The first time they meet is at the sect summit held in Carp Tower.
Lan Zhan, at the tender age of seven years old, is an earnest child. He walks by his big brother’s side with quiet grace, barely noticed unless his brother announces his presence. Many people praise his behaviour, smiling and commenting how obedient he is. Lan Zhan doesn’t understand to why he’s getting praise; it’s just simply how he is.
While they await for the start of the summit, Lan Xichen takes his little brother for a walk around the tower grounds. True to its owner’s nature, the Carp Tower gardens are ostentatious, imposing and a little too grand. Lan Zhan frowns in disapproval as he takes in the extravagant garden.
“It’s a little cloudy today,” Lan Xichen muses as he stares up at the sky. It’s a little grey, and a little windy, just like their weather at home. He still wouldn’t mind a little bit of sun, mind you. His little brother monotonously hums in agreement, far too busy judging the sprawling gardens ahead of them.
“Too much.” Lan Zhan pipes up, tugging at his brother’s robe. “Mother’s garden is better.”
Lan Xichen laughs, patting his brother’s head. “Indeed,” he says, agreeing with him. “Lanling Jin is certainly indeed excessive when it comes to decorating matters.”
“Ridiculous.” His little brother mutters, tuting at one particular gold statue of a demon dragon, glaring at them with its oversized eyes and tremendous frown. Lan Zhan glares back with equal ferocity (or rather, with much ferocity a seven year old could muster). Lan Xichen laughs, hearty and loud.
In the distance by the cherry blossoms, Lan Xichen spots a group of children playing tag with mock swords, loud and boisterous, but it looks fun . He looks at his brother and tells him, “Why don’t you go and play with the other children?”
Lan Zhan looks at the other children and frowns.
“Loud noise and unnecessary actions are forbidden in the Cloud Recesses.” He says utterly earnest, but there is something in his posture that belie his words.
To someone who doesn’t know him, they would take that as a ‘no’ and move on. Lan Xichen, however, can feel and see his apprehension; his little teeth subtly gnaw at his bottom lip, and the grip on his robe has tightened slightly.
Lan Xichen chuckles. “Ah but A-Zhan, we’re not at home are we?”
Lan Zhan pauses for a moment before hesitantly shaking his head.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go and join them? It will be much more fun rather than sitting around listening to old men talk about boring adult things, mind you. I certainly would if I had the chance.” Lan Xichen encourages. His Uncle wouldn’t condone the behaviour if he were here, but it does hurt his heart a little that his younger brother lacks in the way of friends, or any semblance of a normal childhood.
But then again, with a mother in involuntary seclusion, and a Father who shows little interest in their sons’ lives, when does one have the opportunity to grasp anything normally?
“Fun?” Lan Zhan repeats, as if the word is a foreign concept to him. Something in Lan Xichen pangs a little.
Lan Xichen swallows back his hurt and nods his head, giving his brother a dazzling smile. “Yes, fun.”
Lan Zhan thinks it through for a moment, assessing the situation. After a few short seconds, he looks up at his brother and gives a small nod. “Okay.”
As they approach the children, Lan Zhan suddenly slows his steps. Xichen, ever the encouraging brother, tugs at his hand, leading him on. Nerves begin to flutter around his stomach like restless butterflies; he’s never played with other children before. What if they didn’t like him? What if ー
One of the children, the loudest one of the bunch, noticed them coming and rushed to greet them. His dark blue robes flutter and sway with the wind. The golden and silver embroidery that adorn his clothes are quite stunning, boasting the glorious origin of the sect he hails from. Judging from the small silver crescent moon between his eyebrows, the colour he wears, they’ve been greeted by the sect heir of the Yueliangshan. He flashes them a brilliant smile.
Yueliangshan Wei is the smallest sect in regards to size compared to the other four, but that made them no less weak. In respect to where Gusu Lan is a place for academic texts, Yueliang Shan is for cultivators to bring forth their inventions and harness their innovative potentials. Wei Changze, a most beloved sect leader, beside his highly talented wife Cangse Sangren, are famous in both the civilian and cultivation world. It brought both deep envy and limitless admiration for the small yet powerful sect.
Pretty , Lan Zhan thinks, a little gasp escaping his lips. His eyes widen a little, slightly surprised by the bright greeting. This of course does not escape his brothers notice. Lan Zhan quickly looks away, face betraying nothing, but his pink tipped ears say otherwise.
The young sect heir greets his brother with a rather enthusiastic bow. “Big brother!” He borderline shouts.
