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A Loveless Affair

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Jiang Cheng rememberers why he has never attempted to start any conversation at these kinds of functions. It was a rare moment when someone approached you without some political intention behind it. Jiang Cheng didn’t enjoy juggling through conversations with other soon to be leaders of the cultivation world. The fake laughter and unnecessary praises he would get from suck-ups and when they weren’t trying to please him they were making snide remarks with polite decorated sentences. Tonight was crazier than ever with Nie Huaisang hanging off his arm. The news of their engagement had spread like wildfire among the sects. There were those who didn’t take it as a means of celebration, the Jiang sect already had a sister married into the Jin sect and a sworn brother who they treated as their own blood married into the Lan sect. Both husbands not only having great power and influence in their respective sects but also well known for their love for their spouses (One more than the other). Even if it was truly a coincidence having such connections made others wary and then to hear news of Jiang’s heir engagement to the younger brother of the Nie Sect Leader. To top it off, Nie Mingjue the most feared cultivator of their generation has given his approval.

With so many powers behind the young heir, it’s no wonder so many of them are just waiting to curry favour with him with exception to few jealous bastards. He’s glad to have Nie Huaisang by his side. He was a master at juggling and redirecting conversations.

“I must say I’m was a little surprised about your engagement,” Jiang Cheng was so close to punching this no-name cultivator in the face. “Sandu Shengshou is so stern like his mother I would never guess he would pair well with a gentle creature like you.” Jiang Cheng was going to punch this guy in the face. Stern like his mother? It wasn’t a secret what rumours went around about Madam Yu, the violet spider. He was obviously calling out to Jiang Cheng’s temper known to be dangerously similar to his mother’s. Despite his famous temper this cultivator didn’t seem to fear it as he was obviously flirting with his fiancee. 

Nie Huaisang flicked his fan open, “A-Cheng has actually been rather kind and gentle towards me.” This caught a number of people ear’s especially those who were previously potential suitors for Jiang Cheng. “He indulges my shopping and socializing despite having reservations towards those things. He even allowed me to drag him to this party.” Nie Huaisang leaned closer to Jiang Cheng.

“I-Is that so?” That was enough to shut the man up to Jiang Cheng’s pleasure. He wasn’t going to take any chances of them finding some other snarky comment to make about him or worse, Nie Huaisang. 

“Sorry, to cut this short but it’s getting late,” Jiang Cheng spoke for the first time in the conversation. “We will retire for the evening.”

“Yes, yes, I -,” Jiang Cheng left before the cultivator could say anything more dragging Nie Huaisang with him. He needed to leave this place before someone lost their head from his sword. He hadn’t had to deal with this many nosy people since Wei Ying got engaged to the famous Second Jade, Lan Wangji. Truthfully that was easier to manage since Wei Ying and his husband have never found it necessary to keep any of their affections away from the public eye. Bless that child who is currently being raised by such shameless parents.

Jiang Cheng turned his eyes down to Nie Huaisang by his side. He kept his head down away from most curious gazes. He moved effortlessly with grace across the floor despite his nervous look.

“You’re beautiful it’s a waste to hide your face like that.” Nie Huaisang stopped pulling Jiang Cheng to a stop with him and snapped his head up to stare at Jiang Cheng with wide eyes. Jiang Cheng had just wanted Nie Huaisang to stop looking down so the words slipped out of his mouth without much thinking when it dawned on him the words he said he stood there staring wide-eyed at his fiance too. There were gasps and whispers among them. With their recent popularity, of course, someone had to be listening to their conversation. 

He had to say something to break this awkward situation with such a huge audience studying them but nothing came to mind.

“A-Cheng,” Nie Huaisang spoke with a soft voice that rung on everyone’s ears.“Could you please not carelessly say such things,” Jiang Cheng breath hitched when Nie Huaisang’s cheeks were flushed in a light red, “my heart may not be able to handle your words.” The room filled with busy, nosy cultivators, went silent entranced by Nie Huaisang’s words. Jiang Cheng didn’t think of a reply as he rushed out of the hall with Nie Huaisang beside him. 

“Please, forget that I said that,” Jiang Cheng said when they were a good distance away from the hall or any people that could be eavesdropping.

“It’s hard to forget such bold words, A-Cheng.” 

“I said it without much so please forget it.”

“So, you don’t think I’m beautiful,” Nie Huaisang pouted at him. At this point, Jiang Cheng couldn’t tell if Nie Huaisang was teasing him or genuinely sad.

