“You need to stop,” Wei Wuxian said, his eyes narrow and expression fierce.
It was a lot less effective on Mo Xuanyu’s face than it had been on his original features. No one had yet told him, presumably out of a desire to avoid being murdered by Lan Wangji for making his lover sad.
Nie Huaisang frowned at him. “Stop…what?”
“Whatever it is you’re up to!”
Oh, were they doing this again?
Nie Huaisang opened up a fan and hid his face behind it in a single movement – he’d gotten really good at it over the years – and started idly fanning himself. “Wei-xiong, really, you’ll need to be more specific. I’m up to so many things, don’t you know…?”
Normally Nie Huaisang wouldn’t bother playing along, but he could see Jiang Cheng coming down the hallway at an angle that put him directly in Wei Wuxian’s blind spot – if there was one thing Jinlin Tower was good for, it was not seeing people – and he could already see Jiang Cheng starting to smile at his nonsense, which was obviously far more important than whatever it was that Wei Wuxian thought he’d figured out.
Hmm. Maybe Nie Huaisang was being too hasty in judging Lan Wangji’s rudeness – love really did make you do the stupidest things…
“I meant in relation to Jiang Cheng.”
Nie Huaisang stopped fanning and stared blankly at him. A few steps away from the turn, he saw Jiang Cheng come to a halt as well, already scowling.
“Jiang – Cheng?” he said hesitantly. “What exactly does Wei-xiong think I’m doing with Jiang-xiong?”
Wei Wuxian crossed his arms. “I’m not sure,” he said. “What are you doing?”
Nie Huaisang blinked at him. “But if I knew that, Wei-xiong, I wouldn’t have asked you, would I?”
The main problem Wei Wuxian had with confronting Nie Huaisang about anything, really, was that he genuinely found Nie Huaisang terribly funny. The twitching lips made the glaring more difficult.
(Behind him, Jiang Cheng was rolling his eyes, a full-body production that involved a great deal of heaving of shoulders and clutching at his head at the rampant stupidity on display. Nie Huaisang appreciated his lover's dedication to the art.)
Still – and this part was worrisome – Wei Wuxian’s smile faded away soon enough, replaced by a solemn expression.
“We may not be on the best of terms right now,” he said. “But he’s still very dear to me. I won’t put up with you using him as part of one of your schemes.”
“I don’t actually have any schemes,” Nie Huaisang said, mostly because Jiang Cheng was frowning now and Nie Huaisang did not want Wei Wuxian to mess up his budding relationship. “Really, Wei-xiong! I had one scheme, and it took me over a decade – I’m hardly the shadowy puppet-master mastermind you seem to sometimes seem to take me as. Why would you think that I’m using Jiang-xiong?”
“You’re deceitful,” Wei Wuxian said. “You made Jin Guangyao think that you were weak and dependent on him for years even as you plotted to bring him down. And now you’re pulling the same thing on Jiang Cheng – what am I supposed to think?”
Wei Wuxian must have seen them in the market, Nie Huaisang thought. He’d been carping around, playing up his good-for-nothing self – Jiang Cheng liked it when he did that. Mostly because Nie Huaisang really was a bit of a good-for-nothing, his one scheme claim to fame being firmly in the past; his cultivation was weak, his achievements few, his personality…questionable…
(Jin Ling had, upon discovering them spending time together, told Nie Huaisang that he fit everyone one of the criteria that Jiang Cheng had set out for a wife, right down to the weaker level of cultivation and the proper family background. Nie Huaisang had bought him some candy on the basis that ‘be nice to Jin Ling’ was on the list, and told him to think about the type of mileage he could get out of something like that. Jin Ling had looked appropriately thoughtful, after.
Nie Huaisang was a very good influence – or possibly a bad one, he wasn’t sure.)
At any rate, Jiang Cheng liked indulging him, liked and was reassured by the contrast between them. No one looking at them would ever put Jiang Cheng second – Nie Huaisang wasn’t even prettier! – except maybe in terms of insults, and even Jiang Cheng had to admit that he didn’t really want the privilege of being called the worst Great Sect leader, even if it was a superlative.
Wei Wuxian must have seen.
Wei Wuxian must have totally misunderstood.
