Sometimes your worst enemy is not yourself ー it’s the person closest to you.
Fifty rifle shots shattered the tranquility of the night. Every eye now focused on the multiple screens spread in front of them, squinting through the darkness, attempting to find just any hint of suspicions. The assault was expected, but the absence of the ambusher was not.
Lan WangJi was already frowning at the first sound of gunshot; his hand raised to his headphone, his eyes steep, taking in every single detail he could catch sight from the monitors. In the control room was two more agents, all of them scrutinizing the screens, witnessing as one after another of their agent got shot down. None of them was attacked on their lethal spots but they were all injured to the extent of being unable to move. The mere scene splattered a frigid air across the control room. They can’t see who’s the assailant. It’s like someone was shooting from a blind spot. Or they’re simply invisible.
But Lan WangJi did not need to see the ambushers to know who they’re dealing with. Even before he came here, he was already well aware of what was the deal with the waylay today.
Yiling, one of the most feared mafia organizations in the area, had sent out a caution note to one of the biggest corporations in the city, threatening to kidnap ten of the workers in the corporation. The CEO of the corporation had then contacted the police headquarters, who had then sent out a group of agents to handle the matter. Amongst the agents was Lan WangJi, who led the team, and was now watching with grimness clouding his expression as he searched for the one man whom he knew would be present.
When he saw the last of his men collapsed in the screen, Lan WangJi took his headphone off and tugged his gun into his gun pouch.
“Agent Lan, we have no clue where the assailant is yet! It’s too dangeroー” one of the supporting agents attempted to stop him but Lan WangJi gave him a cold stare, one that spelt perfectly of ‘say another word and you will be the one going instead’. The agent fell silent immediately.
Before anyone can say anything else, Lan WangJi had left the control room, leaving both the remaining agents to stare at each other fearfully.
Lan WangJi darted his way down the wide corridor of the building. Instead of using the lift, he pushed his way through the emergency exit and dashed his way down the stairs, sixteen floors down, all the way to the basement. The two agents saw him in the screens just about ten minutes later. There was already no movement in the commodious basement when Lan WangJi arrived. The attacks had stopped; all that was left were the injured. Lan WangJi went over to check the injuries of the fallen, only looking around once he was sure that none of them was in any sort of imminent danger.
Light flooded into the basement from the windows held high near to the ceiling of the room. It was dank and smelled of cigarettes. The walls and ceilings had a yellow-tar sheen on them and the once cream carpet was now dark grey, gritty and grime. When Lan WangJi wandered around the space, his footsteps resounded of soft yet clear sounds. His expression remained stoic at all times, his eyesight kept sharp, his alertness stayed high. Then, when he came to stand in the middle of the space, he halted his steps all of a sudden. Lowering his head just a tad, he shifted a narrowed gaze at a dark corner.
He simply stood like that, not making a sound, just staring.
And then, as abruptly as he had stopped walking, he sprinted his way towards the dark corner where he was sneaking a glance at earlier, burying his already dark appearance into the shadow.
The two agents stood from their seats, too astonished by the sudden change of events.
“Agent Lan?!” one of them shouted into the earplug.
“What happened?” the other agent asked.
“Not sure. Maybe Agent Lan got ambushed?”
“What? Should weー”
“It’s fine,” Lan WangJi’s voice reverberated in their ears, interrupting their conversation.
“I’ll be investigating this place. Stay put,” was all Lan WangJi said before the connection was cut off again.
Lan WangJi shut his earphone off then, shifting his attention back to the man in his grasp. The man was smirking at him. He tilted his head and gave Lan WangJi a narrowed gaze, the pestering hint in his eyes clear as day. Lan WangJi frowned at the sight. He clutched the man on his shirt and pushed him against the wall.
“Ouch! Don’t be so rough, Agent Lan. Are you not afraid that someone will hear us and catch us red-handed like this? I don’t mind, you know? Everyone already knows I’m a wanted man who does nothing but breaks all the rules in this city. But you…” The man raised an eyebrow, his smirk curved higher. “...you’re the ever so flawless Agent Lan. What will people think if they see you grabbing onto a top-wanted crimiー”
“Wei Ying!” Lan WangJi gritted.
