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walking on parallel paths

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"Wei Wuxian! Just how long do you plan to laze around and sleep?!"

 

Upon uttering those angry words, Jiang Cheng slammed open the bedroom door of his 'senior'-apprentice brother's room and stormed right in. His older sister was out with his parents, and his father had explicitly told them both that he expected to see improvements in their swordplay when he came back.

 

Wei Wuxian might not give a care to his father's words, but that was because his father seemed to dote on Wei Wuxian more than Jiang Cheng. In any case, despite chasing girls and sneaking out to buy wine 24/7, Wei Wuxian's bizarre swordplay was the best in their clan. Jiang Cheng was loath to admit it, but the other would probably be praised by his father even if he spent their entire break doing nothing.

 

Jiang Cheng didn't have the same luxury. Though he was probably the only person of their generation who was able to best Wei Wuxian in a fight, the odds of him winning rarely tilted in his favour. His father was also more particular about the style of Jiang Cheng's swordplay even if he didn't mind Wei Wuxian's strange mix-match he called a style, whereas Jiang Cheng needed to put in countless hours if he wanted to mold his swordplay forms into something his father approved of.

 

"Get out of bed already," Jiang Cheng sneered, his heart feeling quite impatient. He had already obediently waited for this dear senior-apprentice brother of his, even when the other didn't show up at their agreed upon time. Now, two shichen later, Jiang Cheng really couldn't stand it anymore and thus had resigned himself to once again dragging the older boy out of bed. Geez, Wei Wuxian should really feel lucky that they will be sharing a room at the Lan clan. Without him, would this lazy guy make it to a single of his classes? "Didn't you promise me a few spars before we trained together?"

 

"......" For once, Wei Wuxian didn't grumble at him or theatrically beg for a few more minutes of sleep. Jiang Cheng's footsteps paused slightly as his eyebrows furrowed. The bump on the bed didn't move at all despite his loud entrance. Wei Wuxian was a cultivator, and what good cultivator wouldn't be waken up by that much noise?

 

Jiang Cheng's face slowly darkened.

 

There were only two explanations for this. Either Wei Wuxian was just faking his sleep, or he had......

 

"I swear," Jiang Cheng complained as he stepped forward to face the bump on the bed. "If this is another one of your little tricks and you've already ditched me to bother the girls at the stands again, I'm so going to—"

 

Upon snatching away the blankets making up the bump, a whimper of pain resonated through the quiet room.

 

"......Wei Wuxian?" Jiang Cheng froze.

 

The teen was curled up on the bed as terrible tremors wracked through his sweat-soaked body. Black hair was plastered to his heated cheeks as a grimace covered his usually-smiling face.

 

A single glance was enough for Jiang Cheng to tell that Wei Wuxian was in excruciating pain.

 

"Damn!" Though he had frozen in shock, Jiang Cheng quickly snapped out of it as he stepped forward hurriedly. Palming Wei Wuxian's forehead was enough for him to determine that the other had a very high fever, but cultivators rarely got so sick like this out of the blue. Forehead wrinkling up, Jiang Cheng's eyes swept across the panting form of the older and......

 

......Was it that?

 

Squinting his eyes, he reached out to straighten the other's shrimp-like position in order to take a look at Wei Wuxian's stomach. Making quick work of his clothes, Jiang Cheng disrobed the boy before peering at the sloppily wrapped blood-stained bandages that covered what should have been an expanse of smooth skin.

 

"Aaugh!" The moment Jiang Cheng reached out to try and take off those bandages, Wei Wuxian made a low scream of pain. His nimble hands hesitated a bit before Jiang Cheng hardened his expression and started to curse at the unconscious teen.

 

"You idiot, you got injured to this degree and you didn't even tell me? Serves you right......" Though his mouth rambled like this, his hands were incomparably gentle as he took apart those bandages. But when he finally got to the wound, even Jiang Cheng felt a bit lightheaded despite preparing himself for something ugly.

 

The medicine Wei Wuxian had probably smeared on the night before was still all over the injury, but it was clear that it hadn't taken any effect. Instead, it only made the blue tint that surrounded the injury look even more unnatural.

 

Water Flower Poison......

