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那双金亮的眼睛 | Those Golden Eyes

Chapter Text

Wangji is visiting Wei Ying for what must be at least the fifth time this month when it happens.

He’s seated in Wei Ying’s cave, surrounded by the scent of blood and dirt and Wei Ying’s own lotus blooms and spice, and he is at home.

He is comfortable here, watching Wei Ying gesture and chatter on, grin wide and bright as it always is. He is surrounded by Wei Ying’s inventions, both failed and successful, and he is in Wei Ying’s element.

This is a good place to be.

Then Wei Ying falters, ever so slightly, and there is a visible tremble to his fingers as he places his teacup down on the low table with too loud a clack. His hand comes up to cradle his temple, just for a short moment, and then Wangji is lunging forward to catch him as he tumbles off his seat.

When Wangji hefts Wei Ying into his arms, the man’s face is pale as death, and his breathing is shallow.

Immediately, Wangji sends a constant flow of spiritual energy to Wei Ying, and he watches as just the slightest tinge of colour returns to Wei Wuxian’s cheeks.

It is- it is all Wangji can do for now, and it would be better to call for someone with actual medical qualifications. It is fortunate, then, that Wen Qing resides here as well.

He lays Wei Ying down on the slab of stone in the corner of the cave that serves as his bed, and rushes out to call for Wen Qing.

The moment the message is passed, Wangji hurries back to Wei Ying’s side, and his heart plummets at the sight.

Wei Ying has not stabilised, as he’d hoped the spiritual energy would do. In fact, he seems to have gotten even worse, with his skin back to sallow and pale, and his breaths irregular.

Why- Wangji knows his spiritual energy isn’t anything negligible, knows that Wei Wuxian’s body should accept it- it has before, multiple times, why would it not this time?

There is no explanation for it. He takes Wei Ying’s wrist in his own- thin, too thin, he shouldn’t be this thin, even with the lack of nutrition and resentful energy- his cultivation should protect him from it.

His cultivation had even managed to protect him when they were in far worse of a state in the Xuanwu cave, there was no way it should fail him now.

Wei Ying is leaking spiritual energy like a sieve.

And it isn’t his own spiritual energy, no, it isn’t the scorching warmth of someone whose cultivational cornerstone was freedom, isn’t the airy brightness that Wangji had felt before.

No, the spiritual energy leaking from Wei Ying is Wangji’s own, the energy that Wangji had given him, like his body doesn’t know how to accept Wangji’s energy, like it doesn’t know how to utilise it.

Wei Ying’s pulse is weak and thready under Wangji’s touch, and when Wangji probes further, Wei Ying’s meridians are in an even worse state. They are all but closed, spiritual energy barely even flowing through them, and Wangji’s heart stutters in his chest when he tries to trace those meridians back to their source, only to find… nothing.

There is nothing there. In Wei Ying’s lower dantian, where his golden core should reside… there is nothing there.

What- What happened to Wei Ying’s golden core?

Was this why he wouldn’t come back to Gusu with Wangji, why he cast himself out from YunmengJiang, why he’d all but severed all ties with the living world?

The truth hits Wangji abruptly.

This was why Wei Ying wouldn’t give up demonic cultivation. He would be defenseless without it. And with the number of enemies he had- the number of enemies the Yiling Patriarch had…

If Wei Ying gave up demonic cultivation, he would be dead.

But- But Wangji could protect him. Wangji would protect him. If Wei Ying would just-

“Ah.”

The voice comes from the mouth of the cave, and Wangji is on guard immediately. Bichen is already partially out of its sheath, and Wangji’s knuckles are white around its hilt, but then Wen Qing steps into the cave, and her expression is sad.

“You’ve found out, then,” is all she says, and Wangji lets Wei Ying’s wrist drop from nerveless fingers.

"Where," Wangji says, and he pretends he doesn't hear the note of desperation in his voice, echoing back at him from the walls of the cave. "Where is it?"

Wen Qing just seats herself at Wei Ying’s bedside, and sighs.

She shakes her head, and Wangji feels the denial like ice water down his spine. “Wen Zhuliu?”

