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The Best Time Was Sixteen Years Ago, The Second Best Time Is.. Not Now But It'll Work

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One thing Jiang Cheng had learned, was it was amazing what you could get used to, and he didn’t mean that in a good way. Your life could literally be on fire and you would eventually figure out how to just deal with slowly dying by smoke inhalation.

Maybe it was the whole “Fighting a brutal war while barely of age” thing, not to mention the whole being an orphan thing. All he knew how to do was keep moving, that was how he survived the sunshot campaign, how he got through Lotus Pier burning and his parents’ deaths. How he handled rebuilding his entire sect and raising his nephew on his own after his sister’s death.

It was also how he dealt with the fact his brother had somehow come back to life, exposed a bunch of murders, killed the guy Jiang Cheng had been co-parenting with for over a decade, and then ran off to galavant across the world getting up to mischief with the new chief cultivator of all people. He could deal with his whole life literally burning down, so he could somehow stomach this strange stale-mate he was in with his only family except A-ling, where he wasn’t trying to hunt the man down or anything, but instead they were existing in this horrible unfinished silence, a literal lifetime of conflict and love inbetween them that he had no idea what to do with.

So he wasn’t doing anything, just maintaining his same stony silence anytime he looked up to see Wei Wuxian prancing in like he wasn’t a literal reincarnated bogeyman, like he really was nothing but the fucking Jade of Lan’s paramour.

Right. That whole fucking mess. Jiang Cheng’s life had been an exercise in dealing with bullshit. And sadly, one recurring brand of bullshit that had been haunting him since he was sixteen?

Fucking Hanguang-Jun.

They said familiarity bred contempt. Well, he didn’t need to be familiar with Lan Wangji to have contempt for him, but sadly over the years, familiar was what he had become. Cultivation conferences where everyone was eager to kiss pure white Lan ass, night hunts where “Go where the chaos is” Hanguang-Jun inevitably would pop up. It was like he had been cursed to constantly run into that stupid headband ever since he had to spend those awkward and emotionally destroying months searching for Wei Wuxian after Wen Chao captured him, all those years ago.

When they first became acquainted, he thought Lan Wangji was about as communicative and interesting as the average tree. Why the hell his brother became obsessed with the blank-faced teen when they first went to Gusu Lan, he didn’t understand.

And now, having spent entirely too much time around Lan Wangji in the past sixteen years, with all that familiarity and contempt, he could therefore arguably be accused of knowing him. And what he did know? Lan Wangji was actually not nearly as subtle and blank as he originally thought. He was full of shit. And his blank ass face? It was just to keep people from knowing how often he is thinking the rudest shit ever.

Which was pretty fucking often, especially at discussion conferences.

Conferences like the one he was unfortunately currently attending. It wasn’t anything interesting. In fact, Jiang Cheng didn’t even really need to be there, since most of the topics at hand had almost nothing to do with Yunmeng Jiang. Sadly that wasn’t how politics worked, and if he hadn’t shown up he would have gravely offended this yahoo or that one, which being a sect leader he sadly had to give a damn about.

Still, at least this conference was coming with its own free entertainment, meaning that Lan Wangji had also shown up with his new pet idiot, Jiang Cheng’s brother, who apparently hadn’t learned how to correctly behave in public while he was dead.

Talks were supposed to be winding down, soon there would be grumblings for drink and food, but sadly the more annoying attendees weren’t content to let the topics at hand go without a fair amount of infuriating bickering.

Wei Wuxian seemed to be zoning out, sitting in a slovenly lean against Lan Wangji, his horrible posture even more obvious with the line of perfectly straight Lan Juniors behind them like bamboo shoots, while Hanguang-Jun himself stared dead ahead and occasionally made short statements that would have resolved the current conflicts if only there was someone intelligent involved. The longer this went on, the more Jiang Cheng could see past the perfect jade mask and see exactly how sick and tired he was getting of these idiots.

