For the most part, things had been blessedly quiet for the day. Perhaps that should have been the first thing to tip him off that it wasn’t going to stay that way for long. Naturally, the day wasn’t entirely without strain. There was of course the ever-present feeling of Ye Zun and his forces and whatever they were going to do next hanging over them like their own personal sword of Damocles; but it did mean that they were allowed to focus their attention on other, less world ending endeavors.
Xiao Guo was off in the back workout room trying to keep up with Lao Chu for reasons that Zhao Yunlan could only guess at. The only person, the only one who could keep up with Lau Chu in the workout room was Zhu Hong and certainly not squishy, easily tired out Xiao Guo. Whatever must be going down in there must be a particular brand of entertaining because Da Qing and Lin Jing have absconded with the snacks and have set themselves up as if watching the ‘exercise session’ were a spectator sport. Sometimes Zhao Yunlan wondered if the only real MVP of the SID was Wang Zheng and if somehow, he should see about getting her a plaque or something engraved for all of her contributions.
They needed days like this, simple days that harkened back to how things were before Ye Zun’s tyranny took up every waking moments of their lives and plotted against them from every corner. So Zhao Yunlan was grateful for the reprieve, and not just on the behalf of the members of the SID but also for Shen Wei who had been trying to hide his struggle to keep up with both of his identities responsibilities during all of this. Naturally he hadn’t said this to Zhao Yunlan, but he’d noticed how Shen Wei seemed perpetually hunched over his desk to grade papers and make lesson plans while simultaneously sending and receiving reports through the smoke and trying to be both Shen Wei, Dragon University’s Biology Darling and the Black Cloaked Envoy of Dixing, the only force able to keep the Regent in check. Zhao Yunlan wishes that he could do more to help him, to take away some of this burden for him or something, but he knows that he can’t. So he does his best to make sure that he eats the food that Shen Wei makes him (such a hardship, his life is so complicated getting full course meals homemade for him on a day to day basis, cue sarcasm) and to hold onto the conversations that they have even when Shen Wei’s mind wanders for a brief moment and pretending that he didn’t notice when Shen Wei catches himself, and in going to bed at a ‘decent hour’ in order to let Shen Wei feel like he’s safe and secure and not likely to get into any trouble so that Shen Wei can focus a little bit more on other things. Zhao Yunlan’s kind of waiting for the moment when Shen Wei figures out that Zhao Yunlan isn’t actually sleeping and is instead running everything from his phone and computer. It’s not much, but he thinks that it helps and so he does it to the best of his abilities. He’s already become a weakness for Shen Wei once before, and he’s not going to continue being a distraction and a problem when Shen Wei needs to focus on something other than Zhao Yunlan.
So to say that he’s not pleased when the easy day is disrupted when Wang Zheng comes into his office with a look of confused uncertainty would be an understatement.
“Chief Zhao?” She says and even her voice is halting and uncertain. “There’s someone here.”
“Oh? Who is it?” He asks and she gets a complicated look like she isn’t sure how to answer that question. “Okay then, let’s go say ‘hi’.” He says as he drops his feet from on top of his desk and heads out into the main area where he can see someone in an expensive, nicely pressed suit waiting with their back turned to him. “Can I help you?” He asks and the man slowly turns around and for a brief moment, Zhao Yunlan’s brain seems to refuse to accurately take in the image in front of him.
He looks like Zhao Yunlan. A different hairstyle, a lot less tousled, and his clothes say ‘board room’ more than they say ‘bad boy’ and Zhao Yunlan figures that his kneejerk reaction of pulling out the gun and leveling it on the stranger is completely justified. Much to his annoyance, the guy just seems to get an amused smirk at the action and at Zhao Yunlan’s obvious distrust. “And who are you supposed to be?” He asks as he holds his hand steady. His aim will be true if this guy makes a move, of that there’s no doubts.
“I’ve gone by many names.” The ‘Man of Many Names’ says with a small shrug. “But for now, you may call me Kun Lun.”
Kun Lun? Zhao Yunlan can’t help but frown at the name and his mind flashes back to the only ‘Kun Lun’ that he’s heard of. The first guardian, the warrior that sealed the Hallows, the one who worked side by side with the Black Cloaked Envoy. The name that caused Shen Wei to break the device that had the recording of it in his haste to erase it from existence. The name of a man ten thousand years dead.
