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Weight Of The Crown

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Wei Wuxian had never known a day of want.

He had lived a life of luxury and essential freedom.  Swathed in fine silks and jewels, a full stomach every day.  He wanted for nothing and he knew that he would always be blessed this way as long as he did as he was told. He could learn the sword if he wanted, (which he did) as long as he learned finer arts.

How to brew and serve tea, read and understand politics, and dance.

He was allowed to practice martial arts and get rough and dirty, shoot a bow and arrow, and hunt.

As long as he could sing, play instruments, paint, do mathematics, and ride horses.

He was free to roam streets in disguise and drink to his heart's content. He just needed to assure he never went anywhere without an attendant or his little bag of medicines.  That he returned before the sun began to dip below the horizon.  

Everything he did came with a price.

One he would pay for as long as he was able.

Yet he knew time was quickly running out, faster than he could comprehend.

“Wei Wuxian!”

He flinched and inhaled deeply before turning around, “Aun-“ a sharp glare had him quickly swallowing the endearment, “Empress Yu.” He gave a graceful bow in greeting using the more feminine gesture instead of a masculine one. He knew his place when faced with his aunt. 

The woman scoffed softly, “ Where were you planning to go?” she snapped arms crossed.  “You have practice today do you not?”

He chuckled softly, “A yes, later but I was thinking of going to the mar-“

“No, I’ve indulged your whims for long enough, and regardless of what your mother and father think is best I won’t have you gallivanting about the kingdom so freely.”  Empress Yu had a distinct tilt to her chin, a thin and beautiful face that did not betray her years. Her face was as youthful as the day she had married into the palace. She was not demure by any means, bold and strong.  A very drastic contrast to the soft-hearted and gentle spoken Emperor. She walked with a straight back her shoulders squared and her head held high even with the heavy hair ornaments decorating her.  She moved with purpose and grace and wore her title with pride. 

He would expect nothing less from such an alpha.

“You’re eighteen already Wei Wuxian and your first heat has already passed.” She stated a firm tone filling her words. No matter how harsh she was he knew that underneath the thick skin there was some affection for him. Even if she would never admit it aloud.  “ Your mother may think it’s acceptable to slack off, but you are of marrying age and if you don’t start practicing for your presentation how do you ever expect to attract a strong alpha.” She scolded for the hundredth thousandth time.

He sighed, “Why must I?  I don’t need an alpha, besides no one would let me marry below my status anyways!” he scratched lightly at his nose, “ I either need to attract another prince or an emperor and that’s near impossible without me marrying outside of Yummeng.”

Empress Yu raised a very think immaculately groomed eyebrow, “And?”

Wei Wuxian choked eyes widening a fraction, “I don’t want to marry outside of Yummeng!” his eyes were wide, and he felt his breath catch. “I like Yummeng, it's my home! Why would I ever want to leave! Jiang Che-“

“Jiang Cheng doesn’t get a say in your future and where you end up.” Her eyes narrow at the omega boy, “A-Li is marrying the Prince of Lanlingjin and A-Cheng will be crowned Emperor one day, you are the only one who has no purpose going forward, you cannot spend every day lazing about.” She huffed.

Wei Wuxian, “But I-“

Empress Yu, “You can’t possibly think I would let you marry your cous-“

“Absolutely not! No way ugh! Yuck Jiang Cheng why would I even consider that! I mean cousins marry every day, but I wouldn’t want to even consider marrying him!” Wei Wuxian gaged at the thought, Jiang Cheng was more a brother to him than a cousin anyways!

To be specific, Wei Wuxian was the son of Wei Changze, the second prince of Yummengjiang.  Half brother to Jiang Fengmian. Their father had Jiang Fengmian first with the previous Empress and Wei Changze with a Royal consort.  The two brothers had grown up close despite having different mothers, Jiang Fengmian of course was groomed and raised to be the future Emperor. Wei Changze even graciously told his father that he had no desire for the throne, he just was not cut out to be a leader.  His ambitions were to focus on the day to day matters of the people that Fengmian could not focus on all the time. He desired to do the jobs his brother would not be able to do. 

In the process, Wei Changze had met his mother, a young woman of noble birth from a secluded clan in the mountains, born and bred to be a healer.  Protected from the crowded cities.  They’d fallen for each other almost at first sight.  Wei Wuxian’s father had been drawn in by her grace and knowledge, her wild personality that was like a breath of fresh air in the suffocating atmosphere of the palace.  The only downside to that was that Jiang Fengmian also fell for her.

It had been a matter of tension for a long time in the palace. Cangse Saren had not batted an eyelash at his uncle in any way other than friendship.  She had married Wei Changze shortly after their marriage had been approved by Wei Wuxian’s grandfather.  Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng had been raised alongside each other like brothers. Learning the same things and treated equally. Wei Wuxian succeeded where Jiang Cheng could not and where Wei Wuxian failed Jiang Cheng excelled. 

Then their circumstances had changed when they had presented.

Wei Wuxian was an omega, rare and coveted.

Jiang Cheng was an alpha, strong and meant to lead.

Things did not differ much from how Wei Wuxian had operated within the palace. He had new expectations set upon him, ones meant to mold him in a desirable omega. Where he was rough and sharp like a blade, Empress Yu had taken it upon herself to soften his edges and make him into the perfect image of delicate and fierce. 

He wished though he could pretend that his being an omega didn’t exist. Especially when he had to go to dance practice.  It wasn’t like he had to do it forever, but for his presentation, as an omega during the discussion conference coming he had to be perfect. If he so much as faltered he knew he would be subjected to the discipline paddle. 

The very thought made his backache from the memory of the last time he had been beaten for misbehaving.

Empress Yu clicked her tongue looking away slightly, “I’ve informed everyone you are not allowed to leave today, so don’t even attempt it. Go back to your rooms and change for practice.” She stated firmly, “I will be attending today to see how you are doing.” She expected him to attract the attention of a noble Alpha, one worthy of a prince of Yummeng.   She was firm and strict, but she would not see anyone below Wei Wuxian’s station attempt to court him.  Wei Wuxian was very important now, as it was rare for a kingdom to have two royals who could be married off to form alliances.  With her daughter Jiang Yanli the first princess marrying into Lanlingjin, that meant they had an opportunity to marry Wei Wuxian to another kingdom to become even more solidified.

Wen Qishan, Nie Qinghe, as well as Gusu Lan were all prominent candidates.

Then again it wasn’t like she would willingly hand her nephew over to the likes of Wen Rouhan who was a greedy warmonger.  He already had a harem overflowing with omega’s both men and women and she’d already had the displeasure of meeting his two sons.

No, she wouldn’t dare entertain the idea.

Thankfully this year’s discussion conference was being held in Gusu Lan which meant she didn’t have to be overly polite to the Wen’s.

Wei Wuxian sighed giving another bow, “Yes Empress Yu.” He reluctantly obeyed and moved past her to instead go back to his rooms, his personal attendant scurrying after him.

Every year the omega’s who had come of age were presented at the banquets; they would perform in order to attract mates of prominent birth.  The dances designed to show off the skill of omega’s, to show their attractiveness. 

Wei Wuxian would describe it almost like a silent auction.

If an alpha or an alpha’s family thought the omega would be good enough they would send silent requests in the form of gifts or dowries to the corresponding clan members.  Wei Wuxian had seen far too many young omegas mated off too greedy old men to find the presentation even slightly appealing.  Someone who had been his senior by two years had found himself in a similar situation and now had two little children, one just a year old and the other just barely a couple of months.  The difference between Wei Wuxian and his senior though was that his senior had believed it his duty to bear children for his ‘husband’ and accepted his inevitable duty.  Whether his ‘mate’ was old or not did matter, he believed himself lucky to have been wanted.

Wei Wuxian believed he didn’t need to be wanted by someone else as long as his family wanted him, that was most important. He also didn’t want to deal with alpha’s pining. He wanted to find love on his own and on his own time, but…

He was still a prince of Yummengjiang no matter how he looked at it. There were certain things expected of him. He wanted to stay and help Jiang Cheng though when he became emperor, much like his father did.

Then again everyone else would surely look at him like he was out of his mind.  Omegas didn’t need to bother with being involved in politics. Omegas belonged at their alpha’s side, silent, demure, and prepared to bear children at any given moment.  

Wei Wuxian was anything but that.

As he reached his rooms he didn’t bother with waiting for help to shed off the heavy layers of his robes, he started to pull and drop articles of clothing unceremoniously on the floor.  

“Your Highness!” squeaked his attendant, “You shouldn’t do that! What if someone saw you!” the attendant pulled the doors to his room closed swiftly and began to pick up the clothing while trying to avoid looking directly at Wei Wuxian’s body clad only in his undergarments now.

“It’s not like it’s a secret, I’m a man.” Wei Wuxian rolled his eyes as he searched for his dancing clothes, they were lighter and easier to move in.

“You’re an omega, it’s improper.” His attend murmured face flush.

“Being an omega means nothing, it’s not like I’m a woman,” Wei Wuxian was flustered as he began to redress. “Just because I have heats and can reproduce doesn’t mean I can’t dress like and act like a man!”

“But your highness, even Empress Yu says that garishly masculine omegas won’t attract a mate.” The attendant came over to help fasten the ties of Wei Wuxian’s clothes tight making sure it fit just right. Not one wrinkle or piece out of place.

The practice outfit was a similar style to the outfit that had been prepare for him when the discussion conference around. He didn’t have to wear any of the jewels or have his hair done up for practices which he was thankful for.  He understood his aunt meant well, but perhaps meaning well was just a little too much.  He felt bad for his poor mother who had little say before Empress Yu, even if she wanted to oppose the violet spider, it was like twisting the arm of a titan. 

His mother wanted what was best for him too, she wanted him to be free from the restraints of his secondary gender, yet she couldn’t dismiss the facts that for an omega out in the real world it was dangerous. Wei Wuxian knew it was dangerous. 

He was safe here behind the high guarded walls of the palace. 

He had been spoiled from a young age. People who stood at his back and front like a literal shield. Not only because he was a prince but because he was a literal rarity. Every time he ventured out past the walls he risked capture, whether he was at fault or not, if he was claimed by a random alpha, then it was his fault for seducing them. Prince or not.

He sighed and pulled his hair up into a high ponytail, tying it with a bright red ribbon.

“Beautiful as always your Highness.” The attend smiled.

Wei Wuxian rolled his eyes, “Sure.” And left the room as quickly as he had come. 

If he had to practice he may as well make sure he didn’t make one mistake.

After all Empress Yu would be watching today.

 


 

“Where is that fool.” Yu Ziyuan huffed as she peeked out of the carriage window for the hundredth time.

“I am sure he’s hurrying no need to worry.” Jiang Fengmian tried to placate his wife as he sat next to her. He gently placed a hand upon the empress’s thigh to offer reassurance and only received a sharp glare.

“Ying’er has been rather nervous the last few days, today is, after all, a big day, we’ll be going to Gusu and then his presentations at the banquet tomorrow as well.” Cangse Saren tried, she knew not to joke when her sister-in-law was worked up, otherwise, she would be in for a literal ear full about propriety and she didn’t care for that.

“He has to be on his best behavior, it would be good to get the attention of Qinghe Nie or Gusu Lan a marriage to any of their nobles would be a benefit to Yummeng.” Yu Ziyuan shifted.

“But he doesn’t have to find a partner right away does he?” Wei Changze questioned, “After all he’s only just turned eighteen, surely there’s no rush to marry him off.” He loved his son dearly and the idea of Wei Wuxian potentially thinking they were trying to rid themselves of him was a heartbreaking one.

“There won’t be many opportunities after the discussion conference for him to attract an alpha outside of general gatherings.” Yu Ziyuan huffed, “He’ll only be desirable for so long, and marrying him to someone below his title is absolutely out of the question.  Though preferably I don’t want Qishan to try courting him.” She felt they were absolute slimeballs.

“If Ying’er married just for love I wouldn’t be displeased.”Cagnse Saren stated.

“Love comes after marriage, not before in arranged unions.” She knew that very well, Jiang Fengmian and her never always saw eye to eye, but they had learned to love one another enough to have children.  Her husband may be fickle, but she knew he had their best interests at heart. He had also proven his loyalty in love to her by abolishing the harem in their kingdom. One spouse was enough he had declared and that had made her happy.

