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Paying my respects (who knows when I'll be able to again)

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“The hell are you doing here??”

Wei Wuxian turns his head, just enough to look down the walkway to where Jiang Cheng is standing, the beginning of a thundercloud swirling almost visibly above his head. He sighs, and makes no move to step either inside the Ancestral Hall or towards his brother.

“Well?” Jiang Cheng insists, coming closer, Zidian crackling at his side. Wei Wuxian wonders only vaguely if his brother plans on using it against him, now that he’s caught him trespassing. “Got nothing to say? And where’s your shadow?”

Wei Wuxian pushes down the sudden irritation at the way Jiang Cheng talks about Lan Zhan. He doesn’t want to fight. He’s tired of fighting. He shrugs. “Lan Zhan’s back in Gusu. Preparing for the role of Chief Cultivator.” Which both was and was not a surprise to Wei Wuxian. It still smarts, the tiniest bit. He locks that away, too. He promised himself he wouldn’t be bitter. “I’m doing some travelling.” He turns his gaze back to the Ancestral Shrine, to Shijie’s tablet. “I’m just here to pay my respects,” he tells his brother. “I’ll be leaving in a minute, don’t worry.”

“You-” Jiang Chent starts.

But Wei Wuxian doesn’t feel like having a repeat of that night not so long ago. “Don’t worry, I haven’t stepped inside. I won’t disturb them more than I have. It’s just…” He hesitates.

“Just what?” Jiang Chen asks, and his tone is not as harsh as it used to be. Wei Wuxian almost smiles.

“I’m going on a journey,” Wei Wuxian tells him, looking back at him, taking in the man his little brother has become. “I don’t know when…” He taps the side of his nose, wondering how to say this. “Well. It’ll be a long time before I’m in the area again,” is what he settles on.

Jiang Cheng looks at him, frown on his face, and Wei Wuxian has the distinct feeling his brother wants to say something but he’s holding his tongue. Which, if one were to ask Wei Wuxian, is actually weird for the young Head of the Jiang Sect.

“All by yourself?” Jiang Cheng asks, incredulously. 

“Yes,” Wei Wuxian answers as though it doesn’t hurt.

“You’re really telling me Lan Wangji actually let you leave his side?”

Wei Wuxian grits his teeth. “Lan Zhan has his duties. And I need to do this. He understands.” Or at least, Wei Wuxian hopes Lan Zhan does. 

After a prolonged moment of silence, Jiang Cheng snorts inelegantly. “Selfish as always,” he says, but the usual bite is missing. “So, what? If I hadn’t stumbled across you now, you’d have come and gone without so much as a word?”

Wei Wuxian’s eyes widen in surprise. Oh. Well. He hadn’t expected that. He swallows thickly, and then shrugs one shoulder, looking to the side. “I guess.”

“Hmpf. Selfish,” Jiang Cheng spats.

Wei Wuxian shrugs again, because he doesn’t know what else to do. “Yes, well. I’m not exactly welcome in Lotus Pier, Jiang Cheng," he says, testily. "What did you want me to do? Announce my presence so you could kick me out before I did what I came to do?”

Jiang Cheng bristles at that, teeth clenching hard enough it hurts even Wei Wuxian, and Zidian lets out another angry, threatening spark. After a second, he lets out a shuddering breath, closing his eyes. Wei Wuxian looks at him and sees both Jiang Fengmian and Yu Ziyuan in that moment, more clearly than ever.

Then, suddenly, jerkily, Jiang Cheng turns around, facing away from Wei Wuxian. “You’ve paid your respects,” is all he says. Now leave, is what Wei Wuxian can almost hear after it. 

Wei Wuxian takes a breath. Looks at the tablets one last time. Then, he bows formally to his brother’s turned back. “Sect Leader Jiang,” he says, and doesn’t see Jiang Cheng’s shoulders stiffen. “I will take my leave now. Take care.”

He turns, makes the same formal bow to his sister’s and his adoptive parent’s tablets, and turns to leave.

“Don’t get dead again,” he hears from behind, and it sounds grumpy and pleading and like an order at once. "And visit A-Ling!"

It… It's a surprise, and it lifts a weight off of his chest he hadn’t known was there.

“Mn.” Wei Wuxian raises a hand, waiving vaguely, and leaves Lotus Pier with a smile on his face.