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Down To Your Core

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Yiling Patriarch’s return was once a litigious truth not many people were willing to accept. Half of the cultivation world insisted to bring him into judicature, another half thought that he’d served his retribution enough by being forced to death without a complete body left. In short, Yiling Patriarch, Wei WuXian’s return continued to be a contentious topic that was often brought up in the midst of significant meetings between the sects. When he's overtly declared as HanGuang-Jun’s licit partner, formally had his name recorded in Gusu Lan Sect’s genealogy, the furor only continued despite mostly being kept in under the table. With Gusu Lan Sect as Wei WuXian’s steadiest support, lesser sect, lesser cultivator was up to grapple Wei WuXian upfront, yet it didn’t mean that he’s all exonerated.

His name still led to contestation; it still provoked debates. And Wei WuXian still found himself becoming a whipping man for the faults of others. But despite so, Wei WuXian, along with Lan WangJi, handled all the allegations that were thrown against them with grandeur. They acted in perfect synchronization, perfect code of ethics, and perfect efficiency as they razed one and every one of those accusations.

Wei WuXian’s reputation was always stained fast. But it’s also cleansed as promptly as it was sullied.

On the first year of Yiling Patriarch’s return, the world was in an uproar.

On the third year of Yiling Patriarch’s return, no severe bedlam was provoked.

On the fifth year of Yiling Patriarch’s return, nothing happened; the sect continued to focus on stabilizing their own sect matters and positions all over again, trying to find their place in the world all over again.

On the eighth year of Yiling Patriarch’s return, everything was calm. The four main sects had secured their footing. No wars, no controversies.

Everyone thought the days when they had to worry about a person invoking yet another round of pandemonium in the world were gone, all left in the past. They started to believe that Wei WuXian no longer held any interest in world domination now that he was attached to Lan WangJi. Everyone thought that now that HanGuang-Jun was by his side, surely he was able to look over Wei WuXian well and wouldn’t allow a chance for him to go out of control again.

Until the tenth year.

 


 

This year’s Discussion Conference[1] was held in Lanling Jin Sect. Lanling Jin Sect had been refurbished throughout the past ten years; in the midst of the decade, a couple of feuds were sparked between the one party who was in support of Jin Ling’s position being the next then current Sect Leader of Lanling Jin Sect and the ones who were against it. Despite the long dispute, both openly and secretly, Jin Ling had successfully retained his position as the Sect Leader with support from all the other sects, namely Gusu Lan Sect, Yunmeng Jiang Sect, and Qinghe Nie Sect. There was still dissatisfaction even within the sect itself but the voices were silenced and there shouldn’t be any cacophony for the next five years as long as Jin Ling performed up to the common standard.

Jin Ling now had grown into an extraordinary young man of his own, proven superbly especially when he chaired the Discussion Conference at this very moment; his posture, his mannerism, his code of conducts were all phenomenal. Compared to the boy who once rammed stalls by the roadside just from the mention of a certain someone’s name, Jin Ling, Jin RuLan, was now an impeccable man, also a charming leader. Despite so, whenever he was to speak with his uncle, Jiang Cheng, or with the disciples of the Lan Sect who literally grew with him throughout the decade, there were still hints of the once fifteen-year-old boy in his gestures and expressions, especially when he pouted and frowned and when he refuted with a tone that sounded way too recognizable even from a distance away.

The other sects were all present during the Discussion Conference this year too, as with the other years. Gusu Lan Sect was still led by Lan XiChen, Yunmeng Jiang Sect by Jiang Cheng, and Qinghe Nie Sect by Nie HuaiSang.

“This is the second time Jin-mou hosts the Discussion Conference, I would like to humbly apologize if any inconvenience is caused to everyone present.”

Jin Ling stood from Lanling Jin Sect’s seating area, located in the center of the hall, a proclamation of its host status.

“RuLan understands that my cultivation level is still incompetent to every senior in this hall, hence, I would like to genuinely request for your assistance to look over Lanling Jin Sect, regardless of sects affairs or general matters. May our solid bonds be preserved for eternity.”

With the last of his words, he raised his cup, filled with liquor, and drank. The rest of the attendance did the same. In the next second, all of them had drowned their cup of drink down their throat.

“Sect Leader Jin has been doing really well these few years,” Nie HuaiSang spoke, his fan waving artfully. “I can’t even bring myself to organize a Discussion Conference when I took upon the Sect Leader position back then. But you’ve done twice in just ten years. That’s very impressive on its own.”

Jin Ling nodded and smiled at Nie HuaiSang. “Sect Leader Nie has also been giving me a lot of advice. RuLan is always appreciative of them and will always keep them close to my heart.”

Nie HuaiSang returned his smile. Jin Ling went back to sitting down. At the same time, Lan XiChen voiced out,

“It’s always nice to see everyone getting along well. When everyone gets along, the sects get along too. This is why we have managed to uphold the peace of the cultivation world for the past decade.”

Since Jin GuangYao’s death, no one sect had ever dared to bring up the topic of electing the next Chief Cultivator, seeing how the act of choosing a person that held a position beyond the other sects would lead to nothing but calamity.

“Everyone just needs to focus on doing their own thing. Don’t cross the line,” Jiang Cheng followed, sipping a second cup of liquor he’d poured himself in the midst of the exchange.

“That is right,” Lan XiChen supported. “And I agree with HuaiSang too. Sect Master Jin, you have been doing very well, and you’re still young, there’s bound to be a lot to learn. If you need any help, I’m sure none of the sects will hesitate to lend you a hand.”

“Thank you very much for your generous support, Sect Master Lan.”

“So you’re ready for the next Requiem Ceremony?” Jiang Cheng asked.

The mention of the Requiem Ceremony had everyone in the hall fall into a stretched silence. Every five years, the Requiem Ceremony will be performed on the coffin that had sealed off Jin GuangYao and Nie MingJue, just to ensure that the two bloodthirsty corpses would not break themselves off the coffin when the seal diminished. For the first year, it was Wei WuXian who had sealed the coffin with his own hands, using his so-called demonic cultivation, creating an array on the coffin and around the place where the coffin will be buried to repress the corpses and their resentful energies from aborning from beneath the coffin. Since then, each sect will send out a pack of their own representatives to conduct a Requiem Ceremony that will soothe the souls in the coffin on the same day every five years to delay their amok. Wei WuXian wasn’t needed here. So once he’s done with the seal on the coffin itself, he’d never attended any Requiem Ceremony, keeping himself behind the eyes at all times. He never attended any other formal occasions either, especially not since he and Lan WangJi went into retirement five years ago.

“Speaking of the Requiem Ceremony, wasn’t the seal already precarious in the last ceremony?” Nie HuaiSang broke the silence, yet his words were said with extreme chariness, understanding perfectly well that this wasn’t a topic that many in the hall would like to hear. But it still concerned his brother, and the last thing he needed was for his corpse to come out loose and disturb the peace of the locals like how it did ten years ago.

“...Indeed it was,” Lan XiChen backed him up. “We can perform another round of Requiem for it but if the effect of the seal is the root of the problem…”

“You mean to say the effect has become weak?” Jiang Cheng asked.

