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the world is but a stage for the two of us

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Lan Qiren’s priority in life consists of only two things: the Lan sect and his nephews.

The Gusu Lan sect must meet all expectations while maintaining its integrity and principles. As the figurehead and acting sect leader, he has a lot of responsibilities on that front.

As the only living blood-related uncle of Lan Xichen and Lan Wangji, he has to make sure they are safe and equipped with all the necessary skills and knowledge in order to be an upstanding cultivator and capable of inheriting the title of sect leader. Perhaps chief cultivator in the distant future.

Unfortunately, Lan Qiren’s balancing with his two priorities shatters in the most unexpected ways.

Therefore, it is in the best interest of Lan Qiren’s two priorities that the lectures with the visiting disciples go over smoothly. The students will learn. Lan Wangji and Lan Xichen will set an example for everyone. The cultivation world will be at peace.

Little does he know, his wishful thinking will never come true.

 

#####

Several weeks into the lectures, Lan Qiren concludes that Lan Wangji is acting… odd. 

Odd is a word he never imagined to describe Lan Wangji. But there is no other way to explain his behavior.

If he remembers correctly, the first time Lan Wangji started acting odd happened during breakfast, on the first day of the disciple study retreat thing. Lan Wangji never arrived and dined with him and Lan Xichen. Lan Wangji is notable for his strictness and discipline, the way he holds himself and everyone around him to the highest standards. Later on, he found Lan Wangji waiting for him by the door of his study room, offering him a five inch scroll of punishment sutras impeccably written in Lan Wangji’s handwriting. Head bowed, he apologized for not being able to attend breakfast with them.

Lan Qiren cannot fathom why his nephew would ever do something so irresponsible. When he asked him where he dined for breakfast, Wangji hesitated before saying that he ate with one of the visiting disciples. At that, Lan Qiren’s brows almost reached his hairline. A warm feeling suddenly spread throughout his heart. 

Lan Wangji, his perfect, disciplined nephew, is finally learning how to socialize.

While Lan Qiren is happy with this development, he still reprimanded Lan Wangji. Meal times are for the family. He cannot tolerate rule-breaking. From Lan Wangji’s actions, his nephew understands.

That’s not all Lan Qiren observes. 

As they say, children mature in the blink of an eye. Lan Wangji is a perfect example. He had the air of a stubborn teenager before, but now he holds himself with a certain confidence and poise. As he oversees the classes once again, Lan Wangji seems like a different person. Or rather, like an improved version of himself. His understanding of the lessons deepens. His swordsmanship became sharper and faster. His eyes, already serious-looking most of the time, appear mature and knowing. 

Unbelievably, he even helped Lan Qiren with a sect matter! 

When he called Lan Wangji over to have tea with him, they were interrupted by an urgent matter from the Ouyang sect. Lan Qiren had no patience for it, having been pestered for a long while by the sect leader already, when even he ran out of ideas. Lan Wangji was quietly observing the agitated conversation when he spoke up and politely offered the perfect solution to the problem.

Lan Qiren and the messenger stared at Lan Wangji. All Lan Qiren could think at the time was why didn’t I think of that and how did Wangji come up with that.

Overall, Lan Qiren is quite satisfied with Wangji’s adolescence. He thinks Lan Wangji has even surpassed Lan Xichen.

Until one day.

While taking care of business in Caiyi town, Lan Qiren catches sight of Lan Wangji. He thinks his eyes are playing tricks on him. Lan Wangji has never stepped foot in Caiyi town outside missions.

With the stealth of a seasoned cultivator, he follows Lan Wangji until he ends up in front of a music shop, watching Lan Wangji survey the array of xiao and dizi. At first Lan Qiren thinks his nephew is purchasing a xiao for Lan Xichen. 

Apparently not! Lan Qiren makes a confused noise as Lan Wangji bought a dizi. Is Wangji going to start playing the dizi? Isn’t he studying the guqin

When he asks Xichen about it, Xichen is equally confused. “Wangji has been diligent in his guqin studies, Uncle.” 

“Then why did he purchase a dizi?”

“... I don’t know.”

How curious. But if Lan Wangji wants to further his musical cultivation studies, Lan Qiren has no problem with that.

He puts the matter to rest until the next instance when he goes down the mountains, he sees Wangji in a liquor store.

A. Liquor. Store.

Buying Emperor’s Smile!