But aren’t Shen Wei and Ye Zun also that old? Isn’t it possible? He’s not sure, but he is sure of one thing: whoever this guy is standing in his lobby is not someone he trusts in the slightest bit and he will put a bullet in him if he so much as twitches wrong. Sang Zan returns with the others from the back rooms and Lao Chu is quick to come to Zhao Yunlan’s side and is ready to have his back regardless of what goes down. Kun Lun’s gaze goes past them though to Da Qing and he smiles a bit at the Yashou.
Da Qing’s response to Kun Lun was not something that any of them expected. He took a few moments, staring at the other man before his eyes widened and he whispered ‘Kun Lun?’ before he grabbed at his head and seized up in agony for one of his memory fits. Xiao Guo was quick to catch him before he hit the floor unconscious and Zhao Yunlan and Lao Chu were having none of Kun Lun’s movement towards the two members of their team.
“If you want a bullet between your eyes, I suggest that you keep moving down this path.” Zhao Yunlan snapped at him before he rushed over to where Da Qing was and helped lift him from the ground to move him to the couch.
“I can help.” Kun Lun offered, making a kind of reaching out motion with his hand and Zhao Yunlan hopes that the completely unimpressed and distrustful look that he sends him is obvious because there is no reality where Zhao Yunlan lets anyone he hasn’t personally vetted near Da Qing when Da Qing is down. Hell, even then it might be a hit or a miss depending on his mood, and right now he was quickly shifting into a bad one.
“Lao Chu, keep an eye on him. Xiao Guo, if he even breathes wrong – zap him.” Zhao Yunlan orders. “I’m going to…call in backup.” He doesn’t say ‘Shen Wei’ but the other’s register who backup would be anyways and they nod before he takes off at a rather fast trot towards his office. Thankfully, Shen Wei shouldn’t be in class right now. He should be at his office working through the research data on one of those projects he’s been on for the last few months.
“Hello?” Shen Wei answers.
“Zhao Yunlan.” Shen Wei greets with that ever pleased to hear him tone to his voice before Zhao Yunlan can practically see the frown overtake his face. “Is everything alright?”
“Um…not really. We could really use your help here. Da Qing had another fit and he’s out right now…” Zhao Yunlan pauses for a moment and he wonders how Shen Wei is going to take the knowledge of their visitor. Especially after the last time even just the name of ‘Kun Lun’ was mentioned he snatched the recorder out of his hands and broke it. “But there’s some guy here saying his name is ‘Kun Lun’ and I don’t know what to do about-” He freezes with the receiver still up to his ear as the portal open in his office and Shen Wei steps out of it in his Black Cloaked Envoy robes looking more like an avenging angel getting ready to smite the wicked and the unworthy. There’s an instant layer of frost that seems to span from him and Zhao Yunlan can see what looks like rage vibrating through his body as his Gong Gong blade is already in hand and ready to party.
“Where is he?” Shen Wei asks – no, the Black Cloaked Envoy demands – and Zhao Yunlan just points out towards the main area feeling rather stupefied by this whole sequence of events. He knew that Shen Wei was going to have a response, but honestly Zhao Yunlan hadn’t fully expected this one. How well did Shen Wei know Kun Lun? What happened the last time their paths had crossed? That book had made it seem like they were on the same side at the very least, working together all those years ago to contain the rebel Dixingren forces and the Hallows. What was the history there? Clearly not good by Shen Wei’s reaction to someone even pretending to take the name, but Zhao Yunlan feels like there’s an even bigger question hanging over them all, namely why this guy looks so much like Zhao Yunlan.
He hangs up the phone and hopes that Shen Wei at least had the frame of mind to hang up the one on his side and didn’t just let it drop before teleporting out because something tells him that he’ll be getting calls of concern from University officials about one of their professors up and disappearing with a possible sign of foul play present in the last place he was seen.
Zhao Yunlan gets up and rushes off after Shen Wei though, only to see him for the first time in Zhao Yunlan’s life in the way that everyone else must see him. For the first time, Shen Wei is terrifying in a primal kind of way. Something that makes a part of Zhao Yunlan tell him to run for the hills while the rest of him is telling him to make peace with his life because this is how it ends. Kun Lun looks unaffected by Shen Wei’s rage though, if anything Zhao Yunlan would say he looks…fond? No, it’s more than that. It’s got a bit of the same kind of intensity and…and longing that Shen Wei’s eyes get sometimes when he looks at Zhao Yunlan.
