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A little help (can go a long way)

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Jiang Cheng isn’t exactly sure what he ran into when he comes across apparently everyone important on the mountain hunt, but it seems he’s interrupting something.

Jiang Yanli seems ready to throw down, Jin Zixun seems ready to crawl back into the hole he came out of whereas Jin Zixuan has stars in his eyes. Wei Wuxian seems close to a break-down, Lan Wangji seems desperate to keep him together and Madam Jin clearly has a headache coming on.

It seems all very suspicious and Jiang Cheng is liking exactly zero of this.

“What is going on?” Jiang Cheng asks, and he seems to break the tense situation because Jiang Yanli turns away from Jin Zixun to take Wei Wuxian’s hand in hers.

“Let’s go,” she says and starts to walk away, dragging a clearly still rattled Wei Wuxian away, Lan Wangji following them after a little bit of hesitation.

“What did you do?” Jiang Cheng presses out, turning his accusing glare on Jin Zixuan, because clearly the peacock has something to do with this.

“It’s not me,” Jin Zixuan says, and points at Jin Zixun. “It’s all him,” he hisses, the anger more than clear on his face and Jin Zixun doesn’t seem all to happy.

He is just about to open his mouth when Madam Jin speaks up.

“Enough!” she snaps and glares at Jin Zixun. “You ruined enough already. Take him away,” she orders with a handwave to Jin Guangyao, who bows deeply and motions for Jin Zixun to follow him as he stalks away.

Jin Zixun does, after only the briefest of hesitations.

“What exactly happened?” Jiang Cheng asks again, because no one explained that yet to him, and he straightens up when Madam Jin turns towards him, though her face goes a little bit softer.

“There were some rude remarks, though I think your sister put him into place quite beautifully,” Madam Jin says with a sigh and a look at Jin Zixuan. “A shame, that the marriage will probably fall through now.”

Jiang Cheng goes cold at that, because for all that he doesn’t like Jin Zixuan, his Sect is kind of in dire need of a political alliance. The marriage was the best way to get that and Jiang Cheng is ashamed to admit that his sister’s happiness was not the main concern here.

But he has to think about his Sect first now.

“It won’t,” Jin Zixuan says as he straightens up. “I will set it right. I will go and apologize.”

“Let them cool off first,” Madam Jin orders him and then turns her calculating gaze back to Jiang Cheng. “You know, your mother and I made an agreement very early on,” she contemplates and Jiang Cheng nods.

“I know,” he says. “If you have a boy and a girl, they will marry.”

“And if we both had boys, they would become sworn brothers,” Madam Jin continues and Jiang Cheng distantly remembers that part as well. “I’m not putting my hope in the marriage,” Madam Jin sends a sharp glare at her son at that, “but maybe a sworn brotherhood would be acceptable.”

Jiang Cheng opens his mouth to refuse that, but then he closes it again. If marriage is really out between Jin Zixuan and Jiang Yanli then maybe a sworn brotherhood is not so bad. It would certainly give the Yunmeng Jiang Sect an ally. And for all that Jiang Yanli seems to really like Jin Zixuan, Jiang Cheng doesn’t want her to have to spend all her days with him if he can’t behave himself.

Jiang Cheng would have to endure him as well, but rather him than his sister.

Besides, Yunmeng Jiang needs all the allies it can get, and so Jiang Cheng swallows his first response to the suggestion. He can’t be hot-headed all the time anymore. He’s Sect Leader now and he has to consider what’s best for his Sect.

“It would be,” Jiang Cheng says, deliberately not looking at Jin Zixuan, because Jiang Cheng can guess what his thoughts on this would be.

Madam Jin has no such qualms though, because she turns expectantly towards her son.

“I will make up to her,” Jin Zixuan says determinedly, but then he nods. “A sworn brotherhood would still be beneficial as well.”

Jiang Cheng almost has to laugh at how forced Jin Zixuan sounds, but he holds it back.

He needs this alliance.

