His shoulders rose and fell just slightly, never losing their perfect posture, but to Lan Qiren it was plain as day even across a sea of cheerful disciples. Wangji sighed and turned his head, leveling a look across the room. A slow, wistful thing, full of longing.
Lan Qiren’s heart leapt.
Could it be? At last, one of his nephews had fallen for some fair maiden’s charms? A young blush of love like spring blossoms that would bloom into a proper union of man and wife? Cultivation partners. A marriage! His mind and heart raced, a rare smile beginning to spread over his face. Qingheng-Jun’s wedding had been a hushed thing, barely spoken of before his bride was locked away. The news he’d even married at all was tentative, uncertain as it spread. Many disbelieved he’d married at all until Lan Xichen’s birth.
Everyone knew no sect leader of Gusu would have a child out of wedlock. Rumors were silenced, but new ones rose in their place.
Wangji though, and Xichen, would have a proper wedding he had decided. A joyous, red-decked affair for all to see and know. His nephews would expand their family in open celebration with nothing sordid to taint it. Lan Qiren had long since set aside funds and picked over heirlooms to pass on to each of them and their brides. Hairpins that had seen no use since his own mother - he had refused to let family heirlooms be passed to that murderess, no matter she was the mother of his dear nephews-, ceremonial swords, books and talismans that had once reseted in the hands of Lan An himself. Simple and elegant treasures befitting the sons, wives and heirs of one of the oldest cultivation sects. Packed away in storage were two sets of handsome red robes embroidered in glittering gold. All that had been missing was a bride. But now, at last! Unexpected for sure - Xichen would have been his first guess without contest - but Lan Qiren thought the marriage cups nestled in their box would sit just as fine in Wangji’s hands.
Lan Qiren eagerly followed Wangji’s lovelorn stare. What daughter of heaven had captured his nephews eye? A beauty to be sure, talented and studious if she’d held his interest, perhaps with a warm smile - Wangji did so linger in the presence of kind and gentle souls, his love would no doubt be awash in both. She must be a steadfast, dedicated lady with wisdom and…
Lan Qiren choked on his tea.
The other sect leaders offered polite inquires he didn’t hear as he gripped his cup until it cracked. A trickle of blood dripped onto the table below. The banquet celebrating the results of the discussion conference faded away around him as he clutched blindly at the edge of the table.
He had to be mistaken. It was annoyance. Surely Wangji was sighing in annoyance at Wei WuXian’s boisterous laugh, the way he jumped and jostled, flitting around his shidi like an overexcited dog. Wangji was annoyed, certainly. Wangji was…gazing at Wei WuXian with the same soft, desperate longing Qingheng-Jun had once given to a spirited, irrepressible rogue cultivator. A woman who murdered their teacher, then had the gall to bow her head with dignity and not a drop of repentance as she admitted the crime.
Wangji was looking at Wei WuXian with his whole heart in his eyes.
“No.” Lan Qiren said aloud.
He didn’t remember anything after that.
Uncle suddenly standing up and shouting “No!” was shocking enough. His equally sudden leap over the table and rush toward the disciples tables, shouting “No. No. No!” as he went was entirely outside the realm of imagination.
Lan Xichen had barely had time to absorb his forever rule-abiding uncle was raising his voice and running, when Nie Mingjue cursed beside him. “He’s going into a Qi Deviation!” Lan Xichen floundered as the other sect leaders and heirs at the table all scrambled to issue orders.
“Uncle!” he shouted as Lan Qiren reached Wangji in the parting sea of panicking disciples and grabbed his arm, beginning to alternately shake him and drag him around in circles as he shouted. Lan Xichen’s feet rooted at the edge of the raised dias the sect leader's table was situated on. His hands fluttered uselessly, caught between the instinct to protect his brother and an inability to harm the man who’d raised him.
Running forward, determined to do something, he came to a halt when Uncle began thrashing Wangji with more violence. Helplessly he looked around and his eyes caught on Nie Mingjue. His sworn brother gave him a measured nod, gaze tense but calm. Lan Xichen’s heart calmed. If anyone could handle a sudden Qi Deviation it was the Nie sect, and they were in the very heart of the Unclean Realm. A flash of dark green drew his eye to the Nie cultivators beginning to circle around and clear the space around Uncle.
Nie Mingjue jerked his chin at Wangji. “Try to get him clear.” he called.
Saluting, Lan Xichen turned back to where Uncle was barking “no” and “not again” between grit teeth as he whipped Wangji around with each uncoordinated change in direction he made in his meandering pacing. Taking a breath, Lan Xichen stepped forward, raising his arms and telegraphing his approach as much as possible.
“Uncle…” he coaxed. “Uncle? You need to let go of Wangji.”
“No!” Uncle spun, took two steps away from him, then jerked Wangji around hard enough a lesser cultivator would have had their arm dislocated. A mottled red was creeping over his face. Some younger disciples screamed as he wheeled around again. Lan Xichen barely held in a cry of his own, helplessly watching his brother stagger along with the movements, his arm twisting in an awkward angle.
