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children at heart (and body, unfortunately)

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"I didn't think you had it in you, Young Mistress." Lan Jingyi teased as he approached the young Jin sect leader while crossing his arms behind his head.

 

"So you can be gentle and loving if you want to be?" Lan Jingyi can be a bit smug and mocking to be from the Lan Sect if you asked Jin Ling. 

 

Said Young Mistress could only send a deep scowl much to the Lan's amusement, given that his hands were occupied at the moment. If Jin Ling weren't so busy cradling two tiny children in his arms, Lan Jingyi would get what's coming to him.

 

"Why you-!!" Jin Ling huffed angrily, "Don't just stand there, you dimwit! Help me if you don't want to do even more handstands when Hanguang Jun finds out!!"

 

"Are you threatening me?" Lan Jingyi glares at him, "May I remind you that this is all your fault? We wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't-" 

 

"Is it entirely my fault?! Who exactly tripped and activated the array here?! It was so obviously you, Jingyi!" 

 

Their bickering voices grew louder in volume with each retort and blame from the other. They could go at it until dawn if they wanted to but the cries from two little ones made them stop altogether. 

 

"Jingyi, A-Ling..." Lan Sizhui sighed in exasperation as he approached the two after examining the array. "You should know better than to scream in front of children..." he thought aloud while taking one of the crying children in Jin Ling's arms and cradled him into his.

 

Jin Ling huffed as he comforted the one left in his arms. Lan Jingyi pursed his lips in embarrassment, averting gazes. "Sorry..."

 

Lan Sizhui smiled gently at the two, "Please remember our current predicament. Let's not fight and point fingers. Our seniors are in trouble." he reprimands them lightly with a smile but his eyes were sharp as he made eye contact with them both. 

 

Jin Ling pouted angrily, "There's nothing we can do except wait, right?"

 

Lan Jingyi adds, "This is the weirdest curse I've seen, who'd want to make adults children?"

 

Lan Sizhui smiles sadly, looking down at the child he's carrying in his arms all tired out from the crying and sound asleep. It was Wei Wuxian, their Senior Wei regressed to a mere child of about 4 or 5 years of age. In Jin Ling's arms was no other than Sect Leader Jiang cursed under similar conditions. 

 

"I've analyzed the array." Lan Sizhui starts, the two looking at him for answers, "It seems that the effects are only temporary, let's wait at least three days for the curse to wear off." 

 

Jin Ling sighs in relief, his shoulders losing tension as he cradles the sleeping little Jiang Cheng in his arms. "That's good."

 

"We'll have to report this to the Seniors and let them further investigate the persons responsible for this."

 

Lan Jingyi whines, "Ugh, I hate writing reports.."

 

Lan Sizhui chuckled lightly, "It's part of nighthunting, Jingyi." he consoles and begins to mount his sword once unsheathed. "Let's head back to the Cloud Recesses, for now. We don't want to worry Hanguang Jun even more, do we?"

 

His two friends nod stiffly and begin to mount their own swords. 

 

This was going to be a long night. 

 

 

 

 

They've arrived in Gusu in record time and to avoid any more problems from arising, they decided to enter the Cloud Recesses via the back mountains, where the bunnies and Little Apple settled. 

 

They glance at the toddlers upon descent and were glad to see they were still sound asleep and warm despite the hard travel.

 

So far so good.

 

They silently make their way to the stone path and towards Jin Ling's room in the guest quarters to settle there for the night. They still had to explain the problem at hand to the Seniors in the morning and break the news to Hanguang Jun that his husband is temporarily a toddler. The latter was more difficult to do than the former if they thought about it.

 

"Tomorrow is gonna be the wor-"

 

"It is past curfew already." a calm, deep voice utters in the silence of the night, interrupting Jin Ling.

 

They all stop in their tracks with spines straight and taut, but the trio refused to turn and face the owner of that voice. 

 

They know who it is, of course. Who else could it be?

 

Lan Jingyi whispered, "Maybe we should've went in through the front gates instead."

 

"Lan Jingyi? Sizhui? Jin Rulan?" Hanguang Jun calls, an underlying question already forming itself in the dead silence before they are spoken.

 

Where is Wei Ying? 

 

To make matters worse, the man— or toddler, in this case— decides to stir awake in Lan Sizhui's arms. If little Sect Leader Jiang woke up to a crying fit now, the gods must definitely hate them.

 

"Gege? Where, we?" their little Senior Wei mumbles tiredly, his question incoherent from the sleep.

 

In that silent night, they all heard the quiet gasp escape from Hanguang Jun's lips. The three turn in unison to find their senior's eyes fixed on the toddler— his husband, Wei Ying. 

 

"Wan' sleep more." Little Wei mumbles before curling himself in Lan Sizhui's arms, his breaths even out instantly and he was out like a light.

 

Their eyes remain on Hanguang Jun, waiting for his words with pursed lips and held breaths.

 

"Will you explain?"

 

They all bow in unison, or bow as properly as they could with toddlers in their arms. Lan Jingyi tries to make up for his two friends by bowing a perfect 90 degree angle. "Yes, Hanguang Jun."

 

"Jingshi." was all he said before they began to walk quietly to that direction.

 

 

 

 

"I see." Hanguang Jun says quietly after he sipped from his freshly brewed cup of tea.

 

The three juniors all sat stiffly around the table inside the jingshi while Hanguang Jun listened to their recount of the earlier events. The toddlers were carefully laid down on the bed just behind the dividing paper screens, sound asleep and without a worry in the world.

 

"What do you think we should do, Hanguang Jun?" Lan Sizhui inquired. Despite the harmless circumstance of their two prominent cultivators and seniors, they all wished for a faster way to get this curse over and done with.

 

Hanguang Jun sips on his tea slowly, emptying the cup before he answered, "Rest."

 

"Huh?" Jin Ling utters in disbelief before he could stop himself. "I mean- Hanguang Jun, Jiujiu and Da-Jiu are toddlers."

 

Hanguang sets his cup down and clasps his hands on his lap, giving his attention to the youngest of the trio. "Yes. And there is nothing else to be done. The curse will lift itself with time."

 

They all remained quiet, heads down and eyes filled with guilt.

 

It was quiet for a beat before they hear an amused huff. They slowly raise their head in shock, Hanguang Jun laughed— or as close as a laugh you can get from the stoic jade.

 

He speaks to them in a deep but gentle voice, "You have done the best you can. Rest for tonight and worry again tomorrow."

 

With that, Hanguang Jun rises from the table before any of the juniors could first. He opens a cabinet in the corner and proceeds to lay down the spare beddings. "It is late. You may rest here."