“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it Xiao Wei?” He asks, his voice soft as he uses the nickname that Zhao Yunlan has just recently taken to sporadically calling Shen Wei and all of the glass around them, on the windows, the table and who knows where else, all crack with a resounding echo as the temperature drops even further.
“Don’t call me that.” Shen Wei growls, and it’s an order. An order from the Black Cloaked Envoy that expects to be obeyed or else. “Who are you? You dare to take that form?” Oh, okay then…those words register in Zhao Yunlan’s mind as telling him that ‘Kun Lun’ might have actually looked like a Zhao Yunlan knockoff in the past. Or would that make Zhao Yunlan the knockoff?
“That seems like a conversation between you and I.” He motions to the group around them. “Without so many ears present.”
“Yeah, that’s a fuck no to that. You’re not going anywhere with him.” Zhao Yunlan is quick to come up to Shen Wei’s side. “If you want me to Brother Black, just say the word and I can put a bullet in him now and we can all go back to our day.”
“Your dark energy gun won’t work on me. I’m not Dixingren.” Kun Lun tells him and Zhao Yunlan gives him a smile.
“I’ll get creative, don’t you worry about that.” He says and Kun Lun has the gall to huff out a laugh like he’s engaging with Zhao Yunlan, but the whole time his eyes haven’t moved from Shen Wei. They continue to stare at him with a greedy kind of intensity that Zhao Yunlan would totally make an inappropriate joke about if they were looking at anyone but Shen Wei.
“You are not Kun Lun. Ye Zun goes too far.” Shen Wei seems to ignore Zhao Yunlan’s offer, and to a point it feels like he’s ignoring Zhao Yunlan for this new guy and isn’t that a strange turn of events? It’s not something that Zhao Yunlan is used to, being secondary in Shen Wei’s hierarchy of attention. Kun Lun gets a strangely amused and secretive kind of smirk at Shen Wei’s words.
“Honestly, I never was.” He says. “But someone needed to be, and that someone fell to me.” He shakes his head. “And Ye Zun didn’t send me.” He takes a few slow steps towards them and Shen Wei shifts himself, taking a half step forward in warning as he places himself slightly in front of Zhao Yunlan like a barrier between him and Kun Lun. His body is ten kinds of tense and Zhao Yunlan is almost certain that if it were possible, he’d be seeing the dark energy swirling around the Black Cloaked Envoy’s body ready to throw down at a moment’s notice. “I understand why you might think so, and I should have prepared for that eventuality but maybe there’s another way to prove I am who I say I am…” He stops in front of Shen Wei and there’s a moment’s pause before he reaches up and, much to everyone’s surprise, snatches the mask off Shen Wei’s face before grinning at him with a playful smile that looks so eerie on someone else’s face even if they’re wearing a version of his. “It’s not a lollipop but it looks like I’m still fast enough.” There’s no response from Shen Wei, almost like he just froze in place and Zhao Yunlan shifts to see him and he doesn’t like how Shen Wei looks absolutely shocked and gutted by the action.
“Shen Wei?” Zhao Yunlan asks, trying to shake him out of the shock he’s currently experiencing. “Shen Wei? Should I shoot him? I’m gonna shoot him if you don’t say anything.”
“No.” Shen Wei croaks out and the blade disappears from his hand as he takes a kind of shaky step closer to Kun Lun and reaches out to grab his arm. “It’s not…how is this…but I thought…” He turns and casts a quick glance at Zhao Yunlan.
“You’re not wrong.” Kun Lun says, tugging Shen Wei’s attention back to him from where it’s wandered like a greedy little kid and Zhao Yunlan really doesn’t like this guy. “I can explain everything, but it’s me Xiao Wei. It’s really me.” Shen Wei makes a soft sound in his throat that Zhao Yunlan almost doesn’t hear even though he’s this close to him and it sounds pained. “This isn’t a conversation to have here though, you know what I mean.” Shen Wei nods and before Zhao Yunlan can tell Kun Lun to fuck off because there are enough secrets between all of them, Shen Wei teleports the two of them out of the SID.
“Did he just?” Zhao Yunlan snaps and rages in the aftermath of their departure.
