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Carve your home inside of me

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He shouldn't have survived the fall.

Wei Ying.

But something had called out to the resentful energy in the burial mounds as he fell.

Wei Ying.

And the burial mounds had answered.

Wei Ying, do you want revenge?

Sometimes the voices were chaotic whispers swirling like a smoky hurricane around him, sometimes they were distant echoes lost in the thick dark fog that choked him, sometimes they were incoherent gibberish driving him insane, sometimes they were unmistakable pleas for justice tugging at his pain.

And sometimes they resembled a familiar, smooth, deep, comforting voice that Wei Wuxian clung to desperately.

Wei Ying, come back. He would imagine the voice saying. Come back to me.

Wei Wuxian wanted all of it. He wanted to live, he wanted to return, he wanted revenge. And so he invited the darkness in and allowed it to make a home in the emptiness inside of him where once a powerful golden core had thrived.

He may have walked out of the burial mounds stronger than when he had been thrown in there, but his fate had been sealed and he would forever tow the line between the living and the dead. He had sold his soul to the vengeful spirits of the burial mounds. He was one of them, carrying them inside him as he returned to the world that was filled with a thousand people with a thousand opinions and a thousand faces.

He had mourned the life and death of who he once was. He had let himself be remolded by the resentful energy, let it thrum through all the old pathways inside him and carve new ones as it reshaped him into the Yiling Laozu. Wei Wuxian had perished, his spirit tarnished and ravaged and entombed somewhere in the burial mounds. Now, the Yiling Laozu would avenge him and the wailing souls that had cradled him in their darkness.

He shouldn't have survived the fall. Then again, he shouldn't have survived many things. But he had and the Yiling Laozu had arisen, spawned from the pain embedded in Wei Wuxian’s flesh and exorcized like a demon drawn out from his weary bones. And the Yiling Laozu would rain hell on everyone that had abused and oppressed and taken and taken and taken. The Yiling Laozu would take it all back.

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Lan Wangji could do nothing but stand and stare. He could no longer hear the screams or see the blood that blanketed everything or smell the stench of the slaughtered bodies. All he could hear was the frantic flute, all he could see were the billowing black robes and wild hair, all he could smell was the faint familiar scent that reminded him of him. His bleeding fingers froze over the broken guqin, his heart stilled, held together only by hope, and his mind was torn between fear and exhilaration.

And then it struck him like lightning.

Wei Ying.

His heart raced violently, hoping against hope.

Wei Ying.

His mind chanted only one thing, over and over and over again.

Wei Ying, is it you?

And soon, his question was answered.

Fiery red eyes met his frenzied gaze. A flash of emotion disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Lan Wangji felt the back of his eyes burn as carnage erupted all around him. Wei Wuxian had returned. Wei Wuxian was within arm’s reach. Wei Wuxian was alive.

When the flute had ended its wrathful symphony and the violent cries had been silenced, Lan Wangji regained his senses and his feet led him to the man who had single handedly massacred everyone that stood against them. A dark aura enveloped Wei Wuxian, keeping everyone back as if protecting him or holding him hostage, Lan Wangji couldn't tell.

The words that spilled from Lan Wangji’s lips were met with a rage that dug a chasm between them. As Wei Wuxian walked away from him, Lan Wangji felt his fragile hope falter. With nothing to hold his heart together anymore, Lan Wangji felt it shatter, leaving only hot tears in its wake.

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Time meant nothing to Wei Wuxian. He was engulfed by a growing storm that threatened to consume anything in its path while also consuming him, trapped at its center. Wei Wuxian fought for control. The energy and he were caught in a wild dance for dominance even as they worked together to avenge the pathetic souls of the burial mounds. Days, weeks, months, years passed by and one by one, Wei Wuxian destroyed the oppressors, took back the power, and spared no mercy.

A vague, repressed voice would slip through the chaos in his mind every now and then. A voice that belonged to a face he had been avoiding, to eyes he could no longer meet the gaze of, to a part of his life he had no choice but to forego. For every time he allowed himself to dwell on it, the resentful energy would too. It would circle it with interest, its curiosity piqued. Wei Wuxian had to let him go before it was too late, before he couldn't any more, before they devoured him as well.

When the war ended, Wei Wuxian hoped the resentful energy would simmer down, satiated and avenged. But the fire coursed through his veins, unruly, turbulent, defiant. It was getting harder to make it obey his commands, to bend it to his will, to satisfy its needs. The lines between him and the Yiling Laozu blurred more and more each night, making it harder to resist the urges of the dark energy that filled him with the need to consume.

If Wei Wuxian had to pinpoint the beginning of his collapse, he would point to the moment where he stood in the knee deep water the stormy rain had flooded the Qiongqi path with, staring at the piles of dead bodies of Wen prisoners; seething, fuming, livid.

He could feel the dominos fall one by one. He had thought his inevitable end would come like lightning, striking him down all at once. But it was to be a slow descent, one where he could see the dark pit he was about to be devoured by. But he could do nothing about it except let the resentful energy drag him down at a painfully unhurried and deliberate pace.