Wei WuXian chuckled under his breath. He put a hand on Lan WangJi’s hand, one that was still holding onto his shirt and with a strong squeeze, had Lan WangJi releasing him.
“I’m just joking. You know how I am, Lan Zhan. Every time I see you I can’t help myself, I love teasing you so much, I need to see that anxious face of yours,” he ended with another airy chuckle.
“...” Lan WangJi merely stared at him as Wei WuXian took a cigarette out of his pocket, lighted it, and started smoking leisurely. Lan WangJi scowled and snatched the cigarette out of his hand, threw it on the floor then stepping on the bud, extinguishing the fire.
“How rude,” Wei WuXian sneered.
“Are you alone?” Lan WangJi asked instead.
Wei WuXian raised one eye at him. “What if I say yes?” He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. “There’s no need for more people here to take care of those few agents of yours; it’d be just a waste of manpower.”
“That’s because you’ve diverted your manpower to take away the ten workers you mentioned you’ll kidnap,” Lan WangJi said.
“Wow,” Wei WuXian brightened his eyes, mouth dropped. But this expression of his was way too familiar to Lan WangJi. It’s all fake, all an act.
Wei WuXian clapped his hands then. “Not bad, Agent Lan. Since you know that this is just a distraction, then why don't you go ahead and comprehend my men where they’re…” Wei WuXian hummed, purposefully dragging the end of his words. “... kidnapping people?”
Lan WangJi clenched his hands into fists, saying nothing. Seeing that, Wei WuXian let loose a small smirk. He straightened his body up from the wall, took another cigarette out of his pocket and lighted it again. Lan WangJi didn’t stop him this time, simply staring, like he was about to seize him wholly just by his gaze alone.
“You already know all the details of my operation, don’t you? Every one of my strategy, every one of my men,” Wei WuXian said. He removed the cigarette from his soft lips, blowing the smoke in the air prudently.
He closed his eyes for a bit, like he’s indulging in the silence between them.
“You also know why I ‘kidnapped’ these people,” he continued in a small whisper.
“There are better ways to approach this,” Lan WangJi said.
“Kindly enlighten me then?” Wei WuXian budged his gaze at Lan WangJi, two fingers twirling the cigarette in between the slender fleshes. “Ask for your help?”
Lan WangJi looked away when Wei WuXian blew a whiff of smoke at his direction. He tossed the cigarette onto the floor. Walking past Lan WangJi, he patted him on the shoulder.
“You’re an agent, I’m a criminal,” he said. “We have no other relationship besides that. Why would you help me? Besides.”
He came to a stop five steps away from Lan WangJi.
“You can’t help me,” he paused, their backs facing each other. “You won’t.”
All that was left in the basement after that was Wei WuXian’s leaving footsteps as Lan WangJi stared at the two extinguished cigarettes on the floor, the weight beneath his chest beyond heavy.
Facing Wei WuXian upfront like this wasn’t uncommon for Lan WangJi. Ever since he was entrusted with the task to lead the team in comprehending Yiling, he’d been meeting the leader of this very criminal organization himself since his first mission. The first time he met the leader of Yiling was also the first time he reunited with this childhood friend of his. Perhaps not even friend, just acquaintance.
It’s also the first time he ever staggered in his operation, allowing Wei WuXian to escape.
Not once, but twice, and more, and after.
Wei WuXian was right. They were never friends, they were even enemies now. Lan WangJi’s position won’t allow him to help him. He can’t, and he won’t.
Lan WangJi and the rest of the agents returned to the police station after they’d sent the injured agents to the hospital. The meeting room chattered with discussions, summarizing the mission’s outcome. According to reports, ten workers went missing after the ambush earlier. No traces were left behind, like they had all disappeared into thin air. Yet, the weird thing was, there were no signs of struggles either, as if…
...they were willingly being escorted away.
Lan WangJi propped his chin on crossed fingers, eyes closed as he listened to the discussion in silence.
“Agent Lan went after the assailant later,” one of the agents who worked with Lan WangJi in the control room earlier reported. “But there were no signs of them.”
Lan WangJi continued to remain quiet. Nothing to add on. No comments were given.
