Actions

Work Header

The peach trees blossom, the water flows.

Chapter Text

Battle at the Burial Mounds...

 

This was what she had to do.

 

Zeng Weili smiled to herself, hand gripping the Stygian seal tightly. She had slipped it out of her brother’s pocket, Wei Wuxian not even noticing it was gone in the midst of battle.

 

Around her, the battle raged on, cultivator against cultivator. She leaped back, dodging an attack, pulling her sword, Shuǐxìng , out.

 

“Zeng Weili,” Jin Zixun said, a maniacal grin on his face. “Today will be the day I take revenge for all the times you’ve looked down on me.”

 

Zeng Weili laughed brightly, deflecting his attacks, leaping back gracefully.

 

“You’ve never even managed to beat your own brother,” she drawled, grinning at the way Jin Zixun flushed in both embarrassment and rage. “What makes you think today will be the day you kill me?”

 

In the corner of her eye, she could see Wei Wuxian’s red flames of resentful energy, flute in hand and the bodies of the dead in the Burial Mound around him. She knew that somewhere else in the commotion, her brothers Nie Huaisang and Nie Mingjue were fighting as well.

 

She continued to fight single-handed, when suddenly a shock of purple hit Jin Zixun, throwing him several feet away from her. She turned to the source, eyes wide, taking in the sight of Jiang Wanyin, her fiance.

 

His eyes were alight with the anger-excitement-adrenaline rush that always accompanied battles or sparring matches, the usual bangs he left loose fluttering with the wind. Right now, he was turned towards her, and she could see his broad shoulders, the way his lips curled into an unhappy frown, the way Zidian slithered back towards him, hitting the occasional upstart that seemed to be on their way to attack her.

 

Here, in the midst of battle, the sight of him took her breath away.

 

Ah, she was going to miss him, wasn’t she?

 

“If you hadn’t fucking agreed to this farce of an engagement, maybe we wouldn’t have to deal with this at all!” Jiang Wanyin roared. Next to him, Jiang Yanli covered her mouth in shock at his words and Wei Wuxian stood up, eyes alight with rage. But Jiang Wanyin wasn’t done.

 

“What was the point of all of this?” Jiang Cheng asked, and Zeng Weili didn’t really answer because she got the feeling that this was a rhetorical question. Jiang Wanyin huffed, running his hand over his face, breathing in deeply like he was trying to calm himself.

 

“God, I fucking hate you,” he whispered, almost like it wasn’t meant to be heard. “Everything about you- your mannerisms, the way you talk, the way you fight, the way you act like everything is a damn game- has only made me believe even more that you’re arrogant, conceited and selfish.”

 

Zeng Weili smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Do you really hate me that much?” she asked, knowing better but unable to stop herself. She knew she shouldn't ask, she knew she was only going to hurt herself.

 

But it was better to have it out in the open than to never know the truth.

 

“Of course I dislike you! It didn’t even take me a month to realize that even if you were the last woman on earth, I would never fucking marry you!” Jiang Wanyin roared, like it was a truth ripped from his chest against his will.

 

Zeng Weili thought she could feel something shatter inside her.

 

She had known better.

 

“A-Cheng!” Jiang Yanli yelped, tugging on his sleeves.

 

Zeng Weili didn’t move, the smile on her face still in place as she listened to the words of her fiance. If she let go of the smile, then he would know. He would know how much he was hurting her.

 

If this was how Jiang Wanyin felt, then perhaps her plan for tomorrow was even better than she had originally thought. She didn’t want Wei Wuxian to sacrifice himself, and she knew that Jiang Wanyin was fond of her brother, even if he showed it through disgruntled muttering and yelling.

 

It wouldn’t matter that she was the one who was gone. Her family would grieve her, but they would move forward.

 

“The minute this damn battle is over, we’re going to end this. We’re ending this engagement, I can’t pretend to do this anymore. I hate you, I hope I never have to see you again,” Jiang Wanyin breathed, his eyes staring at her.

