The sun rises, and a new day begins. That’s how the universe works. The everlasting alarm of night and day signal the arrival of a gift, boxed and wrapped in destiny and fate. It rests in Lan Wangji’s soul, hidden behind the years of yearning and tainted misery. Outside, thin layers of frost embed up the window frame, climbing to the bedroom window sill as Lan Wangji awakens. The morning is cold, too cold that chills crawl up his feet. The shock still weighs him, but he manages to steady himself.
The pain can only wear off for so long.
Lan Wangji takes in the seeping warmth from inside, carved and ladled beneath his heart, it’s been frozen over from long ago. His heart is a cage for all his sorrows, locked and stored away. As he gets up, the empty bed beside him creaks, another reminder that another day passes by without any sign of hope. He covets for someone on the other side, to gently lead the way. Lan Wangji gradually brings himself back to the present, his dreams have clouded his judgement, memories of Emperors smile and snow dancing on the roofs of Cloud Recesses.
But now, he lives in an empty house with only the company of the boy whom in another life he called a son. Lan Wangji hears the rustle from the bedroom across from him. Sizhui must’ve awoken, and he doesn’t disturb him as he slowly walks downstairs. The house is large, too large for housing two people. Originally when he purchased the house, he’d hoped to find Wei Wuxian in this life earlier. But he’s been waiting for 13 years since he’s been living on earth.
These 13 years he’s been waiting, and waiting, when life had given him a second chance he’s been walking the earth searching for any sign of Wei Wuxian. With no luck so far, he raises the boy whom Wei Wuxian buried in dirt and treated like a son. It’s the duty in Lan Wangji’s life to raise Sizhui as he did.
Somewhere in the distance, his phone rings and he scurried to search for it. Finally finding it slipping between the cushions of the couch. The phone is miniscule and easy to lose. How do people of this age become so infatuated by difficult technology? Sizhui is easily able to work with the computer that Lan Wangji keeps in his office. It’s a mystery how quickly over the years he’s become acquainted with this life.
The phone reads ‘ Brother Xichen’ and he slides to hit the answer button. Static fills his ears, before a soft murmur is replaced soon after.
“Brother.” He starts, in the background he can hear bits and pieces of scattered voices. Lan Xichen’s voices becomes clearer.
“Wangji, it’s been a while. We haven’t spoken in some time.”
He’s right, neither have spoken to each other for a month now. Both too busy with their new lives, and Lan Wangji raising Sizhui. Though Lan Xichen does stop by often, he’s typically swarmed with work. He’s the only one who knows about Wei Wuxian, besides himself. Not even Sizhui, for he has no recollection of his past life and the man in black robes that raised him for years.
“It has, how is Uncle?” Together, his brother and uncle have been working to build the business that had come prepared in this life. Prestigious and successful, as well-known as the Gusu Clan had been centuries ago. Many been reincarnated into this life, Jiang Wanyin, Wei Wuxian’s sworn brother. From scattered bits of stories that Lan Xichen has told him, the Jiang family still lives. Contrary to the fate they meet in Wei Wuxian’s past life.
He can hear the sincere warmth in his voice when he says, “he’s well, Uncle expects a visit soon, he enjoys Sizhui’s company.”
“Of course, I’ll be sure to rely the message to him.”
Then comes silence. In the past, their relationship wasn’t strained. They had a tight bond, as claimed the ‘twin jades of Gusu’. Here, they’ve gone their own ways, living two separate lives. Lan Wangji still doesn’t know what to say, despite after all these years.
Then Lan Xichen breaks the silence. “There are new flowers on the grave, have you visited lately?”
Lan Wangji should answer, answer his brother with a simple minded reply that’ll get him off his back. But if he dares to open his mouth, words will flow and they’ll never stop. His heart twists at the question, because Lan Xichen knows the answer. With a wistful sigh, he adds: “he’s not coming back, you know that Wangji.” Voice softer than before, as if speaking to him with the gentleness towards a child.
And Lan Wangji knows. He knows that Wei Wuxian isn’t coming back. Then why has he been waiting, praying that he’ll show up in a blink of an eye, and light up the darkness that currently fills his world. That one day, he’ll return, and forgive and forget the words that clashed and still stung his wounds?
13 years have felt like a century. Each day that passes, each week, a sliver of heart peels away in waiting. He knows that planting a gravestone, a tradition that he’s seen the people in his world do for a loved one or someone who’s passed away. Yet, Wei Wuxian isn’t dead, right?
“There’s hope, I know he’s not dead.” He firmly replies.