Wen Qing shrugs, and reaches down to pull herbs from her pouch. “You should ask him, when he wakes.”

She doesn’t meet his eyes, and Wangji decides to let the matter go.

He will ask Wei Ying, when the time is right.

“What is wrong with him?” Is what he asks instead, and Wen Qing just smiles, a wan smile that doesn’t reach her eyes.

“He hasn’t eaten in days,” she says.

Wangji winces. He could- give them money, buy them food, something- “But… Wei Ying will be okay?”

Wen Qing sighs, but nods. “Yeah, he just needs some rest, and preferably some food, what we can spare, at least. Our potatoes have been dying, and he hasn’t let himself rest trying to find out how to plant them successfully, without the resentful energy rendering them inedible. What little food we do have, he insists Granny and the children have first.”

Wangji flashes back to the small child he’d seen on his very first visit here, all skin and bones, but bright smiles nonetheless, and wonders vaguely if the child is alright.

Wen Yuan… That was his name, right?

But Wen Qing had said children, like there was more than one child on this hill, and Wangji wonders why he hadn’t seen others the past few times he was here.

“Wha-”

“Mama!”

The cry is loud, and accompanied by the patter of small feet, and Wangji watches as panic flashes in Wen Qing’s eyes.

“A-Li, wait-”

“Mama!” A small child runs headlong into the cave, and Wangji has to lunge forward once again to stop the child as he almost careens straight into Wei Ying’s desk. He steadies the child with a hand, and tries not to think too much on who the child is addressing.

He hadn’t known Wen Qing had a child.

Wangji watches as Wen Qing sighs, and picks up the child. “What is it, A-Li?”

The child doesn’t calm, not as Wangji had expected him to, even though the child has his mother like he’d been asking for.

“Qing-jie,” the child hiccups, and there are tears in his eyes. “Qing-jie, want Mama, Qing-jie-”

Wangji blinks. Why would… Why did the child have two different forms of address for his mother?

Unless Wen Qing wasn’t the mother? But who else could it be, why would the child come running into the cave asking for his mother if his mother wasn’t here?

“...Wen Li?”

He has to confirm, at least, if the child is Wen Qing’s.

The child doesn’t react to the name, which speaks volumes, but Wen Qing’s head snaps up, and he is abruptly pinned by her glare.

“Did you just-” she starts, shaking her head. “You couldn’t have- I swear, I heard that the Second Young Master of GusuLan was a genius, this isn’t- heavens.”

Wangji isn’t the type to embarrass easily, but the judgement in Wen Qing’s stare sends warmth rushing to his ears, and Wangji ducks his head so that his hair hides the telltale flush.

“Do I look like I’m cut out to be a parent?” Wen Qing snaps, and Wangji very deliberately does not point out the fact that she is still carrying the child in her arms with all the experience of someone who does it often. “I have my hands full with my idiot brother and this dumbass Wei Wuxian, who even has time to get pregnant?"

Wangji stays silent, which is probably a smart move on his part.

“I’m surrounded by idiots, ” Wen Qing groans, rolling her eyes. “ Wen Li, he says, like the child doesn’t carry his clan’s name-”

Wangji freezes. What?

Wen Qing freezes as well, and Wangji can see the tension that creeps into her frame. “Fu- shoot.”

“Wait,” Wangji says, and his voice is more of a croak than anything else. His throat is dry. “Wait, please, Wen Qing, what did you me-”

“I said nothing,” Wen Qing bites out.

“No,” and Wangji is closer to begging than he has ever been, desperate to know what Wen Qing meant. “No, please, what did you-”

Then Wen Qing shoves the child at him, and in the time that Wangji fumbles to catch him, she turns on her heel and leaves.

“Gege,” the child in his arms distracts Wangji from the turmoil of his mind, and Wangji turns his attention towards him.

Holding a child is not as easy as it would seem, and every move that Wangji makes, every little wriggle that the child makes, Wangji wonders if the child is uncomfortable, if he is holding the child too tight, if the child would rather be let down-

“Gege, want Mama,” the child says, and then he is reaching out to Wei Ying’s still unconscious form, tears beginning to build in his eyes. “Gege, Mama, please?”

