Gold Lotus Baby
It was an understatement that Jin Ling had no shortage of uncles.
Between his grandfather’s… indiscretions, the strong friendships and the marriages, young (thirteen years old and a half!) Jin Ling did not lack of love, attention, and presents from not only the four major sects, but the occasional rogue cultivator too. And yet, on this specific matter, he only felt comfortable to reach for one specific uncle.
It was stupid. Auntie Qing was a doctor, for gods’ sake. Why would he go to him in particular?
Uncle Wei was meditating on a secluded dock, dark robes sprawled on the wood as if he didn’t care for the dampness, nor the blaring sun it stubbornly resisted to. The fabric was light, faintly purple under the light—a gift from Uncle Jiang then. Uncle Wei was not one to care for his appearance. Uncle Jiang and Uncle Lan cared for him… and weirdly competed over it.
Jin Ling plopped himself on the slight dusty hem of his uncle’s robes, because it was better than wet wood. Uncle Wei didn’t open his eyes, but the bright smile on his face was acknowledgement enough.
“Uncle Wei.” Jin Ling started without really knowing how to breach the subject.
“Yes, my young peachick?”
He charitably ignored the jab. “I have a question.”
“What is it? How to catch pheasants with style? Is it talisman related? I cannot teach you about resentful energy, Shijie would be so distraught! Oh! Oh!” Mischievous grey eyes shot open, darting in his direction. “It is romantic advice? To woo a sweetheart? Who is it? Tell your favorite uncle!”
Sometimes, Jin Ling felt a profound, cosmic spiritual bond with Uncle Jiang. While he occasionally wished he was not an only child, just imagine, growing up with someone like Wei Wuxian? Mother and Uncle Jiang were stronger people that he would ever be…
“You’re not my favorite uncle. Also, I would never take any romantic advice from you.” He deadpanned.
“Why?” Uncle Wei whined, abandoning his meditation stance to stretch his legs and bat them into the water like some sort of child. “I caught myself the finest man of the cultivation world… no, strike that, of the WORLD! I’m good at romance!”
Jin Ling wiped off the drops on his face. Good thing he wasn’t wearing his good robes in Lotus Piers (through Uncle Jiang would kill him if he heard him think that in his general vicinity). “Hanguang-jun is the one who caught you. Everyone knows your tragic tale of oblivious pining. The oblivious pining being entirely on your part.”
Even as Uncle Wei gasped in outrage (“The nerve! The shame! Jiang Cheng taught you to be like this!”), Jin Ling did not dare to add more. Any more remarks on any flaws of the dreadful Yiling Patriarch were bound to summon his husband, of which he was not scared of, not at all not even a little.
Uncle Wei turned wet eyes in his direction, faking hurt like he was seeking a discount from some maiden at the market. Despite his reputation as a “Young Mistress” (one day, he’ll beat Lan Jingyi’s ass), Jin Ling was no maiden. How could anyone fall for something so pathetic, really?
“You only came to bully me? I guess not everyone is as filial as my A-Yuan… the shame, the shame! I will cry on my husband’s lap for a thousand years!”
Jin Ling rolled his eyes, a reaction which delighted Wei Wuxian. Ugh, he lost again. “No, I really want to ask you a question.”
Jin Ling felt very shy suddenly and started playing with the tassel of his clarity bell. He was stupid for even asking, wasn’t he? Mother and Father probably had a good explanation as to why… well, he didn’t want to bother Mother with this, and asking Father would be… probably awkward? He considered it at archery training the other day, but archery wasn’t something awkward. His question would be, Father would be very awkward about it, and in turn he would turn awkward and…
A hand on his shoulder cut his anxious train of thought. Uncle Wei had a serious, gentle expression now. He didn’t do him the disservice to inquire if he was alright. Jin Ling hated that. He was also much angrier about little things these days, which was, apparently, very normal for his age? Probably as normal as his question. Uncle Wei, in a (not so) rare feat of awareness, just cut right to the subject. “What did you want to ask, A-Ling?”
And that how Jin Ling, with all his Sect Leader of a father’s grace, blurted.
“How are babies made?”
Of all questions, Wei Wuxian was not expecting this one. Although, Jin Ling probably was at this age? When did they give the Talk to A-Yuan again? Well, Lan Zhan mostly did the talking (ironically), because Wei Wuxian was more concerned with snickering in the background and trying to brandish ‘helpful’ drawings of rabbits.