“Must have escaped. They must be very familiar with the structure of the building.”
“Perhaps they even planted spies in the building itself.”
“But we have people standing guard around the place.”
“Didn’t you see? All the agents, no matter the ones joining the confrontation or the ones standing guard, all of them were defeated!”
“Tsk, Yiling is the most troublesome mafia group I’ve ever met, and I’ve been an agent for 20 years!”
“They’re not like this before,” another older agent spoke up. “Before this new leader took upon the position, Yiling was a weakling group that can’t even support their own living.”
“That leader… we don’t even know his name. Where did he come from?”
“Who knows? All we know is that he seems to always know how our operation works and we’ve never ever once seen his face, let alone know his name. Maybe he’s one of us, who knows?”
“Or maybe someone has been leaking information to him from the inside.”
“Damn it, a group of agents getting fooled around by a group of mafia, how disgraceful!”
Lan WangJi opened his eyes, light orbs reflecting of faint gleam under the weak light source in the room.
“We can’t let him continue on like this, we need to catch him.”
“Ha! Ha! How about you tell me how? No shreds of evidence, no witnesses. His deeds were all clean like nothing ever happened.”
“He’d outdone all of us.”
Lan WangJi stood up then, the sound of his chair being dragged backwards had the noises in the room coming to a brusque stop.
“If there’s nothing else, I’ll leave first,” was all he said before he picked up his coat from the chair and strode towards the door.
No one stopped him, no one dared to.
Agent Lan was one of the best agents they had. One could even say that he's the top agent amongst the others. His skills were beyond any other agent, his intelligence, alongside his precision when it came to detecting flaws and predicting the opponents’ operation methods labelled him as the most talented agents one could ever obtain within these few decades.
But even the ever so brilliant Agent Lan can’t do anything with Yiling. A few times when they joined hands, Lan WangJi would always put himself out there, making sure that he was in the midst of the confrontations, no matter how brutal it could be. But every time, he’d returned empty-handed. Yet, there was never any sense of frustration, ire, nor anxiety in that deadpan face of his. No one ever knew what he was thinking about. Whenever he talked, it always possessed a hint of iciness mixed with sternness in his voice, making it hard for anyone else to refute him. He wasn’t great when it came to socialization as well. Like how he did in the meeting earlier, whenever the conversation slanted towards a direction that was no longer fruitful, he would take his leave before anyone can stop him, like he can’t be bothered by what other people thought of him, and that he can’t be bothered to waste time on anyone else.
Lan WangJi walked out of the headquarter and down the bustling street. It’s late evening now. In the far distance, the silhouette of the skyline punctured through the cordial glow like a jagged mountain ridge. Millions of lights caused the dense mass of skyscrapers glitter. Despite the time, the hustle and bustle never came to a halt. The street was packed with people; either ones that had just got off work or ones that had got off school.
Lan WangJi wandered mindlessly down the street without any destination in mind. He thought he should grab dinner somewhere, but at the same time, he's not too hungry yet, and above all, he didn’t have the appetite.
He passed by an arcade. His footsteps stopped. A few people walked past him, minding their businesses; some on the phone, a pair of couple talking to each other, a child ran into the arcade. He watched as the back of the child disappeared into the arcade, wondering why children nowadays can loiter around after school without any surveillance by their parents.
His family never allowed this. When he was in school, he had a strict routine to follow, and he was never allowed to break it.
Like his legs had taken over his rational mind, he turned towards the arcade as well.
The arcade was clattery with sounds from the jukeboxes, from gaming machines, mixed with screams and cheers from gamers. This kind of place wasn’t a place Lan WangJi like to set foot in. It’s too much noise; too distracting. He was never allowed in this kind of place either; his family deeming it as too much of a filthy place that will do no good to his upbringing.
He glanced around the place, his eyes blinded by striking neon lights of different colours from the machines. Nothing unusual. While he thought about leaving the place, he caught sight of the same boy who had run into the place earlier. He was standing in front of a basketball machine. A man was with him; he was wearing a black trenchcoat over his casual white t-shirt, grinning at the boy as he taught him how to land the perfect shot.
Lan WangJi’s attention was completely mesmerized by the man. Without being able to help himself, he made his way towards the pair.
