Wei Wuxian would never forget the first time he laid his tired old eyes on those vegetables. They had to be old and tired, he decided, because the vegetables were white, as though they’d been chiseled from marble and not grown for human consumption.
His first thought, upon seeing them in a happy Lan Sizhui’s hands was that the Lans’ obsession with the color was reaching new lows. His second thought was a much more vocalized, “Is that a white zucchini?”
It was indeed. Lan Sizhui came over, and as Wei Wuxian turned the offending vegetable over in his hands, Lan Sizhui chuckled. “Is it your first time seeing it? It’s a little unusual, but you get used to it.”
“Used to what exactly? Is this even edible? Or is this some sort of vegetable blight?” He suddenly noticed two suspicious marks on the vegetable.
“No, nothing like that,” Lan Sizhui explained. “My rabbit does this.”
Wei Wuxian looked up at Lan Sizhui. Then at the zucchini. Then back at Lan Sizhui.
The rabbit, as it turned out, while not really a pet (pets weren’t allowed in the Cloud Recesses afterall), was something like Lan Sizhui’s spiritual companion – like Fairy, only not even remotely similar.
It had appeared in the Cloud Recesses shortly after A-Yuan did, wrapped up in a little bundle and a piece of paper tied to its neck with a ribbon. Or so the story went, because as Wei Wuxian pointed out the (many) oddities in that, the storyteller (Lan Jingyi) shrugged and admitted that that’s how it was passed around, and there had apparently been a lot going on at the time, so that’s how it was. The Cloud Recesses had already had a growing number of rabbits at that point, so one more didn’t turn any heads, especially since the frail newly arrived child had taken to it so well.
As Wei Wuxian stared at the rabbit, he thought it should have definitely turned a few heads. At a first glance, there was nothing unusual about the sleeping black and white rabbit Lan Sizhui held in his lap. On a second glance however, Wei Wuxian was drawn to the black spot between its ears. It was a less a spot and more a v-shape that connected with the big black patch that covered its back and the sides of its neck. It looked a little like a cape. Stranger still, when Wei Wuxian poked his finger in its mouth to check something, he saw two little pointed fangs where buck teeth should have been. They looked the right size and distance for the marks on the zucchini.
That settled it.
“Sizhui, I don’t know how to tell you this, but that’s not a rabbit,” Wei Wuxian said. “That’s a demon.”
He wasn’t sure what kind yet. Maybe a jiangshi? Sucking out vegetable juices instead of qi?
Eh, he’d seen weirder.
Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi exchanged glances.
“Senior Wei, are you alright?” Lan Sizhui said concerned. “It’s a normal rabbit.”
“A completely normal rabbit,” Lan Jingyi added for emphasis.
“Then let me ask you this,” Wei Wuxian said. “Have you ever seen a rabbit that drains vegetables until they turn white?”
“Yes,” two voices replied together.
Two pairs of eyes glanced down at the demon rabbit.
“It’s a normal rabbit,” Lan Wangji said. The rabbit in question was awake now – an awakening that conveniently happened as the soon as the sun went down. It looked at Wei Wuxian with beady little red eyes and a twitching nose.
“What part of anything I’ve said so far is normal?” Wei Wuxian protested, and gestured to the white vegetables on the table. He’d been busy the past few hours. “They’re drained completely dry!”
“Mm. Not wasting a single drop.” Lan Wangji sounded proud.
“Lan Zhan, you have a lot of rabbits. Do any other rabbits do this?” For a moment Wei Wuxian was afraid the answer would be yes, but thankfully Lan Wangji shook his head.
“It’s not a problem. This rabbit has been here for sixteen years—
“And another thing. Rabbits don’t live that long!”
“—and there have not been any issues.” Then, suddenly Lan Wangji looked thoughtful. “Although…”
“Thank you for joining me today, gentlemen,” Wei Wuxian said a few nights later. “Today, your loving senior has a special lesson prepared.”
“Senior Wei, are you alright?” Ouyang Zizhen asked looking around. They were surround by rabbits. “Sizhui and Jingyi said you’ve acting strange lately.”
“And speaking of, where are those two?” Jin Ling asked with a dubious frown. It was ruined by the white rabbit nuzzling against his shoulder.
“It’s the Hai hour. All the Lans are conked out.” One of these days Wei Wuxian would figure out how that sleep pattern worked. He’d absolutely wanted those two brats joining in so they would finally see the demon rabbit’s powers for themselves. “Normal rabbit” his foot!