It is obvious, now, that the child’s mother is none other than Wei Ying himself.

There is no one else it could be.

Besides, now that he is looking at the child up close, he cannot deny it. The child looks like what Wangji imagines Wei Ying would have looked like when he was small, with Wei Ying’s messy hair and the curls that frame his face, the wide set of his eyes. The only differences are the high slant of his nose, not the soft button nose that Wei Ying possesses, and the colour of his eyes.

The boy’s eyes are- they are not the mercurial silver of Wei Ying’s own, although they are of the same shape, the same wide, innocent eyes framed by dark eyelashes.

Instead, the boy’s eyes are gold.

They are the gold of Wangji's clan, the gold that he sees everyday in the mirror, the gold that he knows he got from his own father, who got them from his father before him-

This child… This child could be his.

This child could be his, his and Wei Ying’s, from the only time they’d ever shared a heat.

Almost three years ago, at Mount Baifeng.

The age… The child’s age looks about right, and there was no denying the resemblance the child had to both of them.

Was this… Was this why Wei Ying kept rejecting him? Was this why Wei Ying refused to come back to Gusu with him?

Like the child doesn’t carry his clan’s name-

The sentence comes back to Wangji in a flash of memory, and Wangji starts, badly enough that the child -his son, his son - looks at him with startled eyes, and Wangji buries his face in the boy’s hair and breathes.

Lan- this was his son, his son, Wei Ying’s son, their son-

There is a pudgy hand stroking over his hair. “Gege? Gege okay? Gege?”

Wangji muffles a sob, and nods against his son’s hair. “Okay- I’m- I’m okay, I’m good, you are-”

“Gege is okay,” his son continues, innocent and gentle, and there are small fingers running through his hair now. “Gege okay, Zhenli is here-”

Zhenli- that was his name- his son- Lan Zhenli- Wei Zhenli? What did Wei Ying name him, what was-

Lan, it had to be Lan, Wen Qing had said-

Wei Ying had given him a son, had given their child his name, had-

Wangji sobs.

“... Lan Zhan?”

In his arms, Zhenli perks up immediately. He squirms free of Wangji’s grasp, and it is only instinct and quick reflexes and lets Wangji catch the boy before he slides to the ground.

“Mama! Mama okay? Mama? Granny say Mama sick- Mama okay?”

Wangji puts Zhenli down, and watches as the boy scrambles to Wei Ying’s side. Wei Ying smiles, and sits up slowly, pulling Zhenli into his lap. He shoots Wangji another glance, concerned, worried, but then seems to focus back on their son instead. “I’m okay, I’m okay, don’t worry so much, huh, this mother of yours is super strong, nothing’s going to happen to me so easily!”

Wei Ying nuzzles against Zhenli’s throat then, purring softly, and Wangji’s heart clenches.

This is- it is an intimate sight, an omega comforting and scent marking their young child, and- Wangji wants Zhenli to bear his scent as well.

“Mama good,” Zhenli murmurs, and grasps Wei Ying’s face between his small hands. “Qing-jie say Mama need eat-”

Wei Ying laughs. “Mm, okay. A-Li looks delicious, maybe I’ll just-”

Abruptly, he opens his mouth against Zhenli’s small hand, and then gnashes his teeth just millimeters away from those tiny fingers.

Zhenli shrieks with laughter, and pulls away, scrambling further from Wei Ying on both hands and feet. “Mama no! No eat Zhenli!”

Wangji’s heart pounds in his chest, and he is certain that there are tears in his eyes. Wei Ying- Wei Ying looks so happy, so carefree-

Wei Ying is already a far better parent than Wangji had ever thought he himself could be, and- this is- this is a sight that he never thought he would get to see, Wei Ying playing with their child, his smile bright and wide and mischievous, their little son screaming with laughter as he clambers away from Wei Ying.

When Wangji lifts a hand to his face, his fingers come away wet.

“Gege? Gege no cry-”

Zhenli’s small hands are tugging on his hands now, and his wide eyes are concerned. “Gege?”

“Lan Zhan?”

