Everyone knows there is a prodigy in the YunmengJiang sect.
An orphan by the name of Wei WuXian, whose knowledge and talent seem unusual in magnitude. Taken in by Jiang FengMian, he showed remarkable prowess in the cultivation arts as a child. He could easily defeat his seniors after just one year of training. Before even reaching a decade, he surpassed his peers quickly, and now he is bright name in the cultivation world. Everyone knows of him, and everyone has taken note of the YunmengJiang sect.
Everyone knows there is a prodigy in the YunmengJiang sect, even those at the GusuLan Sect. Lan WangJi hears of this name, Wei WuXian, Wei WuXian of the YunmengJiang, over and over, twice, thrice, and so many times he begins to wonder: this Wei WuXian, does one get tired of hearing his own name mentioned again? Does he sigh in defeat, grow weary at the praising eyes, or simply bask in it and grow while nurtured under such glowing words?
There is a prodigy at the YunmengJiang sect, a boy his age, who, according to what they say, has surpassed all his peers. Lan WangJi, or even Lan XiChen, the brilliant Two Jades of Lan, would not be able to match his talent. It is ridiculous, they say, the amount of knowledge this child possesses. He has potential, and he has already realized half of it.
Lan WangJi hears this, and he knows of him— that Wei WuXian, that genius from the Lotus Pier. He wonders, when practicing calligraphy, when reviewing scriptures and so on, ever so often. But Wei WuXian is just a name, and nothing more.
And then, he is not.
They come from all over, sent from all sorts of different sects and clans. They arrive at the Cloud Recesses, and their clothing clashes with the pure white uniform of the GusuLan Sect. Yet still, Lan WangJi notices it— the swaths of purple among the white, brown, yellow, blue. Two boys, and he knows who they would have sent here. The only son of the Jiang clan, Jiang WanYin, and of course, the prodigy, the genius, Wei WuXian.
He looks on for moments, then it is lost. He leaves, and the purple quickly leaves his mind.
Lan WangJi has always been like this: noticing, watching, acting. He has always been the best that he could, and he has always done all that he can. The students that have come are a fleeting thought, soon to leave as they return home in months, perhaps a year at most. He notices, he watches, but he leaves. For what is a year in the lifespan of an immortal, one who has reached the end of the path of cultivation?
That is what he is reaching for. He practices, continues on his path. There is nothing that any of them can give him, not even a genius. Lan WangJi has faith in his own power, in his ability to improve and reach, in his own time, something that will truly fill him with a satisfaction of having done, having completed… something. Anything. He is not sure yet, but that is fine; he will find the answer eventually. For now, he learns, he does what he thinks is right. He moves to what he is called to: the sword, the brush, the strings of a guqin.
This is how he has always been, focused and diligent. He is satisfied by this for now, he keeps walking forward. They say that Wei WuXian could defeat him— he is at a higher cultivation level. This does not bother Lan WangJi, he only needs to work harder.
(Later he will care, and Wei WuXian will laugh and say, “Lan Zhan, you work so hard. Don’t worry, you will definitely be stronger than me in the end. I’m cheating, after all.”)
Wei WuXian is here now, at the Cloud Recesses. This does not mean he will change the way Lan WangJi is, does, acts. There is no reason for him to.
Yet, he does.
He meets Wei WuXian the night he arrives at Gusu, at an arbitrary location within the confines of the Cloud Recesses, and he only recognizes him by his purple clothing and flute that is gripped in his hand. They say that the young master Wei has a fondness for the flute, after all.
“If it isn’t the famous HanGuang-Jun,” Wei WuXian says, and he brings the flute up to his lips. He plays a shrill note, testing his instrument, then adds loudly, earnestly, and with feeling,“You’re as pretty as they say. Really, you are. I really missed looking at such a handsome face.”
Noise is prohibited in the Cloud Recesses, Lan WangJi wants to say immediately, and then he processes the words that have just been spoken to him. He says instead, “Preposterous.” It is indeed preposterous, and he knows not what Wei WuXian is trying to achieve. No one in the right mind would start a conversation in that manner. What is this name, HanGuang-Jun? A title of some sorts, one Lan WangJi does not recognize.
(What does he mean he “really missed” it?)
Instead of responding, Wei WuXian laughs gaily, and as the smile breaks through his face, Lan WangJi feels strange. The one in front of him is a youth with a good face, strong eyes and slender build. He looks infinitely better with joy sparkling, pleasure touching upon him like he has been blessed with something wonderful.
Wei WuXian begins to play again— surely he knows it is not allowed, especially not in this courtyard, so close to sleeping quarters— a slow, sweet tune that pulls at Lan WangJi. He is truly skilled at it. Perhaps he is just skilled at everything.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei WuXian says, suddenly switching from his title to his birth name, and the forwardness would be shocking if it had not been preceded and proceeded by much more shocking things. “I’ve decided, I really like you. And, I think, someone like you really ought to like me.”
What could that even mean? The words are so overt and improper that Lan WangJi cannot help but think there must be a hidden meaning. Seeing Wei WuXian’s mischievous look, he realizes there is not, and he is just being harassed and made fun of. Lan WangJi’s heart thumps painfully and he does not know why, but it does not matter. He will not tolerate such treatment towards himself.
Narrowing his eyes, Lan WangJi begins to walk toward Wei WuXian. Seeing this, the boy in front of him looks more pleasantly amused. He lets Lan WangJi approach him, and then his arm is grabbed before he realizes it.
Wei WuXian takes Lan WangJi’s arm and brings it close to himself. Closing his eyes with delight, he rests his own cheek in Lan WangJi’s palm. The feeling is similar to what Lan WangJi imagines it is like to feel a summer day, and Wei WuXian’s cheek is smooth and radiates with the heat of a hot blooded youth. He instinctively jerks his hand away, and immediately finds himself missing the feeling.
He knows his face remains cold and impassive at all of this. He knows that he expresses disapproval, because that is what Lan WangJi feels right now, fury and disapproval. This is blatant harassment, and he knows it. He has no patience for this sort of rude and uncalled for behavior; it seems that Wei WuXian may be a genius, but his personality appears to be on the opposite end of the scale.
He knows all this, yet still, he finds himself wanting to place his hand back to where it was, to feel that warmness again. It is irrational, and Lan WangJi pushes it away for now. He will figure it out later.
Then, Wei WuXian says, and his words shake him— “You can’t hide it from me,” he says, and his expression is still playful, his words still light. Yet, something about him seems deeper, as if he is talking about something important. “Teasing you really does make you happy,” he notes, and Lan WangJi immediately flinches back. “You like it; I’ve known that for a long time now.”
