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Chapter Text

Lan Sizhui made his way through the forest. He was entrusted with a single mission, on which he went with Wen Ning. They went far from the Cloud Recesses and were on the road for several days, but the young disciple of the Gusu Lan clan successfully completed the mission: he dealt with the little huli jing lost in the village in the lowlands and returned him home to the mountains. Wen Ning, as a safety net, looked after Lan Yuan in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Twilight was deepening, and they needed to stay somewhere for the night. Wen Ning did not need sleep, and Sizhui could spend the night under the stars.

- Let's stop at the edge of the forest? – suggested the Lan disciple. – And tomorrow, early in the morning, we'll head towards the Cloud Recesses.

Wen Ning nodded, but hesitated a bit.

- What is it? – Sizhui asked.

- We are on the border with the Jiang clan territory, – Wen Ning said. – Of course, I don’t think that we will run against their disciples, but…

A branch crunched, and a shadow appeared at the edge of the forest, framed by moonlight.

- But you definitely run into it, because I have a nose like a hunting dog on strangers, – came a gloomy voice, the owner of which came out from behind the trees.

- Leader of the Jiang clan! – Lan Sizhui caught himself and hurried to bow politely. Wen Ning bowed as well and stepped back in order not to be an eyesore to Jiang Cheng.

- What are you doing here? – Leader Jiang asked.

- I apologize if we invaded your territory without asking, – Sizhui said. – We rescued a huli jing in one of the villages nearby. We wanted to spend the night and move back to Gusu in the morning.

Jiang Cheng examined them. Wen Ning tried not to look up at him, Sizhui looked more confident. White robe and white forehead ribbon with the Gusu Lan clan's official cloud motif sewn onto them… A clear look, like the surface of a lake at dawn. It reminded Jiang Cheng of something. Or about someone.

Lan Sizhui was waiting for what the Leader of the Jiang clan would say and what his decision would be. Jiang Cheng, although he looked gloomy (however, as always), but was not hostile. He seemed tired: there were dark shadows under his eyes, his face was sunken, even Zidian on his finger did not glow with an ominous purple color, being in a state of rest.

- Lotus Pier is not that far from here. You can spend the night there, – Jiang Cheng said suddenly.

Sizhui and Wen Ning looked at each other in surprise.

- We both can follow you?.. – just in case the young disciple specified.

Jiang Cheng gave them an annoyed look.

- He can stay at the gate, – he nodded towards Wen Ning and addressed Lan Sizhui: – Servants will prepare a room for you. If you don’t want to, I don’t insist. – Then Leader Jiang began to retire back into the forest.

- Please, wait! – Sizhui hurried after him. Wen Ning followed them at a distance. – Leader Jiang, you are very kind! We express our deep gratitude to you!

Jiang Cheng said nothing. He was depressed, had already slept badly for a while now, had no appetite or even anger. The latter was rare.

- If I am not mistaken, you are one of the best young disciples of the Gusu Lan clan? – Leader Jiang asked reluctantly. He knew from Jin Ling that this young man was considered as the named son of Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, and was the last descendant of the Wen branch, but Jiang Cheng did not dislike him.

- There are many worthy disciples in our clan, – Sizhui replied evasively.

- Yeah, you’re always have the edge over my nephew on the Night-hunt…

- Young master Jin is also very talented!

Jiang Cheng turned a deaf ear to his words. Lately he has been in an unusual frame of mind. Previously, it would not have occurred to him to meet guests in the middle of the night to personally accompany them to his place. And even more so, he would not have been so gentle with Wen Ning. However, after the incident at Guanyin Temple, Jiang Cheng's attitude towards many things changed. Almost a year has passed since those events…

Leader Jiang gave Lan Sizhui a glance again. He was different from Jin Ling: he was softer, resembling bamboo – flexible, but stable in any storm, not allowing himself to be broken, having a solid core inside and an agreeable character outside. Just like… Jiang Cheng shook his head.

- You know a lot of different melodies for this musical thing? – Jiang Cheng asked suddenly, nodding towards the guqin on Sizhui's back. – Is there any that helps with insomnia?

Lan Yuan, always kind and able to support any conversation – especially if it touched on a topic that he knows very well – happily continued the conversation.

At night, in a dedicated room, the young disciple was getting ready for sleep, going to go to bed and extinguish the candle, when suddenly he heard the creak of doors, and together with the uninvited guest, the aroma of wine flew inside.

With a heavy tread, the master of Lotus Pier approached the bed, half hidden in the shadow of the dimly lit room. Sizhui looked at him, his gaze tense.

Leader Jiang bent over the young man and whispered something to him. Lan Yuan was confused, but when he felt a strange hand touch the hanfu’s strings and slowly pulled them without touching his body, he did not pull it. Even if Sizhui was a little scared and discouraged, a firm confidence glimmered in his eyes. He nodded.

The trembling candle flame was extinguished, and the room was plunged into darkness.

* * *

In one of the taverns on the outskirts of the Caiyi town, was not crowded, quiet and cozy, just to enjoy a leisurely conversation under a cup of tea or wine, and not to take eyes off the other person. Wei Ying shot his eyes at Lan Zhan and then reached out to interlace his fingers with the man's. Wangji's expression was, as always, inscrutable, but it was betrayed by the traitor ears, reddened like the petals of a blossoming peach.

- Am I drunk on wine or on you? – Wei Ying flirted shamelessly.

However, their meeting was interrupted by an unexpected guest. Someone sharply kicked the tavern door with his foot, and from the doorway came the severe:

- Wei Wuxian!

Wei Ying and Lan Zhan, like all the other visitors, simultaneously turned their heads towards the person who entered. Wangji, apparently, was not particularly surprised, but Wuxian definitely did not expect to see his nephew, and even not in the best mood.

- A-Lin? What brings you here? – Wei Ying asked, and although at first he was disappointed that their solitude with Lan Zhan was prevented, he was still very glad to see his nephew.

Jin Ling looked sullen, confused and agitated. From his appearance, Wei Ying could easily assume that the young man had to go around all the Cloud Recesses, and then scour the entire Caiyi town in search of two men. Jin Ling walked over to their table, bowed politely to Lan Wangji and slightly more casually to Wei Wuxian.

- How are you? – Wei Ying asked, and then carefully suggested: – Is something happened?

Jin Ling hesitated standing near the table.

- Sit down and tell me what happened? – Wei Ying offered softly, clearing his seat and changing over to Lan Zhan's side.

Wangji nodded curtly in support of his lover’s proposal. His approval seemed to push back Jin Ling's excitement, and he sat down opposite them.

- So what? – Wei Ying insisted, feeling that his nephew was literally bursting with something, but he did not dare to speak out.

- I came to talk about my uncle, – Jin Ling muttered.

- About Jiang Cheng? – Wei Ying raised one eyebrow and exchanged glances with Lan Zhan. – What happened to him?

Jin Ling looked first at Wei Wuxian, then at Wangji and then at Wuxian again. He pondered something for a minute, then took in more air in his chest and, blushing deeply, blurted out:

- Uncle Wei, please do something with him!

Wei Ying's eyes opened widely.

- You just called me “uncle”? – he asked, slightly taken aback. – I heard correctly? Lan Zhan, you heard the same as me?!

- Leader of the Jin clan called you uncle, – Lan Zhan confirmed, putting his arm around the waist of Wei Ying, who was sitting next to him. Jing Ling immediately looked the other way.

- Wow! – Wuxian slapped his forehead, smiling contentedly. It was so unusual to hear from his nephew that now he called not only Jiang Cheng, but also him as uncle. – What could have happened that you stepped over your pride and finally called me that?

Jin Ling puffed out flushed cheeks, and was about to get up and leave, but Wei Ying held his sleeve and sat him back down.

- Okay, I’m not making fun of you anymore. It's just that I was very glad to hear it from you, – he smiled softly. – So, you’ll tell me what happened to Jiang Cheng, and what kind of help do you need?

- Okay, – Jin Ling surrendered. – Uncle, he…

The young man paused, looked again first at Wei Wuxian, then at Lan Wangji, pondering how best to formulate his next words, and then said:

- He spends too much time with Sizhui!

- With Sizhui? – Wei Ying asked. – What a twist. Lan Zhan, did you know about this?

The man shook his head.

- Tell us in more detail, what does “spends too much time” mean? – Wei Ying began to interrogate nephew. – I don’t remember at what point Jiang Cheng could become interested in the Gusu Lan’s disciple…

- They clashed on the outskirts of Yunmeng after completing the Sizhui’s mission. Since then, uncle has given him a lot of advices and instructions for the Night-hunt, and Sizhui plays on the guqin for him, – Jin Ling said, in his voice there was indignation. – And in general, apparently, Sizhui is going to become a guest disciple at Yunmeng Jiang.

Wei Ying and Lan Zhan exchanged glances.

- So… he kind of took him under his wing? – Wuxian specified. – What about you?

- My uncle said that I should focus on the affairs of the Lanling Jin clan, which, by the way, I am already doing, – Jin Ling chuckled. – It’s like he’s got a new nephew. And why does Sizhui follows him like a dog? Uncle Wei, Hanguang-Jun, can you do something with this?

- I’ll check with my uncle about the disciples’ exchange between the clans, – Lan Zhan said.

- Don’t worry. – Wei Ying reached out and patted Jin Ling on the shoulder. – Your uncle will never find a replacement for you. You are the only one for him! I'm sure you misunderstood something.

Jin Ling brushed Wuxian's hand off him and added irritably:

- I'm too old to be jealous of my uncle about this. In addition, it is already known among the Leaders of other clans that he will soon have his own child.

Wei Ying exchanged a quick glance with Lan Zhan and then said:

- I didn’t expect Jiang Cheng to find his ideal companion after all… And what lady agreed to accept his unbearable behavior?

- As far as I know, he is not going to announce it officially, – Jin Ling said, clearing his throat slightly. – And, in general, the problem is different! Uncle and Sizhui are acting strangely. Do you think if it didn’t seem suspicious to me, I would come to you?

- Strange? – Wei Ying asked. – What do you mean by strange?

- Strange like… like… – Jin Ling blushed. – Never mind! I hope you will clarify their unusual relationship.

He got up, bowed, and hurried away, clearly embarrassed for some reason. Wei Ying looked at Lan Zhan.

- What do you think?