As he crushed the soldiers who had decided the unjust fate of the innocent Wen remnants, as he revived Wen Ning and empowered him to batter them until they were unrecognizable, as he felt himself drown in hopelessness and fury, Wei Wuxian gathered the last shred of his willpower and led the Wen refugees to safety.

He took them to the only place he could call his own anymore; up a tortuous path, last night’s rain weighing down their clothes and their hearts. He took them back to where he had died. He took them back to where he had been reborn. He took them back to the burial mounds.

He had always known that one day he would have to return and bury himself in its bosom anyway.

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Time was once a flowing river for Lan Wangji. Yet now, it felt like a turbulent ocean with no direction or destination. Lan Wangji watched, helpless and lost, as Wei Wuxian was slowly sucked in by the very darkness he wielded. Lan Wangji could feel it; something was amiss, something was not right, something felt out of place. Wei Wuxian was alive and had returned, he fought alongside them against the Wens and sometimes even at the front shielding them from everything, taking it upon himself to put an end to the war once and for all. Even so, Wei Wuxian seemed unrecognizable in many ways.

As time passed, Lan Wangji would notice the way the demonic glow in Wei Wuxian’s eyes would take longer to simmer down after each rampage. He didn't miss the way the resentful energy would swell, surge, and undulate around Wei Wuxian, getting more aggressive with every battle. Lan Wangji grew distraught and unsettled as Wei Wuxian distanced himself. He held his breath as Wei Wuxian’s vibrance, vitality, and luminescent spirit dimmed right in front of his eyes, replaced by a hungry darkness that swallowed everything in its path, clearing it for the clans fighting the Wens. But there were no more monsters to slay, no more paths to be cleared, no more wrongs to make right.

The night he had encountered Wei Wuxian at the Qiongqi path, Lan Wangji had finally heard Wei Wuxian’s voice address him. After years of existing at the peripheries of Wei Wuxian’s vision as they battled side by side, Lan Wangji felt seen by Wei Wuxian. When their eyes met, it was no longer just a fleeting glance, it was a defiant display of who he had become, of everything he stood for, and of what he could do if he was tested.

Who’s strong, who’s weak? Wei Wuxian had screamed then. Who’s wrong, and who’s right?

Lan Wangji had stepped aside, not out of fear of Wei Wuxian’s power, but out of respect for his unchanged virtue and unwavering courage in the face of injustice. And now, as Lan Wangji made his way to the burial mounds, up the hazy path that was dotted with crooked trees and bone shards poking through the dirt, he was driven by one thing and one thing only - his love for Wei Wuxian.

In the months following Wei Wuxian’s defection from the Jiang clan to aid the Wen refugees and protect them behind the myths of the burial mounds, Lan Wangji had fought a stirring battle within him. His entire set of beliefs and values had been shaken to the core, he questioned his understanding of the Lan clans’s rules over and over again. Suddenly it was as if he no longer knew what to believe in, who to trust, where to search for the answers.

Who’s just and who’s evil? His mind had repeated Wei Wuxian’s words endlessly. Who’s wrong and who’s right? And so Lan Wangji had set out to find the answers for himself.

After walking for the better part of the day, when the path finally gave way to a clearing, Lan Wangji came across a pitiful settlement. He looked at the people that milled about, dressed in dismal rags, some making futile attempts to reinforce the crumbling shelters, others toiling away in the ashy soil in the hopes that it would yield fruitful results. Lan Wangji regarded the Wen remnants; they looked weather worn and weak, but none looked miserable and distressed despite their surroundings.

On noticing Lan Wangji’s presence, the liveliness dimmed and hushed murmurs spread around him. Lan Wangji gripped his sword and walked through the village, schooling his expression and straightening his posture further. His eyes surveyed the community that had sprung around the burial mounds, letting the reality of the situation sink in. These were not powerful cultivators who had escaped their punishment. These were regular civilians, elderly men and women, and fragile young children. Suddenly, Lan Wangji paused when he was met with a sharp gaze that looked at him questioningly.

“What brings you here, Hanguang Jun?” A familiar woman stepped forward from the group that had gathered around him.

“Wen-guniang,” Lan Wangji bowed courteously.

“Are you looking for Wei Wuxian?” Wen Qing asked with a raised eyebrow when Lan Wangji had straightened once again.

“Mn,” Lan Wangji nodded, his hand resting behind his back, remaining impassive in the face of all the scrutiny and mistrust.

Wen Qing’s eyes studied Lan Wangji closely but he remained steadfast. After several moments of silent observation, Wen Qing seemed to have reached a conclusion. Lan Wangji noticed her shoulders relax minutely and the firm line of her lips softened slightly. With a resigned expression, Wen Qing looked over her shoulder. Lan Wangji followed her gaze and saw the cave in the distance, noting how removed it was from the settlement, how it seemed submerged in darkness unlike the village that was bathed in the early evening light.