 

Ah.

 

Zeng Weili didn’t respond, watching Jiang Wanyin breathe heavily, watching as his own words hit him, the realization of what he had just said.

 

“Jiang Cheng!” Wei Wuxian roared, hand on his sword.

 

“A-Xian,” Zeng Weili said, proud that her voice didn’t shake. “Let it go. We have a battle tomorrow, we can’t afford to fight amongst ourselves.”

 

This was for the best. It had been her selfishness and her desire to help fix things that had caused Jiang Wanyin to lose his freedom to get married to someone he actually loved. Wasn’t that the greatest arrogance? The idea that she could change everything, simply because she wanted to?

 

And in that arrogance, she had taken Jiang Wanyin from someone he had loved, even if it had never been put into words.

 

She had taken him away from her and fallen for him herself.

 

She truly was more despicable than she realized.

 

Zeng Weili stood up, bowing to Jiang Yanli, who was reaching out to her, tears in her eyes. Jiang Wanyin was covering his mouth now, horrified.

 

“Zeng Weili,” Jiang Cheng started, moving towards her. Wei Wuxian stepped in front of him, blocking his way.

 

“A-Xian, let’s go,” Zeng Weili said, before a fight could break out. “Jiang Wanyin, I will accept the dissolution of our engagement, as you wish. After tomorrow, you won’t see me again.”

 

She bowed low, earning a hiss of disapproval and rage from Wei Wuxian and a gasp of disbelief from Jiang Yanli.

 

Zeng Weili stood straight, making eye contact with Jiang Wanyin, hoping he would not see her pain and her heartache in her eyes. She found that she couldn’t hold the smile on her face, so she turned around, letting it drop now that no one could see her.

 

Now wasn’t the time, she had to put everything into place.

 

Ah, yes. Zeng Weili’s lips quirked up as her eyes met her fiance’s, leaping backwards, once. Twice.

 

She pulled the Stygian seal out, watched as his face fell, horror slowly forming on his face as the ritual seal lit up around her, bathing her features in a red light.

 

The smile on her face faded, the joy of battle seeping out of her. Her lips curved into something much sadder, a heartbreaking curl of her lips.

 

She would miss him, but he wouldn’t miss her .

 

“Be free...A-Yin,” she murmured, her grip tightening on the amulet as she closed her eyes, letting the object drain her of her core. Here, moments before her life ended, she could allow herself to speak to him warmly, to use an endearment he had never allowed her to use, would never allow her to use.

 

It was the one thing she allowed herself at this moment, this small moment of weakness.

 

“A-jie!” she heard Wei Wuxian scream, footsteps coming towards her. 

 

She was scared. She knew she had to do this, but she was scared. She wanted her Da-ge, her annoying little brothers, her-

 

She refused to acknowledge the tears welling up in her eyes.

 

Through her closed eyes, she could see the purple of Jiang Wanyin’s Zidian, and her lips lost a little of the smile.

 

“A-LI!” Jiang Wanyin screamed, the footsteps more rapid, someone running towards her.

 

She opened her eyes, confused at the yell. Jiang Wanyin never called her that- he despised her far too much to want to use an endearment as warm as that. She watched as Jiang Wanyin ran towards her, the oddest look on his face.

 

What did that expression mean?

 

She didn’t have much time to think about it, because that was the last thing she saw before the amulet drew on her life force, the world fading to black.

 

The last thing she felt was the seal disintegrating in her hands.

 

And then...nothing.

 


 

Thirteen Years Ago…

 

The first memory she had of this world was filled with a mix of pain and confusion. She was laying on the hard, cold ground, looking up at the worried face of a small boy, no older than 8, looking down at her. His dark hair was tied up, his eyes wide with worry.

 

“Jiejie?” he cried, reaching out to her. “Jiejie, are you alright?”

 

She was not, in fact, alright. 

