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There was no way, right? This just couldn’t be more than a crude joke.

 

Right?

 

Right…?

 

No. Apparently not…

 

What kind of abomination even was this? Wei Wuxian tore back his wrist, only to be caught again. The gnashing teeth no longer tearing into his sleeves, but instead his skin.

He gave up screaming long ago already, fighting with everything he had.

 

One of these cursed dogs – dogs, of all things, can you imagine that?! – had taken away Chenqing from him just before he could place the dizi against his lips. They had broken it.

 

That’s what Wei Wuxian got for going into the Burial Mounds on his own. Could you blame him for it though? For not wanting his husband to watch him weep?

After all this time, he wanted to be over it, to stop crying about a past that was long lost. But he couldn’t.

 

The ghosts of his memories, all their screams, their pleas and whimpers echoed through him again and again, with no end in sight.

 

Who would have thought that anyone would think to cast dogs into the abyss that had once given birth to the Yiling Patriarch?

 

These dogs – now mutated beyond comprehension – attack anything that has a pulse.

 

Every attempt at using cultivation – demonic or otherwise – proved to be futile. Perverted forms of life like these dogs refused to bend to the laws of this world; or so it at least seemed.

Wei Wuxian’s reformed core and cultivation were still somewhat feeble, as was his body, so their impact was almost pitiful and laughable as he faced the pack of “dogs”.

His demonic cultivation was still infinitely more powerful than his regular cultivation, but it seemed that these disgusting beasts weren’t harmed by it, but instead drew strength from every curse he whipped in their direction.

 

So, here he was, succumbing to a pack of filthy mutts.

 

Ah, he thought to himself as he felt himself fade, his old panic probably messed with his cultivation. There was no way he was able to guide his qi properly under these circumstances.

 

One of the dogs buried it’s teeth in Wei Wuxian’s nape, causing the man to scream out in pain, only to be cut off by a breathless wheeze.

 

Was this really it?

 

If he wasn’t in so much pain, not so hopelessly terrified Wei Wuxian would laugh at his own fate – devoured by dogs in the place that used to be his sanctuary.

 

His home.

The place where he laughed with a new family, after he’d lost his first.

 

Where he buried a child among the radishes.

 

He would laugh so much that tears would spring to his eyes, if only he could. But he couldn’t.

 

 

Darkness enveloped Wei Wuxian as his eyes fell shut without him noticing. Next time he opened his eyes, he was shocked to realize that he wasn’t dead yet.

 

His initial triumph was cut short though, when he realized that the pillars looming above him were in fact people clad in shadowy robes.

 

Were they alive or not? Wei Wuxian no longer had the strength or the wherewithal to find out.

 

Hands came towards him, tore him up into the air where he was held.

 

“Yiling Patriarch!” voices spat at him, mouths so close to his skin that he could feel the moist breath, sometimes even teeth.

“3000 were killed by your hand. Now it is your turn to die 3000 deaths!”

 

Horror came to Wei Wuxian’s mind as he put the pieces together in his mind.

 

Could these be the deformed corpses, misshapen ghosts of those who were killed in the battle of the Nightless City? Discarded here of all places…

 

So this was how karma found him after all this time.

Indeed, indeed, Wei Wuxian thought – not even in his thoughts was he able to imagine himself laughing anymore, after all this time, there was no way he had truly deserved to find lasting joy by Lan Zhan’s side.

 

Ah, but at least he got to spend some time with him.

 

 

Wei Wuxian had no idea how much time passed. Was it days? Weeks? Months… Years?

 

He couldn’t tell.

Nobody would come for him.

 

After all, what threat was there that would subdue the Yiling Patriarch himself? Laughable. The mere suggestion should be setup and punchline in one.

 

But Wei Wuxian wasn’t laughing.

 

The old trauma of his first fall came back to him every time he shut his eyes. The screams, the pain, the everything.

The pain in his new body was an illusion, he knew that. Long gone was the pain of healing bones that had haunted his last years alive in his original body.

 

But it didn’t hurt any less than it did back then.

 

 

The only consolation he had was that this time he knew he’d left behind a world in peace and harmony. Jiang Cheng was fine, there were no enemies hunting him.

Jin Ling would grow up well with his Uncle looking after him… As would his dear Sizhui-er, with his beloved Lan Zhan.

Lan Zhan, oh Lan Zhan…

 

What wouldn’t he do to see him once more?

 

 

Ah, but it didn’t matter anymore.

 

It was too late.

 

 

 

 

A sudden thunderclap shook the earth.

 

Then an ear-shattering strum of a guqin.

 

Wei Wuxian was disoriented. He knew the sound of this instrument by heart, as he did the sizzle in the air, the sharp aftershocks of the lightning, but it couldn’t be.

 

Had these damned corpses finally broken him for good? Was he imagining things now?

 

“WEI YING!”

 

 

No way…

 

No, no, no… how…?!

 

Arrows whizzed past his body, followed by the disgusting sound of flesh tearing and distorted whimpering.

 

A dog barked as it rushed towards him, and new tears welled in Wei Wuxian’s eyes, but this time they were as much horror as they were utter relief.

 

It was Fairy.

Never in a thousand years would Wei Wuxian have imagined that he’d one day be happy to see this dog, but today was that day.

Or night?

 

“A-Ling, drive them back!”

 

More arrows flew through the air, each one hitting it’s target with deadly accuracy. One dog after the other fell to the ground with a garbled growl that sent shivers down Wei Wuxian’s spine.

 

A shuddering spark zapped through the air, and rows of ghouls, corpses and zombies fell to the ground, twitching.

 

“Senior Wei!”

