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Longing of XianYun | 羡云想念

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It was a fairly normal day in early spring, in the small town near the TaiLung mountain range. It was a nicely bustling place with lots of people on the streets, from all walks of life. Hawkers on the streets, calling out their wares to passers-by, children laughing and running by. Guards were patrolling, and beggars were trying to get by. On one street, behind a particular restaurant, a small boy was hiding around a corner, watching as one of the servant boys was taking out a bin of food to a pig pen. Before he could dump it, the boy reached out a hand, a light drifting off his fingers.

"Ping'er! Come here!" 

"Coming!" He set down the bin before scampering off, and the child smiled brightly. He came from around the corner and ran over to the unspoiled leftovers, knowing he didn't have long before the servant returned and it was thrown to the pigs. As he began to rummage, grabbing the choicest bits of leftovers, he heard something behind him, the approach of blunt clawed paws.

He stiffened, then slowly turned, looking nervous.

A small pack of dogs approached, the leading stray one he'd come across before. The shar pei came closer, sniffing the air, and bared his fangs as he gave a low growl. "You again! Hey, fox brat! Didn't I tell you we'd eat you if I caught you in our territory again?!"

The youngster froze momentarily before turning to face them fully, eyes flicking around as he tried to decide where to run. "Th-this is the East side. I thought your territory w-was up North and West-" 

He yipped as the nearest dog barked, "The whole of Su Town is ours, dumb fox!"

The lead dog snapped at the smaller one, then said, "Ignorance of rules doesn't excuse you, trash! You die today! Get him!" 

The small boy jumped out of the way with a scream as the alpha dog lunged for him, snapping. There was a popping sound and a small cloud of mist billowed as he lost control of his form, and suddenly in place of the boy, there was a small black fox kit with red markings on his fur, running for his life from the dog pack snapping at his bushy tail! "Noooooooo!!! Leave me alone!! Go away, dogs!!! M-moooom! Daddyyyyy!!! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllp!!!"

He took the hardest path possible for the dogs, slipping through holes in fences, around large objects and people, but the dogs were relentless, and slowly, they were catching up! His heart pounded crazily as he ran for his life, crying loudly the whole time.

 

Young Lan Zhan had wandered away from his uncle and brother after his brother had suggested he explore the market and buy something he liked from one or two of the stands. Neither of his elder family members were worried about him being on his own. Being a dragon, he was already a strong child both as a human and in his true dragon form, but to top it off, they knew how obedient and no-nonsense the boy was. He wasn't one who would wander too far away or get himself in any kind of trouble and should something come up, he could certainly protect himself. 

It was as he was wandering along one of the streets, craning his blank face up to try and examine what goods were being sold around him, that he felt a small bundle ram into his legs. His resulting blink being the only giveaway to his surprise (not that anyone aside from his brother could pick up on that), Lan Zhan looked down to see a frenzied black mass of fur staring up at him with wide, teary eyes. Caught up with trying to decipher just what had run into him, he only noticed that there were incoming paws and barks when the small bundle began trembling even harder. Crouching down, the boy gathered the (Warm. Soft.) bundle into his small arms before straightening once again. It was just then that the dogs finally came into view, all of them skidding to a stop upon seeing the new face. Without a word, Lan Zhan looked on at the small pack, very clearly not scared in how his small frame didn't even flinch at the new animals, and expression unmoving as he stared down the pack.

 

Several of the people nearby cursed and scrambled back, this pack of nine dogs had been troublesome for some time in the area, and a couple had been known to bite humans. The lead dog, a large, gray shar pei with a scarred neck and face from being in a dog fighting ring for a few years, had even (allegedly) mauled someone to death. Someone shouted to get the guards and a woman tried calling out to the young master she saw standing before the enraged animals. "Don't run, but don't turn your back on them either! Come this way, and throw the thing you're carrying! It'll give you time to escape!" 

Hearing the woman, the tiny fox shuddered. The pack leader growled again cruelly. "Come here, foxy, we'll only play with you for an hour or two, then it'll be over. You won't have to worry about eating ever again." The unspoken threat was clear as several of the canines licked their chops menacingly. 

He yelped and looked up at the face of the one holding him, trying to look cute as possible while also trying to get as close as physically possible to him. "P-p-p-please don't let them get me, Heroic Young Master! Y-you're not human, r-right?" He could sense, as a partially divine creature himself, that this was some sort of heavenly being. No way would he get hurt by a bunch of mangy strays, right? This was definitely a thigh he could hug! A mountain he could lean on! "I'm not bad, p-please don't let them get me!"

 

Eyes flicking down to the pack leader upon hearing him 'speak,' little Lan Zhan's resolve only hardened. He may still be young, but he had already learned all 3000 of his sect's rules and he intimately understood their motto 'be righteous.' These dogs were already breaking several of them. (Rule 218, cruelty is forbidden. Rule 587, do not look down upon another. Rule 2496, oppression using numbers is forbidden.) And because of rule 372 (Avoid revealing your nature to humans.), Lan Zhan simply resolved to walk forward, continuing on his little task his brother had given him. As he passed through the pack of dogs, with rule 55 (Acts of self-defense will not be punished.) on his mind and his sect motto on his heart, the boy released a barely visible barrier around himself and the little fox in his arms and continued on his way. Eyes serious and jaw set, he looked around specifically for food stalls now. The dogs seemed to imply that the fox he had picked up had not had a meal and so why not use the money he had been given to buy the creature some food?

 

The fox kit gasped as the 'boy' began walking towards the dogs and whimpered as he tried to burrow into his clothes, dogs were so BIG and SCARY and he really didn't want to die and he still had to live for his parents!! He promised! 

The dogs were a little leery about attacking a human, especially a pup, in front of the big ones; it usually meant that a pack would get wiped out. That, and a few of the more sensitive ones had sensed something was off about this child. The other humans nearby were already shouting at the dogs and throwing stones at some of them to try and drive them off. 

The boss, however, was angry he was being ignored, and snarled as he lunged forward, large, salivating jaws aiming for the fluffy black and red tail, trying to snatch the fox kit from him!

 

With only the slightest widening of his eyes, Lan Zhan hid the rest of the scared fox from sight and jumped back. He was too young to be given a sword of his own, so the only thing he could do without transforming was a burst of spiritual energy from his hands. Forgetting for a moment that he even still had his barrier still up, the boy brought up his hand, gathering and condensing his spiritual energy and shooting it at the dog with a simultaneous, "Leave."

 

The dog, after all, was just a normal, non-cultivating dog. It yelped as it was hit and jumped back, hesitating now, obviously confused. It growled again, pacing, but knew it didn't have much time until more humans, the ones with weapons, turned up, so with a few harsh barks, the dogs began to run off. "You better never let us catch you alone again, fox!" He snapped before running off after his friends.

It took a few moments after the dogs departed before the bulge in the young dragon's clothes moved, tail disappearing into the front of his robes, before a small head with large ears poked out, looking around furtively to make sure the dogs were really gone. Once he was sure, he heaved a sigh of relief, tension finally leaving his small, furry frame. He tipped his head back to look up at his savior... No, his new friend! He just decided. "Hey, thank you! That was really great! They really know how to run, don't they? Bullies. Dumb dogs. I hate them." He grumbled this last part with a sniff. "They think they own the whole city. Humph! Hey, I'm Ying'er! What's your name, valiant hero?" 

A few of the people nearby were starting to approach, one frowned a bit, not sure where the voice was coming from. Was the child speaking? "Boy, are you hurt?" One asked.

 

Looking up at the taller adults, Lan Zhan shook his head once, expression not so much as changing at all. Then, without a word, he lifted his small hand again to point at a row of food stands within his sight. With single-minded determination, he made his way over to one of the stands, standing up on his tippy toes to look over the edge of the table at the food that was being presented. Behind him, he could hear some of the people murmuring confused questions, but he paid them no heed, putting down a coin and giving a curt, "Mn," to indicate he wanted the coin's share of food. Upon a completed transaction, he gave a proper bow, entire body disappearing under the height of the stall as he did so and continued onto the next stall. He repeated this procedure a few more times before finally being satisfied with his hefting sack of food and walking (rule 31, running within Cloud Recesses is forbidden) calmly into the nearby woods, stopping just past the first line of trees.

 

Wei Ying pouted a bit as he was seemingly ignored, ears dipping, but then perking again as the boy started buying various foods. The tiny passenger started making comments at the second stall, which happened to be selling tofu based dishes. "Oh, Oh! Get the red one, young heroic master, the red one!!! Mapo Tofu at this stall is really good!" 

Commentary and suggestions went on like this, the surrounding people eventually realizing that it was the fox speaking, not the boy, but that it must be a rich young master's spiritual pet or something, so eventually other than some curious or admiring looks, he was more or less left alone, especially since the guards had finally arrived and were paying special attention to the obvious VIP child. 

By the time he was finishing his purchasing spree, the fox kit was drooling a bit and his stomach was making some obvious noises. "Hey, hey, that sure is a lot of food. Are you buying for a party? Or your friends? Can I hang around for any leftovers? Wasting food is a sin, you know? I can take care of anything you don't like!"

 

Setting down his sack filled with food first, Lan Zhan pulled the little black fox from his clothing and set him down on the ground. He then kneeled down in front of the pile of food and began arranging them neatly in rows based on what kind of food they were. Finally satisfied, he settled back on his legs and simply said, "For A-Ying."

 

"...." he blinked a time or two as that set in, looking from him, to the food, then back again. Then, with a poof and a happy yip, he transformed into his child form, though he was so excited he still had his fox ears and tail. He gave the other boy a big hug and some hearty back pats as he sang his praises. "Heaven smiles upon the virtuous and charitable! I haven't had food this fresh in weeks!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Hey, what's your name? I don't want to be rude by calling you ‘you’ all the time! Ying'er's mom said it wasn't good to be rude to a benefactor!"

 

It was clear when the fox could vocally speak to him that he wasn't just an ordinary fox, so he wasn't too surprised that he could transform into a human, but he was, however, caught off guard by the sudden hug he was given. Not used to being held ever since....well, he didn't want to think about it, Lan Zhan couldn't help how his small body stiffened at the unexpected affection. As the fox-child, A-Ying, began babbling and eventually asking him a question, the young dragon's golden gaze remained focused on the other boy's black ears and tail, awestruck even if that didn't show on his face. They looked so cute and soft and each little excited twitch was so distracting that he barely recognized what question was being directed at him. "...A-Zhan."

 

"A-Zhan, you're a really good guy!" He said cheerfully, tail wagging as he finally let go and turned to look at the food, eyes gleaming as he rubbed his hands together greedily. What to start with? He grabbed the spicy tofu from earlier, creating a pair of chopsticks from a piece of nearby wood with a little transformation magic, and began to eat with gusto as he sat on a log near the dragon boy. "Sooo goood! Mm, you should have some too! Here!" He said as he took a piece in the sticks and held it out to the other child, a hand under it so the red sauce wouldn't stain the white robes.

 

Having never seen any sort of red food quite like this, Lan Zhan was hesitant to try it. At home in the Cloud Recesses, their food was largely vegetarian with simple, almost medicinal-like seasonings. Even just the smallest sniff of this food with his heightened senses seemed like too much. But A-Ying looked so eager for him to try, cute ears tilted forward with alertness and tail puffed up high in excitement, swaying to and fro as he held out the offering. So not having the heart to deny him, Lan Zhan leaned in to take the food from the chopsticks, steadily reddening ears the only sign of his embarrassment and the single cough he first let out the only indication of the intolerable spice level. Carefully schooling his little features to its normal blank face, he chewed and swallowed as quickly as possible, giving the fox in front of him a little nod in response.

He grinned brightly, a small gap in his smile where a tooth was missing, not one of the small, sharp canines, but one of his front ones. He picked up another piece of wood and fashioned more utensils, giving him the new pair and waving at the food. "Let's eat, A-Zhan! Try some camel hump! It's not as spicy, but it's very tasty!" He said as he had some more of the mapo. He was eating quickly at first, and a bit messily, but then seemed to catch himself and slow down. "Mmm, so good~! A-Zhan, are you from around here? Or far away?" He asked as he reached for some peanut chicken. He loved chicken even more than rabbit!

 

The rule of no talking while eating on his mind, Lan Zhan simply held the second pair of chopsticks in one hand, watching A-Ying eat his fill with a smug but quiet satisfaction. Really, given that rule, he should be shushing the other boy, but he just looked so happy, he couldn't bring himself to say it. Instead, he indulged his questions quietly. "Far. On a trip."

 

He nodded rapidly as he chewed his food, swallowing before speaking again. "I've been here for a while. Not from here though. Just... not really sure where to go from here." He said after a moment, looking down at the ground as his smile dimmed, his tail briefly coming to a stop and slowly drooping. He shook his head and got back to eating, determined to make himself as full as possible, because who knew when he'd be able to eat this well again. "Are you going to be in town for a while?"

 

Not understanding what puppy love was, Lan Zhan couldn’t understand why exactly it upset him to see A-Ying’s smile and tail drop. It wasn’t right, sadness looked too wrong in the boy’s eyes. He wanted to fix that... “Mn. Will visit again.”

 

He perked up. "Yeah? Okay!" He said cheerfully. "Where are you staying? I could probably meet you there! Or, uh, you're probably busy, so, maybe you could come meet me? I usually sleep at the coffin house or the graveyard, the dogs don't bother me there. I could show you around town!" Hah, those mutts would absolutely think twice before trying to mess with him with A-Zhan around!

 

Initially, Lan Zhan simply responded with an “Mn.” But thinking back on what else the fox said, added on, “Not busy. Trip.” If he could, he would also like for A-Ying to sleep elsewhere from the coffin house or graveyard (and why was he picking those places? The energy gathered there alone must be super uncomfortable to be surrounded in), so that would likely need A-Ying coming to him rather than Lan Zhan coming to A-Ying, right?

 

He hummed as he finished off another dish, then considered the remaining ones, as well as how much more he could possibly hold in his stomach. If he were to return to his fox form, he'd probably be so round, he'd look like a furry ball. He finally picked a peach bun and bit into it happily. "Mm, A-Zhan, do you know what inn or house you are staying in?" He asked after swallowing.

 

Looking down at the remaining food he had bought, Lan Zhan busied himself with pushing and arranging everything closer to the kit as he tried to remember where exactly he was staying with his uncle and brother. He could visualize the characters painted onto the banner posted outside the inn, but they were too complex for his young mind to read, even if he was ahead in his studies. He was sure his brother had read out the name for him, since, of course, he could read it being a few years older than Lan Zhan, but he couldn't quite remember what the proper sounds were. He therefore only shook his head, accompanying the action with the single word of, "Big." Not putting much mind to it, his finger traced the characters of the inn's name in the air between the sack of food and his knees, but the pronunciation just wouldn't come.

 

"Oh." Wei Ying replied as he blinked, thinking about it. He sorta remembered those characters. "I think I know where that is...." he trailed off, then looked up at the nearest tall tree. "... A-Zhan, how are you at climbing trees?" He asked suddenly, his smile taking on a cunning sort of look.

 

Lan Zhan looked back up at the boy, face blank in confusion (not that it looked much different from his other expressions). Sure there were plenty of trees within Cloud Recesses, but scaling any of them had never crossed his mind. Let alone any sort of play, really. The main Lan Clan especially always started education of their young early and so most of his days were spent studying, reading, or practicing the guqin. He didn't particularly mind that though. He enjoyed them plenty enough. However, that meant that in front of this boy, he could do little more than blink and stare in confusion.

 

The fox watched his expression for a few moments, then said, "You never climbed a tree before?" with a tilt of his head. "... Well, if you want, I can teach you! I was thinking we could climb this one and I could point out a couple places from up high. Unless you can fly. Can you fly? Hey, I forgot to ask what you are!"

 

Well, as a dragon, he could, but his uncle hadn't allowed him to attempt yet. Perhaps in another year, he had said. Uncle apparently wished for him to learn more, understand the mechanics behind it, how to control it, what to do with tight turns and landings and anything else unexpected that could come during flight before he allowed his youngest nephew to actually put it into practice. Rather than express that in words, however, Lan Zhan instead said, "Dangerous."

 

"... dangerous, huh?" He replied after a beat or two, before snorting and laughing. "That seems to be true! Ah, I'm still curious though. I've never smelled anyone like you before." He thought it over another moment or two before patting the quiet boy on the back and standing up. "Well! Whatever kind of being you are, A-Zhan, I like you. You're kinda quiet, but I'm really noisy, so we compliment each other like yin and yang!" After that, he ‘ah’d and said, "Hey, are you a rabbit?! That would be really funny!" Rabbits were quiet and cute and white, maybe that was it??

 

Lan Zhan blinked, confused as to how A-Ying got to that conclusion. Had he really portrayed himself as dangerous? He had only been trying to help and had no malicious intent...And he hadn't given away that he was a dragon, right?? Though regardless, it seems like somehow he had unsettled the fox if he thought him to be dangerous...And then there was the sudden question about being a rabbit. It was so out of the blue that he could only murmur a, "Ridiculous."

 

"No? Not a rabbit? Hmm. Well, that's fine. I suppose you don't smell like a rabbit anyway." He said as he thumbed his nose, then looked down at the food bag. "You gonna eat any more of this?" He asked as he picked it up and examined what would spoil quickly versus what would keep for a while.

 

He hadn't actually had anything of the food aside from that one bite A-Ying had offered and had been meaning to keep it that way anyways. So he simply shook his head once and said, "For A-Ying," once again. He wasn't lacking for food, given that he lived within a large, prestigious sect, so it didn't bother him at all. He could have his meal with his uncle and brother once he returned to their lodging within this town.

 

"Are you sure? ....Did you eat before we met up or something?" He murmured, before tying the bag onto his waist sash. He wasn't turning down delicious food, no way. "A-Zhan, how much time do you have before you have to go back?" He asked suddenly.

 

Nodding his head with an accompanying, "Mn," to express his surety, Lan Zhan then glanced up towards the sky. More time had passed than he had expected, but he also wasn't sure exactly how much time that was, so he couldn't say for certain when exactly he would need to head back. Therefore, to answer A-Ying's final question, his shoulders moved up in the slightest shrug, indicating his uncertainty.

 

He chuckled a little at the shrug, but nodded and took the slightly larger boy's hand in his own before he started walking. "Well, let me show you around then! There's lots of nice and sorta pretty places here! We can play until you need to go back!"

 

Caught off guard once again by the contact, Lan Zhan went surprisingly easily, thrown off enough that he didn't even think to question or resist the other boy. He didn't have the faintest idea what A-Ying had in mind nor how long it'd take before his brother or uncle came looking for him, so he simply let it all happen. This young fox was captivating, anyways.

 

He was just happy to have someone to talk to and hang out with... who was also willing to protect him from the local dogs. Also, he wasn't entirely sure why, but he was incredibly drawn to this snowy jade-like youth. He didn't speak a lot, but maybe he was shy or something. He did remember to hide his ears and tail before they went back into the town proper though. 

The first place he took Lan Zhan was a fair-sized lotus pond on the outskirts of town. "I come here sometimes to pick and eat seed pods and try to catch some fish! I have to be careful though, the wharf dogs don't like me either. And there's a few fruit trees around here, none are producing right now though. People take fancy boats here sometimes to the little pagoda in the center, sometimes they pay me to hold the boats while they're doing stuff there."

 

Since Lan Zhan wasn’t much of a talker, he simply let A-Ying talk as much as he pleased, making little noises of acknowledgement here and there. He couldn’t fathom why the excitable fox was seemingly fine with his relative silence and nearly nonexistent facial expressions. Though, perhaps once enough time passed, the other child would grow bored of his lack of response.

 

Well, for the most part, he seemed perfectly happy to just chatter at him, because it seemed like he was really listening to what he had to say, and he was letting him pull him around. His skin was sort of cold, and he was sort of stiff, but he wasn't dead, he could tell that much. Maybe he was just an awkward person? Or shy? 

"A-Zhan, this place makes really good noodles!" 

"A-Zhan, this garden has some very pretty snow-blooming flowers!" 

"A-Zhan, this inn always has a good smell coming from it, but my Mom always told me I have to wait until my true form is an adult before I can drink, or my tail fur will fall out!" 

"A-Zhan, that's the coffin house! The dogs don't come around here or the graveyard over there."

This last place was.... odd. It was obviously a place where the displaced dead were sent before burial, but despite that, the yin energy could be considered pretty light. Wei Ying ran over and leapt over the threshold, (something a normal human boy his size and age likely wouldn't have been able to do) and trotted over to a loose stone he pulled aside to hide his food in. The area was actually surprisingly clean, and there was no obvious oppressive energy.

 

This last place, the coffin house, was a tad offsetting. His uncle had told him about areas filled with yin energy, how negative emotions could pile up in these locations and make them dangerous or how the energy could reanimate the dead into walking or fierce corpses. This particular location, at least, didn't seem to have too much yin piled up, possibly due to enough care and upkeep by the town, but it was enough that to a child who had yet to experience much outside his own sect, it was making him a little anxious. 

But A-Ying seemed to be doing well off here (or as well off as a street child can do), so whatever may be lingering here was perhaps not all that malicious. At least, that's what he hoped for; he'd rather not lose this bubbly fox so soon after meeting him. (And why did that bother him, he couldn't help but wonder...)

With some curiosity, Lan Zhan looked around the building, eyes catching onto several structures that must be the name-sake coffins for the coffin house. Perhaps the coffins weren't actually being used and that was also contributing to the low levels of yin energy he was sensing. Either way, there was just enough that the little dragon was hesitant to fully lower his guard, which was why when he heard a stone getting kicked from somewhere behind both of them, he acted on quick instinct and transformed. Cold mist bursting from him, his body elongated and wrapped around A-Ying securely, surprisingly warm underbelly for an ice dragon cocooning around the young kit. Now entirely golden eyes poised towards the entrance, he was prepared but not quite knowledgeable about what could be approaching them. More dogs perhaps? Or some other wild animal? Or maybe even the reanimated corpses that had crossed his mind earlier?

But it turned out to be neither of those when he saw familiar white robes and hair step into view. "A-Zhan, so this is where you were? It's not like you to--Oh...!" 

Lan Huan was certainly the last person he'd thought was approaching, but that must've meant that he had spent too much time away from him and his uncle then. Calmly, despite his transformed state indicating otherwise, Lan Zhan returned back with a simple, "...Brother."

 

The smaller boy yipped reflexively as he was wrapped up, startled enough that his ears and tail popped out again, and he struggled a little as he was suddenly surrounded by warm, smooth scales. He managed to pop his head out, and saw... another A-Zhan?!?! When he heard the word brother, the fox realized what had him in it's coils was his friend! "Oh! You have a brother? He looks almost just like you- WOAAAAH, A-Zhan, you're a dragon?!?!? Awesome!! Domineering!!" He squirmed a bit more, and his ears dipped in a bashful manner, wiggling the fingers of an exposed hand in an improvised wave of greeting. "A-Zhan, A-Zhan, I can't move!" He whispered, leaning towards the beautiful dragon's ear.

 

Thankful one couldn't even tell his ears were blushing while in dragon form, Lan Zhan relaxed and loosened his hold around A-Ying just as Lan Huan walked up to meet him. Setting a hand on his little brother's muzzle, the older Jade regarded the fox hidden within while scales with a smile before he addressed Lan Zhan again. "We couldn't find you in the marketplace. You're not one to just wander off, but I see you've made a friend?" 

As an indication of his bashfulness and shame, Lan Zhan ducked his head down more towards the ground, blowing out a stream of cool air from his nostrils. He was too flustered at his jumpy reaction, better off staying silent for now or he was sure he'd fumble over his words. And his brother was already the only one still alive who could read him so well, so he wasn't keen on giving him more to tease him about. 

With a light chuckle, the older dragon turned back to face the young kit. "Hello, I am Lan Huan, Lan Zhan's brother as he said...What's your name?"

 

Once he was free enough to move, the first thing he did was get a better look at his new friend. His new friend was a DRAGON!! WOW!!! He paused from his examination of the small jade-white dragon, long enough to turn towards the new person and give him a small bow and cupped hands salute. "Nice to meet you, Lan Huan, I'm Ying'er... Uh, Wei Ying. I guess. Or A-Ying." He looked at Lan Zhan's face and tilted sideways, trying to meet his eyes. "So your full name is Lan Zhan? It's a pretty name." He looked back at Lan Huan as his hands began to pet the mane of bluish white hair that ran down his back, seemingly without even thinking about it. "A-Zhan saved me from a bunch of dogs earlier and bought me some food!"

 

"I see...So that's what happened..." Lan Huan shifted his gaze over to his brother, who had closed his eyes in hopes of concealing whatever emotion may be swirling around within them, but also seemed perfectly content to allow this boy access to his mane and scales. In fact, he hadn't seen his brother this comfortable for at least three months. While they both loved their mother, perhaps because he was younger, Lan Zhan was especially attached to her and would often nuzzle up to her affections when he wasn't excitedly showing off a new guqin piece he had learned or showing her how well he had gotten at reading. For A-Zhan to become so attached to a near stranger like this was a tad worrisome, but at the same time, he wasn't sure if he had the heart to deny his brother this.

 

"Mmhmm! So then I showed him around town, since he's new here... Hey, A-Zhan? You okay?" He asked, a little concerned since his eyes were closed. He reached out and placed a hand lightly on the side of his muzzle. "Will you look at me? I haven't seen your full face yet in this form. A-Zhan?"

 

Unwilling to deny Wei Ying for whatever reason, a few moments later, Lan Zhan opened his eyes again, shifting his head to face the fox. Wanting to respond to the other child's concern, he hummed out a, "mn," the sound coming out a bit longer as it rumbled through his body.

 

The smile quickly returned as he now had one hand on his lower jaw, the other gently touching facial features in awe and wonder. "Wow, your eyes kinda sparkle in this form, A-Zhan~." He said, a little quieter than earlier. "Way cool! My first friend and hero is a dragon! Mom and Dad would be surprised-" He began, then paused for a moment before resuming lavishing attention on his friend. He hugged the small dragon's neck, pushing his face into the mane on his neck (he smelled like sandalwood) before turning to look at Lan Huan again. "Ah, do you guys need to go now...?" He asked, seeming a bit very reluctant to let go.

 

Lan Huan gave a smile to try and appease Wei Ying. "I'm afraid so...I'm sure our uncle is worried." Given how clingy the kit was being, he was sure that wasn't going to be enough to satisfy the child, so he added on, "We'll be here in town for about a month unless Uncle decides it is necessary to take more time off of sect duties." 

Recognizing what Lan Huan was aiming at and wanting to be the one to say it himself, Lan Zhan repeated the words he had given A-Ying earlier. "Will visit again."

 

He sighed again, giving A-Zhan a few more pets before letting go reluctantly. "Okay. Where do you want to meet? Here, or one of the other spots I showed you?"

 

"Here." It was hardly a question. A-Ying had mentioned how the dogs never entered the coffin house and so if he came here first, it would be easy to make sure they never approached while he was with him. And now, with A-Ying finally releasing him, he was able to properly uncurl from the other and transform back into his human form with another cloud of cold mist. 

Smiling at his once again human brother, Lan Huan assured Wei Ying again with (and to the stoic but mortified embarrassment of his little brother), "A-Zhan's already looking forward to seeing you again, don't worry. He'll be back."

 

"Mn." Wei Ying grinned cheekily as he imitated his friend's affirmative noise, scratching his chin before seeing them off. "See you later, A-Zhan!" He said as the two dragons walked off down the road. He watched until he couldn't see them anymore, then sighed and rested his head on his folded arms as he leaned against the threshold. He was alone again. 

One of his ears twitched, and he looked back over his shoulder as a ghost slowly faded into his view, and he smiled. Well, not completely alone, he supposed. But the warmth of a living person was really nice.

Chapter Text

Gradually, Lan Zhan's time away from Cloud Recesses and in this town was dwindling. A few days ago, he had tried to ask his uncle if it were possible to stay even longer, but with his father in seclusion and failure to properly rule the sect, Lan Qiren had told him that it just wasn't reasonable or responsible to stay away longer. It had been a disappointment, but the young dragon had hidden it behind his normal blank expression (though in reality, the more time he spent with A-Ying, the more comfortable Lan Zhan seemed to grow with expressing himself). Little Lan Zhan wasn't sure what he was going to do about it, but he knew he wasn't all that keen on leaving this town. Pushing that thought to the back of his mind for now, however, he (rushed) walked outside their inn and towards the direction of A-Ying's coffin house.

 

At the time, the fox was on the roof of the house, playing a flute while he watched the clouds and some birds fly by overhead. Life was pretty good lately. Ever since Lan Zhan showed up, he wasn't lonely anymore, and he wasn't very hungry, either. He actually had to tell him to bring less perishable food at one point, he was starting to get so much he was worried it would spoil before he could eat it. It might be selfish of him, but he didn't want to give any of the gifts from Lan Zhan to anyone else.

Even though A-Zhan was on the quiet side, his father had been, too. His upbeat nature was like his mother's.... mostly. There was plenty about him that was just....himself.

He sat up and took a look around, to see if he could spot Lan Zhan yet. He remembered the slight widening of his eyes and parting of his lips when he hung upside down from that one tree branch, waving to him chaotically as he whisper-screamed his name. That was pretty fun. He was fun to tease.

 

When Lan Zhan could finally see the coffin house in the background, he picked up his pace in his excitement to see A-Ying already. Spotting the little fox on the roof (and with a bit of petulance; he wasn't that good at climbing in his child form), he pouted ever so slightly and transformed, barely paying any mind to if there were humans nearby to see him. Before the icy mist had cleared, Lan Zhan had used his now longer body to jump up onto the roof, landing surprisingly lightly for a dragon, and settled in next to A-Ying.

 

He jumped, Lan Zhan had popped up from his blind spot, but then he brightened and glomped him with a happy cry of "A-Zhan!" He tucked his chin against his shoulder for a moment, then pulled back to see his face. "Good morning! Did you sleep well?"

 

“Mn.” Feeling a bit more comfortable giving affection while in dragon form, Lan Zhan nuzzled his muzzle into A-Ying before sitting down curled within his tail and watching the fox. “Did A-Ying?”

 

"Mn!" He replied cheerfully as he proceeded to comfortably invade his personal space, scooting so he could lean against the dragon. "Not a lot going on today. Saw a group of demon hunters hanging around today, so I decided to avoid them." Demon hunters was a broad term, they also sometimes captured spirit beasts, monsters or demon beasts without owners or affiliations if they thought they could get away with it, whether they were troublemakers or not. It was a very gray area, legally speaking, especially where sentient beings were concerned. "I think they were looking for something specific, though. They didn't stay around here long."

 

Lan Zhan's eyes narrowed slightly at that. If that was the case, then he shouldn't linger in his current form. He didn't want to bring attention to his true nature and he wouldn't want anyone that saw him to question A-Ying's. Which really was unfortunate, typically he spent most of his day in his human form for studies, so it had been nice lately to be comfortable enough around A-Ying to stay as a dragon. With his clan rule to avoid revealing his true nature, it was nice to have someone outside of the clan know what he was and also not be intimidated by it. So with a murmur of "dangerous," he transformed back into his child form, doing it in such a way that A-Ying wasn't jostled too much from how he was leaning against him.

 

The fox child laughed lightly, now reaching over to pat the side of his face, then take a strand of his hair in his fingers to play with. "Yeah, but no one messes with dragons. Dragons and phoenixes, no one touches the royal clans if they want to live. I think you're safe." Dragons and phoenixes, after all, could go to the Jade Palace, and even had kingdoms of their own. "Besides, there's Lan Huan and your Uncle. How are they doing, by the way?"

 

Briefly wrinkling his nose and puffing out his cheeks, Lan Zhan looked off to the side, inadvertently revealing his red ears from both A-Ying's open affection and his current emotion. "Mad." He understood a little what his uncle was dealing with, he really did, but the young dragon was upset that Lan Qiren hadn't proposed some solution that'd allow them to stay here longer. At this rate, there would only be a few more days of hanging out with A-Ying before they'd have to leave and he certainly wasn't looking forward to that.

 

"Aw, why?" He asked with concern, turning his head and shifting a bit so he could see his face without having to move much, still twirling his hair. His eyes caught on the headband and looked at it for a few moments before focusing on his eyes. "Is it my fault for taking up so much of your time? They could hang out with us too, you know?"

 

Lan Zhan shook his head. He hadn't been clear enough with his words or expressions and A-Ying misunderstood. "Mad at them ." He paused as he rethought that and then corrected himself. "At Uncle. Leaving soon. Do not want to."

 

Wei Ying froze completely, suddenly feeling extremely cold. "....O-oh..." He said, turning his face away so the other wouldn't see his smile fall away, his heart dropping down into his stomach. "....A-Zhan? I don't want to be alone again." He said quietly.

 

...He did not like that tone A-Ying's voice took on. In fact, he absolutely hated it. Fixing wide eyes onto the boy, Lan Zhan tried to wrack his brain for any ideas on how to fix the tone of his voice. It wasn't until a stray breeze flicked up the tails of his forehead ribbon into the air around him that he thought of something. His uncle had said that it could protect his special person, right? And while they all looked the same in ribbon format, there was never actually one that was exactly the same. That way, A-Ying would always have something from him, right? So, with that in mind, the young dragon reached up to the tie at the back of his head and carefully undid the ribbon, ears bright red. His uncle had said that the ribbon could only go to that one special person, and he certainly considered A-Ying that special person, but actually going through the bold act of admitting it was flustering him. But he needed to get that message across to A-Ying, right? So he took the ribbon and wrapped it around the young fox's arm, tying it off at the end. "Give you. Never alone now."

 

The fox kit sniffed sharply and swiped at his eyes with his forearm, then looked at Lan Zhan, then down at the ribbon. "...Your headband?" He asked tentatively after a moment. It was weird to see his bare forehead, but he was blushing so much! He couldn't help but stare at this unusual show of visible emotion. "...Oh!" He suddenly brightened, and his expression became hopeful. "A-Zhan, does this mean I can go with you to your sect?" He asked in excitement, if he was in his partial beast form, his tail would be wagging madly.

 

"Mn. Will ask." Though Lan Zhan was stubborn. Always had been. And so he wasn't all that willing to accept a 'no' from his uncle. In that case, was it truly accurate to call it 'asking'? But no matter, he didn't want to leave A-Ying and if leaving the town was inevitable, then he could just bring A-Ying with him. Standing up, then, he edged his way towards the end of the roof, looking down for the best way to climb down before fixing his gaze back on A-Ying to try and silently prompt him to follow.

 

The boy couldn't stop smiling now, and he turned into his half-beast form with a small poof of mist as he trotted over and gave A-Zhan a hug around the neck as he rubbed his cheek against the young dragon's, before giving him a small kiss on the spot. "A-Zhan, over here." He said, taking the other boy's hand and leading him over to the spot he usually climbed up, it had a good tree with lots of twists and gnarls for small claws to dig into. "Watch how I go down, then you follow me, okay?" He said before climbing slowly, deliberately, down the tree, looking back at him regularly to make sure he was watching.

 

The action only served to make Lan Zhan's ears grow even redder and it took the dragon a moment before he realized they were trying to move and climb down. Focusing back on the task at hand, he watched as A-Ying scaled down the tree, trying to keep note of how he braced himself as he went. He hadn't actually tried a half-transformation before since it was typically an all or nothing kind of deal within the sect. There wasn't really a need to perform a half-transformation and it had even been taught to him as if it was a sign of not being under full control of one's transformation magic, but it certainly seemed useful in this situation. So trying to summon his claws in his hands, he took a few moments before he attempted to scale down as A-Ying had done. It was a bit awkward with not having as great a grip with his feet, but he did manage to climb down and was soon back on solid ground with his claws reverted back to normal human hands.

 

"Careful, careful..." Wei Ying murmured as he watched Lan Zhan come down, hands actually held ready to try and catch him if he did fall. (Which probably would not have ended well, given the difference in their sizes and nutrition.) Once he arrived, the stray fox grinned and clapped. "You climbed your first tree!" He said cheerfully. "Lan Zhan, was it fun?"

 

Lan Zhan was quiet for a bit before he eventually answered with, “Weird.” He honestly preferred jumping even if it required his dragon form. It was so much faster to do and it was a format he recognized already.

 

"Ahahahahahaha!" He laughed, taking hold of his hand again as they started walking. "Well, I guess you don't have to do it again. Once we get older and stronger, it won't really be a problem I guess. We can just jump everywhere. Or fly!"

 

"Mn." It really was unfortunate that his uncle had forbidden him from flying practice for another year. It would've been nice to be able to fly A-Ying anywhere. But that would have to wait. For now, unbothered by A-Ying holding his hand, he led the way back towards the inn he was staying at.

 

Maybe because he wanted to keep holding his hand a while longer, or maybe because he was excited and kept getting distracted, but it took them a while to get to the inn, because every once in a while, A-Ying would suddenly say 'ah, wait wait wait wait wait- A-Zhan, over here-' and drag him off towards whatever caught his eye. On the way there, they passed a street cart that had blown sugar candy on a stick. Wei Ying's eyes lit up when he saw the candy animal shapes, particularly the bunny ones. "A-Zhan, look! They're cute, right? Let's get a pair? Have you ever had blown sugar candy before?"

 

Looking over at the stand, he shook his head once before walking them over to the stand. Perching up on his tiptoes, Lan Zhan then held up two fingers, pointed towards the bunny shaped candies, and set down a coin to pay for both of them. When he was handed both of them, he held out one towards A-Ying for him to take.

 

He gleefully took the stick the candy was perched on, and began to nibble on the ears right away. Satisfied, he was now willing to be led back to the Inn with no further fuss. It was a very nice establishment, refined without being ostentatious, and very clean. But, it was pretty clear to most passing by that it was made of very high class materials. When they arrived, Wei Ying paused, looking down at himself as he brushed at his old, faded, fairly worn clothing. He did wash it and himself every day, but he felt he might look a bit out of place as the material was a tinge worse for wear, and a little bit small for his size.

 

Once they arrived at the inn, Lan Zhan made a beeline for their reserved rooms. Around this time, his uncle was probably just about done with his tea and so shouldn't mind a conversation about this. His brother was also probably already in the room as well so if his own words failed him as they tended to do, Lan Huan could jump in and help him. Upon entering the room however, he didn't even get much of a chance to address either of them before Lan Qiren had noticed him and his suspicious lack of forehead ribbon and was on his feet in shock. "Lan Zhan, what is the meaning of this!?" 

Fixing his uncle and brother with his usual stoic expression, he greeted them with a, "Uncle. Brother," as Lan Huan hid his mouth with a sleeve upon reading his expression. 

"A-Zhan, your pe--ah, forehead ribbon...?" In response to that question, the young dragon raised the hand that was still in A-Ying's hand, said ribbon wrapped around the fox's wrist there.

 

In his fully human appearance, the boy smiled at the two older dragons, giving them a wave and a bow, unable to properly salute with Lan Zhan holding one of his hands. "Yin- Wei Ying greets Master Lan, greeting Young Master Lan Huan!" He felt relatively at ease around Lan Huan, he was a gentle seeming sort and wasn't very stiff, but he had no real impression of their uncle yet, other than he seemed a bit stern.

 

Growing red in the face, Lan Qiren exclaimed, "Lan Zhan! You dare to be so callous with your ribbon!? I know I have taught you better!" 

Expression remaining unchanging, Lan Zhan shook his head once. "This one knows. Gave A-Ying." That only seemed to inflame his uncle's anger more, but before he could cut in again, Lan Huan spoke up. 

"A-Zhan, aren't you being a bit too hasty? You haven't grown up enough. I think you should wait a bit longer." The younger of the two sent him a look, mouth opening perhaps to protest with a 'brother' before Lan Huan was giving an exasperated huff. "Don't look at me like that, you should know you're being rash." 

"Not rash. Special person. Want to bring A-Ying home." He wasn't quite doing it yet, but Lan Zhan was getting rather close to openly pouting. He could be stubborn, if he had no choice but to return home, he was bringing his friend back with him.

 

Looking between all of them, Wei Ying began to look a little uncertain, leaning on to whisper to Lan Zhan, "A-Zhan, this ribbon is more important than I thought? Do you need it back?... Is it like an immortal raiment, and you need it to go back home?!" He asked the last part with some alarm, eyes widening. He didn't want his friend to be barred from going home!

 

Stubbornly, Lan Zhan shook his head again, this time towards Wei Ying. "A-Ying and ribbon, same importance. Bring both back." 

Laughing a bit nervously, Lan Huan looked up towards where their uncle was standing, uncertain if he should try to mitigate more. Lan Qiren, in the meantime, was circling around the table he had just been at and was making his way towards the two young boys by the door as he spoke. "You are being ridiculous! Reclaim your ribbon immediately! You are too young for this! You are not giving your pearl to some street boy you met only a few weeks ago!" 

As one of the only people who could, the older dragon made to reach out and remove the ribbon himself, but the moment Lan Qiren stepped within arm's reach of the two boys, Lan Zhan had flinched and stepped back, drawing the fox kit (and therefore ribbon as well) behind his back with an adamant, "No. Special person. This one is certain."

 

The words pricked like a needle, and when he was urged behind Lan Zhan, he didn't resist and hid behind him, lightly gripping the clothes on his back as he peered at the adult over his shoulder. Pearl? What Pearl? Oh yeah, now that he thought of it, didn't dragons have pearls? They were important for something... right? In any case, what was this guy getting mad about? "What pearl?" He murmured under his breath, then spoke up. "Master Lan, I'm not 'some street boy'." He protested, letting his ears and tail show. "I'm 'some street fox'. My name is Wei Ying. My mom said that basic courtesy starts with names."

 

Once again holding back a laugh behind a sleeve, Lan Huan decided to try mediating before Lan Qiren spoke out out of anger again. "A-Zhan, what if you took it back temporarily and then gave it back to Young Master Wei when you're both older and you know for certain that you wish to?" 

Lan Zhan frowned a bit unhappily but tried to go about it a different way. "A-Ying is alone here. This one wishes to bring him home. ...Can wait, but not leaving him."

 

The fox nodded in agreement. "I want to go with A-Zhan." He said firmly. "He's my only friend. Please." He said with another bow, this time also giving a salute because his hands were free.

 

Exasperated, Lan Qiren pinched the bridge of his nose, staying like that for some time before eventually fixing his gaze back on Lan Zhan. "Well then reclaim your ribbon! You cannot just hand it out that easily! And we will discuss the return trip later!" 

Puffing out his cheeks, Lan Zhan turned towards A-Ying and complied, picking at the knot around the fox's wrist and unraveling the forehead ribbon from around it. With it freed from the other child's wrist, he then brought it back up to wrap around his forehead again and tied it in place.

 

Having a naturally easy-going personality by default, once it seemed that he wasn't being chased out, his ears perked up and his tail began to sway a little as he gave Lan Zhan a small smile, then mouthed a 'Xie xie~' to Lan Huan for trying to help once the Scary Uncle wasn't looking directly at him. He'd never actually been inside the inn before, so he looked around curiously, sticking with his friend like glue.

 

Noting that his uncle didn't want to speak more on the subject for now, Lan Zhan made to move towards the smaller of the two interconnected rooms, figuring that A-Ying would soon be following behind him. He and Lan Huan were sharing the bed in this room since they were both small and young enough to fit on it, and since Lan Huan was currently in the large room, that left this room open for them to do whatever A-Ying might want to do. So for now, the small dragon made his way over to the bed and settled down to sit on the edge of it.

 

Wei Ying followed right after him, and instead of sitting down right away, he indulged his instincts a bit and explored the room first. Other than the furnishings it came with, there wasn't a lot in there. Not that he expected Lan Zhan to bring a ton of stuff, but... not even one toy? Oh wait, he had a guqin! "Hey, A-Zhan, do you want to play some music together?" He said as he went to sit by him, pulling his flute from his belt.

 

Blinking, Lan Zhan fixed the other child with a slightly curious but hesitant gaze. "What song?" He did have his guqin with him since his uncle didn't want him and his brother to fall too behind on studies, but most of the songs he had learned were largely for musical cultivation. There were only a few songs outside of that category that the young dragon had picked in order to show them to his mother and he wasn't sure if A-Ying would know those. He wouldn't be surprised if the songs he'd personally picked were only local to the GusuLan territory.

 

"Um...." He paused, thinking about it as he looked at the ceiling absentmindedly. "Well, I don't suppose you know the Skyward Stair song?" It was one his mother had taught him. She had served an immortal by the name of BaoShan SanRen, and knew a number of heavenly and divine melodies, while his father had been of much more humble origin, a normal fox with some demonic energy, who had been picked up by a cultivator and was working on the path to enlightenment. The two had made a game of one person starting a melody, then the second adding to it, and so on and so forth, but Skyward Stair was one of the proper ones his mom had taught him.

 

Blankly, Lan Zhan tilted his head to one side ever so slightly before slowly shaking his head. He'd never heard any title even close to that. He was currently studying Clarity, Resting, and the beginnings of Evocation among others, but nothing that seemed close to what A-Ying was suggesting.

 

"Ah, that's okay, that's okay. It's one of the ones my mom knew. But, I have another idea!" He said cheerfully. "We can play a game with music! So, I'd start, for example, then you'd join me, and then we play together for a while, and when you see a good opening, you can change the tune to something, then I follow you! Make sense?"

 

Well...it did make sense, but Lan Zhan had never done something like that before. He was accustomed to rigid scores that needed to be memorized so the thought of purposefully changing the score was novel to him. How would he even know how to do that? But he already didn't know anything about A-Ying's first suggestion and he didn't want to disappoint him with not knowing how to go about this particular activity. "...Mn."

 

"We can start slow, no worries~!" He said, leaning in to bump shoulders with A-Zhan before lifting the flute to his lips and playing something peaceful and spring-like but cheerful, he'd been inspired by plum blossoms earlier and a little bird that had come to take some petals. The tune of the flute sometimes mimicked the sound of the bird, or the flutter of its wings, how it rose or dove through the air.

 

Pulling his guqin out of his qiankun pouch, he settled it across his lap and remained motionless for several bars to just listen to the melody. Contemplating over the lilting notes, he felt as if he'd be able to play something simple to accompany the tune, but he wasn't sure how he was going to modify it. To start it off, at least, he jumped in with intermittent harmonizing chords, letting them ring out for a few seconds before moving onto the next one. However, when some time had passed and Lan Zhan felt as if A-Ying wanted him to try changing it up, he fumbled and strummed a discordant combination of strings and abruptly stopped, cringing at the ugly sound and ears flushing in embarrassment.

 

The flute paused a moment, and he brought it away from his lips. "It's okay, go again. I'll join you this time." If he seemed to be stuck briefly in embarrassment, Wei Ying would scratch his chin in thought before asking "A-Zhan, what do you feel when you play?"

 

Once again, Lan Zhan gave him a blank look. What exactly did he mean by 'feel'? "...How best to accompany. Which notes compliment others." He had been growing up focusing on the importance of accuracy. He needed to be able to tell the differences between each and every note and which exact note combinations created certain chords or effects for when he usually used his spiritual energy in tandem with the cultivation scores.

 

He fiddled with the tassel hanging from his flute as he tried to put his words together. "... Have you ever seen a play? Like, the love ballad of Cang Qiong Mountain?" That was a pretty old one. "Or anything about the Journey to the West? If not, have you ever wondered how birds are feeling when they sing? Are there some sounds that make you feel calmer, or some that scare you, or make you angry, or sad? That's how I play. I play how my heart feels.... I mean, it sounds good because mom and dad taught me good foundations, and you have good foundations too. I love listening to you play. But sometimes, the world and your heart can tell you what to play, not just your head." He smiled and hugged his flute happily. "Dad said that. And mistakes are okay, if you learn from them. Right?"

 

Quietly, he protested the last assertion. “Mistakes are grounds for punishment. A righteous cultivator abides by the 3000 rules.” By this point, it sounded more as if the young dragon was quoting someone’s words and that wouldn’t be a wrong assumption. From both his uncle and his classes’ teachers, he had heard different variations of those words directed at him. Therefore he had learned that he mustn’t ever make such grievous mistakes if he wanted to become a respected cultivator. Would they still apply the same to these random scores A-Ying was suggesting they make?

 

"Well, wow." He murmured as he rubbed the back of his neck. "3000 rules? All cultivators? I'm pretty sure my mom and dad didn't have 3000 rules, and they were pretty righteous I think. Ah, maybe it's different for foxes...?" He crossed his arms and tilted his head, frowning as he thought that over. Then, he sighed and shrugged. "In any case, are you saying you can never make any mistakes when you learn something new? Or when you do something you enjoy?"

 

Lan Zhan furrowed his brows as he thought. Had he made mistakes as he was learning how to play the guqin? It was a rather difficult instrument and the slightest misplacement of a finger could create a wrong note. On the contrary, it would be a miracle if he hadn’t made one mistake while learning. As for something he enjoyed, outside of the guqin, he enjoyed reading; poetry mostly. However in those situations if there was something he couldn’t read, he typically bookmarked it and held onto it to ask his uncle later. Realizing he had spent too long contemplating and had left A-Ying hanging without an answer, he eventually said, “...Do not remember punishment during practices...”

 

"See? So mistakes like these are okay! Especially when you play again later, and you don't make the same mistake eventually because you learn!" He said happily. "I used to just tonelessly blow on a whistle I had, until it drove mom crazy, ahahaha~ I think probably bad mistakes are ones that hurt yourself or other people." He brought the flute up to his lips again. "Do you want to play one this time, and I'll try to follow you?"

 

Looking down at his guqin, he eventually gave a hesitant little nod. He still wasn't really sure about what kind of tune he would play, but he didn't want to disappoint his friend. Testing the waters, he started out with just very simple chords and notes, hoping that eventually, he'd grow more comfortable the longer they played.

 

He nodded, and after a few moments, he joined in. They went back and forth like this for some time, and as a result, someone passing by noticed that the atmosphere had changed subtly. Yin energy within the vicinity had harmonized, slight enough that not just anyone would notice.

But then again, Luo Binghe was not just anyone.

 

As time went on, Lan Zhan had gradually begun to get a bit more used to relying less on known scores. He still sometimes ended up playing some measures from songs he had already learned, but A-Ying was slowly coaxing him out of those by playing bubbly, energetic music that didn’t quite fit the calming melodies he was used to.

 

After a good amount of time had passed, once they reached a stopping point that seemed natural, he put the flute down and smiled at Lan Zhan, giving him a pat on the shoulder. "That was really fun! A-Zhan, did you have a good time?"

 

He gave a little nod in response. "Always good with A-Ying." Absentmindedly, he moved his hands lightly across his guqin's strings, not playing anything, simply fiddling, as his ears grew red at the admission.

 

The boy giggled before having an idea, mischief crossing his face as he let out a yawn. "Aaaah, A-Zhan, it's really warm today, isn't it? I think I'm gonna take a nap." There was a poof of mist as he turned into his fox form, then moved over the space between them to curl up against the other boy's side. "Mm, that's better." He mumbled to himself happily. If the guqin wasn't on Lan Zhan's lap, he would have climbed there.

 

Eyes wide, he dismissed his guqin back to it's qiankun pouch with a simple hand motion and looked down at the small fox. Now that he seemed to be adamant on sleeping, Lan Zhan wasn't sure what to do. He was supposed to wake up at 5am and go to sleep at 9pm and there was no word on if daytime naps were allowed for him. Did he simply have to just sit here like this while Wei Ying napped?

 

"Oh wait wait-" he said, suddenly lifting his head and climbing onto his lap instead, making himself comfy. "Ah, yep, perfect. Hey A-Zhan, lend me your lap, will you? In return, you can pet me all you like! I'm really soft, you know?"

 

With the small weight of Wei Ying in his lap now, Lan Zhan was even more stuck on what to do. He couldn't exactly kick him out of his lap, but there was no way of knowing how long the fox would be staying like this. Awkwardly, he set his little hand on the fox's curled up back, not moving it, simply letting it rest there.

 

Of course, Wei Ying wasn't actually sleeping. He just wanted to snuggle with his recalcitrant friend and made up an excuse. But when he seemed afraid to move, after a minute or two, he opened an eye and looked up at Lan Zhan. "A-Zhan, have you never pet anything before?" He asked curiously.

 

"Rule 1037, pets are not allowed within Cloud Recesses," Lan Zhan started off automatically. Then he added on an additional, "It is also rude to act so familiar and patronizingly towards another." Granted, he didn't actually know what 'patronizing' meant yet, but he remembered his uncle using the word when he had caught the young dragon staring at the soft-looking ears of some bunnies outside of Cloud Recesses with curiosity.

 

He now opened both eyes and rolled so the top of his head was against Lan Zhan's stomach, ears smooshed cutely to either side of his head as he said. "I touch you a lot though. Should I stop? Does it make you mad?"

 

Inwardly, Lan Zhan panicked. No, he didn't want that at all. Touch was uncomfortable for him, but only from other people. Even with his uncle and brother, he wasn't quite comfortable with physical contact, but Wei Ying was different. He didn't mind it at all and so he absolutely didn't want him to stop. "Not mad. A-Ying is special. A-Ying can touch."

 

The fox smiled. "A-Zhan is special. A-Zhan can touch." He countered with a childish smug tone. "You're my friend and I say it's okay."

 

Flushing at his words being thrown back at him, it took a few long moments before he hesitantly started to pet him, moving only his thumb in the lightest possible touch.

 

He made a happy little squeaky chirping noise, and turned his head so the little dragon would get just the right spot, pressing into the touch a little more.

 

Watching the fox intently, Lan Zhan grew a bit more confident and increased the pressure slightly, shifting to using the rest of his hand as he used slow movements. Wei Ying looked so content like this and he couldn't help but file away the adorable little noises he made in the back of his mind.

 

And he was perfectly happy to stay right where he was for as long as he was allowed. After a while though, his stomach did start to grumble, so he figured it was time to find something to eat, which prompted him to sigh and get up, turning back to human form. "A-Zhan, I'm hungry. Let's go get something to eat!" He was happy to hang out with the dragon boy for as long as possible, even sitting next to him while he worked on his writing, though the fox himself did a little bit of drawing instead. Little rabbits, foxes, dragons, swords, and some monsters and ghosts too, in doodle-y forms.

 

"Mn." Standing up from the bed, Lan Zhan made his way back out to the other room, figuring that Wei Ying would be right behind him. Turning to address his uncle who had been in meditation, he said, "Uncle. This one will go out to purchase food for A-Ying." 

Opening his eyes to examine his nephew, Lan Qiren replied with, "Be prudent about the time. We must have a discussion later. There are some ground rules I will not have you breaking, Lan Zhan. And Wei Ying, you must return for the night to allow us this discussion. You may come back tomorrow."

 

"Alright, thank you, Master Lan! Goodnight! Goodnight Young Master Lan Huan!" He said, giving them a proper bow and salute before leaving after Lan Zhan. "A-Zhan, you eat something with me too!"

He didn't see the look of distaste one of the people in the hallway gave him as they left the Inn.

 

"Mn." Moving from the inn and towards the town's marketplace, Lan Zhan casually glanced around for something that Wei Ying might want to eat. Of course, it was also very likely that the young fox would blaze ahead of him and find something on his own, so should that happen, he was just as willing to get him something from whatever stand caught his attention.

 

The fox settled on a spicy fishball soup that caught his eye on this particular afternoon, it had plenty of veggies, which he saw that Lan Zhan seemed to like (which was odd, because as a dragon shouldn't he be eating SOME meat?), so he hoped both of them would be happy with the dish. It was near the Lotus pond, so they took a seat on a bench there to eat, with a couple bamboo canteens of tea to drink.

 

As it tended to be, the spice level of the dish Wei Ying had chosen was too much for Lan Zhan. However, the fox had wanted him to eat together and so he settled in for silently suffering through the spices in the soup (though spices aside, it really was a very good dish). Thankfully, he also had the tea to help sooth his mouth and so he made do with the meal like this.

 

As usual, Wei Ying was perfectly happy to chatter away at the quiet boy during this time. At one point, something occurred to him, and he grabbed his flute, taking the tassel off it. It was black, and had three little fox beads on it carved from ebony and ivory. "A-Zhan, I know your headband is very important, but we can exchange something else, can't we?" He held out the tassel. "I'll give you this! It's a fox charm!"

 

With wide eyes, he shifted his gaze down to the tassel. "...Fox charm?" Did that mean there was some sort of talisman embedded in it for protection or some other effect? The name seemed to imply that at least. "...This seems important as well."

 

"Kinda, yeah." He said, playing it off lightly. The threads were woven out of his family's fur, and the beads were charmed to take three fatal blows for the holder of the charm. The black one was already used up, which left two more on it. "It has a misdirection spell woven into it, so if someone attacks you from far away, it has a higher chance of missing you."

 

Hearing that, Lan Zhan's eyes only grew wider. This seemed far more important than Wei Ying was making it out to be, he couldn't accept this! Wei Ying would be left with no additional protection if he took--Suddenly remembering something, he pulled out something that was carefully hidden behind his belt and untied it from the fabric. From what he had gathered, his mother had created the white jade dragon that was on this blue tassel. She was a powerful cultivator in her own right and had enchanted the stone with some sort of protection spell. How long the spell would last, he didn't know, but it seemed like it would clear out any harmful toxins as well as assist in regulating qi for a certain amount of time. With this, it would be a far more fair trade. "Then A-Ying should take this."

 

"Mn!" He said, happily taking the jade dragon as he handed over the fox charm and looking at it before tying it to his belt, admiring it. "It's really pretty." He said with pleasure as he played with the strands in the tassel. "Thank you, A-Zhan." He set down the now-empty bowl beside them and leaned over to give him another hug.

 

"Mn." Switching with the fox charm, he also tied it onto his own belt, letting the charm dangle out in the open instead of tucking it within his clothes like he had with his mother's charm.

 

The fox would probably hide it away later to keep it from getting spotted by pickpockets, but he didn't want to hide it at the moment. He wanted his friend to see he treasured it.

Once they finished and returned the bowls to the lady at the stall, Wei Ying sighed, knowing it was time to go back to the coffin house... But today would probably be the last time! So with that in mind, he turned to Lan Zhan. "If you don't have time to walk me back, that's okay, but if you do..." He held out a hand to the solemn child.

 

Lan Zhan wasn't exactly privy to leaving Wei Ying right away, so he looked up at the sky to judge how much time he could spare. It certainly wasn't anywhere near curfew and surely the discussion with his uncle wouldn't last all the way until then, so he was probably fine to linger with the fox more, right? So with that in mind, he nodded and took the other child's hand.

 

He swung the hand between them as they headed back to the coffin house. Over the last three weeks, the atmosphere had negated even more, to the point it was just about as balanced as anywhere else in the city. Upon arrival, Wei Ying stopped and turned, wrapping Lan Zhan in another hug, and kissing his cheek near one of those expressive ears. "I'll see you tomorrow, A-Zhan!"

 

Said ears blushed crimson as Wei Ying did so and overcome by the instinct that usually only rose up in his dragon form, he leaned in to nuzzle at the child's face and neck. "Mn. See you." In just a few more hours, he wouldn't need to continue worrying about if he'd ever have to say goodbye to the fox. It seemed nearly set in stone that his uncle was going to allow Wei Ying to return home with them and when that happened, he could spend as much time as he wanted with the young kit.

 

Goodbyes given for the day, Wei Ying turned and went back into the coffin house after he saw Lan Zhan off, humming to himself as he began putting what little belongings he had together in a bundle, then taking some food from his stash and a few sticks of incense for the altar inside, where he’d placed two tablets. He clapped his hands together as he knelt down. "I just wanted to say thank you to those of you remaining here, for watching out for me all this time. I think I'll be moving on soon. I hope you all can find peace and rest at last." He paused, then added, "And, mom and dad... you don't have to worry about me anymore. I met someone nice, a new friend, and he looks after me. I'll introduce you to him, someday. I love you." He spent some time kneeling there, watching the smoke rise as the sticks burned down. Once they were, he cleaned everything up and got ready for bed. Tomorrow was going to be great.

 

As quickly as he could without actually running, Lan Zhan made his way back to the inn and to their room, immediately bowing and greeting his uncle before kneeling down next to his brother and across from Lan Qiren. "Lan Zhan," his uncle started, "you will copy the Book of Conduct twice for that stunt you pulled. Do you truly understand how important your pearl is!? You absolutely cannot just hand it off like that, especially before you have fully matured! Now, I do not have issues with bringing Wei Ying back with us to Cloud Recesses, he seems intelligent despite that snarky streak he seems to have and he would only waste away here, but if I ever hear you have done something that impulsive once again, I will forbid you from seeing him for at least ten years!" 

Head bowed, the young dragon murmured his understanding in-between the break in words the elder left. And much in this vein, Lan Qiren continued on his scolding, going on quite a bit more before finally going into some of the things he expected to be upheld. By the time it was reaching nine, while sleepy from the eventful day, the little Lan was eager for the next day to come, when he’d be able to make one last final trip to the coffin house.

 

A few moments after the two young dragons had retreated to their own room for bed, there was a knock at the door, followed by a voice.  “Acting Sect Leader, I have a message for you, an invitation from the Su clan of Moling…”

Chapter Text

He couldn't stop rubbing the jade dragon with his fingers. Over and over, tracing the carved scales and gentian flowers framing it, the long, delicate looking tassels dangling down, feeling smooth in his hands.

Three days.

He'd been waiting for three days, and today, he'd finally given up hope.

He stared despondently at the flowers in the garden as he went over everything in his head, again and again. Did he do something wrong? Was this his fault? 

Was he really unworthy? 

The day after he had last seen Lan Zhan, he waited. He’d waited until the day was already half over before becoming mildly anxious. He’d left the coffin house by himself, in human form, and made his way over to the inn, to see if something was wrong. When he’d arrived and asked to see the Lans, the proprietress said they had left early in the morning in a hurry. Shocked and disbelieving, Wei Ying had insisted on trying to go in and talk to them, upon which one of the men from their sect came over to speak to him. He had been incredibly cold and disdaining, telling the small fox that he should really just give up and move on, that Master Lan had said no and convinced Lan Zhan that he was a waste of time and effort and how dare a lowly, dirty, mixed-breed stray fox think he could be worthy to join a clan of dragons? Even as a servant, or a slave, such aspirations were too much to hope for.

Crying out that he must be lying, Wei Ying had transformed and ran around him, calling out to his friend loudly. But when he got to the rooms, they were indeed empty. He was then grabbed by the cultivator and tossed out onto the street, along with a small pouch of silver. Proclaiming that it was an act of kindness from the Lans so he could move along out of the town, he then turned back to the innkeeper woman and told her not to let him back in, that he was noisy and probably had fleas, and that he had to stay in town another few days.

Stunned, the fox didn't move for some time, before running off without the money. He went all over the town, calling out desperately for his friend, not willing to think about it, not wanting to believe he'd been left alone again. He didn't sleep that night, going back to the inn to see if he could find them, if they returned... to no avail. The second day, after he finally stopped searching, he went back to the coffin house to wait. He waited all the third day as well, only eating in the evening from his stash, and barely able to get the food down. 

By now, even in the light rain that had started, he didn't feel cold. He felt...numb. He really should move on, he supposed...there was nothing left for him here, and at least he had already packed all his things. He wiped at his wet face, only now realizing it was raining. He laughed harshly at himself, choking up slightly. "Pathetic..." He murmured hoarsely. He wasn't going to give up. He still had to keep his promise to his parents. He- 

Too late, he saw a flash of movement from the corner of his eye, and he screamed as a dog bit his arm savagely. Reflexively, he scratched it's eyes, making it release him with a yelp, as he sprang up from the bench, holding his now bleeding arm. 

There was a cruel chuckle. "Stupid fox, I told you not to let us catch you alone again..." 

Stupid!! He was trapped!! The main garden gate was blocked by dogs! He stiffened briefly in fear as they came closer, and he let out a small, panicked whimper as he stumbled backwards. Oh wait! That was right! There was a doghole he could get through!!

Reacting on pure fear and adrenaline, he leapt for the hole, transforming as he went to his fully fox form, streaking through the small hole- only to yelp again as a dog on the other side bit one of his hind legs and began to shake him. The fox screamed and wailed in terror, calling for help, calling for his parents, for Lan Zhan, but no one appeared- 

...No one living, that was. The air began to chill, and the dog holding him yelped, letting him go and letting the small, furry body sail through the air to roll on the ground of the alleyway, as four sets of bleeding scratches appeared on his flank. In the shadows, the faint flickering fires of two ghosts swirled around, and a badly decomposed corpse had dragged itself from the garden through the doghole, it's ragged, sharp nails having scored a hit on the dog's flank. It hissed at the dog as Wei Ying tried desperately to get to his feet, shaking and crying in fear, and then in pain as the rear leg wouldn't hold his weight. More dogs were now entering the alleyway, being cautious because of the partial corpse and the small ghosts, but they had him outnumbered, and he couldn't run. "This is the end, Foxy-

"Well well. This is an unexpected windfall."

The dogs stopped once again as someone, some thing new, entered the alleyway. The dead tried defending the fox from it, but dissolved completely almost right away.

Wei Ying turned around, wondering who had come, and promptly began to scream again as the BIGGEST canine he'd ever seen in his life appeared; a giant black wolf with horns, burning red eyes, and shadowy wings on it's back. He shook even harder as it casually approached him, trying to crawl away without taking his eyes off it. "N-no, dog, dog, p-please, n-n-n-no, NO, DON'T- AH!!" 

The massive jaws of the dog-like demon closed on the small fox body as he went limp, gentle but firm, the teeth barely even pressing against his skin. The wolf's tail wagged, seeming to be happy, when suddenly there was more shouting. He then looked annoyed; those demon hunters again. They had been futilely trying to kill him for some time. Laughable. He released his aura, swamping everyone there with its enormity and making them stay back.

 

It was the strange spike of yin energy that had first drawn in Lan Qiren and the rest of their party. Despite having been in this town for almost a full month, they had never sensed this kind of energy before, which was why they hurried to investigate before even stopping by the inn first. Once they had finally tracked the source down, it still took them a bit to even process what was going on. The panicked cry of “A-Ying!” was what finally clicked things into place. Entirely forgetting about the no yelling rule, young Lan Zhan had been the first to recognize the small mass of black and red fur within the demon dog’s jaw, the fox’s form almost completely blending in with the larger creature. 

With the most emotion openly on his face than even his brother had ever seen, Lan Zhan attempted to run out towards the (dead...? Gods he really hoped not) fox, body misting and seconds away from transforming in his distress before the collar of his robes was grabbed. “N-no, no!! A-Ying is...! A-Ying...! The dog... A-Ying!!” 

Concerned as well about the young fox but also needing to make sure his nephew didn’t attempt a suicide mission (and the boy was stubborn; he absolutely would try), Lan Qiren wrapped a firm arm around the younger boy’s body, very nearly picking him up to prevent him from rushing forward. “Lan Zhan, you mustn’t! That...creature... There’s no way you can do anything against that!” However, it seemed that his words fell on deaf ears as the small boy was still trying to break free of the grasp around him, desperately repeating the same few words.

 

"...-Zhan..." A small, unconscious whimper issued from the fox as the beast flared its wings, knocking the demon hunters back. As if realizing that he'd tightened his jaw a little, the beast decided it was time to go. It was unconcerned about the pests surrounding it, but the small fox was much weaker and less durable, and could die in the conflict. With that in mind, without sparing the white robed cultivators more than a glance, it leaped over the roof of the nearest building and snapped open its wings, flying away from town.

Watching the demon flee, Su She was a mixture of angry, relieved, and fearful. They'd returned sooner than expected and the fox still hadn't left town. He was hoping that something would happen, this giant demonic beast had surely saved him some trouble by removing the little piece of trash from the scene.

 

Once the creature flew away, all the fight left Lan Zhan’s small body, wide trembling eyes watching the black dot disappear past the horizon. He couldn’t fly after! He didn’t know how to! He was stuck here on the ground unable to do anything as his friend was taken away from him...! Miserably, the young dragon hid his face in the fabric of his uncle’s robes, a concerned Lan Huan also approaching. Allowing his nephew this for now instead of scolding him, Lan Qiren turned towards Su She. “Su Minshan! What in the world happened? Why was Wei Ying all the way over here? I told you to pass on my message to him, he should’ve been in the inn at the very least!”

 

The man dropped to his knees, mind whirling for an excuse. "I delivered the message, sir, but- Well, he's a fox! He was bored without Second Young Master Lan around and I sadly am poor at entertaining children. I barely took my eyes off him for one minute and he slipped outside!"

 

Hearing that only served to make Lan Zhan feel even guiltier, his small frame tense against his uncle. He really didn't have to go with the rest of his family despite the written contents of the invitation that drew them away. Once they had actually arrived at the other sect, it had largely been the adults talking amongst themselves while he and Lan Huan had sat quietly and politely at each side of their uncle. He could've been here with Wei Ying and kept him company and then this wouldn't've happened to him! 

Sighing, Lan Qiren directed Su She to stand up again before addressing to everyone that they head back to the inn. When Lan Zhan wouldn't budge from his hiding spot within the elder dragon's robes, he barked out a, "Lan Zhan, remember yourself! I will not be carrying you back to the inn, you have your own two feet!" Sullenly, the young dragon complied but kept his head down as they walked back, not saying anything even when they reentered their rooms and he blankly looked around, vaguely noticing that there were no signs of Wei Ying even being in here. No belongings or mess left behind at all.

 

Su She was feeling incredibly nervous, though he tried not to show it. "Master Lan, how did the visit go? I thought that after you returned, you'd collect the fox and we would be off." Returning to the inn was not according to plan! He exchanged looks with the surprised looking innkeeper woman as they swept back into the establishment. 

Entering one of the rooms, one of the servant girls was inside holding cleaning equipment and she startled when she saw the group of white-robed cultivators. "Ah, t-terribly sorry for intruding!" She said with a bow before backing out, looking quite confused.

 

Eyes scanning the room with a critical eye, Lan Qiren only gave a noncommittal grunt in response to Su She's inquiry before touching on another topic entirely. "Su Minshan, recite to me Rule 168 of our sect." He paused to give the man a chance to speak, but when the silence dragged on for longer than he was willing to allow, he looked for someone else to recite it. He had initially had Lan Zhan on his mind to ask, but the young dragon was no longer in sight and he could sense him in the other room with some sort of weighted down feeling. Switching gears, he called out to his older nephew, who startled slightly, clearly having been caught up in his own mind. "Lan Huan. Rule 168." 

Dutifully, the young sect heir immediately responded with, "Yes, Uncle. Rule 168, lying is forbidden." 

"Mn, good. Now tell me, why do I not see any evidence of Wei Ying having been in here? I believe I made it very clear that he was allowed to return to our sect on the premise that he adopts our rules and teachings."

 

"He-he wanted to stay at that... place he was staying at." He stammered. "That... sir, a fox living in such a place of death, I don't think he'd ever properly follow the rules." He then added in a low voice, "And doesn't it seem... ominous? What if he were to bring bad luck or harm to the Second Young Master Lan?"

 

"One mustn't judge without sufficient evidence. A child as young as that, how can it be possible to determine whether he would grow up evil or not? We have our teachings precisely because we can prevent something like that from happening with them." He may have sensed an odd mix of something from the little fox, but it certainly wasn't ominous.

 

The man hung his head and kowtowed. "Yes, Master, this disciple knows his wrong-" 

"M-Master cultivators, I'm sorry to interrupt!" 

At the door, the maid had come back. She was a curious girl, and wanted to hear why they left. When she heard the lies spilling from the man's mouth, something twisted in her gut. She'd seen what had happened that day, had seen the fox child running around town afterwards, heard how sad he was. She'd known the boy; when she was down after being beaten by her mistress one day, he'd come by and cheered her up, giving her a poultice for her bruises.

This cultivator, on the other hand, was a jerk. He appeared nice while his fellow sect members were around, but he was spiteful and sneered at those who made mistakes. Kindness and enmity must be returned, right? 

Su She rose from the bow and snapped. "Do you have any place to interrupt-"

 

With a hard stare and dismissive wave of his sleeve, Lan Qiren quieted the other man's protest before addressing the maid. "Speak freely. Is there some need for a night hunt?"

 

She sat on her knees, avoiding looking at the black-faced cultivator. "N-no, sir. It's about the boy... th-that fairy fox? I was here three days ago, and I saw that cultivator-" She nodded in Su She's direction. "I didn't hear everything he said, but his manner was extremely harsh. The boy was very upset, and was thrown out of the inn-" 

"Fei Rong!! What lies are you telling these honored people?!" The owner of the inn rushed in and bowed profusely. "I'm so sorry sir, this girl has been very inappropriate with this young master, and she was mad when he turned her down, so-" 

"I'm not lying!" She interrupted, jerking her arm away. "The owner told us all that the cultivator said to not let the fox back in here and chase him away if he were to return! Ask anyone, ask the stalls on the street, he's been running around Su Town for the past several days looking for you!"

 

Smoothing out his goatee as he listened, Lan Qiren waited for her to finish speaking before he turned to some of the other disciples with them. "We still have some time before we must return to Cloud Recesses. Half of you go and verify if this is correct. The other half, try to track down that creature from earlier. However, at all costs, do not engage. We do not know what exactly it is or what abilities it has. If you must act, do so only in the interest of protecting lives."

 

Su She ground his teeth together, fists tightening where they rested against the tops of his thighs. This little slut! She was ruining everything! Why couldn't she just leave it alone?!

As the cultivators investigated, several stall owners who had been aware of the fox boy nodded in agreement and told a story like the maid's. "It's too bad. He arrived here last year with his parents, but they died in a night hunt months ago. That's what we assume, anyway. I would have taken him in, but who would have been able to afford to take in another mouth this winter, with that Great Snow Ape making hunting so difficult?" He shook his head.

As for the beast, when it was described... "Master Cultivators, you must be from very far away, right? How have you never heard of the Heavenly Demon Dragon Wolf King, Luo Binghe?! He's a very highly feared and respected Immortal, who caused a big commotion over a century ago!" 

"That's right, that's right! The Resentment of Chunshan is about him and his Master, a righteous cultivator of the Cang Qiong Mountain Sect he fell in love with while he was his disciple! It's very dramatic and touching!" 

Someone spat to the side. "Those damn hunters. If no one messes with him or his Master, he's content to leave well enough alone, but every once in a while, someone gets it in their head to try and subdue him. Subdue Luo Binghe?! If it were possible, it would have been done before he and his mate became immortals! Ptui!" 

"People still write books about them to this day, Shen Qingqiu and Luo Binghe novels are extremely popular, if well hidden...."

 

By the end of the last day of investigation they were allowed before they had to return to Gusu, they were able to verify the maid’s story and arranged a punishment for Su She on the grounds of lying, disrespecting an elder’s (not to mention acting sect leader’s) instructions, and mistreatment of a more vulnerable individual. However, they were unable to do anything on the front of locating Wei Ying and, much to the quiet dismay of their Second Young Master, were forced to return without their extra intended guest. Throughout the duration of the trip back, Lan Zhan was quiet, far quieter than was normal even for him, and more often than not had a tight fist around the threads of a black tassel that no one of the GusuLan party knew for sure where he had obtained it (though, of course, given the circumstances, many did have a hunch).

 

--

 

Meanwhile, in a country on the other side of the ocean from the GusuLan Sect, on the TianGong mountain range.... 

Luo Binghe was in a fairly good mood. He'd been looking for a good gift to bestow his Shizun - his mate, once he emerged from seclusion, and decided to try finding something unique, a bit more exotic. He'd been looking around a place on the outskirts of the country's territory when he noticed the music. It was actually able to suppress... no, cleanse the yin energy in the surrounding area, purifying it! Curious, he had hung around to try and figure out the source, and wound up investigating a young fox of some type. He had a natural dual nature, much like he himself did, but his was fairly well harmonized, and had a natural affinity for the dead.

Deciding there would absolutely be some sort of use for this creature, dead or alive, he resolved to bring it back alive and decide what to do with it once he returned and do some research.

He landed on Qing Jing peak, turning to his half form as he carried the tiny injured fox under an arm, smiling brightly at the peaceful beauty of the greenery-covered peak. His tail wagged and his ears pricked as he tried to sense if his Shizun was out of seclusion early.

 

Shen Qingqiu was just coming back from the Spirit Caves when he noticed that the familiar presence of Luo Binghe was also back on the Peak after who the fuck knows how much time. He hadn't been paying close attention to how much time had passed while he was within the caves, but now had seemed as good a time as any to leave. Lightly alighting off his sword, he opened up his fan and gave a few lazy fans as the Demon King approached him. "Binghe, what's that in your arms?"

 

"Shizun!" He said with a bright smile as he trotted over. "I went to look for a gift to welcome you out of seclusion, and I found something very unusual! Take a look!" He held up the still-unconscious fox for inspection. By pressing it's acupoints, Binghe had managed to ensure it wouldn't bleed out on the journey, but it still had a bloody bite mark on it's left forelimb and a broken and badly mangled rear leg on the same side. It was still breathing, but not in great shape.

 

Before he got a close look at the creature, Shen Qingqiu couldn't help but panic inwardly. Whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck!! Did Binghe just gift him a fucking dead animal!?!? What was this dumb disciple thinking!?! Who the hell would enjoy a dead animal as a gift?!?! Besides, wasn't that supposed to be a cat thing to gift prey?? Why the fuck was this dunce of a dog doing his supposed job??? But, wait, no-Now that he was looking closer, he realized the fox was very much alive. Thank fuck!! 

Outwardly, he inspected the baby fox's wounds before he closed his fan and used it to smack Binghe upside the head. "You didn't treat this creature's wounds?! What in the world were you thinking? Where are your priorities?"

 

His face fell, along with his ears and tail drooping. "Uh, well...when I picked him up, there were a bunch of dogs attacking him, and then a bunch of hunters- I could have taken care of them, but this little thing has barely begun cultivating, I thought if something went wrong... I just wanted to bring him back as soon as possible? But, I did stop the bleeding!" 

The tiny furball whined softly as he twitched in his sleep, furry face crinkling in a frown.

 

Shen Qingqiu sighed. Great, now he made this oversized puppy sad. Good job, Shen Yuan! You're probably going to hell! "Yes, yes, I see that now. It's certainly better than nothing given the situation. Come on then, we'll need to call a doctor, especially for that leg of his. Give him here, I'll send him some spiritual energy in the meantime."

 

"Yes!" He said, depositing the fox into his arms. "I'll go find Mu-shibo!" He said before flying off in the direction of Qian Cao Peak.

Wei Ying was beginning to wake up. He felt pretty awful, except for the spiritual energy that was streaming into him. When he tried to stretch, the pain in his left limbs made him yelp, and he struggled a little as he woke up, head lifting as his head wobbled and eyes widened. "-No! No, no, no dogs, please, don't eat me-!" He cried out, disoriented and still clearly terrified... Then blinked as his brain tried to process what his current situation was. 

 

Putting just the slightest more pressure on the fox's body to keep him still while avoiding his wounds, Shen Qingqiu hushed the young creature. "Aish, calm down, calm down, you're safe now. No one's going to eat you." Luo Binghe really came at a good time if this fox had been thinking he was just about to be eaten. And, well, as part-dog, hopefully his mate wouldn't freak out this little one now that he was awake again.

 

The fox still seemed confused, but he realized this person wasn't hurting him. This cultivator... For a moment, he looked hopeful, but this man's outfit was different... and there was no forehead ribbon. Looking a bit crushed, but happy he wasn't being eaten or killed, he looked around. "Uh.... Revered Master, wh-where is this?" He asked tentatively, trying to spy if that monster dog was still around.

 

"Qing Jing Peak which I am Lord over. Where did Binghe pick you up from? He only mentioned..." he probably shouldn't bring up the dogs again, right? "Well, he only mentioned hunters..." Now that he was thinking of it, the alpha hadn't actually said anything about where he had been or what he had been doing, which was...perhaps a bit concerning. If he hears Binghe had kidnapped this fox from someone, there was definitely going to be hell to pay, that goddamn idiot!!

 

"Su Town, near the TaiLung range..." He replied. "Binghe... i-is the name of the huge dog?" He asked nervously. If it wanted, it could easily eat him in two bites- no, maybe even swallow him whole! "I-is it still nearby???"

 

“...Yes, that’s his name...But he won’t hurt you...he left to get you a doctor.” Would that even reassure the kit? Well, hopefully it did. And apparently he should be talking to Binghe about scaring the shit out of people!! “Now, is Su Town your home? Should I bring you back there?”

 

He tensed, and then you could practically see him wilting. "...No. It's not my home. And...no one's waiting for me, either." He replied in a thin voice, like he was trying to keep his composure, but not fully succeeding. He sniffled and swallowed sharply.

 

There was something behind that response, he could tell!! And dammit, he wanted to ask, but would that actually be a good idea??? But aaaahhhh he was so curious!! What the hell, what did that even mean?? Aside from the obvious??? After a few moments, Shen Qingqiu cleared his throat and hummed. "Well, then I guess there shouldn't be an issue with staying here..."

 

The fox kit gave him a very complicated look, ears twitching all the while, before he gave a rather lackluster "Mn" and nodded.

"Shizun!" A familiar voice called out, bringing their attention. Binghe was in his fully human form now, and he'd brought along Mu Qingfang.

The elegant doctor gave Shen Qingqiu a tired sort of smile. "Well, Shixiong, I'm glad that this time, the emergency isn't about you." He said in a teasing manner before looking at the fox. "And who are you, little master fox?" 

"Wei Ying... Wei Wuxian." He said, deciding to give them his courtesy name. The really big guy with red eyes was making him anxious.

"Can you turn into a human form?" 

"...mn." He replied, before transforming with a slight hiss of pain.

"There there- I'll take him for a moment, Shixiong-" the healer said as he picked up the small boy from his arms, frowning at how thin he felt. "It'll be easier to see to your injuries in this form. Now, how old are you?" He asked him as he carried him into the bamboo cottage, trying to distract him during the treatment. 

Binghe, meanwhile, had sidled over to Qingqiu, and was looking at his face to try and judge his mood. "Shizun? .... A-Yuan?"

 

Bristling at the attention, Shen Qingqiu quickly opened up his fan again and held it up to cover his blushing, lower face. If his ears or tail were out, they'd definitely be standing on end. How dare Binghe use that nickname on him right now! And with those puppy eyes too!! What the fuck!!! Working to maintain his calm outer façade, he flicked his eyes up to the alpha with a, "Yes, Binghe?"

 

The big man grinned in a sultry way, putting his arms around his Omega and leaning in to kiss his forehead. "Do you like your present?" He asked as he rubbed a hand against his lower back, the other one sliding up to the back of his neck. One of these years, he was going to convince Shizun to do proper dual cultivation with him-

 

What the fuck!! Don't put on the charms now, Binghe, you absolute ass!! What the fuck was with this 'present' anyways!?! Who in their right mind gifts a child as a present?! Clearing his throat and trying to hide how the other's touch sent a shiver up his spine, Qingqiu closed and pressed the end of his fan against the larger man's chest to push him away slightly. "What made you think a fox child would be a good present? In fact, when are children ever good ideas for presents? You could've been kidnapping him from a family! That boy doesn't even seem willing to go back! Are we supposed to take care of a child now?"

 

"I watched for a few days, you know." He replied, pouting expression on his face as he allowed his mate to push him back a centimeter or two. "At first I thought he might have an owner, or family or something, but I think he lost them recently. He was living in a coffin house, A-Yuan, should I have left him there? I can take him back if you don't want him." He shrugged. "Besides, he has a really unusual physique. I thought that might interest you. He seems to be able to cleanse yin energy, quell, raise, control and talk to the dead."

 

Parts of that he really couldn't dispute. It certainly did seem like he was homeless and those observations Binghe made about his potential abilities were certainly intriguing, but 'owner' ? That made him uncomfortable all over, so he lifted up his free hand to flick at his forehead. "Don't ever imply that he or anyone else like him are pets ever again, okay? You know I don't like that."

 

"Yes, Shizun." He said in a slightly chastised manner, though he looked ridiculously happy about the forehead flick, to the point flowers might as well be floating around him. "Anyway, there were some shady hunters in the town that probably would have swept him up if I didn't. Seems like his cultivator friend abandoned him suddenly too..." This part made Binghe pause and frown slightly. Kinda seemed like... He and that kit were kind of similar? He now looked back at the cabin with some concern, before clearing his throat and looking back at Shizun. "So... you want him to stay? Not a pet, and not a disciple, right?"

 

"Cultivator friend? What cultivator friend?" He said without thinking. What was going on with this fox's story? Something seemed weird about this whole thing, but he couldn't place his finger on what. But aside from that, he wasn't sure how he felt about having him stay. On one hand, it really seemed like he didn't have anywhere better to stay, but on the other hand, the kit had taken on a strange expression when he'd offhandedly mentioned it...

 

"The first day I noticed him, he was hanging out with some righteous young master from a foreign cultivation sect, but the next day it seems like they left and abandoned him." He said. "They threw him out of the Inn, and he spent the next couple of days looking for them. They didn't come back."

 

What the fuck?!? That was ringing even more alarm bells in his mind!! There absolutely must be more going on behind the scenes or his name wasn't Peerless Cucumber! "...I'll need more information about that later. For now, let's see where Mu-shidi is at and if that boy actually wants to stay here."

 

"Okay."

The large man followed his mate into the cottage, where the boy was sitting with his arm wrapped and his leg bandaged and splinted. Once Shen Qingqiu came back in, he looked over and gave him the best salute he could manage, looking at Luo Binghe with some hint of nerves. "Master Shen, I'm very sorry for not properly greeting you earlier." He said, seeming to be in a bit of awe now that he'd been told he was taken to a sect inhabited by actual Immortals. "I would like to stay, if you would let me. I'm not the best with magic yet, but I can do minor transformations and fire magic." 

Binghe's face twitched. He was getting better about sharing his Shizun with others, but wasn't sure about him taking on more disciples.

 

Well! That made that question extremely easy to handle, the boy had already jumped the gun! Opening up his fan again, he tilted his head slightly to one side. "Staying here would pose no issue, of course. However, it's too early to discuss becoming one of my disciples. I suppose teaching you magic would still be prudent, but that's not a large concern of mine right now. I only noticed it when you shifted from your fox form, but you are horrendously underweight. There will be absolutely no training or teaching until that is fixed. How were you managing your meals in that town?"

 

".... Um. Mostly scavenging. Sometimes, someone nice would give me some food..." 

"His nail and hair growth indicated that he started eating better a few weeks ago." Mu Qingfang said as he got up, returning the remainder of his medical things to his qiankun sleeves. "I wrote a dietary plan and left some supplements. Please make sure he stays off that leg for at least a month." He said, giving Binghe a small glare as he passed, but nodding amiably to Qingqiu as he placed a folded paper in his hand. "I'll be heading back now, but don't you forget to come for your checkup soon." It wasn't a request.

 

He was thankful for the fan that was still up against his mouth and therefore hid the grimace that crossed his features at the demand. That wasn't going to be a pleasant visit for sure. But could you blame him? All this alpha and omega shit was just too weird to experience! Why couldn't this body have had normal reproductive organs!? But hey, he could probably put that checkup off for a bit longer, so he wasn't about to think about it right now. For now, Shen Qingqiu turned towards his mate and asked, "Could you prepare us some food? For Wei Ying as well, of course." Was his expression somehow getting across the message that he wanted Binghe to prepare more food than normal for the fox? He wasn't sure, but he could only hope.

 

"Of course!" Binghe said, and even though he was in his completely human form at the moment, you could practically see the ears and tail pop up, which made Wei Ying twitch a bit. He took the paper and went next door to cook, humming to himself as he did so. 

The Master Doctor's eyes narrowed, and he poked Qingqiu in the shoulder. "Don't you ignore your physician, Shen Qingqiu! I know you hate the loss of control, but it's a natural part of life and a gift. Too much delay could result in a backlash....remember the last one?" 

It had been one hell of an experience. The longer a heat was delayed, especially when one has a mate, the longer it lasted. Neither Qingfang nor Qingqiu could look each other in the face for months after that round of aftercare.

"It's getting close to time, I need to make sure you're not building an immunity to this one and that it's not building up too much in your bloodstream. Come in this week, you understand?"

 

Sighing, he resigned himself to his fate. 'Natural part of life' my ass! His previous life had nothing like this, how could this be natural!? "Yes, yes, fine, Mu-shidi. I wouldn't put it past you to come hunt me down either." But really, he's been feeling fine, no weird symptoms or anything, so surely this different suppressant was working just fine.


"If I have to come find you for exams, that mate of yours hovers." He said with a sigh. "Alright. Good day, Shen-shixiong." Once outside, he mounted his sword and departed, heading back to his Peak.

Chapter Text

Back in the bamboo house, Wei Ying evidently had a pretty good appetite (although he did start crying for some reason halfway through the meal). For one reason or another, he did seem a little more energetic after that, but Binghe could see the moments where he was suffering because of that....Lan Zhan kid. And, well, that was making Shen Yuan sad, which would not do.

So, Binghe did what he thought was the best thing he could one night, and sealed up the memories of his newly adopted child. Altering a few things, blurring or blanking others, and just marking some as unimportant. He set it with a seal that in order for it to come off, his son would have to fall in love with the same person who hurt him.

 

That next morning, Shen Qingqiu hadn't necessarily noticed anything wrong with the young fox. Overall, his appetite was healthy and his personality was bubbly so he had started off the day rather normally. It wasn't until lunchtime that he realized that the fox wasn't falling into that brief spout of melancholy that seemed to happen around mealtimes. Therefore, he just had to ask and make sure. "Wei Ying? Are you not thinking of your A-Zhan today?"

 

Wei Ying was currently making faces at Binghe, who had started it as a game to try and get the fox to be less scared of him. The fox then looked over at Qingqiu and asked "Who?" with a bright smile and laugh, seemingly distracted. "Ah-! Father, look at the face Papa's making, he looks like a long-faced ghost!"

Face quickly changing to an 'I got caught' expression, he cleared his throat and began clearing the table of used dishes. "Well, it's a good thing I'm too handsome for it to stick that way, huh?" 

"Yup!" The kit replied, taking out his flute with the blue tassel swinging from it. "Father, can Ying'er go play now?"

 

"Of course." Shen Qingqiu said a bit too quickly, eyes focused solely on Binghe. "Remember to stay close. If Liu-shidi has to drag you back here cause you wandered over to his Peak, Father will lose face." With that said, he waited until Wei Ying was clear out of hearing range before he said in a warning tone, "Binghe. What did you do?"

 

The dragon-wolf watched as the small child ran off, smiling a little, before turning to face his feline mate. "Hm? What do you mean, A-Yuan?" He asked.

 

“Don’t play dumb. You tampered with Ying-er’s memory.” It wasn’t a question. “Why? There are hardly any children his age here and you made him forget his sole friend?”

 

"Hey, I didn't make him forget," Binghe protested. "He just...doesn't remember. Elder Dream Demon taught me how to do it after I asked him. Wei Ying has just been so sad about this, I was worried it would turn into a heart demon and stunt his cultivation. It's not permanent though, is what the Elder told me!" he hurried to assure Shen Yuan.

 

Taking his closed fan, he smacked Binghe upside the head, openly frowning now. “Idiot! You’d better hope it’s not permanent! Those weren’t just sad memories! You got rid of the happy ones too! Are you trying to make it seem as if he had no friends at all?! That’s even sadder!! No sex for a year! I can’t believe you did this!”

 

Metaphorical lightning struck the poor demon Lord, and he stood there in completely stunned silence as he realized he fucked up. "A-a year?! Shizun, I was just trying to help!! I'm sorry!!! Shizun?!?! Shiiiiizuuuuuunnnnn!!!!!" he wailed as Shen Yuan stormed off in a huff.

 

--

 

About a week later and Binghe was still as insufferable as all hell about the punishment he had given, but he wasn’t backing down either! As if he’d give in! If he did, then Binghe would never feel the pressure of doing similar things in the future! As his Shizun, of course he had to discipline him!

 

It was one morning after breakfast that Wei Ying went up to Shen Qingqiu, tugging on his robes. "Um, Father? Why are you so mad at Papa? What did he do? Was it really bad?" He looked over at the pitiful, soulless husk slumped against the table. "...He's being so pathetic I can't even tease him."

 

Ha! Serves you right! Maybe you’ll think twice now about when you use your magic! “Your Papa used magic he really shouldn’t have. Don’t worry, the punishment will pass and he’ll be back to normal.”

 

"But he's boooooooriiiing...." Wei Ying pouted. "I have to go all the way to other peaks to bother the other disciples, and my leg hurts going that far~!"

 

Shen Qingqiu watched the little boy complain, resisting the urge to cave to him just because of a cute little pout. “You could always have them come here to you. You still shouldn’t be using your leg too much either.”

 

"Well... The other disciples tend to avoid Papa.... or try attacking him, if they're from Uncle Liu's peak. Why is that, anyway? Is it a training game?"

 

“Mmh, yeah something like that. Someone’s gotta keep them on their toes. And what better way than with Papa; he’s strong...” That’s believable right? He can’t exactly give the full story, right??

 

"....." Wei Ying opened and closed his mouth a few times, looking back at the currently non-intimidating, pitiful lump at the table, before looking back at Shen Qingqiu skeptically. He tugged at him, wanting him to crouch so he could whisper: "Ya, ya, is Binghe really as strong as they say he is?" By now, he'd made friends with Liu Mingyan (a fully grown woman and excellent cultivator) and had heard some pretty incredible things about this duo.

 

Leaning in closer, Shen Qingqiu nodded, bringing up his fan to hide his mouth from Binghe’s view and whisper back, “He is, but don’t let him hear it from me or his ego will burst.”

 

This made the small boy giggle and nod. "So, does that make Father stronger than Papa then?" He asked, eyes getting a shrewd glint to them. "Since he can't seem to go against you?"

 

That made him pause, however he tried not to make it show. Sure, he had Binghe on a leash, but in terms of pure strength, the half-demon King could just as well overpower him and has done so before. “Well, I am his teacher and he respects his elders when it comes to me.”

 

"Oh. Why doesn't he respect Uncle Liu?" He gasped, then whispered quieter, "Is it that Uncle Liu and Papa fought over Father!?"

 

That once again made him speechless for another few moments. And the worst part was...he’s not even really wrong??? But how could he admit that to his son?!? “Well...yeah, they certainly did fight a lot more back in the day...”

 

This is when Wei Ying entered his gossip-loving-old-woman mode. "Really?!? So, so, did Papa steal you from Liu-shushu, or did Liu-shushu try to come between you and Papa?"

 

What the hell?!?! Where was this boy getting these kinds of questions??? Was he gonna have to interrogate Liu Mingyan about what she and Wei Ying were doing?? “That’s...not really accurate...? Neither of those things happened...”

 

He raised an eyebrow, looking a bit skeptical, then looked over at Binghe again, before quickly looking away. "F-father, Papa looks scary...." 

Binghe had apparently tuned into at least part of that, and was looking over at Shen Yuan with...some sort of dangerous expression.

Swallowing thickly, Wei Ying stepped back and began to inch his way towards the disciples' cabins. "You know, I think I'm gonna see if one of the disciples will take me over to Xian Shu Peak for a little while- I can hang out with the nice sisters over there, and you two can talk out your differences, ahahahahaha~"

 

Nervously, Shen Qingqiu covered his face a little more, fanning himself lightly as he watched Wei Ying dart out from the corner of his eye. Fuuuuuuck!! This unfilial son!! Don't leave him alone with Binghe, your Father will definitely be eaten alive!! Controlling his expression as best as possible, he silently glanced over at the alpha from above the rim of his fan.

 

Those dark red eyes were burning into him, little flickers of jealousy and all....before he huffed in a very sulky manner and turned his head so he was facing away from Shen Yuan, presenting his mate with a gloomy, chilly aura.

 

Shen Qingqiu clicked his tongue in disapproval, snapping his fan shut. "Don't give me that attitude! Was what I said a lie? There was a time when I was single, you know?"

 

More silence, then a sigh and Binghe got up. There was another shift to the atmosphere as he locked onto his mate and began to approach. "He did try to take you from me though. Multiple times." He grumbled in a low tone. "I don't even mind staying here most of the time...because I'm with you. Doesn't mean I don't get jealous.... I know he likes you."

 

He gave a little huff in response. "When? Are you sure we're remembering the same thing because I certainly don't remember Liu-shidi trying anything when we got together aside from the usual fights you two get into! And before that I was fair game! Are you somehow forgetting who I'm bonded to? What's there to get jealous about?"

 

He reached out and took hold of a part of his sleeve, in a grip that seemed light, but no doubt was rock solid. "I can't help it, Shizun...A-Yuan." He got closer, looking in his eyes as his other hand moved around under his hair, to the back of his neck, fingers lightly brushing and rubbing the mating mark. "Part of me knows it's crazy, but I just wish sometimes I could have you all to myself. But I don't want to make you mad again..."

 

A shiver shooting up his spine, Shen Qingqiu clenched his jaw shut to prevent himself from reacting even more. How dirty! That was on purpose, wasn't it!? You sneaky, sneaky man!! Taking in a breath to regulate himself, he eventually said, "You know that's just simply not possible...Especially with Ying'er now in the picture."