 

To begin with, her last memory was her in her office, working her usual overtime, trying to meet the seemingly never-ending demands of her demanding boss. She had been 23, having finally left school and working in a reputable company. 

 

Now, she was on the streets, lying on the ground, a small boy hovering above her, calling her ‘Jiejie’.

 

That word was oddly familiar to her, and she couldn’t, for the life of her, figure out why.

 

“What...where am I?”

 

Hearing this, the boy’s face fell, his excitement at her having woken up fading into worry and panic.

 

“We’re...we’re in Yiling. Does...does Jiejie not remember anything?” he asked, tilting his head slightly.

 

Now that the headache had subsided a little and the world seemed to stop moving on its own, she was able to focus on the boy, the sounds of a busy street somewhere further down the alley they were huddled in. The air, even in this weird alleyway, smelled oddly clean, in a way that it never could in a city.

 

“No,” she said, shaking her head, before wincing. Maybe she had shaken her head with a little too much force.

 

“Oh,” the boy said, pouting slightly. The worry hadn’t faded from her face, though he seemed to have calmed down a little. “This one is Wei Ying. Ah, Wei Wuxian. You’re Zeng Weili. We live here.”

 

After a pause, the boy continued.

 

“You were hungry and fainted. Wei Ying kept you safe here.”

 

Hearing that name sparked warning bells in her head because she knew that name. That was a name she had read and heard several times over the past months. She had read a book, Mo Dao Zu Shi , and then gone forth to watch the animated and the live-action adaptations of the book with great excitement. So of course, she knew the name of the main character.

 

Her panicked brain connected the dots between their location- Yiling- and the boy's name and age. 

 

She was...she was in the world of Mo Dao Zu Shi?

 

Why was she here?

 

Was this a dream?

 

She reached out and pinched herself, yelping at the sharp pain up her arm at the action, but it only served as fuel for panic.

 

“Wei Ying,” she said, her voice quiet. “How old am I? How old are you?”

 

“Jiejie is 9!” Wei Ying said, excitedly, clearly happy at the idea of talking about his Jiejie, even if it was to the woman- no girl- in question herself.

 

“And Wei Ying?”

 

“Wei Ying is 8!” he said excitedly.

 

Wei Ying was 8, she was 9 and they were in Yiling. She wasn’t sure why she was in this state, but she knew that she needed to get out of here as soon as possible.

 

This was not the time to panic, she could panic once they were both safe somewhere. Because if Wei Ying was 8, then she had one more year before Jiang Fengiman found Wei Ying.

 

And she knew what would happen if he went there. He would be happy with his siblings but also miserable with where he was, who he was, and history would repeat itself.

 

Should she interfere? Surely the plot would continue even without her involvement? 

 

She could feel the ocean of anxiety within her rise, making her gasp for breath as if she was drowning.

 

“Jiejie?” Wei Ying yelped, grabbing her arm.

 

Abruptly, all the panic subsided, as if Wei Ying’s touch had banished them from her chest, leaving behind a simple warmth, a fondness.

 

Was this the original Zeng Weili’s emotions towards Wei Ying? It felt like a little sun had exploded within her, filling her with warmth in spite of the cold ground she was sitting on.

 

“Wei Ying,” she said, her voice soft but resolute. She wasn’t completely certain that this was not a dream. But if this body’s original soul did return and she left, the least she could do was ensure that she and this small, clearly malnourished child was somewhere safe.

 

She wasn’t sure if she had died in her own world and came here if this was a weird work-fueled fever dream, but she couldn’t do anything about being here. The streets were not safe for either of them, even if they had been living here for who knows how long. She needed to get them somewhere safe and warm.

 

At the same time, she had read enough transmigration webtoons to know that if this was all real, she needed a plan. And her current, most pressing, concern was Wei Wuxian. She needed to get Wei Wuxian out of the streets. 

 

The idea of planning soothed her anxiety, shattering the panic as her mind went into overdrive. She thought through the sects that she could remember from the book. As such there were five sects that were focused on in the book.