A long time now? This is the first time they have met.
But Wei WuXian just laughs again, says, “See you in class tomorrow!” as he scampers out, jumping lightly onto the the walls of the courtyard and past, then out of sight.
Out of sight, yet not out of mind.
Lan WangJi knows that his uncle dislikes Wei WuXian and his frivolous behavior. He attacks him in class, bombarding him with questions of all kinds, to which the youth answers with accuracy and detailed explanation. There is a drollness in his voice despite the overlying respect, and Lan WangJi wonders if he is the only person who recognizes it.
Wei WuXian sits beside him every time— next to, in front of, behind. Lan WangJi chooses the same seat, and Wei WuXian goes counterclockwise around it, choosing the proceeding seat next time, and again. One time, Lan WangJi stares at him in suspicion for too long. He receives a flirty wink, and he is forced to look away, in an embarrassed and flushed clench of the hands.
Wei WuXian is ridiculous in his every moment. His fluidity in swordplay seems as if he has been practicing for more than a mere decade and a half, his knowledge of cultivation seems endless, and Lan WangJi wonders if some of the things he references are concepts of his own creation. His way of speech is careless and easygoing to other people, but to Lan WangJi, he is oddly fixated, intense, an insulting, cheek-flaming statement after another.
It irritates him, makes him go mad. Lan WangJi finds himself befuddled, and he has lost his balance. Wei WuXian does not make sense, and he will not leave him alone. Perhaps if circumstances had forced them to spend time together, something similar could have resulted. But Wei WuXian has no reason to find him in the Library Pavilion, follow him after class to his room, where he is locked out.
The burn of Wei WuXian’s skin on his own… still is on his mind.
And that is the root of this imbalance: Wei WuXian has broken a few of the Cloud Recesses’ rules since he has arrived. Not many, but enough. Lan WangJi reports them, and he knows he is punished accordingly. Still, Wei WuXian comes back to find him, and he does not know why.
“I like you,” Wei WuXian says, staring straight at Lan WangJi. “Do you think I really like the Library Pavilion or something? What more could it be?”
Such a statement does not make sense, and is simply an insult to him. Wei WuXian is playing around, like he oft does with his peers instead of studying hard. He thinks he can do the same thing with Lan WangJi. He thinks that Lan WangJi will accept this, will accept the way he is.
“I knew you were smart,” he says, and leans in close to Lan WangJi. He can smell the sweet alcohol on his breath; Wei WuXian has been drinking again. “You’re right, I do think you will accept me, this way I talk, this way I charm you. And you are charmed, I can see it. Do you not enjoy this, Lan-er-gege? Is that not happiness on your face?”
Is it? Lan WangJi is lost. He feels… embarrassed, ashamed, for something he cannot quite figure out. He says nothing, but it does not matter.
Wei WuXian already knows, and it is scary when he replies, “That feeling, Lan Zhan. I feel it too. Is it not an exhilarating feeling?” He laughs merrily, looks down at the paper he’s been drawing on. “Ah, this is nostalgic.” He holds up a drawn picture of Lan WangJi, rather accurate in his features. His face, though, has been worked into a smile.
He slides the paper over to Lan WangJi, says cheerfully, “Lan Zhan, this sort of expression, it would be nice to see it on your face more.” He looks at it thoughtfully, “Although, I feel like I forgot something…”
Lan WangJi stiffens as Wei WuXian continues, “Ah! Right,” and he pulls out a flower out from somewhere on him. It is amazingly intact, and he slides it effortlessly into Lan WangJi’s hair, behind his ear. His fingers slide past his forehead ribbon, making contact ever so slightly.
He twitches violently. This is— this cannot be—
Seeing his frozen face, the brilliant, beautiful youth in front of him says, “You see what I just did there? I know you dislike word play and subtlety. I’m trying to be as clear as I can— all these things I do to you, if you truly disliked it, then I wouldn’t do it. But you do. I see it on your face, as clear as day. I see it, because if you really disliked me, then I wouldn’t be here right now. You would have already kicked me out, you would not have put up with me, even on that first day. You wouldn’t have let me put that flower behind your ear. You wouldn’t have let me talk for so long right now, either; that trick the Lan clan has really does come in handy.
“But you let me do it, so now we’re here. I always sound like I’m joking, so you don’t believe me when I said I liked you, right? Trust me, if I tried to say anything too serious you would really think I have a disease. Deep confessions of love after simply a first meeting is a bit too much. I’ll say this: I have a feeling for you that I cannot explain. I think you feel it too.”
Lan WangJi feels it, in the way he feels uneven, uncentered around this boy who looks at him too knowingly, as if he knows him too well. It is an epicenter of chaos in him, one that he has not noticed before. It bubbles and threatens to collapse his outer frame. Where is he, in his constance, while change is all around him?
Wei WuXian cocks his head, curious. “Are you scared?”
Lan WangJi has had enough.
The next time they meet, Lan WangJi wants nothing to do with him.
He ignores Wei WuXian, the offending culprit of this confusion. He endures the teasing, the following around. He does not hesitate in silencing the other boy. It is easy to do what is right. It is difficult, because he feels like something is missing when he does not pay attention to Wei WuXian, or when he becomes silenced and his voice disappears in mist.
Wei WuXian himself endures it all with a patience that seems unearthly. He does not lose persistence, and something in his expression speaks of experience. He has done this before, Lan WangJi wonders, and he thinks of Wei WuXian chasing girls down streets with sweet words and a brilliant smile.
It is not a good thought.
Still, he continues. Both of them, in their persistence to do what they think is right. Wei WuXian gives him a pair of rabbits one day, saying, “You like them, right?” A smile threatens to break through, and he seems close to laughter.
Lan WangJi has never had an opinion on rabbits his entire life. All of a sudden, he cannot keep his eyes off them, even as he sends Wei WuXian with a strong, “Leave!”
There is conflict in his own thoughts, there is resolution in his words. They belie the confusion in him, as if he is sure of his own reasoning. He is not, and he does not know anything.
There is one who knows, Wei WuXian. He persists in his persistence, and Lan WangJi persists in his own. But Wei WuXian knows what lies beyond his own harsh words, and laughs soundlessly in Lan WangJi’s face.
And then one day, he acts.
“Lan Zhan,” he calls out. “HanGuang-Jun, I have a proposition.”
He is ignored.
Wei WuXian understands, far too well, the way Lan WangJi thinks. That knowledge is dangerous, and he can feel the power of it leaking off every word that the one that makes his heart confused says. “Let’s duel. Like proper gentlemen, of course. No cultivation, just swordfighting. Whoever wins gets to ask the other to do just something.