(Some days, when Lan Zhan had been drinking vinegar for whatever reasons, he would use that fact against him to delay their ‘everyday’ just a bit. “If you laugh about it, you’re not mature enough to do it,” his Lan Zhan would argue. Wei Wuxian sighed dreamily in his mind. What a huge bitch.)
So, with delectation, his mind spun an appropriate presentation (he was still a teacher, thank you very much), with relevant but also horrifying stories to enrich it, when Jin Ling added with the hint of the whining that bestowed him the title of Young Mistress:
“I mean, Mother and Father made me. But no one ever told me how that work.”
Wei Wuxian’s mind went blank as his brain picked at that sentence, studied it, and regurgitated it helpfully as: Shijie and the Peacock had SEX.
Horror made him shiver and he decided to deny it with all his denial capabilities. It wasn’t much–no matter what people said about Lan Zhan being ‘obvious’, he wasn’t. The fact that Lan Zhan of all people loved him was so statistically improbable, it shouldn’t be taken into account—, but it would tide him over until he could drank his weight in wine to forget.
Shijie never had sex, and certainly not with the Peacock. Shijie was as pure and untouched as fresh snow. Yes. That sounded very plausible. After all, stranger things than a spontaneous pregnancy happened! Which meant that, if Lan Zhan continued to try very hard, Wei Wuxian could get pregnant too! This was just flawless logic. His husband would agree with him for sure!
“Shū shu?” Jin Ling was the one to touch his arm this time. “Are you listening to me?”
He shook himself of his fantasy. To review… later. “Aiya, you only ‘shū shu’ me when you want something…”
“Yeah, yeah. So, are you going to answer or not?!”
Still a little shaken, Wei Wuxian uttered: “Lotus.”
“What? What do you mean? Yeah, there are lotuses, because we’re in Lotus Piers. Are you losing it again?!”
“Gold lotus!” Wei Wuxian explained, throwing his arms around and almost knocking his (very needy and sticky still! adorable, how he sat so close really) nephew in the lake. When he committed to something, he gave it his all.
“… there’s not a single yellow lotus here, Uncle. Is it one of your weird stories again?” As if his stories never put the little brat to sleep, the nerve! “Do you need me to fetch Auntie Qing?” Aw, how adorable, but totally unnecessary!
Of course, he could not get up to illustrate his grand tale, because of the little peachick nesting on his robes. Thankfully, he had flair. “No, not a yellow lotus! A gold lotus! The Pea… I mean, your illustrious father, would settle for no less than a lotus of pure gold to lay at your mother’s feet! As it should be! Though, if you ask me, gold is a little ostentatious… yellow would have been a little better. Or blue, so tasteful! Or purple, that would have been appropriate. Ah, well…” He pinched his nephew’s cute cheek, ignoring his protestations. “You Jins! Can’t help yourselves with the gold!”
Jin Ling managed to push his hand away. “What the… the hell are you spewing about? A golden lotus? For what purpose? You’re so weird just tell me!”
Wei Wuxian tutted. “Hush, hush, my little mistress! These things take time! Anyway, your dad bought that lotus of gold to Shijie, and she cradled it in her arms and, poof! Here you were, at the very heart of that flower. The end!”
Jin Ling watched him, unimpressed. Clearly, he wasn’t very taken with that explanation.
“And Sizhui?” He asked drily. “Was he born from a lotus made of clouds?”
Wei Wuxian burst into laughter. Oh, that was a good one! Lan Zhan would love that one.
For a second, he was tempted to tell him the ‘gruesome’ truth about him and immaculate Hanguang-jun (he certainly loved to remind it to Jiang Cheng), as after all, Wei Wuxian was no saint and Lan Zhan was certainly worthy of having sex with unlike the Peacock (not that Shijie had sex, with anyone, ever), but he feared that Jin Ling would insist on real answers, and he had to keep that kid on his toes.
“Nah. A-Yuan came from the radish patch.”
Suppers at the Jiangs were not usually this quiet, but it was not completely unusual either after they finished catching up. Uncle Jiang was a man of few words when he wasn’t flying into a rage, or was forced into ‘political bullshit’. He was far more suited for barking orders on the training field.