“….” Cangse Saren turned her gaze away from her sister-in-law. She wanted to argue the point, but she had to share a carriage with her for the duration of the trip to Gusu and she’d rather not do it with eyes staring holes through her. 

“Prince Wei Wuxian has arrived!” announced the guard and after a few moments of loud shuffling from said prince in the other carriage they began to move. 

“Give me room you idiot!” scoffed Jiang Cheng elbowing Wei Wuxian in the side and earning a pained whine.

“But there’s so little room and I don’t want to sit next to A-Li, I’ll crowd her.” The omega whined.

“You’re crowding me!” Jiang Cheng gave a good shove knocking the omega onto the floor of the carriage and grinned in triumph.

“A-Cheng!” he pouted puffing out his cheeks.

“Oh you two, come here A-Xian if you want to sit next to me I don’t mind, I am much smaller than A-Cheng so you can have lots of room.” Jiang Yanli was a very beautiful alpha female, she had delicate features, a demure personality, and she was talented.  Everything anyone should desire, at least according to Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng.  Anyone who tried to dispute it was usually met with angry threats of a good throttling from both omega and alpha.  She also smelt good.

Wei Wuxian loved her scent, freshly bloomed lotus and vanilla.

He always felt comforted in her presence and enjoyed her attention the most.

“A-Li!” he crawled up onto the seat next to her and nuzzled against her shoulder earning a pat upon the head.

“Oh scenting me again?” she asked and giggled behind her sleeve when Wei Wuxian stilled refusing to look up.

“I don’t want that peacock bastard near you.” He pouted.

“Oh, A-Xian.” She smiled gently, “It was one time, he’s apologized since.”

“He still said it and he deserved what he got.” The omega sat back looking at her innocently.

“Yeah? Just like you deserved fifty hits of the discipline paddle for punching him in the face once?” Jiang Cheng questioned. He hated Jin Zixuan just as much as Wei Wuxian but even he wasn’t stupid enough to punch the Jin Clan’s prince.

“Was worth it.” Wei Wuxian huffed.

“You almost started a diplomatic war and almost caused A-jie’s betrothal to be called off.” The alpha shook his head in exasperation, “If not for A-Jie smoothing things over with father and mother you would have been handed over as compensation.” Sometimes he questioned Wei Wuxian’s mental capabilities.

“It all turned out in the end, but he still deserved the punch, saying A-jie wasn’t pretty or commendable.” He rolled his eyes, “He’s blind if he doesn’t see how wonderful A-jie is.” He nuzzled the alpha female again earning a pat on his head. The sensation of having his hair stroked visibly soothed him and a loud purr escape his chest as he closed his eyes.

 Jiang Cheng shook his head at the omega, though secretly he would have liked to be pet too, “You spoil him too much A-jie.”

“Don’t I spoil you just as much though A-Cheng.” She tilted her head with that dazzling smile of her, so soft and sweet.

Jiang Cheng flushed, “….ugh.” he moved to kneel on the ground placing his head in his sister’s lap like a spoilt child. He smiled when he felt her hand come down to gently stroke his hair.

Wei Wuxian chuckled, “whose spoiled now.”

“Shut up.”

Their carriage filled with laughter seconds later.

 


 

The journey was long.

Longer than what Wei Wuxian was used to on any given day.  He had not been to Gusu before, as the last time the discussion conference been held there he had a fever unable to travel, and then last year he had presented with his first heat and had been kept home for safety’s sake.

He had heard rumors though, that Gusu was very different compared to the other kingdoms. Soft-spoken people roamed the streets, the weather was always cool rarely hot, though sometimes in the peak of summer they would be plagued with a dreaded bout of humidity. Canals flowed through the city and through the mountainous kingdom. The clouds often descended from the mountain tops and down into the valleys. Green forests as far as the eye could see. They were mostly a harbor kingdom; many fine things could be found here as there were imports from foreign merchants. Selling spices, fabrics, jewels and more.

Yummeng actually often got their silks and satins from Gusu, the rich purple of the clan a staple in their clothing.  Such fabric and colors could not be found anywhere else. Even the textiles of Yummeng paled in comparison to the imported items. 

Wei Wuxian looked out the window, peering through the mesh screen that hid them from people who wanted to peer in.  He could see out though and he smiled.

He had also heard that the sun was very rare here, hidden always behind the clouds and mist.

He settled back and smirked beginning to strip off his outer robe. He dropped the heavy satin fabric onto the floor of the carriage and kicked the red black and silver robe to the side and let his hair down to tie at the base of his neck instead.

Underneath he wore a commoner’s robe.

“No! you’re not! You’re not sneaking out!” Jiang Cheng snapped reaching to grab Wei Wuxian by the upper arm, “Not today! You have to be at the palace!”

“And I will be!” Wei Wuxian smiled, “I’ll sneak in later.” He tugged his arm free, “Come on scent me so no one knows I’m an omega.” He leaned close to Jiang Cheng. His own personal walking perfume. The alpha often came in handy for when Wei Wuxian wanted to run off into the town for a day.

“No Mother will kill me!” the alpha frowned leaning back from the omega, pressing his back firmly against the wall of the carriage.

“She won't! She wants to make a good impression to the new emperor of Gusu, she wouldn’t dare punish you for my sneaking out! If anything she’ll punish me, and I’ve had enough punishment to not worry.” He gave a toothy smile, “Also she’ll hold off on punishing me until after we return to Yummeng, since I have to perform for the presentation, she can’t risk me being hurt.”

Jiang Cheng’s jaw literally dropped as he stared at the omega with unbelieving eyes, “You evil bastard.”

“Oh you flatter me, I’m not evil I’m a kitten compared to Wen Rouhan.” Wei Wuxian bat his eyelashes innocently.

“You thought this whole thing through, that’s why you were late! You were planning to sneak out from the moment we arrived in Gusu.” Jiang Cheng huffed.

“Oh, A-Cheng it’s okay, let A-Xian go exploring, he’ll be so busy in the next few days he won’t be able to leave the palace to look around while we’re here.” Jiang Yanli smiled, “Just for a bit, you’ll return before nightfall right A-Xian?” she would wait up for him if she needed to ensure he got to the palace safely.

“Mm! I will I promise.” He held up three fingers with a smile.

“Ugh, I’m not taking the blame! You get into trouble it’ll serve you right!” Jiang Cheng hissed and grabbed Wei Wuxian by the collar and began to rub against the omega’s scent glands.  He scented him very thickly with his own scent of Lotus and Rain.  Ensuring that no one would be able to catch a whiff of Wei Wuxian’s natural scent.

Wei Wuxian’s scent was very strong on most days.  A very strong smell of Lotus Flowers and spice mixed with warm honey.  The scent was so intoxicating they had to barricade Wei Wuxian in a secluded part of the palace for the duration of his first heat. Anyone who had gone even slightly near had become dizzy with desire. Even betas had not been spared. 

Once he was satisfied with how Wei Wuxian smelt now he sat back, “By nightfall no later! You better arrive by dinner time!”

“I promise, I’ll bring treats.” Wei Wuxian grinned and moved to the door and looked around. Making sure no guards were watching he slipped away.

He had an entire market to explore, and no one watching over his shoulder.

Maybe if he found something his aunt would like, she may just let him off the hook.

He smirked.

“Well, drinking might be a good place to start.” He mused to himself and ran first to the nearest stall.

 


 

Wei Wuxian felt very stupid.

So very, very stupid.

While he had enjoyed running around Gusu for three hours, he had forgotten one important thing.

He had not brought his token with him that identified him as one of the royal prince’s. He also did not have a jade token that would allow him entrance to the palace.  He wore commoner robes and had neglected to remember the palace had over three thousand rules etched into the mountain wall where the palace rested.  As he had stood being berated by the guards for trying to sneak in without permission, he had glanced over the rules briefly.

No drinking? Really are they seriously that type?

He had just purchased two jars of the famed Emperor’s smile that also couldn’t be found anywhere but in Gusu.  The liquor had tasted so good when he was trying to at one of the restaurants he had happily purchased a couple extra for later in the night. He had also purchased some mooncakes for Jiang Yanli, some new sword care tools for Jiang Cheng, and some hairpins for his mother and aunt. He had also procured a couple of scrolls of Gusu Lan poetry and history for his father and uncle.  A quite productive day if he asked himself.

It didn’t help though that he now carried all his gifts on his back in a sack and couldn’t enter the palace.

The sun was beginning to set, and he had promised to be back in time for dinner. Jiang Cheng’s scent was also starting to wear off as well, he didn’t want to be on the streets when the more unsavory alphas began to come out for late-night drinking.  So he had been walking around the perimeter wall of the palace for a while looking for a way in, or more specifically a spot that wasn’t as guarded as the rest. 

Eventually, though it seemed luck returned to his side. It looked like the guards had left a part of the wall unattended, perhaps to switch out for the evening, maybe even going for dinner themselves.  Rotations happened often and frequent (He should know, he had escaping Lotus Pier down to a science) so that left him enough of an opening to jump the wall and sneak into his rooms where he could change.

Another thought crossed his mind.  

He had absolutely no idea where his family was staying! Also considering the size of the perimeter wall and how long he had been walking,  the palace (also named the Cloud Recesses) was enormous.  He could figure that out when he got over though.  If he was careful he could easily swing himself up onto the roof, but he had to be careful of his precious Emperor’s Smile. It would be such a waste if he broke a jar.

Putting the strings of the jars into his mouth he held it tightly between his teeth and backed up a few steps. Thankfully there were tree’s surrounding the palace so he could easily get up by using the branches. With a running start, he jumped an caught a thick branch that bowed lower to the ground than the rest and swung his body up, using his momentum to reach the top of the wall.  He caught the tiles of the roof with a clank and sighed in relief when he managed to swing a leg up and over.

He removed the jars from his mouth and snickered softly, “No alcohol, what they don’t know won’t hurt them.” He grinned and turned his body ready to jump down into the garden below.

He froze instead when his eyes met not an empty garden but bright golden eyes instead.

A man stood in the yard and was dressed immaculately. He wore white robes as stark as the mood, little accents of pale blue covered the inner sleeves and collar of the man’s clothing, embroidery in a sparkling thread weaved through the fabric making it sparkle when the man shifted to face him properly. A silver crown rested upon his head covering his half topknot, the rest of his long black hair spilled down his back like ink.  His skin was as clear and pale as jade, not a blemish to be found.  The angle of his jaw was sharp yet soft and his expression blank as a slate. 

Wei Wuxia felt as though he could be staring at a god.

He smiled, “Uh….mind not telling anyone I’m sneaking in? I forgot my token and the guards wouldn’t listen to-“

“Alcohol is forbidden.” The man spoke making Wei Wuxian blink before looking at the jars he held.

“Oh yeah, ah I haven’t read the rules.” Not all of them anyway, “ So I didn’t know.” He quickly pulled the cover off one with his teeth and spit the cloth out with a chuckle, “but if I drink on the wall I’m not technically in the palace right?” he titled the jar back letting the liquid burn down his throat in the most pleasant way.  The sweet after taste only making it better. He cast a glance at the man in the garden, “Why don’t you join me?” he held out the jar in offering.

“Who are you? Why are you here?” the man questioned now, not budging from his spot.

Wei Wuxian blinked and chuckled, mischievousness in his nature, he wondered if this stranger would be gullible enough to believe his lies.  “ Isn’t it rude to ask someone else’s name before giving yours?” he smirked, “Ah but I’ll forg-“

“You are the one climbing over my wall,” the man stated stilling Wei Wuxian’s words in his throat.  Clearly this man was not one to joke with and he didn’t seem like he was going to give in to Wei Wuxian’s whims either. “Gua-“

“Wait no! no! don’t call the guards I swear I’m not trespassing for bad deeds.” Wei Wuxian panicked; he didn’t want to start a situation because he offended some noble by accident.  “I am supposed to be here honest! I swear I just forgot my token.” He sensed this handsome man did not have a funny bone in his entire body.

