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Lan Qiren has never liked Wei Wuxian. He didn't like him as a smart mouthed guest disciple, disrupting classes with his wild ideas and making his younger nephew angry and confused. He didn't like him as the wild and cold Yiling Laozu breaking his nephew's heart and walking a one way path to insanity and death. He hated him as the shadow in his nephew's heart for thirteen years.

He especially does not like him now, as his nephew's husband, all shameless and red-lipped and encouraging Lan Qiren's nephew to ignore all propriety and dignity and allowing him to walk around with his hand on the back of Wei Wuxian's waist. He hates the way he laughs silently up at Wangji. He hates the way he acts like all four thousand rules of the clan are nothing but history. He hates the flash of red, the shock of black, showing up wherever that awful boy pleases and giving him the same shock of displacement every time. He hates how he walks, not calm and steady, but lightly, hips swaying, as if control means nothing to him.

For a second he can hear that awful boy's mother in his head, saying, "And what did you just say about my baby, Lan Dian?", but he pushes the thought aside. This is all her fault anyway. If she and her husband hadn't chosen to die and leave their son alone, he would have never been taken in by the Jiangs and never grown to come to the Cloud Recesses to lead Lan Qiren's nephew astray.

That Cangse-sanren would have made a special point of sending her son to torment him, or that if Wangji had not met Wei Wuxian, he would have gone through life, content but never happy, are things that Lan Qiren chooses not to think about.

That's not even the point. The point isn't even how unsuitable Cangse-sanren's son is as the husband of Lan Qiren's nephew, or how much noise and chaos he draws just walking around, or even how much his jaw wants to grind his teeth to dust every time Lan Qiren sees that awful boy trailed by hordes of tiny Lan disciples, all chirping "Senior Wei! Senior Wei!" like so many little nightingales.

The point is --

Lan Qiren sets down his tea cup.

The point is, that awful boy had married his nephew, and it was one thing for him to complain about him and all the terrible things he did, like breathing wrong, but quite another for this little rodent of the Su clan -- who were, to begin with, an inferior cadet branch of the Lan clan -- to say something about it.

"I'm afraid my hearing isn't what it used to be," he says.

The little rodent of the Su clan nods like he's not surprised. Lan Qiren counts to ten, and, when that doesn't work, calculates a prime number. It still doesn't work.

"It must be interesting to have someone like Wei Wuxian in your family," he says, smiling. Lan Qiren grits his teeth. "So .... lively, I'm sure."

Lan Qiren takes a long, deep breath.

"It must be difficult," says the little rodent. "But I suppose it's natural to let the younger generation have their little whims." He smiles winningly. "A concubine is one thing, but I'm sure that Hanguang-jun will let himself be guided by his elders in the selection of --"

Lan Qiren sees red. "I must be getting old," he says, "because I think you just suggested my nephew was doting on a concubine instead of being properly married."

There's a nasty little pause. "Well," the rodent says. "I would never suggest Hanguang-jun could be so unfilial -- but that Wei Wuxian is the son of a servant, after all. It hardly seems --"

Lan Qiren decides that letting him finish would be a terrible idea, even if it never got back to his nephew, who doesunreasonably dote on that awful boy -- but also has made it very clear that his older brother is going to be the one to continue the family line. And honestly, compared to the mess Lan Qiren's brother had made of his own marriage, Wangji has done very well for himself.

Even if admitting it, even in the privacy of his own mind, gives Lan Qiren the strong urge to hit his head against a wall until the pain stopped.

"He is also the son of Cangse-sanren," says Lan Qiren, acidly. "He has -- somewhat misguidedly -- made many contributions to the cultivation world. He is, although people seem to forget this, a war hero. He is also one of the best practitioners of the Four Arts I have ever seen in my class."

The little rodent from the Su clan opens his mouth and closes it again, just like a dying fish.

Lan Qiren doesn't take as much satisfaction as he should in it. Honesty is compelling him to say more. "Wei Wuxian may be loud, and obnoxious, and shameless. He may have terrible taste and no sense of decency. That is true. But he is part of my Lan clan now -- if you want to insult my nephew's husband, sir, I suggest you do it to my nephew's face."

The little rodent swallows, hard.

"Now, I can call him here and you can repeat that, or you can get an early start home," says Lan Qiren. "Taking that proposal which you have not dared offer me with you, if you please."

The little rodent almost scrambles out of the pavilion, rushing without dignity through the doors and nearly crashing into -- Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian stares at Lan Qiren, his eyes huge, eyebrows up so high they nearly disappear into his fringe. "Uh," he says. "I didn't -- I wasn't --"

Lan Qiren stares back, first in shock and embarrassment, shading slowly but inevitably into -- he doesn't know what he's feeling. He lifts his hand and points his finger at Wei Wuxian. "You didn't see this," he tells him. "You didn't hear this."

Fortunately, that awful boy seems smart enough to get the idea immediately. "No, not at all, it never happened, yes, that sounds great to me." He starts backing away. "I'll just --"

Lan Qiren wants badly to let him go and meditate until this seems like a bad dream, but -- he has principles. "Wei Wuxian."

Wei Wuxian stops his over-dramatic show of sneaking off. "Elder Lan?" He looks like he's waiting for a blow, or sharp words.

"Your parents would be proud of you," says Lan Qiren.

Wei Wuxian's eyes widen. "Elder --"

"Scram!" says Lan Qiren, rising up from his chair. "Roll! Get lost! Go be indecent with my poor nephew somewhere that I can't see you! Shoo!"

Wei Wuxian smiles at him, huge and bright, and vanishes.

Noisy brat! He hopes that awful boy's mother is satisfied.