“It’s been centuries since his first appearance on earth. He was killed at Burial mounds and he’s never coming back.” Lan Xichen rationalizes, coming off almost harshly. Realizing the harsh tone he’s given, he sighs once more, probably rubbing the temples of his forehead. “I apologize, I didn’t mean for it to sound so harsh.”
Behind him, he heard light footstepscoming downstairs. “I have to go, Sizhui is awake.” He says not unkindly.
“I’ll Talk to you later,” It seems more like a threat than a promise.
“Mhm.” And he hangs up just as Sizhui takes the last step into the living room. The boy is already for school, dressed in the uniform that his school requires. He gives him a cautious smile, like he isn’t sure what to do next.
“Father.” That’s a habit of Sizhui that he makes. Lan Wangji had told him to address as Lan Wangji, but since he was a child he’s been calling him that. Some nights, he doesn’t mind, as long as Sizhui is happy.
Already dressed in his suit, it gives the same weight as his white robes once did, heavy on his arms and fitted to his physique. He takes a sip of hot coffee grinding in the pot, he bought it from the online market shop called ‘amazon’. Or rather Sizhui pointed out that the house was feeling bare of appliances and he purchased the machine out of spite.
“Sizhui,” Lan Wangji greets as he begins to file away school books into his bag. A silent smile present on his face, he’s always been independent, since he’s an only child and the only other resident living in the house. He sometimes wonders if it’s because of him that Sizhui is too independent. Lan Wangji’s habits seem to have rub off of him.
The rest of the morning is silent, Lan Wangji doesn’t need to tell Sizhui of normal parenting reminders. To always be respectful, to never be selfish, never be greedy or ignorant. To always come back by nine. But Sizhui was smart, capable of taking care of himself, understanding what’s right from wrong. Clearly he didn’t adopt that skill from Lan Wangji(if he did, then he would’ve never met Wei Wuxian).
(If he hadn’t met Wei Wuxian, then a lot of things wouldn’t have happened).
But Sizhui doesn’t remember the past, his old family, his ancestors and the adopted father figure he once had. So far, Lan Wangji hasn’t had to explain who is Wei Wuxian. It’s not a matter of telling his son who the man is, but how exactly he should describe his relation to him. That was a whole other story.
“Father?” Sizhui calls to him, voice distantly but not quite tremulous.
“Mhm?” Responsive but distracted with his work, Lan Wangji brings a cup of coffee to his lips.
Sizhui stands meters away, with his back turned to Lan Wangji. Making it difficult to read the expression laced across his face, he notices the frame held in his hands. He doesn’t for him to turn around to be able to tell what he’s holding. Lan Wangji inhales sharply, is the coffee cup vibrating in his grasp? Or is it the buzzing vibration coming from the caffeine?
Finally after what feels like minutes, Sizhui turns. A confused frown as he says, “who Is this?”
It’s an old painting, because in his past life he didn’t have a camera, the edges tucked away by a black frame. Peeling and centuries old only being held together with a layer of glass. He hasn’t touched it in years, decades yet the photo never ceases to stay clean. The painting itself, is made with old acrylics. Lan Wangji remembers the day when he requested the local painter from the Gusu clan to make a portrait of Wei Wuxian. Of course, Wei Wuxian hadn’t known when he came to visit him as the deemed ‘Yiling Laozu’.
The smile hasn’t fainted with age, it remains the same. Long strewing wisps of hair falling around his face. It’s been kept down, free falling down to his waist. Sorrow fills his heart, but his eyes do not stray away from the photo.
“Father?” Sizhui asks again.
Prying the frame out of his hands, it lands back to his grasp. Where it should be. “Nothing that you should be concerned about, it’s time for school.” He reprimands as Sizhui’s eyes light up finally remembering.
“I have to go! Goodbye father!” Grabbing his backpack from the entrance of the door, he says before closing the door behind him.
Silence comes naturally and he looks back at the still photo in his hands, the same shadow of a smile haunts him.
Where are you? Lan Wangji’s heart calls out.
Where are you Wei Ying?
As Lan Wanji predicts, the weather is not kind today as the reporters rattle on the radio about the upcoming pours set to happen for the rest of the evening. Having just pulled out of the garage from the office, he begins to drive into the sprinkling rain, scattering from across the murky grey sky.
The sun begins to disappear as the clouds circle around the city now plunging the sky into growing darkness. Sizhui had texted him earlier informing him that he’d be staying over at a friend’s house. The house would be empty once more. Lan Wangji drives through the heavy rain, splattering on the windshield of his car. He carefully steers into the lapping waters at his wheels.