- I’m surprised that the Leader of Yunmeng Jiang became interested in Sizhui, because he was born Wen, and because of them, the resentment has not completely left Leader Jiang’s heart, – Lan Zhan said. – You know him better, what do you say?

- Honestly, I'm as surprised as you are, – Wei Ying drawled, scratching the back of his head. – I hope Jiang Cheng is not up to anything bad?.. Oh, I have an idea!

- Mn?

- Can you talk to your brother? He, as Leader, will be able to talk with Jiang Cheng at their, so to speak, top level and find out how things really are. And Jin Ling will be calmer this way.

- My brother has been in meditation for a long time… But I will ask him. Perhaps this will help bring him back to temporal affairs and relationships between the clans.

Wei Ying nodded and hugged Lan Zhan's neck.

* * * 

Back to Gusu, Lan Wangji, as promised, went to talk to his brother. He didn’t worry so much if Sizhui will go to study at Yunmeng Jiang on an exchange, but his beloved Wei Ying kept buzzing about the need to take control of this issue, so Lan Zhan decided not to make delay.

He knew where to find his brother, and when he saw Lan Xichen immersed in meditation, he joined him.

- Brother, – Wangji spoke up after a while.

- Yes? – Xichen replied without opening his eyes.

- I heard that in the coming year, the Yunmeng Jiang clan is going to invite disciples from other clans for training, and some disciples of Gusu Lan want to take part in this.

Xichen hesitated to answer, then said:

- I also heard this news.

- Brother… Will you go to Yunmeng to discuss this event at the Clans Council?

This time, Xichen was silent for a long time.

- It has been a long time since you took part in the general events of the clans. – There was undisguised concern in Wangji's voice.

Xichen opened his eyes.

- I think I should go this time. – He looked at his brother. – Thank you, Wangji, I really appreciate your support.

They didn't have to talk much to understand each other. Lan Zhan felt loneliness of his brother, just as Lan Huan felt the same when his brother suffered for Wei Ying. Now they have changed places. Wangji wanted to help his brother with all his heart, although he understood that only Xichen himself could banish the longing out of his heart.

Or if another person helps, who will be as important to Lan Huan as Wei Ying is to Lan Zhan.

Chapter Text

The Leader of Yunmeng Jiang, having wrap of his clan in a not very welcoming atmosphere over the past years, gradually removed the cruel shackles in which he imprisoned himself and his home. These changes have been especially striked lately.

Jin Ling, who went to the Clans Council on behalf of Lanling Jin, arrived at Lotus Pier before the rest of the Leaders. To be precise, instead of noon, he arrived early in the morning. The day before, the heart was seized by an incomprehensible excitement, and the bad feeling did not disappoint the young man.

- Where is my uncle? – he asked the disciples, not finding Jiang Cheng in the quarters.

- He went for a walk… – somehow confusedly answered him, hiding their glances.

- Alone? – Jin Ling clarified, frowning slightly.

- No… Accompanied.

- Do I have to pry every word out of you? – Jin Ling threatened irritably. – Who accompanies him?

- Disciple of the Gusu Lan clan.

Jin Ling immediately ruffled up like a wild chick. Seeing that the mood of the nephew of the master of the Lotus Pier was darkened, and the disciples may be in danger of his mood, they hastened to change the subject:

- Young master Jin, would you like to have breakfast while you wait for Leader Jiang?

- We already made tea to be served!

- Your chambers are ready, please rest from a long journey!

- No need! – Jin Ling snapped and, without another word, briskly left the residence to go for search.

To his relief, or, rather to say, even greater concern, it did not take long to look. After scouring the main pier and going deeper into the surroundings, Jin Ling saw Jiang Cheng and Sizhui together.

Their boat slowly sailed to the shore with weeping willows. Lan Yuan held an armful of lotuses with leaves so large that they completely blocked his vision. The boat ran aground and Jiang Cheng was the first to jump from it to the ground. Sizhui followed him, but, putting his foot to the touch, he almost lost his balance: either he would drop the lotuses and hold on, or he would fall with them. He preferred the second option, but Jiang Cheng reacted quickly and held him around the waist. For a moment they froze, looking into each other's eyes. Then Lan Yuan nodded embarrassedly in appreciation, and together they moved towards the Lotus Pier residence.

For Jin Ling it was like a blow of treachery that hamstred and knocked out the spirit. He stood at some distance behind the trees, and after the scene that he saw his eyes twitched and his breath stopped. The growing resentment inside made him grit his teeth, clench his fists and stamp his feet on the ground. No, well, this is just a blatant disgrace! In the light of day, his uncle and Sizhui! And such… obscenity! It was no longer possible to wait for help from Wei Wuxian and Hanguang-Jun, and Jin Ling decided to express everything that he thinks about it, right to their faces today.

A little later, a guqin melody played in the main hall of the Lotus Pier, and although in the game one could catch a slight inexperience of the player, due to excitement rather than a lack of knowledge, the music still sounded beautiful, soothing and a little sad.

Jiang Cheng sat on a nine-petalled lotus throne, staring blindly at the point only he could see and thoughtlessly twisting Zidian on his finger. In front of him, at the steps, Sizhui was sitting on a mat, plucking the strings of the guqin with graceful fingers and also immersed in his distant thoughts.

Soon the melody ended.

- Your play is getting better, – Jiang Cheng said after he seemed to come out of his trance. – Thanks to the music and you, I also got better sleep.

- Thank you, – Sizhui thanked. – I am glad if this technique helps the Leader of the Jiang clan. I will try even harder.

- How did your clan react that you are a frequent visitor to Yunmeng and soon will become a guest disciple?

- They don't mind.

- Even Wei Wuxian? – Jiang Cheng chuckled.

- Master Wei… – Sizhui hesitated slightly before continuing. – He said it was a good choice because your food tastes better than in Gusu.

Jiang Cheng laughed grimly. How similar it was to Wei Ying… He didn’t think that there would be anything in common between them through Lan members.

Sizhui's play, as well as his well-behaved image in white robe and forehead ribbon with embroidered cloud motif, had a calming effect on the Leader of the Jiang clan. Since he stumbled upon Sizhui in the forest, invited him to spend the night at Lotus Pier, and the young man began to play for him, the long-suffering insomnia stopped tormenting Jiang Cheng at night.

But that was not enough.

- What melody did you play? – Jiang Cheng asked curiously. – I don't remember having heard it before.

- I haven’t given it a name yet, it’s new, – Sizhui replied. – I was thinking about the “Golden Orchid”.

- The “Golden Orchid”? – Leader Jiang raised one eyebrow. – Well, that sounds good… What is the story behind this name?

- It is designed to drive away all misunderstandings and sadness, allow to look into the secret places of the soul in order to find answers to questions that a person is so afraid to ask himself out loud. To replace the thorns with which he has entangled his heart with real fresh flowers. To be honest with yourself, – Sizhui said, and at that time his gaze was fixed somewhere far away. If to look closely, then in the depths of his eyes it was possible to catch a longing for something or someone. Then he turned his gaze to his guqin, gently ran his fingers over it, as if expressing the full value of the melody played on a musical instrument.

- Questions that a person is afraid to ask himself out loud… The thorns with which he has entangled his heart… – Jiang Cheng repeated as if in an echo, his thoughts flying away into the depths of his mind, and then he grinned wryly. – Is your music really capable of giving answers and letting flowers bloom in soul? – He frowned slightly. – But why "Orchid", and even "Golden"?

Sizhui did not have time to answer as the doors of the hall swung open and Jin Ling entered.

- Hmm, I kept wondering from the pier where these sounds of torture were coming from, – he winced, defiantly twisting his little finger in his ear. – Ears wither from your play.

- Jin Ling, – Jiang Cheng said. – You arrived.

- Young Master Jin, – Sizhui hurried to greet, getting up from his seat. A timid smile appeared on his face, and it was as if the lights of secret admiration lit up in his eyes, which, of course, was secret, that he simply could not be recognized.

Jin Ling winced at the friendly disposition and formal bow and blurted out:

- You like to suck up to my uncle?!

- Jin Ling! – Jiang Cheng repeated sternly. – Where are your manners?

Jin Ling pouted and almost blurted out: “Uncle, where are your manners?! Why do you so often went private with young man when you will soon have a child from a concubine?! Lookers on see more than players – you and Sizhui look so organically together that it is chilling me!” But he bit his tongue in time, realizing that then his legs will be definitely break by uncle.

- Pfft! – Jin Ling snorted in displeasure, crossing his arms over his chest. His courage, which he had been embraced in the morning, diminished.

- I apologize if I somehow hurt young master Jin's feelings, – Sizhui hurried to apologize as he approached him a little closer, but his apology to Jin Ling only made it worse. Why is he so perfect?! Never get angry, constantly apologizing, always so well-mannered, so grown-up, so…

- You arrived early, – Jiang Cheng said again. – Not all Leaders are assembled yet. Rest in your chambers for now.

- You chase me away to be alone with him?! – Jin Ling hoisted.

- What kind of hysteria? Come on without scenes, you are the Leader of the Jin clan, after all, – Jiang Cheng replied irritably. Compared to his past behavior, the current reaction turned out to be calm, earlier he would have to hit his nephew on the head and more than one time. – Lan Sizhui will soon become a guest disciple at Yunmeng Jiang, and his guqin’ playing helps me with insomnia. And what did you think?

- Insomnia? – asked Jin Ling, whose heart leapt anxiously, and then it broke completely somewhere at the bottom of his worst nightmares. Insomnia… Did this mean that Sizhui was playing for the Leader of the Jiang clan at night in his room?! – Uncle! It doesn't work like that! I will ask doctors to find the best healing herbs that will help you to get a healthy sleep.

- What of it? – Jiang Cheng wearily massaged the bridge of his nose. – I have already tried everything, nothing helps me. Both of you, go. I need to prepare for the Council.

Jin Ling pouted, then deliberately pushed Sizhui on the shoulder and left the hall first, waving a tail of his long hair. Sizhui sighed, put the guqin in the cover, bowed goodbye to Jiang Cheng and also left the hall, heading in the opposite direction from Jin Ling.

- Leader of the Jiang clan, – the disciple's entourage called. – The Leader of the Lan clan has arrived and he is waiting to meet you.

Jiang Cheng tensed inwardly.