“I see,” Madam Jin says. “You could be the younger version to the Venerated Triad.”

“But we’re just two,” Jin Zixuan worries and Jiang Cheng doesn’t know Madam Jin very well, but he can still guess where this is going.

“So maybe you should get a third one on board,” she says and Jiang Cheng nods.

It would be good to have two sworn brothers, but there are not many choices left. Wei Wuxian of course is out, because who would accept that alliance. Lan Wangji would never bound himself to either one of them, that much Jiang Cheng knows, so that only leaves Nie Huaisang.

Who would probably jump at this suggestion.

“Nie Huaisang would make an acceptable third,” Jiang Cheng muses and Madam Jin smiles at him.

“I did love his mother dearly,” she absentmindedly says and Jiang Cheng wonders—not for the first time—who is the real leader in the Jin Sect.

This is by no means a spontaneous idea.

“We could ask him?” Jin Zixuan unsurely says. “I don’t think he’s here, he doesn’t care much about night hunts.”

“No he doesn’t,” Jiang Cheng agrees. “We can probably find him reading some poetry or painting his fans.”

Jin Zixuan makes a grimace at that—he never had any love for the arts—but he nods.

“We should talk it over this evening?” he asks, and he’s clearly itching to go after Jiang Yanli.

Jiang Cheng has half a mind to tell him to fuck off, he already hurt his sister enough, but he seems sincere enough in his wish to make up to her.

Maybe this time he won’t fuck it up.

“Come to my quarters this evening,” Jiang Cheng instructs him. “I’ll get Nie Huaisang there as well.”

“Alright,” Jin Zixuan says and then he’s already gone.

“That boy,” Madam Jin sighs. “I do hope he finds the right words this time.”

Jiang Cheng has half a mind to agree to that, because even though the brotherhood will then probably fall through, it would mean the alliance still stands.

“Don’t worry so much,” Madam Jin instructs Jiang Cheng, as she starts to walk away, Jiang Cheng falling into step beside her, to escort her back to the camp. “My boy will come around. And I do believe Huaisang is a wonderful choice as well,” she tells him and there’s a twinkle in her eyes that makes Jiang Cheng believe that she knows more than she lets on.

“It was a wonderful idea, Madam Jin,” Jiang Cheng politely says and startles when Madam Jin laughs at him.

“Wasn’t it?” she asks, but she clearly doesn’t expect an answer and simply drags him along.

Jiang Cheng can only wonder in silence what her plan is.

~*~*~

Jiang Cheng is pacing inside his room, Nie Huaisang’s eyes following his every step.

“You seem nervous,” Nie Huaisang observes and Jiang Cheng rolls his eyes at him.

Of course he seems nervous.

He still doesn’t know if Jin Zixuan made up with Jiang Yanli and if their engagement is still in place and the whole meeting this evening depends on that outcome.

There is no reason for Jin Zixuan to swear brotherhood with them if he stays engaged to Jiang Yanli. And for all that it would create an alliance between their Sects, it’s a weaker one than a sworn brotherhood would make. Jiang Yanli would move into Lanling Jin after all, leaving Yunmeng Jiang behind and Jiang Cheng could only cautiously count on Jin Zixuan to be his ally and friend.

A sworn brotherhood would make sure that they are bound together, and it would create a stronger bond.

“You still haven’t told me why I’m here,” Nie Huaisang says, aiming for bored and missing about a mile, but Jiang Cheng keeps his mouth shut.

There’s no sense in explaining everything to Nie Huaisang when Jin Zixuan comes in and refuses the brotherhood.

“I’ll explain once Jin Zixuan is here,” Jiang Cheng says eventually and Nie Huaisang raises an eyebrow at him.

“I thought you hate him?”

“There has been some dislike in the past,” Jiang Cheng agrees, and then refuses to explain further.

It takes Jin Zixuan another five minutes to show up and when he steps into the room Jiang Cheng deflates.

“You made up with her,” he whispers and then nods.