The roads are practically empty, which is unusual because by now the streets should be filled with traffic. Yet, it’s quiet except for the hum of a few nearby engines purring under the cold wet rain. Lan Wangji wonders if the flowers he placed on the graves days ago need to be replaced. He should stop by the flower shop tomorrow to buy more. Wei Wuxian would like that, to have a death that no one will forget. Only the whole world didn’t grieve and later he was forgotten.
But Lan Wangji never forgot, would that make any difference?
Caught up in his own head, he didn’t notice the figure standing in the middle of the crosswalk. Halting to a stop he presses hard on the brake pedal and the car comes inches away from the silhouette. Did he hit someone? He was so spun around thinking about something that’ll never return that he didn’t even pay attention to the road ahead. Lan Wangji hurriedly unbuckled his seat belt, shakely stepping out of the car with an umbrella.
Rain draws up in the soles of his shoes as he trudged across the road. Lan Wangji strains to see the silhouette, as it stands in the muddy concrete. The headlights on his car flash and shine bright, cars splash by, and the clock chimes. It’s only because of the blinding lights ahead of him that he can see the figure ahead. It’s all a whirling motion, his eyes stray beyond his beliefs, and he blinks. Once, twice more before realization crashes onto him like tidal waves.
In soft clouds of curling waves that fall spiral around his face, shorter. Instead of trailing down his back, tendrils fall and tumble by the nape of his neck. Lan Wangji can see the murky grey water that stirs in the corner of his eye, they’re no longer a deep red, for blood and his empty love. Now, they widen in bewilderment and fear as he stands in the rain.
His hands loose grasp of the umbrella as it splashes onto the floor. It couldn’t be him. He’s been searching for so long, holding onto his single sliver of hope. This must be an illusion. In a large oversized trench coat, too small for his narrow shoulders clutching his own bag that’s now soaked wet.
But he looks like him. He resembles him severely, so much that Lan Wangji has to resist the urge to run up and ask the questions that’ve been clouding his kinda for years.
Where have you been?
Why did you leave?
Why did you leave me?
Wei Wuxian gives him a tired smile and it sinks right into his heart. They act so similar, it’s almost as if Wei Wuxian never left to begin with. Lan Wangji can only stare as his umbrella tumbles to the ground. He’s smaller, less sturdy underneath that trench coat. Skinner, frailer, or was that the shine from the headlights? Lan Wangji takes a step into the rainy waters collecting in the cracks of the pavement.
“Watch where you're going! There are pedestrians on the street.” Wei Wuxian snaps.
Unfazed from the typical behavior, he’s grown used to the ice cold attitude over the centuries. Stumbling one more step, he grasps at the sweet cold air, if he can take more step then maybe he’ll reach Wei Wuxian.
“I apologize,” he says, bowing his head respectfully.
When he looks up, a storm stares back. Dark and cloudy, unfamiliarity gathering from the back of his eyes. Lan Wangji wants to touch him, hold him and take back what was his. But now, Wei Wuxian looks like a lost star in the sky, gleaming lonely in the night.
“I’m sorry but have we met before?”
An arrow shoots through him when he says that. It dawns him that Wei Wuxian doesn’t recognize him. He doesn’t know the past they’ve shared.
Wei Wuxian doesn’t know who he is.
He’s also dripping wet, covered in puddles of water swept by oncoming cars. Shivering, Lan Wangji reflectively nearly hands him his own coat from refrains from doing so. He looks like a mess, a beautiful mess, a big ball of disorientation. His eyes wander in a distant, as if he attempts to grasp onto reality, and Wei Wuxian’s question goes unanswered.
Lan Wangji needs to leave, he needs to tell his brother. But what will he tell him? That Wei Wuxian stands in front of him, just as ethereal as before? Instead of staring at him with defeated crestfallen eyes, it’s the grey in his pupils which swarm the midnight clouds that somehow burn.
Swallowing the pit forming in the bottom of his throat, he manages to mumble, “we haven’t, I’m sorry.”
Wei Wuxian frowns, clearly frustrated and bewildered, like he’s trying to put back the missing pieces. Yet he can’t, because Lan Wangji is the one he’s missing from the puzzle. “I see, well have a good night.” And just like that, Wei Wuxian was soon about to slip out of his hands. He could easily say something, open his mouth. “Wait.” the call sounds like a plead, a desperate one and Lan Wangji internally face-palms himself. He didn’t mean to sound so hopeless.
He turns, as water droplets flicker from the end tendrils of his hair and small beads fly in midair. “Yes?” Wei Wuxian asks softly.
What does he say?
“You look lost, do you need help?”
Wei Wuxian squints skeptic, before sighing sheepishly. “I’m new to this city and I seemed to have lost my way already. And not to mention it’s pouring.” He scoffs, kicking his way through the puddle. “But why would a stranger like you want to help me? Fulfilling samaritan laws as a fellow citizen?”