Instead of the throne room, Xichen waited on an open terrace, the piles of which went into a pond with blooming lotuses. Hot tea was smoking on a table nearby, but he did not touch the cup, waiting for the master to appear.

- Leader of the Lan clan, – Jiang Cheng approached him, and they greeted each other with bows. Then he sat down on the mat opposite him.

- I heard that you will soon become a father, Leader of the Jiang clan. Please accept my best wishes. – Xichen bowed his head in token of his sincerity. – I hope the future mistress of Lotus Pier is in good health and will give you a strong and healthy heir.

- She will not become mistress of Lotus Pier, – Jiang Cheng responded grimly. – I’ll be frank with you, Leader Lan. I just needed a heir, that's all.

He looked directly at his interlocutor. Lan Xichen averted his eyes first, turning his attention to the cup of tea for a slight blow and sip of the hot drink. Then he said:

- You are still young and will definitely find a partner on the cultivate path.

- No, I won't, – Jiang Cheng protested, not taking his gaze from Xichen. – Such a woman does not exist. And to be honest, I'm not interested in searching. What about you? When you will find a partner for yourself and continue the Lan dynasty?

- I'll be honest with you, too, – Xichen replied, his delicate musical fingers gripped the tea cup a little tighter. – Finding a partner is not a priority for me. The care and well-being of the clan, meditation and self-improvement are of the utmost importance to me.

Jiang Cheng chuckled.

- And you are not lonely? Your younger brother and… – He stammered, frowning slightly, then continued with undisguised irritation in his voice: – Your brother and Wei Wuxian are like Biinyao lovebirds with one pair of wings for two. It is not good if you, as a senior, have not yet found a life partner worthy of your qualities and rank.

Jiang Cheng was completely unaware, but deep down he envied Wei Wuxian and his relationship with Lan Wangji. Why did Wei Ying always have something that was not available to Wanyin? Starting from the love of his father and ending with the person for whom he was everything, more important that the rules and principles of his own clan. Why can't Jiang Cheng have such a person?

- There’s no greater happiness for me than seeing my brother’s happiness, – Xichen replied with a soft smile.

It was true, but in it, as if behind a screen, was hidden something that Lan Xichen could never have voiced out loud, something that he hid deep inside and was afraid to admit the existence of such thoughts to himself. Despite numerous meditations, sometimes thoughts still crept into him that he would like, like his brother, to plunge headlong into feelings that were always inaccessible to him. To tear off his forehead ribbon so that the shackles that still hold him back will fall with it.

Xichen was hurt after the betrayal and death of Meng Yao. A year has passed since those events, and a wound to the heart left an ugly scar. Once Meng Yao got married, and now Jiang Cheng has got a concubine… All the Leaders had a relationships, but Xichen never followed their example. He could not, like Meng Yao or Jiang Cheng, have a politic relationship without feelings.

It hurts again.

- As far as I know, our clan disciple, Lan Sizhui, is going to become your guest disciple and often visits Yunmeng, – Lan Xichen continued, still clutching the cup tightly in his hands. His face, as always, radiated the calmness of the surface of the lake at dawn. No one could ever have guessed what confusion gripped his soul and haunted him for a long time.

- As far as I know, you don’t mind, – Jiang Cheng fended with a shrug.

Do you know why I am doing this?

- If his music technique brings you the peace you need, then I’m only glad to hear that our clans are gaining a stronger bond than before. I wish it were always like this.

- Does this mean that you will also become a frequent visitor to Yunmeng? – Jiang Cheng looked at Xichen with a searching expression, but failed to reveal the true feelings of Leader Lan.

What are you thinking, Lan Huan?

Their conversation was interrupted by the Yunmeng Jiang’ disciple, who announced that all the Leaders had gathered and were waiting for the Council to begin.

- Well, – Jiang Cheng summed up with a sigh. – Since all the Leaders are in place, let’s will not make them wait.

* * *

After the Clans Council had been ended, it was time for dinner. Yunmeng was renowned for its sumptuous receptions, varied food and good drinks. Even for those who did not eat meat and preferred plant-based foods, Jiang Cheng instructed the cooks to take into account everyone's tastes.

The master of Lotus Pier drained several jugs of wine and, loudly banging the glass on the table, demanded the servants to bring it more.

- Leader of the Jiang clan, – Nie Huaisang said to him, sitting on his left hand and fanning himself in the stuffy room. – You seem to have drunk quite a lot… Would you like to go to rest?

- The feast continues, – Jiang Cheng shook his head. – It is not good for the host to leave first, leaving the guests unattended.

- Uncle, – Jin Ling called from his right hand. – I agree with Leader of the Nie clan, you need to rest. I will escort you to your chambers and then will help by myself to arrange the rooms for the guests.

- No, I'll stay, – Jiang Cheng protested, draining another glass of wine to the bottom.

Opposite him, on the other side of the hall, was sitting Lan Xichen, discussing something with the Leaders who were sitting next to him, and smiling at them kindly. During the whole time of dinner, he never once looked in the direction of the master of the residence.

And why did it make Jiang Cheng so angry?

- Leader Lan! – he called loudly, getting pretty drunk and losing control of his behavior. – You have not been seen at a Clans Council for a long time, and I don’t even remember the last time you were in Yunmeng… How do you like the girls here? Maybe you someone liked?

Lan Xichen took a break from the conversation and finally looked towards the master of Lotus Pier. The other Leaders died down.

- Thank you for your warm welcome, Leader Jiang, – Xichen replied. – I beg your pardon for the fact that my meditation took a long time. Now I will appear more often at general meetings.

- Nice, very nice, – Jiang Cheng nodded, – but you didn't answer my question. I want to know if you like Yunmeng's girls. Continuing our conversation today, maybe at least one of them will conquer your heart? Don't be shy, just tell me. I can give you any of them.

- Uncle… – Jin Ling called excitedly, realizing that the situation was heating up, but Jiang Cheng ignored him.

Lan Xichen remained serenely calm, although the others in the room grew more and more uncomfortable.

- The Yunmeng ladies are really very beautiful, – the Leader Lan said. – However, I cannot say that ladies from other provinces are somehow worse. Each has its own charm.

- It turns out that you are sweet-tongued! – Jiang Cheng laughed and clapped his hands. – I thought that your clan didn’t know how to make compliments at all.

A maid passed by with an empty tray, and Jiang Cheng rose from his seat and intercepted her. The girl almost dropped the tray from her hands and trembled all over, her frightened gaze darted around.

- How about this one? Do you like her? Should I send her to your room at night?

- Uncle! – Jin Ling hissed as the other Leaders began to whisper. – What's wrong with you?

Xichen remained silent. The smile faded from his face.

Jiang Cheng just dismissed the words of his nephew, then put one foot on the table, causing the plates to clink loudly and their contents spilled out, but he didn't care about the mess he made.

- Why are you keeping silent? Didn't you like her? Okay, let's find you another one…

He dismissed the maid, and she ran away. Looking around, Jiang Cheng staggered: the hops hit his head, he lost his support and began to fall on Jin Ling.

- Seems it's time to save the situation, – Nie Huaisang said quietly, and after clearing his throat slightly, he loudly addressed Xichen: – Leader Lan! Forgive him, he just drank too much. I’m afraid if he would start to brawl even more. Could you please play on Liebing in order to calm Leader Jiang a bit? You know his behavior… It would be a pity to darken this beautiful evening with a not very pleasant ending.

- I'll take my uncle to his chambers, – Jin Ling volunteered.

- Okay, I'll help, – Xichen nodded, getting up from his seat.

- Wonderful! – Huaisang rolled up his fan. – I'll look after the guests. How well we distributed everything, didn't we?

Lan Xichen, being tall and strong, helped the more fragile Jin Ling to carry the drunk Jiang Cheng to his chambers. Leader Jiang barely moved his tangled legs and grumbled something inarticulate under his breath.

- Thank you, Zewu-Jun, – Jin Ling thanked. – I want to apologize on behalf of my uncle if he offended you. He hasn't drunk so much for a long time, I don't know what possessed him to act so…

- It's okay, – Xichen assured, smiling with understanding. – I’ll play on Liebing for him. I hope this will bring peace to the Leader Jiang, and you, please, help the other Leaders to show their rooms.

- Yes, of course, – Jin Ling nodded. – Thanks again for your help!

He ran out of the chambers, leaving Xichen alone with Jiang Cheng rolling in a drunken delirium on the bed. Soon a pleasant flute melody spread throughout the room.

Chapter Text

Jin Ling, who temporarily took charge as the master of Lotus Pier, apologized to all the Leaders for his uncle's behavior and helped to settle them to their rooms.

Sighing and rubbing his palms together as a sign that he successfully coped with everything, Jin Ling decided to rest himself. In order to reach his chambers, he had to walk along a long open terrace building under the lotus pond. In framed by their folded buds for the night and the full moon scattering shimmering silver light, Jin Ling saw Sizhui, tuning the strings on the guqin under a paper lantern shaped like a nine-petalled lotus.

Breath caught for a moment. Jin Ling did not know how long he just stood and stared at him, so beautiful and unearthly, but soon shook his head, chasing away the obsession that gripped him, and made his usual disgruntled pug-face.

He walked over and blew out the lantern. Light smoke rushed into the night sky.

- Young master Jin, why did you extinguish him? – Sizhui asked politely.

- So what? It was forbidden? – Jin Ling answered defiantly with a question, crossing his arms over his chest.

Lan Yuan sighed, put the guqin in a case and was about to leave, but Jin Ling blocked his path.

- Well, do you like being called my uncle's nephew? – he grumbled.

- It's not like that at all, – Sizhui shook his head. – I had no intention of taking your place.

- I also was not going to become your named relative either! Because…

Jin Ling clenched his fists and pursed his lips. He didn't want to say it. He wasn't going to admit anything. But Sizhui just forces him to do it! Damn moon, is it because of the moonlight that Sizhui looks like some kind of celestial in a white robe? Like in that fairy tale, if Jin Ling steals his clothes, will it bind Sizhui forever to him?..

Jin Ling took several steps towards Sizhui, forcing him to step back until he hit the terrace fence. Jin Ling came close to him, resting his hands on the railing on the sides of Lan Yuan, blocking his ways for escape.

- Young master Jin, let me pass, please, – Sizhui asked.

- I haven’t said yet!

- What did you want to say?

