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Longing of XianYun | 羡云想念

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It was a fairly normal day in early spring, in the small town near the TaiLung mountain range. It was a nicely bustling place with lots of people on the streets, from all walks of life. Hawkers on the streets, calling out their wares to passers-by, children laughing and running by. Guards were patrolling, and beggars were trying to get by. On one street, behind a particular restaurant, a small boy was hiding around a corner, watching as one of the servant boys was taking out a bin of food to a pig pen. Before he could dump it, the boy reached out a hand, a light drifting off his fingers.

"Ping'er! Come here!" 

"Coming!" He set down the bin before scampering off, and the child smiled brightly. He came from around the corner and ran over to the unspoiled leftovers, knowing he didn't have long before the servant returned and it was thrown to the pigs. As he began to rummage, grabbing the choicest bits of leftovers, he heard something behind him, the approach of blunt clawed paws.

He stiffened, then slowly turned, looking nervous.

A small pack of dogs approached, the leading stray one he'd come across before. The shar pei came closer, sniffing the air, and bared his fangs as he gave a low growl. "You again! Hey, fox brat! Didn't I tell you we'd eat you if I caught you in our territory again?!"

The youngster froze momentarily before turning to face them fully, eyes flicking around as he tried to decide where to run. "Th-this is the East side. I thought your territory w-was up North and West-" 

He yipped as the nearest dog barked, "The whole of Su Town is ours, dumb fox!"

The lead dog snapped at the smaller one, then said, "Ignorance of rules doesn't excuse you, trash! You die today! Get him!" 

The small boy jumped out of the way with a scream as the alpha dog lunged for him, snapping. There was a popping sound and a small cloud of mist billowed as he lost control of his form, and suddenly in place of the boy, there was a small black fox kit with red markings on his fur, running for his life from the dog pack snapping at his bushy tail! "Noooooooo!!! Leave me alone!! Go away, dogs!!! M-moooom! Daddyyyyy!!! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllp!!!"

He took the hardest path possible for the dogs, slipping through holes in fences, around large objects and people, but the dogs were relentless, and slowly, they were catching up! His heart pounded crazily as he ran for his life, crying loudly the whole time.

 

Young Lan Zhan had wandered away from his uncle and brother after his brother had suggested he explore the market and buy something he liked from one or two of the stands. Neither of his elder family members were worried about him being on his own. Being a dragon, he was already a strong child both as a human and in his true dragon form, but to top it off, they knew how obedient and no-nonsense the boy was. He wasn't one who would wander too far away or get himself in any kind of trouble and should something come up, he could certainly protect himself. 

It was as he was wandering along one of the streets, craning his blank face up to try and examine what goods were being sold around him, that he felt a small bundle ram into his legs. His resulting blink being the only giveaway to his surprise (not that anyone aside from his brother could pick up on that), Lan Zhan looked down to see a frenzied black mass of fur staring up at him with wide, teary eyes. Caught up with trying to decipher just what had run into him, he only noticed that there were incoming paws and barks when the small bundle began trembling even harder. Crouching down, the boy gathered the (Warm. Soft.) bundle into his small arms before straightening once again. It was just then that the dogs finally came into view, all of them skidding to a stop upon seeing the new face. Without a word, Lan Zhan looked on at the small pack, very clearly not scared in how his small frame didn't even flinch at the new animals, and expression unmoving as he stared down the pack.

 

Several of the people nearby cursed and scrambled back, this pack of nine dogs had been troublesome for some time in the area, and a couple had been known to bite humans. The lead dog, a large, gray shar pei with a scarred neck and face from being in a dog fighting ring for a few years, had even (allegedly) mauled someone to death. Someone shouted to get the guards and a woman tried calling out to the young master she saw standing before the enraged animals. "Don't run, but don't turn your back on them either! Come this way, and throw the thing you're carrying! It'll give you time to escape!" 

Hearing the woman, the tiny fox shuddered. The pack leader growled again cruelly. "Come here, foxy, we'll only play with you for an hour or two, then it'll be over. You won't have to worry about eating ever again." The unspoken threat was clear as several of the canines licked their chops menacingly. 