“Remember, the angle is important,” he heard the man said. “Bend your hand a bit... Yup, that’s right. Don’t look at the basket, look slightly above it. Yup, yup.”
Lan WangJi came to stand beside the man and the boy, without saying anything, simply staring. Both the man and the boy seemed too focused on the matters in their hands to pay him any attention anyway. The boy had tossed the ball towards the basket then. The ball missed the basket by just an inch. The man grunted.
“It’s okay, you’re almost there,” he ruffled the boy on his hair when he saw that the boy had lowered his head, obviously sulking. “Let’s try again.”
Before the man can push a coin into the machine, Lan WangJi had taken the initiative to do exactly that, catching the man off guard.
Light orbs met dark orbs. Wei WuXian’s expression was one of surprised when he saw Lan WangJi. His hand froze in mid-air, halfway stretched towards the coin hole. Lan WangJi was wearing his usual impassive expression, the mood on his face completely unreadable, as he continued to stare at Wei WuXian.
Wei WuXian came back to himself just about three seconds later. He broke into a bright grin.
“Lan Zhan, what a coincidence!”
Wei WuXian narrowed his eyes at Lan WangJi. “You drop by this kind of place after work too? For? To relieve stress?”
Wei WuXian laughed at his reaction. He ignored him for a bit, going back to the child as he continued to teach him like they were never interrupted. Lan WangJi stood and waited for them. Wei WuXian’s expression when he interacted with the small boy was a mild contrast with how he once looked like when Lan WangJi caught him in the basement just about five hours earlier. The eeriness was long gone, the frigidity in his gestures had vanished too. The light in his eyes was warm and jolly, the smile he wore on his face one of friendly and approachable.
And Lan WangJi could only keep staring at him.
Once they’re done with their game, the small boy thanked Wei WuXian and waved goodbye at him as he sprinted out of the place. Wei WuXian was still smiling even when the small shadow had disappeared into the street. All that’s left around them were more noises of the rackets in the place, the buzz even stinging to their ears.
“Let’s go, Lan Zhan,” Wei WuXian broke the silence between them.
Lan WangJi followed him out of the arcade. For a long while, none of them said anything to each other. Simply walking side-by-side with each other, each of them had their thoughts in the cloud. Their shadows were long under the sunset, stretched behind them.
It was Wei WuXian who started speaking then.
“That child has a basketball tournament coming up,” he said, not even bothered if Lan WangJi was interested in the topic. “I met him in the arcade last week, trying to learn how to play basketball at one of those machines. When I asked him why wouldn’t he practice in an actual basketball field, he said they’re always occupied and no one will lend him space because he’s too small-sized, they’d only laugh at him.”
“Is that so?” Lan WangJi answered quietly.
Wei WuXian shot him a sideways wink. “I may not look like it but I’m actually very good at sports, you know? Basketball is nothing.”
Of course Lan WangJi believed in him. He’d experienced Wei WuXian’s agility not only once, but his stamina was also top-notch, he was obviously an athletic person.
If only that skill wasn’t used on something like avoiding bullets and firing bullets.
“Have you eaten?” Wei WuXian asked all of a sudden.
“Not yet,” Lan WangJi answered.
“What a coincidence! I haven’t eaten too!”
“Do you plan to eat?” Wei WuXian asked again, grinning broader.
Lan WangJi nodded.
“Hahaha! Great! If you don’t mind, maybe we can eat together? But unlike you, I’m actually very poor, so I can only eat in small, cheap places.”
“Like?” Lan WangJi asked.
“Hmm…” Wei WuXian looked around, his eyes brightening when he caught sight of a fast-food restaurant just around the corner. He pointed to that direction. “There.”
Lan WangJi followed his gaze. Then he looked at Wei WuXian.
“What? I told you I’m poor,” Wei WuXian refuted.
“Do you always eat there?” Lan WangJi asked.
“Hmmm, about three to four times a week? When I’m busy, when I don’t have time, when it’s too troublesome to think of what to eat,” Wei WuXian counted.
“...Unhealthy,” Lan WangJi commented.
“You said the same thing too when you saw me smoke for the first time,” Wei WuXian smirked at him.