Shaking his head, “nothing like that,” he says. “Only lending a helping hand.” Remaining skeptical, he takes a cautious step forward.
“I still don’t trust you.” Wei Wuxian wiggles his finger at him which Lan Wangji passively ignores. Or was that familiar heart strings at a tug of war? He couldn’t tell in the moment.
“Mm.” Is all he can bring himself to reply.
Together they glide into Lan Wangji’s car, luckily he remembered to bring the waterproof mats. Feet soaked to the sole, as Wei Wuxian shivers. Turning on the heater, warmth spills from the vents. It’s silent in the vehicle, only the soft elongated murmurs of the engine chuffing in the rain.
“What are you doing in the rain so late at night, if I may ask?” Wei Wuxian asks while fiddling with the radio, but all the noises come back distorted and he drops his hand with a disgruntled frown.
Lan Wangji focuses on the road but answers simply: “I had business in the office.”
Smiling strangely, Wei Wuxian smiles. “Aah, I see.”
The conversation fell short, and Lan Wangji felt guilty for letting it hang. What does he say? Does he even have anything to say? His tongue feels sniped away, leaving hung and dry. “And you? Are you lost?”
Wei Wuxian laughs haughtily, “it seems that I’m incapable of even finding a grocery store in this city. Did you know that you can find fresh lotus in the market?” His eyes glowed in excitement.
Lan Wangji coughs. Not because there’s a tickle in his throat, or he was about to sneeze, but because how carefree Wei Wuxian was. Like there were no burdens or memories from the past that could break him. “Is that so? Are you new to the town then?”
“What gave it away?” Wei Wuxian says bashfully.
“You can turn here.” Wei Wuxian interrupts as the rain gets thicker as Lan Wangji makes a left turn into a driveway. On the mailbox in cursive letters reads, The Jiang family. That must mean that he’s here too. Lan Wanji wonders if Lan Xichen has managed to contact him in the past years, but now he knows the answer. “Thank you for the ride…” Wei Wuxian trails off.
He doesn’t know his name, what does he expect? Or maybe he was too hopeful. “Lan Wangji.”
“Thank you Lan Wangji!” And he nods unsure what to say next. But he doesn’t need to because Wei Wuxian opens the car door and waves from outside.
Lan Wangji doesn’t drive away until he sees him inside the house before the door shuts close. As he drives away, the scent of cinnamon lingers.
There’s no trace of Wei Wuxian the next couple days. He has no way to contact him, no cell phone number to find him again. To Lan Wangji, he’s disappeared. Sadness does not overcome him, it’s another morning without him that goes by. When he wakes up, it’s late, but Lan Wangji isn’t needed in the office until later.
Sizhui has already left for school, and he’s seated at the coffee shop. The jingle in the door steps welcome new customers. “Black Americano!” His order is called out and he stands from his table to take it.
When he reaches out to grab his cup, another hand collides with his palm, also grasping for the same order. He turns, to find Wei Wuxian not soaking wet and looking a little rough around the edges. His hair pulled into a lazy pony tail, the cashmere sweater has holes in the sleeves and he’s wearing glasses. Glasses .
“Aaah, Lan Wangji,” he seems almost surprised and rotates the coffee around, reading aloud, “or should I say ‘Lan Zhan?’
Lan Zhan, get lost.
“Wei Wuxian,” he greets, letting go of the cup. “Lan Wangji is my courtesy name, I choose to go by it these days.”
Wei Wuxian wrinkles his nose dubiously, “alright, then can I call you Lan Zhan?” He asks, and Lan Wangji inhales deeply, he’s so familiar, it almost pains him to hear the way his name fits so perfectly on his tongue. Like it belongs there.
“That’s fine.” And Wei Wuxian contently hums, snatching his own order by the table. Leading him back to his seat, he takes the empty seat across from Lan Wangji and makes himself right at home.
Taking a sip of his coffee, Wei Wuxian sighs pleasantly, “so Lan Zhan, tell me about yourself.”
Blinking back, Lan Wangji shrugs. “There’s nothing to tell, I’m not an interesting person.” Wei Wuxian nudges to the open screen on his phone. It’s an older photo, of Sizhui and Lan Wangji when he first entered middle school. Dressed in his tie and button down, he’s the spitting image of Lan Wangji. The only difference is the smile. Heartwarming, and the closest thing to comfort. Lan Wangji’s hair is significantly longer, flowing in a long mane, tied with a white ribbon.
“The photo says otherwise.” Wei Wuxian grins. Lan Wangji closes the phone, and he smirks. Clicking the cup with his hands, “it’s a cute photo, is he your son?” He asks.