 

Realizing what their senior is doing, they all snap out of their reverie and rush to do their senior, taking over his work in laying out their beds.

 

"What about you Hanguang Jun?" Lan Jingyi asks in a hushed voice. They've already settled and tucked themselves in their makeshift beds before belatedly realizing there was no space for their senior to sleep.

 

Hanguang Jun sits on his knees by the table, a stack of papers on one corner and a brush in one hand. "Do not worry. Go to sleep."

 

The trio exchange glances at one another before reluctantly lying down and sleeping as told. 

 

Hanguang Jun may appear calm, confident and collected in their presence, but he's probably the most worried and anxious in that room as of the moment. 

 

Who wouldn't be when you find your beloved husband cursed— regressed to a mere toddler?

 

They hear the strokes of brush on paper, a sad sigh stolen in the night breeze, and quiet mumbles from once adults behind a screen before they lull to sleep.

 

Tomorrow, they will worry. Tonight, they'll let themselves rest.

 

 

 

 

They rise even before the sun does. 

 

Or Lan Sizhui does, at least. The Lan Sect's sleep and wake up routine heavily ingrained into his body for most of his life that it'd be impossible to get out of the habit.

 

Lan Jingyi tries to stay awake with an effort despite living with such a routine his entire life. One moment he rises, the next he's curled up in the blankets with a yawn. 

 

Jin Ling does not even stir despite the rustle of sheets and Lan Jingyi's far too loud yawning. He's still a growing boy needing his hours of sleep to feel well-rested, after all. 

 

Hanguang Jun did not sleep at all last night, only meditating for most of it in the corner of the room and checking on the toddlers when he hears even the slightest whimper.

 

"Good morning, Hanguang Jun." Lan Sizhui bows to the man who nods his head in return. 

 

They both quietly occupy themselves with their own tasks; one brewing an early morning tea while the other tidies up and attempts to wake his sleeping companions. Lan Jingyi finally wills himself up at the fourth attempt with eyes shut and hair untamed. 

 

"Good morning, Hanguang Jun." Lan Jingyi rubs his face before bowing. 

 

"Mn." Hanguang Jun nods in reply before placing the pot of tea along with their matching tea cups on the table and gesturing for the two to take a seat with him. "Morning tea."

 

The Lan disciples diligently follow, gracefully setting themselves in front of their senior. Lan Sizhui pours tea for all of them and, along with Lan Jingyi, does not drink until Hanguang Jun does. 

 

They bask in this early morning silence; politely sipping on their warm tea, cautiously listening for any waking sounds from the little ones, and silently pondering about the next step.

 

Hanguang Jun sets his cup down, "Call for the healers to check Wei Ying and Sect Leader Jiang' conditions when they awake."

 

"Yes, Hanguang Jun."

 

"Watch over them for the whole duration of this curse."

 

"Yes, Hanguang Jun."

 

Hanguang Jun pauses to pour himself some more tea into his cup while the two Lan disciples make a mental note of his instructions to relay to Jin Ling when he wakes up. 

 

Okay, they can do that. It's three junior disciples against their two seniors now turned toddlers. It's a simple babysitting experience if they had to put it another way. 

 

How bad can it possibly be? 

 

"Please stop Wei Ying from suffocating Jin Rulan."

 

"Yes, Han-" they pause for a moment, processing the last statement.

 

Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi whirl their head to where Jin Ling was still sleeping to find their tiny Senior Wei lying on his stomach on top of the teen's face. It's a feat that Jin Ling can still sleep in such a state. 

 

"Little Senior Wei, don't do that!" Lan Jingyi scrambles to his feet. "Why didn't we hear you wake up?" he ponders aloud as he gently pries him off but Jin Ling's hands reached for their tiny senior's waist a little faster.

 

The young Jin raises the little one in the air and above him while gasping for air. Their Little Senior Wei laughs in glee from being picked up. Jin Ling sits up in a flash, pulling his tiny uncle to his chest. His Da-Jiu responds with his own affection, wrapping his tiny arms around the young Jin's neck and snuggling in the base of it.

 

"You-!" Jin Ling stops before continuing his fuming in a loud whisper, he didn't want the Cloud Recesses to kick him out this early nor make the little one cry. "What do you think you're doing trying to suffocate me, Jingyi?!"

 

The Lan was taken aback before immediately retorting in his own loud whisper, "I was trying to take him off you!"

 

Jin Ling flushes from his misunderstanding, "W-well, you could have picked him up quicker!" he huffs pulling his tiny uncle closer. Little Wei was warm and Jin Ling needed some warmth to combat the early morning cold, obviously. 

 

Lan Jingyi hmphed, "Young Mistress, you should control your temper." 

 

The sliding of doors could be heard and they both turn their attention to it. It was Lan Sizhui along with a Lan servant bringing a few trays of breakfast into the jingshi. Lan Sizhui must've went out as per Hanguang Jun's request to fetch breakfast for all of them when Lan Jingyi was occupied with little Senior Wei and Jin Ling. 

 

Jin Ling feels a tug of his inner robes and looks down. "What is it, Da-Jiu?"

 

The tiny senior scrunched his face at the strange address, "I'm not Da-Jiu! You're older than me, Gege. Call me A-Ying, not Da-Jiu!"

 

Jin Ling flushes once more, "I- Of course. A-A-Ying." he cringes at addressing his uncle in such a way. But the little one is right, in terms of age right now, this was technically appropriate.

 

"Ha! To be scolded by a child." Lan Jingyi muffles a laugh behind his sleeves. 

 

Jin Ling glares, "You-" 

 

"I'm hungry, Gege!!" A-Ying whines before pushing himself away from Jin Ling and behind a paper screens.

 

"H-hey! Don't wake Jiujiu up yet! A-Ying!" Jin Ling panics, who knows what would happen when you wake up a mini Sandu Shengshou.

 

Surprisingly, A-Ying returns with his brother turned toddler in tow. Little Jiang Cheng had his face scrunched but luckily, no tears or tantrums followed. 

 

"He's quite the grump." Lan Jingyi whispers before Jin Ling elbows him while mumbling something about respect and breaking legs. "Ouch!"

 

"Jingyi.." Lan Sizhui can only utter his friend's name in exasperation. 

 

Hanguang Jun clears his throat and they all proceed to settle around the table once more. Lan Sizhui to his left, Jin Ling to the right with mini Jiang Cheng half asleep on his lap, and Lan Jingyi across of him. A-Ying, to everyone's surprise, sits beside Hanguang Jun.

 

"Pretty Gege!" A-Ying smiles widely at Hanguang Jun. "Will you feed A-Ying?" he bats his lashes a bit intentionally with big doe eyes staring at their senior.