“Jiang-xiong was at the Guanyin temple as well,” Nie Huaisang pointed out. “It’s not like er-ge at all.”
Wei Wuxian frowned. “Do you really have the right to call Lan-da-ge that?”
“My brother’s no less my brother because he’s dead, and he kept his oath to the end,” Nie Huaisang pointed out. “Why should the other two be released from the obligations of their oath just because they chose to foreswear their side of it?”
“Stop getting away from the point,” Wei Wuxian said, probably because Nie Huaisang was right. Bitter and mean and resentful, but right. “Whatever you’re scheming that involves Jiang Cheng, stop it.”
Wei Wuxian blinked.
“I’m not scheming, but even if I was, the target would be Jiang Cheng,” Nie Huaisang explained. “You don’t understand, Wei-xiong. You see, I like Jiang Cheng.”
“I’m sure you do,” Wei Wuxian said. “But I also think you liked Jin Guangyao, a bit.”
Maybe he had. A bit.
But it wasn’t the same at all!
“I especially won’t tolerate you using him for sex while also –”
“Wei Wuxian!” Jiang Cheng bellowed, and Wei Wuxian jumped a chi into the air.
Nie Huaisang fanned himself. “Oh good,” he said. “I was about to be worried that you’d misunderstand, Jiang-xiong, but luckily Wei-xiong decided to take all the awkwardness onto himself.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” Jiang Cheng snarled at Wei Wuxian, who blanched but scowled back.
“I was just trying to help –”
“By embarrassing me?”
“How is it embarrassing to you?!”
“You think I’d be – what – led around by my dick like some new model Jin Guangshan –”
“Oh, that’s a good insult,” Nie Huaisnag said approvingly. “I’m going to need to use that in the future. What do you think the odds are for Lan Wangji biting me if I said it to him?”
That got both of them to stop fighting and turn to look at him.
“What? Does he only bite people he likes now? He used to bite everybody.”
“That was back when he was five,” Nie Huaisang allowed. “It’s been a while.”
“You have stories about baby Lan Zhan?” Wei Wuxian said at once, as one might’ve expected. “I want them. All of them. Now.”
“Weren’t you threatening him a moment ago?!”
“That’s different! That was for you!”
“Right, because you don’t think anyone would actually like me,” Jiang Cheng said.
He sounded hurt.
“I’m sure Wei-xiong just meant that you were so unbearably attractive that people would compete for the opportunity to manipulate them into your bed,” Nie Huaisang assured him while Wei Wuxian was still trying to find words. “And since Wei-xiong thinks I’m the best schemer, obviously I won hands down, and secretly eliminated all my love rivals to boot. It's all my fault. Alas! I've been caught red-handed!”
“Are you actually capable of saying a single word that isn’t complete nonsense?” Jiang Cheng asked him, his tone having returned to exasperated and fond, which was worlds better than hurt.
Nie Huaisang considered the question seriously and then shook his head.
Nie Huaisang nodded happily. “Your good-for-nothing,” he said cheerfully. “I’m going to make you do everything for me from now on.”
He was, too.
Wei Wuxian looked between them. “Wait,” he said. “Is this – a thing?”
“If you mean Jiang-xiong and I, yes,” Nie Huaisang said. “He’s been courting me for years, and I refused.”
“Only on the basis of a secret murder plot which you didn’t want to get me involved in.”
“How was I to know that everything would turn out well in the end? I thought there was every chance san-ge would find a way to drag me down with him. I couldn’t let that happen to you, of course.”
“Of course,” Jiang Cheng jeered, but he looked pleased and smug the way he always did when Nie Huaisang admitted to having been won over by the very first day of his courtship, years ago. He liked being successful at things.
“No,” Wei Wuxian said. “Not that. The – good-for-nothing thing. It’s a thing. For you two.”
“Fighting words,” Nie Huaisang remarked, even as Jiang Cheng flushed red. “Coming from the dreadful Yiling Patriarch that needs to be defeated by the mighty and righteous Hanguang-jun and then taken away for a good ravishing –”
“Uh - listen – I can explain – actually, no, I can’t. Nie-xiong, you have my blessing, just don’t break his heart, bye.”
“Come back here you -!”
Yes, Nie Huaisang decided, watching Jiang Cheng chase Wei Wuxian. This was the best possible result.