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The Human Realm Is Not Worth It

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When the fifth disciple had been sent scurrying by his husband’s death glare, Wei Wu Xian decided it was probably a good moment to stage an intervention.

That, or the next one to cross the threshold might actually be Lan Qiren himself – something all parts involved definitely wanted to avoid. At all costs.

Twirling the bamboo brush between his lean fingers and closing the small vial of cinnabar at the edge of the table, the demonic cultivator chanced a side glance at his husband, the only other person currently present on the Library Pavilion.

Looking at him from his place, sat just a few steps away from him, Hanguang-jun looked just as proper and unapproachable as always. His back was straight, his clothing impeccable and face as cold as the healing Springs of Gusu as he worked in a sedate rhythm, copying a few old scrolls on Daoism with delicate, precise strokes. 

For everyone else, Lan Wangji was still the perfect, unreachable Lan Er-Gongzi, but not for Wei Ying.

The demonic cultivator could see what no-one else would: the cracks beyond the calm and austere façade his husband usually wore for the rest of the world.

It was in the way his fingers tightened unnecessarily hard on the brush, the way his shoulders would tense all of a sudden (as if he forgot to consciously make his body look relaxed), but mostly, it were his eyes.

With Lan Zhan, it was always in his eyes – his beautiful, golden eyes that betrayed the turmoil of feelings raging right beneath the surface.

“Lan Zhan” he heard himself calling with a soft voice.

“Mn.” The man looked up, his hand stoping mid-stroke to glance at his husband, a question clear in his golden eyes.

Feeling his face begin to burn under the concerned, searching gaze of his lover, the demonic cultivator couldn’t help feeling a bit flustered, averting his eyes to try and defuse the redness crawling up his neck.

Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, why can’t you react like normal people and just ask something dismissive like “what do you want”?! Why do you have to be so sweet?

But then… he pondered, remembering who would usually answer him with annoyed anger, It was definitely emulating Jiang Cheng’s reaction, so it’s probably not the best option either.

“Oh, it’s nothing!” Wei Wuxian laughed, trying to hide his embarrassment with tease “It's just that I saw you so focused for so long… Lan Er-Gege, how can you keep your concentration when your dear, beautiful husband is right here, in the same room with you? Tsc, all this coldness actually hurts my confidence, making me question my allure! Lan Zhan what do you say?”

Lan Zhan only sent him a pointed look, murmuring a “Behave. Read your books, before going back to his previous activity.

It wasn’t enough, though, to hide the barely there hint of a smile on his lips. A smile that, to the demonic cultivator, was more precious than all the gold and silver in the world, more beautiful than the first rays of sun warming the sleeping earth after winter.

Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, how can I love you so much…?

And suddenly, Wei Wuxian was all giddy inside again, his chest feeling full and warm and slightly shaken as he gazed at his husband with such mellow eyes and bright smile that he questioned how it was possible for him to still be alive.

Could someone die from too much love? Although he didn’t know the answer, Wei Wuxian suspected he was one of the strongest candidates to test the theory.

“Lan Zhan-Ah, Lan Zhan… How can you be so cruel? You smile like this and then expect me to just go back to reading some boring books? Ah, how am I supposed to survive when Hanguang-jun is acting so sweetly towards his Wei Ying?! It’s impossible! I give up!” He cried pitifully, letting his body slump over the small wooden table, being careful not to splash (too much) ink on his notes and some half-finished talismans he had been working on.

This time, though, the second Jade didn’t even bother to lift his eyes.

“Wei Ying wanted to study” he pointed out.

Lifting a single brow at the older man’s choice of words, Wei Wuxian pondered a bit about his meaning, just for a knowing grin to show up on his face at identifying the hidden jab. If he didn’t know better, he would say his husband almost sounded… Petulant.

Wei Wuxian was having a really hard time not giggling in pure glee.

“Ohhhhh… I see” he declared with fake contrition “This one admitis to be at fault! May Hanguang-jun forgive his pitiful husband for being too weak to keep up with Hanguang-jun’s strength and stamina last night!”

“Wei Ying…” there was a clear warning on his tone – one that, of course, the brat ignored.