“Y-Y-you... You are beautiful,” he managed to say but not without a red face and a need to not look Nie Huaisang in the eye. He could hear the small chuckles from beside and damn it all. He already had Wei Ying but now he was the source of entertainment for Nie Huaisang too. How many times since their engagement has he been subjected to clever taunts and teases? He couldn’t manage to get angry at Nie Huaisang as he did with his brother. One he was afraid of making the young Nie cultivator cry. There was something in him that terrified him of seeing tears leaving those big eyes. Two, even if he tried he couldn’t muster a feeling of anger. He was too busy feeling flustered under Nie Huaisang’s laughter. 

“I’m happy to find that I’m A-Cheng’s type,” Nie Huaisang leaned closer into his space.

He needed to dig himself out of this hole somewhere away from any teasing material Nie Huaisang could use, “Are you heading back to Qinghe tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Nie Huaisang nodded. “Why? Are you going to miss me?” Jiang Cheng choked on air if that was even possible. Of course, Nie Huaisang found opportunities in even the blandest conversation. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to write as soon as I arrive and I’m sure you can visit me in Qinghe.” Jiang Cheng had visited Nie Huaisang and his sect often. He’s sure Nie Huaisang has shown him all his favourite spots and restaurants in Qinghe but he’s never returned the favour.

“Why don’t you stay by the Lotus Pier for a few days?”

“What?” Nie Huaisang stopped in his tracks.

“You should visit me at the Lotus Pier for a change,” Jiang Cheng repeated. “It’ll be your home soon. You should see what it’s like; I’ll show you around.”

“Really?”

“You don’t want to?”

Nie Huaisang shook his head, “I want to.”

“Good, I’ll inform my parents about your visit then.” Nie Huaisang nodded and they continued the rest of their walk back to their quarters in silence.

Chapter Text

“Shijie is it just me or does it look like Jiang Cheng’s scowl looks deeper than usual?” Wei Ying leaned closer towards his adoptive sister as she poured out a bowl of lotus root and pork rib soup. The space between Jiang Cheng's eyebrows furrowed deeper at Wei Ying’s casual pass toward him. Jiang Yanli handed off the bowl to Wei Ying and her eyes lifted to her brother with genuine concern. 

 

“A-Cheng, you aren’t overworking yourself are you?” Jiang Yanli frowned.

 

Jiang Cheng felt the anger on the tip of his tongue ready to lash out but held it back for the sake of his saint of a sister. He didn’t have enough control to erase the bluntness in his tone, “May I ask you two what brought on this sudden visit?” Jiang Yanli and Wei Ying both exchanged looks before turning their ‘innocent’ eyes back on to their brother.

 

“Are we not allowed to visit our home, A-Cheng?” Jiang Yanli started pouring out another bowl of soup.

 

“You should be excited to see you’re adorable nephews,” Wei Ying placed the bowl of lotus root and pork rib soup in front of his son Lan Yuan and patted his head. The three-year-old was clinging to his dad’s thigh hanging his head down in front of his Uncle. Jiang Cheng always had a hard time connecting with Lan Yuan since he was very sensitive to his temperament. Lan Yuan tended to be shyer and it didn't help that he was being raised in the peaceful mountains of the Lan Clan. Although, Jin Ling’s eyes would also water at his scowls. He’s just glad that his nephews were at least able to face him and not cower away into his parent’s clothes as they did when confronted with his mother.  

 

Wei Ying ushered his son to eat his soup. Lan Yuan followed his dad’s instructions and thanked his Aunt for the food before digging in. Jiang Cheng pretended not to see the young Lan peeking up at him now and again. He preferred to focus on his biggest issue. His brother and sister, who he loved dearly sharing a pot of his sister’s famous lotus root and pork rib soup with their two children, in any other situation this scene would have warmed his heart. In his current one, he felt a dark storm looming over his shoulder. A strange look in his siblings' eyes that even from the kindhearted Jiang Yanli kept his instincts on alert. His opponents were not to be underestimated. 

 

“Oh, don’t be like that,” Wei Ying saw the skeptical look his Jiang Cheng threw at them. “We just wanted to visit.” Jiang Yanli nodded along as she placed a bowl in front of Jin Ling.

 

“So that fact that you two decided to come back home when my fiance is set to visit is a complete coincidence?” Jiang Cheng raised an eyebrow at them.

 

“My, my is Nie Huaisang coming to visit tomorrow?” Wei Ying fainted oblivious with his horrible acting skills. Jiang Cheng would appreciate if his brother would at least try and make an effort to cover up his schemes. 

