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The sound of heavy rain almost covered the knocking on the door. And if she hadn’t happened to be in the outer rooms it was likely no one would have noticed. The knock repeated, only slightly louder this time, and she put the basket she was carrying down to step up to the door.

”Yes?,” she asked before opening, hand resting on the hilt of her sword. She may have left the Jin clan behind, but she was no less a cultivator.

”Is that young lady Luo?,” a man’s voice asked.

”Who is asking?”

”I have a letter to deliver to young lady Luo Qingyang. It has arrived from Gusu today, with the quickest delivery.”

A surprised frown covered her brow, but with one deep breath she pushed the door to the side to greet the messenger who had found it necessary to cross the weather outside for the sake of this letter.

”That would be me, thank you.”

From Gusu, he’d said. She spared no time in opening the letter once the door shut the rain outside again.

 

・・・・・・・

Young lady Luo,

 

Please excuse this sudden intrusion after all these years. I hope that life is treating you well. As autumn is coming to an end, the chill of winter is taking its hold of Gusu. There has been frost covering the ground a handful of mornings now. Lanling may still remain a little warmer, I suppose.

I have taken the selfish liberty of locating your whereabouts, to be able to write to you. For this, I apologise. I can only hope my letter reaches you between your frequent journeys the rumours tell me about.

I still understand and respect your decision to leave this society behind. You stayed true to your convictions, and I cannot underline enough how much I still admire that.

I do not doubt your capabilities, not in the least. But, if at any time you find yourself in need of aid in any shape, know that you have a friend in Gusu.

 

Sincerely,

Lan Wangji


・・・・・・・

The letter felt heavier than before when she carried it deeper inside the house. It was a welcome weight, however. Like something she’d subconsciously been hoping to carry. A small thread to grab onto, connected to the small, undefined lingering thoughts and worries hidden under the many layers of confident rebellion.

Worries not for herself, but for some left inside.

But she minded her own business, she walked her own path. She had borne the shame of deflecting, feeling none of it. She had looked her father in the eye and had not faltered. She had headed out, sword in hand, robes belonging to no clan feeling lighter than any ever had. She did her work, she had proven herself. And she still did, day by day. 

The ink dripped from her brush, once, twice, as the thoughts swirled in her mind. She let the brush rest on its stand again, for another moment, as she replaced the now blotted black paper. 

What was there for her to say? She knew somehow, instinctively, that the letter she had received was as much a call for help as an offer for it. 

And she would answer, she would tug on that thin, soft thread.

So she lifted the brush again, this time letting it land on clean, white paper without trouble.

 

・・・・・・・

Hanguang-jun,

 

Thank you for your letter. I have indeed kept to my decision to stay outside the clans. I guess some might call me a rogue cultivator now, though my level of cultivation will not let me perform wonders. But I can help people who need it, where the clans find matters below them.

Rumors tell me you are acting in a similar manner, as much as your duties will allow you. I appreciate that.

I thank you for your concern, and again, for your kind offer at the time of my leaving. However, I do stand behind my decision to this day. I do not regret my actions.

I imagine Gusu and the Cloud Recesses are beautiful in winter. Staying there in my youth was an honour.

I believe this will remain the location to address me at for the foreseeable future.

 

Sincerely,

Luo Qingyang


 

Loud knocks, so loud they would be easy to make out even in the middle of a storm, landed on the door, and she rose from her seated position without hesitation. Her table was covered in newly finished talismans, and her sword easily accessible by her side. 

It was not often she was present to open the door, and when she was it was rarely knocked on. She made herself accessible in other ways, always being out there. Though— she did not hide where she resided either. The likelihood was that someone was in need of help.

As the door slid open she was greeted by a messenger, and in his hand, there was a letter. A letter with her name on it, in handwriting she’d not seen for a year but that she recognised in an instant. And that thread she had felt before, that she’d let her fingers tangle with, pulled on her again.

“May I request you pick up my response tomorrow?,” she asked, and upon agreement retired back inside.

 

・・・・・・・

Young lady Luo,

 

I realise this letter is another selfish intrusion from my side, but I found that as the frost again covered the remaining magnolias outside the window my thoughts returned to you.