Auntie Qing was half eating rice, half studying some medical treaty that would give a headache to anyone else. Beside her, ever the hedonist, Uncle Sang (not Uncle Nie, that was Uncle Yao’s… sort of husband? Plaything? Who knew, certainly not Jin Ling, and he didn’t want to) was savoring every bite of the elaborate dish he had the kitchen make. Lotus Piers was certainly becoming a cultural hub under his wing.
If Uncle Wei hadn’t tried to bullshit him earlier, Jin Ling would’ve (maybe) mourned his easy chatter. Alas, he was having a date with Uncle Lan (they were married! They didn’t need to have dates, did they?), which was probably involving capsizing a boat at some point (really, how someone raised in Lotus Piers was so proficient at capsizing boats? Unimaginable), so there was no bickering between the brothers, nor Hanguang-jun for diverting Uncle Jiang with some weird staring contest.
“What is it, A-Ling?” He asked gruffly. “You’ve barely touched the duck. It’s your favorite.” To assuage him, Jin Ling shoved a huge piece of meat inside his mouth, making him scoff. “Have some manners! Just because it’s not Koi Tower doesn’t mean you’re eating with the pigs! You were not raised like this.”
Uncle Sang snorted. When Uncle Jiang looked in his direction, he just fanned himself coquettishly, innocent eyes all out. Of course, Uncle was not fooled.
“He’s a growing boy.” Auntie Qing placated without looking up. “When he’ll get sick he’ll learn.”
Uncle Jiang harrumphed, but let it slide. He was very weak to Auntie. “So, A-Ling, what the fuck did you do?”
“What?!” Jin Ling was affronted. “I didn’t do anything!”
“Spoken like someone’s guilty! I heard you went to spent time with Wei Wuxian today! So what the fuck did you do!”
“He’s my uncle! Of course I spent time with him! That doesn’t mean anything!”
“It’s Wei Wuxian! He always has a scheme! And you’re too gullible to not be dragged into it!”
“Are you speaking from experience?” Jin Ling snarked.
Before things could escalate and Zidian spark (not that Uncle Jiang would ever whip him or anything, it was just for show), Auntie Qing intervened smoothly. “What your uncle means is that you can tell us anything. Isn’t that right, Wanyin?”
The fact that someone so small and delicate could beat Uncle Jiang into submission (without huge needles) would always be a mystery to Jin Ling. Was that the power of love? Mother could make Father do anything and gladly at that. Hanguang-jun would move mountains for Uncle Wei. Love was apparently a component in baby making, and while the Jiangs did not have children… it would not hurt to ask. Auntie was the doctor, after all!
“How do you make babies?” It was slightly easier to ask this time around. At least no one would mock him gere!
Alas, the silence was not. The adults stared at him, dumfounded (did they not know how?). Then, Uncle Sang’s eyes crinkled with the smile he hid behind his fan.
“Oh my, how would I know? I don’t know…” He fretted.
Then—praise the gods!—Auntie Qing opened her mouth with, Jin Ling was sure of it, some good explanation.
Sadly, Uncle Jiang was quicker than her. “L-Lotus.”
His partners stared at him. Even Uncle Sang’s fan clicked shut. They looked slightly confused.
Meanwhile, Jin Ling felt a headache starting. It was tension headache when it was located behind the forehead, right? The adults were giving him, an actual child (of thirteen springs and a half!), a tension headache!
“Nope.” Auntie scarfed down whatever was left into her bowl (she always finished her meals to the last morsel) and got up. “Not going here. Good night, A-Ling.” And she stormed out, gathering her sheets and rolls primly.
Uncle Sang also jumped on his feet, deploring a sudden lack of appetite (“It’s my frail constitution!”) and apologizing profusely to a cook that was not here. “I’m sorry, darling. And A-Ling. See you tomorrow!”
With that they were left alone. Uncle Jiang was tense and slightly purple. It reminded how, once upon a time, Sizhui called him ‘Purple Uncle’.
“So… Lotuses.” Jin Ling repeated, already done.
“Yes! A lotus! A huge… yellow… gold one! Like, ridiculously so, because, ugh, Jins!” He gulped down his cup of liquor. “He laid it at Jiejie’s feet…”
“… and she took it in her arms and I appeared, cradled in petals?” Jin Ling finished, really not impressed. Wow, he and Uncle Wei were truly brothers.
“Exactly! You’re smarter than your dad, A-Ling.” Uncle Jiang praised, clearly relieved. “You got that from your mother.”
Jin Ling resisted rolling his eyes, but not a little more sarcasms. “Shouldn’t it be a peony, through? I’m a Jin.”
