Actions

Work Header

I whatever you, I will stand by your side

Chapter Text

The Jin sect was plunged into chaos.

Specifically, one of the floors of the immense construction. On this floor, disciples guarded the doors of a room, preparing for a possible attack. They were outside, listening to the screams that echoed inside the room. By some miracle, the screams didn't get far enough out of the hallways. However, servants had already heard what was going on and one or two had already seen what had happened before the noises started. They began to spread rumours, rumors that were so spicy that they didn't take long to reach the ears of the townspeople. One day was all it took for everyone around LanLingJin to know what was going on... Or, at least, they thought they did. The liquor saleswoman heard from her husband's niece that the Jin sect, in an unbreakable alliance with the Lan sect, was torturing Nie MingJue. The sworn brother of the leaders of the two sects. Reasons? Disagreements. Power.

The brothel owner, on the other hand, stated with certainty that YiLing LaoZu had finally revived from the depths of hell on earth that was his lair, where an army of ferocious corpses was. He said that Wei WuXian finally decided to take revenge for the trap they set for him on Qiongqi path. The cruel trap that killed his possible son and made General Ghost kill Jin ZiXun to pay for taking the life of his master's successor. Others said it was his own son, already grown up, wanting to take revenge in his father's place. But many people were certain that YiLing LaoZu was a thing of the past. The man had been gone for five years! Why would he come back so suddenly?

The answer is simple: he was obliged.

Inside that room from which exuded a dark and tense atmosphere were, in fact, only three people. Lan-zongzhu, Lan XiChen, in his impeccable, gleaming white clothes, but with a worried expression and something bordering on impatience on his dazzling face; Jin-zongzhu, Jin GuangYao, with his snobbish and luxurious gold robes with beige fabric details and lovely touches made white, with a grief and despair well-intentioned and too good to be true... And, well; YiLing LaoZu, Wei WuXian, who wore two single crumpled robes, one gray and one black over it. The quality of the clothing was questionable, and the few pieces of unraveling were also quite suspicious. His face, however, remained as beautiful as it ever was…okay, maybe he was even paler than he used to be. Slimmer, too. And with some dark circles under the eyes. But he was the all-powerful and evil YiLing LaoZu, it's not like he slept on top of a rock near a blood pool.

There was one little extra detail about the man dressed in black: he was tied up. And detained.

Oh, he had also been kidnapped.

"I don't know what I'm doing here! I have no idea why you would do something like that!", he struggled in the ropes that imprisoned his body. Those ropes were invented for the purpose of partially sealing a cultivator's spiritual energy. It's not like it made much difference since Wei WuXian didn't have a golden core. However, it didn't change the fact that he was trapped and powerless to move. Lan XiChen raised both his hands and made a gesture that asked Wei WuXian to calm down, but instead, the action only made the man angrier. They kidnapped him! After all that pandemonium years ago, after all that ruckus, they had the audacity to kidnap him! If that's not having a death wish, Wei WuXian didn't know what was. Lan-zongzhu walked in short, slow steps towards the man dressed in black who was struggling on the floor.

"Wei gongzi, please calm down and listen to what we have to say–" the older man tried to start and defuse the situation, but Wei WuXian let out an exclamation filled with indignation, something indecipherable between a laugh and a grunt.

"'Listen'? Pardon my language, but do you really dare to ask me to do the thing you've never done when it comes to me and others?!" he yelled, still unable to believe that this situation was really happening. He knew the sects were somewhat abusive of power. Right. But he couldn't believe they had reached the level of kidnapping someone! Someone who was merely shopping! They didn't even have a plausible excuse to capture him. Wei WuXian couldn't stay away from Burial Mounds for a long period of time. Absolutely everything about that situation was terribly unfavorable. Stopping struggling, the man took a serious stand. He could feel his heart pounding against his chest, but his facial expression was detached and merciless. The ambient air suddenly became dense.

"I didn't do anything wrong. Let me go. Don't make me use violence.", Wei WuXian threatened, looking straight into the eyes of the sect leaders who were there. Lan XiChen was momentarily still and Jin GuangYao seemed to swallow hard. After all, even though they had disarmed him from his flute, he was the founder of demonic cultivation. A whistle was all it took for some resentful spirit to appear. The only reason he still hadn't done that was that he truly wasn't in the mood to fight. When he imposed himself, he always ended up coming out as the wrong one in the situation. Whether from his use of demonic cultivation or being the son of a servant. However, standing still and letting it happen was certainly not an option he could choose.

"We beg you", suddenly, Jin GuangYao took a big step forward. His eyes were pleading and glowed as bright as the gold that covered the room. Lan XiChen stared at his sworn brother, watching him have to humble himself again, even now being a sect leader. ZeWu-jun sighed. Wei WuXian almost laughed. Yes, how awful to see your best friend forced to beg for something... But capture someone and leave them tied to the ground for your own benefit? Not so tragic. Seriously. He felt trapped in a circus. "We are begging for understanding and empathy. So please, we don't want to harm you or the people you live with." Jin-zongzhu solemnly clarified, something in his posture gave Wei WuXian the impression he was about to kneel beside him and offer a polite and respectful bow. Meng Yao... The recent Jin GuangYao, recently appointed leader of the Jins, was certainly good at begging and negotiating. Understanding and empathy, hun? Wei WuXian remembers hearing Fourth Uncle babbling about how much he hated people who demanded qualities from other people that they themselves didn't have.