“Prove it.” The man narrowed his eyes, cold as ice that sent shivers right up Wei Wuxian’s back. The scent of Sandalwood filled his nose and lungs and he bit his lower lip at the request, the man was alpha, he could tell immediately.  His deep voice reverberated through the omega’s body and Wei Wuxian shifted closer to the edge of the roof.

“Call for Emperor Jiang Fe-“

“Emperor! Someone spotted someone wandering around outside the palace walls, you should head inside just to be sa-“ a guard came running into the yard and Wei Wuxian watched as the guard stilled eyes landing on him perched upon the wall.

“Hi.”

“Emperor Hanguang-jun stay behind me!” the guard moved between the emperor and Wei Wuxian whose eyes had literally bugged out of his skull.

One thought ran through the omega’s mind and he felt it was the most appropriate thought given his situation.

Well, that’s just great….I snuck into the emperor’s personal garden. I’m an idiot.

He chuckled softly, a little embarrassedly, “Ah, so uh…Emperor Hanguang-jun? as in Second Prince Lan Wangji?” he smiled his most charming smile possible.

A solid nod was the response he received from the Emperor.

Wei Wuxian smiled, “I am Second Prince Wei Wuxian of Yummengjiang….”

“Prove it.”

Wei Wuxian had never felt more idiotic in his entire life.

 

Chapter Text

Previously –

He chuckled softly, a little embarrassedly, “Ah, so uh…Emperor Hanguang-jun? as in Second Prince Lan Wangji?” he smiled his most charming smile possible.

A solid nod was the response he received from the Emperor.

Wei Wuxian smiled, “I am Second Prince Wei Wuxian of Yummengjiang….”

“Prove it.”

Wei Wuxian had never felt more idiotic in his entire life.

 


 

He had decided it was in his best interest to come down from the wall.

He invited the guard to check him over to ensure he wasn’t armed and kept his hands where they could see them. A bright smile on his face the entire time.

“Listen, if you just called on Emperor Jiang he’ll clear everything up I swear it!” he chuckled nervously as a hand got to close to his waist. A protective growl instantly leaving him in defense.

“Watch it! Until you’re cleared you’re an enemy.” The guard stated yanking Wei Wuxian forward.

“No need to be so rough.” Wei Wuxian stumbled forward and just managed to keep his balance as the bag he had was taken from him, “Hey! Those are gifts for my fa-“ the guard didn’t care to listen as he opened the sack and began to toss items out of it.  Wei Wuxian dove to catch the box of mooncakes and hairpin’s he had purchased were throw unceremoniously towards the ground.

“You don’t have to wreck things!” he was getting frustrated and looked to Emperor Lan Wangji, “Please just call his majesty!”

He was met with the same impassive stare the emperor had been giving him since they had spotted one another moments ago.  Though Wei Wuxian felt relief as the stoic man called a servant over directing him to go and retrieve the emperor.  Wei Wuxian held the breakable items from his bag close to his chest glaring at the guard who glared back, sword still pointed at the omega.

Wei Wuxian frowned the smile he had been sporting falling easily from his features as he stared at the Emperor of Gusu.  The man was so impassive and cold.  Wei Wuxian saw the youthful features of the Emperor and gathered that he was no much older than himself if not the same age.  He also knew he was once the second prince of Gusu, given his position as Crown Prince because his elder brother had no desire to lead the kingdom. Prince Lan XiChen an alpha, had been more drawn to teaching and learning than he had ever been interested in politics, though he did attend court meetings, he was more of a mediator and translator for his younger brother.  No one had complained of course, as long as someone took the throne.  When Emperor Qingheng-jun’s wife the late empress had passed, he had ruled for a few more years until his son came of age before passing the mantle.

So that meant the Emperor was either eighteen too or nineteen.

A Greenhorn if Wei Wuxian had any say about it.

He felt like he was going to clash with the emperor. They were like oil and water, they repelled one another.

Wei Wuxian was bright, wild, free, outspoken, and an omega.

Lan Wangji was like the moon, silent, ethereal, quiet, cold, and an Alpha.

Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but think that the emperor before him looked as though he were in constant mourning. Yet despite all his cold impassiveness, he felt like he saw a flicker of something in those deep golden orbs.

He didn’t have to dwell on it long of course.

Footsteps filled yard as the familiar face of Emperor Jiang Fengmian came into view. The alpha’s sent soothing and calm. It alleviated the tension starting to settle inside Wei Wuxian’s core and he couldn’t help but call out.

“Uncle!”

“A-Ying.” Jiang Fengmian calm face shifted into one of instant worry as he rushed forward past Emperor Lan Wangji, “Why are you on the ground?”

Wei Wuxian decided to come clean, “I snuck out, I went to explore Gusu before I had to come to the palace.” He admitted, “but I forgot to take my token with me, so the guards wouldn’t let me in and didn’t believe I was a prince of Yummeng.”

Jiang Fengmian’s expression fell and he sighed hands placed on Wei Wuxian’s shoulders as the picture became clearer.

“So I tried to sneak over the wall so I could find our rooms and change.” The omega continued, he didn’t like when his uncle got a look of disappointment, it was so rare and when he adopted the look Wei Wuxian knew he had severely messed up. “I accidentally snuck in through Emperor Lan Wangji’s garden and well here we are.”

Jian Fengmian nodded and stood up and turning towards Lan Wangji and gave a curt and respectful bow, “I apologize, but I can vouch, this is my nephew Prince Wei Ying, Courtesy name Wei Wuxian.” He introduced, “He’s a bit of a wild spirit but he’s a good person, he would never wish any harm upon you, your majesty.”

This seemed to satisfy the alpha who nodded in response, “Mn.”

The swords of the guard came down, he dropped into a bow, “My apologies your highness.” He stated quickly.

The irritation Wei Wuxian was feeling before dissipated, he was tired and just wanted to leave before any more trouble arose.  “It’s fine, you were protecting the Emperor, all are enemies until proven otherwise.” He looked at Lan Wangji, their eyes locking.

For a moment Wei Wuxian felt as though he could see something akin to curiosity flit through the man’s eyes, yet just as quickly as it had come it was gone. The eyes seemed to darken as they looked at Wei Wuxian and the omega could feel it inside his chest. They were two very different people. Despite the dire situation he had just been in he felt a strong urge under his skin to mess around with the emperor. There had to be another expression under that impassive face.  He wanted to draw it out.

“Come A-Ying.’ Jiang Fengmian placed a hand gently upon his nephew’s back guiding him away from Lan Wangji, “I apologize, your majesty, we will see you at dinner.” He stated.

Wei Wuxian bowed his head lightly before following along obediently.

He only spared one glance back towards Lan Wangji as they moved to exit the pavilion.

He did not expect when he saw the emperor staring back.

 


 

“Fool! Idiot!” Empress Yu paced back and forth as Wei Wuxian flinched.

He had arrived back at his rooms about twenty minutes ago and had promptly been tossed into a super quick bath, his hair and skin were scrubbed with scented soaps and oils before he had been pulled out and dressed.  His aunt had her personal servants attending to him making sure he looked perfect.  His presentation was tomorrow but an expectation was to be set. She wanted to show him off before then.  He was dressed in fine black robes made of satin and silk, the fabric embossed with lotus flowers and silver trim. The four layers were heavy, his inner robe covered his chest and was tied with a red string revealing his collar bone and throat. The second layer of his outfit was a crimson-colored robe and then on top was the outer robe that was held together with a silver belt that had the nine-petal lotus embroidered across it.  Across his neck he wore a necklace of silver, the petal pattern jewelry covered his throat clasping at the back of his neck like a shackle, at the bottom of his throat where the metal ended chains fell looping together over his collar bone allowing bits of skin to peek through without being inappropriate. 

His hair had been gathered into a half bun; braids were woven into it making it almost look like a flower as well. Red ribbons were woven into the bun as well that draped downmixing with his midnight black hair, a small crown had been placed over the bun and was secured with a phoenix feather hairpin. His bangs were left out to frame his face and a little bit of scented perfume had been applied to his clothes.

Wei Wuxian did not recognize himself, yet he supposed that was the point. This was the image everyone else wanted to see.

An omega who had been groomed to be attractive…

He wanted to smash the mirror.

“Are you listening to me!” Yu Ziyuan’s voice cut through his thoughts before he even realized he’d drifted off into them.

Wei Wuxian, “Yes! I’m sorry I won’t do it again.”

“Damn right you won't! You will be on your best behavior for the remainder of this trip! Not a toe out of line or I swear to the gods above you will be disciplined so severely when we return to Lotus Pier you won’t walk for a month!” her threats were never empty and Wei Wuxian rather liked walking and running so he nodded quickly.

“I swear I’ll behave.” To an extent, nothing that would get him in any to big trouble at least.

“Now when we go to dinner you will bow to the emperor and you will apologize properly! Show him you’re not a heathen and a proper prince.” She stated, “You want to let him see you are well educated and behaved.”

Wei Wuxian inwardly twitched, “Yes.”

“Very good, now get up we don’t want to be late.” She stated shooing her maids off.

When Wei Wuxian stood he felt heavy, each movement restricted, every time he breathed in or swallowed the cold metal of the necklace around his throat made him feel like he was being burned.  The long billowing sleeves of his robes held his arms in place preventing him from waving about wildly and gesturing freely. The weight of his hair gathered at the crown of his head pulled and tugged stilling his thoughts and he felt trapped.

He walked obediently behind his aunt. He kept his gaze turned down, not because he was trying to be submissive or anything, but because he was trying desperately not to trip over the long layers of fabric. He kept his hands folded over his waist where he scrunched a little of the fabric in his palms to lift it up enough that he wasn’t stepping on it. 

Despite the heavy layers he wore, the chill air of Gusu brushed against his skin like a cold whisper sending goosebumps rushing all over his body.  The sky had grown dimmer now and if he was correct it was only around seven in the evening. He was used to later dinners back in Yummeng, where the evenings were hot, and the kingdom bustled and buzzed with life. “Why is dinner so early?” he questioned unable to contain himself.

“Of course I wouldn’t expect you to know, you didn’t read the rules like the rest of us.” Yu Ziyuan scoffed as she began to explain to her oblivious nephew, “The Palace’s people sleep at nine and rise at five except for special occasions.” She stated, “Tonight is not the banquet so we will dine with his majesty and the other members of the royal court who have come to attend then we will retire for the evening.  Tomorrow is going to be a very long day and you will have to meet with the other omega’s who are presenting tomorrow to practice.” She stated firmly.

“Are there any Lan Omega’s presenting?” he questioned, he couldn’t recall ever seeing and of the Gusulan kingdom ever present their omega’s before.

“No they have a different way of pairing off their omega, they do not present them as they are very rare within Gusulan and not often do they produce an omega.” Yu Ziyuan thought the matter peculiar, but no one had ever complained, she had heard the omega’s of Gusulan were brought up separately from the main society and were then put into arranged marriages. At least that’s what she heard but gossip in the palace was forbidden so she couldn’t put any credibility to such information.

Wei Wuxian almost wished he didn’t have to present but he knew that he had to, it was the agreement. Then again he wanted to reject every alpha whose attention he would gather. He wasn’t ready to take a mate; he was happy to continue being free for a while longer. Then again, many felt that an omega’s worth had a certain window of time. Beauty was fleeting, it didn’t last, the fertility of an omega fell into that category. 

Maybe he should just scream from the rooftops he was infertile so alphas would avoid him like a plague.

He thought of the whipping he would surely get and shook the thought from his head.

“Oh, A-Xian! You look so beautiful!” Jiang Yanli gasped as they met one another outside the dining hall.  The Princess quickly curtsied to her mother with a smile before focusing completely on Wei Wuxian.

He smiled tilting his head slightly, “thanks A-jie, it means a lot coming from you.” At least someone could recognize him.   

“Did you have fun?” she questioned her warm smile spreading warmth in his chest and chasing away the chill of the night.

Wei Wuxian, “Yes! I brought you gifts, I’ll give them to you after dinner.” He stated.

“Okay, did you get A-Cheng anything?” she questioned.

“He better have.” Grumbled the alpha teen coming up behind Wei Wuxian, “or else I’ll break his legs for not repaying me.”

“I did, you’ll like it don’t worry, I brought everyone something.” Wei Wuxian stated before going silent realizing he’d completely forgot his Aunts presence and she was now glaring at all three of the children before her.