Of course he did. Jin Zixuan probably apologized in that completely earnest way he sometimes has and Jiang Yanli would have taken one look at him and forgiven him on the spot.

And now Jiang Cheng is still without any allies in this world; instead the other three big Sects are bound together thanks to the Venerated Triad and Jiang Cheng is left out. He shouldn’t be surprised but it still stings, and it still makes him worry for the future of his Sect.

How is he supposed to protect them when he has no one at his side?

“I did,” Jin Zixuan says with a sweet smile on his face but then he goes serious. “But I still want to go through with this. It’s a good idea, and Yanli can’t be our only bond.”

Jiang Cheng can hardly believe his own ears, but before he can inquire further, Nie Huaisang snaps his fan.

“I’m not a part of this marriage talk, so what is actually going on here?” Nie Huaisang asks and Jin Zixuan and Jiang Cheng sit down at the table now as well.

“My mother had an idea,” Jin Zixuan starts with and he immediately has Nie Huaisang’s attention, that much Jiang Cheng can see.

“Oh?” he prompts and Jiang Cheng doesn’t believe his innocent act at all. “What would that be?”

“A sworn brotherhood between us three,” Jiang Cheng tells him, tired of playing any guessing games and Nie Huaisang’s eyes go big.

“My brother just swore brotherhood with Lan Xichen and Jin Guangyao,” he says and Jiang Cheng tenses at that reminder.

“He did,” he presses out and Jin Zixuan throws him a glance.

“And we should too,” Jin Zixuan says. “The younger generation should have a bond, too, and it’s actually not at all fair that Jiang Cheng was left out as the only big Sect.”

Jiang Cheng doesn’t have to fake the surprise on his face, because he didn’t think that someone would notice—or least at all care—about the fact that he’s the only Sect without a bond to the others.

“But you’re marrying Jiang Yanli,” Nie Huaisang gives back and cocks his head. “That makes a bond between the Sects.”

“Don’t be stupid, Huaisang,” Jiang Cheng scolds him, extremely annoyed that Nie Huaisang forces him to say it out loud when Nie Huaisang damn well knows that this is not at all beneficial for Jiang Cheng. “A-Jie will move to Lanling. She’ll have to leave Yunmeng Jiang for this marriage.”

“And that means you’re still without allies but also short a sister,” Nie Huaisang says, before he hides himself behind his fan and Jiang Cheng has half a mind reaching over the table to strangle him.

“Huaisang,” Jin Zixuan scolds him and Jiang Cheng takes a deep breath.

It feels wrong, Jin Zixuan defending him like this, but if they are going through with this, Jiang Cheng should probably get used to this.

“Sorry,” Nie Huaisang says and then smiles behind his fan. “I am on board.”

Jiang Cheng narrows his eyes at him, because he didn’t expect this to be so easy, but Nie Huaisang keeps his smile on his face.

“What are you up to?” Jiang Cheng wants to know but Nie Huaisang gives him his most innocent look.

“Why would I be up to something?” he says, innocent as anything and Jiang Cheng glares at him. “Even if I was planning something—and why would I ever, we all know I am lazy and not one for fighting—then it wouldn’t be against you if we were sworn brothers.”

Jiang Cheng never believed Nie Huaisang’s whole act about being useless, but this is as good as an admission and Jiang Cheng doesn’t even know what to do with that.

He doesn’t have a mind for intrigue and long-term planning, he’s straight forward and clear cut, and maybe they would balance each other out.

“Or me,” Jin Zixuan chimes in and Nie Huaisang turns his eyes on him.

“Or you,” he agrees and then he goes back to the Nie Huaisang they both know. “But think about this, it would be so exciting! We would be brothers, and I mean I just got two more brothers, and now I would gain two more yet again, and you would all be helping me, right?”

“Sure,” Jiang Cheng snorts out, but he has to admit that Nie Huaisang’s words touched him.

Jiang Cheng just lost his whole family and going by how Wei Wuxian has been acting ever since he came back from wherever Wen Chao dropped him, Jiang Cheng is going to lose him, too.