“It's just, tsc… This body really is too pitiful Lan Zhan! I bet if I still had my original body I wouldn’t have to take such long breaks… Hum?! Now that I think about it, it is really a shame you didn’t confess to me when we were young, right? Imagine all the places we could have visited here on Cloud Recesses hahahaha. I would've definitely been able to keep up back then! Hahaha!”

“Wei Ying.”

“I know, I know, shameless!” he tried to appease “But… Well, I can’t help it if I’m feeling lonely now, can I?! Lan Er-Gege can you be less unforgiving and pay attention to me? Lan Zhan?”

“…”

“This one promises to let you punish this one later for being weak and shameless, hum? What do you think?”

“… Mark your words”.

Lan Zhaaaaaan!” Wei Wuxian laughed, but obediently went back to focusing on the things scattered on his table.

Satisfied at the slight fall of the taller man’s shoulders, his posture less stiff and movements closer to his normal self, Wei Wuxian decided that it was already enough prodding for now – focusing once again on a particular scheme for a few new sigils he had been trying to organize on yet another talisman.

It was an old, pet project – one that not even Lan Zhan knew about (yet). One that Wei Ying had never thought of touching beyond more theoretical approaches and possibilities, but recently he had been feeling a bit, well, bored. 

He knew his husband did the best he could to be present whenever he had time, but with Xichen-ge still on seclusion and his uncle dumping all the Sect Leader duties on his back, his poor Lan Zhan simply didn’t have enough of himself to spare.

And, even if Wei Wuxian had been known as a social butterfly, it wasn’t a surprise that the Yiling Patriarch wasn’t exactly famous around Cloud Recesses.

So, after years of brooding over the idea, Wei Ying had finally given up and reached out for a few people he knew and asked for the books he was reading now. He suspected that some of the older ones could have been retrieved from the Private Section of the Lan Library, but there was no way Lan Qiren would allow him entrance…

This was definitely the best choice he had.

So, ignoring the weird tingling on the back of his neck, one that felt like he was being watched (which was stupid, because they were in the Lan’s Library Pavilion, and eavesdropping was forbidden in the Cloud Recesses), Wei Wuxian went back to his work, only barely aware of the entourage of disciples that seemed to still be showing up to talk to his husband from time to time.

When yet another Senior Disciple had almost toppled over an entire pile of books and scrolls in his haste to leave the room, however, Wei Wuxian let out another long, suffering sigh.

Lan Zhan-ah, Lan Zhan… What am I supposed to do with you?

Putting down his brush once again, he turned his entire body so that he could look directly at his husband, face as straight as one Wei Wuxian could manage.

He understood, of course, what was it that was truly bothering his lover. 

Since he woke up that morning, Wei Wuxian had been feeling… On edge. Like someone just waiting for something to go irrevocably wrong – and if the demonic cultivator could feel the tension – in the air, in the way the Cloud Recesses seemed silent, even more than usual – than of course his perceptive partner could feel it too.

Usually, thinking about how attuned to each other they were would make warmth bloom inside his chest and put a silly smile on his face. Today, however, that same closeness only made Wei Wuxian feel more acutely that something was going to happen.

“Lan Zhan” he called again, already knowing by his tone alone that his husband would resort to his favorite tactics when he didn’t want to deal with something.

Completely ignored it.

“Lan Zhan…” he repeated, tugging at his hand when the man refused to look his way or acknowledge their conversation in any way.

Seeing the stubborn set of his jaw, Wei Ying couldn’t help the small, tender smile showing on his face as the image reminded him of another moment, years and years back, when they had been teens copying rules on this same room.

With a glint suddenly appearing on his silver eyes, Wei Wuxian scooted over, just enough for him to be able to rest his forearm and chin on the other man’s shoulder, eyes closing as he inhaled the faint Sandalwood sent wafting from his lover’s dark hair.

It always surprised him… How Lan Zhan could smell like home.

Presently a stubborn, broody home, sure. But still.

“Lan Zhan…”

“…”

“Lan Wangji…”

“…”

Lan. Zhaaaaan.

