Today is his birthday but Jiang Cheng is everything but feeling excited at this fact.
To be honest, he doesn’t have time to think of his birthday. His stupid brother came back from the dead few years ago and is living his best life with the mighty Hanguang-jun. They’re both living in a disgusting honeymoon phase that longs way too much in everyone’s opinion.
Jiang Cheng won’t admit it to anyone (not even himself) but he feels slightly jealous that his brother isn’t with him in Lotus Pier. What about his promise of being his second in command ? What about the two heroes of Yunmeng ? Jiang Cheng feels abandoned by his brother and is angered by the fact that he cares about it.
More than that, it’s already quite late in the day but no butterfly message from his useless brother or from his ungrateful nephew.
He spent the whole day working in his office on sect’s business and it’s by far the worst part of being a sect leader. He sighs deeply while he is still alone and takes a second to stretch his back. The amount of work he has at the moment is astronomical with a flood in the north of Yunmeng and a weird afflux of resentful ghosts near the city. Jiang Cheng is the one who needs to take care of these issues and he had no time to train or meditate correctly for quite a few days already. He feels exhausted but he cannot in any way let it show.
It’s his 39th birthday and he is completely alone. He’s not married, has no child of his, his nephew is in Lanling, his brother is happily betrothed and most of his immediate family is long gone. Even the one whom he thought would be here with him on this day isn’t.
No. He’s not angered by this fact. Nor he feels hurt by it.
He thought they were closer since Hanguang-jun and his brother’s marriage. This isn’t important, he thinks.
By the position of the sun, he’s already late for dinner. He only ate a light lunch while reading some requests sent by smaller sects and commoners bothered by some ghosts or other evil beings. The mighty sect leader of Yunmeng rises from his seat at the same time as the door to his office open. His second in command head peaks from the behind the panel.
“Sect leader Jiang ? Are you done for the day ?”
“I am.” he answers sharply with his usual frown on his face. “Why ?”
“Your waited in the main hall.”
“Waited ?” his brows draw deeper. “By whom ?”
“Hm.” his second looks almost uneasy. “I think you should see for yourself.”
If it is possible, his glowering face seems to darken at that. His second rapidly removes himself from the doorframe as his leader angily steps out of the office to the main hall.
Who would be foolish enough to come in uninvited and summon him , the Yunmeng sect leader, of everyone ?
He angrily enters the room with all of his crushing aura of a leader known for his bad temper but he freezes for a second when he takes in the scene before his very own eyes and hardly resists the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose.
The main hall is filled with people who are trying (with great difficulty) to stay quiet.
Zidian slightly lights up at his finger as the only black dressed silhouette of the bunch notices him at the door.
The person’s face lights up with a huge familiar face and excitedly stolles towards him. “Jiang Cheng ! Surprise !”
That’s when Jiang Cheng loses it and deeply growls. “Wei Wuxian. What the feck are you all doing in my main hall ?”
That has the merit to stop Wei Wuxian in his tracks for a second before letting out a delighted laugh. “Why ? For your birthday of course !”
Now that Jiang Cheng takes a deeper look at the room et can see that, in addition to Wei Ying, Hanguang-jun is here too, accompanied by there son Sizhui, the other Lan disciple who’s always with them (Jiang Cheng can’t remember his name) and his own nephew Jin Ling (who clearly isn’t supposed to be anywhere else than in Lanling). Nie Huisang is also of the bunch, hidden behind one of his usual fans. Jiang Cheng’s gaze lingers a second more on the last person who is gently smiling behind a tea cup. For once, he notices, his smile seems to be reaching his eyes.
Jiang Cheng stops his short starring when Wei Wuxian guides him to his usual place at the end of the room, facing the door he just entered through. He follows reluctantly but still sits straight and mighty looking, clearly letting it be known he has no wish to be here.
To his great misfortune, his brother doesn’t seem to take the obvious hint and summon servants who bring out piles and piles of food in a cacophony of noises coming from two of the youngest (he’s a bit embarrassed to see Jin Ling is one of them but he still feels a bit relieved that his nephew is happy, he knows how hard being a sect leader can be).
With a bit of awkwardness, he tries to relax his tensed muscles and enjoy the surprise. He won’t admit it to anyone but he feels less lonely and a slight warmth blooms through his meridians. He hides his lightened face behind a cup of Emperor's smile brought back from Gusu for the occasion.
It’s now well into the night. The moon is shining brightly above the Lotus Pier and Jiang Cheng definitely drank too much to fully appreciate the view but the cold air definitely calms his flushed skin and burning mind. He finds himself taking his boots off and sitting on the border of the terrace, his feet in the cool water surrounding the Lotus Pier.
For once, his mind feels empty in the best way. No sect leader duty, no worrying over everything, no disciple that needs disciplining. His heart feels content too and his face doesn’t support his usual scowl. Fortunately, he’s all alone to look relaxed.
“Hello, Jiang Cheng.” Says a soft voice. Ah. Spoke too soon.
Jiang Cheng doesn’t turn back to watch the newcomer and even stays at ease. He knows the voice and knows he can act freely around him. The person chuckles behind him and draws nearer to sit at his side, his heels under him to not wet his clothes. His white ribbon flies in the soft blow of the nightly breeze.
Neither of them talk. Neither of them is good with words, especially when they matter.
The first to break the silence is Jiang Cheng’s guest.
“A-Cheng, happy birthday.”
Jiang Cheng turns his head in his direction. Perfect robes, perfect hair, perfect soft smile, perfect ribbon, perfect eyes that look directly at him.
“Thanks you, Huan-ge.”
They’ve grown closer over the years. Years of grief and betrayal. They both thought they knew the people around them and the final conclusion of the debacle almost two decades long wasn’t the closure they all needed. The two sect leaders found the ear and rest they needed with the other. Jiang Cheng found a temple of calm who could take and calm his crushing anger and Lan Huan found a strong pillar who could support the crumbs of his destroyed life and convictions. Their sickeningly in love brothers didn’t let the aftermath of a shakened world enter their bubble of joy, leaving Jiang Cheng and Lan Huan distraught and alone to mend themselves. Lan Huan had sent the first letter, followed by many more, all answered more and more readily as the time passed and the fondness between them grew.
Jiang Cheng had an idea a few months ago and he had wanted to ask for the older man's approval. Today might be the chance to do just so.
“Yes, A-Cheng ?”
Jiang Cheng feigns indifference, his brows crease. Here goes nothing. “What would you say if I asked your permission for me to court you ?”
Follows a deep silence, waiting on Jiang Cheng’s part and astounded on Lan Huan’s. Jiang Cheng is staring right in front of him, as if avoiding any awkwardness by looking at Lan Huan’s face.
“You would want that ?” Comes the almost shy non-answer.
“Why would I ask if I didn’t ?” His brows furrow a tad bit more.
Lan Huan quietens, looking pensive as if considering the question very earnestly. Jiang Cheng watches him during the whole duration of his thought process.
WIth his usual small smile reaching his eyes he nods (in this princely fashion of his). “Yes. I would love to be courted by you, A-Cheng. On the only condition that I can do the same to you.”
It’s Jiang Cheng’s turn to offer one of his rare smiles to the other as he takes his hand in his. “Expect some more letters and gift then.” He promises as he lightly kisses his knuckles.
This is quite a successful birthday in Jiang Cheng’s opinion.