It was not many months ago that I followed a trail of curious ghost incidents, only to find that a ’young female cultivator not belonging to any clan’ had already taken care of matters. I admit I looked around for a moment, however you had already moved on. You are a hard worker.

I wish I could say my reasons for these hunts were as noble as yours.

I hope this winter will treat you well. Remain true to yourself and I am certain you will feel no regrets from now on either.

 

Sincerely,

Lan Wangji


・・・・・・・・

 

A small smile lingered on her lips as she folded the letter again. The thread grew thicker, stronger, tempting her to pull on it— almost begging her to. The meaning was heavy in her old acquaintance’s words, heavy with what was left unsaid.

But the Hanguang-jun she had known had never been one of many words. She only knew of one person who had easily pulled them out of him.

She wondered if this was another chance to follow his path.

If so, she would take it.

The strokes of the brush came easily.

 

・・・・・・・・

Hanguang-jun,

 

Thank you again for another thoughtful letter. I cannot help but notice the season your letters arrive in. I find it hard to believe it is me the approach of winter reminds you of.

Please excuse my rudeness, but I also find it hard to believe your motives are anything less than upkeeping the same ideals I do. I consider you an ally, so there is no need to rush ahead. The shopkeeper at the outskirts of Yunping you helped some moons ago was disappointed to see you leave without a chance to thank you, and so he thanked me instead. Please accept this delivery of his thanks.

And I will have to apologise for one more rudeness. Doing what we do with the weight of regrets must be a heavy burden. I do not doubt your capabilities, but if at any time you find yourself in need of aid in any shape, even through words, you know where to find me.

 

Your friend,

Luo Qingyang

 

The grey, rainy days when she awaited knocks on her door had long since passed. For some weeks she had assumed she may have missed it, home as she rarely was. But even after returning from hunts both far and near, no one approached her. The disappointment that had settled in her chest surprised even herself.

She wondered then, if she’d tugged too hard on the thread. If it had still been too brittle, and she had caused it to snap.

Life continued regardless. Night hunt after night hunt— ghouls, ghosts and spirits. She would not admit to listening more attentively than before for stories of the Lan cultivator, who was like light himself. No, she was only keeping track of her playing field.

Which is why it did not worry her when those stories seemed to cease, as if something had put out the bright light that existed in the middle of the chaos. 

She’d gritted her teeth, and doubled her efforts, and so finally spring had come.The snow that fell had melted, the water it created running down the paths in small rivers. Any snow falling that did not simply melt within a day was a rare sight this far south, and through it all she had found she wished to write about it.

And once the sun already shone warm, small flowers nearly ready to bloom, she was approached by a messenger in town. Her steps back to her residence, letter carefully in hand, were fast. The letter, however, was short.



・・・・・・・・

Young lady Luo,

 

I can’t seem to let go of the question of whether it could have ended differently if I had been as brave as you.

 

With apologies,

Lan Wangji


・・・・・・・・



She read the short letter again. And again. And then one more time, letting each heavy note of regret ring in her ears. Muddled yet loud, like the uncharacteristically uneven handwriting that conveyed it. 

It answered some questions— raised others. It gave her an idea of just how much was brewing inside the quiet man, for all these years.

And it delivered relief. Relief that he was still there at the other end of her thread, that it hadn’t snapped. 

She would not let it do so. She had offered help, she would not let him down.



・・・・・・・・

Hanguang-jun,

 

Please take my sincerest apologies for overstepping in my last letter. It was however with relief that I received yours. I had worried that I had been so out of line there would be no more. 

I have been made to understand you committed crimes against your clan so grave that your punishment has had you in seclusion for several years. Though the exact details of your actions have never trickled this far down the rumour mill, I have made certain assumptions. 

I imagine the regrets you harbour are not the ones your clan elders wished for.

I cannot say I have not thought of what could have turned the tide, of what could have spared his life, but I never find answers. I am not sure they exist. I am however sure that the man we knew would appreciate your actions today. You, like him, are a good man.

