian could tell he wasn’t annoyed. “Seriously where have you been?”

They ended up on the little meadow where Wei WuXian’s gifts have made themselves at home. “My birthday.”

“Oh, then I really shouldn’t...bother you.”

“Fine, Wei Ying is no bother.” Accepting the lettuce leaves, he squatted down next to Lan Zhan and fed some of the rabbits with him in silence.

“So does that mean that you’ll go to your mother’s grave?”

“It is far, no one is buried in Cloud Recesses.”

“Just how far? We could still go!” Wei WuXian realised what he has said so he was quick to correct himself. “I meant you...you could go. The burial grounds should still be in Gusu, right?”

“It is on the next mountain, have to turn right at the foot and the path will go there.”

“That sounds very close to me, do you not want to go?” Lan WangJi was not looking at him at all so he really couldn’t tell if he should drop it, pretend they’ve never even talked about it or push it further so Lan Zhan could talk himself into something he might be desperate for but didn’t even know.

“Will Wei Ying accompany me?”

“If you’re sure you want me there then of course.”

So Lan Zhan grabbed his guqin with some incenses and the pair descended on the mountain again, for a third time in such a short time period. Neither mentioned flying, since that would be disrespectful and they still had a few hours before dusk.

Not pressed on time, they ambled peacefully and Wei WuXian took it upon himself to provide entertainment and not let Lan WangJi think too much on where they’re headed. Talking about everything that came to mind from methods of cultivation he read recently to how to steal the best lotus pods.

Lan WangJi did not appear to mind too badly so not once has he shut his mouth until they reached the top of the mountain. There he remained silent and just walked next to Lan Zhan who advanced with determination.

It was part of the tradition to play a song in order to remember. They both knelt while Lan Zhan finished his piece and kowtowed together, waiting for their incenses to burn down wholly in quiet.

Wei WuXian did not know anything about her but he was certain that she was a wonderful person to have such amazing children.

Back on their way, Wei WuXian remained quiet again, hoping that Lan Zhan will know that he’s there if anything is needed. Before walking back to Cloud Recesses, he pointed towards the town.

“Zhan-Ge, don’t you want some Emperor’s Smile to celebrate?” He was ignored as Lan WangJi started to climb so he could do nothing but follow closely. He was yet again escorted to his room and even though he did not think it should be that late, if Lan Zhan said it was past curfew then it certainly was.

“Thank you, Lan Zhan. Are you okay?”

“Mn.”

Lan WangJi left and Wei WuXian was not sure if he understood how grateful he actually was that after not being invited to his brother’s birthday, he was granted Lan WangJi’s time even though his body was devoid of any deep red marks.

Spring has rolled around and Wei WuXian was always the one asked to accompany Lan WangJi on smaller night-hunts so this time around it was yet again him who joined the young master. They met up at the entrance and descended together, headed towards the Qishan region this time.

Jiang Cheng wasn’t talking to him again, after some time he bothered to listen to him but it was short-lived as his brother ended up in a serious fight and was threatened to be sent home. On the positive side thus Wei WuXian finally got his first letter-that wasn't from Jiang YanLi-since he got to Cloud Recesses.

Madam Yu might have scolded him heavily and threatened by serious punishment if he won’t do better to look after his Shidi but it was a letter addressed to him nonetheless.

Qishan was quite the journey, definitely not close to Gusu but the pair was still allowed to take the task. Once dusk came, they found an inn like always and settled in.

This one had meals so they sat to eat first, trying to ignore the loud group talking animatedly as they waited for their food.

“Lan Zhan, we covered more ground then I thought, we will certainly reach the town in three more days.”

“Mn.”

Wei WuXian reacted just in time, jumping to his feet and yanking Lan Zhan to the side. A man, who was clearly greatly insulted, ended up throwing his entire bowl of soup across the table but the whole row ducked as it splashed everywhere.

Lan WangJi remained fairly clean this way, but Wei WuXian felt the warm liquid seep into the sleeve and front of his robes. The people did not even seem to take note of what had just happened while Lan WangJi offered him a sad looking handkerchief, it was blindingly white and appeared ridiculous small compared to the damage.

Wei WuXian still accepted the offered piece and motioned for Lan Zhan to join him on his side so they would both be able to keep their eyes on the immediate danger that was surrounding them. However, no more plates went flying, the group loudly carrying on their impromptu argument.

“The hell? I certainly wouldn’t be talking if I would only have five marks, who even loves you?”

Stiffening by the strange choice of insult, Lan WangJi averted his attention to him just as their meals came. Wei WuXian did not feel particularly hungry anymore but he still ate, glad that Lan Zhan certainly won’t try to talk whilst there’s food ahead of them.

“Wei Ying is fine?” They were ahead of his room and he could do little but nod, clutching the jar of wine that Lan WangJi was gracious enough to buy for him. Yet Lan Zhan seemed reluctant to leave so Wei WuXian turned back in his door and invited him in. “Want to drink with me?”

He was fairly positive that Lan WangJi has never even touched alcohol but apparently Lan WangJi saw something in him that was nagging enough to agree in favour of not leaving him alone. He wasn’t sure what his grin must project to gain such intense concern. He felt fine.

However, as they sat opposite each other, Wei WuXian was quick to forget about everything as he poured them a bowl and watched entranced how Lan WangJi will react. He downed the entire thing and just blinked once.

Even though Wei WuXian’s attention was solemnly on him, there wasn’t a single muscle twitch or even a tinge of red on his face. He remained cold and composed as if nothing would have happened.

Just as he decided to drink his own and pour another round, Lan WangJi raised his hand to his forehead, eyebrows slightly drawn inwards and then his eyes closed and he appeared to fall asleep. Choking a little, Wei WuXian put his bowl down and leaned closer but Lan WangJi was out cold.

He couldn’t help but laugh as he finished the rest of the jar alone.

Letting the back of his gloved hand touch Lan Zhan’s cheek, he did not react at all so Wei WuXian deemed it safe to leave him for a few seconds while he went down to boil water. By the time the basin was filled, it would have been past nine anyways so he figured that Lan Zhan will not awake until next morning.