“If you win, you can ask me to leave you alone, and I’ll do it! I always try my best to keep my word. So, how about it?”
It is a terrible deal. Lan WangJi knows, and he knows Wei WuXian knows he knows, that it is likely he will be unable to defeat him. Wei WuXian is a genius, far past whatever prodigal talent Lan WangJi has. The way they are now, their talents are likely too far apart to even be considered together.
Lan WangJi knows this, Wei WuXian knows this. It is a ridiculous deal, because if he loses, he knows what Wei WuXian did not say: he will have to do something that Wei WuXian commands.
Wei WuXian already knew he was going to agree. Lan WangJi can see it in the way he is unsurprised, in the way he has brought his own sword. “Good! Then, the training halls in half an hour?”
Humming after Lan WangJi agrees to the time and place, Wei WuXian wanders off easily, leaving him astounded and speechless at himself. What a foolish mistake, what a curious oversight of his. This will not benefit him.
(Something inside him says, “I want to lose.”)
Lan WangJi loses.
It is not a pretty fight; he is by no means bad at the sword, but Wei WuXian is simply better. He is not a particularly graceful fighter, nor is he clumsy, but his meaning of grace is fundamentally different from the smooth technique of the Lan clan. He kicks and swings, punches and rolls, using everything to his advantage and disorienting his opponent. Lan WangJi lasts a few minutes before he is disarmed.
The training hall is not empty, plenty of his peers watch this fight. They whisper and point, and when Wei WuXian wins, some come up to him with words of congratulations. Lan WangJi is not embarrassed to lose, nor is he afraid of loss. He is not surprised by this outcome, and it only cements it further: Wei WuXian is truly, definitely, a genius among all geniuses.
He is not angry, saddened, embarrassed by this loss. He does not know what he feels, but it boils beneath him, almost as if it is shame.
It is shame, he thinks. He is not embarrassed, but he is ashamed.
He wanted to lose.
Later, Lan WangJi is alone, and Wei WuXian finds him again. “HanGuang-Jun,” he begins. “Do you remember our deal?”
Wordlessly, he nods.
With a bluntness that rips his breath from his mouth, Wei WuXian says, “I want you to kiss me.”
Lan WangJi can only stare flatly at him, the one who so audaciously has harassed him, bothered him, made him uncomfortable and has done wrong. A kiss? Lips on lips, wet and warm. He is lost in this dream made by a word. He does not know what this means. Wei WuXian, with a mouth and tongue, asking him to kiss him—
He is silent for so long, silent and lost, that Wei WuXian considers him for a long moment, and then says very lightly, and Lan WangJi swears he hears something akin to melancholy, “Nevermind. Forget it, HanGuang-Jun.” He turns around to leave. “I don’t really want you to force yourself. That would be no fun at all, so, I’ll find something else to ask of you, is that alright? H—”
Wei WuXian is leaving. Nevermind, he says. I want to lose, Lan WangJi says. Kiss me, Wei WuXian says. Don’t force yourself.
Lan WangJi approaches Wei WuXian in quick, agitated strides, grabs him by the shoulder. The touch is not skin, yet he still feels it, that heat from before. They are the same height, both tall and pale skinned, black hair and eyes that reflect off each other.
“... Lan Zhan?”
Lan WangJi grabs the back of his head with a ferocity he has never felt before, and, pulling Wei WuXian’s head forward, smashes their mouths together. Wei WuXian’s lips are soft and sweet, and it is almost tangible, the way they mix and combine.
Immediately after, Wei WuXian will laugh softly, say, “I wasn’t expecting that at all.” It is a satisfaction in its own way, to catch this one by surprise, this one who can see through all of Lan WangJi’s words, make him feel translucent, transparent to see.
He also whispers softly, “I forgot how easily you fall in love, Lan Zhan.”
What does that mean?
… Did Wei WuXian not fall first?
Wei WuXian hides secrets. It becomes abundantly clear the more Lan WangJi watches him.
He lazes around, plays the flute and catches rabbits. He goes to town, dragging Lan WangJi with him. He never practices, not unless Lan WangJi makes him. He rarely meditates, he never studies, he simply lives a carefree life at his own pace.
Yet, his talent cannot be denied. Somehow, Wei WuXian is simply good, without the need to work for it. Lan WangJi does not know what to think of this, and something pokes at his consciousness. There is something about Wei WuXian, and the way he seems to know too much for age, seems to know too much about Lan WangJi.
Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian continue to fight every so often, and Lan WangJi loses every time. “Kiss me,” Wei WuXian commands after each one, and Lan WangJi obliges.
He is less confused now, there is less chaos wreaking havoc in his head. Wei WuXian is simply someone worth accepting, and he finally accepts that. It is easier now, and he thinks, with this person beside him.
Months go on like this, in a cycle of Wei WuXian, practice, sleep, Wei WuXian. Lan WangJi finds himself centered again, with a new thing he is orbiting around.
Still, Wei WuXian keeps secrets. They are not Lan WangJi’s to find the answers to, to ask of, so he does not. But he notices, in every word Wei WuXian says to him, that there is something that he always talks of, in an indirect, casual phrasing, uncaring that someone hears him.
“Do you remember, once, when we played hide and seek and I chased you around a room for a bit?” Wei WuXian asks him, fond in remembrance of a memory of them that Lan WangJi knows has never happened.
His sword takes Lan WangJi by surprise. Its name is mind-bogglingly fitting, it fits the innate nature of Wei WuXian well. Wei WuXian laughs, “You look as confused as you did the first time.”
Wei WuXian keeps his secrets, but it is not hard to understand what he is hiding. He is not trying to keep it from Lan WangJi at all.
There is a day Lan WangJi finds Wei WuXian in his bed when he wakes, curled up beside him, smiling provocatively. Lan WangJi just barely flinches at this unexpected closeness, and then Wei WuXian says in his ear, “I am out of time, Lan Zhan.”
Is he dying? Is he leaving? Lan WangJi does not understand, and he says so.
Wei WuXian says, “The wrong ‘out.’ It’s not as if I ran out of time, but rather, instead of being ‘in’ time, I am ‘out’ of it. I am already displaced from the time I am supposed to be in, Lan Zhan. Do you understand?”
“I have already done this,” Wei WuXian says, placing his hand on the surface where his heart beats below, and then Lan WangJi understands. “I already love you, Lan-er-gege, and nothing I do can change that, no matter how far back I leave my time.”
I am out of time, Wei WuXian says, and Lan WangJi understands.
This time they are in, is it Wei WuXian’s own creation? He does not ask, nor does he want to know. He feels Wei WuXian waiting for his response, and he calmly speaks, “It is five. We must awake.” He pulls himself to his feet, then offers a hand Wei WuXian.