 

"I know." He said as he moved in closer, the hand on his sleeve moving up his arm, until their faces were centimeters apart. "I like him too... After all..." A predatory smile crossed his face. "He's our first child, isn't he?"

 

Too sticky!! And what's with that expression!?! What the hell!!! Averting his gaze, he cleared his throat and stuttered out, "Y-yes...I should hope you like him...T-there would be a bit of a problem otherwise..."

 

The hand on his arm went to his lower back, pressing their fronts together as the other began increasing pressure against his bonding gland, leaning in to press his lips against the corner of his mouth. "...And that means, the Heavens have given us a sign, right?" He whispered, lips brushing against his cheek.

 

With Binghe right up against him, there was no way for him to hide the flush crossing his cheeks or the way his ministrations sped up his breathing. But he couldn’t give in that easily! He was still mad at the alpha about messing around with Wei Ying’s memories! Not even a month has passed!! “W-we only just found him...T-that’s hardly enough time to know...Besides, d-don’t think I haven’t forgotten about your stunt...! No sex for a year!” Wow, he actually managed to sound strict and steady at the end there! Good job! Pat on the back! Now Binghe, don’t you dare try to push it!!

 

"Shizuuuuuuun~" He whined, with a very sultry edge, leaning in further to suck an earlobe into his mouth and very lightly bite. "This disciple knows his wrong... I won't do it again~"

 

With some effort, Shen Qingqiu tried to push Binghe away and regain some space. "I-if you know, then you'll accept the ultimatum! Or do you want me to banish you to another room as well!?" Really! Why did he have to choose the protagonist as his mate?! The appeal was just too strong!!

 

"A-Yuaaaaaaannnn~" He murmured. "We haven't been intimate since you began seclusion... I've been so lonely~ Doesn't that count?"

 

"How could you have been lonely? You're hardly ever away from me! That's the exact opposite of lonely!" What the hell!!! Why did he allow Binghe to get so goddamn sticky?!?! It always just bites him in the ass now!!

 

"Don't you remember? I can't live without you..." He murmured, kissing him again and getting closer to his mouth. "One minute away from you is painful. I wanted to go with you into seclusion, but I stayed out. I was good. And you promised we wouldn't be apart anymore." He gave him his best kicked puppy look, complete with the ears and tail.

 

Fuuuuuuck!!! How dare he pull out the ears and tail to sway him!! What the hell, low blow!! And curse his weak heart for finding his kicked puppy look adorable!! At this rate, he might just end up caving in!! "...We're bonded...we're never apart anymore, I kept that promise..."

 

"A-Yuan~" He murmured again as he kissed him on the lips, lingering. "I wanna see you squirm for me, I want to please you, I want to stroke and lick you and hear your voice crack in ecstasy, I want you to mark me again.... I wanna be inside you, A-Yuan~"

 

Bringing up his sleeve to cover his face, he scooted back some, hating how affected his body was becoming just from some dirty talk. Curse this body and its weird biological responses! He was trying to punish Binghe, but instead it was he himself that was getting punished! "......O-only this once...T-then it's nothing for a while...! I'm still mad about earlier!"

 

Looking terribly conflicted, Binghe finally sighed heavily and pressed his forehead against his Shizun's. "A-Yuan, I do feel bad about it... I can hold back if it's not a year?" He said, returning to the pleading look and not stopping all the touching and petting. "You were in seclusion for two months, then A-Ying... so, three more months? Hmm? Half a year in total?" He could probably live with that.

 

Goddamn that adorable face!! And fuck he just wouldn't stop touching him! He was being too distracting!! So much so that he almost gave into the request before realizing that what the hell, that'd be dropping nine months off the punishment! That's too much of a difference!! Fuck that shit!! "...Six more months. You tampered with A-Ying's memories last week, not three months ago..."

 

He pouted again, before brightening. "Okay Shizun..." He said as he suddenly bent down, wrapping one arm behind his knees and the other behind his lower back, picking him up and carrying him into the bamboo house. "We'll do it like this: a permission challenge! The first one to beg the other one for release wins, okay?"

The big bastard's hand was already skillfully undoing his Master's belt as they went, removing it entirely by the time they reached the bed, where Shen Yuan was promptly plopped down.

 

Wait...What the fuck!?! He was going to make a game out of this?! What happened to normal bargaining!? Well fine, be like that! He could take on a challenge! Startled, however, at how quickly Binghe was moving things, he couldn't help but quietly yelp in response, robes sliding open rather easily now that the larger man had removed his belt.

 

Next went Binghe’s own belt and outer clothes, followed by top inner clothes and boots. He knelt on the bed next, smoothly, and began to push and pull at his Shizun's clothing, removing it piece by piece, enjoying the process of stripping him as well as the sound the rustling cloth made. He hummed happily and murmured ‘Shizun’ as he finally revealed the slightly smaller man's chest, leaning in to lick and nip at the pale skin, one hand going to push his robes apart further, rubbing past one of his nipples, then coming back to tease it with the pads of two fingers. He was releasing his scent a little too, that heady musk of mountain air, strange incense and flowers, balanced just perfectly for his Shizun.

 

He really was trying to minimize his reactions so as not to give Binghe the satisfaction, but it really had been a while with how often the alpha loved to jump him... But really, wasn't his body too sensitive right now?? It was practically melting into his touch, eyes hazing over as the larger man's scent washed over him. Trying to regain at least some control over his body, Shen Qingqiu held himself as still as he could, reaching his hands up to tangle into the fluffy, curling strands of hair.

 

Heaving a shuddering sort of sigh, Luo Binghe continued to press his attack, leaving small red marks in the wake of his mouth and hands as they wandered across his torso and neck. Down below, Shen Yuan's trousers had somehow disappeared, and the back of Binghe's hand was rubbing first against his inner thigh, then along the crease of his hips, then back down to ghost along the underside of his balls to tease the other side. "Shizun, A-Yuan, so pretty, so good~" He crooned as he sucked a bright patch at his collarbone.

 

Flushing at his words, Shen Qingqiu tugged at the alpha's hair in petulant retaliation, accompanying the action with a, "Hush, you..." It was bad enough how each touch from Binghe left a trail of fire along his skin, he really didn't need the words of praise to add to it!

 

"Make me, Omega~" He said with a harsh laugh, lifting his head to lightly kiss his lips in a challenge. The hand below began getting more naughty, while the other reached blindly over to a nearby table, opening a drawer and pulling out some thick oil. It had been a while and Shizun was not near a heat, he didn't want to hurt him by accident. He slicked up one hand, drizzling some directly onto his mate's groin as he began to tease his sexes, one hand in front, the other behind, a thumb pressing against the spot his seed would have to travel through to block ejaculation. He did have to beg for him to win, after all.

 

Huffing when he was able to get some air again, he remarked, "What, so you're not listening to your Shizun anymore? How selecti--!" He cut off as he felt a finger prodding at his entrance, the action too sudden for him to hold back how his hips rocked back into the motion.

 

"Oh, but aren't we playing a game right now, Shizun?" He said, his voice sickly-sweet as he peppered him with more kisses. "Are you afraid you can't win without a handicap?" he said as he began to apply more pressure to his omegan sex, stroking up and down, and ever so gradually going deeper, until he finally began petting one of his inner sweet spots with those long, evil fingers of his, the other hand pumping him with just the right strength.

 

The pressure against that bundle of nerves forced out a choked off moan, momentarily forgetting to maintain his human form as his white leopard ears popped out and his claws grew, one hand scratching at the alpha's scalp, the other having moved down to dig into his shoulder. When he could vaguely think again, he grit out, "Y-you really have low faith in your Shizun..."

 

The scratches only inflamed Binghe's drive, and he let out an absolutely filthy groan of delight as Shen Yuan scratched him, his face flushed with delight. "A-Yuan~" he said in a sugary voice, smiling against his jaw and moving to bite at the side of his neck, then sucking strongly to leave a mark. "Aaaaah, I love you, Shizun- My A-Yuan, my Omega-" He began shifting to mouth, nip, and lick his way down his Shizun's body, steadily growing nearer to his groin, but not before pausing at his abdomen to suggestively thrust his tongue against his belly button.

 

Shen Qingqiu squirmed underneath the trail he left, especially as he moved closer down to his groin. Breath coming in labored but trying to hold off on any more reactions aside from that, he started to move his hands more. At the angle they were at, he couldn't quite reach what he'd initially wanted to, but he made do by instead utilizing his newly visible claws and drawing them down Binghe's chest and back. It wasn't quite hard enough to draw blood, but he was just on the cusp of doing so. If the game was to get the other to cave first, this was as good a start as any to achieve that, right?

 

He hummed and growled in a pleased manner as he looked up Shen Yuan's body to his face, his eyes glowing as his ears and horns grew back in, keeping control of his own claws to keep from hurting him somewhere delicate. He kept eye contact as he took a short break from teasing his Shizun, hooking both legs over his shoulders and pressing one back and open with a hand as the other went back to his feminine sex.  He then began licking and sucking at Qingqiu's member, thumb once again pressing to block any accidental peaks.

 

Shuddering, he bucked his hips up into that inviting warmth, sometimes digging a heel into Binghe's back, sometimes letting it fall open more. Noticing that the alpha had let some of his true form slip out, he couldn't help but bring up a hand to stroke at one of his dark ears, petting it for some time before moving to trace the length of the closest horn.

 

The vibrations from his growl ran up and down the hard flesh in his mouth, and he sucked him into his mouth all the way, the tip tapping the back of his throat as he firmly massaged the sensitive patch of flesh on his inner wall before briefly withdrawing only to press in again with another digit as he alternated between gentle thrusts and firmer rubs and scrapes.

 

Muffling his moans into the pillow underneath him, Shen Qingqiu keened as Binghe teased him with alternating ministrations. With the slightest whine, he tried to roll his hips down harder onto his g-spot as he stumbled out, "B-Binghe..."

 

"Hmm?" He hummed, buzzing his erection again as he pulled up and off him with a pop, blowing on the glistening tip and teasing the slit with his tongue. "Yes, Shizun?" He was very careful about not letting him build up to a peak just yet. "Mmm, You smell so good~"

 

Remembering the challenge, he hesitated to speak again, lest it lead to him losing. However, instead, he tensed and raised his hips into the tease, leaking just the slightest amount of slick. Given that he wasn’t near a heat, there wasn’t too much coming from him, but the smell was potent enough to wrap around the bed enticingly.

 

"Mmmh, S-Shen Yuan..." He groaned as he licked at him again, this time using his tongue and teeth to gently tease the particularly sensitive spots all along his shaft, the fingers inside him scissoring open and closed, rubbing again and again just on either side of his g-spot, only hitting it now every three or four passes.

 

Biting back a curse, he squirmed as this hunking idiot purposefully missed that bundle of nerves more often than he actually hit it. Rolling his hips into the alpha, he dug the fingers of one of his hands back into the roots of his hair, trying to use that as leverage to angle himself how he liked.

 

Binghe welcomed the pricks of pain on his scalp, his roots were plenty healthy and the hair wouldn't be ripped out easily. However, he was able to continue denying his mate enough pressure to climax, and even moved his other hand down from his leg to begin slicking himself up, gripping his mighty pillar and stroking firmly even as he sucked hard on his omega's cock.

 

Growing antsy from how long this was dragging out with no satisfaction, Shen Qingqiu grit out a, "Y-you ungrateful disciple...going so slo--..." before trailing off with a hiss as he looked down to meet his mate's gaze. And fuck that image of him sucking him off as he coated his own meaty girth in oil and possibly some of his own slick should be illegal! An involuntary mewl leaving his lips, he felt his mind haze over even more, glassy eyes focused in on the way Binghe was stroking himself.

 

"Mmmm, I can go faster if you want me to, Shizun." He murmured as he pulled back again, though each word was followed by him doing something obscene with his lips or tongue. "Tell me what you want, Shizun- But don't forget, if you want to come, you have to ask~" He paused from what he was doing to himself for a moment, to make a couple symbols. Rustling of cloth could be heard, and suddenly their belt sashes, discarded nearby, moved, one wrapped around Shen Yuan's arms and tugging them together, while the other wound around one of his calves and pulled it to the side.

 

"J-just-- ah! ...g-go faster...! Hnng ...For s-someone who was so... aaah... e-eager for sex...y-you're really...delaying t-this for yourself..." Futilely, he attempted to struggle out of his bindings, most of his leverage against Binghe's body gone now that he couldn't anchor himself against the larger alpha to move his body against him. Long, slim tail finally revealing itself, it wrapped itself around Binghe's arm and tried to use that as a base to rock himself against the other.

 

"These are high stakes we're... mmmgh... playing for..." He said as he felt the tail caressing the skin of his arm. "I won't come before you, Shizun~" he moved his mouth to the side and bit firmly at a sensitive spot on his hip, even as he added another digit to his hole. "So tight and good for me, Shizun, you're the best, I love you, Shizun, I love you-♡"

 

Flexible body arching as Binghe attached himself to his hip, Shen Qingqiu moved his free leg the best he could to wrap around one of Binghe's own, using their positioning to rock against him. Seeing how using his tail at least somewhat distracted the alpha, he unraveled it from the other man's arm and flicked it down his torso, brushing and pressing against spots he would normally stop at should he be lavishing attention with his mouth.

 

"A-aaaaaaaa-Yuaaaan~♡" he moaned, shuddering at the soft strokes along his body, eyes hazing just a touch as he bucked forward into his own hand a time or two. Catching himself, he growled again and pulled away from Shen Yuan, moving so he was now poised between his legs. Big body looming over the feline and supporting most of his weight on an elbow, he was breathing hard as he gazed into his Shizun's eyes. "I was trying to play fair, Shizun, but if you really want me inside so badly, we can do it that way too...." he said as his other hand guided his tip to his entrance, sinking in juuust a little bit.

 

Throwing his head back, his tail twitched around in a frenzy, breaths coming up short as Binghe pressed his thick head inside him. "Nnnh ...H-how is--" A moan as the half-demon twitched within him, "e-endless foreplay... aaahh ...playing f-fair... haah...alphaa..."

 

He dropped his head to the omega's shoulder, biting at the crook of his throat. He couldn't resist sinking in, his gasp and groan low and lewd as he entered his mate, the tie on his leg failing and letting Qingqiu move it as he wished. " Omega, aaah, god... "

 

Function in his legs finally fully restored, Shen Qingqiu wrapped both of them around Binghe's waist, his tail wrapping around a leg just for the hell of it, and used the leverage he now had to quickly sheath himself fully on the alpha's length. Relishing in the way his mate filled him just shy of the side of pain, he tilted his head just so, so that he could lean in and nip, pull, and give little kitten licks along the ear closest to him.

 

He hummed low in his throat, feeling each of the little nips and licks keenly. "Mmm, A-Yuan, if I don't play dirty, I won't stand a chance against you." He murmured. Everything his mate did to him made him want to plead with him, worship him, breed him and claim him as deeply as he could. He ground his hips against him then started to move, long, deep strokes stirring him up inside, a hand returning to his dick again. He knew his tells well enough to always stop before he could come, panting hard and littering more marks on his throat and collarbone. "Mmm, my tasty Omega..."

 

Growing distracted on occasion by a particularly deep thrust, Shen Qingqiu would sometimes just pause in his actions to instead give breathy pants or moans right up against the alpha's ear. On other occasions, it'd be a shaky, punched out "B-Binghe..." followed by an appreciative, blissed out purr. With his hands bound as they were, he wasn't left with much he could do aside from tempting him closer with his voice or letting his tail flick out to roam across his body.

 

"Do you want me to let you go, Shizun?" He murmured, reaching up a hand to slide up one arm, tangling their fingers together as he pressed more heavily against him, thrusts becoming faster and harder. "Do you want me to let you come, my perfect mate?"

 

Still having just enough presence of mind to remember this was an issued challenge, he kept himself from speaking by tucking his head into the crook of Binghe's neck and nipping and sucking at the skin there. As a result, instead of words leaving his mouth, all he was left with were little whines and moans into his bites as he moved to meet each of his thrusts the best he could.

 

Both of them being as stubborn as they were, it was difficult to say who would break first and beg the other for release. Binghe had a lot going for him, protagonist stamina and prowess, knowing his Shizun's body intimately, but Shen Yuan also had the half demon quite thoroughly whipped at this stage of their relationship.

 

Developing a thread of an idea in his mind, Shen Qingqiu wrapped his tail around Binghe's back to encourage the younger alpha to keep their bodies close. Like this, he had no issues in keeping his mouth close to the other's ear, voice silky and provocative as he whispered, together with punched out interruptions from particularly good thrusts, "Won't you listen to this- aah -Shizun of yours? W-will you ask for," a moan, "release if I tell you to? I know you can go... aah fuck ...s-several rounds at a time...why not make use of it? It's okay, you know... mmh, right there ...if you want to release now...Inside me or... s-so good...alpha ...o-or on me...Just say the word and I'll accept it..."

 

Shen Qingqiu's words had his mind filling with a pink haze, his breath becoming an excited, pained whine. He suddenly reared back, still keeping them welded together down below as he grabbed Shen Yuan's hips with both hands, lifting them off the bed enough so that the omega was basically on his lap, the glow in his eyes intense as he changed the angle. "Aaah, Shizun♡! Shizun is so unfair! If you're going to cheat, I'll cheat first!"

The blood in the leopard's body suddenly pulsed and then seemed to catch FIRE. Not in a painful way, but near-agonizing pleasure instead. However, no matter how much he felt, no matter how much restraint Binghe lost, the Peak Lord would not be able to orgasm.

His ability to reason temporarily obliterated, the evil sex god...er, demonic king, was fully immersed in fucking his mate into the bed, pistoning into him while his hands kneaded his hips and ass, chanting his name over and over under his breath along with the words "Does it feel good?" and "Do you want to come?"

 

Any thoughts of throwing back retorts were abruptly cut off as his body ignited and he remembered all too late that he would always have Binghe's Heavenly Demon Blood within him . Suddenly overwhelmed tenfold by the pleasure the alpha was fucking into him, Shen Qingqiu was quickly bring driven to the edge with no guarantee for release. Unwilling to give in but unsure how long he could even last like this, he tried to bide his time in between moaning out various combinations of "Binghe" and "Alpha."

 

The Alpha could feel his knot beginning to swell, catching on the lips of his sex as he had to push and pull just a little bit harder to get that little bit of extra girth in and out. "I'm going to fill you up, A-Yuan, going to make your stomach swell with how much I've saved up for you- Enough so you'll be carrying my seed inside you for the next three months, if not longer, my lovely Shizun~" He leaned over him once again to kiss him even as he was bucking roughly, in an uneven pace. "I'm going to cum, Shizun, gonna come inside you, going to stain you with me, but my poor omega can't cum, huh? Can't even come if I knot inside you?"

 

The images Binghe was painting for him were making it even harder to focus on anything other than his painfully hard erection. The alpha’s knot was also making it especially hard, the added pressure against his walls making him dizzy with pleasure. Whining into the kiss, he stuttered out a, “B-Binghe...” moving his hips against the other’s even as he knew it wouldn’t bring him any closer to climax.

 

"Shizun-!" He cried out as the knot finally welded them together, making it so he could no longer withdraw. Even then, he bucked hard into him a few more times as the hot stream began pouring inside him. "Shizun, ah, Shizun, do you wanna come? Do you wanna come with me?"

 

“Haaah ...H-how dare you...nnnghh...u-use that against me...” Desperately holding onto him, the heat filling him up on top of the flames already in his bones left him trembling, pussy clenching and milking as much of his essence as he could. He was so close, so close, and Binghe just had to restrain him like this...! With a bit of a whimper, he let out a whine of, “B-Bingheee~”

 

"Mmmmnh, a-ah, A-Yuan, this feels so good, you're so amazing, I love you so much~" he murmured against his ear, rolling his hips in little motions to keep grinding into him even as his seed began to run out of space to go. "Ask for it, Shizun, beg me, Omega, and I'll make it so good you'll scream yourself hoarse..."

 

Shen Qingqiu wasn’t sure how much longer he was able to tolerate this with the control Binghe had over his body. The fire was so intense and all he needed was just a moment to release it, but his mate wasn’t allowing it...! With a pitiful little sound, he let out, “R-release—aaah —release y-your control...nnngh...s-so close...B-Binghe, m-my good boy...aaahh~ P-please—! ”

 

With a shout of victory bordering on a roar, the block and pressure in his veins dissipated, arms released from the belt sash wrapped around them. The alpha clutched his leopard tightly to himself, wanting to feel as his mate spilled between them, to feel every twitch and hear every sound as he fell apart.

 

With a full body shudder, Shen Qingqiu tightly wrapped his newly freed arms around Binghe's neck, grabbing at handfuls of thick hair and pulling as he was finally able to release, moaning loudly into the alpha's ear as pleasure danced across his trembling figure.

 

"Aaah, A-Yuan, A-Yuan, so good, Shizun, I love you, Shizun~♡" he was mostly past the awkward crying during sex thing, but every once in a while, he still got overwhelmed by the magnitude of his feelings. This being one of those times, he shed a few happy tears, keeping his face buried against Shen Yuan's neck so he wouldn't see it. He started on petting his hair and kissing him after a few moments, murmuring happy nonsense and praises into his ear as the aftershocks died down, waiting for the knot to relax enough for him to move.

 

Once he had mostly regulated himself back to normal, Shen Qingqiu pushed Binghe just enough away so that he could bring one of his hands around to flick at the mark on his forehead, knowing how much the alpha loved when he did despite how the action was supposed to be an admonition... "I can't believe you used your blood against me, Binghe..."

 

"Ow." He said reflexively, though he did suppress his usual smile. "Shizun, you started it. You were saying you were going to ask me to beg you first. Don't be mad because I stopped you from cheating first..."

 

Quick to try and defend himself, he clicked his tongue. “With you and your wellspring of youth, what else is this old man to do? Who taught you to be unfilial to your elders?”

 

"Mmm, Shizun, don't be mad..." He mumbled as he snuggled against him, a hand grasping his hip with the other on his upper back as he rolled the two of them over so Shen Yuan wasn't getting squashed by his weight and could lay on him instead.

 

Huffing, he muttered a soft, "You little brat," with no actual heat in his words as he brought up one of his hands to separate parts of the alpha's hair in search of any areas he may have scratched a bit too hard. There hadn't been any blood on his claws before he retracted them so he didn't think he'd find anything, but he had an urge to do so anyway.

 

Binghe just hummed at him happily, rubbing his back. There were some light scratches, but those would heal quickly...if the stubborn brat would just actually let them heal properly. He still held onto the scar on his chest, but he had at least let it fade a little.  For now, he’d won himself a reduced sentence, and he’d have to be satisfied with that.

Chapter Text

A few years passed by after that, and Wei Ying grew in confidence, size, skill and magic. But, he was still a young fox, and therefore a bit of a trouble magnet. He seemed to be able to cultivate both sword talent and musical ability, which made their particular peak perfect for him, but having the energetic boy underfoot constantly with no other peers to harass was probably even beginning to wear on Shen Yuan! 

So, today, on Wei Ying's eighth birthday, Luo Binghe had a visit from his General, who was bringing along two young demonic beings in their human forms. "Mobei-Jun!" Binghe said with a smile as he clapped him on the shoulder, then turned to wave over the young omega. "Wei Ying, this is your Papa's most reliable general, Mobei-Jun. And these are...let me see, Wen Qing and Wen Ning? Right? From today onward, they will be your direct subordinates." 

Wei Ying looked pretty surprised and first looked back at Shen Yuan, then at the two...cats? They felt like cats. Standing before him. They were both bigger than he was, probably older too. 

The girl nudged her brother gently as she bowed formally, both hands to one side in the proper female salute. "Wen Qing greets Young Master Wei."

 

Jumping to attention at his sister's nudge, Wen Ning hurriedly repeated his sister's actions and words, however stuttering much more than the elder lioness had, "W-Wen Ning g-greets Y-young Master Wei..." 

From behind his fan, Shen Qingqiu fixed Binghe with a brow delicately raised in curiosity. Sure, the boy needed other children his age to socialize with, but would that be successful with them being introduced as subordinates?

 

Wei Ying paused for a moment, then returned the bow and salute, introducing himself as well. "Wen Qing, Wen Ning, it's nice to meet you! Please rise, you guys can call me Wei Ying! I hope we can be good friends!" He said as he lightly pressed on their arms to lift them out of the bow. 

Luo Binghe nodded, seemingly pleased with the interaction as he watched the kids become acquainted. He moved back over to his Shizun's side, as Mobei-Jun was already leaving, his task complete for the moment. "Demon hierarchy is very important, Shizun. This Wen duo are both very skilled in different ways and will be loyal to Ying'er. We took their entire family branch in as they are...a bit atypical when it comes to the main family attitude." He smirked proudly. "We got the best talent, so it's the main branch's loss!" 

Wen Qing was currently trying to get a feel for this little fox, who was cheerfully trying to start a conversation with her little brother. He seemed nice enough and honest about wanting to be friends.

Wei Ying grabbed them both by the hands to lead them off. "Come on, I'll show you two around!" He said excitedly.

 

The bonded adult pair watched as the kids wandered off to start getting to know each other better. Not having too much of a reason to leave the peak for superfluous tasks, Shen Qingqiu was at a loss for what was so different between the Wen main branch and this branch. “What is it the two branches do if this one is atypical and superior in talent?” 

 

"The main Wen branch is powerful, but untrustworthy and arrogant." He said. "They've migrated from the demon realm to the human realm, and my intelligence network has been hinting that they aren't making fully truthful reports. I'm probably going to have to deal with them in the future." He said with a vaguely put-upon groan. "This branch of the Wen clan, however, is dedicated and relatively peaceful. I think they are part...human? Or something that originated from this world. In any case, they are better natured and well-adapted, but can be fierce in times of crisis. Perfect Shadow Guards."

 

Shen Qingqiu hummed in response. Something to keep in mind then. Though since he hadn't heard anything relating to the Wen Clan from his fellow peak lords, it was likely their influence didn't stretch this far, which was a blessing in disguise. "Well Ying-er certainly does love to get himself into trouble..." 

 

"He does, which is why this will be good. Friends and guardians at the same time, killing two birds with one stone!" He paused, then gave Shen Yuan a sideways look. "...By the way, Shizun, Mu-shibo was looking for you earlier..." 

 

Shen Qingqiu cringed in response to that. "Was he now? Did he say how immediately he wanted to see me?" Was it really time for another checkup again? It really hadn't been that long since the last one, he could probably go another few years before Mu-shidi needed to forcefully step in! 

 

Luo Binghe shrugged, not seeming overly concerned. "He looked annoyed. You haven't been avoiding him, have you Shizun?" He asked as he leaned down with an amused smile on his face. "Well, that's okay if you aren't feeling ill, I suppose. He just worries a lot. I'll help you dodge him if you want?" 

 

Opening up his fan, he hid his grimace behind it before he actually answered. "Maybe I have, maybe I haven't...But there's no need for that, I probably should actually see him before I send him into qi deviation..." Surely it was gonna be the same old talk too, right? 

 

Binghe just gave a noncommittal hum as he shuffled behind his mate, wrapping his arms lightly around him as he kissed the back of his neck through his hair. "He'll be fine, he's pretty stable..." 

 

Meanwhile, Wen Ning was a nervous little wreck around this bubbly fox. With the boy excitedly trying to bring him into conversation, he could only stutter out a few words at a time. When Wei Ying eventually decided to show them around, he could only respond with a broken, “O-oh...o-o-okay....”

 

Wei Ying tilted his head a bit at the juvenile lion demon. "Wen Ning, do you have any hobbies? Anything you like?" He asked after a moment while they walked.

Wen Qing arched an eyebrow, remaining silent for now. If her brother looked at her though, she'd give him a small smile of encouragement and a nod.

 

Wide-eyed, as if he hadn't expected to get questioned about...well, anything really, Wen Ning stumbled over his words for some time before finally getting out, "I-I s-started...um...a-archery recently..."

 

"I like archery too! Wen Qing?" 

"I'm not as good as A-Ning, but I'm good with throwing darts, needles and knives." She replied smoothly.

"So, maybe we should go to the training grounds..." He mused as he ran around, showing them all over the scholarly peak that was his home. The focus here was of musical and scholarly arts, but people did still train in the way of the sword here (although he did sometimes go to other peaks and learn whatever they would teach him). He wasn't allowed to go to Zui Xian Peak yet, which made him pout. Papa He kept promising to take him when he was old enough. Pah! How old was old enough, anyway! Stingy!

That day was probably the most fun he'd had in a while. Ming Fan was currently being trained to one day formally take over Qing Jing Peak after Shen Qingqiu retired and was in charge of training the disciples of the mountain. Therefore, the kids there generally didn't have time to take from their studies and cultivation to play with Wei Ying. Having Wen Ning and Wen Qing around would prove to be very fun as time passed on.

 

Throughout the day, Wen Ning didn't quite get comfortable enough with Wei Ying, but it was definitely a start. He still jumped every time a question was directed to him and he doubted he'd stop stuttering any time soon, but he did know that he really liked this boy. He was certainly fun to be around once he got past getting startled by the fox every few minutes. Moving up here with his family certainly seemed worth it.

 

The younger boy tried hard to try and make Wen Ning more relaxed, and as was his way, this meant ignoring personal space as much as he could get away with. When Wen Ning had messy hair or leaves stuck in it, he'd gesture for him to crouch down a little so he could fix it. And one time, when he seemed especially nervous, he turned into his fox form and invited him to pet him. "I'm sorry if you're scared of foxes. I'm scared of dogs, of all sizes, so I get it, but I was able to get used to Papa He, so maybe I could be an exception for you! I won't bite you, so don't be scared~!" 

Wen Qing was torn between laughing and coughing, which she was able to turn into a snort as she covered her mouth with her hand. Wow, what a thick-faced, shameless brat! But it was kind of cute, she supposed....

 

Flustered, Wen Ning attempted to stutter out an excuse. "N-no...I-I'm not s-scared...! J-just...T-there a-aren't a lot...u-um...I-I'm not used to...S-so I-I'm just...s-shy..."

 

“...Well!  I know lots of great tricks for being less shy!” Wei Ying declared, and true or not, he was determined to ensure that it would become the truth, one way or another! 

In the future, this day would become infamous to the members of the Cang Qiong Peak as ‘the day Wei Ying blew up the kitchen’, but the incident did help break the ice with the lion cubs, as well as let them know what they were in for.

 

--

 

Time passed once again, as it does. Wei Ying became better friends with the Wen siblings, having fun poking at the lioness only to be on the receiving end of some acupressure attacks. He fished, hunted, played music, trained in the six classics and sorcery, snuck off to Zui Xian Peak to try alcohol at ten years old...and it turned out his unique ability could be refined through his flute playing, which was very useful. His Father had even given him a new flute for his 13th birthday, which he loved. It was wonderful, and made from 9000 year old yin spirit bamboo. It was balanced with a red yang phoenix tassel, which suited him nicely, he felt. And as usual, he carried his belt charms of a gentian and a dragon. The white jade and blue tassel stood out against the primary black of his robes, but it didn't clash, thankfully.

His chance had finally come a week ago. Father Shen had rather suddenly started his heat (startling quite a few students that had been training nearby) and Binghe had entered his rut as an immediate result once he’d arrived on the scene. The two had then secluded themselves in an undisclosed location for the duration. Wei Ying, once he was absolutely sure they were gone until further notice, had grabbed his things and his friends, and ‘borrowed’ a celestial crane mount of the sect to make his great escape. He wanted to get out and see the world without Binghe breathing down his neck!! 

Wen Qing, of course, flicked him behind the ear and called him an idiot once she realized what exactly was going on, but was mostly pacified when he gave her the qiankun pouch with the majority of the money to be used for the trip.

 

Upon learning of Wei Ying's plan, Wen Ning was a nervous wreck, but of course, he couldn't exactly leave him to run off on his own, so he tried to pack as much as was possible into his qiankun pouches and sleeves and made sure he didn't forget his bow and arrows. He still had horrible stage fright about actually using it, but he could only hope that should he ever actually be put into the heat of a situation, he'd forget all about potential eyes watching him.

 

"Come on, it'll be fiiiiine~!" Wei Ying insisted, sitting on the back of the giant crane and using Wen Ning as a shield between him and the grumpy lioness glaring at him, even as she tucked the money pouch into her own sleeve. "I mean, we're going to a country that supposedly only has one immortal, just one! And five cultivation sects..." 

"One of which is the Wen Clan," she said flatly. "Why the hell did you pick that country!?" 

"My parents came from there!" He retorted. "My birth parents! So yeah, I wanna go back to visit. I brought you two, didn't I? Wen Ning, Wen Ning, help me out here, aigooo, your sister is so scary-" 

"I'll show you scary, brat..." She grumbled without any real venom as she huffed and sat back. "Don't fall off the bird, sit properly."

 

"W-well...I-I guess since w-we're here too...L-Luo-shishu won't get t-too mad...r-right…?" As if seeking more confirmation on that, Wen Ning turned big eyes on his older sister as he tended to do when his nerves got the better of him.

 

"....Right." She said after a moment. Well, actually she was pretty sure that was right. If she'd thought Wen Ning or her clan would be in any severe danger from this, she would have knocked the brat out and disabled his legs for the next two weeks. "But, rules. You stay near at least one of us at all times. If you get separated, wait for us. And if I tell you two to run, you run, no arguments." 

"Okay, Shijie~!" Wei Ying promised with a bright smile, finally moving to sit properly. He ignored her snorting at him; she knew he would probably break most of those promises, but that little fox really cared about keeping his furry hide on his body where it belonged and not on the cape of some young Miss or Master somewhere. 

"Please at least tell me you don't want to go to Qishan?" 

He shook his head, grinning. "I want to see Lotus Pier, for sure! It's a must-see, with all those lotuses, and they season food properly there I hear!" 

Wen Qing made a face. "Most important rule, you don't get to cook!" 

"Hey! Unfair!! Wen Ning, Wen Ning, isn't she being mean? My food isn't that bad, right? You like my cooking, right? ....Wen Ning?" 

"Don't bully my little brother, you vixen."

 

Wen Ning paled at the question. How was he supposed to answer that? He very much wanted to protect his tongue but he also didn't want to upset Wei Ying either! "O-oh...W-well, it p-probably i-isn't...the w-worst...?" Granted, he wasn't sure how someone could do worse than burning one's tongue off, but there were a lot of people out there, right?

 

The fox pouted, and muttered to himself as he sulked a bit. Wen Qing threw a peanut at him. "Come on, come on, where else did you want to go?" 

"....Well, I was thinking Gusu would be fun." He said after a moment or two. "There's a lot of waterfalls, and I heard it's really pretty. Good thing you guys know how to swim, huh?"

"We're lions, Young Master Wei." She said in a very chilly manner.

"Yeah, but I'm a fox, it's not like I'm very aquatic either-" 

The chatter went mostly like this for most of the flight, the crane flying all the way to the border before they landed. Spirit beasts of her size and type would draw attention and Wei Ying wanted to lay low for now. "You are trouble, Young Master Wei, but I'll take my time flying back. I will tell your Uncle where you went though."

"Well, Uncle Liu will have to catch us first." Wei Ying said to the giant bird with more bravado than he actually felt. "See you later, Meimei!" 

He turned to the others, rubbing his hands together in glee. "So! On to Gusu first!"

 

Standing next to the rambunctious fox, Wen Ning fiddled with the sling of his quiver, glancing around their surroundings. "Y-You looked up w-where to go f-from here, right...? W-where in G-gusu are we g-going?" He totally understood stopping a ways out from the city to avoid attention, but if they got themselves lost before they even found another town, that wouldn't help them either.

 

"I want to go to a few places, but Caiyi town is a must, that's the one that's basically at the foot of their local Sect. The...Lan Clan, I think." He said, taking out a scroll to check his notes.

Wen Qing frowned slightly. Caiyi town...had she heard the name before? Why did she have this weird feeling.... 

Of course, Wei Ying didn't declare what one of his top goals was. Wen Qing would probably kill him. He'd need Wen Ning to distract her for a bit when the time came, so at least when she came to kill him, he'd be a little inebriated. Hehee.

 

Curiously, Wen Ning peeked over Wei Ying's shoulder at what he had written down on the scroll. At least immediately, from what the fox had unraveled, he didn't see anything akin to a map, which was a bit worrisome... "I-I hope you h-have more than just n-notes...W-what about m-maps...?"

 

Wei Ying laughed and reached up to pat the lion's head, rolling the scroll back up. "Come on, A-Ning, where's your sense of adventure?" 

"Young Master Weeeeeiii?" He stiffened and his smile froze. He didn't want to turn around. 

"W-well I wasn't sure how accurate the ones from home would be, so I figured I could ask directions, and- HEY HEY HEY, AI-YAA , help, mad lioness! Young Mistress Wen, please spare this lowly- OKAY OKAY it was a joke, we can just go get an accurate one at the nearest city-"

 

"I-In that case, l-let's hurry up a-and find town..." More on edge given the unfamiliar territory, Wen Ning tugged on Wei Ying's sleeve in the vague direction that he smelled people in.

 

Wei Ying managed to dodge the alpha woman and laughed again as he took hold of Wen Ning's arm, and headed off in the indicated direction. 

It was pretty smooth going from there. They did some night hunting on the way, anything involving the dead or undead was ridiculously easy for them to handle and made themselves pretty welcome in any town they came across, sometimes people even inviting the group of youngsters to spend the night.

At one point just before they reached Caiyi town, Wei Ying pulled Wen Ning aside to whisper to him while Wen Qing went to an herbalist shop to restock on some herbs used for scent blockers. "A-Ning, I'm going to need your help," he whispered. "Tomorrow, when we get to Caiyi town, I'm going to need you to help me escape Qing-shijie for a couple hours."

 

Blinking, Wen Ning glanced between Wei Ying and his sister for several moments before finally asking, "W-why do you n-need to escape...? Y-you're s-supposed to be with o-one of us, n-no matter what..."

 

"Weeeeeelllll-" He rubbed the back of his neck. "Caiyi town has something I really want to try but Shijie would cut off my tail if she caught me drinking it..." The thirteen year old pressed his hands together, tilting his head to the side cutely as he pleaded with his bodyguard. "I won't go far! And it's a cultivator town, with lots of righteous people, so how much trouble could I get into? ....Uh, don't answer that. Please, A-Ning? Pleeeeaaase~??" He used the best puppy dog face he could, one he learned from his Papa when he was using it on Father.

 

Wen Ning immediately averted his gaze when he caught the beginnings of that face. If he didn't see it, he couldn't give in, right? Or...that's what he would've hoped but...he could still tell Wei Ying's head was tilted in that certain pleading manner and the fox was a stubborn one. How long was he willing to hold the position? Definitely long enough for it to get uncomfortable... "F-fine...B-but you c-can't l-leave the town...!"

 

He held up three fingers immediately, giving him a bright grin. "I swear, I swear! A-Ning, you're such a good brother!" He said as he gave him a big hug. 

"What are you two up to now?" Wen Qing asked as she came back, tucking her purchases into her qiankun sleeve.

"We're plotting against you, go away," Wei Ying said teasingly as he looked at her over his shoulder, mischief in his smile.

She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Come on, we should get something to eat before we go." 

"Okay! Wen Ning, what do you want today?"

 

"O-oh...well I-I saw a s-stand that was a-advertising some f-fish soup...T-that looked good..." He glanced around to get a grip on his surroundings before pointing in a direction. "I-It was over there..."

 

"Sounds good to me!" The siblings and the fox went to eat and Wei Ying, of course, added his own blend of spices to his bowl because he's a damn masochist. He didn't seem to sweat at all as he cheerfully downed his bowl while chatting with the two lions. 

The next day, however, was a different story.

Chapter Text

His back to the shop window, Wen Ning was nervously looking around the street and especially around the area of the storefront his sister was walking into. "Y-young Master...y-you'd better be q-quick... J-jiejie will p-probably be in there for a w-while because of the m-medical texts, b-but she's also r-really good at s-skimming...I-if there's n-nothing in there t-that interests her e-enough, s-she'll find out about t-this right away..."

 

"Mn! I'll go now! Remember, I'll be at the docks no later than three!" He said, giving him a quick pat on the shoulder before running off. He used some track and scent dispersal techniques so Wen Qing wouldn't be able to track him down right away and hummed to himself as he thought about what the best liquor in an entire country must taste like! It was this inn over here that sold it, right? "Excuse me, hey sir! I'll take three jars of Emperor's Smile!" 

Not far from there, there was a boy sitting with his three spirit dogs, all of which were leaning or laying on him, tails wagging and panting happily. "Master really loves us the best!" Jasmine said to her sisters as her tail waved like a banner.

"He does!" Princess agreed. "Who else would choose to stay out here with us rather than leave us behind to go into such an ancient sect? One run by DRAGONS no less?"  

Love was about to agree, when she stopped, then lifted her nose in the air, taking her head out from under Jiang Cheng's hand. " ...I smell something. " 

That immediately got the other dogs’ attention and they all began to scent the air. What was it?! Undead?! No, not that... A beast? 

A fox!! 

The girls all started wagging their tails and Love even started baying. Foxes were fun! They hunted them sometimes with Young Master Jiang, when he was out looking for pheasants, but mostly they just chased them and wanted to play. 

"I'm going to get it first!”  

"No, me!" 

"HEY FOX!!!" 

Wei Ying was just coming out of the inn, smiling as he held one of the bottles he bought in his hand, the others safely stashed away for now. He was pretty pleased, and now he could take his time enjoying the- 

A mass of excited barking and baying made him stiffen and freeze, looking around with wide eyes as he felt his heart stop. Oh no. Oh no!! WHY NOW?!? 

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIYAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!" He screamed as he ran away from the three spirit dogs chasing joyously after him.  

 

Jiang Cheng was caught off guard as his dogs all of a sudden bolted off without any sort of warning. "Hey-Wai-Jasmine, Princess, Love, where are you going!?" This was unusual behavior from them but he wasn't about to lose them in an unfamiliar town and so he bolted up and started to chase after them, but the dogs were quickly vanishing into the distance. 

 

"Wait fox!" 

"We just wanna play! Come back here!" 

"His cultivation is pretty high, huh? Let's bring him back to Master!" 

"HEEEEELLLLLP!!! Don't come here, don't come here, go away dogs!! W-wen Ning, Wen Qing help!!"

Wei Ying ran like his tail was on fire, instantly regretting all of his choices for the day. These spirit dogs weren't easy to shake off like normal dogs! And he couldn't shift back to his fox form like this!! He began looking around for someone, anyone he could hide behind... WHY had he thought this was a good idea!? No dogs ever approached him with his two lion guards around!!! 

Catching sight of a group of people with white robes embroidered with clouds, he changed his direction, heading right for them. The first one he could reach, he grabbed their arm and desperately said, "Help, please, help, th-there are dogs chasing me, please don't let them get me!!" As he swung around him to put the body in between him and the furry barking monsters.

 

Meanwhile, this was certainly not the way Lan Wangji had expected this day to go. The night hunt had dragged on longer than any of them had been expecting and so by the time the GusuLan retinue had cleared and purified a nearby forest that had been filled with walking corpses that had their graves disturbed, it was closer to their normal waking time than their normal bed time. Also given how late it had become, it was impossible for them to reenter Cloud Recesses, what with curfew being seven pm, and so the disciples had all gathered within a lodge in Caiyi town. 

Normally, a disciple as young as Lan Wangji would not have been able to accompany any sort of night hunts for another few years, even despite being the Clan's second young master. However, the young dragon had proven to be an exception. For reasons unknown to almost the entire sect, their second young master had started cultivating in earnest perhaps about four or so months after Madame Lan had passed away. Through sheer dedication, the young Lan had studied and studied and risen up in skill to that of disciples three years his senior. It was for that sole reason that their elders and acting sect leader Lan Qiren had decided to give him his sword and courtesy name early, just last year. And this was also the reason that he was here in Caiyi town wandering the streets beside his brother with no clear destination at the moment as his fingers fiddled aimlessly with a black tassel and black and white beads hanging from his belt. 

He barely had enough time to react before the sound of barking dogs was interrupted by frantic screaming and a body grabbing him and darting around behind him. This... His chest stung as familiar memories rose to the surface and delivered a strong punch of deja-vu. Tightening his grip around Bichen, he silently searched for the supposed dogs that were approaching. And sure enough, it wasn't too long before he spotted three of them running up, tongues lolling and tails wagging as they barreled towards the person behind him. Before they could get much farther, however, Lan Wangji fixed them with a hard stare, cold enough that even the air seemed to chill along with it.

 

"Hey fox, wait up-" 

"Oh shit!" 

"Stop, stop, stop!!" 

The three dogs skidded to a halt in front of the white-robed teenager, excitement paused as they took in who the fox was hiding behind. "Uhhhhhh...." 

"Oh wow, are those the Twin Jades of Lan?" 

"Hey, uh, we were just trying to play with him-" 

"I don't wanna play with you, g-go away!" Wei Ying said from behind Lan Wangji, peeking around his shoulder and holding onto the back and arm of his robes. "Shame on you, chasing someone you don't know! Rude!"

 

Pausing at being name dropped and realizing that his brother had stopped following him, Lan Xichen turned around to look for his brother. "Wangji? Is something the..." Trailing off, the sect heir took in the sight of his brother's stiff stance staring down three dogs with a trembling figure in black using him as a human shield. And was it just his imagination, or did this boy seem familiar somehow...? 

He wasn't given much chance to ponder it further before a figure in purple robes was running up towards them, stopping just behind the dogs. "Princess, Jasmine, Love, what's gotten into you?! Where were yo--" Finally noticing the two figures in white before him, Jiang Cheng paled slightly before dipping into a bow. "Y-Young Masters Lan. This one apologizes for disturbing your schedule." 

Chuckling, Lan Xichen merely waved off the Jiang heir and said, "You must be Young Master Jiang. I heard Sect Leader Jiang has already gone to Cloud Recesses to meet with Uncle. I take it these are your spiritual dogs? Pets are not allowed within Cloud Recesses, so that must be why you're out here, correct?" 

Before Jiang Cheng could even answer that question in the affirmative, Lan Wangji had finally spoken up. "Call away your dogs."

 

The three dogs quietly trotted back over to Jiang Cheng, tails dropped down as they dropped their postures submissively. "Master, the boy over there is a fox." 

"We just wanted to chase him a bit, we weren't going to hurt him..." 

"Eugh." Wei Ying shivered and shook his head, moving back behind Wangji fully. Nope, no dogs. Not for him. Just Papa, he was the one exception. "Ladies, please leave me alone... Your spirit dogs are harassing me, sir!"

 

Scowling, Jiang Cheng crouched down in front of his dogs and gave them all affectionate pets before addressing Wei Ying. "They do not harass anyone! They're good dogs!" He then turned his attention back to them, grinning as he cooed to them about just how good they are. 

Listening to what the dogs were saying about the person behind him made the pain in Lan Wangji's chest twist. No, there was no way. There were plenty of foxes roaming about, that meant nothing. (But oh did he want it to. But how likely would that even be? Was he even still alive?) On edge from the multiple coincidences that were just piling up, the dragon gripped at his fox charm once again, hoping the familiar lines and carvings would help center himself.

 

"Yes they were, they were! They're speciesist, too! I was just minding my own business, and they come chasing me out of nowhere! Rude! I almost dropped my purchase!" 

Two of the girls acted like they had no idea what he was talking about, but the third had the 'guilty dog face' and was avoiding looking directly at Jiang Cheng.

He snorted as the dog owner lavished attention on his canines, and shook his head before tugging on his new shield- er, new friend's arm. "Hey, hey, if they won't go, then we can go." He was just scared to step away from his newfound safety. Especially when he had no idea where his friends were.

 

Focused inward at first, Lan Wangji didn't immediately notice that the fox's attention was now solely on him. As a result, he simply gave a noncommittal "Mn" before turning towards him. However, as he did, he stopped short, finally getting a glimpse of the fox's face. He was clearly not as malnourished as before, with fuller cheeks and a broader torso, and he was obviously older than the last he had seen him, but this was definitely A-Ying. There was no way he could mistake it. About half of his whole life had been dedicated to making himself stronger over the guilt of having failed him as children (and yes, part of him did realize how ridiculous that thought was; he'd only been six going on seven , of course there would've been limited things he could've done, but the emotional side of his brain never listened to that reasoning). With hands he only just realized were trembling, he tightened his grip on both Wei Ying's fox charm and his own Bichen, throat also closing up against the words he could be saying.

 

Gray eyes met gold and he looked over his face before he looked back at the dogs for a moment and then back to Lan Zhan. "...Can we go?" He whispered, noticing that something was off. "Are you okay? You're not scared of them too, are you?" If everything else hadn't been proof enough, on the boy's belt was a very familiar blue tassel and white jade charm...

 

Managing to shake his head, Lan Wangji turned towards his brother and bowed, saying, "Brother should go ahead of me." 

If Lan Xichen had appeared confused earlier, he merely had to take one look at Wangji and then flick his eyes over to Wei Ying before understanding crossed his features and he smiled. "Alright, Wangji. I will inform Uncle." 

"Mn." Straightening, Lan Wangji barely managed to refrain from grabbing Wei Ying's wrist before he set off in a random direction. It didn't matter which way they went so long as it was away from the dogs and Wei Ying was following behind him.

 

Squeaking a bit, Wei Ying hurried to keep up, hanging on to one of his arms and still keeping as much of him between himself and the dogs as possible.

Jasmine and Love both whined a bit when they saw him leaving, but they didn't try following, happy enough to nuzzle their master instead. "We're sorry Master~!"

 

Baffled by this whole encounter, Jiang Cheng was stuck staring at where the two white and black figures were disappearing off to before his dogs nuzzling him for attention drew his focus back to them. “Now why did you girls do that? C’mon, let’s head back to our inn.”

"Dogs." Wei Ying muttered, glancing back at the group of three dogs and one human until they were out of sight; only then did some of the tension bleed away. He heaved a heavy sigh of relief, patting his chest with one hand, the other still holding onto his sleeve. "Hoo. Thank you, Young Master," he said, giving the other boy a smile. "That was close. Dogs suck. Well, I guess not all. But most," he grumbled.

 

'Young Master' sat ugly in Wangji’s stomach, but he didn't say anything or even stop walking until they were very clearly a far enough distance away from the Jiang heir and his dogs. When he finally did stop, he turned back around to face Wei Ying again and suddenly said, "Lan Zhan." Maybe he was so scared from the encounter earlier that he didn't register that they already knew each other. Maybe that's why he had used 'young master.' And if that truly was the case, he wanted to inject a reminder as soon as possible that he didn't mind being called by his name again. In fact, he doubted there was anything he would mind when it came to Wei Ying.

 

"Lan Zhan? Heheh, nice name! Very blue. I'm Wei Ying. It's very nice to meet you. Thank you for saving me!" He said, finally releasing his sleeve and giving him a proper, but not subservient, bow and salute. "You must be of the Lan Sect, right? I'm pretty new here, just passing through with a couple friends- Woah, are you okay?!"

 

The more Wei Ying talked (or rather, the instant Wei Ying said his name in that manner), the deeper his heart sunk. Why wasn't the fox recognizing him? He certainly didn't think his appearance changed all that much from when they last saw each other. His clothes were perhaps a tad fancier and his topknot was sporting a different ornament now, but otherwise, he should look exactly the same. Why didn't A-Ying recognize him? Maybe call out 'A-Zhan' in that familiar bright tone. Was he perhaps...pretending not to know him out of some form of revenge? Mind racing, he brought his gaze down and away from the fox's. He couldn't've gotten the person wrong, right? Maybe he had even imagined the name being said as a coping mechanism to counter all the coincidenc--but wait, no, right there on the other child's belt was his mother's charm. There were only two in existence and his brother had the other one. That meant... Without even realizing it, a few tears had escaped him, falling silently as he slowly, hesitantly, looked back up at Wei Ying. "A-...Wei Ying...Do you not remember me...?"

 

"Uh- Oh no, please don't cry-" The young fox looked a little flustered, actually feeling a small bit of panic as he looked him over and tried to remember anything about him- His eyes grew wide, and he grabbed his arm. "The fox charm! That's-!" He grabbed the charm on his belt, showing it to him. "Is- Is this yours?! It is, right?!"

 

Without even needing to look, Lan Wangji of course knew what the fox was showing him. So, forcing his emotions back under control, he merely stated, "Mother made it," as an answer.

 

He suddenly brightened. "So, we exchanged these! Ahaha! Yes! I knew I wouldn't lose it!" He put the talisman back on his belt, then paused, looking at Lan Zhan and the charms before smiling faintly. "I'm glad, it looks like your life has been pretty good. My mom and dad made that for me, the tassel is made from fur from each of us, and the beads are really special." He pointed at the black one. "That one saved my life before. I'm uh... I'm really sorry I don't remember you." He said, cupping his hands again and giving a deeper bow this time. "My memories from directly before my current family took me in aren't...intact. I'm sure you must have been important to me though, I'd never give my fox charm to just anyone. Please forgive me."

 

So. Wei Ying couldn't remember him. While part of him naturally felt hurt by the fact, another part of him realized that it also meant he didn't remember the circumstances of their separation. He didn't remember that ex-Lan sect member berating, looking down on, and kicking him out of their inn nor the several days he spent searching all around the town for any other Lan sect member. And if he thought of it in that manner, Lan Wangji didn't quite mind being forgotten as much. If only one of them had lingering negative emotions from that time, then that was fine. "...There is nothing for me to forgive."

 

"No, I feel bad." He said, reaching up with his sleeve and dabbing at his cheeks to get rid of the tear tracks... He didn't even realize he shed them. "Lan Zhan, it was probably some sort of fate we met today. Hey, if you have time, would you like to come have a drink with me?" He reached into his sleeve and pulled out a jar of liquor, with the label ‘Emperor's Smile’ on the side. His grin was very cheeky. "The whole reason I got into this mess with the dogs is because I snuck away from my Shijie so I could try some..."

 

Blinking, Lan Wangji glanced down at the jar in his hand before frowning ever so slightly. "Alcohol is forbidden in Cloud Recesses," he recited automatically. However, he sure as hell wasn't going to decline the spending-time-with-Wei-Ying part of this. He had never thought he'd see him again, of course he was going to make use of this miracle he had been granted.

 

"Aw... But, wait, we're not in the cloud recesses right now...?" He shook his head and said, "I mean, you don't have to drink any if you don't want to, but... Do you still want to hang out?" 

 

Lan Wangji blinked slowly, realizing that indeed they were not in Cloud Recesses and that he had simply stated the rule out of habit. Of course, that didn’t change his overall sentiment of wishing to spend time with Wei Ying now that he’d found him again so he nodded. “Mm.” 

 

"Okay, great!" He took hold of his hand and tugged a bit. "You're from here, Lan Zhan, where's a nice place to sit and chat for a while, where we're not breaking rules?"

 

Thinking for a little bit, Lan Wangji was silent as he pondered at the ground before eventually deciding on a location and turning towards it. He led them through the town for some time until they eventually reached the edge of a canal in a part of the town that was more field than it was town. Here, it would be rather peaceful as not that many people took this route through the town. Glancing back at Wei Ying, he then asked, "Sufficient?" 

 

"Yeah, this is great~!" He said cheerfully as he found a clean enough spot for them to sit and patted the spot next to him as he took out a few things for snacking, humming cheerfully as he set them up. "Lan Zhan, do you like peanuts?" He asked as he poured some into a bowl to set between them alongside a couple of cups. "These are really good, I have a supply of them from home. Papa is a scarily good cook, I don't think Father eats food made by anyone else anymore..." He tossed a couple into his mouth as he opened the jar and took a deep whiff, making an appreciative sound at the fragrance before pouring himself a cup. "Lan Zhan, if you don't want any I won't force you, but this is Emperor's Smile! They say it's the finest in the whole country, and wine is better when it's shared-" 

 

Looking down at both the open spot and the peanuts, Lan Wangji gingerly sat himself down ramrod straight as he turned his head to watch Wei Ying. Struck again by how much better the fox seemed to be doing, he picked up two peanuts too while simultaneously refusing the alcohol. "Alcohol is forbidden." Sure they weren't in Cloud Recesses right now, but it still felt wrong for him to skirt around the rule like that and true to his rule-abiding self, he didn't want to start making exceptions now. After a few moments, he grew curious about what had been unspoken and shifted the subject. "Where you live now...What is it like?" 

 

"Mmm, it's actually pretty far from here." He said, downing the first cup and making an appreciative sound. "I got adopted by the Qing Jing Peak Lord of Cang Qiong Mountain Sect... You might not have heard of it, because it's so far away, but Father and his mate are actually pretty... uh... well, both notorious and well respected at the same time, ahahaha..." He reached into his sleeve and pulled out the sect token his father gave him, handing it to Lan Zhan to look at then pouring himself another cup. "And Qing Jing Peak is really cool! They focus on the scholarly arts, and it's covered in bamboo thickets and willows and stuff... It's one of the most beautiful places, you should come see it someday! And the Peak Lords of the sect are all really close, they're all family coming from all different walks of life and different origins..." 

 

Taking the token, he examined the carvings in it before he eventually said. "Know some. Tried to research." However, despite the GusuLan Library Pavilion being lauded as one of the most extensive collections of books, there wasn't actually much to be found about Cang Qiong Mountain. He could only find one book and score transcription of a song, both called the Resentment of Chunshan, which he had a hard time understanding as a mere eight year old when he'd come across it. Therefore, the most helpful information he had gotten about who had taken Wei Ying had been the vague rumors that the people from that town had given the older Lan disciples. 

 

"Yeah, fortunately Papa hasn't stirred up a lot of trouble lately, so mostly the stuff going around nowadays are their stories or people's imaginations," he said as he popped some more peanuts into his mouth. "But they both take really good care of me, even if Papa scared the hell out of me at first. Oh, and check this out!" He took his flute off his belt to show the young dragon. "This is Chenqing! Father gave it to me for my last birthday." 

 

Blinking, Lan Wangji examined the sleek, black flute. It looked well crafted and had a strong spiritual presence, perhaps on a similar level to his guqin Wangji? If it wasn't already clear that the Cang Qiong Sect was a well-established one in Wei Ying's new country, it was obvious just from looking at the craftsmanship of the flute. "Mn. Well made." 

 

"Mmhmm!" He said proudly. "It helps with my cultivation too. I'm pretty good at sorcery, even if I'm not old enough for my own sword yet... Hm? Now that I think about it, you have a sword already?" He said as he looked at Bichen. "What's its name?" 

 

“Bichen. Trained harder. Got it early. Courtesy name too.” It was forbidden to be excessively prideful or boastful and so Lan Wangji simply kept it at that. 

 

"Cool! Very cool, Lan Zhan! Ah, but I can keep calling you like this, right? Or would you rather I called you by your courtesy name? Or something else?" He asked as he drank another cup, lazily twirling his flute as his face got a little flushed.

 

Ears flushing slightly at the praise, Lan Wangji gave a little shake of his head. "No need for courtesy names." Now that he had one, no one bothered to use his birth name anyways. It felt nice to have someone using it again, especially since that someone was a reunited Wei Ying. 

 

"Lan Zhan it is then." He said with a smile. "So...tell me about yourself a little? Like, how old are you? What's your favorite color? Favorite food?"

 

A bit awkwardly, Lan Wangji stared down at his hands, one of which still had the peanuts he had yet to actually try (no speaking while eating, his mind supplied him). "...Fourteen. Red." He paused as he thought about the food question. Two came to mind but he didn't actually go out of his way to find either of them when he was outside of Cloud Recesses. Mapo tofu because he was bad with spice, and blown sugar candy because the memory of the events that happened after that first and last time he had it always dredged up bad feelings. He had to answer the question, though, and he had no other ideas coming to mind, so he settled on, "Mapo tofu. Non-spicy."

 

"Red, huh?" He asked in surprise. "I like red too! Oh, but I also like black and white. And blue. I like a lot of colors, actually, I'm fickle that way, ahahahaha-" Then he said non-spicy mapo, and he looked a little crushed, sighing and using this chance to down the rest of his liquor in that particular bottle. "Why is everyone so mean to spice lately?? You know that without spiciness, it's not really mapo? It's just tofu soup? Haizz, well, I guess that's good too, actually. I really like spiciness. And I'm thirteen, so I guess I could also call you gege, huh?" He said cheekily.

 

Embarrassed on a few fronts (mostly being called gege, but unwilling to acknowledge that aloud), Lan Wangji gripped the fox charm once again. "...Can eat some spice. But not used to it." If Wei Ying wanted him to eat something spicy, he doubted he'd be able to reject him. His mouth may suffer the consequences for it, but he was certain it'd bring that grin of his to the forefront.

 

He waved a hand flippantly. "It's okay, some people don't have the tongue for it, I understand... Are you vegetarian or do you eat meat sometimes? I love chicken! And rabbit! But chicken is better. And lotus, I like lotus root and lotus seeds. The pods are best fresh, with the stem still on..."

 

"Vegetarian within Cloud Recesses. Meat usually on night hunts only." Lan Wangji grew silent then, brows furrowed in the slightest as he thought on if he should mention what he'd thought of just then. "...Last ate lotus seeds with you..."

 

"Really? We should do it again!" He said. "After wandering around Gusu for a bit, I was thinking about going to Lotus Pier! I bet it's really beautiful- ah, but I also love all the waterfalls and stuff out here! We should-" 

"Young. Master. Wei! Ying!!"

Chapter Text

Some time earlier, a very grumpy Lioness was on the hunt, looking for Wei Ying with her brother trailing sheepishly behind her. "I can't believe you went along with this," she said, current feelings towards her brother being quite complicated. A little proud he had the guts to go against her like this, completely shocked and annoyed he had the guts to go against her like this, and concern for the little brat she considered almost as a second little brother by now. "From now on, if he needs a little space, you just stick to him and tell me he wants some alone time. I can entertain myself or find better things to do for a couple hours while staying out of your hair-" 

 

Sheepishly, Wen Ning trailed behind his sister, fiddling with his sleeves as he followed. “S-sorry Jie...H-he seemed adamant...E-even used the p-puppy dog eyes...”

 

"-seriously I really saw it! A bunch of dogs were chasing a screaming kid down the street!" 

Wen Qing froze when she heard that, and exchanged a glance with Wen Ning before running over to talk to the person who spoke. "I'm sorry, could you please tell us the story?" She patted Wen Ning on the arm as she heard the story from the civilian, and the description matched their wayward idiot. "Which way did he go? And you said the dogs belonged to whom?" 

"Young Master Jiang of YunmengJiang Sect. He's hard to miss, he has three spirit dogs and wears purple..."

 

Looking down the street in the direction that the civilian had pointed out to them, Wen Ning tried to stretch his senses for any sign of either Wei Ying or the dogs in question. It felt as if he may have caught onto the dogs' scent and presence, but he couldn't seem to sense Wei Ying anywhere nearby. (And yes that did make sense given that he would've hightailed it out of there as soon as possible, but he figured there'd at least be some sort of trace of his scent, right?)

 

Wen Qing also scented the air, and could confirm the man's story. Thanking him, she looked at Wen Ning and nodded her head, before setting off after the trail. 

Love, Jasmine and Princess were talking as they pressed against Jiang Cheng, enjoying his attention. "I feel a little bad about scaring him so much." Love said as she rested her head on Jiang Cheng's thigh.

"But that's part of the fun of chasing them!" Jasmine said in reply.

"In any case, we probably shouldn't have done it in town, and surely not around here. We might have gotten Master in trouble through our careless actions..."

 

Unaware of the conversation his dogs were having between themselves, Jiang Cheng busied himself with giving each of them attention in turns as he murmured to himself. "Since you normally don't run off like that, I'll forget this even happened, but what was up with that guy? Acting like dogs are super scary...They aren't, by the way! Dumb idiot..."

 

"So. It was you three that terrorized our Young Master Wei?" 

The dogs stiffened, turning to look at the inn’s door, one of them yelping as they sensed that the two teenagers were actually LIONS with demonic energy. Wen Qing's face was dark as she approached, a quiet menace following after her. "Where is he?" She demanded quietly of the four of them, the three dogs and the young teen.

 

Frown immediately jumping to his features at the rather rude greeting, Jiang Cheng looked up at the girl and the meek-looking boy behind her. "Who? That kid in black? How should I know, the Second Jade took him somewhere after he accused my sweet girls of harassing him!"

 

"I heard the story from eyewitnesses." She said, shifting her gaze to the dogs. "I know you can understand me, and I can understand you. Who is this Second Jade person? What has he done to the Young Master?" 

"Hey, the fox went with him willingly!" 

"He's a local cultivator, right? Lan Wangji!"

"He said something about alcohol?" 

She stiffened, then turned to look at Wen Ning, who had conveniently left that part out. "That's what this mess was about?" She asked with an air of incredulity.

 

With wide eyes, Wen Ning furiously shook his head when his sister's gaze was fixed on him. "T-this is n-news to me t-too...! H-he only said he w-wanted to b-buy something...!"

 

Frown shifting to a strange expression, Jiang Cheng awkwardly looked between the two teens and his dogs. What the hell! He was right here and this girl was just talking to his dogs instead?? "What am I, chopped liver?" he then muttered under his breath. 

 

"Chopped liver actually has good taste, so no," Wen Qing said as she turned to leave, flicking her sleeves. "Just because someone isn't human, you three, doesn't mean you can chase them however you like. Be more careful in the future..." When she looked back, her eyes had changed and actually had a golden-green glow. "-they usually won't let themselves be unfairly picked on. A-Ning, let's go. The scent trail is still pretty fresh." She said as she went off down the street.

 

Hesitantly looking between the Jiang Master they hadn’t even gotten the name of and his sister, Wen Ning was halfway in a bow towards the purple-clothed youth before his sister called for him. Quickly getting out a, “Y-yes, A-Jie...” he stumbled after her nervously.

Flinching as if he’d been struck, Jiang Cheng quickly schooled his brief wide-eyed shock into a scowl, not even getting much chance to say anything before they were walking off again. “What the hell, who taught you to socialize...” She just up and ignored him for his goddamn dogs! I mean, sure they were adorable as all hell, but he was still right here! The nerve!! 

 

"Huh, funny, someone who can't even admit his servants were in the wrong and discipline his dogs trying to lecture this one about manners? Who taught you?" She called back, before she was down the street and around the next building already.

"... Wooooow, that was so scary!" Love said, whining as she threw herself back on her master as soon as the siblings were out of sight.

"The fox had a pair of demon lions with him?! What the heck!!" 

"What's his background, anyway?" Princess sniffed.

 

Bristling, Jiang Cheng didn't even get a chance to defend his dogs or himself before the two of them were off. What the hell! His dogs were smart and well trained, thank you very much! They definitely would not have harmed that kid they were chasing! That was just them having fun! They played a lot like that even with the other Jiang disciples and it helped train them for when they'd need to chase down malicious creatures during a night hunt or other!

 

--

 

“Young. Master. Wei! Ying!!”

 

Unnerved by the sudden approach of something dark and potentially dangerous, Lan Wangji didn't hesitate to transform into his now larger and stronger true form with a cloud of sudden cold air. By the time the mist had cleared, his long white body was coiled around Wei Ying protectively, head and front legs poised towards the alleyway the unfamiliar voice was coming from. He had watched Wei Ying be taken in front of his very eyes, he wasn't about to let that happen again. This time, he had a better chance of fending off whoever was approaching and this time, he could dart off into the skies with the fox if he needed to.

 

The woman behind them froze, and Wei Ying yelped a bit as he was suddenly covered in a large, scaly body. "Wait, wait wait!!" He said, waving his hands. "Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, it's okay, this is my friend! Wen Qing, I'm okay! He's a friend!" Followed by a moment of silence, then... "Ah! Lan Zhan! You're a dragon?! So cool!!!" 

Wen Qing was a bit nervous facing one of the most powerful creatures around. She held out an arm, wanting Wen Ning to stay back. "...Second Young Master Lan, I presume?" She asked cautiously.

 

Upon seeing a rather large dragon standing at just about his height suddenly appear in front of them, Wen Ning yelped and jumped back, too startled to even instinctually reach for his bow. 

Lan Wangji, meanwhile, now that he had taken a few more moments during Wei Ying's frantic reassurance and awe, surveyed the two...lions, it seemed, in front of him. Aside from the slight demonic aura he sensed (and Wei Ying had blurted out the Wen surname, so that must be why), he couldn't pick up on any ill intent and so he turned to face Wei Ying, slowly uncurling his body until the fox was visible once again. A quick glance around the area he guarded assured him that he hadn't ruined any of the food or purchases the other had brought and just as quickly as he had transformed, he reverted back to his human form. Bowing both apologetically and in greeting as the cold mist cleared up, he politely said, "Lan Zhan, courtesy Lan Wangji, of GusuLan Sect. This one extends his sincerest apologies for the sudden animosity. This one acted upon past fears in a manner unbecoming towards innocent bystanders when he should have understood better." It was probably the most anyone had seen him speak at once in his entire life!

 

Wei Ying's jaw actually hung open for a few moments as Wen Qing also relaxed a bit and returned the bow and salute. "Apologies are unnecessary, Second Young Master Lan. These two are Young Master Wei's personal attendants, it was our negligence that allowed for our separation. Thank you for protecting him in our stead earlier. This one is Wen Qing, and this is my brother, Wen Ning."

"They're the friends I was talking about earlier!" Wei Ying said as he placed a hand on Lan Zhan's arm, encouraging him. "Qing-shijie is a really amazing doctor, and A-Ning is great at the bow! And guys, this is Lan Zhan! We used to know each other as kids!"

 

In a rush, Wen Ning hurried to mimic the salute his sister was giving as Lan Wangji watched them with some inward hesitance. Although, to be more accurate, the hesitance didn't start to seep in until Wei Ying was speaking once again. The rational side of him rejoiced in seeing proof that the fox hadn't been alone these past seven years, but the emotional side of him felt a stab or two of jealousy, especially towards Wen Ning...'A-Ning' as Wei Ying had addressed him. It was irrational, he knew, but he was uncomfortable that someone else had earned that nickname, that he was no longer 'A-Zhan' (as if he could even expect A-Ying to go back to that when his memory was damaged). He couldn't let those emotions show, however, and he was glad that only Lan Xichen was able to read his true emotions from his normal, blank expression. In response to Wei Ying, he simply gave a nod and an "Mn" of acknowledgement.

 

Still watching Lan Wangji with a healthy dose of caution, Wen Qing approached Wei Ying. She recognized defensive behavior when she saw it, and wondered at their previous relationship. Once she was close enough, the alpha turned her attention to Wei Ying, taking his wrist to feel his pulse as she looked him over. "Are you hurt?" 

"Nope, I'm fine! I-" 

"Good." Still holding his wrist with one hand, the other quickly reached forward and sharply flicked his forehead, making him cry out and reach up to rub the spot with his free hand. 

"Aiya! What was that for?!" 

"That was for breaking your promise to keep one of us with you at all times." She said, before stuffing a pill into his open mouth and hitting a couple acupoints to make him swallow. "And that is for sneaking off to drink alcohol , of all things." 

"It's- so bitter-" he gagged, looking pitiful as she finally released him. "What ever happened to sugar coating?" 

"Sugar coated pills are not for young alcoholic foxes. Accept your bitter medicine." She said cooly.

"...Lan Zhan, A-Ning, I'm being bullied...."

 

"Y-young Master Wei, y-you knew t-this would happen i-if Jiejie c-caught you, d-didn't you...?" And given what exactly he had wanted to buy, then there was all the more reason that she would be mad. Had he known it was alcohol he was hoping to buy, even he would've been resistant to letting him go. 

At a loss for what to do (and boy did that raise some more unpleasant emotions...had Wei Ying changed over the last seven years? If he jumped in and did something, would he read the situation wrong and make the fox uncomfortable? He still, at least, seemed to be a tactile person, but would a touch from a near stranger be unsettling for him?), Lan Wangji was caught looking between Wei Ying and Wen Qing, a hand outstretched in the slightest but generally unmoving. After several long moments, he finally gathered up the nerves to say, "You reap what you sow..."

 

He sighed heavily, feeling very sorry for himself, and mock-pouted. He grabbed his bowl of peanuts and began to eat them again, not wanting to waste any. "I mean it's not like I'm even drunk or anything. I'm perfectly sober. Foxes have great alcohol tolerance you know. All the stories say so." 

Wen Qing rolled her eyes as she watched him clean up his mess. "Next time I won't give you the detoxification pill, see how you feel after that. Huh!"

"Shijie, if you want some Emperor's Smile, all you have to do is ask~" 

"You know, it's getting hot lately, I bet you'd be a lot cooler if someone were to shave that coat of yours..." 

Wei Ying's eyes widened, and protected his hair with both hands, scuttling to hide behind the nearest ‘wall’ available, which was Lan Zhan. "Shijie, I won't sneak off to buy wine again, this humble fox swears!"

 

Unmoving like a statue, Lan Wangji only turned his head slightly to glance back at Wei Ying from the corner of his eyes. He hadn't seen much of Wen Ning reacting outside of anxious nerves so he couldn't quite place how close they were, but with Wen Qing, at least, there was a certain ease to their banter that he envied. Granted, he doubted it would've played out quite the same way had Wei Ying grown up in Cloud Recesses, what with given how reserved Lan Wangji naturally was, but he couldn't help but mourn the loss of what could've been. Had they been even just an hour earlier--He cut that thought off. Too late for that now. "Ridiculous. Wei Ying will most certainly be mischievous again." 

Wen Ning covered his mouth with a sleeve at that point to hide his quiet laugh. True to what Wei Ying had said, it seems like the Second Jade really had known the fox when they were younger.

 

Wei Ying looked at Lan Zhan with a flapping mouth like a fish for a moment before laughing. "Lan Zhan, oh Lan Zhan, you're not gonna let me have any face, Huh? Okay, okay. That's fine." He patted his shoulder with one hand while the other scratched his own chin.

"If we're going to be here for a few days, we should work on securing lodging." Wen Qing said. "Lan Wangji, where would you recommend we try?"

 

Lan Wangji was silent for some time as he debated. He desperately wanted to secure more time with the fox, but classes were in full swing for him and so making frequent trips to Caiyi might be difficult... Manageable but difficult. But...if he were to suggest the Cloud Recesses itself, what would the reaction to their 3000 rules be? Wei Ying had been eager to return with him as a child and he at least had some knowledge of their rule-heavy sect with how many times he had blurred out rules during their month together. But this Wei Ying didn’t remember that and was perhaps even more unrestrained than he had been seven years ago. Would he now turn his nose up at the idea...? Lan Wangji wasn’t sure he was prepared to receive a reaction like that... “...The best inn is near the foot of the mountain leading up to Cloud Recesses... Cloud Recesses itself has...” He trailed off there, looking down at the ground as he realized partway through his sentence that he wasn’t brave enough to attempt the offer and then have his hopes dashed.

 

"...Cloud Recesses has...?" He asked with a head tilt, watching the dragon's face. If he just ended up stopping and did not finish his sentence, he'd just sigh and say, "So, you want to show us the inn? How much time do you have to hang out today?"

 

Lan Wangji did indeed remain clammed up, ears flushed slightly in embarrassment that he even entertained the idea. He surely wouldn’t enjoy the stay, right? Especially with enforcing all those rules... And so he went back to more shorter sentences. “Mn, will show. Curfew is at seven.”

 

"Eeeh? You guys have a curfew? That sounds like a pain~" He rubbed his chin. "Well, there's still a lot of time until seven! Maybe after we secure lodging, you can show us around Caiyi for a bit!"

Recognizing that Wei Ying was reluctant to see the dragon go anytime soon, Wen Qing didn't object to this plan. She wanted to get a better grasp on this guy's personality anyways. With how Wei Ying was, if they had known each other a long time ago, why did the fox never mention him?

 

"Mn." Turning back towards the heart of the town, Lan Wangji silently led them through a different set of roads until he eventually stopped in front of a large but rather modest inn with a sign naming it 'Yunshen Kezhan' just a few meters away from a massive, winding line of stone stairs. 

 

Growing up for the last seven or so years on a mountain sect himself, the staircase was a somewhat familiar sight to him, and he was more concerned with getting the room situation figured out so that they could get on with the guided sight-seeing, though he was curious about where the dragon lived.

 

Trailing a bit behind the dragon and fox, Wen Ning hesitantly turned towards his sister, using a direct speaking method to ask, "D-did Young Master Wei...e-ever mention S-second Young Master Lan to you...?"

 

The lioness shook her head no once, keeping an eye on the two younger males ahead of them. "We can ask him later. For now, we wait and watch. My order still stands, if something we can't handle happens, grab him and run." She said back, using the same technique so as to not be overheard.

 

Nodding, Wen Ning settled in to largely observe the two childhood (?) friends as Wen Qing handled the room arrangements, and soon came back out to join the boys. When Wen Qing exited the inn, he stepped forward to ask, "W-were there enough r-rooms for us...?" 

 

"Yes. We'll room as usual, I'll be in the room next to you and Young Master Wei." She replied. 

 

Quietly, Lan Wangji watched as the lioness came out again and began conversing with her brother. He didn't doubt that there'd be room at this particular inn as it was rather removed from the main bustle of the town. This inn was typically used as a sort of overflow for guests and dignitaries should they not have enough open guest rooms within Cloud Recesses to accommodate everyone. Travel up the staircase to Cloud Recesses from this location typically took an hour on foot (or less for those that flew up) and there were no similar lodgings along the path until the Sect headquarters itself so this was always the most ideal spot for equal access between Cloud Recesses and Caiyi town proper. 

Incidentally looking up the long path during his musings, Lan Wangji couldn't help but wonder if anyone (most likely his brother) was going to come back down at some point to ask after him. This was a day in which there were no classes, which is partly why he had participated in the night hunt last night, and so hopefully no one would aim to seek him out before he could get his fill of time spent with Wei Ying.

 

"Great! Okay, Lan Zhan, do you still want to show us around?" Wei Ying asked as he looked at the dragon again. Actually, he really wanted to take another look at Lan Zhan's dragon form. He'd never been that close to a- well, actually, he guessed he had, but he couldn't remember ever meeting a celestial type dragon before. Luo Binghe was technically a dragon, but he looked like a wolf a majority of the time.

 

Perhaps it helped that he had been looking at the stone stairs when he overheard the Wen siblings talking, for any possible minute show of the spike of jealousy he felt was tucked away from the other three teens. When he was addressed, Lan Wangji relaxed his expression back to normal and brought his gaze back over to Wei Ying. "Mn. Where would you like?"

 

"Well, do you go into town very often? What are your favorite places to visit? Any interesting places to cultivate or local legends?" He asked, shrugging. "Anywhere you like! Gusu is your home. I wanna learn about it."

 

Lan Wangji didn't quite wince outwardly, but inwardly he certainly did. Most of the time, he stayed within the borders of Cloud Recesses and typically only stopped by Caiyi for maybe some rations or in search of new reading materials or scores their library may not have. "...I typically stay within Cloud Recesses." But he really did want to show Wei Ying around, even if he didn't know what exactly he'd show him and so he started down one of the main roads where store fronts and street vendors lined both sides. Perhaps it'd be like when they were younger and Wei Ying would inadvertently choose which places to check out.

 

Amusingly enough, Wei Ying wound up checking out the various street stalls, lamenting over the lack of spicy stuff, but there was a group of people selling loquats. He bought a basket of them and took them back over to share with the others. "Lan Zhan, do you like loquats? These ones look really good! Here, have some. A-Ning, Shijie, here!"

 

Taking the loquats Wei Ying had handed him, he glanced down at them briefly without actually starting to eat them before eventually answering the fox. "...Mn. These are occasionally desserts." 

Fumbling to catch the ones Wei Ying threw at him, Wen Ning just barely managed to prevent them from hitting the ground in his nervousness. Taking a little bite out of the ripest looking one, he perked up with, "T-this is good...! N-not too sweet b-but not t-too tangy..."

 

The alpha teen began eating hers quietly, merely watching the other three and keeping an eye out on their surroundings.

"Yeah, they're perfectly ripe!" He said gleefully as he ate one. "Mm, very good! I wonder what else they have here..." He murmured as he looked around.

 

Suddenly remembering something, Lan Wangji pointed in a direction to his right, though seemingly not at anything in particular. “Two streets over. Hunan cuisine restaurant. Only one in Caiyi.” He’d never actually been inside it since he couldn’t handle the spice, but he was sure Wei Ying would love to visit it during his stay here.

 

He perked up. "NOW you're talking!" He said excitedly. "We'll go... Uh, later. For dinner? Maybe?" He looked at Lan Zhan and the others.

Wen Qing looked unimpressed, but didn't object. She just waited for the other two's opinions.

 

Wen Ning couldn't help but pale a little bit at the question. "I-It won't b-be as spicy as w-what you m-made us that o-one time...w-will it...?" Whenever Luo Binghe made communal spicy dishes, they were at a manageable level, however, on one occasion, Wei Ying had insisted on making some himself and had seemingly dumped the entire container of spices into the pot! 

Lan Wangji knew he'd regret ordering anything at that restaurant except maybe their teas, but if Wei Ying enjoyed himself there, he could deal with the burn down his throat. While the fox had looked excited to explore the town and all the stalls they had, he had also noticed that he had seemed disappointed at their local palate. This would be a more than worth it trade-off. "Mn. If Wei Ying wishes."

 

"No one makes food as spicy as our Wei Ying." The demoness medic said, raising her eyebrow.

Wei Ying stuck his tongue out at her before looking happy about being able to have something with proper flavor. In the meantime though, they had lots of exploring to do! "Okay! In the meantime, let's see more of the sights!"

 

With an affirmative little 'mn,' Lan Wangji took them across a bridge and down another main street, this time one that held more specialty stores than food stalls. At first glance, it looked as if much of the craftsmanship held dragon motifs as a town that was right at the base of a mountainous dragon dwelling, and most of the dyed and painted products utilized the light colors of the sky and water with the occasional additional cool colors here and there. Much like the other line of shops, Lan Wangji didn't have any particular place to stop at in mind and merely trusted that Wei Ying's curiosity would lead them around the rest of the way.

 

There were quite a lot of beautiful things to see in town, which Wei Ying quite enjoyed. He did ask a couple of artisans if they did requests, and found a white dragon kite that he really liked. Amusingly, it seemed like he had a problem with impulse or frivolous buys, which was why Wen Qing held the purse strings. For about four out of five things Wei Ying showed interest in, she would turn him down, saying he didn't really need it. (Though she did approve the kite.) 

Then, they came across a stall with blown sugar candies, which Wei Ying went over to immediately. "Oooh, these are pretty good! Lan Zhan, what ones do you like? I like the rabbit shaped ones. Oh, but I like others, too..."

 

For a few long moments, Lan Wangji felt panic well up within him when he saw Wei Ying darting over to the candy stall. He hadn't had one since that last day with Wei Ying and he had never thought to buy one ever since then. It was irrational, he knew that it was irrational, but he couldn't help but wonder if today would progress just like that last day had. However, he saw that they had booked an inn for a few days, he knew Wei Ying was still going to be here tomorrow, he was being ridiculous. So in an effort to push those thoughts from his mind, he stepped towards the fox, already pulling a coin from his own money pouch, and held it out to the other. If his form was stiffer than normal, that was only his own business to know and no one else was likely to realize that fact. "Whichever Wei Ying wants."

 

The fox brightened, then looked to see which ones were already prepared. "Hm..." after a lot of internal debate, he picked four rabbits, because the dragon was too pretty to eat, and eating a fox-shaped one would be weird. "One for each of us!" He said as he handed out one to each, of course starting with eating the ears on his own one. "Qing-shijie gets this fierce-looking one. A-Ning gets the one that's cute looking. Lan Zhan gets the prettiest one... And the fattest goes to me!" He said with a laugh. 

The doctor rolled her eyes, but secretly was pretty amused by this.

 

Today was just filled with bittersweet deja-vus, and while he was thankful these could even happen again, Lan Wangji couldn't help but drink vinegar over the fact that he wasn't the only one sharing these experiences with Wei Ying. The fox should absolutely have friends, he was such a bubbly and outgoing soul, of course he would attract attention, but why did these special memories have to be repeated within the presence of strangers that were unaware of the significance they held for the young dragon? And the nickname Wen Ning received...that was probably the one he was most upset by... Why that name, when Wen Qing received a more formal, albeit familiar, address? Silently simmering in his jealousy, Lan Wangji took a bite out of the one Wei Ying gave him so that he wouldn't be required to say anything. 

Taking a hold of his own candied rabbit that the fox offered, Wen Ning tried part of it, starting at the top with its ears, before nodding at Wei Ying. "T-this is g-good too..."

 

He laughed and patted his shoulder. "Yep, rabbits are pretty tasty! For the candy ones, starting with the ears is best!"

The day continued on in a similar vein, spending time with the three of them and raiding random stalls, though Wen Qing didn't allow much more food impulse buying for Wei Ying because the dinner plans were set and iron stomach or not, she didn't want to deal with him with an upset stomach. He was so childish most of the time, but he was even worse when he didn't feel well.... Though ironically, it wasn't the case when he was heavily injured or sick. Wen Qing had only seen it happen one time, and did not care for a repeat.

 

Lan Wangji was content to let Wei Ying direct the flow of where they went for the day. It still felt surreal that the fox was even here in Gusu and so he was going to drink up as much of the sight as possible. 

When it was around dinner time, subjected to Wei Ying’s growing excitement, he led the group through the city again and over to the Hunan restaurant, stopping just at the entrance.

 

Like a small whirlwind, he darted on into the restaurant, excitedly greeting the host and asking for a table for four. The man, quickly taking a look at the people and noticing Lan Wangji, took them to a nice private room on the second floor.

 

Taking a few brief glances at some of the food that other guests they passed had ordered, Lan Wangji felt himself internally wince at the amount of red in the dishes. Silently, he lamented the loss of his normal, simple dishes that he'd be missing due to not having returned to Cloud Recesses by now, but he wasn't about to turn down the opportunity for more time with Wei Ying. He powered through the spicy tofu the fox had given him all those years ago, he could power through this.

 

Hence the reason Wen Qing allowed for more impulse food buys for others rather than ones Wei Ying wanted for himself. She ordered a pot of tea for the table, and watched as the youngest in the group poured over the menu. Subtly, she slid one over so the others could see it before she used her direct speaking technique again. "These ones are the most subtle, or should be as far as I understand," she told Lan Zhan and Wen Ning as her finger tapped a couple. No reason everyone's stomachs should die just because of this shameless fox.

 

Glancing down at the dishes mentioned, both boys took note of the options before a waiter eventually came by with their tea as well as to take everyone's order. Both Lan Wangji and Wen Ning decided on one of the supposedly more subtle dishes with the dragon also ordering a few sides that seemed safe for everyone at the table.

 

Orders placed, Wei Ying picked up his cup of tea and raised it in a toast. "To friendship!" He said, giving Lan Zhan a smile and a wink over the cup as he drank it.

Wen Qing took this as an opening, after she drank her cup. "So how did you two meet? I understand today, Young Master Lan rescued you from dogs, but you implied you've met before?" 

Wei Ying rubbed the back of his neck, frowning slightly. "I, uh... don't remember it, actually. But, I know it fits! Look, look." He took the belt talisman from his waist to show them and gestured for Lan Zhan to show them the fox charm. "See, I remember one day looking all over for the fox charm, and I realized I couldn't remember how I got this jade dragon! I remember I had it around New Years before Papa found me and took me to Cang Qiong, but I couldn't remember much about the time in between that, so it must have been sometime in there!"

 

Lan Wangji felt his ears heat up as he caught Wei Ying's wink, directing his gaze down to the table until he heard the fox speak again. Pulling the fox charm off his belt after a delayed moment, he brought it up above the table as the other boy continued explaining. When he had finished speaking, there were a few beats of silence as Lan Wangji debated what to say before he eventually added by way of explanation, eyes solely focused on Wei Ying, "Uncle would not let me give away my first gift. Exchanged these instead."

 

'...Oh, dear, I hope Lord Luo didn't do what I think he did...' Wen Qing thought as she drank some more tea.

The mention of a first gift caught Wei Ying's attention, and he looked back at him. "Oh? What was it?" He asked curiously.

 

Lan Wangji was immensely grateful that the only sign of his embarrassment came from his ears, which most of the time was concealed by his hair, for he could feel himself flushing even brighter at the question. He hadn't necessarily understood the depths of his action at six years old, but now at fourteen, he better knew the implications of what he'd tried to do. His uncle had been right, he'd been too hasty, neither he nor his pearl had fully developed into maturity, he should not have thought to give it to Wei Ying that early (and yes, he was still contemplating doing so again, just not right away). Hesitating to tell Wei Ying the truth but also not wanting to lie, it took some time before he finally said, "...Forehead ribbon." 

Having been right in the middle of taking a sip from his teacup, Wen Ning choked on the liquid and almost spit it out onto the table, covering his mouth and regaining control just in time.

 

Wen Qing also had a bit of a coughing fit as the liquid went down the wrong tube. His-?! Wasn't he a Lan Dragon?!?! Wasn't that akin to a proposal??? 

The fox gave his two friends a weird look, frowning slightly. "Come on guys. It's nothing to laugh about, is it? I mean, it's unusual, but it's obviously important to him if he wears it all the time."

 

Wen Ning had turned bright red after that revelation, thumping his chest with an open palm to get the rest of his choking fit down before saying, "I-I w-wasn't l-laughing...S-surprised me..." 

...It wasn't that unusual, was it? All Lans relinquished their pearl to their promised soulmate once it had fully matured into a powerful protective ward. Young Lan Zhan at the time had only thought 'special person' had meant something akin to 'closest confidant' when his uncle had explained the practice to him in a child-appropriate manner. A bit put off by the way Wei Ying had phrased it, he frowned ever so slightly.

 

"...Wei Ying, the forehead ribbon is not a mere fashion statement for this clan." Wen Qing said once she regained her composure, wanting to clear up this misunderstanding a bit. 

"Oh, it's not? Sorry. So, then, Lan Zhan, what does-" 

"Sorry to keep you waiting!" A servant said as a small flock of them arrived with various plates and bowls of food, chaos temporarily surrounding the table as everything was delivered. Sufficiently distracted by the spicy aroma, Wei Ying attacked the reddest dish in front of him with sufficient cheer.

 

Lan Wangji couldn't tell if he was happy or upset that the topic had been diverted. In the meantime, at least, he eyed the dish he had ordered with some trepidation before trying it. 

More so used to spice comparatively, Wen Ning wasn't as concerned about the spice level of his dish so long as it was just mild enough. He supposed that one good thing that came out of Wei Ying's hellish levels of spice was that smaller amounts like this were far more tolerable now.

 

At least hot food torture wasn't something the siblings were subjected to any longer. Wen Qing had put a stop to that in a big hurry, especially since she wasn't sure if all the spices he was using was healthy for someone with a relatively normal constitution or body type.

The foxy boy was just happy to be eating something suited to his favorite palate, but unlike in the past, was much better now at keeping his human form, especially in a country like this which was unused to beasts capable of transformation.

 

While still on the border of unbearable, Lan Wangji was grateful that the suggestion Wen Qing had given was in fact a mild one, only growing spicy once he had taken several bites from his dish. When it came to that point, it was no issue to down the spice with some tea and these instances were spaced out enough that it didn't look suspiciously like he couldn't handle the spice. And as per the rule ingrained into his mind, he was silent throughout the meal.

 

It didn't stop Wei Ying from saying how he would have changed the spices if he'd cooked it and Wen Qing kept telling him to keep his hellish formulas to himself, which caused a small, friendly argument. By the end of the meal, he was extremely satisfied and patted his stomach. "That was so good! And see, you guys ate too, it wasn't that bad.... Ah, Qing-shijie, that look, it's so cold, stop it~" he said as he scooted over and lifted one of Lan Wangji's arms, dropping it across his shoulders as he leaned into him and playfully said "Lan Zhan, warm me up a little. Aah, much better-!" 

She gave him a flat stare and turned her head away, ignoring this shameless fox that made her eye twitch.

 

Very minutely, Lan Wangji stiffened, not at all expecting the fox to initiate as much contact as he was currently doing. However, he couldn't find it in him to complain or protest against it, so trying not to move too much, he simply directed his embarrassed gaze down to the table and focused on drinking from his teacup. 

With a bit of nervousness and second-hand embarrassment, Wen Ning looked off to the side as he rubbed at the back of his neck.

 

Wei Ying, on the other hand, didn't seem to be embarrassed at all, perfectly happy to stay right where he was. Why, he was so close he could smell him! He smelled like sandalwood... 

...? He blinked. Why was this smell so familiar? Hmm. Well, he had smelled sandalwood before, it wasn't so weird, but this particular.... 

He just couldn't nail it down, so instead of worrying about it, he just enjoyed it. "Lan Zhan, you're actually a lot warmer than I thought you would be. Are dragons naturally hot-blooded?" He asked, tilting his head up to look at his face better.

 

Very much not trying to think of just how close Wei Ying was and just how much he enjoyed said closeness, Lan Wangji focused his thoughts solely on his question. "Cannot speak for all. Lans are ice dragons. Mother was a river spirit." If there was any reason why an ice dragon was 'hot-blooded,' perhaps it came from his mother's side of the family.

 

"Ooooh~" He said, sounding impressed. "I can't do ice spells very well, they're kinda hard. I'm better with fire and talismans and stuff." 

 

After they had all finished dinner and Lan Wangji had gotten into a sort of stalemate with Wen Qing over the bill (and he was still unhappy about the lioness turning his sect rules against him and forcing him to split the bill), he led the way back towards the inn, quiet as usual, but listening to whatever decided to flit across Wei Ying's mind. By the time they had arrived at the inn and he had looked up at the sky to judge the time, it was getting dangerously close to curfew time. He definitely would not have enough time for a 17 li walk and so, right between the inn and the beginning of the stone stairs, he transformed into his dragon form and leveled his head with Wei Ying's. "Curfew soon. Must fly up."

 

"Okay." He said, seeming a little disappointed but hiding it much better than he had as a child. "Lan Zhan! Will we see you tomorrow?" He asked quickly, before he could fly off.

 

Feeling an impulse to try and soothe the disappointment he seemed to be feeling, Lan Wangji nudged his own forehead against Wei Ying's, right up against the pearl that he would maybe, hopefully, actually give to him one day. "Mn. After classes." 

 

At this moment, Wen Qing wished she had the habit of carrying a fan like Shen Qingqiu because she had to lift her hand to cover her mouth as subtly as possible. Should she try to tease him about this? She glanced sidelong to see how well her brother was handling this.

Pleasantly surprised by the gentle headbutt (but also maybe a little flustered because forehead bumps were intimate) he smiled, face reddening a bit, but not pulling back as he lifted a hand to pat the dragon's muzzle. "Okay. See you tomorrow!" He said, resisting the sudden and wild urge to place a kiss on the top of that snout. What the heck was he thinking? Was he really this wanton? Get a hold of yourself, Wei Ying!

 

Flustered beyond belief by the open display of affection, Wen Ning had turned his head waaaay to the side, face bright red from not having turned away soon enough. 

"Mn." Satisfied that he'd brought back that smile of his and unable to prolong his stay much further, Lan Wangji took a few steps back before turning around, taking a few bounding leaps for momentum, and darting up into the clouds to disappear behind them. This day had indeed not gone as expected, but if it meant Wei Ying was suddenly back in his life, he wasn’t about to complain about it.

Chapter Text

Wei Ying watched the dragon go; seeing his sleek form swimming through the air was really something wondrous to behold. He rubbed his chin then folded his arms behind his head, turning around once Lan Zhan was out of sight to look at his friends. "...What, what are you looking at??" 

"Looking at a shameless person, what's it to you?" Wen Qing replied, stepping up to rub his head, which made him swat at her and run over to Wen Ning.

"Your face is too thin, Qing-shijie. A-Ning, wow, your face is so red! I didn't think it was that hot out. You okay?"

 

Bringing an arm up to cover most of his face, Wen Ning turned his head back around, but he was noticeably not looking directly at Wei Ying, somehow getting the feeling he'd have a giant mythical reptile after his hide if he did. "Y-Young Master Wei...s-sometimes I d-don't know if I s-should be a-amazed or a-astonished at your o-obliviousness..."

 

"Eh? What do you mean by that?! A-Ning, I'm speaking to you!" 

 

Sheepishly, Wen Ning followed his sister inside as he said, "D-Don't w-worry about it f-for now, Y-Young Master Wei..." 

 

Unable to take it any more, Wen Qing began to laugh. Her brother had said it perfectly, and now it was all she could do to keep her face covered with her sleeve and try to hold it in until they were both inside, whereupon she finally let herself laugh out loud. Dear lord, what a mess! Lord Luo was probably going to want to skin them for letting this dragon get close to Wei Ying, but it was just so cute and ridiculous.

 

"It's the angry lady." 

"What's she doing?" 

"Doesn't look very angry anymore..."