Jin Ling thought that he might not have another chance. And when it will be, if it was necessary to immediately save Lan Yuan from the significant (Jin Ling would have liked to use “lustful”, but his conscience did not allow) his uncle's attention?! From the very morning, he was bursting with unspoken thoughts and feelings. His eyes lit up with searing confidence, his heart beat a frantic rhythm in his chest, on no other Night-hunt he was worried as he is now. Without giving Sizhui even a second to think, Jin Ling blurted out:

- I like you!

He stood up on tiptoe and clumsily kissed Lan Yuan on the lips, then recoiled, blushing like a ripe scarlet apple and, completely embarrassed, ran away. Jin Ling's limit of courage was exhausted, and he left Sizhui in utter confusion.

Lan Yuan unconsciously ran his fingertips over his lips, and then came to senses.

- Young master Jin, please, wait!

Sizhui caught up Jin Ling by pulling his shoulder. Jin Ling stopped, but jerked, brushing his hand away from himself. Once he was caught, he no longer intended to run away, but continued to stand with his back, too embarrassed to turn around and look Sizhui in the eyes. Jin Ling knew his heart would break if he will see his gaze.

- Young Master Jin, is it true? – Jin Ling heard Lan Yuan’s voice behind him.

- Do you want to laugh at me because I’ve become the same Cut Sleeve as my uncle Wei? – Jin Ling chuckled, feeling his voice fail him. – Or do you want to fight because it's an insult to you? Although, judging by what I saw in the morning…

- Turn around to me, please.

Jin Ling took a deep breath and found the strength to turn around. He did not raise his eyes, scowling like a child, and his cheeks glowed treacherously. Jin Ling should have had remarkable courage to finally confess his feelings, which he not so long ago realized for himself. Although Jin Ling understood that he would hardly be reciprocated, and now he was not at all ready to hear how polite Sizhui will beautifully fluff off his feelings!

- I… suffered for a long time and didn't know what to do with it, – Lan Yuan began cautiously. – I know what are you thinking about Cut Sleeves, so I would never dare to admit my feelings to you first. That is why I decided to go to Yunmeng as an invited disciple, so that at least through the Leader the Jiang clan, I could become a little closer to you. Because I like you too, young master Jin, and I can't do anything about it, no matter how hard I tried.

Jin Ling was taken aback, raising his round eyes to Sizhui and opening his mouth in undisguised surprise, like a fish thrown to the surface. His legs became wadded, and he swayed slightly, almost losing support, but Lan Yuan held him by his waist. At that moment Jin Ling’s heart almost stopped, and then it began to beat with a vengeance.

- What… did you just say?

Sizhui smiled charmingly. His smile made Jin Ling melt like snow in the spring sun, and he became a hostage of his smile at some point he did not remember. On one of the Night-hunts? When is it? But it didn't matter. What mattered was that Jin Ling's feelings were mutual. It was hard to believe in this, because he was used to always being alone, no one had ever tried to get close to him… From this nagging feeling, everything inside was filled with something quivering and joyful.

- I said I like young master Jin, – Sizhui repeated.

- You… you… – Jin Ling's head was spinning, his tongue was tangled, his thoughts were confused, and all he could articulate was: – So you like not my uncle… but me?

- Leader Jiang was kind to me, but between us there could not be anything you could think of, – Lan Yuan confirmed.

Jin Ling was confused and could not believe that everything was happening for real, and was afraid that it would turn out to be a dream. He grabbed onto Sizhui's hands, which continued to hold him tightly, pressing closer to him to make sure that he would not go anywhere and disappear from him.

- Is this really not a dream? – Jin Ling asked incredulously, frowning slightly. – Prove that I am not sleeping!

- You stole my first kiss… – Sizhui suddenly said. – Don't you think I should take compensation for this?

Jin Ling's discouragement was blown away, and he defiantly said:

- Maybe you will not ask permission in such matters?

He stood up on tiptoe again and pulled Lan Yuan's face to his. Their lips met, merging into a shy kiss, which gradually turned into a more assertive and confident. Jin Ling never thought that a person's lips could be so soft and that he would want to touch them for a very long time… His soul was filled with sparkling happiness, which now he wanted to tell everyone in the world, and then hide to cherish alone and with no one else do not share.

- You are the golden orchid of my heart, Jin Rulan, – Sizhui breathed into his lips. Inside Sizhui’s soul like the buds blossomed, which he had previously forbidden to bloom. He still could not believe that exactly the one who seemed inaccessible to him could feel the same as himself.

- Don't say such embarrassing things, Lan Yuan! – Jin Ling blushed, hugging him tighter and feeling how his entire consciousness was filled with what he so desperately lacked: the attention and love of a person for whom he will always be the first from now on. – Don’t say that you picked it up from the uncle Wei's style…

- Do you call master Wei uncle now? I'm sure he'll be very happy about that, – Sizhui smiled and then added: – As a child, I heard a lot from him, especially about how to chase after a young lady. It seems the time has come to put this knowledge into practice.

- I'm not your young mistress!

- Of course not, I wasn’t going to tease you like Jingyi did. You are now the master of my heart, and now I will treat you with deepest respect.

Jin Ling, completely embarrassed, pushed Sizhui aside, poking him in the shoulder. Lan Yuan chuckled good-naturedly, rubbing the bruised place. He was about to move away, but Rulan, seeing that he was more than a meter away from him, ran after him and grabbed his hand, hanging.

- Don’t go far from me! – Jin Ling demanded.

- I just wanted to light the lantern and to walk you to the chambers, – Sizhui explained.

- And you… In what room do you sleep?

- Next to the Yunmeng Jiang’ disciples.

Jin Ling was again embarrassed by something and cautiously asked what had haunted him for a long time:

- Have you ever been to my uncle’s chambers?

Sizhui shook his head.

- No, I always played for him only in the main hall. But…

- But? What is it? – Jin Ling frowned.

- But he came into my room when I spent the night here for the first time, – Sizhui explained carefully, already anticipating that Rulan was starting to seethe with anger.

- What?! What do you mean by that?!

- He was drunk and mistook me for Zewu-Jun, and then he simply fainted and fell asleep…

Jin Ling was be on the rampage:

- What do you mean uncle mistook you for Zewu-Jun?! He definitely didn’t get handsy because he fell for you?! I saw how he treats you in a special way! And you, by the way, allowed him to behave like that!

- No, Leader of the Jiang clan definitely likes Zewu-Jun, not me, – Sizhui said with unshakable confidence. – I just reminded Leader Jiang of him and just helped get over insomnia. But, I think, only by playing on guqin will not cure the ailment that seized Leader Jiang…

- Judging by the way my uncle was rude to Zewu-Jun at the dinner, I doubt he was delighted with him, – Jin Ling said doubtfully in his voice and then scratched the back of his head. – Anyway, my uncle – and fell for the men? No, some kind of nonsense… He's… Although… – Rulan thought deeply, and on his face various emotions changed from distrust to the slowly reaching truth, which quite stunned him.

Sizhui suppressed a smile.

- Why are you laughing? – Jin Ling was bewildered.

- You and Leader Jiang are indeed very similar, – Lan Yuan said.

- What do you mean?

- Both of you don’t know how to express their feelings, so many people misunderstand you.

Jin Ling blushed.

- Okay, enough about my uncle! I want to tell you that you no longer come to play for him on guqin, since now Zewu-Jun will play on the flute for him.

- I got it, – Sizhui said.

- And if you weren't in his chambers… – Jin Ling's cheeks were still burning, but he tried to tone his voice confidently so as not to betray the glee that overwhelmed him. – You will be the first to visit my chambers in Yunmeng Jiang! Play on the guqin just for me from now on. But be aware… Don't get me wrong! We are not yet in the same relationship as uncle Wei and Hanguang-Jun…

Lan Yuan smiled timidly and nodding, then took the same embarrassed Rulan by the hand. Together to the accompaniment of a shimmering moon and a lighted lantern and passing the sleeping lotuses, they walked towards the chambers.

* * *

Liebing helped to clear Jiang Cheng's mind, and soon he sobered up. But this sobriety bordered on the remnants of drunken frankness, which, under the influence of a flute, burst out after a long imprisonment inside. The man held it back for too long, and it was overflowed.

He lay on his back, covering his face with a bent elbow, then with his other hand he hit the bed with force and blurted out:

- Bugger Wei Wuxian!

The melody was cut off.

- What did young master Wei do to make you snap on him again? – Lan Xichen's voice came. – As far as I know, he hasn't been to Yunmeng for a long time.

For a couple of moments, the room was completely silent.

- Because I envy him! – Wanyin confessed in a choked voice, not taking his elbow from his face, not wanting another to see his expression.

- What are you envy of? – Lan Huan asked calmly. – He has someone else's body, in which he can no longer compete with other cultivators in strength.

Jiang Cheng got up abruptly from the bed, looking at Xichen, who was sitting at the head of the bed with a calm face and was not afraid of his piercing gaze. Liebing was put aside on the table.

- Because he has such a person! – master of the Lotus Pier exclaimed in the heat of the moment. – Why am I worse?

Xichen was silent for a while, then he spoke:

- I guess because my brother always chose young master Wei in the same way that young master Wei ultimately chose him. And you, Leader of the Jiang clan… Could you make a choice that you would never have abandoned?

Jiang Cheng chuckled ironically.

- Do you want to talk about my cowardice? Because of this, I can never have what I desire with all my heart?

- And what does your heart desire?

- You, Leader of the Lan clan!

At his words, Lan Huang's calmness swayed for the first time, and he was slightly taken aback. After waiting a moment, he said:

- Because Wangji and I are alike, and you want to have the same as young master Wei?

Jiang Cheng breathed heavily and turned purple at the unspoken words bursting from within. Previously, he had no one to share this burden with, but now he finally has the opportunity to pour out everything that has long accumulated in his soul and heart in order to free himself from the burdensome burden.

- I have never considered men that way, they have never interested me, and even more so I did not allow myself to entertain the idea of find attractive on Lan Wangji despite of Wei Wuxian, – he frankly admitted. And, in fact, Wangji would most likely put his guqin in Jiang Cheng’s ass for these thoughts, but that's another story. – But with you everything is different. For a very long time… you have not left my thoughts.

Confusion ran over Lan Xichen's face, his Adam's apple trembled.