“Focus, Lan Jingyi!”

 

A glowing sword tore through the army of corpses, followed by two other swords, their glares blindingly bright in this dark hell pit.

 

A roar tore through the noise, overshadowing the groaning and clattering.

 

“Master Wei!”

 

 

Wei Wuxian could barely breathe, nor think as he watched the carnage unfold around him. He never needed to see the faces of those who’d come to save him, recognizing them by the mere feeling of their energy in the air.

They all put their everything into this battle.

 

Zidian tore through the nearest row of corpses, and none other than Jiang Cheng himself strode towards Wei Wuxian.

His expression was as sour as ever, his robes splattered with putrid blood.

 

“Wei Wuxian, you better not be dead…” he muttered as he approached, retracting Zidian back into it’s ring-form.

 

A hand came up, grabbing Wei Wuxian’s chin, tilting his face upwards to meet his former brother’s eyes.

“Can you walk?” Jiang Cheng almost snarled – almost, because somewhere in the depth of his voice there was a caring, almost tender lilt, but he’d deny that if you’d ask him about it.

 

Wei Wuxian wept.

 

“I cannot.”

 

“Idiot. Fool. Bastard…” Jiang Cheng muttered as he cut Wei Wuxian free, using Sandu. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you’ve caused us all?”

 

“Be gentler!” insisted a young voice behind Jiang Cheng, just as another pair of hands rushed forward to catch Wei Wuxian as he collapsed the moment he was free.

 

“Sizhui-er…” Wei Wuxian whispered as he was stabilized with one of his arms wrapped around the young disciple’s shoulder.

 

“Jingyi, come here!” called Sizhui, and moments later the other junior appeared before them, bending down to gather Wei Wuxian’s legs. The two carried him somewhere he couldn’t tell where, until he was placed in the arms of the one and only man he loved.

 

Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan breathed, cradling Wei Wuxian like he was about to crumble to dust.

 

“We are about to wrap it up here,” Jiang Cheng informed Lan Zhan.

 

Lan Qiren nodded, replying in Lan Zhan’s stead.

“Very well. Maybe we will finally be able to clean up this place. It has been festering for too long. Needs to be ended once and for all,” the elder muttered, stroking his goatee.

 

 

Even the old man Qiren had come… for none other than him, Wei Wuxian. The pest that Lan Qiren had so dearly wanted to get rid of, the speck of dirt that tainted his perfect nephew…

 

It was too much.

 

“Wangji,” a soft voice said, and Lan Zhan turned around. Lan Xichen stood before him, and by his side stood Nie Huaisang, looking quite uncomfortable.

 

“They will clear it up. Let’s bring young master Wei to safety and start treating him. It seems his qi is disrupted, not to mention all the external injuries…” Lan Xichen murmured.

He spoke with the monotonous voice of a distanced elder, yet there was a gleam of relief in his eyes.

 

 

“L-Lan… Zhan…” Wei Wuxian whispered, his voice hoarse and brittle.

“Wei Ying,” Lan Zhan replied calmly. “I’m here.

 

Wei Wuxian opened his mouth to plead with his husband to shield him from everyone’s eyes, to turn away to do anything, but instead what came out was a sob.

 

Then another.

 

And another, until he was completely dissolved into a bundle of tears.

 

 

How was it possible that all these people had come to the Burial Mounds just for him? How much had Lan Zhan paid them to come?

How much did he plead with them to get them to care at all…?

 

Why were they all fighting with such vigor…?

 

Why did they care so much for him? For one lowly demonic cultivator… ?

 

 

 

Nie Huaisang used his fan to give Wei Wuxian some fresh air to breathe.

 

Mianmian had brought her best herbs to help treat the infected bites from the dogs.

 

Lan Jingyi and Lan Sizhui stayed close by, waiting for any instructions from the seniors.

 

Lan Xichen and Lan Qiren kept an eye on Wei Wuxian’s qi and overall condition.

 

Jiang Cheng stood guard nearby, glaring at anyone who raised their voice a bit too much.

 

Jin Ling carefully kept Fairy at a distance, while peeking at his other uncle.

 

And Lan Zhan… Lan Zhan held Wei Wuxian in his arms, never letting him go even for a second, comforting him as he cried.

 

 

Even when they made it back to the Cloud Recesses and Wei Wuxian was resting in the Jingshi he felt the presences of the others around him.

 

He felt them in the fact that he was here at all. Living, without too much pain.

 

He felt every gentle hand supporting him whenever his scars itched.

 

He felt their voices in his ears when the memories came back to haunt him.

 

 

He never found the strength to mention it, but there was a Jiang sect bell hung on the wall next to his head, and every now and then a gentle breeze would play with it, making it chime softly.

 

Chenqing was polished and clean as though nothing had ever happened to it. Only a slim ring of gold remained where it had been broken in two.

It looked like it was meant to be like that, the gold foil branching out into petals and leafs.

 

Even though Lan Zhan was almost always by his side, a quiet and calm guqin was playing most of the time.

 

And on bad nights the ever so familiar and beloved sound of Wangxian would soothe Wei Wuxian back to sleep, nestled in the arms of his husband.

Kisses would dry away his tears, and the gentlest fingertips would caress his wounds to take away the pain.

 

 

 

In time he recovered.

 

In time he returned to the Burial Mounds. In time the Burial Mounds were purified at last and renamed.

 

Chénguāng. Morning light.

 

A name that spoke of hope, of a new day breaking. A name that reminded of the Wen clan and their emblem, which long since lost it’s significance as the world moved on from the Sunshot Campaign at last.

 

 

This is the place where he was reborn… the place where he died… and the place where he was saved at long last.