His eyes slowly fluttered open to see the most beautiful pair of golden eyes staring down at him.
“Wei Ying,” the man above him called out in a sigh of relief. He blinked his eyes a few more times to adjust and looked at him.
Wei Ying, the other man called him, was that his name?
The more he thought about, the less he remembered. It felt like he was trying to grasp at water and his memories were slipping out of his grasp.
“Is that my name?” He asked. The other man froze, staring at him with wide eyes.
“Wei Ying, I…” It was that name again. Wei Ying. It must be his name. He was Wei Ying. “I will fetch for a doctor.”
Left alone, Wei Ying looked around the room he was in. It was neat with minimal furniture, white and soft blue laid against natural wood, yet, everything about it felt wrong. Before he could think too much about it, the man returned. Given more time to actually look at him, Wei Ying noticed the beautiful horns and tail trailing from under his white robes. A dragon.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” Wei Ying shook his head. “Do… do you remember who I am?”
Wei Ying was hesitant to answer this time, especially with the way the man looked worriedly at him, but he shook his head again.
“I don’t remember anything.”
According to the dragon, they were on a night hunt together and Wei Ying had walked into a hidden array that knocked him unconscious.
The doctor deemed Wei Ying well and healthy and suspected the array to be the source of his memory problems. Unfortunately, all traces disappeared once the array was activated so they could not determine the effects. Without knowing the exact array used, they could not reverse the effects.
Wei Ying also learned that he was a fox shifter married to a dragon of the Gusu Lan sect. His husband was named Lan Wangji, the man that had been caring for him while he was unconscious.
Wei Ying was expecting to feel something when he looked at the dragon, since they were married, but there was nothing. He didn’t feel his heart racing when he was being looked at or the need to run into his embrace while he was trying to sort of his situation. Instead, he was indifferent to Lan Wangji, who looked at him with the most heartbreaking look.
The fox did feel a kind of sadness that he was unable to remember, unable to love him back. But even then, there was no tug at his heart when he realized that he did not love the dragon back the way Lan Wangji loved him.
“It’s okay,” Lan Wangji said softly after the physician left. “I will wait for Wei Ying.”
Wei Ying was not comforted by those words but nodded anyway.
Despite living at Cloud Recesses previously, Wei Ying felt out of place.
He wasn’t sure if it was his lack of memories or the fact that he was a fox among dragons. He didn’t have a role or place like the rest of them, only known as Lan Wangji’s husband and greeted as Lan Furen.
During the day, he was either accompanying his husband to his classes or passing time by reading in their expanse library. Wei Ying felt restless at his limited freedom. He had an itch to be doing something, anything, but he couldn’t tell what it was. Something about his routine simply didn’t feel like him.
The mountains were quiet. The food was bland. The rules were stifling. Wei Ying didn’t fit in.
However, Lan Wangji was patient with him throughout.
Wei Ying always got odd looks from others, but Lan Wangji never told him to speak quieter or softer. He adored everything Wei Ying said.
There would always be chili flakes or sauce waiting with his portion of his food, even when they eat in the dining hall. From time to time, Lan Wangji would spend time to prepare a meal for the two of them while they ate alone in the Jingshi.
To Wei Ying’s delight, Lan Wangji was willing to break the rules for him and gotten him Emperor’s Smile when he went to town.
“It’s your favourite,” Lan Wangji murmured quietly in the night. Wei Ying still couldn’t remember anything.
It wasn’t the only thing he couldn’t recall.
The first time Lan Wangji held him close by the waist, Wei Ying tensed. His husband didn’t sense his discomfort or simply ignored it as he kept speaking with his clan elders. It was Wei Ying that forgot, this was likely normal for them.
At night, they would sleep in the same bed but Lan Wangji didn’t do more than hold Wei Ying close to him. It took some getting used to, but he eventually melted into safe embrace with the dragon’s arms around him.
Over time, these things became easier.
Wei Ying became accustomed to Lan Wangji’s solid weight by his side. He even felt lonely when they part during long meetings that the dragon was required to attend.
He still felt a little lost about what his place was when Lan Wangji was not there. As a fox, he never had a place in the dragon clan. When Wei Ying asked to go to town or take a walk outside of the Cloud Recesses, Lan Wangji denied his request.
“It’s dangerous,” his husband insisted.