“He’s been in there for days now,” Wen Qing sighed and turned back to Lan Wangji. “He said he needs to work on something,” she explained, the doubt clear in her voice. “We leave him food everyday outside the cave, but he never touches it. And no one is allowed inside,” she finished with a frown.

“I see,” Lan Wangji listened to every word carefully, for they were the first reliable ones he was hearing about Wei Wuxian in months.

Word of Wei Wuxian’s actions had spread through the cultivation world like wildfire. With every pass of the baton, the stories of his rebellion and powers grew wilder and darker until every word about him was tainted with fear, suspicion, anger and hatred. Wei Wuxian was no longer the shining beacon of hope and justice to the cultivation world. He was now the dreadful Yiling Laozu consumed with a lust for power.

But Lan Wangji knew better. Lan Wangji knew Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji trusted Wei Ying. Lan Wangji loved him. And his love had brought him all the way to the mouth of the ominous cave. Lan Wangji took a steadying breath as he walked through the entrance, a dark passageway that opened into a large, dull, cold cavern. Before he could take in the state of the cave, a shaky voice rippled all around him.

“Hanguang Jun,” Wei Wuxian’s voice emanated from an alcove at the other end of the cave.

The darkness there seemed thicker and heavier than the rest of the cave, enshrouding a nebulous figure.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji focussed his eyes to trace the outline of Wei Wuxian’s body but it was impossible to tell where Wei Wuxian’s body ended and where the darkness began.

“To what do I owe the honor of your visit, Hanguang Jun?” Wei Wuxian’s trembling voice dripped with so much sweetness that it sounded acidic and bitter, almost like an accusation.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji took a step towards the hidden recess but paused when Wei Wuxian interrupted him.

“Don't come any closer, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian’s voice grew shakier, suddenly urgent, as if he was crushed under an enormous burden, as if he was suffocating for air, as if he was suffering from an incredible pain.

Lan Wangji gripped Bichen and continued walking towards Wei Wuxian resolutely.

“Wei Ying, are you alright?” Lan Wangji asked worriedly, still several feet away but close enough to discern that the darkness was not a solid, still shadow enveloping the hollow.

As Lan Wangji drew closer, it seemed like a dark cloud that was pulsing with energy and radiating heat; pushing and pulling within itself as if something was trapped inside it. Despite being nearer now, Lan Wangji still couldn't differentiate between it and Wei Wuxian.

“Lan Zhan…n-” Wei Wuxian’s words were barely audible as if smothered by the darkness.

Lan Wangji clutched Bichen, ready for any outcome, as he crossed the last few feet between him and Wei Wuxian.

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Him…

Wei Wuxian’s body twitched. No, not him.

Him.

Wei Wuxian felt the now familiar taste of ash and bile rise up in his throat. He tried to push it back down and pull out words of caution instead. But all he could do was make feeble attempts to command it. Let him go.

Him.

Sparks of anger and arousal crackled on every inch of his skin, thinning the veil that held everything inside. Wei Wuxian could feel the resentful energy’s displeasure as it grew incensed at his resistance. He kept trying to subdue the energy, reign it in, tighten the leash; but it slipped right through his agitated fingers. No! Lan Zhan, leave-

Him!

When the angelic white robes were within arm’s reach, the boundary between Wei Wuxian and the world ultimately trembled and dissipated, letting out everything that he had amassed inside - fury, outrage, vitriol, violence, pain, loss, grief, fear, desperation, hopelessness, loneliness, despair, dread, shame, guilt, and so much more.

Him! Take him! He is ours.

And just like that, the madness was unleashed.

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Lan Wangji was stunned when an invisible force exploded with the force of a thousand suns, sending him flying back until he hit the wall and fell to the ground. He regained his composure in the blink of an eye and sent Bichen into the blackness, followed by notes from his guqin, to pierce through and part it so he could lay eyes on Wei Wuxian, ensure he was unharmed, to release him from the cage. But to his shock, Bichen never returned, and the musical notes bounced back from the impenetrable cloak.

The darkness seemed to grow bigger and heavier, creeping out of the alcove and spreading around the cave. Before Lan Wangji could make his next move, Wei Wuxian’s voice spoke again.

“Lan Zhan, ah Lan Zhan,” the shakiness had disappeared, replaced by a booming voice laced with a feral raspiness. “You never listen, do you?” Wei Wuxian scoffed.

Lan Wangji’s eyes widened as the dark nebula revealed a sinister silhouette slowly moving towards him.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji put his guqin aside and reached for the edge of the darkness with quivering fingers.

“Wei Ying?” Wei Wuxian huffed a laugh. “You’re here looking for Wei Ying?” His laughter turned hysterical. “Do you want to bring him back to the rightful path of cultivation? Do you want to cleanse him of evil, Lan Zhan?” He bellowed.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji called out as the fierce roar reverberated in the cave and through his own body.