Teleporting these days isn’t something that Shen Wei is supposed to be doing as frequently or as flippantly as he once did. The energy distortion in his body was making it to where he was basically leaking dark energy like a sponge leaking water, and no matter how much he tried to contain or store up, it always just continued to slip through his fingers. The wound he couldn’t heal, and he couldn’t bring himself to regret it because Zhao Yunlan was healed. He could see again and the dark energy that was slowly destroying his body was gone. He would live and that was worth any price to pay as far as Shen Wei was concerned.
Shen Wei was already living on borrowed time after all, and the man who gave him all those years was standing in Shen Wei’s apartment looking at him with eyes far older than the youthful face they existed in should allow. He wants to reach out to Kun Lun, to fall into his arms and despair at the time that has kept them apart for so long, but he can’t trust it. If Ye Zun has managed to create this illusion somehow, then his younger brother was a lot crueler than Shen Wei ever gave him credit for.
“I’m not one of Ye Zun’s.” Kun Lun says, almost as if he can read the thoughts rushing through Shen Wei’s mind and who knows, maybe he can. He always used to be able to before. “What do I need to do to convince you of that?”
“I don’t know.” Shen Wei admits softly, his voice sounding so faint and so lost. “I don’t know. I want to believe this but…it’s not possible. None of this is right. You shouldn’t be here. I don’t understand.” Kun Lun’s eyes are soft as he reaches out and Shen Wei lets him put his hand on the side of his neck even though he knows that he shouldn’t, but he can’t help it. If it’s an illusion, it’s a good one. Hat’s off to his brother.
“I know.” Kun Lun says gently as his thumb rubs along his skin in a comforting gesture. “I’ll explain everything. Anything you want to know, just ask and the answer is yours. We’ve had enough confusion and secrets between us for more than a few lifetimes, wouldn’t you say?” The offer strikes Shen Wei as being either comical or cruel. He can’t help but think of Zhao Yunlan with his ever-pressing questions and all of the lies that he’s had to tell him to prevent potential catastrophe and he can’t help but think about how such a statement from him to Zhao Yunlan would make the other man’s day. It’s all he wants from Shen Wei at this point, and it’s the only part of Shen Wei that he can’t give him.
“How are you here? You say you’re him, that Ye Zun has nothing to do with this but it doesn’t make sense.” Shen Wei says.
“The Hallows brought me.” Kun Lun replies. “I’m not going to fully say that Ye Zun had nothing to do with it, because I’d be lying.” That confession makes Shen Wei tense up and Kun Lun just shakes his head. “Not in the way you’re thinking. Him messing with them, using them so frequently is what caused it to happen.” Kun Lun raises his other hand and puts it on the other side of Shen Wei’s face like he can’t help but want to touch him, to ground him and soothe him. “That day, the Hallows took me away. I thought that they’d return me to where I needed to go, take me home; but that’s not what ended up happening.”
“Yeah, been through a few of them at this point, you never fully get used to it.” Kun Lun says with a rueful kind of smile.
“How are you here, now?” Shen Wei tries to clarify. “Shouldn’t you have returned? You are Zhao Yunlan…are you not?” For a moment, everything about how Shen Wei has made sense about the world uproots itself. What if he was wrong? What if Kun Lun and Zhao Yunlan weren’t the same man? What was he supposed to do about loving two people instead of one at different points in his timeline? Because even if Kun Lun is not Zhao Yunlan, Shen Wei still loves him and will not give him up for anything.
“I was.” Kun Lun admits easily and it helps the growing panic recede a bit. “Once a long time ago. Sometimes it’s hard to remember it myself. I don’t think minds are really built to store that much information in them.”
“That much information?” Shen Wei repeats. “What happened?”
“The Hallows being their usual asshole selves.” Kun Lun says with a snort that’s pure Zhao Yunlan. “I thought that they’d return me to my time when they activated again. I mean, it was their activation that threw me out on that cliff, why wouldn’t they just take me back?” He sighs. “I guess it doesn’t work like that though. They might have control over time and space, but only in limited situations. So they couldn’t bring me back, it wasn’t within their power to do.”
“Then what did they do?”
“The easiest way to explain it would be to say that they absorbed me.” Kun Lun replies. “Body and soul, torn and reforged.”
“They absorbed you?” Shen Wei says, sounding almost as horrified as he feels by the implications of it.