Lan WangJi looked away, unsure of how to respond.
“Aih, it’s not every day we get to eat together. Let’s not mind the details, shall we?”
With that said, Wei WuXian strode towards the fast-food restaurant by his own, only stopping when he’s a distance away from Lan WangJi, just to check if he’s following him.
Lan WangJi sighed under his breath and walked towards Wei WuXian. Wei WuXian grinned.
Lan WangJi sat on the table as he waited for Wei WuXian to return with their food. When they stepped in, Wei WuXian had immediately told him to take upon the duty to find them a seat in the midst of the crowd while he took care of their food orders. He’d also laughed at Lan WangJi, saying that he probably never stepped into this kind of place before, so he definitely wouldn’t know how to order his food. He wasn’t wrong though. Lan WangJi’s background was one that was pristine. The Lan family was known as a noble family in the city, running various businesses, if not, like Lan WangJi conducting jobs of justice. They’re also known to have very strict discipline, so logically, Lan WangJi would never be allowed to set foot into this kind of place, squeezing in a small seat with strangers, eating unhealthy food.
While Lan WangJi waited, his gaze fell upon Wei WuXian, who was just two persons away from the counter. He was staring at the menu board behind the counter, pondering what to buy for himself and Lan WangJi. When he caught Lan WangJi’s gaze, he snickered at him and took his phone out. Lan WangJi saw him typing furiously on his phone. When he’s done, he raised the phone at Lan WangJi’s direction, obviously telling him to check it. Lan WangJi did as he was told.
On the screen, he saw three notifications: an email that was a summary report from the mission earlier in the morning, a text message from his brother, who asked him if he would be coming home for dinner this weekend, and another, a text message from none other but Wei WuXian.
Fish or chicken?
Lan WangJi stared at the message, then looked at Wei WuXian again. Wei WuXian winked at him. There’s only one person left until it’s his turn to make his order. Lan WangJi returned to his phone.
Wei WuXian giggled when he saw the message. His fingers danced on the screen again, clearly replying to Lan WangJi’s message. And sure enough, Lan WangJi’s phone vibrated in the next second.
I knew it.
Lan WangJi glanced at Wei WuXian again but Wei WuXian was no longer looking at his direction. It’s his turn to order the food now. So Lan WangJi looked away, eyes stuck on the messages Wei WuXian sent him for a long time. It’s only when Wei WuXian came to their table with a tray of food that he dimmed the phone screen and kept his phone away.
“I got you what should be the tastiest fish burger they have here,” Wei WuXian said the moment he sat down. While Lan WangJi was about to take his own food, Wei WuXian raised a hand, stopping him.
“Since I was the one who invited you for dinner, I should be the one to act host. Here,” he took the fish burger off the tray and put it in front of Lan WangJi. Then, he pointed at the fries with his chin. “Do you want this? This is very unhealthy,” he asked.
Lan WangJi looked at him instead. Wei WuXian was blinking at him, small curves arched beautifully on the corners of his lips.
“Do you want it?”
“I don’t mind taking it, to be honest. That’s only if you don’t want it,” Wei WuXian said.
“Then you take it,” Lan WangJi said.
“Hahaha!” Wei WuXian laughed. He then pointed at the soft drink. “How about this? It comes with the set and they didn’t allow me to change it to plain water.”
“You can take it too,” Lan WangJi said without a second thought.
“Woohoo! Good food tonight,” Wei WuXian cheered.
Lan WangJi discreetly indulged in his food, taking one bite by one bite, while Wei WuXian munched a huge bite off his own chicken burger.
“Remember when we first met?” Wei WuXian spoke all of a sudden. Lan WangJi’s hand motion stopped, but he responded Wei WuXian with an ‘en’ nevertheless, quietly eating his burger.
“It was in a fast-food restaurant too,” Wei WuXian recalled. “You didn’t have to buy me an ice-cream, though.”
“You were crying,” Lan WangJi said.
“Well, you can’t blame me. There’s a big dog!” Wei WuXian retorted, shivering a little at the reminder of what happened in the past.