 

Let's be honest. No one could resist if they were in Hanguang Jun's place. But really, even as a child... 

 

Senior Wei is shameless, huh. The trio thought as they feel their faces warm.

 

Little Jiang Cheng didn't completely understand the young disciples predicament, only that he pouted angrily at the sight of Hanguang Jun feeding A-Ying some plain rice porridge that had a touch of spiciness for the little one's Yunmeng palate.

 

"Ying Ge! Feed A-Cheng, too!" he whines with his little brows scrunching in the middle and small palms thumping on the table.

 

They all stared at the once prominent, short tempered Sandu Shengshou now turned grumpy A-Cheng, even A-Ying stopped to tilt his head to the side in confusion. 

 

"Feed A-Cheng, too!" A-Cheng whined some more as if his earlier words went unheard. Jin Ling couldn't help but gape. 

 

His jiujiu getting jealous and wanting his brother's attention? What a day to be alive!

 

Lan Sizhui tries to soothe the grumpy toddler from a possible tantrum. "Um, A-Cheng. How about your other gege feeds you instead, hm?"

 

A-Cheng only huffs, crossing his arms over his chest and facing Jin Ling's chest to avoid everyone's eyes. "Want Ying Ge!"

 

Jin Ling sighs while patting his jiujiu's back, "Don't be stubborn."

 

Lan Jingyi chuckles lightly before picking up some fried tofu with his chopsticks and directing it close to the toddler's mouth. "Say 'aahhh', A-Cheng. We don't want to waste good food, do we?"

 

"Dun wan' eat!"

 

The thought comes belatedly but they all raise their heads to meet each other's gaze with slightly flushed cheeks.

 

This is still their senior they're baby-ing.

 

A-Ying only chuckles, leaving Hanguang Jun's side to hold Lan Jingyi's arm with the chopsticks and tofu. "Aaaahhhh~"

 

A-Cheng turns to him reluctantly before opening his mouth and eating the tofu. "Hmph."

 

"Zizhen needs to be here." Lan Jingyi says while clutching his front robes. "Senior Wei and Sect Leader Jiang are so adorable."

 

"They're my uncles you know!" Jin Ling huffs but the softness in his eyes tells he's just as endeared as the Lan.

 

"Come on. Let's finish breakfast and bring them to the healers." Lan Sizhui smiles gently as he watches the little ones. 

 

"Cheng Cheng is good boy!" A-Ying grins while patting A-Cheng on the head, the latter turns away with a huff but they all see the satisfied smile he's failing to fight away.

 

"Ying Ge eat, too!" A-Cheng takes the chopsticks from A-Ying's hand to give him some of the fried tofu but fails adorably. A-Ying only opens his mouth, waiting to be fed by his little brother.

 

Hanguang Jun and the trio juniors seem to have faded in the background, already forgetten by the two little ones.

 

"Aiya, A-Ying and A-Cheng are feeding each other, but what about this gege? Who'll feed this gege, hm?" Lan Jingyi decides to butt in and have some fun with the situation in the end.

 

Jin Ling grimaces, looking away as he chews on his meal. "Are you handicapped? Eat your own food with your own hands. Geez, you are so embarrassing."

 

Lan Sizhui simply smiles, choosing to eat rather than get involved in another one of their bickering.

 

Hanguang Jun places his chopsticks and spoon down on his bowl, already finishing breakfast. But he does not leave the table and only continues to watch the two toddlers.

 

A-Ying giggles each time A-Cheng tries to feed him some tofu. "A-Cheng my mouth is here, not the table."

 

"Sh-Shut up. I'm trying!" A-Cheng pouts furiously before he picks up the spoon instead, scooping a bit of the porridge and shoving it into his brother's mouth. "Here! AH"

 

"Hehe. Yummy!" A-Ying smiles, "Thank you, A-Cheng."

 

Hanguang Jun smiles lightly before returning to a neutral expression. He silently gets up from his kneeling position, raising a hand when the juniors get up, too. "Finish your meal. And take care of them. Excuse me." he bows and exits the jingshi.

 

"See you later, Pretty Gege!" Hanguang Jun stops and turns to the jingshi. He finds his Wei Ying, now very small and far too many years younger, wave at him with a bright smile.

 

Hanguang Jun lets himself smile before nodding at A-Ying and turning away once again.

 

At least his Wei Ying's smile is still the same. Ever so bright and without a worry in the world. Hopefully, he will come home a little sooner rather than later.

 

 

 

 

"What do you mean you lost him?!" Jin Ling practically screams into the silence of the Cloud Recesses.

 

"That is not true!" Lan Jingyi keeps his voice even and calm, the way it usually is not. "I didn't lose him at all. I only just discovered today that A-Ying is a master at hide-and-seek."

 

Jin Ling raises a judging brow at the Lan. "You lost him." he scoffs, "Why am I even surprised? I should've expected something like this to happen coming from you."

 

"Again, I didn't lose him!" Lan Jingyi almost yells in exasperation before he sheepishly adds, "I just haven't found him yet."

 

"It hasn't even been an hour since Sizhui left us with Jiujiu and Da-Jiu! It hasn't even been ten minutes since I left you to put Jiujiu to sleep!" Jin Ling rants, flailing his arms to emphasize his point. 

 

"Listen-"

 

"You had one job, Jingyi! One. Job."

 

Lan Jingyi places his hands in front of the young Jin as if trying to soothe a wild animal, "Calm down. This is not as bad as it seems."

 

"How is this not bad?! You lost my Da-Jiu!" he points at him accusingly, jabbing a finger on the Lan's chest. 

 

Lan Jingyi grabs Jin Ling's finger, "I said calm down, already! And I didn't lose Senior Wei!" 

 

Jin Ling narrows his eyes at the blatant lie, taking away his finger from Lan Jingyi's grasp. "Didn't lose him, you say. Well, where is he then?" 

 

"He couldn't have gone far, okay? It'd be even more impossible if he's outside the Cloud Recesses."

 

Jin Ling could feel a migraine coming as he rubs at his temples. Lan Jingyi ignores the young sect leader and continues to look around; past some bushes, behind the nearby trees, inside the jingshi.

 

It doesn't take long until Jin Ling joins in on the search. They split up to cover more ground within the couple of feet away from the jingshi and double checking possible hiding spots. 

 

They've even gone as far as the back mountains without any other disciples of the Lan Sect spotting them, especially Hanguang Jun and Lan Sizhui. They'd be in big trouble if they found out what happened.

 

But A-Ying was nowhere to be found.

 

"How far could he have gone with those tiny legs?!" Lan Jingyi groans into the palm of his hands. Maybe, A-Ying did manage to wander outside the Cloud Recesses without anyone's knowledge? 