He swallowed his fear and plunged his hand into the darkness, reaching for the looming figure that seemed so close.

“Ah,” Wei Wuxian’s voice turned amused, as if suddenly interested in something, “you want to touch, do you?” He chuckled. “As you wish, Lan Zhan…”

Suddenly, the dark cloud parted and reshaped itself. Lan Wangji’s eyes widened in horror as Wei Wuxian appeared in front of him, the resentful energy an eerie extension of his body. Lan Wangji took a step back as Wei Wuxian’s eyes glowed a fiery red and his smile turned crooked and sinister. He felt fear seep into his bones as Wei Wuxian’s hair fluttered wildly in the waves of resentful energy that swept and swirled around him. Try as he did, he couldn't find Wei Wuxian in the figure that loomed in front of him in the darkening cave. There was no recognition in Wei Wuxian’s possessed eyes.

This was not Wei Wuxian. This was the Yiling Laozu.

Lan Wangji regained his composure and summoned his courage, readying himself to fight the Yiling Laozu in whatever way he could, having been stripped of Bichen and his Guqin being rendered useless. He stood his ground even as sweat trickled down his temples. His chest heaved as he braced himself, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what the Yiling Laozu wanted. He stared at the black, smoky appendages that lit up with pulses of bloody, red sparks. They reached in all directions, expanding, stretching, twisting, darting about as if itching to grab onto something, as if searching for something, as if aching to pull, squeeze, constrict, restrain.

“What’s the matter, Lan Zhan?” The Yiling Laozu asked in amusement, his lips twitching as he smirked. “Don't like what you see?”

Lan Wangji’s fists clenched tightly as the tentacled form drew closer, somehow growing larger with each step. The whips of energy grew more restless and fearsome as they neared him, as if sensing Lan Wangji, excited by his presence and proximity. Lan Wangji felt the back of his eyes burn as hot tears welled up in them. The sunshine boy he fell in love with was nowhere to be found, sucked into the blackness of the resentful energy.

Suddenly, the heat of the resentment was close enough to singe Lan Wangji’s skin. He flinched involuntarily, eyes widening in terror, as the tentacles snaked up his arms and legs. Despite their smoky, wispy appearance, he could feel the touch of the appendages, he could feel their grip tightening around his limbs, he could feel their heat stinging and searing him. His eyes snapped up to the Yiling Laozu’s face that was twisted into a devilish smile as he sent forth more tentacles to immobilize Lan Wangji.

“Wei Ying!” Lan Wangji called out desperately. “You can fight this!” He urged his zhiji. “Stop this,” he beseeched, “stop this!”

The laugh that resonated around him in response, sent a cold shiver down Lan Wangji’s spine. As the tentacles wrapped around his entire body, crippling him completely, Lan Wangji felt a strange sensation fill his body, a sensation he had never felt before; he felt thrill and fear coalesce inside him. He feared for his life, he feared what was to come next, yet a strange arousal thrummed through him at the thought of being at the Yiling Laozu’s mercy.

“Ah, Lan Zhan,” the booming voice let out a low growl once the tentacles had Lan Wangji pinned against the wall, “you should have listened to him when he told you to stay away,” the Yiling Laozu stepped closer and pinched Lan Wangji’s chin with his fingers, tilting his face upwards as he looked down at him.

“Wei Ying…” Lan Wangji’s voice trembled, wincing as the tentacles wrapped around his neck.

“I’ve held back for far too long, Lan Zhan,” the Yiling Laozu leaned in until their lips were mere inches apart. “And now you’ve all but offered yourself to me on a silver platter,” his deep voice rasped. “Why should I deny myself any longer, hmm?”

Lan Wangji’s heart pounded in his chest as the tentacle around his neck choked him slowly. He was torn between screaming for it to stop and screaming for more. Before he could do either, the Yiling Laozu pulled away and the tentacles swooped in, enveloping every inch of Lan Wangji, burning through his robes, tearing them off him, choking him against the wall, ripping his headpiece and forehead ribbon away, until Lan Wangji was left utterly naked and exposed, struggling mid air, fighting for every breath.

“Beautiful,” the Yiling Laozu drew closer again, voice filled with awe and hunger. “So beautiful…” he ran his fingers down Lan Wangji’s chest. “What a shame it would be to stain this unblemished, milky skin,” the fingers traced around Lan Wangji’s hardening cock, “what a pity it would be to take this beautiful body apart,” they trailed down Lan Wangji’s legs, “how cruel would it be to strip you of every shred of your dignity and purity, Lan Zhan?”

The fingers trailed up the back of Lan Wangji’s legs as he dangled mid air and disappeared in the crevice of his ass curiously, making him squirm in embarrassment.

“I can't wait…” the Yiling Laozu’s eyes flared a bright red and a devilish smirk spread across his face.