To call it a big dog might be a bit inaccurate, though. When Lan WangJi first met the crying boy, he's hugging onto a pillar, a puppy barking at him from below, while he cried so loud the entire street was staring at him. Lan WangJi was on the way back from school back then. When he saw that scene, he’d rushed over to chase the dog away for him, even helping Wei WuXian down the pillar. Wei WuXian was crying so hard at that time that Lan WangJi didn’t even know what to do with him. In the end, he could only walk into a fast-food restaurant, bought an ice-cream, and gave it to him, just to comfort the wailing boy. The boy looked more shocked that someone had taken the effort to give him something than the fact that he'd just gotten an ice-cream for free though. At that time, Lan WangJi remembered Wei WuXian's parents were still around. While he spent a good half an hour keeping the boy company, his parents had hurried towards them and thanked Lan WangJi when they found him, telling him that the boy had run off on his own when he saw a dog and they’d lost him before they could chase after him.
It felt like something that had happened a long time ago. Well, that’s not wrong. It was a long time ago, indeed. Many things had happened in between; both Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian had changed. The next time they met each other, they were already standing in opposite positions, one black, one white, and had confronted each other multiple times.
Their reunion wasn’t at all friendly either.
Lan WangJi shook his head a little, focusing on finishing up his food instead, trying to distract himself from the memories.
Wei WuXian seemed to be busy with his own food as well; he didn’t seem to notice Lan WangJi’s subtle gestures. It’s only when Lan WangJi was done, folding the packaging of the food into a small square piece that Wei WuXian started speaking again.
“Enough?” he asked.
Lan WangJi nodded.
“Hmmm, you always eat so little during meals? Or is it because you’re uncomfortable eating with me?” Wei WuXian speculated.
Lan WangJi frowned a tad.
“Okay, okay, my fault, it’s just a joke.” He threw the paper wrap onto the tray and picked one fries up, twirling it around two fingers like he would a cigarette then tossed it into his mouth.
“Is your family…” Lan WangJi finally brought himself to ask a question he’d been burning to ask.
“My family?” Wei WuXian raised an eyebrow, clearly surprised over the sudden question.
“My family is dead. No one is left. I’m all alone,” Wei WuXian said.
Lan WangJi felt a hard thud from beneath his chest. He suddenly regretted the question.
“It’s better that way,” Wei WuXian said. He stretched his arms, flexing his muscles. “Not sure if they would be proud of me seeing what I’m doing now.”
Lan WangJi looked up, the light in his eyes turned to one of serious.
“Wei Ying, being on this path will do you no good. You’ll need to face judicature one day,” he advised.
Wei WuXian lifted a hand, stopping Lan WangJi from continuing his words.
“Try catching me then, Agent Lan.”
He spread his hands to both sides, grinning. “I’m right here. Right in front of you. Catch me if you have enough evidence to charge me for the so-called crimes I’ve committed.”
Wei WuXian smirked. For a fleeting moment, Lan WangJi caught a hint of the darkness in his eyes again, the coldness from before returned into his orbs.
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing now, Agent Lan? You’re eating leisurely with a criminal in a fast-food restaurant.”
Then he laughed under his breath.
“Seriously, Lan Zhan, can’t we talk properly every time we meet?” Wei WuXian griped. “And here I am, thinking that we can finally sit down and have a proper meal for once. But why do you have to ruin it?”
Wei WuXian shook his head. “Lan Zhan, let me advise you instead.” When he looked at Lan WangJi again, his eyes were sharp and cold, like he would every time they were standing on opposite sides, when they once had their guns held against each other. “You walk your sunshine route all you want, and I walk my single-plank bridge all I want. We have nothing to do with each other from the beginning, and we'll never have anything to do with each other in the future. All that we ever have is long years of acquaintance. Let me make this clear: I don’t want to have anything to do with you either. So don’t waste your time trying to convert me to the right side.”
Wei WuXian sighed. He sucked on the straw of his cup and pushed it aside. Wiping his hand on the napkin, he stood.
“It’s better if you don’t get involved with me. And seriously.” Wei WuXian walked pass Lan WangJi, who was still sitting, and bent down, his voice low enough just for Lan WangJi to hear. “You shouldn’t keep letting me escape like how you did those few times. What would others think of you if they found out that the oh-so-noble Agent Lan has set free the most wanted criminal in the city for not only once, but multiple times? Think for yourself. Anyway,” he straightened himself up, smirking. “I guess I shall see you soon too, right? So that’s your chance to get me if you really want to.”