"Oh, really? Do any of you remember last time, or am I the one who's still 'crazy', 'violent' and 'ruthless'?" the black clothed man teased, raising an eyebrow at the two sect leaders. Jin GuangYao's face deformed into a hard, petrified smile and Lan XiChen's face turned pale. Wei WuXian dared to say that there was even a little anger behind Lan-zongzhu's whitened face, but he couldn't decipher why.

It was clear that they remembered. It was impossible to forget.

Jin Ling's party day, Jin RuLan. It was one of the biggest uproars in the cultivation world. Rumors were running wild, people taking YiLing LaoZu's side, people celebrating his supposed death. Jin ZiXuan returning to LanLingJin with Jin ZiXun dead in his arms, announcing to everyone present at his son's celebration that, before he passed away, his cousin had set a trap against his wife's exclusive guest and killed him. Jiang YanLi wept inconsolably. The three hundred disciples who were in the ambush speculated how YiLing LaoZu threw himself in front of an arrow that would hit his supposed son. The arrow entered the man's chest and struck the heart. As a result, five more - some said ten, others said twelve - arrows hit the man's body, who collapsed on the ground immediately.

It was complete chaos for months in the cultivation world. Endless political battles over who would get the Yin tiger tally, who would go to Burial Mounds to substantiate the truth. Nie MingJue was furious with Jin GuangShan, the Lans momentarily disappeared, Jiang WanYin said that Wei WuXian's inventions should be from the Jiang sect... Only for, after four hellish months, Jin GuanShan, along with Jin GuangYao, won the argument. They went to Burial Mounds to take possession of the tiger amulet and ended up finding the same corpses that surrounded the entrance fiercely standing around the place. A very alive Wei WuXian walked in unsteady, limping steps towards them and glared at them. His irises were a bright red so intense they could have been mistaken for two bottomless pools of blood.

Some Jins died. However, for some reason, YiLing LaoZu let them get away with it. Wei WuXian tightened the protection around his house by seventy percent and was never seen again.

The memories of those agonizing months when he was in a deep coma and just a few days before the Jins came to his house to steal his inventions made him angry. However... The truth is that he got tired of raising his voice, fighting, trying to be heard and trying to convince people who are spontaneously ignorant. Wei WuXian was exhausted and fed up with it. There was nothing he wanted more than peace. He didn't want to fight, so it was better to avoid trouble, but... apparently, when he didn't go after trouble, trouble would come to him. Or rather, he would be dragged into it. The three men in the room fell into a deep silence, however, the immense doors to the room swung open, revealing the disfigured silhouette of someone Wei WuXian once knew very well.

"Wei-Xiong!!!" the man shouted in a whimpering voice that echoed throughout the room. He ran towards the sect leaders and the demonic cultivator. The black-clad person's expression quickly changed from fervent hatred to bewilderment as two soft, delicate hands helped him up off the floor.

"Huai... Nie Er-gongzi?", Wei WuXian asked, looking into the face of an older version of his old friend. His face was red and his eyelashes were glued together due to the absurd amount of tears rolling down his cheeks. Nie HuaiSang struggled to pull out the ropes of spirit energy that held Wei WuXian, leaving both LianFang-zun and ZeWu-jun stunned and petrified.

"Wei-Xiong!" the man dressed in varying shades of green exclaimed as soon as he managed to free him from the ropes, grabbing the sleeve of Wei WuXian's cheap and worn-out outfit. "Please! Please help me! It's– It's my brother! Da-ge is dying! He's getting closer to death every minute we spend here!!!" Nie HuaiSang yelled in a pitiful tone, stamping his feet impatiently on the luxurious floor. Wei WuXian couldn't help but take in a large amount of air and look horrified at the face of the man who had dug his nails into the sleeve of his clothes.

"ChiFeng-zun?!", Wei WuXian asked, dumbfounded. Nie MingJue was one of the strongest men the demonic cultivator had ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on in his entire life, and he knew more than half of the cultivation world. Recognizing the fact that that man-shaped wall was on his deathbed, and that they called Wei WuXian to settle the matter, was disgusting and frightening to say the least. Nie HuaiSang nodded frantically.

"Yes- Yes!!! You may be our last and only hope!! It's a QI deviation because of the resentful saber energy!", Wei WuXian felt the air leaking from his lungs against his will. At least now, he knew what would be strong enough to have left ChiFeng-zun's foot in the grave.

"What... a QI deviation?! How should I solve this?!", Wei WuXian exclaimed, finally understanding why he was forced to go to the place. What? Did they think that just because he knew how to deal with resentful energy and spirits, he could deal with the human emotions that generated the energy?! Wei WuXian was a dead body expert! In communicating and doing tests on dead bodies that no longer felt pain. A living being, a human being – This was a fundamentally different matter! When he made a move to walk away, Nie HuaiSang tugged on his sleeve even more tightly.

"I don't know! You're the genius YiLing LaoZu, the founder of demonic cultivation! You know how to handle resentful energy! Our Sect's saber is full of it! You should be able to do something that helps a little!" The scandalous cry of the man in green clothes grew with every sentence he spoke, as did the fat tears that streamed down his rosy cheeks. Wei WuXian felt a pain in his chest, as if a needle had stuck him. He remembered how much his old friend feared the older brother he had, yet he loved him more than anything.

"...HuaiSang, look, I–", with his anger fading and his natural empathy taking over, Wei WuXian began to explain in a gentle and understanding way. But Nie HuaiSang didn't seem interested in his kindness. He knelt on the floor shamelessly, not letting go of the man's sleeve.

"Please!!!! I'm willing to do anything you ask and pay my weight in blood! Just try!!!" he pleaded, looking into Wei WuXian's eyes as if the pain he felt could be conveyed.