I already know, he tells Wei WuXian. He had already known that Wei WuXian could not be fifteen. That fact had not startled him, although he did not know why. It was not that he had suspected time spells, but he knew: there were secrets, and they were not his to find the answer to.
Months pass, and Wei WuXian takes his hand with hidden relief. He is getting better at understanding the one beside him, he thinks with satisfaction. He is getting better in his cultivation, in his swordplay and music, and he is improving.
He trains in an endless cycle of rest and practice and something new— play, with a hand in his or a sweet kiss and one who has no interest in anything but perpetual tomfoolery, a contagious strength.
A year passes like this, and Wei WuXian says, “You would be surprised how hard I tried to not get kicked out this time.”
This time… Lan WangJi wonders what it could have been like, the other time, the time he has never been to.
Lan WangJi has never felt this way before— a desire within him to stay by someone, a hesitance to leave their side. He wonders what he will do once Wei WuXian must return to the Lotus Pier.
He wonders if he can ask him to stay.
“Wei Ying,” he calls out, once.
It is caught, eventually, the way he keeps Wei WuXian near him. His uncle probes him, tells him, warns him to keep away from him. “He may be a genius, but he is still an uncultured brat and a bad influence. Keep clear of him.”
The agreement cannot come out of his throat. Lan WangJi tries, opens his mouth. A ‘yes’ catches, determined to not be voiced. The disobedient ‘no’ plods out with easy compliance. His uncle pays his silence no mind, continuing, “Wei Ying has been poisoning your mind with his far fetched ideas on cultivation. His points have no ground, and he claims to already proved many of his hypotheses. How can he? He is only a child, and—”
It comes out, that sharp word. “No,” Lan WangJi says.
His uncle glances at him, confused, sure he has misheard. “Excuse me?”
“Wei Ying,” Lan WangJi starts, as if he is calling someone, “Is not a bad influence.”
His words spread through the Lan clan, and even his brother looks at him oddly. “WangJi, are you sure?” He asks. “I do not have a problem with the Young Master Wei, but it seems awfully unlike you to disagree with Uncle. Are you sure about this, disregarding his words?”
“I am sure,” Lan WangJi replies, because he does not want Wei WuXian to leave, and he does not want to have to leave Wei WuXian. “Will you help me?”
His brother says, “Of course, if you’re sure. If you truly want this, then I will support you.”
Eventually, even Wei WuXian says, “I heard you were defending me in front of your uncle, and now everyone really thinks I’ve turned you into a rebellious teenager. I really am a bad influence on you, you never would have done something like this before.”
Lan WangJi shakes his head in denial, says, “Do not worry about it. I will take care of this.”
Wei WuXian shakes his head too. “I know this from experience, they’ll find it must easier to accept if they think I’m a scoundrel. I really would like to stay like this, but I know I can’t stay at the Cloud Recesses forever. I will return to the YunmengJiang base eventually. Still, I like you, and it would be nice if I could be welcomed in when I visit. The best way to do this is always the same, no matter what time you’re in…”
He tells Lan WangJi, then snickers at the unimpressed aura he emanates. “What? It’s true, isn’t it? Come on, besides, won’t it be fun?”
This is what Wei WuXian says: It is not that he himself needs to be respected. It is that Lan WangJi must be respected, for when he is looked up to, then his words will be followed. In order for Lan WangJi to maintain his good standing, then he cannot continue defending Wei WuXian so outright. It has too much of a connotation of a rebellious youth.
Put the blame on me, Wei WuXian suggests. They say I have corrupted you— then we will let them believe that. I have seduced you, I have turned you into a cut-sleeve. It’s no good to hide this relationship, you see, not if we really do want this to continue. You have no wish to hide it, right? So, I have seduced you, enticed you into a relationship. You are the faithful, good son of the Lan clan, talented and intelligent. They will let you do as you wish, Lan Zhan, because this family finds value in you, and you find value in me.
So that is what they do— Wei WuXian exclaims in loud, arrogant tones, “I have turned the second young master of the Lan clan bent,” and Lan WangJi silently lets him go around, proclaim such things.
He hears the Young Master Jiang, agitatedly shouting, “Are you serious? Wei Ying, you’ve lost your sanity! You—”
Wei WuXian interrupts him, with a joyfall call that seems joking but Lan WangJi can hear honesty in every note, “It’s too late, Jiang Cheng! I have already given my heart to my dear Lan Zhan, and he has returned it with his own!”
He causes a ruckus, shouting dastardly, taboo things as if he has no shame— he has spent it all already. He garners the attention of everyone, and Lan WangJi knows his uncle is furious when he hears of it.
But he knows his part— he is Lan WangJi, the one that they respect in discipline, and they will heed what he says. He walks forward, to the one he feels a pull strongly to, the one with a foolish grin on his face and dozens of accusing eyes.
He lifts up Wei WuXian’s left wrist. He unties his forehead ribbon. He ties it with care, then leaves, the cool air blowing on his exposed temples, saying, Congratulations.
It is sweet, the way Wei WuXian tastes. It is sweeter, the way his brother looks at him in shock and the Lan clan whispers among themselves and his uncle looks as if he will faint. It is sweetest, the slow look of pleasure on Wei WuXian’s face as he examines his wrist. It had been unexpected, unplanned, but it works.
No one bothers Wei WuXian anymore.
There comes a day when Wei WuXian departs for his home.
Wei WuXian stays for three years, dragging and extending the day until finally, he must leave. They are eighteen now, and it is high time he returns to the Lotus Pier.
“Come visit,” Wei WuXian says, now a usual visitor and common resident of Lan WangJi’s room. “I’ll come visit you too.”
Lan WangJi hums in agreement, and then Wei WuXian is gone, leaving only a memory of a laugh and the sound of the melody he always plays on his flute.
Before he leaves, they explore and fumble, unclothing each other in a rising heat, Wei WuXian muffling his lewd moans, making his lascivious nature known in the way his body indecently beckons towards Lan WangJi. He is noisy nevertheless, with his neverending babble of nonsense and small gasps.
Barely hours pass before Lan WangJi finds that he misses him, that unburnable flame.
They see each other less in that time, where they are separated by stretches of distance and land, and an odd silence falls around Lan WangJi. The Cloud Recesses seem too quiet, too peaceful.
Three months later, he departs later for the YunmengJiang Sect. He returns in two weeks. Three months after, a familiar figure in purple arrives at the gates of the Cloud Recesses. It goes on like this for a year, then maybe two, or three.