Taking off his outer robe and gloves, he turned back to place them onto the table only to come face-to-face with Lan WangJi. Taking a step back, he watched the other, a scrutinising look from head to toe but Lan Zhan appeared to be his usual self.

Exactly being like always with the air of an esteemed cultivator, he was standing straight and proper.

“Lan Zhan, you just fell asleep. That was you being drunk?” He chuckled lightly, still highly amused but Lan WangJi said nothing. “Are you thirsty?”

Lan Zhan, “...”

“Fine, come I’ll pour you a cup of tea. Look at you, did you actually just fall asleep and woke up drunk?!” Lan WangJi wasn’t quite himself after all, it was deceiving how perfectly normal he appeared on first glance.

Holding out a cup, Lan WangJi just stared at the beverage offered. “What is it? You don’t want tea?”

“Can touch?” Wei WuXian whipped his head down and he was indeed already without his gloves. He placed the cup down in front of Lan Zhan and motioned for him to get it himself. “Good thing that even drunk, you’re sharp. Certainly smarter than me, remembering that I cannot touch you.”

Lan WangJi reached out but halted, seemingly not liking what he has heard. His actions were almost childlike and it made Wei WuXian grin to see him in such way. “Wei Ying.”

“What?”

“Wei Ying can, I cannot.”

“That’s not how it works though, if there’s a mark it will be there no matter which way around and if there’s none then it matter not for that reason.”

“So I can?”

“Lan Zhan let’s just drink the tea and then get in bed, ha?”

“So I cannot.”

“Exactly, no touching!” He laughed brightly while getting back to what he was doing. “I wonder if you’ll remember what have happened while you’re drunk. You seem awfully honest, tell me, have you ever drunk before?”

Peeking out of the privacy screen, he could see Lan WangJi exactly where he has left him, looking into the cup that was poured for him. “No.”

“Ah so boring...have you broken any rules?”

“Yes.”

“Do you like Jiang Cheng?” He has finished getting clean and dressed, this time making sure to wholly cover himself just to be safe with Lan WangJi around.

“No.”

“Pffft, hahaha, Lan Er-Ge isn’t it against the rules to so blatantly dislike someone?!”

“How about rabbits? Do you like them?”

“Yes.” Laughing again, Wei WuXian pulled Bichen from Lan WangJi’s back and handed the cup to him, guiding his hand as he drank. “How about this one?”

This time he pointed at himself and Lan WangJi nodded. “Mine.”

He realised that Lan Zhan probably thought that they were talking about his sword and Wei WuXian let it go. It was scary to think on how easy it would be to confirm Lan Zhan barely even putting up with loutish behaviour.

“Come on, it’s time to rest.” Guiding him gently to the bed, Wei WuXian pulled off his boots and tucked Lan WangJi in, placing Bichen down next to the bed. Lan Zhan did as told and closed his eyes, yet Wei WuXian felt concerned to just leave him alone so he promptly pushed the table to the side and spread out on the mat that was underneath it.

In the morning he awakened in the bed, almost as if yesterday has not happened at all, Lan Zhan nowhere to be seen. He packed up and went over to Lan Zhan’s room where he indeed find the other, in fresh robes sitting as he meditated.

Once Wei WuXian slid the door open, his eyes opened and he got up right off, the two setting off.

“Wei Ying is fine?”

“Why do you always ask that Lan Zhan? Of course, so how much do you remember?”

“Nothing, why?” He could tell that Lan Zhan was anxious if he’s done anything but he just grinned widely. “You’ve done nothing gege, we just talked.”

“Talked about what?”

“How you disliked my dearest brother.” He laughed obnoxiously and Lan WangJi seemingly let the matter go.

The next time they stopped their trip, they overheard in a tavern that there was a malicious spirit wreaking havoc in a nearby shrine. They decided to check it out, if they were already present and after Wei WuXian gathered enough information on the whereabouts they set off to find it.

Upon entering the small building, it wasn’t overly suppressing, clearly not dangerous enough to cause true harm to anyone just yet. “This time Inquiry should definitely do the trick.”

Lan WangJi seated himself and pulled his guqin onto his lap, strumming it gently. However, the answer was not provided in the usual way, instead the form of a maiden materialised ahead of them.

“Why are you bothering me? How did I suddenly become so interesting? No one cared while I was still alive.”

Blinking at each other, Wei WuXian was left to talk like always so he averted his gaze from Lan WangJi, stepping closer to the ghost of the lady.

“We apologise for the bother, we are here to help you find peace.”

“What do I care? How would any of you even understand?”

“Perhaps if you'd tell us we will.” She lashed out almost as if to scratch Wei WuXian’s face but her arm went right through his figure. Her face scrunched with confusion, measuring Wei WuXian from head-to-toe.

“Never mind what I just said, you are quite right! Someone like you might be able to understand.”

“What do you mean Maiden...” The girl was young, not appearing to be wedded but she only smiled wryly at him. “It’s HuiFen.”

“Maiden HuiFen, what is it that is keeping you here?”

“No one has bothered to properly see me off, I am not allowed to enter reincarnation without a proper ceremony.”

“What do you mean that I would understand?” She smirked again and it was truly unnerving. She would have been beautiful if it weren’t for the amount of sarcasm, she clearly did not believe anyone was worthy of her time.

“You see, it’s because you’re just like me!” Encircling him, Wei WuXian watched her, feeling his heartbeat quicken but he was unable to detect any signs of empathy. She did not care if Wei WuXian will have the same fate or not.

“You must be thinking, she’s crazy, how would the two of us be alike? Well XianJun let me tell you what we have in common and then you’ll be forced to admit that I’m right and not a soul would bother to give you a proper parting from this world either.”

Stopping ahead of him again, Wei WuXian sensed that Lan WangJi stood as well but his attention was solemnly on the ghost. “I also did not receive a single soul mark, it is your fate because you are just as unwanted, unloved as I am and there won’t be a person who will blink twice when you die.”

“Wei Ying is loved.”