As Lan Wangji fought the chokehold the tentacles had on him, the Yiling Laozu walked further into the cave, Lan Wangji’s helpless body following him, tied to him by the throbbing tentacles. Lan Wangji’s eyes darted about as he was taken to Wei Wuxian’s bed and dumped on it unceremoniously, freed of the tentacles for a brief moment. But before he could take a proper breath, before he could steady himself, before he could utter a single plea, the Yiling Laozu sent forth the greedy tentacles and Lan Wangji could do nothing but scream as they lifted him off the bed just enough to surround his body and crush it angrily.

The Yiling Laozu placed a knee on the bed and teased Lan Wangji’s filling cock, making Lan Wangji writhe and let out a soft groan. Lan Wangji wanted to protest, he wanted to tell Wei Wuxian to stop, he wanted to end the madness, but as soon as he opened his mouth to make an attempt, a tentacle rushed in and gagged him, reaching down his throat. Lan Wangji’s muffled protests were silenced as the tentacle throbbed in his mouth, moving out and in again, stretching his jaw until it hurt. Lan Wangji shuddered as he felt the energy grow thicker and more solid until it almost began to feel like flesh and taste like something vaguely familiar.

He let out a pained scream as all at once, the sharp, heated, tentacles pierced through his body, shattering every pore as they reached into the depths of Lan Wangji that no one ever had before. He threw his head back as his body floated above the bed, his arms limp, unable to do anything but let the tentacles rush into him, searing his insides, carving new paths inside him, making a formidable dwelling within him, marking him as theirs possessively. It staked its claim on every inch of him, inside and outside. Lan Wangji shut his eyes as tears slid down his temples and dripped onto the bed, soaking the rough fabric slowly.

The powerful streams of energy entered Lan Wangji through his mouth, parting his ass and thrusting into him mercilessly, pulsing and growing and manifesting inside him, stretching Lan Wangji to his limits. He felt the tentacles violate every crevice, every orifice. His body lurched and jerked as more tentacles breached his rim, pushing in, clawing at him. He could feel the appendages pulsating and vibrating and nearly lost all awareness as the tentacles thrust into him, turning his cries into moans, drawing all his shame and restraint out of him and replacing it with desire and craving.

“Lan Zhan,” the Yiling Laozu’s voice seemed deep yet distant, “you like this, don't you? Deep down, you want this, hmm?”

Lan Wangji coughed around the tentacle devouring his mouth and shook his head, tears flowing, wanting to stop the chaos, wanting to stop Wei Wuxian from losing himself in it forever, wanting to stop the spiral they were locked in. There was still hope to pull Wei Wuxian back from the brink, there had to be. He had to break this dark spell, he had to fight back, he had to risk his life if it meant saving Wei Wuxian’s.

“Hanguang Jun…” the Yiling Laozu growled and Lan Wangji felt his body drop onto the bed abruptly and he was mounted by the heavy, looming form of the feral man who looked at him with rage, eyes filled with a blood lust, lips parted with hunger, “You’ve made me wait for far too long,” he said breathily and spread Lan Wangji’s legs as the tentacles held him down, pinning his wrists and ankles to the bed.

Lan Wangji gasped for breath when the tentacles finally slipped out of his mouth but the breath was once again punched out of him as the Yiling Laozu crashed their lips together, swallowing his helpless moans. As the powerful tentacles plunged into Lan Wangji’s ass repeatedly, yanked his head back by his hair, coiled around his erection eagerly, Lan Wangji arched his back, pressing into the Yiling Laozu’s body impatiently. He mouthed at the Yiling Laozu’s lips and tongue, licking the wet heat of his mouth, struggling against the bondage that tightened with every moan. All at once, Lan Wangji was left empty as the tentacles pulled out of him, receding quickly, leaving him loose and abandoned.

“How could he resist you for so long?” The Yiling Laozu’s voice echoed in Lan Wangji’s ears as his hands roamed over Lan Wangji’s body frantically. “Such a waste,” his voice rumbled in Lan Wangji’s chest.

Lan Wangji was held down as his legs were pushed up to his chest, as feverish lips devoured his own, as a thick, heavy girth entered him, pushing into him in one long, deep stab. Lan Wangji’s leaking cock ached for release as the Yiling Laozu rammed into him, once, twice, thrice, again and again, repeatedly, mercilessly. He fought to hold onto the last shred of awareness and restraint, but his body and mind surrendered to the man who had already defeated his heart.

It was still Wei Wuxian. The Yiling Laozu had spawned from the flesh and bones of his Wei Ying. As Wei Wuxian plunged into him over and over, Lan Wangji could feel the power of the resentful energy, he could sense the pain and torture Wei Wuxian was in, he could understand the trauma that Wei Wuxian was living with. As the resentful energy surrounded him, enveloped him, encompassed him, Lan Wangji finally saw everything.

Wei Wuxian falling into the void.

Wei Wuxian dying.

Yiling Laozu rising.

Yiling Laozu. Lan Wangji prayed.

Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji chanted.

Wei Ying. Lan Wangji moaned.

His Wei Ying. How could he not have seen it? How could he not have understood?