Lan Wangji had regaled him with an interesting story. Apparently, there had once been an incident where the rabbit needed to be confined for a few days (for what reason was unclear) and was placed into a latched cage. A disciple had been assigned to care for the rabbit for those days and things were quiet, until one night, the disciple suddenly reported that the rabbit had escaped its cage. It was well late into the night, and he insisted that no one else had entered the room. The cage’s latch was also undisturbed. So the question was, how did the rabbit get out? And then some time later, that same disciple reported that the rabbit was back in the cage. Again, no other visitors, and no visible disturbance of the cage. Just some extra white vegetables found the next day.
“So what happened?” Ouyang Zizhen’s eyes and smile were wide.
“The disciple got in trouble both for not caring for the rabbit properly and being up past curfew,” Wei Wuxian revealed with a frustrated sigh. “Those Lans. Focused more on their rules than anything else.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Jin Ling snapped. “How could he be expected to care for the rabbit and sleep at the same time?”
“An excellent question but not the one we’re here to answer,” Wei Wuxian said, and brought the two around to another part of the rabbit area, where he’d prepared a latched cage. The demon rabbit was inside, ears flattened, revealing its sinister v-shaped spot. “Tonight, we’re going to spy on the rabbit.”
Ouyang Zizhen and Jin Ling stared at him.
“To prove that it can escape from locked cages.”
“And what good will that do us?” Jin Ling asked.
“It will prove that it’s not a normal rabbit.”
And with Ouyang Zizhen and Jin Ling as his fellow witnesses, those Lans would finally have to face reality.
The two juniors still looked reluctant, but there was something thrilling about staying up all night in the Cloud Recesses (and Wei Wuxian promised to protect them from Lan Qiren for doing so), so they hid in a bush and watched.
Watching a rabbit wasn’t particularly interesting. Especially one in a small cage that could only look up (very creepily, in Wei Wuxian’s humble opinion) at the moonlight. Wei Wuxian was not a particularly patient person. Neither were Jin Ling and Ouyang Zizhen. It wasn’t long before they’d stopped watching and started talking.
“What’s the big deal if the rabbit is a demon?” Ouyang Zizhen asked. “Not that I think it is. But don’t you like that stuff?”
“I like things making sense more,” Wei Wuxian retorted. “And also people acknowledging that I am right when I am right.”
“That the rabbit is a demon?”
“Yes. I’m thinking Jiangshi.”
“I’m thinking this is stupid,” Jin Ling snapped with a tired yawn. “It’s a normal rabbit and we should go to bed.”
“Jin Ling! What kind of normal rabbit can get in and out of a cage by itself?”
“A smart one,” Jin Ling said. “Fairy could do it.”
“We’re not talking about Fairy. We’re talking about the rab—wait don’t leave!” Wei Wuxian turned around to go after Jin Ling to drag him back. At the moment, they heard Ouyang Zizhen gasp.
“The cage!” he said in a low whisper. “It’s empty!”
Wei Wuxian and Jin Ling immediately rushed back. Sure enough the cage sat undisturbed, still bathed in moonlight, with one less rabbit inside.
“Great work!” Wei Wuxian grinned. “Did you see what happened?”
“Nope. I was watching you and Jin Ling, then when I turned back around, there was no rabbit.”
That was less great, but at least the rabbit was loose and clearly no one let it out. Now they just had to find it and watch to see if it would go back into the cage on its own.
Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found. Wei Wuxian, Ouyang Zizhen, and Jin Ling searched the entire area but there was no sign of the rabbit. Wei Wuxian’s personal theory was its ears turned to bat wings and it flew away.
After a good long while of searching, Ouyang Zizhen pointed out that they could wait at the cage for the rabbit to return.
They went over.
The rabbit was back in the cage.
The next morning Ouyang Zizhen and Jin Ling refused to acknowledge what happened.
“It was dark and the rabbit’s partly black. It curled up in the corner of the cage and we didn’t see it right away,” Jin Ling said.
“Sorry, Senior Wei,” Ouyang Zizhen said. “I guess I just too excited at the idea of the rabbit getting out.”
Except the rabbit did get out, and the cage had been bathed in moonlight, but Wei Wuxian was unfortunately forced to let it go. He’d already failed to protect them (and himself) from Lan Qiren for breaking curfew, and didn’t want Jin Ling mad at him. Fairy had a tendency to appear when Jin Ling was mad at him.