Gaining two brothers wouldn’t be so bad.

“So we’re doing this?” Jin Zixuan asks and he seems just as excited as Jiang Cheng feels all of a sudden.

“Yes,” Nie Huaisang agrees and Jiang Cheng nods as well.

“Good,” Jin Zixuan says and pours them all a cup of wine. “Let’s toast to that, before we do it three times tomorrow.”

“Going a bit fast, huh?” Nie Huaisang says, but he accepts the cup when Jin Zixuan hands it to him.

“What’s the use in waiting?” Jin Zixuan shoots back and Jiang Cheng smiles into his cup.

He doesn’t want to think that Jin Zixuan is rushing this for his sake, but the thought is not completely unwelcome. Jiang Cheng guesses this is what brothers do for each other.

~*~*~

They hold the ceremony shortly before the banquet starts and Jiang Cheng isn’t actually sure anyone knows what they did. He didn’t have a chance to tell Jiang Yanli and Wei Wuxian yet, Jin Zixuan doesn’t seem like he has anyone he would want to tell, and Nie Mingjue would probably be breathing down their necks if Nie Huaisang had told him about this.

It feels almost like they are doing this in secret, even though at least Madam Jin knows, but Jiang Cheng will take it.

Maybe it’ll give them an advantage they need, Jiang Cheng muses, because who even knows what’s going to happen at the banquet today.

When Jiang Cheng comes into the hall, Nie Huaisang is already there, and clearly waiting for him, since he enthusiastically calls him over. Jiang Cheng finds Jin Zixuan up front, the first on the left of his father, but more worryingly Wei Wuxian is absent.

It sparks a tiny grain of worry in Jiang Cheng’s gut. Surely, Wei Wuxian cannot be up to something again already, after the scene on the mountain yesterday.

Before Jiang Cheng can get lost in his worries, Jin Guangyao starts talking and it doesn’t come completely unsurprising when he puts Jiang Cheng on the spot.

Jiang Cheng tries his best to be civil and establish some goodwill between all the Sects by offering to share what Yunmeng Jiang caught on the night hunt, but he has never been good with public relations.

The thought that at least Nie Huaisang is close by his side right now is soothing though, and he sees Jin Zixuan nodding encouragingly at him as well, and so Jiang Cheng powers through it.

At least until Wei Wuxian comes in and makes a whole mess of the situation. Jiang Cheng is unable to defend Wei Wuxian or to calm Jin Guangshan down and when Jiang Cheng hears what this is about, he’s not even sure he wants to. 

Wen Ning and Wen Qing saved their lives; they don’t deserve to be put into camps like war criminals.

But still, Jiang Cheng is unable to do anything, least of all stop Wei Wuxian, and when Lan Wangji leaves to presumably help him, Jiang Cheng wishes he could go after him as well. Instead he has to listen to Sect Leader Ouyang and Sect Leader Yao criticizing him for staying silent and Jiang Cheng barely notices it when he crushes the cup in his hands.

It does help when his new sworn brothers show up that evening to take his mind of things and drink with him.

It almost feels like family.

~*~*~

Even the feeling of family can‘t help Jiang Cheng when Jin Guangshan recounts Wei Wuxian’s numerous crimes the next morning.

Of course Wei Wuxian would ruin it and make a mess of everything.

Now Jiang Cheng can’t protect him at all anymore. Still, he gets up and apologizes for Wei Wuxian’s actions, even though he can damn well see in Jin Guangshan’s eyes that it won’t do anything.

“This feels highly unfair,” Nie Huaisang mutters, just as Jiang Cheng is about to sit down again, and despite Nie Mingjue’s warning glance he gets up.

“I don’t think this is fair,” Nie Huaisang repeats louder this time, and Jin Guangshan seems entirely too amused to take Nie Huaisang seriously.

“And why is that?” he asks, though his tone is anything but friendly.