 

Your friend,

Luo Qingyang


Though seasons passed without letters, she did not worry. The stories were back, and Hanguang-jun’s trail was again easy to follow. It was a comfort, and soon she would choose to stray in the opposite direction, as if they were simply working on different areas. But together.

Of course, she could cover much more ground than a respectable young master, bound by duties to his clan. But she continued to be impressed by his efforts to be wherever he was needed.

Her path now often sent her through the same village, and though the villagers remained thankful for her dealing with a resentful spirit months earlier, it was not for their gratefulness that she returned. No, her steps led past the merchants' stalls, to greet a young businessman who so gladly had supplied her with the items she needed to please the spirit.

He would smile back, and ask whether he could be of any help to ’the strong cultivator’ this time. More often than not, the help was a simple snack for the way, and the payment but one of her stories. Her appreciation was endless.

And the next time a letter arrived the air was again cold, frosty mornings more a rule than not. She unfolded it with haste, eager to take part in her ally’s words, the thread connecting them almost vibrating as her eyes found writing.



・・・・・・・・

Young lady Luo,

 

I search. Everywhere I go, where there is chaos, I play for his soul. But it never answers. I do not know what this means, so I will not stop.

There are things I would like to tell him, even in his death. That I regret not telling him when I could.

But I fear that even his soul was so broken there is nothing to find, and I will never get to do so.

I think, that may be what I deserve.

If his soul is playing with me, taking me where people need me, then I will remain his toy. I refuse to forget.

 

Lan Wangji


・・・・・・・

 

The writing was perfect again— the beautiful, balanced strokes she’d come to recognise. But the words remained heavy. Yet there was a sense of strong determination to them, the same determination she saw in all his work.

And resignation. She wondered then, suddenly, whether she was being told a secret larger than she had expected. She had never considered it, but the regretful words on the thin paper in her hands implied so much more than the thin hint of friendship that most had witnessed.

It made her suspect, and that suspicion made her heart ache.

 

・・・・・・・

Hanguang-jun,

 

Your devotion is nothing but admirable, though I do hope you are able to find calm for your mind in the midst of your search. Working hard and dutifully is expected of someone of your position, but what will you do if there is nothing left of you when you find him?

I first met him while we were still travelling to the Cloud Recesses, for our studies. It was at an inn in Caiyi, and he introduced himself as ‘Yuandao’, having heard my nickname being called. I found him insufferable, and wanted nothing to do with him. I imagine you can relate to that.

But he always stood up against injustice right from the start, didn’t he? He protected those weaker than him, those who needed it. And in Qishan that included me. 

The things he said there, the way he stood up against the Wens when most of us couldn’t, that stayed with me. He proved what he stood for to me there, and though I cannot condone all his actions through to the end, I know he did it all with his heart in the right place.

Your faith is not misplaced.

 

Your friend,

Luo Qingyang

 

Summer had been hot, hotter than many, but even so she had found it hard to take the shorter route back, to not stop by the small merchant’s shop that had quickly become her favourite. A heavy summer storm, rain falling with the force of a waterfall, had made one visit longer than others. A night of long conversations, warm drinks and stories. He had listened, almost mesmerised by her words, by the things she did all the time. And then he told his own stories, about the people he meets, that he trades with, the things he’d seen. He’d called it all boring and safe, but she would have none of it. 

And when the weather cleared, and her journey could continue, his lips had hesitantly landed on her cheek before she’d reached out and pulled him in for a proper kiss.

But even so she would not stray from the path she had chosen, and though he sometimes asked if she could not stay longer, she would tell him the same. Though she was part of no clan, she walked the steps of a cultivator, with all that entailed. She would cultivate, she would night hunt, she would protect. And then— when there again was a moment of time— she would return.

Days had long since shortened, leaves falling from the trees and a wet chillness settling in the air when another letter found its way into her hands.



・・・・・・・

Young Lady Luo,

 

I wish to start this letter with expressing my gratitude for writing to me. For letting me write to you. Your words carry weight.

You spoke of Qishan, and the Xuanwu cave. During the time I spent trapped inside, with him, I scolded him for his selfless act of saving you from the branding iron. I told him that mark would never leave his body, and that you would never be able to forget him.