"...", not knowing how to respond, the man dressed in black decided to really consider the request. Jin GuangYao looked directly at Wei WuXian with immense, almost hysterical, obsessive anticipation. Lan XiChen alternated his gaze between the three men in front of him, patiently waiting for an answer. Giving up consumed Wei WuXian, who placed a hand on Nie HuaiSang's shoulder and patted him a few times.

"Aiya, get off the floor. There's no need for all this. I... can see if I can help.", he gave up. Lan XiChen sighed and let his eyes close as if he had rid himself of death. The eyes of the man kneeling on the ground shone like a thousand stars, while Jin-zongzhu's eyes strayed and lost any trace of brightness for a moment. However, it didn't take long for him to smile and significantly lower his head.

"Really?! Ah, I knew it!! I knew that if I let you know it's to save a life, you'd agree!", Nie HuaiSang exclaimed in enchantment, getting up from the ground and jumping up and down in excitement. Wei WuXian, despite everything, was not happy at all. If he made the slightest mistake, if he accidentally ended up killing ChiFeng-zun, he would be killed at the same moment. Maybe that wasn't even necessary. Perhaps the trigger was not being able to help in any way. If he wasn't able to control the saber's resentful energy, he would come away as guilty, as someone who hadn't tried hard enough. He would always own the blame in these people's eyes, no matter what he did. He already knew, but Wen Qing helped to reinforce the obvious.

Speaking of her... They must be very worried that he still hasn't returned.

The sound of the doors opening resounded again, capturing the attention of the people present in the room. An icy, invigorating breeze entered the room along with the individual, shaking the man's gleaming white clothes. Wei WuXian felt his own mouth drying up and the air getting trapped in his chest, unable to get out. The cultivator's clear eyes quickly darted in the direction of the only person wearing black among the others. Wei WuXian allowed himself to gape as Lan WangJi's glassy eyes intensely stared into the depth of his gray eyes. For a paltry, long second, the other people disappeared. It was only Lan-er gongzi petrified in the doorway, his pale jade face meticulously expressionless, directing all the attention of his topaz-colored irises to Wei WuXian, who couldn't help the shortness of breath and nervousness that invaded his body.

Lan XiChen, Nie HuaiSang and Jin GuangYao looked at them, not quite sure what to make of… whatever that exchange of glances was. ZeWu-jun bit the inner walls of his own cheeks, frowning and closing his eyes, taking a big gulp of air. LianFang-zun had a facial expression mixed between almost sadistic amusement and a hint of impatience at the scene, as if he knew a deep secret, never spoken. However, he soon disguised his face with a satisfied smile. Nie-er gongzi… quickly ran his eyes between the demonic cultivator and the exit. He had no idea what was going on, and he didn't care either. All he wanted was to bring his older brother's possible only salvation to meet him. Lucky for him, Wei WuXian averted his gaze to the ground, breaking that invisible thread of connection.

"Where is he?", the man in the black clothes asked, still looking at the floor. Oh, that feeling. The same as when Lan WangJi came to visit him at Burial Mounds all those years ago. The vast feeling that he couldn't look HanGuang-jun in the eye for some reason.

Nie HuaiSang promptly corrected his posture and walked with long, light strides towards the exit, followed by a crestfallen and thoughtful Wei WuXian. As they passed through the door, HanGuang-jun made room for them to leave, even if unnecessarily, as the exit was wide enough. Although Wei WuXian refused to look at him again, he still kept his eyes glued to the man, as if he had seen a ghost. And, in a way, they all really were in the presence of one. The group of five men was directed to a room not far from the one they were in before. Nie HuaiSang pushed open the gates, revealing a morbid and silent environment. ChiFeng-zun was lying on a luxurious bed, but not even all the gold and satin sheets from all LanLingJin would be enough to assuage the deplorable state in which Nie-zongzhu found himself. His lips were pale, as was his skin lacking the usual amount of melanin. His saber rested uselessly beside the bed, as if it too were mourning its master. He had certainly bled from the seven qiqiaos when the QI deviation started, but even now his ears were oozing blood and his left eye was still bleeding even though it was closed.

Nie-er gongzi's expression twisted the instant he digested the image. It was as if just looking at his grandiose, mighty, and glorious older brother, lying like a decaying corpse, powerless to make any decision or to howl in anger, caused Nie HuaiSang physical pain. His eyes filled with bright, genuine tears again. Wei WuXian, however, started acting like he was on his work schedule. Walking four steps forward, he placed his index and middle fingers in the blood that was running down Nie MingJue's cheek and neck, rubbing the liquid between his fingers with his thumb. As he'd expected, it was warm, just like a living person. Wei WuXian was not a doctor, but living with one and studying bodies certainly helped with what he was about to do. He analyzed Nie MingJue's veins, his heartbeat through his wrist...

He had a base and an option he could put into practice.

Too focused on his own daydreams, he didn't notice when someone approached him in silent, composed steps. When he came to his senses, it was already too late. Lan WangJi was in front of him, his right hand inside his qiankun sleeve. Wei WuXian frowned as he stared at the man's arms, not knowing what to expect, but also not feeling the slightest sense of danger. From inside the clothes, HanGuang-jun withdrew chenqing. Wei WuXian's eyes widened at the slightest. Lan WangJi was quick to pick up the musical instrument gently and raise the flute to the man dressed in black. Wei WuXian gulped, finally looking once more into the eyes of Lan WangJi, who never stopped looking at him. After hesitating a bit, switching his gaze between the man's face and his own spiritual weapon, Wei WuXian finally grabbed chenqing. His fingers momentarily came into contact with Lan WangJi's, but it didn't take long for him to tie the flute to his waist.