 

"Sizhui is going to kill us." Jin Ling deadpans. "This is all your fault!"

 

"You-!" Lan Jingyi stops himself from arguing when he hears someone's footsteps make their way down the stone path and towards the jingshi.

 

They look towards the source and finds,

 

"G-Grandmaster Lan." they scramble to greet the elder with a bow.

 

Lan Qiren nods at the two and eyes them both suspiciously. "Noise is forbidden in the Cloud Recesses."

 

Before the two could even reply or raise their heads, Lan Qiren continues with his scolding. "Running around is also forbidden. Raising one's voice, causing commotion, disturbing the peace of the Cloud Recesses and those around you..." he stops to stroke his goatee, eyes not leaving Lan Jingyi and Jin Ling. "How many rules do you plan to break today?"

 

They bow even lower to the elder and reply at once:

"This one apologizes for causing trouble. I will take any punishment Grandmaster deems fit."

"Please forgive this one for causing trouble. I will properly receive punishment."

 

They hear Grandmaster Lan sigh, "How hard is it exactly to put a child like Wei Ying to sleep?"

 

Lan Jingyi and Jin Ling straighten their backs at the name. They lower their gazes from the elder and to the sleeping toddler in his arms. They both sputter to find an appropriate response and proper explanation.

 

Lan Qiren raises a hand to silence them, "I've already been informed of the situation by Wangji. Just take him to a proper bed to let him rest. He won't be waking up until late this afternoon." he says with finality, passing the sleeping A-Ying into Jin Ling's arms.

 

A-Ying stirs, causing the three to stop and hold their breaths. If he wakes up now, chaos will ensue once again.

 

And nobody wants that. 

 

Not yet, at least.

 

"Uncle Goat, play more, had fun..." the little one utters before his breathing evens out, sleeping peacefully.

 

Grandmaster Lan clears his throat, his ears flushing a light pink as he turns away with hands behind his back. "Do watch him properly this time. If you'd lost both him and Jiang Wanyin..." he shakes his head, deciding not finish that sentence and walks away without another backwards glance.

 

Lan Jingyi lets himself drop to his knees as he releases a deep breath, "Grand Uncle didn't punish us."

 

Jin Ling silently releases his own sigh of relief before carefully pulling A-Ying closer to his chest. "I'm not dealing with you anymore. I'm putting Da-Jiu to bed with Jiujiu." he turns away and walks swiftly to the jingshi where little A-Cheng had been napping the whole time.

 

"Hey, wait up!"

 

Jin Ling slides the jingshi's doors open and nearly misses his little Jiujiu make a run outside before Lan Jingyi catches him on the porch.

 

"Where do you think you're going, huh?" Lan Jingyi grins at a pouting A-Cheng. "Excited to play with your fun gege?"

 

"Put me down!" A-Cheng flails, kicking and punching whatever his small hands and feet could reach. Lan Jingyi ignores the little grumpy child, continuing to carry the toddler within arm's reach so he doesn't get any more scratches or bruises. "You're staying in here with your gege, A-Cheng."

 

"Nooo, wan' go outside!"

 

"Well, too bad." Lan Jingyi grins at the scowling child. "We're staying inside!"

 

A-Cheng purses his lips as Lan Jingyi carries him to where Jin Ling was kneeling by the bed, tucking the sleeping little A-Ying in light blankets.

 

"Now that that one's gone to dream land, what do we do with this grumpy one, Ling Gege?" Lan Jingyi squats down, releasing the fussy toddler from his hands.

 

Jin Ling huffs, choosing to ignore the Lan's question in favor of eyeing his wandering little uncle. "Just shut up, will you."

 

Lan Jingyi nudges his shoulder, "Now, now, Young Mistress, don't be like that. The kids are both here, safe and sound." 

 

"No thanks to you." Jin Ling scoffs with a roll of his eyes.

 

"Okay, okay. It's my fault." he admits without a fight which only makes Jin Ling narrow his eyes at him.

 

"Yeah. It's your fault."

 

Lan Jingyi continues calmly without much argument. "How about you rest with A-Ying and I keep watch of A-Cheng?" he smiles innocently, making Jin Ling even more suspicious and doubtful.

 

The Lan smiles albeit a little teasingly, nudging him towards the bed, "Go on. When mom's tired, dad takes over, no?"

 

Jin Ling flushes, giving him a good punch on the shoulder, "Who's mom and who's dad, huh? I'll break your damned legs, you-"

 

"Damn legs!" A-Cheng repeats, he'd been standing on the opposite side of the room, just close to the floorboards where Wei Wuxian's stash of Emperor's Smile is kept hidden. "Break damn legs!" he cheers with a big smile on his face.

 

Jin Ling facepalms. "Ugh..." he sighs in defeat, deciding that maybe he did need a little nap after all that trouble earlier. 

 

He makes his way to the opposite side of the bed and lies down next to A-Ying who turns and nuzzles himself closer to Jin Ling's side. "You better be watching jiujiu or else-"

 

"You'll break my legs, I get it. Just trust me, won't you?" Lan Jingyi waves a hand dismissively at him, moving closer to A-Cheng.

 

"That's what I'm afraid of." Jin Ling trails off, covering his eyes with his arm. "Don't make me regret this, Jingyi."

 

It only takes a few minutes before Lan Jingyi hears the quiet snores coming from Jin Ling. He turns to the little grape who's staring back at him, "It's just you and me, little buddy."

 

"Damn!"

 

 

 

 

"Jingyi? Jin Ling?" Sizhui enters the quiet jingshi after finishing some of the tasks. It'd been less than two hours since he entrusted them with watching over their seniors. He knows they can manage by themselves— maybe a few punches and snarky remarks here and there, but still— they can do it.

 

However...

 

"Hm? Sizhui?" Lan Jingyi groggily opens an eye to see a blur of white just above him. He absent-mindedly strokes the head of A-Cheng in his arms. He vaguely remembers the little grump falling asleep on his chest earlier after getting tired out. "You're back.."

 

"Yes." he states slowly, "May I ask where Senior Wei and Sect Leader Jiang are?"

 

At that question, Lan Jingyi stiffens. Suddenly, the head in his arms seems heavier and bigger than the average toddler. 

 

It dawns on him that it was not A-Cheng in his arms. The equally groggy voice that comes from said sleeping person painstakingly confirms it for him. 

 

"A-Ying, quit moving so much.." Jin Ling utters before his hands wrap tightly around Lan Jingyi's waist.

 

Lan Sizhui smiles gently but his eyes were full of mirth at the sight in front of him. Lan Jingyi decides with a slight flush that he did not like that look.

