It had never been you can’t do this; though those had been the words spoken, the subtext that Lan Yi had been too stubborn to hear was how to me should be appended to the end, not to it.
In that moment, staring at her love across the forest as maples dropped their leaves, all she had been able to do was snap Watch me! and turn away. Baoshan Sanren had honor enough not to harm her, rude though she’d been. She’d left, heart pounding, furious—
The only sound that remained was autumn leaves crunching; her heart broken in two.
Lan Yi’s guqin was more familiar than the sun after so many months. She didn’t regret her decisions; however, even if she hadn’t planned to fail, she should have accounted for the possibility. She sighed, and thought: Baoshan Sanren had always been the better at contingency plans.
She missed her lover’s strong hand against her shoulder and confident words in her ear. They had played exquisite harmony together, lifting each other up and challenging ideas and decisions to craft something greater than they could alone.
The cold springs were Lan Yi’s only audience now. They didn’t care if she cried.
A rabbit found its way into the springs, and Lan Yi didn’t understand how or why it would enter such a place until she saw the note attached to its ribbon-wrapped neck:
I can only hope that you are well, though we both know that can mean many things. I ask only that you play me a song, my love, that the waters may tell me that you yet live.
I will send more word soon.
Then, holding the soft and achingly warm body of the rabbit in her arms, Lan Yi permitted herself to hope.
They settled into a rhythm as long as the seasons: Lan Yi’s music rippling through the currents to cry I am still here and I love you, and Baoshan Sanren’s rabbits bearing notes filled with news and desires and no few seeds.
Lan Yi planted the seeds in the cracks of dirt that huddled around the edges of the springs. She may be able to survive without food or water or rest, but the rabbits were not cultivated beings—though with time, she thought she’d be able to make them so.
It made life, it not good, much more tolerable.
Over the years, the spring turned from gray to green: Vines climbed up the walls, trailed across the ceiling, and sent forth radiant flowers. Small patches of grass grew and died and expanded the dirt as they did, fertilized and tended by the rabbits. Lan Yi watched, tying her soul to the stones and the soil and the spring and letting herself be the sunlight the plants needed to live.
Let this be a place of life, she told the waters in her songs, let it heal and rejuvenate, and counteract the Yin Iron’s deathly pull.
And so, it did.
When Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji entered the spring, long years later, Lan Yi pulled herself out of slumber.
She saw two young men, one full of fire and idealism, who knew he could change the world if he tried. (She wondered if he knew the consequences of such action, but she couldn’t warn him; she could only tell her own story, and hope he learned.) The other, strong and steadfast despite their differences, was her own descendant.
Lan Yi blinked back tears, placed a hand on her guqin’s strings, and hoped that this time things would turn out differently.