The night before he is due in Moling, Wei Wuxian cannot sleep.
He’s told Lan Wangji to go on without him, to sleep precisely at curfew, because Wei Wuxian will be up late tonight, going over what he has planned to speak about with Huan Jun. With every year that passes of their marriage, with every day they spend close together, knowing each other more deeply than Wei Wuxian would ever have thought it would be possible to know another person, it becomes harder and harder to hide from Lan Wangji—to lie to him.
So—Wei Wuxian does not lie.
The only way for him to hide anything from Lan Wangji, for any period of time, is simply not to mention it at all. He knows, one day, he will have to tell him—this part of Wei Wuxian that he has never liked to dwell on, that in his previous life he had already swept away and dealt with—concluding that he would not and could never change for anyone, for anything. It was easier, then, to feint unaware of the way his brother constantly stuck to his side, after a certain age—after certain events.
In any case, Wei Wuxian has always been able to protect himself.
It’s this second life of his, these new circumstances, this long stretch of safety that has him out of practice, catching him off guard in Yunmeng when once nothing could take him by surprise in his previous life.
He trusts too easily lately—the veneer of openness he once only wore on the outside sinking into the very way that he sees the world rather than simply the way he shields himself from it. Or, perhaps, he’s getting soft with old age, despite the years off of his life he’s missing.
Nonetheless, he can’t afford to continue, as nice as the reprieve has been. There will never be a time when Wei Wuxian wants to relinquish his freedom, the ease of movement that he is afforded when he travels alone—going where he pleases, the solace of solitude that he still enjoys once every while. Always, always, he wants to return home to the familiar warmth of his husband’s arms. Yet, it doesn’t mean that he can rid himself of that itch beneath his skin that he constantly has suspected, since his first life, is something that he has inherited and cannot escape.
He has never minded it, and neither does Lan Wangji.
This means, of course, that Wei Wuxian cannot afford to act as if the world is as safe and kind as the new life he has built around himself deludes him into believing it is.
He will tell Lan Wangji, at some point, when he is ready—when he’s prepared to deal with the anxious concern, the inevitable pain, and the unavoidable intensity of those gold, gold eyes.
Until then, he cannot ask Lan Wangji to send Sizhui or Jingyi with him. The Head Disciple has already duties of his own for tomorrow because of Wei Wuxian’s constant refusal in past instances for the need to be accompanied. Neither can Wei Wuxian bring Wen Ning alone to such official business—when Wen Ning’s very presence clearly would announce the feeling of illogical danger that refuses to leave Wei Wuxian’s bones, disregarding the clear lack of evidence, of reason. Even Jingyi will be busy tomorrow, a thought that brings a smile to Wei Wuxian’s face, even as he sits, in the dim candlelight of the jingshi, still unable to bring himself to climb into bed with his husband just yet.
If he asks Lan Wangji now to send a disciple with him, or even to come to Moling alongside Wei Wuxian himself, that will be a direct affirmation that Wei Wuxian did encounter something unsettling in Yunmeng—and, no, that he has not yet told Lan Wangji what it was.
In some days, he will tell his husband. He will.
Not tonight. Not now.
Lan Wangji doesn’t stir, even as Wei Wuxian slips beneath the blankets, curling himself against his husband’s body. He takes one of the arms at Lan Wangji’s side and wraps it around his own waist, resting his head on the broad shoulder. His eyelids feel so, so, heavy, but his mind is still whirring with noise—with thoughts, with all sorts of scenarios that he knows are utterly nonsensical. It’s enough to have him snorting aloud—after having faced off entire armies, thousands of cultivators at once, he’s now lying here, unreasonable distress keeping him up the night before he is to be alone with one cultivator, who has never in their entire relationship shown any sort of ill-will nor aggression towards Wei Wuxian.
He tries, as best as he can, unsuccessfully, to keep at bay the voice in his mind that reminds him Wang Shilin, also, had never before even remotely hinted that he would ever, ever, do anything to hurt Wei Wuxian.
He doesn’t know how much longer he lies there, then, his entire body aching to toss and turn in an attempt to chase the unconsciousness that continues to evade him. It is, perhaps, hours until he finally relents and, as carefully as he can, squirms and twists to make himself more comfortable. The movement almost instantaneously causes the body beside him to move as well, and Wei Wuxian finds himself gazing up into slow-blinking, clearly still very half asleep, golden eyes.