 

Looking up upon noticing his dogs' attention had jumped elsewhere, Jiang Cheng froze slightly and frowned at the familiar faces. Great, was he gonna have to deal with more dumb lectures from a teen only just a few years older than him?! And with his mother right next to him too! Granted, it was Yu Ziyuan's presence next to him that kept him from reacting more; she'd always had a sharp tongue and he wasn't too keen on spoiling his appetite as they were having dinner.

 

Jiang Cheng had a brief moment to see a soft, pretty smile on Wen Qing’s face, before she spotted him and the dogs, whereupon her smile vanished, replaced instead by a look of mild distaste. Knowing he hadn't seen them yet, she said, "A-Ning, cover Wei Ying's eyes now," as she looked at the dogs with an expression that read, 'Don't make a sound or go near him; don't let him know you're here, and I won't have to eat you.' 

"Eh? What's going on?"

 

"Aaah... D-don't worry a-about it...! L-Let's g-go up to o-our room...!" Surely he wasn't being very convincing, but Wen Ning did as requested of his sister and then tried steering Wei Ying towards the stairs. 

 

"Ah-! Hey-! Wait-!" Wei Ying stammered with a laugh as he was pushed along by Wen Ning. "Wait, A-Ning, I can't walk up the stairs like this, carry me- Woah!"

 

Even more annoyed now from watching the small group's reaction, Jiang Cheng's frown deepened, sounding very much offended when he said, "What? They're literally just sitting here, they haven't done anything to harm you!"

 

"My Young Master is afraid of dogs, and these ones chased him earlier." The lioness replied, unafraid of chastising him in front of what appeared to be his mother, an older alpha. "We owe you no other explanation, and still have yet to hear an apology. Do you really insist on us leaving you no face on this matter?"

 

Quirking a delicate eyebrow at the scene, Yu Ziyuan glanced over at her son in question, "This is true?" 

"W-well, yeah, but they weren't being malicious, just playful!" Granted, Jiang Cheng didn't actually know why Love, Jasmine, and Princess decided to chase after the kid in the first place, they were normally very well trained, but he wasn't about to admit that to his mother's face! 

"Then why haven't you apologized, A-Cheng?!" 

Sputtering, the young heir retorted, "T-they didn't even give me a chance to! They left immediately after interrogating me!" 

That only served to raise her brow further. "Well? Then what are you waiting for?" 

Flushing red with mortification, Jiang Cheng openly gaped for a few moments before he eventually stood up when his mother gave no change in her expression. Bowing stiffly, he said, "T-this one apologizes for the conduct of his spiritual animals. This one will make sure to maintain a better handle and quicker response time so that it doesn't happen again."

 

Wen Qing looked at his face for a few moments, then sighed softly and returned a small bow. "On behalf of my Young Master, I accept." She said as she rose again. Then, she hesitated for a moment. "Understand, those of us beasts who can transform into humans, are still not humans. We have instincts, natural enemies, fears different from your own. When among humans, those of us who are peaceful try to live by your rules. You apologized, so this one is no longer angry. This one is trying to explain so you can understand. Good evening, Lady, Young Master." This time giving a more proper bow, she turned and went up the stairs to her room.

 

--

 

The next day, upon classes finally letting out all disciples, Lan Wangji forewent his usual schedule of meditation and headed over to the forest just outside the main gates. Much like the previous night, once he had enough space to do so, he immediately opted for flying down the mountain in his dragon form to expedite the trip. Unsure where exactly Wei Ying would be at the moment, he decided to start by landing right by their inn and going from there. There were a few people out on the road when the dragon landed just in front of the stones stairs going up to Cloud Recesses, but given that most of them were citizens or guests that frequented Caiyi, none of them batted an eye at the appearance of a large, white dragon.

 

Amusingly, something fluttered over and stuck to his chest: a little paper talisman, shaped like a fox standing on two legs. It pulled off, then waved its front paw in the direction of the docks.

 

Glancing down at the talisman, Wangji watched it for a few moments before taking to the sky again and following its lead over to the docks. Spotting the person he wanted, he lingered in front of Wei Ying in the air above the water before eventually finding a safe way to curl around an open enough space on the narrower dock.

 

When the shadow fell over Wei Ying, he looked up and broke into another wide smile. Wow!! So cool!!! He waved both arms at him, and ran over to greet him once he landed on the dock, people scooting aside for him, excitedly chattering about the arrival of one of the Lan dragons, one or two recognizing the color of the pearl and eye quality as part of the direct line. "Lan Zhan! That's so cool!" He said as he gave the dragon a hug. "I can hardly wait to learn how to fly on a sword... Then we could fly together!" His hands itched, wanting to touch him more, but he knew this was very public and wanted to save some face.

 

"That would require a sword first." Lan Wangji deadpanned plainly. Of course, he also wouldn't mind flying the fox around himself but that would only be if Wei Ying was alright with that. Even as a younger child when neither of them could fly, Wei Ying had seemed a bit more interested in flying himself than being flown. 

A few feet behind them, Wen Ning was switching off between watching the two childhood friends and just looking around at the scenery of the docks and Biling Lake, Wen Qing at his side, content to hang back with her brother as she watched and stood guard.

 

The fox pouted a little, cheeks puffing up, and gave a mild shove in the shoulder to the dragon, even though he didn't move at all . "Well, you can fly, so maybe before I get my own sword, you could fly me around, huh? That would actually be a great way to see all of Gusu, now that I think about it-"

 

"Can. If Wei Ying wishes to. What do you wish to see?" Without any conscious effort, while Lan Wangji was listening to Wei Ying speak, the end of his tail came around to curl into a loose circle on the dock around the fox, the tufts of fur at the end of his tail flicking the ends of the fox's robes to and fro.

 

He gaped for a moment, before excitedly saying "Of course I want to?!" Who the hell got to ride a freaking DRAGON?! (Other than his Father Qingqiu getting to ride Papa but that didn't count.) "I want to see everything from your point of view! Wow! Hey, we could even go up and I could see your sect for a bit! If they allow visitors. Are visitors allowed?" He rambled a bit, temporarily forgetting about the Wen lions nearby.

Wen Qing was listening, however, and she sighed, turning to Wen Ning to say, "Prepare to fly, A-Ning."

 

Snapping to attention at his sister's words, Wen Ning looked over to Wei Ying and the Second Jade before looking back at his sister and nodding after a delayed second. 

"Mn. Allowed. Those nearby me can enter using my Jade Token." Lowering his body until it was only a few feet or so above the dock, he waited there for Wei Ying to climb on and situate him, paying no mind to if anyone around them was finding it weird that one of their Twin Jades was allowing someone to be this close to him.

 

"Yesss, awesome! Oh yeah, Qing-shijie-" 

"We will follow you, Young Master." She said with a nod. "At a distance. Second Young Master Lan, we will be troubling you." She said with a bow and a salute as the young fox in human form hopped on his neck, getting comfortable and petting his mane a few times before gripping onto his horns. They were pretty good hand-holds! 

"Okay, I think I'm ready!" He said, so excited his ears and tail were almost out.

 

"Mn." Flying straight off from the dock, keeping low and level with the water at first, he headed back in the direction of Cloud Recesses. Once he felt Wei Ying had gotten enough time to adjust to the experience, he started climbing in height, winding around above parts of the town before passing over the mountain forest. Normally, he could clear the distance between Cloud Recesses and Caiyi in under twenty minutes or so, but presumably, this was Wei Ying's first?? time flying, so he made sure to be less hurried. 

Behind them, lingering just around the dragon's tail, Wen Ning followed them alongside his sister.

 

He gasped when they first took off, but never closed his eyes, wanting to watch the whole thing. Before long, he was laughing and whooping with excitement. "Lan Zhan!! This is amazing!!" He said loudly, not sure how audible he was over the wind. "You can see everything up here! This is beautiful! Look, you can see everything from here, there's the market, there's the docks, there's the residences, the lake... There's the inn! And... Oh wow." The mountain. The mountain was beautiful all on it's own. It rose into the clouds, like the TianGong mountain range. Covered in greenery and peaceful, it really was like Qing Jing peak, when he thought about it. He was silent for a bit as he enjoyed the scenery and the flight.

 

With the slower pace he was taking, it maybe took twice as long as normal to see the buildings of Cloud Recesses peeking out from behind the clouds and nature, but during the flight, he played around with his path a bit. Some times, he descended low enough that the treetops just barely missed brushing his underbelly, other times he flew far enough up that it was hard to discern any specific details of the ground below. Excessive pride was forbidden, but he couldn't help but preen inwardly at how awed Wei Ying was about his home; enough to make the talkative fox speechless, no less! 

Eventually, some of the few taller buildings of the Lan Sect started peeking out from behind the clouds and mountains. With how high up they were now, it was also a bit chillier than it was down in Caiyi town. Approaching the outermost walls of Cloud Recesses (as well as the famous Wall of Rules) Lan Wangji alighted just in front of the open gates where two disciples who had been standing guard jolted to attention and greeted him with identical, "Second Young Master Lan." Nodding his head once in acknowledgment despite Wei Ying still clinging to him, he then lowered himself down as he had at the docks and let the fox gather himself. 

Just behind them, Wen Ning came to a stop on his sword and jumped off once he was close enough to the ground.

 

Wen Qing followed suit, having a small smile on her face. Wei Ying had been carried by Luo Binghe and Shen Qingqiu before, but even if he was more used to Binghe now, the wolf-like form was far from being a favorite of his, and his Shizun typically rode his sword, and rarely turned to his beast form. This was a unique experience, and she wanted him to enjoy himself. 

Wei Ying didn't get off immediately, he was in fact fairly reluctant to let go, and finally slid off his neck to stand on the ground, looking at the sky through the gap in the trees. "...That was so much FUN!" He exclaimed excitedly with a little jump. "Just-just wow! And you can do that whenever you want! Lan Zhan! Dragons are amazing! YOU'RE amazing!"

 

Thank heavens for being unable to blush in his dragon form, for he would certainly be bright red from the praise in his human form. Awkwardly, he sat up a bit straighter, watching Wei Ying exude his excitement as he waited for his own embarrassment to fade. (And given that they weren't in Cloud Recesses yet, the 'no excessive noise' rule couldn't apply to them yet.) 

As Lan Wangji was still trying to get his bashfulness under control before transforming back, a new figure appeared from the other side of the gates. One that just so happened to look almost identical to their escort. "Young Master Wei..." Lan Xichen began, "and your friends, I presume? It has certainly been quite a while since we last properly interacted. Your sudden reappearance has certainly brought more happiness back to Wangji than we'd ever expect him to regain." 

"Brother." Lan Wangji warned. Was he trying to keep him perpetually embarrassed? And just when he'd about had it under control!

 

The fox looked at him, hesitating briefly before giving him a bow and salute, looking between Lan Zhan and him. "Hello! First Young Master Lan, I presume? I'm very sorry I don't remember our first meeting, but I am very glad to have met Lan Zhan yesterday as well! These are my friends, Wen Qing and Wen Ning, from Cang Qiong Mountain Sect in Chunshan, like me." He said, making sure there was a clear line drawn between them and this country's Wens. 

Wen Qing also bowed and saluted, “Wen Qing greets Young Master Lan.”

 

As his sister had done, Wen Ning also bowed and greeted the young sect heir. “W-Wen Ning...c-courtesy Qionglin...G-greetings to F-First Young M-Master Lan...” 

“Lan Huan, courtesy name Xichen.” Lan Xichen prompted as he bowed as well. “Worry not, it sounded like we gave you unnecessary anxiety during our last meeting, perhaps it’s better you don’t remember it.” Next to Wei Ying, Lan Wangji’s long form had seemed to grow still, inwardly unhappy about the idea of the fox not remembering their childhood together being a good thing. Noticing this and being possibly the only one would could read Lan Wangji even in dragon form, Xichen smiled amicably before gesturing inside towards the main buildings. “But no matter, please come in, Young Master Wei, Young Master Wen, Young Mistress Wen. Don’t worry too much about the rules up there, we aren’t as strict with guests about them. Just do try to maintain a normal speaking volume.” 

Finding that this was as good a time as any with his brother focusing more on pleasantries than embarrassing his little brother, Lan Wangji transformed back into his human form and moved right back to the fox’s side.

 

Wei Ying frowned, looking a little confused. Unnecessary anxiety? Really? He brushed a hand over the jade dragon on his belt unconsciously and decided not to worry about it. Whatever happened, it probably wasn't Lan Zhan's fault. He kept the dragon talisman, after all, and Lan Zhan had kept the fox charm. Feeling a little better, he finally looked at the wall covered in rules and his eyes went wide. "Those are all the rules you have to follow?!" He asked in alarm. Wow, poor guy! No wonder he was so repressed all the time! Wei Ying patted his shoulder in sympathy, his heart going out to him. "You should definitely ask if you can go with us for a while when we leave Gusu. We can play and have a great time! It'll be fun!" He did make sure to try and keep his voice at an acceptable volume as they went through the gate, into the sect.

 

Lan Wangji paused for a brief second as he was just about to enter Cloud Recesses. He hadn’t even thought that that could be a possibility... He’d been resigned to the fact that Wei Ying would only be here for a few days before leaving again. Noticing that look in the younger dragon’s eyes, Lan Xichen laughed and commented, “Uncle may put up a token protest, but I’m sure he’ll let you go, Wangji.” When Lan Wangji was just about to open his mouth, the First Jade caught onto the other’s thought process and added, “Even despite classes.” 

Cowed into silence, Lan Wangji fixed his gaze to the ground for some time before looking up at Wei Ying and saying, “Will ask.”

 

The dragon's reward was a bright smile, as well as a brief slip-up as Wei Ying's ears and tail popped back into existence, having lost hold of his emotions a bit. The black and red tinged limb wagged behind him, ears perking up, and those little fangs showing in his grin. "That'll be great! We're planning on visiting Yunmeng next, and Lotus Pier. It'll be a ton of fun!"

 

"Mn." Momentarily distracted by finally getting another glimpse at Wei Ying's fox features, Lan Wangji watched them twitch and wag for a bit before remembering himself and asking, "What would you like to see?"

 

"How about all your favorite places? You've been here a lot more than Caiyi Town, right?" He said, taking his flute off his belt again and playing with it. "Where you grew up, stuff like that."

 

Taking that as his cue, Lan Xichen nodded and said, "I'll take my leave then. I'm sure you'll have no trouble with Wangji here with you." Bowing, the other dragon then turned and left down a separate path. 

A bit nervous but trying not to show it given that most of his frequented places involved his studies, Lan Wangji first led them to the Library Pavilion given that it was the closest location to them. "Mostly read here. Sometimes practice guqin."

 

Wen Qing was actually most interested in the library. "Second Young Master Lan, are there any medical texts here?" She asked as she looked around at the shelves.

Wei Ying was also interested in the books and looked for the ones that appeared to be read the most, to try and figure out which ones were his favorites. Then he realized how old this library likely was and turned, one ear quizzically flopped to the side, the other perky. "Lan Zhan, which ones are your favorites?"

 

"Mn. Fifth to tenth shelves on the left, window-side." Then turning to face Wei Ying, he initially got caught up with the sight of his ears doing that cute little thing before properly registering his question. "Lan An's poetry." Circling around the opposite direction from where he directed Wen Qing, he went over to a shelf just past the middle of the room and pulled out two books of said poetry.

 

The young teen fox followed after him, looking at the books with interest. "May I?" He asked, gesturing at one of the books. Taking a look inside, he was a little surprised by the content. "Lan Zhan, you're pretty romantic at heart, huh?" He said after reading a couple pages, giving him another sly smile. "So you like romantic poetry? Good to know, now I can find you a good gift next time I come to visit~"

 

Ears flushing brightly, he turned his head away and darted further into the aisle to grab and vaguely leaf through a different poet's work. He couldn't help it! Their founder was a very eloquent writer and had beautiful imagery, of course he'd like it- (And no, he didn't think of anything or anyone else while reading the poems, not at all...) Blinking at hearing Wei Ying's last comment, mind drifting away from his earlier embarrassment, he looked up, very slightly wide-eyed, and asked, "You will visit again?" Perhaps part of him was thinking as if Wei Ying remembered all of their past, but another visit from the fox wasn't something he had necessarily banked on.

 

Pausing as he flipped a page, he looked over at the dragon prince, seeming a little uncertain. "Well, yeah. I mean, so long as you don't hate the idea?" Why wouldn't he come back? It's not like he'd want to forget him again...

 

"Do not." Of course he wouldn't hate the idea, if Wei Ying wanted to visit him again, of course he'd welcome it. "Surprised." Although, thinking further on it, why should he be? Perhaps if Wei Ying remembered how he spent days looking for him, likely thinking Uncle or himself had changed their minds about bringing him back with them and still said he wanted to visit, then that would be truly surprising. As the fox was now, with his memory damaged, he had no solid reason for never visiting again.

 

He gave him a long look before reaching out and tapping the bridge of his nose once, then smiling. "Lan Zhan, you're an interesting guy. I can't figure it out, and I can't explain why, but I like you." He did. The slightly older boy made him very comfortable, and safe, and like he wanted to tease the hell out of him for any sort of reaction he could get. He was taking it easy on him for now, but he seemed to be taking everything okay so far. "I'm glad we were able to meet again, and I hope you get to come with us for a while. It's only a matter of time until Father and Papa come out of seclusion, and then I'll have to go back for a while, but I'll absolutely come back to see you," he said as he held up three fingers to swear by.

 

Lan Wangji was quiet for a few moments as he watched Wei Ying, but eventually, he murmured a soft, "Mn," in response. Then, after a few additional moments of silent thinking, he also added, "Cannot explain why either."

 

"It's not a bad thing, having friends all over is great, especially when you want to travel, or night hunt as a group." He said. "And yeah, hahaha, some relationships are just like that, huh? Meant to happen; fated. Guess you can't get rid of me even if you wanted to." He teased as he rubbed his chin.

 

"...Why should I want to?" The idea sounded so ridiculous, especially after he had already considered him as good as lost. And so, to willingly get rid of him again was ludicrous.

 

"I dunno, as weird as it might sound, with me being so handsome and charming, some people find me annoying, I guess-" 

A soft snort came from the direction of the medical books.

"Oh come on, Qing-shijie, you're supposed to be one of the ones that likes me~" 

"I do, but you can still be a brat, Wei Ying. Your future partner is going to have to have the patience of a saint." 

He pouted a little, but the upturned corners of his mouth exposed him as actually being happy...that, and his tail. And ears.

 

Lan Wangji was back to watching the fox in front of him, occasionally flicking his eyes towards the direction of Wen Qing's voice even if he couldn't actually see her. Once again, he lamented the loss he garnered in not having been able to grow up with Wei Ying like the Wen siblings had. But by now, of course, it was too late to change that. Seeking out something to distract his thoughts, his eyes fell onto the dizi tucked into the fox's belt. "...Flute scores. Do you want to see...?"

 

"Yes!" He said, a little loud, before putting a hand over his mouth and giving him an apologetic look. "Yes, I would, thank you!" He said as he put the poetry book back where it belonged.

 

Returning the other book he had grabbed to the shelf, he moved out of the aisle and down several more aisles before slipping into one of them and touching a shelf. “Here.”

 

Wei Ying followed after him, and looked at the books holding the scores, pulling one from the shelf at random and looking it over. "...Wow, your sect is pretty musical in nature, isn't it?" He said in an impressed tone as he read the score, then started humming under his breath. "My Father's Qing Jing peak also has some techniques for musical instruments, you mentioned earlier you play guqin? I'll bring some for you to look at next time!"

 

"Mn. Our specialty." He then settled himself in to watching the fox, especially enjoying how he started humming the tunes. At Wei Ying's following comments, he gave another "mn" in response before asking, "Would you like to study these more too?"

 

"Yeah. Maybe we can even play together?" He said, glancing up from the pages.

 

"Mn. Can copy these. Bring back to practice." While he couldn't let these original books leave the Library Pavilion, he could at least copy down all the songs Wei Ying wanted to learn and gift those to him.

 

"Sure!" He said. "Do you have any you like in particular?" 

The time in the library was nice, but Wei Ying wasn't the type to hold still for long at this age. He was able to be patient for a while, but then partway through took a break from copying to use some of the paper and the brush to paint some pictures. Wen Qing was also making use of this time to copy some stuff from the medical section.

 

Frankly, Lan Wangji was surprised that Wei Ying was even willing to copy the scores himself. Having grown used to copying while growing up here, he had been more than willing to do that part himself, so when Wei Ying finally lost his focus, the dragon simply took the fox’s work and continued from there along with the other pieces he himself had decided to copy for Wei Ying.

 

Finished with one picture, Wei Ying grinned and slid it over to Lan Zhan after admiring it. He'd drawn him as he saw him, sitting there with a brush in hand...with a couple flowers added, of course.

 

Blinking, Lan Wangji paused in his work to glance over at the drawing. This...is what he was distracted by...? Ears flushing in embarrassment at being the subject, he touched the edge of the drawing to tilt it towards him in a better viewing angle before saying, "Superfluous detailing." He did really like the drawing despite the inaccurate additions, he could admit inwardly. It reminded him of those last few times he and Wei Ying would be in the inn, the young dragon practicing his guqin or studying while the fox would doodle away to his heart's content and always forget to bring the papers back to the coffin house. In the end, he had those drawings carefully stashed away in a drawer within the Jingshi.

 

"Superfluous, huh?" He snorted slightly. "Well, if you don't like it-" He reached out to take it back.

 

Tightening his grip on the paper, he averted his eyes as his ears burned brighter and said, "Did not say that." Of course he wouldn't refuse anything Wei Ying gave him, even if it embarrassed him beyond belief.

 

"Then you like me being superfluous, huh?" He said with a cheeky smile as he leaned on the desk, sitting very improperly.

 

Briefly shifting his eyes over to the fox to take in his position before averting them once again, he decidedly didn't answer that question and instead said, "Sit properly." Attempting to bring his focus elsewhere, he refocused his efforts to copying the pages in front of him.

 

Wei Ying pouted a little, and slumped more on the desk, tail wagging and making a soft brushing sound on the ground. "Don't wanna~" 

"Wei Ying. You're a guest." Wen Qing’s voice called from behind some shelves.

He puffed his cheeks in protest as he sat up, ears flicking down as he pouted, but moments later, he was painting again and seemed to be alright.

 

It didn't take long after that for Lan Wangji to finish the task at hand, putting away his brush and inkstone as he waited for his last few strokes to finish drying. With that taken care of, he stood up to return the books to their proper places before turning back around to see what Wei Ying was doing.

 

He was painting another picture, this time drawing from his memory to try and draw everyone in their beast forms. Most of the forms on the page had black fur, the only white one was Lan Zhan himself. He looked up from him being careful about not blurring lines, and gave him a smile. "What do you think?"

 

Eyes flicking down to take in the drawing, he eventually nodded. "Mn. Wei Ying is talented." He, of course, recognized the fox as Wei Ying and so the other two black animals must then be Wen Qing and Wen Ning. However, he noticed, in the picture... "...You have two tails now." It was more a statement from observing the drawing than a question.

 

"Heehee." He giggled at the compliment, tail still wagging behind him, until he made that comment. "Oh yeah! My tails increase with my cultivation. I've gone through Qi Gathering and am on Foundation Building level, I'm working on the Core Forming stage now. Wanna see?"

 

"Mn." Stepping closer but unsure whether Wei Ying wanted to be standing or sitting for this demonstration, he remained standing for now until he got a hint as to how the fox was going to show him.

 

He merely shifted to his fully fox form. He shook himself and then the tail split into two, revealing that he had two fully formed tails instead of the one. He was bigger than he used to be, obviously, larger and longer of limb, this form was nearly an adult now, so just a little bit gangly. His coat was extremely healthy and looked soft and smooth. He stretched, then shook himself, looking up at Lan Zhan and smiling. "See?"

 

Nodding, he knelt down in front of the fox, taking in the familiar yet unfamiliar appearance. Even just from observing his human form, it was clear to him how much healthier he was now, but seeing the same thing reflected in his true fox form as well was especially reassuring. At least something unchanging about his true form was how cute it was, even despite the slight awkwardness to his still growing body. However, he couldn't help but lament the loss of just how small and precious (not that he wasn't still precious now) he had been at five years old. Without realizing it, he had quietly murmured, "You can no longer fit within my robes," eyes blinking in shock and ears turning bright red when he registered what he'd accidentally said.

 

"....I did that?" He said, tilting his head. Yeah, he could picture himself doing that. Now he wanted to try again! So he did just that. He jumped up and used his paws and nose to try and get into his outer robes and began to squirm in, wiggling around (while probably nosing some ticklish spots) and finally managing to tuck most of his torso in, with his paws, tail and head protruding. "Aha!" He said in a proud tone, lifting his head and smooshing his ears to the side against his chest, like he had as a kit. "I thought so! Though it'll probably work better when you're older and you fill out a bit more.... Wow, your chest muscles feel really strong- Lan Zhan? Are you breathing? ....Are you awake?"

 

Oh heavens, what had he just gotten himself into? The instant Wei Ying tried to tuck himself in, Lan Wangji had stiffened like a board, heart racing and ears burning as he was frozen in place. For some time, he didn't move from that shocked position at all, eyes widened slightly and staring blankly at where the fox had been before climbing in. After a while (maybe due some shifting on Wei Ying's part?), he finally came back to reality, shifting his subtly surprised gaze down onto the playful fox.

 

Seeing that his brain had restarted and he was no longer a frozen statue, he sighed and got more comfortable. "Anyway, see? I do fit," he said smugly. "And I think I get why I liked it here. You feel safe. Ah, also, also, foxes can change our size, did you know? Once I become an adult, I think my standard size is going to be a lot bigger than a normal fox. My Father knows a lot about other beast species, and was able to make a guess on how big I'm gonna be."

 

At a loss for what to do with Wei Ying in this position, even though his focus was back on this plane of existence, his body and hands were still stiff for some time. "...How big?" he eventually asked as a hand, partly from the memory of doing this same thing seven years ago, moved up to gently stroke at the soft fur.

 

"Hmmm~" He hummed as Lan Zhan stroked his head, enjoying the feeling. "I think he said something about a horse..? Or was it a pony? But like I said, I'll be able to make myself any size I've been before anyway, it's easier to run around as a natural sized fox than a giant one."

 

"Mn." That sounded rather convenient. As far as he knew, dragons didn't have that same ability, when they grew to their full size, that would be the size they always maintained. Which was why human sizes were infinitely better to deal with unless they needed to be at absolute full strength in their dragon form.

 

As if sensing his train of thought, he elaborated. "Foxes have a few specialties, though there are some exceptions. Primarily though, is that foxes are good with transformation and illusion magic. Fire is usually a fox attribute too, not sure why exactly."

 

Humming in acknowledgement, Lan Wangji shifted his hand over to stroke some of the red patches of Wei Ying's coat as if in response to the other's uncertainty. It wasn't really anything that seemed like it'd have a solid reasoning, but when he imagined a stereotypical fox, it was typically one with a red coat. And red was typically associated with fire. However, he didn't voice that train of thought for it couldn't truly explain the phenomenon when foxes could be any multitude of colors. "Perhaps written in legend."

 

"I think it has to do with the stereotype that we're misleading, that we create lantern fires or will-o-wisps to lure travelers astray. In any case, I am pretty good with fire magic and illusions, so eh." He shrugged. "In any case, it's just something that's kind of funny. Could you scratch a little behind my right ear? There's a spot you just barely keep missing- Oooooh, yes, that's better, thank you!"

 

Eyes trained on the fox, he quietly obliged him, shifting his hand wherever Wei Ying requested. There was something calming about this despite the little chimes the fox threw in since he wasn’t one to stay silent.

 

This continued for a little while until Wen Qing finished her own copying, quite pleased with the new knowledge she was able to obtain. It would be nice to share this with Mu-shifu once they returned.

Also having enough of the library for the moment, Wei Ying slipped out of the robes like ink spilling to the ground, and turned back to his human form, undoing his ponytail to fix it since his fur had gotten a little scrunched in the position. "Well, Lan Zhan, what's next?"

 

“Back mountain.” If he didn’t meditate in his own room, he would always go there. It was peaceful and abundant with nature and waterfalls and if he so wished to stretch out and relax, he could do so there. At the moment, it still wasn’t an issue with the Jingshi large enough and minimalistic enough to fit his teenaged dragon body, but soon enough, the back mountain would be the only location within Cloud Recesses vast enough to accommodate an adult dragon. 

Shifting over slightly to move right up next to the table they’d been using, he took the copied books of scores and the drawing of himself, carefully rolling up the latter to slip into his sleeve and holding out the former towards the fox.

 

He accepted them and tucked them into his own qiankun sleeve, then followed him out with the others. On their walk towards the back mountain, he continued to look around with curiosity, absorbing everything.... And once they got to the forested area, he caught scent and sight of something that made his eyes gleam. "Look at all these rabbits!" He said. "Wow, they all look so healthy and fat...."

 

Following Wei Ying's gaze to the rabbits and taking in the expression he was making, Lan Wangji simply said, "Killing within Cloud Recesses is forbidden." And if he was being completely honest with himself, he enjoyed having these rabbits around, they weren't afraid of him even in his dragon form and loved attempting to climb all over him in both his forms.

 

His disappointment and regret was visible, but he was stronger than his instincts. He did, however, stare at them as they walked by to the point that a few hid and several others just trembled with nerves. One was bold enough to dart up and run around his legs, and this one he picked up and looked at for a few moments before petting it's ears and booping it's nose, saying "Yes, you're very brave, but what if I was a bad fox? Who would you impress then by becoming dinner, ah? Use some discretion, maybe, Little Bold," before setting it down again and letting it scamper off. He folded his arms behind his head and sighed dramatically, volume increasing a bit as he 'whined.' "Aaaaah, it's lucky for them I ate before I came; they look delicious, but I'm not hungry, and I'm not wasteful~~" 

"Young Master, stop trying to scare the rabbits." Wen Qing said in an almost bored-sounding tone.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the one Wei Ying so dubbed 'Little Bold' was one of the very few black rabbits in the warren and also the one that was always first to approach him whenever he visited. If a dragon didn't scare it, he supposed a fox wouldn't necessarily scare it either. "That one enjoys climbing on me." He felt embarrassed admitting it aloud, but he'd felt a need to provide some sort of explanation as to why the little one was so bold.

 

"Very fierce rabbit indeed, hehe!" He said as he looked over at it. The rabbit's ears were tall as it stood on its hind legs, looking proud as it was surrounded by it's friends. "Work hard at cultivation, you lot! See if you can become as cool as your friend there!"

 

Turning away to hide the slight, amused smile that briefly crossed his features, he continued along the path they were on until they reached a clearing. Tumbling off a cliff to one edge of the clearing was a waterfall that flowed into a rather small river which would then end up in the Cold Spring by way of yet another waterfall. There almost never were any predators that reached this far up the mountain and so it served as a perfect place for meditation and cultivation.

 

"Oooooooh..." He said as he went over to the edge to take a closer look, Wen Qing watching carefully to make sure he didn't get too close to the edge or standing on any ground that looked like it might be unstable. He looked out and admired the scenery and found himself wondering how cold the water was. It would probably be extremely refreshing in the middle of summer.

 

Sticking close to Wei Ying with the thought that he'd probably have the quickest chance of catching up to him should he lose his footing and fall, Lan Wangji watched the fox take in the scenery. "Sometimes come for meditation and cultivation. The water is especially beneficial."

 

Ah? Was that out loud? "Mn, no doubt. It's very peaceful and beautiful here...." He closed his eyes and took a breath, a little glint of red darting through the irises when he opened them again. "And the qi here is very thick and harmonious. As expected of dragons to have found such a perfect place," he said with a cheeky smile.

 

Unsure what to make of that smile, he simply looked at him blankly before saying, "Lan An was especially fond of high altitudes. Uncommon to be touched by civilization." Not to mention, as ice dragons, the cold temperature that permeated the air and water this high up didn't bother the Lan families all that much.

 

He nodded, it would make sense for dragons that came from heavenly or celestial origins to want to be close to the sky. "I wonder though, why come down from the Heavenly realm in the first place? One would think it's better for cultivation."

 

He gave the slightest tilt of his head, probably the closest he ever got to attempting some sort of shrug. "Have cultivated here for generations." As far as he knew, it was simply their tradition to teach and raise their young in Cloud Recesses.

 

The rest of the day proceeded to pass much like this, in conversation and exploration. Wei Ying loved a lot of it, though the sheer volume of rules that seemed to haunt the place made his brain hurt.  He’d do his best to follow them while he was visiting, he supposed, but secretly he was looking forward to seeing if he could get his dragon friend to bend a few of them once they were away from Gusu.

Chapter Text

After bringing up the idea of going with Wei Ying and the Wen siblings to Yunmeng later that night, Lan Wangji hadn't gotten any definitive response back until the day the Jiang party was set to leave for Yunmeng. He had been summoned to his Uncle's office with instructions to also bring Wei Ying and his friends up to Cloud Recesses as well. Upon entering the office with the three of them trailing behind him, he had noticed that Sect Leader Jiang Fengmian was already inside with his Uncle and brother, the latter of which was simply in one corner of the room observing, no doubt to garner experience as the sect heir. Promptly bowing, he greeted the others in the room. "Uncle, Brother, Sect Leader Jiang."

 

Master Jiang gave a serene smile and gave the proper amount of respect in return. "Second Young Master Lan, it is good to see you. I have not seen you on this visit as often as I had expected. I am told you've made some friends?" He said as he looked at the youths following behind him, looking slightly surprised. They had two crests subtly sewn into their clothing, one he didn't recognize, and the other one he had heard of from stories…

Wei Ying saluted them and bowed, greeting each in turn, the Wen duo behind him also paying respects. "I am Wei Ying from Cang Qiong Sect of Chunshan. These are my friends and attendants, Wen Qing and Wen Ning, also of Chunshan."

 

Lan Wangji gave another bow in apology, almost certain that Lan Qiren had the slightest frown of disapproval on his features. He had decreased his studying and practicing to their utmost minimum in order to see as much of Wei Ying as possible, so surely his uncle had been annoyed at the lower levels of attentiveness. This would only be temporary, of course, for once Wei Ying had to return home, he would immediately resume his regular practices. "Apologies, Sect Leader Jiang. This one's absence has been due to reconnecting with Wei Ying." 

From his seat behind his desk, Lan Qiren was stroking his goatee with a frown, but otherwise had made no other comments on his nephew's conduct. For the past seven years, Lan Wangji's expressions had been even harder to read, even for Lan Qiren himself. But during that time, Lan Xichen had been especially worried for his younger brother, and so when Xichen had commented about how much happier Wangji has been the past couple of days and how much more his elder nephew had caught the younger smiling, Qiren had decided not to push their luck and largely let the boy be.

 

"Wei?" Fengmian looked the child over for a moment, then asked, "Pardon me, but may I ask what character is used for your family name?" 

He blinked at the man in purple, but nodded. "Sir, it is ‘the tower over a palace gateway.’" 

"... And you're... a fox?" He asked next, thinking about everything he'd heard from his wife and son when he visited the last few days, putting the pieces together.

The fox looked surprised, but nodded. "Yes?" 

The look of surprise changed a few times and finally settled on a sort of fond, reminiscing smile. "Wei Changze's son. I...I'm glad to see you're alive." 

This caught Wei Wuxian by surprise and it showed by his ears and tail popping out. "You- Sir, you knew my father?!"

"Quite well."

 

Blinking, Lan Wangji straightened to look between Jiang Fengmian and Wei Ying. Meanwhile, Lan Qiren was watching the fox in a slightly new light. "I hadn't thought much about it, there are plenty of Wei's and foxes out there but...well, this truly is a small world. I'm sure Sect Leader Jiang will be all the more willing to indulge my request. We had already come to a decision that I would only allow Wangji to go to Yunmeng so long as he had a trusted party going with him. I will also be sending along two senior Lan Sect disciples, but I wanted Sect Leader Jiang to ensure your safe arrival to YunmengJiang." Addressing Jiang Fengmian, he then added, "I trust you wouldn't mind the additional company even more so now that you can reconnect with your former subordinate's kit."

 

"There is a saying that those who are destined to meet, will meet in life. I would be honored to have the son of an old friend, as well as the nephew of one, to travel with us and stay at our home as honored guests for as long as they wish." He cupped his hands and gave a modest bow.

Wei Ying still seemed to be a bit caught off-guard, and was a little stunned until Wen Qing cleared her throat and stepped forward to give his back a small tap, bringing him back to the present. "Er, uh, yeah! That sounds great! Thank you, Sect Master Jiang, Master Lan...."

 

"Good. Then all that's left is to pack for the journey. Wangji, I expect you to keep up with your studies. I will not have you slacking once you return." 

Bowing towards him, Lan Wangji promptly answered with, "Mn. Wangji understands." 

Nodding, Lan Qiren then made a motion towards the door. "Then, you four are dismissed to make preparations." 

Giving final greetings towards both his uncle and Jiang Fengmian, the young dragon then turned to exit the office. He would have to make a stop back at the Jingshi, then, to gather whatever else he'd need to bring.

 

Looking a bit hesitant to leave due to wanting to ask more questions, the fox was brought up short by Jiang Fengmian. "We will be traveling together for some time, Young Master Wei. There will be time to talk. Go on." 

The fox saluted after another moment then turned to follow Lan Zhan, mind racing.

 

Jiang Fengmian smiled fondly, the older omega remembering the boy’s father and mother. "They look alike. Not entirely, but the eyes for certain." He said as he turned back to Qiren. "I spent a long time looking for him, years ago, after I got word of his parents’ passing, but the trail went cold. It is good to see him so well after all this time."

 

Humming, Lan Qiren stroked at his goatee as he watched the young teens leaving the room. "We actually intended to bring him back here with us. He just so happened to be living on the streets in Su Town where I'd taken my nephews after their mother passed. Wangji latched on alarmingly quickly, but after three months of stubbornly waiting for a door to open that never would, that boy was actually doing good for him. And of course a young child on the street, fox or not, is frequently a death sentence. Seems he's being raised by that immortal couple that people love to make into poems and songs." 

 

He laughed softly, looking over at the other Master. "I suppose you would never have read the Resentment of Chunshan? The unedited version is quite indecent... However, if he was taken in by those two...." He frowned slightly. Then what was he doing all the way out there? With just two guards? Unless.... "...Hmm, if the Demon Lord actually sees him as his son, perhaps that is what the other symbol on his robes is...it should warn off any demons that can think well enough to realize who's protecting him." 

 

Qiren’s brows involuntarily twitched at the mention of the book. "I don't necessarily wish to know how, but we have a copy of it in our Library Pavilion. It's been relegated to the Room of Forbidden Books. But no matter. He's still alive and Wangji is doing better as a result."

 

"...I'm going to have to have a talk with Jiang Cheng about his dogs..." He said after a moment with a sigh. "I heard they chased a non-human in Caiyi some days ago. I would assume they mean Young Wei Ying here."

 

"That would be prudent. Wangji has never been much of a talker, but one thing I could easily gather from our stay in Su Town was Wei Ying's fear of dogs." Lan Qiren couldn't remember any other instance where his youngest nephew was more openly distraught than seeing the young kit surrounded by dogs and in the jaws of a large wolf. Even his open grief for his mother had been a kind of subdued despair as opposed to any loud distress. 

 

He frowned lightly, thinking. "That.... is unusual for him, isn't it... Ah." He looked up. "Could it be, perhaps, that...?" 

 

Lan Qiren rubbed at his temples for a few moments, heaving a heavy sigh. "Oh, very likely. Too much like his father in that regard. The boy tried to give away his ribbon at only six years old!" 

 

"Huh? He did??" He asked in surprise before laughing. "I, I was just- hahaha- wondering if it was because he liked fluffy things. I-I've seen him covered in rabbits before on the back mountain- hahahaha! Oh dear." He said as he got his laughter under control. "Ahem. Pardon me. In any case, that is very early for those kinds of feelings.... Especially before presentation. Do you think they might be True Mates?"

 

"Ah, well...I supposed that could be a factor as well... In any case, it's possible. Wangji did seem to imprint on him fast enough for it." Just so long as he wasn't as hasty as last time, Lan Qiren wouldn't necessarily oppose it. 

 

"...If Wei Ying is really part of Cang Qiong sect now, whatever this trip is for, he's probably not going to be in Caihong country for long. What...if anything, are you going to do about that? Will you try to reach out to them?" Cang Qiong was notorious for their loyalty to each other, mess with one, you bring the whole horde of all twelve peaks down upon you. 

 

Lan Qiren sighed once again. "Any message to Cang Qiong, no matter the method, will take some time to arrive. It certainly couldn't hurt to let them know, but having been unaware of his new affiliation until today, whether or not Wei Ying is here without their knowledge, there may be no need to contact them." 

 

"Hm." He nodded. "Well, it might be wise to try and arrange some sort of communication at least, for his sake." He stood and made his salute. "Master Lan, I had better go let my family know about this. We will likely head out tomorrow morning?" 

 

"Of course. Composing a message would hardly be a waste of time." Standing as well, he matched the other man's salute. "I will make sure to pass on the message to Wangji." 

Meanwhile, just after the two left the room, Lan Wangji looked over at Wei Ying with some worry. "Wei Ying?"

 

The fox had been staring off into space, but snapped out of it with the concern in Lan Zhan's voice, and looked at him. "Ah- I'm fine, Lan Zhan." He said, throwing on a quick smile. "I just, never expected....I'd meet someone who knew either of them personally." There was so little he remembered of them, so each bit he gained was a treasure. "But, like he said, we'll be traveling together for some time. Let's go, let's go, we'll help you pack!"

 

Lan Wangji watched his expressions for a bit longer, unsure if he truly was alright, before he eventually, albeit a bit hesitantly, nodded and headed back towards his room.

 

The Jingshi was not very furnished, very minimalistic from what could be seen. Wei Ying, of course, began poking his nose into everything, wanting to get to know his friend better. (And perhaps wondering if he had any...interesting books.)

 

Tracking down a few qiankun pouches, Lan Wangji first went to his closest to pack several neatly folded Lan Sect garments along with a comb and a few extra ribbons to tie his hair back. His guqin and some scores and textbooks were sitting on the table in the center of the room which he set aside another pouch for those to gather into later. Unsure whether or not they'd be camping outside for some of the trip, he also made sure to grab his pouch filled with his usual bedroll, tent, survival supplies, talismans, and some dried rations which he always brought along for night hunts. Finally double checking his money pouch and exactly how much he had inside it, he walked over to the table to gather up his guqin and study materials, getting distracted when he noticed Wei Ying running about curiously. "...What are you doing?"

 

He lifted up a painting to peer behind it, under his bed, inside a vase, tail wagging behind him all the while. "Snooooping~" He said in a playful tone as Wen Qing rolled her eyes. "I'm good at being nosy."

 

He watched the fox dart around, vaguely confused and vaguely amused. "...I do not believe you will find anything interesting." He didn't have many things that could count as personal articles outside of necessities. A few poetry books he had bought for his own personal collection, favorite music scores he copied from books from the library, a box of his favorite incense scent... His most prized possessions were an intricate hair ornament that his mother loved to wear, the fox charm he always wore around his belt, and the drawings a younger Wei Ying had doodled and then forgot to reclaim after his days at the inn.

 

The doodles and the hairpin were what caught his eye. The hairpin he very carefully did not disturb, but the drawings he stared at for a while. "...Lan Zhan? Did... I drew these, didn't I?" He asked as he turned around. He might not remember drawing them, but he knew his style when he saw it. Especially since there was a tiny fox pawprint on the corner of one of them.

 

Lan Wangji's ears flushed as he looked over at where Wei Ying was standing by his desk with the drawings in hand. "...Mn. Sometimes while I practiced. Wei Ying always forgot to take them."

 

"...I guess... I was probably giving them to you." He flipped through them, a couple making him laugh. "Seriously? You protected me from dogs before too?" He mused, looking at one in particular, of himself laughing at a pack of dogs from behind the serious-faced boy. There was one of them eating candy, some of them in their beast forms, the coffin house, a ghost...

 

"...How we met." Looking down from the fox with some hint of embarrassment, Lan Wangji remembered that he had still not yet packed away his guqin and books, currently only holding the qiankun pouch for it, and so busied himself with doing just that.

 

"Hah, how about that?" He said with a smile. "We met the same way both times? I wonder if you can call this fate?" He said as he put the drawings away carefully. One he didn't notice, stuck to the back of another, of the fox kissing the dragon on the cheek.

 

"...Possibly." The young dragon could only hope that it wasn't also their fate to get separated again. Or, at least, not for as long as this past separation had been.

 

The rest of that visit consisted of Wei Ying being underfoot while Lan Zhan packed, then hanging out with him until it was time to go back to the inn, unless they got to stay the night in the sect. After all, they already had all of their things on them, they had no need to pack and Wen Qing had no desire to head off another confrontation with the dogs.

 

Some time after Lan Wangji had finished packing and they were simply hanging out in the Jingshi, Lan Qiren had knocked on the door to announce his presence before stepping in upon Wangji’s acknowledgement. “Dinner will be in an hour. Talking during meals is forbidden if you decide to join. You will be leaving tomorrow morning, so you are welcome to stay in the disciples’ quarters. However, we separate disciples by both gender distinctions should you choose to stay.” 

 

That last part made Wen Qing frown along with Wei Ying over the no talking while eating rule. That...could be a problem. Wei Ying's secondary gender was supposed to be kept a strict secret, thanks to Luo Binghe's severe overprotective streak, and the Wens were supposed to keep it that way for as long as possible. Standing, she made a formal bow. "Thank you, Master Lan, however, we will likely be leaving for the evening. The three of us are carnivores by nature, and Lord Luo Binghe has made my brother and I responsible for his health and wellbeing. Failure to do so would result poorly." The young alpha looked up from her bow to meet his eyes, a subtle way of also showing that they could not be split up far apart for the night, in any case. Unpresented or not, they couldn't let him out of their sights. "Please forgive the rudeness of this one." 

 

Lan Qiren hummed, a hand on his chin. “Very well. Then I trust Wangji can handle things from here.” Addressing his nephew directly, he added, “Wangji, be prudent with your time. Do not let Sect Leader Jiang wait for you.” When the other dragon gave the elder a nod of acknowledgement, Qiren dismissed himself to return back to his office. 

Lan Wangji’s mood, meanwhile, had dampened slightly. Initially, he had figured that the rules might be difficult for them to follow, but to hear the confirmation however indirectly... Frankly, he was upset, even if that didn’t show on his face... He wanted Wei Ying to enjoy his time in Gusu, but he supposed that couldn’t really be fully realized in Cloud Recesses. Not with the 3000 rules stifling him. It stung, but he could be content with traveling to other towns, Wei Ying didn’t have to like his home. 

 

"....Qing-shijie-" 

"I'm sorry, Young Master." she replied, sounding final in her tone though. "And I'm sorry, Second Young Master Lan. I have orders I must follow, and the primary one is to stay at least in the next room to the Young Master at night. Even in a safe place like this, our Lord would find us, and therefore my clan, negligent of our duties. This one begs understanding and forgiveness." She said, sweeping her sleeves and cupping her hands for a deep bow.

 

It was easy to smother his negativity and hide it under a rug, he'd been doing so via his in-depth cultivating for years now. So, face as impassive as ever, he murmured a simple, "No need." So long as Wei Ying continued to visit him, he could live with the fox never truly feeling welcome within Cloud Recesses. 

 

Wei Ying also looked a little distressed. He scratched his chin, sighed, then gave Lan Zhan a hug and a pat on the back. "We'll be going then, but we'll see you tomorrow, yeah?" He said, giving him a warm smile. "And then, if we wind up camping, we can sleep together!" 

Wen Qing was torn between laughing and facepalming. 

 

Eventually, after taking some time to watch the fox, Lan Wangji hummed a simple, “...Mn,” his ears flushing at the certain...phrasing he had used. Wen Ning, meanwhile, was so close to asking what came over Wei Ying to say it in that particular way... 

 

Seeming to decide that he was feeling better, the fox was satisfied and felt comfortable leaving him for the evening. Giving his "See you tomorrow's" and "Goodnights", he left for the inn with his two lion friends.

 

Nodding, Lan Wangji also returned the greetings as he saw them off before retreating back into his room. The next day couldn't come any sooner. 

 

--

 

After leaving Cloud Recesses and taking the long trek back down the mountain, Jiang Fengmian arrived back at the inn with a sigh. "I'm back... Ziyuan? Are you here?" 

"Hello Father," Yanli said as she looked up from the table she was sitting at.

"A-Li, A-Cheng. Did you both have a good day?" The omega said as he went to greet his children.

 

“Mother insisted that I do some training today as well.” Jiang Cheng answered in greeting. Just why couldn’t this trip be a vacation! It wasn’t like he was able to go up to Cloud Recesses like planned anyways! “So just like any other day.” 

“Of course I’m going to have you train! The Jiang Sect heir shirking his cultivation and duties? I won’t allow that!” Yu Ziyuan exclaimed as she came into view. Eyes flicking over Fengmian’s expression, she then added, “What now?! Is that old stickler of a dragon trying to press his influence or something?”

 

Jiang Fengmian smiled slightly and shook his head. "It's nothing bad, Ziyuan. Just, I have some bittersweet news." He looked at the kids. "Have I ever told the two of you about Wei Changze?" 

Yanli perked up a little. "Your fairy fox follower?" 

"Mn, yes," He said with a nod as he looked at Ziyuan. "I owed him a life debt, but before I could pay it....he and his mate died. So, I went out looking for their kit."

 

Jiang Cheng frowned slightly. He couldn’t remember if this had ever been brought up around him. Perhaps just his sister had heard of it since she was a few years older than him? 

Yu Ziyuan, meanwhile, quirked an eyebrow. There was that young kit and his two friends that were staying at their same inn... Surely that wasn’t where her mate was going, right...? “Don’t tell me that kit ended up as a GusuLan disciple?”

 

He shook his head. "He almost was in the past, but apparently he was swept up by a sect from Chunshan, Cang Qiong Sect. He is either a principal disciple, or has been adopted by a Peak Lord." He turned to look at his children. "It turns out he returned to Caihong for a trip with his two attendants and met Second Young Master Lan... I believe you have met?" He said to Jiang Cheng in particular. 

Love lifted her head from her paws, looking concerned at the other two dogs. "Uh oh... I think the jig is up."

"No no no, quick, look cute." Jasmine said while Princess just ignored them.

 

Jiang Cheng wrinkled up his nose, embarrassed just recalling that horrendous encounter and the mortifying apology his mother forced him to give. "L-Love, Princess, and Jasmine may have...accidentally scared him with their play-chasing..." 

Yu Ziyuan shook her head at the awkward explanation her son gave. She then eyed the omega with a hint of confusion. "And so? Why bring this up?"

 

Fengmian reached over and patted Jiang Cheng's head, making sure he knew he wasn't angry. "I bring this up, because apparently, Wei Ying invited Second Young Master Lan to go traveling with him to Yunmeng, as that is the next destination on his list, including Lotus Pier specifically. Lan Qiren wasn't comfortable with Lan Wangji going alone, so he asked me if I would allow them to travel with us and I welcomed them to, as well as extended an invitation for them to stay with us upon arriving at Lotus Pier."

 

“Well then,” Ziyuan huffed as she looked at Jiang Cheng, “you had better make sure to keep your dogs in line. You will not be losing our face again by allowing that to happen again!” 

Jiang Cheng, who had been silently preening at the affection his father was giving, switched rather quickly to being thoroughly chastised, shoulders hunching as he muttered a, “Yes, Mother...” in response.

 

Yanli gave her little brother a hug and a comforting pat on the shoulder. "It's okay. They accepted your apology already, it would be rude if they still held it against you." She tilted her head as she realized something, then looked back at her mother and father. "So, is that what the Lady meant earlier? About natural enemies?" 

"It could be. It seems that he has an old trauma with dogs, and the natural animosity probably doesn't help him with that fear." Fengmian replied to his daughter's question as he drank some tea. "Your dogs are good girls, A-Cheng, don't worry about that. They just need to work on rising above their instincts and you can help them with that, hm?"

 

As some form of comfort, Jiang Cheng hugged his girls closer, petting them as he said, "Yes, Father..." However, he couldn't help but feel like this trip was gonna be a real drag. Did he really have to keep his dogs contained for the entire trip if one of the new practically strangers couldn't stand being around them?

 

"Maybe we can get them to be friends?" Yanli suggested as she pet Princess's back, trying to help her brother out. "If they don't chase him or bark at him, maybe it'll be okay."

Love, feeling inspired, wagged her tail and placed her paw on Jiang Cheng's arm, eyes sparkling. "We can do it, Master!" 

"Obviously we can control ourselves." 

"He is pretty cute. I guess we can be friends!"

 

"Y-yeah, maybe..." Admittedly, there were other young disciples around his age he could hang out with, but for the most part, there was always some level of distance, what with him being the sect heir and the other kids eventually being his own disciples. It'd be nice if there was someone outside of that who could possibly be his friend (that wasn't the unapproachable Second Jade, arrogant Peacock, or completely differing interests Nie Huaisang). Maybe tomorrow could be the start of something assuming the mortifying first meeting didn’t put a damper on it?

 

--

 

The next day, everyone gathered at the base of the stairs up to the Cloud Recesses. It was early for the nocturnal Wei Ying, but he was excited to see his friend and stifled a sleepy yawn as he leaned against Wen Ning as a support. He perked up a bit as the Jiangs approached, and managed to right himself so he could greet them properly. "Wei Ying greets Sect Master Jiang, Lady Jiang, Young Master Jiang, Young Miss Jiang!" 

Fengmian smiled and greeted him back. "Young Master Wei, Wen Ning, Wen Qing. Good to see you all again. May I introduce my wife, Yu Ziyuan, my son, Jiang Cheng, and my daughter, Jiang Yanli."

Wei Ying saluted each in turn, and paused when he saw Jiang Cheng. "....Ah!" He said in surprise, grabbing onto Wen Ning's sleeve as he reflexively looked around to make sure the dogs weren't too close...and relaxed when he saw the trio standing a comfortable distance away. However, he still didn't let go of the lion's sleeve. "It's nice to formally meet you all."

 

Jiang Cheng scowled slightly at the on-edge reaction Wei Ying gave him, but properly greeted him as he should. There was no need to be afraid, jeez! He'd told his girls to behave for the trip and they were good dogs! They absolutely would behave! 

It didn't take too much longer before the small party of GusuLan disciples, headed by Lan Wangji, arrived at the inn by way of sword. Alighting gently, the young dragon re-sheathed Bichen before bowing and greeting the Jiangs. "Sect Leader Jiang, Violet Spider, Maiden Jiang, Young Master Jiang."

 

They returned the greeting, and once the formalities were over, Wei Ying trotted over to the dragon and waved cheerfully. "Lan Zhan, good morning!" He said.

 

"Wei Ying," Lan Wangji said simply in greeting as the rest of the party began to prepare the horses and carriages. Stepping over to one of the horses himself, he reached out a hand to it's neck and allowed it some time to take him in and get used to him. 

 

Jiang Fengmian turned to look over the whole group. "Well, shall we then?" He asked Ziyuan, holding out his hand to her and smiling slightly. The carriages were waiting, as were the horses.

Yanli took Jiang Cheng's hand and led him over to the other boys. "Nice to meet you, Young Master Wei. Will you be riding a horse, or in the carriage?"

"Uhhh..." He looked over at the horses, who looked back at him and then seemed to whisper amongst themselves. "I'm probably going to try riding in the carriage. Horses are a little hit-or-miss with me. And please, both of you, call me Wei Ying!"

 

Yu Ziyuan gave a sharp whistle as a signal to the dogs as she took her mate's hand. It had already been decided that Jiang Cheng's spiritual dogs would be riding with Jiang Fengmian and herself to give both their children a chance to get to know the other kids in the group. 

Jiang Cheng had initially been unwilling, but a sharp look from his mother had shut him up rather quickly. He didn't know this Wei Ying all that much, so he was nervous! He would've much preferred to have his dogs with him to help ease the worry.

 

The dogs obediently piled into the carriage, wagging their tails as they did so. "Hi fox!" 

"Sorry for the other day!" 

"I didn't mean it about eating you! I'm sorry for scaring you!" 

He looked over at the dogs and gave them a weak smile and a wave. " Th-that's okay, we received an apology, just please stay away from me... " He replied in the fox language with a bunch of yips and barks.

Yanli was immediately interested. "So, you can really understand what they're saying?" She said as she led the boys into the other carriage, settling near one of the windows and picking up some embroidery to work on.

"Mmhmm!" He said as he got on as well, looking around the carriage. It wasn't like the ones from Cang Qiong that his Father used, but it was still pretty nice. He waved at the lions as they greeted their horses and promised that no harm would come to them as their mounts, on their pride as lions. He also waved furiously at Lan Zhan before sitting properly and looking at the other two. "Animals can usually understand each other to an extent and the ones who cultivate can understand others better, as well as communicate better." 

"Are you really a fox then?" 

"Mn! Wanna see?" 

Yanli nodded, looking at Jiang Cheng, watching his reaction.

 

Even though both of their horses really were initially on-guard about being so close to a lion and dragon, with Wen Ning's shy, nervous demeanor and Lan Wangji's calm, indifferent one, it didn't take too much more for both steeds to allow them to mount and bring them closer towards Wei Ying and the Jiang siblings' carriage. 

Inside the carriage, Jiang Cheng was also on-guard but for an entirely different reason. If he were to honestly admit it, he really was curious about Wei Ying's true form, but he was also nervous. He had never seen anyone transform into any kind of animal and even though he logically knew that the Lans were dragons, he had never actually seen any of their dragon forms before and so therefore held a level of skepticism about the truth behind it. As a result, trying to put on an air of disconnect and indifference, he muttered, "F-fine, whatever, I guess..."

 

Flashing a smile, there was a sudden poof of mist, and suddenly, there was a young fox sitting where the boy had been just a moment ago. "Tadaaaa~!" He said, sitting back on his haunches and raising his front paws, before sitting neatly again, both his tails tucked neatly on each side, just covering his paws.

Yanli gave a slight squeal as the caravan began to move out. "Oh, you're very cute!" She said. "What kind of fox are you?" 

"I'm a hybrid, actually." He said. "My dad was a fairy fox, cultivating a benevolent path, and my mom was a divine fox." Wei Ying didn't want to lie at the moment, and it was entirely possible that, as a mixed breed, he still didn't know what he was.

 

Embarrassingly enough, when Wei Ying transformed, Jiang Cheng jumped in surprise (though thankfully, he hadn't made any embarrassing sounds). There really was a fox just sitting in the boy's spot now! "Y-you...! You weren't kidding..."

 

He blinked, then tilted his head. "Well, yeah... Have you never met a cultivating beast or a demon before?" He asked. "Foxes have an affinity for transformation, so if both parents were cultivators, we can transform very early on. But, we're still foxes, after all. I love eating rabbits, and chickens, dogs don't like me, I'm very curious and tend to get into trouble." He shrugged. "I am happy enough being me. Oh, and A-Ning and Qing-shijie are lions! They're way cool." He said. "They have me beat in strength, but my magic is really strong."

"...Is, is your entire sect beast cultivators?" Yanli asked after a moment, seeming surprised.

"Nnno, but my Papa and Father are."

 

Flushing, Jiang Cheng's voice raised a little bit as he got a tad defensive. "W-well sure I have, we're leaving GusuLan, aren't we? B-but I've never actually seen them outside their human forms!" With the slightest pout, he crossed his arms in front of him, another little nervous, defensive motion.

 

The fox nodded in understanding. "Yeah, Caihong is a little bit more... Um... Rough on beast cultivators than in Chunshan..." He said as delicately as possible. "All the hunters, you know? We can be popular as pets or servants here, and some people would rather buy us than ask us for mutual contracts. And our neidan can be pretty valuable for medicine or spirit tools. Even I try to be more careful about it out in the open around here and stay in my human form. Ah, but I wanted to show you guys. Your dad knew, so it's not a secret or anything between us."

Yanli had never been this close to a fox before, be it a cultivating one or a natural one, and after peering out the window to make sure their parent's carriage was further back, she leaned forward and asked quietly. "Ah, Wei Ying, I'm sorry if this is rude, but could I maybe pet you?" He just looked sooooo fluffy.

"Sure!" He said. "Head or shoulders only, please!" 

The young omega woman smiled and reached out as Wei Ying scooted closer, and ran a hand over his head and ears. "Ooooh my goodness, you're so soft..."

 

Jiang Cheng watched his sister pet and coo over the supposed softness but didn't try to be as bold as she was. He didn't need to know! It was just fur! His dogs' coats were probably softer, he wasn't curious at all! "A-Jie, A-Niang's gonna get mad at you for losing our face..."

 

"Are you going to tell, A-Cheng?" She asked playfully.

"You can try too if you want, Jiang Cheng!" He said, looking at the young teen.

 

Flushing brighter, Jiang Cheng frowned between the two of them, curious but also not wanting to give in to said curiosity so quickly. It took some time of being subjected to his sister's knowing and teasing smile before he eventually reached out a hesitant hand to pat the fox's head twice.

 

He was, indeed, extremely soft and warm. Feeling good about breaking the ice, once they both had enough, he turned back to his human form and lifted the curtain so he could look out the window at passing scenery and the people on horseback.

 

Having been keeping largely even with the carriage, when Lan Wangji noticed the curtain moving from the corner of his eye, he turned his head to glance at Wei Ying, the slightest hint of a question in his eyes.

 

He smiled when he saw him and waved him over. "Ah, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, here, come here." He said, reaching into his sleeve. He could see Wen Ning riding further back, and assumed that Wen Qing would be on the other side. He tossed the dragon boy a loquat he pulled out. "I got a basket of these the other day, they're really good." He said as he leaned against the sill.

 

Guiding his horse in closer, he caught the fruit as Wei Ying tossed it before humming and slipping the loquat into his sleeve for when they weren't on the move. He then took in the position the fox was in as he leaned out the window and murmured, "Be cautious."

 

He stuck his tongue out at him a little. "I'm a good climber, I won't fall off, but yes, I will be careful." He replied, turning to look back at Wen Ning, then at Lan Zhan, tossing him a second one. "Could you give this one to A-Ning? I'm afraid if I toss it, he might not catch it." Half the time, he managed to catch it, but the other half...well.

He went back into the carriage and got one to Wen Qing before settling again, and setting out the remaining loquats for the others in the carriage before eating one himself. "These loquats are really good. Best in Gusu, I would bet. Have some!" 

Yanli took one with her typical casual elegance and seemed amused by the fox's high energy and seeming inability to hold still for long.

 

Complying with Wei Ying's request, Lan Wangji steered his horse around to approach the timid lion with the loquat and a simple "From Wei Ying," to which Wen Ning stuttered out a 'thank you' in response. 

Inside the carriage, Jiang Cheng took one of the fruits with a raised brow as he asked, "Shouldn't you be more formal with Second Young Master Lan? What's with the birth name?"

 

He hesitated mid-bite, and tilted his head. "I mean, we first met when we were like... six I think? And when we met again he said I could call him Lan Zhan. I mean... Should I call you Young Master Jiang? Instead of Jiang Cheng?"

 

Jiang Cheng looked off to the side, shrugging after a moment and saying, "I dunno...Do whatever you want..." But seriously? They actually knew each other? The cold Jade that always seemed to have his face frozen to one expression? How did that add up?

 

He rode with them in the carriage for a while, talking about what it was like in Qing Jing Peak, how awesome his Martial Uncles and Aunts were, stuff he enjoyed, things like that. Eventually he got a little restless, and climbed up onto the roof of the carriage to play his flute a bit. From the roof, he occasionally hung upside down to talk to the Jiang siblings, making Yanli laugh, and also talked to the Wens and Lan Zhan. At night, at one point, he went off with Wen Ning and Wen Qing to go find some prey, returning with some pheasants and rabbits for the party. His sleeping habits and posture were messy, sprawled in all sorts of positions, in human or fox form. (And on top of Lan Zhan's chest once in his small form when they stopped for the night.) 

Yunmeng was as beautiful as the books had painted it, especially Lotus Pier. Wei Ying was sitting in front of Lan Zhan on his horse, playing his flute as he leaned back against his chest. His playing paused when he saw the first lake, and sat forward in an excited fashion. "Is that it?" He asked, trying to see clearer.

 

Instinctively, Lan Wangji closed his arms slightly around the excited fox to ensure he didn't lose his balance on the horse even though he had seen Wei Ying in more precarious positions during other points of the trip. When he was assured he wouldn't end up launching himself from their horse, he gave a simple, "Mn," in response.

 

"Oh good, it means you can get off and run around soon." the horse said with only a hint of sarcasm. It was really a pretty good natured animal and enjoyed the flute playing, but he had such a bad riding posture. 

"Yep! Not quite yet though, I think." He said as he relaxed back against Lan Zhan. "We're getting on boats next, right? Or can the horses go right up to the cove?"

 

Once Wei Ying had settled back into a better position, Lan Wangji relaxed his arms, briefly bringing a hand down to pet and sooth the sarcastic horse. "Stables and clearings reserved for horses and carriages. Boats next."

 

"Haaaah, good, it'll be cooler once we get on the water, too." The days were getting warmer as time went by, and Wei Ying found himself missing Qing Jing peak a little, as it was cooler there.

But, seeing all the lotuses scattered on the water made him very happy. Not only was it beautiful, it was food!! So practical!

 

After uttering another 'mn,' Lan Wangji was quiet until they had reached the drop off point for the carriages and horses, letting Wei Ying observe and comment on whatever crossed his mind. Once he had brought their horse to a stop, he released the reins and waited for the fox to slide off first before following after right as Jiang Cheng was exiting his carriage. 

Said Jiang heir almost didn't want to look over at his new friend (?) and the dragon. He may not have actually interacted with him all that much, but Lan Wangji was acting... not like Lan Wangji. Letting the squirmy Wei Ying just climb in front, behind, and even on top of him?? Was he in some alternate reality where the Second Jade actually didn't mind physical contact??

 

Wei Ying hopped down and stretched, watching as the dogs piled off the carriage behind and ran over to Jiang Cheng's one, barking happy greetings to their master as he got off the vehicle. Spending time around these dogs gave him the opportunity to... get used to them. At a distance. Love, Jasmine and Princess had learned that so long as they didn't run towards him, bark at him, or get within ten feet of him (six if he was able to hide behind either one of the Wens or Lan Zhan), he was a little tense, but mostly fine. They were still scary, but it helped that they were respecting his boundaries.

Yanli was also surprised at the level of contact between the dragon and the fox, but she thought it was cute, actually. And it was good for the young man to have a good friend like that, even if it was a little improper, given that there might be something more between them. In fact, she was fairly certain there was. She had a good intuition about this sort of thing.

Wen Qing was...mildly concerned about all this, and during the times they had been alone had tried talking to Wei Ying about how it wasn't a good thing for an omega, presented or not, to be so sticky to people, but he had merely replied, "After I present, I'm going to have to be more restrained, but for right now, I'm still a kid. I'm going to enjoy it while I can."

Now, as she got off the horse, watching them, she knew all she could do (short of knocking him out and dragging him off) was to watch over him and make sure things didn't get out of hand. Thank god that Lan Wangji seemed to have a will of steel.

Jiang Fengmian was already arranging the ferries for everyone, and they were slowly arriving at the docks.

 

With all the horses taken care of, Lan Wangji moved towards the docks alongside much of the rest of their party. Last he remembered coming to Lotus Pier, the ferry trip didn't really take all that long and so it wouldn't be too much longer until they would arrive at the main docks of Lotus Pier. 

Jiang Cheng, in the meantime, was happy to be finally able to hang out with his dogs again after the last long stretch of travel they'd just finished. Running over to catch up with Jiang Fengmian at the docks, he plopped down onto the ground as preparations got finalized and used the respite to cuddle with Love, Princess, and Jasmine who had come bounding after him.

 

"Masterrrrrrrrrrr!" 

"We love you, Master!"

"We are glad to be home, Master." 

Wei Ying watched with a smile as the human teen was swamped by the mass of fur, licking and rubbing up against him. He understood this much about dogs, after all, dogs and foxes were both technically canines. They were pretty social, it was just that there were a few significant behavioral differences.

Wei Ying wound up on a boat with Lan Zhan, Wen Ning and Wen Qing riding one right next to them, and the two Lan guards on the other side. Jiang Cheng had a boat all to himself and his dogs, and Yanli rode with their parents.

 

Having been assigned a boat, Lan Wangji stepped in to sit under the canopied center and waited until the rest of the group got settled in for the final departure to Lotus Pier. From his seat, it wasn’t difficult at all to watch the fox no doubtedly dart all across the boat in his excitement, spouting out whatever may come to mind or shouting out greetings to their neighboring boats.

 

Once he was done running all around, he got a couple of seed pods from a plant as they were floating by and went to sit next to Lan Zhan, beginning to peel one and split the seeds between them. "Mmm. Hey Lan Zhan. Did you know lotus seeds are better from pods that still have stems attached?" He said as he popped one in his mouth, then held one out to the other boy.

 

Quietly watching the fox peel open the lotus seeds, he held out his hand for the seed Wei Ying was offering as he said, “Mn. Told me before.”

 

Grinning with mischief, he flicked the seed at Wangji's mouth when he opened it, wondering if he could get it in or if Wangji would catch it in his hand.

 

Blinking and not understanding why Wei Ying was throwing it like that, Lan Wangji’s hand instinctively darted up to catch the seed. Holding still a few moments afterwards, he gave the fox a vaguely questioning look as he ate the caught seed.

 

This made Wei Ying laugh again. Oh well, he figured it was about a 50-50 chance. He started behaving again as he continued peeling. "It's good, right?" He asked, even though it hadn't gone exactly to plan, he'd guessed right on his reaction, the next time putting one directly into his hand.

 

With talking while eating being forbidden, it was only between seeds that he said anything, answering the fox with a, “Mn.”

 

The boat ride was fun, and exploring the pier with his friends (the dogs actually did something nice by keeping a perimeter and keeping other dogs away from the group, something Wei Ying appreciated and bought treats for Jiang Cheng to give them later for) was also fun. He'd never been in a group of friends all his own age before, exploring like this. It was actually quite nice. The people were friendly and there were plenty of places here he could smell spicy aromas from.

 

Having visited Lotus Pier a few times, there wasn't necessarily anything new that Lan Wangji wished to see or experience. It was entertaining enough watching Wei Ying exploring at his trademark blistering pace and so he simply followed behind at a more sedate pace alongside the Wen siblings. Like the proud young master he was, Jiang Cheng was a little ways ahead of the older three teens, subtly (?) boasting to Wei Ying about the best stalls or foods or lakes and then some.

 

After getting settled and having fun exploring, at one point the fox invited Wangji to play some music with him in an out of the way place he found, practicing some of the scores they'd copied, with the Wen siblings nearby. At the end of one set, Wei Ying stopped and stared at Lan Zhan for a few moments. "...Hey Lan Zhan?"

 

Setting a hand on his guqin's strings to stop the music, Lan Wangji looked up from it to Wei Ying, head tilted ever so slightly. "Wei Ying?"

 

He smiled and leaned in closer, playing with his flute in one hand. "I have a request. I wanted to see your dragon form some more, can I?"

 

Blinking, Lan Wangji stared at the other for a few moments before eventually nodding. Slipping his guqin into the qiankun pouch he'd been keeping it in with a sweep of his arm, he took stock of the area around them to double check how much room he had. Deciding that there was no need to move somewhere else, he stood and took a few steps away from Wei Ying to give himself proper space before transforming within the usual mist of cold air that emitted from his body.

 

The cool air was nice, as warm as it was out. He watched the transformation with his typical interest and walked over once it was over, slipping his flute back into his belt so both hands were free. He looked him over, wanting to memorize every detail he could, and hesitated before reaching out. "Can I touch you?" He asked.

 

"Mn." Settling down into something more comfortable for however long Wei Ying wanted him in this form, Lan Wangji laid himself down on the ground, head turned to watch the fox.

 

Well, as he had in the past, he started with his head and muzzle. Parts of his face, like the top of his nose and around his eyes, had very hard, armor-like scales that were still beautiful, just evolved for defense. Long whiskers and surprisingly soft ears and cheeks, sharp teeth, and that beautiful sky-blue pearl. His blue mane started between his horns, and ran down most of his back, and had a marvelous tail tassel of the same color. The white body scales were incredible. Dry and smooth, but also incredibly supple, it was a very flexible natural armor that was hard to break, and once again, the warmth on most of his body was surprising. He was petting his mane and the side of his neck as he mused aloud, "You really are warm... It's a little surprising, with the cold mist. Is that a conscious thing?"

 

Without enough pressure to completely topple Wei Ying over, he pressed his head into the other's touch. "Body cools when using ability." He would also be warm to the touch of anyone he trusted or regarded as family, but he was reluctant to mention that. It was an embarrassing and vulnerable thought and he wasn't sure if he was ready to admit it even to himself. Perhaps later...

 

"Oh." He nodded, that made sense. Feeling him lean in, his smile softened and he rubbed harder on the spot. "Does it feel good?" He murmured, his other hand going to scratch under his jaw. He sure did enjoy getting pet himself, so this didn't seem odd to him.

 

"Mn." Relaxing into the motions, he closed his eyes as his body subconsciously curled in closer. His tail especially seemed as if it was acting with a mind of its own as it shifted even more in and wrapped around Wei Ying's legs with the very end of it curled around an ankle.

 

He let his ears and tail show and got comfortable, sitting down leaning against the young dragon, and pulled his head to rest on his lap, careful not to disturb his tail's hold as he continued to pet him. This was really, really relaxing. He smelled like... sandalwood, very faintly.

 

Lan Wangji let out the slightest puff of cold air through his nostrils as Wei Ying moved him around but otherwise let it happen. Typically he wouldn't be able to get away with lounging around like this (he could easily imagine the annoyed touch to his voice that his uncle would've directed at him), but right now, he really wanted any opportunity he could get to curl up with the fox even if he couldn't pinpoint the reason why yet.

 

"Aiyoo, so majestic and handsome, very worthy of being half of the Twin Jades of Lan..." He murmured, continuing to pet him. "And this is comfortable too, I could get used to this." 

Wen Qing looked over at them from her position with a book nearby as Wei Ying continued to ramble on in a hushed tone, saying whatever came to mind, and shook her head. This fox... Oh well. She looked over at her brother next. Poor boy. Foxes tended to be monogamous, so if something in Wei Ying's heart already made its choice... Then again, they still had a few years to go. Nothing was certain yet. She'd just continue to watch over both of them as she had the past five years.

 

With how constant Wei Ying's movements were (and for once he wasn't all jittery in his spot), Lan Wangji felt as if he could probably drift. And partly due to that half-awake state he was in, the dragon didn't pick up on the approaching footfalls right away. Jiang Cheng, having decided to wander around after a grueling training session from his mother, was walking along a path not too far away when he first caught sight of the Wen siblings, Wen Qing with a book in her face and Wen Ning with his posture more or less facing his sister as he fiddled with the grass in front of him. It was upon his second, closer look that he noticed Wei Ying and a freaking dragon which then could only be Lan Wangji farther past them. Jaw hanging open at the cuddly??? scene, the Jiang heir sputtered out a, "W-what the hell?? " before he could stop himself. 

Startled to attention from that, Lan Wangji lifted his head sharply, just about to coil himself around Wei Ying as he tended to do defensively before he registered the non-threat in front of him.

 

"Eh?" Wei Ying looked over at Jiang Cheng, a bit startled by the sudden movement from Lan Zhan and looked over at the young heir of Lotus Pier. "Ah, Jiang Cheng, hello!" He looked from Cheng to Wangji to Cheng again, and asked "Is this your first time seeing a dragon up close?" as he patted his mane in a soothing manner.

Wen Qing sighed and closed her book, tucking it back in her sleeve in case she was needed for something; she could always go back to it later.

 

Bug-eyed, Jiang Cheng watched the two of them, especially how the unapproachable Lan Wangji was just lounging on top of Wei Ying on top of being pet by said Wei Ying . What the FUCK was going on?! "A-ah...well, yeah , but that's not why... W-why is...? Have you just been...? How long have you been like...that...?" 

Unamused by Jiang Cheng's confusion and annoyed that he interrupted in the first place, Lan Wangji closed his eyes and plopped his head back down, face turned away from the teen in purple. Just ignore him. If he can't see him, he doesn't exist, he decided.

 

"Oof." Wei Ying huffed and chuckled as the large head plopped back down on his lap, muzzle nudging his stomach a little in the action. "Alright, alright." He whispered as he pet his head again, paying special attention to his ears and the bases of his horns. Then, addressing Jiang Cheng, he raised his voice a bit so he could be heard. "We've been here a little while. This place is nice and peaceful, so we're taking it easy." 

Wen Qing was smiling now, her head turned so it would be harder to see.

 

If anything, that response only made Jiang Cheng angry, although he didn't actually let it take over his voice. "Wha--Okay, fine, whatever, but that doesn't explain.... that! " he exclaimed as he gestured to the large dragon just in the fox's lap. 

Lan Wangji, meanwhile, let out an almost inaudible sound, something between a soft growl and a purr that rumbled against the fox's lap, only discernable to Wei Ying since he wasn't comfortable enough to be any more obvious with Jiang Cheng nearby.

 

'So cuuuuute~' Wei Ying thought to himself, not stopping his movements. "Jiang Cheng, don't just stand there, sit, sit, this is your home after all- ah, but not too close, and don't touch him, okay?" Maybe he was a little selfish but he didn't want to share him with anyone in this respect. "Jiang Cheng, have you ever had to wear... hmmmm... Ah, a pair of shoes that were too small and they pinched? Well, think of it this way." His other hand reached over to pat Wangji's side, not stopping the attention with his main one. "This is Lan Zhan's real size and shape. Just because he looks like a human most of the time, doesn't mean it's comfortable for him." Now, this might not be entirely true. Many beast cultivators aspired to be able to be in their human forms a majority of the time, so they could live among the humans in peace. But beings like qilin, dragons and phoenixes were a different story and he couldn't say for certain.

 

Arrrggg, he wasn’t getting his confusion!!! Annoyed, Jiang Cheng moved closer, arms crossed across his chest. “Well, sure, that makes sense, but that’s not what I mean!! Did Lan Wangji somehow get swapped with his brother Lan Xichen?! Since when does he allow people to touch him!?” 

Wei Ying indeed wasn’t quite getting it right, but Lan Wangji wasn’t about to correct him. He was actually rather used to his human form since it was discouraged by his sect to revert to his true form often. However, if he said that, he’d likely have to explain why he was staying like this and doing so would only bring him embarrassment.

 

"Tsch! Rude, Lan Zhan and Lan Xichen are very different." He mumbled in a sulky tone. "We're friends, can't friends touch each other?" 

"Young Master Jiang, if I may try to help you." Wen Qing finally interjected, looking over from her position. "Cultivating beasts see skinship differently from humans. Didn't the Young Master allow you and the Young Miss pet him on a limited area? That was to show you he felt relaxed around you, and wanted to be friends." 

Wei Ying blinked, hand pausing briefly before resuming as his head tilted, tail swaying a bit at his side. He supposed that was true, if he thought about it. He usually just acted first and thought about what he was doing later.

 

This just kept going in directions that weren’t quite right! Even though the sect had a no gossiping rule, Jiang Cheng still clearly remembered other Lan disciples murmuring about how cold Lan Wangji was or how his hand would always flinch if someone happened to brush against it when delivering a message or otherwise. So for this same Lan Wangji to be entirely in Wei Ying’s space was just...unprecedented! But apparently trying to figure this out with them wasn’t gonna shed any light so he just dropped it. “Fine, okay, no body switches happened and this is just normal behavior. So....what, are you just gonna chill out here the whole time?”

 

Wei Ying shrugged, persisting in his petting. "For a while, at least. But, don't worry! If you want to hang out or play, we'll get up eventually. Maybe later... Oh, do you like hunting? We can go find some pheasants or something! How's your archery?" That was something he could bring Wen Ning along for, he was a great shot!

 

"Yeah, hunting's fun...and Mother starts everyone's archery training at ten years old so I'm working at it...She says I have my form down, even if my strength isn't consistent yet..."

 

"Then cool! We can all go later... Ah, if Lan Zhan wants to come with?" He said as he looked down at the dragon's face. "Do you want to go hunting with us?"

 

Hunting wasn't necessarily something he wanted to do in a rather sizable group like this, but he was more off-put by not being able to spend time with Wei Ying if he declined. Therefore, with that in mind, Lan Wangji finally lifted his head fully from the fox's lap and gave a simple, "Can."

 

"Mn." He hummed cheerfully, scratching his nose lightly before looking back at Jiang Cheng. "Then it's a plan! When is the best time for hunting around here?"

 

"W-well, there's not really any bad time for normal hunting except nightfall...Those times would only be good for night hunts and I doubt we'd be able to be successful at it anyways..." Not with some of them still training and without proper cultivation weapons.

 

That agreed upon, after some more snuggling time, Wei Ying eventually felt his stomach grumble at him, so he reluctantly got Lan Zhan to lift his head so he could get up. "Lan Zhan, let's go get something to eat. I'm hungry."

After eating, the four of them went out hunting for a bit. Wei Ying was a very good shot, and was fairly good at sniffing out the birds in the first place. And, thanks to Lan Zhan's presence, he didn't try to catch the rabbits they came across. (They didn't look as tasty as the ones from Gusu anyway.) 

They had fun for a few days running around Yunmeng, making closer bonds as friends (Wei Ying decided that Yanli's lotus and pork rib soup was the new best thing ever, aside from spicy food), and learning a bit more about his birth father. It seemed that the fox had managed to go to a dangerous mountain to find and bring a rare herb to Fengmian when he was at risk for miscarriage when pregnant with Yanli.

Though he did continue to sight-see, he cut back on some of his travel plans in favor of going swimming with the rest of the guys on a very hot day. Stripped down to the waist, he jumped into the water from the boat they commandeered, whooping as he surfaced and pushing his forelocks away from his face behind his ears. "This feels great!" He said as he laid back to float for a little while.

 

From inside the boat, Lan Wangji watched the fox swim around carefreely. He himself was hesitant about following suit if not for the fact that he'd likely need to strip down more than he'd really like to. 

Having none of those concerns, on the contrary, Jiang Cheng had also dove into the water like he was used to doing anyways as a Yunmeng native. Swimming a few laps underwater at first to cool off, he popped out of the water several feet away from the boat before changing course to swim in a little closer.

 

"Lan Zhan, A-Ning, are you really not coming in?" He asked as he righted himself, arms and legs helping him tread water in place as he looked at the two on the boat. "It feels really good."

 

"I-I don't know Y-young Master...I-it'll take s-some time to d-dry again..." Wen Ning stuttered out as he leaned over the edge of the boat. From a few seats down, Lan Wangji simply nodded his agreement.

 

He pouted a little, but nodded, and after a moment, came up with an idea. "Jiang Cheng, you've played diving games before, right?" He at least assumed so, he was so good at swimming. "I have a set of 21 glass diving rings! We can close our eyes and block our ears while they throw the rings out, and then we can see who can find the most?"

 

"Well, of course! We have a ton of lakes and rivers, after all!" Curiously, Jiang Cheng swam up even closer as the fox was explaining so that he was a mere chi or two away from Wei Ying, also treading water. "Sure, that sounds pretty simple."

 

"Cool! A-Ning, it's in my right sleeve, you know the one. Could you grab them out?" He asked. Once they were out, he and Jiang Cheng closed their eyes and covered their ears, having Wangji watch them to make sure they were both doing that properly while Wen Ning scattered the rings around.

Out of the 21 rings, Wei Ying was able to find eight, and applauded Jiang Cheng when he was able to find the rest. They played the game a couple more times, every once in a while gathering to rest against or on the edge of the boat to chat and horse around, until about five in the afternoon.... 

"Wei Ying!!" 

The fox jumped, sitting upright from where he was laying on the boat, his ears and tail popping out in surprise. "Liu-shushu?!" Uh oh! What was he doing there!? 

Above the boat, a great thunderhead eagle was flying down and standing on its back was a tall, handsome man in dark blue robes and a dominating air. It began wheeling over the boat as the man jumped down, landing lightly on the boat and not even making it rock.

Wei Ying scrambled to his feet to give the immortal a proper bow and salute, looking up at him almost like he wanted to hide. "Liu-shushu, uh-" 

"You can save your excuses for your Father." He said as he looked at the other three teens in and around the boat. He gave an abrupt salute and bow to Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan. "Liu Qingge, Cang Qiong sect. Wei Ying, you need to gather your things and come home immediately." 

"Why, is something wrong?" He asked, beginning to feel anxious as he got up and grabbed his robes, getting himself dressed again. 

"...Your Father is...." He said after a slight hesitation, like he was reluctant to say. 

This just made Wei Ying more apprehensive. "What? Is he hurt?! Is that why Papa He isn't here??" 

He sighed before spitting out "He's fine! He's just... Expecting." 

"......What?!"

Chapter Text

Groggy after god knows how much time he spent in and out of heat waves, Shen Qingqiu was slow to register his surroundings. Once he finally had, the first sensation that came to mind was the dull ache he felt in his lower body. Outside of that, it felt as if his entire body was heavy and made of jello and surely, if he tried to sit up and move, he'd be too weak to even make it a few steps. Groaning, he could at least shift himself to lay on his back and used that vantage point to take in his surroundings.

 

He had a well-muscled arm under his head, and one across his body, loosely holding him, and a leg carelessly tangled with his own.  Binghe was still asleep, and they were both clean and dressed... Well, partly?  If you could call the semi-see through thing Shen Yuan was in proper clothing. A sheer teal sleeping robe, that while felt very soothing to the skin, left little to the imagination. The Demon Lord himself only had a pair of simple black pants on and seeing as how he was still littered with healing bites and scratches, he'd made his healing ability akin to a normal human's again to enjoy the marks a little longer. The bed had also been cleaned and some cold tea and foods were sitting on the table nearby, along with his fan and sword.

 

The tea and food was tempting, but he doubted his ability right now to sit up and reach for them. Well...aside from the fact that he had a sticky, asleep mate curled around him. It wasn't until he'd taken into account the limbs over him and whether or not he could slip out from under them that he'd noticed what his idiot husband had dressed him in. What the hell!?! Binghe, what possessed you to not only buy , but dress him in this flimsy cloth!? Pervert!! Fucking hell!! "Ugh...goddamn you, Binghe...I can hardly feel my limbs and you're not even awake to bring me over to the food, this is all your fault," he muttered under his breath.

 

"Mn?"  He stirred and opened his eyes, giving his husband a bright smile. "Shizun, good morning~" He said with a smile, flowers blooming for him as he did so, and leaning in to give him a kiss. "Did you mention food? Would you like me to make you something?"

 

"Ugghh, you're too bright at this time of day," he mumbled as he covered the alpha's face with his hand following the kiss. "And after you wore out my body with all your insatiability to top it off... Just reheat whatever you have on that table over there...I can't even tell how long it's been since I last ate..."

 

He pouted a little, taking the hand on his face in his own and kissing the palm as he moved to get out of bed. "Okay, okay, it's all my fault." He said in a conciliatory fashion.  "I should have made sure Shizun didn't suppress his heat cycle to the point that it lasted this long. In the future, I will be sure to listen to Mu-shibo more." He collected the drink and plate from the table and brought it back to him, helping to prop him up in the bed. "This can be eaten cold, I'll go make you some congee now." It hadn't been too long since his last meal, Binghe made sure to take advantage of every low point in the heat to get him food and drink, but he still loved cooking for him anyway. A couple days of post-heat care, and they'd be ready to see other people and go back to Qing Jing Peak.

 

Shen Qingqiu groaned a little at that. If he listened to Mu-shidi, he was probably never going to be able to suppress his heat at all! He never did approve of his insistence to avoid a so-called 'natural part of his body.' With a small huff and a hum of acknowledgement, he took a few careful sips of the tea before starting to eat whatever Binghe had left for him.

 

Chuckling as he left to the kitchen in the next room, he began humming as he was rummaging around in the kitchen, making some very domestic noises as he prepared the meal. 

The snack was just some prepared spiritual fruit, nothing too fancy....or, rather, not fancy for Binghe's standards. The price of one of these fruits would probably be enough to feed a family of ten for a year.

 

Without much ability to move around post-heat, Shen Qingqiu simply sat there propped up against the bedframe eating and drinking the snack Binghe had provided until the alpha returned from the kitchen.

 

The big fluffy Alpha looked still incredibly pleased with himself, sitting on the bed next to Shen Yuan as he held the bowl of godly snowy-white congee. Over the years, it had somehow gotten even better than before, if possible.

 

Seeing that ridiculous grin on his face, Shen Qingqiu reached up to pull at Binghe's cheek as the alpha settled in next to him. "What's that look for?" Taking the spoon from the bowl of congee, he eyed his mate suspiciously as he started eating the warm meal.

 

"Hehe." He said, not resisting the face pinching he was being subjected to. "No new reason. I love you, Shen Yuan." He said as he put an arm around his shoulders and leaned against the headboard beside him, briefly kissing his temple before resting his face against his hair, seeming content.

 

Flushing, he averted his gaze down to the bowl, distracting himself with the food before he did anything else. When he was finally done eating, he set the bowl off to the side of the bed without much care before turning his face into the crook of Binghe's neck. "You'd better not make me move...You made me too goddamn sore!"

 

"Would Shizun like a massage? Or a medicinal bath?" He asked, not moving to go do it immediately, however. He was quite comfy where he was. "You don't have to move, I can carry you easily..."

 

"Mmm, later..." Not quite up to going anywhere else at the moment, he simply settled more into the alpha. "Oh..." he added after a moment, fixing Binghe with another suspicious look, "I almost forgot...Where in the world did you get this robe? Trying to give me no modesty at all?"

 

His eyebrows raised, and amusement played in his eyes as he let out his ears and tail. "You don't like it? It should be very comfortable." He said, running a finger over his shoulder. "It's made from the shed skin of the Tranquil Lunar Sea Snake, it has healing properties as well as supposedly being very comfortable." And, it gave him the added bonus of being able to see every mark on his mate as they faded, so, extra plus!

 

Clicking his tongue, he reached up to flick at Binghe's forehead. "Where did you learn to be such a pervert? I know I for sure never taught you that!" And no way in hell was he gonna admit that it actually was pretty comfortable. As if he'd give him the satisfaction! Surely there were other comfortable robes that weren't showing off every single part of his body!

 

"Ah-" He blinked, then pouted a bit over the flick. "Only for you, Shizun." He said to the pervert remark, this smile turning more mature and vaguely seductive. "Besides, it's still only you and I for a few more days. No one gets to admire your body like this but me. If you insist on changing, I'll get you something else...." His tone indicated he might sulk, however.

 

"Aiyo, you're incorrigible! I can't believe I'm letting you get away with this just because you'll act like a kicked puppy afterwards! I spoil you too much..." Given that this was Binghe they were talking about, he didn't really think the possessive alpha would actually let this happen, but he had better not forget he was wearing something so goddamn skimpy and accidentally let some servant in to see. How embarrassing would that be!

 

The tail drummed in a muffled way against the bed as it wagged, Binghe just hugging him close and breathed in his scent again. "Mn, yep, Shizun spoils this disciple, this king is very happy." No one was allowed to enter this room during a heat, under threat of immediate death. Binghe with his SS-class domestic skills typically took care of everything...though, Shen Qingqiu might not realize that.

Some days later, and while Shen Yuan still might not be the most stable, their hormones and physical states were to the point they were able to return to Qing Jing Peak. Taking Xin Mo, Binghe cut a rift open back to the bamboo hut, and helped his mate through before letting it close behind them. He brushed off imaginary dust from Shen Yuan's robes, looking at his face. "I'll go fetch Mu-shibo." He said. "Or would you rather see Ying'er first?"

 

Shrugging off Binghe's concern, he said, "I'm not so bad off that I'll need to see Mu-shidi right away. However, we did leave abruptly and for quite some time, A-Ying might be worried."

 

He nodded. "He was the first to notify me, too. I'll go-" 

"Master Shen!!! Master Shen!!" The door suddenly opened, and a disciple stumbled in, looking at the two of them with a somewhat anxious expression. He hesitated briefly upon seeing Luo Binghe, before dropping into a kowtow. "M-master Shen, there's something you should know-"

 

Frowning, Shen Qingqiu opened up his fan to cover his expression before he prompted with, "What's the rush? An attack somewhere?" Although, if it truly were some attack, why not just go to Liu Qingge instead? What did they need him for?

 

"... M-master.... It's about Young Master Wei." The temperature in the room dropped sharply. 

"Is he hurt?!" Binghe barked.

"N-no, no! W-well, we don't think so, aa-anyway-" 

"Quiet down, Luo Binghe!" Liu Qingge snapped as he entered the room, looking over at Shen Yuan and nodding before handing over a note to Luo Binghe, who wouldn't let the other Alpha advance another step. "He ran away with those two lions of his shortly after the heat started. Called it an 'Adventure'. He's been gone almost the whole month you two have been."

 

"What?!" That little rambunctious brat! He'd hardly been outside of Cang Qiong Sect since they brought him here, how the hell was he supposed to know where to go or stay safe or find the way back here? And sure, he had Wen Qing and Wen Ning with him, but they were just barely older than him! "Where did he go?! Did he write where?"

 

"Caihong." Liu Qingge said, looking at the very, very angry half-demon and waving off the trembling disciple. "The country Binghe picked him up from, I suppose. The note has more." Basically, the contents of the note said that since he thought they were going to be busy for a while, he was going out to see the world and just so they wouldn't worry, he took with him Wen Ning, Wen Qing, and Chenqing. It had a rough outline of a damn itinerary in it, starting in Gusu, then going to Yunmeng and a couple other places before coming home.

"I'm going to lock that brat up once he gets back, how dare he be so irresponsible-"

 

Pinching the bridge of his nose with the hand not holding his fan, Shen Qingqiu asked, “And? Did you send someone to find him, Liu-shidi? Or is someone at least tailing him? Where was he last seen?”

 

"Yue-shixiong's Thousand Miles Crane took them to the border and dropped them off. They apparently talked her into it, as well as arranged for her to pick them up in Lanling in another day or two from now. We did send some disciples to follow them and it seems like Wei Ying has made some friends." He said as he looked at the very worked up Papa. "He's been very prudent about keeping his...unique powers under wraps, and no one seems to be aware of his secondary gender either."

 

At least he seemed to be playing it safe...But how dare he run off without either of their permission! “One or two days...” Looking up at Binghe, he asked, “Well? Should we wait or track him down early?”

 

The taller man was pacing back and forth, Qingge watching him warily as he did so, with his hand near his sword hip. "What if he gets caught?! They might not kill him right away because he hasn't formed his neidan yet, but he's so cute!! And soft!! What if something happens to him?!" Binghe was very stuck in the anxious doting papa mindset. "I should go track him down right now-"

 

Shen Qingqiu abruptly closed his fan and smacked Binghe's arm with it. "Don't you dare think you're going on your own! Heavens above, who knows what in the world you'll do to anyone over there! Someone needs to keep you on a leash! If you're going, I'm going with you."

 

"We'll go together then-" 

"You'll go where?" Qingfang asked as he entered the room. “To see me for your checkup? No need, I came to you. Shen Qingqiu. Sit. Down." The doctor said with a chilly sort of disdain in his eyes. "Then give me your wrist."

 

Oh fuck!! Of all the times to actively go out and look for him, why did it have to be when Wei Ying was out in the wilderness somewhere?! Frowning but not exactly in a position to easily retort, Shen Qingqiu sat down at his table before holding out his wrist for the doctor. “Mu-shidi is this really the right time? We have to go find Ying’er...”

 

"Wei Ying is nearly at adulthood and with two nether lion guards trained by Mobei-Jun himself, even if one has taken an oath against killing others as a doctor. And according to their reports, they are doing well at not attracting foul attention. If..." He paused, frowning. He'd been taking Shen Qingqiu's pulse, but not paying close attention, which he now corrected. "....Hm. Well, congratulations, Shen-shixiong, Luo Binghe. You are 28 days pregnant." 

"WHAT?!" Binghe exclaimed, bolting upright.

 

.........WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?! Luo Binghe, what the hell is with your protagonist power!?! Wasn't it supposed to be difficult for mixed species to breed!? How in the ever-loving fuck did you already get him pregnant?! And only a few days into his heat to top it off!! What the fuuuuuuck!! With wide-eyed shock, Shen Qingqiu stared straight up at Mu Qingfang, mouth open to ask something but getting nothing out for some time until he was finally able to force out, "...You're...sure...? You didn't read something wrong...?"

 

"Since it's only the first month, it's not stable yet, but yes, I'm sure." He said.

Luo Binghe was stunned for several long seconds as he stumbled over and knelt next to Shen Qingqiu, reaching out to take his hands, eyes tearing up. He was at a loss for words, overjoyed because of this news, but what about their son? What should he do? 

Liu Qingge, On the other hand, had his face lowered and fists tightened for a moment, before regaining control of himself and looking at them. "Congratulations." He said, giving them a salute. "You... should both stay here. I'll go get Wei Ying." He did like the fox, after all, and he really needed to get away for a while. "He should come back as soon as possible, given the circumstances." 