I am not sure whether I truly understood then, that I was talking about myself. My world was in pieces then, but he held me together for those long days. I try to think of that, keep it with me, but sometimes I still fall apart.

Once we were saved, I rushed away, the fate of my home heavy on my mind. But the next time I would see him, he was changed. I tried to stop him.

All I wanted was to protect him, like he had protected me.

I now understand that there was no clipping his wings. I could not have protected him from himself. The question is whether I could have stood with him and whether that could have made a difference. But we were only children back then.

I realise I already ask far too much of you, but I have noticed a trail of stories about a ghost of a young woman, stealing bottles of alcohol from inns and traders. Some claim to have had their entire stock poured out by her. The clans do not currently seem to consider this ghost worthy of even a students’ time, as no human casualties seem likely. The last account I heard mentioned northeastern Lanling. If you are able, may I request you take a look. Something about the stories worries me.

Thank you again.

 

Your friend,

Lan Wangji

 

・・・・・・・

The trail was surprisingly easy to find, innkeepers and traders alike were happy to complain about the odd occurrences. The pattern was clear as well, never anything but wine missing and most often not actually gone, but bottles crushed and the drink inside poured out over the ground. Rarely more than one bottle of each type fell victim. Only in a handful of instances had the losses been more significant.

In the end, all it took to find and communicate with the ghost was some help from her favourite merchant. And as the spirit departed he stepped in so close, hands tightly clinging to hers, eyes almost sparkling, as he told her he loved her. She grinned and told him the same words.

 

・・・・・・・

Hanguang-jun,

 

I thank you for the information you provided, and am happy to let you know that the ghost has now departed. The trail you sent me on was clear, and I had some help with setting up a temptation and calling her to me. She was looking for a specific kind of wine, the last she had drunk with her lover in life. However, since she was unable to taste any of the bottles she found, her frustration grew.

I am sad to admit I was not able to truly provide her with the taste she longed for.

Please do not apologise for requesting my aid. I have offered, and my offer will not be withdrawn. As I trust you will not withdraw yours. 

If you excuse my reminiscing, I can’t help but remember how fond of wine he was as well. The stories were already plentiful back when we were staying in your home. Rumours even spread like wildfire about him getting you, one of the perfect twin jades of Lan, drunk! Many talked, but none actually witnessed it.

I hope time is treating you well and that the coming winter is again beautiful in Gusu. 

 

Your friend,

Luo Qingyang

And so came the day she was pulled aside, so close, so close, and was told that he would give up his life to join her. That he would sell his shop, all his stock, to build a house and aid her in her life. The cicadas were buzzing, the air was hot and humid— yet it was neither of those things that made her feel so warm, that caused the noise in her head.

She laughed, and cried, and laughed some more. She asked him whether he was sure; whether he understood what he was doing. Whether he had thought about it enough. And felt tears falling again, as he confirmed he did. How long he had thought about it, how long he had pondered yet always came to the same conclusion.

That she was worth it all, that he wanted to know all of her. And he would not tie her down, he would not ask such a thing. No, instead he would loosen the things that kept him tied.

Hanguang-jun,

 

I hope you are doing well, and that winter is pleasant as ever in Gusu. I realise it is not my turn to write, but I felt that maybe I might take this liberty in breaking our routine. 

Everywhere I turn, I hear people celebrate. Celebrating that ten years have passed since the defeat of the villainous Yiling Patriarch. It stings, even for me. I cannot even begin to imagine how painful it may be for you. I thought that by now society would have found someone else to use as a scapegoat, but I was wrong. He fell too far to be let go of so easily. And even commoners were made to fear him, they tell stories about him to scare their children. They are afraid. Even my husband.

That is right, I have married recently. He is a wonderful, kind man, and though not a cultivator, he has decided to follow me on my path. He has already helped me a few times, and though it is a whole new world for him he puts his heart into it. He is building a house, for us and the child we are expecting. I will attach where to direct any future letters from this coming spring onward at the end of this one. 

I would imagine there are many interested in sharing their life with a man like you, but I have heard no stories of marriage, and I am certain the people would talk. I hope, that if it is so by your choice, you are able to remain as you wish. 