Wei WuXian felt his ears ringing, heart convulsing violently as he stumbled back. Lan WangJi caught his forearms, steadying him properly but he could not quite hear anything more. His mind was filled with that shrilling laugh of the ghost lady and by how erratic his breathing has become it was truly no wander when he passed out.

He awakened quite similarly to the last time this has happened but this time Lan WangJi was sitting right next to him on the edge of the bed, his face cradled by the cold cloth that he dragged against his skin.

“The ghost...” He tried to sit up only to be pushed back down. “I took care of it, performed for her, kowtowed even burned some paper money for tradition. She is at peace now.”

Closing his eyes back he did not feel up to have this conversation but he truly weren’t having a plethora of options to pick and choose from.

“Wei Ying is fine, don’t talk.”

Well maybe he did, he opened back his eyes and Lan WangJi’s gaze immediately tangled with his own. “Wei Ying is loved.” Was how he finished that conversation and he had no energy to argue. Whatever.

He did not awake again through the night and when the Sun was finally rising he assured Lan Zhan that they can carry on according to schedule, so another long day of travelling was ahead of them. Lan WangJi seriously did not bring up the matter again as they had dinner and went up to their rooms.

However, he did come to his room, with excuse of helping with carrying the water up. Once they were done and the tub was filled he had no reason to linger around though.

“Thanks Zhan-Ge, this would have taken me a good hour longer alone.” Lan WangJi simply nodded and opened the door, turning back with only one of his feet outside. “Wei Ying is fine?”

He honestly couldn’t help it, he started to laugh and could not stop it for long minutes, drying his tears he cleared his throat and grinned at Lan WangJi.

“Lan Er-Ge you are awfully cute, have I told you that before?”

Lan Zhan, “...”

“I genuinely am, thank you.”

“No need.”

“Why do you always say that?”

“Because Wei Ying will always have it, no need to mention it. Between the two of us there’s no need for ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’.”

“Then good night Ji-Xiong.”

“Mn.”

Wei WuXian laughed more at that and he was truly left alone so the water would not get cold. The next day they finally arrived to the Qishan region but were still far from the area that was haunted and it was already exceedingly late so they agreed to sleep another night and head over in the morning this time around.

After their meal, Wei WuXian invited Lan Zhan for some drinks and he accepted yet again even though the last time he remembered nothing. He was almost giddy as he poured them cups, wanting to see if less alcohol would make a difference.

Lan WangJi accepted it but did not drink right away, instead waited for Wei WuXian’s eyes to find his own. “Are you against the marks?”

“What? Why would I be?”

“Wei Ying never tries.”

“I do not initiate touches because it actually hurts Lan Zhan.”

Lan WangJi didn’t say anything to that, letting him off the hook and they both threw the cup back. Just like before Lan WangJi fell asleep, even though there was only a small amount of wine this time around.

This time around Wei WuXian expected it and he couldn’t help but feel exceedingly impatient to have Lan WangJi awake again.

Thankfully the other did not make him wait all that long, eyes immediately locking onto his own ones. Grinning widely, Wei WuXian scooted back a little as he was incredibly close to Lan WangJi’s face and the other did not pull away.

“Lan Er-Gege how do you feel?”

Lan WangJi’s eyebrows knitted at the question as if he needed to very seriously assess such inquiry to give a proper answer. In the end he said nothing back, just stared at Wei WuXian’s face with an unreadable expression.

“A-Zhan, why are you so mean to me? I asked you a question.” Lan Zhan was not affected by the accusation almost as if nothing that Wei WuXian would be saying truly registered.

“I bet I could get a reaction out of you by...tickles?” He raised his hands threateningly, but Lan WangJi just blinked unimpressed. “WangJi-Xiong are you ticklish?”

“No.”

“That’s what everyone says, but it’s always a trap. People will attempt to see if you’ve lied,” giggling softly, he leaned even closer. “so let me give you another chance, are you? Has anyone tickled you before?”

“No.”

Wei WuXian frowned as he truly set that one up for himself, he had no idea which one was answered but he went ahead and actually tried. Lan WangJi did not move but he did appear to be slightly more annoyed.

Suddenly he was grabbed and both of his wrists were held firmly down with one hand, as Lan Zhan started to tickle him quite similarly to what he has done. Squirming madly, he tried to get anything comprehensive out through the obnoxious chuckling but it was hard.

“Oh...Lan Er Gongzi, please spare this lowly one, I take it all back...you’ve won.” Lan WangJi stopped moving but did not let his hands go, nor did he remove his palm that was tightly holding his waist.

“Lan Er-Ge, I think you’re tricking me, you only pretend not to hear me but you do react when I say something you like?”

Staring at those golden orbs, Wei WuXian did not realise that he has started to lean closer but Lan WangJi certainly has thus he was roughly shoved back, falling back onto his bottom with a groan.

“No touching Wei Ying!” With that Lan Zhan went ahead and knocked himself out, spreading across the bed that he was sitting on after Wei WuXian moved him there while sleeping.

Rubbing his face, Wei WuXian got back onto his feet feeling too many emotions to be able to pinpoint which one was the strongest, asserting its dominance. He left the rest of the wine untouched, figuring that he has had quite enough himself for one night.

Yet as much as he strove for ignorance, he couldn’t help but question what has just happened. What the hell was he trying to achieve?

Lan WangJi did not wake up again while Wei WuXian found it hard to rest at all. Still the next morning rolled around so the pair set off to reach the forest that they were guided towards.

Lan WangJi has not asked what has happened and Wei WuXian almost managed to convince himself that he remembered everything. But what was there to remember?

Shaking his head, he averted his attention back to the matter at hand when Lan Zhan called out to him, stating that he found the cave that they were looking for.

For the time being, they decided against using their swords to avoid any possibility of being exposed by the glare and instead climbed down on the protruding rocks of the cave’s walls. Apparently they were looking for the Tortoise of Slaughter.

Walking deeper inside, fortunately it did not take them long to map out the whole place. It had only a few crevices so there truly wasn’t that much surface area to work in favour of a beast for hiding. Yet they did not appear to find anything.

“Perhaps we got the wrong one.” Wei WuXian walked towards the small body of water, grabbing a leaf that was floating on the surface while Lan WangJi entered this main part after him.