Wei Ying understood why Lan Wangji was being protective, but he felt like he was suffocating if he remained in one place for too long. He told him as much.
“I will go to town with you one day,” Lan Wangji compromised, “I will protect you this time.”
Wei Ying relented to wait for his loving husband to make time in his busy schedule. If he had time to go to town to get Emperor’s Smile for him, although it was a business trip, then Lan Wangji could find time for him.
Two weeks later, his husband presented him with his own jade token. His own broke during the night hunt and a replacement was finally finished.
Wei Ying stared in awe of the piece of jade. With this, he could sneak out on his own, something he was sorely tempted to do. However, he did promise his husband and it was a sign of trust if Lan Wangji gave this to him despite knowing how badly Wei Ying wanted to leave.
Later that day, Wei Ying wondered why he didn’t try to sneak out earlier. The thought came naturally to him when the jade token was in his hand, yet he never considered it before.
As he snuggled into his husband’s embrace, Wei Ying forgot about how Lan Wangji was by his side at all times during those first three months.
Half a year since his accident that took away his memories, Wei Ying was told by a servant that his uncle-in-law, Lan Qiren, invited him for tea.
Normally, it would be a normal affair to have tea or spend time with your partner’s family, but Wei Ying had the feeling that he was disliked by Lan Qiren. The elder dragon never looked at him when they were in the same room and almost begrudgingly greeted him if they chanced upon each other when Wei Ying was walking around with Lan Wangji.
Lan Xichen, his brother-in-law, insisted that it had nothing to do with Wei Ying or his upbringing. It was reassuring to know that one of Lan Wangji’s close family members did like him.
Lan Xichen always smiled at him when they greeted him in the dining hall, asking how Wei Ying was doing, and that he would be happy to help if Wei Ying needed anything. Lan Wangji was often around so Wei Ying didn’t need the additional help, but the offer was nice to know that there is someone else he could rely on.
Right now, Wei Ying really wanted to ask Lan Xichen or Lan Wangji to sit with him through what he expected to be the most awkward meetings since he started to settle down in Gusu two months ago.
His loving husband was busy with handling sect matters while Lan Xichen was away for a diplomatic visit.
Instead of running away like Wei Ying initially was tempted to do, he took a deep breath to calm himself and made his way to Lan Qiren’s office.
The dragon answered right after the second knock. Wei Ying plastered a smile on his face before opening the door and made his way inside. Lan Qiren was seated by the window, sipping on a piping hot cup of tea and Wei Ying wasted no time to sit across from the dragon.
“How have you been?” Lan Qiren asked as he poured tea for Wei Ying. Wei Ying gladly received the cup and wondered why the sudden change in attitude.
“Wei Ying is well,” he replied courteously. “Lan Zhan has been dutiful and has been taking very good care of me. The servants are kind and helpful too.”
“That’s good. How do you like the Cloud Recesses?”
Wei Ying blinked at the question. Lan Qiren had turned to look out the window and still avoiding Wei Ying. For as long as he remembered, the elder dragon never looked at him.
“I… It’s been a struggle,” Wei Ying answered truthfully. He had never shared his dismay with anyone other than Lan Wangji. However, he did want to be liked by Lan Qiren so he assumed telling the truth would be the best way. “Nothing was familiar but Lan Zhan has been patient with me. I don’t… I feel like I don’t fit in here. Not because I’m a fox, but I have no role here. I– I can’t tell if it’s because uncle or the elders don’t approve of me, but I’ll prove that I’ll be a good spouse to Lan Zhan!”
When Lan Qiren sighed, Wei Ying tensed. He thought back to what he said and perhaps he shouldn’t have been that honest. Though it was no lie that the elder did not approve of him.
“Forgive me Wangji,” Lan Qiren said as turned to look at Wei Ying. It was the first time that he gotten to really look at Lan Qiren. He was handsome, just like all the dragon shifters of the main family. The elder in his human form still looked rather young despite his years of experience, but there was years of stress and tiredness etched into his face. “Be free, Wei Wuxian.”
Wei Ying opened his mouth to ask what Lan Qiren was talking about when he felt a sharp pain behind his eyes and his head felt like it was being spilt open.
He dropped his cup when his hands reflexively reached up to ease the pain that was not physical.
His eyes were shut tight and his teeth clenched as a flurry of images flooded his mind. He saw blurry images of a man and a woman; their voices were garbled but the love in their tones were clear. His parents? They patted his head, handed him food, hugged and kissed him. He felt warmth and safe in their presence before the scene changed.