“The Wens shouldn’t even be in a camp,” Nie Huaisang says. “Aren’t only the weak and elderly left? What bad can they do?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Sect Leader Yao chimes in. “Wei Wuxian killed many good cultivators, from all the Sects, and for what? Some Wen rats?”

“We owe Wen Ning and Wen Qing a life debt,” Jiang Cheng speaks up and he wishes he could take it back when all eyes fall on him again.

“Why don’t you explain?” Jin Zixuan urges him when Jiang Cheng stays silent for too long.

“What do you mean you owe them? Aren’t the Wen’s the ones who killed your whole clan?” Nie Mingjue asks and Jiang Cheng shrugs.

“The Wen’s, yes. But Wen Qing and Wen Ning helped us when they didn’t have to; Wen Ning helped to get me out of Lotus Pier and Wen Qing nursed my sister and me back to health. We owe them a lot.”

“They are still Wen’s,” Nie Mingjue says. “They are cold watchers. Wasn’t Wen Qing a trusted subordinate of Wen Ruohan? She could have done something.”

“Da-ge,” Nie Huaisang whines. “It’s not that easy.”

“It is,” Nie Mingjue insists and Jiang Cheng’s stomach falls.

He will never get these people to forgive Wei Wuxian, he just knows it. He will never be able to protect him.

“Just think about it, da-ge,” Nie Huaisang says. “If I was captured by Wen Ruohan, would you expect me to do anything?”

“Of course not,” Nie Mingjue scoffs and Nie Huaisang smiles.

“Wen Ning and Wen Qing are no fighters. Wen Qing is a healer. You really expect her to be able to go against one of the strongest cultivators of our time? To risk the life of her brother, if anything goes wrong?”

Jiang Cheng feels the distinct urge to kiss Nie Huaisang right now, because he can see that Nie Mingjue is no longer so sure of his answer.

A little doubt is all he needs right now.

“There’s still the matter of the Stygian Tiger Seal,” Jin Guangshan says, clearly seeing that he is losing Nie Mingjue’s support, and now Jin Zixuan stands up.

“Every Sect has their spiritual weapons,” he starts and for now Jin Guangshan is nodding along, but Jiang Cheng knows Jin Zixuan better now than to believe that he would support his father in this. “Wei Wuxian is still a member of Yunmeng Jiang, and they can rightfully own that spiritual tool.”

Sect Leader Yao is just about to open his mouth when Jin Guangshan abruptly stands up.

“How dare you?” he hisses but Jin Zixuan doesn’t back down. “Wei Wuxian killed many people last night.”

“If he really is harbouring the weak and elderly, then he was right to kill those cultivators. Those people shouldn’t be in camps.”

“They just watched on as Wen Ruohan and his army destroyed almost all of us,” Jin Guangshan roars and Nie Huaisang flicks his fan open again.

“Just like Lanling Jin watched until almost the last minute? Are you saying everyone who stands by is guilty?” he asks and the suggestion in his voice is unmistakable.

“Huaisang,” Nie Mingjue chides him, but he seems thoughtful.

“Sect Leader Jiang,” Nie Mingjue suddenly addresses Jiang Cheng who bows to him immediately. “Would you take Wei Wuxian and the Wen’s into your Sect, should they be allowed to come back?”

“Wei Wuxian is still my trusted right hand. Of course they are welcome in my Sect,” Jiang Cheng immediately says and Nie Mingjue nods thoughtfully.

“If Wei Wuxian is truly harbouring the weak and elderly, they have a right to be relocated.”

“And who is going to judge that?” Jin Guangshan seethes. “Even old people can be dangerous.”

“I think Sect Leader Nie would be a good candidate,” Jin Zixuan speaks up again. “He is righteous and contributed the most to the Sunshot Campaign. He would judge them fairly.”

Jiang Cheng can feel a spark of hope but he doesn’t dare to fan it yet. It still can all go wrong.

“You,” Jin Guangshan starts, but Nie Mingjue gets up now as well.

“That seems reasonable,” he says, with a glare at Jin Guangshan. “I would like to take your son with me. He seems understanding of the situation and seeing as he and Sect Leader Jiang are sworn brothers, he can speak for him, if that would please him.”