“You’re also a Jiang!” Uncle protested, while a giggle was heard from behind a pillar. “Huaisang! Come back here! Explain it to him!”
“Ah, I don’t know! I really don’t know!”
As Uncle Jiang was running off to catch his eavesdropping husband, Jin Ling looked mournfully at the jar of wine on the table.
If only he was old enough to drink.
He tried Senior Wen. Not really his uncle, but close enough. The fierce corpse spluttered and blabbered some excuse before running away with a very polite bow (impressive).
So. He was not going to ask his Mother. People already mocked him for being too close with her and with all the Young Mistress bullshit. He wasn’t about to add oil to the fire. That left… his father.
So he asked Father, and watched as his fair face got even paler. He even dropped his notched arrow before even making the shot. He fumbled with his words for a while, but that was relatively normal in private. Father was not the most eloquent man, as Uncle Yao tactfully put it once (it was better that Uncle Jiang’s “He fucking lack basic grace.”) when Jin Ling asked why he was the one writing all the speeches and stuff and not the Sect Leader.
“Lotus!” His father exclaimed, triumphant. “When you really love someone and you marry them, you bring them their favorite flower so a baby can grow!”
Jin Ling puffed his cheeks and barely stopped himself from stomping his foot in anger and frustration. What the fuck! Lotuses again?! Were they in, in… fucking cahoots or something?!
Completely oblivious, Father was embellishing his dumb lie. “Mine was gold, as is… tradition! I grew it from the purest, clearest lake…” Lotuses grew in muddy waters! He should know that, he made Mother’s pond himself and it was all romantic and stuff! “And I offered it to A-Li so she could bless us with you, and…”
Fed up, Jin Ling threw his bow on the ground and stormed off, ignoring his father’s distraught calls.
He almost slammed into Uncle Yao on the way to his room. His uncle straightened him smoothly, as if being joggled about by an upset teenager was part of his schedule all along.
“Hello A-Ling. I can see something is troubling you.” His voice was warm and his dimples perfect. Jin Ling could only dream to be this composed and gracious. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Defeated, Jin Ling leaned into the comforting grip on his shoulder. “Uncle, do you think I’m immature?”
Uncle Yao pondered a bit on that. “Let’s take a walk.”
That was… not a no.
They walked a little while in silence into the maze that could be Koi Tower, although Uncle Yao was a master at maneuvering them.
“So, tell me, what is troubling you so much?”
Feeling a little less rattled and angry, Jin Ling explained his predicament without whining (too much). He deserved to whine, anyway! What the fuck was wrong with everyone! Could they not answer a simple question?!
Uncle Yao’s smile (and accompanying dimples) did not waver. “I see.”
They had stopped before a doorway, but Jin Ling barely noticed. “Can you explain it to me, Uncle Yao? It’s eating me alive!”
He hesitated. “Ah… A-Ling… I don’t want to go against your father’s…”
“They had sex.” A gruff, matter-of-factly voice said from the room before them. “That’s how you make children. Can’t they say the truth? Is it so hard?”
Sect Leader Nie—Uncle Nie—loomed in the archway, not amused at all. He was Jin Ling new hero (and far less scary than Hanguang-jun, not that Hanguang-jun was scary!) and you know what? Jin Ling got it so much. He was also done with everyone shenanigans.
“Ah, Da-ge… aren’t you a little too abrupt?” Uncle Yao laughed softly. “A-Ling is still young, this is why my brother tried to shield him…”
“Not only my Father…” Jin Ling grumbled, but it was drowned under Uncle Nie’s scoff.
“Why did you led him here if it wasn’t for me to do the dirty work, then? Also, Jin Rulan is almost fourteen!” Yes! Thank you, Uncle Nie! “He’s old enough to know this, if only for latter! He’s being responsible by taking the reins in his education!”
Jin Ling practically glowed under the praise. He felt encouraged to ask for more clarifications. “What’s sex anyway?”
Uncle Yao shot a very amiable, rich in dimples and… kinda Uncle Wei-like? smile at Uncle Nie. “Yes, Da-ge, please. Can we trouble you in enlightening young A-Ling?”
While Uncle Nie’s glare lingered on his… whatever was Uncle Yao to him…’s dimples, he stayed firm and blunt. “No. Been there, done that. Ask a physician.”