He yelped and looked up at the face of the one holding him, trying to look cute as possible while also trying to get as close as physically possible to him. "P-p-p-please don't let them get me, Heroic Young Master! Y-you're not human, r-right?" He could sense, as a partially divine creature himself, that this was some sort of heavenly being. No way would he get hurt by a bunch of mangy strays, right? This was definitely a thigh he could hug! A mountain he could lean on! "I'm not bad, p-please don't let them get me!"

 

Eyes flicking down to the pack leader upon hearing him 'speak,' little Lan Zhan's resolve only hardened. He may still be young, but he had already learned all 3000 of his sect's rules and he intimately understood their motto 'be righteous.' These dogs were already breaking several of them. (Rule 218, cruelty is forbidden. Rule 587, do not look down upon another. Rule 2496, oppression using numbers is forbidden.) And because of rule 372 (Avoid revealing your nature to humans.), Lan Zhan simply resolved to walk forward, continuing on his little task his brother had given him. As he passed through the pack of dogs, with rule 55 (Acts of self-defense will not be punished.) on his mind and his sect motto on his heart, the boy released a barely visible barrier around himself and the little fox in his arms and continued on his way. Eyes serious and jaw set, he looked around specifically for food stalls now. The dogs seemed to imply that the fox he had picked up had not had a meal and so why not use the money he had been given to buy the creature some food?

 

The fox kit gasped as the 'boy' began walking towards the dogs and whimpered as he tried to burrow into his clothes, dogs were so BIG and SCARY and he really didn't want to die and he still had to live for his parents!! He promised! 

The dogs were a little leery about attacking a human, especially a pup, in front of the big ones; it usually meant that a pack would get wiped out. That, and a few of the more sensitive ones had sensed something was off about this child. The other humans nearby were already shouting at the dogs and throwing stones at some of them to try and drive them off. 

The boss, however, was angry he was being ignored, and snarled as he lunged forward, large, salivating jaws aiming for the fluffy black and red tail, trying to snatch the fox kit from him!

 

With only the slightest widening of his eyes, Lan Zhan hid the rest of the scared fox from sight and jumped back. He was too young to be given a sword of his own, so the only thing he could do without transforming was a burst of spiritual energy from his hands. Forgetting for a moment that he even still had his barrier still up, the boy brought up his hand, gathering and condensing his spiritual energy and shooting it at the dog with a simultaneous, "Leave."

 

The dog, after all, was just a normal, non-cultivating dog. It yelped as it was hit and jumped back, hesitating now, obviously confused. It growled again, pacing, but knew it didn't have much time until more humans, the ones with weapons, turned up, so with a few harsh barks, the dogs began to run off. "You better never let us catch you alone again, fox!" He snapped before running off after his friends.

It took a few moments after the dogs departed before the bulge in the young dragon's clothes moved, tail disappearing into the front of his robes, before a small head with large ears poked out, looking around furtively to make sure the dogs were really gone. Once he was sure, he heaved a sigh of relief, tension finally leaving his small, furry frame. He tipped his head back to look up at his savior... No, his new friend! He just decided. "Hey, thank you! That was really great! They really know how to run, don't they? Bullies. Dumb dogs. I hate them." He grumbled this last part with a sniff. "They think they own the whole city. Humph! Hey, I'm Ying'er! What's your name, valiant hero?" 

A few of the people nearby were starting to approach, one frowned a bit, not sure where the voice was coming from. Was the child speaking? "Boy, are you hurt?" One asked.

 

Looking up at the taller adults, Lan Zhan shook his head once, expression not so much as changing at all. Then, without a word, he lifted his small hand again to point at a row of food stands within his sight. With single-minded determination, he made his way over to one of the stands, standing up on his tippy toes to look over the edge of the table at the food that was being presented. Behind him, he could hear some of the people murmuring confused questions, but he paid them no heed, putting down a coin and giving a curt, "Mn," to indicate he wanted the coin's share of food. Upon a completed transaction, he gave a proper bow, entire body disappearing under the height of the stall as he did so and continued onto the next stall. He repeated this procedure a few more times before finally being satisfied with his hefting sack of food and walking (rule 31, running within Cloud Recesses is forbidden) calmly into the nearby woods, stopping just past the first line of trees.