“I can feel something though. There’s some strange resent lingering around here but maybe it’s unrelated.”

Wei WuXian got back on his feet and unsheathed Suibian just as Lan WangJi reached him. Shedding off his gloves-not like Lan Zhan was unaware of his bare hands-he went ahead and slashed across his palm.

“Wei Ying!” He just smiled reassuringly and lowered the sword. “If there’s a beast in here it will come out for the blood.”

That was infallible logic yet Lan WangJi’s lips still parted, clearly readying a retort. As Wei WuXian’s saving grace in that exact moment a little island on the water started to tremble and rise higher out of the pond.

“Is it a big...turtle?” The creature has emerged and the pair was left to blink at what almost looked like a giant shelled snake.

“Tortoise of Slaughter, what did Wei Ying think?”

“Dear Lord Gege, is it really the time to embarrass me like that?!”

“Wei Ying doesn’t need help.”

He wanted to laugh but it could not quite come out in time as the monster struck down, its teeth sharp and powerful. They both jumped to the side and Wei WuXian sent out Suibian only to leave nothing behind. There wasn’t even a scratch.

Calling his sword back, he whipped out a talisman and activated it, making a small explosion. “It does not fancy fire, Lan Zhan come here.”

Lan WangJi was grabbed and the two dashed back, out of the reach of the creature. Making a plan, they went ahead to carry it out. They waited long enough for the Xuanwu to settle again and once they reached back, Wei WuXian tried to enter the water as gently as possible to avoid creating ripples.

Lan WangJi stayed outside with the make shift string that they’ve created with a few talismans and one of their robes' ripped up scraps. He got to work while Wei Ying ducked under, trying to locate any of the turtle’s openings to draw it out whilst finding a weakness.

Instead of just any hole, he came face-to-face with its head but the eyes were closed and he remained undetected for the time. Swimming past he tried to find something but came up short. Deciding to head back he bumped into a row of teeth that parted immediately.

Struggling for a few seconds, he tried to open the mouth back up as he faintly registered them breaking the surface of the lake. He hoped that Lan WangJi had enough time to set up their trap, while he felt something hard under his foot.

It was an old, rusty sword, picking it up swiftly, he wedged it against the creature’s mouth, forcing it into an open position. Even with such assistance, he was unable to exit through but he decided to try and make the monster spit him out.

Using his own sword, he stabbed the soft flesh repeatedly making it shake violently and the old sword snapped as it managed to close its mouth. Wei WuXian tried to stay up as the creature swallowed, stabbing his sword next to the line of fangs.

Soon the head was pried open by Lan WangJi so Wei WuXian was quick to jump out. He crashed into the water heavily and need multiple seconds to resurface. Lan WangJi has almost sawed completely through the hard scales, already managing to draw blood.

As he went back to tighten his hands over the cords, Wei WuXian jumped up onto the shell and headed to the weakened point. It was a shaky ride and the Tortoise tried to attack him continuously but that was still better than it focusing on Lan Zhan.

Finally reaching the neck, Wei WuXian yelled for Lan Zhan to hold tight and guided as much spiritual energy into his sword as possible, slicing through in one clean motion.

The pool was dyed red immediately and Wei WuXian felt his head throbbing and body shaking as he tried to swim through the disgusting liquid. Lan WangJi was waiting at the edge, hand outstretched for him, his own blood dripping into the water from how deep the strings have cut into his flesh.

Wei WuXian clutched the hand offered and let himself be hoisted out of the nasty slime. He felt light-headed but still he was able to feel something pleasant. He couldn’t place it, Lan WangJi was staring at him, now holding his cheeks and lips moving but he couldn’t understand.

He was tired and wanted to sleep, the warmth that filled him left his mind content as his palm continued to tingle lightly.

His eyelids were heavy, he felt like he was in some strange daze but it was comfortable. His head was supported by something soft and warm as safety appeared to surround him. Yet he had a nagging feeling that he shouldn’t sleep any further, he felt like there was something that he was forgetting.

Suddenly sitting up, his eyes finally opened as he remembered that they were in a cave. Feeling slightly dizzier than before, he clutched his own head as he took in his surroundings. The Sun was beaming down onto the trees that were scattered around a small stream.

He realised that he was cleaner, the blood not pungent at all and the additional heat came from Lan WangJi’s robe that now pooled around his thighs. Turning back, Lan Zhan was indeed right behind him, seemingly saying something and the lack of response appeared to be concerning the other.

“I’m fine, what have happened?”

“I flew us out, the Tortoise of Slaughter is dead.”

“Lan Zhan you’re so cool, you just did that. But are your palms okay? Are you all right?” He reached out but managed to catch himself when he saw that he was not wearing his gloves but Lan WangJi still placed his hands into Wei WuXian’s own one.

He felt his pulse quickening, heart clenching so forcefully that he was almost afraid it will give up in that very moment. Lan WangJi’s palm was dyed with the dark red that Wei WuXian bared with him his entire life. It was intense, almost jumping off to slap him across the face.

Wei WuXian tried to convince himself that it was blood, that Lan WangJi still had blood on his hand even though he could tell that wasn’t it. The maple-coloured smudge was the darkest, most-lively mark that Wei WuXian has ever left on anyone.

It did not look like friendship and he wasn’t ready to face any other options. Tears gathered in his eyes because his own palm was clear, not the faintest of tint decorating it.

“I see..it’s fine.”

“Wei Ying,”

“It’s fine, Lan Zhan. I’m fine, let’s get going, we should be heading back.”

Lan WangJi grabbed his shoulders and did not let him get up or away, refusing to have Wei WuXian put any distance between them. “Are you mad at me?”

“Of course not why would I be?”

“I touched Wei Ying.”

“It’s fine Lan Zhan, you don’t have to blame yourself, no one loves me...hahaha.” His voice was wet and he couldn’t quite tell if he’ll break down at any given second or if he’s already in the midst of that.

“What?”

“Seriously, it’s fine. You mustn’t fret over it, you’re not the first.”