Lan Qiren almost has a heart attack. He is about to confront Wangji, but his companion (a dignitary from the Jin clan) demands his attention, so he cannot follow after Wangji this time.

(Unbeknownst to him, Lan Wangji heads back to the Cloud Recesses and gifts the alcohol to his beloved.)

 

#####

Due to the emergency inter-sect matter forcing him to leave Gusu, Lan Qiren never manages to confront Wangji about the Emperor’s Smile matter. It also leaves his mind, until he receives a report from Lan Xichen about the impeccable performance of the visiting disciples this year. 

Lan Qiren has returned to the Cloud Recesses and met up with Xichen to receive updates on the disciples’ studies and progress. Then Xichen mentions that the Biling Lake issue was resolved. 

Lan Qiren has been complacent nothing could ever go wrong after putting Lan Xichen in charge while he was away from Gusu. Thus, when he receives the latest night hunt report, he almost spits out his tea.

“The Waterborne Abyss has been exorcised?!” Lan Qiren’s incredulous tone does not cover the shock he is feeling. “That’s impossible!”

“It is now, Uncle,” Lan Xichen says with a pleased smile. “And the full credit for such a feat goes to Wangji and Young Master Wei.”

“Wangji? Wei Wuxian?” Lan Qiren feels like his eyes have popped out of his head with how wide they are.

“Yes, Uncle.” Lan Xichen keeps smiling, like he’s thoroughly enjoying Lan Qiren’s reaction.

Coughing in his sleeve, Lan Qiren skims the report, mind blanking at the detailed description of Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian’s collaborative efforts, and resolves to find out the heart of the matter.

Just what is that troublemaker doing with his nephew?

Suddenly, he remembers Lan Wangji’s visits to Caiyi town, including his questionable (dizi) and forbidden (liquor) purchases.

Then he remembers Wangji telling him months before about having breakfast with a fellow disciple.

Wangji is consorting with Wei Wuxian?!

Lan Xichen is blushing and clearing his throat. “Uncle, that wording is a bit… cough cough.” 

But Lan Qiren does not notice his odd reaction and shouts, “Bring Wangji to me. NOW!!!”

“Uncle, calm down…”

A moment later, Lan Wangji is called in his Uncle’s visiting room, frowns bemusedly when he sees Lan Qiren seething with Lan Xichen placating him. “Uncle. Brother,” he greets.

Lan Qiren points a finger at his nephew. “You! What are you doing?!”

“... I don’t understand.”

“Wei Wuxian! You are consorting with Wei Wuxian! I cannot allow this to happen. Stop hanging around with him.”

Suddenly, Lan Wangji gets a steely look in his eyes. Never has Lan Qiren seen Lan Wangji looking like he’s about to wage war with the world. Lan Qiren is taken aback. Isn’t this a simple matter?

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Uncle,” Lan Wangji says firmly, tone brooking no argument.

Lan Qiren’s mouth drops open in shock. This is the first time Wangji ever openly defied him.

“Talking back to your elders… I see Wei Wuxian has already imparted his bad influence on you. And that Emperor’s Smile! Drinking is forbidden by our sect!”

Lan Wangji blinks. It doesn’t show in his face, but Lan Qiren can tell he is confused. “I never drink alcohol.”

“Then what were you doing in the liquor store? Don’t try to get away from this! I saw you enter it a while back!”

Wangji looks down, an admission of guilt. “I did enter the liquor store but I did not drink alcohol,” he explains

“What did you do there, Wangji?” Lan Xichen interjects. His question is more curious than angry.

“I… I bought a jar of Emperor’s Smile.”

“You bought a jar but didn’t drink it? What did you do with it?” Lan Xichen prods gently.

“....”

“You!” Lan Qiren starts, clutching his nape in anger as his blood pressure increases. “You gave it to Wei Wuxian, didn’t you?! See! What did I ever do to lead you astray like this?”

“I am not led astray, Uncle.”

“No! From now on, you cannot befriend Wei Wuxian.”

“Uncle!”

“Uncle.”

Both Lan Wangji and Lan Xichen object, with the former looking pained and stubborn and the latter shocked and uncertain. He averts his gaze.

“No more reasoning!” Lan Qiren orders.

Lan Wangji’s jaw is set stubbornly. “I understand and appreciate your concern, Uncle. However, I cannot do as you wish.”