It is painful, in its own way. Lan WangJi feels as if something has been sapped from him without seeing Wei WuXian, like a color he can only see when they are together. He looks at the grass, the rabbits, the blackness of his own calligraphy. They all look the same, yet they are faded into the back of his memory, carefully pressed like flowers.
Every time he sees Wei WuXian, he is a little older. His face grows more charming, and his smile in more infectious. He is improving still, in the way he is more sure on theories he has whispered to Lan WangJi before, on the nature of evil spirits and the process of subduing them, in the way Lan WangJi, despite all his own improvement, still cannot defeat him.
“I missed you,” Wei WuXian says every time, and then, just once, “One day, I can leave and go wherever I want again. The truth is, HanGuang-Jun, that I left the Lotus Pier a while ago. I have some things I need to take care of right now, by myself. I’m fixing some mistakes, and I’m making sure some people that are precious to me have a good life. Then I’ll travel with you forever. Not too long now.”
There comes a day when Lan WangJi is no longer a junior disciple of the GusuLan Sect. It comes not long after Wei WuXian shows up at the doors of his home again, with the words, “Hello, Lan Zhan. So, where do you want to go?”
“I have never understood what you see in me, but I’m not complaining,” Wei WuXian says to him once. It is an admittance that is quiet, not teasing.
It has been years since he has met this man beside him, one of strength and wisdom and a deep cheerfulness that effuses inside of Lan WangJi, makes him feel overjoyed for the celebration of their meeting.
How can one explain the way they feel, when they are loved by someone who obviously could be so much better? Wei WuXian has pursued him, made him understand; Lan WangJi enjoys him, delights in him, is filled with a deep-rooted feeling of that this where he has found his place, standing his ground and with Wei WuXian beside him.
“Wei Ying,” he calls, and he lets his voice be affectionate, feels satisfaction at the way Wei WuXian whirls around, a surprise that lets his lips curve into a smooth smile, and he says with all the warmth he can muster in him, “I see you.”
What is it that he sees in Wei WuXian? Nothing, he simply sees Wei WuXian in his entirety, and that is what he wants.
And then he reaches it: the apex, the climax of Wei WuXian’s careful secret.
They travel the land, night hunting in a slow, peaceful pace. They have doing this for just a scant few years, and Lan WangJi already feels the tranquility in his being at this way of life. They take a short interlude, returning to Gusu for a night.
Yet, the day spent traveling there is not a good day. Wei WuXian is still himself, a whimsical fool that he always pretends to be. But he is quieter than usual, and it is with gentle prodding that he begins to laugh again. It does not sound false, this laughter. But Lan WangJi has never heard Wei WuXian laugh falsely, and he does not know what this sound he is hearing is.
They arrive in early evening, and Wei WuXian says, “Lan-er-gege, I’m in the mood to drink. Let’s go buy some Emperor’s Smile, shall we?”
Lan WangJi has only drunk once in his life, and he does not remember it. He only knows the morning after, he is naked and Wei WuXian is lying atop him, a lazy and satisfied laughter engulfing him. He still does not know what happened.
He does not drink. Instead, he watches Wei WuXian, who pours a cup, downs it easily. At first, they sit in companionable silence, and Lan WangJi only counts as Wei WuXian finishes a bottle. He buys another, calling over the waiter. He is not even remotely drunk— Wei WuXian has always been like this.
One turns to two, and by three Wei WuXian is tipsy. He begins to talk more, moves his chair over to Lan WangJi’s side of the table. Four, and he is most definitely drunk. Wei WuXian does not stop, though, he orders a fifth bottle, and that is when Lan WangJi stops him. He has had enough.
“Just let me finish this one, Lan Zhaaan,” Wei WuXian calls with no slurring of words, but still a clear intoxication, and Lan WangJi acquiesces.
By the time they return to the Cloud Recesses, Wei WuXian cannot walk straight. Lan WangJi lifts him up in his arms, and Wei WuXian giggles and relaxes into it. They make an odd pair, one full grown man carrying another. Wei WuXian is not small, either— he is just a little lighter than Lan WangJi, barely shorter.
They walk in the quiet of the night, and Lan WangJi wonders what has prompted Wei WuXian to want to drink so much. He has always enjoyed his alcohol, but he usually knows his limits. In all this time, he has never seen Wei WuXian legitimately drunk. He remembers the unnatural and unsettling silence from the man in his arms the day, and he wonders.
What is Wei WuXian trying to forget?
He is almost back to his sleeping quarters when he hears it.
It is soundless at first, and in the dark, he cannot see it. But his sense of hearing are in perfect working order, and when the first sob comes, he quickly speeds up, finds them in the privacy of the jingshi. He lights a candle, and he looks down at the tearstained face of Wei WuXian.
“Wei Ying,” he calls, and it is as if he cannot hear him. Instead, Wei WuXian has his eyes locked on Lan WangJi’s eyes, bright and luminous with water.
He says with a wonder that breaks Lan WangJi’s heart, “You’re alive.”
Lan WangJi finds himself numbly letting his arms release, and Wei WuXian is unsteady on his feet. He topples toward, and he catches him on instinct. Wei WuXian kisses him, a slow, sensual kiss that is salty from tears and stinks of good wine.
“You’re alive,” Wei WuXian weeps, and his drunkenness is cloudy and miserable, his deep sorrow and grief mixing with the foggy taste of alcohol. His kiss tastes bittersweet, and he sobs, “Lan Zhan, you’re alive. I missed you, don’t ever disappear again.”
He reaches for Lan WangJi clothes and tugs at them, slipping it off one of his shoulders. His intent is obvious, there is a desperate lust in his eyes, and his inebriated state only makes him look ravishing. Lan WangJi swallows, hard. But he resists, and he grabs Wei WuXian’s wrist, stopping him.
“Lan Zhan?” His voice cracks, and Wei WuXian tears up again. Lan WangJi kisses the side of of his irresistible lips, then gently, at the place where his eyelashes flutter and wetness slips past.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei WuXian gasps out. “I- I… please,” he tries to invigorate him, and Lan WangJi feels that passion burn inside him, screaming, he’s begging me, I want it, I want him I want him—
He shakes it aside. In an easy swing, Wei WuXian is back in his arms, and he carries himself and the mess of a beauty to the bed. Wei WuXian moans and does not struggle, being docilely manhandled. Lan Zhan sets him on the bed, then clambers in to the sheets with him.
With hopeful eyes despite the hazy misery, Wei WuXian calls out again. “Lan Zhan…? I want, I need—”
Lan WangJi sighs, and everything hurts, from the begging tone, to the tightness in his lower half, to the all of Wei WuXian in shudders and completely deconstructed sobs. “No,” he says, with finality.