Lan Wangji’s entire body seized as he was suddenly overcome with realization and release. He let out an endless groan as he came in warm spurts that splattered across his stomach. He moaned as Wei Wuxian rammed into him, carving a home inside him, whispering hoarsely in his ear.

“Can you see it now, Hanguang Jun?” The voice growled. “Can you feel what he felt?”

“Wei Ying,” Lan Wangji finally managed to speak once his body was spent. “Wei Ying…” he whispered as he lay limp, Wei Wuxian’s robes fluttering as his cock slammed into Lan Wangji’s tired body.

“We need you, Lan Zhan,” the Yiling Laozu hissed as he pounded into him harder, faster, deeper, “we need all of you.”

“Take then,” Lan Wangji fought the restraints, he wanted to touch Wei Wuxian, he wanted to hold him, he wanted to never let go.

“Even if we kill you?” The voice growled as it threw Lan Wangji’s legs over strong shoulders, lifting his hips off the bed.

Lan Wangji moaned as Wei Wuxian thrust into him relentlessly, taking shamelessly, leaving Lan Wangji no choice, sparing him no mercy. With each thrust, Lan Wangji felt his vision blur, the peripheries growing darker and darker until it was all black. His body stopped struggling against the tentacles and shaky words fell from his lips before he gave into the pull of the darkness.

“My life is yours to take,” Lan Wangji whispered before drowning in the void.

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Wei Wuxian’s eyes felt heavy and like they were sealed shut. Every part of him was weighed down by an invisible weight, he was weary and tired to the bone, his body was on fire and his extremities were stretched to the point of pain. As he sluggishly forced his eyelids open, Wei Wuxian’s eyes burned as something warm trickled down and over them. His vision was blurred as salty droplets slid down his face and dripped onto his lips. He couldn't tell what they were, whether they were sweat or blood or his tears.

As his vision cleared slowly and the fog receded from his mind, everything began coming into sharp focus. Wei Wuxian saw a misty darkness all around him. He could feel the pulsing resentful energy simmer down and managed to gather the last reserves of his strength to part the smoky curtain and rein in the gently floating energy. When the shroud split open, Wei Wuxian’s eyes fell on a lifeless, naked figure lying prone on his bed.

“La-Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian’s chest clenched and his throat went dry. “Lan Zhan…” panic seized him and he began walking closer to the limp body.

He reached for his zhiji but his hand froze inches away from the body. All at once, everything came back to him, flooding his mind with flashes of everything that had happened; everything he had done.

Wei Wuxian’s heart stopped beating, his breath choked in his throat, his body went numb. He took a few steps back, recoiling from Lan Wangji’s bruised body. He had never seen Lan Wangji appear this vulnerable and fragile. He had done this to him. He was the reason Lan Wangji had been reduced to this. He did this. He did all of it. It was his fault. He was to blame.

As he retreated, Wei Wuxian felt the resentful energy move like wispy threads around him. It was calm, quiet, and content. It had finally fed well. He had fed it. Wei Wuxian had unleashed the power and hunger of the resentful energy on Lan Wangji and nothing would be the same ever again. He couldn't take it back, he couldn't undo it, he couldn't fix any of it any more.

This time, Wei Wuxian knew what the hot, salty taste on his lips was. As the tears flowed, Wei Wuxian’s entire body trembled. He remained rooted to his spot, unable to walk away from Lan Wangji, unable to draw any nearer to his zhiji.

Just then, Lan Wangji stirred. Wei Wuxian noticed his fingers flinch ever so slightly, gently trembling before falling limp again. Wei Wuxian hoped against hope and moved closer hesitantly. His eyes widened as Lan Wangji’s body twitched again and his chest heaved visibly. Suddenly, Lan Wangji’s eyes flew open and he took a long, pained gasp as if surfacing for air after an eternity underwater. Before Wei Wuxian could think, he rushed forward and slid his arm under Lan Wangji, cradling his neck and shoulders as he struggled to breathe.

“Wei…Wei Yi…” Lan Wangji’s hoarse voice sputtered and coughed as he tried to sit up, his eyes screwing shut in pain.

“Lan Zhan, don't move,” Wei Wuxian’s voice shook as he steadied Lan Wangji.

“Wei Ying…” Lan Wangji breathed heavily as his eyes opened again, slowly this time.

Wei Wuxian made a feeble attempt to meet Lan Wangji’s gaze as Lan Wangji raised his eyes to look up at him, but his courage failed him and he looked away. Before Lan Wangji could speak again, Wei Wuxian laid him down gently and walked away. He retrieved one of his own robes and returned to Lan Wangji’s side. He draped it over Lan Wangji’s naked body, trying his best but failing to not linger on the marks and bruises that covered all of it.

He sat at the edge of the bed, his back to Lan Wangji, at a loss for words, knowing that none of his words would even matter. There was nowhere to go from here. Even if he fell to his knees and begged, he was not worthy of Lan Wangji’s forgiveness. The demons he had carried within him, ever since he had walked out of the Burial Mounds, had finally won. They had promised him revenge. Had promised them justice in return.