 

"It's nice that you're getting along.." he trails off just as Jin Ling stirs awake and raises his head to meet Lan Jingyi's eyes.

 

"G-good morning, Young Mistress.." Lan Jingyi chuckles stiffly. 

 

Jin Ling did not say anything. 

 

No, he simply breaks himself away from their tight hold— all done quietly, without even a single breath. He points at Lan Jingyi with a shaking finger, his face growing extremely red with each passing second— whether out of embarrassment or anger, no one knows— "We will not speak of this to anyone. Not a single one."

 

Lan Jingyi nods silently.

 

It only takes a second for Jin Ling to realize, "Wait- where's Jiujiu and Da-Jiu?" he looks around before meeting Lan Sizhui's sympathetic eyes.

 

"It seems that hide-and-seek is a popular game among toddlers..."

 

"You've got to be kidding me- LAN JINGYI! "

 

"..."

 

 

 

 

It takes less than five minutes this time for them to find the little mischievous Prides of Yunmeng. Jin Ling might have popped a lung with his incessant screaming at Lan Jingyi if this search took any longer. With the additional help of Lan Sizhui, they find the little ones at the back mountains playing with the bunnies and even Little Apple.

 

Lan Jingyi practically pounces on the two, each arm wrapping each toddler so they all lie on the grass. "You rascals! Who told you to leave the jingshi without your gege's permission?"

 

The two only giggle as they wriggle on the grass, trying to escape their Yi Ge's hold.

 

A-Ying swiftly escapes and rushes to take his little brother with him, "Yi Ge and Ling Ge sleeping! Didn't want to stop their dreaming!"

 

Lan Jingyi chuckles before turning over on his back, bringing A-Cheng to lie on his chest. "You didn't want to wake us up or you just didn't want us to spoil your fun?"

 

A-Ying only hums in thought, propping one hand to his hips while the other tapping his chin.

 

"What did you troublemakers do, huh?" Jin Ling reprimand them as he approaches the three on the grass along with Lan Sizhui. They both sit down with crossed legs on either side of Lan Jingyi.

 

"Did you have fun, A-Ying, A-Cheng?" Lan Sizhui asks, his smile encouraging.

 

A-Cheng pats his hands on Lan Jingyi's chest, "Not enough fun! Need to play more!" he says as though it were a fact.

 

A-Ying nods along, "Uh-huh! More fun! Uncle Goat didn't want to play anymore."

 

Lan Jingyi and Jin Ling straightened their backs at the mention of Grandmaster Qiren. They were definitely getting their punishments now.

 

"Uncle Goat..?" Lan Sizhui asks, confused at the strange address. The two juniors looked at one another, silently communicating on who was going to tell their clueless friend.

 

Before they could give Lan Sizhui an explanation, A-Ying continues, "Yeah! Pretty Gege too busy and Gentle Gege also busy! Took us to Uncle Goat but he got tired after a bit of chasing."

 

A-Cheng giggles, recalling their earlier play time. "Uncle Goat got tired then took us to see bunnies and apples. But there no apples, just bunnies." the younger of the two pouts as he looks around for any apples.

 

Jin Ling points at Little Apple who was blatantly ignoring them as he ate some grass a few feet away. "A-Cheng, Grandmaster Qiren meant the donkey, not fruit."

 

"Eehh? Why is donkey an apple? That's so weird." A-Ying chuckles.

 

Lan Jingyi snorts, "He's called Little Apple, A-Ying. And you named him that."

 

A-Cheng is the one that chuckles this time, even pointing at his brother "Haha! Ying Ge gave donkey a weird name!"

 

"Oh yeah? How would you name it, Cheng Cheng?"

 

A-Cheng was about to think of one but, "I only name dogs, I don't like donkeys!"

 

"Don't say that! Little Apple will be hurt!" A-Ying pouts, opening his arms in defense of Little Apple.

 

"Apple doesn't understand us, anyway."

 

"Does too! You're hurting him, see!"

 

"Am not! He's just eating grass!"

 

"Are too!"

 

"Am not! Don't be stupid!" 

 

A-Ying gasped at the words then pursed his lips and wrinkling his nose, "Gege, A-Cheng called me stupid!"

 

Lan Sizhui, Lan Jingyi, and Jin Ling didn't know what to do. They secretly enjoyed the two's little back and forth banter. Maybe Senior Wei and Sect Leader Jiang were just like this when they were kids, just talking about whatever nonsense there was. But now that they seem to be on the verge of fighting and maybe even breaking up...

 

"Uh. Now, now, don't fight." Lan Jingyi cradles A-Cheng to his chest, running soothing circles around his back.

 

"Don't call your brother bad words, A-Cheng. It'll hurt his feelings." Jin Ling says gently but firmly. 

 

Lan Sizhui holds on to a slightly teary-eyed A-Ying, "It's okay, A-Ying. He didn't mean it."

 

A-Cheng scrunched his brows and pouted, "'m sorry, Ying Ge. Didn't mean it. You're not stupid."

 

A-Ying sniffles before enveloping A-Cheng in a hug.

 

The three silently release a breath of relief. That was easy enough.

 

Or so they thought.

 

 

 

 

Maybe it's just something every child gets into as they grow up-

 

"Gege! A-Cheng hit A-Ying!"

 

"I did not!"

 

"Did too!"

 

-or maybe it's just something between these two rascals.

 

Lan Jingyi sighs heavily as he continues to balance his whole body with one hand and writes the remaining rules he's missing with the other. "A-Ying, are you lying again?"

 

Jin Ling had just finished his punishment, without handstands— being a sect leader had its perks, sometimes— and proceeds to kneel in front of the two toddlers. "Okay, why don't you two tell me what happened."

 

Lan Sizhui only smiles in defeat as he listens to their clashing recount of stories, it was already early in the evening and they were back in the jingshi to await Hanguang Jun. It had only been a few hours since their first fight but from then until now, the two have done nothing but 'fight'.

 

And by fight, they just do their little back and forth bickering then proceed to tell on the other. There was no actual fighting, thankfully. 

 

This time there was no real hitting, either. The three listening and paying close attention to the two misfits whenever they get into their little play fighting.

 

It was apparently also A-Ying's turn to tell on A-Cheng.

 

They didn't know whether to be amused or not. At first it was a bit worrisome, the brothers shouldn't be fighting and hurting one another since they were family and should love each other, after all. But as they kept on doing this little game of sorts, the juniors realize there was nothing to fuss over. They belatedly realize that the two didn't enjoy the part where they tell on one another. 

 

No, they actually liked the part they forgive one another. Because they get to hug and cuddle and tell each other they're good.