There is panic in Wei Ying’s voice. “Lan Zhan- Lan Zhan, are you okay, what happened, what-”

Wangji shakes his head, and can’t help the smile that curves his lips. He sits heavily beside Wei Ying, and gathers Zhenli into his arms. Pressing his face into the crook of Zhenli’s small neck, he nuzzles his own scent mark into his son’s skin.

“I’m- I’m okay,” he answers, and then he’s pulling Wei Ying into his embrace too. “I’m… I’ve never been better. Wei Ying- Wei Ying, I-”

Pressed against his robes, Wei Ying makes a confused, enquiring noise.

Wangji presses kisses to both Wei Ying’s and Zhenli’s heads, and muffles another sob. “Wei Ying, I love you.”

“I’m- huh?” Wangji did not think it was possible, but Wei Ying sounds even more confused than before. “Lan Zhan- Lan Zhan, I- what- I don’t understand-”

Zhenli -his son, their son- mimics his mother, blinking up at him, eyes wide and confused, and Wangji just- he cannot help but press kisses against their foreheads once again.

“It’s okay,” Wangji hums, curling closer to Wei Ying. “Wangji understands. Wangji loves Wei Ying, will protect Wei Ying-”

In his arms, Wei Ying makes another confused noise, but Wangji shushes him, pulling him closer and burying his nose in Wei Ying’s scent glands.

Between them, Zhenli squirms, grinning brightly up at them. As if not to be left out, the child grasps Wei Ying’s cheeks once again and chirps out a bright, “Zhenli loves Mama too!”

Wangji’s heart feels like it’s swelled to triple its size, and he can’t help but pull both of them ever closer. “Mn, Wangji loves Zhenli as well.”

Wei Ying stiffens in his arms, and Wangji pulls back. Wei Ying’s scent has sharpened from the lax contentment it had been previously, coloured with mild panic now, and Wangji is… Wangji is concerned.

“Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, you-” Wei Ying begins, and there is a wildness to his eyes, a tremble to his hands. “You do- you definitely know who Zhenli is, right, you-”

“Mn,” Wangji offers, reaching out to stroke a soothing hand down Wei Ying’s back. “My son. Our son.”

Wei Ying trembles in his embrace, and Zhenli looks up at his mother, concerned. “Mama okay?”

Still shaking, Wei Ying presses a kiss to Zhenli’s forehead and offers him a shaky smile. “Mama is okay. Go out and play with Ning-ge or Qing-jie, okay? Mama needs to talk to Gege.”

Eyes wide, Zhenli nods, clumsily making his way off the bed. “Okay, Mama.”

“Good boy.” Wei Ying murmurs, and Wangji can’t help the way he tracks Zhenli’s movements with his eyes, up to the moment where Zhenli disappears from his line of sight.

“Okay,” Wei Ying sighs, and the breath he lets out is shaky. “Okay, Lan Zhan, I’m- I can’t- we need to- I need to understand what you mean, alright? I don’t- I thought you hated me- I- practically raped you, I- pushed you into sharing a heat with me, even though you clearly weren’t comfortable with it- why would you be, you’ve never liked me- you would never see me that way-”

The more Wei Ying speaks, the more dread builds in the pit of Wangji’s stomach. He had thought- he had thought he’d understood why Wei Ying would hide Zhenli from him, he’d thought-

It had to be because of how unthinkable, how dangerous, how irredeemably immoral, it would be for one of GusuLan’s twin jades to have a child out of wedlock- he had thought- it was exactly the kind of thing Wei Ying would do, to protect someone else.

He had thought that was all there was to it.

But- Wei Ying had thought that Wangji hadn’t loved him? Wei Ying hadn’t known? How could he have not- Wangji was-

Of course. Wangji was bad -horrible- at communication, of course Wei Ying couldn’t have known- how could he have, when half of their meetings ended in Wangji losing his temper, his control, when their first meeting had been Wangji literally aiming a blade at his throat?

But how could Wei Ying ever think that- that he hated him? That he’d been coerced into sleeping with him, that- that sharing that heat had been-

How could Wei Ying ever think that sharing that heat with him had ever been anything but Wangji’s choice?