“Silence, Wei Wuxian remember what I told you.” She stated, “Do not sit before you do.”

He nodded and soon enough the rest of their family had gathered. Cangse Saren and Wei Changze gave their son sympathetic looks but complimented his appearance none the less.  They glided into the dining hall that was filled with barely audible whispers, it was so quiet compared to Yummeng where noise was normal for Wei Wuxian.   As his family moved to their seats he walked forward and quickly knelt and bowed to Emperor Lan Wangji who sat upon a raised platform with the first Prince Lan XiChen and their Uncle Lan Qiren, the current advisor.

“I, Prince Wei Wuxian of Yummengjiang would like to sincerely offer my deepest apologies for my earlier behavior in front of Emperor Hanguang-jun.” he stated head lowered, “ I ask only for his majesties forgiveness.”

Quiet murmurs surrounded Wei Wuxian; whispers he was not unfamiliar with.

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

A fine omega if I’ve ever seen one.

He looks like he could bear strong pups.

He swallowed any retorts he had for whoever was speaking about him and instead waited for the word from Lan Wangji, wondering if the emperor would let him off the hook or not.

“You may rise, all is forgiven.” It had been a mistake after all and while Lan Wangji didn’t approve of the method Wei Wuxian had used to enter the palace he had been honest about who he was.

Wei Wuxian stood up and raised his head. He looked at Lan Wangji and tilted his head flashing a smile that stole the very air from Lan Wangji’s lungs.

The sun was reflected in Wei Wuxian’s smile. Bright, Beautiful, a ray of light in the otherwise dim atmosphere of the banquet hall.  It spoke of days spent under the sun that kissed pale skin and turned it golden. The soft laughter that echoed from behind that smile was like music he had never heard before.  An adventurous and wild spirit.

Just as quickly as it had appeared it was gone.

Wei Wuxian had turned his back on the emperor and had gravitated towards his seat quietly where he sat down with practiced ease and grace, ignoring the stares of every other alpha in the room.

He spared no one a glance, not even the greasy wen child from across the dining hall, Wen Chao.  Who proceeded to stare uncomfortably at him.

Wei Wuxian wanted to eat as quickly as possible and run from the hall as quickly as he could despite his heavy clothes.

He never once noticed the golden eyes that continued to stare at him as well.

 


 

“I’m Nie Huaisang, the second prince of Qinghe Nie! You’re uh Wei Wuxian of Yummengjiang right?”

Wei Wuxian glanced up from where he was preparing himself to see the omega standing before him. He recognized him from earlier during practice.  They hadn’t had an opportunity to talk though as they all worked together to make sure their movements were all in sync, and by the time they had finished Wei Wuxian was starving and wanted a bath before he had to get ready for the evening’s presentation.

“Oh, yeah hi hello…” he didn’t know Qinghe’s second prince was an omega.

“Hi, I wanted to talk to you earlier, but we couldn’t.” he smiled, “Are you excited to perform?”

Wei Wuxian glanced away slightly, a crooked smile covering his features, “Excited wouldn’t be the word I would use, more I just want to get it over with and get the hell out of there as fast as I can.”

“Oh, so you don’t want to present either.” The shorter male chuckled softly.

Nie Huaisang stood before him wearing an outfit almost identical to Wei Wuxian’s except he wore more jewelry and his outfit was the colors of Qinghe Nie.  The light silk top with the billowing sleeves was a deep forest green and the pants were a deep black that gathered at the ankle ballooning the fabric. He had a belt made of golden coins that jingled when he walked, and he wore a silver choker around his throat. His hair was pulled into a high bun and crowned with a golden crown that resembled branches.  His feet were clad in black flats. A fan held tightly in his hands.

“Why would I want to be presented for all those nosy alpha’s? they’re only looking to bid on the next prettiest thing they see.” Wei Wuxian huffed as he finished tying his hair up into a high ponytail and put the silver lotus petal crown over the base of the ponytail securing it in place.  A fox mask sat next to him painted black, red, and gold. “You’re not honestly looking to be bid on are you?”

Nie Huaisang’ s face flushed red as he opened his fan and hid part of his face nervously, “Absolutely not! And besides even if an alpha dared to try and court me, My elder brother would reject everyone, no one would be able to get within arms reach of me.”

“Then why is he making you present?” the idea confused Wei Wuxian if Nie Huaisang’ s brother wouldn’t let anyone court him what was the point of having him present.

“It’s only proper, I mean most of us are from the other kingdoms, yet it would look bad if a Prince refused to present.”  Nie Huaisang had brought a couple of the court officials’ sons and daughters with him who were also omegas. Even if he did not look for a mate, at least the others could grab someone’s eye potentially.  “Besides, brother Wei even if you don’t want to find a mate tonight, I can almost guarantee you that we’ll all pale in comparison to you.”

Wei Wuxian could literally see the silver tongue Nie Huaisang had and held back pointing out he could see the other trying to win him over with flattery.

Nie Huaisang, “You were so good with your performance during practice, I couldn’t even look away.”

Wei Wuxian chuckled, “if I make even one mistake my aunt would have me served on a silver platter,” he chuckled, “You weren’t too bad yourself.”

“Ah, brother’s strict to, he wouldn’t let me skip one practice.” Nie Huaisang chuckled.  “Good-luck to us then I guess.”

“Mn, Good luck.” Wei Wuxian picked up the fox mask. It was designed so that it covered the upper half of his face with tall fox ears on the top, it had red ties on the sides in order to secure it on his head. The lower half of his face would be the only visible part.  He secured it on before looking in the brass mirror to ensure he looked presentable.  His outfit was the same style as Nie Huaisang’s except he had a sheer black coat that went over his that hung open. It flowed and moved with his movements and the red and black of his clothing added a certain allure that the purples of Yummeng did not offer. The jewelry that covered his wrists, neck and fingers sparkled.  He felt so much lighter compared to the night before.

He glanced over to where everyone was lining up to go into the banquet hall.  They all wore animal-inspired masks as well. The point of it being that they were not supposed to allow their looks to influence an alpha’s decisions in choosing them. They were supposed to make the alpha focus on their skills and grace rather than their appearance alone.

Many times a bad pairing had occurred solely because an alpha was smitten by the omega’s appearance and not their abilities and had been disappointed in the long run, eventually leading to the dissolving of marriages.

It was a cruel fate for an omega, to be blamed for their mates’ poor decisions. They would either be marked and unable to find a new mate, left to survive on their own and die of neglect or they would not be marked and simply shamed for being rejected by their alpha for being sub-par.

Wei Wuxian would not fall victim to that kind of ploy. He refused.

A servant came in a moment later and bowed to their group.

“I’ve been told to escort you out into the hall, please take your places and wait for the music to begin.” She instructed.

A collective yes was shared between them all before the doors opened and they filed out in a singular line.  They shifted into their positions without much difficulty before kneeling down. Their formation was that of a diamond and Wei Wuxian somehow found himself at the head of the group. He inhaled deeply as he raised his head just slightly to see Emperor Lan Wangji staring him down.

The other’s face as still as stone. Not even a twitch to betray any sort of emotion that he might be feeling.

Wei Wuxian felt infuriated by the expression for some reason and took it as a personal challenge to make the emperor show some expression on his face, anything.  Anger, Shock, or amusement, he wanted to see it.

In typically Wei Wuxian fashion he high fived himself internally.

The look shared between gold and silver-gray eyes made a silent declaration of war.

Wei Wuxian smirked outwardly.

The first note of the music sounded out and Wei Wuxian stepped forward first.

Challenge accepted.

 

Chapter Text

Previously –

In typical Wei Wuxian fashion he high fived himself internally.

The look shared between gold and silver-gray eyes made a silent declaration of war.

Wei Wuxian smirked outwardly.

The first note of the music sounded out and Wei Wuxian stepped forward first.

Challenge accepted.

 


 

Lan Wangji felt every muscle in his body tense.

He had heard of the omega presentations before, but he had never attended the discussion conferences. He had always stayed home to study alongside his brother. His uncle and father had been the ones to always attend.

He had been crowned emperor just this year though and attending and hosting the banquet was his responsibility now. Even in the past when Gusu had hosted the banquet he had not attended.  He had only heard other’s recollections of the presentations.

Gusu definitely differed in terms of how they dealt with any omega’s in their clan.  They ensured their omega were kept separate from pining alphas who could easily be influenced despite the palace’s many rules. They were raised to understand their roles, their gender, what would one day inevitably be expected when they finally found a mate.  Their education was key. Then they would arrange marriages based on skills and personality, a courting process would take place and if there was any doubt to the union it would be called off until the omega found someone they genuinely liked and liked them back.

The last omega to be married off was a distant cousin of Lan Wangji’s. That had been when he was a child barely entering his teenagehood. 

Any other omega’s in the kingdom typically lived outside the palace, they could either come seeking help and guidance for the future, giving their trust over to the palace. A way to ensure they were kept safe and would one day find a good match or they would simply try to make it on their own.

Gusu had a very open policy for helping those in need.

It was one reason their kingdom was hailed as the most righteous of all five kingdoms.

To see such a presentation for the first time definitely drew his attention.

His eyes were fixated on the omega with the fox mask that moved in sync with the others, their movements graceful and flowing far more than the others. He had a way of moving and twisting it drew Lan Wangji’s attention, golden meeting silver-gray. Then the dancer smiled, and Lan Wangji felt his throat constrict, a heavyweight settled in his chest and he couldn’t help but follow that smile.  A smile that burned brighter than the sun. He was drawn in by it all, he could not see the other performers only the fox masked one.  The swish of black robes, a peak of red, the long silky sway of midnight black hair.  The jewelry he wore glinted like hundreds of sparkling coins.  

He twirled, swayed, moved his arms all with such ease.  His eyes were drawn to the way the omega ran slender fingers across an exposed collar bone and a perfect, unblemished neck. The movement was almost inviting to have someone bite the pale throat. The way he spun and dipped backwards accentuating the curve of his spine.  The thin torso and the wider hips, an omega perfect for bearing young, strong young.   A coy smile and wink were thrown his way as the omega in front of him turned just slightly to glance over a slightly raised shoulder. The mask did nothing to hide the playfulness in the omega’s eyes and Lan Wangji swallowed hard a slight twitch of his eyebrow had the omega smirking next.

The tempo of the music picked up as the omegas began to spin around, their billowing sleeves spreading around them like flower petals, they pulled flowers from their clothing and as the music reached its crescendo they tossed the flowers out unheeding of where they landed and moved back into the center of the room, looping and weaving through each other.

Lan Wangji’s eyes tried to follow the fox omega, he didn’t even notice the gentian flower that had landed on his lap, as the other disappeared within the crowd of omega’s.  They then twirled back around until the fox was in his sights again.  When the sound came to an abrupt halt and faded off the omega smirked and dropped into a low salute and shifted his mask slightly to the side.  Even with half a face Lan Wangji could recognize the face from the night before.

Suddenly a cold feeling filled him, such a flirtatious display. How dare this omega…Wei…Wei Wuxian shamelessly make himself so provocative! What if…what if the other alphas in the room did not have any pure thoughts towards him? Surely they would be vying for the omega’s attention and not for proper matters.   

He must have voiced his displeasure aloud because when he realized he had said something all eyes were on him, and Wei Wuxian was staring in shock. The victorious and playful smirk he’d been wearing seconds ago disappeared and the omega’s mouth twitched before he bowed.

“I am sorry your majesty, I didn’t mean to displease you.” Wei Wuxian pulled his mask back down over his face before he rushed from the banquet hall swiftly without actually running. He did not remove his hand from his face or look up again. Another omega rushed after him before Lan Wangji looked to his brother with concealed confusion.

It seemed Lan XiChen was also confused and quite concerned, “Wangji, w…why did you say that?”

Lan Wangji blinked, his expression one of muted confusion, ‘say what?’

“You…You called Prince Wei Wuxian pathetically shameless.” Lan XiChen worried his lip a little  as he leaned closer to Lan Wangji, “Don’t you remember?”

Lan Wangji blinked before shaking his head lightly, he hadn’t recalled saying anything.