Lan Xichen laughs, and gives a little bow in return. “Hello to you too, Young Master Wei”
“Wei Ying!” The boy insists with a pout.“I don’t have a courtesy name yet.” He perks up immediately though. “You can also call me A-Ying, if you like. What are your names?”
Lan Xichen smiles fondly. “Lan Xichen, but you can just call me big brother Huan.” He pushes his embarrassed little brother to the front of him. “And this is Lan Zhan.”
Wei Ying then turns his attention to him, and suddenly, Lan Zhan panics. He has never encountered anyone so lively before, so he isn’t quite sure what to do when the sect heir grabs his hand and pulls him closer.
Lan Xichen winces, clearly ready to rectify the situation, but when his little brother doesn’t yank away from Wei Ying’s grasp, he backs off, surprise lighting his eyes. Lan Zhan himself is rather surprised by his lack of reaction, or rather, by the warmth that begins to bloom in his chest.
“Let’s be friends.” Wei Ying declares.
Just as the words begin to create a mark in his heart, the clouds part, and the sun finally begins to shine.
Lan Zhan blinks at him confused, holding the stick in his hand as if it were a foreign object.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” He says.
Wei Ying waves his stick around. “You’re supposed to fight me with it!”
Lan Zhan frowns. “Fight you? Is that allowed?”
Wei Ying grins, puffing up his chest and brandishes his stick. “Of course it is!”
Jiang Cheng, the youngest of them all, crosses his arms. “What else are you supposed to do with it?”
Nie Huaisang, a rather shy character who is crouched by the tree, is using his stick for less violent purposes, tracing patterns in the dirt. “You could draw?” The boy pipes up meekly.
Jin Zixuan scowls, thwacking the boy with his branch. The abused boy yelps and rubs at his offended head. “Ridiculous! You can’t draw fierce corpses to death.”
“But you didn’t have to do that!” Nie Huaisang cries, “That was mean!”
Wei Ying points his branch at the Lanling Jin heir threateningly (or, with much threat a seven year old could muster). He reaches over and smacks his wrist. “That was mean!”
Jin Zixuan screeches and yanks his hand back, tears in his eyes as he rubs the offended hand. “You’re just jealous because my sect is bigger than yours!”
Wei Ying puts his hands on his hips. “Your sect? It’s not even yours yet! Don’t say things like that, you sound like Wen woof woof.”
Lan Zhan frowns. “Wen...Woof woof?” What a ridiculous name.
Wei Ying nods eagerly to the Gusu boy. Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes and sighs. “He means Wen Chao.”
“Oh.” Lan Zhan has never met the younger brother of the Wen sect heir, but he has heard rather unpleasant things about him.
Lan Zhan feels...overwhelmed. He has never been surrounded by so much noise before. The quiet at home is nice, but for once, he feels warmed by the racket that surrounds him.
“Enough about him .” Wei Ying claps his hands. “Let the battle begin!”
Lan Zhan’s confused expression turns openly apprehensive. “...”
Wei Ying lowers his branch, and tilts his head a little to the side. “Have you never played soldiers before?”
The Gusu Lan boy shakes his head.
Wei Ying’s expression scrunches up in great disapproval, as if he has just been told the most ridiculous thing. “What do you usually play with your friends?”
Lan Zhan looks to the side. “I have no friends.”
“Yes you do.”
“No I don’t.”
“Yes you do ,” Wei Ying repeats, firmly. Even for his young age, his conviction is strong and passionate as he declares, “You have me.”
I hoped you like it! Updates are every ten days!
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Chapter 2: I Declare
Tensions begin to rise, and Wei Ying declares something very, very important.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The summit has just finished. The minor sects and the big five gather into the Great Hall for the lavish dinner prepared by Lanlingjin. Evidently, the sect’s extravagance extends even to their food. Each dish and plate is carefully decorated with gold finishings, little sculptures and precious rocks. The food itself is all sorts of exotic, mixing chinese dishes with food from foreign worlds. The sect had also graciously provided traditional food from each respective major sect.
Anyone with a sane mindset, however, diligently avoids the blazingly hot and spicy dishes of Yueliangshan, fearing for their taste buds. The other sects watch, horrified as the disciples and people of the Moon Hill practically inhale the food with little fuss or distress. (Rumor has it that the poor Lanling cook, who was subjected to making the dishes is now currently in the infirmary. All the healers are desperately trying to save what is left of his burnt out nostrils).
The children are seated in a seperate room from the main hall, with servants fetching their food for them. They sit and wait like patient little ducklings.
“Where are your parents, A-Zhan?” Wei Ying asks.