It had all been a lie.

Deep down he had known it. There was no end to their hunger. Their need to consume was bound to outgrow what he was willing to give. Wei Wuxian had lied to himself. He had lied to everyone. He had lied to Lan Wangji. He had made everyone believe that he was the one in control, including himself.

It had all been a lie.

“Wei Ying…” Lan Wangji’s gentle, deep voice called out to him.

Wei Wuxian remained still and silent.

“Wei Ying…” Lan Wangji’s fingers touched Wei Wuxian’s arm, weakly sliding down to the crook of his elbow as if unable to hold themselves up.

Wei Wuxian swallowed his shame and turned around slowly.

“Lan Zhan…” Wei Wuxian’s words spilled out shakily between choked sobs, “I…I…”

“Look at me,” Lan Wangji said calmly, with a softness in his voice that Wei Wuxian no longer deserved.

“I’m a coward, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian laughed bitterly. “I don't think I can ever meet your eyes again.”

“Wei-” Lan Wangji began but Wei Wuxian couldn't stand it any longer.

“I should have ended it a long time back…” Wei Wuxian said resolutely. “I should have returned to my grave after I finished what I came here for. I came from hell, it’s time I go back to it,” he stood up. “There is no place for me in this world anymore. The Yiling Laozu has served his purpose.”

The grip on Wei Wuxian’s elbow tightened and he heard Lan Wangji wince. Wei Wuxian turned around quickly as Lan Wangji attempted to sit up, hissing in pain. He reached for Lan Wangji hurriedly and held him upright as he swayed unsteadily.

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed worriedly. “You shouldn't-”

“If Wei Ying had returned after the war ended,” Lan Wangji said through panted breaths, “who would have saved these Wen refugees?”

Wei Wuxian looked at Lan Wangji at the unexpected words of kindness and when their eyes finally met, Lan Wangji gazed at him softly and placed a hand on Wei Wuxian’s cheek.

“If I had returned,” Wei Wuxian’s voice quivered, “you wouldn't have-”

“My life is yours to take,” Lan Wangji interrupted Wei Wuxian with a whisper.

“Lan Zhan…” Wei Wuxian’s tears gushed down his face. “I don't deserve any of it. I am a wretched-”

“I know the truth now,” Lan Wangji’s brows furrowed and his gaze turned distressed. “I know, Wei Ying,” his hand slid down and cupped Wei Wuxian’s neck. “I know everything.”

“Wha-what do you mean…” Wei Wuxian tried to step back but Lan Wangji held him in place.

“Your golden core,” Lan Wangji’s eyes turned red and watery as he raised his other hand and placed it on Wei Wuxian’s chest.

Wei Wuxian froze.

“How…how did you know?” Wei Wuxian stammered, panic rising in his chest.

“I felt it…I could feel all of you when we…” Lan Wangji replied, his eyes lowering for a brief moment, “I felt everything you feel.”

Wei Wuxian felt a scream tear through his chest but stifled it inside.

“Wei Ying…” Lan Wangji met Wei Wuxian’s eyes again, “you don't have to do this alone anymore.”

Wei Wuxian’s gaze turned icy.

“I know now,” Lan Wangji’s face looked troubled as Wei Wuxian remained silent. “Forgive me for not understanding you,” his voice was heavy with guilt, eyes helpless as they searched Wei Wuxian for something, anything.

Wei Wuxian peeled Lan Wangji’s hand off his chest and pulled away from him silently.

“Wei Ying…” Lan Wangji looked at him in confusion.

“I don't need your pity, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian said numbly. “I chose this path. I chose to walk it. I have no one else to blame but myself.”

“You do not have my pity,” Lan Wangji said, his face filled with determination and defiance. “You have my loyalty…you have my devotion…” his eyes softened and his voice grew more tender, “you have me…” he whispered, “...forever.”

“Hanguang Jun,” Wei Wuxian let out a bitter laugh and shook his head, “...aah the noble Hanguang Jun…still not giving up hope, hmm?”

“There is hope,” Lan Wangji said after a long silence, eyes trained on the floor.

“There is no hope,” Wei Wuxian’s voice was laced with resignation.

“Can you feel the resentful energy?” Lan Wangji looked up and asked.

“What?” Wei Wuxian raised an eyebrow. “Of course, I can. I can always feel it inside me.”

“Does it feel the same now?” Lan Wangji continued calmly. “As it did…before today?”

Wei Wuxian was about to respond when Lan Wangji gave him a pointed look. He paused and took a deep breath, searching within, reaching for the energy that always clawed at him. He stared at Lan Wangji as he felt the ribbons of energy swirl inside him, unexpectedly tame, almost reverent.

“La-Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian murmured as he summoned the energy, shivering at the silence in his mind. “I…it’s…” he stumbled over his emotions as the energy danced around him, serene and steady, “...how?”