Lan XiChen swallowed and turned towards the gathered leaders and official members of the court, “…Ah…” he glanced at his brother’s food and back up, “Begin to eat everyone will stare.” He instructed gently. No one could begin until the emperor began.

Lan Wangji nodded and took the first bite.

It seemed to alleviate the tension that had filled the room, yet everyone saw the fuming mother glaring daggers towards the emperor.

How dare he call my Ying’er pathetically shameless!

Lan Wangji felt a chill run up his spine.

 


 

Wei Wuxian huffed ripping the mask off his head and tossed it to the ground as he made his way to the brass mirror of his room.  His ponytail was pulled askew and the petaled crown tumbled off clattering across the floor unceremoniously.  The sound was jarring but he didn’t care as he pulled the necklace off his throat quickly almost ripping the chains and clasps apart as he did.  

He stopped at the mirror and gazed into his reflection.

His hair was messy and lopsided now, the red ribbon he used to tie it up hung limply halfway down the ponytail and his skin was flush with both anger and embarrassment. The dance had taken very little out of him. He looked down at his outfit and the smile he had worn before disappeared completely turning into a deep-set frown.

“What did you think your majes-“

“You Wei Wuxian are pathetically shameless.”

Wei Wuxian had been so shocked, he had been sure he had seen interest, the way the emperor’s eyes followed him, his eyes reflecting some sort of emotion Wei Wuxian could not place. He had thought perhaps he had succeeded in drawing out the same interest as other alphas. That Lan Wangji was speechless by his impeccable performance. He didn’t make a single mistake!

And yet when he had tried to question him playfully, ask if he enjoyed his performance he was called Pathetic and Shameless!

His blood boiled and he began to strip off the outfit roughly tearing the fabric as he did tossing the articles of clothing every which way and that without a care. 

He’d danced the same dance as the others! He’d worn almost the same clothes! He’d smiled, he’d moved with grace! He’d done everything Aunt Yu had told him to do and he’d been embarrassed!  He swiftly swiped the powders and jewels and hairpins off the vanity he stood in front of.  He panted as he threw the nearest object across the room( A teacup) which hit the far wall and shattered.  His face felt hot and he couldn’t gather the energy to smile. 

He wondered why he was so irritated, so angry….then again to be humiliated in such a way in front of other prince’s and Emperor and Empresses. He had every right. Not that it would matter it wasn’t like he could return an insult to the Emperor of Gusu without consequence.

He was torn from his thoughts as a knock echoed from the door of his room.  He shook his head lightly and pulled his ribbon from his hair letting it fall down his back in long waves and retrieved a robe for decency as he had torn his performance outfit. He walked to the door and slowly slid it open.

“What?”

Nie Huaisang jumped, “Oh uh…” the omega stood outside Wei Wuxian’s doors, he looked like he had changed really quickly, “I…wanted to see if you were okay.” His rooms were not far from the Yummeng prince and he had spotted Wei Wuxian coming into the room so he could only assume this was where he was staying.

Wei Wuxian sighed, “Why wouldn’t I be fine?”

The Qinghe omega shifted from foot to foot a fan at his side as he looked around nervously, “What Emperor Hanguang-jun said was uncalled for, you did nothing shamelessly.” He tried to console Wei Wuxian who looked worn out.

“…He’s emperor he had every right to say what he thinks, If I’m pathetically shameless in his eyes then I am.” Wei Wuxian stated leaning on the door frame lazily. “Not like I can dispute it, no one wants to go against an Emperor.”

Nie Huaisang frowned, “I thought you danced beautifully.”

Wei Wuxian blinked before smiling softly feeling a little lighter, “Thanks.”

Nie Huaisang smiled shyly back, “You’re welcome.” He took in Wei Wuxian’s appearance, “Are you coming back to eat dinner?”

Wei Wuxian glanced away, “I don’t think I should, might be awkward.”  After being insulted by the emperor if he were to walk back into the banquet hall he might just appear truly shameless.

The smaller omega shook his head, “You can’t not come.” He stated, “Even if the Emperor insulted you, you’re a representative of Yummeng with your family.” He looked panicked, “If you don’t attend it will look like you’re dismissing his majesty’s presence.”

Wei Wuxian really didn’t want to go back, but he supposed Nie Huaisang had a point and sighed, “alright.” He muttered.

Nie Huaisang smiled, “let me help you get changed, it’ll be quicker.” And from what he could see in the room Wei Wuxian had vented some anger.

Wei Wuixan nodded, “Okay.” And he stepped aside to let the other in, closing the door behind him.

Ten minutes later Wei Wuxian was cleaned up.  He walked towards the banquet hall with Nie Huaisang at his side. He had forgone the heavy fabrics of the robes prepared for him for the banquet and instead wore his normal robes. They were elegant but also gave him better mobility.  He had shed all the necklaces and bracelets for his arm braces instead and his hair was in a simple ponytail without any fancy crowns or hairpins.  

He wasn’t going to make himself look like he was an obedient and disciplined omega for everyone to whisper about. If he had to go back to the banquet he would, but he would do it comfortably.

Once they arrived back at the banquet, no one bothered to glance his way as they began to finish their meals. Wei Wuxian quickly gravitated towards his family, settling in the seat right between his parents. He said nothing but smiled when he felt his mothers warm hand settle on his knee. A gentle reassuring and loving smile cast his way.

At least his mother was able to chase away the anger inside him.  He didn’t say anything and instead tucked into his meal, which as it had been the last night tasted fairly bland. Everyone ate it obediently without complaint. Wei Wuxian simply picked at the food until he was no longer hungry, and servant came along to retrieve the dishes.

Once everyone had their fill, the discussion conference opened up. While Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng weren’t required to participate in the conference, it never hurt to listen in. It gave them a deeper understanding of the different kingdom’s issues, they learned about growth within other clans and the strife they all faced. It was an open place to seek information, to come up with plans that could help one another, and it was all shared without a price.  Sometimes it became heated but if kept civil enough they got somewhere.

It was a good place to learn politics. Especially for Jiang Cheng who would one day head the kingdom of Yummeng. Wei Wuxian listened in solely because he wanted to have the knowledge, he had always been hailed a genius, inventing things when he wasn’t running about or completing his duties.  He had come up with many useful things in their kingdom that had been utilized in day to day life.  

He honestly couldn’t recall how many times he’d accidentally blown up his rooms in his pursuit of knowledge.  Uncle Fengmian had even given him his own workshop within the palace after the umpteenth time restoring his personal room.

This year it seemed Qishan was being plagued with some unusual misfortunes. They had a drought going on and they’d also experienced a sudden plague. It was thankfully all contained but Wen Rouhan made no subtle gestures when he requested aid from the other kingdoms. Everyone of course reluctantly agreed to spare some of their own resources for the Wen Clan. No one wanted to deal with a tantrum from the Emperor of Qishan.

Wei Wuxian of course eventually lost interest in the discussion and instead began to play with his teacup. He half paid attention and half didn’t adopting a lazy posture and leaned his elbow on the tabletop. He placed his chin upon his hand and sighed outwardly, thankfully it went unnoticed under the voices of the other leaders, officials, and clan leaders.

After what seemed like hours the discussion conference finished, and the guests were allowed to mingle and talk freely.  A good way to build relations.  Wei Wuxian taking that as his cue that he didn’t need to stay any longer stood.

“Ying’er.” Wei Changze stopped his son placing a hand gently upon his child’s shoulder.

“A-Ying.” Cangse Saren moved to cup her sons face affectionately, “Don’t listen to what the emperor of Gusu said, you’re not shameless or pathetic my love.”

He smiled placing his hands over his mothers purring softly in response, “Thank you mother, I think I made a really bad impression on Emperor Hanguang-jun, I think it’s best if I go home early.” He stated gently.

Wei Changze blinked, “What about the hunt tomorrow? You were so excited for it.” He didn’t want to see his son so dejected and feeling unwelcome.

Wei Wuxian chuckled trying to ease his parent's worries, “There will be plenty more hunts! And I can always go hunt pheasants with A-Cheng in Yummeng anytime I want.” He had been looking forward to the annual hunt that the discussion conferences held, but he didn’t want to be here in Gusu anymore.

“Oh Ying’er.” Cangse Saren sighed, she desperately wanted to give that child emperor a good talking to, but it wasn’t her place. “If it’s what you really want.”

Wei Wuxian nodded, “I’ll leave in the morning, I’ll be fine.” He would feel better when he was somewhere familiar and without the weight of expectation set on him.

“I’ll let your uncle and aunt know.” Wei Changze stated.

Wei Wuxian smiled again before he walked past them.

As he made his way out of the banquet hall he felt someone eyes on him and stopped to turn around.

Gold.

“Emperor Hanguang-jun.” he dropped into a bow quickly before rising again, “I apologize for upsetting you.” He stated.

Lan Wangji only stared at him, not saying anything.

Wei Wuxian felt the irritation from earlier bubbling up in his chest at the stone-like expression.

“I apologize for my words.” He stated after a moment of pause surprising Wei Wuxian.

Wei Wuxian wasn’t sure if the man was pulling a prank on him or not and tried not to look affronted as he tried to figure it out.  He decided for the sake of his own sanity he would leave it be, “Do not feel the need to apologize to me your majesty, if you think I am shameless then there is no helping it.” Wei Wuxian stated.  “I’ve made a terrible impression on you but do not worry.”

If he wasn’t mistaken he thought he saw a flash of confusion fill Lan Wangji’s eyes, “I’ll be leaving in the morning, I won’t bother you anymore.” He stated.

Lan Wangji’s opened his mouth to say something and seemed to think better of it before shutting his mouth once more.

“Excuse me, your majesty, I am tired, I’ll retire for the evening.” With that Wei Wuxian turned around and sped off as fast as he could without looking back, the smell of sandalwood invaded his senses and made him dizzy, the fire in his chest egging on only more.

Lan Wangji watched after him and pursed his lips slightly, the taste of honey on his tongue and the smell of lotus invading his senses. 

“Emperor Hanguang-jun, would you mind sparing a moment?” came Wen Rouhan’s voice as he drifted towards the doors of the banquet hall drawing the young alpha back inside.

“Mn.”

Lan Wangji didn’t give the mysterious omega another thought.

 


 

“Come on! Come on!”

Laughter rang out through the courtyard, breathless giggles and loud shouts as a ball was passed back and forth between Wei Wuxian and his servants.  They’d set up a playing field in one of the less busy courtyards and were currently in an intense game of kickball. 

He often played games with them, and since he had been back in Yummeng for four days, he’d had all the freedom in the world to do as he pleased. He didn’t worry about dressing up or running off to lessons.  Instead he filled his days with leisure.  He didn’t think about his short trip to Gusu or about the presentation, he didn’t even let his thoughts drift to the stubborn emperor who didn’t seem to like him.

He simply had fun.

Fun was what he was. Wild, Free, and happy.

He had at least taken something away from the entire ordeal at the discussion conference. It seemed Nie Huaisang had taken a real liking to him and had sent a letter shortly after Wei Wuxian had returned to the palace. He told him how he was sad he left so suddenly, but he hoped they could become friends and exchange letters.

Wei Wuxian saw no reason why he couldn’t and had readily agreed. He sent a letter in response and left it at that.

Wei Wuxian ran forward and gave the rolling ball a hard kick. It sailed through the air in a high arch and landed in one of the lotus ponds just behind the gazebo and Wei Wuxian threw his arms up in the air running around in a circle, “Goal!”

“That wasn’t a goal Prince Wei! That was a foul!” a servant laughed.

Wei Wuxian chuckled and smirked, “Was it really a foul? It couldn’t have been! After all, it landed in such a pretty pond!”

The servants laughed and instead ran to the pond to retrieve the ball.

The omega prince smiled warmly.

“Look at you fooling around, must be nice.” An annoyed voice broke into the atmosphere.

Wei Wuxian’s expression brightened even more, “Welcome home A-Cheng!” he immediately ran towards the alpha who stumbled back.

“Don’t touch me! You’re dirty and sweaty!” the alpha huffed.

“You’ve been riding in a carriage for an entire day, who cares?” Wei Wuxian pouted puffing out his cheeks. “So mean.”

“Ugh, Mother wants to see you so go get cleaned up and go to father’s study.” Jiang Cheng huffed rubbing his temples.