 

A slow-acting common poison whose symptoms didn't emerge until the victim became too ill to do anything about it. Most likely, Wei Wuxian hadn't even known he had been poisoned, so he had just put on some normal medicine for flesh wounds......

 

"......Geez. You only went out to get rid of some water ghouls before becoming like this. Next time, I'm coming with you." Jiang Cheng inhaled slowly as he urged himself to calm down. It was fine. Though Water Flower Poison was always fatal in later stages, the blue tint on Wei Wuxian's wound was still faint. It hadn't turned into the dark blue that signified certain death. Jiang Cheng himself had the antidote to the poison, and other than being under the weather for the rest of the month Wei Wuxian would be fine.

 

He would be completely fine. Jiang Cheng would make sure of it.

 

Quickly, Jiang Cheng got to work as he filled up a basin with water and grabbed a cloth. Putting the wet cloth onto Wei Wuxian's head in an attempt to stop the other's fever from climbing too high, Jiang Cheng rummaged around in his interspatial bag before finally located his Water Flower antidote. It was a higher grade one he had bought on a whim in the marketplace, something he felt quite thankful now. Pouring the viscous liquid onto his fingertips, Jiang Cheng slowly applied the antidote to that angry, poisoned wound.

 

"Ah......" Wei Wuxian moaned quietly, as if in relief. Jiang Cheng also felt his shoulders slumping as he grabbed a towel to clean his fingers before using another wet cloth to slowly wipe down the older boy's body.

 

The antidote should be applied two more times even if the blue tint started disappearing. Then, Jiang Cheng probably needed to use a higher grade medicine so that open wound of Wei Wuxian's wouldn't become infected after being exposed to the air for so long. And then he had to make sure the teen's fever went down......

 

"Wei Wuxian, you bastard," Jiang Cheng muttered under his breath as he carefully palmed the unconscious boy's forehead once more. "Why can't you get sick when elder sister is here? If father yells at us when he gets home, you're taking the blame."

 

***

 

"......never going to let you go off alone again! Geez, what are you doing, the supposed strongest senior disciple of the Jiang clan?! How are you so stupid? Just hunting water ghouls and you come back poisoned......"

 

Wei Wuxian dazedly stared at his younger apprentice brother as the other scolded him, his cheeks still slightly flamed from his fading fever. Blinking slowly, he felt the corner of his lips tilt upwards in a silly smile as he broke Jiang Cheng's never-ending tirade. "Aww, little brother, were you that worried about me? Your eyes are red!"

 

"......Red my ass!"

 


 

 

Wei Wuxian worriedly gazed at Jiang Cheng as he carried him into the other's bedroom. The younger man had collapsed onto the desk in his study room, and by the time Wei Wuxian had found him he was already running a light fever.

 

"Hah......even though I told you not to overdo it......" The constant smile on Wei Wuxian's face had a hint of helplessness and worry as he plopped his burden onto the bed. After all, Wei Wuxian had just transferred his Golden Core to Jiang Cheng, so even though it had miraculously worked, the other's body was bound to have a hard time accepting it.

 

"Aiya, but your skull is so thick," Wei Wuxian sighed dramatically as he filled up a basin with water and grabbed a cloth. He wetted it before wiping off the sweat that had gathered on Jiang Cheng's forehead. "Even if elder sister told you to rest, you probably won't huh? And you're even less likely to listen to this great older brother of yours~"

 

Wei Wuxian chattered to himself quietly as he kept vigil beside Jiang Cheng's bed. Elder sister was out for the rest of the week, and truth be told Wei Wuxian didn't really trust anyone else with Jiang Cheng's health or safety. The grip he had on the wet towel tightened as the smile on Wei Wuxian's face sharpened.

 

He had already let Jiang Cheng lose his Golden Core. He wasn't going to let anyone else hurt him ever again, or his elder sister for that matter. If someone else wanted to hurt the remaining members of the Jiang family, they would have to do it over Wei Wuxian's dead body.

 

"......Elder sister......?" A hoarse voice broke Wei Wuxian out of his thoughts as he immediately looked down at his charge. Jiang Cheng blinked at him slowly, a haze covering his usual sharp eyes as the other man groaned. "Ugh, not you."