He tried to keep a solo vigil the following few nights but had to give up because he was a married man and his husband started shooting him hurt looks for not going to bed with him on time.
Still, Wei Wuxian was not ready to give up. Even if all of the Lans he interacted with on a regular basis insisted it was a normal rabbit, there were others he could ask.
He went to Lan Xichen. Being in seclusion didn’t mean he couldn’t meet with anyone.
“Yes, I know which rabbit you’re referring to,” he said with a soft smile. “Sizhui loves that rabbit.”
“I’m sure he does, Zewu-jun,” Wei Wuxian said. “But you’ve known that rabbit for sixteen years. Surely you must have noticed something unusual.”
Lan Xichen considered. “I suppose there was one thing,” he admitted. “You know those black markings it has? They almost look like its wearing a cape.”
Wei Wuxian nodded. Finally, he was getting somewhere. “Certainly makes it look demonic, doesn’t it?”
“Oh? I suppose? It’s an unusual pattern for certain, but I think it’s very cute.”
Oh so when Wei Wuxian dressed demonically, he was the scourge of the cultivation world, but when a demon rabbit did it, it was cute.
He saw how it was.
“Just because something looks cute and innocent, doesn’t mean it is,” he chided. “It’s the harmless-looking ones you especially have to look out for.”
Lan Xichen’s expression turned sad.
Wei Wuxian considered what he’d just said and slapped himself.
“I will see myself out.”
“You want to go into the Library Pavilion’s restricted section?” Lan Qiren gave Wei Wuxian a pained look. “Why?”
“There is a certain matter I am looking into. I haven’t been able to find anything among the regular books, and with the honored Grandmaster’s permission, I would like to check the rest.”
“This is about the rabbit, isn’t it?”
“Oh, you’ve heard?”
“Everyone’s heard,” Lan Qiren snapped. “It’s a normal rabbit.”
“With all due respect, I disagree,” Wei Wuxian said stubbornly. “It turns vegetables white.” Among other things, of course, but he still felt like that was the most important point.
“And? That child cares properly for it. It never takes more than its share.”
“All I am saying is that it’s not normal rabbit behavior to turn vegetables white.”
“And you are the expert in all things demonic, aren’t you?”
“Well…yes, actually.” He’d even died for that once.
Lan Qiren and Wei Wuxian had had their differences in the past (and also the present), but on occasion, they could be said to have some sort of understanding. When Lan Qiren’s next action was to scoff, Wei Wuxian knew that understanding had been reached.
“Fine. Go,” Lan Qiren waved him away with his hand. “Go fight for the carrots and zucchinis of the world.”
“Laugh it up now, old man,” Wei Wuxian retorted. “But you’ll see. Today vegetables. Tomorrow… the world!”
“So according to this book I found, we’re going to need garlic and a sharp stake.”
Lan Wangji shook his head. “Killing animals is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses.”
“Wha—oh no, not a steak as in meat. A wooden stake! Preferably peach. The book also suggests dousing his body in water. I got some from the Cold Springs.”
“Animal cruelty is forbidden.”
“And we have to do it during daylight hours.”
“Why was this book in our restricted section?” Lan Wanji’s brow furrowed ever so slightly.
Wei Wuxian stopped reading to give him a dramatic eyeroll. “Because obviously your ancestors knew how to recognize a demon bunny when they saw it.”
No wonder elders complained about the youth so much!
Lan Wangji looked over at the rabbit, snoozing peacefully in the shaded burrow under the tree. “It’s a normal rabbit,” he said, and Wei Wuxian was getting really tired of those words.
“No. It. Is. Not!” he gritted out. “And this exorcism will prove it!”
“Exorcising rabbits is forbidden.”
“That is not a real rule.”
Gusu Rule #4,693: Exorcising rabbits is forbidden.
Wei Wuxian was not sulking. He wasn’t.
In his not-sulk, he decided he needed a change of scenery (and company), and that was how he ended up in Lotus Pier sitting across Jiang Cheng, who’d let him on the grounds that Wei Wuxian was not giving him any choice in the matter.
“So you’re telling me,” Jiang Cheng said in the old familiar disbelieving, exasperated, long-suffering way, “that Lan Sizhui has a rabbit with markings like that of a cape, two pointed fangs, is only ever awake when the sun is down, can teleport in and out of a locked cage, and turns vegetables white?”
“Yes.” Wei Wuxian replied. In a very serious tone.
“…Why does Lan Sizhui have a demon rabbit?”