“Dual cultivation,” Lan Wangji replied, face tranquil, gaze soft, lips relaxed into a small smile.

“That’s no-not po-possible,” Wei Wuxian stammered, and the resentful energy enveloped him slowly, in a protective embrace. “To dual cultivate…both cultivators need to have a golden core,” he mumbled hastily, shaking his head in disbelief.

“It is not always necessary,” Lan Wangji explained gently. “Your resentful energy is powerful spiritual energy as well. It resides in your core as well. It-”

“N-no…” Wei Wuxian took a step back, new tears sliding out his burning eyes, “it shouldn't have worked…in order to exchange energies, both cultivators need to consent to-”

“I did…” Lan Wangji said quietly, “my life is truly yours to take, Wei Ying.”

“For the exchange to complete…successfully…” Wei Wuxian blinked through the tears and shook his head, “the spiritual energies must be…infused with…the…cultivators must be…”

“In love,” Lan Wangji said tenderly when Wei Wuxian left the words hanging, lingering in the growing space between them.

Wei Wuxian stared at Lan Wangji as the resentful energy hummed in his ears soothingly. He could still feel its lethality, just a whistle away if he so desired. But now, he could also feel its strength as it held him up, holding him together, as his walls began to shatter.

Lan Wangji shifted on the bed in an attempt to get off but keeled over as soon as he stood up on his legs.

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian rushed forward and caught Lan Wangji in his arms before he could fall to the floor. “What are you doing?” He pushed Lan Wangji back onto the bed carefully. “Don't move yet, Lan Zhan….you’re…you still…need to heal.”

Lan Wangji held onto Wei Wuxian firmly, not letting him pull away this time, keeping him between his legs as he sat at the edge of the bed.

“So do you,” Lan Wangji looked up at Wei Wuxian. “I can help.”

“I can't do this again to you, Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian smiled sadly. “I can't let you carry the burden of my choices. This resentful energy will-”

“My golden core is powerful enough to withstand the threads that seep out of you and enter me,” Lan Wangji frowned stubbornly.

Wei Wuxian blinked at the sudden change in Lan Wangji’s tone and expression.

“La-Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian blinked a few more times. “What do you…are you saying…” his face heated up.

“Mn,” Lan Wangji nodded simply but Wei Wuxian didn't miss the way his ears had turned red.

“You…” Wei Wuxian gulped even as heat pooled in his stomach, “you would…you want to…do this again?”

“Does Wei Ying not want to?” Lan Wangji looked up at him and asked softly.

“Lan Zhan!” Wei Wuxian exclaimed. “Are you…are you really pouting?!” His eyes widened as he looked down at Lan Wangji.

“Ridiculous,” Lan Wangji looked away and muttered.

Wei Wuxian felt a surge of emotions swell inside him and overwhelm him. The resentful energy reached out and engulfed him and Lan Wangji before he could even tell it to. Wei Wuxian tilted Lan Wangji’s face back towards him by his chin and smiled and shook his head.

“Lan Zhan, ah Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian sighed and wiped his tears with his free hand. “The noble Hanguang Jun…making the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good,” he laughed. “Offering himself up to the Yiling Laozu.”

“I am a willing offering,” Lan Wangji’s lips parted as he responded breathily.

“Is that so?” Wei Wuxian leaned closer and smirked.

“It is,” Lan Wangji nodded minutely and replied.

“Even after you’ve seen all the demons inside me?” Wei Wuxian whispered, inching closer.

“Even so,” Lan Wangji whispered back, his gaze dropping to Wei Wuxian’s lips.

“What if I let you down again?” Wei Wuxian hovered over Lan Wangji’s lips.

“You never let me down before,” Lan Wangji caressed Wei Wuxian’s cheek, “and you never will.”

“You trust me after everything I have done,” Wei Wuxian leaned into the touch, “...why?”

“Because I love you,” Lan Wangji whispered as they drew close enough to feel each other’s warm breaths fan their lips. “And you love me.”

Wei Wuxian closed his eyes and smiled as tears slid down his cheeks. He let the silence linger as Lan Wangji’s words pierced through his armor and soaked him to the bone. He let himself believe the words, drown in their emotions, be comforted by their tenderness. He let out a shaky laugh and rested his forehead against Lan Wangji’s.

“I do…” he whispered at long last, “I do…I do…” he closed his eyes and the gap between them and enveloped Lan Wangji’s lips.

As the kiss deepened, Lan Wangji fell back onto the bed, pulling Wei Wuxian with him. Wei Wuxian could feel the resentful energy recede into the background, allowing him to immerse himself in the sensations. He felt the kiss send sparks down every inch of his body, he felt the softness of Lan Wangji’s lips, he felt the warmth of Lan Wangji’s body beneath him, he traced every curve and line of Lan Wangji’s body with his fingers, he sighed as Lan Wangji opened up to him once again, welcoming him with open arms. And this time, he felt every drop of love that coursed through both their bodies as they surrendered to pure bliss.