Binghe looked at him for a few moments before nodding, still holding on to Shen Yuan. "Thank you," he said, voice a bit hoarse from unshed emotion.

 

Not quite sure if he saw Liu Qingge's reaction clearly enough or if he was simply imagining the flash of...unhappiness...?, Shen Qingqiu just stared dumbly at the younger Peak Lord before eventually murmuring a quiet, "Thanks..." He then brought his eyes over to Binghe's, partly still shocked, partly happy, and partly nervous beyond belief.

 

Liu Qingge didn't linger, leaving as abruptly as he'd entered, still as proud as ever in his posture. Qingfang was leaving some nutritional supplements and writing how to prepare them and what doses to take them in for Binghe, and the alpha himself had currently wrapped both arms around his omega, still on his knees, careful with his strength as he pressed a kiss to his stomach over his robes. When he finally looked up, he was smiling brightly, shedding happy tears. "Shen Yuan..." He said, reaching a hand up to his face. "We're... you're...."

 

Shen Qingqiu moved a hand up to thread through the alpha's hair, thankful that at least his hands weren't shaking from the shock. Nine months really wasn't all that long given just how many months he had lived already, but there was still some level of apprehension over those last few weeks of the process... "...I'm...too all over the place..."

"I'll give you two some time alone. And I'll let you announce it if and when you want to." The doctor gave them a bow before departing the room. Binghe continued to kneel for a few moments before getting up, carrying Shen Yuan in his arms, and taking him over to the bed, just wanting to cuddle him for a bit. He was both exhilarated and terrified at the same time, but joy was overcoming everything else. "You'll be okay, Shizun," he assured him. "I'll do whatever I can to make sure it's not painful."

 

Huffing, Shen Qingqiu tucked his head into the alpha's neck, hiding away his nervous expression. "What the hell...sudden heat and then sudden pregnancy...Why is your seed so goddamn potent?"

 

"Considering this is the first time it's worked, I'd argue that point." He murmured as he stroked his hair. "I have... a guess? Or two? One, it's like I said, the heavens gave us a sign it was time for us to have children. Two...." He paused, then continued. "...I think you might actually want to have my child now.... As opposed to before."

 

Gods, if anything, that was even more embarrassing to think about! Sure, he could clearly tell how ecstatic his inner omega was about this, but what the hell!! , why was his body quicker to accept this than his own nervous mind!? And admitting any truth in that felt as if he would only upset Binghe with the implied indication that he hadn't wanted to bear him children! "......If you're thinking that not wanting your child meant I loved you less, then you'd better quit that...!"

 

"No, I know it scares you." He said, lifting a hand and placing two fingers on his forehead, lightly rubbing the spot between his brows. "You explained it. And... If you never wanted to have my cubs, I'd be okay with that. So long as I have you. And we have Ying'er. But... I'm still so happy, I can't explain it..."

 

Huffing, he bit at his lower lip before shifting up to draw him into a kiss. "If there's anything I've learned from hearing about others' pregnancies, I'll probably be insufferable. Sure you can manage that?"

 

He smiled against his lips and kissed him back. "You tolerated me though plenty of insanity. You've tried to push me away before. But you can't get rid of me now." He said teasingly, fingers brushing up his nape under his hair to rub lightly at his mating mark. "Besides, I grew up a little twisted. I love it when you bully me a little."

 

Shuddering at the alpha's touch, he lightly flicked at Binghe's shoulder as he chastised him with a, "Masochist. Who in the world taught you to like that?"

 

"Taught myself, Shizun is blameless." He said shamelessly with a smirk.

 

With a little groan, he rolled his eyes at the other. "Just don't teach that to A-Ying... or this new one. I think one of you is plenty..."

 

He chuckled. "I won't.... I wonder if this is going to be a little brother or little sister for our Ying'er... I hope the child looks like you." A teensy kitten with wings would be absolutely adorable.

 

He gave a shrug as he settled back into Binghe's chest. "Maybe Mu-shidi knows of a way to tell...Though it'd be too early for that right now."
Smiling widely in an almost silly fashion, he just tucked his face against his mate's head and rumbled at him in a content fashion, rubbing his back.

 

--

 

Lan Wangji was a tad apprehensive about this newcomer even as Wei Ying seemed to recognize him. Perhaps it was due to the lack of information his sect had about Cang Qiong Sect, but he didn't know very well how the sect worked or what they contributed to their own country, and so that blank space of knowledge left him on-guard. However, as a direct Lan family member, he needed to remain polite and so he bowed and greeted the elder with, "Lan Wangji of GusuLan Sect," before casting his gaze over to the fox. 

Wide-eyed, Jiang was a tad delayed in getting back into the boat after Wei Ying, but saluted the older cultivator as he should. "Jiang Cheng, YunmengJiang Sect." 

Meanwhile, Wen Ning had jumped upon Liu Qingge's initial arrival, worried that he was going to be angry towards him and his sister on behalf of Shen Qingqiu and Luo Binghe. However, upon hearing the news he gave, he stuttered out a surprised, "Y-you m-mean... that k-kind of e-expecting...?”

 

Two disciples of Caihong country's five major sects? And two of the more righteous ones... And Wei Ying seemed to not be under duress, so he supposed they were fine. All about the same age, unpresented.

At Wen Ning's question, his face darkened and he threw his sleeve. "Such a delicate matter, do I really have to say more in front of outsiders?! What sort of-" 

"He's just surprised, that's all, Uncle! I'm surprised too!" Wei Ying was quick to interject. "We'll all head back to Lotus Pier now- That's where we've been staying, Uncle Liu, the Sect over there, we need to get our things and get Qing-shijie too..." 

He took a deep breath, sighed, then nodded. Forming a sword seal with his hand, he stepped off the boat and onto the sword, riding alongside them as he sent the eagle off to wait. "...You're doing alright?" He said after a few long, awkward silent moments as they headed the boat back to the docks.

"Yeah! Ah, I know they already introduced themselves, but these are my friends, Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji. Both of them have been very kind and are lots of fun to hang out with."

He nodded, then turned to look at the oldest teen. "Wen Ning. You and your sister have done well."

 

Flushing slightly at the praise, Wen Ning fiddled a bit with the edge of the boat. "I-It's our duty to m-make sure Y-young Master Wei is alright..." 

For the remainder of the ride back to Lotus Pier, Lan Wangji was silent, quietly lamenting the sudden cut-off they were receiving.

 

Upon arrival, Liu Qingge went to greet the Master and Lady of the house while the others got ready. Wei Ying, sensing that his friends might be a bit upset, took Jiang Cheng and Lan Zhan into the room while he got his stuff together. "Aaaah, I'm sorry this was so abrupt- Hang on a moment-" He continued to rummage until he pulled out two pieces of jade, before taking them back to the human and the dragon teens, placing one in each hand. "These are the entry talismans for Qing Jing Peak. I know you might not be able to come, but just in case... And, maybe we can find a way to stay in touch, send letters and such! I'll absolutely find a way to come back again, but probably not until after the baby is born...."

 

Despite both of them each taking the jades, it was only Jiang Cheng that said anything. "With how angry your uncle was, you snuck away right? Then how the hell are you gonna get away with sneaking away again?"

 

"Eheheheh..." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, he's usually like this, when Papa and Father are involved.... Particularly Papa... I think he wasn't expecting them to ever have pups, they've been together a century or more and this has never happened before... Not that it would be too surprising for them to never have kids, they're different species and different types. And besides, if he was REALLY angry, he probably wouldn't let me say goodbye like this. As to the running away.... I took A-Ning and Qing-shijie with me, and left a note, so it wasn't running away exactly , I just.... took a vacation. Maybe next time I'll tell them I'm going instead of sneaking?" He shrugged. "Then again, I am a fox. It's hard to keep us in and out of places, heehee~"

 

Jiang Cheng gave a hard eye-roll at that. "If I were to try that with my parents, my mother would break my legs." 

Meanwhile Lan Wangji's chest filled with fondness, even as he softly reprimanded the fox. "Wei Ying should respect his elders." Of course, he wasn't necessarily surprised that the fox had pulled this stunt, it was something right up his alley.

 

"I do respect them, I just..." He looked down at the floor and brushed his nose lightly. 'I don't think I'm meant to live my life there...' He thought to himself, before smiling wide again. "I'm glad I did this. Because, I got to meet Lan Zhan again, and I got to meet Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli. So even if I do get in trouble, I don't regret it." He said, then gave a sly wink to the other boys. "Besides, it's not like I was forbidden to leave the mountain or the sect... I'll probably wind up with a bigger group next time I come, I guess."

Once everything was packed, they went out to the courtyard where everyone was waiting. He gave a salute and bow to Fengmian and Ziyuan, as well as a quick hug to Yanli, and Jiang Cheng if he would accept it. When it came to Lan Zhan, he held onto him for a little bit longer, and his hold might have been a little tighter... just to get a bit more of that cool sandalwood scent. 

Liu Qingge cleared his throat lightly. "Wei Ying. Time to go." He said as the eagle landed at the gate and lowered itself for it's four passengers.

He reluctantly let go and stepped back, giving them all one final salute and bow. "See you guys later!" He said, waving over his shoulder as he ran over to join the Wens and his Uncle Liu.

 

While awkward with it, Jiang Cheng allowed the hug, not without some embarrassed grumbling to go with it, however. When Wei Ying eventually came over to Lan Wangji, the dragon was similarly awkward, caught between wanting to hold on tighter and hardly reacting at all with the publicness of the parting. In the end, he settled with tilting his head just the slightest into the fox, a hand coming up to very lightly touch his side, equally as reluctant for Wei Ying to go even if the only show of it was the way his fingertips lingered and brushed across the other as he moved away.

 

Liu Qingge gave Lan Wangji a longer look as the three teenagers climbed onto the back of the eagle and they took off, the youngster waving like mad, looking back until they were specks in the distance.

 

--

 

The eagle was very swift, and it didn't take more than a couple days for them to arrive at Qing Jing Peak. While the fox was happy to be back and looking forward to seeing his adoptive parents again, he was also nervous about which one might be more vexed with him. Glancing at the Wens for a moment, he took a deep breath and brushed off his clothes before going to the door and going inside the bamboo house. "Father, Papa, I'm back..."

 

Inside the house, Shen Qingqiu was currently nursing a cup of tea as the fox walked back in. Setting the cup down, he sent a hard stare at the pre-teen before saying, "Wei Ying, what the hell were you thinking?!"

 

He flinched and ducked his head, giving the mated pair a deep and sheepish bow and salute. "This son was unfilial and knows his wrongs..." He murmured, looking down at the floor before looking back at them. "But... Well, I thought you two would be busy for a while... I did leave a note! And I took A-Ning and Qing-Shijie with me-" 

"Which is the only reason why you're not confined to Qing Jing Peak for the next decade," Binghe threw in as he set down his own cup, nodding at Liu Qingge at the door.

"I was careful!" He insisted. "I used all my medications and things properly, and I met some nice people, including my Dad's old Master!"

 

He sighed as he rubbed at his temples. “You were not careful enough. Wen Qing and Wen Ning may be good, but they’re only barely your senior. You were fine, thank heavens, but what if you had encountered something far more dangerous than some ‘nice people’ and an ‘old master’!? You were out in the open and exposed for almost a month! A lot could’ve happened in that time!”

 

"...I'm really sorry for worrying you." He said, hanging his head. "But, uh... I had a lot of fun, and brought back some souvenirs!  When I go to visit again, I’ll go to a couple cities I heard about that have some really nice fans and stuff!" 

Binghe scowled. "Go to visit again?" 

"W-with a proper escort next time?" He said hopefully. "I made some more friends- and met one I apparently knew years ago! I don't want to lose touch..."

 

While he wanted to scold Wei Ying more, his last comment caught his attention. “A friend from years ago?” This couldn’t be who he thought it was, right? Talk about big fat coincidences if so!

 

Luo Binghe looked like he bit a lemon as Wei Ying nodded and continued. "Yeah! I mean, I don't remember him, but he's a good guy! I was being chased by a bunch of dogs, and hid behind the first cultivator I came across, and he helped me chase them off! Then, I saw he had my fox charm!" He took hold of the jade dragon on his belt again, showing them. "I was always confused about when my fox charm was traded for this jade dragon but it helped me realize I must have liked him a lot, even if I can't remember him now!" 

Binghe made a tch sound under his breath. 'Damn, he never said anything about that...' he thought.

 

Shen Qingqiu opened up his fan, eyes darting over to Binghe as if to say 'we'll talk about this later' before he looked back at Wei Ying. "Well I suppose it's good that you could reconnect...However, you're still grounded. A month, at least . Don't scare us like that again!"

 

"Yes, Father." He said with another bow... but then looked at him with a shy smile. "Liu-shushu mentioned, you're expecting? Congratulations, Father, Papa He!" He said, giving the two a salute as his tail wagged. "I look forward to a sibling!" 

Despite Binghe regretting not having gone along to meet this 'friend' who made his son sad in the past, this change of topic made him beam brightly as his own tail was sent into wagging overtime. "I know, right? I'll love anything so long as they're healthy, but I'm hoping for a little girl that takes after Shizun~!" 

 

"You're getting ahead of yourself," Shen Qingqiu murmured exasperatedly. Not that Binghe hadn't been doing such ever since they found out. "I'm barely a month in..."

 

"Uh huh. Papa He, how many miracle supplements and medicines have you been gathering and feeding to Father Qiu since you learned about this?" 

As it had already been a few days by that point.... "A few." He replied casually. "I haven't really gotten the chance to go looking yet...." 

The fox smirked, looking back at Shen Qingqiu. "And how many of the other Peak Lords have been sending gifts?" He was expecting an entertainingly large amount of medicines and supplements to be sent over, which would probably give his Father a headache.

 

Shen Qingqiu let out a groan just recalling it. "Don't get me started, they're all being a big pain. It's just a baby, they get conceived all the time!" Sure, there weren't actually many couples on Qing Jing Peak so it was uncommon in that sense, but really! Wasn't this too much fuss just over one child?!

 

"Oh yes, absolutely. And babies between a Heavenly Demon and a Gale Bamboo Leopard that have achieved immortality are common as cabbages." Wei Ying casually said as he went over and got himself a cup of tea. "Not to mention the child of THE Shen Qingqiu and THE Luo Binghe.... Uh oh. Have you two, uh, had a gag order issued yet?" 

"....Why?" 

"I mean, the legends and stories were just starting to die down. If the civilian populace learns that the most beloved couple in Chunshan is finally being blessed with pups-"

 

......Motherfuck, of course they would... Just why couldn't they stick to their own business instead of spinning up ridiculous stories about them? "Hell if I know...I've been cooped up in here thanks to a certain someone," he said as he side-eyed Binghe next to him.

 

"....What?" The half-demon said after a couple quiet moments of being stared at.

The fox laughed again at his weird parental duo. "Might want to check on it, Father, or they'll be hearing about it in Caihong in another week."

 

"How annoying..." He could only hope that a visit and word with the people would squash the talk, but who knew if that'd actually do shit.

 

Wei Ying stayed around for a bit and told them (with some prompting from Binghe to get him back on track) about his trip, and the people he met and the things he did (of course, omitting stuff like the drinking underage), talking excitedly about how pretty Gusu was and all the waterfalls at Cloud Recesses, and how the rules wall was super scary, but Lan Zhan and his brother were really nice, and how they met the Jiangs, and they traveled together, and then stayed at Lotus Pier for a little over a week before Liu Qingge showed up. "-So I'm looking forward to going back and visiting them all again, since it'll be really hard to get messages to easily travel between our sects! I won't go until the little Bun makes their entrance, of course, but I don't want to make it too long." 

Binghe frowned at that. "I'm not sure I like the idea of you going so far. Caihong is not a familiar country even to us, and even with Xin Mo-" 

"Like you couldn't have a tracker made, Papa He." He said with a dry eye roll. "Or even send some more people with us. Or maybe you two could even come yourselves! I'd prefer that just Father came, but- I was just teasing, Papa He, don't look at me like that, I'll feel bad!"

 

--

 

Several days later....

 

"...Cloud Recesses?" Wei Ying murmured as he looked around at his surroundings, mist slowly clearing to reveal the lovely buildings, including the Library Pavilion. He looked around, a bit surprised, but then smiled slowly. He must really miss Lan Zhan if he was dreaming about Gusu. And it must be a dream, because the random disciples passing by didn't have defined faces.

 

Lan Wangji was in a rather secluded area of Cloud Recesses, sitting down amongst a yard of gentians with his guqin in his lap as he plucked at the strings. It wasn't a song he played often, but it was a quiet, peaceful tune that he'd been especially proud of mastering when his mother praised him for it all those years ago. Therefore, it felt fitting to play it now in front of the house he visited annually without fail after returning from Su Town back then.

 

Seeing as how most of the disciples treated him like he wasn't even there, he felt free to let his fox features peek through and he trotted off to wander the sect, happy to be enjoying everything he'd seen, his mind filling in the pieces he hadn't (or so he thought). 

Before long, he could hear a familiar sound and with his ears pricked, turning all the way to his fox form as he followed his senses after the sound to find.... "Lan Zhan!" The twin-tailed fox chirped happily as he ran over.

 

Startled out of his playing, Lan Wangji looked around for the source of the achingly familiar voice, eyes widening as he spotted the black fox darting towards him. Once he recovered from the surprise, he held out a hand in invitation for him, giving a little smile as he said, “Wei Ying...You are back...”

 

"Mn!" He said as he went right up to him, snuggling up against his side after trotting around the instrument on his lap. "I know it hasn't been long, but I missed you! Did you miss me?" He said as his form shimmered and turned mostly human, just with his ears and tail peeking again.

 

“Mn. Always.” Reaching over, he straightened out a strand of hair that had gotten mussed up from his little snuggle before setting his hand back in his own lap.

 

"... Lan Zhan, I like your smile." Wow, he really did. Was it because he rarely did so that just a small one had so much impact? Or was it because it had so much warmth? He looked at the guqin as he made himself comfortable. "What are you playing?"

 

Ears flushing over both the smile comment and the question, he answered, "'Petals Over Water.' Mother's favorite." He then started to play it again, slower and more relaxed than before, however. It was just something to fill the air for the moment, he wasn't using the time to properly perform.

 

"It's really pretty." He said, closing his eyes and leaning against the other boy. "I haven't met your mom yet. Is she a dragon too?"

 

"River spirit," he replied with a slight shake of his head. "Cannot meet, however." He really would've liked if they could. Wei Ying was playful like his mother. Even if it meant he got twice as teased by the both of them, it would have been nice to introduce the fox to her. She would've liked him.

 

"Aw, too bad." He really meant it too. He wished he could have met the person who brought such a special person into the world. It would have been nice if he could introduce his parents to him too- Oh, but he could do that, huh? 

He lifted his head and opened his eyes, looking at Lan Zhan with a smile. "Would you like to meet my parents?" He asked, Chenqing appearing in his hand.

 

Blinking, Lan Wangji looked at him for a few quiet moments before giving a, "Mn," in response. He didn't know much about them, but he was certainly glad Wei Ying was still alive because of them, even if he despised the situation that separated them in the first place.

 

He smiled and nodded, bringing the flute to his lips. It was easier to have them visit his dreams than to try and get in touch with their spirits while awake. Binghe had said it was because the realm of dreams was between the others and though Wei Ying wasn't strong enough to talk to them or summon them in their human forms, their presence in his dreams in beast form were quite nice. 

He played a song of his own design, eyes flickering to red as his tails curled around him. Before too long, a wind blew through the nearby foliage and shortly after, two large foxes wandered into their space. Both were silent. One was pure white, with bright red markings on her paws, each of her eight tail tips, and ear tips, with two red 'eyebrow' markings and a symbol on her forehead, with red eyes. Her atmosphere was very positive, auspicious, and divine.

The other fox was black with white markings and silver eyes, and seemed less delicately built than the female. He didn't have such a powerful holy aura, but did not feel evil either, more like any other responsible cultivator would if they didn't go down a bad path.

"Lan Zhan, my mom, Cangse Sanren, and my dad, Wei Changze. Mom, Dad, this is Lan Zhan, also known as Lan Wangji. He's very nice and has saved me... twice now, I think." 

The two foxes looked him over and both bowed their heads, but neither spoke. They didn't even seem to breathe, but then again, this was a dream, wasn't it?

 

Slightly wide-eyed, Lan Wangji watched as Wei Ying used some sort of technique. This had not been what he was expecting at all. However, now that he was in front of Wei Ying's apparent birth parents, he moved his guqin off his lap, shifted so that he was sitting on his knees, and kowtowed to the two foxes. "Master Wei, Madam Wei."

 

There seemed to be a minor air of amusement as they did their best to mimic the motions then approached further to sniff at the both of them. Then, soon after, they both nuzzled Wei Ying briefly before vanishing in a cold, ghostly air.

The teen fox's smile turned a bit wistful as they vanished, and he looked down at the flute. "...Anyway, that was them. Pretty cool, huh? I can't call them back for long, though. They're mostly at peace but small little visits like this won't hurt them."

 

"Mn. Like Evocation." It and Inquiry were still things he was working on perfecting and he had a pretty good grip on Evocation by now, but it would not be able to summon a soul into a physical form like that. "Cang Qiong taught you that?"

 

"...Sort of. Father helped me figure it out, along with Papa He. I can only do it in special circumstances." With the restful dead, that is. Those who died with grievances or became ghosts or other undead were a lot easier for him to handle. "I call it 'Visitation', 'cause they aren't here to stay. Anyway, I'm glad they got to meet you for a few moments. They seemed to like you."

 

It was hard to tell from the foxes' behavior whether or not they had liked him on top of it being too short a visit to get a proper gauge. However, he could only take Wei Ying's word for it and so only nodded in response. "Glad too. Mother as well. For you. Can try Evocation once perfect." Since the fox had done this for him, he wanted to return the favor somehow. However, he wasn't certain whether or not it could successfully call her soul and if it did, her form may not be visible as she was in life.

 

"Huh... I wonder if Visitation and Evocation would play well together." He mused as he twirled Chenqing. "I can't call your mother myself because I haven't met her, but maybe if we play together we can get a result." He said. "I'd be willing to try when you're ready. It doesn't have to be today. But wow, a river spirit. I bet you get your good looks from your mom! She was pretty, wasn't she?"

 

...She was, but that wasn't usually what was said about him. "I am told I look like Father." ‘Spitting image’ was what the elders had said to him when he was younger. However, he couldn't actually say if they were telling the truth as he had never actually met his father. He could only trust in the rule about lying in regards to the matter.

 

One of his ears twitched at that. He was told...? He never met his father? Huh. "Are you happy about that?" He asked after a moment or two. "Sect Leader Jiang said I take after my dad, but I think he might just be comparing our coat coloration..."

 

Lan Wangji could only shrug at that. He'd never gotten the chance to be close with his father, what with Qingheng-jun remaining in seclusion even after his wife's death and forcing his younger brother to take on the role of sect leader. For that matter, he didn't even know his father's name, only his title. The only tie he felt was simply duty-bound fealty of a son to his father. "...There was never the chance to develop happiness or otherwise. Father has not left seclusion once since my conception."

 

"...." What the heck?! What sort of deadbeat dad was that?!?! Frowning, Wei Ying got to his knees and pulled the stoic teen into a vaguely awkward hug (because of the guqin on his lap, not wanting to damage it), rubbing his cheek against his hair in an effort to scent him a bit. (More fox instinct than omega, until presentation he only had a familial scent, but that was still good for bonding) "Your Father really is missing out." He said, feeling petty on his behalf, though he didn't say more than that on the subject.

 

Lan Wangji was quiet for some time before eventually figuring that he didn't mind if Wei Ying knew this information. Maybe it was that same sense of duty-bound fealty, but he didn't necessarily want his father to be thought of in a bad light. "...Mother killed his teacher. Father did not wish for her to be killed. Married her so the elders could not harm her. Secluded her here..." he paused in his sentence just long enough to nod his head towards the cottage they were sitting in front of before continuing, "Secluded himself elsewhere. Elders only allowed us to see her once a month."

 

The fox was silent for a few more moments as he thought this over. "...Have you heard of the Resentment of Chunshan? I think I remember you saying something like you read about it in Caiyi, but probably not all of it.... They had a very, very crazy start to their relationship, but their bond now is strong. I shouldn't judge, so I'll just ask this: Do you think your mom loved your dad?"

 

“...She never asked after him...only us. I do not know.” Their visits with their mother were always so short and so the focus had always been her asking about how they were doing, or if there was a particular poem or song they wanted to play for her. She had never seemed unhappy during those visits, but he had no way of knowing how she was outside those visits. “...She had two sons.” That was probably the best evidence he had towards whether or not his parents loved each other. Once Lan Xichen was born, he could be named sect heir and there would have been no need for Wangji to exist at all.

 

He nodded. "Then that's what's important, I think." He said, petting his hair a few times. "She loved you two, and she loved your dad." He turned to look at the small dwelling. It's not what he would choose for himself, that was for sure. He'd go stir crazy locked up in a small place like that forever.

 

Humming, Lan Wangji tilted his head into Wei Ying’s touch, enjoying the peace in this moment. He could probably stay like this for hours, relaxing and doing relatively nothing with a close someone, but the fox was much more active and so surely he’d want to do something else. So with that in mind, he turned to look over at Wei Ying, a questioning look in his eyes.

 

"...Hm?" He tipped his head to the side questioningly when he noticed he was being looked at, hand pausing. "What is it?"

 

"...Is there anything you would like to do? Wei Ying is not a very stationary person..." As comfortable as this was, he'd think that the fox would soon grow antsy about it.

 

"Hah! That's a polite way of putting it! Hmmm..." He scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Flying with you again would be fun! But I'm okay sitting with you for a while like this too. Or we can play music together. Or something else! It doesn't have to be all what I wanna do."

 

Lan Wangji fell quiet as he thought. He didn't usually venture out in dragon form and Wei Ying's wonder and excitement whenever he flew him around was refreshing... Although...he also enjoyed playing with the fox and that's what he'd been doing in the first place... Shifting himself, he turned so that he was more or less facing Wei Ying, adjusting his guqin into a better position as an indication of what he'd decided to do.

 

The fox nodded and sat across from him, tail tucked neatly against his hip as he lifted his flute. "Anything specific you want to play?" He asked.

 

He gave a slight shrug in response. "Whichever melody comes to mind." Compared to the first few times they played together, Lan Wangji was much more comfortable with composing now.

 

"Hmmm~" He looked at their surroundings, and said "Would you like to start? This is your home, after all." Surely he had many feelings that were better expressed in music than in words he could express?

 

Even with that prompt, Lan Wangji wasn't sure what to play at first. Any GusuLan taught songs weren't necessarily appropriate for just idle playing with a friend. It wasn't until he remembered the melody he'd been experimenting with that he thought up something he could play. It still wasn't a fully developed song but he wasn't necessarily suggesting this playing time for pre-established songs. So he started with the beginning chords of the song he'd started composing.

 

The fox listened for a few bars before slowly joining in, accompanying for now and following Lan Zhan's lead. It was a very beautiful song, a little heart-wrenching, but he liked it very much and said so when they reached the end of that first song. "That was very pretty, Lan Zhan. What's it called?"

 

Just as Lan Wangji was going to answer, hands falling onto the strings to stop their vibrations, he felt some sort of hazy stirring, and the next time he blinked, he was looking up at the ceiling of the Jingshi. ...That was...a dream...? It felt so real...

 

Back at Qing Jing, (it must have been ungodly early, according to the fox’s internal clock and the birds chirping outside close to dawn), Wei Ying woke up briefly, sitting up and looking around in a disoriented manner. He yawned and rubbed the back of his neck before rolling over and settling back in to sleep. Too bad...it was a nice dream.

 

--


Just about eight months along and therefore heavily pregnant, Shen Qingqiu had less and less frequently left the general vicinity of the bamboo house. His robes were a constant pain to get on, his feet and back sore more often than not, even just a simple walk within or around the house left him winded, and insomnia on top of just general exhaustion was wearing him down. As a result, he was often either in bed having still not changed from his night robes or in his animal form which provided a little more comfort that his human form did. On this particular day, he had opted for a mixture of both, laying in bed still in his leopard form and trying to get some semblance of rest.

 

Wei Ying was doing his best to help Shen Qingqiu be as comfortable as possible, running around the mountain doing errands while Binghe was there and staying close by when the Demon King had to go attend his duties or fetch something. Right now, he was using Chenqing to play something relaxing for his Father as he had the feeling that soon he wouldn't be able to see him for a while. At the end of the song, he put down the flute to stroke his head lightly. "Dad, do you want me to get you something to drink? Papa He should be back soon, I think. He mentioned something about a Cloud Herb before he left this morning."

 

Opening his eyes, he looked over in Wei Ying's direction but otherwise didn't move as he said, "Perhaps some tea will actually help me finally get some sleep. Thank you, A-Ying..." He couldn't recall what a Cloud Herb was, but he could only guess it was something Binghe had discovered could help him with something or other.

 

He nodded and went over to the kettle, pouring him a small bowl of tea, and bringing it back over. "Is she kicking again? Can I feel?" He asked, looking hopeful. The gender had been known for a while and Binghe was absolutely over the damn moon about it. Luo Xiaoqing, the first princess of the demon world, was already going to be the most pampered little girl in the world, if her Papa and big brother had anything to say about it.

 

"She's always kicking nowadays...Have at it." This was an aggressive one, he wouldn't be surprised at all if she turned out to be an alpha. But how dare this little brat cause this much trouble for her father before she's even born! She would get along well with Wei Ying, that was for sure.

 

Happily, he set the tea bowl down on a tray next to him then knelt next to the bed and leaned over, pressing his ear against the other omega's stomach lightly along with a hand. "Meimei~ It's your Ying-gege-" He cooed softly and a face-splitting grin crossed his face as the squirming paused a moment, then seemed to resume. "Meimei, be good for Dad, okay? He's going through a lot for you! And Papa He has been reeeaaaallly annoying lately. Let them both get some rest, okay? You'll be out soon, and then we can play a lot!"

 

Shen Qingqiu huffed a laugh at the young teen even as the baby started fussing once again. "She'll probably be just as active as you. That'll save us on babysitting energy, I'm sure..."

 

"Aiiyaaaa, already signing me up for free labor? Okay, okay. I can't say how good I'll be though, A-Ning is probably better." He would have said more, but then his ear twitched as he heard the wind rustling outside. "Papa He's back." He said as he looked outside to see the big black beast show up, having to change his shape in order to enter the bamboo house safely.

Immediately, Binghe's eyes went to Shen Yuan and he smiled warmly, going over to him, giving Wei Ying a hug and a quick kiss on the crown of his head, right between the ears, as he went. Arriving by the bed, he crouched down, giving his mate a kiss on the cheek as a large hand gently stroked his belly. "Good afternoon, A-Yuan. How is our cub today?" He asked with a warm tone.

 

“Just as obnoxious as yesterday...How dare you do this to me...” he muttered as Binghe grew as sticky as he usually got these days. “She doesn’t stop moving. Who told you you could put such an active kid in me?”

 

"This disciple is...sorry for the enthusiasm, but not for Xiaoqing." He said with a smile. "I'll try for a less feisty one next time. For now.... Shizun, would you be more comfortable here, or in the palace?" He asked, wanting to make sure. "I brought some things for you to use as nesting materials, that might help the discomfort."

 

“Here is fine...less walking overall to do in here...Besides, I’m the one that’s uncomfortable, not the room...that’s not gonna change even if we move locations.”

 

He nodded, then began taking some stuff out of his sleeve. "I brought some stuff for you to nest with, Shizun, that might help." He said as he began setting out smaller qiankun pouches. "I've been hunting down some materials you might be more instinctually happy about, some Sky Wind Grasses, some Smokey Cloud Herbs for your tea..." 

 

"Just deal with that later...Why aren't you in the bed already?" No way was he gonna get up to do anything related to fixing up his nest or organizing and putting things away. Just some rest, thank you very much!

 

"I'll just be on my way then." Wei Ying said with a wave, leaving and shutting the door behind him.

Binghe smiled and set aside his things, taking off his outer robes before climbing onto the bed and snuggling up to his mate and kissing his forehead, then his cheeks before holding him close and petting his back and wings. "A-Yuan doesn't have these out very often. I love your wings, they're so pretty and soft." He was being careful about where he pet them, going for soothing motions and places rather than arousing...which was another fun aspect of the feathered appendages.

 

"They're cumbersome," he muttered as he pawed at the alpha halfheartedly. "It's a good thing they don't get in the way of laying down otherwise I'd be contemplating getting them removed." He didn't like laying on his back anymore anyways with how his belly now weighed him down.

 

The Alpha frowned, feeling an uncomfortable twist in his gut. There was a time (he didn't like to think about it) where he had thought about removing his wings, or at least crippling a few of the tendons so they wouldn't be strong enough to fly anymore, but now, the thought of them being damaged.... He hugged Shen Qingqiu a bit tighter, tucking his face against the fur of his neck. "Don't talk like that." He said quietly. "They're a part of you."

 

"Everything's cumbersome nowadays, what's one more thing?" His tail flicking with some semblance of annoyance, he huffed out a just as annoyed, "This baby needs to leave me sooner."

 

"Mu-shibo said that she's impatient, and likely to come out before too much longer." He said, feeling some worry, and tried to get up. "Shizun, let me make you some tea and get you the materials, I want you to be as comfortable as possible-"

 

With a little groan of protest at his alpha leaving but otherwise not saying much more, he pushed at Binghe's chest with a paw as he mumbled, "Fine, fine, if you must...Don't take too long..."

 

He smiled and kissed his nose as he got up and went to the small kitchen off the side of the house, returning before long with some tea and congee. He set that on the tray beside Shen Yuan before taking a couple of the qiankun bags and opening them, taking out some newly-made cushions stuffed with a cottony, fragrant plant fiber. He set them on the bed to arrange later, and rejoined his mate on the bed, ready to help him eat and drink as needed.

 

Transforming back into his human form if only to make eating and drinking easier, he pushed himself up to sit, balance a little off, but able to keep it in check since it didn't involve anything like standing or walking around. His night robes didn't properly cover all of his protruding belly, but after so many requests for bigger and bigger robes, Shen Qingqiu just grew sick of it and stopped sending in orders all together. He could deal, even if it meant overheating quicker with multiples layers being fashioned around him whenever he left the bamboo house. Leaning against Binghe's shoulder for support, he first reached out for the tea, something relaxing from the smell of it, and took a few sips.

 

Luo Binghe just sort of...melted at the sight, an arm wrapping around him to hold him close as he drank. Cloud Herb was especially good for beings with a wind and plant nature, which his Shizun absolutely had. It also had a soothing effect, which is just what both he and the baby needed at the moment. He stayed that way until Shen Yuan finished, then set the tray aside and arranged some of the pillows and bedding for him, fussing a little over placement and which one was softest. "Shizun, do you want me in human form or beast form?" He asked.

 

“Well now that I’m back like this, I’m remembering why I switched over in the first place...” He murmured as he brought a hand back to rub at his sore lower back, trying to get out the kinks. He then looked up at Binghe, pleading, “Can you try and get them for me?”

 

"Of course!" He said cheerfully as he moved on the bed adjusting his position. Once they were laying down, he'd move the pillows into proper position for a pregnancy massage, but as it stood, Shizun was currently sitting upright. Supporting him so he wouldn't have to engage his muscles to stay sitting, he began carefully working on the muscles in his back and hips. He knew there were a couple places on his upper inner thighs that could probably use some work too, he just wasn't certain if Shen Yuan currently wanted them worked on or not.

 

Sighing, he sagged in and tucked his head into Binghe's neck, shutting his eyes as the alpha worked. For some time, he remained quiet like that, the strong scent of his mate also helping to relax him as the knots were gradually eased.

 

Binghe was also very content with this, and he might have also cheated a little by using the demon blood inside him to further relax the places he couldn't reach. He had to be very subtle and careful when doing this, not wanting to agitate the baby by accident.

 

Already starting to feel a bit better, he could feel himself even starting to drift off against the alpha.

 

Once he fell asleep, Binghe moved him into a comfortable position in the bed, supporting him with pillows so he'd lay properly and not stress his spine more, and turning to his giant wolfish form to curl around him from behind.

 

--


A month later, there was much chaos on Qing Jing Peak. The little princess, Luo Xiaoqing was born!! Wei Ying waited outside while Binghe was inside, holding Shen Qingqiu’s hand and regulating his pain through their blood bond. Thanks to this, the labor didn't take too long, with both Mu-shibo and Binghe involved.

Soon, she was cleaned up, swaddled, and deposited into Shen Yuan's arms, face crinkled and screaming her lungs out, either unhappy about being touched by the air, or wanting to try out her new voice.... In any case, she was not a happy baby at the moment. Binghe on the other hand, was so proud and happy, he couldn't stop crying as he moved to wrap his arms gently around both Shen Yuan and the baby, kissing the side of his face and neck. (After, of course, he'd helped to get him feeling properly clean himself.) "Sh... She's so... small." He said with a hushed voice, voice cracking.

 

Tiredly, he turned his head into the alpha, barely having the energy to try and give Xiaoqing comforting pats to quiet her cries. Quietly, he muttered, "She didn't feel this small when she was inside me..." And go figure that she was just as fussy outside his womb as she was inside it. Because someone apparently decided he should have two Wei Yings as children.

 

After a couple moments of being held and allowed to nurse, she calmed and quieted down, the scents from both her parents helping with that as well. "She's a healthy weight and seems to be breathing just fine." The doctor said as he was packing his things up. "We can test a few things later, but I'll leave you all alone to have some bonding time for now." 

Wei Ying peered in once things actually calmed down and Mu-shibo allowed it, hovering at the entrance. "....Father? Can I come in to see?" He called softly, looking curious and uncharacteristically shy. He didn't want to intrude, but also wanted to see his little sister.

 

Even in his exhaustion, he had just enough energy to roll his eyes and beckon Wei Ying in with the hand not supporting Xiaoqing's head and back. "Since when are you a shy person? Get in here, A-Ying, why wouldn't you be allowed to see?"

 

His ears and tail perked as he came in, looking at the tiny being held against Shen Qingqiu's chest. "I read that sometimes post-birth hormones and stuff can make omegas feel nervous with more people around, I just wanted to make sure.... Wow, she's so.... Wrinkly? Is she supposed to look like that?" He said as he pulled up a stool to sit next to the bed, leaning on it as he got a better look at his baby sister.

"Human babies look like this, I've been told." Binghe said. "I bet her cub form will be super cute too."

"Why was she born in human form, and not beast form?" He asked, curious. 

"Mu-shibo said that human births are more common and more healthy for hybrid couples." Binghe explained. "For different species more so than different types. Humans are able to mate with any species that can take on their form, which is part of the reason why the form is so important to cross-species couples."

He nodded, seeming to understand, and got back to cooing over the baby... then gasped as she turned her head and opened her eyes. "Father! Is that- Can she see?!" He said, surprised by her cloudy-looking pale eyes. Binghe also looked over in concern.

 

Studying her little face and eyes, Shen Qingqiu brought his hand up in front of her face, giving a few snaps from different locations before finally saying in a soft coo, “A-Qing, look here sweetie...”

 

A bit wobbly, she turned her head to follow the sounds, making uncomfortable baby noises before looking up at his face at the sound of his voice. Though her pupils weren't distinct, her irises did seem to respond to movement, and also shifted slightly as she looked at his face, then the face of her other father over his shoulder.

Binghe's tension relaxed a bit. "She can see. Her eyes are just unusual." 

Giving a sigh in relief, Wei Ying reached out to pet the baby's head lightly, marveling at her fine fuzzy hair. "She's so soft..."

 

"Would you like to hold her? I'm sure you're old enough to handle it," he teased lightly as he shifted her slightly as if to hand her off to him.

 

"Yeah!" He said excitedly, putting his hands out to hold her, listening carefully to how Shen Yuan and Binghe instructed him to support her. "Hi Qing-meimei! I'm your extremely handsome Ying-gege! Are you happy to finally see me?"

Binghe rested his chin against Shen Yuan's shoulder, tightening his arms around his waist briefly as he watched their children interact for the first time, his heart full.

 

Rolling his eyes with a quiet, "cheeky boy," at Wei Ying's boast, Shen Qingqiu watched as the young fox tried whatever he could to play around with his sister, no doubt aiming to get several laughs out of the newborn.

 

Little Qing, however, didn't have a funny bone yet and was hungry instead, so she put up with being held for a little while before getting squirmy and whiny again, whereupon Wei Ying returned her to Shen Yuan. Wei Ying didn't take it personally, he knew she was a little young to have a highly developed personality or sense of humor yet, he was just glad she seemed to like him okay so far.

 

"What, already hungry again?" Quirking an eyebrow at the fussing baby as he took her back, he shuffled her into a more comfortable position, shifting his robes around so that she could nurse again while also pulling his outer robes in closer to cover himself and maintain some dignity about this. To think there'd come a day when he'd be breastfeeding! How fucking bizarre!

 

"She was just born, after all." The Demon Lord said in a magnanimous fashion, reaching down to lightly poke her forehead. "These are her first meals." Wei Ying decided to turn into his fox form to join them on the bed, as it didn't take up too much room that way.

 

Grumbling something that suspiciously sounded like 'no it's not, I've been feeding her for nine months ,' he continued to hold Xiaoqing steady as he moved his other hand to give the top of Wei Ying's head a few little pets before shifting it down to rest on the fox's back.

 

--

 

Wei Ying was absolutely besotted with his little sister, as were Binghe and Wen Qing.... and the entirety of Cang Qiong sect. She had so many admirers so quickly.

The more time that passed, the more Wei Ying wanted to introduce her to Lan Zhan and the Jiang siblings. So, he began his convincing campaign to get his parents to go along with him. And, by the time the fourth month rolled around, he finally got acceptance. This time, with both his parents going along, there was no way they could argue that this was unsafe.

And, thanks to Xin Mo, it didn't take them long to arrive in Gusu, six non-human cultivators from a foreign sect.

Wei Ying took a deep breath and sighed, feeling so very excited. He'd finally get to see Lan Zhan again! Maybe they could compare how they'd grown since they last met? 

Binghe, on the other hand, was inwardly just a little bit sulky, but the joy of his son and being able to go on a trip with his mate and their children was effective at lightening his mood. "So, which way is the dragon brat you want to see so bad?"

 

Entirely unsuspecting of the incoming visit, Lan Wangji was currently holed up in the Library Pavilion, studying and practicing Inquiry. A few months ago, he had finally reached the ability to force spirits to be truthful, however they could still refrain from speaking should they not want to reveal the truth. Now he needed to make sure he could get truthful answers for everything and was practicing to do so. 

Shen Qingqiu, meanwhile, was looking around the town they ended up in with not quite a critical eye...? Caihong was unfamiliar territory and he needed to absorb whatever new information he could. With Xiaoqing slung up against his front and a hand rubbing soothing circles against her back, he eyed the tall mountains he could see just up ahead. “GusuLan is said to be hidden amongst mountains and clouds...Is it over there then?” He asked as he pointed his closed fan in the direction of the mountains.

 

The cute, pudgy baby currently had an ankle bracelet on her that would keep her in human form, which she wasn't entirely happy about. She liked to quickly shift forms in hopes to get loose and try crawling or toddling around (in cub form only), and being stuck in her less mobile form made her a little cranky; however seeing new things made her happy enough.

Wei Ying looked in the direction he was pointing and nodded. "Yes, Father. So it's that way to Caiyi town, and then we go to a staircase that takes you up the mountain to the gates- Their barriers don't allow entry without a token- And no, Papa He, we're not breaking the barriers to expedite things. It's very rude." 

"Slander! I didn't say anything about breaking their defenses." 

"You were thinking it." 

"Stinky brat." 

The fourteen year old stuck his tongue out at the Alpha male, then grinned as he started walking down the road to Caiyi, not far off. "Come on, I'll show you some places in town on our way there. Lan Zhan is probably still studying at this time."

It didn't take long for the party of cultivators to reach Caiyi, and while they were there, Xiaoqing squealed and mewled and cooed at the passers-by, a fair few people becoming charmed by the happy nature of the infant. Rather than looking like she was just a few months old, since she hadn't started cultivating yet, she was growing more like a beast, and looked comparable to a baby of a year or so at least. 

Wen Qing, seeing how Wei Ying was eyeing a stall with some rabbit-shaped buns, rolled her eyes when he gave her a pleading look. "What are you using that on me for, huh? If you want to buy them, ask the Masters."

"Aiyo, Qing-shijie, it's not my fault I've gotten used to you holding the purse strings when we go out..." He mumbled before turning to his parents. "Father, Papa He, how about I buy everyone some buns?" 

Binghe was fine with it, but looked to his mate for a deferment. "Shizun? What do you think?"

 

Shen Qingqiu quirked an eyebrow at that. Why wouldn't some buns be alright? His response wasn't really necessary on that matter, right? "That's not a problem, just don't be excessive, it's not meal time yet."

 

"I won't, I won't! I'm getting some for Lan Zhan and Lan Xichen too." He said as he went to the stand and ordered some. Carrying the bundle in his sleeve after offering everyone one, he cheerfully led the little procession to the foot of the mountain, then up the stairs. When they reached the gates, he approached the guards and saluted them with a bow, the others following suit. "Pardon us for arriving unannounced. I am Wei Ying; I came here to visit Lan Wangji and introduce my parents and little sister. Could you please send word of our arrival?"

 

The guards were a little bit skeptical about the group, these particular guards not having recognized Wei Ying or the others in the party. However, still needing to be polite, one of them gave an affirmative and went inside to track down their second young master. By this time of day, Lan Wangji was typically still in the library even after having finished his studies so it didn't take long at all to locate him. Upon hearing from the guard about the sudden guests, the young dragon was quick to set everything back before heading over to the gates.

 

Wei Ying was standing there, rattling a spinning drum for Xiaoqing as Shen Yuan held her, Wen Qing in work mode and Binghe seeming more or less relaxed for the moment with a smile on his face as he watched his family interact with each other in such a warm way. Noticing movement, he was the first one to turn and see the young cultivator walking down the path towards him and though nothing outwardly seemed to change about his appearance, inwardly an alarm bell went off. 

The fox, on the other hand, brightened immensely when he saw the dragon approaching and waved excitedly. "Lan Zhan! Lan Zhan!" He went right up to the gate to meet him, as far as the barrier would allow without smacking him.

 

"Wei Ying," he returned softly as he moved past the perimeter of the barrier. Shifting his gaze over to the rest of the group then, he gave a bow and greeting of, "Lan Zhan, courtesy Wangji, GusuLan Sect," even as he felt apprehension towards the vaguely familiar scent he had picked up on only once nine years ago. Wei Ying himself might not remember it, but he definitely would not be able to get rid of the image of the fox's prone body within the jaws of the creature turned parent before him.

 

The young fox bounced on his heels with minor impatience as the others made their salutes and bows, the Wen Siblings greeting him in their typical manner, and Luo Binghe being polite but maintaining his regal aura ("Luo Binghe, Cang Qiong Sect."), Xiaoqing making another squealing noise as she shook a rattle in her hand.

Once the two adults gave their greetings, Wei Ying let go of his restraint to give the other boy a hug. "Lan Zhan, ah, Lan Zhan! It's been a while! You got taller again, didn't you? ...Your shoulders feel broader too! It's good to see you look healthy! These are my parents, Shen Qingqiu, Peak Lord of Qing Jing Peak, and Luo Binghe... Ahemdemonlordcoughcough , and this- " He said, turning and gently taking the baby from his Father's arms as he smiled brightly. "Is Luo Xiaoqing, my precious squishy baby sister~<3"

 

Ears reddening at the comments about him, Lan Wangji pulled his attention from the adult he wasn't all that fond of back to Wei Ying, watching him show off his sister with fondness hidden behind his stoic gaze. With a little "mn" but otherwise unsure what to do here, he switched up between looking at the fox and looking at the child in his arms. 

Free enough to act more...well, freely , Shen Qingqiu opened up his fan and covered his face as he watched the interaction. This boy...he was rather hard to get a good gauge on, but at the very least, it seemed as if he was entirely focused on giving their A-Ying attention...enough so that it made him wish again, and for the first time in years, that he had been there with Binghe when he came across Wei Ying. Something was missing here and he couldn't pick up on what it was with this kid's resting bitch face!

 

The fourteen year old in question was oblivious to his father's thoughts, just eager to share with his friend just how cute his meimei was and how pretty her eyes were, and how yes, she actually could see, even with them looking so cloudy like this. "She was born in December, I wish I could have told you right away when it happened, but, well, you know. Chunshan is pretty far away and all. But, I'm learning about communication talismans so maybe we can see if we can find any that go that far? Ah, I brought some gifts for you and Lan Xichen and Master Lan! Here's one- I just picked it up on the way, but- here!" He pulled one of the rabbit buns from the bundle and handed it to him. "Aren't these cute? They're so white and round too! And tasty! I already had one. Ah, A-Qing, meimei, you can't have one, these are not for kitties-”

 

“Mn.” Carefully taking the bun from Wei Ying’s hands and bringing it out of Xiaoqing’s range, he studied it for a few moments before tucking it into his sleeve to eat later for dinner. Then addressing the group as a whole, he gave another bow and said, “Will bring you to Uncle now.”

 

"Mn!" He hummed an affirmative and relinquished Xiaoqing to Binghe, who wanted to hold her for a bit. (This might have also been an attempt to get the prime alpha to stay calm, a practiced master at deception he might be, but Wei Ying knew how his Papa He could be.) 

They followed after Lan Wangji into the Cloud Recesses, to the Yashi. It was a very nice room designed for guests with places for them to sit down and rest as guests while waiting for the Master to arrive. Wei Ying looked at his father and papa, and wasn't... too worried about this. Father was, after all, the epitome of grace, elegance, and was above all very scholarly, so he should make a good impression...and Papa He was usually very conscious of not losing face for his Shizun, so... Yeah, this would be fine.

 

Once Lan Wangji had shown them to the Yashi, he again left to track down his uncle who was likely grading some disciples' reports in his office. When he finally reentered the Yashi, he had also gained the company of his brother as well, no doubt curious about his good mood for the day. Lan Qiren and Lan Xichen giving their greetings and introductions as Lan Wangji poured tea for everyone present, the three dragons soon sat across from the Chunshan party as Lan Qiren then said, "Esteemed Masters, to what do we owe this visit?" Like his youngest nephew, it wasn't hard to recognize the familiar aura of the wolf-like beast they had encountered all those years ago, but that recognition was carefully hidden by his normal expression. 

Closing his fan and taking the teacup to sample the tea first, Shen Qingqiu didn't speak until after he had placed the cup back onto the table. "It's strange and sudden, I'm sure, but our A-Ying here was adamant that he visit once again. And given his overzealous demeanor, if we didn't accompany him, he would only go off on his own again which we could not have happen again." He emphasized that last comment with a light, reprimanding pat of his fan on the teen's head.

 

He ducked his head with a ‘teehee.’ "I learned my lesson about permission, Father," he assured the other omega, before standing up and giving the elder dragon another respectful bow and salute. "Besides seeing Lan Zhan again, I wanted to thank you for your kindness last time I was here. Since I came back to Gusu intending to visit this time, I was mindful to bring a few gifts." He turned to Wen Qing, who came up behind him holding a box full of scrolls and books containing musical scores and some other things from Qing Jing peak (copied with Shen Yuan's permission) specifically, as well as some from Chunshan, but not Cang Qiong sect specifically that could be considered rare in Caihong.

 

"Oh! How thoughtful!" Lan Xichen said brightly as he curiously looked inside the first scroll on the top. Upon realizing exactly what they were and how rare they were in their unfamiliarity, the young sect heir added some more excited comments more directed towards Lan Qiren about how they could make use of them ('perhaps we could teach a few of these in our musical techniques class', 'these are very unique and complicated chord progressions, it would serve well as a refinement practice', 'this line here would make a wonderful speed drill'). 

When Xichen eventually quieted down again, Lan Qiren returned another salute as he said, "We thank you for the generous gift. They will be treated with the utmost care here." Then, once he had straightened again, he turned his head slightly to address his youngest nephew. "Wangji, sort these texts into appropriate locations in the Library Pavilion later," to which he received a "Yes, Uncle," in response. 

"A-Ying mentioned that GusuLan Sect was one with a heavy specialty in musical cultivation. These may not necessarily be well-suited for your cultivation-specific teachings, but I'm certain that such a musically well-versed sect as yourselves can still find value in them." Shen Qingqiu said as he flicked open his fan and lightly fanned himself a few times just to do so. 

"Mn." Lan Qiren began. "The sentiment is much appreciated."

 

Feeling very pleased that the gifts had gone over well, Wei Ying volunteered to go to the library with Wangji. This would be a great chance to give him his private gift as well!

Binghe was not very happy at the moment. Though he was being polite by restraining and disguising his power and the dragons in the room were all wearing scent-canceling and blocking oils and ointments, his instincts were telling him that these dragons were likely traditionally rivals with his kind. He was plenty practiced at being amiable, however, and he wasn't being directly spoken to, so he just sipped at his tea and let his Shizun take point on the socializing unless he was addressed.

 

Once he had been dismissed to do so, Lan Wangji took the box of texts and started walking over to the library, hearing Wei Ying getting up as well to follow him. Upon entering the library, he went to the table he usually occupied while in here and set the box down on it before taking out a few to start scanning the contents.

 

Looking around casually to make sure they were alone, Wei Ying sat down at the same table next to him, grinning like the sneaky little fox he was. "Lan Zhan, I also have a couple other things just for you, just make sure not to let others see them." He reached into his sleeve and proudly took out three books, the first two containing the most accurate (from what he could tell) renditions of his parent's stories in the form of the complete Resentment of Chunshan and the fan stories, neither with illustrations but well written. And the third book was titled 'Illustrated Hundred Flower Garden'. It was a copy he'd found of his favorite porn book in his collection. Sitting in his usual sloppy and relaxed fashion, he leaned against the desk as he set the three down. "I noticed you didn't have any of this type of thing last time I was here, so I figured I'd get you your first one!" He said cheerfully. 'Illustrated Hundred Flower Garden' was a very elaborate book, with all genders and secondary genders represented, all sorts of mixes and positions.

 

Looking over and seeing the Resentment of Chunshan on the top of the stack immediately set him on edge. His uncle had moved the copy they had in the library into the Room of Forbidden Books from what he gathered and so even though he had glossed over the content his eight year old mind hadn't understood, the fact that it had been moved there told him he probably shouldn't read it again . Still, this was something Wei Ying wanted to gift him and so he shifted the books in a bit closer and moved the two Resentment of Chunshan books slightly off to the side. That title was familiar and so he probably didn't need to look at them just yet. The title of the last book, however, seemed like it'd potentially have some nice content and so he flipped it open to a random page...and instantly jumped and flinched away as if he'd been burnt. That was...! Ears and even his neck burning, he jerked his head away as he stuttered out a surprisingly loud, "W-Wei Y-Ying...!"

 

Surprised (and a bit delighted) by his extreme reaction, he laughed and rubbed the back of his neck as he held up his other hand. "No need to thank me! It's quite detailed, and varied, so there's something for everyone inside!" He leaned forward and flipped a few pages, pointing one out. "This is one of my personal favorites, actually-"

 

Upon hearing about something being the fox’s favorite, he instinctively looked before immediately looking away again. He certainly did not need to know how someone could bend their body like that and it did not help that his brain had noticed that the two figures were male. With his head still turned away and blush vibrant on his features, it took quite some time before he could finally force out, “T-those are forbidden here......”

 

"That's why it's a secret." He said, thumbing his nose and putting a finger over his sly smile as he winked at the other teen. "When two men share porn, they become closer as friends. If you're shy though, you can look through it at your own pace, and next time we meet up, you can show me which ones you liked the best!" He was curious to see if their interests lined up.

 

He almost also said 'lying is forbidden' but stopped himself short. Even if he had said it, Wei Ying would probably still try to push him to keep it. Normally, these books were to be turned into Lan Qiren immediately for prohibited possession but what would happen should he do that? His uncle may not allow him to spend time with Wei Ying anymore, citing the book as proof of degenerate behavior that he should not expose himself to. Otherwise, he could destroy it and get rid of the evidence, perhaps later give himself a punishment for failing to turn it in to his uncle but...it was still a gift from Wei Ying even if he was extremely uncomfortable with the contents of said gift... Unable to come up with a decision on what he was going to say or do about the books, he simply closed the porn book, stacked the three of them together, and then covered them with one of the new musical scores all while keeping his flustered gaze trained on the wood of the table.

 

'....Did I go too far?' He wondered briefly, scratching his chin. But, he did take it, after all. Poor guy might be repressed, but even Buddhist monks were known to indulge sometimes. Cheering up a bit, he patted his shoulder. "Want me to help you put the rest away?" He asked.

 

This was a safe topic, this he could handle. Shifting his gaze back to the task he should've been doing, he gave a quiet 'mn' as he held out a few of the books to Wei Ying alongside specific aisle and row instructions for where to place them, even going so far as to state the names of the texts they should be inserted in between of. While the fox went off to do that, he skimmed through the rest of the texts to determine their locations before getting up to put them away himself (and he also may or may not have slipped the three gifts into one of his qiankun pouches to deal with later).

 

This helped to keep him a bit busy, and he was pretty happy to help out. He did chatter about things randomly, asking this or that about various titles he saw, and eventually settled in next to him at the desk to start drawing again.

This visit was very nice, and now that Shen Yuan had actually met Lan Qiren, he was okay with Wei Ying going up to visit without being tailed by the lion alpha sibs constantly. They did have to escort him up to the gates and back, however, but at least that was easy to arrange now that he had a messenger talisman design to use.

So, a couple days later, he found himself wandering around one of the back mountain paths as he waited for the time that Lan Zhan was usually released from his studies and cultivation, Chenqing in one hand, a long piece of grass in the other, when something caught his attention. Up ahead, there seemed to be a thick concentration of natural energy! Immediately curious, he trotted along down the path to find a pool at the bottom of a waterfall! It was absolutely full of energy; this would be a great chance to absorb some of it to increase his own cultivation. Putting Chenqing away, he quickly stripped down, putting his clothes in a careless pile nearby before he noticed a neatly folded pile of clothing already sitting there. He hesitated, but only briefly, grinning when he saw the familiar charm sitting neatly on the top. One little black fox, two little white ones. He jumped in with a splash, then gasped when he felt just how cold it was, nearly going straight to his peeking form from the sheer shock of it. "Cold, cold cold cold cold-" he said, rubbing his arms for friction as he waded further into the water, grinning as he spotted his friend and began to adjust to the temperatures. "Hey, Lan Zhan! Fancy running into you here!" He said, raising a hand to give him a wave as he got up to his lower chest in the pool.

 

Not expecting anyone to be going to the Cold Springs at this time (and especially while he had a...(not so) little problem to take care of), Lan Wangji startled at the sudden splash he heard behind himself. Stepping back self-consciously, he asked after a few moments of hesitation, "...How did you find this?"

 

"I was wandering around the back mountain, and I sensed a place with thick natural energy and decided to come check it out!" He said cheerfully, starting to get over his shivers as he circulated energy in his body. "I figured it might be a good idea to cultivate for a bit before it was time to meet up, who would have thought we'd meet again sooner rather than later?" He finally reached a fair (he thought) distance from him, and came to a stop. "What's this place called?"

 

Nervously, he kept most of his body submerged in the spring, thankful that both his hair fanning out around him and the mist from the sheer temperature of the water helped conceal himself (and thank heavens he always kept his pants on whenever he entered the spring even if that was making it a bit more uncomfortable right now). "...The Cold Springs."

 

"Well, it sure is cold as heck, but it's still a great place to cultivate in, I suppose. Is there a time limit to how long someone should be in here for?"

 

It took a possibly alarming amount of time for Lan Wangji to think of the answer for that. It had never served as an issue for him or those he was around most of the time and so it wasn't information he kept stored for easy access. "Perhaps an hour at most..."

 

He nodded, it made sense. Even though he used his energy to stay warm, it was still cold, but the purified yin energy was great for nurturing both aspects of his core. "I won't push it, I'm not really a water or ice type myself." Getting a little closer, he gave Wangji a quick all-over glance. It was his first time ever seeing him this undressed! Oh, he was still wearing his pants. Good thing he left his on then, if it was etiquette for this bath... And wow, his skin was so smooth and clear over those lean, toned muscles, how pretty~ And his hair was gorgeous, long threads of black silk.

 

Tense, especially as Wei Ying moved closer and not so subtly looked him over, Lan Wangji resisted the strong urge to move even further away. He would surely only seem more suspicious if he did that. Instead, he simply asked, "...Are you not here for cultivating?"

 

"Hm? Oh, yeah." He replied, straightening up and putting on a 'serious face' as he took a deep breath and began to focus on gathering and refining the ambient energy. After thirty or so minutes though, he began to get a bit bored and began peering over at Lan Zhan again to see if he was paying attention. Very quietly, using his stealth ability to move without disturbing the water, he crept closer to Lan Zhan before pouncing, grabbing onto one of his arms as he whined "Ah, Lan Zhan, the water's so cold, but you're so warm~ Let me borrow your body heat for a minute, okay? Okay?"

 

Having been meditating silently while Wei Ying was supposedly doing the same, when the fox suddenly jumped and grabbed onto him, he jerked before stiffening in his hold. As carefully as possible while maintaining a decent amount of space between them, he pried the fox's fingers off his arm before stepping off towards the waterfall. "The temperature is meant to assist cultivation. Endure it." Upon saying that, he moved underneath the waterfall itself, using the force of it hitting his back and neck to center his thoughts again.

 

Wow, he's really strong- wait, he was trying to escape! Wei Ying followed after him, smile still sly and teasing. "Aiyoooo, come on, Lan Zhan, let me leech off of you for a couple minutes, I won't eat you or- yip!"

 

Perhaps due to some lingering thoughts in the back of his mind from earlier... thoughts or just due to some sort of deep instinct, growing exasperated by Wei Ying's needling, he spun the teen around to his front before pressing the fox's back into the cliff face behind the waterfall, both teens shielded from potential passing eyes by the torrent of cold water. Gaze intense as he stared down at the teen trapped between the wet cliffside and his body, he gave a quiet, low murmur into the minimal space between them. "Endure. You can do it."

 

Hair now drenched, his fringe sticking to his forehead (nips pretty perky too from the sudden drench of cold he was not fully expecting) he could feel his face start to burn as, for a few rare moments, he was completely speechless. Realizing his jaw was hanging open, he closed it with a small click of his teeth and just nodded, unable to blink or look away from those piercing golden eyes.

 

Humming with approval, he then released his hold on Wei Ying and took a step back before turning around and stepping under the steady fall of water once again. With the speechless shock his act put the fox in, it was then easy to slip away and reconvene with his meditation.

 

He stared at the place the dragon had been moments ago, a hand subconsciously raising to place over his heart. The HELL was that?!?! He was actually a little less cold! And what was up with the sudden dokis?!

....And then the thought 'oh no, he's hot' was immediately banished from his brain. That wasn't appropriate, right? Very bad things to think about his obviously not interested friend....right?

He eventually came out from behind the waterfall, moving back over next to Lan Zhan and continuing to cultivate obediently for the rest of the time he had in the pool, before finally getting out. He shivered when he did, why was it always colder getting out of the water than staying in it? The pants were clinging to his skin, and he let down his hair a moment so he could wring it out a bit, then sat down on a nearby rock so he could dry off a little before getting dressed again, using his internal energy to dry off quicker.

 

Being able to tolerate the cold water much better than Wei Ying, Lan Wangji remained in the springs longer, only opening his eyes once briefly to glance over at the fox's exiting back when he heard the water shifting from the other's movements. When he was finally ready to leave the springs, he moved over to where he had neatly folded his clothing, slipping on his inner robe before actually exiting fully from the water to then dress into his outer layers.

 

Wei Ying was getting dressed already, and looked over as Lan Zhan came out, grinning again as he had gotten over his mild shock. "This will feel even better in a few months, once summer hits." He said as he re-tied his hair.

Even months later, back at Cang Qiong, he’d find himself thinking about this moment, and have some very strong, but strange emotions stir in him at the thought of the way the water dripped down Lan Zhan’s skin, and the intensity of those golden eyes....

Chapter Text

Unexpectedly, as autumn was still settling into winter, Lan Wangji’s presentation came on fast and early. During his classes for the day, he had felt absolutely fine and it wasn’t until just before dinner that he started to feel uncomfortable under his own skin and something strong was permeating the air. Thankfully, his brother Xichen had been accompanying him, the both of them having been in the Library Pavilion when it was time to meet for dinner, and was quick to catch onto what was happening. Very nearly breaking the no running within Cloud Recesses rule, the older dragon rushed his little brother back to the Jingshi, hurriedly plastering scent and sound blocking talismans along the perimeter of the room before pushing the second jade in. And so this was how Lan Wangji found himself, burning up uncomfortably in layers he refused to shed, strangely aggressive in both his thoughts and actions while trapped in the Jingshi, and delirious with the desire to fuck, claim, devour. With his usual habit of suppressing his desires, the evening was uncomfortably full of hours of nothing which unsurprisingly failed to quench the haze of his rut until he finally passed out from...exhaustion maybe? When Lan Wangji opened his eyes again, he was laying in a rather generic bed staring at a generic ceiling in a vaguely generic room (and presumably town as well). Still consumed by his rut, he blearily looked around to try and gather his bearings, mind failing to recognize if there was anyone else with him inside this room.

 

In Cang Qiong, it took Wei Ying some time to fall asleep. He'd finally formed his neidan and gained his third tail, and his sword as well. Suibian. He was pretty sure Shen Qingqiu had made some sort of weird noise over the name, but couldn't say for sure. Xiaoqing was almost a year old now and she was so cute!! Binghe was...himself. Life was good. But that day, for some reason, he felt a bit...restless. Like something was going to happen.

So when he went to sleep and the dreamscape was a bit distorted and chaotic, it didn't alarm him. What did alarm him was how the streets were empty of people, and there seemed to be something in the air. Also, as he checked his waist, it seemed he didn't have Chenqing or Suibian with him. He did have some talismans though, so he wasn't completely disarmed at least...

With nothing better to do, he started looking around the inn he had appeared in. It seemed to be vacant, except- What was that smell? "Hello? Is anyone here?" He called out as he followed the sandalwood scent.

 

Lan Wangji was quickly on alert as a new scent reached his nose. It wasn’t strong per se, but it was somehow familiar and stirred something within him. Growling, he sat up from the bed, sitting there to take in some more of that new scent for a few moments before he finally pushed himself up and out of the room to track it down.

 

Wow, that weird scent and sense of anticipation was getting stronger. He was moving with great caution, not sure who or what he was going to run into, preparing a talisman in his hand as he rounded the corner- and stopped, automatically relaxing a hint when he saw someone familiar. "Lan Zhan?" He asked in surprise.

 

Finally connecting the scent to Wei Ying’s upon seeing him, his pupils dilated as his brain caught on to what was happening. That something stirring inside him was his instinct to claim , that scent was his and the strength in his conviction of that was terrifying him. What he had thought was just a little, simple crush apparently was far stronger than that and it took his presentation to fully realize that. Bringing a hand up to cover his nose and mouth to try and block out some of that enticing scent, he gave a hesitant greeting of, “Wei...Ying...”

 

Letting out a breath he hadn't known he had been holding, he patted his chest with a hand and put the talisman away as he approached the other boy with a smile- which then faded as he realized he didn't look so good, expression turning to concern as he realized the sandalwood-heavy scent was coming from him. "Lan Zhan, are you alright??" He asked more urgently now, reaching out to put a hand on his shoulder.

 

The simple touch to his shoulder ignited a fire in his veins and he grabbed that wrist, instincts fully in control for a few moments as he backed the fox into the hallway wall closest to them. Like he had at the Cold Springs, he towered over the other teen as he leaned in, however this time, his eyes were hazier (albeit no less intense) and his breath a bit heavier. So close to the source of that delicious scent, he tilted his head down to tuck his nose into the fox’s scent glands, letting out a hungry growl as it washed over him.

 

"Ah-!" He gasped in surprise as he felt the long, strong fingers wrap around his wrist in an iron grip, back against the wall as he was crowded in, body freezing and yet, somehow, burning at the same time, eyes wide as Lan Zhan scented him and made that deep, menacing sound. "A-A-Zhan??!" His tone was shocked and bewildered as his heart started to race.

 

The nickname only served to rile him up more, his free hand going up to rest low on Wei Ying’s hip, rubbing circles through the fabric as he mouthed at the fox’s neck, a low moan leaving him next. Just about to bring his knee in between the other’s legs with a reverent whisper of “A-Ying,” the name itself brought back some clarity to the newly presented alpha and his eyes widened at seeing just how compromising a position he had put the two of them in. Covering his nose and mouth once again, he jerked back a few paces, eyes dark with lust even as he forced out a rough, “Wei Ying... Go.”

 

Now extremely flustered, confused, and alarmed, he only froze briefly before his instincts kicked in with a shiver skating up his spine and he took off down the hallway, one word sounding in his mind: 'Alpha '. Why was he running from his friend? What was going on?! Was it really what he thought it was?! Was Lan Zhan really an alpha? What- None of that mattered now. What he needed to do was run. So the alpha could chase. He jumped out the window to the ground, and then he was off down the nearest street.

 

As much as he’d hoped that sending Wei Ying away would help him keep control over himself, it did the opposite in actuality. Seeing the fox’s retreating back only sent a primal desire to catch streaking through his body. His mate was running away and he couldn’t have that. He was supposed to stay with him. So with that in mind, Lan Wangji quickly set off after him, following the same window path he had taken and keeping his senses open for any hint of Wei Ying on the wind.

 

Unpresented as he was, the fox's scent didn't give him much more information than 'fox' and 'Wei Ying'. However, with his heightened senses, it was easy enough to track, and through their incomplete bond, (though surely neither of them noticed, as more pressing urges were currently involved) he could sense confusion, some slight fear, alarm, and a heavy dose of excitement.

The deserted streets made it infinitely more difficult for the fox boy to hide, so he would have to rely on stealth and speed, his two specialties. For now, he tried getting as far away as he could as quickly as possible in the labyrinthian streets, looking back over his shoulder only once he had gone on for ten or so blocks-

 

Lan Wangji doubted Wei Ying could see him, at least at first glance. Rather than trying to track the fox's scent through the winding streets, the first chance he'd gotten, the dragon had leapt up to the roof of a building and started tracking him down that way. Being a creature of the skies, he was used to catching movement down below from a higher vantage point and used that to his advantage as he sought the fox out. Once he'd spotted him and could infer the direction he'd be going, he dropped down onto the ground behind Wei Ying.

 

The fox yelped as his heart leapt in his chest, tossing a talisman back at him that burst into dazzling butterflies of light swarming around him. He poured on the speed, running faster as he looked around for a place to go that he could escape and saw a low lying window in a building wall he could probably slip through in fox form, but Lan Zhan would probably have to take some time to break through. Thought in mind, he changed to his fox form in a puff of mist, the black-furred form streaking across the ground before jumping through the round hole-

 

Cutting through the butterflies blindly, Wangji only used his smelling and hearing to pick out the direction Wei Ying went in. Butterflies clearing just in time to see his fox form darting towards a hole in a wall, he sent out a talisman ahead of himself to force a reverse transformation and give himself time to catch up to the fox.

 

"Ai-! Shit!" He cursed, first because of the sudden shock of being forced into his peeking form, secondly because he was only halfway through before the talisman took effect and his forward momentum was suddenly and a little painfully stopped by his hips. He put his hands against the wall, small claws scrabbling against the stone and mortar as he kicked his legs furiously, just able to touch the ground with his toes, trying to gain purchase or enough leverage to force his way through. The round sill was made of polished wood, and pressed against his stomach as he let slip an anxious whine, ears going back and his tail tucking down between his legs. His breathing had accelerated with his heartbeat, trying to pick up any sound behind him with his twitching ears.

 

Catching up to the fox, Lan Wangji set a hand on the small of Wei Ying's back, tender even as the alpha within him was raring to just plunge in already. The position the other found himself stuck in was a rather convenient height, the fox's squirming ass perfectly aligned with the dragon's groin. Giving the teen's tail several gentle strokes, he then moved the appendage off to one side to reveal his still-clothed bottom, relishing in the hint of arousal he could smell in the fox's scent.

 

Freezing in place once again, he trembled when he felt the hand stroke his tail, fists balling up against the wall supporting him and twisting a little to try and peer back through the hole at the dragon behind him. "Lan... Lan Zhan..." He said weakly, a tingling and damp sensation starting down below causing him to feel embarrassed, but also nervous and thrilled. His legs pressed together again; he was still dressed, but unable to actually see Wangji, he could only guess what he was doing or where he was looking, relying on his other senses. "Be, be gentle with me, gentle, okay?" He tried coaxing, a waver in his voice as he strained to hear anything.

 

Taking in a steadying breath, he ran a hand down one of his clothed butt cheeks, giving it a squeeze before moving back up to actually remove his pants this time. Giving a little hum, he didn't give Wei Ying affirmation, instead asking, "And if I am not?" He wasn't acting fully on his alpha instincts quite yet, but he could easily tell how impatient his inner alpha was. Now that he had the fox trapped and vulnerable, his alpha wanted Wei Ying to intimately feel how much he belonged to the dragon. If he fucked the fox teen with no mercy, there'd be no doubt that every little shift once he was done with Wei Ying would remind him of who claimed him so thoroughly.

 

....Holy shit he was so fucked. He'd never heard that tone from him before!! Feeling a breeze now on some rather delicate areas, he whimpered again and began to struggle, tail twitching to try and cover his embarrassment. "Se-second young master, this poor fox has held his virginity for the last fifteen years, and is a little scared that the alpha's mighty dragon pillar might split him in two-"

 

Wrapping a hand around his tail, Lan Wangji kept it to one side, stroking the soft fur even as he prodded a finger at his slick entrance. "Will not split. Will enjoy." If the aroused scent of slick wasn't enough of a hint, the dragon could also sense how thrilled the fox was. It seemed very likely that Wei Ying would enjoy this even if he forgot himself and became rough. With that thought, he grew impatient, inner alpha eager to sink into the other teen, and allowed his finger to breech the fox's folds, golden eyes almost black when he felt the tight entrance very slightly give way for the intrusion.

 

Letting out a very shuddering breath, Wei Wuxian bit lightly on his lower lip, feeling like his skin was burning, like every nerve on his body was focused on his groin and rear. His body jerked as he felt the fingers stroking and prodding at him, he made a very submissive sound, feeling like little shocks were running up his body. Lan Zhan touching him was very different than when he touched himself and before too long, he could feel his sheath releasing more slick, preparing himself for the alpha.

 

He let out a growl as he felt the slick spilling past his finger and easing the way. Not wasting much more time, he added a second finger, only making a few scissoring motions before he was once again adding another one. If Wei Ying was already this eager, then he wasn't going to make them wait much longer either. As he used his available fingers to thrust into and stretch the fox's wet entrance, he ground his own stiff and still-trapped erection against the other teen's thigh, seeking out some sort of friction before he could plunge into the sheath he actually wanted.

 

Wow, he was- he was REALLY big. And hot. He gulped reflexively even as the invading digits stretched and teased him, jolting and crying out as they rubbed against a spot on his front wall, his own erection twitching at that, worries scattering as his pleasure spiked. "Fuck , A-Zhan, there, right there, again, please-!" He said as he pushed himself up on his arms, tipping his head back as he tried to get the Alpha to touch that spot again.

 

"Mn." Crooking his fingers, it didn't take much more time before he was hitting that bundle of nerves again, thrusting them in and out to repeatedly hit that same spot and relishing in the moans he wrenched out of Wei Ying by doing so. With his other hand, wishing to feel more of the other's body, he maneuvered it underneath the layers of his robes, inadvertently loosening them as calloused fingers from his guqin roamed over the expanse of the fox's back.

 

Now getting thoroughly aroused by this situation, he was actually pressing back onto his fingers, lightly tightening around them and arching up against the hand going up his spine. "Ah, Lan Zhan, feels good, I-I want more~" he groaned, not even paying attention to what the hell he was saying. He wished he could touch him back, but he was stuck- the frustration just made everything even more intense.

 

Fucking his fingers in only a few more times, he then removed them entirely and instead worked to free himself from the bottom half of his robes, ignoring all the whining Wei Ying was surely giving at the loss of pleasure. Using the slick that thoroughly coated his fingers, he spread it over his own dick, thankful to that one book the fox gave him (even if he would never actually admit it to the other teen) for noting the need for lubrication of some sort. Shifting the hand on his back back down to grip Wei Ying's waist, the other hand positioned the head of his cock at the other's dripping entrance, pushing himself in with a long groan once he felt the fox relax enough.

 

"A-aah, hnn, fffuck-!" His claws dug into the wooden sill, panting hard as he felt himself being filled and stretched, tail and ears twitching as he tried to process how this felt. A pinch of pain, some discomfort, but indescribable pleasure and satisfaction from a part of him that was still dormant, but getting roused by the alpha with him. He tightened, then relaxed, then tightened again as he sank inside him. "-A-alpha, ah, fuck, you're so deep-" he moaned, he could almost swear he could feel it all the way in his womb, and wanted to touch his stomach to see if he could feel it from the outside.

 

Once his hips met the fox's ass, Lan Wangji stilled, forehead pressed against the wall as he looked down at where they were connected with some smug satisfaction. This was how it was meant to be, even if the circumstances were a bit odd. As he moved one hand up to once again roam around Wei Ying's bare skin from beneath his robes, the other hand reached around to the other's front, long musician's fingers wrapping around the teen's length and stroking him languidly.

 

So good, too good, his alpha was filling him up and petting him and he smelled amazing- He thrust himself forward and back as well as he was able to, into Wangji's hand and onto his cock, his brain so fuzzy with hormones he was operating according to instinct. "A-Zhan, move, p-please-"

 

Humming his response, he moved his hands around to grip his hips as he drew back almost all the way before slamming back into him and repeating the process. With the fox's body held in place, he could easily control how he thrust into him as well as protect the other from being harshly forced against an unforgiving stone wall. Remembering the spot that had Wei Ying writhing earlier, he shifted both his hold and angle, wanting to hear those beautiful, unrestrained moans again.

 

Stars burst behind his eyes as the dragon began targeting his g-spot, crying out loud and holding onto the window with a white-knuckled grip, dripping slick and precum down his thighs. His ears filled with their sounds, those big hands holding him effortlessly, keeping him steady as he drove him higher and higher. His moans and aroused wails grew in volume, and he could feel the tension building in his lower belly. "A-Zhan, A-Zhan, I-I'm getting close, I'm gonna come, Aaalpha-!"

 

Finally fed up with the barrier between them and wanting to properly see him when he came, Lan Wangji brought one hand up to the wall space above the fox. All while maintaining his rhythm and hold on Wei Ying, he quickly froze a large portion of the wall and the window frame below it before ripping the frozen section off in one clean piece and tossing it somewhere behind himself. Now able to access all of Wei Ying, he bent over the slightly smaller teen, arms snaking up to wrap around his chest and stomach as he nipped at one of his ears and murmured, "Knotting you, A-Ying."

 

"Oh, fuck, ah, A-Zhan-!" he tipped his head back and to the side, exposing his neck, hand reaching up and back to tangle his fingers in his hair, accidentally grabbing part of his ribbon as he did so with the other grasping one of his wrists. "Knot me, A-Zhan, fill me up~!" He murmured in a raspy, hoarse whisper. "Ah, please, ah, aAAh, FUCK-!" the fox spat the last word as his breath caught in his throat, then let out a long, loud keening cry, feeling himself convulse as he came hard, clenching around the hot alpha cock impaling him.

 

Lan Wangji paid no attention to his ribbon; if it ended up in Wei Ying's hands, it was no matter, it belonged to him anyways. Preoccupying himself instead with marking up his jaw, neck, and shoulder with little love bites, he held the fox close as he came undone, able to get a few more thrusts in before his knot was swelling to capacity and he released within the other with a low groan, now locked in place within his heat.

 

The omega teen went almost completely limp in his arms, barely keeping the hold he had on his hair and the ribbon. He felt boneless, but so full and content down below. Dazedly, he looked down the front of his body, the hand he'd had on Lan Zhan's wrist going down to press lightly against the spot he thought he could feel the tip. "...So warm..." He murmured, eyes half-lidded, turning his head to nuzzle against Wangji and kiss whatever part of him he could reach.

 

Without the obstruction of the wall now, Lan Wangji could freely move them however he pleased and so he carefully shifted his grip, one hand steadying Wei Ying's hips, the other circling around to slip under his chest. Holding him like that, he lowered them onto the ground, laying against the wall as he settled the fox down to rest against his chest. Now in a much more comfortable position, he moved a hand up to caress the side of his face, showering the skin that had been revealed by his robes being mussed with kisses.

 

Every motion the dragon made resulted in a tug or grind inside him, making him gasp or hum softly, more than happy to be out of the damn wall now, and leaning back against his alpha. His tail brushed against Lan Zhan's hip and thigh lazily and his head fell back to lay on one of his shoulders, ears in a content sort of position. He raised one hand to place over the one against his cheek and jaw, rubbing against it to exchange scents.

 

Despite not being in his dragon form, without realizing it, his throat was rumbling with that same half-growl, half-purr sound as they scented each other. Turning his head in more to focus closer on the side of the fox's neck, he added in little bites here and there to the attention he was covering the other in.

 

"Mmh- Lan Zhan..." He mumbled with a small shiver, cock once again beginning to show interest in what was going on as his cunt gradually squeezed on him, then relaxed again. The hand in his hair came down, holding the long ribbon, and he stared at it for a little while before winding it around his wrist once. It was.... a little familiar? Had he done this before? A well-placed bite on an immature scent gland made him suck in a sharp breath as he rocked his pelvis back and forth, whining softly under his breath. "A-Zhan, that spot- hmmhhh~"

 

“Yes, A-Ying?” Moving back to said spot, he spent some time nipping and sucking at the gland, a pleased hum leaving him at the breathy little complaints the fox gave. Rolling his hips, he gave short little thrusts, only as much as his knot would allow, his free hand on Wei Ying’s hip to help control the motion.

 

"O-oh, ah! Th-there, feels good- ah!" the young omega groaned lewdly, writhing a bit before sitting forward a little, bracing both hands on the tops of his thighs so he could help move. It wasn't his style to be completely passive all the time. His robes were quite askew by this point, hanging down half his back and arms, hair still mostly held up by the ponytail giving Lan Zhan a pretty nice view of his bites and other little marks on his shoulder as well as the back of his neck so far. His ears were tilted, but not in a way indicating discomfort or displeasure, as his tail dragged across the alpha's abdomen to the other side, curling up as Wei Ying turned his head to look over his shoulder at the other male, lips curving up in a smile and giving him a small wink. "Lan Er-gege, i-it's a tight fit, isn't it?"

 

Growling, he shifted their positions once again, maneuvering Wei Ying onto his hands and knees and giving him a rough thrust. (And how was his knot already small enough again? He couldn’t say but he also had much more better things to focus on right now.) One hand gripping a hip and the other reaching over to take the ends of his forehead ribbon, he wrapped the fabric around and around the fox’s wrist, bent over so that he could murmur in the other’s ear. Mine. Only I can loosen you up.”

 

The shift was a bit sudden, and took him by surprise. "Ahah, ah! Fuck, yours, Alpha-" He groaned and squirmed, trying to rock back against him, wanting him to do that again. "A-Zhan, again, like that, more-"

 

Complying, he kept up his angle and speed, maintaining his position hunched over him to scatter little bites across his shoulders and his upper back as the hand by Wei Ying's entwined their fingers together. "Mn. Give you everything and more." After a few particularly hard thrusts, he moved the hand that had been on the fox's hip around to his front, finally loosening his robes fully so they hung open and exposed his bare torso to the open air, letting his hand spread open to caress his (womb) stomach. "Even a litter of kits..." He punctuated this with a rather harsh bite just millimeters from his scent gland, hips stuttering as even he was affected by the idea of breeding the fox underneath him.

 

"Oh, God..." He keened, feeling a sudden and intense feeling of pure want as Wangji said it, mind briefly short circuiting as a smaller peak overtook him from the bite and the insinuation. A bit dizzy, he let his head hang down as he shook, sex shuddering around his partner. He hadn't known it before that moment, but there was nothing in the world he wanted more in that instant. "I want it, Alpha, want your kits, yours, please, please fill me-"

 

"Give you. My Omega," he murmured as he regained his rhythm, fucking him through the high as he once again grew close to his release. After a few more thrusts, however, a new thought came to mind and he pulled out entirely. This time, he wanted to have a direct view of Wei Ying's face and better access to his front and so he turned the fox onto his back before sliding back home again.

 

As he rolled onto his back, the usually calm and collected alpha was treated to quite the sight. Wei Ying's skin was flushed and glistening with sweat, his penis erect and weeping a somewhat cloudy fluid, belly, groin and thighs smeared with sexual fluids from the both of them. His gray eyes were dazed, lustful, and warm, and he smiled at his friend as he reached up and put his arms around his neck and shoulders, wanting to pull him close and kiss him properly, legs coming up to frame his hips as he re-entered him, making the fox shiver and inhale sharply. "A-Zhan."

 

Riled up by the picture the fox made, Lan Wangji growled as he leaned in to finally capture Wei Ying's lips in a messy, lustful kiss. It was clumsy and obviously inexperienced but he could only hope he made up for it with his enthusiasm as he supplemented his exploration of the fox's mouth with deep, hard thrusts.

 

His voice muffled by Lan Zhan's consuming mouth, Wei Ying's hands once more delved into his uncharacteristically disheveled hair, holding the back of his head as their tongues dueled against each other and his legs wrapped around his hips to try and weld them together. One hand slid down to his shoulder and back, claws lightly scratching his skin with a particularly good thrust, mouth briefly breaking from the kiss as he gasped for air and cried out wordlessly.

 

With Wei Ying's need for air separating them, Lan Wangji shifted gears and moved his head down to lavish the fox's torso with bites and kisses, a hand shifting up to caress and seek out sensitive areas of his body before eventually ending up over one of his nipples, rolling the perky bud between thumb and finger as his mouth found the other one and gave it similar attention. Breath heavy from the delicious sting Wei Ying's claws gave him and pace speeding up ever so slightly, it was only a few more thrusts later before he was releasing again, knot expanding and locking their hips together.

 

Releasing his hair, his hand raised to his face as he came again, body jolting sharply as his nerves temporarily rebelled against him. He arched up into the Caihong alpha, murmuring whatever spilled from his disoriented mind without a filter, like "Bite me more, harder, A-Zhan, fuck fuck fuck, breed me, Alpha, my Alpha, I need, I need your cubs in me or I'll just die of wanting-"

 

Eyes dark with desire, he was more than willing to indulge his omega and just as eager to entirely claim the fox writhing beneath him. With a deep, husky utterance of, " Mine, " Lan Wangji hovered over his neck for no longer than a second before a hand cupped behind the omega's head was lifting him off the ground, mouth opening to poise itself right at the nape, and juuuust about to sink in when......

With a jolt, Lan Wangji woke up, body sweating and his pants uncomfortably soaked in...fluids he didn't want to think about right now. He just...! How indecent! To imagine his friend in such an undignified manner and to manhandle and just use the teen like that for sexual gratification...... How deviant and unbecoming and weak of a GusuLan disciple! Disorientated, the young dragon stumbled out of his bed and over to the bathtub he had behind a privacy screen. He doubted he'd be able to go to the Cold Springs right now especially while in a rut, but first things first, he could clean himself up here, suffer through the rest of his rut, and then dole himself out a punishment for his indecent behavior.

 

Wei Ying woke up, panting heavily, very confused, and very messy below the waist. He struggled free of his sheets and blankets, cursing as he nearly fell off the bed.

He heard a familiar voice delicately clear their throat, knocking lightly on the door frame. "Wei Ying, are you alright?"

His skin from his collarbone to his ears turned scarlet as he scrambled to his feet. "Fine!! I'm, uh, fine, I just had a dream! You can go now, Qing-shijie!" 'Please go away, please go away-' he chanted mentally.

Wen Qing had heard some noises and came to investigate, but after hearing some moans and only smelling the fox, she had put two and two together and decided to spare him. "A bath has been prepared in the annex, Young Master." She told him before going back to her post and leaving the poor young man alone.

The fox rubbed his neck distractedly. The places still tingled, but there were no aches or pains. It was just a dream. Just a dream.... He slapped his burning face with both hands. "Get a grip, Wei Wuxian, aigooo, you deviant, shameless omega." He whispered to himself before going to clean himself up.

Chapter Text

How exactly it came to this, Lan Wangji was still uncertain. It was supposed to be a relatively normal night hunt, albeit one that was posing more of a risk to the neighboring towns and hence the message to their sect. Upon arriving to the area, it had even started out like a normal night hunt as well, but then suddenly, there had been an influx of demons and the GusuLan entourage they had brought with them was severely outnumbered. His guqin Wangji in hand and Bichen slicing through the air with simple commands with his spiritual energy, the dragon was doing his best to stave off their enemies, but there just didn’t seem to be any end to them!

 

"Second Young Master!! Please escape!!" Lan Anquan shouted as he blocked a strike from a demon that looked like a cross between a human, a gecko, and a scorpion as it tried to hit the young dragon.

"There are too many of them!! Your highness, please retreat!" Lan Guize said next, hand pressing an accupoint in his side to stop the blood streaming from a cut there. "Our dragon forms will be able to do more against this horde, but we will still need reinforcements!"

 

Stubborn and unwilling to abandon anyone in the group, Lan Wangji ignored his attendants’ pleas, strumming a note from Lan Yi’s Chord Assassination as he caught his sword on its return trip back and used it to slash an oncoming demon. In the very brief respite this granted him, he quickly searched his sleeve for an SOS flare and sent it flying with the energy from a fire talisman.

 

As the cloud symbol exploded overhead, there was suddenly a loud, fast hissing sound. Through the gap the fallen demon had left, something shot through, punching through both the protective clothing the young drake wore and his skin and flesh, which was no easy feat given his race and cultivation. One of his beta attendants screamed, and the other roared, the men turning to dragon form as they set up last-ditch defensive formations with their pearls and bodies, some other Gusu sect members running over and into the barrier, the designated medic going right for Lan Wangji. "Second Young Master, Second Young Master!!" He shouted, hands hovering near the arrow shaft, dark, repulsive, evil energy drifting off it like smoke as dark blood poured from the wound around the shaft, bubbling and frothing. The poison- the arrow- he couldn't do anything!! He could feel through the weak pulse on his wrist, the young dragon’s heart came to a stop- But suddenly, the arrow and everything around it seemed to freeze. Then, there was the faint, sharp, crystalline sound of something cracking, and the arrow dissolved into nothingness. The medic stilled, awestruck as the dragon's pulse restarted, then stabilized, his blood turning a normal red again as the poison seeped from the gash, staining the white robes, the wound even closing on its own. However, he had still lost a lot of blood and suffered damage to his body and qi, so he would effectively be more or less out of the rest of this battle.

Two more signal flares were shot up as more and more lesser dragons from the sect fell back to the defense formation to try and hold the line, but no reinforcements arrived.

Eventually, another dragon fell, roaring briefly before collapsing, taking the formation with it, and the disciples braced themselves and brandished their swords-

When suddenly, there were two air-shaking roars, sending demons flying in two directions, distracting the horde. Standing on her sword above the fray was a nether lion demoness in her half form with glowing green eyes, striking demons down from the sky with her paralyzing medicines and silver needles, incapacitating but not killing a single one, while on the ground was a raging, powerful male nether lion with glowing white eyes, also in half demon form. Not only was his roar weaponized, but his strength and power was immense as he decimated any section of the enemy forces he set his claws on. Then, from the side, there was a sword glare as another demon was cut down, and several talismans flashed into the air, creating a new barrier. "GusuLan Sect!! Wei Wuxian of Cang Qiong is here to help! Do not hit the lions, they are my attendants!" He said as he jumped over to join the group, smiling at the ones he could see in relief. "Glad I made it in time! I arrive in Caiyi and everyone tells me Cloud Recesses is under attack, and Lan Wangji was out trying to quell the demons! Where is he?" He said as he looked around, holding Suibian and its sheath in a hand each.

 

How much time had passed or even what had happened had been hard to determine as a strange and overwhelming pain washed over him for several long minutes. Although the pain wasn't obvious from his face nor the single grunt he let out as the arrow pierced him, he had collapsed onto the ground, trying and failing to prop himself up by shoving Bichen's blade into the ground. Something was circulating and burning through his bloodstream, something unfamiliar to anything he had previously studied about. Before he knew it, he had blacked out before, at some point, he regained his senses and noticed the pain had just suddenly...stopped? Or maybe abated was the proper word? Suddenly the burn wasn't there anymore and he could think clearly again. And now that he could once again think, he needed to help the other disciples and his-- "...Wei...Ying...?!" No. He couldn't be here, not somewhere so overwhelmingly disadvantaged where he couldn't guarantee his safety...! Much to the protestations of the medic beside him, Lan Wangji attempted to force himself to his feet, body strangely unresponsive and weak as he tried to get to Wei Ying.

 

Hearing his voice, the fox brightened and turned towards him. "Hey, Lan Zha-" His face froze at first in shock when he saw him, then fell as he ran over to him, grabbing his arms so he could look at the wound and mess on his chest. "Lan-Lan Zhan!! What happened to...you..." His eyes fell to his waist, spotting the fox charm...and seeing that there were now two black beads instead of white. His face changed rapidly, from confusion, to disbelief, then fear, then anger, and finally…

He realized he was gripping too hard and let him go, forming a sword seal and stepping up onto Suibian. "Who was it? " He asked, his voice taking on an eerie quality as he reached to his belt and grabbed Chenqing. " Who did this to him?! Who dares try to kill my friend?! " He barked loudly as he began to rise over the crowd. His tails and ears appeared, along with his claws and fangs, and he lifted the flute to his lips, a red light covering his gray irises. " Wake up!! Rise, get to work!! Kill these monsters!! And find that bastard for me!!! " He shouted as yin energy around him and across the battlefield suddenly surged, and he began to play. 

Wen Qing looked startled, but it was too late to stop him. All she could do was protect him from projectiles as all around the battlefield, fallen demon corpses began to rise. And not just demons, but humans and dragons as well, becoming fierce corpses to fight the ones who had attacked their lands and killed them.

As the music played, more and more ghosts and spirits began to appear. Flames nearby turned an eerie green color, and the dead began to fall upon the demon army and defend the cultivators, each that fell adding to the number of undead Wei Wuxian commanded.

 

Wide-eyed, Lan Wangji looked on with...not quite fear...? Or at least, not in the typical sense? Wei Ying...was trying to learn demonic cultivation...? He would only harm his mind and body if he did so! All the records they had of those who tried so either went mad or died gruesome deaths due to their own cultivation. He absolutely did not want that happening to the fox. Trying again to stand up again and doing a much better job this time, he tried calling out to the fox, "Wei Ying!"

 

"S-Second Young Master, don't get up!!" The medic urged, trying to keep him down without hurting him further. "You've lost too much blood!" The enraged vulpine was focused on his playing for the moment, but his ear twitched at the voices below, and the red eyes slid to look down at the two of them. He hesitated briefly, then turned to look at Wen Qing. 'Take care of him,' he ordered silently.

The doctor nodded, then flew down to land nearby, sheathing her sword and raising her hands as she turned to her human form. "I am a doctor, let me see him." Lan Anquan was still up, and recognized her, calling out as he dispatched another opponent. "She serves the Second Young Master's friend, she's a demon but doesn't practice evil. Let her through!" Reluctantly, the other disciples let the lioness approach, and she drew out her kit as she knelt next to him. "Second Young Master Lan, please excuse this one," she said, giving him a salute before starting treatment. If he tried to get up again, she'd just have to use a needle to temporarily disable him.

 

Jaw clenching in his frustration, he relented but with a rather obvious frown on his face. He needed to get Wei Ying to stop before he hurt himself with this. The blood-loss he could deal with, he was able to move so it was good enough for now, but if the worst happened to the fox, temporary blood-loss be dammed, he wouldn't be able to live that down. "...Maiden Wen, I need to get to Wei Ying."

 

She glanced at him as she took out some bottles of pills and ointments, along with needles and bandages. "Wei Wuxian...will be fine, Second Young Master Lan. Wait for now, I'm sure he will explain to you," she said using her direct speaking technique as she began treatment, opening his robes and frowning at the wound. She used a piece of cloth to dab at any remnants of the poison and brought it up to smell at before grimacing, taking out a pill and pressing it in his hand. "Take this immediately if you don't want permanent damage to your meridians." 

Meanwhile, the tide of battle had completely turned, and the cultivators could catch their breath as the dead drove back the demons. Giving them one last order to continue pursuing them for 15 li before returning, Wei Ying finally put the flute down and called out to Wen Ning. "A-Ning, stop now! Come back!" He ordered, his red eyes still glowing. He had to maintain his control, after all. Turning back, he had Suibian take him back to the ground, and sheathed it as he went to kneel next to them. "Qing-shijie, how is he?" He asked anxiously, for the moment oblivious to the looks and whispers from the nearby cultivators.