“Sort of similar to what they did to Ye Zun. Only instead of the Pillar, it’s the Hallows themselves that I’m contained by. No way out for me.” He must see something on Shen Wei’s face because his smile softens again and the comforting motions start back up. “Xiao Wei, ah Xiao Wei. It’s not that bad. I’ve long since gotten used to it. Besides, I get a lot of nice little bonuses and a few nifty tricks to add to my repertoire.” He says. “I am the Hallow’s Guardian, have been for ten thousand years as I waited to see you again.” He pauses and gets a look like he’s done something that he feels guilty for. “I hope you can forgive me.”
“Forgive you?” Shen Wei asks. “For what?”
“You were at peace, and I dragged you back.” He explains. “It took a long time, but I pulled you back into existence…you shouldn’t be here, but because of me and my selfishness, here you are. Suffering and fighting again.”
“You’re how I came back.” Shen Wei says, surprised. No one knew how he woke up. Ye Zun theorized that he’d had something to do with it, and Shen Wei had figured that it was just a cruel trick of fate…but it was Kun Lun? Kun Lun’s desire to see him again that dragged him out of the dirt where he’d been buried for ten thousand years? “I’m not mad.” He tells him, finally reaching out to touch the side of the other’s face. “We had a promise to keep after all, did we not?” He asks and Kun Lun lets out an almost wet sounding laugh, and that’s when Shen Wei notices the tears that are starting to pool in his eyes. Tears that are starting to pool in his own as well.
“We did.” Kun Lun agrees. “Took us a while, but we did. We’re here now, together.”
“Together.” Shen Wei repeats, the word coming out almost awed.
“You realize that you’re stuck with me.”
“A burden I’ll gladly carry.” Shen Wei jokes and Kun Lun laughs softly before he makes a small face.
“Or, I guess you’re stuck with us. Eh, I can share. As long as it’s with myself, I suppose I can share.” He leans forward and presses their foreheads together. “I would never make you choose Shen Wei. How could I? We’re both the same person, how could I do that to any of us. Although if he shoots me, I might just throttle him.”
“He won’t shoot you.”
“Wouldn’t matter if he did.” Kun Lun admits. “I don’t die that easily.” Shen Wei’s other hand comes up to grip his arm, fist tightening around the cloth of his jacket.
“Don’t talk about dying.” He begs. “Not when I’ve just gotten you back.”
“I’m not going anywhere Xiao Wei.” Kun Lun promises him and right now Shen Wei’s liable to believe any promise the other man makes, after all did he not just manage the promise of reuniting even after ten millennia? “And neither are you.”
“I don’t intend to go anywhere.”
“But you’re dying.” Kun Lun says and it’s like ice water down his spine. “I can feel it. The Longevity Dial’s power is eating you alive. Ah Shen Wei, what were you thinking?”
“It was killing you. What else would you have had me do?” Shen Wei asks and Kun Lun sighs.
“I would ask you to put your life higher on your totem pole of importance than my own, but I understand that it will never happen. That’s fine, I’ll put you higher on mine to make up for it.”
“Don’t joke about that.”
“Who says I’m joking?” Kun Lun replies with a kind of dangerous intensity and Shen Wei’s grip tightens just a little more. “Let me help you. Let me fix this.”
“Like I said before, nice little bonuses and nifty new tricks.” Kun Lun says with a smirk before he slowly leans forward and it takes Shen Wei half of a second to realize that he’s going in for a kiss and he pushes forward to meet him there. It’s been so many years since they’ve had this moment, so many years of this intimacy being just a memory and Kun Lun presses back with an intensity that actually dwarfs the one inside Shen Wei. It’s overwhelming in all the best ways as he melts into the arms of the incarnation of the first man he ever loved, and would ever go on to love; and he feels Kun Lun shift his hands, one coming to rest behind his neck almost as if to brace him or tug him in tighter and the other shifting to splay over his heart.
The sudden tug on his energy sends everything into disarray. At first, he’s not sure if it hurts per say; or if it’s just a strange, unnatural feeling that kicks all of his self-preservation instincts into gear that he desperately wants to stop. It feels reminiscent of the draining sensation that the Longevity Dial had done back at the SID, taking its price for what he’d asked of it. He makes a sound that Kun Lun swallows from his lips, a confused and unhappy sounding thing and it feels like Kun Lun is leeching not just his power but all of his strength and the air from his lungs as he stumbles against him and his knees give out. Kun Lun catches him though, sliding them down to the floor carefully as he keeps on pulling and Shen Wei can’t help the final thought of ‘was I wrong? Was it a trick after all?’ as everything fades away.