A large, warm hand catches at the base of Wei Wuxian’s back, pulling him in gently closer until his face is up against the juncture of Lan Wangji’s neck and shoulder. “Wei Ying is still awake?” Lan Wangji’s voice is so, so low when he teeters on the border of wakefulness and dreams—low, and rich, and reverberating through his chest to make Wei Wuxian’s entire body shiver.
Wei Wuxian swallows. “Nightmare,” he whispers, taking advantage of Lan Wangji’s barely conscious state to lie like the awful husband that he is. “Will er-gege sing me back to sleep?”
Lan Wangji’s eyes are barely open, glowing, golden slits in the darkness, lashes fanning out over the tops of his cheekbones. He’s far, far, too dignified to yawn—Wei Wuxian doesn’t think he has ever seen a Lan yawn—but the way his breaths are heavy and even tell Wei Wuxian that it’s a near thing. Even then, Lan Wangji holds Wei Wuxian ever closer, one hand moving into Wei Wuxian’s hair to card through the strands in a steady, reassuring, rhythm, as Lan Wangji begins humming a melody that Wei Wuxian could play out even in his own dreams.
Wei Wuxian’s heart aches in that moment, and he isn’t quite sure why.
“Have I ever told you you’re too good, Hanguang-jun?” Wei Wuxian says softly, as the thoughts swimming in his mind finally begin to silence themselves, one by one.
Lan Wangji doesn’t respond, continuing the song in that low, vibrating, hum. Only when Wei Wuxian has lain quiet against his husband’s body for long enough that he begins floating in that gray area between consciousness and blissful blackness does he hear Lan Wangji whisper back, “As good as Wei Ying deserves.”
Wei Wuxian is unable to prevent Lan Wangji from noticing that he brings Suibian with him, when he otherwise carries his sword only for specific types of nighthunts and cases, or for long, potentially dangerous, journeys in which he travels without Lan Wangji. At the very least, he can explain away his sword—however shoddy the explanation—with the possibility of hunting with the Su Sect’s Leader. Lan Wangji does not see pre-drawn lures, the detection talismans, that Wei Wuxian has already tucked into the linings of his vambraces, easily pulled out down to his hands were he ever to need them.
He very nearly runs out of the jingshi, without looking back one last time at his husband—without demanding a departing kiss as he would normally never fail to do. That, and the lie that he told the previous night, sit heavy in his stomach, causing his breakfast and early lunch to churn uncomfortably.
When he comes back, regardless of how tired he is, he will tell him. He will tell Lan Wangji then.
Huan Jun is his usual, shy, serene, kind self.
He makes absolutely no note of the unusual presence of Wei Wuxian’s sword for their meeting this afternoon, only greeting Wei Wuxian in the warm, elegant way that the Sect Leader always does. They don’t move into the reception room of Huan Jun’s quarters right away, instead walking around the sect keep so that Wei Wuxian could inspect the well-being and developing cultivation of the junior disciples. All of the buildings that the sect is composed of are also keeping well, something that Wei Wuxian has assured of when he suggested to Huan Jun that he will place the same sort of talismans that he used for the Nie Sect’s Blade Tombs to keep vengeful energy at bay.
Wei Wuxian is fairly certain that Su She had absolutely no idea that he built his sect on top of a village that had been eradicated by a cursed plague—it’s the sort of enormous misstep that someone like the man would’ve made, and only fortunately, had no incidents occurred yet because of it to any unsuspecting junior disciples before Wei Wuxian stepped in.
Several Su disciples greet Wei Wuxian as he walks through, some of them he has come to know by name after visiting Moling so often in the earlier days after the final vote to determine the sect’s fate.
Huan Jun waves off some of the more insistent junior disciples with a genial, airy hand. “Let Master Wei catch his breath from his travels,” the Sect Leader says affably.
Wei Wuxian fondly watches the last two young girls run off, their neat plaits flying jauntily after them against the backdrop of the setting sun. The sight is so picturesque that he has to smile. “Only Sect Leader Huan can tell me how ready his disciples are for a major hunt, but they’re all very excited, aren’t they?” he says, laughing lightly, as he follows Huan Jun to the man’s quarters.