 

Without question (and probably to the horror of any disciples unfamiliar with Wen Qing), Wangji took the pill and swallowed it dry. Not paying much mind to what the skilled doctor was doing in favor of looking to Wei Ying (and vaguely noting that Wen Ning had turned back into his human form and was stationing himself maybe a li behind the fox) and searching for any sign of negative side-effects of his demonic cultivation. "...Wei Ying...that..." He trailed off, unsure how to approach the topic now that he had the chance to.

 

He blinked, then smiled faintly, and held out a hand to him. "I'm fine. Feel. This...should help you understand a little."

For most beast cultivators, if you were to cut one open, instead of a golden core, you would find a neidan, or some sort of spiritual orb. Depending on the type of beast, the cores could rise in value, for creating equipment or medicine. Wei Ying's neidan was particularly unique: made from both yin and yang energy, it was untainted by evil, and his ability to control and purify yin energy was completely natural. As such, the only impact on his body and mind was akin to if he'd used a proportionate 'righteous' technique.

Watching his face, he smiled a little wider. "Father says I'm a Yin Yang Fox, with a natural yin root. After my parents died, I started sleeping in graveyards and coffin houses for protection. I can control them, and talk to them. I've always been able to." He said, using direct speaking to keep their conversation private. "I was forbidden from talking about it, though. Father and Papa He are probably going to be mad I exposed myself. Aiyaa, more kneeling again, poor me~"

 

He gave a small nod after that, hand still on the fox's and reluctant to remove it. He remembered his concern over Wei Ying's choice to sleep in a coffin house. He had mentioned the dogs never entered it, but aside from that reason, it certainly wasn't an ideal location to settle on. "...Should not," he eventually said, thinking on the other's worry for punishment. "Assisted us. Not worthy for punishment."

 

Wei Ying nodded, propping his chin on his free hand. " I just might have to bring more guards next time I come out... if I get let out again before I get five tails. " He mused through the direct speaking method. "Father Qiu is an expert on demons and spirits, and seems to believe that my ability is rare enough to draw... um... unwanted attention?" He said with a tilt of his head. Then he shook himself and shrugged, fixing the dragon with a hard look. "Never mind me though, you're the one with a new hole in your body! Those bastards! I'll tear them apart when I find them..." He growled out loud, the red eyes flashing briefly.

"Young Master Wei, you should probably let the disciples take Second Young Master Lan back now." Wen Qing said as she finished the treatment for the moment. "There are still many demons nearby, even if they are being driven back." The fox sighed and nodded before gently pulling his hand out of Lan Zhan's. "I'll be going then. I need to control them until I can send them to rest." He said secretively again. "If I let go, they might run amok instead of going back to sleep or moving on. Once I'm done, we'll try to come by Gusu?" He suggested.

 

His fingers curled as if trying to wrap his fingers around Wei Ying's wrist to hold him in place. If he wasn't reluctant earlier, he was certainly reluctant now after hearing of the worry that the fox may receive unwanted attention for his nature. If that were truly the case, he didn't want to be back in Cloud Recesses where he couldn't help protect the other teen. Unable to do much more especially with their own GusuLan medic seemingly staring holes into the injured dragon, he quickly reached into the folds of his outer robe, pulling out his jade token from the hidden pocket in there and holding it out to Wei Ying. "Always welcome in Cloud Recesses."

 

"...Heheh." He grinned as he took the token and put it in his sleeve, saluting him. "Thank you, Lan Zhan. I'll see you later. Hey, stay safe!"

He waved as the GusuLan sect members got the dragon out of there, maintaining his smile until the other was out of sight. He watched a moment longer before letting his hand drop, face turning cold. "Wen Ning. Wen Qing. Any sign of the bowman?" 

"Sir! I couldn't be certain, but I think I scented QishanWen Sect members." Wen Qing said, bowing her head. "And I recognize part of the poison used as something similar to a poison from the demon realm called No Cure. Besides having corrosive properties and containing dragonsbane, it can hinder or cripple meridians and make a victim unable to cultivate if untreated." 

His lip curled in an angry snarl, fist tightening on Suibian's hilt. "Wen Ning?"

 

Wen Ning straightened abruptly as he was called to attention. "Y-Young Master...! I-I happened to have p-passed by a tree in the f-fight earlier that had an u-unnaturally snapped off b-branch." As he said this, he turned to point over in a particular direction. "I-I'm sure the b-bowman shot f-from that direction..."

 

He looked over and nodded, thinking to himself. "...I want the shooter and his weapon. Something sharp and powerful enough to penetrate a dragon's skin, even in human form, is seriously dangerous. Wen Ning!" He pointed Suibian's hilt at him. "Track down the shooter and bring him in! Come back if it's too dangerous or the sun sets before you catch him! Wen Qing, stay with me and help me find and treat the wounded here!"

The lioness bowed curtly and saluted. "Sir!"

 

Giving an 'understood' in response, Wen Ning shifted into his full-on nether lion form and darted off in the direction he had indicated, taking advantage of his faster speed and sharper eyes to look out for any giveaway tracks or more arrow scratches. A bit surprisingly, he was able to get a good hold on the shooter's trail and once he'd picked up on the poorly-hidden scent of both the individual and what could've only been the scent of the poison (he'd probably get a smug response back, but maybe he'd have to thank his sister for having him sit through lectures and explanations on medicines, toxins, poisons and et cetera to at least be able to provide quick aid should she not be available right away). The unfortunate part of this chase was that due to how long they'd been fighting to chase off the demons from the Lans (and whoever else was there as well), the attacker had already made some decent ground and it would surely take some time to actually catch up. Even if this ended up going into the night, despite Wei Ying's order, Wen Ning was almost positive he'd ignore it and accept the fox's anger later if only because the trail wouldn't be this easy to track should he let it go for the night.

 

Meanwhile, the duo back at the site of the battle were checking the dead and injured, Wei Wuxian helping to bind up the demons that hadn't died, Wen Qing acting as a good deterrent to anyone who might have thought that giving her Young Master any trouble was a good idea. She might not kill them, but they didn't know that.

As they went, Wei Ying was slowly dismissing or releasing the dead he had raised, sending them on to a peaceful rest or on to their next lives, while keeping some of the more harmless ones and the ones whose thirst for vengeance had been filled as guards. They were alone in the forested area near a cave when the trouble happened.

Wei Ying sighed and frowned as he fanned himself lightly with his hand. As late as it was getting, why was it still so warm out?! About to complain to Wen Qing, he turned to look at the lioness, only to see her form lying unconscious on the ground. "Q-qing-shijie?!" He cried out as he ran over to her, turning her on to her back and checking under her nose to make sure she was breathing, before checking her pulse. He sighed as he confirmed she was still alive, but flinched as suddenly, a golden net dropped over him. "Hey!! What the-!?"

Before he could get more than that out, he was struck from behind with several beast seals, and some attacks on his acupoints. He could do no more than to slump over on top of his lady alpha friend, fuming angrily as he realized none of the undead in the immediate area were actually under his control. When had that happened?! Suddenly, a pair of legs entered his vision, before his hair was grabbed and someone lifted his head. A very beautiful, but sly and cruel looking face was in front of him, the delinquent smirking at him. "Hey there little fox. Wei Wuxian, was it? Nice to meet you." He said before striking him to knock him out.

The beast hunter looked at Wen Qing for a few moments as he had his jumping corpses pick up the unconscious fox, before just deciding to leave her there. She was none of his business, after all. She'd fallen easily for his trap, a spray of knockout potion in her face when she rolled an injured man over. Underhanded? Yes. Clever? Also yes.

He'd let those purple-robed cultivators he saw take care of her. Or not. Either way, he figured he should leave before someone spotted him, so he did.

Some time later, Wei Ying groaned as he came to, rubbing his head- and stopping as he felt something cold and metallic drag against his face. Opening his eyes (And feeling very, very strangely uncomfortable) he realized two things; One, he was bound with power-sealing chains. And two, he was behind bars, and could smell and hear other beasts nearby. (None that were fully sentient though.) Also, he was half naked. His vehement cursing drew the attention of the one who brought him there, the sly twin-tailed black cat from before. He sauntered over, grinning in an eager, sensual way as he folded his arms and leaned against the wall opposite Wei Ying's cell. "Well, you finally woke up. I was starting to worry." 

Wei Ying gave him a once-over, his expression very unimpressed. "If you wanted to chat, you could have just done so. There was no need for all this. Where's my guard?" 

"Oh, she's fine. For now. I know how to keep my guests cooperative." He replied casually, taking a candy from his pocket and unwrapping it meticulously. "I gotta say though, maybe you should consider getting new guards? It was so remarkably easy to steal you away from them." 

"I'm not at the top of my game today, or you would have found all this much more difficult." He replied glibly. "And I'm pretty sure you're used to dealing with beasts and demons. What did you use on her?" 

"One of my own concoctions I use for felines. How did you guess?" 

"I can recognize a hunter when I see one, I'm just surprised you're a beast, too. Not many of us turn on each other." 

He shrugged as he popped the candy in his mouth, then tossed one through the bars to the fox. "Perhaps not, but I'm far from typical. And, for that matter, so are you. That was very impressive, that trick you pulled earlier. And only a three-tailed fox? You'll be going places, kid. What do you say to working for me?" 

He laughed. "Me? Work for you? Why on earth would I ever want to do that?"

"Oh, there are benefits to becoming mine." He replied as the fox picked up the candy and sniffed it. "You can even bring your lions along if you want. They seem like they'd be good assets to have." 

"They're my friends." He replied, putting the candy aside. "And so far, you're not giving me a great first impression. Hardcore imprisonment and bondage on the first meeting? You're not really my type." 

The cat laughed back, shaking his head. "Well, we have plenty of time to convince you, so I won't press the matter right now. I'll go get you some food and some tea, don't go anywhere~!" 

Wei Ying watched him leave, before slumping back against the stone wall, frowning as he fanned at himself again. Why was he feeling so hot? He couldn't think straight, either.... By the time the hunter came back, he was laying on the floor, pressing as much of his torso as he could against the cool stone, skin flushed and panting. This made the cat frown, and after a moment or two of deliberation, he set down the meal and unlocked the door, holding a blade in his off-hand just in case and going over to check on his prize. 

Holy shit, he was burning up! Shit, he didn't want him dying! Was he sick? Is that why he was hauling that doctor around?

As he was trying to figure out what to do, something in the air changed, and his eyes went wide. Oh. Oh, shit . "FUCK, that's not what I wanted!" the hunter spat, an annoyed grimace coming to his face, rubbing his forehead as he crouched next to the feverish fox. That screwed up his plans. A beta or an alpha would have been fine, but he had a personal policy about other omegas.

Knowing this was about to go to shit, he sighed in frustration and began walking around the cell, putting up talismans, before leaving, and coming back with some clean blankets and pillows. Wei Ying frowned and whined when he smelled a couple, pushing them away, they smelled like a different omega, he didn't want any competition in his nest!

"Oh stop that, they're fine. You'll have your own scent on them soon enough." He admonished, flicking his ear as he set a few more things in the cell, then began working on huge, curtain-sized talismans. "I hope your presentation is fucking short, you're already starting to stink up the place." Once he more or less had the cell as ready for this as it was going to be, he left him alone. He stayed for as long as possible before the desperate noises of the teenager drove him out completely, erasing the scent trail behind him as he went. It wasn't that he didn't find Wei Ying attractive, he didn't even fully mind that he was an omega, just his personal code of ethics (what little there was) dictated that taking advantage of him now would be lower than low.

 

--

 

Great. Just, great.

Xue Yang heaved a huge sigh and rubbed the back of his neck, grumbling to himself as he walked down the road, a couple of bags of candy and food in a basket he was carrying, tossing a piece into his mouth. Go figure the fox he captured two nights ago was an omega. And just when he thought he'd found a good alpha or beta candidate for his pack, too. He'd stuck around for as long as he could before getting the hell out of there, the smell and the sounds were upsetting his own omega side in ways he couldn't quite explain.

Now he had to figure out what the hell to do with him once he got out of his first heat. Ugh, he could still smell him all over. First thing he was going to do when he got to the hot springs was take a damn bath.


In a frenzy after having returned with the Wen clan archer to find Wei Wuxian missing and his sister raging over some sort of sneak attack...? Wen Ning was scouting out all the nearby cities for any sign of the omega. If they couldn't find him......Luo Binghe was definitely going to skin their hides and surely, Shen Qingqiu wouldn't even do anything to stop him! It was in this high-strung anxious state, that he was asking around locals of yet another town within the region over any hints of his Young Master before he caught the slight hints of a destressed omega on the air. And what's more, once he focused in on that scent, he realized that he knew that scent, that it was Wei Wuxian's . Whirling around to try and catch sight of the the omega in question, he was only led to an unfamiliar face. An omega by the smell of him, but drenched in Wei Wuxian's own distressed pheromones. In a bout of rage, for how else could the scent be explained away other than that this person had been involved in his disappearance, Wen Ning was quick to dart over to the stranger, grabbing a fistful of black clothing and throwing the person against the wall of the closest building, thankfully out of the way enough that passersby likely wouldn't notice them at first glance. With a dark growl, he stared down the other, shorter man (teen??) as he bit out, "Where is the Young Master?"

 

Caught by surprise (literally), at first there was no resistance from the feline, just a whoosh of air being forced from his lungs, a hand coming up to grip one of the wrists holding him. Clever yellow eyes looked up at him and he smiled devilishly, showing off his fangs. Well well well, if it wasn't the one of the lions from earlier~! "Who?" He asked, playing innocent.

 

Wen Ning wasn’t amused by that answer and he responded in kind with a little eye roll as he said, “I can smell him on you. Don’t play dumb. Where is he?”

 

"Ooooh, the fox. Well, he's not here, obviously." He said as he looked around. "Don't worry, he's not in any danger...right now." He said. "That being said, pretty awful timing for him to hit presentation, don't you think? It would be a shame if he was never found..."

 

Growling again, he gave the other cat a harsh glare as he said, "That's why I have you . You're going to take me back to where you took him." Surely, he had more strength than this stranger, he could overpower him if he needed to.

 

He lifted his eyebrows. "Now? While he's still presenting? Oh, I get it. You want him for yourself, is that right?" He reached out and straightened the fronts of the lion's robes, fingers brushing against his chest as he did so. "Big Alpha like you, he wouldn't be able to-" In mid-sentence, he suddenly ducked down, dropping the basket he held in his opposite hand as he slid something out of his wrist bracers, then threw a handful of sand up in his face before leaping to the side and taking off at a run, going to his half form as he did so.

 

Barely able to cover his face in time, he was forced to look away for a brief moment as the sand settled again. Once it had, he immediately pulled his bow and two arrows out, notching both as he used his ears to pinpoint which direction the cat had fled and turned towards it. Barely checking his aim as he held the bow sideways, he released the arrows, both hitting their mark and piercing both his calves.

 

"Shit-!" He cursed as he stumbled, seeming more annoyed than actually in pain as he flung one of the hidden knives he was carrying, the other hand reaching down to yank out one of the arrows, before deciding to wait for a better chance later instead, the lion seemed pretty impatient.

 

Clicking his tongue in mild annoyance that that didn't seem to stop him well enough, Wen Ning readied another arrow as he ran to catch up to him, knocking the knife away with the body of his bow.

 

He threw a dagger from his other hand as he drew his sword, trying to get more room between them, and preparing to use some of the drug powder he was carrying with him. He was a delinquent, mercenary and hunter, so playing fair was not something he usually did.

 

Raising his bow, he shot down the blade to throw it off its course before immediately notching another arrow and firing it at Xue Yang's shoulder. From what he'd heard from his sister about what happened after he'd left to chase down Lan Wangji's attacker, he'd probably need to keep a close eye over anything this person did.

 

He proved to be incredibly flexible, leaping backwards to avoid the strike before trying to dive behind a building, wanting to get more cover before using his cat form to try and sneak away.

 

Annoyingly enough, what started next was some sort of hide and seek game, something Wen Ning was not appreciative of. If Wei Ying was already that distressed right when his presentation started, just how bad would he be the longer it took for him to find him and bring him to somewhere more familiar? This tiny cat needed to cut with the bullshit right now . He was still able to get a good track on where he was so he knew he was still in the area, but the instant he came up on his hiding spot, the cat was gone again. Eventually growing fed up with this, he shifted into his half-form and jumped up onto the nearest roof, pressing himself down against the roof tiles and keeping his eyes and ears open for the possibility of the cat reappearing in a better capture point.

 

Xue Yang was grinning widely, he hadn't had this much fun for quite a while. Frustrating the strong lion demon and keeping one step ahead of him was fairly delightful, and he wondered just how long he could keep this game up.

After a while, the minutes passing by, he slowly realized he seemed to have lost him or given up. Smile slowly fading, he began cautiously looking for him, but he didn't reappear. Well, dang. He'd hoped the alpha would have chased for longer.

Sighing in disappointment, he unwrapped a candy and began walking back, shifting back to his peeking form so as to not alarm the humans too much as he walked back towards his shopping. He could feel blood, dried and crusted on the backs of his calves, as well as a new trickle dripping down and sighed. He should probably fix that as well. It hurt like a bitch and a half, and it was leaving a scent trail. He spotted his basket and sauntered towards it.

 

Thankfully his worn down patience paid off as he spotted the cat mostly back in his human form and nonchalantly walking past his vantage point. Waiting until he was just in front of his hiding spot and with his back to him, he kicked off the roof and darted down towards him, tackling him to the ground. In the few short dazed moments his pounce gave him, Wen Ning pulled out some immortal binding cables and quickly restrained the cat with them.

 

Saying that Xue Yang was startled would be an understatement. He hadn't smelled him! He hadn't heard him! One moment he was upright, the next he was stunned and trying to regain his breath, getting bound up by this lion!

Before he could try to get away again, he was rather expertly bound, hands behind his back, arms to torso, and neck to wrists. He couldn't get at most of his hidden weapons either. If any.

He found himself grinning in a feral sort of way, which turned to a smirk as he was hoisted up. "...That's a nice look you have there," he said upon seeing the aggression on his face, flashing his incisors. It made him want to bring him down.

 

Growling as he forced his new captive up to his feet, he directed him over to the basket the other had left by keeping a grip on the cables around his wrists and peered inside said basket. If it seemed safe enough, he'd take it with them, but otherwise, his priority was being led to where he had taken Wei Wuxian and nothing more. "Save it. I only need your voice for leading me to where you took the Young Master."

 

The basket contained food and candy...a lot of candy. Kind of ridiculous how much there was, actually. And other sweets. But also there was some pretty nice quality food of a more nutritional type inside, something that, as a person with a medical background, Wen Ning might recognize as being good for presenting omegas of a carnivorous species. He rolled his eyes, still smirking. "He's actually pretty safe at the moment, you know." He said as he got pushed and pulled around by the nether lion. "I'm not saying he's not my type, but I have a personal policy regarding omegas. If he presented as alpha, on the other hand, I might have seduced him already." He looked back at the big cat slyly again. "You're kinda agitated just smelling him on me. You sure you could control yourself if you were actually in his presence? Hmm?"

 

Taking the basket with his free hand, he fixed the other with a hard stare. "You underestimate me and misread my motivations. Now tell me where you have him." He'd had time to settle his affections and he'd been able to control himself during his ruts. Wen Ning wasn't worried about losing himself around Wei Ying's presence. And surely if he ever so much as thought about making an advance, his hide would become a dragon's new throw rug.

 

He shrugged, and looked around distractedly, an ear flicking as his twin tails waved. His claws couldn't cut the cables, so that wasn't an option.... "I dunno, I don't think that's a good idea. What's in it for me? What happens to me after I take you to him, huh? Outlived my usefulness, perhaps?"

 

...That wasn't something he had even thought of and it wasn't something he really could think of. His sister was always the more aggressive alpha, he didn't necessarily embody the typical alpha himself, after all. So he didn't answer. If he wasn't going to cooperate, he might as well cut his losses and track Wei Wuxian the old fashioned way. It would take longer, unfortunately, but what else was he to do? And so, dragging his delinquent along, he focused in on Wei Wuxian's distressed scent for any other sources it was coming from.

 

After examining his face for a little longer, he sighed heavily and jerked his chin in a direction. "I used a pheromone obstructing spray on my way here. I'm not going to let some random alpha dickwad jump him while I'm out. You won't find him without me, so come on. Let's make a deal?"

 

Wen Ning eyed him suspiciously and while he didn't want to just go with this without question, he did need to find Wei Wuxian. "...What kind of deal? You don't exactly lend yourself much favor with having kidnapped him in the first place."

 

"If I hadn't someone else would have." He said with an unrepentant shrug. "Plenty of people saw him controlling a huge amount of undead, without any visible cost. He's plenty valuable. So here's what I'm thinking. Your Young Master Wei is an omega. I'm an omega. I fight dirty and I'm a tricky son of a queen who can spot those like me from forty li away. After letting him go, my credibility as a hunter is going to be shot anyway, so how about you guys hire me? Two birds, one stone. You get to watch me and make sure I play like a nice kitty, and get a new bodyguard for him in the deal. I'll even sign a servitude contract with him."

 

He was silent for a time after the explanation. Eventually, however, he got out, "I can't guarantee that until everyone in my party agrees." A beta or omega bodyguard that could stay in the same room as Wei Wuxian would certainly be preferable to how they were currently dealing with things, but this cat still wasn't completely trustworthy. He couldn't just hire him on the spot like that. Hopefully that inability wouldn't affect his chance to get to whatever building he had brought the fox to.

 

He tilted his head, thinking it over for a minute or two. "Alright, good enough for now. You still need a way to get him out, I guess. We start going that way." He said with a nod of his head.

 

Looking in the direction he pointed, he nodded more so to himself and led them both down that way. He repeated this all the way until the instructions stopped.



Xue Yang did consider jerking his chain again, but the possibility he could stalk them for a while and harass this alpha more was too much to pass up. "Alright, it's in here..." He guided him through an array into a cave system that was very well maintained. It was.... creepy. Various cells and pens with wards or talismans, several containing various undead, only a couple with monsters or beasts inside, most feeling sinister. He paused, and looked back at Wen Ning before saying "Wen Ning, wasn't it? I'm Xue Yang. I hope we work well together."

 

--

 

Wei Wuxian was in hell. He was certain of it. His whole body was weak, it burned, and slick was practically gushing from his hole. Whimpering weakly, he struggled to remove his pants, pushing them down to his knees before he began to touch himself. His whimpers turned to whines, whines into husky moans, and then eventually choked, desperate keening for his alpha, he wanted his alpha, he was hot and he hurt and he couldn't satisfy himself properly- He wasn't aware of it when he finally fell asleep, as his dream was more torture. He was in a cell still, on a nest of borrowed things, and the manacles were still on his wrists and ankles, but now the chains had twisted around him, tangling him up, restricting him further. He choked out a sob, turning his burning face against the soft bedding beneath him, pumping his hips up ineffectually into the air as his dick painfully throbbed and dribbled precum all over himself. "P-please, aaaaaahhaaaaahn, s-so hot, please make it stop, I'm burning , it hurts , pleaaaaaaaahehehease, I-I need my alpha, ahk-!"

 

On top of the injury he needed to recover from, Lan Wangji was on edge extremely late into the night and therefore hadn't noticed when he had passed out from exhaustion over his worry about where Wei Ying was and why he hadn't already made an appearance within Cloud Recesses. And it seemed as if his nerves had translated over into whatever dream he was now having...? How else could he explain why he was now at the entrance of what seemed to be a prison? He was not looking forward to figuring out what was in this building. Stepping in, he didn't seem to notice anything unusual at first. The first several cells had no hints of prisoners so perhaps this would be less eventful than he had initially assumed. However, that eventually changed when he caught a whiff of a deliciously sweet but also spicy, rich scent. Both achingly familiar and not at all, Lan Wangji furrowed his brows as he sped up his pace, unsure if this seemingly singular (?) presence should be something of worry. Upon finally reaching the source of that scent , his golden eyes only took in the sight of black and red furry ears for perhaps a second or two before the full brunt of just what this scent meant washed over him and he was filled with an overwhelming lust . Gripping two of the cell bars, he pried apart the metal like it was simply putty and glided in. Pupils dilating even further at the wet mess that spilled across the other's ass, thighs, and stomach and the chains ensnaring this beautifully heated body, he didn't even try to see if the omega underneath him needed preparation, surely he didn't with how wet he was, he wasted no time, freed his already stiff erection, and thrust in with one quick motion.

 

The omega let out a confused yelp, jolting at the sudden contact and intrusion, but the sound quickly changed into a relieved, lewd moan, rolling his body against the invader as his hazy gray eyes opened, unable to see quite clearly; everything was blurry. At first, realizing that someone was there , someone was taking him, had him squirming and whining a small no , thinking it might be his abductor and he wasn't the one he wanted- why was his body being such a slut?! " No, no, please, Alpha, want my alpha, A-a-Zhan, I need A-Zhan, please-! "

 

Growling, that only served to rile him up more, not registering that the fox seemed to be confused about his surroundings. On some vague, perhaps instinctual inkling, he was able to quickly re-find the spot within him that punched out those beautiful moans and exquisite arches of his body, a primal force within him driving the dragon to piston his hips into Wei Ying, heedless of his pleas.

 

He let out a wail of agonized pleasure, feeling incredibly conflicted. It felt amazing , he was striking just the right spot every time, hard and fast and it was shooting sparks through his nerves to implode behind his eyes, torturing him with it. "Ah, ah!! Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, please, Alpha, I-I want-!" He wanted Lan Zhan, only Lan Zhan, no one else!! He wanted his god-damned alpha! He strained and twisted against the chains, letting out teary gasps and mewls as he was steadily pushed higher and higher, ever closer to climax. His pleas falling on dead ears, he could only bite his lower lip to try and resist crying out loud as he arched and his sex began spasming, rippling along the shaft inside him, a streak of fluid erupting from his tip to splash across his belly.

 

With Wei Ying gasping out his name, he thought nothing of the possibility that the fox didn't realize it really was him. A hand firmly gripping his hip, he used his other hand to explore the other's body, starting with caressing whatever smooth skin of his legs he could access around the chains before moving around to the wound-up arch of his back and then across his front to rub at his stomach, subsequently smearing the come that had dripped onto it all over the skin there.

 

The relentless pounding, even through his peak, caused the climax to drag out longer than usual, his poor brain getting further fogged by omega hormones, his body exuding that seductive scent as an encouragement to this alpha. He felt like each nerve ending in his body was hypersensitive, to the chains rubbing against him and leaving marks, to the hands that wandered his body, to the cock trying to carve its shape into him-

 

With that enticing smell filling the air around them, it really didn’t take too much longer before he was reaching his own climax as well. After a particularly rough stroke, he was coming within the fox, mouth tilted in to bite into the flesh of the other’s thigh as his knot locked them together.

 

"Hnnaah, fuck-!" He cursed, the knot pressing against all those little sweet spots and that damn bite tipping him over another peak, letting his head fall back as he began to come down from his orgasm, groaning pitifully as his body gripped him tightly. He could feel that his face was a bit wet from tears, but right now he just felt nice and floaty and wanted to burrow into his nest with his alpha-

 

Now that the immediate need to claim had subsided, Lan Wangji was more level-headed as he gave Wei Ying soothing pets and little kisses across his legs. Reaching a hand up, he gently wiped at some of the fox's tears as he finally spoke. "Wei Ying?"

 

Ears twitching at the sound of his voice, he blinked rapidly, trying to get rid of the tears and filmy haze. Once he saw who was there, he let out a sigh and a relieved sort of cough, then rubbed his face against his hand. "Lan Zhan." He said, voice a bit hoarse. He was still hot, but he could think a little now. He could smell sandalwood and Lan Zhan. It was his alpha, his alpha was here, he was safe now, it was going to be okay. He shuddered again and whined softly as his walls flexed around the dragon's cock, and felt the knot locking them together. "Lan Zhan, I'm so hot , and I don't like my nest , it doesn't smell like me or you here, scent me more, please~"

 

"Mn." Annoyed with the chains around his legs, Lan Wangji froze and then snapped a few of the links, enough so that he could bring the fox's legs to either side of him and properly lean over him. Bringing the omega into a kiss, he let a hand move to the other's scent gland, rubbing circles over it as he allowed his own scent pheromones to permeate the air, Wei Ying, and his nest. He also was unhappy with the strange scents he could now pick up on and so of course he'd be more than willing to get rid of them . Only he was allowed near Wei Ying during his heat.

 

The fox hummed into the kiss, both sides of himself immensely happy that the strange scents were being erased and overwritten. His legs wrapped around Lan Zhan's waist, wanting to hold him close, as deep as he possibly could, feeling the heavy liquid weight of his seed sloshing inside him. He still couldn't move his arms, but what he lacked in mobility he made up for in enthusiasm. He opened his mouth for the young alpha, inviting him in so he could suck on his lips and tongue.

 

Quick to set about mapping the inside of his mouth, the dragon rolled his hips slowly as his hands moved down to roam across the fox's chest once he was satisfied with the thorough scenting he gave. Remembering some of the sensitive spots that worked in the last dream, he moved his hands over to press against or tweak at those spots.

 

"Mm-mmh, mmmnnh~" he moaned into his mouth, shuddering and trying to move in time to his deep, grinding movements as the knot continued to press against such wonderful spots. This time, at least he could remember to breathe through his nose, so he didn't have to break the kiss. He tugged at his arms, wanting to touch him back, and a little peeved that he couldn't.

 

Noticing the movement, he pulled out of the kiss, taking a brief moment to simply admire the fox beneath him before taking some of the chains in hand and breaking them much like he had with the ones that had been around his legs. With that finally out of the way, he then leaned in to nuzzle at his neck before starting to suck bite marks into his torso, hands gently soothing any areas that had been rubbed raw by the metal chains.

 

Wei Ying lifted his arms and wrapped them around his neck and shoulders, the feeling of him helping to anchor in the present moment. He enjoyed the bites and markings, and wanted to return them, leaving little light scratches on his shoulders and back.

 

Giving a little encouraging growl, Lan Wangji finally felt his knot deflate enough for him to pull out without harming Wei Ying, although he didn't actually take the moment to leave the omega, not when he was so at home within him. Instead, he started up with longer, slower thrusts as he opened up the fox's legs wider to reach even deeper within him.

 

It took the fox a few moments to realize what position he was being put in, but when he did, he could feel his member bounce between them as he groaned in arousal. His claws scraped against the powerful shoulders as he let his head fall back, heat flaring back through his body as Lan Zhan began gently, but deeply doing him in the position he'd pointed out to him in reality months ago.

 

Leaning back in to cover his skin with more bites Lan Wangji let his hands drop in temperature, icy cold fingers brushing across the fox's heated skin as his hips once again found that special spot within Wei Ying and forced waves upon waves of pleasure against him with each sensual thrust into him.

 

Shocked at first by the cold on his super-heated skin, he yipped a bit, but subsided quickly once he got used to it, the cool temperature of his mate relieving some of the agony of his heat. Unable to grip him with his legs, he continued to grip and stroke his head and shoulders, enjoying being able to muss his usually orderly hair and disturb his ribbon.

 

Quickening his thrusts, he paid no mind to what Wei Ying was doing with his hair or ribbon, focusing instead on the little noises the fox made with a particular thrust or caress across his skin with his cold fingers. Brushing his lips against the omega's temple, he looked down at those hazy, grey eyes before asking, "Wei Ying...what do you want?" Any request he wished of him would be done, he was determined to ensure it.

 

Blinking slowly, it took a few moments for the question to sink in. Then, keeping eye contact with the alpha, he turned his head and arched his neck, exposing, surrendering everything to the dragon. "Bite me, A-Zhan, please- I want to be yours, your mate-" he whispered feverishly. "I want to be bred, want your cubs, I want everything-"

 

Pupils dilating, he growled as his thrusts intensified, moving faster and rougher as he brought him into a heated kiss, a hand moving up to cup the back of his neck, fingers possessively covering what would soon bear his claim. Pulling just a hair's breadth away from Wei Ying's mouth after attacking it, he whispered back, "Mine. A-Ying, my mate. Will breed you, give you cubs, give you everything."

 

His moan was as eager as it was desperate and he shuddered with arousal as he wrapped his arms and legs around him again, holding on for dear life as he felt the coil of another orgasm building up as he messily kissed him again, his lips, his jaw, leaning up to nip his earlobe. "Aaah, A-Zhan, A-Zhan, Alpha, I'm gonna-!" He tensed, once more drawing some blood on the other's back as he came, voice cutting out before keening out in a lewd groan.

 

Using that opportunity, he brought Wei Ying in even closer, tilting his head so that he had easy access to the fox's neck, teeth sinking in as the climax washed over the omega. Hips stuttering over the sheath clenching around him, he forced through a few more thrusts before he was releasing as well inside the fox.

 

Wei Ying's eyes rolled in his head from the influx of hormones and sheer emotion and pleasure running riot in his body. He couldn't speak, couldn't think, about anything but how right this was and how his omega side was purring like mad in his mind. All he could do was hold onto him, kiss him, enjoy what his alpha was giving him....

Once the waves of orgasm finally stopped rolling through his body, he went limp as a rag doll in his limbs, humming and chirping happily as he luxuriated in the binding pheromones he was now sharing with his mate, his heat sharply banking for the moment.

 

With his knot locking them together once more, Lan Wangji twisted them around so that he was now the one on his back with Wei Ying resting atop him. Running his hands gently down his sides and back, he nuzzled at the omega, peppering him with little kisses as they laid there.

 

The omega took advantage of this nice new position to begin licking and sucking on a gland on the side of the Alpha's neck himself, before biting just as firmly as the alpha had, if not as suddenly. His womb felt nice and full, his mate was just the right temperature and everything in the world was absolutely perfect in this moment.

 

Shuddering at the pleasant tingle that shot down his spine, he let Wei Ying mark him as he pleased before he cupped the side of his face when he seemed to be slowing down and brought their lips together in a loving kiss.

 

Tail tip wagging lightly, Wei Ying brought his hands up to delve into his hair, one going down to tease his ear in particular, kissing him back, testing with his lips, teeth and tongue to see what he liked best- 

When he woke up, he was very confused, disoriented, and feeling a bit upset. He was alone, everything smelled wrong again, and (as he reached up to feel his neck) unmarked as well.

Wei Ying had never hated the idea of being an omega so much before. This lusting for his friend (and it being just a dream when he woke up) was increasingly frustrating to him. He was all wet and sticky now, too. Gross. At least the heat seemed to be at a low point now...

 

Startling awake, Lan Wangji was initially disoriented as he looked around the Jingshi. Yet another one of those dreams that felt so real (and also left real evidence soaked into his pants). The doctor definitely wouldn’t approve of him getting up while still recovering from his injury, but he had to clean himself of the evidence.

 

"Here he is. Huh, seems like the first wave is over..." 

Wei Ying jumped a little and made sure he pulled the edges of his robes over himself better, chains rattling a bit. His face was still red as hell, but he smiled when he saw Wen Ning through the bars next to the demon cat. "Wen Ning. Hey," he said, waving weakly, his voice a bit raspy. "This, uh...happened early, huh?"

 

Back in his human form by now, Wen Ning moved closer to the bars worriedly. "Y-Young Master...D-did...ah...W-well never mind..." He probably knew the answer to his own question anyways. Second Young Master Lan probably accidentally sped up Wei Wuxian's presentation. It wasn't that much of a secret how much the fox missed the dragon. "D-do you need a-anything? U-unscented blankets or p-pillows? F-food? W-water? Or s-should I bring you b-back to Jiejie?"

 

"I'd like the chains off, probably." He said after a moment, looking around the room to see that surprisingly, it was fairly well stocked. "Still smells funny in here, but I think moving during... this... would be a bad idea. Maybe send Wen Qing a message talisman?" He looked at the smirking, slender feline next to him, and seeing he was tied up, he wound up chuckling as he pushed himself upright and smiled arrogantly. "Bondage without permission isn't fun, is it?"

Xue Yang’s smirk broadened into a grin as he rolled his head on his neck, eyes flicking to Wen Ning as he replied. "Actually, for someone so strong and bulky, he's pretty gentle. I don't mind this sort of alpha." Wei Ying frowned, then had a moment of struggling with his emotions and expression. That was...both amusing and disturbing at the same time. He looked at his bodyguard bestie with sympathy. Poor guy. He wasn't very good with this type in sweetheart mode. Or so he thought. "Did, uh... did something happen? I smell blood." Not very clearly though, thanks to the scent blocking talismans.

 

Wen Ning was very much trying not to look or pay attention to Xue Yang. Object permanence, right? (He wasn't an infant anymore, but he could still pretend it worked, right?) "O-oh, that...T-that was c-capturing him earlier... I, um...I-I can contact Jiejie...B-but, uh, first..." and regrettably, he had to acknowledge Xue Yang for this part, "W-where's the key for the d-door and shackles?"

 

He looked at him and lifted his eyebrows. "Why would I use something as simple as a key on restraints for beasts and spirits?" He asked, sounding genuinely bewildered. "I use spells and arrays to keep everything locked. You want him out, you'll have to untie me."

 

That caused quite a bit of a dilemma. He definitely did not trust Xue Yang enough to let him loose, but he also didn't want Wei Wuxian to be even more uncomfortable during his presentation. Silently struggling between which two options to go with, his desire to help the fox more eventually won out. "T-this'd better not be a t-trick to e-escape..." For all he knew, the deal he proposed earlier could also be some ploy to ensure his later escape.

 

He laughed boisterously, flashing his white teeth. "Maybe! It would be fun to play chase with you again. But, not right now, my legs still hurt. And I doubt I could convince you to help me treat them if I annoyed you much more than this." Besides, he was trying to be on his best behavior, so he could try and stick with this interesting group for a while.

The omega in the cell watched them both with some interest as he grabbed some nearby water and food.

 

Fumbling with the cables, he gradually got the smaller cat freed from his bindings, tucking the cables back into his sleeves for easy access in case he attempted to try anything. He also then shifted to place his body between Xue Yang and the entrance they had gone through to get here. Just in case...

 

For a long moment or two, both of the two Chunshan citizens could see that Xue Yang was tempted . He wanted to fuck with the lion just because he could, because he wanted to get a rise out of him. He managed to suppress his instinct, however, and let out a put-upon sigh as he crouched down to mess with a few spell runes, using another hidden knife to casually cut his index finger and paint over some marks. The door swung open and allowed them in, and he next worked on the sealing chains, Wei Ying watching the process with some obvious interest, hoping to learn a little.

Before long, the manacles popped off, falling to the ground as the delinquent merc stood back up, licking the blood on his hand. "There. All better."

 

Satisfied that Wei Wuxian would be more comfortable now, Wen Ning pulled out a blank talisman and wrote down the insignias for their communication talismans with his spiritual energy. Infusing it with the message he wanted sent to his sister as well as a guidance clause to give her information on how to get to them, he released it into the air and let it disperse as it found its way to Wen Qing. Eyeing Xue Yang awkwardly, he then wondered if he needed to take action and tie him up again, and if he did, would it be another long skirmish in order to do so?

 

He tilted his head at the look, and slowly smiled again. "Hmm? What are you thinking? How you wanna tie me up this time?" 

"A-Ning, look over there, I think those are Beast Sealing Collars." Wei Ying said as he pointed, making Xue Yang's smile fade a bit. The collars were primarily used to lock a beast cultivator into their animal form. This was dangerous sometimes given that many beast cultivators had dangerous true forms, but Xue Yang's true form was just a Demonic Twin-tailed Cat. They were incredibly popular as pets for being clever, long lived, and not naturally dangerous with their power sealed. Wei Ying saw his face fall and smirked at him cheekily. Vengeance was sweet.

 

Nodding in understanding, Wen Ning grabbed Xue Yang's wrists to make sure he couldn't run off before also grabbing one of the collars and locking it around his neck. With that taken care of, he then looked to Wei Wuxian in question. "I-Is there a-anything else you n-need Y-Young Master?"

 

Xue Yang did try to evade the grab, but more because the collar was annoying than he was full-out resisting. Once the band was around his neck, he cursed as there was a brief flash and suddenly, there was a sleek black house cat with two tails and golden eyes standing there instead. His tails lashed and he turned to leave the room.

Wei Ying shook his head. "Just keep an eye on him- Um, actually, maybe I will take some different bedding if you have any." He added after a moment, making a face as he felt more slick leaking from his lower body, starting to feel warm again. "And... Ahem then I think I'd like some privacy for a bit? I can call you with a talisman if I need anything else."

 

"O-of c-course! I-I can t-try to find s-something and n-neutralize it...f-for later..." Well, actually...maybe he didn't need to come back here to deliver more bedding in person. If he sent it along by attaching it to his sword, he could help the fox with his nest while also giving him the privacy he wanted. "I-I'll go a-and look around..." And with that, he turned and exited the way Xue Yang went, keeping an eye out for anything along these cave paths that he could send over to him.

 

The cat was trotting back the way they came, to one of the candy bags in the basket, which he promptly clawed open, grabbing a piece in his mouth to lick and suck on. He settled into a proper regal cat statue pose with tails curled in poise to either side of him, watching Wen Ning with a hard to read expression.

 

Pointedly not looking directly over at the cat (but of course still remaining aware enough of his presence to know if he ever tried anything), he busied himself with rummaging around the area, looking for anything soft he could get to Wei Wuxian after a thorough scent neutralizing. If he couldn't find anything here, he'd have to rely on his sister to take care of that. Which then gave him the thought of sending another message to her about what to expect here. If she could buy something for him on her way over, that should work just as well too. And so, with that in mind, he sent out another communication talisman with that information attached to it.

 

Eventually, the feline grew lazy and yawned, flopping onto his side and stretching out. "Hey, Wen Ning. I'm hungry, but can't cook the fresh food I brought home for myself and your Young Master. Can you cook? Cook for us!" He urged. "If you do, I'll show you my room. Plenty of nesting materials in there."

 

Glancing over at what was in the basket of food again, he ran through some ideas on what he could possibly even make with them. He wasn't the most skilled with cooking, but he knew enough to get by while camping and whatnot. He was a bit better suited to medicines due to his sister's influence (though, of course, he was still far from mastering that too). Picking up the basket after a long moment, he walked over to what he noticed earlier as a kitchen, looking around for what was here as he said, "Wen Qionglin. N-not Wen Ning." Congee would be nice and simple to make and it should be easy enough for Wei Wuxian to eat even with meat included to replenish his protein levels.

 

"...Wow, what a pretty name. Not as pretty as mine though." He said as he turned to watch. "Xue Chengmei. Not bad, huh?"

 

...It wasn't, but... Wen Ning didn't look up from what he was doing as he said, "...D-don't seem too g-gentlemanly to m-match..." Sure he hadn't harmed Wei Wuxian outside of possible chafing from the shackles, but he'd been the one to kidnap him in the first place and trap him in one of the worst possible places for a heat.

 

The retort made him chuckle. "I'm not, really. I'm a damn delinquent and a demon. But I do have standards." He rolled more on the table, then cursed slightly as the motion disagreed with his leg injuries. "Fuck, I forgot about those." He grumbled. He hated when blood dried on his fur, it made it all matted and stiff.

 

Finishing up with the congee, he set aside Wei Wuxian's portion with a heating talisman to keep it warm for when his current wave was over. Glancing over at where Xue Yang was lounging, he knew the wounds he had inflicted weren't life-threatening at all and so he made no moves to treat them as some quiet form of payback for the hassle he went through to get here. "J-jiejie can t-take care of t-those..."

 

"Aaaaaaaaaa, so heartless, Qionglin... Hmm, A-Lin? Lin'er? Xiao Lin? Unlike someone , all I did to your friends and family was knock out two people and restrain one, I drew no blood, poor me~" he meowed pitifully, but was actually fairly amused by the spine the stuttering bodyguard was showing. He decided to relieve his pain by being as annoying as possible, a decision further influenced by being trapped in beast form and therefore unable to properly treat himself.

 

"...P-please d-don't nickname me...I-I don't t-trust you that m-much..." Having finished with cooking and set everything for that aside, he started up again with looking around the cave system for things he could bring to Wei Wuxian. Xue Yang had mentioned showing him where bedding was, but he'd taken it with some degree of skepticism due to his mistrust of the cat. For all he knew, he could be pulling his strings just to get a meal out of it.

 

The cat insisted on following him around, limp or not, and continued to harass him and complain. Eventually, Wen Qing finally showed up, and checked on Wei Ying to make sure he was more or less okay before turning her attention to the demon hunter. ".... A cat." She said, very unimpressed as she looked down at the small beast. "You're the one behind this whole mess?"

"Yep. It was me." He confessed readily. "But now I'm more interested in joining you than opposing you. I mean, unless you're going to kill me, isn't it more sensible to make use of me rather than keep me prisoner all the time? Don't you think I have ways of getting out of my own restraints?"

 

Keeping his focus more on his sister now than Xue Yang, he told her through direct speech, "That's what he told me once I restrained him...wanted a deal since his reputation as a hunter is apparently shot now...But we would need a consensus, especially from Young Master Wei..."

 

Wen Qing was looking skeptical, and Xue Yang continued to elaborate. "I'd be willing to enter a blood contract with your Young Master. Or, one of you two." Blood contracts could have a time limit, or be permanent, tying the servant part of the pact to the life of the master. If they died, no harm to the master. If the master died, the servant would follow. A perk would be if the master part of the equation had a longer life span, it tended to lengthen the natural lifespan of the servant part of the equation.

"....We can ask Wuxian when he's more coherent." She said to Wen Ning. "It's not a bad idea, but...." He did seem a bit....crass. "For now, take the collar off him, A-Ning. I'll treat his legs." It was easier to treat wounds without fur getting stuck or needing to be shaved off.

 

Nodding, but still rather apprehensive about it, he crouched down to undo the collar around Xue Yang's neck, keeping a hold on it as he straightened again and moved back over to Wen Qing. From this point on, it was more his sister's territory, so he held back in the background to either wait or assist her with tasks or tools.

 

He stretched a bit before rolling over and laying face down on the table, pulling up his pant legs so she could see his calves.

Upon examining the wounds, her eyebrows raised, and she looked at Wen Ning. "How long did you say he ran from you after getting shot?" She asked.

 

"I-I don't know...a-a while...m-my first shots w-were his legs..." With an opening question like that, he could only guess that meant he'd strained or worsened the injuries in some way.

 

She nodded as she looked back at the holes in his legs. When her brother was serious, his strength was impressive. The holes were actually two knuckles deep each, any normal person would have been severely limited by the pain at least if not the actual injury itself, and he'd lost a fair amount of blood. "A-Ning, the blood building medication and the clotting powder, please. Do you feel this?" She asked as she used tweezers to remove the black hairs from his half form that were stuck in the wounds, using a damp cloth to clean the area around them. "Yep, doesn't feel great." He said, smirking again as he pulled a candy from his sleeve and popped it in his mouth. Taking a closer look, his fists had a slight tremor. "High pain tolerance, but I can still feel."

 

Feeling some guilt over the wounds, Wen Ning startled to action and went through Wen Qing’s things to pull out the items she asked for. Bringing them over, he set them down on the ground within arms length of her reach before scooting back a tad.

 

She finished cleaning the wounds, applied the powder, and wrapped them before having him roll over to drink the elixir.

He uncorked it and tipped his head back to swallow it, but then seemed to choke, began coughing like mad, and tossed the bottle away, which Wen Qing managed to catch before it spilled or broke. His hands went to his throat, face red as he began gagging. "Wh-what the FUCK was that- If you're going to poison me, have the fucking decency to make it sweet or at least flavorless!!!" 

Wen Qing looked at the bottle, a bit confused, then snorted and smiled a bit. "A-Ning, this bottle is one of Wuxian's. It's a red ring." 

"You mean that-that's actually supposed to be a medicine?!" He exclaimed, looking mildly horrified. "...I think I'd rather die than drink that again." 

"You didn't even drink all of it and it can't actually hurt you. It does have your spit on it, so you should finish it, don't waste it." He shook his head stubbornly. "Haven't you ever heard the term 'cat's tongue'? This is fucking cruel torture even I wouldn't do." 

"...." She looked at Wen Ning and used her direct speaking technique. “Hold him down and hit his jaw acupoints. Make sure he doesn't choke.” This was an appropriate doctor's revenge.

 

With a slight nod, Wen Ning moved to restrain Xue Yang, hitting the acupoints to force his jaw open. As Wen Qing finished force feeding the medicine, he made sure the other’s head was tilted just enough so that it’d go down smoothly and avoid choking him.

 

He sputtered, swore, cursed, scratched, kicked, and tried to bite, but the siblings had plenty of experience subduing Bai Zhan disciples at Cang Qiong. By the time they finished, Xue Yang was flushed, slightly shaking with rage, and actually very, very slightly teary. Before he could do more, however, Wen Qing took something else from her sleeve and stuck it in his mouth. He looked like he was about to try and murder them both, then stopped and rolled the thing around in his mouth. It was a candy made from milk and ice, something Mobei-Jun made when he was in a good mood, and the cool dairy was helping to ease the burning sensation in his mouth a bit.

His ears flicked in a funny way, along with his tails, before he snorted under his breath and hopped off the table, limping slightly as he went over to his bed and lay down, facing away from them. He'd let them live, this one time. ...And later he'd ask what the heck sort of sweet this was, he'd never had anything like it.

Chapter Text

Despite the physician requesting that he stay in bed longer to recover, Lan Wangji was antsy on a few fronts, one of which being the extra strip of white cloth he had tied around his waist, and the other being the lack of word from Wei Ying. And with both of these reasonings, he quickly got uncomfortable with simply laying down and doing nothing. It left his thoughts running (and on a few occasions, in a...not so chaste situation involving the object of his affections) and so he needed to be keeping busy, even if that was simply walking around Cloud Recesses. Classes were temporarily suspended as they rebuilt what had been damaged that day Lan Wangji had pursued the demon issue and so many were either helping the rebuilding efforts, or meandering about like he was. 

Approaching the gates with their slightly bigger party, Wen Ning alighted from his sword and eyed the seemingly slightly worn out (?) guards at the gates. Knowing that Wei Wuxian was likely the one they'd need to talk to them to be recognized, he waited on the young fox to see what he'd do.

 

Wei Ying hopped off Suibian and sheathed it, holding it in front of him as he saluted the guards, then reached into his robes to take out the jade token. "Hello. We're here to see Lan Wangji." He said as he held it out for them to see. "I'm Wei Wuxian of Cang Qiong, these are my friends and attendants." 

Wen Qing was a little tired as she got off her sword, and also saluted as she tucked the blade away.

Xue Yang was the only one who seemed more or less fine, enjoying his ride with Wen Ning. He'd picked the absolute best bag he had in his base to be a carrying sling, since the lion refused to let him curl up against his chest. Stingy. Oh well, someday maybe.

 

The guards seemed extra hesitant to let them in, but with their Second Young Master's jade token and the unmistakable signature that they could sense around it, they could actually do very little to deny them access. Parting the way for them, one gave a polite, "Of course. Welcome, Young Master Wei," as the other said, "We are unsure where our Second Young Master is as he may be walking aimlessly, but you are free to roam the grounds." 

By this point, Lan Wangji had reached a pavilion near the Library Pavilion which had received some damage during the recent attack. He was restricted from doing any direct assisting with the rebuilding efforts due to his injury (he personally doubted it'd open up again, but clearly their physician had other opinions about that), however, and so it merely remained an observation.

 

"Thank you!" He said as he and the others entered. He picked a leaf up off the ground and drew spirit energy onto it, and told it to "find Lan Zhan!" The red leaf twisted this way and that, folding itself into a bird shape before flying off, the fox following after it. It was a relief to finally be at Cloud Recesses, they'd had a bit of a rough time getting there. According to Xue Yang, there was already a reward being offered for their capture on the hunter network, which is why they'd met up with a couple of ambushes on the way there. The further up they got, the more Wei Ying felt there was something off. The first sign he saw of the battle, he came to a stop, startled as the bird flew ahead to the library. "Cloud Recesses was actually invaded?!" He exclaimed softly to himself in disbelief. Now he was even more worried and followed after where he sensed the bird. 

Meanwhile, the bird flew into one of the library pavilion windows, fluttering over to stick on Lan Wangji's shoulder.

 

Looking down at the makeshift bird, it took Lan Wangji a second or two before he realized just who this must belong to. And really, there was probably only one person who'd ever try to contact him in this manner. Stepping out of the pavilion, he was just in time to meet Wei Ying as the fox was bounding up the stairs to find him. "Wei Ying. You are safe." It certainly should not have taken over a week to arrive in Cloud Recesses after that fight so Lan Wangji had been worried that something had happened to the fox.

 

The second he set eyes on the young male, his face lit up in a smile, glad to see his overall condition was good enough for him to be up and about. "Yep! I'm fine. We got a little held up, but..." He trailed off as he saw the mourning belt, and his smile vanished, looking back at his face in concern. "...Are you okay?"

 

Catching where the other’s gaze went, he was still for some time as he debated over the question. Eventually he nodded, adding an explanation of, “Father passed.” And really, he was doing fine. There was a level of detachment from the whole thing due to his lack of contact with his father. (There was also a hint of jealousy towards his brother, but such feelings were unsuitable and disgraceful for the time and place and so that was thoroughly smothered.) It could certainly be considered worrisome that he wasn’t as emotional over his father’s death compared to his mother’s, but given the circumstances behind their family dynamic, perhaps it couldn’t be helped.

 

The fox watched his expression and bit the inside of his lip a little. He reached out and lightly grabbed his sleeve. "I'm sorry." He said. Close or not, he knew the pain of losing both parents. At least Lan Zhan still had his brother and uncle to help. "...Can we sit together for a bit?"

 

"Mn." Turning back inside the Library Pavilion, he walked over to his usual table and sat down, waiting for Wei Ying to join him at it. He wasn't sure what exactly the fox had in mind with this, but he would go along with it anyways.

 

He looked at the Wen siblings, and Wen Qing nodded, standing outside the door to afford them some privacy. That taken care of, Wei Ying went over to sit by him and cleared his throat, letting his ears and tail peek out as he flipped the furry limb onto his lap, inviting him to pet it. "How's your wound?" He asked as he leaned against his shoulder a bit.

 

"Better. Maiden Wen stopped the damage early. May not have been able to cultivate had it waited until return to Cloud Recesses." There was, of course, also the issue of the attack that had happened simultaneously. There may not have been enough available doctors to tend to him right away.

 

"That's good." He said, giving his friend a sidelong glance. Hmmm... how to get him to open up? "Do you... want to talk about it?" He asked after a moment or two.

 

He was quiet for some time as he absentmindedly pet the fox’s soft tail. He didn’t quite know what to—well, that was a bit of a lie... It was more accurate to say he didn’t want to say anything. Not necessarily because he didn’t want Wei Ying to know, more so because he felt wrong about having even felt what he did in the first place. “...Do not know if I should...”

 

"You don't have to." He said quickly. "But I'm here if you want to talk. Or just, you know. If you want to pet something fluffy. Or want to be pet. Or need a hug. I'm good at that."

 

Looking down, he focused down at the patterning of Wei Ying’s tail, somewhat awkwardly getting out, “Should not feel this...Worthy of punishment...”

 

He tilted his head and ears in mild confusion. "Punishment...? For who? You?" That seemed ridiculous. He was the last person Wei Ying could imagine doing something wrong or worthy of being punished.

 

“...Unfair to Brother.” It may have also been unfair that he’d been kind of avoiding the slightly older dragon as well for fear of his emotions being read. Xichen couldn’t help the situation, there was no use in feeling like this and yet... “Unbecoming behavior.”

 

"...Ah." He said, looking at the floor in front of them. "...It's okay to feel like that sometimes. I get jealous of Xiaoqing from time to time, or get mad, and then I feel guilty about it. But the important thing is that I still love her, and I would do anything for her. You still love Xichen, right?"

 

"Mn. But bad circumstance. Inappropriate for jealousy. Hence, punishment worthy." And now due to all of this, Xichen was now also scrambling to prepare becoming Sect Leader at only eighteen, so to be hung up over this was ridiculous.

 

He frowned a little and rubbed his back. "It's a normal emotion to have, Lan Zhan. Just don't let it fester. Also, why should you be punished for feeling something? It's not hurting anyone but you. You're not going to hurt anyone. It's been what, two weeks? Mourning period is at least 100 days." He paused, then continued. "I mean... I still feel jealous of people with living blood relations sometimes. And their relationships. It's stupid, and I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I see them on the street or Meimei and my dads and.... Well, what I'm trying to say is, do you think I should be punished for that?"

 

"Okay for Wei Ying. Different circumstance." He then fell silent for some time as he struggled over how to get across what was wrong. "...Should not be jealous because Father was killed protecting Brother. To wish to have met Father alive means to sentence either him or Brother to death. Asinine and insensitive. It is forbidden to wish harm upon others."

 

"...." He poked him in the forehead. "You don't wish harm on either of them. You wanted them both to live. You wish you could have some memories of your dad. That's not bad. I'm sure Xichen would understand. And besides..." He paused, then continued. "I'm sure he's worried about you too. You... You almost died." His voice hitched a bit, fingers clenching a bit.

 

With Wei Ying's tail already in his lap and he himself feeling awkward about taking his hand or getting closer (he hadn't even been looking at that book the fox gave him and yet his dreams were imaginative as ever), he resumed with giving the appendage gentle pets. "Will not happen again."

 

He fidgeted a bit before giving into his urge and shifting his position to give the older boy a hug, being careful of his chest. He was already on suppressants and very good scent maskers, the best that Luo Binghe could acquire. Therefore, the fox still smelled unpresented or beta, very natural. "I'm sorry about your dad."

 

At first Lan Wangji was a bit stiff within the hug, but eventually he relaxed in the slightest, an arm going around to press very lightly against the fox's back and forehead resting on the slightly shorter teen's shoulder. It was a simple hug, surely he could allow this from his (crush) friend without it getting weird. Not trusting himself to speak, he gave a simple, muffled 'mn' as he closed his eyes and took careful breaths.

 

He stroked the top of his head with one hand while the other arm stayed around his shoulders, holding the dragon close. For now, he remained silent, just wanting Lan Zhan to have this time to do what he wanted, just this contact, or to cry... whatever he needed to do. And with the two lions (and one cat bribed to stay quiet and out of trouble) standing guard, they wouldn't be abruptly interrupted. He allowed himself a few deep breaths, the same sandalwood scent as always. Either he was a late bloomer like Wen Ning, or he was a beta. Not a bad thing, he supposed. He was maybe only a teensy bit disappointed, because, well.... Those dreams were pretty hot. Ah, no, no thinking about THOSE right now.

 

After he had centered and calmed himself enough with the fox's presence, he almost held his position within the other's hold, but even this was a form of lying when he was already feeling better, and so he lifted his head and straightened again. It would've been so nice and tempting to settle in and perhaps scent the other all over, but he needed to maintain some level of propriety and that behavior was inappropriate... Opening his eyes again, he quietly fixed his golden gaze onto Wei Ying, no obvious sign of whether or not he had cried visible on his features.

 

His eyes examined his face for a few moments until he was satisfied, and then he smiled a little and bumped their foreheads together before sitting back down, a hand going down to pat and hold his friend's. "Feel a little better?" He asked.

 

He was struck with a sudden and strong urge to just cup the other’s face in his hands and kiss him, but he couldn’t just do that so suddenly and so he pushed down the thought as he nodded in response. “How long will you stay?”

 

"Um..." He scratched his cheek, seeming a bit sheepish. "It... might be a while this time? Some uh... some stuff.... happened...." He paused, then sighed. "Well, let's just say that Father was right that I should keep my ability a secret. I... maaaay have some people looking for me now, and for some reason we can't get ahold of my dads or anyone from Cang Qiong... So I was sort of hoping maybe we could stay for a while, since no one knows we're here?"

 

Lan Wangji was immediately on alert at that, face going hard with protective concern. "We do not turn away those in need. Wei Ying can stay as long as he needs to. Will protect you." Whether he meant he himself or his sect, it wasn't clear, but he couldn't bring himself to be more open about what he really meant. He was simply determined to make sure Wei Ying had a safe-haven, even if that meant hiding him here in secret (although he doubted he would actually need to, he knew he could get support for their protection).

 

He raised his free hand to wave it in a slightly dismissive manner. "Ah, I mean, it really shouldn't come to that, I think the only people who even saw us show up here were the guards at the gate... But, there might be someone who knows we're friends or saw us at the battlefield, so they might come sniffing around here for me, but until then, or until my dads make it back from their trip and come to find me, it'll be nice if we can hang out and train together for a while, I thought. If it's okay."

 

"Always welcome here." It seemed that perhaps the sentiment hadn't fully sunk in when he'd given Wei Ying his jade token. He had since gotten himself a new one and thus never planned to take back the one he'd given to him. "Can be here as long as you wish. Jade Token will allow for simple access whenever."

 

He smiled and nodded, giving his hand a squeeze. "Oh! Right, I should introduce you to someone." He said, getting up and heading back to the entrance. "Xue Yang! Come here!" 

"Finally!" The cat jumped from the satchel and trotted over, stretching and waving his tails. "I've been in that bag for ages... Oh, this must be Second Young Master Lan. Only seen him from a distance before."

"This is Xue Yang. He's my new bodyguard. We're working on...reforming him. Oh, but! It's really lucky we came across him, because we can follow your sect rules now and follow Papa He's rules about me having a guard in my room!"

 

His jaw tightened slightly at that, uncomfortable at the thought that someone else (and not himself) would be in the same room with Wei Ying, even if they were there as a guard. However, he still needed to remain polite, so he gave a short, "Mn," before questioning, "Why reforming?"

 

"Well, uh, funny story-" 

The cat suddenly returned to human form and slung an arm across Wei Ying's shoulders, giving the dragon a sly, fangy grin. "Yeah, reforming. I used to be a hunter, and actually kidnapped Young Master Wei here from the battlefield-" 

"Xue Yang!" 

"-but I came to like him, and after Wen Ning caught me, I decided to follow him. ....Woooow, how scary~" He said as he shrewdly watched the dragon, 'hiding' slightly behind the fox. "Don't worry, don't worry, I'm properly collared." He said, pulling aside his clothing to expose the mark of the blood contract on the hollow of his throat. "My chief concern now is Wei Wuxian's well-being. And look, we're so similar, I can even be his body double-" The fox pushed him in the side, making him let go and step away, still smirking. Wei Ying huffed and rolled his eyes; cats . And people claimed foxes were tricky trouble-makers.

 

...So that was why Wei Ying had been as delayed as he’d been in getting to Cloud Recesses. He immediately didn’t trust this guard, even with the apparent blood contract he had formed. Perhaps later down the line...? But no, right now, he wasn’t fond of this cat’s personality. (At least Wen Ning was amiable, even if he still felt threatened by the shy lion’s designation.) Humming, he flicked his eyes over to the fox and simply said, “As long as you are careful.”

 

"Mm, I will be, I will be!" He said quickly, holding up three fingers to swear to the dragon.

Xue Yang, behind him, folded his arms and was grinning. Teasing this guy would be fun. Maybe not as fun as teasing Wen Ning, however. Nothing on this guy's face changed, just his aura.

"Anyway, um. We kind of dropped in suddenly again, sorry for that- should we go greet your Uncle and brother, or did you have somewhere we should go to get settled?"

 

"Uncle is preparing Brother on becoming Sect Leader. Can greet them before dinner." As for where to have them stay, he had a few ideas but was uncertain on which to settle on. Either they could stay with the other disciples in their dormitories, or his mother's old home should they wish to be a bit more hidden. It was big enough to accommodate all of them, but they would just need to bring in an extra few beds for them to use. "...Can stay either in disciple dormitories or Mother's cottage."

 

"Hmm... Would you mind if we stayed at your mother's cottage?" Wei Ying asked after thinking it over. It would be beneficial if they all stayed together as much as possible in case of an emergency.

 

"Mn. Will need to prepare more beds." If he wanted to keep their presence here on the down-low as well, he wouldn't be able to involve many people in setting up the cottage either. Perhaps just his attendants and his Uncle and Brother once they were free.

 

"Okay! Works for us." He said cheerfully. Yes!! Long-term stay with Lan Zhan! Okay, true, they'd have to try and follow the rules as well as they possibly could... It was going to be hard, he could tell already... But he could do it!

Xue Yang, on the other hand, would need some careful watching. He, being a demon and demonic cultivating beast, was not accustomed to matching human schedules or human customs, and therefore was typically much more active at night... and well, he was a cat. Try telling a cat that they can't go somewhere after dark sometime, when the cat has opposable thumbs, martial arts, and magic.

 

"Mn." With that settled, Lan Wangji stood and looked over at the two of them. "Should prepare before dinner." He would also have to find where his attendants went after he'd briefly dismissed them. In theory, they wouldn't be far away since they never tended to go too far away despite his dismissals.

 

"Okay. We'll wait here then?" He asked, tilting his head. They shouldn't be wandering around in this case.

 

"Mn." Sweeping out of the library, he started to look for any of his attendants, eventually finding two of them positioned outside the Jingshi and heightening to attention upon noticing him approaching. "Find the others. Prepare three extra beds. Bring them to Mother's cottage." With a synchronized, "Understood, Young Master," the two rabbits bowed and left to find their other companions, leaving Lan Wangji to head back towards the library to meet up with Wei Ying again.

 

Wei Ying seemed to be in a silent argument with Xue Yang, which ended with him commanding the cat to turn back to his beast form for the time being, which he did sulkingly, trotting back outside and leaping up onto Wen Ning's shoulder. "Qionglin, Young Master is being mean to me~" He meowed plaintively.

The fox, on the other hand, trotted up to Lan Zhan as he approached, giving him another smile. "Are we going now?"

 

"W-whatever you did, y-you earned it..." was the only thing Wen Ning said in response to that. 

Lan Wangji first gave a "mn" at first before continuing with, "Should be there once we arrive." He then turned back towards the door and started moving in the direction of the cottage.

 

"Aiyaaaa, you're all bullies, what was I thinking, signing up to follow you, poor meeeeeeooow~" The four followed him (Three walking, one riding again, either on Wen Ning's shoulder or in his bag) to the cabin, and Wei Ying smiled when he saw the familiar spot. "Yep, sure is nice and peaceful here." He said as they approached. Then, something caught his eye, and his tail and ears perked. Sniffing the air, he came to attention as he detected one of his most natural prey objects- a rabbit.

Wen Qing also smelled them and rolled her eyes before looking over at Wei Ying, then back at her younger brother in a way that screamed 'Don't let him cause a diplomatic incident.'

 

"Y-Young Master, p-please don't do w-what it seems like y-you want to d-do..." Wen Ning tried to implore. 

Looking over at Wei Ying with some curiosity at that, Lan Wangji prompted the fox with a, "Wei Ying?"

 

"Ah, hm?? What?? Nothing!" He said, waving a hand with a laugh. "Just, uh, smelled something-" 

"Second Young Master Lan." One of the attendants came from the house, smiling and walking briskly. He brought his hands out in front of him for a salute, and said "The beds have been prepared, and everything has been given another cleaning-" He froze unconsciously when he locked eyes with Wei Ying, nose twitching a bit as his eyes went wide.

The fox was staring right back at him, unblinking, even seeming to hold his breath as he reflexively swallowed a bit of drool in his mouth.

'Oh for the love of god please don't run, bunny.' Wen Qing thought to herself.

 

Looking between the two and catching on to what was going on, Lan Wangji set a hand on Wei Ying's lower back, tilting his head just slightly so he was looking into the other's eyes. Perhaps by some level of alpha instincts, subconsciously, his scent grew stronger, not to overwhelm, but just to hopefully calm and center the fox. With the sect's habit of suppressing and diluting one's scent out of politeness, his scent now was still rather mild and with no clear indication as to what his designation was but his inner alpha still wanted his (omega? beta? he could've sworn that the fox was an omega? or was that wishful thinking?) (eventual) mate to focus back on their initial objective. "Wei Ying."

 

He shifted his gaze from the rabbit to the dragon, blinking a bit before clearing his throat. "Ahem, yes? I'm fine. Totally fine." His reaction usually wasn't that strong- maybe the rabbit's cultivation or type was particularly suited to his specific kind of fox?

"...Uh, a-anyway, Young Master Lan, we're finished with the room, so we'll be leaving now..." He gave them all a salute and bow before calmly walking back to the house and calling the others away.

Wei Ying did watch as the rabbits left, but had shifted a bit closer to Lan Zhan subconsciously, the alpha's scent wisps keeping him grounded without realizing it. 

"Wei Ying..." 

"I'm sorry, Shijie, I wasn't expecting it." He said, a little petulant, cutting her off. "They just seemed so tasty- I mean healthy- I mean cute! Ah, fuck." He said, rubbing the back of his head, blushing a little.

"I'm sure they wouldn't mind a little nibble." Xue Yang drawled from his perch, having fun stirring up trouble. Or, trying to at least. At least he waited until they left.

 

While he wouldn’t normally think this of a similar situation, Lan Wangji couldn’t help but be a bit endeared by Wei Ying’s tongue-tiedness. Xue Yang’s comments, he could do without, though, and so he fixed the cat with a hard stare before adding a little pressure to the fox’s back, quietly urging him forward.

 

The lioness doctor noticed the possessive action by the older teen, and frowned very slightly. Was this touching and herding behavior instinctive, or had he maybe somehow noticed something...? She marked it down mentally, but didn't comment. After all, Wei Wuxian was going along with it easily enough. He was a mature fox now, if he objected to being touched by anyone, she had no doubt he would speak up or handle it himself. If he really needed help, of course, the lioness was the perfect person to put an alpha's reproductive equipment permanently out of order.

Though he'd seen it before from the outside, this was Wei Ying's first time seeing the house from the inside. It smelled...nice. Clean, with some very faded scents and a slight hint of rabbit still.

 

The dragon took in a breath as he entered the cottage, not having been inside for several years now. It had never felt right to enter without her there and so he always paid his respects outside the cottage, but he was sure she wouldn't mind this current transgression. He wasn't bringing them here for the same reason she had been and surely she would understand his reasoning and desire behind it. Moving over to the table in the main sitting room, he located an incense box with just a few sticks left and pulled one out, setting it in the holder sitting in the middle and lighting it in silent memory of her. Turning back towards Wei Ying, he gestured towards the cottage's bedroom, only one of two rooms that were separated by proper walls, the other room being the bath. "Bedroom is there. Can adjust the locations of the others. Just avoid shifting other furnitures too far from their initial locations."

 

Given Wei Ying's specialties, he also had some incense on him, and he asked quietly if he could make an offering as well, paying his respects. From what he could tell, the spirit wasn't still lingering, so she probably already moved on in peace.

"We'll make do with some partitions, thanks, Lan Zhan." The fox said, the smile this time being a little tired. Now that he and the others were finally safe, he was starting to drop from his adrenaline high. "Are you going to stay for a bit?"

 

Lan Wangji hesitated a bit at that. He wanted to, however... "Can but...Wei Ying looks tired. If you wish to rest, I can come back before dinner." If the fox wished for him to stay, then he gladly would, but given that they seemed to be having issues with people coming after them, it was also perfectly reasonable if they wanted some time alone to just decompress.

 

What he really wanted at that moment was to snuggle down with the dragon with one or both of them in animal form and just nap that way for a few hours, but that was a bit embarrassing to ask from someone who had been through the loss of a family member recently... "Yeah, a nap sounds good. Um. We'll see you at dinner I suppose?" He said with a head tilt.

 

Watching Wei Ying’s face for a few moments, he felt as if the fox wasn’t saying everything he wanted to, though why he gathered that, he couldn’t say. “...Do you wish for me to stay?”

 

"...I was thinking maaaybe we could both benefit from some, uh, petting time? In our natural forms?" He asked, looking up from where his fingers were fiddling with each other. "Maybe not inside the house exactly, but it looks like there might be a nice spot in the garden that could be comfortable for your true form's size?"

 

A bit surprised by that, he was quiet for a few moments before he nodded and stood. They were secluded enough here that there wouldn't be much fuss about being in his true form and he always did enjoy the smell of the field of gentians outside the cottage. "Good."

 

"Yeah?" He asked, tail and ears perking again. "Okay! Let's go then!" He turned to his fox form and trotted outside, he was now the size and proportions of a normal young adult fox. He didn't have his extra tails out, as this was his mundane beast form, but it was still very comfortable. He stretched once outside, then sat neatly and watched Lan Zhan expectantly.

 

Following Wei Ying outside, he glanced around the area to make sure he had the space before transforming. Walking up to the fox, he pressed his muzzle up against the other's head before then curling his entire body around Wei Ying's.

 

Making a happy noise, the much smaller furry beast nuzzled him back before cuddling up against his jaw and neck. He just loved how perfect the dragon's temperature and scent was. He was never more comfortable than when he was in Lan Zhan's presence and he felt like for the first time in days, he could fully relax.

 

Huffing out a breath of cool air, he then nudged the bundle of black and red fur closer in silent encouragement as the end of his tail moved up to the top of his coiled body, cocooning the fox in a warm, dark space that he hoped would lull Wei Ying into a seemingly much needed rest. He himself wasn't all that sure whether or not he could fall asleep here, heart and mind likely too excited at having his (eventual) mate here with him.

 

He did eventually fall asleep, his paws, ears and face twitching occasionally as he had some dreams about chasing something...or maybe just running around. Could be either.

Xue Yang spent some time running around, familiarizing himself with the house and surrounding area, including finding the best ways off the mountain if they had to run suddenly.

 

Eyes closed but ears alert, Lan Wangji laid there comfortably as he listened to their surroundings, although admittedly, a large portion of his focus was directed towards the quiet little sounds or movements the fox he was hiding was making. Once it was time for dinner, he would wake him, but in the meantime, he let himself enjoy the quiet time they had now.

 

Having had a very pleasant nap, once Wei Ying was woken up for dinner, he felt much more relaxed. He opened his eyes, at first a little disoriented by the darkness, even though it smelled safe and warm. Making a quizzical sound, he began nosing around, until he felt scales and fur. Putting the pieces together in his mind, along with the sandalwood scent, he chuckled to himself.

He popped his head up, lifting the tail tassel fringe on top of his noggin and giving him a foxy grin. "Hi Lan Zhan!" He chirped happily.

 

"Mn." Shifting his tail off the fox, he twisted his head to glance at him. "Sleep well?" Soon, his attendants would likely be here with the food as well as possibly his uncle and brother. Surely they'd be wondering why his attendants were running the errands they were.

 

"Mn, I did! I love sleeping with you, I feel so safe and it's easy to relax." He said with a careless sort of cheer, not really thinking hard about his words.

Xue Yang on the other hand, was laying on the roof, still in cat form, and grinned evilly as he watched the pair. Oh dear, they really were adorable. He'd have to help out his new young master in the romance department.

 

He was once again immensely glad that he couldn't blush in his true form. The way he said that brought back far too many dangerous threads of thought that he did not need to be recollecting at the moment. Once he was sure his voice wouldn't give him away, he responded with a simple, "I am glad."

 

He snickered and booped the tip of his snoot against the dragon's, then turned to his mostly human form, and rubbed his hands through the other's mane and along his nose and eyebrow ridges, before then scratching around the bases of his horns and ears.

 

Throat rumbling softly at the ministrations, he tilted his head into the fox's touch, only noticing at the last minute that both his attendants and his uncle and brother had arrived, apparently having met along the way to the same destination. Having been focused on Wei Ying, it was only the sound of his brother quickly trying to disguise a laugh as a quiet cough that pulled his focus away. Just behind Lan Xichen, Lan Qiren almost looked to be done with what he was witnessing, albeit holding it back well enough.

 

Slightly startled, the fox also looked up from what he was doing, but didn't actually stop touching the dragon. "Ah, Master Lan, Lan Xichen. Long time no see." He did stop long enough to give a proper salute and bow to the others. He barely gave the rabbits a second glance this time, something the attendants appreciated immensely. "My condolences for your family's loss."

 

Lan Xichen gave a small smile in return, albeit strained, perhaps out of some level of guilt. “Thank you, Young Master Wei. We heard you assisted Wangji and even helped minimize casualties in the fight at the border. We are eternally grateful.” As he said that, the up and coming sect leader gave a low bow in thanks, continuing as he straightened. “To have simultaneously lost Wangji in the same manner would have been devastating.” Beside Wei Ying, Lan Wangji’s ears straightened with alertness at the hint towards the similarities, body tensing slightly as he hadn’t actually explained it to that extent to the fox yet.

 

"Of course. I'll always help Lan Zhan when I can. He's my- my friend." He gave the dragon a small smile before frowning. "The same- The arrow?" He looked back at the older royal dragons, then made another salute, without the bow this time. "This fox has something important to discuss. May I suggest that we go inside to discuss the matter further?" He said, gesturing at the house.

 

Blinking at the shift of tone, Xichen was quiet for a few beats before he finally said, "Of course, if it's important then by all means." The attendants hurrying inside the cottage to prepare for the impromptu discussion, Lan Wangji took the time to transform back into his human form, watching Wei Ying until they all eventually stepped inside the cottage.

 

The fox was scowling, looking uncommonly serious as he subconsciously gripped Suibian tight with one hand and twirled Chenqing with the other, setting the sword aside once they were inside and he took a seat. "As Lan Wangji knows, I had actually intended to come here directly after the battle at the border was brought to a safe conclusion. However, a couple things came up that delayed us. One of which..." He waved Wen Ning forward. "Was tracking down the archer who shot Wangji. Wen Ning, the weapons, please?"

 

Snapping to attention, Wen Ning brought the weapons in question up to rest on the table they were seated at. Brows furrowed in concern, Lan Xichen picked up one of them and carefully brought it closer, sniffing at the tip of the arrow and grimacing when he recognized the same scent from the one that killed his father. Simply examining the weapons from a distance, Lan Qiren fixed Wei Ying with a frown as he asked, “And what did you discover? What about a cure for it? Our own records on medicine and poison had nothing of the resulting symptoms and thus were unable to save my brother. Do you have the criminal in custody?”

 

"Wen Qing?"

"Sir!" Wen Qing stepped forward and saluted. "Upon examining the poison, it has two major components that make it extremely difficult to combat, but is nearly instantly fatal for dragons in particular. One is that it uses a concentrated amount of dragonsbane, you already know how toxic that can be to your kind. Second is a Demon Realm poison similar to something called No Cure, which is nearly impossible to treat and only a Heavenly Demon can cure it completely. There is a third corrosive quality I have not yet identified." She looked at Lan Wangji. "I did not cure the lethal portion of the poison for the Second Young Master, by the time I reached him, all lethal portions of his injury had been healed to the point that he would survive the rest, but the poison remnants were still trying to destroy his cultivation. I was able to prevent that part, but if something else had not already healed him to that point...." 

"As for the assassin, we do still have him..." Wei Ying took out a demon-sealing bag, setting it on the table in front of him, eyes briefly flashing red. "But he should be handled with care. There might be ways to track him or remotely kill him outside of the seals we placed on him. As to the orchestrators of this plot..." He looked at the dragons. "QishanWen Sect."

 

Lan Xichen looked as if he wanted to ask about what had healed his brother of the fatal toxins, but the new allegation was too serious to brush off as a secondary topic. “You’re certain? Not that I necessarily doubt you, I’m actually not all that surprised that QishanWen may have had something to do with it, but it is a serious claim. And I’m afraid something we can’t even pursue until we have unfailing proof. They’re a powerful sect, any misstep could lead to our eradication, especially with dragon-targeted weapons like these.”

 

"Wen Qing used a truth-compelling serum on the demon and I have faith in her abilities. She has studied under Mu Qingfang, the Immortal Doctor of Cang Qiong Sect, and he's taught her quite a bit. Not only that, but Luo Binghe picked her, out of everyone else under him, to be my attendant." He turned his head and smiled at her. "Qing-shijie is one of my closest friends. I trust her implicitly. But, I understand the need for further proof. Is there any sort of opportunity to visit Qishan, like a martial competition or knowledge exchange?"

 

“Us Five Great Sect alternate in hosting discussion conferences for all the major and minor sects. This year will be QishanWen’s turn and every year they host, they hold an archery competition to kick off the conference. Each sect selects a few of their most skilled disciples to compete in the hunt.” Lan Xichen explained. 

It was then that Lan Qiren finally spoke up again. “Do you mean to slip in during the conference to gather the necessary evidence? That is too dangerous, boy. Wen Ruohan is cunning and paranoid, I do not believe you will be able to find anything so easily.” And he didn’t say it, but he was all too certain Lan Wangji would be all up in arms about it and he couldn’t have his nephew getting dangerously reckless.

 

Twirling Chenqing in hand again, his lips turned up in a small smile. "Master Lan, with all due respect. As upright as you all are, it will be incredibly difficult for you to try and discover anything covertly. I am a fox. Even as noble as I am, being stealthy and tricky is in my nature. Ah, but I'm not stupid, either. I won't try to attend as myself. I'll make a disguise that has the influence and backing of a foreign and mysterious sect: Cang Qiong. They will be interested in meeting and monitoring me, but should also be cautious because of Luo Binghe." 

 

Lan Xichen tilted his head in mild confusion. "Um... Young Master Wei, forgive me for interjecting, but why would they be wary of him? He's powerful, but no one that far in Caihong should have heard much about him." 

 

Wei Ying blinked. "...You don't know?" He said, a bit surprised. "The Wen Clan is originally from the demon realm, very long ago. Wen Ning and Wen Qing are from a branch family that stayed behind and defected when they left."

 

Lan Qiren hummed as he stroked his goatee. "We have only known them as hybrids with a focus on producing powerful combinations in whichever manner they see fit. Much like we do not frequently roam around in our true forms, the Wen Clan almost exclusively lives day by day in human form."

 

"Not surprising. They were a clan of demonic people, humanoids rather than demonic beasts when they left. Wen Ning and Wen Qing are closest to what they started out as, but their mother was a lioness demon from a strong bloodline. Humans have always been able to breed the easiest with other races, because they're so adaptable." Wei Ying waved a hand. "The point is, we will be more likely to dig up demonic tricks or recognize them." 

"This one has something to add." Wen Qing said, taking a step forward and saluting again. "This one may not have a cure for the poison, but may be able to create a preventative measure. If the weapon carrying the poison cannot pierce your flesh or enter your blood, then it cannot harm you. This one is working on creating a lotion that can counteract the corrosive part of the poison, which makes it possible to pierce your skin."

 

"That would be much appreciated, Maiden Wen. Any effort we can take to prevent lives lost, we will, of course, gladly take. Should you need any supplies from our infirmary, please don't hesitate to stop by to gather them." Lan Xichen said as he nodded in the doctor's direction. After a moment or two, he then added, "How long do you plan on being in Gusu? I'm sure, given how Wangji has set you all up here, that this isn't just a normal visit?"

 

His ears twitched, and stopped spinning Chenqing. "...Ah, well.... that's the second reason why I was later than expected getting here." He said as he rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm sure that you have already heard about how I... lost my temper. When I saw Lan Zhan had an injury." He held up a hand, in a 'hold on, hold on' gesture. "Let me just say now that it's not demonic cultivation, okay? Lan Zhan already checked my spiritual energy, you can ask him. Anyway, it seems that there are multiple parties interested in my particular talent, and we had several encounters with hunters."

 

"I see...Well, for now I think we can leave it at that," Lan Xichen said with a meaningful glance over at Lan Qiren. "Wangji can give us the specifics later. For now, worry not, you will be protected here." 

Speaking up, but not quite along the same vein, Lan Qiren fixed his gaze on his younger nephew sitting across from them and next to the hyperactive fox. "Wangji, your report was insufficient, I expect you to always include every detail within them. You are to write up a revised and full report of that attack and come see me tomorrow morning with it in hand." 

Eyes casting down at the admonishment, Lan Wangji saluted and answered with a simple, "Yes, Uncle."

 

Wei Ying looked at Lan Zhan before giving Lan Qiren another bow, this one lower than usual. "About that, please don't be too angry or hard on him. I asked him to keep the details secret, he was merely fulfilling his promise to me."

 

Lan Wangji reached a hand out to gently touch Wei Ying’s knee in a reassuring manner as Lan Qiren sighed and said, “This is light. Normally this would include copying the Book of Conduct five times while performing a handstand. I cannot have our disciples growing used to this behavior. It is still a lie even if it is by omission with good intent.”

 

The fox took a moment to process this, then his eyes bugged out a bit. Copying a whole book while doing a handstand?! ...His father should never ever hear about this, he might actually adopt it as a punishment. "Well, thank you for letting us stay. I'll have Wen Qing take a break from her regular duties to work on the poison problem... Oh, uh, and I should probably introduce you to my new bodyguard so he's not mistaken as an intruder... Xue Yang, come here please." 

The cat trotted in after a moment or two, tails held aloft as he looked at the others in the room with his usual haughty aloofness. Once he was next to Wen Ning, he turned back to his human form, grinned, and made a bow and salute. "He's our current connection to the black market and hunter network." Wei Ying explained.

 

After the elder Lans also gave their own greetings, Lan Xichen nodded and said, "Well then, we will take our leave for dinner with the rest of the sect. I gather that Wangji will stay to accompany you so I'll just leave you with a reminder. As I've said before, we aren't as strict with guests about our rules, but please do at least try to keep infractions to a minimum." And with that, both Xichen and Qiren stood and saluted to them, Wangji also standing to see them off.

 

Wei Ying was quick to rise to his feet and stood with Lan Zhan to politely see them off, and heaved a sigh as he scratched his chin once they were gone. He looked a bit thoughtful, distracted for a moment, before looking back at Lan Zhan and smiling ruefully. "I got you in trouble, huh? At least it's not as bad as it could have been, but I'm sorry anyway."

 

"No need. It is no trouble." Not all that concerned over the matter, it was just a slightly more in-depth report from his previous one after all (although, he also wouldn't be surprised if he got an additional talking to once he actually turned in the report), he stepped back into the cottage and located the food his attendants had brought over, setting out the meals onto the table.

 

The Wens, of course, assisted, and Xue Yang was perfectly happy to not help at all, lounging off to the side while he watched everyone else, having his own candy to enjoy. He could smell the herbs from where he was sitting, watching Wei Wuxian suffer the bitterness of the meal would be fun.

 

With everything now laid out, Lan Wangji set down one last thing, however it was an item tailored only for Wei Ying. He was certain his attendants were now seeing him in a different light, perhaps wondering if he himself wished for the chili oil he had set down in front of the fox. The one that had approached him during Wei Ying’s nap and had received the request to track down a bottle was certainly caught off guard enough by it.

 

When he spotted it and smelled the faint aroma through the cork, his eyes lit up. He had been feeling some slight despair at the sight and smell of the bitter and astringent food, but the bottle of high grade oil from Hunan made his eyes glitter as though he had seen salvation. He gave the dragon a hug, saying, "Lan Zhan, you get me, you really get me!"

Wen Qing smiled softly and left their own bottle in her sleeve, merely taking out some preserved meat, just enough for the primary carnivores in the room. While Wei Ying could go without meat for a while, it was not a good idea health wise, and the lions and cat were obviously meat eaters in their natural forms. The biggest exception in the room was Lan Wangji, or so one would think, given how predatory dragons seemed, but for celestial dragons, it actually seemed like spiritual or medicinal foods were their primary diet. (Some were allegedly extreme enough that they could subsist off of what other beings would call ‘insubstantials’, or things like universal energy or sunlight or air. This could be a rumor, though.)

 

"Mn." Waiting until after Wei Ying released him from the hug, he sat down at the closest seat of the table, body acting on its ingrained clockwork schedule as he waited for the other to be seated as well.

 

The next couple weeks were very pleasant, in Wei Ying's opinion. (Boring as heck in Xue Yang's opinion, but Wei Ying gave him permission to leave the mountain once in a while for hunting trips so he wouldn't cause too much trouble.) Spending as much time as possible with Lan Zhan every day was pretty great, as was playing music, sharing contact, reading, training, drawing... The fox especially enjoyed the training and sparring, as it was thrilling, and the drawing...for basically the same reason. It was exciting.

See, he...might not be drawing purely innocent things. Sometimes. While the other boy was studying.

 

Unaware of specifically what Wei Ying had taken to during these times of quiet studying, Lan Wangji simply used this time for reading or the occasional guqin practice. On this particular day, he had his guqin spread out on his usual table, playing through a few initial warm up chords before doing anything else. Once that was done and any fine-tuning was taken care of, he started to play through the beginning of the still-unnamed song he had been composing, testing out certain progressions that were more Wei Ying's style of playing.

 

Those did catch his attention, and he looked up from the sketchbook propped against the tops of his thighs. "That sounds nice. Something new?" He asked, interested as Lan Zhan reached a stopping point.

 

Blinking, Lan Wangji looked up from his instrument only to then shake his head slightly a few moments later. "Testing." He wanted this piece to be as clear a melding between them as possible, but he was still too embarrassed and nervous about admitting that aloud.

 

He grinned, nodding as he sensed an opportunity to tease...but not immediately. "Composing, I see. Well, make sure to play it for me again once it's completed, I want to learn." 

So far, everything was progressing rather well with this arrangement. No one had come looking for them yet. Wei Ying looked back down at his picture, and thought for a moment before adding another line. At the moment, he was drawing multiple pictures of Lan Zhan from his upper chest and shoulders, up. Sans clothes, however. By watching how he moved his head, neck and arms, he thought he had a pretty good likeness going on. Hehe.

....He probably should feel guiltier about what he was doing.... Well, he did. A little. But he really couldn't help it, the dragon was too hot!

 

Unwilling to deny the fox but worried over how a showcasing of this piece would actually go with his audience of one, his resulting response was delayed, an 'mn' that was neither an affirmative nor a negative leaving his sealed lips. After a few more moments of silence, he then added, "Will Wei Ying do the same?"

 

"....Hm? Of what?" He said as he looked up from his sketching. "Oh, will I play a song for you? Of course! We can even play the same song together, that would be great~!" He hummed happily.

 

Well, that hadn’t been what he’d actually asked about, but he wouldn’t mind that either so he didn’t refute it. “Mn. The drawings as well?” With how engrossed Wei Ying was every time he had the sketchbook out, it made him rather curious.

 

There was a bit of a longer pause this time, though he remained smiling. "W-well, right now they're just doodles." He said, tilting his head as he looked critically at the page in front of him. "And practice sketches but yeah. I'll show you once I have something worth showing." Never ever EVER something from this particular book. Way too much Lan Zhan showing way too much skin.

And....maybe one or two drawings from the dreams he'd been having.

 

"Mn." Satisfied with that, he went back to playing an assortment of chords and progressions on his guqin. He...hoped he could get over the apprehension of showing Wei Ying the finished piece, he did largely want the other to hear. It was the unknown factor of the fox's reaction that always gave him pause.

 

After a while of that (and carefully hiding away the book in his sleeves once done with it), he was dying for some outdoor exercise, or something more vigorous than playing instruments. "Aah, Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, I want to stretch a bit. Would you like to spar with me a bit? Sword or hand to hand, I'm okay with either." He enticed, leaning against the desk with a bright grin and wagging tail.

 

Looking up at him, he couldn’t help but be endeared by the excitement and nodded (not that he wouldn’t indulge the request regardless). “Lesser used training grounds closer to the back mountains.” Standing, he wrapped up his guqin and slung it around his back, moving towards the Library Pavilion’s doors and looking back at Wei Ying.

 

Excited, he jumped up and grabbed Suibian, trotting along after him. Wen Qing was busy with medicine making and research, so it was Wen Ning and Xue Yang on guard duty today. The cat was always trying his best now to keep the lion from being bored when Wei Ying was busy with Lan Zhan.

 

Leading them over to the training grounds took a bit of time given how it was further removed from the more frequently used areas. Once they had finally arrived, he removed his guqin from around his shoulders and set it down in the grass next to the flattened dirt of the training grounds. Straightening, he turned to face Wei Ying again and asked, "What manner of sparring?"

 

He thought it over as he began to stretch, limbering up a bit so he could move properly. "Hmm, I'm up for anything, really. We've never crossed blades before, but I'm hesitant to do that if you're not fully healed. How are you feeling?" It had been a little over a month since the injury, and still no word from Chunshan. It was....concerning. What the heck was going on over there?

 

"Feeling fine. Can swordfight." He really doubted his wound would reopen from this, it had healed well enough, there should be no issue of the tissue getting strained from the exertion.

 

A crisp ringing of metal filled the air as he unsheathed the sword, and he got into a ready stance. "Ready when you are."

 

Drawing his own sword, he held it at his side for a few short moments as he watched the fox before bringing it around to the front and dashing at Wei Ying. The rules of his sect somehow carrying over even into his sword form, his moves were precise and honest, execution carried out by the book with each of his slashes and parries. Perhaps the most difficult part of fighting against the GusuLan style was the sheer strength behind each blow, their infamous arm strength playing in well with every move.

 

In a very nicely complementing contrast, Wei Ying's style was adapted after training with his two dads and uncle for years. Most of it was from Shen Qingqiu, a graceful and swift style made for deflection with the least amount of effort, but the swift and decisive return strikes he'd learned from his Uncle Liu. As to what he'd learned from Luo Binghe.... or rather, because of him...that was how to read sword strokes and the flow of battle. He was very, very good at avoiding and deflecting blows because of this.

Not that this clash with Lan Wangji was easy at all. No, he was absolutely a thrill to fight against, and he felt himself grinning wide as their blades rang against each other.

 

Wei Ying was obviously skilled and sported a sword style that he was wholly unfamiliar with. He had to analyze and learn about it as they fought and once they had both gotten used to the other's techniques, it was more and more clear that they were rather evenly matched. The fox was quick and therefore left little room for openings that he could slip into. Nevertheless, he kept an eye open for any possible chance.

 

After a long time clashing against each other, they finally took a break, a stalemate of sorts called tactfully by Wen Ning so they could drink some water and recover. The fox sheathed Suibian and set it aside, using a cloth to wipe at his brow and look up at the sun, before looking to Lan Zhan. "Well, I'd say we're equally matched with a blade, Lan Zhan. Want to trade some hand to hand pointers?" He asked, rubbing a shoulder and rolling his neck. He was still excited and raring to go.

 

"Mn." Sheathing Bichen as well, he set it down next to his guqin before straightening again. Stepping back into the sparring grounds, he stayed relatively still, arms at his sides as he watched Wei Ying for any possible first moves.

 

The fox didn't have Chenqing or Suibian on him for the first time in a long time, which felt weird, but at the same time he was pretty excited. He tilted his head one way, then another, hands on his hips as he began prowling around him, looking the other cultivator up and down with a small smirk and humming under his breath. He was staying juuust out of lunging range as he examined his opponent for any weaknesses.

 

Gathering that Wei Ying was seeming unwilling to take the first action, he dug his back heel into the ground and pushed off, quickly darting up into the fox's space. Similar to his swordwork, his martial arts were direct and honest and backed by generic knowledge of where the most frequently recorded weak spots were located as he struck. Whenever he needed to add distance between them, it was never for long, jumping back for a few short moments before darting back in, sometimes at a different angle, but always head-on and never for a strike from behind. In this manner, while it was probably relatively easy to read his moves, he moved quick enough so that there wasn't much time in between to take a breather. He could play the long game, he had trained his stamina for it and he knew his strength alone could overpower him so long as he was able to get in a solid grip.

 

Wei Wuxian might not be as strong, but again, he was quite lithe and flexible. He often used his opponent's momentum against them in a fight, always trying to stay outside a solid grip, deflecting strikes, delivering palm or finger strikes aimed at acupoints to numb or disable. However, Lan Wangji's movements didn't carry a lot of excess force, so without using his sorcery as an aid, it was more difficult to pull this plan off.

More and more, as the fighting wore on, the excitement and context of the spar was getting slowly muddled by something invisible in the air. His hands and wrists were slightly numb from blocking and turning the strikes, and as he was beginning to tire, his heel slipped up a bit on the dust, throwing him off balance for a brief moment.

 

He couldn't say when, but at some point during the spar, his actions shifted from more calculated to more instinctive strikes, some baser part of him seeking to overpower in order to claim rather than to simply win the match. Quick to notice the fox's misstep, he darted forward to take advantage of the chance, a hand sweeping in to grab both of his wrists as he used Wei Ying's falling momentum against him and pushed him to the ground. Landing in between the other teen's legs, he used one knee to press against the fox's thigh, bearing down with his considerable strength as dark, (aroused) eyes drank in the image underneath him.

 

"Ahk-!" he winced as he was slammed down, pain sparking along the back of his head and the rest of his torso. He grit his teeth, momentarily stunned as he shook his head, then he struggled a bit with a growl to see if he could get loose, but the fingers banding his wrists were like steel. He was also trying to buck him off or use his free leg to kick him off or roll him to the side, but he just couldn't get the dragon to budge. Huffing, he let the leg fall to the ground, trying to see through his messy bangs as he caught his breath.

 

Also taking the time to slow his breathing, he couldn't help but be drawn in by the picture the fox made, hair disheveled, sweaty from exertion, lungs sucking in greedy breaths, Lan Wangji's own hair falling over his shoulders to curtain the teen, a hint of white from the ends of his forehead ribbon falling with it to rest innocently by Wei Ying's head... In that moment, he oh so wanted to just lean in closer, take in whatever scent he bore and soak his own sandalwood scent into the fox to claim him.