“…”

Lan Er-Gege!” He whined, tugging at his sleeve with his free hand.

Lan Wangji’s ears turned a deep shade of red as he turned blazing eyes on Wei Ying's direction.

Shameless.

Wei Wuxian laughed, getting up from the floor and actually flopping himself over his lover’s lap, finally doing what he wanted all along and burrowing his nose in the crook of Lan Zhan's neck in order to inhale more of his familiar, soothing fragrance.

“Lan Zhan… Did you know I love your smell?” He mumbled, face still hidden “When I first went back to Lotus Pier after Old Man Lan expelled me, I decided to change all my candles and incense and bath essences to Sandalwood for some reason hahahaha. Madam Yu wanted to kill me! She said that I didn’t only bring shame to my sect, I also wanted to be a nuisance wherever I went!”

“Wei Ying…”

“It's fine, Lan Zhan, it was all a long time ago” he assured his partner, who could few the small, sad smile against his neck “I just couldn’t avoid it… At the time I didn’t know what I had suddenly taken a fancy to this particular smell, and then came the Archery Competition and, well… Everything else” he chuckled, but the sound was forced even to his own ears “I think I was already in love with you at that point, Lan Er-Gege… Even if I didn’t understand what I was feeling.”

“Mn" Lan Wangji mumbled eventually, a hand rising to stroke his hair affectionately, turning so that he could kiss him lightly on his head “Already loved Wei Ying too…”

“I know Lan Zhan, I know” he assured, letting both of them fall in a comfortable silence as he closed his eyes, cradled by the soothing presence of his husband as he kept on caressing his hair, the other arm circling his body to hold him close against his chest. 

“Lan Zhan, you are so warm” Wei Ying said after a while, trying to blink away the warm haze of sleep that was settling over his mind “Your arms are my favorite place, Lan er-gege… Every time you hug me like this I never want to go anywhere else. Lan Zhan, let’s stay like this forever, what do you think?”

“Wei Ying can stay as long as he wants” Lan Zhan whispered just as quietly, his arms pressing him even closer, as if afraid that he would disappear. “Wei Ying can stay forever”.

Wei Wuxian laughed despite himself, feeling his cheeks warm at his lovers words.

“Not for so long, though… Imagine if your Uncle catches us like this?! He would probably die of a heart attack – after he killed me, of course!” He laughs unapologetically, pressing a chaste, light kiss on Lan Wangji’s neck “I'm sure there is a rule somewhere that prohibits public demonstrations of affection on the Library Pavilion.”

“It's okay” Lan Zhan deadpanned “Uncle won’t punish Wei Ying.”

And that made Wei Wuxian laugh so hard there were tears in the side of his eyes.

“Lan Zhan, your uncle hates me!” He chuckled, poking at the taller man’s shoulder “If he could, I’m sure he would hide you on a tall, unreachable tower so that I could never again taint his precious nephew with my unruly, demonic ways… Really” he added, almost as an after thought "I was actually surprised he didn’t arrange a marriage for you or Xiche-ge through all this years I was gone…”

To his surprise, Lan Zhan’s body suddenly tensed, his mood turning even colder as a dangerous glint shone on his golden eyes.

“There is only Wei Ying” he declared in a clipped tone “It was always Wei Ying. Will always be Wei Ying. No-one else”.

Wei Wuxian frowned, feeling a bit puzzled with the strength of his husband’s reaction. But then it suddenly his him. Ah… He thought, trying to ignore the painful tug in his heart. So Old Man Lan had actually tried to marry Lan Zhan off…

Only thinking about the possibility, that he could have come back to find the person he loved so much already with another one – maybe with a happy, large family – made his eyes burn and a knot form in his throat.

He suddenly felt the urge to scream and cry and tell Old Man Lan to leave his lover alone! Of course, it was all too late (mainly because the two of them were already married and together), but it didn’t help the bitter taste still on his mouth, nor the panicky rate of his heart as it fought not to break at being apart from his soulmate.

Lan Zhan!” he cried out instead, hiding the sudden hoarseness to his voice with a forced giggle “I told you already! You have to warn me before saying something like this… Or else how can my poor heart survive?!”