Waving at him, Wei WuXian walked out of the restaurant without a word. Lan WangJi remained sitting on the chair, his fingers curled up on his laps.
Wei WuXian wasn’t lying. Even if the way he spoke about it was as carefree as ever, even sounding like a tease, Lan WangJi knew exactly that he was referring to another upcoming confrontation.
This time, it wasn’t kidnapping. It was actual clashes between two criminal organizations.
One week later, Lan WangJi found himself hiding behind a pillar in a warehouse. Another rumour about Yiling attempting to ambush another mafia group had been leaked to the headquarters and, as usual, as the lead of the agent team who was on standby to manage any case that was related to Yiling, Lan WangJi had rushed towards the warehouse, one that was located outside of town, just minutes after they received the scoop.
To be honest, the source of the scoop this time was unreliable but every other scoop about Yiling was never reliable. They never knew the source. It’s always just a voice message that came with a heavily altered voice of a stuttering man. But every time they rushed towards the venue of where they were said to appear, the leak was never wrong. It’s like Yiling was playing a fool with them just because they knew that this particular agent team was after them. Just like any other scoop, the agents could only hide and observe from the sidelines, then jump into action once a riot erupted.
Not long after, they saw two groups of men walking towards each other from two opposite directions. They couldn’t tell which was which, because they’d never seen any members of Yiling before, let alone knowing their face. They can’t tell which was the other team too. But Lan WangJi can tell.
Wei WuXian was amongst the groups. He was leading just a small group of people, talking in low volume with another person. This was rare. Wei WuXian had never appeared like this before. He’d never showed anyone his face. So why would he do it now? He wasn’t wearing his usual smirk as well. Instead, his expression was one of solemn when he talked to the other man, whom Lan WangJi couldn’t make out the expression of.
“Agent Lan, should we move?” one of the agents closest to Lan WangJi asked.
“Observe first. Take action only when gunpowders are evoked,” Lan WangJi said.
The two groups were talking between themselves while the team Lan WangJi led continued to hide, continued to observe.
It’s never a good strategy to rush into action, in any case that this whole scene was just a ploy to trick the agents.
And then, Lan WangJi noticed the change in Wei WuXian’s expression.
His heart fell to the depth of his guts.
He called out to the rest of his team, signalling for a takedown.
But he was a second too late.
When Wei WuXian noticed the abnormality the same time as he did, bullets were released from their blind spots, aiming directly at the Yiling members. Lan WangJi stood from his hiding place right away, ushering the rest to fire their bullets at the assailants while he himself sprinted his way towards Wei WuXian, who’d quickly slipped into the nearest shadow.
“Wei Ying!” Lan WangJi called out the moment he found Wei WuXian leaning against a pillar, a far distance away from the confrontation ground. The path behind him was stained with droplets of blood, creating a trail where he walked on. He was as pale as paper, his lips shivering, sweat drenched his face. On his chest was a large deep patch of blood, clearly from the bullet shot from before.
“Lan… Zhan…?” his voice hoarse and shivering when he spoke. He kept swallowing down his throat, the focus in his eyes blinking in and out of conscious.
Lan WangJi immediately slipped one hand under his knees, another hand supporting him on his back and carried him bridal-style. He can’t be carrying him on his back, it’ll press against the wound on his chest.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said as he rushed out towards the main road, rushing towards his car. “I’ll bring you to the hospital.”
“Don’t…” Wei WuXian breathed weakly.
“If you don’t go now, you’ll die!”
“Then so be it.” A drop of blood fell on Lan WangJi’s hand, one that Lan WangJi knew was from Wei WuXian’s mouth.
“Don’t speak anymore.”
“Let me go,” Wei WuXian said.
“Don’t speak,” Lan WangJi urged.