Of course he wouldn’t recognize his own ‘kin’. But neither does Sizhui, so it makes it even. “Adoptive, but this was from years ago.” Lan Wangji responds before taking a sip from his own coffee. Now lukewarm, he sets it down.
“You haven’t changed, but you cut your hair, may I ask why?”
“I needed a change.” Wei Wuxian nods, laying the question to rest. Suddenly he stands up, checking the wrist watch on his arm. He seems frantic, as he urgently throws his cup away.
“I apologize, but I have to meet with someone. It’s already late.” He pauses, addressing Lan Wangji as he awkwardly stands by.
“Thank you for the company.” And Wei Wuxian beams, radiating like the midnight sun.
“You’re a not so bad guy Lan Zhan, good thing you weren’t some creepy murderer.” Wei Wuxian chuckles.
He’s already out the door, when Lan Wangji whispers, “A good thing indeed.” And he notices a silver bell on the table, he can’t reach him.
No one can hear him.
He inspects the bell in the next few days. Rolls it in the palms of hands, feeling the engraving of each detail. He’s sure of it, the same bell he once gained hold of on the foot of the mountains. Lan Wangji finds refuge at the grave sight. The old man with too many wrinkles on his face has been maintaining the graves for decades now. He gives Lan Wangji a crinkling smile as he passes by the entrance.
The smell of fresh daffodils tingle his nostrils. Lan Wangji walks through the grassy fields. Passing through several graves all surrounded by fresh flowers, or some in a crown of wilted unmaintained buds. The bell presses into the curve of his hands, the strings tickling his wrist and Lan Wangji carries on.
The trees blow through the breeze as leaves twirl to the ground. He notices the person kneeling in front of the grave. He’s racing to the grass, the wind blows in his hair. The weather is extremely cold, bringing shudders down his spine.
The flowers from his hands fall, swaying in an oscillating motion. Forgotten, he stumbles, catching his foot in the roots curling beneath the dirt. In front of him, kneels the man he’s been chasing all his life. Now, appearing smaller than before. His shoulder dip into a doleful shift.
The Yiling Laozu is powerless, weakened by the power of mortality. He slowly turns, and Lan Wangji feels his heart splinter. He looks angelic, crouching beside the stone plaque.
“When we first met, you said we’d never met before.” Wei Wuxian’s voice trembles and Lan Wangji hangs his head low, there’s nothing he can say now. “Then why my name is here? On a gravestone?”
Weathering with age, the plaque reads, ‘ Wei Ying’ . The edges crumble, and with a certain glance of absence he caresses the stone.
“Difficult to explain.”
Wei Wuxian clenches on his Jean fabric, and grinds his teeth. “Then explain it to me. Ever since I’ve moved to this city there’s this feeling of emptiness. I’ve been missing something or even someone. And I’ve never felt more lost in my life”.
While he can’t relate to the feeling, Lan Wangji understands. He’s confused, lost between the truth and reality. “Wei Ying.”
“But you, you feel so familiar. You feel like home.” Rising, he takes two steps, not hesitate unlike the first time. “Who are you?”
“Nobody.” He whispers and Wei Wuxian laughs, the melody blending in the air.
“If you’re willing, I’d like to get to know you better.” Bowing his head shyly, it’s a new look on him. And letting go all of all weight on his shoulders, he takes his hand.
It’s the amicable sentiment of home that he finds again.
Later that night, he’s sitting at the fireplace. All lights are turned off in the living room, as the moon flares in the night. The sound of the front door rattle and Sizhui walks in. Lan Wangji smiles fondly, as he rests his backpack against the sofa cushion.
“Good evening Father.” As Lan Wangji nods, he watches his son transfixed towards the photo deep in his arms.
Then comes the quiet darkness, he ponders on the moonlight, and Sizhui catches notice of the photo and the tips of his mouth rise in interest.
“Why do you keep the photo?” He comments and immediately lowers his head in respect for speaking out of turn. (He reminded him so much of Lan Wangji when he was young.
Tracing a finger along the glass, he responds. “Because it’s of someone important to me.”
His smile still pierced through him, rejoicing with such beauty that Lan Wangji still holds the photo close to his heart.
“What were they like? How’d you first meet?” Curiosity gleams in his eyes, resembling to the boy he knew.
Closing his eyes, the bell chimes in his pocket. Sizhui sits on the carpet, grabbing a pillow to lean on. And so Lan Wangji begins, starting with the glorious battle that occurred in Cloud recesses.
“It all began on a snowy evening, the scent of Emperors smile fresh in the air…”