No matter how much he burns in agony, no matter how much Wei WuXian begs him, no matter how, it is not worth it. To see Wei WuXian in bliss, in pleasure, to become one with him, sweat and slick, should simply be that, nothing more, nothing less.
But Wei WuXian as he is now, with grief and mourning in his eyes, with alcohol and no sense of what he is saying , is not something Lan WangJi could eagerly take in his arms and relieve this mounting pressure. This Wei WuXian does not need that, no matter how much he thinks he does. He cries, he wails, “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, I’m sorry, don’t leave me, I need it, please,” and Lan WangJi stops his thrashing by entangling his legs with his, bringing Wei WuXian in so that his head is touching Lan WangJi’s chest and holding him tightly.
This close, Wei WuXian can tell Lan WangJi is aroused, and one of his legs jerk upwards and he puts pressure on his general crotch area. Lan WangJi does not flinch, he merely restricts the man’s movement even further by tightening his grip on him.
He cradles Wei WuXian, who sobs and repeats his name, drunk and mourning over someone Lan WangJi has never met, and someone who he resents every growing minute. “Don’t go, not without me,” he weeps, “Lan Zhan, don’t do this, I want you, don’t die.
“I want you,” Wei WuXian scrabbles for a hold on Lan WangJi’s face, and he whispers, “I need you.”
Lan WangJi has never seen Wei WuXian like this— desperate and broken by liquor, scared by a reminder in the past, himself. Himself, who Wei WuXian misses, despite him being here. There is nothing he can do except all he can, only all he can is not enough. He is not someone who Wei WuXian sees, right now. That feeling makes him want to scream.
Wei WuXian does not see him, he sees a figment of his past, here to haunt him again. Lan WangJi cannot take him, make him his, if he is not recognized. This tearful face, underneath him— it would feel as if poison was being spoon fed to him, something viscous and disgusting pouring down his throat.
“I am here,” he says instead. “Wei Ying, I am here.”
He stills, startled by this. Then, he looks up to Lan WangJi’s face, still heartbreakingly sweet and painful. “You are,” he realizes, and then whispers, “Thank you. Thank you, thank you, for staying. You promised, right? You would protect me. Thank you for not leaving.”
He sounds earnest, in a way a dog that has been kicked will always come back to its owner. Lan WangJi despises it. Protect him? What part of Wei WuXian’s current state has implied protection? He was alone, so alone, drowning his own sorrows in a jar of Emperor’s Smile. Lan WangJi wonders how often Wei WuXian has done this before now, crying to himself at night, or hiding his own pain with love and affection. It must be a painful feeling, one worth mourning over.
That person Wei WuXian misses, he failed. Lan WangJi knows this. Now Wei WuXian is here, with him. And Wei WuXian is brilliant, cheerful, operating on his own logic and sense, but he also hosts a million things he does not say, that Lan WangJi recognizes in his heavy look sometimes, in every skill he has that is unnatural in his ability to learn, in every ounce of knowledge he knows.
This is Lan WangJi’s job now: to hold Wei WuXian until he no longer cries. Then, love him. Then, stay with him forever.
Gradually, the man is his arms begins to stop rambling. His expression goes from sweet and sad to sleepy, and he yawns. He says hopefully, “Stay with me for the night?”
“... Of course.” Why would he not?
“Thank you,” Wei WuXian says again, and adds sleepily, “You don’t like those words… then, I love you, Lan-er-gege…”
Scarily quickly, he drifts into a soft slumber, streaks of water still on his face and scarily unlike himself. Lan WangJi wipes them off again, quickly changes Wei WuXian into his night clothes, washes his face. He does not stir at all, and he is still muted and hushed in a way that is both enticing and breakable. Lan WangJi does not recognize him at all; it scares him, makes him ache for something he cannot have.
The one who made him like this— it’s himself, isn’t it?
He… does not like Wei WuXian like this.
Stay as you usually are, he wants to say the next morning.
Wei WuXian stirs just a little later than normal, blinking in pain at the sun that flares beyond the window. Lan WangJi is beside him in an instant, handing him a flask of water. He knows that he will be hungover, disoriented.
“HanGuang-Jun?” Wei WuXian asks, and he accepts the drink. “My head hurts…”
“You drank a lot,” Lan WangJi says, and he lets his disapproval leak through.
To that, Wei WuXian can only smile weakly, and sits up slowly, taking a sip. “Haha, yeah… sorry, Lan Zhan.” He hands the water back to him, and he says, “I love you.”
Lan WangJi looks at him, and he waits, for that statement is wonderful and makes his heart sigh like a maiden in love, but it is a sentence that has not been completed.
“You don’t like it when I thank you, so I figure I should say ‘I love you’ instead,” Wei WuXian says, a flash of intuition sparking. “That’s the last thing I said last night, right?”
It is unprecedented; he did not expect Wei WuXian to remember. It seems not everything is like him, who forgets everything by the next morning. Seeing his surprise, Wei WuXian sighs, and mutters under his breath, “You always catch me, even when you don’t know…” The words seem wistful.
Then, to him, “I was a mess last night. I don’t usually get so drunk that I start crying, I promise. I haven’t done that in a long time, and I’ll do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I was not having a good night, and alcohol really isn’t the best thing when you’re not feeling that great to begin with— and honestly, I’m a little embarrassed about the way I acted. Sorry, HanGuang-Jun, I really made it hard for you, huh?” Wei WuXian smiles with confidence and a bit of regret, the melancholy that had sunk over him last night imperceptible.
Lan Zhan is quiet at this. He was not going to bring up what he did last night, but it seems that he remembered. Knowing this, the urge to tell him, stay as you usually are, bubbles up again. He pushes it down. Wei WuXian cannot control who he is, it is a useless plea.
“No need,” he states, and kisses him on the nose. No need to apologize.
Then, there is a selfish request. It is a request that his own greed whispers to him, knowing it will make his world better, and Wei WuXian’s infinitely harder. That man in his bed last night— he is not gone. He has disappeared from the surface, but if Lan WangJi were to dive in after him, what would he find? Would he truly be have dissipated in the watery abyss, or would he be there, choking on a current right underneath the calm waves?
Then a greater need grabs his neck and smothers him. Ask, it says. About him, that man suffocating just the same as you, one in air and one in water.
“Lan Zhan?” Concerned, Wei WuXian leans in. “What’s bothering you?”
The words rip out of him before he can stop them. He had already promised himself he would not command, he would not request, but they overpower his respect for Wei WuXian’s privacy and silence— Lan WangJi’s own selfish desires, beyond the one that wants everything to continue as it once was, the one that hurts him.