Jin Ling grumbled, bowed, thanked his elders for their wisdom, and left them at it. At least, he had some answers that did not sound like a stupid child’s tale.
“Well.” Uncle Yao sounded amused. “On the bright side, he did not ask anything related to Young Master Wei’s alleged pregnancy.”
Uncle Nie grunted. “Don’t remind me.”
Well, Jin Ling scoffed internally. Of course he did not believe in Uncle Wei’s weird allegations about having birthed Sizhui himself.
Adoption was a thing, duh!
Although Jin Ling had been taught of his grandfather’s awful deeds and that amends were made (as much as it was possible), Auntie Qing would not approach Lanling with a ten-foot pole (unless someone was on their deathbed, maybe). Thus, Jin Ling resolved to write her a letter. Doctors were supposed to keep things secret, right? This way, Uncle Jiang could not intervene and bullshit him about flowers anymore.
He was perched over his parchment, so consumed by keeping his calligraphy utterly perfect (like a true adult’s, like Sizhui’s) and his language clinical and polite, that he was absolutely spooked by Mother’s soft chuckle. Jin Ling yelped and ink splotched the paper, ruining his (… actually terribly written) letter.
“Oh, A-Ling, I’m so sorry!” His Mother hurried over helping him to salvage the mess. “I should have waited for you to finish, but you were so cute, all focused like that!”
She pinched his cheek gently, smiling an even gentler smile. Jin Ling felt the urge to protest that he was not a baby (and would have without any qualms with Uncle Wei, because he was not a baby), but he was weak to his mother. The very idea of hurting her feelings was abhorrent. So, he let himself be pampered and served some osmanthus cakes (“You missed tea time!”).
Mother waited for him so finish his belated tea before saying something that would have made him spit anything he would had in his mouth. “Your father talked to me earlier. He was very distraught.”
Jin Ling panicked. Of course his father spilled the beans! A look from Mother and he was groveling at her feet for the tiniest things. No secrets were safe with that man as far as his wife was concerned. Which was great most of the time, except when it concerned Jin Ling! Where was the trust between father and son in this family?!
Mother did not seem mad, though. She wore an indulgent smile and reassured him. “It’s good you turned to Qing-jie for this. She will tell you accurate information and not wild tales.”
“… Like weird flower stuffs?” Jin Ling grumbled, embarrassed.
Mother’s laugh rang like a clarity bell, amused. “Of course, they went for flowers! These boys, really.” She shook her head, definitely fond of their antics. “How ridiculous they can be. It’s a good thing A-Yao and Sect Leader Nie were here.”
“Yeah, they’re better than shū shu and jiù jiu for sure!” Jin Ling exclaimed, vindicated. He did not say anything about Father because, well, that was a mistake. Of course Father would freeze at such an embarrassing question.
Mother gave him another cake, smoothing his hair tenderly. It made Jin Ling feel a little guilty.
“… you’re not mad I didn’t came to you?”
“Why should I, A-Ling? I understand it’s an awkward talk between a mother and a son. You have all these uncles so ready to help you, it’s good you went to them first! Even if they weren’t much of a help in the end…” She giggled daintily.
“Do you wish I were your daughter?”
No one told him directly, but he had been bullied with the knowledge his mother was of weak constitution and could not bear more children. Uncle Yao quickly put those rumors to rest, but Jin Ling always felt weirdly guilty about it.
“You are perfect as you are, A-Ling. I couldn’t be happier with you and A-Zuan and all our brothers. And sisters! I’m sad sometimes you cannot have those as I do, but at least you have all these cousins!”
Jin Ling puffed his chest proudly. “I don’t need siblings! With my cousins, I never feel lonely.”
“Good.” Mother patted his cheek. “So, do you want help finishing your letter for Qing-jie?”
Jin Ling gladly accepted, and they spent a lovely late afternoon, especially when Mother recounted some truly embarrassing memories of her brothers’ younger years.
He couldn’t wait to use it against them later.
In the end, Auntie Qing agreed to give him The Talk in the privacy of her practice. She explained it all in a very clinical way that made the whole thing less embarrassing, but also less appealing. Jin Ling learned that as far as science went, Uncle Wei could not give birth because you needed a specific combination of genitals.
Auntie Qing also showed him truly frightening diagrams, which Jin Ling used bravely on Jingyi to show him where some girls (and, sometimes, boys) bled from every month.
Jingyi screamed like a little bitch.