“Uncle, please. You aren’t well. Let Wangji go and we can help you.”
“No!” Uncle roared, turning to Wangji. “You are not marrying Wei WuXian!”
The chaos in the room paused.
“…what?” someone said into the baffled silence.
“A rule breaking degenerate!” Uncle continued, oblivious. “No recommendations! No family! No! I’ll not have that unsightly, unkempt -” “Hey!” Wei WuXian’s voice rose in indignation, then a worried “Lan Zhan!” as uncle dragged him in a sharp half-circle. “-rule breaker marry into our clan. Sully Wangji! No! Not another one! No!” the red on his face deepened and his movements became more frenzied.
Lan Xichen’s breath caught as he noticed his grip on his brother loosen as he ranted. Good. There was no way to approach, Uncle was too vigilant and agitated, whipping around and away every time Lan Xichen edged a little too close, but Wangji could get away. With that position he could free himself in a moment and this would all be over without even a sword being swung. Changing his pacing to keep out of Uncle's line of sight, Lan Xichen watched his grip continue of falter as he fell into muttering to himself. Around them the Nie cultivators were ready to activate their seals as soon as they were clear. The situation was well in control and would be dealt with swiftly he realized with relief. Catching Wangji's eye, he made a motion for him to pull free. Gold eyes met his over the distance between them and tracked the Nie disciples, reaching the same logical conclusion.
Wangji didn’t break free.
Wangji looked him dead in the eye and let himself go a little more limp. “Wei Ying.” his voice was no less even and strong than usual, but Lan Xichen swore it somehow managed to be pitiful. The single call was all it took.
“Lan Zhan!” Wei WuXian’s worried voice called back, a scuffle occurring as he shoved himself past the shield of his sect heir’s back. Wangji flopped a little too much as Uncle spun toward the commotion, roaring like a bull and sending his sword flying at his enemy. The Yunmeng Jiang disciples scattered under the crude blow. Wei WuXian’s expression firmed. “Don’t worry Lan Zhan! I’m coming!”
Lan Xichen watched in disbelief as his brother played damsel in distress and the epitome of Yunmeng Jiang bravery and heroism launched himself at his crazed, Qi Deviating uncle to “save” him.
The “Shameless!” that escaped him was entirely drowned by the chaos that broke out around him.
Cultivators rushed to defend the weaker or cower behind the stronger. Jiang Wanyin cursed loudly and rushed behind Wei WuXian, Sandu flashing to seamlessly block the gaps in Wei WuXian’s guard. Jiang Fengmian’s sword was a second behind, knocking aside the edge of an attack that nearly struck his son, just as the Nie cultivators lunged forward, Nie Mingjue’s angry voice rising above the din with ease as he commanded his men to “close in, tighten the circle, and get those damned fools out of the way!”
Lan Xichen drew his sword and backed up. “Defend the unarmed!” he ordered the nearest Lan cultivator, the rest falling seamlessly into position behind him to create a wall between Uncle and the rest of the room.
Ahead, Wei WuXian danced close enough to grab Wangji. Lan Xichen watched with mounting aggravation as his brother easily broke Uncle’s hold on his arm, then allowed himself to be manhandled and half-carried - no. draped himself over Wei WuXian’s shoulder as they fled the circle of cultivators.
Uncle roared in rage again, stone cracking beneath his feet as his Qi flared. Lan Xichen added that to the growing list of damages he would have to pay the Nie sect.
The second Wei WuXian and Wangji were clear, Nie Mingjue gave the order. The Qi suppression seal burst to life with a deep green glow, washing the room in eerie light for a moment before fading. In the silence that followed, everyone craned to look toward the center of the circle. Uncle lay face down, but obviously breathing as the Nie cultivators hurried forward to attend him.
For a long few minutes the only sound aside from the curt words of the attendants seeing to Uncle was Wei WuXian’s voice, fussing over Wangji’s bruised arm as if he were a woman who’s face had been sliced. He also liberally complemented Wangji’s strong arms and perfect male form that, of course, matched his peerlessly beautiful face. "Lan Zhan, Hanguang-Jun, Lan er gege~! Let this Xian-Xian take care of you now! Tell me where it hurts. Xian-Xian will make it alll~ better!" Lan Xichen knew he was not alone in wanting to flee the room. Jiang Wanyin’s face was as flushed as his own felt and the sides of the room were getting crowded as people backed away and tried to shield themselves from the sight of Wei WuXian all-but crawling into Wangji's lap. To Lan Xichen's growing mortification, Lan Wangji only replied with "Mn." to Wei WuXian's increasingly shameless cooing and even unsubtley began to snake an arm around the Yunmeng Jiang head disciple's waist.
Then a chuckle came from the head table.
Wen Ruohan raised his cup in a salute to Nie Mingjue from where he’d never risen. “I stand corrected. This was indeed the most memorable Discussion Conference in decades.” his lips tugged in a smile of mocking and naked hilarity. “Many complements Sect Leader Nie!”