Huan Jun lets Wei Wuxian pass him first through the doorway and then into the front room. “If any of our disciples at all manage to catch even the smallest beast when vying for prey against your fearsome Lan disciples, this Sect Leader would already be proud,” he says, laughter in his own voice.
Wei Wuxian takes a familiar seat at the tea room he has frequented so many times now, resting his sword lightly beside him on the floor, dizi across his folded legs. “Sect Leader Huan should worry more about the Jin disciples when it comes to sharing prey,” Wei Wuxian remarks, playfully mimicking the motions of an archer. “Especially after Sect Leader Jin has started pushing their distance training so much.”
Huan Jun sits across Wei Wuxian at the table, a tray of tea already served in front of them.
The cups have already been poured for them, as well—one filled in front of Wei Wuxian, and one filled in front of Huan Jun. Already.
Wei Wuxian’s heart sinks.
Huan Jun is about to pick up his own cup, when he notices Wei Wuxian’s infinitesimal pause. “Please,” the other man nods, looking almost confused. Then, he easily sips at his own cup, placing it down before him with further confusion at how Wei Wuxian still has yet to drink.
In all of Wei Wuxian’s travels to Moling and back, he has taken the same horse. She’s a lovely, deep brown mare that he’s come to love as dearly as Little Apple. There are quite a number of mounts for him to choose from every time that the Lan Sect keeps in their stables—not nearly so many animals as the Nie Sect, but enough in case there are ever non-cultivating guests.
When he dismounted, earlier, right before setting her off to one of the junior Su disciples to keep in the sect’s own small stable, he apologized to her, a whisper beneath his breath as he stroked down her nose and placed a talisman beneath the edge of her saddle. He tested it on himself, beforehand, several times, the slight warming sensation not at all painful, but if sudden enough, sufficient to spook even the calmest of animals.
He thought, perhaps, there wouldn’t be a need to utilize it if Huan Jun would first go into the kitchens to fetch their tea—or if a junior disciple is preparing it and Wei Wuxian could slip the detection talisman from his vambraces into the liquid as it is being poured. Never before, after all, has he come into Huan Jun’s house to find even his cup already prepared for him.
A part of him wonders whether he even needs to shock his poor, loyal, girl like this. Just to make sure—when so many bells are already going off in Wei Wuxian’s head. There’s the inevitable feeling of betrayal that is also rising like bile in his throat, something that he wishes he could stop after all this time. One would think that after so many instances, he would be able to remain unfeeling and unsurprised. Unhurt.
He hides a sigh, and crooks two fingers under the table.
Huan Jun’s head immediately whips around at the loud, jarring, startled whinny that comes from outside—the sect stables close enough to the Sect Leader’s quarters that Wei Wuxian knew the sound would carry easily.
He has nearly a single, split, second, but that is all he needs to yank down a corner of the talisman with practiced force, just enough to dip the edge into his tea.
The stark, blaring, black is unmistakable even with only a fraction of a millisecond to glimpse it before he needs to rein it back between the leather and his wrist.
All he wishes is that the bitter taste of betrayal would stop chasing after him every time this happened. If he only ever felt weariness or disappointment, it would be better than betrayal. He wonders, as he always does, what the breaking point was this time—for this friend. He wonders if perhaps it was gradual instead—Wei Wuxian’s attempts to befriend and comfort him during his early trials as a Sect Leader overstepping and pushing him to the edge, like too many others.
Wei Wuxian wonders why, why, why again.
He knows it’s pointless to wonder what it was that he did to bring this about, but his mind roams without his permission, and it hurts.
“Sorry,” Wei Wuxian says, forcing a smile onto his face as Huan Jun turns around, expression still stunned. “She’s been fidgety lately. I probably should’ve taken one of the other ones today, but—I haven’t ridden her in a while, I didn’t want her to forget about me.”
Something in Huan Jun’s eyes change, just slightly then, at those words. The air in Wei Wuxian’s lungs dissipates in that moment. “No one could ever forget you, Master Wei,” he says softly.