 

Lotus Pier was out of the question. The one thing she had hated about the Jiang family had been how the mother, Madam Yu, had treated Wei Wuxian and how the father, Jiang Fengiman, had treated his own son. It had infuriated her, and she refused to send this small boy to that place knowing the abuse that was to come.

 

Wei Wuxian may have built many happy memories at Lotus Pier but he had also gained many, many scars at a very unfortunate young age.

 

She couldn’t do that.

 

The Lans were also out of question. Wei Wuxian may have loved Lan Wangji but his free spirit had had a hard time adjusting to the many rules during his brief time there as a student, and she was sure that there were only two possible outcomes of them going there. Either Wei Wuxian’s spirit would be stifled or he would drive everyone in Cloud Recess absolutely insane and to qi-deviation.

 

That left the Jin sect- which was an obvious and resounding no for so many reasons- and the Nie Sect. She wasn’t even going to consider the Wen’s, given what she knew was going to happen.

 

And so all that she had, as an option, was the Nie sect.

 

“Jiejie?” Wei Ying asked, huddling closer to her, like he needed the reassurance that she was okay. Given that she still wasn’t sure what had happened to this body’s original owner, his concern was a valid one. 

 

“Wei Ying, we need to leave Yiling.”

 

Yes, that was the best idea right now. She had a year before Jiang Fengiman took Wei Wuxian away, but she couldn’t stay as she was now. Wei Wuxian was eight, but was far too tiny and thin for a boy his age. Her heart ached at the idea of this small boy surviving out of the streets, dealing with the cruelty of strangers.

 

She was sure that this body, and the owner of this body, had been through just as much, if not more given that she was a girl.

 

“What?” Wei Ying asked, confused. “Why? This is our home.”

 

“Do you trust your Jiejie, Wei Ying?” Zeng Weili asked, looking at Wei Ying seriously. She still didn’t remember much about her life before this exact moment, but she had the feeling, like this body knew something she didn’t, that Zeng Weili and Wei Ying took care of each other.

 

“Of course!” Wei Ying said, with the excitement of a child. It hurt her heart that even like this, even as a child starving on the street, Wei Ying retained the bright cheerful nature of a child.

 

Okay, she could do this. She would figure out how to get them safely to the Nie Sect and ask them to help them. If she couldn’t get them to take both of them, then she would beg them to at least take Wei Ying.

 

“We’re going to go to Qinghe,” she said, quietly. “It will be a long journey, but we must make it, Wei Ying.”

 

“Okay!” he said, tilting his head slightly. “But Jiejie, how will we get there? Isn’t it very far away?”

 

Zeng Weili nodded, a slight sigh escaping her. Wei Ying was incredibly trusting, at this age, not even asking her any questions. Perhaps he was very close to Zeng Weili, but she could listen to the story of how they met and who they were to each other once she had figured out a way to get them to Qinghe.

 

She would have to talk to him about trusting people on their journey.

 

“First, Wei Ying, pretend I am a boy. Do I look like one?”

 

“Jiejie looks like Jiejie,” Wei Ying said simply, clearly confused.

 

“It will be safer for us if people don’t know I am a girl,” Zeng Weili said slowly and Wei Ying’s eyes lit up in understanding before fading into anger.

 

“I’ll protect you from them!” he said, angrily, with the single-minded focus of a child.

 

“I am sure you will,” Zeng Weili said, pushing down the amusement in the hope that it didn’t slip into her voice. “But for us to avoid trouble, I must look like a boy.”

 

“Jiejie is often confused for a boy anyway!” Wei Ying said, brightly. “Jiejie told me, it's because bad men want to do bad things with little girls and so she must pretend to be a boy. I call Jiejie ‘Jiejie’ only when we are alone.”

