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Cursed

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The Lan Clan is cursed.

Not in the traditional sense, of course. That would be easier to deal with. Even something like a Hundred Holes curse could be countered; would have tangible things like a caster and motive and cause, and ways of preventing.

The curse of Lan Wangji’s family is a more subtle, persistent kind.

Love at first sight.

It is not something that is advertised. When Lan Wangji was twelve, his brother explained it to him. Quietly, in hushed tones, with closed doors and shuttered windows. He knew the stories already, of course. The tale of their founder, a monk who fell deeply in love with his wife, only to pine away in obscurity after her death; their parents, bound by love but separated by past transgressions, weighing passion and honour and finding both intractable.

Most people in the world fall in love gradually. Infatuation might strike swiftly, but affection invariably takes time. Passions can change. Fickle winds of the heart can shift. What seems like love at first glance can wash away in a year, in two, in ten. What seems like hatred can temper and cleanse itself and breed yearning instead. Love at first sight is rare, for most other people, most other families.

Not so for theirs.

The curse of their line is to know their hearts swiftly. Many members of their family do not fall in love at all. But those that do, do so immediately, and irrevocably.

His brother tries to temper the explanation, of course. Lan Xichen is kind and always seeks the better part of situations, where possible.

“I think it is simply that we know something of our destinies more clearly than most do,” he opines. “We love no one who is not bound to us by a strand of fate; so if we never meet that person, we never fall in love. But if we do meet them, we recognize them straight away.”

It is a better take than most. But afterwards, Lan Wangji had found himself hoping that it would never happen to him. Or at least, so he told himself. It was not, as his uncle claimed, that such frivolities were a distraction. It was not even the tragedy of his parents’ marriage that worried him so, for he had rarely even conceived of his parents as a unit; having never seen them even in the same room before his mother was gone.

No, what worried Lan Wangji was that he would be alone in his sentiments.

Because Lan Clan might be cursed, but the rest of the world loves differently. What can he do, if his heart belongs to someone who does not return this feeling? How would it feel, to watch someone bound to him by fate fail to recognize it; to have them reject him, perhaps, or grow tired of him, while his own feelings are written in stone forever?

To give someone he does not even know so much power over himself… it is a frightening curse indeed.

So he hopes it will never come to fruition. Years go by. His brother’s heart does not stir. His uncle’s does not stir either. Things in Gusu are peaceful and quiet, and if there is loneliness in the solitude and the surety of his studies, it seems a small price to pay.

Lan Wangji will not fall in love.

Lan Wangji will escape the curse.

Until the curse comes sneaking back into the Cloud Recesses after curfew, carrying two jars of Emperor’s Smile, and Lan Wangji sees a mischievous face. Beautiful, oddly gentle, even for all that the word ‘troublemaker’ seems written across its every feature. His heart thuds so loudly in his chest that he almost freezes in place, and he knows. Even if he does not want to. Such denial would only be foolish and pointless.

He feels a tug. Like a fishing line around his heart, something he never knew was there, has finally caught hold and latched in.

Almost, he flees.

But then a cold, quiet outrage fills him instead. Directed towards this figure, to this boy - and it is a boy, he cannot be surprised at himself - who has dared to suddenly emerge from the darkness of possibility. Dashing all of his hopes, twisting the knife even because one lookand Lan Wangji can tell that his every worst fear of this curse has come to roost. That his heart belongs to some fickle creature.

That he will not win it back.

I will not suffer this, he thinks, as he approaches. There will be a way to resolve this. To break that line, he insists to himself. He will find the way, and then he will free his entire clan from it.

…Or else he will get this troublesome person in line and… go from there.

 

~

 

The Lan Clan is cursed.


Lan Wangji sits in silence, in the aftermath of another failed round of Inquiry. His fingers are sore. The absence of answers is a deafening weight. His heart feels like a stone, and even though he played perfectly, and knows that he did, it is also irrefutable that he has failed.