A stupid, stupid, part of Wei Wuxian still hopes, even now. Perhaps—perhaps—it is because he is still the Yiling Patriarch. Perhaps Huan Jun could not overcome the prejudice that had come with all those years of all those rumors of his crimes exaggerated to insurmountable heights. Perhaps Huan Jun simply can’t stand seeing the Yiling Patriarch being lauded in recent years as someone good rather than the mass murderer, the wielder of the undead, that he truly is. Perhaps Huan Jun only wants to kill him, to make him disappear without a trace, and feign innocence that he never even arrived in Moling today when his absence is noted.
Why a slowing toxin, if he wants to kill you? Why not something fatal to finish the job in one, clean, shot?
The betrayal is so thick in his throat, in his chest, that Wei Wuxian is almost dizzy from the nausea.
It hurts, but he has work to do.
He slides the thin, steel-sharp needle from the inner lining of his sleeve, down until he can prick at his thumb deep enough to draw tiny drops of blood. He begins drawing, miniscule, discreet strokes on the floor, hidden between the way his robes drape and rest over his hand and leg. “Sect Leader Huan shouldn’t say such things with such an expression,” Wei Wuxian teases. The array will be useless if he doesn’t finish drawing it, which he only intends to do if he finds there is a need for it. He stills his thumb before the finishing stroke.
Huan Jun is quiet for a long moment then, his face entirely unreadable, the pleasantness draining out with every passing second that Wei Wuxian only meets his gaze head on and does not drink the tea set out before him. The tension in the room is palpable now, and Wei Wuxian feels another inward sigh course through him as he finishes the array. It must still be activated, of course, another step that Wei Wuxian delays because perhaps he really has gone soft in this new life of his—holding back until the last moment because there is no undeniable evidence yet to present itself.
“Wei Wuxian has said many things with many expressions,” Huan Jun ends the silence, then, his voice still eerily soft. “Yet, this Sect Leader and this Head Disciple always endure it.”
Wei Wuxian stiffens in confusion for a moment in reaction to the additional title, his first instinctive thought that Huan Jun referred to the nomer that he previously held. He has barely taken his next breath when his senses light up, roaring at him, and he only barely manages to press his hand down into the array at the same time that he’s shoved forward onto the table, both of his wrists held behind his back in a large hand, a certain bruise to form on his cheek with the force that it hits the lacquered wood.
The position rolls Chenqing out of his lap, and Huan Jun reaches under the table to take it easily into his hand, placing it far out of Wei Wuxian’s reach, even if his hands were not being bound behind him with a rough, tight, rope. With his head forcibly turned to the side and pressed onto the hard surface, Wei Wuxian is able to see his captor’s face with a simple slide of his eyes upwards. “Ah,” he smiles, “but I believe Master Wang is no longer Head Disciple.”
Wang Shilin’s expression is a mix of terrible triumph and arrogant anticipation. “Yes,” he says, pulling Wei Wuxian up by his bound wrists and slamming him onto the floor, face into the cushion he was seated upon moments earlier. “And who, does Master Wei think, is to blame?”
The blow knocks the air out of Wei Wuxian for a moment, the room going blurry. It will be difficult to continue channeling through the floor, through the earth, like this, he thinks—with his hands in the air. “Master Wang, naturally!” he trills cheerily, and his tone takes on the effect he needs—incensing Wang Shilin enough to spin Wei Wuxian around to face him, pinning him down in the painful position of his tied hands between his back and the floor. The pins and needles under his skin immediately start to form, but now he can maneuver his palms down to lay flat onto the mats beneath, down towards the soil that this very house was built on.
Wang Shilin’s pupils are dilated as he gazes down at Wei Wuxian, chest heaving. He looks as neat and tidy as he always did, every time he greeted and escorted Wei Wuxian at Lotus Pier—simply without the dark violets and pale lavenders of the Jiang Sect. There have been so many nights Wei Wuxian joked and teased towards that face, the nostalgia of doting on a shidi of his old sect irresistible and comforting. Wang Shilin even insisted on addressing him as shixiong, at times, even when Wei Wuxian said it truly wasn’t necessary—that he and the Jiang Sect could no longer truly be like that again.
Wei Wuxian is surprised at how much even this still hurts—he thought he had sufficiently set sail to that ship five days ago, sealing the wound forcibly to remain with all the others he cauterized over the decades.