 

“It’ll be fun to meet our future brother-in-law,” Jiang Yanli poured two more bowls for Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng. She placed his bowl in front with a small smile. A peace offering?

 

“I haven’t seen Huaisang in so long,” Wei Ying took a spoonful of his soup and sighed in satisfaction. “We used to hang out so much when we were studying at Gusu and know you two are getting married. Like what are the odds?” Jiang Cheng knew it was only a matter of time until his sibling tried to hack down on information about his engagement. Jiang Cheng was thankful to have escaped their clutches this long. His brother and sister had married high enough to have their own set of responsibilities that left very little time to meddle in his personal life. “Tell me the truth Jiang Cheng did you have a crush on Nie Huaisang? Oh, were you actually harboring a love for him all this time?  Have you told him you're feeling or are you still too shy? Jiang Cheng ...” He only wished he could drown his brother at the bottom of the pier.

 

“Papa,” Lan Yuan tugged at Wei Ying’s sleeve with a frown on his face. “Do not talk while you are eating?” Jiang Cheng loved his nephew. He’ll make sure to treat him to some good snacks later. 

 

“Shijie, I swear he only ever listens to Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying quickly switched to whining to his sister and his attention off of Jiang Cheng. 

 

He could sit back in peace for now while his brother found excuses to talk about his perfect marriage and family with his sister. He was happy that it both worked out for them despite the rocky journey. Jiang Cheng couldn’t say he was the greatest fan of his siblings' choices in marriage partners. Both pretentious weird-ass bastards that got off the hook way too easily if you asked him. But they were both renowned cultivators with wealthy and powerful backgrounds and most importantly they made Wei Ying and Jiang Yanli happy. His brother and sister both married for love. Wouldn’t stand for anything less than spending the rest of their lives with their destined partner. He wondered if they would be disappointed if they found out he would never walk down the same path. 






“It’s good to have everyone here,” Jiang FengMian smile was brighter today with all his children and grandchildren seated in front of him. After Jiang Yanli left, Wei Ying tried hard to fill the gap that was left behind. An impossible feat - a terrible mediator since he was most times the person in the argument and only knew how to cook spicy dishes more suitable towards punishment than comfort. When Wei Ying took in A-Yuan despite his and his mother’s disapproval, something had returned to the main family of the Jiang sect. A bundle of sweetness and curiosity that not even Madam Yu could refute. Jiang FengMian enjoyed having a sort of grandchild to constantly dote on and Madam Yu had taken a liking to his good behavior. Even when pushed to babysit A-Yuan for his brother Jiang Cheng couldn’t ignore his heart softening for the young boy. He had slowly grown to become part of the family. It was a sweet and short-lived period since the Second Jade of Gusu had resolved to sweep Jiang’s Senior Disciple of his feet and take his brother and nephew back to Gusu. After that nothing could distract them from the peace of the Lotus Pier. Meals were painfully quiet. Training always went as planned. Days were uneventful and boring. No one had expected Wei Ying’s departure to affect the clan on such a large scale. They were still recovering from their young lady’s absence and before they knew it another important person left. 

 

Now that their young mistress and senior disciple had been returned surely the sect was rejoicing. Even Madam Yu was in a good mood. “When Jiang Cheng’s fiance arrives we should throw a banquet.”

 

“A banquet?” Jiang Cheng tipped his head up towards his father

 

“It’s good timing now that we are all gathered and a great welcoming for your fiance,” Jiang FengMian nodded. 

 

“I’ll need to check if we have enough ingredients but I’m sure if we go to the market tomorrow morning it’ll be fine,” Yanli already started planning out the dishes she was going to prepare. 

 

“I can go catch some pheasants for you to prepare Shijie,” Wei Ying didn’t hesitate to jump in. He’s been persevering long and hard with the bland meals of GusuLan. After experiencing the mourning of a GusuLan’s banquet, Wei Ying could cry to celebrate one with the YunmengJiang sect again. 

 

“I’ll inform the servants tonight to start making preparations,” Madam Yu nodded and continued eating. Before Jiang Cheng knew it his entire family had begun making plans without a word of his input. His siblings' surprise visit and now a banquet. His family actions seemed innocent but the clouds over his heads were growing darker. His father and sister’s excitement. His mother’s unusual willingness and silence. The small glint in Wei Ying’s eyes. Jiang Cheng is not sure what is to come with Nie Huaisang’s arrival but he was not going to like it.