'Lan... HanGuang-jun giving me my instrument that controls resentful energy. Tsk, how ironic. A few years ago, he was trying to contain and imprison me, telling me to stop practicing demonic cultivation. But now that it is of interest to these people, sect leaders and the like, he himself offered me my dizi. Sincerely...', Wei WuXian thought impulsively, but regretted it shortly afterwards. Lan WangJi wasn't even that close to ChiFeng-zun, and even if he was, Wei WuXian knew the virtue of that particular man. He was probably not aware of the kidnapping, appearing only after it had already taken place. Lan XiChen walked towards his sworn brother who was lying on top of the bed, regret shining in the eyes of GusuLan's first jade.

"Do you... think you can help?", ZeWu-jun asked Wei WuXian, who decided to concentrate and stop thinking nonsense.

"I can try. ZeWu-Jun, can you play Clarity on your flute, please?", he asked, stepping closer to Nie MingJue.

"Certainly.", Lan XiChen nodded and took liebing, starting to play. Wei WuXian looked at the face of the man lying on the bed. As expected, he did not react to the melody being played, indicating that he was indeed inconsistent through and through. "Interesting...", he said and reached for one of his talismans that he kept inside his clothes, biting his thumb and writing with lines of blood one of the first projects he finished when he moved to the Burial Mounds. He felt everyone's eyes burning into his back, but he was too busy remembering the order of characters on the resentful energy attraction flag to care.

"ZeWu-jun, stop playing the flute.", Wei WuXian asked, knowing that it was useless to try to calm the soul of someone who couldn't even hear. Most people would consider that factor a bad thing, however, Wei WuXian felt relieved. After all, it wasn't Nie MingJue he would have to deal with, but the saber spirit. The man dressed in black finished his work on the paper, checking out the miniature of his invention and smiling approvingly to himself. He calmly laid the paper on top of ChiFeng-zun's face, taking care not to soil the array he had made.

Wei WuXian let his hand float on top of the paper and curled his fingers, wetting his own lips with his tongue and cracking his own neck. The more resentful the spirit, the stronger it was, meaning the better it would be for Wei WuXian to use it in battle, for example. However, every now and then, it also meant that it was harder to get the spirit to obey. Not to mention it was the first time he'd handled the Nie sect's saber. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't a little excited and curious. Wei WuXian stole a large amount of air into his lungs and whistled bluntly.

His eyes quickly turned a bright, intense red. It was very strong! But on the bright side, he really could handle the energy of it. The miniature array was also helping. The saber spirit tried to attack the other men as it manifested itself, specifically, it almost attacked Jin GuangYao, who took a step back. When Wei WuXian felt that enough was enough, he grabbed chenqing and started playing. Satisfaction and relief consumed the man's heart when that great black cloud, instead of continuing wildly forward, began to follow his commands. Stopping playing the flute, he lifted his hand and allowed that indecipherable, densely textured energy to coil between his fingers, in his palm, and around his wrist. "This is tremendous... This is...", he said in an admiring tone, his eyes losing their red glow. The rest of the cultivators watched in amazement as the demonic cultivator gently lowered his head significantly to the resentful spirit, inserting the large black cloud back into the saber.

Wei WuXian gave a big audible sigh. His expression was typical of someone who has just done a job well done. LianFang-zun still looked in awe at the amount of power he was able to wield without much effort, ZeWu-jun seemed to feel a bit repulsed and Lan WangJi had looked away at some point, not quite sure what to make of it all. However, when it was over, HanGuang-jun's clear eyes quickly moved to Wei WuXian's face, scrutinizing his well-being. He looked good and satisfied, clapping his hands together as if trying to brush off nonexistent dust. Nie HuaiSang was still shaking and crying, looking at his brother. He was also the first to muster up the courage and approach Wei WuXian, grabbing his sleeve again.

"So??" he asked, his voice steeped in anticipation. The black clothed man fastened the flute to his own waist again and looked at Nie HuaiSang.

"I managed to stabilize him. He won't wake up anytime soon, but he sure as hell won't die in a coma.", he revealed, offering a reassuring smile to the green-clad man, who placed both hands over his mouth and sighed in admiration.

"Oh!!! That's a lot!" Nie HuaiSang exclaimed, clearly trying to stay positive. Wei WuXian's intention was not to shatter Nie-er gongzi's hopes and dreams, however, he had to clarify some conditions and effects. He corrected his posture and assumed an impartial, almost professional stance. He looked around at everyone present in the room, feeling somehow safe to have someone as sincere as Lan WangJi in that situation. If anyone in that room tried to take what happened out of context to frame Wei WuXian in the near future, HanGuang-jun saw the truth with his own eyes.

"But if you want my sincerity, I don't know how to keep him alive nor how to wake him up. It's very rare to survive a QI deviation, I'm afraid the only reason he did was because this is a specific case.", He explained. Tension returned in everyone's eyes, as did concern.

"Wei-gongzi, what's your opinion?", Lan XiChen asked. Wei WuXian's face was serious and contemplative as he took a deep breath and looked at ChiFeng-zun.

"You should see a doctor. I'm not a doctor, so I'm not qualified.", he was sincere. He's already helped with everything he can, despite being kidnapped for it. It's not like he's a doctor. Despair rose again in Nie HuaiSang's thin, skittish body. He got even closer to Wei WuXian's face.