- But you got a concubine, – he said, and although the tone of his voice sounded without accusation, there was still a hint of reproach in it. – How can you talk about feelings, or rather, about the desire to possess another person, when you have a woman who will soon give you a child?

- It's true, – Jiang Cheng doesn't argue. – Everything happened according to my desire on a drunken head, because in a sober state I could not do it… And there was only one reason: only a woman is able to give birth to a child – I don't need anything else from her. I gave her everything except two things: the title and my heart, because I could never love her.

- Why are you so categorical? As far as I know, men are beginning to treat women, who bearing their child, in a special way. Isn't this due to human instinct?

- You still don't understand? Why did I do this?

Something trembled in Xichen's chest, like a crystal bell that was disturbed by a sudden gust of wind.

- Even the fact that I invited Lan Sizhui to my place… – Jiang Cheng chuckled and looked at the tall vase next to the bed, which contained the most beautiful lotuses collected in the early morning. Lan Huan followed his gaze.

I wanted to give these flowers to you, but I did not dare to take them to your chambers, being afraid, angry, complaining and indignant at myself. I was afraid that you would not pay attention, would not understand, would not appreciate… I am such a fool.

- For a long time, I could not find peace at night, but Sizhui's play helped get over the insomnia that was tormenting me. Why do you think I was haunted by a bad dream and complete indifference to everything that surrounds me?

Although Xichen remained silent, the mask of his usual calm expression on his face cracked and confusion welled up in his eyes.

- White robes, a forehead ribbon, all that good manners… – Jiang Cheng listed, pouring out all his secret thoughts that he had hidden deep inside before. – Once upon a time I was sickened by the ideality of your clan. But then at some point… I don't know. You just got stuck in the head and nestled in my heart like a bird that made a house in it. I can't do anything about it. My eyes began to see and search for you everywhere.

Wanyin looked straight into Lan Huang's face without fear or embarrassment, and Xichen did not look away, seized inside with shock and excitement.

- Do you know how I waited with bated breath for every Clans Council, hoping to see you again? And how did my heart break every time when you weren't there because you spent your time in meditation?

Jiang Cheng got out of bed and walked over to the seated Xichen, looking down at him.

- I’m not free like Wei Wuxian, who can wander around the world and return at any time whenever he pleases. And how openly he and your brother can express feelings for each other… – Wrinkles formed on Wanyin’s forehead. After a pause, he continued: – At first, I was twisted just by the thought of it, but in fact… I wanted to experience the same myself one day.

The same as Xichen.

Why are we forced to suffer? Why can't we be happy like these two?

- I can never understand what you’re thinking, and it harasses me, – Jiang Cheng lamented. His voice cracked, despair splashed in his eyes. – You always look so imperturbable… This is the mask behind which you do not let anyone. I caught myself thinking that I would like to look into your head to find out what you think of me. And in a drunken delirium I wanted to rip out your heart so that it belonged only to me… Do you think I'm too pathetic?

Xichen's breath caught in his throat, but not a word escaped his lips. Meanwhile, Jiang Cheng knelt down in front of him with his head lowered and pressed his fingers into the Lan Huan's hanfu hem.  Leader Lan’s hands trembled, and his eyes were stunned, which seemed to paralyze his entire body.

- Forgive me… – Jiang Cheng said in a voice pierced with sincere regret, as if repenting for all his sins. – For what I said to you at the dinner. I didn't want that, but I was so annoyed that you smiled at everyone but not me… Why don't you say anything? Your silence is killing me!

Xichen simply did not know what words he should speak. Without giving him even an attempt to answer, Jiang Cheng got up from his knees, grabbed Lan Huan by the chest, lifted him from the chair, and threw him on the bed, hanging over him from above.

- Leader of the Jiang clan… – Xichen finally spoke up. – Don't do what you regret tomorrow’s morning.

Jiang Cheng shook his head.

- I only regret the things I didn’t do, – he whispered impulsively, and bent down to Lan Huan’s face, enveloped his skin with the heat of breath. Xichen didn't flinch, continuing to look Jiang Cheng straight in the eyes.

- I warned you.

- I accept your challenge.

Wanyin tore off Lan Huang's forehead ribbon, and his face flashed with confusion. The next moment, a rough kiss sank into his lips.

For a moment, Xichen did not resist, and then he answered. Their tongues clashed as if in a battle, and each wanted to get the first place. One moment Leader of the Lan clan suddenly seized the initiative and turned Jiang Cheng under him, swapping places with him. In his eyes, always calm as the surface of the lake, a dangerous light flickered, his long hair was disheveled and gave him a daring look.

- Before that no one had ever ripped off my forehead ribbon.

- Do you want to compliment me that I finally became the first in something?

- I want to say that I will no longer hold back.

Chapter Text

Jiang Cheng breathed heavily as he looked into Xichen’s eyes who was bending over him.

- Right off the bat? – he chuckled. – And you won’t even say anything to all my eloquent confession?

- Sometimes words are superfluous, and instead of speaking, it’s better to show, – was the answer.

Xichen confirmed his statement with an action: he tore off Jiang Cheng’s belt and opened his outer robs, exposing his body to the waist. Along with Lan Huan’s forehead ribbon, seemed to be something else, like the chains that were holding back his passionate nature all this time. From always tactful and well-behaved Leader of the Gusu Lan clan, he turned into a predator hiding behind a charming smile, which got Wanyin a little stunned. In fact, Leader Jiang hoped that he himself would be lead this night, but how did it happen that he was shamelessly deprived of this right?

Jiang Cheng tried to take the lead again, but Xichen, being a little bigger and stronger, pinned Wanyin’s arms over his head and lowered his own face to his body, inhaling the smell of leather noisily. His hair cascaded across the bed, a delicate scent of sandalwood emanating from it. Jiang Cheng recognized the smell, and chills ran through his body. Lan Huan hadn’t had time to do anything yet, he hadn’t even touched his lips, but Wanyin was already shivering and he was breathing violently.

Don’t hold back.

Xichen ran his thin fingers over Jiang Cheng’s skin, where the scars from the disciplinary whip inflicted long ago by the Qishan Wen clan remained. Lan Huan’s handsome jade-shaped face contorted an expression of sadness. So many years have passed, and although the wounds have healed, they are still were a reminder of that cruelty.

The Leader of the Lan clan was not the first time to see such scars, because his brother had the same, and he perfectly remembered the pain that he had to endure. He also understood Wanyin’s pain. Therefore, he touched every scar with his lips, weightlessly, so as not to harm, although they had not been bleeding for a long time. He caressed with light kisses, as if with a spell, as if after that they could disappear forever. Lan Huan wanted to take them over for himself.

Sensing the first touch, so intimate and sensual, Jiang Cheng flinched, but his body knew better what it wanted and instinctively succumbed to Xichen’s kisses. He caught himself thinking that he had never imagined how such a voluptuous pleasure could be obtained from the caresses of another man. It spread with some inexplicably warm sensation through the veins and every cell of the body, accumulating in the lower abdomen and starting to excite his dick.

Jiang Cheng relaxed and Xichen let go of his arms, slowly descending from his chest to his tense groin, where his undergarments were already bulging.

- The robes seem to be hindered, – Lan Huan said. – Let me rid you of them.

- What are you… – Wanyin didn’t have time to argue, as the dexterous fingers of the Leader of the Lan clan pulled off excess clothes from him, leaving him completely naked, and then freed himself from his outer garments.

Jiang Cheng’s gaze slid over Xichen’s bare body: unlike Wanyin’s darker skin, his skin was like a milky white jasper. Lan Huan’s contoured muscles looked more like a work of art than a living human body. Jiang Cheng’s breath caught in his throat. Well, definitely it was Wei Wuxian’s fault! He breathed on Jiang Cheng and infected him with the desire to have his own Jade… And why is Wanyin now so madly in love with this idea?

Meanwhile, Xichen stroked Jiang Cheng’s dick, caused Wanyin to incurve, unable to bear the tension any longer and wanting to get relief. He looked demandingly at Lan Huan, who only smiled good-naturedly and then absorbed his flesh into his mouth. By contemplated the scene he saw and by his own feelings, Wanyin’s eyes went up to his forehead.

- Wait, what are you doing?! This is… a little… No, stop… Aah, go on!..

Xichen was not going to stop and rhythmically slid his mouth until the first moan escaped Jiang Cheng’s lips, and Lan Huan pushed him to a peak.

- How?.. – he asked intermittently, but he did not finish because of the labored breathing.

- If you noticed, I’m quite adept at playing the flute, – Lan Huan explained very simply.

- And… what about you? – Wanyin asked a little came to his senses. – Should I, too?..

- Not yet. Soon it will be my turn, – was the mysterious smile in response.

Xichen’s graceful fingers touched Jiang Cheng’s anus, teasing the tight muscle ring and then inserting one phalanx inside.

- Wait! – Wanyin strained, experiencing slight discomfort. – What are you going to do? Why there?

- You wanted to be like young master Wei and experience everything they do with my brother? – answered Lan Huan with a question.

- Yes, but… not quite… this… way, – Jiang Cheng said in confusion as Leader Lan massaged his anus’ entrance. – How do you know what to do?

- I’m a very fast learner, – Xichen explained and smiled charmingly.

Wanyin, losing his head after bust, missed the moment when Lan Huan also completely naked, taking off his underwear. The eyes of the Leader of the Jiang clan, who admired the body of the Leader of the Lan clan, focused on his dick.

Jiang Cheng blinked a couple of times as he studied Xichen’s dick, then looked at Xichen again and back at the dick. Belatedly realizing why Lan Huan was massaging his ass so diligently and thinking of what he would have to experience, Wanyin began to pull out of his hands like a cat.

- What are you up to?! No! Never! I don’t want to be like Wei Wuxian! I will not be bottom! Have you seen your size?! You will tear me to hell!

Xichen intercepted all of Jiang Cheng’s attempts to escape and began to calm him down. He knew how to do it very well, mastering the art of diplomacy.

- Of the two of us, it’s easier for me to figure out the correct sequence of actions. When you get a little more experience, you can do the same to me. Will you agree?

Jiang Cheng’s gaze was filled with indignation, doubt and fear, but Xichen’s words, his persuasive insinuating tone of voice and such a hopeful smile had the desired effect.

- I will wale you by Zidian if you hurt! – Wanyin threatened, accepting his defeat.