“Oh….is she mad that I came back early?” Wei Wuxian questioned wondering why his aunt would want to see him so soon after returning home.

“Maybe to punish you for when we first arrived in Gusu?” Jiang Cheng suggested.

Wei Wuxian blanched, he’d forgotten about that. No one ever said he had a good memory. “Oh yeah…” he decided to change the subject not wanting to think about it, “What did I miss during the hunt?”

“Jin Zixuan tripped when another prince stumbled into him and shot the wine cup of Qinghe Nie’s emperor during the practice portion of the hunt.” Jiang Cheng supplied.

Wei Wuxian gasped, “Oh no! did he get killed? Is A-jie free of a terrible marriage? Please tell me they locked him in a pig cage!”

Jiang Cheng shoved Wei Wuxian with a frown, “No! Emperor Nie laughed and instead asked for more cups to be lined up for everyone to shoot.”

Wei Wuxian sighed, “That’s no fun.” He smirked, “hey A-Cheng?”

Jiang Cheng, “What?”

Wei Wuxian, “You touched me and I’m dirty.”

“…….SHUT UP!”

Wei Wuxian burst into laughter and ran off ahead of the alpha who chased after him cursing him for being an idiot.

Wei Wuxian felt a tremendous weightlifting off his chest, his heartfelt light and airy.  It felt good to have things returning to normal.

After he had bathed and changed, making himself presentable he went to the study where he had been summoned. He knocked lightly and entered the spacious room.

He saw his uncle sat behind a desk with Yu Ziyuan sitting nearby. His parents also were in the room sat side by side.  He watched as they all grew silent upon seeing him and he blinked smiling at them. “What wrong? You all look so serious.” He grinned, “I promise I didn’t destroy any temples on my way home, and I haven’t snuck out all week.” He sat down next to his mother who instantly took his hands.

“Ying’er, we have something to tell you.” His mother stated patting his hand lightly.

“What is it A-Niang?” he looked to her curiously.

“This.” Yu Ziyuan stood and walked over an ornately decorated box in her hands. She set it before him, and he leaned curiously to observe what she had.  The box itself was painted white and had fine details carved into it. “Open it.” Yu Ziyuan instructed.

Wei Wuxian blinked before nodding and taking the box in hand.  He hesitated for a moment before he popped the lid off and looked inside.  Settled in white velvet was a white jade hair pin. It was beautifully carved and looked quite expensive. He picked it up and held it carefully within his hands examining it. Wondering if there was some sort of significance.  “What do you have to tell me that has to do with a jade pin?” he asked glancing up.

Everyone’s faces had become so serious, Wei Wuxian’s brows knit together and he looked to his aunt specifically.

“That is your first courting gift from the Emperor of Gusu.” Yu Ziyuan stated firmly, “We’ve accepted Gusu’s courting intentions for you.”

The weight Wei Wuxian had felt evaporate earlier suddenly came crashing back down upon him ten-fold and he felt breathless, his expression going slack.

The jade pin fell from his fingers back into the box and a second later a loud thud echoed through the room.

“A-YING!”

“Wei Wuxian!”

“YING’ER!”

“Call the physician!”

Wei Wuxian passed out cold.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Previously –

“That is your first courting gift from the Emperor of Gusu.” Yu Ziyuan stated firmly, “We’ve accepted Gusu’s courting intentions for you.”

The weight Wei Wuxian had felt evaporate earlier suddenly came crashing back down upon him ten-fold and he felt breathless, his expression going slack.

The jade pin fell from his fingers back into the box and a second later a loud thud echoed through the room.

“A-YING!”

“Wei Wuxian!”

“YING’ER!”

“Call the physician!”

Wei Wuxian passed out cold.

 


 

Wei Wuxian awoke to a pounding in his head.

He opened his eyes flinching when the light invaded his vision.

“A-Ying.” Jiang Fengmian appeared in his line of sight immediately and Wei Wuxian felt confusion.

“What happened?” he questioned.

“You fainted Ying’er,” Cangse Saren appeared to and Wei Wuxian realized his mother had been sitting beside him where he lay propped up on some cushions. He was still in the study and everyone was staring at him concerned. The royal physician had even been summoned.

The elder man smiled lightly, “Nothing appears to be wrong your majesty, perhaps due to shock or some sort you fainted but you are otherwise healthy.” He stated bowing.

“Fainting but he’s healthy?” Yu Ziyuan questioned and cast her nephew a look.

Wei Wuxian moved to sit up placing a hand against his forehead as he tried to gather his bearings once more.

“I’ll have someone bring you some medicine to help alleviate your headache your highness excuse me.” The physician bowed and dismissed himself with the wave of Jiang Fengmian’s hand.

Cangse Saren sighed leaning Wei Wuxian against her making sure he wouldn’t faint again. 

“I…” he tried to recall the reason as to why he had passed out.  It took a few moments before he glanced up swiftly, “You accepted a courting gift from the Emperor of Gusu for me!?” The shock was back, the heavyweight in the pit of his stomach had come rolling in ten-fold. His hands were shaking. “Why would he want to court me!”

“…A-Ying.” Jiang Fengmian had a small frown of worry on his face.

“Wen Rouhan approached us with the intent to court you first when I rejected his gifts, he tried to claim it was for his son's benefit.” Yu Ziyuan scoffed rolling her eyes, “We can’t marry you off to Lanlingjin since A-Li is already betrothed to Prince Jin Zixuan, and Qinghe Nie are not interested in taking any mates at this time.” Yu Ziyuan stated.

Wei Wuxian could understand why. There was no possible way Nie Mingjue would let any alpha try to take away his little brother. No someone would have to marry into the Nie Kingdom, not the other way around. “So Gusu’s Emperor expressed an interest in me?” he questioned, not understanding why the emperor would be interested after insulting him.

“Not exactly Ying’er.” Wei Changze stated settling back down opposite of Wei Wuxian.

“I approached Gusu with the intent to turn Qishan’s interest away from you.” Yu Ziyuan stated, “The Emperor didn’t say anything, his uncle made the decision for him.”

“His uncle?” Wei Wuxian’s brows knit together in confusion. Why would Lan Wangji’s uncle have a say in such a matter?

“An elder’s opinion is highly valued in the kingdom of Gusu and since Emperor Hanguang-jun is still wet behind the ears, he took his uncle’s suggestion,” Yu Ziyuan explained. Lan Qiren had been reluctant at first but after a very, very long discussion, the beta had nodded in agreement. Wei Wuxian educated, taught in all subjects and matters.  He was also well versed in politics not that he would be expected to handle court matters most of the time unless it directly affected him.  He also agreed his nephews’ words towards Wei Wuxian had also been far too harsh.  He saw the playful nature in the omega, and it was typically frowned upon in Gusu for someone to be so excitable.  However, Wei Wuxian was not an omega of Gusu and had been raised far differently.  

He was also a good friend of Cangse Saren, and he would never openly admit there may have been some guilting in the discussion regarding her son’s ultimate treatment that had him running from The Cloud Recesses. 

In the end, the union was a good one. It would create alliances between Yummeng and Gusu and by extension Lanlingjin. They couldn’t ask for a better union. It would unite three great kingdoms, and Gusu already had an alliance with Qinghe due to Prince Lan XiChen’s sworn brotherhood with Emperor Nie Mingjue.

“So…” Wei Wuxian inhaled slowly, “The Emperor doesn’t want to court me, but he will because his uncle agreed to it?” an arranged marriage in other words and the courting gifts were a simple formality. 

“Yes, it’s a good union, you’ll become ruler of a kingdom.” Yu Ziyuan stated, it was a good deal.

He swallowed, “…If I…said no?” his question was hesitant, his voice small as he tested the waters.

“You will not reject this offer Wei Wuxian! You won’t see a better offer than this! Unless you want to go be one of Wen Rouhan’s concubines then be my guest! I’ll accept the courting gifts of that scoundrel right n-“ Yu Ziyuan was abruptly cut off as Wei Wuxian interrupted.

“No!” he didn’t want that, he looked to his parents who both looked back at him. Their expressions were mixed but they couldn’t deny Yu Ziyuan was right. This was a very good opportunity to rise above his current position as the second prince.  He sighed lowering his head, “I’ll accept.”

Jiang Fengmian smiled gently, kneeling down his placed his hand tenderly on top of Wei Wuxian’s head, “We’ll help you prepare for everything A-Ying, and don’t forget even after you marry Emperor Hanguang-jun, you will always have a home here.” He nuzzled the omega affectionately as an uncle would, “If you ever want to run away for a bit, our doors are open to you.”

“Don’t encourage bad behavior!” Yu Ziyuan stated whacking her husbands shoulder lightly before glancing away, “I expect you to visit of course on alternating holidays.”  She added on to Wei Wuxian in the end.

Wei Wuxian couldn’t help the slight smile that crossed his features as he leaned into his mothers embrace enjoying the attention of the adults.

He supposed as long as he could come home whenever…it couldn’t be too bad.

Could it?

 


 

The courting gifts came over the span of one month.

Each one was different yet seemed to be specifically chosen, all of the gifts consisted of either beautiful jewelry or practical gifts such as teapots, writing tools, stationery, and clothing.  They looked like they had been picked out carefully, all meant to compliment Wei Wuxian in some way or other.  The boxes slowly filled up him rooms in the span of a month until they all stood stacked against the farthest wall. He didn’t bother opening any of them as they would be packed eventually and sent to Gusu with him when he ultimate married the emperor.

It was a constant annoyance for him now. He had received so many wonderful and expensive things and not one of them made him happy. He had hoped at least he might get a letter or something from the Emperor to express some sort of interest, that he might be coming around to the idea of a union between them, but nothing.  Wei Wuxian had given up thinking that the emperor might just have some sort of interest.  This marriage was strictly political and nothing more.

It made his chest ache as he thought of it.

He was going to have to give his all to a man who didn’t want him.  It left a trace of bitterness on his tongue.

Even if he married the Emperor he refused to be touched by the man. Their marriage would be on paper only and not in body. He wouldn’t wear a mark of someone he didn’t want and was not wanted by. After all, if he rejected the alpha emperor with all his heart the mark would fade anyway.  He was not like other omegas. He wouldn’t accept fates plans for him even if it was expected.

He would readily admit of course that over the span of the one month of courting he may have thrown a few tantrums. Refusing to eat, throwing some things into the lotus pond in his pavilion, and may have once or twice blown up a few of the teacups he had been gifted by the kingdom of Gusu. 

He stopped believing Lan Wangji might be the one picking the courting gifts because there was no possibility of that.

Wei Wuxian was not enjoying the process even slightly.

A date had already been chosen for the wedding and letters exchanged between Lan Qiren and Yu Ziyuan to confirm if they were acceptable.  Invites had been sent to all five kingdoms and Wei Wuxian had already gone through more than one fitting for his wedding robes. 

Jiang Cheng was also throwing a tantrum, though his tantrum was more silent and internal.  He was mad Wei Wuxian would be leaving to get married. He had already admitted in a drunken stupor one night how he couldn’t believe his essential brother was being forced to marry an emotionally repressed statue.  He was prepared to fight for Wei Wuxian’s honor, and if Wei Wuxian hadn’t had enough sense left in him that night he would have readily allowed the alpha to run off to Gusu brandishing his sword.

He had gone through several lessons on what to expect on his wedding night and he was only thankful for the fact that he knew what to avoid now.  Everything.

Yu Ziyuan was also walking him through what to avoid within the inner court and palace proceedings. After all no matter how righteous the Lan Clan was, there would always be someone plotting trouble.  Wei Wuxian hadn’t known how cutthroat and dangerous it could be, then again he supposed he had been spared from that trouble from a young age. Eventually, he would have had to learn about them, he just didn’t think it would be because he would be marrying an Emperor. 

The suffocating feeling he had been suffering had not disappeared since the moment he had accepted the first courting gift.  It had settled in his chest and kept him awake at night leaving his exhausted.  Every part of his body had slowed down in the process.  The closer the day of his wedding grew, the more anxious he became.  He wanted to just pack a bag and run away.

It would disgrace his parents though, how unfilial did he have to be to put them through the shame he would bring upon them if he did that?

A loud sigh escaped him.