Wangji muffles another sob against Wei Ying’s robes, and this time there is no happiness in his tears. “I’m- I’m sorry, Wei Ying, I’m-”

Wangji is not good at words, and the words do not come, but- his lack of words has already almost doomed them once, he cannot- he has to-

“I have always loved Wei Ying,” is what he says, opening his heart to the man in front of him, letting the words spill. “Have always- Wei Ying has always been the one to hold my heart, I- never hated Wei Ying, always loved- cannot live without Wei Ying. I am… I am not good with words, Wei Ying, not good with emotions, not like you, not like Elder Brother, I cannot- but I will… I will try, for Wei Ying, for our son, for this family-”

Wei Ying pulls away from Wangji’s embrace, and Wangji’s heart stutters in his chest. He- Wei Ying is- has he scared Wei Ying away? He’d always feared that, that Wei Ying would be frightened by the depth of his emotion, that he would bare his heart and Wei Ying would run, that-

“Lan Zhan- Lan Zhan, don’t- please don’t cry, I can’t-”

Wei Ying’s hands are on his cheeks, those long-fingered, calloused hands, stroking softly. He is wiping his tears, Wangji realises belatedly, and a warmth blooms deep in his chest once again.

No one has ever- not since he was a child, and Elder Brother hugged him close after Mother passed-

“Lan Zhan, I have- I have always loved you too, even when we were fifteen and stupid and the first thing we did was fight- do you know how beautiful you looked, that night? The first time I saw you, I thought you couldn’t be a real person, you had to be- some kind of immortal, some kind of god descended from the heavens- but then you were in Lan sect robes, and you were so angry about the sect rules, you had to be real. It’s stupid, I’m stupid, but I didn’t know that I loved you until the Xuanwu cave, until you stayed with me, even though you could have left, and- then I got thrown into Burial Mounds, and- the thought of you got me through, you know?”

Wei Ying laughs then, soft, a little self-deprecating, but his smile remains genuine. “I mean, okay, the thought of killing Wen Chao and Wen Zhuliu too, but- mostly you, Lan Zhan, I just- I needed to see you again.”

Wangji’s heart pounds once against, like thunder in his chest, loud and rapid and uncontrollable. This is- this is like something out of a dream, Wei Ying in his arms, Wei Ying’s hands cradling his face, Wei Ying’s own eyes teary, but smiling anyway.

It is too beautiful of a sight, and Wangji cannot- he is afraid that his heart cannot take it. He reaches up to cradle Wei Ying’s face between his palms as well, and kisses away Wei Ying’s tears.

His tears are salty, but Wei Ying is smiling, and that’s all Wangji needs.

Wangji peppers kisses over Wei Ying’s cheeks, pressing butterfly kisses over his cheeks and nose and forehead, kissing his closed eyelids before circling back down to those soft, pink lips.

“Wei Ying,” he whispers, and he can feel Wei Ying’s exhale fan over his own lips. “Wei Ying, may I- may I kiss you?”

Wei Ying huffs a laugh, and Wangji cannot bring himself to feel even a fragment of the usual indignation he feels when someone laughs at him.

“You just kissed me all over my face, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying giggles, his words ghosting over Wangji’s skin. “But you don’t dare kiss my lips?”

Wangji feels his ears warm, and knows that they are red. “I- Wei Ying is- I meant-”

Wei Ying laughs again, soft and light, and Wangji’s heart thuds. Wei Ying has always had the most beautiful laugh, the most breathtaking smile, and finally, finally Wangji gets to call them his own.

“Lan Zhan, ah, Lan Zhan,” Wei Ying murmurs, and then he is leaning in, until there is barely any space between them at all. “What to do with you, Lan Zhan, Lan er-gege?”

His ears feel even hotter, and Wangji has never felt gladder that his cheeks do not blush.

Then Wei Ying leans in, closes the gap between them, and all thoughts of embarrassment fly out of the window.

Wei Ying’s lips are just as soft as he remembers, even after three years, even after all the hardship the omega has been through. They are soft and lush and gentle, and Wangji cannot help himself.

He tangles his fingers in long hair, tugs blindly at Wei Ying’s hair ribbon until it comes undone in his hands, and then curls messy locks around his fingers, tugging lightly and using the leverage to pull himself ever closer.