Wei Ying has fluttered away, and no skill of Lan Wangji’s can even tell him how, or where to. Even death should not have summoned him so completely away.

His breaths grow heavy. His eyes slide shut. Just for a moment. Ragged frustration sinking out of him, along with despair, until his grip on his guqin is too tight.

The instrument creaks.

Lan Wangji lets go of it. He opens his eyes, and stares defiantly out at the opaque mountainside, where Wei Ying’s bell was recovered.

Then he starts to play again.

 

~

 

The Lan Clan is cursed.

“Wei Ying… return to Gusu with me.”

“Return to Gusu? I see. After all, your Gusu Lan Clan detests demonic cultivators like me.”

“The visit is not for denouncing you…”

“Then what for?! Make me cultivate my mind? Or destroy all my cultivation base? Who do you think you are?!”

Lan Wangji is cursed.

But it is a curse he can live with. Would live with gladly, now, if it meant he would be the only one to suffer any such things. If it could lift the black pall from Wei Ying’s features. He would take any number of curses, he realizes, would endure any number of blows, if it might mean that Wei Ying would not be…

Would not be…

Please, he thinks. Desperately. Wei Ying…

Jiang Cheng moves forward, and like a door slamming shut, Lan Wangji knows it is too late. All the time he spent trying to run from this, and now Wei Ying does not trust him. Cannot believe him. Jiang Cheng’s heart is full of vengeance; the same vengeance that burns in Wei Ying’s eerie gaze. Resentful energy. They are united, as they shut him out.

And once again, there is nothing Lan Wangji or all his lauded skills can do.

 

~

 

The Lan Clan is cursed.

“Great news! Wei Wuxian has died!”

 

“The Yiling Patriarch has died? Who could have killed him?”

 

“Who other than his shidi, Jiang Cheng, putting an end to his own relative for the greater good…”

Lan Wangji thinks of a childhood spent sitting in front of a door that never opened. Of days spent playing Inquiries left unanswered. He thinks of a boy whose face he hated, because at first sight, he loved it.

Wei Ying…

 

~

 

The Lan Clan is cursed.

So Lan Wangji knows, even before the song on the mountain is played. Though until then, what he feels most strongly is confusion. He knows where his heart lies. And it is not supposed to be in the hands of a youth he has never seen before; some scrawny, ill-treated figure with demonic energy at his fingertips, lurking in an estate full of vengeful ghosts.

Confusion becomes suspicion.

The string tugs at his heart. Something he has not felt for years. He does not flinch, but only because he feels to many things to know which he would even react to. Fear. Desire. Disbelief.

Hope.

As the notes of a song that only two souls in the world should know emerge from a rough-hewn flute, Lan Wangji’s feelings settle into awed acceptance.

You…

His course is set, now. He waits as Wei Ying backs into him, and closes a hand over his wrist. Wanting to stop him, to stop the warbling notes of the song that seems - for one irrational moment - as though it could betray him to more people than just Lan Wangji. More, though, he wants to stop the energy flowing from his body. It is not safe!

But he has tried those words before. They never worked.

He keeps hold of Wei Ying’s wrist. But does not stop him, as the other man’s gaze slips away, and he resumes his playing. Directing General Wen Ning elsewhere, before his breath finally runs out and he surrenders in defeat. Slumping, permitting the energy of his demonic cultivation to subside, until he is resigned in Lan Wangji’s grasp.

The flare of zidian catches his gaze.

Lan Wangji moves swiftly, strumming his guqin and repelling the assault. His gaze hardens. His stance turns resolute. He sees Jiang Cheng’s hard stare, the old and simmering resentment fierce in his gaze, at the realization of the same truth.

It would not be suitable to swear.

Fuck you, he thinks, resolutely, instead.

Lan Wangji is cursed.

Lan Wangji is blessed.

This time, Wei Ying is coming back with him to Gusu.