Lan Zhan is silent for a little while before he replies, “Father is sick and Mother has to stay indoors.”
“Oh,” Wei Ying replies, looking a little sad. “Is there anything I can do to help? They must be really sad. I wouldn’t want to be sick or forced to stay indoors. That’s not a very good life.”
Lan Zhan’s eyes widen a little. His Uncle, and all the adults around him are always making examples of his parents, pulling him into a path that does not follow theirs. He isn’t sure why, but he is aware that they were trying to minimize his visits to his mother as much as possible. Much more to his Father.
Everything associated with his parents is simply...bad, but not once has he ever heard someone consider if they were sad, or if they were having a good life or not.
Wei Ying crosses his arms. “I’m sure your Father is doing everything he can to make his cultivation partner happy!”
Cultivation partner ? Lan Zhan thinks with a little frown. He hasn’t heard anyone refer to his parents as cultivation partners before. He must ask his brother later about it. What are cultivation partners?
Evidently, he said his last thought out loud as Wei Ying eagerly replies. “It’s like...erm, husband and wife! They love each other very much, and they protect each other from fierce corpses and share magic and they make each other very, very happy!” He points to his parents. “My Mother and Father love each other very much!”
“Love?” Lan Zhan repeats, lowering his eyes. The word stirs funny feelings in his chest.
“To make...each other very happy?” He says quietly, finally looking up.
A brilliant smile blooms across the Moon Hill heir, “Indeed.”
I think...A-Ying makes me happy.
When their food arrives, Wei Ying can’t help but compare his dinner to Lan Zhan’s. The sect heir frowns as he studies the plain soup in front of the Gusu boy. He leans in closer and smells it, only to pull away with a scrunched up nose. “I can’t smell anything! What sort of soup is that?”
Lan Zhan frowns, and looks down at his bowl. “Herbal.” He says, and then, his eyes suddenly widen as if he’s just done something very, very bad. Just before he picks up his spoon to eat, he tells the sect heir very quietly, “I’m not allowed to talk while eating.”
Wei Ying pouts, picking up his dark blue chopsticks. He shoves an unhealthy portion of spicy noodles into his mouth, muttering unhappily. “We always talk during dinner!”
Jiang Cheng scowls, “Well not everyone is a noisy banshee like you, Wei Ying.”
“Hey!” Wei Ying protests after swallowing his food, pointing his chopsticks at the Yunmeng heir. “Swear brothers aren’t supposed to be mean to each other.”
Nie Huaisang mutters, “It’s sworn brothers, actually.” but the moon hill boy does not hear him, far too busy nagging and lecturing his best friend about what it means to be nice, and how you should be nice to other people.
Jin Zixuan simply sits at the head of the table, morose, wondering what he did wrong in his past life to be born into a generation full of silly, silly people.
Meanwhile, in the Great Hall, things are getting very tense.
“A little rumor has gone around that your sect, Sect Leader Wei, has dallied in what one might say...heretic cultivation.” Wen Ruohan casually begins, causing cutlery to clatter and some to choke in shock.
The nonchalant manner and the bold statement causes sudden silence to fall upon their table, and eventually, through the room.
Jiang Fengmian, a dear friend of the Yueliangshan leaders, turns to the Wen Sect Leader. “Sect Leader Wen, those are very dangerous words.” He says, slowly. Madame Yu moves to protest and pull her husband out of it, but he stops her with a raised hand.
Wen Ruohan flickers his gaze to the Jiang leader. “You mistake fact with assumptions.”
All eyes turn to the Moon Hill leaders, questioning and accusing. Wei Changze stills, eyes widening in shock a little before he gracefully composes himself. He places a reassuring hand on top of his wife’s clenched fist, squeezing it a little in warning. Cangse Sanren looks like she’s mere seconds away from beheading the bastard in question.
Changze calmly places his cutlery down and regards the Wen Sect Leader with a calm gaze. “Demonic cultivation?” He says, the words earning a few shocked gasps from many of the guests. “That is a rather bold assumption, Sect Leader Wen. Where is your evidence?”
Wen Ruohan smiles, and it’s the kind of smile that would make your hairs raise from the sharpness of it. “Your disciples are a rather talkative bunch. Your intentions may be righteous, but it is a path that I, and many of us, will not tolerate or condone.”
This time, it is Sanren that speaks. Her smile is as equally as fierce, if not sharper . A few pale at the sight of it. “You’re speaking as if you are certain we are doing such acts.” She says calmly, “No disciple of ours would speak so carelessly about our house. I wouldn’t have thought that the great Wen Sect Leader would believe mindless rumors and be shaken so.”