 

“Very good,” she said and watched the boy bloom under the praise. She was glad that the old Zeng Weili had the foresight to protect herself in this manner. “Then we shall try to leave Yiling as soon as possible. Surely some of the merchants will need someone to help them with things, even if it's manual work.”

 

That was how Zeng Weili found herself walking with Wei Ying towards where the merchants were packing up their wares, preparing to leave Yiling. The street was loud, large groups of men chattering amongst themselves. A few of the groups had women, who were quietly murmuring to each other, sticking to their own groups in a way that the men were not. She took a moment to eye them all, before focusing on an old man that was packing away his wares. By his side was a young man, bearing a striking resemblance to the old man.

 

She tugged on Wei Ying’s arm, approaching them. She was careful to keep Wei Ying’s small body behind her.

 

“Excuse me,” she said, carefully, watching the old man turn. She trusted her gut, she had a feeling like she would be useful to this old man given he only had one companion, but at the same time, she had a feeling he would be a safer choice.

 

They would do this. She could do this.

 


 

Zeng Weili wasn’t certain if it was a testament to her own negotiation skills or the old man’s kind heart that they were able to travel with him and his young grandson. Zeng Weili had clearly stated that she didn’t need the payment for the work they did, but she did want to ensure they were fed, kept safe, and taken to Qinghe. 

 

Wei Ying stuck to Zeng Weili’s side, quietly helping the old man take items off their cart and back on it when asked. The two kept their distance from the duo, more out of habit than anything else, unwilling to hope for anything from them.

 

The road to Qinghe was a long one and they had to make many stops, but finally, after three weeks of traveling, Wei Ying and Zeng Weili finally reached Qinghe.

 

“Are you two sure you want to be dropped here?” the grandson asked, seeming to be a little wary of leaving two tiny children on their own in a new city.

 

“Yes, we will be fine,” Zeng Weili said, quietly. She wasn’t sure if they would be, but she hoped that it was possible. If she and Wei Ying were able to get taken in by the clan, maybe as disciples, they would be safe for the time being. They were both as clean as they possibly could be, and she took Wei Ying’s hand, waving at the old man and the grandson.

 

“Wait!” the old man said, reaching into his pocket. “I know you said you didn’t want money, but take these coins. If nothing else, it will get you a place for the night or something to eat.”

 

Zeng Weili smiled up at the man, a little awkward but touched by his kindness.

 

“Thank you,” she murmured, holding the money to her chest. This would help them if her plans fell through.

 

Like Yiling, Qinghe was loud. The streets were busy, vendors coming and going, selling their fares. It was colder than Yiling, but that only served as a stronger force for her to make sure that she saw this through.

 

Over the weeks, she had slowly settled into the idea that she appeared to be stuck here. She wasn’t sure what had happened to her original body, nor what had happened to the soul that originally inhabited this body. However, every night, she went to sleep thinking she would wake up in the office. And every morning that came with a sense of futile confusion and annoyance that she was still here.

 

Now, standing in the cold air of Qinghe, surrounded by the loud inhabitants and black and gold robes around them, she felt like something settled in her. She had something to do, and she could take time to figure everything out once she was sure they were safe. 

 

She had always done exceptionally well when she had something to keep her busy.

 

She held tightly to Wei Ying’s hand, making sure to walk fast but not too fast so that he could keep up.

 

“Where are we going?” Wei Ying asked, quietly, into her ear. He avoided calling her jiejie the entire trip, even when alone. The boy was smart, not trusting the kindness of the two men they were traveling with.

 

“We’re going to ask if the Nie sect will take us in,” she mumbled to him. “I don’t know if it will work, but we must try.”

 

Wei Ying nodded. He didn’t think they would be taken in, given the brief glimpse he had had into the world of cultivators on the streets. Yet, he followed along, willing to do whatever his jiejie thought was necessary to survive.

 

“Can we eat something first?” he asked, his stomach rumbling slightly. They had eaten breakfast a long time ago, and it was well past the time for lunch. Zeng Weili nodded, pulling him towards a cart selling Baozi. There weren’t too many people around the cart, but enough that she was sure the food would be good.