He ravages Wei Ying’s mouth like he is a man lost in the desert and Wei Ying is his oasis, and he shudders when Wei Ying returns the fervour. The kiss is desperate, messy and slick and carrying the buildup of three years of unnecessary pain and even more years of misunderstanding, and Wangji gives all of himself into it.

Marry me, he says with the flick of his tongue.

Let me cherish you, he says with the curve of his lips.

I am yours, he says with the warmth of his breath.

When they finally break apart, gasping for breath, Wei Ying’s lips are bruised, red and swollen, and Wangji is certain he looks the same.

The sight of Wei Ying, lips red with Wangji’s love, hair down and mussed and eyes glazed- Wangji’s heart beats a tattoo in his chest, and he cannot help the way he dives in to press another kiss to those lips.

“Wei Ying,” he starts, and even now he is wary. This is a question that has shattered his heart before, but he has to ask again. “Come to Gusu with me?”

And Wei Ying laughs, soft, and a hand comes up to swipe at a falling tear. “Okay. Okay, Lan Zhan. I’ll go back to Gusu with you.”

Wangji smiles. It is not a big smile, not a bright one like Wei Ying’s, but it is a smile nonetheless.

Wei Ying’s eyes are fixed on him, and Wangji returns the gaze with his own besotted stare.

“...Marry me?”

Wei Ying jolts in his arms, but the shock on his face quickly fades to amusement, and Wangji can’t help but smile as Wei Ying hits him lightly on the chest, grinning widely. “Lan Zhan, you- what kind of alpha does this, huh? Kiss the omega delirious then ask them to marry you! No courting, no wooing, just immediately asking me to marry you! We haven’t even consulted to see when a good auspicious date would be!”

Wangji ducks his head, nuzzling against Wei Ying’s throat. “No need. Any day with Wei Ying is auspicious.”

Wei Ying makes an aborted gasping noise above him, and then he feels Wei Ying press his face against the top of Wangji’s head. “Lan Zhan! You can’t just- say these kinds of things! My heart can’t take it-”

“Is the truth.”

Wei Ying pouts, and muffles a whine against his hair. “Still need an auspicious date. Shijie would murder me if I didn’t let her arrange all my wedding matters, and Old Man Qiren will definitely have something to say about this-”

“Uncle will give his blessings.” The or else goes unspoken, but Wangji knows Wei Ying hears it anyway, because the omega - his omega- begins to giggle.

“Lan Zhan, you can’t just- go around threatening your family into letting you marry me!”

“Don’t need to threaten. Elder Brother approves. Will give Wei Ying a good bride price-”

“Elder Brother Lan knows about us?”

Wangji flushes. “Did not… Did not tell about Mount Baifeng, but Elder Brother has always known I love you.”

Wei Ying’s cheeks flush an alluring red, and Wangji cannot resist leaning in to press kisses to them.

“Ahh, Elder Brother Lan approves of this omega?”

“Mn.”

Wei Ying buries his face in the crook of Wangji’s neck then, and Wangji can feel the way his breath brushes over his scent glands, the way Wei Ying nuzzles against his scent glands like he is marking himself with Wangji’s scent, and Wangji’s heart melts in his chest.

This omega has chosen him, even after so many years of blind misunderstanding and hurtful miscommunication. Wei Ying is finally his, and he is finally Wei Ying’s, and everything is right with the world at last.

“Okay,” Wei Ying murmurs against Wangji’s skin, and Wangji runs a gentle hand over his hair. “Okay, Lan Zhan. I’ll marry you.”

Chapter Text

It is long moments later that Wangji remembers what had led them to this point to begin with.

He stiffens in Wei Ying's hold, and cannot help the way he shuts his eyes in soft grief, the way he rests his palm over Wei Ying's stomach, three fingers' width above his navel.

His lower dantian.

Wei Ying stiffens beside him, and Wangji can only offer him a long look. Words do not come, but somehow Wangji knows that Wei Ying understands what he means.

Wei Ying laughs, and this time it is sad, self-deprecating, and Wangji has to push aside the regret that surfaces at spoiling the moment.

Seeing Wei Ying sad is something that he never wants.