Wen Ruohan does not flinch at the jab. He raises one fine brow and narrows his eyes at the woman. He raises his voice above the hushed whispers. “Your sarcasm is not appreciated, Lady Wei. I am merely trying to quell any threats.”
Cangse’s lips curl into a mocking smirk, plowing on despite the subtle warning. “Threats? Is our humble sect a threat to you, Wen Ruohan?”
Wen Ruohan does not bother to conceal his offence. Crimson eyes flare with anger, and his spiritual energy begins to crackle at the tips of his fingers. “You always speak without reserve, Madame Wei. It is a trait that may bring your downfall.”
Changze growls, calm facade immediately dropped the moment threat came to his wife. “It is you, sir, who speaks without reserve! We are merely peaceful sect who only wish to protect its people, and nothing more.”
The other sects are deadly silent. The respective disciples of the opposing houses have their hands hovering by their weapons and blades, ready to strike at a moments notice.
The two sect leaders continue to stare each other down, the tension so thick that it would only take a mere flick of the wrist for chaos to ensue.
Wen Ruohan breaks his gaze away from the Moon Hill leader, and turns to face an alarmingly pale Jin Guangshan. The Jin leader flinches, but does his best to stay composed, bracing himself for the worst.
What he doesn’t expect the Qishan leader to suddenly rise from his seat and bow. “Apologies, Sect Leader Jin, for any uncomfort caused by my words. I do not mean to be a rude guest in your household.”
Wei Changze and Cangse Sanren follow suit, rising in their seat to also bow at the sect leader. Changze speaks for the both of them. “We also apologize for any trouble caused by our actions.”
Jin Guangshan looks three milliseconds away from fainting, but he gives them both a shaky nod as a nervously flutters his fan. “Y-you’re both forgiven.”
Wen Ruhoan then turns his attention to the couple. He does not speak but he merely gives them a warning look before he settles himself back down. The Moon Hill leaders do not flinch. They simply settle themselves back down and resume to eat their food.
After three minutes or so, conversation begins to trickle back into the room, but the tension at the head table remains, weighing down on each of the major sects like a swinging axe above their heads, ready to drop at any moment.
Wei Ying observes the Lan boy whilst he eats.
He always looks so sad, Wei Ying thinks. I wonder if I can make him smile .
Wei Ying moves to poke the other boy’s face when suddenly, a wonderful idea comes into his mind.
Abruptly, he stands from the table, and pulls up the Lan boy with him. The earnest boy lets out a confused noise by the sudden turn of events, and almost lets out an uncharacteristic squeak when Wei Ying grasps his hands.
“A-Yingー” He gasps when he realizes the sect heir is dragging them towards the Great Hall. “We’re not allowed. We mustn't disturb them whilst they talk about important things.”
Wei Ying turns his head to look at him with a determined glint in his eyes. “Well I have an important announcement to make.”
“I haven’t finished eating.” The Lan boy protests weakly, but it is too late. They reach the Great Hall.
“Mother! Father!” Wei Ying calls as they reach the head table. It’s awfully quiet, Wei Ying distantly notes, but he is far too caught up in his mission to notice the tension between all the adults.
Wei Changze and Cangse Sanren turn around from their seats, something like relief flickering across their faces as the children run towards them, hands clasped together. Lan Qiren, who sits at the left from the Yueliangshan leaders, looks astoundingly shocked at the sight of his stoic nephew holding hands with the last person he would expect. He turns to his eldest nephew, and raises one fine, inquisitive brow. Lan Xichen simply shrugs, but then smiles once his Uncle turns away to gawp at the children.
“I have a big announcement!” Wei Ying shouts. His voice carries through the great hall, and everyone falls silent once again, turning all their attention to the young Yueliangshan heir.
“A-Ying,” Wei Changze begins, nervous. Their son had unfortunately inherited his Mother’s bold and brash disposition, something they both love and feel exasperated by, but today is not the appropriate time for such behaviour. “What are you doing?”
“Father, Mother, everyone,” He begins, turning to face everyone in the hall. He drags Lan Zhan closer to him, holding his hand tighter.
The Gusu boy looks bewildered, far too confused to even comprehend what is happening, but at Wei Ying’s next words, his ears and cheeks turn brilliantly pink.
“Lan Zhan is going to be my cultivation partner!”
Early update because...why not!
So yeah, this story was supposed to be light and fluffy, but I have decided to dump more plot into it, whoops. Have a good day~