 

Fists slowly unclenching, the fox's mind began to clear from the adrenaline, but something else slightly familiar was clouding him. He shook his head and blew up at his bangs, managing to get them out of his eyes as he looked up and met the....extremely intense golden ones above him. Holy shit. The usually still and pristine Lan Wangji was.... His hair was a bit scattered and wild, skin beaded with perspiration, and lips parted slightly, his breath rough, and his expression...was different from usual, it was more.... 

Holy shit he was being pinned by LAN ZHAN. He tugged and twisted again slightly, this time just to feel the pin better. FUCK that was hot, so effortless with this one-handed pin... He could do anything to him and- And they were outdoors, and there were people nearby, and o-oh. Oh, SHIT. Was his scent leaking?! And he could feel... down below-! No, he couldn't let his friend catch on to... to that growing problem. "Ah-ahaha, okay, okay, I give, I give up. Wow, Lan Wangji, so strong, this fox truly isn't your equal in martial arts alone. Maybe next time I can use my spells or talismans too? Ah, but for now, I think I'm done. I sweat so much, I'm in desperate need of a bath."

 

Wei Ying's voice broke him out of...whatever trance he had fallen into and he slowly pulled away, embarrassment welling up in him over just how easily he lost himself to his instincts and desires. If the fox hadn't spoken up, maybe he would've...... Carefully and a bit stiffly, he stood up, mind hyper-focused on making sure the other didn't catch on to his... predicament as he offered the younger teen a hand in case he wanted it to pull him back onto his feet. "...Mn. Both need one."

 

Immensely grateful that layers of robes were helpful in hiding....problems, the fox easily accepted the hand up, letting go again once he was upright. (He had to think about it, was his hold too long? Too short? Being self-conscious was the worst.) He scratched his chin as he glanced over where the guards were and cleared his throat. "Well, I'll go get cleaned up then.... I'll see you again at...dinner?" He said after taking a quick glance up at the sky to see what position the sun was in.

 

“Mm. Dinner.” He would have to make sure he had gotten himself under control by then. He couldn’t have himself popping a boner whenever he was around his crush, that just wouldn’t do. Perhaps, if the Cold Springs worked fast enough, he could even get in some punishment lines from the Book of Conduct. He was being entirely inappropriate, after all, even if he hadn’t acted upon his impulses.

 

"Cool. See you then." He waved a bit before heading over to pick up his weapons and head back to the cabin with Xue Yang and Wen Ning, the cat holding back his amusement until they returned and Wei Ying was taking care of himself in the bath, giggling with sadistic glee as he saw to their sleeping arrangements for the night. 

Dinner was surprisingly simple to get through, if a bit quieter than usual in this house, but not unpleasantly so. And that night, Wei Ying even went to sleep sooner than he usually did, closer to midnight, as he had a lot to think about.

Chapter Text

It wasn't a very big surprise when he woke up that he was back at the training grounds, across from Lan Zhan. He grinned, tilting his head. He was going to have fun with this dream. "Hey, Second Young Master Lan~ I want a rematch." He said in a coy manner. "Gonna come and get me?" He said, getting ready to put his plan into action.

 

Perhaps he shouldn't have been surprised with the contents of his dream that night, but nevertheless when he watched the fox challenge him in that lilting tone, he was surprised. However, if he wanted a rematch, of course he'd give him one so he hummed and watched him for a few moments longer before darting forwards. Now that they had already sparred before, it was likely the fox would have a better idea of how to counter him, but for now, he started with a direct strike as he kept an eye out for what the other would do.

 

This time, as he spun out of the way, Wei Ying did something he definitely did not do during the fight. He caught his wrist and elbow, on the outside of his attacking arm, and leaned in, placing a kiss against the other male's cheek then rotating again, using the force to push Lan Zhan a bit further away. His eyes were bright with mischief and his fox features were peeking through, tail wagging behind him and ears alert. If he seemed stunned or distracted by the attack, he might even press his advantage, attacking his other side and stealing another kiss before dancing away again. His face flushed, this was quite thrilling~! "Aiyah, I have two solid head strikes already, Lan Er-gege, are you going easy on me?" He made a tsk'ing sound.

 

Frowning ever so slightly even as his ears flushed red, he held back as he asked, "Did you wish to spar or not? Cannot improve by playing around." Secretly, however, he was very tempted to actually go easy on him if this was how he was going to utilize the chance (although, why he decided to seek out kisses in this manner was beyond him). But he also couldn't quite justify it when sparring was meant to be for training purposes and so regardless of if Wei Ying decided to answer his question or not, he darted forward again, eyes on the lookout for any signs of him trying that again.

 

He was about to respond when Lan Zhan surged at him, and he ducked back, making use of his agility and slipping away again. A kick from the dragon was met with fingers sliding up over his clothed leg, and a pinch on his butt, followed by the joyful laughter of the fox as he continued to move, not one to hold still and let himself fall into the other's clutches. "What, how is this not sparring? The only thing is I'm not hitting you conventionally."

 

...As much as he didn't want to admit it, there was logic to his words...well, if one could count caressing as 'hitting'. Still, what should've been a simple training spar was now turning out far more embarrassing than he'd like it to be. And in this same manner, Wei Ying refused to shift back to proper sparring, leaving Lan Wangji gradually more wound up as the fox's touches brought his frustration and attention down south. Finally after what felt like an hour but surely couldn't have been that long, his patience ran thin and he growled out a dangerously low "Wei Ying" before managing to catch the other's wrists in one hand, his other hand gripping his hip as he kicked the fox's feet out from under him and much like earlier, pinned him to the ground. This time, however, their bodies were even closer together, faces close enough for their breath to mingle and just the barest amount of space between their groins and the dragon's very much interested hard on.

 

"Whoah- oof!" He yelped as he was caught and brought to the ground, stunned once more as he felt his heartbeat skip a little in his chest, excited. And, also like earlier, he struggled a bit at first, arching his back and wriggling his hips and legs, and if this time, he rubbed their fronts together, or their lips brushed together, or the fox's own erection pressed up into him.... "Ah, A-Zhan-" He said with a shudder, tugging at his arms again, testing his grip on his wrists. His face was flushed again and gray eyes glittered at him through black strands of hair that had fallen over his face.

 

"Shameless," the dragon uttered as he looked down at the little minx of a fox. Eyes dark with want, he let his free hand wander down his body and across one of his legs in an imitation of how Wei Ying had teased him. Opening the other's leg wider so he could better slot in in-between, he dug his fingers into the fox's thigh as he leaned in to capture his lips in a needy, frustrated kiss.

 

He lifted his head to meet the kiss, lips parted and tilting to the side a bit, using his tongue against the 'attacker' in a preemptive strike. He could feel the pressure and mild pain from the grip on his leg, and another thrill ran through him at how even if he tried to press his leg back against the hand, he didn't budge.

 

Invading the other’s mouth at the given opportunity, he danced around the inside before eventually meeting and wrapping around the fox’s own tongue, sucking on the organ as his hips rolled slowly into his groin. Thanks to all the earlier teasing and even remaining pent up tension from the spar that had caused all this, he was already very obviously and achingly hard as he sought our pleasure from his  Wei Ying’s enticing body.

 

A shiver ran up the fox's spine as he moaned into the other male's mouth, trying to rub his clothed erection against Lan Zhan's. It was difficult to get leverage though, with only one leg free, and he made a little growl of irritation as he once again couldn't move the way he wanted and fought for control with the kiss as he tugged and wriggled against him again.

 

Growling back, he let the kiss linger a bit longer before he pulled away, releasing the fox's leg long enough to pull off his forehead ribbon. The hand holding the ribbon then made a sword seal, causing Bichen to fly out of its sheath and imbed itself deep in the ground above Wei Ying's head as he moved to tie up his wrists and restrain him against the hilt of his sword. Expression very slightly smug and satisfied, he leaned to kiss and bite at the other's neck as one hand pressed into his side and the other moved along the no doubt sensitive skin of an inner thigh.

 

The fox took a deep breath as he was suddenly released....even if his freedom didn't last long. The sound of the sword embedding itself made him jump a bit, but before he could figure out what was going on, he found his wrists constrained once again, binding them up above quite effectively. He cursed as he looked up at the sword and ribbon pinning his wrists, then gasped and groaned as the dragon took advantage of his exposed neckline. He rolled and bucked up into the alpha's body, his touch, legs shifting restlessly, one lifting and trying to wrap around the dragon, wanting to urge him closer, wanting more . It all felt good, but unlike his recent heat, he could still think clearly and while he was aroused, he wasn't gushing down below. He did smell very nice, however, and he took a deep inhale of Lan Wangji's sandalwood scent. "Mmmmmmh, Lan Zhan..."

 

"Wei Ying," he answered in return, nosing at his jaw before his mouth was moving a bit further down to his shoulder and collarbone, lavishing marks across the previously unblemished skin. Just as eager to have more of Wei Ying as the other wanted of him, he allowed the hand at the fox's thigh to grow out his claws, closing a fist around the fabric of his pants (and lightly dragging the sharp points across Wei Ying himself) as nails cut into the pale green of his pants and ripped away the fabric to reveal both of the younger's sexes.

 

"Hmmmh, mnnh, aaaaah, ffffuck-" He hissed under his breath and twitched at the feeling of claws near a delicate area, but judging how his erection didn't diminish any and merely bobbed with his sudden motion, he wasn’t too concerned. The fox could feel his body preparing himself for penetration, slick gathering at his lower lips the more excited he grew. "Bite, bite me, a little, A-Zhan, please..." He murmured, tipping his head away from him a bit further, wanting to give him some more room. Planting his feet against the floor, he lifted himself up off the ground, body arching as he tried to plaster himself against the dragon cultivator. "Don't let me up, either, this is good , Alpha-"

 

Eyes flashing with barely concealed interest, Wangji leaned down to his neck again, inhaling the spice of his scent before once again leaving bites along the skin. One hand moving to firmly press down on a hip, effectively immobilizing Wei Ying, the other hand shifted down to circle and prod at his wettening sheath, dipping a finger into the folds and relishing in how the spice scent thickened around them. Spending some time playing with his entrance like this, sometimes spreading the slick around the rim, sometime slowly fucking a finger inside him, he kept up with the ministrations until his own finger felt coated with the other's slick. Eyes darkening with a thought (and maaaaybe something he had seen before thanks to Wei Ying's ... gift) , he pulled the digit out entirely, intense gaze locked on Wei Ying's as he brought his hand up to his mouth and licked at the fluid trailing down.

 

Watching him through heavily-lidded eyes the whole time, his lashes fluttered and a keen of want escaped him as he tried to move again, to lift his pelvis up to help the other male press his digits deeper inside him, but that long-fingered, elegant hand was keeping him pinned down, not too hard, but immovable. Watching the alpha lick his fluids from his hand made something deep in his gut twist in a wonderful way, and his lips parted, not seeming to think too deeply as he extended his tongue a bit, like he was waiting for something. (He'd read the book too, though they might be thinking about something different from each other...)

 

Unable to resist upon seeing the fox inviting him in like that, he leaned down to devour him, the taste of his sex lingering on his lips as he attacked. He didn’t hold the kiss for too long, however, still wanting to get more of a taste and so after a few more moments of sucking, biting, and exploring his mouth and tongue, he pulled away, eyes dark with lust as he moved down the length of Wei Ying’s body until his face was positioned right in front of his wet pussy. Hand still pinning his hip down, he let out a growl as the intoxicating and concentrated scent of his arousal hit him full on and his tongue darted out first to lick a clean strip of slick from the rim and then to press his tongue inside the hot, wet folds.

 

Wei Ying purred into the kiss while it lasted, and made a plaintive sound as Lan Zhan pulled away, pouting a bit. His confusion didn't last long, however, turning quickly to surprise as he realized where his next target was, then a flash of disbelief turned to flushed excitement. Holy shit, Lan Wangji- His Lan Zhan was- He gasped, hips jolting against the hand restraining them as his head tipped back again and he let out a long, high keen. Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan's mouth was on him, down there , and he was tasting him like he was something delicious - This was as hot as it was wildly unexpected for the fox, and it resulted in a small flood of fluids from deeper inside his cunt. He twisted his hands and gripped at the ribbon holding him to the sword; this thing was crazy strong! He could feel his dick weeping more fluids, trickling down his shaft to pool on his abs and trickle around his base. "Ah, A-Zhan, A-Zhan-!" He cried out breathlessly.

 

Humming against his sex, he lapped at the new wave of slick, tongue slowly fucking into the fox's heat as his free hand stroked up his inner thigh several times before also eventually joining his tongue and slipping inside him to open him up wider. Testing to see what reactions he could draw from the omega, he let his tongue shift and prod around inside, eventually stumbling across the other's clit and sucking on it.

 

More soft gasps and moans escaped him, a little startled yip leaving him when the alpha found the small nub of sensitive tissue, resulting in another jump in his hips. The slick organ slipping around inside him, joined by the slightly rough but talented digit, this gentle but firm handling was pushing SO MANY buttons, even a few he wasn't fully aware of. (Even if it seemed like anything to do with Lan Zhan WAS a button.) He tried again to squirm, mostly just for the fun of it, but kept his thighs from pressing hard against the alpha's head, though he did enjoy the feeling of the silky hair when it dragged against his inner thighs-

 

Fingers digging into Wei Ying's hip as a silent way to warn him against moving, he thrust both tongue and finger deep into his cunt a few more times before pulling his head back and replacing his tongue with a second finger. Licking his lips of the remaining slick on them, he moved up the length of the fox's body to capture him in another kiss, the taste of the omega still lingering on his lips and tongue. Down at his lower lips, Lan Wangji scissored his fingers, opening him up further in preparation for more.

 

He really couldn't help himself, his body wanted to move how it wanted to move, and did it really matter if he struggled if he wasn't going anywhere? He did let his legs splay open further, though his toes curled as that damnably clever hand found a very sensitive spot, his cock throbbing and leaking again in time with the pulse of arousal the dragon was stirring up. Any sounds he made, however, were swallowed up by Wangji's hungry mouth. He could feel sweat starting to gather on his body, getting warmer, less comfortable in all the 'proper' layers humankind insisted on wearing.

 

Soon after, he added yet another finger, fucking him open as much as possible with three fingers. By this point, he was starting to grow impatient, eager to simply sink down into the other's heat and so it wasn't too much longer before he pulled his fingers out entirely to instead move aside his own robes and pull down his pants to free himself. Positioning himself at Wei Ying's sheath, he wasted no more time and pushed into the awaiting heat, moving away from the fox's mouth to instead bite and suck at his neck once again.

 

As he wasn't in heat, nor responding to a rut this time, the preparation and care was quite welcome, as well as just plain needed. As it was a dream, he knew he wouldn't actually be hurt by anything that happened unless it was a dream demon attack, but he could still feel the mild discomfort that accompanied the stretching of his walls as Lan Zhan pushed his considerable length inside. Mouth freed again, his head tipped back and he let out a husky, needy sound, sucking in a sharp breath at the mild pinch of pain from two places. "A-ah, Alpha, d-deeper, A-Zhan- " He groaned lewdly, sex briefly tightening around him.

 

Nibbling at the gorgeous line of his neck, Lan Wangji used his grip on the other’s hips to tilt and angle him however he wanted as he sank deep inside him. Barely waiting for the omega to adjust to his girth, he slowly pistoned himself into the fox, using a combination of his hold on the other and his own hips to locate and slam into the most sensitive spots within him.

 

"Aaah, hah, aah, hmmmnnh~" He whimpered, biting his lower lip, fingers tightly holding on to what he could reach of the ribbon. Since Lan Zhan was mostly in the way of what he could actually see , he was using his other senses. Everything smelled like sex, himself, and Lan Zhan. He could hear not only his own noises, but the wet, increasingly lewd sounds down below punctuated by the sound of skin on skin, and the feel of Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan everywhere , pinning him to the ground and on him and inside him and it felt so good ...

 

With his free hand, he roamed over the fox's skin, long calloused fingers running across his sides and up to tweak, pull and rub at a pert nipple. Speeding up his thrusts, he left a few more bites along his skin before straightening so he could better control the force behind his thrusts and better watch his beloved fox writhe underneath him. Done with teasing his nipple for now, his hand then moved down to his stomach, resting there as he fucked Wei Ying as if to say 'it's a shame you're not in heat.'

 

His groan carried a desperate tinge at that, turning into a frustrated tint as he tugged at his hands again, both annoyed and turned on that he couldn't reciprocate. So, he turned to one thing he still had left, his mouth. " L-lan Zhan, mmmh, you wanna impregnate me, huh? N-not even- haaah... in a heat or rut? " he began in a husky, seductive manner. " A-Zhan, oh, A-Zhan, who would have guessed- mmmh- th-that a little... teasing... Would make you so desperate to-! Aah, fffuck- t-to knock me up- "

 

Had this been real life, Lan Wangji would've been too embarrassed to say anything in response and while his ears still grew a bashful red, this was also a dream and so he was a bit more honest with what he wanted. Kneading circles into his stomach, he leaned down so that their bare foreheads were touching and said, "Always. Must show that you are mine ." With every one or two words, he punctuated them with particularly rough thrusts against the sweet spot within him.

 

"Ah~!" Well, that backfired pleasantly. The combination of the honesty of the desire, with the raw, deep, possessive lovemaking sending tingles through his body, the mental impact this was all having- was rapidly driving him up the wall. "Aaah, ah , A-Zhan, so deep, so good , I'm getting close , Lan Zhan, I wanna come, want to come with you filling me up, knot me and breed me, Alpha-"

 

Feeling that he was also getting close to release with his knot very slightly starting to swell, he nuzzled at the fox in a surprisingly tender manner considering how he was also currently railing the omega as he got out, "Come. Come for me, A-Ying. My omega, my kits, mine ." Aiming to drive Wei Ying off the edge, he reached between them to grasp and stroke the fox's leaking member (although part of him was certain he could and wanted to make him come untouched...perhaps another time) as he also took the other's lips in a particularly filthy kiss.

 

His cry was muffled by the other's mouth again, huffing and mewling as he felt the coil in his stomach winding higher, tighter... He crested and began to shake apart, spend shooting all over the alpha's hand, their stomachs, slick spilling from his tight, twitching sheath and drenching Lan Zhan's groin. He wanted his knot, it was almost there, he could feel it catching, just a little more-

 

The feeling of the omega falling apart around him pushed him over, managing to get one more thrust in before his knot locked them together and he was releasing inside him. As he rode out the waves of pleasure, his hands continued to touch him everywhere, holding the fox close and shifting to plant kisses and nuzzles across his face, neck, and shoulders.

 

For a few moments, Wei Ying trembled as the little aftershocks rolled through him, panting breathlessly and making a small noise every once in a while. Once, when his face was close and he could feel lips brush his cheek, he turned towards him blindly, eyes closed, and gave him a few light kisses wherever he could reach. A small flex below made him sigh as he felt the seed inside him shift. It certainly wasn't as much as would be released during a heat, but it still made his inner omega purr contentedly.

His eyes opened to about half-mast, his lids a bit heavy as he looked up at the gold-eyed dragon. He was so beautiful. He was wonderful. And he could only have him like this in his dreams. It just wasn't fair .

 

Once he had come back to himself, he raised a hand to caress one side of Wei Ying's face, thumb brushing across the fox's brow and cheekbone. With his other hand, he released the other's hands from his sword's hilt to give him a bit more movement, however without actually completely freeing his wrists. (He rather liked seeing his pearl on the fox like this, after all.) Wanting to check and make sure the omega was doing alright, he asked a simple, "Wei Ying?"

 

"Mm?" He hummed, glad to finally be able to bring his arms down, putting his arms (bound wrists and all) around his neck, holding him close. He smiled and lifted himself up to give him another kiss, bumping their foreheads together like the dragon had done earlier before leaning in and lightly sucking on an earlobe. "Feels good, A-Zhan." He murmured, purposefully flexing around his shaft and rocking his hips a bit. The bound hands began stroking and playing with his hair.

 

Voice caught somewhere between his half-growl-half-purr and his more aggressive growl due to Wei Ying's actions, the hand on his face shifted around to the back to cup the back of his neck, delicately holding him close as he also nosed and nipped at the fox's ear. Moving his free hand down, he lightly pinched at the omega's hip in a light admonition for their action as he softly said, "Behave."

 

"Don't want to." He replied cheekily, smiling against his ear as he did another slow clench and roll. He licked and nipped at the ear, noting it's flushed color, before rubbing his face against the side of his neck and jaw. "I'm feeling naughty today. I've been trying so hard to behave lately, let me unwind a little with you, hmm? Besides, if I behaved, we wouldn't be enjoying this...." He said as he moved again, arching up against him with a sigh, before letting himself fall back a bit, giving him a devilish smile and sticking out his tongue playfully. "...right now, would we?"

 

He was so tempted to lie for perhaps the only time in his life, but his traitorous body failed him as his dick rather obviously twitched with interest within the fox's heat. Instead, he muttered a quiet "ridiculous" as the hand at his hip moved around to press against a sensitive spot at the small of the omega's back, giving a quick but shallow thrust in reprimand.

 

A squeak escaped his lips, followed by a moan. "Ah! Aiyaah, wh-who's the ridiculous one between the two of us right now, me or you? I think it's you, arguing with me when you're hilted and knotted-mmmmh, in-inside..." He squirmed a bit more, then winced this time. "Ow. There's a rock or something under my butt." He grumbled as he tried to twist and look down beneath them.

 

Rather than trying to clear out whatever was underneath the fox, Lan Wangji simply took careful hold of his lower and upper back and lifted Wei Ying off from the ground. Carefully moving the fox so that nothing pulled too uncomfortably at where they were connected, he shifted into a seated position, settling the omega onto his lap and leaning in to place a kiss on his chest as his hands rested themselves onto the other’s hips.

 

He made a slightly startled noise, but then laughed a bit breathlessly, grinning as he hugged him as well as he could with his wrists tied. He shifted a little, getting comfortable in the position, another shiver and pleased groan slipping from him as his cock pressed deeply in a new and lovely angle. "Oooh, that's good..." He murmured, grinding a little bit on his lap.

 

Eyes falling shut briefly, he used his hands to help angle the fox's movements on his dick, a pleased hum leaving him as he tilted his head up to capture Wei Ying's lips, the slightest of smiles gracing his own. He, of course, loved the rough handling the omega seemed to be very receptive to (although he was loath to admit that aloud, it was still rather embarrassing, after all), but he also immensely enjoyed these soft moments of simply savoring his beloved fox.

 

Wei Ying chirped at him a bit as he relaxed against him, this slow and easy pace and these lazy movements nice in a different way from the frantic desperation that accompanied a cycle. This was... lighthearted, playful in comparison. (Did that mean the spar beforehand was foreplay?..... probably. Huh.) And that little smile was just... SO cute. He could feel his heart squeeze in his chest. He wished he could see him smiling like this in real life. The kisses were nice too, soft and light when compared to the deep ones from earlier, another different kind of nice.

 

With being nowhere near his next rut, it wasn't much longer before his knot deflated enough to comfortably slip out of the omega. However, Lan Wangji wasn't all that keen about moving as he was enjoying having Wei Ying in his lap as he left kiss after kiss across any patch of skin he could access. So long as the fox made no move to get off, he wouldn't move them either. (Or perhaps the other would like to go again? He certainly wasn't opposed to that either.)

 

While he did seem to be very comfortable where he was, he also wanted a little bit... more. While the dream lasted. Still placing scattered kisses wherever he could, he began to move again, slowly lifting himself up and down on his knees, careful to keep the dragon's member from slipping out. He even adjusted the sway of his hips, so his half-hard cock could rub against the hard planes of his abdomen, smearing through the sticky spend already decorating him there.

 

Upon Wei Ying starting to move again, he quickly grew hard once more, hands helping to stabilize his movements but otherwise letting the omega ride him however he wanted. (And heavens was that a thought. Wei Ying was riding him.) Reaching up to catch the other's lips in a kiss, he pushed an insistent tongue into the warm cavern and lazily explored.

 

Hands once more going to his head and hair, he held him close as he tried his best to match Lan Zhan's kiss, allowing him to investigate his mouth, while using his own tongue to occasionally push back in return. He rose and fell on the Alpha's hard length, occasionally shifting for a different angle or to see if anything he did was affecting the dragon in a new way... this buildup was slower, more gradual, but still pleasant and fulfilling. "A-Zhan, mmmm, A-Zhan, do I feel good? Am I doing good for you?"

 

It was hard to see how much this was affecting him as his reactions seemed minimal, but each new little testing angle brought on an interested twitch of his dick. Letting one of his hands move up to thread and curl into his hair, he brought down the fox’s head so that his mouth was level with the other’s ear as he whispered, “ Always . No one but A-Ying can do this to me. My perfect omega, my A-Ying...”

 

He whimpered a bit at those words, biting his lower lip and bowing his back again as he trembled with arousal. He began to pick up the pace a bit, his once again fully hardened length dragging along his dragon's firm abdomen, making little fucked-out noises as he continued to place open-mouthed kisses on his face, neck, ear, wherever he could while holding onto him like this. "Mm-mmmh, A-alpha, fuck , you make me so hot and wet , only A-Zhan, my Alpha..."

 

"Mn." Using his grip on the other's hair, he pulled his head back to expose the line of his neck, leaning in to kiss at his Adam's apple before moving just above it to bite at the bottom of his jaw. Using his other hand, he finally started to move his own hips despite initially aiming for Wei Ying to control the pace, holding the fox steady as he met each drop of his hips with an upward thrust into his velvety heat. With his lips pressed against warm skin, he began whispering tenderly, unaware that he was code-switching as he did so. "A-Ying...omega...Моя красивая любовь..." He trailed off briefly, a hand moving down his back to first gather some slick before using it to rub circles against the fox's asshole. "My good A-Ying...Мой супруг...Люблю тебя..."

 

A bit startled, the fox twitched and squeaked (he would deny it later if asked) as Wangji began touching...somewhere new. He didn't stop, however, even if he had a ridiculously bright blush now... Really? A little teasing to his backdoor had him acting shy? That cat bastard would laugh himself sick if he caught wind of this. Despite that, he held onto him with a desperate edge, the pull on his hair keeping him exposed, and loving the slight pain and helplessness that came with the contradictory feeling of being absolutely safe. His pace stuttered a time or two as he continued to let out small, breathy cries of arousal, interspersed with hums as he tried muffling himself by biting his lip.

 

Sensing that the fox might be close to orgasm, he started to press his finger into his back entrance for extra stimulation, testing around to see what spots or actions jolted pleasure up his spine from fingering him here. With where Wei Ying was fucking himself on his dick, the dragon continued to snap his hips up to meet the omega halfway, mouthing at his neck as he murmured soft praises, completely contradictory to the filthy things he was doing to his body. " Солнце...Lovely...Good Omega...Любовь...Come for me, моя лисичка... "

 

Even though he had absolutely no idea what the words meant, given the current context, they sounded incredibly sexy and hot. His fingers were petting through the long, thick hair as he moved, trying to last while being teased like this. "Ah, A-Zhan, A-Zhan, please..." he murmured nonsensically as he bounced up and down, pace slowly growing faster and less regular as he began to lose himself to his more instinctual side. His smaller opening fluttered under his finger, like it was shy or something, trying to relax for him one moment, locking against him the next.

 

Trying to coax him over the edge, he timed his hand's movements to match the steadily erratic pace of the fox's hips, finger crooking within him to try and find anything sensitive to press against. At the same time, he stretched his middle finger out to gather more slick onto it before teasing it against his rim, slowly increasing pressure as he pushed it in to join the first finger. (No matter what it took, he felt a primal desire to fill the fox up as much as possible, whether that be via kits or anything of his own body.) With his other hand already at the back of Wei Ying's head, he used the positioning to tilt the other's head down towards him, throat giving a pleased rumble as he brought him in for a kiss.

 

The intrusion into the virginal territory was both embarrassing and hot as hell, he was surprised that his imagination would make the cleanliness-minded Lan Wangji interested in such an area- and then the digits spread him a bit wider, went a bit deeper, and pressed against a spot that had his hips stalling as he mewled lewdly into the kiss sealing his mouth. He needed... He wanted it rougher, harder, he wanted Lan Zhan to use him-

 

How, he wasn't quite sure, but he seemed to catch on to what Wei Ying wanted and moved the hand behind his head down to grasp his hip. As he deepened the kiss, he used his hold on the fox to fuck him onto both his length and fingers, easily able to make up for any distracted actions from Wei Ying as he tried to ride him. It was a little bit awkward to do this without the ability to freely use his pelvis and legs, but his strength alone helped ease it along in a different manner and so he had no issue with the speed at which he brought the fox's body down onto him as his fingers and hips made quick, short motions to meet him halfway.

 

Not too much longer after that, his sounds rose in volume and urgency, until he finally broke the kiss, strands of saliva stringing between them for a moment. He tucked his face against the crook of his shoulder, moaning hoarsely as he drove himself down a couple more times, then hilted Lan Zhan inside him, clinging on tightly as he came again. The scent of sex and dragon’s blood incense was thick in the air, with Lan Zhan's sandalwood mixing into that. His ass and sheath clamped around the alpha, decorating their skin once again with his seed, and placing a nice red bite mark next to one of his scent glands in his haze.

 

Lan Wangji was quick to follow in his release, hand moving from the other's hip back up to his neck, pressing him close to his body as he shuddered through his orgasm and groaned out a breathy, "Wei Ying ..." While he felt a sting of pain from the fox's bite, it only served to heighten his pleasure as he also turned to reciprocate and left a bite across the closest patch of skin he could access.

 

"Hnnngh~♡" The return bite made him shiver and grind on his mate in little circles for another moment or two as the orgasm extended that little bit more. Once all the tremors were finally out of his system, he unclenched his jaw and licked and sucked at the mark a bit to soothe it, then took a deep, shuddering sort of breath before pulling back and putting his forehead against Lan Zhan's again, heavy-lidded eyes meeting his again. He could feel their breath mingling together, the sweat and other fluids dripping from their bodies, the seed heating him up from the inside... He opened his mouth, about to say something or kiss him again---

And then he woke up. The disoriented fox stared at the ceiling of the room for a few moments before blushing and groaning, grabbing a blanket and pulling it up over his head.

"Oh good, you're awake." The voice made him jolt, and he turned to look at the glowing golden cat eyes staring at him from not too far away. "Wen Qing already prepared a bath and scent blockers for you in the other room. Please go do that so I can change your bedding." This-!! This cat bastard!! Was he watching the whole time?!

Embarrassed, the fox got up and headed past him to the adjacent room to clean up. "Pervert." 

"Cat." He shrugged, unrepentant as he went to change the bedding as Wei Ying disrobed and got in the bath. "Human modesty is a learned thing for me...besides, you're pack now. Omegas in a pack are supposed to help each other with this shit, aren't they?"

Wei Ying sank into the water up to his nose, arms around his knees as he thought that over, ears tilted down. "Still think you're a pervert." 

"Well, yeah. Whatever. I guess so." Xue Yang said with an eye roll. "Hurry up, the lions are sleeping outside to give you some space, but I can't go back to sleep until you do." The fox rolled his eyes, but did his best to clean himself quickly and thoroughly.

Chapter Text

Embarrassing dreams aside (and the revelation that slapped him in the face as a result of one in particular) , the following several days passed by blissfully for Lan Wangji. While the circumstances behind hiding Wei Ying away certainly weren't favorable, the ability to see him every day was exactly the kind of thing he had wanted as a child and had never thought he would get after their untimely separation. He could most definitely get used to this (and perhaps already was, which wouldn't be a fun development to adjust to once it was safe for the fox and his friends/guards to return to Chunshan). This particular day, however, would likely result in him seeing the fox much later than normal due to the guests they were receiving and the subsequent ceremony they would be holding for Lan Xichen's official rise to the role of GusuLan Sect Leader. While he didn't necessarily have a large involvement in the sect comparatively (he was still technically a junior disciple, after all), as the new heir to the title of sect leader and member of the main Lan family, his presence was required and so he was seated silently at the front of the main gathering room, just to the side of where his brother and uncle were situated. Once this was over and the following banquet went on for long enough, he'd be able to dismiss himself to perhaps have some quiet time with Wei Ying.

 

The fox and his small entourage were doing their best to pass the days quietly and peacefully....mostly. Xue Yang was the one who had the hardest time holding still, but as a result, he'd put more effort into bonding with the group (and seeing how annoying he could be before he could get on tempers.)

This particular day was a special one: Wen Qing was able to create some medicine successfully to block the strange poison and had worked some more on an antidote/inoculation against it. She was good at this, but not an immortal doctor yet, so she just did the best she could.

Wei Wuxian was laying against one of the tables doodling in his 'special' notebook, with the Wen siblings nearby, when there was a sudden sound and cursing from the roof. Immediately on alert, the lions and the fox were suddenly on their feet and running outside...and were completely caught off-guard. Fire. The back mountain was on fire. And there were flaming arrows randomly falling all over; where they landed, a new gout of flame springing up.

Up on the roof, one had hit the house near where Xue Yang was napping, waking him up and making him jump to his feet and putting it out with a flame-eating talisman before jumping down to join the others.

Snapping out of it, Wei Ying created some message talismans and sent them off as fast as possible to go find the nearest disciples to raise the alarm. He didn't have any of the Lan Clan signals, but it was obvious they were under attack. He drew Suibian and looked at the others, who also armed themselves and went to their half forms. "Find the attackers! Let's go!" He exclaimed and they went to try and find the archers causing this mess. He didn't realize the messages might not make it to their destination.

 

The induction ceremony was a rather short one compared to the banquet that would then follow and so it went by normally without a hitch. It wasn't until they were well enough into the meal that a harried disciple burst in, giving a hasty bow in apology but then pressing with great urgency that, "S-Sect Leader, the back mountains are on fire!" 

Immediately on edge, Lan Xichen stood to his full height and regarded the disciple. "Why are they on fire? Have disciples already been sent to control it?" 

"Y-yes, some water-affinity dragons rushed over to put it out, but it's slow going. Due to all the foliage, it is spreading faster than they can smother it." 

"Send all disciples to put out the flames, we mustn't let it destroy any more of the surrounding nature. Wangji, let's--" Xichen had turned to address his brother beside him, but by the time he had, Wangji was already nowhere to be found. 

Worried sick for the safety of Wei Ying hiding out in the cottage in the back mountains, Lan Wangji had left immediately upon hearing about the fire. Upon reaching the first most open courtyard of Cloud Recesses, he transformed into his true form and leapt into the sky, rushing over to the mountains. True to the disciple's word, he could see other dragons in between little gaps of smoke from the fires, but while their water abilities were helping, they couldn't quite get everything in one fell swoop so that the fire was extinguished all at once, and so the wind continued to press the flames on. Eyes frantically darting around for any sign of Wei Ying or his guards as he flew, he came close to the first patch of flames he spotted and blew out a wave of frost and ice, frigidly cold body also hopefully serving as a way to snuff out the fire. Continuing with this pattern, he tried sweeping over as much of the back mountains as he could in search of Wei Ying as more and more disciples joined either on swords or as dragons to control the fire.

 

Near the small house, a battle was raging. Fortunately, the four black animals had either a natural affinity for fire or were trained or used to it, so the flames around them were being suppressed. However, because they were trying to keep the fire suppressed, they weren't able to fight as efficiently as they were usually able to. Xue Yang was moving like a black wind, his fighting style brutal, quick and dirty, employing his poisons and hidden weapons. He was grinning ferally and even laughing as blood sprayed, already carrying a few gashes on his body, but his insane pain tolerance was sustaining him thus far. Wen Qing was doing her best on keeping the spell masters at bay, but was frustrated that Wei Ying wasn't willing to leave, but rather defending the position. As such, her charge was already bearing a few arrow gouges, as well as some seal burns. She had to maintain her focus to keep the enemies from being able to complete arrays and seals.

Wei Ying was multitasking. He was also using his magic and martial ability to prevent themselves from being captured, but Cloud Recesses was so clean of negative energy that there were no dead he could call upon as reinforcements. Wen Ning was, of course, a wildly amazing fighter, and Wei Ying was no slouch either, but the cultivation and skill of these fighters was alarming. Their only advantage was they didn't seem to want Wei Ying dead, and were trying to take him alive.

 

After assisting with the fire for long enough that enough disciples were able to join in and make up for his absence should he switch directives, he did just that and started tracking down Wei Ying. He needed to make sure nothing had happened to him, he would not allow their childhood separation to happen again, he trained as hard as he had exactly so he could actually protect the fox this time. Approaching the Gentian House, he first caught sight of Wen Ning's half form as the lion shook himself off after being thrown into a tree before once again charging at the current enemy he was facing. Which meant that if the lion was there, the others should be in the nearby area as well, and sure enough, he spotted a roughed up Wei Ying trying to hold off against another foe. With a quick glance around, he could see that they were outnumbered and despite the skills of the fox and his bodyguards, they were bound to run out of energy. (Perhaps he should've tried to get his brother to follow him so they could turn the tides even better, but he'd been too consumed with worry and could only act first.) Letting out an enraged roar, he honed in an attack on one of the assailants, breathing out and encasing the culprit in a thick layer of ice that climbed all the way up to his neck. Landing heavily on the ground, his long form coiled around Wei Ying as he stared down the enemy the other had been fighting, an aggressive growl leaving his throat as even the air around him rapidly grew as cold as his gaze on the intruder. Extremely defensive at the moment, the cold chill was a result of his body's temperature dropping to burning levels of cold to everyone except the fox wrapped securely within his body's cocoon (the most cold the omega felt from the dragon was perhaps only to the degree of the Cold Springs) and, after a moment of realization, the cats protecting Wei Ying as well.

 

Dragon roars, like lion roars, could have a particularly devastating quality to them when unleashed upon unsuspecting enemies. The roar stunned all on the battlefield, for a few precious seconds, and the sudden glacial plunge in temperature crippled the flames surrounding them. The assailants still capable of fighting all exchanged looks, and they seemed to decide that adding a nearly fully-grown, rested, royal drake to the mix at this point in time was too high above their pay grade. They disengaged, pulling out teleportation talismans and using them to get the hell out, a couple using some flare-type talismans to temporarily blind them. Xue Yang managed to kill one more before he could escape, and one decided to try and kill Wen Ning before he left, wanting the fight to be easier the next attempt.

It didn't work, obviously, and before long, the fighting was over, the felines and vulpine cultivators left with the dragon in the burned garden, with the fires slowly dying thanks to the concentrated efforts of multiple dragons.

Wen Qing turned around, green eyes alight with concern, blood matting her fur in a couple places, a cut across her left clavicle and above her right brow. "Didi?! Wei Ying?!?" She called out anxiously, she hadn't seen exactly what happened the last few moments before Lan Zhan arrived.

 

With the threat gone, Lan Wangji's guard lowered ever so slightly and he loosened his coil around Wei Ying just enough so that the fox's head and shoulders were visible just above his scaly body and he could twist his head to face the other. Worriedly scanning the other's body now that he had the time to, he looked for every minute little injury that could've possibly ended up on the fox. Perhaps the only favor he would even consider granting the attackers was that Wei Ying wasn't horribly wounded. There were numerous wounds, yes, but even collectively, they weren't dangerous. Still unhappy to see them marring his skin, all thoughts about verbally greeting either the fox or his friends flew out the window as he instead focused on locating each gash or burn and giving them a few quick licks each. While dragon saliva wasn't a panacea by any means, it would help speed up the healing process and prevent him from losing any more blood.

 

"Pfwaaah- I'm okay, Shijie!" He called out, lifting an arm and waving at her as the dragon began nosing at him, which he didn't mind. "Check on A-Ning and Xue-EEP!" He jolted and yipped a bit at the first swipe of tongue, immediately blushing under his fur. He was still holding Suibian with one hand, and brought the other down to press on his nose, trying to hold him back. "Lan-lan Zhan, wait, wait a second, I'm still in my half form, you're gonna get fur all over your tongue- WOW your tongue is long!" He exclaimed as the organ managed to wrap around a seal burn on his wrist, on the arm he was trying to keep him at bay with.

Xue Yang was going around to see if any of the attackers were worth trying to keep alive, and making sure some of them would stay down permanently, teeth chattering a bit at the ambient temperature. The lions, being related to Mobei-jun, were actually alright despite the chill surrounding them.

 

Hardly even noticing whether or not he was getting fur on his tongue (and not even caring that much in the first place), he nudged the fox's arm away with his muzzle and an accompanying, "Inconsequential," before setting his sights back on looking for the rest of his wounds to continue his fussing over anything he spotted. Really, with how much bigger he was in this form and the general strength of any Lan family member, it was all too easy to continue his worried treatment of the fox, using barely any effort to push Wei Ying's arms away every time he tried to get Lan Wangji to stop. 

Using this reprieve now that the fighting was over and the fire was taken care of, Wen Ning moved around the area to every assailant they'd subdued and easily gathered them all in one centralized place, all individually bound by immortal binding cables. It was hard to judge who'd be the most likely to quack and spill, but they needed at least one of them alive to interrogate and figure out why they had instigated the attack (though, of course, he had his suspicions). (He was also almost tempted to try and ask Lan Wangji to regulate the temperature he was radiating, but the dragon was, well...preoccupied...)

 

Aaaaaaaaah it was getting woooooorrrse!!! His face practically burning under his fur, he was getting more and more embarrassed by this, as well as his reaction to it. "Lan Wangji, I'll be fine, I've got Qing-shijie, she'll get me patched up, this isn't necessary-"

 

"This will expedite healing." His comment didn't exactly deny that he'd allow Wen Qing to patch Wei Ying up (she was the doctor, after all, not Lan Wangji), but he also didn't let up on his search for any other cuts or burns as he nudged the fox this way and that. He needed to make sure his (mate) friend was taken care of and while he might normally just cave into his request, he wasn't all that willing to do so with Wei Ying presently. (Although, a small part of him wondered and lamented over the sound of his courtesy name from the other's lips. Why was he suddenly 'Lan Wangji' right now?)  

 

He groaned slightly, curling his tails around himself (primarily his hips, there was a cut on his front left hip and another across his lower back he really didn't want the dragon to notice, as well as not wanting him to notice something more embarrassing-) and squirming a bit to try and slip out of the coils. He did wrap his arms around his muzzle at one point, keeping his jaws together against his chest. (The use of his formal name was to try and create a little distance, to keep himself calm as well as trying to get him to stop.) "Lan Zhan, hold on a second- oh, no..." His ears and tails drooped as he looked past him at the gentian garden and the little house. The garden....looked pretty bad. Guilt began twisting inside him, and he found that was a pretty good way to squash any traces of inappropriate arousal.

 

Lan Wangji stilled as Wei Ying held his muzzle shut, ears twitching both at the...rather odd position (although he didn't hate it) and the fox's soft exclamation. Tilting his head just slightly so that he could see what had drawn Wei Ying's attention, his heart couldn't help but sink at the site. It was unreasonable, really. He really did love the gentian field and hated to see it so damaged, but the disheartened feeling he currently held would surely only be worse had the flowers been unscathed but the fox hadn't. Nudging his head a bit more into the other's chest, he stated simply, "Flowers can be replanted. You cannot." 

 

He still made a small distressed noise over the sight, anxious to see if the rest of the house was okay, releasing his hold to stroke his head and mane before stopping as he realized he was getting blood on those beautiful white scales and blue mane- "I'm sorry." He blurted, withdrawing his hands and crouching down to pick up Suibian from where he dropped it, sheathing it back to his waist. God, what was he thinking, coming here to hide- He was implicating his best friend, and all this on such an important day... He’d even caused damage to such important places...

 

Not entirely sure how he was picking up on it, Lan Wangji seemed to sense the distress the fox was feeling and gently nudged his body with his muzzle. "No need for apologies. Glad you are safe." Subconsciously, he released some of his scent to try and calm down the younger teen. 

 

Sighing, he made himself smile very slightly, even though he still felt very bad about this whole mess, and he wiped his hand on his robe to try and get the blood off before stroking the dragon's head again....ah, his Qing Jing peak robes were ruined...oh well, he could wear some of his Demon Prince ones then, the ones that Papa He had prepared. Blood didn't show up on black and red as well as it did white and pale green. He used his other hand to rub at his own muzzle, thinking to himself. "Let's see if the house itself is okay?" He suggested to the dragon, turning gray eyes back to him.

 

...Lan Zhan didn't like this smile the fox was giving him but nevertheless went along with his suggestion, transforming back into his human form. Unwilling to stray too far from the fox's side, especially when he could somehow sense that he wasn't his usual self, he remained almost shoulder to shoulder as he followed the fox into the house. 

 

In his half form, Wei Ying was actually a bit shorter than usual, something the dragon might notice as close as they were walking to each other. Much to his relief, the inside of the Gentian House wasn't really damaged, it smelled like smoke and some of the art had been affected, but the house itself and much of the furniture was undamaged. It was just...any lingering old scents were probably.... He glanced at Lan Zhan to see how he was taking this, hoping he could glean some information from the other beast's face.

 

Nothing about his expression as he scanned over the few things that had been affected by the fire revealed anything about his thoughts, still the same impassive look on his face as any other normal encounter with him. Inwardly, yes he was a bit saddened that there'd even been damage inflicted on the area in the first place, but that was sorely outweighed by the immense relief that the fox beside him was still alive and standing. Lying was forbidden, after all, and so his words about Wei Ying being safe were genuine, as were his sentiments about the damage that had been done to the cottage. Flowers could be replanted, paintings could be restored, burnt shingles could be replaced. His memories of his visits here wouldn't be affected just because it had been set on fire. And so, moving about as if it were a mostly normal day, he moved into the kitchen to start preparing some tea. Something calming to hopefully ease the frazzled nerves the fox seemed to be bearing. 

 

He did take a seat, and watched as Lan Zhan set about making some tea, playing with the paw pads on his fingers as he waited. If he turned back to human form, the smoke probably wouldn't be bothering him so much, but it was easier to hide things in this form, so he was reluctant to turn back. He was already thinking that it would be better for them to leave before things were made worse.

 

Outside, the cat eventually made his way over to the male lion, rubbing his arms with his hands. "FUCK, it's cold...." He muttered, looking at Wen Ning. "How are you fine? Lions aren't from the tundra."

 

Meanwhile, Wen Ning simply shrugged at Xue Yang's question as he stuttered out not from the cold but simply his own shyness, "W-We're p-part of Mobei-jun's k-kin...E-even if our a-affinity is f-fire, w-we're used to the c-cold too..."

 

Turning to his cat form, Xue Yang jumped up and pressed against the side of his neck. "W-well I'm not made for this kind of shitty weather, I'm a short hair. Warm me up a little," he grumbled, nosing at the hem of his robes. His paw pads and nose were both very, very cold. 

Wen Qing had come over to the two feline males, looking her little brother over first to see about his injuries before relaxing a bit as she saw his insane healing factor was working properly and turning to the small cat. "... Xue Chengmei, are you afraid of keeping blood inside your body or something?" She asked after a few moments as she tried to lift him off the lion's shoulder to treat his wounds, the cat trying to hold onto Wen Ning’s shoulder with his claws and hissing at her.

 

Stiffening at the cat's action (and, ironically enough, at his cold paws and nose) , Wen Ning was immensely thankful when his sister came up to grab the cat by his scruff, helping her by prying his claws away (and rather unbothered by any passes that dug into his skin). "I-I'm sure you c-can warm up j-just as fine by m-maintaining d-distance from S-Second Young M-Master Lan..."

 

"Fuck that! You know what dragons are known for?! Changing the damn weather!! I wouldn't be surprised if it started... snowing..." He frowned suddenly, seeming distracted as Wen Qing finally got ahold of the tomcat and began to poke and prod at his wounds, limbs and torso, checking for broken bones as well as any internal injuries. "...Argh. Stop poking at me, Wen Qing, just give me some medicine and go check on Wuxian." Thanks to the blood contract, Xue Yang's pack bond with the fox was stronger than it should have been, given how short of a time they'd known each other. Given how long the two alphas had been with him, they probably would be even more in tune with his emotions than the cat would...unless he was blocking it from them out of misguided concern about worrying them. Dumb fox. Rely on your pack.

 

At Xue Yang's prompting, Wen Ning frowned and followed the cat's gaze. Seeing that it was on Wei Ying, he didn't initially sense anything odd like the other seemed to. Could it possibly be a distraction by the cat to shift their attention elsewhere? Nevertheless, he tried to focus in, attempting to figure out what exactly the cat could possibly be picking up on and... oh...was that a bit of distress he was getting a hint of? It wasn't very strong, so he hadn't noticed it before...was Wei Ying trying to downplay something? Noticing that Lan Wangji seemed to be trying to talk to him, he decided he wouldn't quite do anything yet...

 

The lioness also looked over, hesitating briefly before shaking her head and using a spell and some pressure points to get Xue Yang back to his human form. "Young Master is with Second Young Master Lan right now. If he's trying to hide how he's feeling, we shouldn't expose him. It doesn't seem like he's in severe physical pain, I can treat him after I treat you. A-Ning, help me hold him still."

"Hssssssssssssssh, why are you righteous cultivators all so annoying?!" He grumbled, grabbing a candy from his sleeve and tossing it in his mouth as she got to work. He looked like he was in much worse shape in his human form, the cuts and blood that had been hidden in black fur standing out much more on the pale skin. "You're all repressed. Even Wei Ying, and he's still the wildest out of the three of you."

 

Nodding abruptly at Wen Qing's request, Wen Ning stepped up to hold onto one of Xue Yang's wrists to keep him in place. Hopefully he wouldn't actually need to do more to hold him still; knowing the cat, he'd likely get at least a week of constant teasing if he ended up having to hold onto two wrists or anything beyond that.

 

The grip on his wrist actually got a flinch from Xue Yang; as the examination continued, Wen Qing found he'd gotten a fracture there. Protecting someone while fighting wasn't a huge strong suit of his, so he'd gotten a bit more roughed up than he typically would have in a fight like that, if he had his jumping corpses or contracted creatures with him. He didn't complain much as she treated him, however, taking the medicine handed to him (after making sure each one did not come from a red-ringed bottle, he would probably rather die than ever be subjected to Wei Ying's spicy medicine ever again.) And tolerated the bandages and ointments he got smeared with. "I'm still cold." He said once it was over, and she nodded.

"Some of that is probably due to the blood loss. Bundle up and take a break, Xue Yang." She handed him a tube of tea from her sleeve, as well as a blanket. "Tuck your hands against your chest or under your armpits, and your knees to your chest."

 

With Wen Qing finishing up her examination of Xue Yang, Wen Ning stayed off to the side as she worked, having released his wrist upon the revelation that it had been injured in the fight. Half keeping an eye on them and an eye on their captives, he was thus the first one to notice another (decidedly unthreatening-smelling) figure emerge from the line of trees. Jerking to attention, the lion gave the freshly appointed Sect Leader a bow and greeting as Lan Xichen approached the group. "S-Sect Leader L-Lan..." 

Lan Xichen smiled as he came to a stop nearby them. "Young Master Wen, Maiden Wen, Young Master Xue. I'm glad to see you are all relatively unscathed. I gathered Wangji had headed straight over here as soon as he could and it seems I was right." As he said this, he stole a glance towards the house where he could sense his brother inside, not quite able to hide the slight grimace that followed upon seeing the damage to the gentian field. "I assume Young Master Wei is alright as well?"

 

The twin tailed cat nearly laughed over being called 'young master'. What young master? Out of everyone there, he was the only one with no pedigree, a demon, a delinquent. He didn't correct him though, for multiple reasons, just taking the blanket and wrapping it around himself. 

Wen Qing nodded. "The Young Master has only minor injuries, yes." The doctress replied as she saluted and bowed to the new Sect Leader. "He went into the house with Second Young Master Lan to calm down, I believe."

 

Lan Xichen nodded in response to that. “That is good to hear.” Taking in the intruders they had captured, he then asked, “Were these people behind this? We found it strange that a fire even broke out here and so suspected foul play. It seems this just might confirm that.” He also found it strange how it went unnoticed for as long as it had and so suspected corruption within their ranks, but he didn’t voice any of that, opting to instead silently observe and investigate instead.

 

"Xue Yang was the first to see what happened." Wen Qing said, glancing at the cat, who was now curled up and ignoring the conversation. "Flame arrows were being fired indiscriminately all over the mountain, and one hit the roof. We put out the flames there, then went to see if we could find the intruders. The first squad of three we came across sent some sort of signal to the others, and they gathered, forcing us to fall back to the gentian house. They were focused on Young Master Wei, trying to employ seals to take him alive. Judging from attack patterns, they didn't care about us as much. My guess is they were trying to flush us out of hiding with the flames. This one apologizes for the destruction on behalf of my Master." She said as she offered him a bow and salute.

 

“At ease, please,” the older dragon implored. “Nature is resilient, my worry had not ultimately been for the mountain itself, but the people that could’ve been harmed as a result. Our back mountains may be sacred and so yes, saddening in that sense, but they are also largely uninhabited. Many of our disciples are in opposing natures to fire so we were able to take control quickly, there is no need for apologies.” 

“O-our Young Master w-would not agree, w-with all due r-respect, Sect L-Leader Lan...” Wen Ning stuttered out with a bow of his own and causing Lan Xichen to chuckle lightly. 

“Yes, Young Master Wei does seem the type to think as such. Nevertheless, the sentiment stands.”

 

The twin tailed cat snorted and rolled his eyes, leaning his head back to look over at them. "Look, I still think that there's a better option to all this. Burial Mounds. With the atmosphere there and the sheer amount of materials, Wei Wuxian could turn it into an impenetrable fortress, as well as vastly improve his cultivation. He'll be safe, and he won't have to feel all stupidly guilty about being a trouble magnet for you dragons. Win win."

 

Smiling, Lan Xichen nodded in acknowledgement. "Ultimately, it is not my place to dictate how you wish to protect yourselves, I am not your Sect Leader, after all, however, our gates will always be open to you." Inwardly, he couldn't help but think that a certain young dragon would not be very comfortable with the idea.

 

--

 

Once the tea was ready, Wangji brought the cups and kettle over to where the fox was seated, pouring out some tea for the both of them and nudging one of the cups towards Wei Ying. “Something is bothering you?” 

 

"Thank you," he said as he accepted and held the cup, appreciating the warmth. "I'm okay. I just...." 'I shouldn't have come here,' he thought as he took a sip. "...I guess that it's not a secret that I'm here anymore." 

 

“Should have been.” They had been careful to keep their presence here on a need to know basis with only the most trusted individuals, and so the fact that someone knew where to look for them... He didn’t want to say anything about his thoughts quite yet, it would require more knowledge first. But regardless... “Will protect Wei Ying. No more repeats.” No matter how many times he told himself the first instance had ended up okay with the fox gaining a family from it, he still could not forgive the demon wolf lord for the scare Luo Binghe had given both of them. 

 

He sighed and set down the cup on a nearby table, looking down at it. "Lan Zhan... I... this changes things. I don't want to purposefully bring trouble to Cloud Recesses. This won't be the last attempt, it's merely the first. I think-" he broke off, he didn't want to say it. But it had to be said.

 

Lan Wangji furrowed his brows at the comment, not all that happy about the implications the fox was hinting towards. He would much rather prefer being able to physically and quickly check up on the other should anything come up. Knowing he was a target for attacks and yet not knowing when those said attacks happened or how he came out of them was not a comforting thought. "...Strength in numbers. Would prefer to have Wei Ying here." 'I want to protect you' remained unspoken, but he hoped he at least gave off an air of wishing to do so. 

 

He bit his lower lip. It wasn't that he wanted to leave.... He wanted to stay. But... he found himself looking out one of the windows at the blackened landscape, and his claws lightly scratched the cup he was holding. "...Lan Zhan, you guys are still rebuilding after the attack last month. And then, on the day of your brother's ceremony, this happens..." He turned to look at the dragon. "I trust you, Lan Zhan, you know I do, but I'm just... worried... I value our friendship, I just don't want to put your sect at risk because of it. I'd feel horrible if someone here died trying to keep me from harm."

 

He certainly didn't blame the fox for this happening coinciding with his brother's ceremony and he doubted Xichen would either. In fact, the timing of this only seemed to add weight to the thought that there were rats among the dragons. Only Lan sect members and the select invited individuals would know what was going on today and would be able to discreetly let in intruders without alerting their barriers. But no matter, he couldn't put any faith or conviction into this theory until there was more evidence to support it anyways. "Would not be true Lan Sect cultivators if we ignored your plight. Do not want anything to happen where I cannot help." He needed to protect the fox, he couldn't let anything happen to his fated one (and no, he wasn't bothered by hearing the word 'friendship' from the other's mouth, not at all, how self-centered a sentiment).

 

"I'm not- believe me, I don't want to leave-" He reached up and put his hands over his face, his ears and tail demonstrating his unhappiness with the situation. "-but Lan Zhan, you lost a father! Sect members! And these assholes nearly burned a big part of your home down! What if next time, they take hostages?! What if they kill someone?! I can't- I can't handle that! Knowing that if I just left, it might not have happened-" He choked up a bit. He was overlapping that night with his parents with the current situation. He should stop. Their death wasn't really his fault, he just couldn't do anything about it, and maybe...maybe if he hadn't...

 

Worried over the distress the fox was exhibiting and itching to do something, anything to calm him down, Lan Wangji reached out to cup the sides of his face, thumbs very lightly brushing across the soft fur of his cheeks. "Cannot know for certain. Can only perform preventative measures." Frowning at his words, feeling as if they wouldn't actually help and struggling to think of something that would , he tried again even as his hands grew more confident about petting the other's half-form. "Not Wei Ying's fault. Only the fault of the intruders." While of course no one of his sect would wish injury or death upon another, it was also a risk they all knew they would need to take. True Lan cultivators always strived to be righteous and never disregarded lives.

 

A soft whine escaped the fox, leaning into the petting. He didn't deserve it, but it felt nice and he wanted it. After a few moments, he shifted, then laid down, resting his head on the tops of Lan Zhan's thighs. He was tempted to go all the way to his full fox form so he could curl up on his lap properly, but then his injuries would be fully visible and he didn't want that.

 

Adjusting his touch, he moved one hand to the crown of the fox's head, simply resting there as his other hand moved down to gently move up and down his arm in a hopefully soothing manner. He wanted to try and press more, try to insist again that Wei Ying should stay here where he could protect him, but with how freaked out he was even just moments ago, he was hesitant to bring it up again. So instead, he continued with his slow, consistent motions, hoping that he could possibly transmit his wish into his actions.

 

He was quite content to let himself drift for a while, enjoying the attention from his friend, wanting to just ignore everything else for a little while. Slowly, he began to calm down, and the sharp anxious pain began to dull down to a low, guilty ache, something he could deal with for now. "....I'll stay." He said after a few more minutes. "For a while longer. But, if I leave, it's not your fault. Okay?" He asked, opening a gray eye and turning slightly to look up at him.

 

...If he left, wouldn't that mean that he failed to do his job as a protector? It'd mean that either Wei Ying didn't think he could protect him or that he didn't feel like Cloud Recesses was safe...He didn't like either of those thoughts... However, he didn't voice any of this and instead kept his gaze fixed on the fox, eventually giving the slightest nod when he found he couldn't bring himself to verbally acknowledge it. Absent-mindedly, his hand continued to move against the other's arm.

 

"...Hey." He reached up with one hand to lightly brush at the side of his face, moving some strands of hair out of the way. "It's okay. If I shouldn't feel bad about this, neither should you. No double-standards, okay?" He said, giving him a small, but more genuine smile. He could feel the stubborn aura the dragon was giving off, too bad for him the fox was also hard-headed.

 

Silently, he moved his hands back up to the sides of the fox's face, bending over to press their foreheads together, even if that meant they weren't looking at each other anymore. With his alpha instinct to protect so deeply ingrained in him, it was difficult to dismiss the thought that his mate leaving him at a time when he was a target for animosity equated to his own failure to give his pack peace of mind. However, trying to yield to Wei Ying, he eventually gave a soft "Mn" in response.

 

'Don't kiss him. Do not kiss your best friend. Don't lick him, either,' he thought to himself desperately, even as his other hand pet his hair and face lightly, letting his eyes slip closed. He let himself enjoy the contact, and the feel and sound of his breath. '....Maybe a small chin or cheek lick.'

 

--

 

He sighed heavily as he thought back to that time, a little over a week ago now. He lifted his hand as he sent off the swiftest message talisman he had, watching it streak off towards Gusu to let Lan Zhan know he'd arrived safely at his destination.

Burial Mounds.

The place deserved it's reputation. If anyone but the fox had gone there to try and enter, let alone live there, they likely would have died, quite messily. But for Wei Wuxian, it was like the perfect place to create a den. His cultivation had already increased, and the dead he'd met were all either falling into line as his private army members, or getting calmly exorcised by the vulpine cultivator. He might even be able to break through to four tails soon, that's how well things were going. He smiled to himself slightly, if he managed to get to four tails by the time the conference rolled around, he'd have one heck of a fun show for everyone with his disguise.... 

Xue Yang was also incredibly pleased they'd gone to burial mounds, and was directing some of the corpses to build shelters for them all. He'd healed mostly by then, thanks to Wen Qing's amazing medical skills, and was back to being his annoying self. However... Well, he seemed to have developed a genuine soft spot for Wei Ying. The fox had been upset after making the choice to leave, some days after the fire incident, but the older omega seemed to be willing to share comforting scents with the younger.

Wei Ying wasn’t one to show he was sulking for long, and before a week had passed, he got to work on making his plan for the archery tournament...

Chapter Text

Despite his agreement not to beat himself up over Wei Ying's departure from Cloud Recesses, Lan Wangji still couldn't help the little pang of disappointment at himself for his supposed 'failure.' However, the next two months of frequent contact with the fox did ease the feeling somewhat. At least he was still receiving updates about his well-being, cultivation progress, and whatever else Wei Ying wanted to ramble about. His messages in response were rather short in typical Lan Wangji fashion, but despite the short sentences and comments, he never failed to include one response to each new and different topic the other teen provided. In this manner, while the days didn't pass as quickly as they might have with the fox still in Gusu, before he knew it, it was time to pack for Nightless City and prepare for the upcoming Discussion Conference and archery competition. (Rather, Lan Xichen was preparing for the conference and Lan Wangji was preparing for the competition.) Compared to the year before at the conference in Lanling, it would be the first year without Xichen in the disciple competitions (and therefore no longer hogging first and second place with his brother) and that brought about an odd atmosphere. Both Jades had been rather used to the arrangement and despite the nature of them being competitions, they had often worked together to gather the merits they had. But this time, the First Jade would instead be quietly cheering on his brother and GusuLan disciples from his seat on the dias with the other major sect leaders. The journey to Qishan was a bit of a long one as Gusu was perhaps the region farthest away from the Wen Sect, but the trip was an uneventful one and so after arriving the evening before the competition of the conference kick off, they took the time to rest and refresh and were prepared for the competition as early as 5 am as per typical Lan Sect customs.

Standing in the large open field just outside the competition grounds, Lan Wangji now simply had to wait for the competition to officially begin at noon sharp.

 

Aside from the perpetually early GusuLan sect disciples, slowly, disciples from other clans began to gather, chattering excitedly. There were even some familiar faces in the crowd, Jiang Cheng from the Jiang sect, and Nie Huaisang from the Nie sect....

Then, at about 9 AM or so, something exciting happened.

Riding in on their swords, garments fluttering elegantly around them, was a small group of women, four in total. All were as ethereal as fairies at first glance, and one was wearing a veil and inner disciple robes of Xian Shu Peak from the Cang Qiong mountain sect. It seemed two were twins, and the fourth had wildly sharp but beautiful features.

Of course, they all immediately drew attention, both envious and desirous, from all sorts of different people, including one particular sleazebag, who came rushing out upon receiving word that such women had arrived en masse.

They all lightly dismounted their swords, and the girl in the veil took a fan from her waist and flicked it open, lightly fanning herself as she took a look around, amusement dancing in her eyes. When her gaze passed by the Lan sect, the corners of her eyes seemed to tilt up just a bit more and then her mirth seemed to vanish, replaced by a haughty but rightful arrogance as she turned to face the Wen clansman. Before they could speak, or draw closer, one of the female attendants stepped forward and threw up a blocking arm. "My Lady Bing should not be approached so easily!" The fierce woman proclaimed, before being lightly nudged aside by the fan.

"Xiong Mei, stand down." A definitely feminine, high, and clear voice rang out, somehow soft, but easy to hear at a distance. "This cutivator is Bing Meiren, Disciple of Qi Qingqi, Lord of Xian Shu Peak, of Cang Qiong Sect of Chunshan." She declared as she lightly fanned herself. "She is looking for a martial cousin who got himself lost in this country some months ago... Wei Wuxian?"

 

If the look he caught from the girl wasn't enough to confirm just who this was, the introduction that soon followed certainly was. Wei Ying was...?! Quickly steeling his expression before anyone noticed it had shifted, he remained still where he was, itching to go over to the disguised fox but unwilling to risk exposing him. 

From the next group of disciples over, Jiang Cheng scoffed and gave a hard eye-roll at the inquiry. "That idiot seriously got lost? Wow , congratulations Wei Wuxian. Haven't seen him in a while, so that explains it." 

From even a bit further away, Nie Huaisang was watching the small group with a glint of interest, particularly with Bing Meiren. With his brother up with all the other sect leaders, he was thus relatively free to walk up to the Chunshan cultivators excitedly as he used his own current favorite fan to point at the other's fan. "Maiden Bing, that brushwork is extraordinary, I'm afraid I don't know much about Chunshan, is that a signature style of the country? Should you be permitting, I would love to examine it in more detail!" 

And finally, closest to the stairs leading up to the sect leaders, one lecherous second Wen heir was not so subtly ogling the maidens that had arrived. That one in the middle seemed especially exotic; now if only she would remove the veil covering her nose and mouth... Wen Chao turned to one of his nearby lackeys to ask, "Where the hell is this Cang Qiong Sect? Never heard of it."

 

'Oi, I heard that, Jiang Cheng, you-' The disguised fox thought, keeping himself from reacting outwardly to his so-called friend's insult. It was okay, he'd get him back for it later. As she handed the servant a letter of introduction to take to his masters, she turned to the young man who approached her next and smiled under the veil. You could just tell, as it suddenly seemed a bit lighter around her. "Oh, of course! My Shishu Shen Qingqiu is a bit of an expert on fans himself, this was a gift from him... I believe this one in particular came from Huayue, notice the delicate silver inlay on the spray of the river, and they used a lacquer infused with lapis dust to create this sparkling hue-" 

Wen Zhuliu leaned down to answer his master, looking at the maidens in an assessing manner. "Chunshan, a country far to the east of here and over the ocean, is home to Cang Qiong Sect, they are extremely tight-knit... Second Young Master, one of the Peak Lords there is mated to Luo Binghe and they are known to have several immortals as well." If it was true, he felt that dissuading his young master from attempting anything with them would be best. Drawing the wrath of a powerful sect, despite the great distance, would be a terrible idea, given they had the backing of immortals and a demon lord.

 

“Tch, who cares about some demon lord, we’re nowhere near his territory anyways. This is Wen territory, I’m free to do whatever I want.” Wen Chao scoffed in reply. If he wanted to have some fun with some gorgeous ladies, he was gonna have it. 

“Ooh where is Huayue located? It must be beautiful if they produce arts such as this. Oh, I would love to visit if my brother would ever allow it! Maiden Bing, as an arts enthusiast, what would you recommend as good places to check out within Chunshan?” Huaisang was clearly much livelier than even just a few seconds ago, giving his greater love over art rather than cultivating. Aah, if only he could skip out on the archery competition. He would probably just try to find a place in the hunting grounds to camp out until the end was announced.

 

Zhuliu frowned, and hoped that Wen Ruohan would receive the notice soon and hopefully prevent the young man from doing anything too stupid. He could only do so much against strange cultivators he couldn't accurately read. 

"It's one of the small western coastal towns, kind of distant from Cang Qiong, but it's got some very nice natural mineral mines." She handed it to him to investigate, and looked at his own. "And where is yours from? I would be interested in finding one as a souvenir for my Shishu- Oh, do you mind if we walk while we talk, Young Master...?"

 

"Ah, forgive me, this one is Nie Sang, courtesy Huaisang, of QingheNie Sect." The young heir said as he began walking in whichever direction Bing Meiren felt inclined to. "This particular fan comes from an artist I commissioned from Laoling within LanlingJin territory. Lanling especially loves utilizing gold foil in their artworks and Laoling is famous for the light, airy silks they use in their textiles and so I asked for a piece which included both. The coastline views in Lanling...well, and Gusu as well, of course, are beautiful at sunset and with the gold foil, it's quite easy to replicate the shimmer that the sun casts along the waters." As he explained, he closely scrutinized the brushwork on the fan with very obvious awe. "Of course, I don't just look in Lanling for artworks, so I've got many more from other regions of Caihong."

 

"I would love to see more of your collection some time, Young Master Nie. We should stay in touch after this event is over..." The lady said as she accepted her fan back and snapped it open as they approached the white robed disciples of the Lan Sect. "Excuse me, gentlemen. May I ask if one among you would be Lan Wangji?" She said as she fanned herself, tilting her head very slightly to the side in a cute fashion. "My martial cousin mentioned the blue clouds and white garments and named a Lan Wangji as a dear friend of his... Ah, he also mentioned the purple robes of YunmengJiang, would one of you young sirs happen to be Jiang Wanyin?" She asked as she looked at the nearby Jiang sect cultivators.

 

Thankful for his robe's sleeves being just long enough to hide how tightly his fists were clenched, Lan Wangji silently stepped forward as his name was called. Giving Wei Ying a slightly stiff bow, he otherwise didn't say anything, the no lying rule at the forefront of his mind. If he addressed Wei Ying, he would want to use his real name instead of the fake one he was using, but doing so would only expose him which he couldn't risk. 

Arms crossed over his chest, Jiang Cheng also stepped forward, a scowl on his face. "Yeah, of course I'm here. What, trying to figure out what Wei Wuxian's frequent stops are?"

 

She held the fan in front of her face, eyes glinting with mirth at them. "I wanted to greet my wanbei's friends, and thank them both for taking such good care of him during his visits. Today, I give you both permission to call me Meiren, or Meiren-meimei." She glanced sidelong at Nie Huaisang and added, "Young Master Nie, as well, please call me Bing Meiren! I feel like we will become good friends, at the very least in our appreciation for similar arts." 

'Xiong Mei' was having a hard time holding in her laughter, so she merely smiled boldly while she moved up next to one of the twin guards, who seemed a bit less... relaxed than her sister. "Miao Lin~ Isn't this fun? Seems like we appeared on a very lively day! Will Miaomiao demonstrate her archery skills with the others?" 

Wen Ning pushed 'Xiong Mei' away slightly. "N-no, no...I-I'd rather n-not..."

"Xiong Mei, leave Miao Lin alone." The other twin said, giving the smaller female a look.

"Miao Jing, don't be so stuffy~"

 

Ah, so 'Xiong Mei' was Xue Chengmei, 'Miao Lin' was Wen Qionglin, and 'Miao Jing' was Wen Qing. ...He doubted he'd ever be able to call them by these names and so Lan Wangji didn't even try to, especially with Wei Ying's teasing, only breathing out a quiet, "Ridiculous," instead. 

"Huh, so he actually knows how to be serious and grateful. That idiot's always running around Lotus Pier as if he owns it." Jiang Cheng huffed with some fake petulance. He actually didn't really mind it, the fox usually kept things interesting whenever he visited, even if a lot of times, it ended up with some sort of trouble that his mother would scold him for. 

"Well then, Bing Meiren," Nie Huaisang started as he opened and closed his own fan a few times. "I presume this is your first time in Qishan and Nightless City?" Finally settling on keeping his fan open, he brought it up to hide his mouth (notably from any Wen Sect disciples that may be watching them) as he suggested in a conspiratory whisper. "I personally don't much enjoy Nightless City, but there are a few places that I can begrudgingly recommend." 

 

"Mn, this is my first time this far to the west." 'She' said, glad 'she' had the veil to hide 'her' expressions. 'She' felt a few different ones at Lan Wangji's 'ridiculous'. Was he angry? Did he disapprove of his friend taking on a female form? To Wei Ying, he didn't really feel a huge difference. Being an omega, the biggest differences were the missing male organs, larger breasts, and shorter, more feminine form. But, then again, the dragon didn't know he was an omega, right? Hmm, he hoped he wasn't disappointed in him... Looking around, the fox in disguise feigned ignorance, fanning himself as 'she' spoke again. "It seems we have interrupted a competition of some kind? Is anyone allowed to participate?" 

The cat giggled as ‘she’ whispered to the lion, "Hmm, might be out of your hands, Miao Lin~"

 

Jiang Cheng quirked an eyebrow at that. "You want to participate? Even though you're not part of any of our sects?" It was hard to get a read on her, especially with the veil covering half her face. Wasn't she here to look for Wei Wuxian? If so, why even attempt to get into an archery competition? 

Lan Wangji, meanwhile, only said a simple, "Has not been done before." 

Upon hearing that, Nie Huaisang was quick to jump in as well. "Sure, it hasn't been done before, but I would gladly relinquish my spot to you! Archery and night hunting just isn't for me, you know? Oh how I wish my da-ge wouldn't force me to participate every time!" 

Giving a long-suffering sigh in Wei Wuxian's direction, 'Miao Lin' muttered under her breath, "P-please no...t-this is the w-worst p-place for t-this..." His stage fright was already bad on a normal basis! And now adding in the main Wen Branch ?! A disaster waiting to happen!

 

Heehee.

"Well, I'm actually very confident in my archery skills," Meiren said, grinning sharply behind her veil as she raised her voice, along with raising her head in a high-spirited manner. "I made a bet with my Master, that if anyone, man or woman, should best me at archery, not only would I remove my veil for them, but I would even stake my first kiss on it." Silence. Then, much excited and scandalized murmuring, as 'Bing Meiren' continued to haughtily fan herself in an airy manner, watching various reactions and waiting to see if the big fish would take her bait. 

'Miao Jing' actually seemed to be struggling with her temper, this was NOT what they had discussed as a distraction!! 

Xiong Mei had a hand over her mouth, looking startled with the other arm wrapped across her middle, but Xue Yang was actually stifling laughter so hard he was tearing up. Yep, best choice in his years to throw in his lot with this group.

 

The callous words had Lan Wangji's eyes widening ever so slightly, knuckles white underneath his sleeves from how tightly they were in fists. Was Wei Ying really going to...!? He felt as if he had to physically restrain himself from blurting out the word 'shameless' and showing more than his usual expression, especially as he noticed white and red robes approaching them from the corner of his eye. 

With a smirk and an eyebrow cocked, Wen Chao had moved away from his earlier position at the foot of the stairs and was now a few feet away from Bing Meiren. "Fiery little thing, aren't you? Well, I'm sure we could allow an exception just this once and give you the honor of participating. Let's see if you're really as good as our best QishanWen archers!"

 

Still holding the fan before her face, she turned her head just slightly, eyes flicking up and down his body before giving a faint sniff and turning her face away again, looking at the young men she was talking with before and asking, "Who is this fellow? Does he have the right to make such a decision? Ah, though if he can, I would be quite happy to join in. Are we allowed to bring in attendants to carry extra arrows?" She reached into her sleeve and pulled out a bow, prepping it and making sure it would be ready to go, along with a quiver of arrows. Wei Ying knew exactly who this man was, he just wanted to fuck with him. Also, he was being incredibly rude with his greasy scent, alpha stench and pheromones wafting around, causing the fox to call the disguised Xue Yang over, having the cat fan him instead while he prepared his weapon. This was far more simple to enact than he had thought. While the competition was going on, he'd have Xue Yang and/or Wen Qing see what they could find based on the information they got from the assassin.

 

As Jiang Cheng coughed to disguise a laugh, Nie Huaisang flicked open his fan to cover his mouth as he spoke. "It's understandable that you do not know, I certainly can't blame you as a visitor to our country." Oh, this would be great to watch! Just how pissed off must the pervert be! 

Said pervert was red with rage, barely able to restrain himself from getting any louder than he currently was. "You-! My father is the strongest Sect Leader out of the lot and the host of this competition. So if I say you can participate or not, it's about as good as the Chief Cultivator's words!"

 

"Oh." She seemed surprised, eyes widening a bit as she re-evaluated the oversexed alpha. "This one had no idea she was talking to a young master of a prestigious family. This Meiren apologizes, she did not think that a Young Master would approach and speak to her in such a manner without introducing himself. Such interesting customs and manners the QishanWen Sect has." She inclined her head in his direction, nearly a mockery of a bow as she finished prepping her bows and arrows, setting them at the ready against her back as she accepted her fan back from Xiong Mei. "She will accept the invitation extended." Standing a bit behind Wen Chao, Zhuliu kept a neutral expression, but internally he was groaning after his charge's temper and how he was losing face to a young foreign female cultivator. (Xue Yang was once again enjoying the show.)

 

The barbed jabs seemingly going over his head, Wen Chao's mood lightened somewhat as he didn't even bow back as he introduced himself. "The name's Wen Chao and you would do well to remember the name of the alpha that's gonna win that bet of yours! Take whoever you want inside with those Nies, I'm sure an advantage would do wonders." And with that, Wen Chao turned on his heel and moved back to where he'd been with the rest of the Wen Clan. 

Giving a hard eye roll, Jiang Cheng turned so that his back was towards the immature alpha and mimed gagging. In a low whisper, he muttered, "Ugh, if only those guys weren't the ones with the most power. They're all eyesores." 

"Do not judge people behind their back." Lan Wangji intoned flatly in response. 

"Aww c'mon, don't be like that, Wangji-xiong! It's the Wens." Huaisang said flippantly, only to receive a hard stare from the dragon.

 

"Hmm." Meiren tapped her fan against her chin lightly, dismissing the revulsion that had briefly appeared in her eyes at that cocky crowing. "My cousin's bodyguards actually happen to be Wens, Young Master Nie, and both of them are quite excellent, in both character and ability. In any case... Miao Lin, you'll be coming with me. Miao Jing, Xiong Mei, see about finding us lodging for the night." 

"Yes, Lady Bing." Miao Lin said, giving her a bow and salute along with the eternally smiling (read: smirking) Xiong Mei. The two stepped back and left the parade grounds, and Meiren continued to talk to the gathered cultivators, especially the young Nie Huaisang about art and fans, seeming to enjoy herself.

Meanwhile, up in the leader's stands, Nie Mingjue shook his head. "That girl certainly seems confident, but I hope this won't land her in too much trouble- Xichen, what is that expression for?" He asked, arching an eyebrow at Lan Xichen’s reaction.

 

"Ah...no worries," Lan Xichen began with a smile, "It was just something I saw about Wangji's expression." And of course, with his brother-reading skills, it was impossible for anyone else to see that Wangji's expression had even really changed from his default flat look. 

The big man arched an eyebrow, but decided to drop it for now, as they were in a public space. He trusted that Xichen would tell him if it was really important, and settled back to watch.

With the excitement that had stirred up from Bing Meiren's declaration slightly simmering down, the rest of the time until the start of the competition went by swiftly. Before long, as it was nearing noon, all the disciples across all the sects were lined up behind their flags as Wen Ruohan's entrance was announced. Hardly giving any words to everyone attending, the Wen leader waved a hand towards one of his attendants who then announced the start of the competition. 

Lan Wangji couldn't help but be thankful that the Lan Sect was allowed to enter second, immediately after the Nie Sect and subsequently, the disguised Wei Ying. Before attempting to even shoot down any targets, he set out searching for whichever direction 'Meiren' had headed off into. When he finally found 'her', thankfully it was just Wei Ying and Wen Qionglin in visible proximity and so he approached the fox and cornered him against the cliff face they were next to. "Wei Ying. What is the meaning of this?"

 

'Meiren' had already shot a few of the targets by the time Lan Zhan caught up, and had just released an arrow as he advanced. He turned, spotting him, smiling behind the veil at first, then dropping it as he was giving off an...uh....intense feeling? He didn't even realize he was backing up until his back hit the rock wall. His head tilted back a bit further than usual, to be able to look up into his eyes evenly, and Wei Ying swallowed reflexively as his mouth went dry. Oh dear. He gripped tightly at the stave of his bow as he distantly realized what he asked. "What... what do you mean?" He asked, meeting eyes with Wen Ning and signalling him to keep watch. Then, using the direct speaking technique: "Lan Zhan, I already mentioned what my plan was months ago? Disguise myself and distract the Wens while looking for information and evidence?" Why was he being so pushy? "Who would ever think to put Wei Wuxian and this form together? Besides you, I mean, but you already knew I was coming-"

 

"Not that. You are being careless with that bet." 'Especially given who he challenged' remained unspoken. "Surely something else would have been sufficient." Wei Ying was certainly playful and a bit of a trickster, but the fox had never struck him as flippant in this manner. The disguise didn't bother him at all aside from the unwillingness to voice the name he was using (in fact, he was very much curious about what differences this female form may have aside from the obvious height difference). But to be so callous with something like a...!! (And no , he wasn't hung up over how he wanted that for himself.)

 

He blinked, then laughed, a delightful, more feminine version of his usual happy laugh. "Oh, is that all?" He said as he shook his head. "It got his attention, didn't it? Besides, the condition was that I'd have to be beaten at archery. I was taught by a Martial Immortal and a Demon Lord how to shoot. I'm not going to lose." He reached out and patted his shoulder lightly. "But in order to win, I do need to get back to getting targets, sooo..."

 

Still not all that satisfied with the circumstance but knowing that hindering him would only hurt him, he stepped to the side, grip on his bow tight. Wei Ying was skilled in martial arts and the sword so he wouldn't be surprised if he was skilled at archery too, but with this bet in the air, how much more motivated would the other disciples be...? (And should he allow Wei Ying to take the top spot which was likely to be his with Xichen's spectator position this year, or should he try to surpass him-?)

 

As if sensing that, he grinned playfully. "Ah, you're not thinking of taking it easy on me, are you? Ah ah ah, don't do that, Second Young Master Lan." He said playfully. "I'll be offended. Besides, it would make me very pleased to keep that asshole's name completely out of the top spots of the competition." That said, he drew and notched another arrow, hitting another target. "I'd better pick up the pace now. This Bing Meiren will be going to win now, Lan Er-gege," she said with a wink as she settled back into character. "Miao Lin, let's go make up for lost time." And with a flutter of hair and beautiful clothes, they were off again.

 

Lan Wangji watched the fox and lion disappear behind a line of trees before he headed in a different direction, aiming to finally start hitting targets. If Wei Ying didn't want him to go easy on him, he'd comply and not, however...what would happen if he beat the fox...? (Would he actually get the chance to...?) Shaking that thought from his mind, he notched and then shot an arrow, hitting a target that was just coming into view before pursuing another one he could see in the distance.

 

The mysterious lady cultivator continued on her assault on the various targets, enjoying herself quite immensely as she slowly built the number higher and higher. She wasn't kidding about being skilled with the bow, she was even able to shoot multiple arrows at a time, and did not miss. Like the heroic Hua Mulan of legend, she appeared to be a supremely skilled martial artist... Even as big as the competition grounds were, it wasn't super shocking when she would run across another competitor from time to time... it's just that this one she could have done without.

Meiren had sat down on a rock, taking a short break and fanning herself while Miao Lin helped to replace the string on her bow. Her mind wandered, perhaps thinking of what her other two servants were doing, (or thinking about a certain young man with a jade-like countenance) when suddenly, someone loud and immensely annoying turned up.

"Well well well, if it isn't Maiden Bing!" Tightening her grip on her fan, Meiren could feel her lip curling in disgust as she scowled lightly, turning disdainful eyes on the strutting jackass and his attendants. "We meet again so soon, it must be fate! Huh? What's this? Maiden Bing is resting? Has it been too hard to find and shoot the targets?"

After her sideways glare, she turned her focus back in front of her and resumed fanning herself in an aloof manner. "It would be too boring if this one won with too big of a lead, so she decided to take a short rest while Miao Lin tended her weapon... What is Young Master Wen doing?" She asked, tone hardening as he approached, his scent suddenly much stronger.

Zhuliu was watching the young lady's attendant carefully, ready to fight the moment he was needed, if he was needed.

 

Looking up from what he'd been doing, 'Miao Lin' stepped very slightly in front of 'Bing Meiren' as Wen Chao approached. He would hope that the second Wen heir wouldn't try anything in a public place like this even if they were the only ones in this particular area at the moment, but he couldn't exactly be certain. The main Wen branch, generally speaking, were rather pushy and overbearing and Wen Chao certainly seemed cocky enough to pull something. 

Meanwhile, not too far from where the standoff was happening, Lan Wangji just so happened to be pursuing several more targets, multiple arrows notched as he waited for the targets to align perfectly with each arrow.

 

Wen Chao had a very smarmy sort of smirk on his face, a muscle on his face twitching occasionally as he had a feeling that this girl was looking down on him. How dare she?! Just because she was from some whatever sect hundreds of miles away! He looked her over again, his gaze turning into a leer. Despite the veil, he had the feeling the face wouldn't be a disappointment combined with that body. He was looking forward to seeing it, when he beat her. Hmm, come to think of it, taking her first kiss in public, wouldn't that just shred her honor to pieces? He supposed he could do the right thing and take responsibility for her, and marry her as a concubine...or secondary wife if she was pretty enough. There was just one more thing for him to check.... "Maiden Bing, I'm not trying to do anything. I just thought I would be nice and talk to you for a bit, as I was too busy organizing the tournament earlier. We have quite a bit in common, you know, we are both from the most prominent and powerful sects in our countries- ah, don't let it bother you that your lineage might not be as-" 

"Perhaps later, Young Master Wen." The girl said, voice practically carrying frost on it as she turned away. "This one has targets to shoot. Miao Lin, my bow." She got up from her seat and took the bow back, turning to leave with her attendant, grabbing an arrow as she turned to look for more targets.

"Ah, just a moment, I'm not done with you yet-!" He protested, lurching forward and making a grab at her, trying to stop her from leaving. His fingers curled into some strands of her long hair, tightening his grip on the smooth strands-

 

Before Wen Ning could even turn back around to stop Wen Chao, a single arrow zipped by just a centimeter or so above the entitled alpha's outstretched hand. The arrow's path continued on past the group to then strike a target that had just come into view right in the center of the marked bullseye. Had anyone noticed Lan Wangji's presence just a few seconds before, they may have actually caught a glimpse of an intense moment of rage and protectiveness, but by now, he had already schooled his expression into that of his normal one as he moved in closer to the small group.

 

He released her hair and jerked his hand back with a startled yelp, stumbling back and looking around wildly, then pointed at Lan Wangji with an accusing finger. "Lan, Lan Wangji!! Just what do you think you're doing?!" He squealed, a tremor in his outraged voice.

The Cang Qiong sect member had also whipped around, and jumped back a couple meters, feeling a shiver of disgust as she used a small knife to cut off the ends of her hair that had been touched, burning it in her hand subtly. Wei Ying underestimated how scummy this swine was, hadn't expected him to actually try touching him. Eugh. Glancing over at the target, 'she' brought her hands up with her bow and arrow and bowed slightly to the Lan dragon. "Second Young Master Lan is skilled indeed, I hadn't noticed that target until just now. A very nice shot."

 

Lan Wangji returned the bow, body faced enough towards the middle of the group that it was unclear if it was directed to everyone or just Bing Meiren as he stated simply, "Shooting targets." He felt no issue with saying as such since he actually had shot a target despite his initial thoughts revolving around getting Wen Chao the fuck away from Wei Ying . "As is the purpose of this gathering." 'Not idle chattering (or harassing)' went unspoken.

 

"You-!" The greasy bastard began, then cut off again as Meiren lifted her bow and fired a few arrows herself, taking down another few targets. The fact that they were behind the Wen Scion was a complete coincidence.

"We'd better get moving," she said, dashing off with her friend before Wen Chao could get over his fluster.

He stamped his foot and threw a bit of a tantrum once Lan Wangji also moved on, and it took a few moments before he looked at a ring on his hand....then smiled. The stone, an artifact designed to pick out designations, had changed, an omega symbol indented faintly on the surface. He chuckled darkly, then snapped at his attendants. "Get a move on! And tell the others to get all the targets they can sneak out from under that girl... and the Lan bastard too!" He ordered one servant, before getting back to shooting targets himself... the ones he could find, in any case.

 

Even despite the new hindrances that were the Wen disciples trying to steal his shots, Lan Wangji still managed to hit more than was stolen from him and hadn't felt that far behind his earlier pace. Once the competition's end was announced, the dragon calmly left the grounds and rejoined his fellow Lan Sect disciples as if he hadn't just had to deal with the nuisances that were the main Wen branch disciples. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed 'Bing Meiren' exiting as well, but since this was now a much more public area, he didn't let himself react. Nie Huaisang, however, noticed 'her' and was quick to greet her again. Where he'd been during the entirety of the competition was a mystery. "Bing Meiren! How did it go for you?"

 

The Young Miss seemed very pleased with herself as she put the bow across her back, and took her fan from her waist again, standing tall and proud as she snapped it open and began leisurely fanning herself. "Quite well." She replied in an airy tone. "I had an unpleasant encounter with a reeking boar halfway through, but Second Young Master Lan helped out in shooing it off. How did you fare, Young Master Nie?"

 

Having a guess at who this 'reeking boar' was, a glint of amusement flashed into Huaisang's eyes at the insult as he opened his own fan to cover up his mouth. "Oh, well, I went here and there, but cultivating really isn't my strength so I doubt there'll be any merit placed on my name. I have to admit though, I'm quite curious as to how the top four rankings will fall..." If Bing Meiren was so confident as to announce that bet, surely she would be among them, if not the top spot. 

Soon, the same Wen Sect disciple that had announced the start of the competition was back in full view on the upper dais, this time with a scroll in hand as he called out for attention. "This concludes the Qishan Discussion Conference Archery Competition! I will now announce the top four contenders. First place...GusuLan Sect's Lan Wangji. Second place...CangQiong Sect's Bing Meiren. Third place...LanlingJin Sect's Jin Zixuan. Fourth place...YunmengJiang Sect's Jiang Wanyin." 

Upon the announcement of the rankings, and especially of the first place spot, there were some whispers of disappointment from disciples that had initially seemed eager over 'Bing Meiren's' bet, but for the most part, the whispers were that of pity and incredulity. The cold, unapproachable Lan Wangji winning the bet with Bing Meiren? While no one would deny Second Jade's skills, the image of him being close to anyone in that manner was utterly ridiculous.

 

Wen Chao's face was red with rage, and he was basically shaking in his fury as his eyes turned from Lan Wangji, to Bing Meiren.

As for the disguised fox, he actually froze for a few moments as he processed that. He...actually lost?

....He lost to Lan Zhan?

The 'girl' turned to look at the white robed dragon, still for a few moments before giving a small, surprised chuckle and approaching him. "Well...this was unexpected," she said, advancing until she was in front of him as she shut the fan. She gave him a respectful bow and salute, then looked up at those pretty, golden eyes. "I congratulate you on your victory. And, never let it be said that Cang Qiong Sect does not uphold their words." She raised a hand to one side of her veil, ready to undo it, the other hand ready to lift the fan-

 

Lan Wangji was frozen like a deer in headlights, body tense and eyes widened ever so slightly as Wei Ying sauntered up to him. Yes, he was curious, this was Wei Ying they were talking about, of course he'd be curious about anything the fox offered him, but this was Nightless City...! They were nowhere near the Jingshi or the Gentian House, plus he could feel countless pairs of eyes on them...! Wei Ying's hand moving up to the veil covering half his face spurred the dragon back into motion and he jerked away with a quiet, "Ridiculous." Turning on his heel, he was quick to start trying to flee, heading back in the direction of the inn his sect had chosen for their stay here.

 

Her hand froze, fingertips barely brushing the corner as she watched him- watched him walking away... "-Lan-! Second Young Master Lan, wait a moment-" She reached out, trying to grab a fluttering part of his robe, but caught something else white and fluttering instead, and it came undone, slipping from his forehead- 

Silence again.

Nie Mingjue blinked, then turned to stare incredulously at Lan Xichen, the most bewildered the dragon had likely ever seen him.

The Second Young Master of the Wen Clan was ready to spontaneously combust. Really?! He wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but it had something to do with mates, didn't it?! Why did he get the pretty, mysterious fairy?! 

"-Ah....um, sorry, Lan Wangji..." She said as she looked from him, to the ribbon, and back again as she made sure to gather it in her hands, and tried to approach him and give it back to him. "I didn't mean to-"

 

No, no, no, no...! While he would never mind seeing his ribbon in Wei Ying's hands, there were too many eyes on them and from the shocked whispers that were breaking out, he knew they were talking about the significance of the Lan dragons' ribbons. He hadn't even told his own love himself out of fear and anxiety and now the rest of the cultivation world knew. Ears burning and itching to hightail it out of there , Lan Wangji quickly turned away from Wei Ying again and left as fast as he possibly could (without breaking any rules).

Mouth gaping wide in shock as all the pieces finally slotted together, Jiang Cheng silently cursed Wei Wuxian in his mind and started to run after them, followed closely by Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao, unbeknownst to him. What the hell was Wei Wuxian doing here, disguised of all things!? And after all this silence? Normally, he tried to convince his parents to visit by this point of the year, the lakes were best enjoyed in the summer, after all. 

Pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment, Lan Xichen cast Mingjue an apologetic, 'I'll explain everything later' look before standing to address all of the sect leaders present. "Please excuse me, I must go and check on my brother." With that said, he then turned and headed off in the direction that the younger dragon had disappeared off into.

 

Mingjue also excused himself to follow after his dear friend, scowling in a stormy manner after leaving his second in command in charge of the Nie Sect. 

"Lan Wangji!" Wei Ying followed after him, the three guards hot on his heels, his anxiety mounting. Did he go too far?! Did he make it weird? Damn, he was just walking briskly, why were his legs so long?! After a while following him, they were finally a fair distance away, and he felt like no one was watching, so... "Lan Zhan! I'm sorry, okay? Please don't be mad! Will you- would you stop, maybe?!" He exclaimed as he grabbed the veil and pulled it off, returning to his normal form, and jogging to catch up to the long-legged stride, grabbing at his sleeve.

Meanwhile, Wen Chao had decided to follow the others carefully... He wanted to know what was going on! And he wanted to know what was going on with that girl, anyhow.

 

Lan Wangji did listen and stopped, but he didn't turn around quite yet. "Not mad." Far from it in fact! He was mortified, his ears bright red to give that away and also the reason why he hadn't turned to face the fox. It would be obvious once he did and he didn't want to make the feeling worse by bringing up the topic. Wei Ying only saw him as a friend, no more than that and he'd have to just be fine with that. The fact that he'd been tempted to let the fox move in closer earlier despite it all being an act and despite the fox not feeling as strongly as Lan Wangji was ridiculous. Shameless.

 

Yeah, yeah, he knew, Lan Zhan was probably furious. He sighed and pulled his hand back, pressing the ribbon into it. "Here, put it back on. I didn't let any part of it touch the ground! I remembered that rule." After giving it back, he rubbed his nose as he moved to the side, tilting his head and body to try and see his face. "....I really did mean it about the congratulations on the win. Very impressive, and I'm glad you took it seriously! It was a great competition! Now I'll have to try even harder if I want to beat you in the future!"

 

With the ribbon back in his hand, he didn't put it back on right away, only staring at the embroidered fabric for some time. How was he going to explain this to everyone, but most importantly the fox before him? How would Wei Ying even react to it? Unsure how to even approach the topic, he finally glanced up to meet Wei Ying's gaze as he contemplated it silently. He didn't get a chance to even formulate a single, full thought before he heard hurried footfalls approaching them from behind. In a rush, he quickly retied his ribbon so as not to be caught still open and vulnerable due to the lack of it gracing his forehead. 

Once they were close enough that Jiang Cheng wasn't necessarily yelling at the top of his lungs, the Jiang heir yelled, "Wei Wuxian!! What the hell is the meaning of this!?" Slightly behind him, both of the cultivators that had followed him were wearing similar baffled expressions on their faces.

 

The fox jumped, and turned around, looking startled, reflexively snapping open the fan to hide his face- only to bring it down and smile sheepishly at the angry Jiang Cheng and the two following him. "A-aiyaah, Jiang Cheng, Young Master Nie, nice to see you again. Nie Huaisang, please forgive me for not properly introducing myself last time, I was in disguise." He gave the Nie Sect cultivator a bow and cupped hands salute, holding the fan in front of him, before straightening and looking at Jiang Cheng. "And what do you mean, what is the meaning of this? Like I could show my face in public so soon after that demonic incursion, but I just had to be here today." He looked down at himself and snapped his fingers, a cloud of smoke flashing from him as he changed his clothes back to their natural state, complete with the dragon jade tassel.

 

"What the fuck? You just had to be here? Despite being from a foreign country's sect? And why choose to visit Qishan? This couldn't've been in your top places in Caihong to visit!" While Jiang Cheng was glad to finally see the fox again after his recent silence, this was all just so baffling, and to top it off they had just made a scene in front of all the sects earlier! 