He was now alone; hunger gnawed at his stomach but there was nothing to fill it. He scavenged. He fought. He won and he lose. He tried his best but it was not enough. It was never enough.
Eventually, Wei Ying gave up as he laid on the cold forest floor, ready to accept death as it came to his parents when another fox picked him up and brought him to his new home. Uncle Jiang saved him, healed his wounds, and gave him a place to stay. He was the one to give him the name “Wei Wuxian”.
He was a fox shifter, just like his father. All he knew were his parents before Uncle Jiang introduced him to the other foxes.
Wei Ying was one of them, but not part of them. He was an outsider. Once an outsider, always an outsider, Madam Yu said to him when he arrived and made sure he never forgot. The others accepted him as their own regardless. It felt like a home, but it was not his home. Wei Wuxian was glad that he was no longer starved and was not chased away from his place of shelter by bigger predators anymore. He had people who cared about him and he loved them as well.
Then he met Lan Wangji when the other injured his leg.
Wei Wuxian was never one to sit still, always running off in the forest. He came across the injured yet hostile dragon and he simply could not leave him be. Wei Wuxian knew that dragons were powerful creatures and it could probably fend for themselves. But he also knew that the weak would always be picked off first, dragon or not.
Although Lan Wangji was too weak to maintain his human form and dwarfed Wei Wuxian many times over in his dragon form, the fox was not scared or ran away.
It took some time for the injuries to heal due to how deep the wounds were, but it was made easier when he regained enough strength to shift back to his human form. Being able to stay at an inn, away from the harsh weather helped speed up his recovery.
During his recovery, they became friends. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji would go on night hunts together before the foxes moved to another location.
It was not his intention but Wei Wuxian lost contact with Lan Wangji. Or so he thought.
Years later, they reunited when the humans had difficulty handling a corrupted goddess statue. Dragons, being divine beings, and Wei Wuxian, who liked to stick his nose in trouble, came together to deal with the issues plaguing the human village.
The foxes never disclose to others where they stay for their own protection, so Wei Wuxian expected them to lose contact again. But Lan Wangji was persistent this time, for Wei Wuxian to leave with him, to go to Gusu. Why? He didn’t know at the time. Wei Wuxian was clueless of the dragon’s affections and only thought of them as friends. Despite all the things that the dragon had done for him, Wei Wuxian only thought Lan Wangji wanted to repay him, but his intentions were not that simple.
They ended up parting on a bad note. Although Wei Wuxian was mad, he was also sad to think that the relationship with his dragon friend was soured. The next time they saw each other again, Lan Wangji treated him to a meal as an apology and then drugged him.
They were never married, not even a couple when Wei Wuxian was taken back against his will.
As the fog in his mind cleared, Wei Wuxian realized that no one else called him by name. Lan Wangji always and only called him Wei Ying. The others addressed him by Lan Furen. Never by name.
His courtesy name had been the key to unlocking his memory, the name no one would know about unless Lan Wangji or Wei Wuxian himself told them. The foxes were extra secretive group after they were being hunted by humans. If Wei Wuxian had not helped Lan Wangji when they first met and he stayed out of trouble, they may not have crossed paths again.
Wei Wuxian looked up at Lan Qiren and realized that he had been misreading the elder dragon this whole time.
It was not contempt that Lan Qiren felt towards him; it was the guilt of inaction, for standing by as Lan Wangji paraded around with his “husband” like a child with a new toy. The sudden realization that Lan Wangji fabricated their entire married life so that he would pliantly play along hit him strong. How much further was the dragon willing to go for this charade?
“Uncle,” Wei Wuxian called out by reflex, “I–”
“Run off before Wangji finds out.”
Wei Wuxian immediately got to his feet. With how territorial and possessive Lan Wangji was, it was no doubt he would seek out Wei Wuxian after his class ended.
Wei Wuxian bowed in gratitude to the elder dragon before running off.
No one scolded him this time as he dashed out of the office and towards the gates. Everyone was too stunned by the sight to do so. It took a lot of time and patience, but Wei Wuxian had finally acclimated himself to the rules of Gusu Lan sect, grounded by his husband’s presence usually.
His run slowed to a jog.