My child will not grow up to fear him.

 

Your friend,

Luo Qingyang

Lady Luo,

 

I hope it is not too early to reach you at this location yet. I wish to congratulate you on both your marriage and the coming child. I have no doubts that the child will be raised well and lead a happy life.

I thank you for your concern as well, however I have stayed free from anything beyond pressure from outside our sect in regards to marrying. Outside interest does not faze me.

If I may, I have a bold and purely selfish request to make. I would like to meet, face to face, once. If you are not opposed to this, please find me in the tea house in Yiling, on the 14th day of the coming month.

 

Your friend,

Lan Wangji

・・・・・・・

She read the letter one more time, before folding it back to the shape it had been delivered in, and stuffed it inside her sleeve. She felt her husband watching her, and she smiled back at him before returning to their mutual domestic tasks.

Maybe it was a selfish request, maybe it was bold, but that string she’d felt all those years ago vibrated in her chest again, stronger than it ever had before. She felt it tangled around her, and she knew she would follow where it led and meet with him.

Because she cared.

・・・・・・・

Worrying about finding the right tea house had been completely unnecessary, she noted as she stepped inside the first notable establishment on the main road of Yiling. There, by a side table, sat a recognisably beautiful and tall man dressed in pure white. He still radiated that same aura of ice cold calm she remembered, even after all these years. It was easy to see why people said he was light within the chaos he visited.

With a smile, she stepped closer.

”Hanguang-jun,” she greeted with a bow, and he smoothly rose to his feet to do the same.

”Lady Luo. You came.”

The hint of surprised relief in his voice took her aback, and she wondered whether she had ever been able to read him before. A small sting of regret at him seemingly having doubted whether she would come. 

“Of course, and I will any other time as well.”

He kept her gaze for a moment, before looking down and gesturing for them to sit. Without further words, he poured a cup of tea and softly placed it down in front of her. She watched the smooth, perfect action, and as they sat in silence for a while, enjoying the tea— the way his face and demeanor betrayed nothing of the turmoil she knew he kept hidden inside.

And so once they spoke, it was of mundane things, of night hunts, of journeys they’d made, of stories they’d heard. And to her surprise, he took an interest in her life, in her husband and in how life outside the influence of the larger sects was faring. She found it easy to tell him, despite his short, often one-worded comments. And there was nothing cold about him, though he was distant. Yet, she could not help but notice that their discussions stayed far away from the topics he spoke of in his letters, never even grazing the edge of them despite the clearly deliberately chosen location of their meeting.

She did not push, she had no reason to. Regardless, their conversation was more than pleasant, and the thread between them felt warm and strong. ‘Your friend,’ she realised, was not an exaggeration. 

He was her friend.

And so when cups and the eventual plates were empty, he took a letter from his sleeve and quietly passed it across the table. She looked at him, but his gaze was locked to the letter. He only let go once her hand was on it, and only looked up once it was safely placed inside her sleeve instead. She smiled and gave him a nod, as if to promise she would keep it safe and read it soon.

They rose from their seats, and he led her outside. And though politeness required him to ask, she knew he did not doubt whether she would be fine on her way back.

“And you?,” she asked, and she saw the faintest of smiles on his lips.

“I will stay for a little longer.”

She nodded and left him there, in the Yiling evening.



・・・・・・・

Lady Luo,

 

Beyond a hopefully pleasant time with you after all these years, I requested this meeting to deliver this letter to you personally. I do not wish to risk what I hope to share with you to pass through any other hands than ones I would trust with my life.

I once visited him in Yiling. I pretended to simply be passing by, but the truth is I wished to see him. I found him with a small child, one of the Wens he had saved. They took me up the mountain, to the small home they were building. Him, Wen Qing and all the people he had saved. The respect they gave him showed in everything I witnessed.

As everything was falling apart I visited one more time, this time desperately searching. But everyone was gone, him included. Yet hidden in a corner I found that young child alone and close to death. What I did was what anyone with a heart would have done.