“It’s a possibility. We’re no expert in this area of things so we cannot be certain if this is really the case,” Lan XiChen smiled at Jiang Cheng. “As of now, we cannot conclude that the seal is the problem. But based on observation, our Requiem has always been consistent and perfect. We also constantly have people patrolling where the coffin is buried, so these two areas shouldn’t be the reason to why the corpses almost broke free from the coffin back then. Taking these two scenarios out of the way, the only plausible explanation left lies with the seal on the coffin; the one that was drawn ten years ago.”

Five years ago, during the second Requiem Ceremony, the four sects alongside their own experienced disciples had also carried out the ceremony just like they did during the first year. But the second Requiem Ceremony almost ended up in a disaster when the coffin was banged vehemently from the inside and it had taken twice longer than usual to finally solace the souls in it. Back then, they were already suspicious that the effect of the seal had weakened over the years. Now that they’re back at it, this topic would unavoidably be raised again. The weight of the responsibility, however, now fell on Jin Ling’s shoulders, not helping when he’s the youngest Sect Leader amongst the rest.

“If that’s the case…” Jin Ling finally spoke up. “Then we only need to request help from the person who’s an expert in this area.”

Jiang Cheng’s cup was placed back onto the table, his expression one of solemnity. Half of Nie HuaiSang’s face was hidden behind his fan, but he was clearly smiling. Lan XiChen nodded at Jin Ling with a smile, then said,

“Looks like it’s time to invite Yiling Patriarch to return to the world again.”

 


 

Lan WangJi’s hands hovered over the loom, his fingers dancing shrewdly on the threads, his eyes focusing penetratingly on the matters in his hands. The room[2] he was in was a humble one; aside from the loom he was working on, a small desk sat in a corner with a pot of magnolia on it. Tranquil sounds of water running echoed from the pool outside the window, coupled with birds chirping and the gentle gush of wind. The sun was high yet not too hot, the weather was clear with barely any clouds in the sky.

Lan WangJi’s hands stopped moving all of a sudden, his eyes widened ever so slightly, the long eyelashes fluttered unnoticeably. He turned his head around, looking out of the window, just in time to see a man in all-black making his way down the path from a distance with a basket on his back, his long hair that was supposed to be set loose now tied into a tall ponytail. Lan WangJi stood right away. At the same time when he reached the door, the man too had come to stand in front of the door. And right when he saw Lan WangJi, he broke into a glimmering grin, his expression as cheerful as the weather outside of the house.

“Lan Zhan, I’m home!” Wei WuXian greeted.

“En,” Lan WangJi said. He stretched a hand to take the basket off Wei WuXian’s back, silently made note of the few fishes and wild fruits in it as Wei WuXian walked into the house, wiping the sweat off his cheek with the back of his hand as he did.

“It’s so hot outside! Oh right, I haven’t finished burying all the potato seeds yet. I’ve thrown them in the field for now. It’s too hot! I don’t want to do it anymore! Wait till it’s less hot then I’ll continue.”

“En,” Lan WangJi said, coming back to him with a cup of water. Wei WuXian took the cup and gulped all the water down with one swallow. When he turned to look at Lan WangJi again, Lan WangJi was holding a handkerchief towards him. Wei WuXian grinned and winked at him. In the next moment, he’d inched his face towards Lan WangJi.

Lan WangJi smiled a tad. He helped Wei WuXian to wipe the sweat off his face, his motions so tender and so careful it felt so comfortable that Wei WuXian let loose an unintended hum, all the while enjoying the delicate gesture his husband was serving him.

“I went to play by the riverside just now and managed to catch some fishes. Er-ge-ge, can you make fish soup for me tonight?”

“Can,” Lan WangJi agreed. “Did you get hurt?”

“No, no, no,” Wei WuXian said. “The river is very shallow, it’s impossible to hurt myself there.”

Lan WangJi said nothing. Brushing the dishevelled strands of hair off Wei WuXian’s forehead, he leaned in to press a kiss against Wei WuXian’s slightly warm skin instead.

“Er-ge-ge, I miss Gusu,” Wei WuXian spoke all of a sudden.

Lan WangJi raised an eyebrow. That meek gesture didn’t escape Wei WuXian’s eyes. He chuckled. Pressing his hands on Lan WangJi’s laps, he tilted his head, stared into Lan WangJi’s eyes and grinned at him.

“Do you know how to make Gusu’s Crucian Carp? I like that one. But don’t make it too sweet. I had it sweet once and I almost vomited.”

Lan WangJi smiled. Rubbing his own fingers on the back of Wei WuXian’s hand, he said,

“En, I know how.”

Wei WuXian’s grin curved wider. He slanted closer, pecking Lan WangJi softly on the lips then pulled their distance apart. Standing up, he took his outer robe off, leaving his body with nothing on but two layers of clothing.

“It’s so hot I want to take a bath now. By the way, it’s becoming hotter nowadays, so there’s no need to prepare hot water for our bath. With that in consideration, I’ve also only chopped half the amount of needed woods. Save time, save energy,” he ended with a delightful wink at Lan WangJi, looking totally like a man who was extremely proud of his own achievement.

“En, that’s fine,” Lan WangJi said. He’d stood up too and was now helping Wei WuXian off the rest of his clothing.

“Once you’re done, we can eat,” Lan WangJi continued.

“Okay! Do you want me to help you?” Wei WuXian asked.

“...Don’t waste pots,” Lan WangJi said.

“What…” Wei WuXian pouted. “I only burned two pots. Two!”

Lan WangJi shook his head with a smile. “Bathe, then eat,” was all he said.

Even when he pushed Wei WuXian into the bathroom, Wei WuXian was still grumbling about how he needed more experience for him to learn how to control the fire, and that Lan WangJi being overly cautious towards him would only lead to him being incompetent in cooking. It’s when Lan WangJi agreed to have him helping out for tomorrow’s meal that Wei WuXian obediently went into the bathroom, leaving Lan WangJi to sigh at the closed door with a shake of his head.

 

 

Their meal was always very modest: two spicy dishes, two non-spicy dishes, nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes, Lan WangJi’s chopsticks would pick up some food from the spicy dishes, and Wei WuXian would do the same with the non-spicy ones too. By the time Wei WuXian returned from his day out, he’d made it just in time for lunch. Lan WangJi had had everything ready by then, both the water for him to bathe and the food for him to eat, so there’s barely any time wasted between when Wei WuXian stripped himself naked, bathed, and then coming back out to be able to eat immediately.

“Lan Zhan, you have something you want to tell me, don’t you?” Wei WuXian broke the silence between them, swallowing down one mouthful of rice.

Lan WangJi gave him a momentary look and put his bowl and chopsticks down, wiping his mouth clean with a white napkin.

“Received letter from Brother,” Lan WangJi said.

“Oh? ZeWu-Jun? How’s ZeWu-Jun? Didn’t you just return last month?” Wei WuXian asked.

Lan WangJi nodded. “Brother asks us if we want to return.”

“Return? To Gusu?” Wei WuXian asked again.