Husband. Although he did not hold any romantic feelings for the dragon before, it didn’t mean that it would not change. With their time together, Lan Wangji was extremely attentive and caring spouse. Wei Wuxian had never seen a more doting than Lan Wangji.
While he was disgusted by the method that Lan Wangji employed to bring him back, he cannot find it in his heart to hate the dragon.
His jog slowed to a walk.
Where would he go if he managed to free himself from Lan Wangji?
Wei Wuxian had nowhere to go once he left the gates of Cloud Recesses. The foxes moved so frequently that if you were away for more than a few months, it was assumed that you wanted to go off on your own. He remembered that his father left to be with his mother, a rare case but not the first. Wei Wuxian never saw another fox outside of his family before Jiang Fengmian found him.
Once he was away from the dragons, he will be alone again.
He stopped when the gates came to sight.
Wei Wuxian once lived a lonely life; left alone after his parents died, he had to fend for himself. No one cared for a starving fox pup that lost his parents. Those years were tough to find food and shelter. When he had no luck in the forest, he would venture into towns for food. He was too young to be able to control his ears and tail, often in his fox form to steal food from vendors or eat garbage that humans threw away.
He had everything in Cloud Recesses. If he wanted anything, Lan Wangji would get it for him.
Wei Wuxian looked down at the jade pass hung on his belt. He could use it to procure food and other items by showing it to vendors and Gusu Lan would pay for his purchases. But why would he rely on the people he ran away from?
He looked back up at the gates.
They were large, built for their kind to pass through no matter what form they took on. He had seen Lan Wangji’s dragon form a few times. The dragon could easily crush Wei Wuxian with his body, but his hold was always gentle and warm.
Without another thought, Wei Wuxian ripped off the jade token from his belt and threw it as hard as he could through the gate and past the barrier.
Wei Wuxian might have lost his memories previously, but he was no fool. He knew the inscription on his token was different to Lan Wangji, to Lan Xichen, even the common disciple. Lan Wangji said that it was made especially for him so that it would keep him safe. Wei Wuxian realized there was also some altered script on it that notified if Wei Wuxian escaped the mountains when he was away.
Lan Wangji, as usual, never disappointed.
Quicker than he expected, Wei Wuxian’s keen hearing picked up hurried steps and surprised cries from disciples and servants alike before Wei Wuxian’s view was obstructed with white as Lan Wangji swept him into a hug.
“Wei Ying, did something happen?” Lan Wangji whispered, crushing him in his strong arms. They stayed like that for a while, Wei Wuxian’s arms limp and useless at his side while Lan Wangji held him like his life depended on it. Then the dragon let go to release Wei Wuxian, caressing his face gently and looked the fox up and down. “Are you injured? What happened to your jade token? Did you lose it?”
Despite everything he did, Lan Wangji was truly the perfect spouse, the only person who would care for Wei Ying so meticulously.
“Lan Zhan,” Wei Wuxian called out with his arms out, “I’m tired. Carry me home.”
Home. This is what this place had become for him. He had a home with his parents, with the Jiangs and other foxes. But now his home was with Lan Wangji. This was where he belonged now.
Without another word, Lan Wangji picked him up in a bridal carry, something the dragon always loved to do.
“Did something happen earlier?”
“Hm, maybe,” Wei Wuxian said as he enjoyed the low rumble as he rested his head against his husband’s chest as he spoke. It was calming and made Wei Wuxian feel safe. He wondered how long this peace will last once the truth comes out. “But you have to promise not to get mad.”
“I would never be mad at Wei Ying.”
Wei Wuxian lifted a brow at that statement but Lan Wangji didn’t see with his head lifted high and nodded in greeting to others as he walked by. No one blinked an eye anymore when Wei Wuxian was seen in the dragon’s arms.
“You can’t get mad at this person either.” Wei Wuxian wondered what will happy when Lan Wangji learned it was his uncle.
Lan Wangji let out a small growl. “Why?”
“Because I said so!” Wei Wuxian said petulantly. “You have to promise or I won’t say anything!”
They reached the Jingshi in silence as Lan Wangji neither agreed or disagreed. The dragon walked towards their shared bed before gently placing Wei Wuxian down. He got down to his knees and held Wei Wuxian’s smaller hands in his own.
Wei Wuxian was weak to the soft look that Lan Wangji directed at him. This was not going to be an easy conversation, but he really hoped that they can be real husbands this time.