Instead of answering with the usual “Mn" that was his trademark reply whenever Wei Wuxian was being shameless or intentionally silly (which was, to be fair, most of the time), Lan Zhan took a deep breath, a complicated expression falling over his face.

The unexpected attitude gave Wei Ying pause.

“Lan… Zhan?”

The man turned to him, lifting the smaller one just enough so that they could look into the other’s eyes. What Wei Ying saw into Lan Wangji’s gaze almost made him cry.

“Wei Ying won’t die” the Jade whispered, a desperate quality to his usually blank tone “Protect Wei Ying. Won’t let Wei Ying get hurt again.”

Wei Wuxian felt all the lightness slowly seep out of him, his vision turning blurry as the smile slipped from his lips.

That was not something Wei Wuxian could (or even wanted) to joke or play with. The heavens only knew that he was not the only one that got out of Jin GuangYao’s mess with scars that ran deeper than skin level. To this day, Lan WanJi would still wake up some nights and keep watching Wei Wuxian sleep, his eyes following every movement of his chest, recording the way his body moved and his hair fanned over the pillow. 

Wei Wuxian was awake most of the times it happened, being pulled out of the edge of unconsciousness by the way his husband’s body would tense in preparation to fend off an attack that existed only in his memories, to then relax once more and proceed to murmur his name over and over again like a prayer.

It always broke his heart. It always made him want to scream and cry at the feeling of how acutely he had failed Lan Zhan.

Wei Ying, for all his cleverness and intelligence (a self-proclaimed genius of his generation) never noticed how much he cared. How Lan Wangji would look at him from afar with his bright, golden eyes – not to find fault, but to protect him, to try and understand his own feelings. In both his lives, Lan Zhan was the single constant – and yet he managed to hurt him so much over and over and over again.

Just thinking about those thirty three whip marks…

“Lan Zhan” he whispered, sounding a bit chocked as he forced a large, bright smile on his lips “Lan Zhan, why would I die? Now that I have you… That we have our son… Even Jin Ling seems less snappy with me whenever he comes for a night hunt… I have too much, I won’t leave” he chuckled, holding his husband’s face in his hands as he caressed his soft skin with his thumbs “Lan Zhan, I truly love you, you know? I love you so much that there is nothing – nothing! – I wouldn’t fight against, nothing I wouldn’t do to come back to you, okay? So don’t worry too much about me.”

“…Mn” Lan Zhan mumbled, a lean finger raised to trace the tear marks Wei Wuxian didn’t know he was shedding “Also love Wei Ying. Will always come back to Wei Ying.”

Wei Wuxian smiled amidst silent tears, and this time it was so genuine, so warm, that the Second Jade felt the side of his lips lifting unconsciously, the heaviness in his chest subsiding for a moment at the sight of his husband’s happiness.

As the tender moment slowly slipped into their usual companionship, both going back to their own assignments, Wei Wuxian actually managed to probe and groan and annoy Lan Zhan enough that he decided to go and see what his Uncle needed him for (with no more disciples being intimidated away from them). 

At first, he had wanted to take Wei Ying with him, but the demonic cultivator knew only too well that Old Man Lan’s humor seemed to only sour whenever he laid eyes on him, Besides, it was probably related to sect politics, which was something he didn’t want a part in. Wei Ying knew that, if he could, Lan Zhan would also spend more time traveling with him than staying in Cloud Recesses, but since his brother seemed to be following on their father’s footsteps (which was also something Lan Qiren managed to blame on the demonic cultivator), they were staying more and more on Gusu.

(Deep down, Wei Ying understood that, more than the Sect, Lan Zhan was worried about his brother’s melancholy, and that he wanted to stay closer to him until he recovered.)

Despite his loud, (sometimes shameless) protests, Hanguang-Jun only agreed to let him stay when the Juniors, (that were now grown youths), showed up and invited their Wei Qianbei to a night Hunt near CaiYi city, pointing out excitedly that there had been sightings of a feral Yao hunting on the woods of the area.