“First at what?” Feeling as his chin was grabbed firmly, his head was forced towards Lan Zhan as if he would truly be confused as to why Wei WuXian would even question the man for not loving him back. On a single glance, he could tell that Lan Zhan was somewhat concerned but definitely wasn’t in denial or pitying him. His eyebrows were drawn together and it was the most expressive gaze that he’s ever seen on those features. He genuinely looked perplexed.

“To not love me, no one does...it’s fine. I’m fine!” He could not quite tell if he’s already said that or not but Lan WangJi was always so pressed to hear a confirmation over his well-being, however, the look of bewilderment remained.

“I do. I love Wei Ying.” He wanted to laugh and cry and scream but felt suddenly so empty and tired. He had no energy for anything so he let Lan Zhan grab his other hand as well and bring it up to his own face.

Whatever he wanted to say, whatever he wanted to think disappeared as if nothing there. On his own palm, there was a blinding white soul mark, proudly decorating his skin, intense to show that he was loved.

That Lan Zhan actually loved him back.

His heart stopped and then started to beat twice its usual speed as he scurried forward and wrapped all of his limbs around Lan WangJi, holding him so tightly to his chest that he could feel Lan Zhan’s heartbeat against his own rapid one.

The grip was tight enough to assume that he wanted to crash Lan WangJi’s body into his own but his left hand remained right in front of his face, almost afraid to even blink in fear that it will disappear.

But the intensity did not cease even when he rubbed at it, even when he turned it away or closed and reopened it. It was there.

“Wei Ying is fine now?”

His laughter sounded a bit broken, voice cracking from the amount of labour that was forced upon his throat in the past few hours. “I am, thank you Lan Zhan.”

“No need.”

“You love me?”

“Mn.”

“But like really love me? Are you sure?”

“How can I be not?”

“It’s just...I,I-I...Lan Zhan you’re so kind! I cannot believe that you are willing to-to actually like me. Like for real.”

“Is it true?”

“What is Lan Er-Ge?”

“Wei Ying's marks?”

“This is my first one, oh Lan Zhan you are the best. I will repay you the trust! I won’t even break a rule again, or I will...I will stop drinking alcohol, or I could, I could...”

“Wei Ying is fine. No change!”

“Lan Zhan, you’re so...just, I” He never finished but it wasn’t needed. He had no idea what he was even feeling, he could not believe it. He knew what it meant to leave a mark behind, he knew what he would give up for everyone that had that red on their skin. Absolutely everything.

But having his own, he could not wrap his head around it. They walked back to the same inn as before, deciding to leave all the travelling for the next days and ordered a feast that could feed at least a dozen.

“Lan Zhan how do people deal with this in such cool ways,” Once he got over his initial shock, his mouth did not for a second close. Seemingly forgetting his promise to follow rules, he barely even chewed, talking way more than ever before.

He had no idea how to feel but now he was sharing absolutely every single thought that came to his mind. It barely even appeared he was already saying it aloud.

“like someone would like even die for you. It feels too much but like I suddenly want more. Are you sure it shouldn’t be repaid? I could definitely do something, anything. I would do anything...well to be honest I would have even before the mark but not the point.”

“I swear to all the gods this feels amazing. But are you sure? Can you take it back? What if you’ll hate me? What should I do so you won’t hate me?” Not the most literate throughout his speech, Lan WangJi was not even granted to keep his own principals as Wei WuXian literally grabbed onto the front of his robe, shaking lightly.

Placing down his chopsticks, he shook his head. “Not possible.”

“Certainly it must be, I could, I could...or like...”

“Wei Ying is fine, I will not ever take it back.”

“Do you promise Lan Zhan?” His eyes were almost glowing with the mad glint and still pooling tears, this time around they were from happiness though.

“I promise you Wei Ying.” Grinning widely, Lan WangJi was let go as Wei WuXian got back to what he was doing prior but only after promising the same. His mark was nothing special but he figured that it was probably somewhat appreciated to have one back.

“Wait, now we could absolutely just sleep in the same room, let’s not waste money!” Lan WangJi had more than enough yet he remained gracious enough not call out the terrible excuse that was made. Wei WuXian was still lively, buzzing with so much energy.

Not sure if it was from the fact that, unlike Lan Zhan, he took almost half a day as his time for a beauty sleep or because he was loved for the first time in his life. Even if Lan WangJi was tired, he said nothing about it and just watched Wei WuXian aimlessly walking around in their room.

He placed down the basin then fetched water. Put said boiled water down and replaced the washbasin, then picked it back up and filled the bowl half way up, followed closely by switching the two containers around again and emptying the rest of the liquid.

His mind was elsewhere as he carried on talking, he did not wholly register what was even slipping past his lips but barely even breathing, his mouth never halted its movements. Lan WangJi sat for some time but when Wei WuXian started to scoop the water back out from the basin for reasons unknown to him, he stepped in and grabbed his wrists.

Letting go, the bowl fell into the warmed water and splashed both of them but Wei WuXian remained grinning at him with his eyes bright and glowing with happiness.

“So Lan Er-Gege do you admit now that we’re bestest of friends?”

“Friends?” Lan WangJi’s head tilted slightly to the side and it managed to break Wei WuXian somewhat out of his daze. Realising that Lan WangJi was probably also told as a child how friendship never leaves any marks behind, no one ever quite devote enough.

“A-Zhan how do you love me then?”

“What differences are there?”

“Well you cannot possibly love your wife the same way as your uncle...I don’t know, you’re the one who should know these, this is my first time.”

“But Wei Ying loves people, so where am I in that?”

“Oh Lan Zhan, well...I want to stay with you as much as possible, I would not mind to spend the rest of my life with you. I had this dream for awhile that we move next to one another and would see each other every day and we could go on night-hunts together and I do not even know...I just want you to be around me. Anything is fine if it’s with my Lan Er-Gege.”

“Husband it is then!” Lan WangJi stepped closer and before he could have made a move to question the other, his cheeks were grabbed firmly and a pair of lips was suddenly on top of his own. Wei WuXian felt almost empty for second, unsure how to react but then it slowly downed on him.

He pulled back and couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled out of him. “Zhan Zhan-er, how smooth of you! If you want to be my husband, shouldn’t you court me?”