 

Wei Ying pouted a bit as he was seemingly ignored, ears dipping, but then perking again as the boy started buying various foods. The tiny passenger started making comments at the second stall, which happened to be selling tofu based dishes. "Oh, Oh! Get the red one, young heroic master, the red one!!! Mapo Tofu at this stall is really good!" 

Commentary and suggestions went on like this, the surrounding people eventually realizing that it was the fox speaking, not the boy, but that it must be a rich young master's spiritual pet or something, so eventually other than some curious or admiring looks, he was more or less left alone, especially since the guards had finally arrived and were paying special attention to the obvious VIP child. 

By the time he was finishing his purchasing spree, the fox kit was drooling a bit and his stomach was making some obvious noises. "Hey, hey, that sure is a lot of food. Are you buying for a party? Or your friends? Can I hang around for any leftovers? Wasting food is a sin, you know? I can take care of anything you don't like!"

 

Setting down his sack filled with food first, Lan Zhan pulled the little black fox from his clothing and set him down on the ground. He then kneeled down in front of the pile of food and began arranging them neatly in rows based on what kind of food they were. Finally satisfied, he settled back on his legs and simply said, "For A-Ying."

 

"...." he blinked a time or two as that set in, looking from him, to the food, then back again. Then, with a poof and a happy yip, he transformed into his child form, though he was so excited he still had his fox ears and tail. He gave the other boy a big hug and some hearty back pats as he sang his praises. "Heaven smiles upon the virtuous and charitable! I haven't had food this fresh in weeks!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Hey, what's your name? I don't want to be rude by calling you ‘you’ all the time! Ying'er's mom said it wasn't good to be rude to a benefactor!"

 

It was clear when the fox could vocally speak to him that he wasn't just an ordinary fox, so he wasn't too surprised that he could transform into a human, but he was, however, caught off guard by the sudden hug he was given. Not used to being held ever since....well, he didn't want to think about it, Lan Zhan couldn't help how his small body stiffened at the unexpected affection. As the fox-child, A-Ying, began babbling and eventually asking him a question, the young dragon's golden gaze remained focused on the other boy's black ears and tail, awestruck even if that didn't show on his face. They looked so cute and soft and each little excited twitch was so distracting that he barely recognized what question was being directed at him. "...A-Zhan."

 

"A-Zhan, you're a really good guy!" He said cheerfully, tail wagging as he finally let go and turned to look at the food, eyes gleaming as he rubbed his hands together greedily. What to start with? He grabbed the spicy tofu from earlier, creating a pair of chopsticks from a piece of nearby wood with a little transformation magic, and began to eat with gusto as he sat on a log near the dragon boy. "Sooo goood! Mm, you should have some too! Here!" He said as he took a piece in the sticks and held it out to the other child, a hand under it so the red sauce wouldn't stain the white robes.

 

Having never seen any sort of red food quite like this, Lan Zhan was hesitant to try it. At home in the Cloud Recesses, their food was largely vegetarian with simple, almost medicinal-like seasonings. Even just the smallest sniff of this food with his heightened senses seemed like too much. But A-Ying looked so eager for him to try, cute ears tilted forward with alertness and tail puffed up high in excitement, swaying to and fro as he held out the offering. So not having the heart to deny him, Lan Zhan leaned in to take the food from the chopsticks, steadily reddening ears the only sign of his embarrassment and the single cough he first let out the only indication of the intolerable spice level. Carefully schooling his little features to its normal blank face, he chewed and swallowed as quickly as possible, giving the fox in front of him a little nod in response.

He grinned brightly, a small gap in his smile where a tooth was missing, not one of the small, sharp canines, but one of his front ones. He picked up another piece of wood and fashioned more utensils, giving him the new pair and waving at the food. "Let's eat, A-Zhan! Try some camel hump! It's not as spicy, but it's very tasty!" He said as he had some more of the mapo. He was eating quickly at first, and a bit messily, but then seemed to catch himself and slow down. "Mmm, so good~! A-Zhan, are you from around here? Or far away?" He asked as he reached for some peanut chicken. He loved chicken even more than rabbit!