Wei Wuxian wasn’t exactly in the mood to go around putting his hide in danger, but between that and having to survive hours of Lan Qiren’s venomous eyes shooting darts on his direction… Yeah, the decision was not that difficult.

The Yao was probably less dangerous too.

“Talisman" Lan Zhan insisted before they parted ways near the entrance of Cloud Recesses, extending a hand in a clear sign that he was waiting for something.

“Ai-ya, Lan Zhan, you have to be more specific! A genius like me… You know how many talismans I make! How could I…”

“Wei Ying” he reprehended, his brows moving slightly, the words 'it’s not time for jokes, i’m serious' were written all over his face.

Sighing, Wei Wu Xian bit on his finger and drew two talismans, linking the energy of one to the other as he tucked the first inside his robes and gave its twin to the Second Jade.

“There, now, Lan Zhan” he said appeasingly “Now, if I am I danger, you will feel it immediately. Okay?”

Lan Wangji lowered his eyes to the runes written on the thin stripe of yellow paper, recording the same spell being used so many years before, when the two of them had been having lunch on a small restaurant on Yiling.

“Mn" he answered eventually, eyes searching at his husband’s silvery ones “Be careful.”

If the usually cold, stoic Hanguang-jun had lowered his head to place a soft, loving kiss to the lips of his partner, both Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi didn’t see (as both were a bit occupied looking anywhere else but the two men).

Wei Wuxian had actually sighed on the kiss, his hands reaching out for Lan Wangji’s face to keep him close for a bit longer before both of them followed different paths.

“So" he said, turning to both juniors “Who wants to tell me what exactly is this Yao you were gushing about?”

 

_________________________

 

As it turned out, there was no Yao whatsoever as far as they could tell.

“This is so useless!” JingYi complained, slumping against a large and sulking at his surroundings “I told you there was something fishy about that man!”

“JingYi, you said it about almost everyone we talked to the entire day” Sizhui tried to reason in his usual mild voice.

“Well, but it’s true!

“Maybe we just–“

“No" Wei Wuxian said suddenly, walking back into the small clearing the three of them were waiting into while Wen Ning was scouting the area in larger circles “JingYi is right… Something is not adding up here”.

Since arriving on the small, water-side village, Wei Wuxian couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong, like a piece of a puzzle that didn’t quite fit with the others, even though the colors were the same. At first, he thought it was due to his recent-discovered paranoia, but the more time they passed rambling on the woods without finding any trace of resentful energy whatsoever, the more uneasy he felt.

Looking up, he noticed it was probably almost eight already. Lan Zhan would probably be silently freaking out waiting for him at this point.

Sighing, Wei Wuxian lowered his dizi, playing with the lean instrument between his fingers before calling out for the two juniors.

“Sizhui, Jingyi… We better go back now.”

“But Senior Wei…”

“We can come back tomorrow” he tried to sooth the torn look in A-Yuan’s face “Besides, if there was anything on these woods, it’s far gone now… I’m sure you can also feel it.”

The young man nodded grudgingly, clearly unhappy with the results of their expedition. On his side, Jingyi was sighing tiredly and crying out how tired he was and how unfairly he had been treated the entire day.

Seeing both their antics, a small, sad smile appeared on Wei Wuxian’s face.

He could almost see his younger self, moaning and crying and making a scene besides a cold, disapproving Lan Wangji as they came back from dealing with the Waterborn abyss.

Not for the first time, the man saw how A-Yuan had caught up in so many of Lan Zhan’s mannerisms, to an extent that Wei Wuxian felt a stab of pain deep down to not being able to see his child grow up… To not be able to influence him, even if a little bit, to let go of the four thousand plus rules of their sect.

“Sizhui-er!” He called, his grin widening at his son prompt response “send a butterfly to Wen Ning… Tell him to meet-”

He chocked.

The world coming out of focus as everything around him came to a sudden halt.

There was a loud ringing on his ears, a cold numbness spreading from the center of his chest…

Frowning, he glanced around, but the movement felt slow, almost sluggish.

DAD!”