“I want to know,” Lan WangJi says. “I want to know about us. I want to know about me. I want to know how I died.”
It is not easy story. Wei WuXian hesitates for just a moment, then nods in agreement. “It is not an easy story,” he warns, and he barely pauses again before he begins.
Here is a difficult story about two people who found themselves tangled with each other:
There are two boys of outstanding promise, children of prestigious sects with promising futures. They are fifteen when they meet, and the one in white falls hopelessly in love with the other, the one who looks at the boy in white and promptly forgets about him.
This boy is in purple, with ideas that are dangerous and a kindness in him that even more so. He is too kind, and he pays the price for it. It is my fault, he says when it is not. It was not I, he says when it was indeed him. He becomes too used to becoming a martyr, and martyred he becomes, in his own dangerous ideas and burning kindness that extinguishes his own life.
I love you, the boy in white says, many times, in so many ways, this whole life, with the boy in purple who burns himself to black. I love you, he repeats, and the one in black does not hear him, too lost in his own fire and he burns until his ashes are gone.
He is a man now; the one in white. He waits for the day he can meet the sight of that flute, hear that sweet sound. He waits a slow, painful wait, waiting for someone who might not ever return.
He does, that man in black, in a shape and form that is unfamiliar to both of them, but his spirit is the same, and that kindness and danger is still within him. They meet again on accident, and that man in white thinks, I can’t let him leave. I love you, he repeats, again and again, and the man in black does not hear him again.
Or, at least, he does not to begin with. The one in black regards him, in all white swaths of clothing and says, I can’t remember. I will make you, the other thinks, and this is how it begins and ends.
Skin to skin, intimacy, love, hand in hand, loving words and endearing actions. I love you, the man says until the other finally hears him in his deafness, and says, I love you too. This is how it should have ended, the way it should have began. It neither begins nor starts here.
They stay together, for years, decades, centuries, unaging and going towards what all cultivators aim for. One day, the man in black says, let’s go night hunting, like they are oft to do. So they do.
So they do, and then—
Wei WuXian stops. It is not an easy story. It is so difficult that he cannot continue. Lan WangJi sees his expression darken, and his dark eyes go stormy and conflicted.
“You died in that night hunt,” he says with finality. “You’re strong, Lan Zhan, better than anything that we were hunting. But I wasn’t. The body I was in at the time was not especially inclined towards cultivation, and while there other… techniques, I developed that counteracted that, it wasn’t enough. My alternatives involve the use of corpses and other evil spirits. Someone put up a repulsion field— something I invented at some point that dispels such things from the area— and I was out of talismans. Even though you were stronger, I wasn’t.
“You promised you would protect me,” Wei WuXian says slowly, and carefully. “So you did.”
And that was how he died. Listening to this, Lan WangJi understands. He is almost relieved; there is no reason why he should die and leave Wei WuXian alone. But for reasons of protecting him, saving him, then he can understand. That is as good of a reason as any to perish.
There is only one thing that does not make sense. “You said we were night hunting. How could we, with a… repulsion field enacted?” After all, Wei WuXian said there were no spirits in a nearby radius. What would they hunt, then?
He already knows the answer. Lan WangJi can see it in the way Wei WuXian almost snarls, danger and sparks, and for a moment, he feels as if his eyes flash red. It is a mysterious and ominous sight from him, who is usually careless and easygoing.“We weren’t hunting spirits,” he says with forced lightness. “Initially, we both thought it was something of that sort. But it wasn’t at all.”
The Lan WangJi that had died was killed protecting Wei WuXian. The way he describes his situation, it seems as if Wei WuXian was possessing a body that had little talent in cultivation. Whatever he meant by utilizing walking corpses, it was not something he could use since someone had set up something to repel them.
Then, would it not make sense that the ‘someone’ who had done that killed him?
“We were tracking cultivators,” Wei WuXian finishes, and his eyes are ablaze with anger. “Rogue cultivators formerly of the destroyed QishanWen Sect.”
The QishanWen Sect… of the Nightless Sky. There are multiple points in that sentence that are brought to Lan WangJi’s attention: first, that it was the QishanWen Sect. Second, the cultivators of the QishanWen Sect wanted to kill him or Wei WuXian. Third, the most powerful sect in the cultivation world will be ‘destroyed.’
There is a time a place to figure out everything this implies. This time is not now, and this place is not suitable. Lan WangJi diverts the conversation, “So you came back for me.”
The fury dies in Wei WuXian’s gaze, replaced with soft affection. “I did,” he agrees, and it is sad how honest he is. “How could you expect me to go on? There was a time when I died, and you waited thirteen years for me, not knowing where my soul was. But they destroyed your soul, and I knew you would not be coming back.”
“How long did you research?” Lan WangJi asks. How long did it take for him to figure out how to manipulate time?
Wei WuXian pauses. “... Nine decades.”
Ninety years, and then the fifteen years in this world, spent waiting for a chance. Lan WangJi sighs, a bitter sigh. He does not deserve Wei WuXian and a patience of a century. He does not know how he had done it. “One hundred and five years,” he says aloud. “I am sorry.”
Startled, Wei WuXian responds, “Whatever could you be sorry for?”
“You were alone,” Lan WangJi states. “I disappeared, and you missed me.” This is not perception, this is what Wei WuXian said last night, and therefore, it must be true. It cannot be argued against, contested, not if he wants to contradict himself.
Wei WuXian knows this, he does not try to deny it. “I was alone,” he agrees, “But now I am with you. So, there is no reason for me to be sad anymore, and no reason for you to feel bad, right?”
“I am not…” Lan WangJi pauses, looking for the words he is trying to find. “I am not what you had before.” He does not mind anymore that Wei WuXian knows him intimately well, far better than Lan WangJi understands him. It is the culmination of time that has made him like this, centuries spent together that Wei WuXian can read his every movement and word. He does not have that, but he does not mind, for he thinks he will have it someday.
But the Lan WangJi Wei WuXian once had with him is not him. He has lost all that Wei WuXian thinks when he sees him, he knows that.
“You always catch me…”
“One time, you…”
Wei WuXian looks old. Wei WuXian looks wise and mature, despite his youthful demeanor and his sparkling eyes, and he says, “No matter what, HanGuang-Jun is HanGuang-Jun. Lan WangJi is still Lan WangJi, and Lan Zhan is Lan Zhan. Young Master Lan, Lan-er-gege, no matter what I call you, you still are the same.
“It hasn’t changed that you’re still handsome and I think you’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever come across. It hasn’t changed that you’re still kind to me, and you hug me and kiss me and make my heart hurt. It hasn’t changed that I still want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to stay with you, and you want to stay with me.