“I can.”

He was grabbed again and this time Wei WuXian let himself wholly melt into Lan WangJi front, just then realising how much he was missing. Asides from the kiss, Lan WangJi’s hands were already inside his robes and Wei WuXian was almost never touched, his skin never felt such cold, jade-like hands running along it, leaving a thrilling tingle behind.

Lan WangJi was almost rough, pushing him back and for a second he stumbled and flailed around but instead of falling hard, he was only pushed down on the bed. Barely even registering what was happening, Lan WangJi was already over him again, pushing as much of his body against Wei WuXian as possible.

That chilly layer has melted away, almost as if set ablaze and he briefly wondered if they’ll scorch things close enough to them by the upturning passion that surged in between them, seemingly ruthless enough to leave nothing behind.

Never before has he realised just how marvellous it felt to be touched. The hands left a certain burning in their wake, and Lan WangJi covered every last bit of him almost as if appreciating his whole not just certain parts.

It made him feel loved in a whole different way, as if a genuine promise to stay by his side even through the bad times, to accept even his faults and bad traits. Mistakes did not define someone, yet it was still so rare to find a person who would bother to stick around through all of them.

Lan WangJi almost made him feel worshipped, as if he found indisputable happiness in touching his skin and had such authentic desire, keen to prove himself for Wei WuXian, to show that he was worthy of being loved in this world as well.

He suddenly thought that this was all he ever truly could have asked. All that he did ask. Lan WangJi was so ready to give his all only for him, he realised that he could still not understand. Originally he thought that because he had no marks at all, being unwanted, he could not comprehend why people were so careless about them, that people were right and he was wrong as he could not even begin to imagine.

There were people like the peacock who always rubbed him the wrong way for such thing. How could anyone try and hide such clear declaration of true adornment? Not able to see why people would not serve their hearts on silver platter for a person that proved to be so devoted.

Wei WuXian preened under the touches, baring his throat further and further for Lan Zhan who took full advantage of such offer. It all felt too much as if already pushed beyond his limits but at the same time he also was unable to keep his need at bay, almost as if a beast was clawing at his insides, demanding more with an unknown carnal desire.

The ripping sound of fabric filled the room around them, almost as if untying his robes would have actually been unbearable labour. By the time he managed to realise what was happening, not just his own outer piece but Lan WangJi’s too were off. His mind purred from the attention, so much of skin combusting to flames from being touched thoroughly.

“Lan Er-Gege, quite eager huh? You are right, isn’t it such a regret that we’re only just getting here? Lan Zhan, did you also want me even before this?” His sash belt actually teared by how swiftly and roughly it was undone by Lan WangJi.

Wei WuXian could do nothing but let him have his way, overwhelmed yet still eager for more. His mouth was moving again even though he had no idea why. “Gentle Lan Er-Gege, I am very delicate. How could I take you so fast?”

“Wei Ying can.”

And who was he to argue with that?!

Wei WuXian tasted like the thick peach blossom that he drank beforehand at their dinner, his lips frosty and prickling under Lan Zhan’s burning ones. It was a mellow taste, the slight fragrance lingering but Lan WangJi did not drink with him this time.

The peck was light at first but he soon pried his lips open, kissing with vigour. As the dusk settled a light shower started to come down but soon it turned into quite the downpour so the room was filled with the pattering sound of the rain.

The window was left slightly ajar a cold breeze licking against their skin, wrapping the two whilst flickering the candle that was lit. It provided enough light that Wei WuXian could clearly see Lan Zhan above him, his frame basking in the warm glow.

Lan Zhan’s breath was exceedingly hot against his icy and tender skin. There was a fire illuminating those golden eyes as if the Sun was just about to set within those orbs. Lan WangJi was always so apposite and that never change, his expression was serene, his features remaining as tranquil as ever but his eyes betrayed how much he wanted Wei WuXian.

Every inch of his skin became hot as if Lan WangJi would perish unless he is allowed to devour him whole. His frosty, jade-like temper was still present but it felt as if he’d be ablaze from within.

Those lips moved away from his own, gliding across his petite nose, eyes, forehead and temples. His head ducked down and Lan WangJi took his ear into his mouth, biting lightly then kissing the sensitive skin right behind it.

Parting his lips he let his tongue dart out, barely there, as if trying to taste something that might smoulder him. Wei WuXian trembled in the hold and Lan Zhan tightened his arm, hugging him even tighter.

It was quiet in the room. They could hear each other’s breathing, heartbeat, the faint sound of wetness as their lips moved together and their clothes rustling. It does not matter how many times they’ve done this it was still so thrilling.

Wei WuXian felt his chest tightening but his heart was light as if he was exactly where he belonged. Lan Zhan’s chest was spotless, his pure white skin did not have a single imperfection. As Wei WuXian pushed off his most inner shirt from his shoulders and let his hands go rouge he did not feel a single bump.

The curvature of muscles leading his gentle fingertips into valleys where they met and higher up where they tensed. Lan WangJi might not have looked the part but he was still tainted. There were people who cared for him and Wei WuXian couldn't help but grab onto Lan WangJi’s hand suddenly.

Matching up their marks, Lan Zhan pulled back a little and just watched him silently as he turned their hands around multiple times, admiring it from every angle. Now he too has left a declaration and it is not something that would ever be taken from the Second Young Master of GusuLan.

Suddenly he thought about others, how they will react to see what the pair has left on each other. Just how much affection is between them and how deep their bond truly is. He thought of Jiang Cheng and Lan QiRen, Jiang YanLi and Lan XiChen.

Not knowing how they’ll feel, he still could not be bothered by worry, Lan WangJi actually loved him and no one will take this away from Wei WuXian anymore. He’ll make sure of that.

Lan WangJi was aloof and basically perfect in everyone’s eyes. His mark was not something that was easily earned, only three people bearing it now even though he never wore anything to prevent his skin from being touched. Some thought of him as self-important and arrogant and people fell easily into the pattern where they just thought of Lan WangJi as authority, someone to respect and not to like.