His family name is now Lan, and he is now thirteen years of age. Though I was unable to be present during the first three years of his stay in the Cloud Recesses, I have since done my best to make up for it. 

He is one of our most promising diciples, and though I admit to feeling shame when it happens, some have taken to calling me his father. Though my uncle and brother agreed to take him in, I am wary of revealing his background to anyone else. The scorn for the Wen clan and the Yiling Patriarch is after all far from gone, as you say. More than anything, I wish to keep him safe.

In his smile, in some of his mannerisms, I see him. And so this young boy is the living proof that not all he did was in vain. He saved this child, and gave him a home for as long as he could. And I am continuing that. I know you are not looking for motivations or further justification for leaving the cultivation world behind, but I still wished for you to know this. That his actions, the actions you defended, bore weight.

I have no doubt you will be a much better parent than I have ever been able to be. I try my best, and I cannot deny his presence has helped me in similar ways that your letters have.

As a final note, I am including a sample of a spirit attraction flag with this letter. This is one of his inventions, one of many confiscated from the Burial Mounds. I have been working on introducing them to our methods, and after notable push-back and trial and error with figuring out the details of his notes we now teach the use of these flags to our diciples. I do not wish for his genius and good work to be forgotten. You may replicate this flag and use in your work as you see fit. It will attract spirits within a certain radius, depending on the intent put into the flag. 

Again, thank you for taking the time to meet me and for all the support.

 

Your friend,

Lan Wangji


・・・・・・・

The tear that rolled down her cheek was not one of sadness, but of warmth and hope. It dripped down onto the letter, finally making her realise the need to wipe her eyes. 

This letter added so much to her perspective, so many new sides to the still mourning man, and she found herself floored by his strength, his dedication. She knew of his work, his travels, his struggles and his duties. The revelation that on top of that, he’d also been raising a Wen orphan as his own made burning admiration vibrate inside her.

When her husband held her, asking what was wrong, she kept her promise to not reveal anything. They were happy tears, she said, as they truly were, as she had received good news from an old friend.

Hanguang-jun,

 

I am happy to let you know I am now the mother of a young girl. We have taken to calling her Mianmian, as I myself used to be called. I had long since decided that if my child was to be a girl, she would be called that no matter her given name. Had it been a boy, his name would have been Yuandao. I admit my husband laughed at me when I said this, but I would not budge.

And though many people called me Mianmian over the years, no one has for a very long time. And so it became entangled with him. This is my way of remembering him, as in a way, my decision to leave was because of him.

And eventually, it was my decision to leave that led me to meet the love of my life and be blessed with this girl.

As the strongest person I know, one day, I would love for her to meet you.

 

Your friend,

Luo Qingyang

 

Lady Luo,

 

Please have my sincerest congratulations on your daughter. She will be as strong and dedicated as you, of that I am sure. 

I have extended the area I survey and taken the liberty to assign more small level night hunts to my disciples to ensure you do not need to worry about the safety of your areas. 

And if there is ever anything you may need, please remember that I am here for you, as you have been for me.

 

Your friend,

Lan Wangji

Her little Mianmian was a blessing, a small bundle of joy and excitement who brought nothing but happiness into their lives. And though her life took a more common path then, her nightly adventures and long journeys to where she was needed put on hold, she did not feel like something was missing. No, right then, her husband and her daughter were where she was needed the most, and where she most wished to be.

She knew she had left her work in good hands.

Hanguang-jun,

 

I thank you for your continued support. The protective talismans you sent us have been well in use, and I have been pleased to improve on my own with their help. I would swear that my daughter sleeps better with yours guarding her, however. I will take this to mean I should not give up and improve further!

She is now old enough for stories, and old enough to misbehave. And so, things I had been dreading have indeed occurred once or twice now. As I have said, my husband is a kind and thoughtful man, and I love him dearly. But he is but a normal, common man, made to believe the horrible stories he has been told. And so, it is the Yiling Patriarch that hides under our daughter’s bed or in the darkness outside.

Each time I turn to my daughter, and tell her she has nothing to fear. That the Yiling Patriarch only comes for bad people, that he would never hurt a good child, nor someone who protects the weak. I tell my husband there is no need to scare her, that I wish for her to feel safe and be brave, and he lets it go. 