- I will treat you as the most precious one in my life, – Lan Huan promised, kissing Jiang Cheng on the nose embarrassing him with an overabundance of cuteness.

Xichen didn’t deceive when he said he was a fast learner and, using an aromatic oil, skillfully had stretched the anus of his lover. However, when he replaced his fingers with his dick and began to slowly lead him inside, Jiang Cheng’s scream must have been heard all over Lotus Pier.

- Shit! – Wanyin howled, in the corners of his eyes uninvited tears flashed, and he snapped: – Pull this damn “mass destruction weapon” out of me, for fuck’s sake!

- Shhh, – Lan Huan soothed, bending down to Jiang Cheng’s ear and biting his lobe, and squeezing his dick with his hand. – A little patience. You have experienced many bloody battles, can you really not stand the night of love? How are you going to look into the eyes of young master Wei, who does this with my brother every day?

- Stop comparing me to him!

- Didn’t you say you were envy of him?

- I don’t envy anymore!!! – Jiang Cheng squealed.

- Hush, or you’ll scare all the Leaders… Shout inside of me, – Xichen said and gagged man’s mouth with a kiss.

Lan Huan’s caresses gradually dulled the pain, after which he moved on to more ardent games: he began to pinch and bite Wanyin’s nipples, bringing him to a dull desire, he groaned and began to incurve, until finally he demanded:

- Next time I will fuck you with a flute, just put it there already!

Xichen pressed his whole body against Jiang Cheng, then Leader Jiang wrapped his legs around Leader Lan’s waist and finally took his dick into himself. However, the torture didn’t end at this moment as Xichen began to move in him.

- Go to hell! – Wanyin groaned. – Cursed be the day when I laid eyes on you… If I once again fell for your sweet speech… Even the fierce corpses do not rage so! 

- You’re so charming when you’re angry, – Lan Huan said, slow down a bit. – I can’t help myself, I want you utterly and completely!

- Keep talking, come on! Now I know for sure that the Lan clan cannot be trusted, you look so righteous, but in fact you are brutal males, sex robbers, giants of vice… Aw!

Jiang Cheng’s face changed for a moment.

- What is it? Painfully?

- You… just touched something inside there. Can you… touch it again?

Xichen didn’t have to repeat to fulfill Jiang Cheng’s every wish.

- Like this? Doesn’t it hurt?

Leader Jiang rolled his eyes in delight and whined like a puppy, not expecting himself to demand a repeat:

- Don’t stop, otherwise I will scratch your whole back and bite everywhere! Yes, like that, more! Can you be more energetic? No, not that much! Aaaaaaah!!!

Soon they cummed at the same time.

- How are you? – Xichen asked carefully, slowly catching his breath and hugging his lover more tightly.

- The stars explode in front of my eyes and I have a hellish pain in the lower back, as if I ate something spicy and then was beaten by someone, but I can say that it was incredible experience, – Jiang Cheng admitted frankly. – Are you saying that Wei Wuxian and your brother doing this every day?

Lan Huan nodded confidently, smiling. Wanyin’s eyes widened and eyebrows raised. Even it hurt his pride at some point, he certainly didn’t intend to take the lead from Wei Ying in this matter. Although there is no telling what could happen…

- Okay, okay, – Jiang Cheng summed up. – More than once a month, I disagree!

- As your body and soul wish, – Xichen did not argue.

- We won’t be like them! I’m going to take the lead, too.

- Anything you want. Maybe one more time?

- Maybe this time I’m on top?

- Let’s repeat to consolidate the lesson and then move on to practice, my young novice?

Jiang Cheng was not going to agree, unable to bear this excruciating pain any longer, but unexpectedly for himself found that under Xichen’s smile he was becoming completely unarmed, and he didn’t have heart to refuse him. Lan Huan’s tenderness didn’t match at all his assertiveness and the way he passionately loved Wanyin, completely surrendering to the feeling that gripped him, merging with him and dissolving in him. Jiang Cheng’s screams only inflamed Xichen, he kissing and biting him, making him to the limit of conscious in a pleasure, bordering on pain, which drove mad.

- I seem to have gained enough experience tonight, master Lan, – Jiang Cheng said, gasping for breath. – Now can I go to the practical part?

- And you turned out to be more persistent and insatiable than I thought, student Jiang… – Xichen said languidly. – Teaching you is a pleasure!

- I’m still hungry. And thirsty. For you. – Wanyin looked at the him inquiringly.

Lan Huan brought Leader Jiang’s face closer to his and exhaled into his lips:

- So drink it.

Jiang Cheng eagerly pressed his lips to Xichen’s ones and, without looking up, fumbled to find the forehead ribbon lying on the crumpled bed. Finding the treasured item, he tied Xichen’s hands over his head with it.

- Well, now I’m definitely not going anywhere from you… From what would you like to start? – asked the Leader the Lan clan, ready for any experiment of the Leader of the Jiang clan.

Wanyin, without answering, looked at the bound Lan Huan and swallowed hard. A spectacle that, despite of his exhaustion, made him horny again. This skin, these contoured muscles, this smile, belonging only for him, and even a pose, so attractive and depraved… And why did the Leader of the Lan clan seemed so perfect right now? He was perfect before, but unattainable, and now Lan Huan was right in Wanyin’s hands, and in his bright eyes can be read: “Come to me”.

Jiang Cheng’s breath was taken away. At first, he really thought that he would finally win back, take revenge, let off steam, but seeing the way Xichen looks at him, how he accepts him and he is ready to indulge any whim, endure any torture, the Leader of the Jiang clan was overtaked by tremble. He didn’t want to fulfill any threat: neither to defame him with a flute, nor even more with Zidian. Wanyin just wanted to love.

He bent down to him, ran his fingers over the relief of the body and gave timid kisses. Jiang Cheng didn’t know how to love properly. He was not taught, and he didn’t try to learn himself, but now that Xichen was next to him, he wanted to become better.

Wanyin pressed his cheek to Lan Huan’s chest and closed his eyes, listening to his heartbeat, which quickened as the he hugged him. Outwardly, he looked like an abandoned child who desperately needed attention, care and affection, and who finally found a person who was ready to give him what he so desperately needed. Then he can throw off the needles like the porcupine with which he hardened himself.

Xichen hugged Jiang Cheng with his tied hands, pulling him closer to him and allowing him to fully burrow into his broad chest. They found an outlet in each other and did not want to experience pain again, because they knew how bitter it was.

Lying in this position for a while, Jiang Cheng found the courage to look up at Xichen.

Mine – almost like a statement and yet questionable.

Yours – it was enough to blink to drive all doubts away.

- I knew that the Leader of the Jiang clan is a temperamental and tough person, but I never thought that he could be so gentle… – Lan Huan said, smiling softly. – This knowledge makes me very happy.

- Only… with you… I want to be like that, – Wanyin muttered, feeling embarrassed, and then let out a soft breath: – I… want to do everything right. I want to bring you a pleasure.

- You brought it to me already. I would take your hand and guide you, but you tied my arms… Do as you want.

Jiang Cheng was very careful. Despite his hot-tempered and harmful nature, when the matter touched a person to whom he was not indifferent, he took it with all seriousness and delicacy. Xichen understood that he needed to feel dominant and gladly yielded and gave him this opportunity.

As the master of Lotus Pier stretched out the anus of first Jade, a daring twinkle flashed in the Xichen’s eyes, and with his tied hands he gently pushed Jiang Cheng onto the pillows and sat on top of him.

- What are you doing? – Wanyin raised one eyebrow.

- Did you want to take possession of me, didn’t you? I’m helping you, – Lan Huan replied, breathing raggedly as he sat down on Jiang Cheng’s dick on his own

Indeed, he did not just being called the first Jade: he did not utter a sound, only slightly knitted his eyebrows, while putting the dick of another man into himself. What an endurance, what a power, harmoniously combined with boundless elegance and eroticism, which does not turn into vulgarity! Xichen clasped his tied hands behind his neck and pulled his head back, the line of his chin, the veins on his neck and muscles were outlined by the faint light from the almost burned out candles. A moan escaped his lips, his long hair flowing down his back, making him look like the image of the god of temptation. He started to move.

Jiang Cheng devouring him with his eyes, licking dry lips. Catching a rhythm, he pushed in time with him. A hundred thoughts were changing in his head. O dear, what a man! Why didn’t they do it earlier and wasted so much time because of their suffering? Why didn’t this bloody Wei Wuxian say a word, what a maddening sensations is possible to get from being intimate with a hot Lan family’ member?!

- Why do I have the feeling that it’s not me, but you dominated again?.. – Jiang Cheng asked between acts.

- Can you at least in such piquant moments not grumble, but relax and have pleasure? – Xichen inquired hoarsely as a skillful rider, riding on obstinate stallion.

- And who said that I don’t have it? When you’re so filthy in front of me… Oh god, yeah!

Have surfeited by each other, they lay in an embrace, gasping for breath. Wanyin’s head was positioned on Lan Huan’s chest, and he was fingering the man’s long hair. There were reddish markings on his wrists after the ribbon.

- So, you say that you agree once a month? One month me on the top, the next month you, and so on? – Xichen decided to clarify.

- Well… – Jiang Cheng draws out. – Maybe once a month is too rare, and if we will change positions, then we can at least twice or at least once a week… But the road to your residence, you know, is not so close!

Lan Huan chuckled softly. For a moment there was silence, then he looked at the lotuses in a tall vase and spoke again:

- Very beautiful.

- I… I gathered it together with Sizhui in the morning. For you. I didn’t know how to give it to you, so I decided to just leave it in my chambers…

Xichen, with his fine ear, could feel every intonation in Jiang Cheng’s voice: embarrassment, excitement, awkwardness, timid trepidation. As long as the Leader Jiang’s head rested on Leader Lan’s chest and he didn’t have to look in the face, there was a sweet trait to be honest. But if he looked into Lan Huan’s eyes, he would definitely be grumpy again.

- Wanyin, tell me… – the first Jade said a little later. – Do you still want to be the first?

- Only in one…

- In what one?

Jiang Cheng hesitated to answer and quietly confessed:

- Only if in your heart.

Lan Huan, filled with impulse, pulled him closer to him.

- My heart was given to you tonight. Will you give yours in return?