 

Dà yé , could we have two pork baozi?” she asked, on her tiptoes to meet the eyes of the elderly vendor over the cart.

 

The elderly man nodded, motioning for them to take a seat near the cart as he pulled out the baozi. The only other person sitting was a tall, large man in gold and black. He was easily three times their size and Zeng Weili quickly maneuvered Wei Ying so that she was sitting next to the man and he was sitting further away.

 

The man glanced at them, clearly noticing her actions, his lips twitching slightly in amusement.

 

“Hello little ones,” he said. He had a deep voice and warm dark brown eyes. From the offset, he seemed like a friendly man, but Zeng Weili couldn’t help but feel suspicious. However, regardless of the suspicion, he was dressing in Nie clothes and so maybe he could help them.

 

“Hello Xiansheng ,” she said, carefully, looking up to him. The elderly vendor handed them their baos, Wei Ying hastily biting away at it.  Zeng Weili bit carefully into hers, eyes still on the man next to her. He was watching them eat, a small amused smile on his face, warmth in his eyes.

 

“How old are you two?” he asked. “Surely your parents are nearby. Should you be roaming around alone like this?”

 

“Wei Ying is 8!” Wei Ying said, swallowing the last bite of his bao. “We don’t have parents, we live on the streets!”

 

“This one is 9,”  Zeng Weili said, more formally, breaking off half her bao to hand it to Wei Ying. “Eat more Wei Ying, you were hungry.”

 

Her eyes were momentarily on Wei Ying, who lit up at the prospect of more food, so she didn’t notice the way the man’s face fell slightly, softened by sadness. Wei Ying froze the bao halfway to his mouth before turning to her.

 

“But...you should also eat?” he said, confused.

 

 Zeng Weili smiled, patting him on the head.

 

“You need to eat and grow big. I’ll be full with this.”

 

“Do you have a place to stay?” the man asked, dragging her attention back to him. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, making the man put his hands up to appear harmless. “No no, don’t worry, I don’t mean that in a strange way. It's just that you could come to my sect. I have two sons around your age.”

 

She paused, staring at him for a long moment. Next to her Wei Ying had finished his extra half of the baozi.

 

“You’re from the Nie sect,” she stated, looking at his outer robe. “Those are Nie colors.”

 

“That's right!” he said, an easy smile forming on his face. “And there aren’t a lot of young children in our sect, so you can come with me if you’d like.”

 

She was still very wary of this man, but something told her he wasn’t lying.

 

“Will you take us in as disciples?” she asked, gripping the piece of baozi she had in her hand tightly.

 

“If that is what you both want, then I can make that happen,” he said, his warm smile still in place. “What are your names?”

 

“This one is Wei Ying,” Wei Ying chirped, watching the man like a hawk. “Courtesy name Wei Wuxian.”

 

“This one is Zeng Weili,”  Zeng Weili said, after a long pause, watching the man. His eyes widened in surprise, but she held his gaze. 

 

After a moment, his eyes softened.

 

“My wife always did want a daughter,” he murmured, mostly to himself. After a moment, he continued, “My name is Nie Zhaohui.”

 

Zeng Weili’s eyes widened in surprise. On the way here, she had heard stories of Nie Zhaohui, the current Sect Leader of the Qinghe Nie Sect.

 

She scrambled to her feet, bowing deeply.

 

“This one apologizes for not recognizing you, Sect Leader Nie,” she said, shaking slightly. What if he decided to leave them out here? She hadn’t expected to meet him so soon, or even at all. She had merely hoped that she could get into the sect in some manner, and then wing it.

 

“You had no way of recognizing me, Zeng Weili,” he said, with a smile. “If you are done eating, come with me. We can discuss someplace warmer.”

 

He offered his hand to her, for her to take. In his hands was the possibility for her to change Wei Wuxian’s fate.

 

How could she not take it?