And Lan WangJi nodded again. Wei WuXian didn’t press on, clearly waiting. While he did that, he continued to pick on the food in the dishes, his eyes brightening when he found a sliced tomato under the pickled fish.

“The Requiem Ceremony,” Lan WangJi continued, as expected.

Wei WuXian’s chopsticks stopped in mid-air. He turned his head to give Lan WangJi a fleeting sideways look, then moved his chopsticks again, pushing the tomato into his mouth.

He took his time to eat while Lan WangJi returned to his own meal, being the one to wait for him this time. Once Wei WuXian was done, he voiced out,

“The seal,” he said.

Lan WangJi nodded.

“Actually we should’ve attended the ceremony five years ago,” Wei WuXian said.

“Your core wasn’t stable five years ago,” Lan WangJi refuted.

That’s why they decided to go into retirement, just so Wei WuXian can focus entirely on the forming of his own core.

“It’s not stable now too,” Wei WuXian debated.

“Stabler than before,” Lan WangJi wasn’t giving up either.

Wei WuXian chuckled. He raised a hand, closed his eyes for a bit, and in the next second, a shimmering flame of spiritual energy exploded on his palm, the blaze dancing with the rhythm of the docile breeze, igniting quiet sparks surrounding it.

“It’s good enough for now,” Wei WuXian nodded at the light. “At least good enough for me to wield a sword again.”

Lan WangJi smiled. Wei WuXian had kept his flame away then. He was done with his meal, now staring at Lan WangJi with his head tilted sideways, chin propping on his hands.

“So, HanGuang-Jun, how about we try out exactly how stable my core is now with swords later?”

Lan WangJi perked an eyebrow. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“What’s with the gaze, tsk, tsk,” Wei WuXian shook his head with a shrug. “Don’t think you can go easy on me just because I’m still not as competent as you. One day, I’ll get to your level again, then we can compete swords with each other again just like how we did when we were fifteen.”

Lan WangJi’s smile curved just a tad higher before he hid it away by wiping on his mouth with his napkin again.

“I’ll wait however long you need me to,” Lan WangJi said. He moved over, tugged Wei WuXian onto his laps, and kissed him on the top of his head.

“For now, focus on the core first.”

His words were responded by Wei WuXian’s glimmering laughter. He cupped Lan WangJi on his face, kissing him fervently on the lips, just to be countered with an even more passionate kiss from Lan WangJi.

Wei WuXian had quickly gone into reforming his own core again since when they were done with the matter with Jin GuangYao. Mo XuanYu’s body, however, held too low of a potential for Wei WuXian to form the core, and it took him two whole years to finally feel a hint of the formation in his own body. Yet, the moment when the core formation finally met its light, Wei WuXian had experienced a risk of losing it once when he attempted to use it during an accident, almost costing his life. Ever since then, Lan WangJi had been extremely cautious towards him when it came to his core. He’d told Wei WuXian that it didn’t matter if it’d take a long time, because he’ll be accompanying him and helping him throughout the way. They had all the time in the world now after all, there’s no need to rush.

That incident that taken a toll on Wei WuXian though. For a long while, his spiritual energy was in a very precarious mode, often facing a risk of deviation. It’s fortunate that Wei WuXian had mastered demonic cultivation, so when he came upon yet another possibility of deviation, he could rapidly use resentful energies to curb it, buying time for himself so that he can balance the energies out all over again.

This was also why they weren’t able to attend the Requiem Ceremony back then. They’d retired then; and Wei WuXian was definitely not in any healthy status to be supporting the ceremony.

But now, everything had stabilized. The core was becoming stronger than ever, Wei WuXian was able to wield Sui Bian again, though he’d insisted to not use it unless necessary, just so he could respect the sword until he was worthy enough to use it again. He was also able to use a certain extent of spiritual energy, even resentful energies, and had learned better to keep them in balance, enough to not harm his own body.

All in all, Wei WuXian was in one of his best states at the moment and hence, there shouldn’t be any worries for him to attend the ceremony this time, as requested by the Sect Leaders.

Besides, if he didn’t attend this time, something worse might happen and that’s the last thing he wanted.

Enough of forcing accusations on his shoulders. Enough of saying that he was escaping from things.

So naturally, after a very heated dual cultivation that night, Wei WuXian mumbled against Lan WangJi’s chest, telling him about returning to the Cloud Recesses a few days later, then falling asleep to more mumblings about wanting to eat Gusu’s Crucian Carp and drink Emperor’s Smile when he got back later.

It’s been five years. There’s bound to be things that had changed in the world, in the sects, even in people. And both Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian wouldn’t know what they could be. But they’d make sure that they’re ready for whatever it can be, whenever it was to arrive.

 


 

So, two days later, they made their way back to Gusu and arrived in Gusu when the sun was already almost sinking beneath the horizon. Before heading towards the Cloud Recesses, they stopped by Caiyi Town, restocked Emperor’s Smile, then only made their way up the mountain.

“Nnnnnnnn, best— best liquor ever!” Wei WuXian complimented, taking in another mouthful of the liquor. Shaking his head lightly, Lan WangJi wiped the liquor leaking out of the corner of his lips for him.

Wei WuXian’s hair was now set loose, with just a red knot tying up a small bunch of his hair on the back of his head. He was still in his usual all-black attire but his face had grown a lot more matured, his body just a tad taller, his muscles more refined than five years before. Because Gusu Lan Sect had told the rest of the world that he’d gone into retirement five years ago, Wei WuXian had also obediently watched his steps whenever he and Lan WangJi left their retirement home, often erasing his traces whenever they were to stop by villages. This kind of life wasn’t too bad. The villages they often stopped by were very small, even insignificant, so it’s just nice for Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi to attend to their paranormal problems whenever they can. For one, no one knew Wei WuXian, so no one will expose his footsteps. For another, this kind of village was always one where they could witness the smallest yet sweetest of humble lifestyles, led by normal people. It’s something Wei WuXian always admired and always resonated with, and it often made him feel like home. So the past five years was honestly a very fruitful life period for him; it was the life he always wanted — peaceful, quiet, and happy, staying together with the one and only person he wanted to move on with his life.

Lan WangJi, however, would always return to the Cloud Recesses every once a while, helping his brother with Sect matters whenever he needed him, and would also attend to formal occasions that were related to his family. He’d asked Wei WuXian if he wanted to go but Wei WuXian would always turn the offer down, telling him that those kind of formal events were never his cup of tea. Of course, if Wei WuXian didn’t want to, Lan WangJi wasn’t one to force him to either. Even so, Wei WuXian would always ask him to tell him what happened, what he did, who he met, when he was outside every time when he returned. And Lan WangJi would always patiently tell him, describing to him all the details, and will never miss the chance to tell him how the rest of the sects were doing.

That’s also how Wei WuXian kept himself updated with the matters in the world now. Sure, there might be people who were still afraid of him but nothing mattered more than knowing that everything was peaceful and that all the sects were working well with each other at this moment.

Before they could knock on the front door leading into the Cloud Recesses compound, the door opened by itself. The moment Wei WuXian saw who was standing at the door, his eyes brightened, his mouth curved into a wide grin.

“A-Wen?”

Shizun[3], you finally came back!”