Intrigued, especially after the very obvious display of the apparent connection between the Second Jade and this foreign cultivator (and who'd've thought! Lan Wangji had this sort of relationship with 'Bing Meiren'? This seemed so unlike him and their personalities were so very different from each other to top it off), Nie Huaisang once again had his fan open and covering his mouth as he spoke. "So you're the very same Wei Wuxian you claimed to be searching for? Quite skilled at transformation magic too, I like you even more Wei-xiong!" 

From just behind his Young Master, Meng Yao watched the scene with some interest. Despite being a YunmengJiang disciple, he hadn't actually seen much of Wei Wuxian during his visits, only complaints (and hidden happiness) from the young Jiang heir about his 'idiot fox' friend. And to think he'd actually get to meet another fox; he'd been surrounded by humans with the exception of his mother and had never really expected that to change.

 

"Ahaha, thank you, Young Master Nie! Foxes excell at transformation and illusion magic, generally, and I knew they'd never be able to connect the dots that 'Bing Meiren' and Wei Wuxian were the same person. As to why I had to come specifically... I'll explain later. But, Jiang Cheng, now that you're here, that insult earlier-" 

"YOU'RE Wei Wuxian?!?!" 

The shrill screech of outrage was startling as one more person stumbled on-scene, accompanied by his bodyguard and a couple of servants. Wei Ying grimaced, and Xue Yang and Wen Qing dropped their transformations along with Wen Ning, moving to defensive positions.

Wen Chao jabbed an accusatory finger at the fox cultivator, once again raging to the point of a health risk. "You-! You dare to just waltz in here in the guise of some girl, make a mockery of our contest, and then leave just like that?! Do you think my Wen Sect would just let a filthy demonic cultivating beast like you simply escape like that?!" He flung the sleeves of his robes and snapped his fingers, pointing at the ground by his feet. "Come, surrender yourself to the custody of this Young Lord at once, and the Wen Clan may show you mercy!!" 

Wei Ying stared at him before laughing, so impressed by his gall and outraged by his tone he couldn't help it, putting the fan in his sleeve and taking Chenqing out instead, Suibian already on his hip. "Surrender myself? Demonic cultivation? What proof do you have?" He replied, brushing a tear from the corner of his eye as he twirled the flute in his hand.

Wen Chao smiled nastily. "Everyone knows about how you controlled those corpses during the recent demon attack, then disappeared. Why run if you had no guilty feelings? Ah, but don't worry about us killing you. Wen Clan is magnanimous and will be most willing to reform you into a useful servant."

Zhuliu wished he had permission from his Lord to knock out this young idiot and haul him home. The bloodlust he was reading off of some of these young men was quite alarming and growing with every word.

 

While Nie Huaisang and Meng Yao didn't necessarily know how to react to this situation (outside of general distaste towards Wen Chao), Jiang Cheng and Lan Wangji had immediately joined Wen Ning, Wen Qing and Xue Yang in defensive positions. Clearly more focused on protecting Wei Ying than engaging with the haughty young master, Wangji only let out a very brief and clipped, "Mind your words," as Jiang Cheng, meanwhile, was more than willing to chew the asshole up in a vaguely polite manner. 

"You can't be serious right now, Young Master Wen. What right do you have to demand this? Are you looking to start a war with a foreign cultivation sect? Cang Qiong is apparently more ancient and numerous than all of our own sects. Perhaps combined, even. Twelve individual peaks with their own cultivation specialties all directed towards the QishanWen Sect? That's suicidal. I'd rethink this if I were you." Of course, it went unspoken that three young masters of three major sects were also standing by Wei Wuxian. Should Wen Chao truly try to push this, the blowback would surely be devastating.

 

"Hmph!" He snorted derisively. "Oh, is that so? Tell me then, if they really care about him so much, where are they now?" He spread his arms as he grinned and laughed. "Hasn't it been months since the invasion?! If they are so powerful and still care about him, why haven't they come for him yet? Why hasn't he gone back!? Obviously, he's been discarded!" 

Wei Ying tried... really hard not to show it on his face, but those words actually caused him to flinch, stilling Chenqing in his hand. He...he had wondered about it. Why was there no word from his parents, let alone Cang Qiong? He'd messaged them. He couldn't use a teleportation talisman to cross the sea to Chunshan, but they could have sent a crane, or an eagle, or someone, couldn't they? He figured that it could be his dad's were held up in the demon realm, but this was...a very long time.

Wen Qing growled a little under her breath, gripping some needles in her sleeves, eyes glowing faintly. That son of a bitch.

"Hey hey, that's rude. Just because you know your father wishes he'd drowned you at birth, doesn't mean you should project that onto nice, well-adjusted people." 

Wen Chao’s nostrils flared, angry again as he pointed at Xue Yang. "A lowly slave dares to speak to a Master like this?! Zhuliu, beat him!!! Break his arm for this Young Lord, no, rip out his tongue and bring it to me-!"

 

"Baseless assumptions," Wangji had murmured at the, frankly, ridiculous prospect, however he hadn't been trying to direct his voice towards Wen Chao, instead trying to ease the tension that he had sensed rising in Wei Ying. A strange silence like this deserved investigation rather than jumping to conclusions. 

Everything moving rather quickly after that, however, it didn't leave long for the mixed group of disciples to try and react to Wen Chao's order. If Wen Zhuliu truly moved to attack them, even outnumbered as he was, they would probably have a hard time holding him off what with his unique core-melting ability. There was only so much defense they could keep up while also trying to get everyone to flee safely. Before either side could make a move, however, a Wen disciple came running up to the greasy young master. "S-Second Young Master Wen...! A summons from the Sect Leader...! Y-you have a summons from the Sect Leader! Immediately!"

 

"What?!" He snapped, turning back angrily. "What did you- Immediately?! But, Father- the fox-!!"

"Second Young Master, your father's summons takes priority." The older cultivator murmured to him quietly. "And the sooner you talk to him, the better, in this case." 

Wen Chao dithered for a moment or two more before growling and jabbing a finger at him again. "Wei Wuxian!! If you run, it'll only be harder for you!! Wait there! You two, stay and watch them! You, take me to the Sect Leader, right away!" With that, most of the Qishan Wens mounted their swords and flew off, save for two nervous looking guards.

The former hunter sidled over to Wei Ying and murmured into his ear "Shall I kill them?" The yellow eyes gleaming as he stared at them.

"Don't attack first." The fox admonished, though Xue Yang grinned, knowing that wasn't an express 'no.'

 

With the most troublesome cultivators out of the picture, Lan Wangji turned to face Wei Ying, body still on the defensive in case the Wen disciples decided to attack them. "We are leaving," he said quietly. "No killing them." Doing so could only spark a bigger conflict and they needed to focus on getting the fox clear away from Wen Chao's reach. Anywhere outside of Qishan would suffice. The disciples looked weak-willed so if they did attack, they would probably be easy to subdue.

 

The two cultivators in question indeed looked incredibly nervous, even as the demonic feline clicked his tongue derisively, and leaned in towards each other, whispering, one of them holding a signal in his hand, ready to set it off at a moment's notice.

Wen Qing sighed and rolled her eyes, looking over at Wen Ning. She reached up to her hair, to one of the ornaments keeping it up, like she was going to adjust it, then in a swift movement, pulled a very small needle from a part of it and flicked it into the forehead of the one holding the firecracker.

As the other one fell too, hit by the male lion in a similar manner, she turned to the others. "The anesthesia will last for three hours tops, but I don't think we have that much time. We should probably go; now."

 

"Mn." Just about to unsheathe Bichen to fly off on, he was then stopped by the sound of his brother calling after him with a loud 'Wangji!' Turning around with a tinge of surprise (although perhaps he shouldn't be, he did leave rather abruptly after that fiasco), Lan Wangji just caught the tail end of Xichen looking over the two unconscious Wen disciples before the elder dragon fixed his attention on the group of teens, more or less piecing together the situation. "Young Master Wei, I admit I wasn't expecting you to come here in this fashion and if it hadn't been for Wangji's expression upon your initial arrival, I might not have noticed at all. Now, it seems there was an altercation and so I don't mean to keep you long. You need to hide now, yes?"

 

"Uh- Y-yes, run and/or hide is the general plan-" Wow, seems like people kept on following them....he needed to be more careful. 

"Don't try to make it back to Gusu or wherever you were before. If that worm is going back to his father, the Wen clan will be mobilized shortly, and they already associate you with Wangji so they'll be fast to try to cut you off from going back to a place they think you might be safe." A tall, broad man in robes similar to Nie Huaisang's said brusquely as he approached. He scanned all the faces there sternly, catching on Jiang Cheng's attendant's face for a few moments before moving on to Huaisang. He raised an eyebrow at the fan-waving Nie Sect Heir. "Making new friends, little brother?"

 

Huaisang laughed a bit nervously, bringing his fan up to his mouth again. "Da-geeee, why do you sound as if that's a bad thing?" Though, of course, he was saddened to hear they'd have to go so soon, he was still so curious about Wei Wuxian and he couldn't help but feel that they might be kindred spirits. 

Xichen, meanwhile, sighed at Mingjue's advice. He had a point, of course, but he could see that Wangji wasn't happy about it. "Do you have an alternative in mind, Mingjue? It's true we've hidden them already for some time before they had to switch locations and I have numerous reasons to believe the Wen Sect was keenly aware or easily able to obtain the information that they were in Cloud Recesses." He didn't quite voice the concept of spies, but it was certainly implied. The fact that a guard had noted catching sight of a disciple sending off a communication talisman only solidified it all the more. For now, he had select, trusted guards keeping a subtle watch on both that one disciple and anyone else who may seem to be suspicious.

 

The intimidating alpha smirked as he folded his arms and looked down at his elegant little brother. He knew what sort of a conniving mind the younger Nie actually had, maybe this would give him a motive to actually apply himself. "Since Huaisang is already making friends with this Young Master, why not bring him back to the Unclean Realm?" He said, looking at his close friend next. "They only met today, so who would expect it? And everyone knows my stance on demonic cultivation and what to do with supposed 'wrongdoers.' If I believed that horse-shit, then I'd sooner cut him down, but if the Twin Jades of Lan support him, I choose to believe Xichen over those Wen-dogs." He turned back to Huaisang. "Take whoever else wants to go with you too, we can call it a small training exchange as an excuse. I'm going back to the summit, so, Didi, I'm leaving this to you." He turned on his heel and began heading back. He'd said his piece... And he shouldn't stay there long. Not with that particular omega there. "I'll see you there, Xichen, don't take too long."

 

"Yes, of course, Mingjue." Xichen said in response as he turned towards Wangji. "You intend to go with them, don't you?" At seeing the seemingly unchanged expression on the younger dragon's face, he chuckled lightly. "Yes, I thought as much. Then I'll tell people you wished to spend some time alone should anyone ask." A pause. "Oh, don't give me that look, this is a necessary lie given the circumstances." As Jiang Cheng sputtered out an incredulous 'how the hell can you tell??', Xichen gave everyone a final greeting before following Mingjue back to the conference. 

A bit thrown off by the sudden task his brother thrust onto him before leaving, Huaisang was speechless for some time before he finally gathered his wits again. "O-oh...okay, so back to Unclean Realm, I guess...? In that case, I'll have to get in touch with some dear friends of mine... If we need to travel undetected, we should do it in plain sight. Wei-xiong, your transformation magic should do wonders here. And I take it you also know illusion magic? Well, in any case, let's discuss this in private." And with that in mind, the young Nie heir started hurrying along towards the inn his sect had rented out.

 

Wei Ying just smiled at the Lans’ silent exchange, having seen it a few times by now, and walked over to pat Jiang Cheng on the shoulder as they got moving. "Don't worry, I have a hard time understanding it too. Come on, let's go talk... Unless you don't want to go with us?" To the young Nie Sect member, he smiled and nodded as he hurried after him, waving the others along after him, casting a mild befuddlement charm on anyone looking at them, making them seem very plain and boring, not worth another look. (Something that only works if people aren't looking for you; not recommended for use all the time.) "Yep, I can do illusions easily. And simple transformations in short notice, more detailed with time."

 

"Wonderful!" Huaisang said in response to that, however he didn't say any more until they had successfully made it inside his own room within the inn they had chosen. Finding a few noise-blocking talismans, he lined them across the walls of the room before settling down in a seat and fanning himself lightly. "Alright, so here's my idea. I've got some merchant friends that often help me get items from Qishan since I'm not all that fond of coming here myself. Really, I would've been just as content staying in the comfort of home while our Qinghe entourage came here on their own, but nooo, Da-ge insisted. But in any case, we'll blend ourselves in with their caravan staff as they make their rounds back towards Qinghe. Of course, it'll be a fairly slow trek, but the Wen clan will be none the wiser. Hence why, Wei-xiong, your illusions and transformations will be an excellent asset. And of course, I can procure us with plenty of unassuming clothes since we can't exactly walk around a merchant caravan group in our obvious wealthy young master garbs..." And on he continued explaining his plan…

 

---

 

 Meanwhile, Wen Ruohan was back inside the main audience room after the sects had temporarily dispersed, impatiently tapping his fingers against the arm of his seat as he waited for his sorry excuse of a son to finally get his ass back here.

 

Shortly after that thought flickered through his head, the lout finally arrived, dismounting his sword and landing without much grace on the ground, pushing the heavy doors open and entering, striding up towards his dais and throne with purpose. "Father! I-"

 

"If you aren't about to apologize for your disgraceful behavior at the competition, save your breath and my time." Ruohan smoothly interrupted without a care for whatever he was about to say. "You smear mud onto our clan's name with your utter incompetence to take on a challenge and then shamefully fail to bring victory."

 

He halted, blanched, then flushed, all in quick succession. Flinging his robes out of the way, he dropped to his knees and brought his hands before him. "F-father- Sect Leader, I... Apologize for losing, but this is important! That girl-!"

 

"What is so important about some girl from a foreign sect we should not be interacting with that warrants ridiculous dick-orientated thinking rather than proper brains? Perhaps if you were being rational, we wouldn't have to deal with the embarrassing fiasco you caused within our Sect borders." All this sniveling, and not even in a proper manner...just a measly short four words for an apology before moving on? Why did he even bother with this boy.

 

"She's Wei Wuxian!!" He exclaimed. "Which I wouldn't have figured out, if I hadn't taken her- him- up on the challenge!!"

 

The exclamation caused him to frown, fingers stilling on his armrest. "If that really was Wei Wuxian, why was he here?" If his idiot son really had the right information, then this was ringing alarm bells in his head.

 

"I don't know, maybe to flirt with that fucking dragon!" He cursed. "I managed to touch him with my flower-sensing-ring, and it revealed an omega impression, but that might have just been his disguise- Anyway, Father, I followed him out of the grounds and I was trying to take him in, when you sent for me! I left two servants to watch him, but there were others there, we have to hurry or he'll get away!!"

 

His frown deepened, but not necessarily from the contents of Wen Chao's exclamations. This brat dared to be so callous with his words and even imply that it was his fault for Wei Wuxian's escape? Because surely, a demonic cultivator as young and skilled as that fox had already taken care of the measly two servants that were watching him. "What others were there? You were so foolish to leave only two servants against an entire group of them?"

 

"I didn't have anyone else but Zhuliu!" He protested, whining. "There was Lan Wangji, Jiang Wanyin, and Nie Huaisang, and then about 3 or 4 peons. And the servant you sent said immediately, and I didn't want to defy Father, so I came right back! I did have the servant you sent go alert the guards..."

 

Letting out a long-suffering sigh, he gave a dismissive wave hoping it would prompt the idiot to shut up as he said, "Wen Zhuliu, gather a force to track down that omega." 

"Yes Sir!"

From there, weeks passed with fruitless searches as the little group of young masters and attendants were able to skirt past all detection thanks to the help of Huaisang's merchant friends.

Chapter Text

Upon arriving at the Unclean Realm, despite the young heirs being there for some supposed training, it wasn't actually enforced all that closely and so the days passed by rather quietly. Lan Wangji and Jiang Cheng could often be found actually going along with the guise of training out of genuine interest from both parties to keep up their skills, but uninterested in cultivation as he was, Huaisang was content to simply pull his new friends into whatever artsy activity or otherwise flitted across his mind.

 

And, as Wei Ying did his cultivating at specific hours of the day and night, he had plenty of time to get to know his friends better. Wen Ning and Wen Qing even got some more time for their own training, cultivation, and hobbies. Xue Yang was with Wei Ying quite a lot, and it was difficult to say who was more of an influence on whom, Wei Ying on Xue Yang or vice versa. Ever since they discovered that Huaisang was also an omega, (and swore him to secrecy) they'd been hanging out quite a bit, discussing things like fans and food and art... And, as of this day- "Ahahaha, look what I found!" Xue Yang said as he sat up, waving a book in his hand that had a perfectly innocent-seeming cover. "Nie Huaisang, this is very good literature! Wei Wuxian, take a look." 

The cat lightly tossed him the book, which he looked at with great interest. His eyebrows raised. "Oh wow. Nie-xiong, where did you get this one? The art quality is pretty excellent."

 

"Ah, yes, I'm rather fond of this one." Huaisang started, eyes twinkling with some mischief. "Believe it or not, this actually came from Gusu! Though not a city within the close proximity of Caiyi or Cloud Recesses. Yueling was the city and while it's not quite close to the borders of Yunmeng, it's south enough and in the same general area that the art styles of the two regions sometimes blend in together. This page here that you've opened to? Classic Gusu style, cleaner lines, more detailed patterning in the clothing, and the figures' forms juust hidden enough that there's not necessarily anything odd about it at first glance. Typical Gusu for you with that last point. And if you turn to the next page, you'll see it's rather quite different! Certainly not in a jarring manner, all these images had to blend together enough to make a suitable work as a collective. But these strokes here? Clearly freer and more fluid. Yunmeng style is often very liquid-like in nature, whereas Gusu is more straight-laced and to the point."

 

The fox's eyes widened. "No way!" He exclaimed as he eagerly looked back at the page, sitting down to take his time and better appreciate it. "Wow, and I thought the Illustrated Hundred Flower Garden was good- Well, it is, but I really like this. Yueling, you said? I'll have to stop by there once I can finally head back home, see if I can pick one up."

"What's your favorite, Huaisang?" Xue Yang asked as he began to look through the other disguised books. "Or, at least your top five?"

 

"Jumping right into the good ones, are we?" Getting up with some excitement, Huaisang flitted around his shelves pulling out a few books here and there. "Lanling has some of the most adventurous stories and artwork, it's really on a level unparalleled to any of the other regions!" Settling back down, he spread out the books he'd grabbed and opened one to a random page. "They absolutely love creating these weird, outlandish stories and just as outlandish positions. These Lanling artists' imaginations, I swear! But they certainly introduce some pleasurable ideas. Can you imagine a straight-laced alpha like...oh, I don't know, say Lan Wangji doing that to an omega?!"

 

The cat smirked wickedly as he leaned over to look at the books, though he glanced at Wei Ying from the corner of his eye. "Ooooh, wow. I wonder if any Lanling brothels have shows for this sort of thing~ Wuxian, come here!" 

The poor fox was temporarily frozen. He could, in fact, picture what Lan Wangji would be like in several situations- He got up and went to go look at the available pictures... and wound up blushing a bit. "Oh, wow." 

"Right?" Xue Yang said with a laugh. "These are pretty spectacular, huh?"

Wei Ying flipped a page or two and had to pause for a moment to take a steadying breath. "Yep, spectacular. I'd say stimulating. Very stimulating."

 

Delighted at their reactions, Huaisang flipped through another one of the books they hadn't grabbed yet as he said, "You're free to borrow any of these, you know? Just so long as I get these back in still good condition, I don't mind you exploring these. Maybe could serve as some good preparation for down the line?" And while he wasn't naming any names, the Nie heir was rather pointedly looking in Wei Wuxian's direction as he suggested this. He had also stumbled across some interesting interactions with Xue Yang and Wen Qionglin, but he gathered it wasn't Xue Yang that needed a push in that particular pair.

 

"Aiiiiyoo, Nie Huaisang, you're an extremely generous Young Master, aren't you?" The demonic cat said as he patted the other's shoulder. Oh good, another person to help corrupt- erm, encourage Wei Wuxian to follow his heart. "We'll have to go on some outings to see if we can secure any of these as copies."

"Mmhmm..." Wei Ying hummed absently in agreement, absorbed in the book he was looking at. Wow, these knots were pretty intricate.... Huh, this one was hanging from the air. Of course, if one had cultivation it probably wouldn't hurt, but what if it was deity binding ropes or immortal binding cables? Would it hurt to be suspended like this? Or would it feel as hot as it looked? Speaking of hot, what would the drops of wax feel like, for that matter?

Xue Yang chuckled, rolling his eyes before exchanging a meaningful look with Nie Sang. "Okay, show me another one. What interests you the most, Nie Huaisang?"

 

"Oh definitely any of the intricate ropework." Picking up another one of the books he had pulled out, he opened it up to the first page before beginning to slowly flip through the pages. "This book here is dedicated to it and with my interests in the arts, I just love looking at the rope and knot patterns that are in here. It's such a shame that this could only be possible with another person present, I bet it feels just as exquisite to be in bindings like that as just looking at it is. But I couldn't just do this with any alpha, it'd have to be one that I really trust, so who knows when I'd be able to experience it. Us omegas can already be so vulnerable, so to willingly be even more vulnerable? No, no, this would only be for that special someone." Getting up again, he looked around for another book that he hadn't initially pulled out. It wasn't one of his top favorites, but it was still rather high up there, and this particular book had less risque content in comparison. "If we're talking about something a bit more vanilla, however, one just can't go wrong with the thill of being found out. And within that, there's still so many different positions to choose from. This book here probably has some of the best kinds..."

 

Taking the new book, Xue Yang flipped through it, grinning as he spoke. "Yeah, getting tied up by the right person is great and all, but personally I enjoy the idea of being the one giving about as much as I do receiving." Wow, his Young Master's face was getting pretty red- 

"Wait, like... Oh. Oh."

Wei Ying had, only once, seen Shen Qingqiu tie up Luo Binghe. He remembered it pretty clearly though, because he'd accidentally walked into their room at the human realm palace Binghe had in Huanhua, and had seen the large prime alpha, bound and on his knees before his mate, head tilted up by the fan placed under his chin. Wei Ying had done an about face and gotten the hell out of there as fast as he could. 

Xue Yang's wicked expression only grew worse. "I mean, yeah, omegas are life-bearers, but for us male omegas, we still have dicks, don't we? We can use them. And, if you don't want to do that, you can still drive an alpha out of their fucking minds, with them tied up as you take control. I don't have a mate, so any time I hit a heat without suppressants, I'd find a partner who didn't mind me tying them down and riding them for days... well, one that wouldn't mind much, anyway."

....Wei Wuxian wasn't sure if he was impressed or scandalized. "Xue Yang, you're hardcore, I am in awe." He finally said after a few moments. He'd figured out after all these months that the twin-tailed cat had...issues...regarding alphas and intimacy. He didn't ask about it, however. First of all, if Xue Yang wanted to talk about it, he'd bring it up. He wasn't shy about voicing his thoughts. Secondly, he seemed to be...more relaxed? More genuine? Lately. Like he wasn't always trying to play up how much of an asshole he was. Half the time, when the cat went up to Wen Ning and leaned against his back or shoulder, he'd have a genuinely happy smile when he made the shy big cat blush or a burst of lively laughter when a retort took him by surprise. It was...nice.

 

"Fair point, fair point, Xue-xiong, but I personally prefer simply receiving, so I'm more than happy to let someone do with me however they wish. Wei-xiong, what about you?" With the fox's apparent tie to Lan Wangji and said dragon's personality, perhaps he could just as easily guess how a dynamic like that would end up. If the dragon had his way, surely it'd be rather vanilla (if he even indulged often, he seemed rather similar to his own Da-ge in that respect), but given Wei Wuxian's personality, he could easily see the fox taking control.

 

Trying to appear as nonchalant as possible, Wei Ying hummed like he was thinking it over as he looked back at the book in front of him and turned the page- Oh WOW. That would be fun to try! "I haven't really thought about it much-" Lies, he was already thinking about his previous dreams- "-I guess it would depend on the situation? Like, I'm pretty touchy, and I'm outgoing. So, I guess...I'm interested in both?" He looked back down at the page before him and tapped it. "I'm actually very interested in trying some of these out, but you'd probably have to learn how to tie them properly so you wouldn't hurt your partner, huh?" He couldn't see the pristine Lan Wangji wanting to learn something like this... Especially not if he had to go to a stranger to learn.

 

"Oh, of course, of course, I'm sure there's a very specific way that those would need to be tied. Especially for the suspension ones. Can't have your partner falling and hurting themself from improper knots, that wouldn't be hot at all. Wei-xiong, if you have someone in mind you want to try this with, I could probably ask around for the how-to?"

Before the fox could even have a chance to reply, however, footsteps sounded from the hallway before a harsh knock fell upon the door and Jiang Cheng's vaguely irritated voice came through. "You guys are in here again, right? Hardly joining us for training, what a waste!" 

Hurriedly, Nie Huaisang shot up and opened the door a smidge, waving at the newcomers rapidly. "Hurry, hurry, come in quick! C'mooon Jiang-xiong, Wangji-xiong!" Jumping to the side to give them room to walk in, he practically dragged Jiang Cheng in by the arm, Lan Wangji following sedately, if not with some level of concealed confusion.

 

Wei Ying jumped a bit, but smiled confidently at the others as they came in, waving his fingers in a hello. "Awww, if you want to train with us so bad, you could always sneak to our courtyard in the evening." He said with a grin as Huaisang closed the door behind them. The Nie clan member already knew about his secondary being a secret, so he wouldn't expose him. "We're still studying, though! Nie-xiong has a really extensive collection of interesting materials! Lan Zhan, come here, sit down here." He said, covering the illustration with an arm and sleeve as he indicated a spot next to him. He wanted to surprise him, and try to see if he could get him to react.

 

Muttering mostly to himself about how stupid training in the evening would be without proper light, Jiang Cheng curiously sat down next to where Huaisang had resituated himself, not touching any of the books that were laid out but examining the covers with some interest. "What are you even doing here?" 

Not wanting to potentially chase them off right away, Huaisang shrugged nonchalantly, "Oh, just looking through some of my books." 

Silently glancing over at Wei Ying and wrapped around his finger as he was, Lan Wangji moved over to the fox without much fuss, kneeling down next to the omega and fixing him with an inquisitive look. "What studies?"

 

Grinning like the (vixen) fox he was, he slung an arm over his shoulders and a little around his neck (to keep him from running away) before taking the other arm off the book in front of him to show the two other boys. "Conjugal studies~!" He said with a sassy wink as he tapped the page. "Pretty important, don't you think?"

 

Both alphas blushed furiously at the revelation, but it was only obvious across Jiang Cheng's cheeks what with Lan Wangji's ears mostly hidden by his hair like usual. Much like Wei Ying expected, the dragon had tried to jerk away but was held back in principle by the fox's arm. If he did want to force it, he could easily break out of the hold, but he enjoyed Wei Ying's touch and was a bit reluctant to leave so soon after first seeing him for the day. Instead he kept his head turned away from the image in the book, even though it was already seared into his mind from that first brief glance. 

Jiang Cheng, meanwhile, was sputtering. "What the-...You-...THIS is what you've been doing all day!? W-Why are you thinking about...m-mates at this point!? W-We're all basically the same age!"

 

"Well, I mean, we're all at or reaching presentation age, right? And rude, we haven't been doing this all day... We just started like half an hour ago." Wei Ying said, smile getting a bit wider, as though Lan Wangji was acting shy, he wasn't trying to escape. His plan succeeded. "What, you saying you're not interested? You want a mate one day, right? Isn't it better to learn about these things then? I mean, it'll be pretty sad if the only time you get to enjoy sex is during the cycles but your technique sucks, right?" 

"He's right." Xue Yang said, sitting and lazily looking through one of the books. "It's better to learn about these things if you want to be a good husband to someone someday. Not saying you have to run to a brothel, but going in knowing at least a little will make sure you don't make an ass of yourself."

 

This was... not something he wanted to be in a crowd discussing. Even just the thought of talking to Xichen about this was mortifying enough, and now here he was in front of the fox of his affections and three others he wasn’t super close with? Oh, if only there was a deafening spell rather than just a silencing spell... 

“W-well s-sure but we’ve got time...! A-and it wasn’t something I was really thinking about...! I’ve still gotta prepare to take over the sect after my dad, I shouldn’t be thinking about mates right now!” Poor Jiang Cheng was struggling to keep his embarrassment at bay, especially with Wei Wuxian brandishing the...erotic book in front of him.

 

He rolled his eyes and turned the page, eyebrows lifting as he saw the new image. "Well, you don't have to look, I guess, but Nie-xiong's collection is pretty extensive. This one is from the border of Yunmeng and Gusu!" He said as he tapped the one from earlier. "Might as well take a look and see what you like and don't like, right?" He glanced at the temporarily trapped dragon at his side, who was still resolutely turned away. "We don't have to talk about it either, we could have a...quiet study time even. If you're shy. But I'm just saying, you're not likely to find most of these just anywhere. Right, Nie-xiong?"

 

"Oh, of course!" Huaisang exclaimed as he gave both newcomers contemplative gazes. "I've got connections from all over the country, so all these are the best quality, most diverse, and most well-received out of everything you could search for out there. I'm not picky when it comes to the subject content just so long as it's the highest quality it could be, so I've got something for all interests!" 

That was......not something Wangji ever wished to know about Nie Huaisang and now the dragon was stuck with that information... Stubbornly, he acted as if he couldn't hear any of this, still keeping his head turned away from all the books spread out. 

Now that the subject had been brought up and with Wei Wuxian's comment about one of the books, despite his embarrassment, Jiang Cheng couldn't help but be a bit curious, especially about the one by the Yunmeng border. And so even with his cheeks still red, he silently reached for the Yueling book and flipped it to the first page, choking very slightly at what he saw.

 

Xue Yang smirked as he watched them, lounging around as he continued to look them over, and inwardly chuckled. Hmm, he wondered if he could get that shy alpha to do anything like this.... Well, first he had to get him into bed.

Wei Ying continued to look at the book, appreciating the pictures, but also highly aware of the alpha(?) he was sticking to, trying to see if he would look at anything. He was... a little disappointed. Oh well. He shifted and got more comfy leaning against Lan Zhan as he continued to look it over. Every once in a while, he'd spot one that was particularly interesting, and would sit up a bit straighter to look at it. The pressure of his arm eventually relaxed, though he didn't retract it. He absentmindedly began fussing with a strand of hair that found itself next to his fingers.

 

At some point, Lan Wangji actually switched to meditating, eyes closed and without dislodging the sticky fox from his side, as a way to avoid looking at or seeing how anyone else was reacting to the books, something that left Huaisang, who'd been subtly watching to see what info he could glean, looking on with incredulity. What the hell?? How could the Twin Jades look so alike and yet be so vastly different in personality?! 

Even with his meditating, however, the dragon was having a bit of a hard time focusing inward, largely due to the light fiddling he could feel the fox doing with his hair. With that plus the other's proximity and the knowledge of just what exactly Wei Ying was looking at... Suffice it to say, Lan Wangji was very distracted...

 

There were a few that Wei Ying liked very much in particular, some less complex than others, but he did seem to like the ones with hanging bondage quite a bit, especially positions that had the legs spread wide, unable to close them. Blindfolds and gags seemed interesting, as well as some of the rougher plays like wax or using small chunks of ice... There were even a few that showed uses of toys.

Oh, it wasn't all kinky shit, he was plenty interested in the more 'plain' variations, but he didn't deny his kinks. At one point, getting very relaxed, he even shifted to a lazier sitting posture and rested his head against Lan Zhan's shoulder, the fingers in his hair now petting the silky strands. "...think that would look pretty good..." he mumbled to himself, looking at one page in particular. The person was laying on his back, calves bound to his thighs, binding them apart, and then wrists to ankles, mouth open and back arched. The model's eyes were covered, and there were some markings on the skin that looked like light stripes, not enough to scar, in strategic places. He really had to try and secure some of these books for himself.

 

--

 

Lan Wangji had really underestimated how conniving Nie Huaisang could be. They hadn't had too many interactions before this present time in Qinghe and so there was really no way for him to know, but... The dragon entirely blamed the dream he was finding himself in now due to the fact that the young Nie had bookmarked several specific pages of the books Wei Ying had been looking at with thin slips of paper. He could only assume those were the ones he had overheard the most reaction to during his attempt to meditate. As a result, he found himself with a decadent eyeful of the fox blindfolded and tied up on his back, legs bound and held apart and arms rendered immobile by his ankles. Just from the sight alone, he could feel his cock twitching to awareness as his sandalwood scent thickened in the air.

 

Wei Ying had gone to sleep annoyed and mildly aroused after all the chaos of the day; turns out that Nie Mingjue was a prime alpha, and his pheromones hit hard, even at a distance. He'd managed to hold it together, the fox had always been strongly resistant to pheromones, but it still wound him up for most of the day.

So when he became aware he was dreaming, he was at first confused when his eyes tried to open, lashes brushing against a fabric of some kind, and his arms and legs were immobile. And someone was in the room with him- "Uh-" he briefly became anxious before scenting the air and relaxing when he recognized the sandalwood scent. He tested the ties, trying to tug his wrists free from where they were bound to the outsides of his ankles unsuccessfully and huffing when they held fast. Judging by the feel of things, at least he was still dressed for now, though...maybe not in much? Didn't feel like a lot of layers. "Lan, Lan Zhan? Are you here?" He asked, fingers and toes curling nervously and a thrill racing up his spine as he realized he couldn't access his cultivation. Oh boy, this seemed to be right out of one of the books he'd read the other day...

 

Unable to hide with his presence so quickly pointed out by Wei Ying (not that it wouldn't be a huge struggle to resist the fox in the first place), Lan Wangji stepped forward with some trepidation, giving a simple "Mn" in response. Nervous about settling himself right where he wanted, in-between the fox's inviting legs, he instead knelt down to one of his sides, a hand reaching out to touch a knee before moving down to stroke a gentle line up the other's side. Taking in a somewhat shaky breath, he inadvertently got a good whiff of the omega's arousal and let out a just as shaky "Wei Ying" as he took in the sight in front of him.

 

He felt himself twitch and harden in his trousers, and groaned with a slight "Ah-" sound, head falling back as more slick leaked to his cunt, unable to help himself as he squirmed, hair rumpling under him as he turned his head blindly in his direction. "A-Zhan, I-I can't move-" He said huskily, trying to rub himself against something, only thrusting into the air as the pitch in his inner robes and trousers grew. More than scared, he sounded...excited, perhaps?

 

"Mn. Beautiful." First taking a little more extra time to admire the winding ropes around the fox's body, he then leaned forward to draw him into a kiss, one hand reaching around to hold the back of his neck, the other moving down between his spread legs, palm pressing into his clothed erection and fingers rubbing over the other's equally clothed and increasingly soaked cunt. Gods he smelled delicious and perhaps even the strongest he had smelled to date? He must really love being bound like this...

 

He shivered in a pleased manner at the praise, and gasped softly when he was suddenly kissed and groped, moaning softly into the dragon's mouth as his back arched, trying to press himself into the long-fingered hand between his legs. The alpha could do whatever he wanted with him and Wei Ying was unable (unwilling) to resist. Fuck, he was already fully hard. Might have been embarrassing if it wasn't so hot.

 

Lan Wangji let his hand linger longer on the other's groin without moving all too much, allowing the fox to try and seek out his pleasure however futilely that may be with how he was bound. In the meantime, he was more than content to busy himself with devouring Wei Ying's mouth, licking into the orifice as his other hand maintained a close and possessive hold on the back of his neck. Unwilling to relinquish the touch of either of his hands, sparked by a different illustration among the books, he allowed some of his dragon features to peek out (while being mindful of how his claws were resting), his main goal being that of his tail. With how long it was and how freely he could control it, it served as an excellent substitute for a third hand and so he used it to slide across what his hands couldn't currently reach, the furry and scaly tip slipping itself underneath the fox's robes to caress bare skin.

 

The bound male yelped in surprise at the new feeling, struggling briefly and trying to turn his head to try and find out what the sensation was- and made a "Mmh" sound as he felt the light prick of claws on his neck, relaxing again. It was just his tail, that was fine- Wait.

It was his tail.

Oh dammit, he wanted to see!!

He whined into the surprising heat of the alpha's mouth, kissing back with a new sort of pleading manner, tongue foraying into his mouth to find and stroke against his fangs, dancing the organ dangerously against one of the sharp tips. The muscles under the soft, silky tassels of the tail shuddered, skin feeling a tingling of arousal following it's path. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck, this was way too hot- There was another gush of slick down below, accompanied by more weeping from his tip, thoroughly ruining his pants.

 

Growling at the fresh smell of his arousal hitting the air, Wangji shifted the hand down at the fox's groin to carefully catch a sharp claw onto the fabric of his pants and rip the garment open to finally expose his sexes to him. Retracting the claws of that hand soon after, he wasted little time and easily slid a finger into the wet heat. Tail expressing his eagerness at the breach, it twitched and flicked around against Wei Ying's torso as it moved, sometimes stroking along the plains of skin, sometimes wrapping entirely around his body.

 

The stimulation from the tail was almost too much to bear, alternating between ticklish and arousing. He squirmed and mewled into the kiss, at one point needing to break the kiss as he tilted his head back, exposing his throat to take some deeper breaths. His back arched, little whimpers coming from deep inside his throat as it wrapped around his waist, the damn prehensile limb was as strong as the rest of the beautiful bastard and he loved how it felt. Without his vision, he was relying on his other senses, and the sense of touch and smell were driving him absolutely out of his mind with a submissive sort of lust. "Ah, A-Zhan, p-please, more, I want more in me, please don't tease this omega-"

 

Huffing the slightest of laughs, he leaned in to bite at the fox's neck, fangs pricking the skin slightly but laving his tongue over the area to soothe it. As he slipped in a second and then soon a third finger to stretch open the omega, he murmured against the line of his neck, "You like the teasing," as he pressed insistent fingers deep within his heat. Nevertheless, he still shifted to move between Wei Ying's legs for what would come, however, his tail did not cease its movement against and around the fox's chest.

 

Well, he did, true, but that wouldn't stop him from whining and complaining anyway. He wriggled and tried spreading his legs wider for the stronger teen, sex rippling around his fingers as he tried to encourage him to play with the right spots in his sheath, keeping his head tilted back and to the side to encourage more kisses and bites along the the column of his throat.

 

Lan Wangji was more than willing to provide what the fox was asking for, moving back in to lavish his neck with bites and marks as his fingers tracked down and thrust up against the sensitive nerves within him. Eventually, he deemed him open enough and pulled his fingers out to then free his own eager length from its confines. Largely using the hold his tail had around the fox, his hand merely kept a light touch on the other’s thigh as he lined himself up with Wei Ying’s entrance and started to sink in.

 

"Aa-aah-" He gasped, then moaned lewdly, feeling the tail lifting and pulling his hips in closer, slowly impaling him on the alpha's length. His breathing was deep and shaky, hitching every once in a while until he could feel Lan Zhan was hilted, their hips flush. He tried again to move, felt the small, helpless movements of his limbs, and groaned as he could only make the smallest of shifts with his hips, thanks to the tail wrapped around him. His erection was actually leaning on it at this angle, feeling the cool, smooth scales becoming damp with precome.

 

With his tail able to keep the fox still and in one place, Wangji didn't wait much longer before moving his hips back and forth, leaning over the other as he worked to reveal as much of the omega's bare skin as he could with the ropes restricting him. Once he had, he moved in closer to play with his nipples, one hand carefully switching between his claws and finger pads while his mouth latched onto the other one, nipping and sucking before rolling his tongue over the area to soothe any tingles of pain. In his peeking form like this, which he was not accustomed at all to feel, he was all the more aware of the odd weight of his horns or the sharp talons that were his claws and so he was all the more careful with his roaming of Wei Ying's body (though that couldn't be said for the fast, almost rough snaps of his hips).

 

It was all welcome, however. All of it. The newness, the hint of danger from the claws, the immobility due to the ropes and the tail, the anticipation and thrill of not being able to see what came next- "AAH, ffuck-!" He groaned, hips twitching in the dragon's hold, head turning from side to side as one of the only things he had the freedom to move. "Ah, A-Zhan, I'm gonna come, gonna come, almost there, keep-uah!!"

 

"Mn. Good." Replacing the mouth on his nipple with his other hand, he moved back up to nose at the fox's neck before biting down on his shoulder as he felt his knot start to catch on the other's rim. As if to encourage him to come even faster, he sped up his pace, tail keeping the omega positioned juuust right for the optimal assault on his senses.

 

Stars exploded behind his eyes, and within a few more pumps of his hips, he came with a keening cry, thighs trying to press against his hips, wishing he could wrap both legs around him and hold him in. His whole body jolted and trembled, making loud, senseless, wanton noises as more slick flooded his insides, running down Wangji's member and his own ass, his own, smaller member releasing his spend to make a mess of his belly and the alpha's tail.

 

It didn't take many more thrusts after feeling the fox spasm around him before he was releasing as well, knot locking them together. Unbothered by the mess the omega spilled between them, the dragon threaded a hand gently through what he could of the other's hair as he murmured soft affections. "Beautiful... A-Ying...Любовь..."

 

He shuddered in a pleased fashion, turning and rubbing his head into the gentle caresses, chirping at the alpha as he tried to nuzzle and lick at his inner wrist, then trying to suck a little red mark into the pale skin. "A.... A-Zhan, so good." He whispered, rocking his hips minutely, gently fluttering around his knot and shaft. "Alpha is so good to me, you filled me up, feel you stretching me~"

 

The dragon was content to let Wei Ying mark up any part of his skin he came across, the very end of his tail flicking across heated skin as he held him close. "My A-Ying..." Nipping at the fox's jawline, he was more than willing to indulge his omega and meet the other's hips with slow rolls up into his body, loving the warm, soft grip around his dick, even if he wasn't at full-mast. "Lovely mate..."

 

"Mmmh, mmhaahmmm~" He hummed and squeaked a little as he slowly writhed against him, muscles flexing again as he tried and failed to stretch his legs and arms, so instead wound up arching and bowing his back in every manner he was able to while being pinned like this, every once in a while being rewarded by a new, strange place, deciding it liked whatever the hell he just did, and sending a small ripple of pleasure through him, resulting in a firmer contraction of his inner walls. It wasn't quite overstimulation, as it was still very pleasant, he was just that aroused by his dragon.

 

A hand moving around to caress the fox's back, claws lightly gliding across the skin, he nuzzled his neck before laying kisses all along his cheeks, eyelids, brows, forehead, anywhere on his face that wasn't his lips (yet) as he murmured, "Do you wish to be released?" He loved the ease with which he could control the fox however he wished, but if his A-Ying wanted a change of pace, he'd readily give it.

 

"Mmmm, y-yes-no. No? Yes and no?" He mumbled, laughing breathlessly and smiling at the feeling of the kisses peppering over his face and the blindfold. "This is really fun, it's also fun to struggle, feels good." He paused. "I want to see you, though, A-Zhan. I wanna see your peeking form. May I? Please?"

 

Perhaps outside of a dream, he would be more nervous and self-conscious about being in a peeking or half form, but this was a dream and so any reaction the fox would give here couldn't be negative, right? And so with that thought in mind, Lan Wangji gave a soft, "Mn," in response, a hand reaching back to loosen the blindfold as he finally once again kissed the last spot on Wei Ying's face he'd been purposely avoiding.

 

He hummed into the kiss, smiling against his lips again as the blindfold slipped away, and he opened his eyes to see- ...A ceiling. Oh, fuck, not again!

He groaned and covered his face with his hands, his face flushed to his hairline as he could feel how wet he was down below. If it weren't so indecent (and potentially dangerous), he might start sleeping naked to avoid getting sexual fluids on his clothes. He knew Xue Yang was probably already awake and preparing something for him to clean himself with, but if he remembered correctly he was having an informal sleepover with-

 

"Sooooo ...'A-Zhan', huh?" Surely much to the fox's dismay, Nie Huaisang was also already awake and had witnessed just enough to figure out what the other had been dreaming about. "You two certainly don't strike as a good match at first glance, but looks can be deceiving... You gotta spill now! Not about your dream...or dreams, I suppose, you've already spilled enough for me to get the picture, but your crush! How long has it been, when did you first realize it, why him in the first place? Ah, but don't get me wrong with that last one; not saying he wouldn't be a good mate, he's probably the best mate anyone could get, but he doesn't exactly give off a good first impression with his cold haughtiness." This was probably the most exciting news he'd gotten (coupled with the ribbon revelation) ever since he found out about his brother's unorthodox relationship!

 

Wei Ying's brain short circuited for a few moments as he tried to decide how to handle the situation, having a brief fantasy about jumping him and threatening him into silence. He settled for grabbing a pillow and holding it over his face as he screamed into it and simultaneously tried to smother himself. Of all the people to see thaaaaaaaaaaat, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaugh!!! He pulled the pillow off and flung it at the other omega. "Before I say anything else, know that the kindest thing I could do to you in case of betrayal is sic Xue Yang on you, or summon a ghost to haunt your fans for the next three years, got it??!"

 

"Aww c'mon, I promised to keep your status a secret, Wei-xiong, you don't trust that I can keep this a secret too? C'moooon, you gotta tell me, I gotta know!" Twisting himself so that he was on his stomach and facing the fox, he rested his chin in his palms expectantly as he waited for Wei Wuxian to give aaaaall the deets.

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah he was so tempted to just self-destruct... At least he wasn't using his fan at the moment, that would remind him of Father Shen... He grabbed the blankets and wadded them up in his arms, crossing his legs and putting his chin on top of the impromptu pillow. "W-well... I mean, we're just friends, really..." He said in a smaller voice. "I mean, that's all we've been to each other for years. Apparently I met him once when I was five, but I can't remember that, and we met again when I was twelve. Heh, he even said our first meeting both times, he saved me from the same sort of thing." He smiled fondly as he recalled. "And once I realized we were friends in the past, I guess I kinda latched onto him again. It's like... I dunno, I just feel like I want to be around him all the time, whenever I can. He makes me feel safe and happy and comfortable, even when we're not doing anything. And oh my goodness, you'd never guess by just looking at him, but he is the sweetest cuddle bug ever when he or I am in beast form. He likes rabbits, and the color red, and he even puts up with my nonsense... And I started having these dreams where we'd just hang out after that, just a lot of nice platonic shit or night hunt adventures, stuff like that." He cleared his throat. "A-anyway, I started having these...really indecent dreams about him just a bit after I turned 14. It was pretty... uh, intense." He rubbed his burning face with both hands. "And it's stupid of me to want these dreams to be real. And besides, I don't think he likes me romantically and I'm fine with that. With us just being friends." Lie.

 

Huaisang couldn't help but chuckle at the little ramble Wuxian was giving. "Wow. You really have it bad. But c'mon, Wei-xiong, Wangji-xiong being a cuddle bug? He's called one of the Twin Jades for a reason, they're both as beautiful and cold, especially in his case, as a jade! I doubt he'd ever let himself be caught cuddling with anyone, so the fact that he apparently does that with you? That can't be it. Oh, and don't even get me started on what happened with his forehead ribbon back in Qishan! There's no way that would've happened just like that! Do you know how significant the Lans' ribbons are? One can't just go around touching them!"

 

"First of all, not that I need to prove anything to you, but notice how my bro hug was both not rejected and kept Lan Zhan from running off when we were looking at your collection the other day.... Though, I guess he could have been quietly curious. But he didn't open his eyes so I think it was just me?" He tilted his head to think about it, then shook it. "And as to the ribbon thing, I get that it's important and all, but I've never been clear on why it is." Then he got worried. "Did I uh, did I really fuck up when I grabbed it?"

 

"Well, I don't really know all that well either, the Lans never talk about why they're so closely guarded, just that they are. But, man, the fact that you even could touch it is huge! I've heard that the Lan dragons' ribbons have enchantments on them so that they literally can not be touched! Like my Da-ge? He's able to touch Xichen-ge's ribbon but outside that, I think the only others are Teacher Lan and Wangji-xiong. And please, that wasn't him cuddling, that was you cuddling and fawning over him like the smitten fox you are! Any explanation on his part about that was probably in the same vein as why you can even touch his forehead ribbon."

 

He looked down at the floor, frowning. It was true, he usually initiated contact, now that he thought about it. He never really saw anyone else touching the young dragon though. Well...at least it meant he was sorta special? Right? If he could touch the ribbon in the first place. "He could have gotten me to let go pretty easy if he didn't like it. All he'd have to do is say something or push me off, so there." ...But, what if he was just tolerating the touching because he didn't want to upset him? He picked up the dragon jade from the table nearby and ran a thumb over the gentian and dragon carving, something he'd done many times before. "Anyway, like I said, I'm okay with our relationship as it is. And...yeah, I'm attracted to him, I know, but I don't need more. I should ask my Papa He how to stop the dreams, maybe...when I see him again."

 

"Awww, you really wanna stop them?? I mean, I personally wouldn't want any wet dreams of Wangji-xiong because he's just too cold a character for me, not my type at all , but even objectively I can say that having super hot dreams about a just as hot probably-alpha like him would never be something I'd turn down! If anything, use the wiles from them to seduce him! Though I doubt you'd actually need to do all that much seducing to actually win him over." Not if the Second Jade already apparently considered the fox important enough to allow him to touch his forehead ribbon.

 

Wei Ying sighed, ears and tail drooping. "Nie-xiong... I know you haven't seen it, but when we're alone we spend a lot of time together. And I touch him a lot. I've slept on him before. It's never gone further than cuddling. And he's never really responded to my flirting. I don't want to mess it up by coming on too strong. He's done so much for me. He's offered me a home if I ever need it. What if I make it...weird? Or if he accepts because he doesn't want to upset me? I don't want that..."

 

"Lying is prohibited in his Sect, alongside 2,999 other rules; I can't see a stickler like him ever lying by omission or silence just to give you a relationship. And just imagine what else those thousands of rules did to their disciples! Who knows, maybe he doesn't even know what flirting looks or sounds like! I still say up the ante, or do you need Jiang-xiong to also tell you to 'stop being an idiot!'" With the last few words, Huaisang even gave his deepest frown and lowered his tone to (horribly) mimic Jiang Cheng.

 

The fox groaned and shook his head. "I wagered a kiss in an archery competition, which he won by the way. He didn't take me up on it." He mumbled. "Anyway... Xue Yang, I know you're probably listening to us! Is my bath ready yet?!" 

A snicker came from behind a partition. "Yeah, but don't let that stop your conversation, I've been thinking you should seduce him since I first saw you two interact." He came out and over to the other omegas. "And he was right about Lan Wangji being cuddly in his beast form. He coils around him. It's really, really cute." 

"Hush." He said as he got up and grabbed spare clothes before going to the bath behind the screen. "Anyway, I really can't tell him anything right now. With his father passing away and all the stuff going on with me right now...not to mention my dads being missing. Maybe once it's all over, I'll ask him...if he wants to consider maybe being with me."

 

Well. There were other reasons as to why a reclusive, rule-abiding young master wouldn't take up an offered kiss won from a bet, but the very obvious subject change made it clear Wuxian wasn't all that willing to keep up with the conversation. "Okay, sure, valid reasoning. But don't you dare think I'm dropping this forever, Wei-xiong~ You'd better follow up on that or I'm gonna track you down!"

 

"Of course! We're friends now, anyway... ah, but in exchange you need to tell me about any crushes you have. It's only fair." He said as he began washing himself, using scent blocking soaps and lotions.

 

“Aah yes, if only there was already an alpha around that I wanted. Maybe then Da-ge would stop pressuring me to train. It’s not too often you just run into the perfect one like you’ve seemed to do. Twice, even. How lucky~” Huaisang drawled as he sprawled out on his mattress.

 

He shook his head and rolled his eyes a bit. "I think your brother won't take you getting a mate as an excuse- Sect Leader Jiang is an omega with kids, and he's still sect leader with the Violet Spider."

 

"Weeeell...maybe if I get a chick soon after? He'd never allow himself to force a pregnant omega to train. That's nine months of free artistic bliss right there! And then of course, there's the recovery period, not to mention the actual raising of a kid. So! From there, I can see him doing one of two things: one, being such a doting uncle to his niece or nephew that he forgets to be pressuring or two, he starts preparing to train said niece or nephew since his brother is a lost cause-" In actuality, this was all probably just an outlandish pipe dream. He wasn't actually in that much of a hurry to look for a mate and for all the griping Mingjue gave him about training and his lack thereof, his brother still allowed him enough allowance to go out and buy artwork and pottery or sculptures he really enjoyed.

 

The fox blinked. "Chicks?" He asked as he looked over at the artistic screen. "Nie-xiong, I don't think it came up before. Are you a bird?" His brother certainly smelled like a tiger, he didn't hide his scent at all. "Besides, you know what? I think you should talk to him once his cycle is over. He knows how smart you are. I think he might let you out of saber training if you showed effort or enthusiasm in, like, fan arts like my father or applied yourself to tactics or something. You don't fool people as much as you think."

 

"Mm, we're half-brothers, so yeah, I'm a bird. Well...half one. But, in any case, I'm not actually trying to fool everyone, just the ones that need to be fooled. The whole saber thing is more of an act. People let their guard down around me when they think I'm a good-for-nothing omega who's terrified of his brother's wrath..."

 

He snorted a bit in amusement. "Hmm, you might have fooled me, but the ease you handled that escape gave you away... Also, the bird thing is cool! But I get the feeling you're not a typical type of bird." He had zero predatory reaction towards him, which was telling. And, from the looks of it, neither did Xue Yang, who was the most instinctual of all of them.

 

"Well~ I'm not your usual songbird, yes. Lots of interesting characters were apparently drawn to our father, hence why we're even half-brothers to begin with. But Father was human and so I probably took more of that side than my mother's. Complete opposite of Da-ge, he's pretty obviously a tiger." Not that he necessarily tried to hide it either, though. Meanwhile, he had very important strategic reasons to keep his bird side on the downlow-

 

"...Hmm, makes sense I guess." He didn't buy it, but he wouldn't push right now. Might be something pretty rare, he could understand wanting to be discreet. "You human blends are pretty fortunate, you know? You tend to get very stable forms and the benefits of human and beast cultivation...and, you get how to human better. Usually."

 

"Pfft!" He couldn't help but laugh a bit at that wording at the end. "'Usually'? Do you know human blends that can't human all that well? I guess if the human parent was a dead-beat or passed on early or something, that could be, but that's such an odd thought to think of!"

 

"My mom and dad were already cultivators, they'd been working at their human mannerisms and stuff for a long time, so they taught me from birth. A few months ago, I had an urge to jump one of Lan Zhan's attendants. Instincts suck sometimes, especially for 'natural enemies'." He finally felt cleaner and got out, drying himself before putting on the simple sleep clothes Xue Yang gave him.

"I don't fight my instincts much. I'm a lovable asshole." Xue Yang said with a bright, feral smile. He could tell the Nie Sect young master was wearing a big do not touch sign, and was happy to leave the bird well enough alone instinctually. If he ever suspected he might harm Wei Ying intentionally, he'd kill him. Simple as that.

 

"Oooh, yeaaah, he does have those bunny attendants...Pff-That must've been an interesting sight to see! How'd that turn out? Did his attendants bolt? Well-As much as they could've bolted with that 'No running within Cloud Recesses' rule..."

 

"It was a close call. He managed to distract me before I could do anything stupid though, and then we had a good snuggle session and I felt better. I'd been on the run for the last couple weeks before that, it made me pretty on edge and instinctual.

 

"I see, I see...Soulmate to the rescue, eh~? All while hardly saying anything or changing his expression, I bet! How Xichen-ge can ever tell what Wangji-xiong is thinking is beyond me. I don't think Teacher Lan can even tell even though they're family."

 

"Well, I'm still figuring him out, but he's not completely frigid. He definitely feels." He came out, refreshed, and went back to his now clean bed. "He just has difficulty expressing himself, and I think he has a case of facial paralysis. But his actions speak plenty loud sometimes. Anyway, I still want to sleep. We can omega-chat more later."

Chapter Text

Despite wanting to spend as much time with Wei Ying as possible, especially on today of all days, Wangji was admittedly a little drained from the sheer number of people involved and interacting. For the most part, there weren't many that tried to approach or talk to him, but the room in general was just loud and not always in a good way, so he very much appreciated the quiet he now had in his room as he sat and meditated. The present he had wanted to give the fox was still wrapped up in a cloth and sitting atop the short dresser by his bed, mocking his cowardice. Perhaps if he couldn't bring himself to give it to Wei Ying in person, he could slip it just inside the fox's room when he was hanging out with any of the others...?

 

As if summoned, there was a sudden light rapping on his window. "Pssst! Lan Zhan! Hey! Over here!"

Outside the window was the object of his affections. He was grinning in that charming way he did, looking like he was about to be naughty, appreciating any hint of surprise. "Can I come in? We didn't get to hang out much today and it's my birthday, I deserve more time with you." He pouted. He even got some extra space bargained from his leonine guards, so he could have his little two-person after party.

 

Blinking blankly for a few moments, he eventually stood and moved over to the window, undoing the latch so the fox could get inside. "I have a door..." What in the world possessed him to try entering through the window instead of the door like any normal individual? And why did he feel like Wei Ying was trying to conceal something...?

 

"I know, but this is more fun. Also I got to see your surprised face." He said as he climbed inside and looked around before going to sit at the table, looking up at Lan Zhan as he patted the space next to him. Once he had seated himself, he began to speak. "Lan Zhan, do you remember when we met in Caiyi? How I asked you if you would like to drink with me?" He took out two bottles from his sleeve, setting them on the table along with two cups. "For my birthday, I would like to invite you to drink with me. Just the two of us. Please?" He asked, batting his eyelashes as he poured them each a cup, pushing one closer to Lan Zhan. "For my birthday?"

 

Taking a seat next to the fox, he looked at the cups hesitantly, not sure how to respond to this. Hanging out with the fox was an easy agreement, however the drinking... He wasn’t supposed to drink as per his Sect rules...But the expression Wei Ying was making was tempting him and he didn’t want to disappoint the fox on his birthday... Conflicted, his brows furrowed slightly as he looked down into his lap.

 

"Just one?" He asked hopefully. "If...you really don't want to, then that's okay... I've been saving this Emperor's Smile though. So I'm drinking it for sure." He picked up the cup and saluted the other beast teen before downing the cup.

 

Shifting his eyes up to the second cup on the table, he eventually relented, if only to see the...happy? expression Wei Ying would make. "...Just one." Picking up the small cup, he gave the clear liquid a tentative sniff before bringing it down to his lips and tipping over the contents. It burned uncomfortably in his throat but the taste...wasn't horrible. He wasn't sure he'd like to repeat the hot burn just to taste it again though. In fact, he was quickly feeling rather drowsy now despite it not being nine yet. Both his head and eyelids felt heavy, and so to combat that, he set his elbow on the table and leaned his head on his hand there, letting his eyes fall shut.

 

His ears and tail popped out, perking and wagging as he downed it. "Yeah, yeah! It's great, isn't it?! It's got this sweetness but also a spicy kick- ah? Lan Zhan?" He blinked, leaning in and over a bit to see his face better. "...Are you kidding me?" He murmured, disbelieving at first, then amused, snorting and covering his mouth with his hand. "Lan Zhan, are you asleep? What a lightweight!"

 

The dragon remained unresponsive like that for several long minutes. When he finally came back to awareness, his eyes slowly opening again, it didn’t seem as if anything had changed with him, his face still in the same impassive expression as always. (Although, were things fuzzier than usual...?) “...Wei Ying.”

 

Wei Ying was half-laying on the table, looking up at the sect heir's face with a fondness... He wasn't expecting him to open his eyes all of a sudden and sat up. "Oh hey, you're awake! Yeah, I'm here, Lan Zhan. You feeling sleepy, buddy?" He asked, reaching out to tuck a stray strand of hair back in place.

 

Bringing a hand up, he caught the fox's wrist in a gentle hold, looking intently into the other's silver-grey eyes as he once again said, "Wei Ying." What exactly he was trying to get out of the other teen in response, he had no idea, but he enjoyed the name on his lips and so certainly wasn't opposed to repeating it as many times as he wanted.

 

"Uh huh?" He asked, tilting his head to the side again, feeling his heart skip a beat with the dragon's long, warm fingers gently shackling his wrist, not resisting. Oh gosh, he was so cute and silly like this. "Yeah, it's me. Do you want something, Lan Zhan?"

 

"Wei Ying." Finding no issue with his desire to repeatedly utter the fox's name (and it did answer the question truthfully), he didn't do much more than that (for now), content with his grip on the other and the chance this gave him to take in the soft, gorgeous features of the younger beast.

 

He huffed softly and leaned his other elbow on the table, his chin on his hand as he watched the straight-faced fellow affectionately. "Uh oh, I think I broke you. You're stuck on me, huh? Can you only call my name, Lan... A-Zhan?"

 

Taking in a sharp breath, heart beating rapidly in his chest, his grip on Wei Ying's wrist tightened ever so slightly. "Mn. A-Zhan. Miss A-Zhan. No A-Zhan since six." While he had heard the nickname in his dreams, there was no way he could count that. They were dreams, his own (shameful) wishful thinking about what he wanted the fox to say (and what he wanted to do to him). Their mutual use of each other's birth names was certainly intimate, but he wanted something more; he wanted that back again.

 

Oh holy shit. His mouth clicked shut and his eyes widened slightly as he saw his eyes flicker and lips just barely part like that. Fuck, he's hot. "...I used to call you A-Zhan?" Okay, that made sense. They were six-ish. But... "You want me to call you A-Zhan?" Calling him that in the waking world would be... "Then, are you going to call me Ying'er? Or A-Ying?"

 

A bit of conflict rose in his eyes at that. He also missed how 'A-Ying' rolled off his tongue but... "...Want but do not deserve..." Not after he had given a young A-Ying anxiety over his disappearance. Sure it may have been Su Minshan's actual words and actions to plant the seed, but he could've insisted on staying or even going to see Wei Ying to inform him about their impromptu trip.

 

He frowned a bit, lip sticking out in a pout. What was that supposed to mean? "That's not fair. If Lan Zhan is being reserved, so will I." He lightly tugged against the grip on his wrist, feigning annoyance.

 

His arm fell away easily from the grip, not actually trying to keep Wei Ying restrained in one place after all, but as a result, he instead made a little noise in the back of his throat. Quickly, as if he'd forever lose the chance to be called 'A-Zhan', he blurted out a rushed, "A-Ying. Любовь."

 

He stopped and turned back towards him, smiling. "A-Zhan. There, that wasn't so bad, was it? Good boy." He wasn't sure what the heck the other word was, but it... sounded familiar? He reached back and pet his head affectionately. He was too cute like this. "So obedient. Should I reward you?"

 

For a few moments, Lan Wangji simply stared, the other's words seemingly not registering right away for him. Once he finally gathered his bearings again, he gave a rather petulant, "Two. Already owe me."

 

This time, it was the fox's turn to be a little off-guard, but then it clicked and his eyes brightened. He laughed lightly. "Right, right, the kiss. I thought you weren't interested." He said teasingly, though on the inside he was rejoicing. Maybe...maybe there was hope for him after all? He lifted a hand and snapped his fingers, transforming back to his fabricated female form. "A-Zhan wants my first kiss?"

 

Distracted by the sudden new and different, but not quite different appearance, the dragon was silent as he drank in the even softer lines of the fox's body, the beautiful curves, the fuller lashes and lips... Once he finally remembered that Wei Ying had spoken, his eyes refocused on the other's face. "Mn. Shameless in public. Less in private." (If he'd remember all this, he'd say it was shameless no matter where, surely he was only taking advantage of Wei Ying's careless bet, the fox didn't actually want this with him, had already said he only considered them friends...And yet Wangji was being shameless and selfish over something he surely shouldn't be taking... But, of course, he wasn't going to remember this once the night passed...)

 

Oh god, oh god, he was doing this. Was he really doing this? Maybe this was a bad idea. But... He couldn't stop now. Literally. He couldn't stop himself. He wanted it too much. And, Lan Zhan technically brought it up first, right?

Yeah, there was no way he wasn't doing this.

He thought for a moment, then got to his feet, pausing and using a touch of magic to adjust his clothes so they weren't too big for him. He took Lan Zhan's hand and led him over to the bed, then had him sit down. This was his first kiss. So he'd choose how it went. He hesitated for a moment before sitting sideways on his lap, hands going to frame his face, thumbs ghosting over his lips briefly as he looked into his eyes... Then, before he could lose his nerve, he leaned in for the kiss, eyelids fluttering as he did so, his first instinct to close them, but also wanting, needing to watch.

 

Lan Wangji followed perhaps too easily, all while his steps didn't betray at all that he was drunk, and was just as easily maneuvered to sit on the bed. Captivated by the image of Wei Ying in front of him and then in his lap, intense golden eyes remained fixed on silver, hands instinctively moving up to brace the other's hips. Lips parting slightly, he was more than thrilled to finally, finally have a real taste of the fox's lips. It was clumsy and hesitant what with dream kisses and pictures not being nearly reliable enough for the real deal, but he made up for it with his earnestness, touch on his hips gentle as if he were a precious treasure.

 

His lips were so soft. That was the first thought that ran through his head beyond the floaty, warm ecstasy of ACTUALLY KISSING LAN ZHAN. The real one, not a dream version. And the way he was holding him, kissing him like this- Mate. This is my mate.

Gasping softly, he pulled back very slightly, eyes a bit misty, face flushed. It was weird, the kiss was...chaste, innocent in a way the others they had shared weren't, but it was real, and tender, and he was so careful with him... His hand stroked the side of his face again as he leaned back in, bumping their foreheads together. "A...A-Zhan..." He paused, then continued. "For your...second reward...do you want my first kiss in my male form too?"

 

His eyes flashed with interest, grip on his hips tightening ever so slightly as he gave a simple, "Mn," in response. This was Wei Ying, of course he would want all of his firsts. The fox was certainly all of his firsts and he wasn't about to try and change that. Without realizing it, he had actually voiced the thought, however in his draconic language. "Хочу всё..."

 

He might not understand draconic, but he understood the "Mn" well enough. He shifted back to his normal form, the sensation of reforming while being held by someone being very...intimate. (Even more so with it being Lan Zhan.) He shifted position, one arm slipping back to wrap around him and hold him close before kissing him again, this time a bit bolder, going with what felt right.

 

With how Wei Ying was twisted sideways on his lap, it was very easy for Lan Wangji to move a hand up the fox's side to his upper back and flip him around onto the bed, hovering over him as he clumsily deepened the kiss. There was a bit too much awkward fumbling, colliding of teeth, bad angles, and whatnot, but this was also Wei Ying and so it was all perfect. The dragon never wanted this to end, wanted to spend the rest of his days exploring everything about the fox.

 

Shit, this was hot as fuck. Wei Ying felt like he was slowly burning up, hand wandering into the alpha's beautiful hair, the other dragging across his back, feeling the thick, well-formed muscles there. He licked and sucked at his mouth, his lips, it was messy and sloppy but so good, it felt so right!

 

Hand at the fox's hip starting to grow curious, he let it wander up Wei Ying's still-clothed side and torso, the alcohol in his system overpowering the rational side of his mind that was telling him he shouldn't be doing this with the other right now. Instead, he was wholeheartedly enjoying the warm, wet cavern of his beloved's mouth, gradually parsing out what worked and didn't work. Wanting this beautiful creature even closer, he pressed in more, the half-hard line of his interested dick rubbing against the fox's leg and sending an unexpected but not unwelcome jolt of pleasure up his spine.

 

He shuddered and moaned into the larger male's mouth, feeling his own manhood respond with interest to the situation, beginning to stiffen. Subconsciously, he shifted his leg to the side, allowing one of Lan Zhan's legs to slot between his. This was still okay, he could still stop this from going too far…

 

At the silent invitation, Lan Wangji shifted himself so that he was more on top of the fox, thigh pressed into his groin much like Wei Ying's was pressed into his own. With the slightest of motions, he rolled his hips into the offered leg, pulling out of the kiss to nose at and place light, delicate kisses along the other's jaw, neck, and shoulder. This was almost too good to be true, almost as if this were his birthday and his present rather than- Coming back to himself, Wangji stilled against the fox, bringing a hand up to cup the other's face as he nosed at Wei Ying's jaw on the other side. He shouldn't be getting distracted with this beautiful creature (even though he was oh so tempted to), he should be giving the fox his "...Present." before the day was over!

 

A small sound of complaint escaped the fox as the stimulation suddenly stopped, head tipped back a little for the young alpha. He was dazed, panting, and giving off just the faintest hint of a spicy-sweet aroma, but made himself think through the pleasant fog. "...Present?" He murmured in a confused manner. Yeah, this was one hell of an awesome present...

 

"Mn." Reluctantly, he forced himself off of Wei Ying, his first few steps as he stepped away after that unbelievably hot session unsteady (although it could also very well be that the sight of the fox sprawled out on the bed, hair mussed, lips slick and red, silver-grey eyes hazy, breath all too quick, was also contributing to his balance). Moving over to the dresser, he picked up the cloth-wrapped basket and walked back over to stand in front of the fox, holding it out to him with an accompanying, soft, "...Present." However, after a few long moments and before the other could even so much as touch the gift, the dragon drew it back into his chest with a rather visible frown. Something was wrong with the present and his inebriated mind was having a very hard time figuring out why. There was a sort of childlike petulance about his aura as he studied the item. Everything was most definitely accounted for, he had double and triple checked before wrapping it all up, but it felt like there was still something missing

Perhaps a concerning amount of time later, his brain finally clicked on what was nagging at him and he released his control over his scent, letting it permeate through the air and especially soak into the gift in his hands. Once it felt sufficiently doused, his frown disappeared and he silently held it out towards the fox again.

 

It took those few moments for Wei Wuxian's muddle-headedness to clear enough for him to push himself up into a half-reclining, half-sitting position, watching the dragon with mild confusion. By the time he realized that A-Zhan was trying to give him a birthday gift, he'd taken it back before he could reach out for it. Then.... Then he’d scented it.

Oh. Oh. Oh, fuck, he was so fucked. He knew this scent. He'd smelt it many times now, in his sleep, in his dreams. But this was reality. Lan Wangji was really an alpha. And somehow, he'd been Dream Sharing with him, subconsciously, on and off for years..... 

He didn't know if he wanted to praise or kill his Papa He.

He sat up fully, unable to look away from the package, then to the dragon, swallowing reflexively. "... Lan.... A-Zhan... for me?" He said, throat tightening with unshed emotion as he blinked in an effort to refrain from tearing up. Don't get carried away, you mustn't get ahead of yourself. You brainwashed him for years accidentally with all the shared dreaming nonsense, this could just be friendship scenting.... He held out his hands to receive it.

 

"Mn. A-Ying's birthday." Pressing the gift into Wei Ying's hands, he then stood very still, nerves causing him to lock up as he watched for the fox's reaction when he eventually untied the cloth. When he had come across the stall, he had first been drawn to the miniature foxes and dragons but then on closer inspection had also caught eye on the rabbits and chickens... Unable to narrow it down to just one, he had caved in and bought several of them, one for each birthday they had been separated before their reunion. He could only hope the fox wouldn't think it excessive.

 

He tugged at the cloth, undoing the bundle, and then gasping softly when he saw them. Four fat, round chicken plushies, a pair of rabbits (one black, one white) and a fox and dragon doll. The craftsmanship was amazing, and they were adorable, and they smelled like him- so did the cloth, actually... he could use the whole thing for his nest!! He hugged them close, feeling his heart go all...melty-runny. He was struggling not to cry, dammit, Papa He was rubbing off on him too much- "I love them. Thank you, A-Zhan," he said, voice slightly hoarse.

 

"Mn." Relieved and satisfied with Wei Ying's answer, Lan Wangji moved back towards the bed. Rather than continuing where he had cut them off, the dragon climbed fully onto the bed without removing any of his shoes, crown, or outer robes and laid down. Bringing an arm up, he rather forcefully but carefully dragged the fox down until he was also laying down on the bed, plushies and all. "Almost nine. Bedtime."

 

"Ack-!" He squeaked as he was pulled along, legs flailing slightly, though he didn't release his fluffy bundle. "Oi, A-Zhan, this is your bedtime, not mine- A-Zhan?" He said as he turned his head to look at him. ....Was he asleep already? Wow. He was like a natural alarm clock.

For the span of a stick of incense or two, he lay there and simply looked at his face, burning it all into his mind. He wanted nothing more than to just snuggle up to his chest and bury his face there, wrapped in his scent, to scent him back, and never leave. However.... However, that would be taking too much advantage of the poor, young, drunk alpha. (More than he already had, that was-) And, well... Maybe he was too much of a coward to be able to take it if he said it was all a mistake in the morning. He'd met some drunkards in his life that were completely different intoxicated than sober.

He reached out and delicately traced the side of his face and jaw, leaning in to kiss him one more time- then stopped himself, sighing as he pulled back. He made sure he had his entire present before slipping out the same way he'd entered, and heading back to his room. This was okay. He had new trophies for his nest. And, in the morning, they could talk... And see what they wanted to do from there. If he remembered anything.

 

Unaware of the fox's actions or dilemma, Lan Wangji slept away as if nothing was amiss. Once five am rolled around, he woke up like normal except for the fact that he was strangely groggy and was sporting a headache with no recollection of what had happened last night. Hadn't Wei Ying been here...? Oh-yeah, he most definitely had...and he had wanted him to...-! He had gotten drunk, hadn't he?! And he couldn't remember anything from that time... He...hadn't done anything unbecoming, had he!? Jolting out of bed despite his head protesting the action, he looked down at himself and the rumpled state of his normal clothing (he hadn't changed into his nightwear??), before changing into something more presentable and leaving to meditate somewhere out in nature to center and ease his pounding head.

 

Which is where the fox eventually came across him! His jade dragon was swinging from his belt as per usual, Chenqing twirling in his hand, and seeming to be pretty chipper. "Ah! Lan Zhan! Good morning!" He called as he trotted over, waving cheerfully. "Man, you surprised me last night!"

 

Lan Wangji couldn't help but tense slightly at that. So he really did do something unbecoming? He supposed it couldn't have been harmful or detrimental if Wei Ying seemed to be in a good mood despite it, but if he'd surprised the fox then he had apparently done something out of character... "...Last night...? What...What did I do...?"

 

Ah. Wow, the disappointment hit him a little harder than he had expected. But, he didn't show it, instead looking at the dragon in a surprised fashion. "You mean, you didn't notice when you woke up?" He said, sitting near him smoothly. "Last night, when we were all alone, you gave me..."

 

'Notice'?? What was he supposed to have noticed?? Sure, he was able to piece together that he'd consumed alcohol and presumably got a headache from it, but what about giving Wei Ying something required him to notice something?? He didn't move away as the fox approached him, but he was extremely nervous all the same. "...Gave you what?" Oh god, he specifically was bringing up how they were alone, he didn't do something embarrassing or shameless, did he?!

 

"...Some totally super-adorable stuffed animals!!" He said, pulling out one of the plushie chickens from his sleeve and hugging it with a grin, rubbing his cheek against it. "I love them! Thank you, Lan Zhan!"

 

...Oh. Thank heavens, it was just about his gift. He hadn't even realized he'd given it to him last night. Chest warm at seeing that it was apparently already being treasured, he couldn't help but give a slight smile at the fox. "Mn. I am glad."

 

He sighed internally, and consoled himself with a deep breath of the chicken's now-ingrained sandalwood and alpha scent (and also burned the image of that smile into his retinas forever). "They smell good, too. Glad to have some things with your scent on them now." He said, to tease him lightly as he put it back into his qiankun sleeve. "It was a good birthday."

 

His ears blushed furiously at that. Getting a sudden noseful of his own scent hitting him had been both completely unexpected and enlightening. So that must’ve been what surprised the fox and so he did indeed embarrass himself by doing something odd last night. (Though he couldn’t entirely dismiss how happy it made his inner alpha to know that his love enjoyed his scent.) “...You do not find it weird that I...scented your gift...? ...What else did I do last night?”

 

He chuckled, leaning back on one hand as he twirled Chenqing again with the other. "I mean, no? Why would it be weird to swap scents with a friend? Oh, maybe it's weird for humans... I'll have to ask Jiang Cheng. And you didn't do anything bad.... You were cute." He smiled, leaning in. "Do you really wanna know?"

 

Ah...Was this a custom other species did with friends as well? That certainly couldn't be said for the Lan dragons...He'd grown up being told that scenting was only reserved for family members, spouses included, of course. So for him to scent something for Wei Ying was akin to courting him and asking him for a romantic relationship... (He wasn't sure if he was happy or disappointed that the implications went completely over Wei Ying's head.) The dragon was quiet as he took in the information...'cute'? Just what in the world else had he done?? "......What did I do...?" Would he somehow regret asking for this information...?

 

"Hmmmm, well, first you kept repeating my name for a while... which was cute. Then you asked me to call you A-Zhan... which I did, after I made you call me A-Ying in return... Do you still want me to, by the way?"

 

The revelation only served to deepen the blush across his ears if that was at all possible. He had really...?! And if he answered truthfully that he did, how would the fox take the information...? At least within his own upbringing, there weren't many who ever really addressed him as 'A-Zhan' and that had all ground to a halt well before he'd even reached ten. (Although, at the same time, would he even be able to handle hearing it when its most recent uses were relegated to very...lewd contexts...?) In the end, he settled for a brief, but truthful, "I miss it..."

 

Oh fuck, that was just too much. His smile changed from teasing to tender, saying a quiet, happy "A-Zhan," and scooting closer to bump shoulders with him, humming happily to himself with a little 'Heehee.' "Then, hmm, what else... Then we had some cuddle time, and then you scented the gift and gave it to me... and then declared it was time for bed, and you grabbed me and went to sleep. The end!"

 

The dragon blinked at that, brows furrowed ever so slightly. "...That was it?" He supposed he should be glad that it apparently hadn't been worse than that, but he couldn't help but feel as if that didn't fill up the missing gap in his memory enough.

 

He tipped his head to the side, playing with the ends of a strand of hair he snagged. "Hmmm, yep. Oh, well, you were unconscious for a while right after drinking... why, was A-Zhan hoping something else happened?" He glanced at him from the corner of his eye, hiding behind the angle of his bangs. (Privately he hoped the dragon would remember exactly what kind of cuddling they were doing...)

 

Oooh god, maybe he was kind of regretting bringing up how much he missed the nickname... With the way the fox was side-eyeing him, paired with the 'A-Zhan' lilting off his tongue, and the all-too-indecent route his mind took given the recent context of his contact with said nickname... He tilted his head down slightly to look into his lap, hoping the action would shift his hair enough so that it concealed just how red his ears were. "Wei Ying-"

 

"Aiiiigoooo, Lan Zhan! Putting distance between us again, if you stop calling me A-Ying, I'll stop calling you A-Zhan!" He said, pouting as he let go of his hair and sat up straight. "It's not fair, is it? Huh? Or, well, you can call me Ying'er, I'd accept that." He amended.

 

Lan Wangji was quiet for a few frustrated moments. He didn't necessarily feel like he was putting distance between them just then, but to angril--well, no, he wasn't angry-Chastising, perhaps? Scolding? Reprimanding? Reprimanding felt more right- Reprimanding the fox for teasing him wouldn't sit well with him if he'd used 'A-Ying.' Whenever he would be in for a scolding, he would never expect his Mother or Uncle to call him 'A-Zhan', his full birth name always rang clearer in those moments... "...Not distancing, A-Ying..."

 

"Mn, good." He said, nodding in approval, then reaching out to pat the dragon's head. "A-Zhan is a good boy. Anyway, just wanted to thank you again for the present and the drinking company. It was fun, I got to see a new side of you."

 

The fact that there was apparently a 'new side of him' when he was drunk put him off a bit as he didn't like that he couldn't remember this for himself, but he kept that thought to himself and instead gave a soft "Mn" instead.

 

Wei Ying smiled again as he leaned against his shoulder once more. "Well, I interrupted your meditation, so I'll be quiet now. Oh, but if you have a hangover, Wen Qing has a nice tea to help, and you should drink some water. I could go get that if you want, A-Zhan?"

 

"...Later. Not breakfast yet." His meditating had been helping keep it at bay but for a more selfish reasoning, he didn't want Wei Ying to leave his side quite yet.

 

"Alright!" He said, settling down with the dragon to relax. He closed his eyes, wishing that in the future, they could spend every day like this...

Chapter Text

Several months later, Chinese New Year. 

 

"Is the coast clear?" 

"Yeah, hurry up." Xue Yang waved the two younger omegas over, across the dark street. "We're almost there." Both Wei Ying and Xue Yang were disguising themselves a bit, as there were still several bounties out on the fox, but it had been literal months since he went out and had any fun....and besides, tonight was going to be.... educational.

"How'd you hear about this, Nie Sang?" Wei Ying asked as they walked, wearing cloaks in the chilly, last-of-winter air.

 

"Well a merchant friend was bringing in a shipment of beautiful silks and fabrics to this establishment. And with the quality of the goods, there just had to be someone with a good eye running that business so I just had to ask around and well...the rest is history~ It's a very promising location, I'm sure this'll be very much worth our time!" Following after Xue Yang's lead, he glanced around at the business signs, eventually spotting what he was looking for and pointing over at it. "There it is!"

 

The establishment was heavily decorated and full of lights and music, sounds of voices and laughter coming from within. The Willow Fairy had been open for about five years, and had managed to gain a fair clientele in that time span, mostly richer commoner and merchant families, but also it tended to attract loose cultivators and the like. Not a place you were likely to find Sect Heirs, but it had a tasteful atmosphere.

They were welcomed at the door by a handsome young pair of alpha twins, one male, one female, who greeted them with a smile. "Welcome to the Willow Fairy, Young Masters! Tonight is a special party for omega guests only, so if you could just touch this crystal before going in, we would appreciate it!" A quartz sphere was on a pedestal next to them, and one of the other guests brushed it as they walked in, a faint glow briefly pulsing as they went in. Not sensing anything funny from it, Xue Yang touched it first, just to make sure nothing would happen, and nodded to the other two before stepping aside.

Wei Ying felt a little weird about outing himself as an omega, but really, it wasn't like he was going as Wei Wuxian, he was going as a nameless young Nie Sect disciple. This should be alright, yeah?

Once inside, a beta waiter led them to a table near the stage, smiling and chatting with them in a friendly manner. "We hope you all enjoy the show this evening." He said as he brought them tea and snacks. "Just let us know if we can get you anything!"

 

"Many thanks!" Huaisang chirped as he sat down without much rush to actually try and order anything. He was more interested in the show, after all. "I've been hearing so much praise about these events and a show just for omegas? They must've prepared some good-looking eye-candy alphas for us~" Lowering his voice, he nudged at Wei Wuxian's arm. "So~? Think any of them will compare to your dragon~?"

 

"Not a chance." He said with a haughty sniff, tapping Chenqing against his lips as he straightened his back. "My Jade Alpha is the most beautiful and perfect being in all of current existence."

Xue Yang snorted and rolled his eyes, taking a drink from his cup after testing it subtly with a silver needle. "Too stiff for me. I'm looking forward to some fine displays of alpha form today. Maybe I can find one willing to fool around sometime. You won't miss me if I take a week or two off for a heat, right Wuxian? Tell everyone I'm off on some secret mission or something. I'm not used to taking suppressants all the time. It's weird."

 

"God, you have it so bad, it's almost sickening." Not that he was truly complaining, they were only here to observe and learn, after all. And if it's growing reputation was anything to go by, it would definitely be an entertaining show. "Well then~ Anything you're looking forward to seeing barring potential mates since you're head over heels for your 'best friend'?"

 

"You've been getting pretty uppity lately." Wei Ying grumbled as he ate some peanuts- not as good as the ones his Papa roasted, but pretty good. "But, yeah. They're going to be demonstrating some ties and things, right? It'll be good to learn the proper way to do it without hurting someone."

"I mean, I could teach you, if you lend me Wen Ning." Xue Yang said. 

"If he says yes to that, sure." He replied as the first act went onstage.

 

With a little expression of 'what? who, me?', Huaisang settled in to enjoy the show. Whoever was managing was doing a rather good job of keeping the different acts different enough and yet seamlessly flowing from one demonstration to the next. If one act got the audience riled up and excited with inviting glimpses at strong, toned bodies, the next would slow down and show off a sensual scene of an omega from the crowd being tied and strung up by careful, intricate knots. Huaisang himself never tried to volunteer himself for a lap dance or to be tied up, finding more entertainment from observing and appreciating the sights he was getting.

 

Wei Ying paid very close attention to those demonstrations, and Xue Yang, loosening up after a bit, even volunteered to be one of the models for a hanging bondage pose at one point.

The night was going well, the entertainment was good, and everything seemed fine- until it got closer to midnight.

Xue Yang noticed it first, scowling and rubbing his face. "...Get up, something- something's wrong-" He growled under his breath as he tried getting to his feet, then stumbled, falling against the table and spilling the alcohol that was sitting there.

This alarmed Wei Ying, who grabbed his flute and looked around the room. Things were changing quickly. Up on the stage, the show had been interrupted, and the alpha performers were shouting at some new men in black who had shown up, a fight breaking out and several omegas in the audience crying out in fear and alarm. All around the building, at most of the exits, they were getting blocked off... And with a chill, he noticed a shimmer of energy around the doors and windows. "Fuck! Xue Yang! Xue Yang?!" He exclaimed, shaking the cat's shoulder before looking at the half-bird in front of him, mind racing. "A-Sang, how are you feeling?!"

 

"W-well... fine mostly...But there's something in the air! Something a bit sweet..." To most other cultivators, it was probably spread out enough within the room to go unnoticed, but given his nature as a Zhen, it was easier for him to pick up on whatever toxin was in the air. It was starting to make him feel a bit lethargic, but his body was still able to fight off the desired effects for a bit longer, probably even longer than most. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see some of the omega guests and even some beta and alpha employees falling unconscious, a few of the shadily dressed men hoisting up some of the- "Shit!" he hissed in a quiet whisper to the fox next to him. "They're targeting omegas specifically. We need to find a way out!" Nervously, he wrapped the loop of one of his qiankun pouches around his wrist, itching to have some of his shed feathers close at hand just in case.

 

"The doors and windows have beast-wards on them!" He spat as he gripped Chenqing and the jade dragon in his hand. "I won't be able to get out, neither will Xue Yang-" He took them off and handed them to Nie Sang, looking directly into his eyes. "Go get help, Sang-xiong. You're half human, you might actually be able to make it out of here past the wards. They don't look rushed, I don't think they've realized the two of us are still able to act." 

"Three of us." Xue Yang hissed, forcing himself upright, eyes blazing with yellow light, pupils slit vertically and fangs and claws out, along with ears and tail. "I'm...not out yet...." 

"Xue Yang and I will give you a chance to get out. Take Chenqing and my talisman. I don't want one of these fuckers to touch them for even a moment." Fortunately, his plushies and blanket were in a qiankun pouch back at the house, save for one chicken he had brought along... He liked it, it was soft. In any case, he slipped his free hand into the front of his robe, grabbing a flash-bang talisman and getting ready to throw it. "I'll create a diversion. When I do, make a break for the skylight. Okay?!"

 

With some trepidation, Huaisang took the flute and talisman from the fox and slipped them into his sleeve. He didn't like the thought of leaving them behind at all, even if he didn't quite have a plan on counteracting the wards yet. But he did also recognize that if he got trapped in here too, there'd be no guarantee that the Nie Sect could be notified of this in time. Giving a reluctant nod, he bit his lip and prepared himself to bolt, waiting to actually bring his wings out until he actually had a clear shot to the skylight, not wanting to reveal too early what he was trying to do. Unfortunately, it seemed that at least two of the men in black noticed that they were still mostly upright and started hurrying over to finish the job. It was then that the flash from Wei Wuxian's talisman activated and he made use of the ensuing confusion to pull out two of his feathers and bolt forward, wings erupting from his back as he shot into the air, zipping past two of the men close and quick enough so that he could press the two feathers in his hands against their mouths while also evading capture. Once their tongues touched any part of their lips, his natural venom would enter their system and kill them immediately so he wasn't all too worried about checking to make sure he had hit his mark. And now with his skyborne advantage, it was now hardly an issue for him to dart towards the skylight and force his way through.

 

There were some shouts of alarm as the invaders attempted to stop him, but were stopped themselves by Xue Yang and Wei Wuxian, the former using small flying blades to cut at them, the latter using a barrier talisman and small fire talismans to guard him from the rear. In the end, the half-bird cultivator made it out safely.

Once his friend was in the clear, Wei Ying stumbled almost immediately, going to a knee as Xue Yang caught his arm. The cat brought the young fox close to his front, guarding him, and yowling threateningly at those who tried to approach, managing to take out two more- before getting hit in the back with a few darts, which took out the last remnants of his consciousness.

The fox was surprised by how fast the sleeping poison was overwhelming him now that he didn't have the jade dragon on him. His last thoughts as he faded out, seeing the shadowy figures approaching, was that he hoped it wouldn't be long before he saw Lan Zhan again.....

 

Despite flying at top speed, it took Huaisang far longer than he would've liked to return to the Unclean Realm. Once he had, he zipped past the gates without giving any acknowledgement to any of the guards and headed straight for where his brother was most likely to be. Using a talisman, he forced open the window to Mingjue's office and flew in with a rush of "Da-ge, hurry!"

 

The tiger jumped to his feet, already fairly alarmed. His brother rarely ever exposed his wings, and as frantic as he seemed, this wasn't something to be taken lightly. He strode towards his little brother, placing a hand on his shoulder, careful of the feathers. "Didi, what happened?! Where are we needed??"

 

"The Willow Fairy...in Hedong...! A bunch of suspicious men are knocking out and capturing omegas! Wei Wuxian and Xue Changmei are also among them! They had the exits blocked with beast wards!" He wanted to press on how important it was that they moved now but he would only waste more time by explaining it verbally. Hopefully Mingjue was able to pick up on the urgency in his voice instead.

 

He went to the door, throwing it open and roaring for his aides, loud enough to wake the dead, threading in some Prime Resonance into his words. "SOUND THE ALARMS!! KIDNAPPERS IN HEDONG DISTRICT!! WEI WUXIAN AND XUE CHANGMEI ARE AT RISK!! YOUR ORDERS ARE TO TRACK DOWN THE VILLAINS!!! CAPTURE THEM!! SLAY THE EVIL!!"  

"Yes!! Sect Leader!!" The voices of others nearby rang out.

Unsheathing his saber, the Prime Alpha turned his attention to his little brother. "Go tell Jiang Wanyin and Lan Wangji, and if they want to help, they WILL come find me or one of my Captains for orders first! If they charge off on their own, I will personally bind them, seal their powers and have them sent home to their respective sects." He wouldn't stop the lions from acting, their duty was to the young fox.

 

Folding his wings back in and away, he straightened as quickly as possible, stumbling over himself slightly what with the drugs still in his system, and darted out the room and towards the guest quarters. After frantic messages delivered to the two sect heirs and the Wen siblings, the small group was quick to relocate the growing mass of cultivators getting ready to head out. 

A preliminary group had surely already been sent out ahead to try and make up for the time they were losing which then left Sect Leader Nie and a handful of Nie disciples behind with a visibly concerned Meng Huiyao by the time the young cultivators had joined them. 

"...-ill they still be there?" Huiyao was saying. "I, unfortunately, am not optimistic about these perpetrators still being there by the time we arrive, Mingjue..." 

"S...Sect Leader Nie!" Wangji only just barely remembered to keep in mind politeness while wracked with his worry over the fox. "Wei Ying is-?"

 

"Lan Wangji! We're heading out now, you and Jiang Wanyin should form up with us. We already sent a squad ahead. Nie Sang, if you're not well enough to come with us, stay behind, I noticed that unsteadiness earlier. Don't become a liability." He turned to Huiyao as he mounted his sword. "I already sent out message talismans and signals, we're doing the best we can. We're already moving to close the borders as well, this attack was planned out way too well." As they took to the air, the tiger looked at the dragon steadily. "I know your fears, Lan Wangji, but if you try to stray off without permission, understand that I will stop you and you will be sent back to your Uncle and Sect Leader Lan without hesitation. We'll track down the bastards. No one does such disgusting practices in my territory and gets away with it." 

By the time they arrived, the Willow Fairy was in utter chaos. Most of the employees and performers were still there, some dead, some unconscious, others in some way incapacitated. There were about a dozen criminal corpses, a few dead of poison, a few of burning, and many slain by vicious and swift blade strikes. Most of the omegas that had been in attendance were gone.... including Xue Changmei and Wei Wuxian.

 

Seeing the utter mess of the establishment was not helping to alleviate Lan Wangji's anxiety over where the fox was and what sort of state he was in as a result of this skirmish. As the two Jiang Sect members further investigated and examined the room, the dragon tried to catch any sort of whiff of the fox that he could (of course, it didn't help that he didn't have a very good idea of what Wei Ying smelled like; he usually kept himself smelling rather neutral...). 

With a bit of an uncomfortable shudder, Huiyao finished his rounds around the building and moved back to face Mingjue. "I recognize one of the scents in here. It's faint now, but it's clear to me that they used a sort of pseudo-alpha pheromone incense here. My mother's...brothel, before her debt got paid, often had this available for workers before shifts. It would help them relax and calm down...makes it easier for the clients..."

 

Mingjue bared his teeth and snarled at the thought, eyes gaining a blue tinge and gripping the hilt of his blade so hard his knuckles whitened. How DARE someone pull this in his territory?! He'd find them and dismember them before scattering their fucking ashes!! 

Wen Qing came over after examining the few Omegas that had been left behind. "Seems like the ones that were not taken are all human and non-cultivators." She said, her own rage contained, but only barely for now. She pulled out some medicines to pass to Huiyao, and then made a stiff salute to them both before going off to try to find a trail to follow with Wen Ning.

"Meng Yao, has word been sent to Lan Huan?" Nie Jue asked the half fox in a low tone as he kept an eye on the younger dragon. "We're not going to give up looking, of course, but.... You realize what they were probably taken for, right?" 

There had been rumors for years now, about an illegal, illicit ‘Omega Run’. The time and place it was held was always random, but in the months leading up to one of these disgusting Runs would be marked by a high volume of disappearances in omegas. The problem was... if Wei Wuxian was recognized before the date of the run.... 

He shook his head. But who would have expected Wei Wuxian to be an omega? Not what he would have expected himself. He seemed like a pretty happy, well-adjusted beta, or maybe a very low-key alpha... 

Or maybe the tiger was just shit at guessing second genders, he thought to himself.

 

"Not yet, but that can be arranged easily. I can also send my Sect Leader a notice. If this is starting up again, perhaps we will be able to catch them in the act or otherwise trace their route back to the source." The previous years of investigation that he had been privy to were embarrassingly fruitless, this group certainly knew how to cover their tracks, but perhaps this could finally be the year they put a stop to the Runs. (He shuddered to think of what might happen should they fail to safely retrieve the Young Masters of a foreign sect.) 

It took perhaps longer than he was willing to admit to realize exactly what this event at this location was meant to be and just what many of the attendees were, but once the realization hit, Lan Wangji felt his worry spike even higher. Wei Ying was an omega?! And he was gone, kidnapped, to be possibly exploited and used for...whatever these criminals wanted to do with them? On top of the bounty he already had from beings seeking out his unique cultivation abilities? To some level, he knew he shouldn't necessarily be worried because Wei Ying was a very capable fighter, but a larger, more dominant part of him just could not do that, mind laser-focused on the fact that his mate, his omega, was missing and in very real danger and he needed to find him now.

 

He nodded, eyes not straying far from the Lan Sect Heir as he thought about what a fucking headache this was. A diplomatic nightmare. This was why he wished Nie Sang would take his fucking studies more seriously, dammit! If he wanted to faff about and enjoy his hobbies, he should at least learn how to put them to good use! He took a moment to pat Meng Yao on the shoulder, his instincts telling him that his territory had been invaded and omegas had been stolen, so he indulged himself and let his alpha side leave a scent mark on their omega. He'd already marked Huaisang with a familial pheromone before they left the sect, so he was fine.

"Sir! We picked up several trails, but they've been very thorough about covering up and eliminating scents!" 

"How many total!?" 

"Seventeen, sir! We suspect about half are false!"

"Each one will be searched! Priorities will be given to any headed in the direction of Qishan! Lan Wangji, Jiang Wanyin, come with my group. We'll take the most likely route. Hopefully we find them."

 

Hands clenched in tight fists, Wangji gave a stiff nod, following the other alpha's demands despite how much he didn't want to. They were wasting time, Wen Qing and Wen Qionglin had already left to try and track them down and he would much rather be in that group, however small, than here still waiting to move out. 

It seems that perhaps Jiang Cheng was feeling a similar frustration, as he was cracking his knuckles, a frown on his features as he asked, "Sect Leader Nie, when do we head out?"