Wang Shilin’s sword unsheathes itself and the blade goes clean through the side of Wei Wuxian’s trousers and robes in one strike, the tip of the metal grazing Wei Wuxian’s skin.
Wei Wuxian had been gathering the vengeful energy, up to this point, tendril by tendril into his hands, into the center of his palms, from all the tragic sources that littered this area deep in the forest—all of the full lives that had been cut short and unsatisfied by a cruel curse of a sickness. The feeling of Wang Shilin’s hands on Wei Wuxian’s bare skin turns the acrid betrayal at the back of Wei Wuxian’s throat into sheer outrage, cold and simmering in his heart. His palms burn against the floor.
“Master Wei believes he is blameless,” Huan Jun says, twirling Chenqing between his fingers as he watches on. His other hand makes a sharp motion towards all of the windows and doors, and the snaps sound through the air in a relay as each entrance and exit of the house seals itself, one by one. “He constantly believes he has no responsibility to anyone, at all, simply because he has the protection of his husband and brother following his footsteps—wherever he goes.”
Wei Wuxian can’t help it.
He laughs, and laughs, and laughs—loud enough and sincere enough that Wang Shilin’s weight on him actually recedes slightly because of how alarmed the man must be. Wei Wuxian laughs until he can barely breathe, until his body aches from the twisted position he maintains to keep his palms down on the floor. He laughs until he hears Huan Jun stand up, stride around the table, and yank Wei Wuxian’s head back by the hair. He feels his ribbon rip loose, the strands flowing everywhere save for the ones fisted in Huan Jun’s hand. The two men are bearing down on him but he still can’t quite stop laughing, even through the pain searing in his scalp.
“Oh—” Wei Wuxian breathes. “Sect Leader Huan is too charming.” He looks from one man to the other, both faces painting displeasure and befuddlement and lust, all at once. It makes him want to laugh again, even harder. His stomach is also beginning to ache.
Huan Jun releases Wei Wuxian’s hair in what should be disgust, but Huan Jun’s expression is that of a man who hasn’t had food in days and is about to devour whatever is placed in front of him, heedless of what it might do to his body. “Shilin, hurry up,” he spits. “The little whore is trying to distract us long enough until his dogs arrive.”
Wei Wuxian whines, watching each man’s eyes darken with further ravaging, monstrous, desire as the sound pitches high through the air. “I’m so scared of dogs, though, Sect Leader,” he says, playfully, as he feels signs of—well—it would be cruel to claim it as life, but it was something—under his hands. He knows they are strong, whatever he managed to call.
Wang Shilin spins Wei Wuxian back around then, slamming him back face down, hands gripping at Wei Wuxian’s bare hips, slipping beneath the torn shreds of fabric. His fingers are like iron, bruising and painful and the array would’ve been enough, but Wei Wuxian thinks of it as perfect timing that he managed to hasten the summons before the stronger of the two men grew too impatient.
He lets out another chuckle, making sure it is audible, even as Huan Jun returns to wrap his hand around Wei Wuxian’s throat, squeezing and pushing his upper body back as Wang Shilin pins his waist to the floor. The arch that it forces Wei Wuxian’s body into is obscene, torturous like a forced stretch of his muscles. He still only meets Huan Jun’s face, directly in front of him now, with a wide, humorless, grin. “Sect Leader and Master Wang think they’re frightening me,” he says almost gently. “They think they’ll humiliate me—do they think I’ll bleed? Scream? Do they think I’ll be too ashamed to face Hanguang-jun, after they’ve so thoroughly ruined me?”
“We already know how shameless you are,” Wang Shilin says, one of his hands leaving Wei Wuxian’s hips. He hears the tell-tale rustle of trousers being unlaced. Huan Jun’s expression in front of Wei Wuxian is so ravenous as his eyes rake over Wei Wuxian’s body that Wei Wuxian is nearly tempted to make another quip about how perhaps the Sect Leader should have had dinner first before believing he had the stamina to sate himself on Wei Wuxian. “Lan Wangji is the one who won’t want anything to do with you after you’ve been filled and used, over and over again. What will the great Second Young Master do with a dirty, loose, little whore of a husband?”