The man at the door was Lan Wen[4], a young man whom both Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian picked up from when they discovered him almost ten years back. Since then, he was entrusted to the Lan Sect and had now become a legit disciple of Gusu Lan Sect, his forehead ribbon embroidered with the cloud moiry a significant proof of its own. But more than that, Lan Wen was also the only person besides Wei WuXian who had learned to perfect demonic cultivation; despite still not at the same level as Wei WuXian, the founder, he was still Wei WuXian’s one and only disciple, who also studied two cultivations at the same time.

“Shizun…” Wei WuXian shook his head with a laugh. “You can call that all you want in front of me, but don’t do that in front of others, okay?”

“Why?” Lan Wen blinked. “Senior Wei, you are my shizun.”

“I know, I know. But you’re in Gusu Lan Sect, your priority should always be the normal cultivation. Demonic cultivation, er… just take it as a hobby okay? Of course, that means you can call me shizun as a hobby too. Don’t take it so seriously, don’t take it so seriously,” Wei WuXian waved his hand.

“Oh… okay then,” Lan Wen said. “Shizu— no, Senior Wei, are you staying permanently now that you’re back?”

Wei WuXian chuckled. I said he can call me shizun in front of me, why did he change all of a sudden? This boy…

“Depends on the situation. If I’m needed, I’ll stay. If not needed… then I’ll roll away.”

“I need you!” Lan Wen quickly said.

“Okay, okay, you’ve shown me perfectly well what a dedicated student you are now,” Wei WuXian slung an arm around the man’s neck, bringing all of them into the compound. “Well, since you’re into it now, let me ask you a thing a shizun will ask his student when he returns then. Did you cultivate properly when I’m not around?”

“Senior Wei, which one do you mean?”

“Both, either one of them,” Wei WuXian answered.

Lan Wen nodded. “I’ve already mastered music theory.”

“You’re using a guqin, right? Like Lan Zhan.”

“En. When HanGuang-Jun isn’t around, I always practice with SiZhui too.”

“SiZhui… I’ve not seen him for some time too,” Wei WuXian smiled at the thought of the other child.

“Didn’t SiZhui visit you just last month?” Lan Wen asked.

“One month is very long, okay! Last time when I used to stay here, we see each other every day!” Wei WuXian refuted.

“Okay, okay, if Senior Wei thinks it’s long, then it’s long.”

“Seriously, you…” Wei WuXian sighed.

“What about your sword skills?” Wei WuXian pressed on.

“Good too,” Lan Wen said.

“Good means how good?” Wei WuXian asked.

“Hmm… good means good. Next time we practice together?” Lan Wen suggested.

“This is what you said!” Wei WuXian responded. “Okay then, how about… the other cultivation?”

Lan Wen broke into a shimmering grin. “Senior Wei, you came back just on the right time. Remember the compass from before? I’ve developed a sixth version and I want to—“

“Wei Ying.”

Lan WangJi’s solid voice disturbed their conversation. When both of them turned behind, they saw that Lan WangJi was still standing at the junction between two directions, one leading towards Han Shi, another towards Jing Shi. Wei WuXian emitted a quiet ‘oh’.

“Aih, look at me. Got all excited being back I forgot about why we’re here in the first place,” he muttered to himself. Giving Lan Wen a pat on his shoulder, accompanied by a smile, he spoke. “I’ll talk to you later. Need to go and see ZeWu-Jun first.”

“En, okay,” Lan Wen nodded. “ZeWu-Jun must be happy to see you!”

With a wave of his hand, Wei WuXian returned to Lan WangJi, one hand already holding onto Lan WangJi’s arm before either of them can spill a word.

“Sorry for keeping you waiting,” Wei WuXian said, light-toned.

“It’s fine,” Lan WangJi said, his voice a lot gentler than before. “You haven’t met each other for long. There must be a lot to talk about.”

“A-Wen… this child has grown up,” Wei WuXian said with a smile.

“En,” Lan WangJi agreed. A pause. “He has potential.”

“Potential for?” Wei WuXian gave Lan WangJi a narrowed stare.

Lan WangJi coughed softly. “For all areas.”

“Hahaha!” Wei WuXian laughed. “Right? I know I always have a talent when it comes to judging people. If not… how did I manage to grasp this supreme, beautiful, strong, amazing Hanguang-Jun all for myself?”

At the end of his words, Wei WuXian scratched his fingertip against Lan WangJi’s palm, causing the man to curled his fingers up.

 


 

In Han Shi, however, they were greeted by more than just Lan XiChen. Wei WuXian’s footsteps almost staggered when he saw Lan QiRen in the room too. Call it a reflexive response but even when it’s been ten years since he was listed as part of the Lan family, he still can’t help but feel a bit defensive when it came to his teacher.

“Teacー Uncle, ZeWu-Jun,” Wei WuXian greeted.

“Hmph, it’s only been five years and you’re treating us as outsiders already?” Lan QiRen spoke, brushing on his goatee. “Is it very hard for you to call me uncle?”

“N-No, no, no, not at all,” Wei WuXian quickly said.

“WuXian, you shouldn’t call me ZeWu-Jun too. We’re already a family, you can call me Brother, like how WangJi does,” Lan XiChen said with a smile.

“En,” Wei WuXian nodded, returning Lan XiChen’s smile. “Brother.”

The way he called Lan XiChen was very different from how Lan WangJi did. Lan WangJi’s was always unvarying and reverent while when the word ‘Brother’ was slipped from Wei WuXian’s mouth, it’s more casual, airy, yet not losing the respect all at the same time. Lan XiChen pulled a wider curve on his lips upon hearing that.

“Both of you must be tired. Come over here and sit down.”

With a small bow, both Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian obeyed, coming to sit with Lan QiRen and Lan XiChen.

“WuXian, is your core formation going well?” Lan XiChen asked.

“Still well,” Wei WuXian grinned.

“If you know you’re reckless yourself, then learn how to take care of yourself better,” Lan QiRen lectured. “Don’t always depend on WangJi.”

Wei WuXian wanted so much to say that it’s Lan WangJi who would never miss the chance to look over him, even more than he can ever do himself but he swallowed those words back down his throat before they can make it out. Lan QiRen meant no harm. Like Lan WangJi had told him, he’s reasonable, and his attitude towards Wei WuXian had clearly softened throughout the decade, even more so when Wei WuXian had been doing a great job educating the junior disciples in the first five years when he was in the Cloud Recesses. Sure, there were times when Lan QiRen still got angry when he swayed the young ones, breaking some rules quietly, but the only time when Wei WuXian really ever saw him angry was five years ago, when he negligently used his still infantile core for something beyond his capability and ended up in bed for a month just to regain consciousness.

Even when Lan QiRen sounded like he’s scolding Wei WuXian now, Wei WuXian knew that he meant well, because he remembered Lan QiRen’s face when he looked at him back then, the small shake of the head, the quiet sigh, and every word that he never said but Wei WuXian understood.

So he responded, “I’ll remember your words, Uncle.”

Lan QiRen looked away with a huff.

“If it’s not absolutely necessary, we won’t request for you to return from so far away,” Lan XiChen said.