 

Before the juniors could even get a word out, the two would immediately latch on to one another. Speaking their lines of forgiveness and close brotherhood.

 

It often goes like this and vice versa:

 

"A-Cheng, Ying Ge is sorry." A-Ying would say as he hugs A-Cheng in his small arms as the younger hugs back in an instant.

 

"It's okay. Ying Ge still good brother to A-Cheng." A-Cheng would reply as he snuggles even closer than they already are.

 

It was adorable, really. 

 

The doors of the jingshi slide open as the little ones hug it out for the nth time that day. Hanguang Jun, along with another Lan, bring in their evening meal.

 

The three juniors get up— Lan Jingyi just finishing his punishment— and bow in greeting. A-Ying and A-Cheng see this and copy their geges.

 

Hanguang Jun nods and makes his way to the table, "Mn. You've worked hard. It is time to eat."

 

A-Ying giggles as he makes his way to Hanguang Jun. "Pretty Gege, A-Ying and A-Cheng play together?" he asks with a whine, tugging at the man's pristine white robes. 

 

And who could deny A-Ying anything?

 

Hanguang Jun smiles lightly, the upward curve of his lips were clear on his features. "Mn. After we eat." he says and takes his seat.

 

A-Ying grins at A-Cheng victoriously. "Let's eat, Cheng Cheng! Then we play!"

 

Ever the obedient younger brother that he is, he nods and picks up a spoon, "Okay!" 

 

 

 

 

"When did they bring in those bunnies?" Jin Ling narrows his eyes as he watches A-Ying, A-Cheng, and Hanguang Jun play together or the little ones holding the bunnies up and making them dance while Hanguang Jun watches the two.

 

Lan Jingyi finishes his making his bed and replies, "Huh. I don't know. Bunnies rarely find their way to the jingshi this late."

 

Lan Sizhui hides his laugh behind his sleeve, "I thought they needed other friends to play with while you two were busy with your punishments."

 

Jin Ling and Lan Jingyi looked at him in disbelief. "You just broke-" 

 

"Gege, look at dancing bunny!" 

 

"Snowflake dances cuter!"

 

Lan Sizhui smiles as he approaches the toddlers, leaving behind his dumbfounded friends. "Yes, your bunny friends are very talented dancers, A-Ying, A-Cheng."

 

"He broke a rule. My sweet and good Sizhui broke a rule." Lan Jingyi sniffles.

 

"Please don't be disgusting."

 

 

 

 

The next day flies by the same way it did yesterday, only this time they have another hand helping them out. 

 

"Oh my gosh, Senior Wei, Sect Leader Jiang, you're both so adorable! May I eat your cheeks?!" Ouyang Zizhen wails as he coddled the two toddlers in his arms.

 

A-Ying giggles while trying to get out of the romantic's arms, "A-Ying and A-Cheng not food! Zhen Ge don't eat us!"

 

"No eat, no eat!" A-Cheng pushes away from the boy in panic.

 

Jin Ling was absolutely mortified at the scene, "Zizhen, those are my uncles you want t-to 'eat' the cheeks of!" he flushes both in frustration and embarrassment.

 

"Ling Gege, help!" A-Cheng reaches both his arms out, failing to escape the tight hold by himself.

 

"You obviously knew he loves kids like they're a lifeline!" Lan Jingyi huffs as he pries Ouyang Zizhen from the little ones who quickly make a run for it to the other side of the jingshi.

 

"Of course, I knew!" Jin Ling glares, crossing his arms indignantly at the Lan before eyeing his other friend. "I also told him to not be weird about it and to come help ASAP."

 

Ouyang Zizhen scratches the back of his sheepishly, "S-Sorry, I didn't think they were this adorable."

 

Jin Ling gasps, looking offended at the statement. "My uncles are very much adorable! Don't underestimate them!" he snaps out of his fit and quickly adds, "Just control yourself and help us out, Zizhen!" 

 

"Sure, sure, I'll do anything to get out of the house. This one thanks you for saving me from my extra lessons!" Ouyang Zizhen laughs.

 

"A-Cheng, I think Ling Gege would absolutely love to have his hair braided by you." Lan Jingyi speaks loudly from where he was sitting cross legged on the floor on the other side of the jingshi with the two toddlers. He was getting his hair braided by A-Ying for a while until he noticed A-Cheng looking a tad bit jealous.

 

The little one perks up and turns to stare at his Ling Gege. His eyes saying "Can I?" without having to use his mouth. Ouyang Zizhen squeals beside a flustered Jin Ling.

 

"A-Cheng, me me! Zizhen Gege wants his hair braided, too!" Ouyang Zizhen raises his hand, eyes shining with excitement at the toddler. He really loves kids.

 

"O-Okay! A-Cheng do his best for gege!" A-Cheng nods, his hands curling into fists and his eyes set with determination.

 

"Zizhen, remember to breathe!"

 

"I'm fine! I'm fine!"

 

The jingshi slides open and Lan Sizhui enters with a relieved smile, digging into his qiankun pouch to pull out some sweet treats he bought from Caiyi Town when Hanguang Jun asked him to buy extra chili paste earlier.

 

Lan Jingyi smirks at the sight, eyes narrowing with mirth, "Isn't that against the rules, oh great Head Disciple Lan Sizhui?"

 

Lan Sizhui shrugs, smiling in amusement, "A little treat every now and then will not hurt anyone."

 

"You surprise me, Sizhui." Ouyang Zizhen tilts his head to the side, A-Cheng tilting along as he braids.

 

Jin Ling rolls his eyes as A-Ying braids his hair, "Some of the rules are just meant to be broken with how dumb they are. No offense."

 

"None taken." Lan Jingyi says distractedly as he eyes his braid in front of the mirror. "A-Ying braids so well. Good job, little one!"

 

"Yes yes! A-Ying the best!" the toddler cheers before focusing on his Ling Gege's hair, tongue sticking out in concentration.

 

Lan Sizhui silently unwraps a couple of sweet treats before carefully feeding them to each of the little one's mouths. Braiding is hard work, after all.

 

"Sizhui feed me, too?" Ouyang Zizhen asks innocently, batting his eyelashes for added effect.

 

Lan Sizhui laughs quietly and unwraps another sweet treat, indulging his friend's request.

 

"Would A-Ling want a sweet treat fed to him, too?" Lan Sizhui tilts his head to Jin Ling in question.

 

"N-no!" Jin Ling flushes a feint pink, almost wanting to turn away but remembers A-Ying's braiding so he could only settle for averting eye contact. "Don't be ridiculous, Sizhui."