Wanyin half-raised, leaning slightly over Lan Huan, took his hand and pressed it to his chest with a rapid heartbeat. With bold confidence in his voice, he said:

- It’s yours. And it will beat for you.

Xichen was seized with boundless tenderness, he reached out and gave him a kiss on the forehead, which hid more intimacy than anything they did that night. Jiang Cheng was embarrassed and buried his face into his chest again.

- What will you do with the concubine when she gives you a child? – Lan Huan asked a question that troubled his heart.

- I was going to give her a worthy gift and send her back to her clan. She will not take part in child’s upbringing and growing up. I decided to have him only with one purpose, – said Wanyin, and then looked up at the man. – Because I wanted this child to have with you.

Xichen’s breath was taken away.

- I have lived in darkness and hatred for more than thirteen years… – Jiang Cheng said, a hope and supplication were in his eyes. – I don’t want to live like this anymore. You have become a source of light for me in this dark existence. From now on I want to be happy with you.

- I love you, Wanyin, – Xichen breathed. – With all your advantages and disadvantages. But you shielded your heart with a thorn bush and didn’t allow anyone to approach you, and I just didn’t know how to take the first step. Me, too… don’t want to live in suffering anymore. I want to have a person to whom I can give happiness and who makes me just as happy.

All Jiang Cheng ever wanted was someone who will choose him. Embraced. Said he would stay by his side. That he will be next to him. That he loves him. And then Wanyin will not leave this person, too.

- And I… love you, Lan Huan. I made my choice and now I’m not going to back down from it, – Jiang Cheng said with embarrassment, his cheeks flushed and his eyes treacherously moistened.

And with these words, pronounced like an oath in the dim light of the beginning of the dawn and the singing of birds, breathing like a lullaby, they fell asleep in each other’s arms.

Xichen woke up a couple of hours later at five in the morning when the sun’s rays hit his closed eyelids. Opening his eyes, he immediately squeezed them and blinked. The place next to him was empty, and there was not enough warmth at this side. Xichen looked around and saw Jiang Cheng standing in a robe by the open window, propping up a wooden frame with his bent elbow. His hair was pulled down his back.

- Wanyin? – Lan Huan called. – Why are you standing there? It’s cool, you might catch a cold.

Jiang Cheng flinched slightly at the sound of his name and turned around. His expression was again stern as usual.

Chapter Text

For a moment, Xichen’s heart sank, and he froze when he saw Wanyin so serious. The magic of the night was over, the drunkenness had finally disappeared from the Jiang Cheng’s body, and now he could deny everything that had happened between them. To say that it was just an impulse. Blame the wine. Brush it off, pretending it didn’t mean anything.

Only just for a moment.

- I said that the ideal woman for me does not exist, – Jiang Cheng said. – Because all the qualities that she should have are embodied in you. The Lotus Pier will never have an official mistress… Only with you I can share the rights of the owner of the Lotus Pier, Lan Huan. From now on, consider Yunmeng as your second home. I will always wait for you here.

And Xichen thought he could breathe again

* * *

In the morning, all Leaders chose tactfully not to raise the topic of the night escapade and silently disperse. They looked sleepy and tired, and only Nie Huaisang giggled, hiding behind a fan, but his crescent-shaped eyes betrayed him.

Jin Ling became the owner of the darkest under-eye circles like a panda. Even Sizhui’s playing on guqin did not help him sleep at night. This made Jin Ling annoyed and courageous enough to confess in something to Jiang Cheng in the morning. If his another uncle stepped into Cut Sleeve’s path, why can’t Jin Ling also coming out and no longer hide his feelings?!

- Uncle! I have to tell you something!

- What now? – Jiang Cheng growled, trying his best to maintain the look of the stern Leader of the clan, but when Xichen stood behind like his personal bodyguard, it was difficult to control himself.

Jin Ling looked very determined, jutting out his chest and lifting his chin, reminiscent of his father in his youth. Next to him stood the always calm Sizhui, who politely greeted the elders and smiled softly. Anyone would like to have such a son-in-law in their clan.

Meanwhile, Jin Ling took Sizhui’s hand and demonstrated it to Jiang Cheng.

- Uncle, I want to say that Lan Yuan will not play on guqin for you anymore!

- What does it mean? – Jiang Cheng raised one eyebrow.

- This means that the Lanling Jin clan will not have a mistress, – Xichen explained, placing his hands on Wanyin’s shoulders and smiling peacefully in his usual manner.

- What?! – Jiang Cheng perked up and glared at his nephew. – Not you too!

- You said to take a model on yourself! – Jin Ling quipped.

- Please, don’t worry, Leader of the Jiang clan, I will take care of Rulan and will cherish him like the apple of my eye! – Lan Yuan assured him, bowing deeply.

- Lan Sizhui is an outstanding disciple of the Gusu clan. The young Leader Jin will not find a better partner on the path of cultivation! – Xichen praised his named nephew while holding his temperamental beloved by the shoulders.

- I didn’t say to take a lead from me so literally! – Jiang Cheng raged, still arguing with Jin Ling. – It’s Wei Wuxian’s fault! What did he say to you?! Breathed on you after drinking?! Shook off some buggery’s dust particles from his clothes?! Answer me, when did you seduce Sizhui?!

- And you, uncle, when did you manage to seduce Zewu-Jun?!

- Me?! Oh, you wretch, come here, I’ll break your legs!!!

Jiang Cheng nevertheless escaped from the hands of the Leader of the Lan clan, and Jin Ling began to run away from him. Xichen and Sizhui watched from the sidelines. The younger one scratched the back of his head awkwardly and turned to the elder:

- Zewu-Jun, shouldn’t we interfere?

- I think they will be all right. Maybe we can make some tea?

* * *

Soon two things happened simultaneously in Yunmeng: one happy and the other sad. The concubine gave birth to a healthy boy, but, unfortunately, she died in childbirth. Although she meant nothing to the Leader of the Jiang Clan, he was grateful for such a priceless gift and gave the corresponding honors to her. Wanyin was accustomed to death and raising a child alone was not new to him. He intended to raise his son into a worthy heir to Lotus Pier.

And now he was not alone.

At dawn, Jiang Cheng stood at the pier and waited for the junk, which soon appeared on the horizon, framed by the morning haze of fog. It’s bow parted the flowering lotuses aside until it swam to the shore.

Lan Huan easily jumped from the junk to the dock and was caught in Wanyin’s arms. So that how it was like… to wait for someone and wait for his arrival, to touch, to dissolve in the embrace and the feeling of absolute peace, which was so necessary for Jiang Cheng all this time. When your home was not just a place, but became a person.

- I missed you, – Jiang Cheng whispered, burying himself in Xichen’s neck, only momentarily allowing himself the weakness he had previously forbidden to show. Then he felt the man touch his hair. – What is it?

- While I was travel by water, I saw a broken small lotus and decided to take it with me. Why would he wither alone when he can decorate your hair? – Lan Huan replied with a gentle smile.

Jiang Cheng was embarrassed and pulled the flower out of his hair.

- Don’t do such embarrassing things! I am, after all, a man!

- But the lotus is so beautiful, will you dare just throw it away?

Considering Wanyin’s personality, this was to be expected, but instead of actually throwing the flower away, he weaved it into Lan Huan’s hair.

- It will look better on you, – Jiang Cheng mutters, embarrassed. – Your beauty suits the lotus more than I do.

Xichen was touched by this embarrassing but adorable concern. Catching a moment while the Leader of Lotus Pier lost his guard due to his embarrassment and expression of emotions, Lan Huan pulled him by the chin and kissed him.

- You’re so cute, – he breathed into his lips. – I missed you too, Wanyin.

Jiang Cheng finally flushed and puffed.

- What are you! But… But… We are on the street… Someone will see us… – he was so agitated that he began to rub his neck until it turned red.

- Young master Wei and my brother are fine with such things, – Xichen shrugged, his face still with a soft smile. – It’s time for you and me not to be afraid to openly express our feelings, too. By the way, can I look up at your son?

- Let’s go, – Wanyin nodded and, despite his embarrassment, took Lan Huan’s hand. – Next time you can call your brother with you, and whoever else will suddenly want to come with him… After all, your disciples will now study in Yunmeng, and you will certainly want to visit them.

Xichen smiled, squeezing his hand in return.

- Wait for me here, – Jiang Cheng asked when they arrived at the children’s quarters, from which there was an exit to the courtyard with a beautiful small garden and lotus pond.

While waiting for Wanyin, Lan Huan went out into the garden and sat down on the terrace. Suddenly he heard a child crying. Getting up from his seat and looking around, at a distance he saw a cradle in which a baby was crying.

The man came closer. It must have been Jiang Cheng’s child, but where he was himself and why did he leave his son unattended?

- Why are you crying? – Xichen asked out loud and pulled out Liebing.

The baby, upset by something a minute ago, barely heard the pleasant melody of a lullaby, and immediately stopped crying and then began to yawn.

After confirming that the child was asleep, Lan Huan finished the melody and looked at the sleeping boy. This is what Wangji must have felt when he decided to take care of Lan Yuan… It is a strange feeling that force to caring for and protecting a little creature which is associated with a person dear to his heart.

Xichen had never held such small children in his arms, but an inner impulse convinced him to try to do it now: gently, like a jewel, take it out of the cradle and press the little body to his chest, feel his heart beating, and feel an outlet in it. This is probably what children are for.

Jiang Cheng stood a little further away and watched how Lan Huan, a little awkwardly, but still diligently lull the baby in his arms so that he would not inadvertently wake up from his awkward actions. Wanyin wanted his son to become another link between them, which would allow their relationship to become stronger.

- I want you to give him a name, – Jiang Cheng said, stepping closer.

Xichen looked at the approaching man, then at the baby in his arms.

- How about… – he mused, and then inspiration lit up his face. – Jiang Yui? Yui is like rain that will wash away all sorrows and sadness from now on. Xiao Yui, do you like your name?

The baby sniffed, expressing his approval.

* * *

From that time, the Gusu Lan clan began to frequent the Lotus Pier, as did the Yunmeng Jiang clan to visit the Cloud Recesses.

Lan Qiren no longer hoped to marry at least one nephew to a well-bred lady and contritely resigned himself with this fact, but defiantly did not accept their choice.