“A-Ying?” Jiang Yanli gently stroked her little brother’s hair. She carded her fingers gently along the top of his head massaging along his scalp. The omegas head resting in her lap.

“Sorry A-jie…I’m just a little tired, that feels good.” He nuzzled into her lap a little more a soft purr escaping him as he did.

“The seamstress said you lost more weight; this is the fourth time she’s had to take in your robes.” Her voice was understandably concerned, “Have you not been eating? You’ve been avoiding dinner with us since the betrothal.”

“Ah, I’m just trying to get used to the idea of not seeing everyone all the time.” He lied softly. He was going to desperately miss the loud suppers, filled with chatter and laughter.  He was especially going to miss the special Lotus Pork Rib soup his sister would make. 

“You should still be eating, you don’t just lose weight like that, and you have dark circles under your eyes, you’re not sleeping either.” She chided, “Please eat, I know it’s not easy, but we all love you A-Ying.” She cupped his face turning his head, so he had to look up at her. “Marrying the Emperor of Gusu won’t be that bad, I mean sure he said some untrue things about you, but he also doesn’t know you as we do.” She smiled softly patting his cheek. “Get to know the Emperor, there’s no rush let him see how wonderful you truly are, he won’t be able to resist your charms.”  She encouraged.

He couldn’t help but smile back, “I wish I had as much time as you did A-jie…” he reached up to hold one of her hands her fingers warm and soft. “You’ve been betrothed to that peacock since you were little, you got to know him from the very beginning, I met the emperor only two months ago.”

She nodded, “You still have time to get to know him.”

“I marry him next week A-jie.” Saying the words out loud made his stomach turn and he felt nauseous, it forced him to close his eyes in order to quell the discomfort.

“….I know, I’m sure he’ll be understanding and wait for you to come around if you ask him though.” She wanted to alleviate any of his concerns, but she was quickly losing hope, her A-Ying was so distressed.

Wei Wuxian picked up on it, of course, seeing the worry in her eyes and he smiled, “You’re right A-jie, I’ll ask.” He moved to sit up, “Meanwhile you have two days to fatten me up before I have to head to Gusu.” He stated.

He would be going ahead as Gusu requested. He had to go through a few of their traditions to prepare for the wedding and a few formalities first. They had a very strict process apparently, and he also wasn’t allowed to see the emperor before the wedding either.

Jiang Yanli nodded, “That reminds me.” She reached down to grab a basket and pulled it onto her lap with a smile, she opened it up and revealed the contents to Wei Wuxian who gasped.

“A-jie!” he whined affectionately.

Inside the basket was a couple of jars of emperor’s smile and some freshly made lotus seed cakes.  His favorite thing.

“I had someone go to Gusu a few days ago to procure the wine and I made the cakes fresh today, I thought you might like them.” She smiled triumphantly, “Come on eat up, I also had a milk bath with Lotus Flowers prepared for you to soak in after.” She wanted to pamper and spoil him to bring up his spirits.

“You’re so nice.” He leaned his head on her shoulder and sighed happily.  He was especially respective when she popped a piece of cake into his mouth.

He really was truly going to miss her.

He was going to miss everyone.

 


 

“Are you sure you have everything?” Cangse Saren was checking over the carts that had all of Wei Wuxian’s belongings on them.  She wanted to ensure her child did not miss anything.

“Yes A-Niang, I’ve made sure everything I needed and wanted was packed.” He chuckled softly watching her fuss. “You’ll be coming the day before right?”

His question effectively distracted her.

“Yes, we’ll be sure to be in Gusu the day before and we can come to spend the entire day with you.” She cupped her son’s face gently, “….I’m proud of you my love, this is not easy,” she scented his affectionately, “You’re so mature and smart and brave.”

“A-Niang…” he moaned softly before he hugged her back wishing he could take his mother with him to Gusu early, “You’re too nice to me.”

Cangse Saren shook her head, “No I am not, I simply love my son.” She pat his head tenderly, “A-Ying...Ying’er, my sweet little boy.” Even if he wasn’t so little anymore. “I know this isn’t what you wanted, you’re a free spirit like me, but it will work out.” She wanted to believe, she had to believe her son would not be subject to a loveless marriage. “Don’t ever lose your light my darling, don’t let anything take it away.”

Wei Wuxian felt an itch in his eyes, tears trying to come to the surface as his mother talked.

“You are brave, intelligent, and talented.” She stated, “Use it all to your advantage, secure your place within the palace of Gusu and perhaps, woo the emperor stop him from being a stick in the mud.” She stroked the side of his face, “He’d be a fool not to fall in love with you.”

Wei Wuxian sighed, he decided not to say anything, he didn’t want to fall in love because he had no other options. He wanted to fall in love because it’s what his heart wanted. A connection so strong, not even the heavens could split it.

He shifted forward and hugged his mother tight, “I’ll do my very best.” He whispered as his father came up to hug him tight.

Wei Changze, “safe journey’s son, we’ll see you soon.”

Wei Wuxian nodded before looking around, “Where’s A-jie and A-Cheng?” he questioned.

Cangse Saren smiled, “They both are a little sad to see you go, don’t worry you’ll see them in Gusu, A-Cheng will have to get over his misery by then.”

Wei Wuxian chuckled, “Maybe he should try to kidnap me and hide me away instead.”

His mother giggled, hiding her laughter behind her sleeve.

Wei Changze laughed but it was more nervous than anything, “Don’t encourage anything Ying’er, I’m sure he’s already drawn up some rescue attempt.”

“You admit I need rescuing!” Wei Wuxian pointed at his father with wide eyes.

He couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up in his throat as his father's face went flush, “No! that's not! I didn’t mean that! Wei Ying get in that carriage!”

Wei Wuxian grinned before running away from his fuming father and his laughing mother who had doubled over in stitches.

He would really miss them.

 


 

When Wei Wuxian entered Gusu for the second time, he did not glance out the window. He didn’t let temptation creep in and try to sneak out of the carriage for one last taste of freedom.  He gently stroked his thumb over the small intricately carved jade token he held instead. It had been gifted to him with a simple instruction from Lan Wangji’s uncle.

The token would grant him access into the palace and would also become a symbol of his status.  He was never to lose it and to always have the token on his person at all times. He inhaled and exhaled trying to get used to the idea. 

He had no intended to be courted, especially not quickly and definitely not by an alpha who thought him pathetic and shameless.

The insult still stung even if Lan Wangji had apologized to him.

Wei Wuxian couldn’t be certain the apology had been genuine or just to save face.  The fact he was marrying this emperor because it was a good match politically did nothing to ease the tension in his body or the thoughts in his mind. He had been spared from the inner palace’s court proceedings and over the last two months of his attendance, he had seen how easily corruption could hide within. His uncle did a very good job of fending it off with a firm hand and gentle nature. His aunt was fierce though and did not take disloyalty lightly. In the span of two months, he had seen a minister be taken down for embezzling and plotting against the crown.

He wondered if he would see similar things in The Cloud Recesses.

Then again he wasn’t sure he would even have to attend imperial court proceedings. Gusu worked much differently then Yummeng, and now even with the loud mist and cloud cover he already missed his home.

This was his home now though.

Soon enough the carriage came to a halt and he could hear the bustling sounds of guards and servants rushing about.  When he was finally able to step out he saw rows of servants dressed in white bowing to him.

“Welcome your majesty to The Cloud Recesses!”

Wei Wuxian swallowed; he had not had as many servants back home even.  He had kept the employment of his servants down to perhaps six or seven at the most. He had never seen the need for too many people. Here, however, there were at least twenty people all bowing to him.

“Thank-you.” He breathed feeling lightheaded.

A servant smiled, “We’ll have your belongings taken immediately to your rooms.”

He nodded unable to say much more.

“You’ll be staying in the hall of beautiful youth for now until after the marriage proceedings and then we’ll move you to the inner palace.” Stated the same servant who Wei Wuxian now could recognize as the head servant who would see to all his needs.  “Shall we escort you?”

Wei Wuxian couldn’t find the words, his hand clenched tightly around the jade token and he heard the loud creaking of the heavy doors to the palace closing.

He turned slightly to glance over his shoulder, unable to bring even the slightest of smiles to his face he watched the heavy doors slowly close locking him inside.

And with it his freedom.

 

Chapter Text

Previously -

Wei Wuxian couldn’t find the words, his hand clenched tightly around the jade token and he heard the loud creaking of the heavy doors to the palace closing.

He turned slightly to glance over his shoulder, unable to bring even the slightest of smiles to his face he watched the heavy doors slowly close locking him inside.

And with it his freedom.

 


 

Three days in Gusu had Wei Wuxian disoriented.

His entire routine was turned onto its head and he was growing crankier by the day.  He had of course been giving his servants a hard time too.  They were persistent though.

It had gotten to the point where he refused to wake when they entered his chambers at five o’clock in the morning. The hour was ungodly, and he wasn’t keen on adapting to the change any time soon.  He had been forced to attend daily lectures from Lan Qiren to learn about his role within the palace once he married Lan Wangji.  He was to act as a support to the alpha in all his endeavors regardless of what they were and to be a voice of reason. He was to lead by example and abide by all the rules of the Cloud Recesses so that future generations had someone to look up to and emulate. 

All of it was so suffocating.

Wei Wuxian a free spirit, to have to sit and be…obedient…just didn’t sit well with him.

He felt as though Lan Qiren were literally trying to strip away all the things that made him Wei Wuxian.  He felt like more and more, they were trying to stamp him out.  He internally refused, the only reason he behaved thus far was that he didn’t want to bring shame to his kingdom.

There were so many things he could pick out that made him irritated. 

The food was tasteless and what did have a flavor all tasted of the same medicinal herbs.  No one talked loudly, ran about, or did anything fun.  Wei Wuxian had even tried to convince a couple of his younger servants to try playing a game of kickball with him. He was refused immediately and cited a rule about not laughing too loud or running if there was no emergency.  He literally wondered how the people here were alive.  Some rules he could agree with readily but the ones that literally shackled one’s actions and personality was going just way too far. When he was Empress he was going to make sure that the wall got a massive revision.

The thing that really had him itching, was the fact that he wasn’t getting a say in certain things pertaining to the wedding, like the food that would be served. He had asked about it, and upon finding out they would serve the same tasteless meal that he had, had every night since arriving he was floored.  He wanted them to also serve cuisine from his kingdom. Yummeng’s flavorful, bright, and colorful dishes just had to be a must.  The spices too, he had to have some spicy dishes. 

The final thing he had also learned about, that had him fuming and slightly proud of himself for. Was that The Cloud Recesses banned the use of suppressants and scent inhibitors.  Wei Wuxian had been told he would not be allowed to take them so that they could ensure he had regular heats and could produce heirs for Lan Wangji. Wei Wuxian had been furious that they wanted to take control of even his own body from him.

Needless to say,he had stormed out of the lectures angrily and gone to purposely take some suppressants he had smuggled in with him. He had brought them just in case since he didn’t know their policies at the time. If he was careful enough he had enough to last him a few months, enough time for him to make a trip back to Yummeng for more.

He had not once seen Lan Wangji since his arrival, but the letters he had been given prior to his arrival had told him he wouldn’t be able to see the emperor before the wedding. Something about remaining pure. Like Wei Wuxian would give himself up that easily to an alpha just because it was ‘expected’ he had more pride than that.   He also bathed in the palace’s cold spring daily too in order to cleanse his mind and body in preparing for his wedding night. 

Wei Wuxian had been secretly smuggling things in an abandoned room for a couple of days with items he’d chosen to make a nest. He was supposed to be moved to Lan Wangji’s chambers where he was expected to live and sleep with the alpha.  He was taking precautions to find a place to hide out at night.

Even if he had to be trapped here, he refused to give in to their ridiculous requests.

He kept repeating his mothers’ words over and over in his head like a mantra.

‘Don’t let anyone ever stamp out your free spirit Ying’er’

While he felt like he was suffocating, and that Lan Qiren was trying to put him in some kind of mold that didn’t fit right he had tried to preserver.