To Wei WuXian this esteemed image did not sound all that great, instead he found it exceedingly lonely.

Wei WuXian tried to keep his breathing level but under Lan WangJi’s lips his chest rose and fall more and more rapid. He was tall and well proportioned but he did not place any of his weight onto Wei WuXian as he grabbed his legs and parted them.

Settling in between, he let his fingers trace his milky, slender thighs as he moved to kiss his throat, all the way down his chest and stomach then back up to his mouth.

His fingers glided down between the snowy white cheeks until they were pressing into that sensitive skin, prodding against, he massaged the opening serenely while Wei WuXian had his hands all over him because even if Lan Zhan could not be compared to him, he still hated to be touched and certainly lacked such experience too. It was almost freeing, no worries, nothing to fret over, just enjoying the moment and the smooth, firm skin under his finger tips.

Soon enough Lan Zhan pulled off his forehead ribbon and tied up his wrists, forcing them down above his head. Wei WuXian tried and failed to bite back a moan, his voice higher but rougher coming out in a whisper for the knowledge of what it means for Lan WangJi.

“Lan Er-Gege be kind to me. My body cannot take everything, you’re not small. Go easy on me.” Lan Zhan’s finger was slowly allowed past, slipping inside the tightness convulsing almost as if shy upon being disturbed.

Lan Zhan grabbed onto Wei WuXian’s waist roughly pulling him down so he’d be closer, making his finger slipping further in. “Lan Zhan gentle, how could you be so boorish? I cannot take it so fast.”

His words got mumbled by a pair of lips that locked on top of his own as the fingers left, instead Lan Zhan opened his legs even wider. His breathing was heavy, trying to control it was to no avail as he was unravelling under Lan Zhan’s rough tongue and soft caresses.

“Lan Er-Gege wouldn’t you spare this lowly one?” Lan Zhan stilled after pushing in slow but steady not once halting. Wei WuXian’s eyelashes were wet, droplets hanging from the side catching the flares from the candle.

Lan Zhan wanted to hear him, wanted to listen but at one glance his mind blanked, everything numbing and he could not contain his fierce passion. He kissed the man under him hard, rubbing down as he bit the other.

Shifting inside he thrust up sharply, emitting a long whine that Wei Ying let out against his lips. The rolling and heavy movement put the bed in disrepair as it made a profound creak.

Shuddering under his husband, Wei WuXian clenched his fists as his back arched up from the bed. His ankle was grabbed so one of his legs got guided over Lan Zhan’s shoulder. Lan Zhan reached up and intertwined one of their hands, his breathing hitting his earlobe right before it was taken between his teeth.

He could only feel Lan Zhan’s tall frame, pressing into him, his other hand rubbing his waist and chest, back and neck. His senses were filled with the other as he gave all of himself and in return was given all of Lan WangJi.

His body was basically melting, as it softened under every touch that Lan Zhan left in his fingers wake, his mind almost numb under such attention. It almost felt like he was venerated, with HanGuang-Jun noticing everything about him and appreciating the smallest of details.

“Lan Er Gongzi, HanGuang-Jun we haven’t even prostrated yet, it feels like you’re trying to make little heirs, go easier Zhan Ge.”

Grabbing him firmly, Lan Zhan moved faster, ruthless, as he groaned into Wei Ying’s neck, biting the skin then licking over his teeth marks. His eyes clouded over as he watched the man on top of him that he loved so much.

Wei WuXian’s chest felt stuffy, so full of yearning and desire. He wanted to take this man, wanted to follow. If they go to sea then they’ll drown together if they remain here then they’ll make the abyss their home. He was so ready to give anything and everything. All that he had, all that he was.

Holding his waist, grabbing his buttocks he was guided down as a hand wrapped into his hair, tucking on the locks pulling an obscene moan from his lips. He rubbed and nudged his knee purposefully against Lan WangJi all the while looking as innocent as one can with a bashful smile.

“Lan Er-Gege have some heart, go softer.” He shivered from the top of his head to the tip of his toes as he felt his insides contracting sporadically. Wei Ying was driven mad by the curved, hot object that drilled inside him ceaselessly, Wei WuXian’s waist was bent into a flexible curvature as Lan Zhan kept charging in.

He suddenly started to struggle ripping his body away and getting onto his hands and knees. He barely crawled a few inches over his bed he was grabbed roughly and pressed down.

His shoulders dipped into the bed, his hands trapped under his clavicle still bonded tightly. His ass remained high in the air, his thighs and knees quivering from the labour of supporting his weight. Locked in place the soft, reddened spot that was left alone for a few seconds was filled up right away.

“Spare me, s-spare me...Second Young Master Lan, don’t come in all the way. Even my stomach hurts.”

The absolute force was the exact opposite of the always compassionate HanGuang-Jun as he was callously piercing through him. “People are around, what if they hear? These walls are so thin, we have neighbours! What would you do if someone young child would listen to what you’re doing to me? Go easier, Zhan Gege.”

Wei WuXian was roughly grabbed, his hole that was forcefully used left alone as fluids sprawled out, trickling down his thighs. He was guided to be atop of Lan Zhan and he immediately sat, his waist and hips supported by Lan WangJi.

As he rode atop his body, Lan Zhan's face remained cold and elegant. Without controlling the force he submitted by his hands, he kneaded his buttocks, squeezing as he pleases leaving little crescent shapes behind.

As Wei WuXian swallowed his member in and out his head started to spin by how good it felt. He was filled to capacity and as Lan Zhan matched his frenetic rhythm he rammed into and slipped past his most sensitive spot with every single thrust.

Kissing hotly, Wei Ying moaned with every move they made, lowering himself more desperately with each passing second. “Er-Gege, Lan Er-Gege...Pl-...Please, more.”

His wish was granted as if he commanded, Lan Zhan lifting up as well as gripping his behind unyielding, moving Wei WuXian’s body with ease.

Lan Zhan ground his hips, his thrusts especially heavy, Wei WuXian cried out in surprise lips falling open but nothing came out as it was covered by Lan Zhan’s own. A sweaty Lan WangJi embraced a similar Wei WuXian, lying quietly on top of the cover for a few minutes, disregarding the mess that they’ve made.