“Lan WangJi!” Wei WuXian’s voice cracked at the end, more blood spilled from his mouth. “Don’t… hospital…”
“Don’t… do this…”
“I won’t… forgive you…”
But Wei WuXian was clearly losing half of his consciousness; he struggled powerlessly in Lan WangJi’s embrace, his face squirmed from the pain. By the time Lan WangJi supported him into the backseat of his car, he’d completely passed out. Lan WangJi got into the driver seat and sprinted his way down the road, heading right towards the nearest hospital.
Wei WuXian was instantly hurried into the operation room right when they got to the hospital. Seeing that it's an agent who had sent the injured man in, the doctors didn’t ask much about the wound, even when they clearly knew that it’s a bullet wound. There’s this invisible law between the hospitals and the authorities that can keep words concealed under the table when it came to a situation like this. The agents were always putting their life on risk, and this kind of thing shouldn’t come as a surprise.
If the agents didn’t tell, then the doctors won’t ask.
The entire time Wei WuXian was being operated in the operation room, Lan WangJi waited outside. Everything in front of his eyes, from the hallway to the walls to the ceiling were all a muted colour, washed out in tones of grey. He could hear his own vehement heartbeats in his ears. When he looked at his hands, it’s all blood; not his, but Wei WuXian’s.
Wei WuXian was barely breathing when he was brought in. His heart stopped beating for a second before Lan WangJi quickly carried out an emergency procedure to help it beat again. When he was pushed into the operation room, he looked like a dead person more than anything else.
Lan WangJi can’t brush that image off his head. Wei WuXian was never like that.
He couldn’t help but suspect that something wasn’t quite right with the confrontation today but he’d never known of any confrontation between Yiling and anything else that would have Wei WuXian to appear in the frontline. Wei WuXian understood too much of the risk. He knew too much of how Yiling was depending on him now but yet, he’d put himself out, and even falling into a hoax.
Lan WangJi understood Wei WuXian’s style too much.
This wasn’t a mistake he’ll make. Wei WuXian wasn’t careless like that.
Lan WangJi buried his face in his palms, his head in a complete mess. When he felt wetness on his face, only then that he realized that he’d forgotten that was still wet blood on his hands. His face must look like a disaster now.
Taking a deep breath, he strode towards the nearest toilet.
He splashed as much water as he could on his face, wanting to clear his mind, wanting to calm down, wanting to wash the blood ー Wei WuXian’s blood ー off his face. When he finally came to look at himself in the mirror, he looked like his entire soul had been sucked out of his body and forcefully stuffed back in again. His eyes were red at the sides, his usually neat hair was dishevelled, his shirt was stained in blood, his lips so dry they were starting to crack.
A fist was landed on the sink, almost cracking it.
He closed his eyes, regulating his breathing. A few minutes later, he finally made his way out of the toilet.
Two doctors were standing at where he's sitting earlier. The moment they saw him, they immediately rushed towards him.
“Officer, we were looking for you,” one of the doctors said.
Lan WangJi felt his heart skip a beat upon noticing the urgency in his tone.
“Did something happen to him?” he asked, trying to keep his voice as calm as ever.
“We managed to calm his situation down but it’s not positive,” the other doctor spoke. “The bullet missed his heart by inches but it damaged a few vital nerves and organs. We would need to proceed to the next level of the operation immediately.”
Lan WangJi knew what this meant right away. He pressed his lips together, his fingers trembling by his side.
“That’s why we need you to contact his family members. Without consent from his family members, we won’t be able to carry out the operation.”
Lan WangJi lowered his gaze. Wei WuXian was in a critical condition. Wei WuXian told him before, that he had no family. He said he’s alone. That’s it’s better this way.
No one can sign the consent form for him.
If no one can sign for him, then he can’t do the operation.
Then… that meant he might die.
Lan WangJi clenched his hands into fists, closing his eyes as his breathing became heavier.
He can’t let Wei WuXian die.
Wei WuXian might hate him for it. But it’s okay, let him. Wei WuXian can hate him all he wanted. They can cancel it off later, even.
This was the only way now.
To give Wei WuXian a chance to live.
Lan WangJi released a heavy breath, his voice shivering from the pressure he felt from within.
“...I’ll sign it,” he said at long last.
Both the doctors stared at him, wide-eyed.
“And you’re his…” one of the doctors asked.
“I’m his husband.”