There are really only a few places that Zhao Yunlan can think of that Shen Wei might go to speak ‘in private’ with someone. One of them is the apartment, the second being Shen Wei’s apartment which luckily is just right across the hall. He prays that he finds them there because if they’re not then he’s going to start burning incense like it’s going out of style and he’s going to have words with his lover about what not to do if you don’t want to give him a heart attack. One of the things high on the list is running off with a mysterious doppelganger who screams ‘I’m not as harmless as I’m trying to portray myself as’ when it’s clear that Shen Wei is emotionally compromised in a big way.
He’s not the only one compromised. If that really is what Kun Lun looked like ten thousand years ago…then are all of those longing looks actually meant for Zhao Yunlan or are they meant for the man whose face he just happens to share? When Shen Wei looks at him, does he see Zhao Yunlan or Kun Lun? When he fucks him, who is it that he’s imagining is in the bed with him?
It’s not the first time that Zhao Yunlan has been a rebound or a fill in for someone else, but he thinks that this time it might destroy him to learn it. To learn that he was right all along, and that he never really deserved someone like Shen Wei. The beautiful, smart, powerful Dixingren who upturned his life. That the only reason why he even had a chance to pretend was because he reminded Shen Wei of someone better, someone more worthy. How does Zhao Yunlan compete with a ghost? How does he compete with the ghost of the man who apparently existed on the same playing field as Shen Wei? War heroes who managed to prevent the Hallows from destroying the world. What is Zhao Yunlan in the face of that?
He tears out of the car and practically takes the stairs three at a time before he makes it to his door, unlocking it and opening it to see no one inside and he sends out a prayer to any deity in existence who is kind enough to be listening that Shen Wei is just behind door number two and not in some unknown third location that Zhao Yunlan will never find.
He turns and unlocks the door to Shen Wei’s apartment and when he opens the door, he sees two figures and then he sees red.
Shen Wei is no longer wearing the Envoy Robes and is just listlessly lying on the ground as the other man is hunched over him, and he’s kissing the unresponsive man and then Zhao Yunlan sees the strange black and gold energy pooling at his hand on Shen Wei’s chest. It looks like it’s dragging itself from Shen Wei and to the other man and he’s rushing forward instantly.
“Get the fuck off of him!” Zhao Yunlan snarls as he grabs at his shoulders and yanks with all his might causing the other to stumble and let go of Shen Wei who just drops that final small amount of distance to the floor and doesn’t open his eyes or move. The punch that he lands on the other’s face is both painful and satisfactory as Zhao Yunlan sees him fall back and immediately, he turns his attention to Shen Wei and drops down beside him. “Shen Wei? Shen Wei!” He shakes him and Shen Wei doesn’t stir. He barely looks like he’s breathing and his skin is pale like it had been in the kitchen when he’d told Zhao Yunlan that he was worth any price or pain. “What did you do to him you son of a bitch! Shen Wei?” ‘Kun Lun’ pushes himself slowly to his knees and Zhao Yunlan looks up with all of the murderous intent that is flowing through his veins at the moment as he cradles a hurt Shen Wei. “I will kill you. What did you do to him?”
“I saved his life.” Kun Lun replies. “I reversed the damage left behind by the Longevity Dial.” Kun Lun looks down at Shen Wei in Zhao Yunlan’s arms. “He’ll be able to properly heal now. He just needs to rest.” Zhao Yunlan wants to say a whole bunch of things, starting somewhere with ‘fuck you’ and ending somewhere near ‘eat dirt and die’. He opts to go with none of them as he braces one arm against Shen Wei’s back and slides the other under his knees and hoists him up. He carries him across the hall and kicks the door closed in Kun Lun’s face before rushing over and laying Shen Wei down on their bed. He can hear the door open behind him as he carefully takes the glasses from Shen Wei’s face.
“If he doesn’t wake up soon, or if he’s hurt in any way. I will tear you apart.” Zhao Yunlan says and he wonders if he should be worried by the icy calm in his voice. He’s not usually the calm one, that’s Shen Wei’s area; but right now, he’d carve this Kun Lun up for answers and he wouldn’t even lose a wink of sleep over it. “You’d better get talking. What the fuck did you do to him?”