Just before he could have fallen asleep, Lan Zhan got up and helped Wei WuXian, deeming them too filthy to just stay in bed. Gently washing him down, Wei WuXian still felt his eyes becoming heavier by each passing second, his blinks growing elongated. He was carried back to bed and tucked in while Lan Zhan cleaned himself. He tried his best to stay awake, falling in and out of consciousness.

Fortunately it did not take long for Lan Zhan to join him so for the first time in his life, Wei WuXian fell asleep with arms wrapped around him protectively, being held because Lan WangJi cherished him.

They were nearing Gusu, having their last stop at an inn since tomorrow they will be reaching Cloud Recesses. Before going to their room, they were having some dinner with Lan WangJi sitting straight and proper and Wei WuXian having his knee raised as he babbled away together with munching.

“Lan Er-Gege, we have such a beautiful night, let’s go for a walk before retreating.” Lan WangJi agreed, since it was still fairly early, they just did not need to push themselves hard to make it back before scheduled.

If anything they were swifter than what was expected, finding Xuanwu rapidly and eliminating the threat. So they set off, walking through the small Que Village and Lan WangJi even put up with his shameless behaviour so he was allowed to hold the other’s hand, swinging it animatedly between their bodies.

Since the marks were on their opposite hands, they matched up perfectly, pressing into each other as they mingled through the crowds. Wei WuXian has since ditched his gloves, not wishing to ever mask the lovely bright white that adorned his palm.

Just as he was getting into the story on how he has once stole loquats and fell down from the tree when the owner of the property came out screaming at the rascals, his keyed up speech was cut off abruptly as he halted, making Lan WangJi stop as well.

There was a tiny boy, lying on the street, his clothes filthy and ripped just like his whole body, the dirt prominent and clearly declaring that he was living there not just lost.

Wei WuXian dragged Lan WangJi over right away and knelt in front of the tiny form of the child. “Hi there little one.” Awakening with a start, the boy blinked up with huge, terrified eyes, seemingly readying himself to flee.

Once he realised that he wasn’t in direct danger, he just sat wholly up and stared deep into Wei WuXian’s eyes. “Hi, do you have family, a home?”

The child did not answer but shook his head, so Wei WuXian just smiled reassuringly. “How about you come with us, let’s go and eat something?” The child tilted his head but simply ended up nodding, clearly starved enough to agree even with the option that the pair could harbour bad intentions.

“What is your name child?”

“A-Yuan.”

“Do you know your full name?” He shook his head as he stared at Lan WangJi instead who was buying two steamed buns. Handing it over, the child immediately started to eat while Wei WuXian tried to ask more questions.

“How about your parents?”

“They went to rest years ago. I cannot remember them anymore.”

“How did you get on the street?”

“No one wanted me.”

“How old are you?”

“Six.” Wei WuXian grinned when the boy was finished, watching how smart and decorous he was even though he certainly had a hard life. “A-Yuan do you want to come back with us?”

“Is there more food?” Laughing loudly, Wei WuXian extended his hand as an offer and nodded cheerfully. “You won’t ever have to go hungry again.”

The hand was taken and the child’s eyes widened just as swiftly as his own ones when their skins bloomed with livid colours. A-Yuan was still very young, barely of age and he clearly had no one so Wei WuXian appeared to be the first who promised to be there for him, the red intensive and assuring as a silent promise.

While just like that Wei WuXian, within such a short time period, gained his second mark, skin dyed a lovely shade of turquoise. Wei WuXian cheered loudly, bending forward right away and scooping the dirty child into his arms, hugging him close.

A-Yuan was crying as he was held but answered all of their questions as they reached back to the inn they were staying at. Lan WangJi wordlessly walked towards the kitchen to boil water and once the tub was filled they went ahead and washed the child.

Wei WuXian took care of cleaning and drying him thoroughly whilst Lan WangJi stepped out again, swiftly buying a new set of robes for the child, barely catching a seamstress that still had their shop open.

Laughing at the choice of pure white robes, Wei WuXian wanted to tease Lan WangJi about a child not being one to keep clothes pristine but it was almost as if that would be his way of accepting the child as well and Wei WuXian’s heart was filled with too much warmth to actually joke around.

The next morning the pair, now officially joined by a child, took off to find some breakfast as Wei WuXian prompted them to eat some Jianbing. However, Lan WangJi was quick to overrule the apparently terrible choice so they ended up eating congee.

A-Yuan was sitting in Wei WuXian’s lap, babbling away about a cute cat that he sometimes saw around the streets of Que Village, filling Wei WuXian with such contentment that he felt somewhat invincible. As if nothing truly bad could ever happen to them anymore.

Both of his hands were stained with such brilliant and pure marks that his heart could still not find its way back to act normally, still trembling with delight. Wei Ying laughed brightly as Lan WangJi told their son to not talk while eating which only made A-Yuan nod madly, seemingly keen to do as told.

His spoon spilled over his chin, hair sticking into the light liquid, with Wei Ying preoccupied laughing, Lan WangJi took it upon himself to wipe away the mess from A-Yuan’s face with another one of his dazzling white handkerchiefs.

The boy blinked his huge eyes, with such admiration as if he would have never seen anything better than the person that was Lan WangJi as the later tucked the loose strands back behind his ear after clearing them of rice.

As his thumb brushed against the shell of A-Yuan’s ear, it tainted with that vivid turquoise colour right off as Lan Zhan left the child’s ear bright white. “Oh Lan Er-Ge how will we ever know if he’ll adapt the cute habit of blushing through his ears like his father?”

Lan WangJi ears heated right away, shaking his head yet his smile curled upwards in the slightest, leaving Wei Ying breathless. “Watch the other one.”

Throwing his head back, he laughed so freely and beautifully that Lan WangJi could do little but let his lips lift even further, watching how A-Yuan had his cheeks reddened as well, holding one of his hand over his heart and the other clutching his ear as if those would be his biggest treasures.

It was only expected when they made another stop to buy some Jianbing, now Lan WangJi having not just a husband but also a child to spoil rotten.

He could not have been happier about that.