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Sheltered in a Coffin

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Nie Mingjue keeps his eyes open wide as the smoke barrels towards him. He does not look away from this avalanching death, that is sure sweep downhill and bury his allies in a hell of Wen Ruohan's making. Perhaps his assassination attempt was nothing more than a beckoning for a quicker end. He keeps his eyes open as the smoke pierces through his pupils and at last, he sees nothing. He stops breathing instinctively, because surely, the effort of drawing in air is wasted if he is to die within seconds. He doesn't breathe for what seems like several minutes before the darkness in front of his eyes retreats, leaving behind a gauzy film muting his sight. Through the translucent, grey Resentment, he sees the empty Wen throne. 

 

He's too thrown to notice the other oddities. In time, he will see that the floor of the room resembles magma more than ever. He will smell that sulphur and iron saturate the air, when before, all he had tasted was the sickly sweet of the Yin Iron. He will notice last of all that the shards of the Yin Iron are long gone. So is Meng Yao.

 


 

Lan Wangji strums a broad strike and lights his way across the battlefield. In this seeming massacre, as the puppets eat away at their forces, he is one of the few capable of biting back with the inherent cold nature of Bichen against the Resentment burning hot in the reanimated corpses. He decapitates a puppet whose forehead ribbon has slipped around its neck and watches it flutter away with the wind, only to have its flight broken by the electrocuted, trembling corpse of a woman.

 

"We will lose," Jiang Cheng barks as he burns the corpse that jumps at him from behind to a crisp. "But I'm not going to die before my whip has had its fill." Zidian seems to crackle in affirmation.

 

Lan Wangji nods, a miniscule movement downwards, before he flies up and up, and plays a Chord that shakes the very Earth. 

 

He alights— the righteous glare is long-diminished, but the ground shakes and shakes, until it breaks and blooms with the darkest slate of upside down roots. These limbs of the Earth crackle as they grow and flint into fire when they frisson past each other in a rush to seek nourishment. They find it in the hearts of the poisoned corpses. The needle-like caps inject and the hairs of the dark wood grow red and plump, almost seeming soft to the touch.

 

It ends like this. Every cultivator breathes a sigh of relief as the Nightless City battle concludes. Every cultivator holds their breath as the roots stay mobile, as if seeking sustenance. The fruit of this upset forest is beneath their feet, unknown still.

 

They leave the mystery for another day as they ascend into the clouds, hopefully out of reach of the, now christened, Forest of Dead Blood.

 


 

Wei Wuxian enters Lan Wangji's tent and leans his back against the bed. 

 

"Lan Gonzi," he whispers and lets his head rest on the mattress.

"Lan Wangji," he murmurs, and turns his face towards the Second Jade.

"Lan Zhan!" He calls out loudly this time, and before the name fully leaves his lips, a blade is pressed against his throat. He swallows, a gulp and a laugh.

 

"Is this any way to treat your long-lost friend Lan er gege? Hmm?" He asks as he tips his head back to purposely scrape his skin against Bichen. He likes the cold against his parched throat.

 

"Wei Ying is dead. Who are you?" There is a slight tremble in Lan Wangji's voice as he says the word "dead".

 

"I'm not. I'm here. See!" He moves to sit up and the blade slices through his throat. Lan Wangji withdraws, but it is too late. Hot blood hits him across the face and soaks his forehead ribbon.

 

Have I killed him?  Is it really Wei Ying? Did I just hurt Wei Ying after he found his way back to me.

 

"Lan er gongzi is truly peerless. Ah, Lan Zhan! You're too good! So serious. There is even blood and this kind of injury in your dreams. Such a stickler for logic and realism even in your dreams!" 

 

Lan Wangji blinks as a drop of blood runs down into his eye and opens his eyes to the fading laughter of Wei Wuxian still echoing in his ears as his slumber breaks. He feels wetness on his face, but he knows it is not blood. 

 


 

Deep in the Burial Mounds, Wei Wuxian rubs at his throat, lips downturned in a sad pout.

"Does Lan Zhan really hate me this much?"

 


 

High up, in a peak impossible to ascend for mortals, Baoshan Sanren puts down her scrying crystal and facepalms.