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When Dogs Bark

Chapter Text

The streets are bustling, crowded. Buzzing with eager activity, idle chatter. People, passing by at leisurely paces wear smiles, glee uninhibited behind their eyes. The warmth of their happiness radiates through their smiles, their exuberant laughter. 

The oppressive atmosphere of war and scathing politics, of wild rumours and the resentment of the Burial Mounds do not linger. 

In fact, Wei Wuxian would think it never existed to begin with. 

Everything is muted beyond the pounding of his heart in his ears and of his haggard breaths. Admidst the crowd, which is too dense, all too close, Wei Wuxian feels warm- too warm. Hot. Sweat beads along his forehead, lazily running a path down his check to his neck. His fisted hands are uncomfortably clammy, dirty nails digging desperately into his palms. The sting is nothing compared to Wei Wuxian's past injuries, but it's enough to keep him grounded. Keep him sane because something is wrong.

So utterly, terribly, terrifyingly wrong.

The streets seem normal. The crowd seems harmless. Wei Wuxian seems fine. But he was eaten alive not even moments ago. 

He remembers it so vividly. Pain, a long-time companion, flaring along exposed skin. Teeth, and grasping hands and gruelling groans clamoring on-top of his weak, frail body. Flesh ripping, blood overflowing, breaths haggard. And anguish. So much anguish. 

For Wen Qing. Wen Ning. A-Yuan.

For himself.

He was dying- dead. And now? Now he stands perfectly fine in the middle of a street where war has not tainted the lands. Where the Yiling Patriarch's presence hasn't cursed the common folk with his presence. Were he's alive and breathing. 

If Wei Wuxian could think beyond the haze of confusion and fear, he would curse himself for even failing the simple task of killing himself. 

Now of course, Wei Wuxian could have miraculously survived the seige of the Burial Mounds. Of course, the city of Yiling could simply be having a day were tourists flutter across the streets and the market vendors eagerly profit from their sold produce. All plausible reasons for- for his current situation

But Wei Wuxian is suppose to be dead. 

The vendor - a long-time resident of Yiling, Wei Wuxian can't not recognise him- that sold him and his family potatoes no longer has grey hair. No longer has wrinkles adorning his withering face, no longer has the tell-tail signs of laughter etched into the corner of his eyes. He's too young. 

And the environment; the trees, the air, the buildings, the flowers, are too abundant. To clean. 

Yiling is basking in youth, despite the resentment emitting from the Burial Mounds. This Yiling is not his Yiling. 

Quickly, because Wei Wuxian can't bare for a moment longer to stand upright, to witness the wary glances no doubtedly spared his way, Wei Wuxian strides for a back alley. He lets himself lean against the cool brick, the chill of the wall grounding admidst his panic. 

Were is he? What happened?

He thinks to himself, that this is some weird fevor dream, that he's moments from dying and his body's gone into shock, his minds shut down and conjured up some weird illusion to ease his soul. He thinks that maybe laying a seige isn't enough, that killing his family, his child wasn't enough. That ruining his life wasn't enough, that the cultivation world hadn't had their fill of him just yet and were testing some newly invented talismans to torment him. 

Of course, that last particular theory is disproven quickly. Wei Wuxian wills his hands to stop shaking and sketches a dispelling talisman in the air. The sigils spark with a red glow before fizzling out in a way that indicates that no, this is not an illusion. This is not the effects of some type of cultivation. 

Somehow, that scares him more. 

He slides down against the wall and onto the solid ground, the shadows cast over the alley affords a cool reprieve from the scorching sun blaring down. Wei Wuxian hangs his head, tries to hold back tears and fails. They fall unbidden down his checks, mingling with his sweat, hidden behind his greasy curtain of inky-black hair. The haze upon his mind grows, reaches further for his consciousness, and Wei Wuxian finds himself falling into it. With it, he grows numb. 

When Wei Wuxian comes to, his eyes are dry, his head is pounding but he's stoped trembling. He can think. The sun begins to descend behind the horizon, the sky dyed a myriad of pinks and oranges Wei Wuxian hasn't had the luxury of witnessing behind the resentful clouds that lingered above the Burial Mounds.

He is displeased to know that he's still...here. That whatever has happened, it has not been the conjuring of his own mind. 

Wei Wuxian gives out a weary sigh, drops his head back against the wall with a thud and gently closes his eyes. Breathes deeply, lets the fresh air wash over him before he stands on unsteady feet, grasping the wall for balance. It's a half-hearted decision that has him returning to the streets. The people now sparse, the day-time vendors closing up, making room for the night-market to set up. 

He simply walks around. Taking everything in yet remaining on high alert. He may not have Chengqing on hand, but he hadn't survived the past 5 years without a golden core because his only way of defence was a bamboo flute- albeit a spiritual flute but still a flute.

His steps pick up pace as he brutally tries to bury any thoughts of his golden core. He ignores the small voice in the back of his head saying he regrets giving it up. He ignores the ache that fact causes in his heart. He ignores the bud of warmth that fills that empty space inside of him as he carries on. 

The buildings become less dense the longer he travels. Paths subtly shift from worn cobble to gravel. Wei Wuxian keeps walking until the wildlife around him seem to lose its vitality, until he's standing at the edge of Yiling gazing quizzically towards the summit of the Burial Mounds. 