Wei Wuxian can actually, in this very moment, hear Jiang Cheng screeching at him in his mind’s ear to just stay silent and wait for what is quickly coming for these two men rather than provoking them needlessly further. He considers, for a brief second, listening to his brother—then—as always, decides not to. He blames Wang Shilin—the man set everything up himself and Wei Wuxian is powerless to resist. “Master Wang thinks it’s within his—ah—compact capabilities to make me loose?” he asks, innocently.
At the same time that Wang Shilin bellows a swear of fury, ripping down the remains of Wei Wuxian’s trousers, Wei Wuxian crooks his two fingers once more, and the furthest wall of the house shatters into pieces—the sound explosive and booming, shocking enough that Huan Jun reacts by releasing Wei Wuxian. He goes careening forward, only barely catching himself on his knees before his face hits the floor.
Wang Shilin is stumbling backwards, sword drawn once more, and rounding up on his feet. Wei Wuxian arranges himself into a sitting position, catching his breath after so long being held taut in that painful stretch and twist. He’s more naked than he previously noticed, than he previously thought, and he ignores the feeling of filth crawling all over his skin. He focuses, instead, on the frigid storm brewing in his stomach, in his chest, as he slides himself up against another corner, legs curled up to his chest.
“Sect Leader,” he calls out to Huan Jun, on his knees with eyes as round as plates across the room, backing up so quickly and violently from the gaping hole in the wall—and the two guests that have stepped through it—that he knocks over the tea table, teapot and cups shattering onto the floor and spilling their contents. “We have company—won’t you welcome them?”
Wei Wuxian summoned two corpses for the two men in the room with him, and yet, upon observing the way Wang Shilin is fending both of them off almost valiantly by himself, as Huan Jun remains frozen on the floor, utterly unhearing of the younger man’s frustrated roars of outrage at not being assisted—Wei Wuxian wonders if perhaps just the one would’ve been enough. Especially since it took extra time to summon the female corpse from further away where she was buried.
While Wang Shilin holds his own, as Wei Wuxian expected a cultivator as powerful as him to do so against even the fiercest of the undead, Huan Jun comes crawling over to where Wei Wuxian is curled. Suibian shivers in its sheathe, ready, as Wei Wuxian reaches around the vengeful energy roped through his veins, touching instead now, his meridians, Mo Xuanyu’s mild core waiting to be used.
“Please,” Huan Jun whispers, abruptly gripping Wei Wuxian’s forearms, the strength that comes out from his desperation certainly to leave bruises there as well on Wei Wuxian’s body. Wei Wuxian feels his eyes sear, glowing, he’s certain, red with the crackling darkness, the killing intent that the corpses felt themselves pulled towards. The man before him proceeds in his groveling. “Please—it wasn’t my idea—you know this, you know me—Shilin made the toxin, it’s his—it’s his, I swear, it’s his—”
“Sect Leader,” Wei Wuxian murmurs, tilting his head, and smiling softly, at the way the man’s face is covered in perspiration, pupils shaking. “This little whore only wanted to correct Sect Leader Huan. He said that I never hold blame or responsibility—that I do whatever I want due to my husband and my brother’s protections.”
All, in one split second, Suibian unsheathes itself and goes flying in Wang Shilin’s direction. The man nearly snorts with derision, moving to easily block the blow. As he does, the corpse nearest to him grasps both of his arms in his distraction and she twists out the joints of his shoulders, the piercing sound of the bones popping simultaneous with the man’s screams.
“Jun-ge,” Wang Shilin gasps in delirious pain, on his knees now, broken, disconnected arms held limp by the female corpse behind his back. “Jun-ge—help —”
Huan Jun is still holding onto Wei Wuxian’s upper arms when all of this happens, the whites of his eyes stark as he turns into utter stone. His grip reacts accordingly, tensing even further, fingers digging into Wei Wuxian’s skin enough that Wei Wuxian can feel the man’s nails. He feels his temper veritably implode at that moment, and the male corpse, previously empty-handed while his female counterpart is manhandling Wang Shilin, rips Huan Jun away from Wei Wuxian.
“Don’t,” Wei Wuxian says, deathly quiet, “fucking touch me.”