That was why he was currently sat up on the roof of his chambers, Servants running back and forth below him crying out in terror that he was going to fall, as he knocked back another deep swallow of his beloved Emperor’s smile.  He had smuggled some of it in after having a guard purchase it for him during his journey to Gusu. He had shed the heavy robes of his royal attire and wore a thing outer robe and inner robes. His legs were cocked in the most ungraceful way as he was eating snacks he had taken up to the roof with him. 

“Your majesty! You’ll fall please come down! Please! You shouldn’t be drinking! Its against the rules!” the servant tried to not look up at Wei Wuxian as he took another swallow of the wine. His face was tined red in embarrassment and he was trembling from head to toe. He had never seen someone look so indecent.

“Who says I will fall!” he called down with a cackle of laughter, “I had slept on roofs higher than this and jumped into rivers from towers this is nothing.” He was enjoying how the servants squeaked and squawked amongst themselves wondering what to do.

If they got Lan Qiren to get him they would get in trouble, but if they let Wei Wuxian stay up on the roof and he fell there would be even bigger trouble. 

“Please your majesty! Come down! It’s dangerous.” They pleaded.

“When I am done my wine and snacks then I will consider coming down and not before.” He shot back and moved to lay back on the cold tile of the rooftop.  He didn’t care if it was cold, the wine warmed him internally and chased away the goosebumps forming over his skin.  He felt warmer and much better than he had in days.  A little breath of freedom from the atmosphere the palace had created for him.

From here he could see the courtyard he currently occupied. The Hall of Beautiful Youth was quite lovely, designed in cool muted tones of blue, gray, white, and dark cherry wood flooring.  It consisted of several rooms, his main sleeping chamber, a bathing chamber, a study, and a kitchen where his meals were prepared.  Outside of his rooms was a white stone garden with a magnolia tree blooming in the middle and a simple stone path that cut through it.  It was very quiet here, and while Wei Wuxian was not happy with his situation he had to admit the Cloud Recesses (at least what he had seen of it) was beautiful.

After a short while, when he heard the clamor of the servants die down he relaxed. Finally breathing a little freely.  He stared at the stars and wondered to himself.

“We grew up staring at the same stars, yet we were raised so differently….how can Lan Wangji marry someone like me, politically or not.”

He took another drink of the wine and got comfortable not planning to come down any time soon.

Across the Cloud Recesses in the inner palace, Lan Wangji too stood outside staring up at the stars.  Nine o’clock was fast approaching and the night air was cool.  It was a rare night when the sky was this clear. The mist of the mountain had not fogged the skies wide expanse and he too was drawn in by the rare sight of the stars forming a river in the night.

Stars….

He had seen stars in the eyes of the omega Wei Wuxian that night he had met him, and again when he had danced at the Discussion Conference.  He had seen galaxies in the depths of Wei Wuxian’s eyes. 

He had no chance to meet the other properly, have a conversation, or to repair his standing with the omega. 

All he had done was chase the man away with clipped words, hurtful words. 

Even his apology had been poorly received.

He had not expected only a couple of days later to be approached by both the Emperor and Empress of Yummeng suggesting a marriage between him and the omega.  They had no idea who the other was besides brief meetings and glances. They clearly were not compatible, yet he found himself still marrying the Yummeng Prince.  An elder’s opinion was highly valued and if his uncle thought the union would be a good and beneficial one he wasn’t about to argue. After all Uncle Lan Qiren had been handling matters like these much longer than he ever had.

He wanted to visit his father. He wanted to get advice, his father had been married to his late mother for a long time and from what he could tell they had shared a very happy and loving marriage. Though it was not without its arguments. Somehow they had come to work well with one another.

He thought back to Wei Wuxian and couldn’t help the sigh that escaped him.

He couldn’t help but feel Wei Wuxian was just too out of place for the Cloud Recesses. In the short amount of time he’d had with the other, the prince had easily proven he was a wild spirit and untameable.

Yet that wild spirit would be his spouse in just a few days time.

He just wasn’t sure he could get used to the idea.  Were alpha’s and omegas not supposed to marry for love? Was there not supposed to be affection? It’s how they had chosen all the pairings for the omega who had been under their care.   Yet now he was marrying simply for a value to the kingdom and nothing more.  A chill breeze brushed across his skin and he turned away from the stars to instead retreat into his room where it was warm.

He supposed he was going to have to do as duty asked of him and nothing more. 

He was after all the Emperor and sacrifices always had to be made.




“A-Niang! A-Die!” Wei Wuxian didn’t care if he shouted. Who cared, his family was finally here, and he needed all the emotional support he could get. He was a jittering mess of nerves as the servants tried to reign him in. He took off bolting towards them and practically threw himself into his parents’ arms when close enough.

A loud purr echoed out of him as their warm arms enveloped him.

“Ying’er! Oh, my sweet boy! It just hasn’t been the same at Lotus Pier without you!” Cangse Saren hugged her son tightly drawing him in as close as she could effectively squishing her child between herself and her husband.

“It definitely had been less lively.” Wei Changze nodded gently patting his sons head.

“It’s been so boring.” Wei Wuxian murmured sinking into their embrace without a second thought.

“Your Majesty you shouldn’t run! It is not good for your health!” a servant had come running up after him and Wei Wuxian groaned in exasperation.

Cangse Saren, “What? You’re ill? Ying’er should we postpone the wedding?”

Wei Changze looked equally concerned, “Your health is more important than getting married.”

Wei Wuxian sighed, “I’m not sick!” frustrated leaked out in his voice as he turned to glare at the servant who flinched.

“It…it’s not good for his majesty to overexert himself, he should remain healthy and relaxed, after all,it will be his duty to bear heirs for Emperor Hanguang-jun, it is in the omega teachings.” The servant explained softly, trembling under the glare of Cangse Saren whose expression had changed over the course of his explanation.

“It is not up to you to decide when my son will have children, it will come when he is ready and not before.” She frowned.

Wei Wuxian internally praised the gods nuzzling his mother. His fathers embrace growing tighter around them both.

“But…but the..” the servant quickly shut up when he saw the glare from Wei Changze.

Wei Changze, “I think it is in your best interest to leave Prince Wei Wuxian alone while he is visiting his family.” He was firm in his tone and the servant nodded quickly bowing and running off.

“Where’s Uncle? And A-Jie and A-Cheng? What about Aunt Yu?” Wei Wuxian questioned in a flurry.

“Your aunt and Uncle are going over some last-minute things with the ceremony and banquet and then will come to join us, A-Cheng and A-Li are just being shown to their rooms and then they will come over.” Cangse Saren smiled, “We couldn’t wait so we can right away.” She placed a tender kiss to Wei Wuxian’s forehead endearingly stroking her hands through his loose hair. 

He felt tears prick his eyes and he nuzzled into his mothers’ shoulder so she couldn’t see and instead mumbled softly, “Can I stay like this a while?”

Wei Changze chuckled, “Of course pup, of course.

Later when Wei Wuxian felt fresher he sat with his mother staring at his wedding robes set up elegantly upon a stand awaiting tomorrow to be worn. The bright red and golds were a welcome change to the drab white he’d looked at over the week he had been here.  After tomorrow this place would become his official home.  There was no turning back once he took the three bows.

He had his head upon her shoulder as she stroked his hair tenderly smiling softly to him, “You’re going to make a wonderful Empress Ying’er.” She spoke encouragingly, her words soft and filled with truth.  “I’m sure you and Emperor Hanguang-jun will come to love one another once you really get to know one another.”

Wei Wuxian almost wanted to laugh, he truly wanted to believe her words, hold them tight in his heart and not give up.  Lan Qiren had spent the better part of a week drilling into him that he was to obey Lan Wangji at all costs and to never break any rules or commands given by his spouse.  His alpha would-be ruler of his body and his actions.

Wei Wuxian wouldn’t let that happen, but in order to have the wedding commence, he had grit his teeth and lowered his head before the old advisor. 

Even though he bowed though he did not crumble, he refused to crumble. 

He wouldn’t submit because someone told him he had to.

“They have such old fashion views…I don’t know how I’ll manage it.” He admitted, he felt caged.

“I know my love but remember Yummeng will always be your home.” She nuzzled him gently, “You can always come back when you need a breath of fresh air.” She assured him, feeling her own heart tighten in worry for her son, it was so different for him here. Her son was a free spirit, she had always encouraged his fun loving and wild nature. She didn’t want to see it snuffed out by a wall of rules. “I believe you will make a difference here my dearest.” She kissed his temple gently smiling when he purred in response.

“Lan Qiren has always been a stick in the mud, but he is a creature of habit.  He’s not so bad once you get to know him, while he is strict he will listen to your concerns and worries if you have any.” She took Wei Wuxian’s hand gently in hers. “You are going to be the best Empress that Gusu has ever seen and you will do it at your husbands’ side” she stated stroking his cheek, “Not your alpha’s, your husbands.” She said this firmly turning Wei Wuxian’s face up to look at her. She sighed lovingly a smile curving her pale features as she gazed into his innocent silver-grey eyes, “No one had say over your body my Ying’er, no one, if Emperor Hanguang-jun wants to be with you, he will be with you first as your husband and not as an alpha.”

Wei Wuxian sniffled softly and lunged forward to hug his mother tightly, “I really needed to hear that Mother.”

She pat his back hugging him as well.

“I know Ying’er, I know.”

 


 

The next day had come sooner than he had hoped.

It felt like the night before had been a blur, a happy one, but a blur none the less.

He had drunk with Jiang Cheng who smuggled in wine for him as a last hurrah. He’d eaten some of Jiang Yanli’s Lotus Pork Rib soup and felt the taste of home fill The Hall of Beautiful Youth.  He felt less worn out than he had for days.  However, sleep had come far too early for him. As if staying awake would prevent the morrow from coming. Like the sun wouldn’t rise if he didn’t close his eyes. 

However, the warmth of the alcohol and the days of exhaustion had finally settled into his bones and he had fallen upon his bed barely able to keep his eyes open.  He briefly recalled Jiang Yanli tucking him in with the blanket and Jiang Cheng’s strong calloused hand brush through his hair firmly but tenderly, both wishing him a good sleep before they left. Jiang Yanli supporting her slightly intoxicated brother.

When he had awoken it was six in the morning, the servants having learned that there was no point in trying to make him rise at five. They had better luck at six and always succeeded around seven.

They had all swept into his room with trays of food for him to eat, all light foods and without any real substance but he ate them regardless knowing there would be no food until later in the evening when the banquet occurred.  After he had eaten the food to the servant’s content he was whisked away to a bath where he was left to soak in the warm water filled with flowers and fragrant oils.  A maid had come in at some point and had assisted him in washing his hair and grooming himself. His nails were cut and filed until they were even and had no cracks in them.  They applied lotions and oils to his hands and feet making them soft and pleasant to the touch. Years of writing, sword fight, and martial arts washed away from view as they pampered him. 

When they were finished with that he was led back to his rooms where he spent the next several hours having his hair done. His hair was pulled up into a half up-do, the style intricate and unlike anything, he had ever worn before.  A crown was settled upon the hairstyle, secured by a mountain of golden hair ornaments and pins upon his head.  The tiniest amount of make-up was applied to him to accentuate his natural features. Everyone fawning over him and repeating the same compliments over and over. 

‘How beautiful!’

‘Truly a fine omega!’

‘The Emperor couldn’t have chosen a better mate.’

Except the Emperor hadn’t chosen, someone else had.

As the layers of his wedding robes were put on him he felt heavier and heavier with each passing second.  The fabric draped around him pulling him here and there turning him into what looked like a doll. By the time they had tied the last sash on him and had covered his throat with the golden necklaces, he had to shoo everyone out. He felt crowded and the walls were closing in on him.

They all scurried out without protest closing his bedroom doors behind themselves.

Wei Wuxian inhaled deeply and moved to look at himself in the mirror taking in his appearance.

Wei Wuxian did not stare back at him. No, an Empress did, an Empress he didn’t recognize. The crown on his head felt out of place.

A crown had never felt heavier.

It weighed upon his neck and shoulders threatening to crumble him under its weight. The jewels across his neck threatened to suffocate him. The silks and fine satins meant to compliment him stilled his movements and kept him firmly in place. The wave came to wash him away, a tide that was taking him under.

Behind the fine mists of the kingdom, where the clouds dipped low and the sun seemed to always be hidden.

He swore he was going to survive.