Wei Wuxian’s gaze darted back, eyes honing in Lan Sizhui’s horrified face… But for some reason, he didn’t quite register that. The boy’s voice had sounded so, so far away… But it didn’t diminish his happiness.

Feeling the tears slide down his face from the tip of his eyes, warming his ears, his nose, his mouth… He smiled.

A-yuan had called him dad. His son had called him dad. For the first time, he–

“A-Yuan” the man tried to say, but the sound felt chocked, the bitter taste of iron and salt exploding on his mouth as the world was suddenly rushing around him again.

Slowly, he looked down… Just to see Wen Ning’s closed fist coming out of his chest.

And then his knees gave out, body falling on the wet grass as his son ran to him, eyes wide and desperate as he screamed for a paralyzed Jingyi to call Hanguag-jun.

But it was all so far… Wei Wuxian barely registered anything anymore. Not the pain, not the surprise, anything was muted, reaching him through a thick lair of water…

“Dad!!” Sizhui cried, falling on his knees at his side, hands shaking as he looked him over, afraid that any movement could hustle his wounds “Dad… Dad, please! P-please tell me what to do!”

Wei Wuxian looked up, eyes glazed as another cough sent sparks of numbness throughout his body.

“A-Yuan” he whispered, blood and tears mixing as they feel to the side of his face “A-yuan… I’m–I’m so happy…”

Sizhui cried harder, hands suddenly pressing against the gaping hole on the older man’s chest.

“Dad… Dad please don’t talk like that!” He pleaded between sobs “Dad, H-Hanguang-jun is coming… Please, just endure u-until he comes here! H-He can h-help!”

But Wei Wuxian felt tired… It was a bone-deep tiredness, one that talked about two life-times being hated and pointed and accused by almost every single person he had once loved. There was too much pain still burning in his chest, and at that moment… At that moment he just felt tired. So, so tired of fighting…

Wouldn’t the world be better without him, anyway?

NO!” SiZhui’s scream was his only warning that he had been mumbling his thoughts aloud “Dad, A-Yuan needs you… Dad A-Yuan can’t lose you again! Please, dad! For Father’s sake! He… We won’t survive this time!”.

Wei Wuxian wanted to tell him that it was alright. That they would hurt, but that everything would be fine in the end… But his body felt heavy, and breathing was becoming harder and harder.

Still, there was something he wanted to say. There was something he needed to say.

“A-Yuan” he whispered, using all his remaining energy to lift a bloodied hand and cup the young man’s face with it in an affectionate gesture “Thank you… For being… My son…” Sizhui cried harder, eyes closing as he nuzzled into his dad’s cold hand “Tell… Tell your father…”

Tell him yourself!

Wei Wuxian chuckled, the sound turning into a loud, wet coughing fit – but he couldn’t feel it anymore.

With those few forceful words, he knew there was also something of himself in Lan Yuan after all.

It was enough.

Dad…!”

“Lan Zhan…” he whispered, silver eyes closing as the side of his vision begun turning dark “Always… Love… Him…”

There was a loud cry, something falling against the side of his neck and the feeling of shaking as his son cried desperately.

He heard a scream – so, so very far away. But he didn’t need anyone to tell him who it was.

Lan Zhan… He thought, his heart giving another tired, painful tug as the memory of the man filled his floating consciousness with whispers of love and comfort and acceptance.

Lan Zhan has finally come…

He is here… 

His home. 

Smiling peacefully, Wei Wuxian let a last, silent tear fall at the side of his closing eyes.

He could go now.

WEI YING!!!

 

And then everything went dark.

 

_____________________________

 

Many years earlier, on the streets of Yiling, a small child muffled his sobs against his dirty sleeves, his trembling body pressed against the shadows of a narrow, dirty alley.

All along, his silvery eyes never left the tall, imposing figure of a man in purple, his deep brown eyes still searching the crowded lane as he left once more for Yunmeng.

 

Meanwhile, on the top of a large mountain where the clouds didn’t reach, a woman watched as her little boy with jade-like features rested peacefully, the tips of his lips only barely lifting at the sides while he dreamed about a sprite with silver eyes and a laugh like sunshine.