“Regular patrols and a re-application of protective sigils should prevent further incidents.” Hanguang-Jun deadpanned, his eyebrows and a slight twitch of his mouth saying “Just do your damn jobs and I won’t have to hear about this bullshit anymore.”

There was a predictable clamour of idiots saying why they shouldn’t be expected to actually do anything and even bigger idiots saying why other people were actually the ones at fault. Jiang Cheng held back a smirk as he noticed Lan Wangji’s nostrils flare slightly. This was about to get funny.

“Am I wrong in thinking you are all aware of your own territories?”

There was a moment of silence as everyone took in the barely back-handed insult. Predictably just as four different sect leaders sat up in their seats with expressions like cats about to start hissing, one of the Lan Juniors spoke up.

“What I think Hanguang-Jun meant, was that given the recent upheavals, some responsibilities have been reassigned or parceled out differently, and if these new changes need to be reviewed again, he should be made aware as the chief cultivator.” The small Lan said, Lan Sizhui if he remembered correctly, the one Wei Wuxian had latched onto even more than the others in his little group of trouble making ducklings, and Jiang Cheng barely held in a snicker. Yes, that was definitely what he meant...

He said a silent prayer of thanks that A-ling wasn’t here to see this bullshit. Jin Guangyao was apparently a psychopath but he knew how to be an example of decent politics. When he wasn’t covertly assassinating all his allies that was.

Some of the sect leaders seemed mollified, but the rest took this as an opening to bitch more, like they even needed a real opening, and Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes as the arguing picked right back up.

He didn’t intervene, content to watch Lan Wangji covertly talk absolute shit about almost everyone present if not with his mouth then with his fucking eyebrows, his Juniors attempting to rephrase what he said into something remotely polite, and seldomly pulling it off.

He sat there, slowly dying inside not just because he wanted to fucking leave, but because no matter how much he couldn’t stand Hanguang-Jun, this was fucking hilarious and he could not laugh here!

Jiang Cheng was wondering how much longer he could stay quiet and sane while Hanguang-jun implied with microexpressions which stupid sect leader he wished he was allowed to stab more, and then suddenly, he was making eye contact with Wei Wuxian from across the room.

And he saw the exact same struggle happening on his face. Wei Wuxian knew exactly what Lan Wangji was actually thinking, knew exactly how fake everything the Juniors said was, and he was just as helpless to not find the entire situation hilarious in the same immature and asshole-ish way he did.

Jiang Cheng locked eyes with Wei Wuxian across the room, and suddenly it was like they were fifteen years old again, making stupid faces at each other in the back of some boring meeting his father made them attend, having a silent conversation that was almost entirely making fun of the other people in the room.

The corner of Wei Wuxian’s mouth twitched, and that was all it took.

The discussion conference ended rather quickly after that, because years past or not, they were both war heroes and one of them was a mass murderer, so neither of them were men someone could watch start giggling for no apparent reason without being terrified and wanting to get the fuck away.

Turned out, the Yiling Patriarch and Sandu Shenshou appearing to lose their shit randomly in the middle of the conference at the exact same time, laughing like the gotdamn idiots they were and not being able to get it together because every time they got close to shutting up they would make eye contact again and lose it all over, was even more terrifying than a pissy Hanguang-Jun and did a much better job getting idiots to stop arguing over stupid shit.

It also turned out, being idiots together went a lot further towards letting him look at his brother, and really see his brother, see past all the pain and all the mistakes, and see the boy he used to be attached at the hip to. Apparently, fun did a better job making them finally talk to each other again than the whole traumatising-near-death-experience thing did.

Suffice to say, that wasn’t the last time two of the most feared men in the cultivation world freaked everyone out with inappropriately timed laughter. But in Jiang Cheng’s opinion, it wasn’t a bad addition to his reputation.

You really could get used to just about anything. And sometimes, that didn’t have to be a bad thing.