He considered it shameful that Xichen, being the Leader of the Lan clan, who had read many books, philosophies and treatises, spent time in meditation and self-improvement, started practicing in worldly affairs unworthy of an impeccable cultivator. Lan Huan, like as a young neophyte, was learning to take care of a baby who was not even his own, and often, as far as he could afford, stayed in a foreign clan. In other words, he followed in the footsteps of his brother.

Meanwhile, at Lotus Pier, Jiang Cheng stood in the kitchen with his arms folded over his chest and watched the servants work. As he had done with little Jin Ling, he made sure that they boiled the diapers, heated the milk and made no mistakes. It reminded Jiang Cheng of the past, but it was a time that he remembered with a pain in his heart, although now it became dull. Now the grown-up Jin Ling helped him look after his cousin.

And besides him there were those willing.

Someone slowly approached Jiang Cheng from behind, who immediately felt it, but was in no hurry to turn around.

- I’m glad you finally found someone who brought peace to your heart.

- When did you arrive? – Jiang Cheng reluctantly turned his head and glanced in displeasure at the intruder. – I don’t remember inviting you.

- Really? – Wei Wuxian put on a surprised face, suppressing a smirk. – Then don’t think that I’m here because of you! Lan Zhan and I were passing through, then he decided to visit Zewu-Jun here. And I just missed lotus seeds, after all, here they are the most delicious!

- Pfft, I think they’re the same everywhere, – Jiang Cheng snorted.

Wuxian stood next to him, hands behind his back, and watched the cauldrons above which steam was rising.

- Since I’m here… can I take a look at your son? With half an eye. I promise I won’t cause any trouble.

Jiang Cheng was silent for a long time. A confrontation of feelings seized inside him: on the one hand, he wanted to grumble in his usual manner and send Wei Wuxian to hell, but on the other hand, Jiang Cheng knew that he could not refuse him. He stubbornly did not want to admit to himself that he had forgiven him long ago, but it was difficult for him to suppress his pride. After thinking about the answer, he said:

- Have you ever kept your promises?.. – he sighed. – If I see that you teach him bad or dark things from an early age, I will drown you in a pond among your favorite lotus seeds.

- I understood! – A hopeful smile lit up Wuxian’s face. – I solemnly swear that this will not happen, because then Lan Zhan will come for your soul. But that’s another story.

He smiled wickedly.

- By the way, about the history. Who would have thought that in the end each of us would get Jade? – Wei Ying blurted out and, slightly emboldened by Wanyin’s kind disposition, he allowed himself to slap him on the shoulder, as in the good old days. Apparently, Sizhui’s play on guqin, combined with Xichen’s attention and childcare, bore fruit and pacified the explosive nature of the Leader of the Jiang clan.

- Wei Wuxian! – Wanyin gurgled, embarrassed by his statement. – Do not say such, such…

- Such – what? – Wei Ying teased. – Truthful words? Too frankly? Words that make the always sulky Jiang Cheng blush like a radish? You are still shy, right? Never mind, at first, I also couldn’t believe that Lan Zhan had feelings for me! But I’m surprised his older brother could have liked a grumbler like you…

- Wei Ying! You’re really asking for trouble?

- Jiang Wanyin! What will you do?

- I’ve got a pack of dogs in Lotus Pier! Have you seen them yet?

- You won, I’ll leave now!

But Jiang Cheng, rolling his eyes, defiantly walked out of the kitchen first, throwing lightning from the outside of himself, and inside burning with awkwardness and embarrassment. Wei Wuxian looked after him, and a soft smile spread across his lips. Over the years, Jiang Cheng could have had as many dogs as he wanted, but how did it happen that Wei Ying didn’t bump not even into one upon arrival?

Wuxian also left the kitchen and went for a walk on the terrace along the lotus pond. Nostalgia flooded his mind. Many years later, he could pass here again, no longer with a heavy heart. Although a lot has changed here, the atmosphere has noticeably warmed up, causing the same warmth in the soul.

Soon Lan Zhan approached him. Wei Ying smiled and reached out to hug him. He wanted to share his good mood and overwhelming joy with him.

- Met with Zewu-Jun?

Lan Wangji nodded, pulling Wei Wuxian closer to him.

- And you? Met with the Leader of the Jiang clan?

Wei Ying also nodded, burying himself in his neck, and then pulled back slightly to look the man in the face.

- Lan Zhan, I was allowed to meet with my nephew. Have you seen him yet?

- He slept. Brother will soon be feeding him.

- I want to see him, too! Lan Zhan, did you know that your brother likes Jiang Cheng?

- Mn.

- Does it mean yes or no?

- I wanted him to be aware of his own feelings.

- So, you knew he liked Jiang Cheng and kept quiet?! – Wei Wuxian was dumbfounded, blinking in bewilderment. – Wow! But… you don’t like Jiang Cheng, do you?

Lan Zhan hesitated to answer.

- If my brother likes him, I can accept his choice.

Wei Ying held out:

- Mmmm… Lan Zhan, did I tell you how wonderful you are as a brother, man and husband?

Wangji’s ears turned red, betraying his embarrassment, and he hugged Wuxian to him again, pressing his forehead against him.

- Is it time for every day? – Wei Ying teased. - But we can’t right here on the street, can we?.. Oh! We haven’t tried it in the lotus pond yet! Come on, Lan Zhan, a new experience is always great! I missed the Lotus Pier very much, I don’t think I would ever want to get out of the water, especially with you… Oops!

Lan Wangji lifted Wei Wuxian to carry him in his arms. After such eloquent descriptions, he could no longer wait, but their path was blocked by the approaching Sizhui and Jin Ling, holding hands. Lan Zhan had to reluctantly return Wei Ying to the ground, and both of them looked at the young men with curiosity.

- Master Wei, Hanguang-Jun, we would like to tell you something…

Wei Wuxian blinked a couple of times as if his eyes were deceiving, turned a stunned gaze to the imperturbable Lan Wangji, and asked indignantly:

- Did you also know that Sizhui and Jin Ling like each other? And that’s why you didn’t worry at all when A-Yuan decided to become a guest disciple at Yunmeng Jiang?

The man said nothing, and Wei Ying summed up in discouragement:

- Do we have a predisposition in the whole family to fall under the charm of Lan?! Or is it some kind of secret magic of Gusu?

Wangji was still silent, and then he just turned around and started walking away. Wuxian was dumbfounded and ran after him.

- Lan Zhan! Well, Lan Zhan, where are you going?!

- I didn’t get it right now, – Jin Ling scratched his head. – We haven’t even had time to say anything yet, but they just left. Are they not surprised at all?!

- I think we can assume that the elders has approved of our relationship, – Sizhui smiled and kissed the bewildered Jin Ling on the temple. – It seems that we distracted them from something important, let’s not interfere with them.

* * *

A little later, noise reigned in the inner garden next to the child’s quarters.

- I only held him for five minutes, let me hold him longer! – Jin Ling was indignant.

- A-Lin, stay in line! – Wei Wuxian waved him off. – I want to babysit my nephew myself! Lan Zhan, look, he frowns the same way as Jiang Cheng – looks exactly like him!

- Mn.

- Young master Wei, may I take Xiao Yui from you? – Xichen asked politely. – You’ve been babysitting him for two hours already.

- Zewu-Jun, at least you please take the baby away from him! – Jin Ling demanded, and Sizhui hugged him by the shoulders.

- Don’t worry, you will still have time to babysit your cousin, – Sizhui soothed gently. – It seems that now the Lotus Pier will always be lively.

- How noisy you are all… – Jiang Cheng sighed as he approached with fresh diapers. – I have a headache from you! Get away from Xiao Yui!

He took the baby away from Wei Wuxian and handed it to Lan Huan, and together they to put him in the cradle in the child’s quarters.

- It’s not fair! – Wei Ying and Jin Ling said in the same way.

- Sizhui, I was not allowed to babysit my cousin! – Rulan complained.

- Lan Zhan, my nephew was shamelessly taken away from me! – Wuxian echoed.

- Wei Ying, do you want to have another child? – Wangji inquired.

Wei Wuxian’s face instantly changed, all the noise died down, and there was silence for a moment.

- No, no, that’s not what I meant… Lan Zhan, what are you thinking about?

But Wangji maintained the partisan’s enigmatic silence. Wei Ying hopped around him like a rabbit, trying to find out and prevent the impending danger on his head… or rather his ass. Or something else.

- Why are you stomping like a horse? – Jin Ling grumbled. – You will wake up Xiao Yui!

- What do you understand about raising little children? – Wei Wuxian chuckled, shifting his attention from Lan Zhan to his nephew. – Look how beautiful Sizhui grew up despite being buried in the ground! My graceful footfall won’t hurt Xiao Yui’s sound sleep!

- This is because Lan Yuan was raised by Hanguang-Jun, not you! – Jin Ling protested, lifting his chin.

- Dis he was better than me? He buried him in rabbits! – Wei Ying retorted, crossing his arms over his chest.

- Please do not quarrel, – Sizhui tried to call for peace, but his quiet voice couldn’t overshadow the loudly arguing uncle and nephew.

- Wei Ying, – Wangji called, whose voice always had a pacifying effect on Wei Wuxian.

- Lan Zhan, I wanted to say that you are a better parent than me! – Wei Ying said and hung around his neck. – So what did you mean about another child?.. I’m afraid that Sizhui might get jealous…

- Master Wei, I’m already grown up.

- The little ones are not supposed to ask!

Jiang Cheng, returning from the child’s quarters, looked at all this confusion, and in his soul mixed feelings collided. It was so much like a full-fledged family… The wounds that the fragments of those thirteen years had inflicted have finally healed.

He was no longer alone.

- Wanyin, – Lan Xichen returned him from his thoughts. – What are you thinking about?

The man shook his head and they sat down on the terrace together.

- I just thought… I missed that noise.

Lan Huan smiled.

- In my life there was not enough extra noise, too. It seems the time has come to make significant changes to it… And I start to like it.

He took Jiang Cheng’s hand, and a man squeezed Xichen’s hand in return. A tremulous feeling settled in his soul, whispering that from now on everything will be fine.

Two birds flew overhead and the gazes of the men followed them. Wanyin’s always stern face showed a soft smile, and he looked at Lan Huan with overwhelming tenderness in his eyes. He got his own Biinyao. And he will become the same Biinyao for him.

Since then, there have always been smiles and laughter at Lotus Pier.