“I already told you.” Kun Lun says. “I pulled the Hallow’s energy from his body. Dixingren aren’t built to mix with it. It’s even more dangerous to them than to Haixingren. Shen Wei knew that, he knew better and the only reason he’s lasted so long is because of how powerful he is; but he was fading, fast. I know you already knew that.” Zhao Yunlan does. He’s noticed the weakness, the longer times needed for sleep, the shakiness and out of breath moments that Shen Wei was trying to hide after using his powers. “He’ll recover now. I promise you that. I would never do anything to harm Shen Wei. I’d let the world burn before I hurt him.” It sounds honest, almost a little crazed and raw, but honest. “We want the same thing.”
“Oh really? And what is that?”
“To protect him. To keep him safe, from others and sometimes from himself. To protect this world with him at our side.” Comes the answer and it is a little too on the nose for Zhao Yunlan’s liking.
“Who are you?” Zhao Yunlan asks, turning to look at the man standing in the middle of the apartment. “And don’t say ‘Kun Lun’ because I call bullshit. He’s dead. Been dead for a long fucking time, so who the hell are you?” There’s a tiny voice in his head that tells him that it’s entirely possible that Kun Lun is in fact exactly who he says he is. Isn’t Shen Wei and Ye Zun both from all that time ago? Doesn’t Da Qing claim to have existed back then? Why not a new person? What does Zhao Yunlan really know about how any of this works?
“I’m you.” Kun Lun says and Zhao Yunlan stares at him. “I’m who you will go on to become.”
“I was ‘Kun Lun’ back during the war, when the Hallows displaced me in time and sent me back ten thousand years ago to the start of the war. Then after that, I was many names, but the first name I ever bore was Zhao Yunlan.” There’s a moment of silence.
“Bullshit.” Zhao Yunlan says and Kun Lun laughs.
“Trust me, you’ll come to a place where things like this are almost common.” He tells him before he gets serious. “You’ve always suspected that Shen Wei was keeping something from you. Something big? This is it.”
“That I’m some kind of immortal war hero from ten thousand years ago?” Zhao Yunlan says with the appropriate amount of sarcasm and disbelief.
“I’m not immortal. I’m just not easy to kill.” Kun Lun corrects him. “Shen Wei and I crossed paths for the first time for him ten thousand years ago during the early days of the war. When Ye Zun took over the rebel forces and turned them into an army and declared war on Haixing. I had been sent back by an accidental recoil of the Hallows and was told to step in for a general named Kun Lun who had been killed, but that they needed everyone to believe was still alive. I took on his name and his responsibilities and I worked side by side with Shen Wei.” He looks at him. “You will go on to do this. I suspect that he never told us about it because of the fear of playing around with the timelines. If he said the wrong thing, would things still play out the way that they were supposed to or would they unravel. What would happen then?”
“Then why are you telling me?”
“I have a better understanding of the line than he does at this point.” Kun Lun replies. “I’ve had a lot longer to study it and come to understand it. He’s working off of theories and speculations but no hard evidence. Don’t blame him for erring on the side of caution.”
“If we’re really the same person then you would know that I never would.” Zhao Yunlan retorts and Kun Lun nods slightly. “So you’re telling me that’s it? That’s the big secret? That’s what he means when he says that we’ve met before?”
“So I’m not some descendent of yours, or some reincarnation, or just really convenient genetics?”
“No, you and I are the same.” Kun Lun says. “He has always been ours, and we will always be his.” Zhao Yunlan lets that settle before he takes a seat on the edge of the bed.
“Start from the beginning and start talking.” He tells him and Kun Lun nods and does what’s been ordered of him.
He wakes up with his head on a soft pillow and a warm blanket tossed over him. It takes a few moments for his mind to fully start trying to pull itself back together and rehash the events that led up to where he is now.
Kun Lun returned.
Or did he? Was it a trick or a trap after all? Did he walk into it with his eyes wide open? Did Ye Zun laugh at his cleverness to use Shen Wei’s heart against him in such a way? The thought is like having hot coals pressed against him until something else registers to him; he’s not hemorrhaging dark energy. He’s still depleted, but he’s not losing anymore at increasingly terrifying rates.
Did Kun Lun do that? Did he somehow manage to undo the damage that Shen Wei had taken healing him? Was he hurt now? Were they just going to be bouncing this price back and forth between them for all time? Because Kun Lun is out of his mind if he thinks that Shen Wei is going to let him bare the cost of Shen Wei’s decision.