He has an idea, of what has happened. No matter his reluctance to admit such an idea, it is one he needs to consider. Afterall, he lives in a world were people can fly on swords. Where the greatest innovations of his time originate from sigils and markings scribbled on narrow pieces of paper. Where monsters are created from the resentment of others and lurk beneath the night sky. Yes, no matter it's unlikely hood, no matter his reluctance to accept that there is a chance that something like this has happened, it's still a possibility all in the same: Time Travel

That said. He has two options. Neither seem as enticing as dea-

-Wait. Make that three options. 

Wei Wuxian stands there for an upstanding amount of time. The machinations of life continue on in the background as he contemplates what to do. His mind still whispers poisonous words about him, the haze is still present, but he can't stand there all night. 

He can go back to the Burial Mounds. No matter whether or not Wei Wuxian has...been displaced through time, the Burial Mounds seems like a safe option. Well, not safe persay, but by far the best option. A breeze plays at the locks of his hair, at the frail ribbon keeping the wildness together as he makes a decision.

He makes a start to travel the gravel path further towards the Burial Mounds and his mind clears a little about his decision.

This way, he can't hurt anyone. This way, he can't expect anything, cant curse his loved ones with his unruly affection and incessant company. This way is safe. Is good. Is practical.

Already Wei Wuxian loathes the lonliness. The silence. 

He doesn't know whether its a curse or a blessing when a dog comes barreling towards him. The mutt is big, brown coat shining against the light, molars salivating menacingly. A low growl echoes from the dogs belly and Wei Wuxian's eyes widen in unbridled fear. 

He turns and runs, the dog close on his heals. Feet hammering against the path, he ignores everything - the incredulous stares, the looks of concern - but the terrifying barking in the distance and his own heaving breaths. 

Turning a corner, Wei Wuxian's eyes dart everywhere for somewhere safe. Somewhere to hide from the beast. His feat keep moving, eyes frantically assessing every shadow and corner that has potential for shelter. 

But there's nothing, Wei Wuxian can feel tears begin to prick at the corners of his eyes, the panic more firmly set in his chest. 

He turns another corner and sees a ribbon of red fluttering in the wind. A pleasant laugh echoing against the empty streets. Wei Wuxian can't make out anything beyond the blur in his eyes, beyond a muddle of color. But he darts for the blurs anyway, the blurs that scream safety somewhere in among his fearful mind. 

The figures turn to the sound of his pitiful whispers, Wei Wuxian can't make their faces but nonetheless he scurries behind broad shoulders and grip deftly at the back of the figures robes. Words for help bubble within his throat but no sound makes its way out through his teeth but a choked whimper. Wei Wuxian scrunches his eyes closed and waits for the dogs teeth to sink into his legs.

The growling comes closer. Voices of concern drift through his ears and he waits. And waits. And waits. 

No pain comes, but a gentle touch on his shoulder causes his own grip to unconsciously relax. The hand rests there like a grounding weight, comforting circles drawn against his robes and Wei Wuxian finds he can breath again. 

"There, there, sweet one. It's gone now," a charming, feminine voice soothes. Wei Wuxian finds himself relaxing in response, his shoulders untensing and throat working to swallow the lump stuck in his throat. 

He slowly opens his eyes, blinks to adjust to the sudden influx of light and slumps into himself to take a few deep breaths. He stays like that; the comforting, conjuling touch rubbing circles against his shoulder, his head buried between the shoulder blades of the stranger in front of him. 

An undetermined set of time passes when a small squeaky voice questions, "Mama, what's going on?". And oh, it's a child. 

Wei Wuxian's eyes widen and just like that he realises he must have burdened a family. Must have caused trouble for them. He scrambles away from the soothing touch that he misses instantly, and the safety of the man's shoulders. He lifts his head, words of apology and thanks on the tip of his tongue. 

"I'm so sor-," and he freezes. Wei Wuxian's eyes widen impossibly more so, in disbelief, in longing and in fear. He recognises these people.

The two strangers - their not, not really - turn to him in concern only to stiffen. The woman gapes like a fish out of water, her face frozen in confusion and disbelief. The man chokes and what come out of his mouth is a tentative name, laced in confusion.

"Wei Ying?" The man, Wei Changze whispers whilst glancing frantically towards his son - the little boy perched on a donkey - and his son, the 22 year old demonic cultivator trembling from a dog

"Wha- how," Wei Wuxian doesn't really think, he can't explain this. Didn't think meeting them was a possibility. How they were even able to recognise him is beyond reason but they do. Wei Wuxian's heart pounds in his chest like proud drums preparing for another war. 

Everything happens too quickly. Everything is happening too quickly. 

"Mama....baba," Wei Wuxian hoarsly croaks out. His parents gasp is suprise. Then from there he's sobbing because these are his parents. That feeling of safety, one he has never felt before, came from them

But let it be known: in what feels like the last 24 hours but has been in actuality three months, Wei Wuxian has seen his siblings ashes be scattered, has fought Lan Wangji (his zhiji) on a rooftop with the intent to harm each other, has lost the remaining members of his family, his*son, has died himself, apparantly timetraveled and met his long dead parents. 

 

It's too much, too soon. And Wei Wuxian sees oblivion.