 

"If you're sure. Jingyi, here." Sizhui turns to Lan Jingyi who obediently opens his mouth and receives the sweet treat.

 

"Sizhui is so good to me!" Lan Jingyi chuckles, savoring the sweetness. Lan Sizhui also laughs along before handing Jin Ling one then unwrapping a treat for himself.

 

"Gege! Your turn for braids!" A-Ying makes grabby hands at Lan Sizhui, already finished doing Jin Ling's.

 

A-Cheng also finished doing Ouyang Zizhen's hair and distracted with unwrapping his second piece of candy.

 

"A-Cheng, don't eat too much or you'll get a tummy ache, okay?" Jin Ling admonishes gently.

 

A-Cheng nods, still focused on getting his candy into his mouth. "I know."

 

"Jin Ling, you're so good with kids!" Ouyang Zizhen cooes as A-Cheng smiles widely after successfully unwrapping the candy.

 

The young Jin splutters for a response, "Huh- I, No- Shut up!"

 

"Zizhen, the Young Mistress is really a delicate person with the softest heart, you know." Lan Jingyi states in a matter of fact, a finger pointing at their sentimental friend to lecture. "Don't be fooled by that permanent scowl on Young Mistress' face."

 

"Stop that, will you!" Jin Ling covers his red face with one hand and slaps the Lan with the other. 

 

No one's ever called him a 'delicate person with the softest heart' to his face before, as if anyone would dare try if they wanted an earful from the young Jin. For Lan Jingyi to say it so casually— not even mockingly! — of course, anyone addressed as such would be embarrassed.

 

Lan Jingyi can be honest when he wants to be. But this! This is not the time for it.

 

"Don't be shy, it's the truth!"

 

"I said shut up! Or else I'll-"

 

"Break damn legs!" A-Cheng finishes with a particular gleam in his eyes.

 

"Damn!" A-Ying adds with a laugh.

 

"..." 

 

Ouyang Zizhen covers his mouth in shock, "Did they just-"

 

"You see-" 

 

"Shut your mouths, all of you."

 

 

 

 

"A-Ying not tired! Can still play more!"

 

With the way the toddler yawns loudly right after saying that, it was an obvious lie that none of the juniors are going to fall for.

 

"Come on, A-Ying. Your brother is already taking his nap like a good boy." Ouyang Zizhen pats the little one's head, urging sleep to take over. 

 

"Is A-Ying not a good boy?" Lan Jingyi bends down, gently coaxing the drowsy A-Ying to take his nap.

 

"A-Ying good!" he replies obediently, rubbing his eye with his fist before adding, "Just not sleepy yet.."

 

Lan Sizhui gently takes the toddler into his arms, rubbing soothing circles around his little back, "Okay, what does A-Ying want to do if he's not sleepy, then?" he asks in a hushed tone as they move to the bed where A-Cheng whines at the added weight on the bed.

 

"Ying Gege, sleep.." A-Cheng mumbles, little hands, feeling for his older brother's. 

 

"Read me story." A-Ying replies as he brings A-Cheng closer to him, voice close to a whisper. "Stories like what mama tells me."

 

Oh.

 

They all looked at one another a bit unsurely. They rarely heard any bedtime stories when they A-Ying's age, much less read any kid's fantasy tales when they were young. The Lans didn't even indulge in such pleasantries, the young Jin Ling was only fixated by his father's sword since long ago, and Ouyang Zizhen-

 

"Zizhen, it's your turn!" Lan Jingyi pushes the boy towards the bed where A-Ying was tucked in and waiting, along with a barely awake A-Cheng. "You've read a lot of those novels of yours, just tell him those."

 

"Um, uh-" Ouyang Zizhen shakes his head, "Those are different, you know! Um- A-Ying, what stories did your mama tell you?"

 

"Mama's stories are the best! Always about adventure, swords, and good people fighting against evil!" 

 

Ouyang Zizhen turned to the other three in exasperation, "My genre is exclusively romance!"

 

"How different can that be?" Lan Jingyi waves a hand, "Fine. If you're unsure then um-" he stops to think for a moment, Jin Ling knew he couldn't have thought that far. 

 

Lan Sizhui interjects, "Then, we'll all pitch in a part of the story. Like a relay, of sorts."

 

"If it gets A-Ying to sleep, I don't really care what we're doing." Jin Ling sighs, resting his chin on the palm of his hand. "Just start, Zizhen. We'll supply."

 

Zizhen fidgets with his robes, nervous as many ideas flood his mind, a few maybe a little inappropriate for kids. "Um, okay." he licks his drying lips and one particular story surfaces, "A-Ying, have you heard the story of two great cultivators, one dressed in white and one clad in black? Two cultivators bound together from one lifetime to the next with a special song only they know?"

 

A-Ying's eyes widened at the word 'cultivator', already fascinated by the story. He shakes his excitedly, tucking himself further and snuggling beside A-Cheng, "Nuh-uh, mama never told me that one before. Is it a good story?"

 

Jin Ling shakes his head with a fond smile, "Well, you're in for a treat, A-Ying. It's the best story in the cultivation world."

 

Lan Sizhui shakes his head fondly, recalling the story, "A-Ying, this story will definitely be one of your favorites."

 

"Why that one? Now, I wanna tuck myself in, too!" Lan Jingyi complains but his eagerness to hear that famous tale exudes his very face. "Zizhen, hurry up and start!"

 

"Okay, okay." Zizhen clears his throat and narrates the story, "Our story begins on a rooftop under the moonlight..."

 

 

 

 

"This curse has taken ten years of my life." Lan Jingyi groans, foregoing all manners and collapsing on his back. No one's going to scold him, anyway.

 

Jin Ling does not verbally agree with the Lan but lets out a heavy sigh to share the sentiment. "It'll all be over by tomorrow. Jiujiu and Da-Jiu will be back to normal and we all forget about this."

 

"Any news on who did it?" Lan Jingyi sits up, looking at Lan Sizhui who was tidying up the table of the remains of their little afternoon snack while the little ones were asleep. 

 

"I only heard Hanguang Jun and Grandmaster Lan discuss the matter privately."

 

Lan Jingyi leans forward, "And?" he raises a brow expectantly.

 

"And nothing." Lan Sizhui finishes firmly with a warning. "It is forbidden to eavesdrop and gossip, Jingyi."

 

"It's not eavesdropping if we were technically involved with the case and have the right to updates. And it's not gossip either, it's discussing a concerning issue." Lan Jingyi argues.

 

Jin Ling furrows his eyebrows and frowns, "They obviously caught the perpetrator by now. I hope they get what they deserve for what they did to Jiujiu and Da-Jiu."