“I won’t—I won’t—I’m sorry—” Huan Jun stammers, voice rasping as the corpse’s hands wrap around his throat.
Wei Wuxian turns his eyes away from the Sect Leader, just for a moment, just long enough to command Suibian to come forward, piercing through Wang Shilin’s stomach in a place that will not be so immediately fatal—a place where he will bleed out slowly, while the female corpse—
Wang Shilin’s screams turn into sobs as his arms are gnawed and torn from his body, as blood splatters everywhere, pooling from his stomach and flowing from the holes on either side of his shoulders. The female corpse begins to immediately gorge herself on the flesh, and Huan Jun’s screams, despite being choked down, soon join the cacophony at the sight before him.
Only when it gets too noisy—annoying—does Wei Wuxian yank Suibian forward one last time, another curl of his fingers, straight through Wang Shilin, pinning his soon-silenced body to the floor.
Huan Jun is still begging, even as the male corpse pushes him up against a wall and Wei Wuxian uses the tendrils of vengeful energy that he transferred into the man’s body when the man had laid his hands on him to splinter and shatter the bones in the man’s legs. Like his friend, his screams dissolve into sobs at that point. Wei Wuxian whistles once, loud and clear to put the female corpse to rest, for the moment, the chewed up pieces of Wang Shilin’s arms falling in bloody splats around her as she collapses like a doll.
“I’m sorry—it wasn’t me, you need to believe me, please,” Huan Jun pleads, as Wei Wuxian continues to whistle, leading the curse that still clings to the dead flesh of the puppet pressing Huan Jun into the wall. He leads it on with the melody, letting it slide slick and deadly into the Sect Leader’s body itself.
He tunes out the pathetic beseeching, the imploring. He concentrates, disassociates, until all he can hear is his own whistling—the haunting melody almost soothing in the way that it weaves the notes delicately into the dark room. Even the grunts and groans of the corpse as it presses down Huan Jun’s throat—obediently holding the Sect Leader in place as the curse smoothly transfers, stage by deadly stage—even those ghastly sounds seem to only harmonize with Wei Wuxian’s music.
He has regrets, already, in this dazed, floaty state he’s reached—the rage and cold fury only thrumming peacefully beneath his buzzing veins. He regrets killing Wang Shilin so quickly, too impatient with the way the man had begun to scream. The Yiling Patriarch has grown too, too, too soft. Too merciful in his second life.
The curse, once fully transferred, will still take some minutes to act. Wei Wuxian absently, pleasantly, wonders how he should torture Huan Jun in the mean time. He wonders if he will have the male corpse hold Huan Jun’s wrists behind his back, in the same way that Wei Wuxian’s are still bound. He wonders if he will invoke a brand of nostalgia and have his female corpse tear out Huan Jun’s penis with her teeth. He wonders—
There is a surge of spiritual energy, coming towards him, it begins to permeate the room, and he doesn’t need to see to know there is another man coming for him—there is another man who is going to touch him, who is going to lay his hands on him, and he’s going to gouge their eyeballs out and rip their fingers from their hands, he’s going to have their flesh devoured before their eyes—
Like beacon of light, piercing through the thickest fog in a storm, reaching to the furthest recesses of the sea’s horizon, he hears his name.
Huan Jun is not dead yet, his limbs are still attached, his heart still pumps blood through his veins, his ribs have yet to be broken—intestines cut out from his body and stringing him up to the ceiling, lungs splayed out like wings out from his spine, his fingers have still, still, still not been severed one by one after they’ve touched Wei Wuxian, after they dared to touch him—
His spiritual energy pulses, vital and pure.
He does not touch Wei Wuxian, but he is there, kneeling, in front of him.
The awareness comes to him in stages.
Legs that have followed him to wherever he beckoned them.
A body that has never forced its weight down on him.
Arms that have never caged him in. Hands that have never held him against his will.
Eyes that have never so much as looked at him in a way that he did not welcome.
When the veil finishes lifting, for a moment Wei Wuxian can do nothing but stare at the unadulterated pain in Lan Wangji’s eyes, the agony in the wet glimmer of them as they gaze back at Wei Wuxian.
Then, he lets himself pitch forward into those waiting arms, and breathes.