 

"What do you mean not me?" Wei Wuxian gave the younger a rehearsed pout as he wiped Jiang Cheng's hot limbs in order to cool him down. "Ah Cheng~ Big brother told you to not overwork yourself but you still did~ Shouldn't you be happy that big brother is still taking the time to nurse you back to health?"

 

Wei Wuxian paused a bit before a mischievous glint took over his eyes. "Or perhaps little brother wishes that a pretty lady sweetheart is in my place instead?"

 

Jiang Cheng groaned as he grabbed the wet cloth on his forehead and threw it at Wei Wuxian. He then turned around, firmly placing his back toward the noisy intruder. "Scram. I only have a slight fever. I'll just sleep it off alright? So scram scram scram. I can't fall asleep if you're bothering me here."

 

"......" Wei Wuxian quieted for a bit before smiling at the back of his grumpy junior apprentice-brother brightly. "Alright alright, I'm leaving. If little brother needs something, just call me okay?"

 

"......Mn," Jiang Cheng made some sort of affirmative sound as he rolled around further away from him. Chuckling softly under his breath, Wei Wuxian took the basin of water before leaving the bedroom and closing the door. He quickly returned to his own room, making sure that the door was firmly closed and that his seals were activated before he finally slumped down to his knees.

 

"Aiya......" Wei Wuxian braced himself over the basin, pale face the colour of paper as he started coughing. Before long, the basin of water became diluted with bright red as Wei Wuxian wiped away the fresh blood that had gathered at the corner of his lips.

 

He stared at the gaunt face that was reflected back at him through a tint of red as he smiled hollowly. Mm, in any case, it was a good thing that Jiang Cheng wasn't feeling as bad as he did. Though...... now he knew why the other had looked so terrible when he had lost his Golden Core. Wei Wuxian pressed onto his abdomen as he shivered softly. Without spiritual energy......

 

It really was......

 

.

 

.

 

.

 

......so cold.

 

***

 

"......What's this?" Jiang Cheng stared at the familiar bowl of soup in slight disbelief. It wasn't that this bowl of soup wasn't something commonly seen in their home, but the person who had always made it wasn't here right now.

 

Wei Wuxian beamed back at him.

 

"Elder sister's soup! Well, maybe it's older brother's soup now?" He joked lightly as he placed the tray with the bowl of broth onto Jiang Cheng's lap. "You know, the way to your sweetheart's heart is through their stomach! Elder sister's soup is so delicious, so I got her to teach me how to make it!"

 

"How can you compare to elder sister?" Hearing Wei Wuxian's explanation, Jiang Cheng snorted a bit. Even so, he picked up that bowl of broth before gulping down a few sips.

 

Wei Wuxian rolled his eyes before sitting by his bedside, his pale face filled with a smile. "So? How is it?"

 

"......" Jiang Cheng paused a bit as he stared at that bowl of soup. Tilting the bowl back again, he shrugged. "......I guess it's acceptable."

 

"Hahahahaha," Wei Wuxian immediately started laughing as he began to tease him. "Ah Cheng, your ears are all red—hey! Little brother don't you dare throw that bowl at me and waste my soup—!"

 

"Oh that's great then, since I already finished it!"

 

Smack.

 


 

 

"How is he?!" Jiang Cheng demanded as he followed behind Lan Wangji. Despite the other being as careful as possible, a weak groan sounded from the bundle cradled in the other man's arms.

 

"He's overworked," was the terse and clipped reply as Lan Wangji sped away from their meeting and toward his bedroom. He had already felt that there was something wrong with Wei Wuxian that morning, but he didn't think it would be bad enough to make the other collapse right in front of the heads of all the clans.

 

"You......" The hand hidden in Jiang Cheng's sleeves clenched itself into a fist as he stared at that quickly departing back.

 

That's right.

 

He was the only clan head who had dashed out behind them. Wei Wuxian could be considered as Jiang Cheng's subordinate, and Lan Wangji still had his brother in the meeting.

 

He couldn't do things the same as he had done in his childhood, where he had personally tended to Wei Wuxian when he was injured or sick. No, he had his own duties now, and he couldn't abandon them.

 

"......Take care of him," Jiang Cheng said through his gritted teeth as he stopped before turning back. The quiet confirmation made the frustration in his heart grow stronger even as a sense of relief swept through his body.

 

Wei Wuxian would be fine.

 

Even if it wasn't because of him.


end