“Don’t worry about it, Brother,” Wei WuXian said. “I’ve heard some details from Lan Zhan. The Requiem Ceremony for the coffin containing ChiFeng-zun and Jin GuangYao, right?”

“En,” Lan XiChen nodded.

“Should be the seal,” Wei WuXian continued. “When I sealed it ten years ago, I thought it could hold for 100 years, but seems like the rancorous energies of the two corpses in the coffin are far more vengeful than I thought they’d be.” He sighed, holding his chin with a hand. “Interesting, I’ve never seen such a vicious reaction before.”

“Don’t think about wanting to study them,” Lan QiRen reminded.

“Don’t worry, Uncle, I just find it interesting, but I’m not going to let them out just to study about it.” A gentle light brushed past his eyes, coupled with an equally gentle smile. “Some things are best left staying in the dark.”

Lan WangJi had come over to hold his hand then, squeezing it lightly, a measure to comfort.

“Then we shall entrust the matter to you in the next Requiem Ceremony. It’ll be held a week later. In the meantime, please take your time and rest in the Cloud Recesses, I’m sure you’ll have some catching up to do with the others too,” Lan XiChen suggested.

“Sure thing! Maybe I can bring the children out one of these days,” Wei WuXian’s eyes glittered. “I got to know a cave just 50 miles away andー”

Lan QiRen coughed out loud then. Wei WuXian kept quiet right away, hands rising to his mouth, stopping himself from speaking more. Shaking his head, Lan QiRen sighed,

“You’ll never change.”

 


 

By the time they were back in Jing Shi, it’s already almost hai shi. Jing Shi was as spotless and as neat as always; everything remained to be where they should be. It’s like Wei WuXian had never left the place before. He stood by the window, looking at the magnolia outside when he felt Lan WangJi’s strong pair of arms bringing him into a warm embrace from behind, his chin propped on Wei WuXian’s shoulder.

“What’s the matter?” he whispered.

“Nothing,” Wei WuXian said with a long breath. He swept his fingers against the back of Lan WangJi’s hands on his waist, letting his weight lean against the man behind him. “I was thinking about… how fortunate a person I am.”

Lan WangJi tilted his head, looking at Wei WuXian from the corners of his eyes.

“Picked up by Uncle Jiang when I lost my parents, learned demonic cultivation even when I was supposed to die, actually died but got brought back, meeting you,” the last of his words were coupled with a wink he threw at Lan WangJi. “Tell me, isn’t this supreme good luck?”

“Why do you think about this all of a sudden?” Lan WangJi asked.

Wei WuXian lowered his gaze, his breathing calm and slow, warmth hitting teasingly against Lan WangJi’s hands.

“Your brother and your uncle are very nice to me,” he said, an answer that sounded like a reflection or a statement.

“You’re part of our family,” Lan WangJi said.

“That’s why I thought that I’m fortunate,” Wei WuXian looked up, grinning at Lan WangJi.

Lan WangJi took the chance to give him a soft peck on his cheek. While Wei WuXian leaned into the touch, Lan WangJi said,

“This is not good luck. It’s karma.”

Wei WuXian didn’t say anything else. With a feeble smile, he took in a deep breath and closed his eyes.

“That’s why it makes me think… is it really okay to live so peacefully like this? Maybe I’m too used to having troubles as a friend so it makes me feel… how should I say it? When I’m like this, it feels very calm, but somehow it’s…”

“Wei Ying,” Lan WangJi called out.

Wei WuXian opened his eyes, looking at him.

“One step at a time,” Lan WangJi said.

Wei WuXian chuckled. “En, you’re right.” Leaning over to kiss Lan WangJi on the face. “One step at a time. Who knows what will happen tomorrow, right? Now that I’m happy, I should enjoy the happiness for a bit more. Aih, maybe because I’ve grown older now, it makes me feel so much more sentimental than ever.”

“You’re not old,” Lan WangJi said.

“Is that so?” Wei WuXian gave him a narrowed gaze. “Prove it. Come and help me find if you can see any gray hair on me?”

As he said that, Wei WuXian struggled himself out of Lan WangJi’s embrace, grasped his hands, and put it on his head.

“If you can find some, then we can start collecting gray hair,” Wei WuXian smirked.

“Playful,” Lan WangJi reprimanded, only to be responded by Wei WuXian’s joyful chuckles.

 


 

On the day of the Requiem Ceremony, Lan WangJi woke up to see that Wei WuXian was already awake, which was an uncommon scene of its own. He was sitting by the window again like he did on the first night back, staring at the magnolia outside the window, his expression one of serene, made better with a gentle, small curve on the corners of his lips. It’s barely mao shi but he looked perfectly awake, like he’d been up for some time now. Holding an outer robe in his hands, Lan WangJi got out of bed and paced silently towards him. The gentle draping of the robe on his body had Wei WuXian looking up at Lan WangJi, the curves from before turned into a wider one as he grinned at his husband.

“Lan Zhan, good morning.”

Lan WangJi nodded then kissed him on the top of his head.

“Good morning. Why are you up so early?”

“I don’t know either. Just casually woke and can’t go back to sleep,” Wei WuXian admitted.

“You could’ve woken me up,” Lan WangJi said.

Wei WuXian smiled. Stretching his arms towards Lan WangJi’s direction, he hummed blissfully when Lan WangJi picked him up into his arms, supporting him to stand.

“You slept so well, I don’t want to disturb you,” Wei WuXian said. “Okay, now that we’re both awake, shall we get ready?”

“En,” Lan WangJi said.

 


 

Lan SiZhui, Lan JingYi, and Lan Wen were already waiting for them outside of Jing Shi once Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi were done with their preparation. Wei WuXian smiled so brightly when he went over to Lan SiZhui and Lan JingYi, hugging both of them, one in each arm.

“I missed both of you so much…” he said with obviously fake sobs in his tone.

“Cut it out! We just went to see you last month!” Lan JingYi struggled.

“One month is long! Thirty days!” Wei WuXian refuted.

“We missed you too, Senior Wei,” Lan SiZhui supported.

Initially, Wei WuXian had wanted to bring them out when he was around. But he soon realized that both Lan SiZhui and Lan JingYi were out for more tasks and only made it back on the day of the Requiem Ceremony so technically, this was the first time Wei WuXian got to see them since he came back.

Lan SiZhui and Lan JingYi had grown up themselves, their height even catching up to Wei WuXian. They also looked more matured, more charming, and their cultivation levels had obviously grown a lot more too. But no matter how much they grew, Wei WuXian would always deem them as the same fifteen-year-old children when they first met, treating them the same way he would from before like they’d never grown.

Lan SiZhui and Lan JingYi were also the two Lan Sect disciples who would always visit Wei WuXian throughout the years, either to bring a message, or simply just to see him. So even if Wei WuXian had moved out of the Cloud Recesses since five years ago, it’s not like they hadn’t been seeing each other frequently.

It’s just Wei WuXian’s hobby being dramatic.