 

The rule of no talking while eating on his mind, Lan Zhan simply held the second pair of chopsticks in one hand, watching A-Ying eat his fill with a smug but quiet satisfaction. Really, given that rule, he should be shushing the other boy, but he just looked so happy, he couldn't bring himself to say it. Instead, he indulged his questions quietly. "Far. On a trip."

 

He nodded rapidly as he chewed his food, swallowing before speaking again. "I've been here for a while. Not from here though. Just... not really sure where to go from here." He said after a moment, looking down at the ground as his smile dimmed, his tail briefly coming to a stop and slowly drooping. He shook his head and got back to eating, determined to make himself as full as possible, because who knew when he'd be able to eat this well again. "Are you going to be in town for a while?"

 

Not understanding what puppy love was, Lan Zhan couldn’t understand why exactly it upset him to see A-Ying’s smile and tail drop. It wasn’t right, sadness looked too wrong in the boy’s eyes. He wanted to fix that... “Mn. Will visit again.”

 

He perked up. "Yeah? Okay!" He said cheerfully. "Where are you staying? I could probably meet you there! Or, uh, you're probably busy, so, maybe you could come meet me? I usually sleep at the coffin house or the graveyard, the dogs don't bother me there. I could show you around town!" Hah, those mutts would absolutely think twice before trying to mess with him with A-Zhan around!

 

Initially, Lan Zhan simply responded with an “Mn.” But thinking back on what else the fox said, added on, “Not busy. Trip.” If he could, he would also like for A-Ying to sleep elsewhere from the coffin house or graveyard (and why was he picking those places? The energy gathered there alone must be super uncomfortable to be surrounded in), so that would likely need A-Ying coming to him rather than Lan Zhan coming to A-Ying, right?

 

He hummed as he finished off another dish, then considered the remaining ones, as well as how much more he could possibly hold in his stomach. If he were to return to his fox form, he'd probably be so round, he'd look like a furry ball. He finally picked a peach bun and bit into it happily. "Mm, A-Zhan, do you know what inn or house you are staying in?" He asked after swallowing.

 

Looking down at the remaining food he had bought, Lan Zhan busied himself with pushing and arranging everything closer to the kit as he tried to remember where exactly he was staying with his uncle and brother. He could visualize the characters painted onto the banner posted outside the inn, but they were too complex for his young mind to read, even if he was ahead in his studies. He was sure his brother had read out the name for him, since, of course, he could read it being a few years older than Lan Zhan, but he couldn't quite remember what the proper sounds were. He therefore only shook his head, accompanying the action with the single word of, "Big." Not putting much mind to it, his finger traced the characters of the inn's name in the air between the sack of food and his knees, but the pronunciation just wouldn't come.

 

"Oh." Wei Ying replied as he blinked, thinking about it. He sorta remembered those characters. "I think I know where that is...." he trailed off, then looked up at the nearest tall tree. "... A-Zhan, how are you at climbing trees?" He asked suddenly, his smile taking on a cunning sort of look.

 

Lan Zhan looked back up at the boy, face blank in confusion (not that it looked much different from his other expressions). Sure there were plenty of trees within Cloud Recesses, but scaling any of them had never crossed his mind. Let alone any sort of play, really. The main Lan Clan especially always started education of their young early and so most of his days were spent studying, reading, or practicing the guqin. He didn't particularly mind that though. He enjoyed them plenty enough. However, that meant that in front of this boy, he could do little more than blink and stare in confusion.

 

The fox watched his expression for a few moments, then said, "You never climbed a tree before?" with a tilt of his head. "... Well, if you want, I can teach you! I was thinking we could climb this one and I could point out a couple places from up high. Unless you can fly. Can you fly? Hey, I forgot to ask what you are!"

 

Well, as a dragon, he could, but his uncle hadn't allowed him to attempt yet. Perhaps in another year, he had said. Uncle apparently wished for him to learn more, understand the mechanics behind it, how to control it, what to do with tight turns and landings and anything else unexpected that could come during flight before he allowed his youngest nephew to actually put it into practice. Rather than express that in words, however, Lan Zhan instead said, "Dangerous."