His nephew, his righteous and obedient nephew, stands up and leaves!

Lan Qiren cannot take that behavior. “Wangji! Wangji!”

“Ah, Uncle, please, Wangji is upset. I don’t think it is wise to talk to him right now,” Lan Xichen placates, hands raised in front of him.

“Him upset?! Then what am I?!” Lan Qiren throws himself down in his seat, huffing and clutching his nape. “Gods. What is Wangji thinking?”

 

#####

After that event, Lan Qiren returns to supervising the lecture classes and decides to keep a close eye on Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian. 

Except there is nothing for him to do.

In all the lectures, sword training, and talisman classes, he never sees Wei Wuxian go near Lan Wangji. He thinks they’re putting up an appearance and are still meeting in secret, but Lan Wangji has always stayed in the library or in the Jingshi during his free time. He knows this because Lan Xichen reports it with a distraught expression.

Lan Qiren harrumphs and wonders if the discomfort in his stomach is because he ate too little. Certainly, knowing Wei Wuxian’s personality, that brat is up to something.

Despite his worst fears, Wei Wuxian disturbingly grows subdued. His usual antics in class are gone. All he does is stare absentmindedly into space. He’s acting like a normal, obedient student, even his martial brothers from the Jiang sect are giving him wary looks. When Lan Qiren asks him a question, he gives the correct answer, so Lan Qiren can only grumble and continue with the lesson.

As for Lan Wangji, his nephew seems to have deflated. The collected maturity he gained has now vanished. Nobody dares approach Lan Wangji with the aura of coldness and desolation emanating from him. Even Lan Qiren finds himself hesitating.

Wait a moment. Why is Lan Qiren unhappy with this development? This is his wish! Lan Wangji stayed away from Wei Wuxian despite what he said.

Right? 

“Ah.” Lan Qiren clutches his middle from the sudden discomfort while he is having tea one afternoon. “Did my body find the food disagreeable?”

Is this guilt?

During one class, a visiting disciple makes a mistake with the talisman he is working with. The disciples scramble to put out the cursed fire with water talismans, to no avail. Lan Qiren sighs in disappointment. Weren’t these disciples listening to his lecture at all? 

He is about to step forward and take care of the matter until Wei Wuxian activates a cleansing talisman then a water talisman in quick succession. Everyone is stunned, including Lan Qiren.

The disciple who makes a mistake, that younger brother of Nie Mingjue apparently, clutches at Wei Wuxian’s robes and wails, “Wei-xiong, thank you so much! You’re amazing!” The other disciples go forward to offer words of astonishment. Lan Qiren glances at Lan Wangji and doubletakes at the small, proud smile on his face.

Wei Wuxian doesn’t see this and just gives the disciples near him a strained smile. “Don’t worry about it.” And goes back to staring off silently into space.

Loathe is Lan Qiren to admit it, Wei Wuxian performed spectacularly. “What Wei Wuxian performed is the correct remedy against a cursed fire. All of you better remember it.”

At that, Wei Wuxian snaps out of his reverie and stares at Lan Qiren in surprise. He gives a smile and continues his work. Lan Qiren pretends not to notice.

Maybe this Wei Wuxian isn’t so bad after all.

The pain in his stomach lessens. Lan Qiren ignores the implication.

 

#####

He is discussing the ending lectures with Lan XIchen over tea when Lan Wangji joins them.

“Uncle. Brother,” Lan Wangji greets politely.

Meanwhile, Lan Qiren hides his shock and nods before distracting himself with his tea. This is the first time Lan Wangji seeks him out after their “fight.” Lan Wangji has not been disrespectful towards him, but it is obvious that he was avoiding Lan Qiren. Yet after that talisman incident with Wei Wuxian, his nephew loses some of the unapproachable aura but still does not initiate interactions with Lan Qiren like before.

He wonders what changed.

Lan Wangji sits beside Lan Xichen and keeps his head bowed as he says, “Uncle, please permit a wish of mine.”

Seeing Wangji with the most serious expression he has ever seen and wanting to end the cold war between them, Lan Qiren nods, indulging. “Tell me your wish.”

“I want to take Wei Wuxian as my betrothed.”

“!!!!”

This time, Lan Qiren keels over and almost qi deviates.

“Uncle!”

“Uncle.”

How wrong of him to think positively of Wei Wuxian!