"But-! Wei-xiong, if the doctors couldn't handle the previous matter, I'm sure they won't be able to handle this one!" Nie-er gongzi said, looking ready to kneel on the floor again and beg for Wei WuXian to learn medicine within a few days.

"Yes, unfortunately.", instead of trying to comfort the man, Wei WuXian nodded. He'd never seen anyone survive an QI deviation in his entire life, let alone a treatment for this rare case. LianFang-zun let out a shaky, regretful breath. After being the first to accept the truth, he walked to Nie HuaiSang's side, placing a welcoming hand on the other man's shoulder, who buried his face in his own hands as if his world had been consumed by a black hole. Lan XiChen expressed his lips straight. In the face of Wei WuXian's lingering silence on the matter, he let a single crystalline, silent tear roll down his cheek, but it was quickly wiped away by the side of the man's index finger. Lan WangJi, on the other hand, after respectfully closing his eyes for three seconds, continued looking at Wei WuXian, as if he was waiting for something. He felt the weight of the clear eyes on him, and he also felt the melancholy that consumed that environment crushing his bones. Wei WuXian impatiently scratched his head, his expression was stubborn, however...

"Well, I know a doctor who works miracles and makes the 'unlikely' happen if they really try," he commented hesitantly, looking away from other people's faces. Nie HuaiSang immediately looked at him again, as did the other two men. A tired, up-and-down smile bloomed on Nie-er gongzi's lips, who closed his hands into fists and shook them.

"Wonderful!!" he exclaimed, his voice hoarse from crying.

"And who is it?", Lan XiChen asked, approaching.

"Yes, where can we find him?", LianFang-zun asked, casting a sharp look at Wei WuXian. The man, however, looked at them coldly and looked away, as if it wasn't worth it. He slowly crossed his arms in front of his chest and clenched his jaw. Wei WuXian specifically looked into the eyes of the two sect leaders, Lan-zongzhu and Jin-zongzhu, and raised an eyebrow. Both men's eyes widened. Nie HuaiSang didn't know what was going on, but judging by the shy reaction of his brother's friends, he assumed it was bad.

"...Understood.", Jin GuangYao whispered, moving considerably away from the sharp and critical gaze of the black-clothed man.

"Yes, forgive my curiosity.", Lan XiChen asked in a soft, low voice. Seeing the sudden abandonment of the two, Nie HuaiSang stomped his feet on the ground.

"Eh?! Who? Just bring him here already!!! As long as he saves my brother, I don't mind at all!! If he can help, just ask him to do it!", he exclaimed while gesturing. exaggerated with the hands. Wei WuXian was suddenly standing straight and uncertain, as if he was in danger. The demonic cultivator cleared his throat and searched for the right words to address the matter.

"The problem, Nie er-gongzi, is that I'm not sure she'll want to help."

"She...? ...Oh–", confusion finally left the features of Nie-er gongzi's delicate face, understanding taking over his features.

WuXian had never seen a treatment for someone who had survived a QI deviation, however, a few years ago, he had also never heard of someone transfusing a golden core from one person to another. There was only one doctor genius and resourceful enough for this task.

Wen Qing.

Wen Qing, one of the greatest doctors to ever exist in the cultivation world. Wen Qing, the first person to perform a golden core transfusion. Wen Qing, who had her family, made up of weak people, incapable in the face of the tyranny of Wen RuoHan, her uncle, of old people, of countless children, imprisoned in the Jin sect's labor camps. Wen Qing, who had his beloved younger brother killed in those camps. Wen Qing, who detested the cultivation world with fervor after everything they put her family, including Wei WuXian on the list, through. Wen Qing, the woman whom they indirectly denied help for not even trying to stop or see with their own eyes the situation she and her family found themselves in.

She was the only one able to help them.

"So ask her yourself! If we ask, she'll potentially deny our request. But if it's you, she'll probably say yes! You're pretty close, aren't you?", Nie HuaiSang exclaimed, opting for whatever came to his mind. Wei WuXian shook his head to both sides and smiled faintly. Qing-jie? Heading to the Jin Sect to help one of the high-class leaders? It almost sounded funny, honestly.

"You don't know that bitter woman's heart, she is difficult to persuade. As far as I know, she has... a lot of... things. To tell you.", Wei WuXian tried not to specify. He remembers very well when the Jin sect thought he was dead and tried to invade, the angry reaction the woman had. She also cursed each ancestor and successor of each of the sect leaders when treating the wounds the arrows had inflicted on Wei WuXian's body. Honestly, he didn't know what it felt like to have a mother, let alone a protective mother like a jaguar. He only knew what it felt like to have an older sister, but if an angry woman tending to your wounds while speaking ill of the people who've hurt you is in the frame, then he had an idea. Or, who knows, to have another kind of sister. When Wei WuXian and fourth uncle convinced her to drink, she also cursed every generation of Jins that ever existed and those to come.

And, well, in the last option, Wei WuXian didn't stop her. He laughed. A lot, even. Every time he remembered that Wen Ning had to carry him in his arms to Burial Mounds, with A-Yuan watching him bleed and blaming himself for his Xian-gege getting hurt instead... That the only two years old at the time cried for the next few weeks... That in the two and a half months that Wei WuXian was unconscious, A-Yuan wouldn't leave his side even to see the light of day... When he remembered the depressed and uncommunicative state he was left in after waking up, the pitying looks of the uncles and aunts who lived with him, the comforting words from Granny and Wen Ning, the effort they had to make to try to talk to him... A-Yuan, not caring about Wei WuXian's melancholy, happy enough that his gege was alive and by his side. The little boy bringing the only toys he had and not looking bothered that Wei WuXian didn't have the energy to play with him, just to watch.