 

"... dangerous, huh?" He replied after a beat or two, before snorting and laughing. "That seems to be true! Ah, I'm still curious though. I've never smelled anyone like you before." He thought it over another moment or two before patting the quiet boy on the back and standing up. "Well! Whatever kind of being you are, A-Zhan, I like you. You're kinda quiet, but I'm really noisy, so we compliment each other like yin and yang!" After that, he ‘ah’d and said, "Hey, are you a rabbit?! That would be really funny!" Rabbits were quiet and cute and white, maybe that was it??

 

Lan Zhan blinked, confused as to how A-Ying got to that conclusion. Had he really portrayed himself as dangerous? He had only been trying to help and had no malicious intent...And he hadn't given away that he was a dragon, right?? Though regardless, it seems like somehow he had unsettled the fox if he thought him to be dangerous...And then there was the sudden question about being a rabbit. It was so out of the blue that he could only murmur a, "Ridiculous."

 

"No? Not a rabbit? Hmm. Well, that's fine. I suppose you don't smell like a rabbit anyway." He said as he thumbed his nose, then looked down at the food bag. "You gonna eat any more of this?" He asked as he picked it up and examined what would spoil quickly versus what would keep for a while.

 

He hadn't actually had anything of the food aside from that one bite A-Ying had offered and had been meaning to keep it that way anyways. So he simply shook his head once and said, "For A-Ying," once again. He wasn't lacking for food, given that he lived within a large, prestigious sect, so it didn't bother him at all. He could have his meal with his uncle and brother once he returned to their lodging within this town.

 

"Are you sure? ....Did you eat before we met up or something?" He murmured, before tying the bag onto his waist sash. He wasn't turning down delicious food, no way. "A-Zhan, how much time do you have before you have to go back?" He asked suddenly.

 

Nodding his head with an accompanying, "Mn," to express his surety, Lan Zhan then glanced up towards the sky. More time had passed than he had expected, but he also wasn't sure exactly how much time that was, so he couldn't say for certain when exactly he would need to head back. Therefore, to answer A-Ying's final question, his shoulders moved up in the slightest shrug, indicating his uncertainty.

 

He chuckled a little at the shrug, but nodded and took the slightly larger boy's hand in his own before he started walking. "Well, let me show you around then! There's lots of nice and sorta pretty places here! We can play until you need to go back!"

 

Caught off guard once again by the contact, Lan Zhan went surprisingly easily, thrown off enough that he didn't even think to question or resist the other boy. He didn't have the faintest idea what A-Ying had in mind nor how long it'd take before his brother or uncle came looking for him, so he simply let it all happen. This young fox was captivating, anyways.

 

He was just happy to have someone to talk to and hang out with... who was also willing to protect him from the local dogs. Also, he wasn't entirely sure why, but he was incredibly drawn to this snowy jade-like youth. He didn't speak a lot, but maybe he was shy or something. He did remember to hide his ears and tail before they went back into the town proper though. 

The first place he took Lan Zhan was a fair-sized lotus pond on the outskirts of town. "I come here sometimes to pick and eat seed pods and try to catch some fish! I have to be careful though, the wharf dogs don't like me either. And there's a few fruit trees around here, none are producing right now though. People take fancy boats here sometimes to the little pagoda in the center, sometimes they pay me to hold the boats while they're doing stuff there."

 

Since Lan Zhan wasn’t much of a talker, he simply let A-Ying talk as much as he pleased, making little noises of acknowledgement here and there. He couldn’t fathom why the excitable fox was seemingly fine with his relative silence and nearly nonexistent facial expressions. Though, perhaps once enough time passed, the other child would grow bored of his lack of response.

 

Well, for the most part, he seemed perfectly happy to just chatter at him, because it seemed like he was really listening to what he had to say, and he was letting him pull him around. His skin was sort of cold, and he was sort of stiff, but he wasn't dead, he could tell that much. Maybe he was just an awkward person? Or shy? 