The Requiem Ceremony’s main function had always been to solace the resentful energies in the coffin and around the coffin, making sure that it’s enough to keep the corpses suppressed in the coffin for as long as they could. Due to the fact that Gusu Lan Sect had always been a master in music theories, they would always bring along the most disciples, followed by Yunmeng Jiang Sect, Lanling Jin Sect, and Qinghe Nie Sect, all of which on an equal number, while the smaller supporting sects too will bring along a small number of their own disciples as a means of precaution in case anything was to happen.

This year, however, it seemed like the number of participants was more than how it was five years back.

Mostly because the sects had caught ear of the rumours ー that Yiling Patriarch had returned to the cultivation scene, and who will be playing the most earth-shaking role in the ceremony this time.

In the midst of white, Wei WuXian’s all-black appearance stood out. His hair was tied up to a high ponytail again, Chen Qing and Sui Bian[5] both tugged in his belt.

When they arrived at Hun Shan, a mountain located between the borders of Gusu and Yunmeng, the foot of the mountain was already packed with disciples with a range of different sect robes colours, all waiting.

“Is everyone here?” Lan XiChen, who led the Gusu Lan Sect’s disciples alongside Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian by his side, asked as he approached one of the younger disciples. Wei WuXian immediately recognized him to be OuYang ZiZhen, the disciple of the Baling Ouyang Sect, also the one and only son of Sect Leader Ouyang.

The moment he saw Wei WuXian, he grinned broadly at him, a gesture Wei WuXian returned, and nodded.

“Still waiting for Yunmeng Jiang Sect but the rest are already here,” he said. As if he could no longer hold himself back, he turned to Wei WuXian right after. “Senior Wei, long time no see!”

“You’ve grown up!” Wei WuXian patted him on the head. “How is it? Have you found a good lady as your partner?”

OuYang ZiZhen scratched his face, looking obviously embarrassed.

“Senior Wei, don’t tease me. It’s not easy.”

“Nonsense. You’re a good child, you can surely find one in no time,” Wei WuXian chuckled. “But haha, who am I to advise you? It’s okay, take your time. You have all the time in the world. Look at me, it took me 20 years to find my own, so you still have, hmm… another 10 years?”

“Senior Wei!”

“Hahahaha!”

Both Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi simply looked at the scene without a word; Lan XiChen smiling, Lan WangJi as impassive as ever.

Wei WuXian sighed out of nowhere then. “Aih, this Jiang Cheng too. It’s been a long time since we met and he’s still the same. See, even his supporting sects came earlier than him. And where is he? Where’s Yunmeng Jiang Sect?”

“You know how to say that it’s been a long time yourself and the first thing you want me to hear from that mouth of yours is you judging me on how I do things?”

Wei WuXian didn’t turn around to meet the owner of the voice immediately. Lowering his head, he closed his eyes with a smirk. It was after a 15-seconds stretch of unmoving silence between them before Wei WuXian finally opened his eyes and spun around.

Just five steps away from him stood Jiang Cheng, still looking as savage as ever, his frown ever so prevalent, even his words when he spoke to Wei WuXian earlier was cold and crude. It’s somehow nostalgic.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Wei WuXian shook his head. “Look at you. Look at you! That’s why I said you never change. Not only your sense of time is horrible, but your attitude is also still as bad as I remember it to be.”

“Look who’s talking,” Jiang Cheng refuted with a smirk. “Running away and hiding away after leaving behind a mess is very much your way of work, I see.”

Lan WangJi frowned ever so slightly, his hand reaching to Wei WuXian’s waist.

“Now that everyone’s here, shall we proceed with the preparation for the ceremony then?” Lan XiChen suggested, obviously an attempt to melt this tensed up mood between them. “Lanling Jin Sect and Qinghe Nie Sect are already in the mountain?” he asked Ouyang Zizhen right after.

“Yes! They’ve already started the preparation.”

Lan XiChen looked at Wei WuXian, then at Jiang Cheng. “Let’s go in then.”

 


 

The coffin was buried in the deepest depth of Hun Shan; ever since the Coffin-Sealing Ceremony, the mountain had been off-limits and only trustworthy cultivators such as the sect leaders and their close supporters were able to access beyond the foot of the mountain on a common basis. However, there were exceptions too. For example, like this occasion ー the ceremony ー where arrays needed to be set up, the defense needed to be strengthened and manpower was needed that more people were allowed to access into the depth of it. Throughout the years, for some odd reason, the notion of being part of the chosen one to access the mountain during this ceremony had become something like an honour most sect disciples sought for. It meant they’re qualified and strong enough to be considered as the next Sect Leader, or even as the next right- or left-hand men for the Sect Leaders. But this year’s ceremony had another highlight that was beyond that.

Because Wei WuXian was present this time.

Even when he was taking leisure steps into the mountain, Wei WuXian can distinctly feel eyes on him, alongside whispers about him that they thought he couldn’t capture. Along the way, he simply smiled and made no response. He’d known that not everyone would be able to accept him even when he was undoubtedly obedient for the past decade since he returned. But there’s no erasing the massacres he’d caused and even now, even when he’d died once, his faults still remained unjudged. It’s a truth that laid in the grey area. If not because of Gusu Lan Sect and the fact that the rest of the cultivation world was distracted by Jin GuangYao’s deeds back then, he was pretty certain that he’d be pulled into another round of trial that would probably last for the rest of his life.

While he shook his head at that thought, he felt a hand rubbing on his back, urging him to turn around just to see that Lan WangJi was staring at him with thick concern written all over his face.

“I’m okay. Used to it,” he comforted.

But that didn’t help in soothing Lan WangJi’s concern at all. Yet, he said no words. All he did was following closely by Wei WuXian’s side all the way towards their destination.

As mentioned, when they reached the spot where the coffin was buried, Lanling Jin Sect and Qinghe Nie Sect were all already in their respective positions, the arrays almost completed. There were still buzzes of chatters when Wei WuXian approached. But the moment his presence was made clear, all the sounds halted all of a sudden, like someone had just silenced everyone in the space all at once. All eyes were on Wei WuXian; some filled with dread, some filled with admiration, some filled with disgust, some filled with wrath. Wei WuXian said nothing. He glanced around, finding Nie HuaiSang, and pulled a broad grin. Totally ignoring the awkward air around them, he walked towards Nie HuaiSang.

“HuaiSang-xiong, long time no see!” he greeted.

“Wei-xiong, you’re still the same,” Nie HuaiSang smiled.

“Same? Still as charming as before?” Wei WuXian teased.

“Of course,” Nie HuaiSang chuckled. “I hope everything’s going well for you?”

“Well? In which sense, you mean?” Wei WuXian perked a naughty eyebrow.

Nie HuaiSang coughed, his fan flapping viciously. “I mean your core. Tch, Wei-xiong, you’re seriously so…”

“Hahaha!” Wei WuXian laughed, patting him roughly on the shoulder. “If you mean that, then everything’s good. Again, thank you for borrowing me those transcripts. They helped a lot, seriously.”

“It’s nothing, it’s nothing,” Nie HuaiSang waved his hand. “I know how it feels like to be unable to form a core after years and years of hard work. So I thought I should share what helped me with you too, since… well, you helped me a lot too.”