But then Wei Ying shakes his head, and presses his face to Wangji's shoulder.

He is trembling.

Wangji falters. "Wei Ying, you… you do not have to tell me, if you do not want to."

"I-" Wei Ying starts, and his words are stilted. "You know, if you'd asked me this just a few hours ago… I would have told you it was Wen Zhuliu. It's a reasonable explanation, after all. Anyone would accept it."

There is a but that remains unspoken, and Wangji remains silent, letting Wei Ying gather his thoughts.

"No more secrets, huh, Lan Zhan?" Wei Ying continues, and when he pulls away to meet Wangji's eyes, his own are red-rimmed. "No more lies, not between us. Okay?"

"Mn." It is something that Wangji does not even have to consider before agreeing to. 

Wei Ying laughs then, small, soft, nothing like his usual laugh. "Okay. Okay then, Lan er-gege. I-"

Wei Ying's hand comes down to rest over Wangji's own, over his lower dantian, and Wangji does not miss the flicker of sorrow that lights across his features.

"I- it's with Jiang Cheng. I gave it to Jiang Cheng."

If it were anyone else but Wei Ying, Wangji would not have believed them.

But Wei Ying has always embodied YunmengJiang’s motto, and no matter that transferring a golden core was impossible -if Wei Ying wanted it, he would attempt it, and he would accomplish it.

So Wei Ying’s golden core resided within Jiang Wanyin now. Wangji had thought it strange, how the man had come back from the burning of Lotus Pier even stronger than he’d been before, when he’d been on the run for ages and by all rights should not have had the time to train.

But now he knows why.

And Wei Ying was always so selfless, so blindly heroic, and no one ever saw it.

“You- Lan Zhan, you can’t tell Jiang Cheng, okay?”

Wangji wonders if it would solve the rift that had grown between the pair of them if he did, but there is panic in Wei Ying’s eyes, and he is still shaking in his arms, so Wangji just nods, and leans in to press more kisses to Wei Ying’s cheeks.

“You understand why I can’t give up demonic cultivation now, don’t you, Lan Zhan?”

Wangji leans his head against Wei Ying’s shoulder and nods silently.

“Then you won’t ask me to stop using it, will you?”

Wangji pauses. Demonic cultivation would still- it would still harm Wei Ying, especially at the rate that he was using it now. It was already harming Wei Ying, as evident in the bags under his eyes and the fat that was leeched from his bones.

But without it- without it Wei Ying would be defenseless, and Wangji could never ask that of him. Wangji would never want that for him. And… And Wei Ying would never forgive him, if Wangji asked him to give up the one thing that allowed him to make a difference, to protect the people he loved.

Slowly, Wangji shakes his head. “Will not. But- if Wei Ying could- not rely on it that often… Slow down use of it- it is harmful to your body and heart, I would not… I would not like to see you wither away, Wei Ying.”

In his arms, Wei Ying stills, and Wangji fears for a long moment that the words will once again drive Wei Ying away.

But then Wei Ying is nodding, hesitant, but willing. “Okay. Okay, Lan Zhan. For you. For Zhenli. But- but you must protect us, okay?”

Wangji blinks. It is not a request he had expected Wei Ying to make, but- “Of course. Forever, Wei Ying. Always. I would protect you both with my life.”

Against the fabric of his robes, Wei Ying muffles a squeak. “Lan Zhan- you can’t- can’t just- say that-”

“But it is the truth.”

“Lan Zhan!”

Wangji nuzzles closer to Wei Ying’s scent glands, and mouths softly over them. “Mn. Am here, Wei Ying.”

“That’s not what I meant!” Wei Ying protests, but he tilts his head to the side, exposing his throat to Wangji’s kisses.

“Mn,” he hums in agreement. Wei Ying is making the most adorable spluttering noises above him, occasionally cut off by a contented purr as Wangji mouths over the skin of his neck. “Love Wei Ying.”

Wei Ying splutters again, but then there is a soft, almost defeated sigh, and Wangji smiles as Wei Ying’s arms tighten around him and he leans his head against Wangji’s own.
“Okay,” Wei Ying murmurs. “Okay, Lan er-gege. I love you too.”