“I know you are not quite the same Lan Zhan as before, but does it really matter? Between us, all we really need is this feeling. You are still,” and he leans down to kiss Lan WangJi on the neck, “Lan Zhan.”
They enjoy that closeness for just a moment, and then Wei WuXian adds, “Although, it was definitely strange when you were fifteen. You were so pretty, I just wanted to kiss you and take advantage of you, but you really were just a child… Lan Zhan, does that count as child molestation? I’m technically over two centuries old, and— mm phm hmm.”
Lan WangJi silences him with the spell. The nonsense from Wei WuXian is endearing, but unnecessary. He runs over Wei WuXian’s soft lips, his firm and unyielding back, the smoothness of his shoulders. What a lovely sight, and what a lovely man who has found him. To say such fond words— just how far does it go, Wei WuXian’s patience, endurance, faithfulness?
He lets the spell release in just a few seconds, just a moment, his meaning: no meaningless words. Wei WuXian says, “Alright, I’ll stop joking around. Lan Zhan, I am… far older than you. I have spent a century with you, and another century without. In that time, I have learned that you love me, and I love you. There are times when I will remember being alone, and I will be sad. During those times, my only wish is that you stay with me.
“I know I asked things of you last night that you were uncomfortable with. That sort of ‘love,’ I don’t think either of us want it. I was not myself, and you knew that, so you stopped before we went too far. For that, I’m thankful. That isn’t the way I want myself to be.”
Lan WangJi nods in understanding. “Telling me all of this, are you alright with that?” He means Wei WuXian’s admittances, his own terrors, but also his life, their lives, and his death.
Wei WuXian laughs, and winces as he remembers he still has a hangover. “I was always going to tell you, HanGuang-Jun. I have hidden many things in my life, but I don’t need secrets when it comes to you. Why would I hide anything?”
“Then why now?” Why not before, why not later?
“I was just waiting for you to ask.” Wei WuXian looks at him affectionately. “Lan Zhan, you are a conundrum, and despite the fact that I have spent so long with you, it really is difficult sometimes to know what you are thinking, and hard to figure out what the best way to talk to you is. I figured, if I don’t know when is a good time to tell him, then I’ll just have my dear cultivation partner find the time for me.”
The words ‘cultivation partner’ swell up in Lan WangJi, and he feels a burst of unbearable sentiment towards it, towards Wei WuXian and his shameless forwardness. Partners… cultivation partners. A husband.
“Now, I did say I was glad you stopped last night, but I know you were turned on,” Wei WuXian leers seductively, and he tugs at his own robes. “One time, you told me, ‘everyday.’ We missed yesterday, so how about a makeup session— oh!”
Lan WangJi is already on him, pushing him back onto the mattress. A husband, a husband, and someone worth protecting, he thinks of the man below who is stronger than him, better than him, smarter than him, and infinitely more beautiful. He feels heat and arousement pooling in his lower abdomen, he feels the air grow hotter, and prior engagements quickly leave his mind…
“The QishanWen Sect will fall,” Wei WuXian says later, with finality. He and Lan WangJi are wrapped in a perpetual, neverending embrace, speaking in low, amorous tones, unclothed and uncovered. “It’s referred to as the Sunshot Campaign later on. Actually, it should have started around now, but some events have been changed so that the start has been delayed. Nevertheless, it is almost inevitable; they’ve made too many other cultivation sects angry. In all honesty, though, the situation that we found ourselves in probably won’t happen no matter what. This body of mine is quite advanced in cultivation, and they used my own inventions against me last time. I can make sure that won’t happen again. Those cultivators… I thought they had perished. I guess some escaped, and held a grudge against me for some things I did during the Sunshot Campaign, even centuries later.
“I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m really not that interested in revenge, though. I’ve done a lot of things in the name of revenge, and I’ve already made those mistakes. This time, my wish is the same as it was after I realized everything I did: I just want to stay with you and have a good life. I want to make sure some people don’t die, and I want to bring some issues to light. That’s all I want, and then I will be satisfied.
“Lan Zhan, are you even listening to me? Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan. You look so engrossed. Am I really that attractive? Lan-Er-Gege, listen to me already, don’t just keep staring—”
Here is what Lan WangJi knows: there is a prodigy at the YunmengJiang Sect. They call him Wei WuXian, and, the man himself whispers, they used to call him the Yiling Patriarch, the grandmaster of demonic cultivation. He can defeat senior cultivators easily, for he is older than he looks. He can outsmart even the wisest of them all, for his intelligence passes what he implies.
He is not a prodigy at all— he is decades upon centuries of hard work and pain, ingenuity and brilliance. It is amazing, what he has accomplished, but not impossible. He is a genius, but not to the extent that it is inhuman.
And Wei WuXian is human, so human in the way he acts and controls himself, or lack thereof. He is spinning out of control, in control, with a path of rotation so asymmetrical he must guide Lan WangJi by the hand if he expects for them to stay together.
You stabilize me, Wei WuXian probably says. Without you, would I even be here?
The first time Lan WangJi defeats Wei WuXian in training, it is after a period of peace and nothing but love, the brush, the sword, the strings of a guqin, the feel of a body beside him and a laughter in his ear. Then finally, finally, he catches up. Suiban spins out of his hand, and Bichen flashes, before Lan WangJi stops, sheaths his sword. “I win,” he states, and he has never felt more satisfied in his life.
Wei WuXian looks surprised for just a moment, and then he grins. “You look so smug, Lan Zhan. Congratulations, you’ve caught up. You can now defeat this senior in combat; you truly are a genius, eh?”
Lan WangJi remembers their first sword fight, and he repeats, “I win.”
Wei WuXian remembers too, and he asks, “Then, what do you want?” One thing that he can ask of him, and on his honor, he will do it.
What does he want? What has he always wanted, this entire lifetime? To become an immortal. To walk down this path of cultivation, focused and unyielding. Then his priorities had shifted, and he still wants, but now he needs…
“You,” Lan WangJi says, and there is a doleful, heartfelt voice in him that exhales in relief, says, yes, that’s it. “Wei Ying. Marry me.”
Wei WuXian, bless his heart, does not blink. His expression clears like a sunny day, and there is nothing but pleasant pleasure, concentrated joy in his face. It is a face that has not changed since Lan WangJi first met him, and he imagines that it has not changed in his whole life, that kindness that burns in him, dangerous and smoldering.
“Of course,” he says, a heartbeat away from an eternity, a breath away from nirvana. “Yes. Definitely. I do. Who else could I possibly spend the rest of my life with?”