He averted Wei WuXian’s eyes at the last of his words. But Wei WuXian remained smiling at him. When Nie HuaiSang found out that he was trying to form his own core again almost ten years back, he’d offered his part of help by sharing the Nie Sect’s own covert transcript that consisted of a different kind of cultivation method that was unlike the usual way of core formation, alongside recipes to strengthen the body’s endurance with Wei WuXian. It was supposed to be confidential. Just like the Man-Eating Castle, no one should find out that Nie Sect kept something like this, simply because it was damaging to their reputation. On top of that, it’s also borderline demonic. It seemed to be something Nie MingJue had developed in order to help Nie HuaiSang with his core formation back then. And since Nie HuaiSang finally managed to form his own core then, he had no use for it, so might as well share it with Wei WuXian, since Wei WuXian too was having difficulties forming his own core thanks to Mo XuanYu’s low potential body. The only condition was that Wei WuXian shall not tell anyone about this transcript, so the only person who knew about it were none other but Wei WuXian himself and Lan WangJi.

Just like old times, just like when they found out about the Man-Eating Castle.

“I heard you help Jin Ling a lot too? Thanks for that,” Wei WuXian continued.

“You don’t have to be so courteous with me, Wei-xiong. It’s what Sect Leaders should do,” Nie HuaiSang said instead. “Sect Leader Jin was still young when he took over the position. And I felt him too. I wasn’t a very good Sect Leader myself.”

“But you’re one now,” Wei WuXian grinned.

Nie HuaiSang covered half of his face with his fan, smiling. “Just trying my best,” was all he said.

Speaking of the devil, Jin Ling seemed to have caught wind of the abrupt rigid air in the place not long after he went away to check on the barrier around the spot where the coffin was buried. When he came out, he immediately caught sight of Wei WuXian, at the same time when Wei WuXian looked away from Nie HuaiSang and looked directly at his direction.

Jin Ling averted his eye contact almost immediately. Meanwhile, Wei WuXian, as always, greeted his departure with Nie HuaiSang and bounced towards Jin Ling like he hadn’t noticed that intentional gesture.

“What’s this, what’s this? Where’s your greeting? I’m still your uncle, you know? Where's your manners?”

The moment he came close to Jin Ling, he sent a smack on his head right away, causing Jin Ling to immediately explode and yell at him.

“I told you beforeー don’t beat my head!”

“And I told you before too, don’t listen to what your uncle said!” Wei WuXian refuted.

He instantly heard an unsatisfied hmph from behind him.

“Jin Ling, come, let me look at you properly.” Wei WuXian took a step back, his hands holding onto Jin Ling’s arms as he glanced at Jin Ling from head to toe. “Not bad. What a beautiful man you’ve grown into! Taller too!”

“Beautiful? Who uses that kind of word to describe a man?” Jin Ling retorted.

“Why not? I use it all the time with HanGuang-Jun,” Wei WuXian smirked. Jin Ling stole a quick glance at Lan WangJi when Wei WuXian mentioned him, only releasing a sigh of relief when he noticed that Lan WangJi was engaged in a conversation with Lan XiChen, seemingly didn’t notice what they were talking here.

“Did anyone bully you these few years? Don’t be shy. Tell me, I’ll bully them back for you,” Wei WuXian said.

“What? You better keep your toes back in the line and don’t do anything reckless. Do you have any idea how manyー” Jin Ling stopped speaking all of a sudden, coughing out loud to distract himself.

“I know, I know,” Wei WuXian ruffled him on the hair. “But I guess no one dares to bully you now, right? I’ve heard. Jiang Cheng is no longer interfering with a lot of things you do, and you even got yourself a good right-hand man? Jin Chan[6]?”

“Yeah,” Jin Ling answered. “Jin Chan has been helping me a lot. He’s right there.”

Wei WuXian followed his gaze and, like Jin Ling had told him, found Jin Chan, now a grown-up man, a lot taller than how Wei WuXian remembered him to be. When both Wei WuXian and Jin Ling looked at him, he was checking the arrays drawn around the place, taking over from where Jin Ling left behind earlier.

Wei WuXian grinned. “I still remember that child used to rebel against you. Seems like he finally chooses his side too.”

Jin Ling shrugged. “Yes, yes, that’s my point. I’m doing good. Great even! You don’t have to worry so much. Seriously, you’re getting naggier and naggier the older you get.”

Wei WuXian smacked him on the head again. “Manners.”

“Hmph.”

“Anyway, this ceremony… Ready for it?”

With the mention of the matter for the day, Jin Ling brought Wei WuXian to the barrier where he was checking on before he came out to talk to him. The soil covering the coffin buried six feet under had been removed. When they looked into the hole, they could clearly see the sleek material of the coffin in the depth of it, fitting nicely and perfectly with the size.

“We’ll bring it up later,” Jin Ling explained. “Then you do your thing.”

“Hmm, sounds like a piece of cake,” Wei WuXian commented.

“It might be dangerous,” Jin Ling added.

“Mind explaining?”

“The last time we took it up, the corpses in the coffin immediately reacted to the arrays and the chantings. They almost broke free if Gusu Lan Sect hadn’t used the chords to confine them in again.”

“Did you see the corpses then?” Wei WuXian asked.

“No, we did not. We managed to trap them in the coffin before they can make their way out,” Jin Ling said. “And we’re almost certain that the same will happen again this time. Perhaps on a worse level.”

Wei WuXian took a quick glance at the barrier that had been set up, then looking around at the formations the sect had taken.

“This should be enough to buy me some time,” he said. “Don’t worry, let me handle the rest. You just need to do what you’ve always been doing. Once I draw a stronger seal on the coffin, then we can rest assured for another fifty years.”

“The last time you said 100 years, look at what happens now,” Jin Ling refuted with a frown.

“Aih, even the mightiest person makes a mistake sometimes too, okay? Besides, I’ve learned from it. So this one should be better than the last. No worries, no worries!”

Jin Ling sighed. While he thought he’d matured throughout the years, this elder uncle of his remained the same as always, like his time had stopped since the time Jin Ling came to know him. It’s both assuring and unsettling all at the same time.

 


 

When the moment came for the coffin to be raised out of the hole, Wei WuXian stood close to the center of the place, Chen Qing in a hand, accompanied by Lan WangJi with Wang Ji Qin already propped on his hands as they were surrounded by the other sects. In the past, it was both Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi who had been putting down Nie MingJue’s left hand, then the rest of the body, along the way as they broke the case. Who would’ve thought that ten years later now, they were being entrusted with the same task again, doing the same thing, just on double of the corpses as they did from before.

Wei WuXian gave Lan WangJi a teasing smirk coupled by a narrowed sideway glance as they waited for the coffin to appear from the hole. Lan WangJi caught that in no time, meekly responded with an indifferent stare, yet was also one that spelled strongly of ‘don’t play around’. Wei WuXian chuckled lowly then. He coughed a bit, straightened his body, and waited.

As Jin Ling had mentioned, the moment the coffin surfaced, and right at the same time when barriers were lifted, the Requiem Song was played, spiritual energies and chantings were all aimed at the same direction, the coffin started to shudder violently. Wei WuXian detected the peculiar affray right away. From within the coffin pulsed of vicious vengeful vibe, way, way stronger than it was when he first sealed them away. He frowned. Taking a step back, he pulled Lan WangJi back as well, using his action to tell him to stay away from the commotion.