And when he especially remembered the little boy's radiant joy when Wei WuXian was finally the first to ask him if he wanted to play, one day.

Also, when he remembered the Wen's delighted looks when Wei WuXian finally returned to dinner with them and how kind and welcoming they were about it, one night.

Yes, Wei WuXian laughed when Wen Qing cursed outsiders. Laughed a lot.

"... I can guess.", Jin GuangYao admitted, referring to the so-called 'things' that Wen Qing wanted to say to them.

"Still!! Please, please try!! She has the perfect skills: she can save Da-ge's life!", Nie HuaiSang shouted, joining both hands together as if he was going to bow. Wei WuXian sighed and scratched the back of his head, messing up his everyday hairstyle even more.

"I can try. But I don't promise anything.", he relented, receiving yet another big smile and bright look from Nie-er gongzi.

"Thank you so much, Wei-xiong!!! I'll be forever grateful to you for the rest of my life!!", Wei WuXian laughed at the redundancy the phrase had, but didn't comment. Could he finally leave? That shiny place was giving him a serious headache. He lived in the darkest environment of the cultivation world, so receiving so much light suddenly wouldn't do his eyes any good. LianFang-zun gave one more captivating smile, approaching Wei WuXian and offering a quick bow.

"Allow me to accompany you to the exit, Wei-gongzi.", he said, but something hidden in the way his voice sounded left something to be desired in convincing Wei WuXian that it was optional. He clearly didn't trust YiLing LaoZu to wander around his sect alone. Before he could answer, Lan WangJi, who had been standing like a flawless jade statue until now, suddenly walked slowly towards the two of them.

"There's no need.", the low-pitched voice resounded for the first time. Something inside Wei WuXian trembled. He hadn't heard that person's voice in years. The last time they met, they were both adults, but HanGuang-jun somehow managed to acquire an even more intense voice over the years.

"HanGuang-jun?", Jin GuangYao asked almost immediately. He seemed strangely willing to accompany Wei WuXian to the exit.

"I'll take him there.", Lan WangJi clarified, looking straight into Jin-zongzhu's eyes, who understood that phrase more as a command than an offer.

"O-Oh...", he looked a little disappointed and tense, but he quickly disguised his true emotions with a charming smile. "Okay, thanks.", he clasped his hands and bowed to Lan WangJi. Wei WuXian didn't have time to reason the event, HanGuang-jun had already passed him and Jin GuangYao, walking towards the entrance. Casting one last glance at the other people to make sure he hadn't really hallucinated the whole thing, he found Lan XiChen watching Lan WangJi heading towards the exit with a pained and disappointed expression. That… certainly didn't answer Wei WuXian's question. He wasn't sure what to do, but just in case, he offered a general bow and chose to follow the same path as HanGuang-jun, who closed the doors once Wei WuXian walked through. The kidnapping itself made the black-clothed man more angry than nervous, however, walking alongside Lan WangJi silently through LanLingJin's wide corridors caused him to be short of breath and a strange tightening in his stomach. The only sound that resounded in the place was their footsteps, but in Wei WuXian's ears, he could hear his own heart thudding heavily inside his chest.

He didn't want to look at Lan WangJi, but he also wanted to, to see if he could figure out what was going on in his head. He shyly tried to hide it as he cast a glance out of the corner of his eye at the second jade's face. His face was as formidable as ever. Expressionless, too, as usual. However, his gaze seemed a little lost and distant. And if Wei WuXian had been able to pay attention to anything other than his face, he would have noticed that the hand Lan WangJi placed behind his back when he walked was tightly squeezing the fabric of his white clothes. Wei WuXian's gaze must have been intense and confused enough to weigh heavily on HanGuang-jun, because he seemed to break out of the train of thought he was in before to return the look, staring into Wei WuXian's prying eyes. The man quickly looked away, as if he had received a blow. And in a way, that clear, sharp look like a crystal dagger really should be considered a weapon. Pretending that nothing happened, Wei WuXian coughed, not taking the silence any longer.

"Tsk, they kidnap me for self-interest, but I'm the one not to be trusted to go to the exit alone. Honestly...", he complained. Lan WangJi blinked his long eyelashes after hearing the phrase and stopped walking. Wei WuXian immediately noticed, stopping too.

"You can go.", the deep voice echoed through the corridors. Wei WuXian blinked several times, as if he had misheard. Obviously, his complaint was something real but... But... Hun... Would Lan WangJi really let him go around his older brother's sworn brother's sect?

"Hun? Are you going to let me loose in this luxurious place? Watch out, HanGuang-jun, I might end up stealing something, or inducing the disciples to follow the heinous path.", the man in black threatened in a childish and playful way, with a bit of venom and irony too.

"You would never do any of that.", Lan WangJi's answer was straight and clear, like a truth that cannot be contradicted. Wei WuXian widened his eyes and allowed his mouth to slowly open... Lan-er gongzi was still a straightforward man who trusted in people's virtue, hun?

"...Hah, at least you know that.", the man dressed in black swallowed hard and looked away to the floor, too embarrassed to look at his face. "Again, I don't promise to succeed, right? I don't know if she'll agree.", he changed the subject. Perhaps the reason for such kindness and freedom was the partial deal that Wei WuXian had made on behalf of ChiFeng-zun...? Lan WangJi slightly lowered his head and looked back at him in an understanding and tender way.

"Fine. I know you will try.", he stated, causing a strange feeling in Wei WuXian's stomach and throat. He took in a great deal of air and looked again anywhere but the handsome pale face of the man, which remained static.