"A-Zhan, this place makes really good noodles!" 

"A-Zhan, this garden has some very pretty snow-blooming flowers!" 

"A-Zhan, this inn always has a good smell coming from it, but my Mom always told me I have to wait until my true form is an adult before I can drink, or my tail fur will fall out!" 

"A-Zhan, that's the coffin house! The dogs don't come around here or the graveyard over there."

This last place was.... odd. It was obviously a place where the displaced dead were sent before burial, but despite that, the yin energy could be considered pretty light. Wei Ying ran over and leapt over the threshold, (something a normal human boy his size and age likely wouldn't have been able to do) and trotted over to a loose stone he pulled aside to hide his food in. The area was actually surprisingly clean, and there was no obvious oppressive energy.

 

This last place, the coffin house, was a tad offsetting. His uncle had told him about areas filled with yin energy, how negative emotions could pile up in these locations and make them dangerous or how the energy could reanimate the dead into walking or fierce corpses. This particular location, at least, didn't seem to have too much yin piled up, possibly due to enough care and upkeep by the town, but it was enough that to a child who had yet to experience much outside his own sect, it was making him a little anxious. 

But A-Ying seemed to be doing well off here (or as well off as a street child can do), so whatever may be lingering here was perhaps not all that malicious. At least, that's what he hoped for; he'd rather not lose this bubbly fox so soon after meeting him. (And why did that bother him, he couldn't help but wonder...)

With some curiosity, Lan Zhan looked around the building, eyes catching onto several structures that must be the name-sake coffins for the coffin house. Perhaps the coffins weren't actually being used and that was also contributing to the low levels of yin energy he was sensing. Either way, there was just enough that the little dragon was hesitant to fully lower his guard, which was why when he heard a stone getting kicked from somewhere behind both of them, he acted on quick instinct and transformed. Cold mist bursting from him, his body elongated and wrapped around A-Ying securely, surprisingly warm underbelly for an ice dragon cocooning around the young kit. Now entirely golden eyes poised towards the entrance, he was prepared but not quite knowledgeable about what could be approaching them. More dogs perhaps? Or some other wild animal? Or maybe even the reanimated corpses that had crossed his mind earlier?

But it turned out to be neither of those when he saw familiar white robes and hair step into view. "A-Zhan, so this is where you were? It's not like you to--Oh...!" 

Lan Huan was certainly the last person he'd thought was approaching, but that must've meant that he had spent too much time away from him and his uncle then. Calmly, despite his transformed state indicating otherwise, Lan Zhan returned back with a simple, "...Brother."

 

The smaller boy yipped reflexively as he was wrapped up, startled enough that his ears and tail popped out again, and he struggled a little as he was suddenly surrounded by warm, smooth scales. He managed to pop his head out, and saw... another A-Zhan?!?! When he heard the word brother, the fox realized what had him in it's coils was his friend! "Oh! You have a brother? He looks almost just like you- WOAAAAH, A-Zhan, you're a dragon?!?!? Awesome!! Domineering!!" He squirmed a bit more, and his ears dipped in a bashful manner, wiggling the fingers of an exposed hand in an improvised wave of greeting. "A-Zhan, A-Zhan, I can't move!" He whispered, leaning towards the beautiful dragon's ear.

 

Thankful one couldn't even tell his ears were blushing while in dragon form, Lan Zhan relaxed and loosened his hold around A-Ying just as Lan Huan walked up to meet him. Setting a hand on his little brother's muzzle, the older Jade regarded the fox hidden within while scales with a smile before he addressed Lan Zhan again. "We couldn't find you in the marketplace. You're not one to just wander off, but I see you've made a friend?" 

As an indication of his bashfulness and shame, Lan Zhan ducked his head down more towards the ground, blowing out a stream of cool air from his nostrils. He was too flustered at his jumpy reaction, better off staying silent for now or he was sure he'd fumble over his words. And his brother was already the only one still alive who could read him so well, so he wasn't keen on giving him more to tease him about. 

With a light chuckle, the older dragon turned back to face the young kit. "Hello, I am Lan Huan, Lan Zhan's brother as he said...What's your name?"