“Lan Zhan, An Xi,” he said, voice steady.

“En.”

At the same time, both of them started playing; Wei WuXian with Chen Qing, Lan WangJi with Wang Ji Qin. The more they played, the more brutal the shuddering of the coffin became. They could even hear roars from within, deafening slamming sounds from beneath the coffin so menacing it felt as if the coffin was about to be broken into half soon.

Clicking his tongue, Wei WuXian took Chen Qing away from his lips.

“Lan Zhan, you continue. I’ll go and take a look.”

“En,” Lan WangJi nodded. “Be careful.”

Wei WuXian gave him a glimmering grin and in the next second, he’d run his way right towards the coffin. With motions as swift as the wind, he jumped right onto the coffin and stood on top of it. His feet lost balance for a quick moment, staggered by the aggressive vibrations from below him. Rubbing his chest to regulate his breathing, he blew a sharp note from Chen Qing again before he heard an abnormally thunderous roar from below him, then continued doing the same.

It took half an hour for the coffin to finally stable down. When it did, Wei WuXian wasted no time either. He switched his tone to one that was less belligerent, synchronizing it with Lan WangJi’s An Xi. Once the commotion below him steadied, he took Chen Qing off his lips again, tugged it back into his belt and this time, raised a palm.

A bright flame of spiritual energy flared from his hand. He garnered the red energy in his hand, charging it as he closed his eyes. And then, he clapped his hands together, letting the spiritual energy sprinkle into dust and letting the debris fall all over the coffin, making the coffin look like it’s covered in drizzles of a red stream.

All of a sudden, the core in his lower abdomen started revolving on its own, garnering more spiritual energy than needed. Wei WuXian frowned a bit, hitching a breath at the abrupt swarm of more than necessary energy from his stomach before he quickly used the resentful energies in his body to regulate the contrasting energies back to its balance from before again.

Once he’d calmed down himself, he finally jumped off the coffin, landing gently in Lan WangJi’s hands, who’d stretched his arms out at him to welcome his jump.

“All done,” Wei WuXian smiled at him.

“En,” Lan WangJi smiled too. “You’ve done well.”

Wei WuXian then turned to face the rest of the sects.

“I’ve used resentful energies to counter the energies in the coffin, trapping them from within,” Wei WuXian explained. “The spiritual energy I used earlier was tampered with resentful energies too so they’re stronger than usual spiritual energy when it comes to suppressing these corpses. Fight poison with poison, one would say. In other words, on top of the barrier I’ve added outside the coffin, as you can see with the spiritual energy, I’ve also planted an illusion in the coffin itself so that the corpses would think that whatever they’re vengeful towards is in the coffin itself. So if they want to fight, they’d be fighting in it. No intention to move out, no motivation to move out. Now, the last thing.”

He turned to look at the coffin again. Taking in a deep breath, he pulled Sui Bian out of his belt, slowly and carefully pulling the sword out of its sheath.

He hadn’t been using Sui Bian a lot even since he’d gotten it back for some time now. He wouldn’t use it unless it’s necessary. But this moment was necessary. Sui Bian was his sword. Naturally, the soul of the sword synchronized with his own and recognized him as none other but its master. With the added effort of Sui Bian’s soul and his own, he’d be able to strengthen the seal ー the final step ー when he carved it onto the surface of the coffin.

With that thought, he slashed his finger on the ravishing blade, felt the blade turn hotter as his blood dripped along the sharp surface. Once the entire blade was smeared thick with his blood, he smirked and leapt towards the coffin once again, drawing arrays that's the new seal all over the surface of the coffin with a combination of blade and blood, overwriting the old seal.

He landed a few steps back once he’s done. After a short while, a malicious wind swept around the coffin, eerie air resonated with the rhythm of the wind, causing everyone present to have goosebumps forming all over them as if spirits were whispering into their ears.

“As long as I remain alive, no one will be able to open this coffin,” he smirked, lowering his head. “In other words, I’ve committed a blood pact with the coffin so don’t worry, no matter how hard they try, no one will be able to break out of this coffin either.”

The coffin laid quietly when he’s done. No signs of aggression, no signs of rebellion. Wei WuXian wiped the blood off the blade with his sleeve after that. Lan WangJi came over, took his hand and wiped the blood off his finger with a handkerchief.

For a long time, no one spoke; some of them staring at the stable coffin, some of them staring at Wei WuXian.

“Ceremony done?” Wei WuXian announced all of a sudden.

The coffin was put back into the hole. Barriers were set up again. Arrays were renewed around the spot.

Hopefully this time, the corpses will stay obedient for the next fifty years, like Wei WuXian said it should.

 


 

“Aww, I was thinking about taking you all out for a while now that I’m back.”

Lan SiZhui could only smile bitterly at Wei WuXian’s gripes. Lan JingYi, as usual, was already jumping on him,

“We’re busy, you know?! Unlike you. What kind of heavenly life have you been living all this while?”

“I deserve it,” Wei WuXian said with a wink.

Lan JingYi seemed like he’s about to say something but Lan SiZhui quickly stopped him, already noticing Lan WangJi’s gaze.

“Ahaha… Senior Wei, why not you stay for a few more days? I think we should be able to finish this case soon, it shouldn’t be too tough.”

“What case is it anyway?” Wei WuXian asked.

“There have been some walking corpses disturbance in Meng Mansion, we’ll just head over to handle it and then we can come back,” Lan SiZhui said.

“I see. Well, I guess we can stay for a few more days then. Right, Lan Zhan?” Wei WuXian nudged Lan WangJi on his arm.

“If you want, then stay,” Lan WangJi said.

But little did they know that their stay this time would not be just a few days. About three days after Lan SiZhui and Lan JingYi went out for their task, Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi were woken up by a few hasty knocks on Jing Shi’s door, long after hai shi.

“What’s the matter?” Wei WuXian asked sleepily when Lan WangJi came back to the bed after having attended to the rushed knocking.

Lan WangJi combed Wei WuXian’s hair for a bit before he spoke softly,

“It’s Lan Wen.”

“Hmm? At this hour? Shouldn’t everyone be sleeping?” Wei WuXian asked groggily.

“SiZhui and JingYi,” Lan WangJi explained patiently. “They found a hand in Meng Mansion.”

Wei WuXian’s eyes snapped open.

“Say that again?”

“Hand. Meng Mansion.”

Wei WuXian’s sleepiness was completely gone by now. This reminded him of something from way, way back. Even the whole route of how everything happened was the same. The Lan junior disciples attempting to get rid of disturbing walking corpses in a mansion, just to find a hand that ended up killing three of the client’s family members.

Wei WuXian’s gaze wavered. When he looked up at Lan WangJi’s eyes, the apprehension in him became even more prevalent the moment he saw the color in Lan WangJi’s eyes.

“...Do they know whose…?” he asked slowly.

Lan WangJi paused for a while. Then, he nodded.

“It’s Jin GuangYao’s hand.”