 

"Immediately." He said, mounting his saber again as he left the building behind.

 

-- 

 

Fu Zha was having a pretty good day, except that a good candidate had escaped his net, likely scratching that town off his list of future sweep sites. Also, losing a good number of his hunters to a few of their catch... seeing they wore the robes of QingheNie Sect Disciples, he was now concerned that he'd pissed off one of the five main sects by stealing their disciples.... but, as strong as they were, he had no doubt he could get a good price for them from the Wens.

He'd had to spend some very expensive talismans to get the best prizes out of there, but now he was at the rendezvous point with his strongest hires and five of the best omegas from the sweep, three females with very... attractive assets, and the two males he'd had such trouble with. All of them were bound and collared, forced into their peeking forms to display what beast type they were. Now, they were just waiting for Wen Chao to show up.

 

It didn't take much longer before Wen Chao was emerging from the treeline, two bodyguards flanking either side of him. The unsavory alpha was sneering, clearly unhappy about something involving this meeting which he made very clear once he was close enough. "What's the meaning of this? I wasn't expecting you back for another few hours at least . There's never a shortage of good omega whores which you were given plenty of time to round up." More focused on his current annoyance, he had yet to properly examine the 'goods' that Fu Zha had provided.

 

"Something came up, Second Young Master Wen." The man said, rubbing his hands together as he smiled at the Wen Sect master. "We had more difficulty than usual, so I'm not sure how many of my men are going to get here with the goods. However, I made sure to select the absolute best quality that was available, let me show you." He motioned to the side. "Now, I know your preference for female omegas, and we did obtain some very fine ones; a rabbit, a mink, and a deer. However, we also netted these two-" He had the last two laying on their sides, both still wearing the Nie Sect robes they'd been grabbed in. "They resisted the drug for quite some time, and they seem to be very powerful species of cat and fox. I know males aren't your usual type, Young Master, but these two killed about ten of my hunters between the two of them before we could subdue them.... I'm looking to recover my losses, but I know that Young Master is good for it. And look, their faces are actually quite nice, aren't they?" He said as he grabbed the cat's chin and tilted his face side to side, then the fox's. "Maybe for one of your clansmen? Hmm?"

 

Upon seeing the last two, particularly the fox, his demeanor changed, taking on a more predatory smirk. “Well, well, well~ Perhaps we can forgive your little fuck up, you’ve brought me something promising indeed.” Crouching down, he took Wei Wuxian’s chin from Fu Zha and twisted the fox’s head to better face him. “Wake this one. But also be ready to knock him out again. I have a bone to pick with this little bitch.”

 

"Of course, Young Master- You might want to move your fingers though, he's far from tame, and he's got sharp teeth. Not as scary as that cat though..."

He waved at one of the guards, who brought him a vial. He uncorked it and held the opening against the fox's nose, until his face scrunched, turning his head and coughing, making a gagging sound. "Urgh- wh-what-" he groaned, disoriented, as he looked around and tried to move, alarm spiking as he felt the ropes binding him and sealing his powers as well as his movement.

 

Kicking the fox's shoulder to force him onto his back, Wen Chao smirked down at him, arms crossed haughtily. "Look how far the mighty fall~ To think you were getting all cozy with those infernal Nie bastards all this time. But it looks to me as if you were meant to fall into my hands!"

 

Seeing who it was standing above him, he couldn't help but groan, though he was able to make it sound exasperated rather than absolutely fucking terrified. "Urgh, what was that smell- Was it you?" He mumbled, sniffing in his direction before making a disgusted face. "Who are you? Have we met? What's going on here?" As he looked around, he was relieved to see Xue Yang- even if he was still out cold and in just as much trouble as he was. He wasn't alone, at least, and the cat would greatly increase their chances of getting the fuck out of this somehow...

 

"Wei Ying! Do you really think you're in a position to question me? With a few simple words, I could have you on your knees and submitting yourself to me, omega. And this time, you won't have the backing of any of the other Big Sects. Rather fitting for a lowly thing like yourself."

 

Fu Zha frowned slightly after hearing the name Wei Ying and pulled out a thin book from a sleeve, flipping through it. He stopped on a page, and his eyes widened, then flickered back and forth between the cat, the fox, and the Wen Heir.

As to the fox, he merely sighed and looked off to the side with a barely-aborted eye roll. "You should ask that slaver over there if that would be so easy. One of my fathers is Luo Binghe. The Luo Binghe. I've been layered in protection and anti-bond spells since I was five. You could try to force me into doing something before unraveling those. Might be fun to see which one strikes you first."

If it looked like he was going to inflict more physical violence, Fu Zha would quickly clear his throat. "Young Master Wen, given the value of the omega in question, I request you not damage him until after you make your purchase?" It was a waste, he felt, giving an omega of this value to this swine, but not his problem as long as he got paid.

 

"Tch, of course I'm gonna buy him, that's why you were hired! The cat too while you're bitching about purchases." Fixing his gaze back on the bound fox, he sneered. "It'll be good to have a hostage to keep you in line! You'll be tied to me from now on so say goodbye to ever seeing your damn dragon mate again!"

 

Wei Wuxian struggled to stay calm and not react as Fu Zha cheerfully drew up a few contracts to hand to Wen Chao. "Alright, given the rarity and high value of the omegas here tonight, this is the price quote we're looking at if you want all five, here is just for the fox and the cat- During a brief exam we found the feline is under a blood contract to this vixen here, so we marked him down a bit for you- And the ladies individual prices are here, here, and here. We'll even throw in beast sealing collars for free tonight, if you choose to take all five, they're all relatively small animals and should be easier to move in those forms."

 

"Sure, sure, can't have my new toys escaping after all." Waving a flippant hand, he gestured for one of his guards to bring out the money pouch he had prepared for this transaction, rather carelessly signing the contract for all five of the omegas. "Oh, and make sure you get this one back under before you leave." He said as he kicked Wei Wuxian's shoulder again. "I need him nice and obedient, after all."

 

Seeing how much was inside, the merchant coughed delicately and said "And, the rest of the payment, Young Master Wen? Surely you are aware of the current bounty on Young Master Wei's person?" 

The fox couldn't help but laugh at this, shaking his head. "You wanted to taunt me so badly, you let it spill that I'm the most valuable fox in the world before you bought me? He had no idea who I was before you said my name-" He was cut off as one of the guards went over and brought a soaked handkerchief over his nose and mouth, grabbing his hair to hold his head steady, forcing him to breathe the scent in until he went slack. All the guards were of considerable levels of cultivation, and were there to prevent theft of merchandise before payment was complete. They did start putting the beast collars on the omegas, however, and put the sleeping beasts in cages on a wagon nearby, taking back the immortal binding cables, as they'd be useless for the time being.

 

Rolling his eyes, he slipped a hand into his sleeve and pulled out his own money pouch to toss at the merchant. "I said I'm buying him so of course I'd have the money for him." Granted, he hadn't been expecting to even run into Wei Wuxian here, but he was the second young master of the most powerful sect in the country, as if money would actually be an issue.

 

After confirming the price actually matched this time, the merchant grinned and had his clerk hand over all the control seals and keys for the cages and collars. "Pleasure doing business with you as always, Young Master Wen. Congratulations on your purchase, and on your new concubine. Will you be hunting him during the Run? I may have to buy a spectator ticket if that's the case~" The man departed after spewing flattery, escorted off by his guards. Any other members of his troupe with omegas that managed to escape the Nie sect were under orders to sell off their catch as they desired, to the Run or otherwise. Fu Zha knew when to quit, and he could retire into luxury with his family for the next five generations. If he just caught and sold the Second Jade of Lan's mate, marked or not, he should disappear very very quickly.

 

Transaction done and over with, Wen Chao gave sharp orders to his guards to take the cart of beast omegas and head back towards his private headquarters in Liyang. 

Meanwhile, after a week of searching with no new leads on the trail, the groups of Nie cultivators and sect heirs were forced to reconvene back at the Unclean Realm, much to the chagrin of Lan Wangji. Rationally, he understood that they needed to rethink how they were going to resume their search now that their initial leads had dried up, but conversely, his inner alpha was not happy about being forced to stop looking for his mate. By waiting out for the next move, his alpha was telling himself that they were wasting precious time that they could instead be using to search. (No doubt if he had managed to work independently, the dragon would be searching until he literally ran his spiritual energy reserves dry and collapsed from exhaustion.) 

Frustrated and in no mood to converse with anyone else among the search party, the young Lan retired to his room early, hand inside his sleeve and wrapped around the flute and dragon tassel that Huaisang had passed over soon after their group had returned to the Sect grounds. In his room, he settled down on the floor to meditate and calm himself after a long, hectic, and distressing search. At least while he did this, he could relatively return to a vaguely normal state and so by the time he dressed and got ready for bed, he was feeling a little more level-headed. Closing his eyes, he could only pray his dreams would be more merciful than reality.

 

The dreamscape he walked into was, in a word, a lonely sort of ethereal. A big, wide, blue-black sky spattered with stars and a huge moon, beautiful silver-barked trees with green, blue, and purple foliage, and silver-blue grasses. Near a cliff, a waterfall was pouring from the sky, coming down next to a thick dome of hard, black, thorny vines, inside of which was a familiar figure, sitting on the ground in peeking form, with all four tails wrapped around himself, and a light brown chicken plush in his arms. His clothing was fancier than usual as well, with rich reds and pure whites, with black, silver, and gold embroidery.

 

Forgetting entirely about taking in the rest of the scenery once he spotted the caged-in fox, Lan Wangji broke into a run that he would normally chastise himself for doing, moving across the strange dreamscape as fast as he possibly could with a rushed, "Wei Ying- A-Ying-!" Not thinking much about it, as soon as he was close enough to be able to, the dragon's hand began to give off a cold mist as it seemed to be coating itself with frost. The instant his hand touched the barrier of vines, heedless of the thorns jutting out, a whole section of it froze immediately and with some added pressure upon the spot, Lan Wangji shattered the section and forced his way inside. Breathing out another "A-Ying..." the alpha dragon gently cupped the sides of the fox's face before drawing the omega into his arms without much thought.

 

At the first call, the fox's ears had twitched, and he turned in his direction, surprised. "Lan Zhan...?" He murmured, struggling to get to his feet as he realized the dragon was there. "A-Zhan! You- You're here! How-?!" Unable to stand properly, he raised his arms and put them around the dragon's neck and shoulders as he crouched in front of him, clutching him close, and squeezing his eyes shut to try and hold back tears. His tails tried wrapping them together as well, and the motions he was making caused a clinking sound from the chains beneath him, snaking out from under his robes, anchored into the ground. He tucked his face against the side of his neck, scenting him. "I wish you were real, A-Zhan, I wish this was real-" He couldn't tell, he'd had several dreams with the dragon in them while he was sealed and unconscious, he just hoped this would be one of the better ones, not one where he was being forced to watch him die from that fucking poison-

 

"Mn. I am here." Gently threading fingers through the fox's hair, he tilted his just enough so that he could place a few tender kisses along his temple, eyelid and cheek, not all that dissimilar to how he had done so when he was drunk (even though he couldn't remember that it was similar). "Мое сердце...Моя душа...Not giving up. Will find you." He couldn't quite figure out why the Wei Ying of his dream was speaking of reality when the dragon knew this was just one of his dreams, but he tried not to put too much stock into it, instead subconsciously letting his scent out into the air to surround and hopefully comfort the fox in his arms.

 

He inhaled deeply a few times before realizing something. ".....A-Zhan?" He said, pushing back gently, just enough to see those golden eyes. "...You...you're really here? ....You're actually here!" He said excitedly, giving him a quick hug, though he kept his arms around him (where they belonged). "Oh man, I can't believe it!! Ahaha!! A-Zhan, listen to me, this is important." He began, looking back into his eyes. "When my Papa He was a child, a dream demon tried to attack my father in a dream. He was too powerful and managed to defeat the demon, who became impressed and taught him how to manipulate dreams afterwards, but before that, he was able to bring Father Shen into his dream, the person he trusted most." Keeping eye contact, he ran a hand over his hair a few times more. "I never learned how to dreamwalk, but Papa He put so many different types of protection spells on me- I think this might be one of them. A-Zhan, this method of communication only lasts while we're asleep...and I can't say when it might happen again, so I'll tell you what I can, okay?"

 

Lan Wangji couldn't help his eyes from widening at the explanation. They were really talking to each other for real? Then...what other dreams with Wei Ying in them were actually Wei Ying?? He had no way of telling... But that aside... "This is really you...? You can tell me where you are?" Well, now that he thought about it, there was no way for him to know any of this information about Wei Ying's parents; he had only met them once. So this must truly be Wei Ying. Casting aside the little wave of embarrassment that was washing over him (though he couldn't quite stop his ears from flushing slightly), he let himself bring a hand around to cup the side of his face again, thumb brushing across his cheekbone and just under his eye.

 

He winced and shook his head, casting his eyes down at the general vicinity of Lan Zhan's collarbone as his fingers gripped at his clothes again. "I was transported unconscious, and there aren't any windows where I am... but I can tell you who has me. Wen Chao." He hissed out the words through gritted teeth, face coloring in shame and anger, eyes flashing red. "He hasn't...done anything to me yet, I overheard something about an Omega Run coming up... I guess he's waiting for that. He's keeping Xue Yang and I in beast form for now, in some sort of dungeon, as far as I can tell.... We're pretty out of it most of the time, but he's keeping us in good condition. Not being hurt or starved, so, we're...okay."

 

His expression darkened on several fronts, the first being the mention of Wen Chao and the second being... "Not okay." Looking down at the chains he had heard earlier, he brought a hand down to grip them at the base, similarly trying to flash freeze and then break the restraints like he had the vines. "Will get A-Ying out of this. Other sects are looking too. Will not let him rape you for the Run." While he hadn't known too much about these supposed Omega Runs, upon finally being informed of it and what supposedly occurred during it, he had seen red. Even if Wei Ying hadn't become one of the victims of this, his inner alpha would've been overflowing with fury over the mistreatment and disregard of the captured omegas in question. But now that Wei Ying was involved, this made it all the more personal for the dragon.

 

He tried not to flinch at the word usage, but nodded at the Lan Heir's words, looking back up at him and running a hand through his hair, giving him a faint smile. The chains, though they did freeze, did not break in this dreamscape. The vines behind him had also grown back, letting the moonlight through the tangled thorns. "Well... That's...about everything that's happened. Um. Since you're here, you'll stay until you wake up, right? Can you tell me what's going on with the others? How are Qing-Jie and A-Ning? Did Nie Huaisang make it back alright? Has...has there been any word from Chunshan yet?"

 

"Mn." His willingness to do anything for Wei Ying aside, now that he knew this was more than a simple dream, of course he would choose the option to grant him more time with the fox. "Maiden Wen and Wen Qionglin investigated on their own the past week. Came back today to regroup. Nie Huaisang is safe. Only had minimal traces of the drugs. Gave me Chenqing and your dragon tassel. Jiang Wanyin's attendant Meng Huiyao is devising a strategy with Sect Leader Nie to cover ground efficiently. No word has come from Chunshan but no word can be sent to Chunshan either. Have tried multiple times."

 

He'd thought as much, and nodded along to the alpha's words. "Please let them know I'm in...good health." He said. "And I'm glad you have them, I didn't want them getting taken off me. They'll be safe with you." He glanced at the stuffed chicken laying by them on the ground and chuckled a little. "I can't even access that right now, I've been in my animal form with my power sealed for days... But I don't think anything has been taken from me yet, so there's a little silver lining."

 

The dragon was struck then by a strong urge to scent the omega, especially after hearing that Wei Ying not only had one of his presents with him and wanted access to it. For comfort? Because he wanted Lan Zhan's scent close to him? A bit embarrassed by wanting to do so while he wasn't all that certain about if the fox liked it to the same degree as him, he reined himself in some, letting his scent out into the air only as a subtle layer of comfort within the space they were in. "Mn. Will tell them. May be able to see you sooner now."

 

"Mn." He replied with a small snort, leaning in and hugging him again, tucking his face against the side of his neck and breathing deeply. While he was too embarrassed.... and maybe felt a little too vulnerable to carry things any further, (the aftereffects of his wet dreams were always crazy, and he didn't want Wen Chao to get any foul ideas if he came down to taunt them) this still helped immensely. "...Don't push yourself too hard either, okay? I know you want to help, but if you exhaust yourself that's not going to help me."

 

"...Will try. But wish to find A-Ying faster." He supposed the fox would have Nie Mingjue to thank. Had it not been for his ingrained respect towards elders and the other prime's threat to bar him from the search, the young dragon would surely have gone out on his own to search already.

 

"I know." He said, lightly patting his hair. "But think of it like this: If you sleep every day and rest properly, the chances are greater that we could meet like this again."

 

"...Mn." That would be nice. If he could keep continuous updates about Wei Ying's state on top of possibly gaining new information from the fox's end to speed up their search, it would certainly be reassuring. And preferably, any following dreams wouldn't be in a place like this, no matter how lovely it looked (barring the cage and chains, of course). He would've liked to coil around the fox and provide a warm, safe place for him to help escape the reality the omega was going through, but there just wasn't enough space in this dome.

 

Unlike his dad, Wei Ying hadn't had thorough training on how to manipulate the dream realm, so he typically was stuck with whatever he got. He didn't feel so lonesome now at least.

They were looking for him. They cared. He had Xue Yang to keep him company, he wasn't alone. He just had to hang on and get through this.

He was, for once, actually slightly grateful they were keeping him asleep, because this way he could be with Lan Zhan until the dragon woke up, and given his sleeping schedule, that would be a good eight hours or so....give or take for the weird passing of time.

He closed his eyes, listening to the steady time of Lan Zhan's pulse. He just had to hang on...

Chapter Text

Now that they finally had a better idea of where the Run was to take place, preparations were underway as messages were sent to and from the other sects. However, Lan Wangji was antsy over how long this process would actually take. If they waited any longer, there was a high chance (and he shuddered to think of it) that Wen Chao would already have Wei Ying and be abusing the fox in whatever way the sick bastard thought to do. Once glance over at the Wen siblings and the dragon could tell that their thoughts were running along a similar vein.

The two lions met his glance just then and even though they couldn't boast the ability to read the dragon's expressions, they came to a mutual agreement that they needed to leave now and so one by one, they slipped away from the rest of the cultivators gathered and regrouped at the edge of a forest. Transforming into his dragon form with a cloud of mist, he gave a rather abrupt half-question half-statement of, "Illusion talismans? Black fire-breathing dragon," before crouching down in an invitation for the Wen siblings to get on. Like this, it would take much less time to reach Jiuzhaigou and give them a better chance to reach Wei Ying and Xue Changmei before anything happened to them.

 

"I'm on it." Wen Qing said, getting her tools out and crafting the talismans as they climbed aboard. They'd waited long enough. No more waiting. She wanted her little bro and even the crazy homicidal maniac cat back. She looked askance at her brother, knowing that despite how the two bickered, Wen Ning had...become more attached to the black nekomata than he expected. Last they had heard, both were alright....she hoped that would still hold true once they arrived.

 

~~~~ 

 

He was dragged from the cell and stripped by beta guards, held by his arms, head pulled back as he struggled, hearing the angry yowling and screeching of Xue Yang promising to do horrible things to the alpha standing before him, smiling smugly as he held a glowing brand, looking down on the four-tails with anticipation and some lust. "Now that I think about it, I think I'll enjoy having you as one of my wives, Wei Ying. After all, now that I can actually smell you, it's pretty pleasant, and you don't have to be a male, do you? I can just have you in your female form all the time, once we've bonded. Bing Meiren, wasn't it? Yeah, that's great." He leaned in, smirk widening as he saw the fox straining to lean away, fighting the urge to scream. "And once you're fat with my pups, I'll take you with me to the next summit. Have you wear your hair up, hang off my arm as we meet that fucking dragon... Or better yet, I can do you in front of him once we conquer Gusu. Oh, so many choices-"  

Wei Ying couldn't help but scream as the burning hot brand seared into the flesh over his heart, it hurt so bad and he felt defiled and he just wanted it over with-  

The fox shuddered, rubbing his upper arms, scratching them lightly with his claws to give himself some mental clarity. Wei Wuxian was sitting behind a gate, waiting for the start of the run, for the gate to swing open so he could run... His stomach twisted, and the scar on his chest throbbed.

He was dressed in red, gauzy silks, ones that would probably even make his auntie Sha Hualing blush in embarrassment. Even worse, the crotch of said garments were already soaked with his slick, the induced heat already well underway. On his back was an intricate design and seal, acting as an inhibitor and a marking telling other alphas that he was already spoken for... So now they could see from the front or the back. His hair was loose and unbound, and he was stuck in his peeking form, one tail, ears, claws and fangs. And other than being enhanced past normal human capabilities, he had nothing else going for him, other than his wits.

The gate opened and the gong sounded, and he took off, streaking across the ground with dozens of other terrified, sobbing omegas, across the ground and along the water, heading for the forest.

He wasn't sure how long it was before he heard the first bark, but it was an instant bucket of ice water down his back. He froze briefly, just long enough to hear more barks and howling, before his rationality snapped and his primal side took over. He was now terrified and painfully aroused by this damn induced heat, probably leaving a scent trail as wide as an ox cart behind him, but unable to calm down. Dogs, dogs, the fucking bastard was using DOGS?!?! Wasn't that against the rules or something!?

Wei Ying panted heavily as he ran along the ridge of waterfalls, kicking up small sprays of water as he went. He stumbled as he reached the other side, leaning against the trunk of a tree to catch his breath, ears tilted back and twitching as they listened for the approaching sounds. His teeth ground together as he felt a clench and another rush of slick, whining slightly as he tried fighting back the heat wave he felt consuming him.

The dogs were close again. He couldn't stop here. He began running again, heading deeper into the trees, weaving himself into the thicker foliage, trying to make himself harder to track and catch. Not his alpha, not his alpha, this was not his alpha, couldn't let him get him, he felt sick, what if his alpha didn't want him, he'd been marked by the bastard, and it hurt, it hurt, he was burning up-  

By the time he realized he was being herded, it was too late. He was up against a cliff near a waterfall, the dogs having gathered in a loose semi-circle around him, snapping and barking at him whenever he tried getting past them.

One of the monster dogs was powerful enough to turn into a half form, and he called back, "Master Wen! We ran him down! He's trapped!"

Laughter rang out and Wei Ying was vaguely aware of his claws digging into his palms as the greasy, foul-smelling alpha entered the clearing, smirking, devouring him with his eyes. "Well well, Xiao Ying, can't run anymore, hmm?" He said as he advanced towards him in a leisurely manner. He was only wearing ceremonial jewelry and a pair of pants, as well as body paint markings. "Ready to submit to your new master, slut? Come here, lick my boots, maybe I'll make your first time sweeter for it-" 

The fox spat at him, snarling, ears back and tail bristling. "Wen Chao, you couldn't please anyone if you tried! If you touch me, first I'll throw up on you, then I'll fucking kill you!" He flinched as a dog snapped at him, drawing his arms in close to his body and trembling.

 

Based off the map that Huiyao had shown them of the region in question, Lan Wangji could tell from the sight of the mountains starting just below him that they were getting close. The actual start of Jiuzhaigou Valley was still perhaps minutes away with the vast area needing additional scouting to pinpoint Wei Ying's exact location, but finally, finally, they were almost to the Run and soon the fox would be safe again. 

Once that final distance was crossed and they were now over the expanse of the valley, the dragon felt a few taps against his scales from Wen Ning and took that as a sign that the lion was going to split off to presumably search for Xue Yang. And sure enough, soon the lion was sliding off his back and quickly mounting his sword to speed off in another direction, Wen Qing following suit soon after as well. 

Without the need to keep his body relatively upright due to carrying passengers, Lan Wangji twisted himself down closer to the treeline, keeping his eyes, ears, and nose open for any sign of the fox. Just as he was making a turn around a bend in one of the rivers, he distantly heard the sound of dogs barking and, frowning as rage and suspicion rose in him, he quickly changed course and darted in the direction of the source.

The sound of dogs barking and snarling rapidly growing closer, Lan Wangji finally caught sight of his mate upon darting past the edge of a cliff. Leaving barely enough time to pick out Wen Chao from the group surrounding Wei Ying, the dragon let out a loud, enraged roar before swooping down to land heavily on the ground between the fox and the dogs. Bringing the back of his tail to wrap securely around the terrified fox, he bared down on the dogs and breathed out a line of fire, the blaze dancing reflections across pitch black scales and hard, murderous eyes. 

Now face to face with an actual DRAGON , the dogs were rather quick to realize how underprepared they were and cowered, hightailing it out of there almost immediately after, leaving only Wen Chao remaining in the clearing. Said unsavory alpha was very obviously shaking in his boots, stuttering out a rather jumbled and broken, "B-Bl-Black...!!? L-La-Yo-Wh--A-are y-y-you L-L-Lan W-Wa-Wang-j-ji...!? Y-Y-You d-dare i-in-interrup--" 

Refusing to answer vocally to anything the greasy bastard was saying, Lan Wangji only gave an angry growl, the sound ripping loudly through his throat and causing the entitled Wen to screech and flinch away from the large, pissed off celestial (or was it a nether judging from its color?) beast.

 

Fire and a massive black beast (dragon?? wolf??) from nowhere all of a sudden made the fox panic a bit, struggling in the hold of the tail, claws scrabbling ineffectually against the scales there as he tried to thrash his way free. The dogs- where were the dogs?! He couldn't see them!!

Seeing how Wei Ying wasn't passively going along with this made the Wen clansman think that maybe, just maaaaaaaybe, this was not, in fact, Lan Wangji, but some interloper.

He pointed a shaking finger at him as he backed away, wet stain on his pants and stench of something foul in the air. "Th-that's- h-he's m-mine, I-I m-ma-marked h-him, h-how DARE y-you b-break the r-rules here, y-you snake-"

 

Uncaring for whatever trash the simple alpha was spewing (and raging all the more; he marked Wei Ying!? He dared to harm his mate!?), the prime focused his oppressive alpha aura onto the Wen brat, breathing out another stream of fire and growling as he crouched and looked as if he was going to pounce. Very nearly screaming, the weaker alpha tried to get out a few more words and demands, but another pissed off growl had scrambling the fuck away, finally leaving just him and Wei Ying in the area. Turning back towards the frightened fox, Lan Wangji let his calming pheromones wash over the omega as he gently said, “A-Ying. They are all gone. You are safe. I am here.”

 

It took a few long seconds for the scent and pheromones to sink in past the terror and upset, and the fox gradually stopped shaking and sobbing, going a bit slack in the hold of his tail. "A... A-Zhan..." He panted, looking up at the black scales in confusion, but accepting this was his dragon. "Y-you're here... U-uhk..." A massive shudder wracked his frame, and he bit his lower lip, tossing his head back and arching. "A-aah, A-Zhan, Alpha, it h-hurtssss, p-please-"

 

Pupils dilating, the dragon nudged his head against the fox's before transforming back into his human form, arms tentatively on the other's upper back and arm as the delicious sweet and spicy scent of his special one threatened to push him into a rut. Struggling to keep himself from giving in, he tried and failed to keep his voice steady as he said, "I-I should...bring you back to Maiden Wen..." But fuck his omega was suffering and in pain and he didn't like seeing his bright and joyous little fox in pain and both he and his inner alpha were itching to ease the pain and ease it now.

 

Tears threatened to well in his eyes as he gripped the arms of his robes, letting out a keening whine of "Hhnnooooooo~" before leaning forward and pressing up against him, breathing in his scent and trying to mark him with his own. "A-Zhan, please, please, d-don't leave me like this, I missed you, I need you, I waited for you, please I was good-" Sensing his reluctance, he felt something crack, and he bit his lip, tail tucking down and ears drooping as a hand went to cover the brand, wanting to dig his claws into the scar and rip the skin away... "I-is it because...because I le-let him m-mark me? I'm s-ss-orry, Alpha, I t-tried-"

 

Eyes widening, he was quick to deny that. He couldn't let his mate think that something out of his control like that would change anything in his mind. "No-! A-Ying, no...!" One hand taking the one hiding the brand and the other moving to cup one side of his face, the young dragon brought his forehead to Wei Ying's, his sandalwood scent enveloping the omega. "Love you no matter what. My A-Ying. Моя любовь. Cannot be anyone else. "

 

"-!! Nnnh-" He tilted his head and pressed his mouth against the dragon's, kissing him with an edge of desperation, a few tears escaping the corners of his eyes as he clumsily threaded their fingers together on the hand he was holding. "A-Zhan, please, I'm so hot, I-I can't take it anymore..." He begged as his own dragonsblood scent surged and mingled with the icy alpha's sandalwood, the hand gripping his sleeve drifting up to the side of his neck, then his jaw, then back into his hair.

 

With a little rumble in his throat, he returned the kiss with some trepidation given that this was his first kiss outside of dreams (that he remembered). Bringing the hand that was on his face around to cup the back of his head, he gently pushed the fox down to the ground, nudging at the fox's legs with his knee so that he could slot himself in-between.

 

He spread himself wider for his alpha, posture welcoming him as they continued to kiss. His heart was pounding in his chest, nipples perked against the nearly useless fabric on his body. He kept his legs spread, knees raised, soles of his feet against the ground giving him some leverage. His hands wandered Lan Zhan's back and shoulders, then to his chest, tugging at the folds of his robes, one hand trailing down to his belt, trying to get that undone next. He wanted his hands on that jade-like skin, those thick muscles, directly, with nothing between them.

 

With his free hand, he traced across sensitive skin, tugging fabric aside whenever he encountered it in order to properly feel his omega's heated skin. Pressed as close to the fox as he was, he could feel every minute little shift Wei Ying made as he worked to loosen his robes and he especially loved feeling the smaller beast's soaked entrance against his hard length. Soon, he'd be able to intimately feel every part of his beloved and, rather adamant to make that happen faster, he made quick work of the flimsy fabric blocking his way and discarded the freshly-torn material...somewhere he didn't care to check.

 

Wei Ying pushed the larger male's trousers down, chirping at him in an encouraging manner as he felt the dragon pillar sliding across his slit. He broke the kiss, holding on to his mate and looking down their bodies at where they would soon be joined. "A-Zhan, i-inside, need you in me, my Alpha-"

 

"Mn." Moving down to lavish the fox's neck and shoulder with kisses and nips, he tested a finger at his entrance and was surprised to find it slipping in with no resistance whatsoever. Repeating the process with additional fingers and similar results, Lan Wangji only gave his omega a few experimental thrusts with three fingers before he was pulling them out and positioning his own length at Wei Ying's slit.

 

It was not quite what he expected, even with the heat helping out. Sex in a dream, after all, was not like sex in real life. He squirmed a little as he felt Lan Zhan's tip sinking in, spreading him open, and groaned lewdly in a mixture of pleasure and discomfort as he was slowly filled with the very sizable alpha girth. He held on to him tightly, however, not willing to leave any space between them, wanting all of him inside, filling him up.

 

Moving slowly, the dragon was careful not to give Wei Ying too much discomfort, wanting this to feel as good as it was for him as he entered the fox's slick heat. With a soft murmur of "A-Ying," he trailed his kisses down his collarbone and chest, free hand moving down to play with one of the omega's pert nipples

 

"A-Zhan-" He replied in a nearly breathless manner, looking down to see whatever he could of the alpha as he teased his chest, one hand going to his hair to stroke through it, trying to get the long, luxurious strands all to one side so he could see his face better, then rubbing his fingers against the dragon's scalp. Then Lan Zhan's tip brushed against something that felt good deep within, and the fox jolted and chirped, head falling back against the ground as he tried pushing up against his alpha, wanting him to hit that spot again.

 

Taking the hint, he started moving slowly, trying to accommodate his mate and hit the spot that had brought out such a reaction from him. Shifting back up, he pulled the fox into another kiss, holding him close as he moved within him.

 

He kissed him back hungrily, messily, mouth open as they explored each other's mouths. He could feel the waves of heat in his veins surging, his fears and anxieties melting away, leaving just the warm security of his mate, his alpha, being there, taking care of him, filling him up. The hand on his head slid to the back, dislodging the headband, the other wrapping around his shoulders, thighs pressing against his hips in an effort to meld with the dragon.

 

Lan Wangji hardly noticed or cared that his ribbon was now off his forehead, more focused on his fox and exploring his body. As he tested out the best angles with each thrust, he let his hands wander across the omega's skin, filing away each and every reaction Wei Ying made. As much as he enjoyed his dreams (even though he'd be too embarrassed to admit that aloud), they just couldn't top the real Wei Ying and his real moans and reactions.

 

Wei Ying's sounds became more desperate the more time passed, twitching as he felt a familiar... yet, different coil building up in his abdomen. He broke the kiss, head sliding so he was cheek to cheek with Lan Zhan as he gasped and cried out against his ear. "A-aah, Alpha, A-Zhan, getting, ahhn, nn, close, so close, gonna come, please, please don't stop-"

 

Letting out a growl in response, he sped up his thrusts further, feeling his knot start to catch on the fox's rim and using a bit more force as a result to fully plunge within Wei Ying. Bringing his hand up to thread through the omega's hair, he nipped lightly at one of his ears as he whispered, "Мое солнце. Come for me, A-Ying."

 

Clinging to the larger male, he moaned and keened lustfully, feeling a sudden surge as he finally crested, letting out a hoarse shout. "A-A-Zhan-! Aaah, Alpha, knot me, breed me, please, I want it-!"

 

Lan Wangji was quick to follow after, groaning as his knot locked them together and he was spilling inside the fox. Flooded with emotion, he moved in to devour the omega’s mouth, swallowing every little noise Wei Ying made as he came down from his high.

 

The omega wanted to give it all to him. Everything, anything he might want. He melted under him, letting the alpha plunder his mouth, inner walls twitching as he was filled to bursting with hot liquid seed, the knot pressed against everything just right and keeping him lodged inside, where he belonged. His hands kept stroking and petting at him, hoping Lan Zhan was feeling just as good as he was.

 

Eventually, he pulled out of the kiss, breath heavy as he pressed his bare forehead against Wei Ying's and took in his post-orgasm appearance. Tenderly, he brought his hand up to caress the fox's face, occasionally brushing some sweat soaked strands of hair from it before just combing through the long locks with his fingers.

 

Mouth open slightly, he was still catching his breath, chest rising and falling in short, quick pants. He smiled and chirped when he felt the hand on his face, turning into it and nuzzling before his eyes cracked open to drift and look into his gold ones. His expression was a mixture of sleepy and sexy, his lips a bit red and puffy from all the kissing. The hand on Wangji’s head moved as he realized the dragon’s ribbon was now wrapped around his own wrist, and he brought both hands up to try to untangle and fix it at first, then gave up entirely. He looked at it with some amused, mild exasperation before just tying it around his arm. It was important, he couldn't just toss it aside.

 

Paying no mind to the ribbon for now, he instead nuzzled the fox some more, a pleased rumbling coming from his throat. Stroking his cheek with his thumb a few more times, he eventually spoke up with a soft, “How are you feeling?”

 

"Mmm... Still hot, but better." He murmured, lightly tensing around the dragon's knot. His brain was plenty hazy with sex hormones and he was using this chance to scent the ever living hell out of his mate. He hugged him again, glad to feel his warmth and his pulse where their skin touched. "'M glad you're here."

 

"Mn. I as well." He loathed to think what may have happened had they been even a few minutes later. But they had made it and Wei Ying was now safe in his arms. As he then started to leave light, chaste kisses along his face, he let his hand roam across the fox's body rather innocently, a thin layer of frost on it in an attempt to help cool the omega.

 

He gasped sharply before letting out a shuddering breath, his member twitching where it lay pressed between them as Lan Zhan's hand wandered. He understood and appreciated the intent, but any stroking from the dragon on his skin at the moment was translating into something else. The fox caught hold of his head gently with both hands and held him still as he began to kiss him back, starting with one on his forehead, just in the center above his brows, where the ribbon usually sat. Then his nose, his eyelids, cheeks, and so on, wanting to pay him back a little. The next wave of the induced heat was starting, dragging him back under as he began squirming a bit under the alpha, trying to test the knot to see if he could move yet.

 

While his knot hadn't fully deflated quite yet, by now he was able to move a bit without straining his mate and so he started rolling his hips slowly, giving short but deep thrusts and relishing in how the fox squirmed and writhed against him. Despite having just done the same to the omega, the dragon's ears flushed slightly from his kisses being replicated and in an attempt to quell his embarrassment, he tried to lean in to catch Wei Ying's lips.

 

He chuckled breathlessly, letting him catch his lips, kissing him back as he rocked back against him, trying to match his pace down below. The chill trail the dragon was leaving behind with his fingertips was amazing, both relieving and stimulating at the same time, causing him to shiver and tremble as he ghosted over some very nice spots.

 

Before long, it became easier to give his fox longer thrusts and so Lan Wangji quickly went back to driving in quick and hard, tongue invading the other's warm mouth and hands teasing every sensitive spot his cold touch passed over. While he would be too embarrassed to admit it aloud, just as Wei Ying demanded of him in the throes of his release, the dragon fucked him as if he was aiming to stuff him full of his spend until the fox had no option but to grow heavy with his-their child.

 

The swift pistoning movements were exactly what the fox needed, his sex lighting up with every stroke, keening and moaning, begging for everything his alpha would give him with voice and body. He- he wanted so badly, wanted to be bred, to be bit and marked and mated, wanted to be with Lan Zhan every day for the rest of his life, wanted to be with the alpha he loved, carry his children-

And like a shell had suddenly been cracked, or a pane of glass shattered, it all came flooding back. One month of time from nearly a decade ago. All of it, suddenly back, though he couldn't piece it all together right away. There was happiness, and love, and fear, and a desperate, wrenching heartache... He gasped with it, and it brought him to tears, but he refused to let go, because the important thing was still there: he loved him, and this was his mate, and he came for him, and he was here now. "A-Zhan, love you, need you, want you-" He moaned into his mouth, dizzy with intense flashes from past and present feelings. "Bite me, breed me, please, please~!"

 

Nearly overwhelmed with the desire to claim this-his omega, he very nearly did sink his teeth into the fox's neck but stopped himself at the last second. Not yet. He couldn't claim him yet. Not when this had never been on the discussion table before this pseudo-heat. Pulling himself away from Wei Ying's neck, he instead moved to murmur in his ear as he fucked into his love. "Soon. Soon. Need to talk first."

 

He whimpered, he couldn't help himself. He'd felt the warm wash of breath over one of the glands for a few moments before he moved away and it wasn't fair. "A-A-Zhaaaan, please, Alpha, please, want it, want your kits, want your mark-" He begged, his omega side not wanting to give up, not able to understand why not.

 

Lan Wangji bit the inside of his cheek briefly, trying to hold himself back once again. Cupping the back of his head and nosing at his hair to comfort his omega, he unlocked his jaw to say, After we talk, A-Ying. After this heat.” He hated that he was upsetting his mate by denying this right now, but they needed to be clear headed for this. He needed to make sure the fox actually wanted this.

 

Very, very reluctantly, the omega let the matter rest for the time being, because that's what his alpha wanted and he was being good. But he ached for it, and every once in a while, a small whine would escape, interspersed with the mewls and moans of arousal. He did nip and suck at a few places under Lan Zhan's ear and along the column of his throat, wanting to leave little marks behind as well as swap as much scent as possible with his mate to warn off any other omegas who might decide they like his alpha. He didn't want to share. He could, however, feel another peak coming on, and was sure to let his mate know, claws scratching at him a bit this time. "Alpha, gh, going to come again, will A-Zhan knot me again? Want to be full-"

 

Every little escaped whine pained him to brush aside but he couldn't let himself give in this time, not with something so important like this. So each time he heard it, he nuzzled against the fox to leave his own scent on him and desperately hoped that would appease his mate for now. Soon enough, however, with how persistently he was fucking into the omega, he could feel himself preparing for release. Now, he just wanted to wait for Wei Ying, wanted to force him over the edge and catch him as he fell and his eager increase in speed confirmed that. "Mn. Will fill A-Ying..." ('With come' went unspoken, as did 'with kits', too flustered to even attempt to say either of those...)

 

His cries of pleasure rose again under Lan Zhan's unrelenting attention, until he crested again with a hoarse shout, walls quaking and clenching around the large pillar. He called his alpha's name huskily, clinging onto him while he waited for his knot to tie them together, wanting to feel the hot splash of seed against his deepest spot again.

 

Groaning at the feeling of the fox spasming against him, he finally thrust in one last time before his knot locked them together and he spilled his seed deep within the omega’s womb. Holding Wei Ying flush against him, he pressed kiss after kiss against the fox’s face, enjoying the little sounds he made every time.

 

He shuddered in pleasure, chirping at the dragon again, head filling with fluffy omega sex hormones. His hands stroked his back and shoulders, and reveled in the heavy pressure of his body and the security of his arms wrapped around him. He did attempt to kiss him back, though he was a bit uncoordinated at the moment.

 

Finally, after making his rounds across the fox's face, he moved down to catch his lips in a soft, unhurried kiss, savoring the feeling of his omega against him. Hands gently skimming across Wei Ying's body, one of them subconsciously moved down towards his womb, not quite moving over it but coming in close to it, throat rumbling contently.

 

He hummed and smiled against his mouth, tasting him, one of his hands leaving the dragon's back to drift between them, joining his hand and pressing down a little, moving them down just that little bit more. Oh... Oh wow, was it actually- did he actually feel- "Alpha" The fox moaned, another small climax rippling through him, though he didn't come with his male sex this time, just more little contractions from his cunt around Lan Zhan's shaft.

 

"Mn." Swallowing the fox's moan, he gave his hips a few little rolls, pushing through the contractions that ran through the other's body. Pleased he could satisfy Wei Ying with something as small as this, he continued his quiet rumble-purring as he once again washed his scent over the fox.

 

More little squeaks and other sounds slipped into Lan Zhan's mouth as Wei Ying was lavished with all this affection and attention. He loved it. He was the complete focus of his alpha, and he felt loved, even if he wasn't completing the bond, it felt more solid than it ever had before. And he promised, soon. His alpha...never intentionally lied. There was no time to be anxious over the past! He was here now, that's what mattered! And, he was this full of his alpha's seed... He had to be at the very least close to being pregnant now. Maybe another round or two? The thought made him quite happy, and his hands went back to wandering, wanting to feel all of his Lan Wangji.

 

With his mate’s heat abated for now, the dragon switched to giving the fox attention elsewhere along his body. Pulling out of the kiss, he moved down to leave light, worshiping kisses on areas he had yet to explore with his mouth. As his hands held the fox’s sides tenderly, Lan Wangji trailed his kisses down his sternum and over to a nipple, rolling his tongue over the bud before taking it into his mouth and sucking lightly.

 

With his ability to think in complex structures temporarily restored, he lifted his head a bit to watch Lan Zhan's progress on his body, heart feeling full- But, then, he felt a twinge of shame and nerves and brought up his left hand to subtly slide it over the mark on his left side, just over his heart, in an attempt to cover the brand. He didn't want to see it, and he didn't want Wangji to see it. He hated it, and again the thought of ripping it off crossed his mind.

 

Noticing despite how sneaky Wei Ying tried to be, he moved over to first kiss the back of his hand before gently moving it away and entwining their fingers. The brand was ugly in the sense that it was still fresh and raw, angry red lines of the Wen emblem raised on the fox’s skin. Still, this was just another part of the one he loved and so any anger over the situation was only directed towards the coward that inflicted it onto his mate. (Although, disregarding how it was obtained, it was accurate in the sense that Wei Ying was his sun.) Letting his dragon features peek out, he brought his now longer, forked tongue out to lave across the mark. Once it was coated with a layer of healing saliva, he brought his lips down to kiss his heart, right over the center of the brand, the temperature of both his lips and breath colder as he tried to soothe it further.

 

His mate's tenderness and care brought tears to his eyes before he could stop it. He bit his lower lip lightly and let his head rest back on the ground, gripping his hand tightly where their fingers were linked, the other one stroking his head as he felt the tears slipping down past his cheeks. Blinking them away with a sniff, he looked back down, wanting to burn this image of Lan Wangji into his memory. He stroked two fingers along one ear, then gripped his horn lightly and tugged. "A-A-Zhan, can I... see you?" He asked softly after a few moments of enjoying the cool attention to the burn, it actually felt a lot better, even in this short amount of time. "I've never seen you peeking before."

 

"Mn." Letting the light tug bring him up easily, he fixed his now more reptilian gaze on the fox, bringing his free hand up to carefully thread through his hair and remaining mindful of his exposed claws. "Encouraged not to use in-between forms. Blend in better with just human form." Especially for the dragons of the clan; their celestial features stood out like a sore thumb compared to other beast cultivators with more common, normal animal features. As if to prove some point with that, his tail, now back to its normal white scales now that he wasn't using the talismans, made its presence known by moving to wrap lightly around one of the fox's ankles much like he tended to do whenever he coiled around the omega.

 

His eyes flickered all over, fingers of his free hand tracing over all the features he could see and easily reach...and smiled, laughing a little as he felt the tail coiling around his ankle, the tassel tickling a bit. He took in all his features, from the glowing gold eyes, the ears, the horns, the tail, the way his hair changed from black to blue about halfway, like seeing night turning into day... "A-Zhan, you're so beautiful." He murmured, rubbing his ear and the base of a horn. "You always are, but I love seeing you expressing like this."

 

His ears felt warm from the praise but, thankfully, his draconic ears couldn't blush and so it wasn't all that obvious what his reaction to that was. He did, however, clearly react in a different manner, his ears and the base of his horns more sensitive, especially in this form. Ear twitching much like a cat's would, the dragon tilted his head into the fox's touch, cock seeming to harden slightly in interest even as his eyes closed to savor Wei Ying's touch. "Not as much as A-Ying."

 

Well, it would have been less obvious if the fox hadn't been touching them at the time. He shuddered and shut his eyes briefly as he felt the dragon react below, swallowing reflexively before opening his eyes, the heat beginning to kindle again. He knew he'd probably be sore as hell once this was all over, but for now, his body was doing it's job and making everything feel fucking fantastic. Encouraged by his reaction, he resumed rubbing and petting the ear and horn on his grasp, leaning up to whisper, "A-Zhan, I can rub the other one too, but I need both hands for that- aigooo, but I like holding hands with you, what do I do~?"

 

Growling quietly, he made the decision for Wei Ying in favor of giving the fox a different sensation to hopefully enjoy. Starting to roll his hips slightly, he moved his hands down to the other's torso, touch feather light as he brushed his claws against his omega's heated skin, carefully avoiding the brand so as not to worsen the injury with his sharp talons. With Wei Ying's other hand free now, the dragon tilted his head in its direction even as he simultaneously drew him into a kiss the moment he noticed those teasing lips.

 

"Hmmph- hmhmhm~" He chuckled into the dragon's mouth, playfully nipping at his lips as he used both hands on the dragon's surprisingly soft and warm ears. He was a bit more used to the right motions and rhythm now to get all the right spots just so, and was able to try and help Lan Zhan out a bit as he moved while he was still fairly clear-headed... or well, as clear as he could be during a heat.

 

As he brushed across all the sensitive spots he remembered from his earlier explorations with his claws, he gradually sped up his thrusts, having an easier time doing so due to his knot deflating some. He had not at all expected the fox's hands on his ears and horns to feel as good as they did and as a result, his movements were quickly growing faster, more eager.

 

As thoroughly sexed up as the omega was now, Wei Ying found that it just kept getting better and better, but now that he'd come a few times and his peak was slower to build, so he could enjoy himself for longer. He continued kissing, nipping, petting, everything he could as his dragon continued to lovingly fuck him into the grass. Feeling playful, at one point he even wound the ribbon around his horns, as though he might use it as a way to control the direction of his head.

 

Anything the fox wished to do here, he indulged, only giving a bit of a questioning look when he felt his ribbon wrapping around his horns. With Wei Ying slower to reach that frantic desperation of his heat, he also made sure to take more time to explore his chest again, nipping and sucking at his nipples, running his tongue along the brand when he felt it could use another layer of saliva, letting his fangs faintly scratch against skin like his claws did occasionally, and just generally making up for not bonding him right this instant by giving him marks elsewhere.

 

The small scrapes and scratches were lovely, helping him to get all fired up again as the embers were stirred up into flames. The pain was lessened every time his mate attended to the burn, easing his feelings of shame and anger with each pass, so it was less sharp, less jagged on his nerves. As Lan Zhan's efforts began to wind him up to another peak, he pulled his head up to give him another kiss, and to whisper "A-Zhan, love you, my Alpha, love you, need you-"

 

Spurred on by his omega’s murmurings, he pressed into the kiss with gusto, hips moving even faster to try and drive him higher, giving him all the love and pleasure he deserved. Only keeping one of his hands to continue moving across the fox’s skin, he brought his other hand back up to cradle his love’s face as they kissed, touch gentle as fingers brushed across skin.

 

He leaned up into the kiss as much as possible, bringing a hand down from his head to place over Lan Zhan's on his face, as every jolt brought him closer to climax. Something felt a little different this time, a little more exciting, like with just a little more of something, he'd get exactly what he wanted... "A-Zhan, bite me, please." He pleaded against his lips. "N-not bond, if you don't want to yet, but- but I need, something, a little- Ahh, hhh, h-harderrrr~"

 

More than willing to do at least this much, he growled quietly as he pulled out of the kiss, thrusts growing rougher, deeper, less controlled as he moved his lips to a spot on the fox's shoulder, far enough from his neck to make sure he didn't accidentally bond them too soon but close enough that maybe it would simulate that sensation a bit. Latching onto the area in a bite, he moved a hand down to grip his mate's hip for better control as he pounded into him.

 

His eyes rolled back in his head, clutching onto the alpha as he screamed his release, spine bowing his back clear off the ground as he came. His body twitched and spasmed, clinging to the dragon tightly as he added to the sticky mess between them, as well as the one coating their groins and inner thighs. He could feel his womb being knocked against, felt the glans of Lan Zhan's cock kissing his deepest entrance (or well he could imagine it anyway) and he knew that this was it. "Alpha! Knot me, fill me, breed me, please, aaAAaah, A-Zhan, want kits, please-!" He begged as his orgasm ran away with him, flooding the air with his pheromones.

 

Mouth and hands holding tight onto his mate, he forced one last thrust through the tight, spasming cavern before his knot once again sealed them together and his seed coated the walls of the fox's womb. His low growl morphed into something more possessive, a nonverbal agreement that yes, this was his omega, he was his alpha, and he wanted to knot, fill, breed him, give him anything, even kits, especially kits, A-Ying was his.

 

He felt like his body was on fire, but in a weirdly amazing way, similar to the heat, but different. (He didn't realize it was due to the drug that had been forced onto him, it was extremely potent, a rare, grade seven elixir.) Shuddering and panting beneath his mate, the fox lost all strength in his limbs as the warm feeling of rightness flooded him. He chirped several times at the young dragon, the happy sound interspersed with little keening moans as his walls continued to flutter around his cock. He could swear that he felt like his walls were being forced to expand a little bit by the force of his seed filling him, there was no way he wasn't pregnant after this, and the omega in his brain was a very, very happy and fairly contented little thing- Then, his ears twitched as he heard the sounds of shouting, then fighting nearby, and he made a sound that was half growl, half whimper, making himself try to curl into Lan Zhan, eyes opening to look around in a cautious, tired manner.

 

Ears flicking in the direction of the conflict, he tucked Wei Ying in closer to him, instincts on edge and protective as he mentally commanded Bichen to unsheathe and poise for either an attack or parry, whichever was necessary to keep his fox safe. Pressing his lips to the omega's temple and distantly glad that his robes and his position above Wei Ying helped cover up the fox at least a little bit, he whispered, "Safe. Will not touch you."

 

The sounds of blades clashing and screaming drew closer, closer, until the smell of blood even reached them. Then, a person they probably never would have expected burst from the trees, sword out, robes billowing dramatically. "Wei Wuxian!! I'm sorry I'm so late, who do I need to kill for... you..."

Chapter Text

Liu Qingge stood there for a few moments, staring at the couple on the ground, sifting through the scents in the air, remembering that yes, he had seen this youth before, who was apparently a prime alpha dragon, and was... was...fornicating with his drugged shizhi-

His eye twitched and he gripped the sword hard, glaring daggers at this- this-!!

Then Wei Ying smelled him and whined, still in loopy omega land. He registered that this alpha was classified as family and not a threat, but he didn't want him there, he just wanted to snuggle with his mate.

 

Focus jerking back to the fox now that he knew who this newcomer was and knew he shouldn’t need to fight, Wangji let Bichen drop to the ground, turning his head in to nuzzle tenderly at Wei Ying’s temple as his scent softened to something calmer, soothing, reminding the omega that he was still here despite the sudden (embarrassing) interruption. He couldn’t have his mate upset like this, not when he’d been so content just moments ago.

 

Taking a few very careful, steadying breaths, Liu Qingge turned and barked some orders at the disciples behind him. "No one enters this glade but Wei Wuxian's personal guards when they are found! Someone, send a message to the other Sect Leaders that we found Wei Wuxian and... The Second Young Master Lan." 

A 'Yes Sir!' could be faintly heard from the foliage behind him as he sent Cheng Luan back to its sheath, approaching the two on the ground to get a better grasp of the situation. "Are either of you hurt?" He asked, keeping a careful rein on his temper.

Wei Ying's right ear twitched a few times and he grumbled against Lan Zhan's neck, something about how Liu-shishu was embarrassing and dumb and why was he there right now and other things that weren't even words, just grouchy fox sounds.

 

Surely the mortification at being found like this would hit the reserved dragon later, but for right now, he was able to split his focus on Wei Ying and the question he was being directed. Carefully, so as to protect the fox's dignity as much as he could here, he removed his outer robe and maneuvered it around his mate as he shifted Wei Ying up into a less compromising position so that he was settled onto his lap to wait for his knot to shrink enough. "Brand mark on Wei Ying's chest. Left side. Inflicted by QishanWen Sect's Wen Chao. No other injuries." If the Peak Lord was looking to see proof of the injury, it was rather clear Lan Wangji wasn't all too keen about moving as he kept the fox close to his chest, hand resting on the back of his head as the other teen kept his face pressed into his neck.

 

The immortal nodded stiffly, not looking directly at them as he folded his arms, instead looking off into the woods. Wen Chao, huh. The others he met and came in with had mentioned the name. This Wen Clan had some fucking thick skin on their faces, thinking they could get away with something like this. It'd be a toss up to see who eliminated them first, Luo Binghe and his demons, Cang Qiong Sect, or a combination of sects from this country.

He glared at one tree in particular like he wanted it to spontaneously combust on the spot for a few moments, sighed, then bluntly asked, "Did you seal the bond?"

 

"No right to while the heat clouds Wei Ying's reasoning." In fact, he shouldn't've let himself take Wei Ying to begin with, but he couldn't bear the crestfallen look that overcame the fox when he tried to hold back, the anxiety he seemed to feel when he thought it was because of a flesh wound by a different, unsavory alpha... The recollection had him hugging the omega tighter, the hand at his head threading through his hair.

 

The Peak Lord nodded again. "Good, that's right. Glad you were able to restrain yourself that much." He groused, glancing at the pair from the corner of his eye. He heard the dazed, slightly sleepy chirp the fox gave off as the dragon cradled him closer, and seeing the fox's tail wag a few times under the robe the young alpha gave him made the uptight war god relax slightly. "Given that you two were out in the open here, and how strong his scent is, I'm guessing you didn't have... full control over your instincts." Liu Qingge had taken special medication himself before coming and even he was a little uncomfortable. "He's not talking yet, so he's probably pretty out of it, so this is a good chance to have a quick talk. I've heard you two have a pretty strong friendship, but I'm going to ask you: What are your intentions towards my Shizhi?" He finally turned to look directly at the dragon, his gaze fierce.

 

Unafraid to meet Liu Qingge's gaze evenly, he simply said, "He is my One." This was happening all too out of order but it was too late to change that now... In any case, he could only hope that Chunshan was also at least vaguely aware of dragon habits to understand what he meant by his words.

 

The older alpha searched his expression for a while before sighing and shaking his head, taking something out of his sleeve and tossing it to him. "I will be taking Wei Ying home. He's been gone for too long, and he's not strong enough right now to deal with all the...attention he's gathered. He'll be safer in Cang Qiong. But I won't keep you two apart. If you love him, you'll come for him. I don't have to tell you, if you break his heart, there are plenty of us who will break you into tiny little pieces." The thing he'd tossed over was a lesser Life Compass, unlike the one that led the war god to Wei Ying, it wasn't strong enough to detect him anywhere in the world, but get close enough and it could guide you in the right direction. "I'm sure he's already given you some means to get into our sect." And if Wei Ying ever decided he didn't want the dragon to come for him, it could be destroyed remotely by the primary Life Compass Talisman. Win-win for everyone.

He turned his head, forming a sword seal with his hand as he heard someone approaching, but it turned out to be the Wen siblings and Xue Yang. Qingge frowned a little when he saw the cat, not recognizing him, but he smelled so much like Wen Ning... He looked at the lion in surprise as they drew closer.

 

Catching the object, he examined the craftsmanship of the compass for a few moments before slipping it into his qiankun sleeve for safe keeping. By this point, his knot had definitely gone down enough to safely lift Wei Ying off himself and so he did so carefully after giving the fox a little nudge. Bringing his hands up to his topknot, he removed his crown before undoing the tie he had holding up his hair. Using that fabric, he fussed with the outer robe he had put on the omega, folding it closed and tying it together with the long hair ribbon. Surely this wouldn't be the most comfortable what with the bodily fluids on him, but it was better than nothing. Finally, he took back his forehead ribbon and re-tied it around his head. 

Meanwhile, uncomfortable with the look he was getting from Liu Qingge, Wen Ning ducked his head down in embarrassment. Why was he looking at him like that? He could tell, couldn't he? Nevertheless and despite the embarrassed flush on his face, he still had to greet him and so he bowed and gave a broken, "M-M-Master L-Liu..."

 

"Wen Ning. Good to see you again." He nodded at Xue Yang, who, after sizing him up, walked on past him towards the pair on the ground, to help clean up the fox. "Who is that?" 

"Xue Chengmei, Sir." Wen Qing replied, making sure her face mask and the scent-blocking talismans were in place on herself before approaching as well. "He's been with us for about a year now and proven himself trustworthy." And apparently, was now her little brother's mate. She wasn't sure how she felt about that yet, but they seemed happy, so.... 

The fox made an unhappy noise when his alpha removed himself, but aside from shuddering a bit, he didn't resist, letting his mate help him look a bit more...presentable for company. And, when Xue Yang showed up... well, he wasn't actually annoyed. This was a bonded omega, and pack, not a threat.

The cat checked him over, tension easing a bit when he saw that the scar was looking better, and he wasn't really hurt besides that...though he was still a bit bruised. He did notice that the sealing talisman was still painted on his back, however, and was able to dissolve it with a little of his own spiritual energy. "Hey, Little Master, how are you feeling?" He murmured as he took some cloths and a canteen of water from his sleeve, and started to help clean him up, offering a couple to Lan Zhan as well. Wen Qing didn't get too close as she was still unbonded, and though she was familiar to Wei Ying, she didn't want to upset the pair. But, from the distance she was at, she could still give medical advice if needed, as well as toss them an antidote to administer since the fox wasn't fully conscious yet.

 

Disregarding his own situation for now, he focused in on Wei Ying, never shifting too far away as he held out the antidote to the fox and gave a soft prompt of, "A-Ying, take this. Will help." Watching the omega to see if his words clicked, he brushed aside some strands of hair that had been sticking to the other's face, embarrassment at their audience growing now that he was regaining better control over himself, but thankful that it was at least people he mostly knew (barring Liu Qingge whom he'd only met once) (and thankful that his peeking form was able to hide said embarrassment).

 

With a soft hum of obedience, he took the medicine, making a funny face at the taste. "Bleh. Uuurgh, so bitter." He groaned. It helped to sober him up a little though, especially since his cultivation had been unleashed now. He slowly started to realize where he was, who he was with and who was around them, and what sort of state he was in. His face which had cooled from the heat colored again from embarrassment, shock, (and a surprisingly large amount of happiness) which prompted him to groan and cover his face with his hands, leaning back in and hiding his face in the dragon's shoulder... which made him leak a bit more of the mess inside him, prompting another tiny whimper. Oh dear god, all the things he'd said and done, and now Qingge was there-!! Even his face wasn't thick enough for this.

 

Quietly, the dragon brought his hand back up to Wei Ying’s head, gently holding him as the fox hid away. With how many people were now gathered here, he wasn’t all that comfortable about bringing up the topic of bonding in front of them like he’d planned (curse the sudden interruption that was sprung on them). And from the brief talk he had with Liu Qingge, it didn’t seem like he was all that willing to linger around for them to do so. On top of how he acted alone (with the Wen siblings) and moved ahead of the main group and then also proceeded to mate the fox when he wasn’t fully clear-headed...he’d need to take on punishments for that which would require him to return to Gusu... Once he finished those, surely his brother would allow him leave to go to Chunshan to see Wei Ying...

 

Speaking of which, it was about this time that word reached the main group of rescuers that had gone along to raid the Run, and Mingjue and several others (including his brother) were headed over towards the site the others were.

Thanks to the cat's efforts, Wei Ying felt a lot cleaner, and even if he was still incapable of standing on his own, his mind was clearer. Knowing how private a person Lan Wangji usually was, he knew that the dragon wouldn't want to talk much right then.... He cleared his throat lightly as he finally let go of the dragon and sat back on his knees, looking at him bashfully. "...You'll, uh...come to Chunshan then? Come find me, this time, instead of me going to Gusu?"

 

"Mn. After matters are settled in Gusu." A month, perhaps, of secluded meditation and balancing the bamboo pole... Then he could make his way over to Chunshan. In his dragon form, it shouldn't take that long at all... They could talk it out and hopefully the fox truly wouldn't mind becoming a bonded pair.

 

"Oh. Okay." He replied, nodding and leaning in to kiss the dragon's lips again briefly, lightly, before sitting back and smiling at him. "Ah, but don't take too long, okay? I'll miss you."

Liu Qingge came over after that and knelt down to pick the fox up in his arms, getting flashbacks of a time or two he had to carry Shen Qingqiu home- (He would not think about the time he had to carry his corpse back, that was a very very bad time) -and stood up with an arm under his knees and the other across his back. Wei Ying tried not to wince, he was a little bruised and sore from the-uh, activities. Earlier.

 

“Mn.” He was about to leave it at that, surprised but satisfied about the chaste little kiss, until, at least, he remembered something as they were starting to depart. “Wait.” Standing, he walked over to them, slipping his hand into a qiankun sleeve. Stopping in front of the fox, he pulled out Chenqing and the dragon tassel and offered them out to him. “Return to you.”

 

Several emotions crossed the fox's face as he accepted the items, securing both items on his makeshift belt, fingers running over the jade dragon as they had hundreds, thousands of times before. He bit his lower lip lightly, blinking fast and hard in an effort not to cry, swallowing sharply and clearing his throat before giving the dragon another, slightly teary, smile, holding them close. "Thank you, A-Zhan." He said warmly, if a bit thickly. "Don't...don't make me wait too long, 'kay?" 

Liu Qingge's expression was stoic and stiff as hell, though for a moment it had been pretty dark and stony, when Wei Wuxian wasn't looking. Okay, it was hard not to like this kid, but still. He'd most likely taken his Shizhi's virginity in a dubious manner, on the ground, outside. Who knew how compromised the fox was?? He'd have to wait and see, to judge his character carefully. Also, he didn't know if Shen Qingqiu approved yet or not! (Because who cares if Binghe likes him or not.) "Alright, we're going now. Lan Wangji, your group should be here soon, coming from the west. Will you be alright on your own until they arrive?" 

Xue Yang took this opportunity to change to his cat form and jump up into Wen Ning's arms, as he still couldn't fly on a sword, still having mostly demonic cultivation to rely on.

 

Giving the fox another affirmative 'mn,' he concealed his dragon features once again and stepped back to bow to the Peak Lord. "Wangji appreciates the thought but he will be alright." With any luck, he would have just enough time to suppress his scent enough so as not to be so obviously transparent in front of his brother and the other disciples from other sects. Even the absence of his outer robe, his topknot loose, and crown tucked away in his sleeve were going to be glaring enough signs that something happened here, he'd rather they not realize what exactly. 

Meanwhile, almost absentmindedly and very used to this regardless, Wen Ning gave the cat now in his arms a few little pets as he commanded his sword out of its sheath and stepped onto it.

 

The Cang Qiong sect group took off and it wasn't long after that before the Caihong Sects arrived, Nie, Lan, Jiang, and Jin. Mingjue could smell pretty quickly what had happened, as the scent of their couplings had very thoroughly permeated the air. Not that anyone would know for sure what the scent was, other than a very select few people, but Mingjue groaned internally as one of his people that had been nearby informed him the immortal had just recently departed with the rest of his sect members, and had found both of the omegas from Wei Wuxian's group.

 

On top of being one of the very few who would recognize exactly what happened, he was also the only one who could read the conflict in Lan Wangji’s eyes. And, well...it wasn’t hard to piece together what exactly he was both happy and ashamed about. Stepping up to the younger dragon, Xichen softly asked, “Wangji, is everything alright...?” 

“Mn. Need to discuss punishment.” Turning to face Nie Mingjue, Wangji then bowed to the tiger. “Sect Leader Nie, Wangji apologizes for acting on his own and moving ahead against direct orders.” This was rather conflicting, however...He truly was sorry for disobeying Nie Mingjue’s orders, but he was not sorry for being able to arrive just in time to save Wei Ying.

 

The big man sighed heavily and rubbed the back of his neck. "I understand why you acted, and if you managed to prevent that swine from... Well." He looked at Xichen. "It's not my place to judge him. I leave it up to you, Zewu-jun." He said, clapping his first mate on the shoulder, before turning back to address the rest of the coalition. "Wei Wuxian and his attendants have been found and taken back to Chunshan by their sect, and we have found Lan Wangji. Our task remains: find the abducted omegas, detain the Wen dogs and the other trash alphas participating in this disgusting hunt!! Those who resist capture are to be killed! The omegas are to receive care if needed!" He bellowed, mounting his saber again.

"Yes, Sir!!"

 

Nodding, Xichen turned back to Wangji once the other cultivators started dispersing again under Mingjue's order. "Wangji, are you well enough to assist in the rest of the rescue?" When the younger dragon gave a nod in response, the young sect leader gave a smile in return. "Shall we go then?" With yet another nod, the two Jades then split up to join the rest of the group in tracking down everyone else within the valley for the Run.

 

The search of the valley went on for a couple days to make sure they could capture, kill or rescue as many people as possible. Most of the omegas were either beast, partial beast, spirit, or demons, typically of lower tier cultivation. For those that had been caught and forcibly bonded, there was a possibility they could be treated with time, forcing the alpha to cancel the bond, or by executing said alpha. (The last option was the least recommended as it took the longest time to recover from and could potentially damage their ability to bond in the future.)

Meanwhile, the Chunshan group was having an alright time traveling. They stopped when possible, to let Wei Ying change back into his clothes and clean up, as well as take back all his things, and to give him some treatment. There was nothing physically wrong with him, besides the scar, the bruises and the muscle pains, but Wen Qing noticed some signs he might go into a drop if left untreated, and she wanted to be safe rather than sorry.

Liu Qingge had aaallll the emotions about this situation, and was having a hard time figuring them out. He wasn't...very good at that, to begin with. And this was his...his Shixiong's son. Maybe not by blood, but they were family and he was a good, bright kid. Seeing the omega being this subdued enraged him, and his alpha side couldn't help but blame the dragon a little.

Wei Ying admittedly was a bit down, and while he did mostly wear his normal clothes, he insisted on wearing the hair ribbon Lan Zhan had given him, keeping the outer robe stored away in his sleeve. At least that way, even when the scent started to fade on his body (Qing-jie insisted on him cleaning up properly to avoid getting an infection or something) the hair ribbon smelled like him, and he could wear it while they flew. At night, Xue Yang noticed when they stopped to rest, he made a nest with his stuffed animals, the blanket, and the robe... All little signs he filed away.

The fox's omega side was still...a bit upset they hadn't bonded, but his alpha promised he would come. Once he was done with something back at Cloud Recesses. He'd come, and in the meanwhile, the fox could always write him letters, and he started on those right away, as soon as he was able.

 

--

 

Hours Earlier...

 

Months had gone by since the strange interference began. The system was silent as it had been since 'the end' of Proud Immortal Demon Way. The most beloved couple of Chunshan and their baby girl had been stuck in the Demon Realm for a little over a year, Luo Binghe's time mostly taken up by a war that had surged up, headed by the remaining main branch of the Wen clan, not to be confused with the Wens related directly to Wen Ning and Wen Qing. Luo Binghe had wiped them out as thoroughly as possible, with a great amount of vigor, because the dumb bastards had even tried attacking his small family in that time. But now, the strange energy in the void between their realms was no longer in the way, and the Demon Lord was finally able to cut them a portal back to Qing Jing Peak.

They arrived in the bamboo house, which looked just like they had left it. Xiaoqing was in her peeking form at the moment, ears pricked and tail wagging, wings half-open and the downy feathers floofy as she looked around at the different setting, smelling the air, and wiggling as she demanded "Down! Down! Baba down!"

 

"Alright, alright," Shen Qingqiu murmured as he set their little cub down on her own two feet. "But stay close to us A-Qing, okay?" He wouldn't be surprised if she ran off further than he liked, she was a spirited one (goddamn you Binghe), but nevertheless, he straightened to then look over at his mate. "We've been inadvertently gone for so long, do you think A-Ying's been staying over at Bai Zhan Peak more often than not?"

 

The Heavenly Demon seemed...unsettled as he scented the air, scowling faintly. "...I suppose he could have..." He muttered, looking around the main room, then heading outside to check the attached room he used to stay in. "...I can't smell A-Ying or the Wens anywhere around here, so maybe they have been staying with Liu-shishu." Well, he did actually, but so faintly, it had been a very long time since they were last there indeed. "Should we go check?" 

 

"Of course. We hadn't been able to give him updates about our situation, he may be worried." For all intents and purposes, he was still a child, even if he was already at presentation age by now. Looking over towards Xiaoqing, he held out a hand to beckon her over. "A-Qing, c'mere, let's go visit your Shishu..."

 

The little leopard's ears flicked back, and she stuck her lower lip out in a pout and stomped her foot. "No!"

The Demon Lord melted a little and he chuckled as he went over to scoop up their growly little alpha cub, who was going through a small 'no' stage at the time. "Do you remember the Bai Zhan Peak Lord, A-Qing?"

"No!" 

"Did you forget all about your big brother A-Ying?" 

"...no," she said, seeming a bit unsure. "...fox?" 

"That's right!" He gushed as he brought her back over to his mate, tickling her tummy, which made her squeal and attack his hand. "You don't want to make your Da-ge sad, right?" 

"No!" 

"Let's go get him then!" 

"Okay!"

 

Shaking his head exasperatedly, he muttered a fond, “Surrounded by children, all of you...” as he mounted his sword again. Waiting for Binghe to follow suit as well, he then started making his way over to Bai Zhan Peak, no doubt with the Demon Lord either following behind or beside him.

 

Before long, the three of them were flying over to the martial peak... But, things seemed a bit...off. There was a lot of activity, like the forces had been mobilized recently... They were met midway in the air by Mu Qingfang. "Shen-shixiong!" He called out, his tone urgent. "You're finally back! We couldn't reach you, something's happened!"

 

Even more on edge now, he froze in the air as he regarded the doctor. "Mu-shidi? What's wrong? Does this...have anything to do with why it looks like we're gathering an army...?"

 

"More like finally recalling the army..." The doctor replied with a grumble. "Shortly after you three left for the Demon Realm, and Wei Ying went to Caihong, we suddenly stopped receiving word from you all. If it was just on your end, that would be less worrying. But Wen Qing is diligent with her reports. When four days passed with no word from her, and nothing we sent was reaching them either, we knew something was wrong." He scowled. "We sent people out to try to get to Caihong immediately, but then things started happening all over the Tian Gong region, then all over Chunshan! We had to divide our forces, and found out there was some sort of barrier array set up preventing anyone from entering or leaving the country! Sect Leader Yue and Liu-xiong worked the hardest on trying to break through, find the cause-" 

 

"Where is Wei Ying?!" Binghe interrupted, the mark on his forehead glowing a bit, along with his eyes. He was trying to contain himself, especially holding A-Qing, but some of his wrath was leaking through.

"...We're not sure." Qingfang replied, bowing his head. "Like I said, nothing could get into Caihong, or leave it for a year. Liu-xiong finally broke through a few days ago, and took his best disciples with him to go find him. Last I heard, he'd found out some... alarming things."

 

"Alarming how?!" If they didn't know where Wei Ying was, than in theory the alarming things wouldn't necessarily be related to him, but the fact that the teen was currently somewhere in Caihong while those 'alarming things' were happening wasn't easing his worry at all. "Is the array finally completely destroyed now? We need to look for Wei Ying...!"

 

"The array was destroyed, and Liu-xiong took Wei Ying's Life Compass Talisman with him. He'll find him fast, and bring him back as soon as he can." He said, trying to placate them. "He's still alive, because the compass is working, and the rumors haven't said that anyone captured him yet-" 

"Rumors?? CAPTURED!???" The air around them trembled, and Xiaoqing hissed a little at her daddy and squirmed, making grabby motions at her other dad, her hair and the fur on her tail standing on end from the aura the immortal half-demon was leaking.

Mu Qingfang winced. "....Once the borders were open again, we were able to find out that apparently... Wei Ying's special ability got exposed while repelling a rather sizable demon wave. Multiple parties are looking for him as a result. Some are claiming he's practicing demonic cultivation, as a means of justifying their actions."

 

Quickly taking Xiaoqing and letting her cling to his neck, Shen Qingqiu set a (hopefully) calming hand on Binghe's arm even as his worry spiked at the information. "Okay, wow, demon wave there too...Binghe, calm down, we'll go follow Liu-shidi's trail and find A-Ying...He hadn't been captured apparently and he's a smart one, he'll be fine and back with us soon..."

 

Binghe took a deep breath, reeling himself back in and affecting an appearance of being calm, though his tone was still grim. "Just because there have been no rumors of him being captured doesn't mean he hasn't been. The sects or people involved might not want to share the news." He growled. "And I don't like that Liu-shishu apparently hasn't checked in for a little while. It probably means something is wrong. We should get going. Where was the last place he contacted you from?" 

"I believe the region was called Yiling, or something like that. It might be better to wait for some sort of word from him, if I remember correctly, Xin Mo can't just take you right to a person, you have to know where you're going first..." Otherwise, he likely would have used it to teleport directly to Shen Qingqiu all those years ago when he was kidnapped.

 

Frowning, he was now at a loss over what they should do. Caihong was a largely unfamiliar country and bigger than Chunshan to top it off, if they didn’t know where to search... “...Shall we still head over Binghe? Perhaps meet with one of their Sect Leaders to inquire?”

 

He grit his teeth and clenched his fists, obviously hating this idea. "...Gusu, the place we went before. That's the place where those dragons are, right? We'll go there first." He said after a few moments. "Then we can figure out what to do from there." 

"...Shen-shixiong, please make sure your alpha doesn't do anything too rash... but if someone or some sect has hurt Wei Ying, know we are completely behind you. I'm sure Sect Leader Yue would agree if he were here right now." Mu Qingfang said with conviction. Cang Qiong protected their own and they all loved Wei Ying after seeing him grow up. Any sect that was stupid enough to fuck with them would become extinct.

 

"Much appreciated, Mu-shidi." Turning then to his mate, he once again set a hand on the festering alpha's arm. "Let's go. You wish to use Xin Mo, I presume?"

 

He nodded, stepping onto Xiu Ya with Shen Yuan as he had Xin Mo tear a rent in space. He frowned a bit, it seemed...a little more difficult than usual. Well, he had just managed to undo the strange barrier on the demon realm... Perhaps he was a bit low on energy?

In any case, the rift deposited them right at the entrance to the Cloud Recesses, likely startling the ever loving fuck out of the poor disciples on guard duty.

 

Shen Qingqiu barely gave said disciples the chance to recover before he was speaking up to demand an audience. "Where is your Sect Leader? Lan Qiren, I believe it was? We must speak with him urgently." 

Shocked to silence for a few moments, it took a bit before one of the disciples found his voice again. "Teacher Lan is no longer the acting Sect Leader, Sect Leader Lan is now Lan Xichen. H-However...Sect Leader Lan presently isn't here. Upon a directive set upon by Sect Leader Nie, he has gathered most of our senior disciples and departed for Jiuzhaigou."

 

Luo Binghe's eyes narrowed, but he was behaving and keeping his hand away from Xin Mo. (Not that he needed to hold it for it to be deadly.) "Jiuzhaigou? Where is that? For what purpose?" He asked, seeming to be perfectly reasonable.

 

The disciple rather visibly paled, uncomfortable under Luo Binghe's intense scrutiny but unable to dismiss himself without being impolite. "T-this one isn't all too certain. Sect Leader has been in contact with QingheNie and YunmengJiang for about a month now but has been a bit more tight-lipped than he may be in regards to other matters."

It was then that the other disciple spoke up with a bow in their direction. "A conjecture as to why may be in regards to the influx of omega disappearances that always rises around this time of the year. The victims in question are suspected to be sent to a supposed 'Omega Run', of which its location and organization team has slipped under the Great Sects' noses due to their careful trail erasing. It is possible Sect Leader Lan has combined forces with QingheNie and YunmengJiang in order to disrupt the Run." 

An Omega Run?! What the everloving FUCK!?! Not only was Caihong apparently victim to a recent demon attack, some nefarious group is also kidnapping omegas for some sick game? Snapping open his fan to hide his mouth, Qingqiu then asked. "And the location of this Jiuzhaigou?" 

"It is a vast valley just outside the border of QishanWen and YunmengJiang territory. Therefore, it is rather far west of us."

 

"When was this Run supposed to happen?" The Demon Lord sadly knew a bit too much about these events for his liking, having encountered a few while in the Demon Realm. They were more common there, as very few demons were actually born omega, they were a scarcity and highly valued...but they had very few autonomous rights. It was one of the things he had wanted to work on fighting.

Something clicked for him just then, and his eyes flashed. "QishanWen Sect, you said?" he growled.

 

Startled, the disciple blinked at the Demon Lord in confusion. "...Yes...? They are the biggest and most powerful sect of the Great Five. As a result, Sect Leader Wen Ruohan serves as the Chief Cultivator over all our Sects." It was clear that the disciple was baffled as to why this was a question. This information should be widely known, after all. "Oh, and as to when this Run is to take place, that is always something that had evaded knowledge due to how secretive and generally unknown to the masses it is. However, given that three of the Five Great Sects are on the move, I would presume it to be happening some time this week if it isn't already happening." 

 

"...Shizun~" He began, giving his mate and master a beautiful guanyin smile. "It looks like I missed some trash when I was cleaning up earlier. Would Shizun allow this husband to find and destroy some garbage?" He'd just managed to get rid of the trashy side of the Wen family in the Demon Realm, and now the ones that escaped to the human realm were probably involved in all of this too!? They all had to die.

 

Sighing, Shen Qingqiu rubbed at his temples, thanking the Lan disciples before addressing said husband. "If they're truly the ones at fault, sure. Not my jurisdiction, at any rate. But you'd better make sure you know for sure if they're at fault! The proximity to the territory doesn't equal being the mastermind." Though, really, given all that he'd gleaned from Binghe or the Wen siblings or just general information floating around, he wouldn't actually be surprised if the Wen Clan really was involved. And, well, on that note, hopefully Binghe actually targeted only the ones that were involved. Surely, there were Wen Sect members who were innocent, right?

 

"Could you show us on a map where Jiuzhaigou is?" Binghe asked, wanting to get there as soon as possible.

 

Bowing, one of the disciples gave an affirmative before turning to pass through the gates to locate a map from the Library Pavilion. After a few minutes passed, the guard returned with a scroll in hand and rolled it open for the two Lords to see as his companion started pointing out locations. "Cloud Recesses is here, just northwest of Caiyi. The borders of YunmengJiang and QishanWen meet here, and then just past that are the Min Mountains. Jiuzhaigou is the system of valleys within this mountain range."

 

The Demon Lord nodded, and gave them a brief bow and salute. "Thank you for your assistance. Shizun, let's go." He stepped back and unsheathed Xin Mo, stepping up as he waited for Shen Yuan to mount up as well. Then, they were off, heading east.

Binghe's instincts were rioting. Something happened to one of his cubs. This was not allowed. He had to kill something. Or someone. Or multiple somethings and someones. But he also had to make sure they were safe. But people had to die to ensure their safety....



Following on Binghe's heel, Qingqiu kept an eye out for anything odd on their way over. It wasn't all that likely they'd actually spot anything this far away from the destination with how big the country was, but he'd never be able to tolerate it if there was something and he hadn't paid close enough attention. This was about their son, he needed to make sure he was alert.

After a few days of travelling with no sign of Liu Qingge or Wei Ying, once Shen Qingqiu finally, finally smelled something familiar on the wind, he felt a large wave of relief that he probably should've been saving until after they confirmed what their senses were telling them. "Binghe, let's land." Quickly dropping down to the ground with the assumption that his alpha would be following, he followed the scent trail he had picked up until it led them to a campsite with four familiar faces (and one unfamiliar, but Qingqiu was a tad more focused on the former). From the look of it, the group of cultivators had been gathering all their items back up in order to start travelling again, something that got interrupted by their entrance and his relieved, "A-Ying!"

 

The various disciples that Liu Qingge had brought along did not mind being ignored at the moment, though as was Bai Zhan Peak Custom, they all did spare a glare for the Demon Lord as he landed alongside his mate, but they were all glad to see them after their prolonged silence and disappearance.

The omega fox's eyes went wide, and he quickly stood and spun around, looking through the small crowd to see them approaching. He reacted by instinct, dropping the bedroll he had been holding and running to them both, a small part of him startled by the sheer wave of immense relief he was suddenly struck with. "Dad!! Papa He!!" He shouted, barreling right into the typically lofty-seeming immortal first, Binghe coming in carrying Xiaoqing in one arm as he used the other to wrap his small family up, giving a rare rumbling purr as they had a sudden scenting session. Wei Ying cupped his little sister's face with both hands, tearing up as he cooed over the chubby three-year old and peppered her with tearful kisses as he chirped at them. "A-Qing, my good baby sister, look how big you are-! Aiyaa, so pretty too, meimei, I'm going to have to start chasing suitors away~" He sniffled and pulled back slightly to look all three of them over, giving them a bright, genuine smile as he changed his grip to his parent's arms. "I-I was starting- t-to get, uh, a bit worried, heheh-" 

Binghe's heart clenched, feeling a sharp twist of failure for leaving their kit for so long. "I'm so sorry, A-Ying-"

 

Bringing a hand up the fox's head, his face turned apologetic as he said. "Oh, A-Ying...We didn't expect for this to happen at all...Something was preventing us from staying in contact, same as the whole of Chunshan from the sound of it. And then to find our way out only to hear your ability was exposed and you might've been in trouble...How have you been faring?"

 

"...Uhhhh..." 

It was at this point that Binghe noticed a few things. The smell of medication, Wei Ying's omega scent (which was still faintly noticeable, due to Wen Qing having kept him off his suppressants for a while) mixed with the scent of a prime alpha that he didn't recognize, and with the mention of an Omega Run-

The air took on a sinister quality as a deep growl emanated from his chest for a moment and he gripped Wei Ying's collar, lifting it briefly to see that his bonding glands were unbitten still... But he had a bite on his shoulder, as well as smaller kiss marks on his throat, (AND WAS THAT A FUCKING BRAND HE SAW?!?) making the fox flush and bat his hands away as he put his hands up to pull the edges together. "Dad, cut that out!" 

"Who did this to you? Is he dead yet?" The Demon Lord asked, his voice deceptively calm.

Wei Ying's eyes flashed and he turned to his peeking form as he squared up against his Papa He, holding on to both of his dad's arms still, though a bit tighter now as all four of his tails waved behind him. "Dad, Papa He, Let's talk about this, you don't know the whole story- Dad, make sure he doesn't go off, he has to listen. You both do- In private would be good?" He looked over his shoulder at one of the tents that was still standing. "Please?"

 

Frowning for a few moments but eventually giving Binghe a Look, he nodded towards the tent in acceptance. "Alright, let's hear it. And not jump to conclusions before hearing it all." Tugging Binghe along, Qingqiu made his way over to the tent, pushing aside the flap and slipping inside. Once inside, he settled himself down on the floor and snapped open his fan to fan himself a little.

 

Wei Ying gave his three guards a look before going in, putting up as many sound barrier talismans as he could whip up before going to sit in front of his parents and his confused little sister, who was growing fussy and had turned to her beast form, making tiny baby growls as she gnawed on her father's forearm- not that he even noticed.

With a sigh, he began by saying, "First off, I was not raped. It was consensual." He had to get that out there first thing, before his Papa exploded. (He was also concerned about Shen Qingqiu, actually, the man was protective of his family as well.) "I was kidnapped and almost raped by someone, whom I will tell you about, but my mate rescued me in time, and...I chose him." He looked at Qingqiu. "Dad, you know that a good chunk of that bullshit they say about omegas is a case-to-case basis, but I... I chose him years ago. I just didn't remember right away. He's my mate, so Papa can't kill or maim him, and he can't send someone else to do it either, or I swear on my cultivation I will leave Chunshan and never come back." He said this as seriously as he could, and swore with his three fingers raised.

 

Picking up on a certain piece of information, Shen Qingqiu brought his fan up a little higher as he said, "This is about your 'A-Zhan' then." Partly a question, partly a statement. Binghe had mentioned that the memory spell would break if and when he fell in love with his childhood friend and it was rather clear how much their son had liked the dragon even if it wasn't clear at the time how much.

 

He nodded, smiling fondly at some memory or another as Binghe's face darkened again. That little dragon bastard again. But now, he couldn't actually....get rid of him, or he might lose his son... He pouted, looking down at his daughter sullenly as he gently squeezed her paw pads and toe beans, making her baby claws flex out.

Wei Ying described what happened, basically from the beginning, with the demon wave and his abduction (though he sorta skimmed over most of Xue Yang's involvement in that, and did emphasize that not only was he under contract now, and that the other omega had not only been helpful and loyal, but had mated with Wen Ning and was officially part of their pack now), to the part where he tried to reach them, or anyone back home, to no avail. How he wound up with bounties on his head, and how Lan Zhan had hidden him in his sect, the attack, his base on Burial Mounds (which he rather liked and wanted to keep, and mentioned to Binghe in a half-joking manner that he wanted a proper house or manor built there for his next birthday-), how he hatched a plan to try and catch out the Wen Clan on their murder attempt, the disguise, (how Lan Zhan had managed to beat him in an archery competition,) his first run in with Wen Chao, his escape to Qinghe and the months he lived there with his friends....

And finally, his fuck up in the brothel on New Years. "...And when I was woken up, who did I see standing over me but Wen Chao." He sighed, rubbing at the tops of his thighs in a nervous action, frowning as his tails curled around himself. "He...taunted me for a bit, threatened Xue Yang and I, and Lan Zhan, then bought us from the merchant and I was knocked out again. We were kept drugged in our beast forms for...weeks, apparently, in preparation for the Run. Thankfully, Wen Chao is a grandstanding asshole and wanted to...to humiliate me with an audience, so I was mostly left alone save for some more bullshit taunting... Xue Yang tried to piss him off on purpose so he'd leave me alone, when he was awake. A day before the competition, they.... They were getting us ready, when..." He stopped, then lifted a hand to pull aside the left side of the robe. "...He wanted to make sure no one else would try to... beat him to me on the run. I-I didn't handle it...well. Between this, Xue Yang being held hostage, the inducer they put me on, and the...the dogs..." He went quiet again as A-Qing saw the scar and gasped softly, saying a quiet, "Da-ge ow?" 

"...If A-Zhan hadn't sh-shown up when he did..." He held the cub when she wiggled free from the Heavenly Demon and padded over to her brother, crawling onto his lap, where he rubbed her soft fur and kissed the top of her head. "It doesn't hurt as much anymore, Meimei, but you can try to kiss it better if you want- aww."

 

Shen Qingqiu let out a slow breath at all this information, glad that his fan was blocking how tightly clenched his jaw was. (Surely Binghe was in a worse state than he was and he wasn't even all that inclined to control him over this so long as he didn't try to focus in on the young prime alpha dragon that he was obviously at odds with.) Once he could finally loosen his jaw up, he commented, easily putting the pieces together, "So Lan Wangji prevented this Wen Chao from raping you and then proceeded to have sex with you. I have to admit, I'm not all that happy about that, what with you being heavily drugged during it, but as odd as it sounds, if it had to be anyone, I'm okay with it being him. A prime alpha able to resist marking you when you were likely assaulting him with pheromones has a good head on his shoulders."

 

"...When you put it that way..." He murmured, ears flicking as he thought it over, still petting his sister, then sighed. "To tell the truth, I didn't make it easy for him. I, somehow, have been having shared dreams with him for years... they turned sorta sexual when we started presenting. Not all of the dreams, but...several. More than three, I think. I didn't realize they were actually shared dreams until about my birthday this year, but it's a good thing we had them, because without them I could have never told him where we were being held in time. And then a few days ago, when I was deep under in omega mindset, I begged him to bond me, but he refused. He wanted to talk first. My omega side was pretty upset about that and the b-brand, but A-Zhan was able to heal and fade it this much, and was able to convince it...me, that he didn't reject me because I was... damaged or something." He mumbled, then looked up at the adults. "I invited him to Chunshan, and he should be coming soon. Especially since I bet there's no way you guys are letting me go anywhere alone until I have five or six tails. So I just want it extra clear: no one hurts him, no one stops him. I need him, like Papa He needs you, Dad." 

Luo Binghe felt and looked a little like he was ready to qi deviate, which was perhaps a bit alarming given his history with that. He was so angry. With himself, for allowing all this to happen, with who or whatever was behind all this interference nonsense, with the bounties on his son, with that son of a bitch dragon who stole his sweet son basically while his back was turned, (apparently with his help, since the shared dreams were probably a side effect of the memory spell) and most of all....

Wen Chao. Without a doubt, that son of a bitch had to die. He kidnapped and tormented his son. Dared to imply he was unworthy. Dared to try and sully him and make him despair. He would catch him, and make him crawl, make him scream, make him beg for death.

But once again, he was torn. If he wanted this Wen Chao, he'd have to hunt him down himself. But, he'd already failed to protect his family once. He could not, would not fail again. Deep down, he knew what he had to do... He just... Had been resisting it for so long!! He didn't want to share, but if he alone wasn't enough to protect his family....

 

Sighing, Shen Qingqiu closed his fan and leaned over to set a hand on Wei Ying's knee. "I won't interfere. Sounds like he wants to own up and take responsibility and I can't fault that. I wouldn't dare try to take anyone's mate away, especially my own son's." A bit concerned over Binghe's state of mind, he then looked over at his mate. No doubt, he'd want to track down the main branch Wens that did this to their A-Ying, that much was obvious, but hopefully his anger over the other aspects of this would be small enough that he didn't attempt to try anything.

 

A bit alarmingly, the Demon Lord suddenly rose to his feet and turned to leave the tent. "Papa-!" Wei Ying sat forward, but Binghe lifted a hand.

"I'm not leaving camp yet. I'm just going to speak with Liu-shishu." He said, looking back at them. He looked at Shen Yuan, a resolution in his eyes. "Shizun... what we talked about, in regards to Liu Qingge... Would you accept it? If he does?"

 

Looking up at the alpha with some surprise, he eventually gave a little nod. “I would...” This was...a bit of a surprise. He hadn’t really expected that the alpha would truly be alright with sharing, what with his possessive streak... “...Are you really going to...?”

 

He smiled, a bit tightly perhaps, but still warm, as he stepped closer to his husband and stroked his cheek with his hand. "You're still mine, but if I'm not enough to protect all of you at once... I can take in one other alpha. And... Well, I'm not crazy about him, but he is strong, and I can trust that he would die for any of you three. It's not like I hate him anymore."

 

“Is that so?” He murmured even as he tilted his head into the prime’s touch. “The both of your behaviors towards each other doesn’t necessarily reflect that...”

 

He snorted wryly. "Hey, if he turns us down, I'll still come up with something. Somehow, I doubt he will, though." The bastard loved Shen Qingqiu too. Not as much as he did, of course, but it was close. Ish. Sort of. He pulled back and left the tent, Wei Ying more than a little shocked by what he just saw.

"....Uhhh, Father Shen? Am I about to have three dads?" He asked after a few moments of silence.

 

"Ah...Well, possibly...?" In a little show of embarrassment (this was his son for Pete's sake!), he opened his fan back open to cover (the blushing) part of his face. "It...may have come up in conversation once or twice while we were in the Demon Realm...? ...What are your thoughts about that...?"

 

He rubbed his chin with one hand, the other still occupied by Xiaoqing. "Well... I.... guess it could work?" He said with a tilt of his head. "You might have some work to do though, dad. I actually know of another pack that has two intimate alphas and an omega, but Papa He and Liu-shishu might need some help on the intimacy thing... though... maybe not as much as everyone thinks?" He tilted his head. "If Papa He actually brought this up, that is."

 

"Well, you know how your dad is, he was going to need an adjustment period no matter what." He then closed his fan to lightly hit the top of Wei Ying's head, chastising him fondly. "But silly boy, I wasn't asking you about the logistics, I was asking you about your feelings about it."

 

He shrugged. "I mean, I like Liu-shishu. He obviously loves you. I think it's great if you three could work something out. So long as you're all happy, I'll be happy for you."

 

"Wow, did it really only take you seven years to notice? I needed several decades..." He muttered mostly under his breath. What the fuck?? How obviously was his shidi acting if even his teenaged son could pick up on it?

 

He chuckled. "I mean, I think part of the reason I picked up on it is the way he looks at you when he thinks you're not looking." He replied. "And, I mean... even if most of the Resentment of Chunshan is bullshit, I heard some stuff from Liu Mingyan and some of the Qing Jing Peak disciples...."

 

"Liu-shimei, huh? She always had seemed a tad nosy where she probably shouldn't be. And to think even my own disciples were being all too talkative..." Huffing, he then moved in closer to ruffle the fox's hair a bit. "Well, in any case, I can't say how long they'll be preoccupied with their hopefully non-violent chat, but we should take down the rest of the camp. The sooner we get you back to Cang Qiong, the sooner we can have an army backing your protection."

 

He sighed dramatically, petting Xiaoqing's head. "Aiyaaa, I feel like a princess or something~ I mean, once I get my ability trained up, I can actually have my own army guarding me." He said with a shrug. "But yeah, it'll be nice to get home. It's been pretty stressful, though I think if only that weird block wasn't there, I wouldn't have been so worried... You know, so I could have heard from you. How were things in the Demon Realm?"

 

--

 

It was once again another day of normalcy since returning from Caihong a month ago. Binghe slipped out every once in a while to go back to dealing with Wen Chao or any of the other distasteful Wens and this was another one of those days. It was a bit unfortunate that the Demon Lord's cooking couldn't be enjoyed as a result, but that was a minor inconvenience if anything. Setting out the food he had ordered from the kitchens, the Qing Jing Peak Lord then waited for Liu Qingge and Wei Ying to return from whatever training they had decided to do for the day.

 

The two came in before too long, Liu Qingge before Wei Ying, however. Qingge had gone to take care of his disciples and train during the day, but as usual, he was back on time and washed up. He was still a little stiff and awkward on these family nights, he wasn't sure Xiaoqing accepted him yet, but he was attentive and tried his best to pay attention to everything going on in the pack.

Which is why, when Wei Ying was shifting uncomfortably in his seat and rubbing his chest, he arched an eyebrow and cleared his throat before asking "Wei Ying? Did you get hit in the chest during practice today? Do you need to visit Mu-shixiong?"

"Huh? Oh, uh, no." He said, bringing the hand down to his lap. "No hits today... I've just been... uh... Really tender?"

 

Frowning at that information, Shen Qingqiu looked over the fox with some concern. "Tender? In what way? You've really got no bruises or anything on your chest? Did this only start today?"

 

"No, it's been going on for a couple days...at least. They're just, really sensitive? And sore? And actually kind of puffy. I wonder if it's an allergy or something..." He murmured, seeming a bit petulant.

 

Shen Qingqiu was quiet for a few moments, an idea forming in his mind but not sure if he wanted to say something definite yet. "...Have you been feeling off at all outside of that? Perhaps fatigue, cramps, headaches, nausea, or dizziness? Anything odd..."

 

"...Yyyeaaah, actually. Why? Am I sick?" He asked, a bit concerned.

Qingge was frowning now, as those symptoms now seemed to be familiar to him as well. He was tempted to try and smell the fox and see if his senses would confirm the slowly sinking suspicion he hoped wasn't true. Wei Ying had been... Well, he tried to hide it, but as the days passed and still no word came from Caihong about Lan Wangji... He was wor