“Shen Wei?” Zhao Yunlan’s voice asks softly as there’s a light touch to his cheek and he slowly blinks his eyes open to see the love of his life smile down at him with such a relieved look on his face. “Hey beautiful.”
“Zhao Yunlan?” Shen Wei asks and his voice barely comes out louder than a whisper.
“It’s fine, you’re safe. We’re home.” Zhao Yunlan is quick to assure him. He looks up towards the kitchen area for a moment. “Hey! Sleeping Beauty’s awake.” Shen Wei huffs out a small amused laugh at that before his awareness slowly starts to reach out and start taking in more and more and he registers the smell of cooking food and the sounds of someone in the kitchen. Kun Lun comes over with a bowl in his hands, a small smile on his face as he looks down at Shen Wei.
“Here, lets help him up.” He says as he puts down the bowl on the nightstand before going to help Shen Wei sit up but Zhao Yunlan slaps at his hands.
“I’ve got it, I’ve got it.” He says and there’s more obnoxious annoyance than aggressive heat to the words and Shen Wei wonders how long he’s been out and what they’ve been doing during that time. “Here, lets get you up and get some food into you.” Shen Wei tries to push himself up but his body feels strangely like limp noodles and Zhao Yunlan has to do a lot more of it than Shen Wei would have liked. “Hand the soup over, little brother.”
“Little brother?” Kun Lun asks with an arched eyebrow. “Shouldn’t I be the older brother? I’ve definitely got more time on you.”
“Nope. Doesn’t work that way. You’ll never catch up with me, just accept it. I’ll always be older. I’m the first, you’re the rebirth. Any amount of time you live just gets added to my time and that’s that. So if you tally it all up, I’m older. Always will be.”
“I don’t remember being that bad at math. Or logic.” Kun Lun replies and Zhao Yunlan just smirks at him as he takes the soup and turns back to Shen Wei.
“He told you?” Shen Wei hears himself ask and he feels the weight of possibly messing everything up crash down on him. “How could you…do you know what you’ve done?”
“Nothing that’s going to mess up the timeline.” Kun Lun says quickly. “Trust me.”
“Woah Brother Black! Calm down, you just lost like three more shades and you’re already scarily pale.” Zhao Yunlan says and Shen Wei does feel a little faint. “He told me only the basics I’m sure. Nothing really in depth about any of that. Guess I got to go through it myself, but at least it won’t be coming out of left field when it happens.”
“You shouldn’t have been told anything. The possibility of something changing and going wrong is…” Shen Wei can’t even compute the amounts. There’s a soft touch to his cheek that pulls him out of the growing panic and he sees Kun Lun looking at him.
“It’s fine Xiao Wei. I promise you it’s fine. I wouldn’t do anything that would risk the timeline either, but please believe me when I say I know what I’m doing and what I have done.” He rubs his thumb against Shen Wei’s jaw. “You don’t have to carry these fears and these burdens alone anymore. We’re here. We’ll help you.” Shen Wei glances between the two men who are sharing absolutely identical looks of fierce stubbornness.
“You’ve got us Shen Wei.” Zhao Yunlan says. “Let us help.” He lets that rest between them for a bit. “Besides, we’re all going to have to come up with a new plan for dealing with Ye Zun and I’m going to be generous and let him go first since he figured out your current plan ages ago and has had time to stew over it and I’m not sure that I won’t end up yelling since your plan apparently was to get eaten by your brother and destroy the both of you in one swoop.” Shen Wei’s gaze cuts over to Kun Lun who has clenched his jaw a little.
“Brilliant plan, using all of the pieces available to you Xiao Wei. But rather morbid and not something that’s going to happen, at all.” Kun Lun growls. “You’ve got new resources open to you now, so we’re going to do what we should have done in the first place, which is sit down and all talk it out. We’re going to come up with a plan together that we can all agree on, and then we’re going to come up with a backup plan or two that still doesn’t require anyone dying and that’ll be that.” He motions to the soup in Zhao Yunlan’s hands. “Now eat up, we have plenty of time.”
It sounds like one of Kun Lun’s promises, and Shen Wei can’t help but fiercely hope that it’s true. He wants time, he wants so much time that he feels greedy and selfish. Zhao Yunlan holds the spoon up for him and he smiles softly at him.
Please let there be time Shen Wei pleads to the fates as he settles in.