"...Are you really going to let me go alone? I'm armed, see?", he tried once more, pointing to the chenqing on his waist. Honestly, not even Wei WuXian knew exactly what he wanted or what he was expecting. If Lan WangJi really went down all those floors beside him, Wei WuXian would probably find it offensive and proof that HanGuang-jun would never trust him. However, he kind of wanted to have a little chat with him on the way to the exit, despite the discomfort that took over his body when Lan WangJi was too close to him.

"Mn.", the man stated, looking at Wei WuXian's flute with a neutral expression, as if he hadn't seen all the damage that instrument's melody could cause, in times much darker than today. Wei WuXian was grateful for the vote of confidence, however, he was still dissatisfied with not having Lan WangJi's company anymore. He nodded a few times before letting a bitter but sincere smile bloom on his lips.

"...Until someday, HanGuang-jun.", he said goodbye, offering a bow and turning his back to the man. The light eyes watched until Wei WuXian disappeared down the hall, passing downstairs. Lan WangJi let out an inaudible, composed sigh, trying to calm his own heart. He remained in the same spot for long minutes, seeming to think hard about something. Anger, pain, anger, sadness flashed across his face, but disappeared as quickly as they appeared. He ran his fingers through each other, remembering when Wei WuXian's hands had touched his before, when he went to hand the flute to him.

A second chance.

Lan WangJi allowed himself to feel like a man given a second chance. Wei WuXian had disappeared like ash amidst a merciless gust of dust for years. The last time he heard about him, it was in the unfortunate event that the Jin Sect went to the Burial Mounds to take possession of his inventions, trapped in the illusion that he had died after the trap Jin ZiXun set for him. The last thing HanGuang-jun knew he did was fight back against people who tried to invade that place he could call home. There were two sensations Lan WangJi would never forget. The first was how far his chest had sunk and the world seemed to stop just before it came crashing down when the much-speculated death of Wei WuXian was announced. The second was the overwhelming relief and euphoria he felt when he discovered that his death had only been a hideous and deceptive lie. Everything that happened in the period between both events would also never be forgotten by him, however, he avoided remembering those times as much as he could.

The way he became aware that Wei WuXian still lived was hopelessly and genuinely grotesque. The Jin sect had returned with just over half of the people it left with, covered in blood and wounds clearly inflicted by ferocious corpses. The way he received his second chance was also not pretty or as fair as many people around him claimed to be. He was still appalled to learn that two sect leaders, including his brother on the list, had actively participated in the decision to kidnap a man who had done nothing worthy of punishment for 'the greater good'. Wei WuXian's anger was perfectly valid and understandable, however, despite everything, he still helped as he could. In any case, he was alive and seemed far more approachable than Lan WangJi was expecting.

He was alive... But his body was so thin for someone who used to train constantly in sword fighting. He was breathing, but he seemed to have trouble inhaling healthy air. He was still seeing, however, a normal amount of light seemed to bother his eyes. His skin was so startlingly pale for someone who'd lived for years bathing in lakes that were openly in the sun. His posture remained impeccable and he looked pretty sane for someone who was starving.

Both Wei WuXian and the people Lan WangJi saw when he went to see what was going on in Burial Mounds with his own eyes had been living in precarious conditions for quite some time. The terrible YiLing LaoZu. The title that Lan WangJi never dared to call Wei WuXian because it became synonymous with bad things, things that Wei WuXian would never do. The person who was considered the 'evil lord' had been fighting as hard as he could for five years to feed about fifty people alone. Lan WangJi felt a tightness in his chest whenever he remembered that there was a child living there, a docile and kind boy who never committed the crimes he was paying for. That there were healers, the elderly, helpless and weak people living in those conditions. If Wei WuXian was wrong, HanGuang-jun would not stand by him. However, he saw that the man was only doing what was right, even without the resources or political power to do so. And really… No one could give him a wide and nice path to walk.

The first time, Lan WangJi left. Even after seeing all this.

The first time, Lan WangJi bitterly regretted it.

But now... Now, he had a second chance. And he wouldn't let it pass.

"See you later, Wei Ying."

 

×

 

"Basically, they kidnapped you and didn't let you go until you did what they wanted, even when they absolutely can't demand it?", Wen Qing had her body weight on one leg and her arms crossed. One of her eyebrows arched as she looked into Wei WuXian's eyes and talked about his disappearance. He, in response, opened and closed his mouth twice before sighing.

"...Why does it sound worse when you're the one talking?"

"Because I am the rational voice between the two of us.", the woman replied without any pity. She was clearly in a terrible mood after learning what really happened.

"Yes, agreed. Even so!! The patient-, will you help him?", Wei WuXian asked in a tone that begged for consideration.

"Do you expect me to help?" Wen Qing retorted nimbly and simply, as if she was portraying the obvious through ironic and bitter questioning. The taller of the two expressed his lips in a straight line. He absolutely didn't want to demand his friend's collaboration. It wasn't just because they had no reasons or benefits to help them, but because they had plenty of reasons not to help. Regardless, Wei WuXian had already said that the doctor was the only one capable of treating ChiFeng-zun, meaning they probably wouldn't be left alone until they did what those people wanted.

"Wen Qing-jie, come on... A life is still a life.", he tried once more, looking into her skeptical eyes for a few more seconds. She seemed to become partially paralyzed after hearing those words. However, the sharp features quickly scanned Wei WuXian from top to bottom. She took a step forward.