Jiang Cheng isn’t even all that surprised that Nie Mingjue knows about their bond, and he just hopes that it will come in handy now.

“They are what?” Jin Guangshan presses out and Nie Huaisang gives him a wide smile.

“Oh, didn’t you hear? Jin Zixuan, Jiang Cheng and me are sworn brothers now,” Nie Huaisang cheerfully tells him and Jiang Cheng watches in satisfaction how Jin Guangshan goes pale.

“And it would please me very much,” Jiang Cheng chimes in and bows slightly to Jin Guangshan. “Thank you for allowing your son to get my brother back home.”

Jin Zixuan nods at Jiang Cheng before he and Nie Mingjue march out of the hall, clearly intending to leave right this instant before anyone else can start another argument and Nie Huaisang snaps open his fan again.

“Da-ge never could deny me a wish,” Nie Huaisang says, just loud enough for Jin Guangshan to hear, and Jiang Cheng has to press his lips together to not laugh out loud.

When he first swore brotherhood with these two, he never expected them to be quite this firmly on his side, or to speak out for him and Wei Wuxian.

But he wouldn’t change it for the world and he is glad to call them brothers now. He almost forgot what it felt like to have support, but it warms him from deep inside now.

~*~*~

Wei Wuxian and the Wens haven’t been at the Burial Mound for a whole day and already someone is knocking at their door, so to speak. Wei Wuxian really doesn’t want to go down there to see who it is—especially not since Wen Ning is still not awake—but the person is strong, Wei Wuxian can tell that much.

So either he goes down or they will force their way up. Wei Wuxian knows which option he prefers.

He tries to keep his surprise of his face when he sees Nie Mingjue and Jin Zixuan at the bottom of the path.

“I’m not giving them up,” is the first thing Wei Wuxian says and when Jin Zixuan rolls his eyes at him, he reminds him so much of Jiang Cheng that Wei Wuxian’s heart constricts.

“No one is asking you to,” Nie Mingjue says. “We’re just asking to see them.”

“For what?” Wei Wuxian demands to know and this time Jin Zixuan speaks up.

“Because my father is under the impression that you’re harbouring soldiers while everyone else argued that these were most likely just farmers. Nie Mingjue is here to see for himself. My father wouldn’t dare to speak against him.”

Wei Wuxian narrows his eyes at them, but then he temporarily disables the wards.

“You’re going to look and nothing more,” he says as he leads them up the path that brings them to what will eventually be their village.

They have started to farm already, so a lot of the Wens watch them from under the dirt on their faces and Wei Wuxian doesn’t know if it’s helping them or hurting them when Nie Mingjue huffs.

“Farmers and the old. Those are the ones you saved?”

“Those are the ones that needed saving,” Wei Wuxian shoots back.

“Fine,” Nie Mingjue gruffly says and promptly turns back around to walk down the mountain again.

“What was that?” Wei Wuxian asks, staring after him in confusion.

“You’re being resettled,” Jin Zixuan informs him and Wei Wuxian raises an eyebrow.

“If you think I’ll bring them to Lanling you’re mistaken,” Wei Wuxian hisses and Jin Zixuan rolls his eyes again.

“I’d hope you would eventually visit, if only to see your shijie, but you’re actually going home. To Lotus Pier.”

“To Lotus Pier,” Wei Wuxian dumbly repeats and he feels like he’s missing a major point of this conversation. “Why?”

“Because your Sect Leader wants you back,” Jin Zixuan says and then gives him a smile so sweet it makes a shudder run down Wei Wuxian’s back. “And because what mine and Nie Huaisang’s sworn brother wants, he gets.”

“What the fuck,” Wei Wuxian breathes out and feels the distinct need to sit down.

What the fuck.

~*~*~

Jiang Cheng isn’t sure what exactly he’s seeing but Nie Huaisang told him not to interfere, so he’s keeping a distance. It does mean Jiang Cheng can’t hear what Nie Huaisang is saying to Jin Guangshang, but Jiang Cheng still really wishes Nie Huaisang would shut up.