But there is a balance to everything isn’t there? Being too brave, too ready to stand for what is right may lead one astray too. But that may be a conversation for when she is a little older. 

I hope all is well with you and the people you care about. I realise it may be invasive, or even disrespectful, but I wish nothing but happiness for you, in whatever shape that may be in this world without him.

 

Your friend,

Luo Qingyang

Lady Luo,

 

I have noted you are again going on night hunts. It is now more than once or twice that my disciples have come back with the story that a ‘small family of cultivators’ had already made it there before them. It warms my heart to hear this. 

If I am understanding correctly, your daughter’s third birthday should be any of these days. Please congratulate her on my behalf, and make use of the talismans I am attaching. In particular, one may entertain her. It is a charm of sparkling light butterflies, one he always had up his sleeve.

This winter has been particularly cold in Gusu, but somehow, my heart has not felt cold. 

I do not think the regret will ever disappear, nor will I ever forget. I do not wish to. But now, most of all, I remember his smile.

I realise that this is more than a decade too soon, but I wish to make it clear that when the time comes, there will always be a space for your daughter to study here, regardless of any lack of sect connections.

 

Your friend,

Lan Wangji

The first time the rumours reached her ears she nearly dropped her sword. The Yiling Patriarch was back, people were saying. They were afraid, they were worried. 

She had bit her lip, swallowed, and gone to find out what she could. And as was to be expected, few of the stories she could find made any sense, nor did they match with each other. The most frequent one, however, was that he had broken into Carp Tower and been exposed there. Where he had gone from there, and whether he was even real, she could not find.

And so, after a quick letter to her dear friend in Gusu, looking for the Yiling Patriarch became an urgent routine for the entire family. 

If it was true, she had to find him.

 

・・・・・・・

The rustle was unexpected and sudden, but her reflexes were as quick as ever. Sword pointed at their haystack and whoever was hiding behind it, demanding for them to reveal themselves. 

Her husband quickly called their daughter’s name, pulling her close. She stepped closer, repeating her threat.

And so, the familiar sight of her longtime friend— the elegant, white robed Hanguang-jun rose from side of their yard. He greeted her with a soft smile, and her grip on her sword loosened instantly.

And so, another voice spoke, and it was like her heart stopped beating as a second figure walked out into the light. One dressed in black, with a bright red ribbon in his hair. One she hadn’t seen for some sixteen years. One she’d been looking for, wishing to find, for the sake of her friend.

“You’re Wei—,”

She quickly interrupted her rudeness, greeting the both of them properly. Her heart was beating quickly, and she would not have been able to keep the joyful smile off her face, even if she had tried. The way he remembered her, the way he did not let the stories bother him, the way he wished to gift her daughter something. The way the two men acted completely inseparable. And most of all, how completely at ease her friend looked— like a heavy burden had fallen off his shoulders.

But as expected, they were nothing but business, and her friend quickly requested information regarding peculiar events in the region. And like she had done so many times in writing, she shared everything she knew without hesitation.

She didn’t know what they were looking for, she could not understand how Wei Wuxian had returned, but she found she didn’t care. What did that matter, when he was by Hanguang-jun’s side again?

And as her husband asked why he had never heard of this Young Master Wei before— if he had saved her life— rightfully worried about her times in real danger, she sent another smile in the direction the two men had left.

“He’s just a good man,” she said.

Because he truly was.

Later, when dinner had been eaten, and her daughter was fast asleep, she again found her paper and ink. The letter would be short, but she would pour her heart into it.


・・・・・・・

Hanguang-jun,

 

You found him. 

I cannot begin to express my joy at seeing the two of you together today. I do not know when and how this letter will reach you, where your path is currently leading you, but that is fine. I trust you are far too busy making up for lost time.

With me you have made your feelings clear through writing. Though you may not ever have spelled the direct words, I have no doubts about the depth of your feelings for him.

Those words should not be left only written, they should be said.

And even with him here again, know that I will remain your friend for life. You, as well as him, are welcome here at any time.

 

Your friend,

Luo Qingyang