 

Once he was free enough to move, the first thing he did was get a better look at his new friend. His new friend was a DRAGON!! WOW!!! He paused from his examination of the small jade-white dragon, long enough to turn towards the new person and give him a small bow and cupped hands salute. "Nice to meet you, Lan Huan, I'm Ying'er... Uh, Wei Ying. I guess. Or A-Ying." He looked at Lan Zhan's face and tilted sideways, trying to meet his eyes. "So your full name is Lan Zhan? It's a pretty name." He looked back at Lan Huan as his hands began to pet the mane of bluish white hair that ran down his back, seemingly without even thinking about it. "A-Zhan saved me from a bunch of dogs earlier and bought me some food!"

 

"I see...So that's what happened..." Lan Huan shifted his gaze over to his brother, who had closed his eyes in hopes of concealing whatever emotion may be swirling around within them, but also seemed perfectly content to allow this boy access to his mane and scales. In fact, he hadn't seen his brother this comfortable for at least three months. While they both loved their mother, perhaps because he was younger, Lan Zhan was especially attached to her and would often nuzzle up to her affections when he wasn't excitedly showing off a new guqin piece he had learned or showing her how well he had gotten at reading. For A-Zhan to become so attached to a near stranger like this was a tad worrisome, but at the same time, he wasn't sure if he had the heart to deny his brother this.

 

"Mmhmm! So then I showed him around town, since he's new here... Hey, A-Zhan? You okay?" He asked, a little concerned since his eyes were closed. He reached out and placed a hand lightly on the side of his muzzle. "Will you look at me? I haven't seen your full face yet in this form. A-Zhan?"

 

Unwilling to deny Wei Ying for whatever reason, a few moments later, Lan Zhan opened his eyes again, shifting his head to face the fox. Wanting to respond to the other child's concern, he hummed out a, "mn," the sound coming out a bit longer as it rumbled through his body.

 

The smile quickly returned as he now had one hand on his lower jaw, the other gently touching facial features in awe and wonder. "Wow, your eyes kinda sparkle in this form, A-Zhan~." He said, a little quieter than earlier. "Way cool! My first friend and hero is a dragon! Mom and Dad would be surprised-" He began, then paused for a moment before resuming lavishing attention on his friend. He hugged the small dragon's neck, pushing his face into the mane on his neck (he smelled like sandalwood) before turning to look at Lan Huan again. "Ah, do you guys need to go now...?" He asked, seeming a bit very reluctant to let go.

 

Lan Huan gave a smile to try and appease Wei Ying. "I'm afraid so...I'm sure our uncle is worried." Given how clingy the kit was being, he was sure that wasn't going to be enough to satisfy the child, so he added on, "We'll be here in town for about a month unless Uncle decides it is necessary to take more time off of sect duties." 

Recognizing what Lan Huan was aiming at and wanting to be the one to say it himself, Lan Zhan repeated the words he had given A-Ying earlier. "Will visit again."

 

He sighed again, giving A-Zhan a few more pets before letting go reluctantly. "Okay. Where do you want to meet? Here, or one of the other spots I showed you?"

 

"Here." It was hardly a question. A-Ying had mentioned how the dogs never entered the coffin house and so if he came here first, it would be easy to make sure they never approached while he was with him. And now, with A-Ying finally releasing him, he was able to properly uncurl from the other and transform back into his human form with another cloud of cold mist. 

Smiling at his once again human brother, Lan Huan assured Wei Ying again with (and to the stoic but mortified embarrassment of his little brother), "A-Zhan's already looking forward to seeing you again, don't worry. He'll be back."

 

"Mn." Wei Ying grinned cheekily as he imitated his friend's affirmative noise, scratching his chin before seeing them off. "See you later, A-Zhan!" He said as the two dragons walked off down the road. He watched until he couldn't see them anymore, then sighed and rested his head on his folded arms as he leaned against the threshold. He was alone again. 

One of his ears twitched, and he looked back over his shoulder as a ghost slowly faded into his view, and he smiled. Well, not completely alone, he supposed. But the warmth of a living person was really nice.