This is not going to end well. It’s not going to end well at all, Jiang Cheng can already feel that in his bones, throbbing like the vein on Jin Guangshan’s temple.

But still,  Nie Huaisang doesn’t shut up, and instead itches closer and closer to the top of the ridiculous long stairwell and Jiang Cheng can already feel a headache starting.

He still doesn’t hear what Nie Huaisang is saying to Jin Guangshan, but he can recognize a smirk when he sees one, even though it’s half hidden behind a fan.

When Jin Guangshan finally snaps—and he had to eventually—he rushes forwards, just as Nie Huaisang moves to the side. Still, he’s not quick enough and Jin Guangshan stumbles over a stray foot.

Or a strategically placed foot, Jiang Cheng muses when he sees Nie Huaisang watching Jin Guangshan taking a tumble down the stairs without so much as moving a muscle to help.

Nie Huaisang has told him not to interfere, but Jiang Cheng guesses it’s okay now.

“You’re a little pest,” is what Jiang Cheng starts with as he steps up to Nie Huaisang.

Jin Guangshan is still falling and Jiang Cheng doesn’t think he’ll make it to the bottom of the stairs alive. He briefly feels bad for Jin Zixuan, but if Jiang Cheng is being honest, those are all of his troubles tumbling right now, and he can’t even pretend to be too sad about it.

He quickly tries to be anyway, when Madam Jin steps up to them as well.

“Jin-furen, I don’t know what happened, he attacked me and I could barely dodge, but he stumbled over my foot and I don’t know what to do,” Nie Huaisang immediately cries out clutching his fan in a truly desperate manner and Jiang Cheng would laugh if he wasn’t so worried about Madam Jin’s reaction.

“I see,” she says and watches her husband come to a still stand at the bottom of the stairs.

He’s not moving and Jiang Cheng guesses he never will again.

“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Nie Huaisang sniffs and if Jiang Cheng hadn’t seen it happen he might have believed him.

“Sure you didn’t,” Madam Jin says, but something in her tone makes a cold shudder run down Jiang Cheng’s back. “You’re not at all practiced in dodging attacks after all,” she goes on, and Jiang Cheng sees how even Nie Huaisang’s eyes go wide.

Of course he’s used to dodging attacks. He doesn’t practice the saber, but Nie Mingjue insists that he at least be fast enough to dodge attacks and Nie Huaisang is rather good at that. He can outmanoeuvre his brother on a good day.

“What a horrible accident this was,” Madam Jin goes on, and sniffs a little.

She’s almost as believable as Nie Huaisang is.

“It must be very traumatic for both of you to watch something like this,” she says, just as she reaches for their arms to give them an encouraging squeeze.

“Jiang Cheng, dear, I know you just convinced my late husband to let Wei Wuxian and the remaining Wens be brought to Lotus Pier, where they would have to stay for the rest of their lives, and I am so sorry you’ll have to re-negotiate with our new Sect Leader.”

“Re-negotiate with Jin Zixuan,” Jiang Cheng says.

“I don’t think he’ll find Lotus Pier a suitable place for them to be confined in,” Madam Jin tells him and Jiang Cheng is just about to snap back at her, when understanding dawns on him.

Jin Zixuan will let them stay wherever the hell they want. He knows they are not a threat after all.

“I see,” Jiang Cheng mumbles and catches Nie Huaisang giving Madam Jin a huge smile. “What a horrible and tragic accident this was,” Jiang Cheng adds and watches Madam Jin and Nie Huaisang nod in unison.

“Indeed,” Madam Jin decides and then turns away, leaving a smiling Nie Huaisang and a bewildered Jiang Cheng behind.

“Jin Zixuan will be so surprised when he comes back,” Nie Huaisang whispers and Jiang Cheng wonders what the hell he got himself into with this brotherhood.

Not that he minds all that much.