"What about your life? When you came home bleeding and close to death because those people ambushed you?", Wen Qing argued in a firm, strong tone. When Wei WuXian dubbed her the 'bitter maiden', that's what he was talking about. She was someone who'd rather live than dwell on the pain of the past, someone who'd rather focus on those who were important to her, not those who hurt them. However, that didn't mean she was forgiving easily. Quite the opposite. When she saw the living condition that she and her family were in, when she saw that Wei WuXian had committed to this just to protect them, there was no one to blame but Wen RuoHan and the people who preyed on the Wen remnants. in the fields of the Jin sect. The man could understand her anger, he didn't even have a way to judge her, however...

"ChiFeng-zun is a fair man, he would never have agreed to invite someone to set a trap for them. He is like me when it comes to this. If he wanted someone dead, then they would be dead.", he verified. Wen Qing's brows somehow managed to sink in even further.

"Can we trust anyone? What if they try to hurt us after we're done?", she inquired, causing Wei WuXian to return her skeptical gaze and laugh without humor.

"Do you think I would risk any of you? I wouldn't. It's not all of them that lack honesty."

"You wouldn't put our lives at risk, but you would put yours. That's the main problem that worries me.", Wen Qing specified. Although the discussion was serious and decided the future of what would happen from that moment on, she pointed her index finger at Wei WuXian's forehead and poked him hard three times. "Are you trusting them again?" the doctor asked with no hint of teasing in her tone. After hearing the questioning, Wei WuXian felt as if one of the arrows that had hit him the day of Jin Ling's party had once again pierced his body. The gray eyes were lost for a moment on the sparse floor of the Burial Mounds.

He had put all his faith and trust in that day that ended in tragedy and betrayal. All the effort and energy he didn't even have in that gift that was never delivered. He had allowed himself to be excited to see his shijie once more and meet her son. He had trusted in the virtue of those people. He had trusted that they, despite not agreeing with his cultivation method, would at least have the decency to leave him alone during the celebration. He just planned to deliver the gift, see Jiang YanLi, and leave. Wei WuXian ignored the unpleasant drop of distrust he was feeling and went to the celebration, proud of the gift he had crafted with his own hands.

Only to fall into a goddamn ambush and be wrongly accused of a crime he didn't commit.

"No. Never again. Not after that day.", he finally answered Wen Qing. She, on the other hand, looked a little regretful for reminding Wei WuXian of that fateful day. Wen Qing was silent for a few seconds before sighing and allowing her own shoulders to relax, however, remaining with her arms crossed.

"...You want to help too.", the doctor said, referring to the state Nie MingJue was in. Honestly, it was typical of Wei WuXian. Even after several disagreements, despite having numerous reasons not to help, that stubborn and selfless man would do everything in his power. Wei WuXian focused his gaze on the woman's face again. He shrugged his shoulders minimally and smiled as he semi-serrated his eyes.

"Does 'also' mean you're considering it?" he teased, letting the smile expand into something wide and petulant. Wen Qing snorted and looked away.

"Maybe. Or maybe I'm just thinking about how stupid you are." Her cursing, however, made Wei WuXian happy. He felt victorious.

"I know you well enough to say that swearing means I won the argument!" he exclaimed, this time smiling truly. Wen Qing remained with an impeccable posture and composed demeanor.

"You caught me in the 'A life is still a life' part," she admitted defeat.

"Yes!! I knew that using this against a doctor would guarantee my victory!", Wei WuXian said like a child who just got a new toy. In the face of such childishness, Wen Qing rolled her eyes and fanned with one hand.

"Shut up if you don't want me to change my mind.", the woman walked away while threatening.

 

×

 

Wen Qing stopped just as she finished her way to the end of the Burial Mounds descent.

They had decided that since Wei WuXian was tired, they would leave the next day. They ate silently, trying to act as natural as possible. Certainly, the people they lived with had every right to know what was going on and the risk that two important people were about to take. However, the duo decided they didn't want to worry them. And most of all, they didn't want A-Yuan to be aware of where they were going and what kind of people they were going to interact with. The boy to this day was still afraid when he saw someone dressed in yellow in YiLing city, when one of the elders took him shopping. The only one they confided in the secret was, of course, Wen Ning. He had been a little scared and clearly didn't agree with the idea, however, as he wasn't used to imposing himself, he didn't verbalize or insist that they stay.

Wen Qing remained static, looking at something right in front of them. Wei WuXian approached her with a wry smile and made a polite gesture. She, however, did not react.

"..."

"Surprise! We won't have to walk!", he exclaimed as he pointed to the huge and luxurious Nie sect carriage waiting for them. Wen Qing blinked, not a hint of reaction on her face.

"What's the meaning of that?", she asked, still unable to take her eyes off those majestic horses and those two seniors, one from the Nie sect and the other from the Jin sect. Some would say that she was delighted with the kindness, however, the truth was that she felt immensely threatened and insulted by the action. What? Now that they would be able to give them a use, something that favors the great sects, would they be treated with respect? What a big joke. So it was all about their personal interests? Wei WuXian laughed with a 'hehehe' and kept smiling.

"Nie HuaiSang can be quite persuasive and a good sycophant," he explained. Turns out Nie-er gongzi wasn't kidding when he said he was willing to do anything to get their help.

"Wei Ying.", the doctor said in a scolding tone.

"I said no! I didn't take it, I swear. He insisted a lot. Besides, I think this action kind of means they don't trust us that much, uhn? Haha.", Wei WuXian whispered as he looked at the big carriage. Wen Qing closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as if trying to control herself not to ignore the 'kindness' and go all the way on foot.

"Let's get this over with.", she said and headed towards the carriage entrance, followed by Wei WuXian.