 

"It's a good thing this curse is harmless and temporary." Ouyang Zizhen sighs in relief and attempts to lighten the mood. "Imagine if Senior Wei and Sect Leader Jiang had to grow up all over again without even realizing they were already grown ups."

 

Lan Jingyi looked petrified, "No. They're cute and all. But still, no."

 

Ouyang Zizhen only laughs at him, patting his friend on the back.

 

"It was kind of fun." Lan Sizhui sets a tray of tea cups with warm tea down on the center of the table. "Senior Wei and Sect Leader Jiang must have been quite the hand full as children even back then."

 

Jin Ling releases an amused huff, "Da-Jiu told me how they always got into trouble when they were younger. Stealing lotus pods from old farmers, snatching jujubes around the neighborhood, skipping training.."

 

"Woah, Senior Wei and Sect Leader Jiang are so cool!" Lan Jingyi exclaims in awe and admiration. Lan Sizhui agrees with a hum and nod.

 

Ouyang Zizhen chuckles, "They probably stole treats from the kitchens, hid whenever the servants were getting them dressed, or got into little fights." he finishes a little proudly, "I definitely have."

 

"Every child has obviously done that." Jin Ling smirks, "Maybe except Sizhui."

 

Lan Jingyi grins mischievously, "You probably won't believe me. But Sizhui was quite the troublemaker back then."

 

"You're right. I don't believe you." Jin Ling deadpans as Ouyang Zizhen shakes his head in disbelief.

 

"No way, that's true. Sizhui is like the ideal Lan."

 

Lan Jingyi squawks, "Sizhui, tell them!"

 

 

 

 

It was the third day. The effects of the curse are slowly dissipating, according to the healers, and Senior Wei and Sect Leader Jiang will be back to their normal selves in no time. 

 

The juniors release a sigh of relief. As adorable as A-Ying and A-Cheng were, they were still a handful.

 

"But I wanna play with gege more! Can't I stay like this for a little longer?" A-Ying pouts and whines, perched on Lan Jingyi's back.

 

Lan Jingyi laughs out loud, grabbing A-Ying from his back and tossing him in the air then catching him safely in his arms. Jin Ling had never felt like his heart was about to jump out of chest until that moment, so he punches the Lan on the shoulder in frustration.

 

"A-Ying has to grow up now. But knowing Senior Wei, even little you might actually attempt the impossible." Lan Sizhui smiles lightly. 

 

Ouyang Zizhen sighs as he pinches A-Ying's plump cheeks, "Oh, I'll miss them so much. They're so cute I wanna squish them!" 

 

A-Ying giggles while A-Cheng gasps and hides in the crook of Jin Ling's neck, "Nooo!" 

 

Jin Ling glares at his friend, cheeks red not from anger but from embarrassment since his uncle doesn't usually hug him like this, "Why do you have to phrase it like that?"

 

"Jin Ling, I know you secretly love them the most." Ouyang Zizhen counters, chuckling lighting behind his sleeves. "Especially since your uncle even as a child likes you most out of the four of us."

 

Jin Ling sputters, his face growing warmer and almost reaching his neck. "S-Shut up!"

 

"Break your legs!" A-Cheng adds, voice muffled as he's still hiding in his nephew's neck— or rather, snuggling at this point.

 

"Damn!" A-Ying cheers.

 

Lan Jingyi laughs again, tossing the toddler up even higher but still catching him without much difficulty.

 

"Will you stop tossing my Da-Jiu like that? He'll hurt himself even before he's grown up!" Jin Ling complains, tiny hands wrapping tighter around him.

 

"I'm not careless, Young Mistress! Besides, A-Ying likes it. A-Cheng looks like he wants to be tossed, too." Lan Jingyi reasons, eyes darting to A-Cheng then back to Jin Ling.

 

Jin Ling looks at his uncle, "A-Cheng, too?" he asks hesitantly.

 

The toddler flushes, averting his gaze though you can still see his eyes sparkle at the prospect of being tossed up like his brother. "Want to."

 

"OH! Sizhui, take me back to the healers! My heart is gonna combust from all this cuteness!" Ouyang Zizhen clutches his chest.

 

Lan Sizhui laughs, playing along as he holds Ouyang Zizhen in his arms to steady the boy. "Now, we don't want that to happen."

 

They hear a small gasp and find looks of worry from the little ones, A-Cheng's brows were furrowed while A-Ying's eyes were wide and glassy. "Gege sick?"

 

Ouyang Zizhen falls further into Lan Sizhui's arms, the latter unsurprisingly managing to still hold him up even with the added weight.

 

"Who cares about immortality? No secluded mountain would have such adorable angels like these..." he says feintly then he reaches out as if heading towards a distant light.

 

"Gege!"

 

"Zhen Ge!"

 

"I have no regrets..." Ouyang Zizhen closes his eyes as if in peace until tiny hands start smacking his face. "Hey- Ouch!" 

 

Jin Ling rolls his eyes with a smirk on his face, pulling A-Cheng close once they finished, "Dramatic much?" 

 

Lan Jingyi snickers, prying A-Ying's hands away from their poor Zhen Ge. "Such magical hands! Zhen Ge is cured!"

 

The toddlers cheer as Ouyang Zizhen massages his red cheeks.

 

 

 

 

"Pretty Gege! Don't miss A-Ying too much, 'kay? Or else A-Ying will come back for you!" A-Ying giggles, hugging Hanguang Jun's leg and gazing up at him.

 

Hanguang Jun looks down at A-Ying and gives him a small smile, "Mn."

 

A-Ying stares for a little longer before he lets go, hugging his other geges. A-Cheng shyly waves at them from where he's still perched in Jin Ling's arms.

 

"A-Ying and A-Cheng had fun! Bye-bye!" the little ones wave at them before they slide the doors to the jingshi close.

 

The juniors and Hanguang Jun wait outside as the sun begins to set. The curse should be lifted around this hour. They just have to standby and hope for the best.

 

"How will we know if they're back?" Ouyang Zizhen asks as the moon and stars begin to show themselves and the last bits of sunlight disappear over the horizon.

 

The jingshi was too quiet.

 

Jin Ling worries at his front robes, hands clutching and releasing the cloth every other second. "Should we check...?"

 

Hanguang Jun looks at the door, "No need."

 

Lan Sizhui and Lan Jingyi eye their senior for a moment before a loud noise comes from inside the jingshi.

 

"WEI WUXIAN! Those are my robes, you idiot!" the familiar angry voice of Sandu Shengshou echoes throughout the dimming forest, a few birds fly away at his sound.

 

The booming voice is followed by an even louder one, clear and charming just from hearing it. "Cheng Cheng, if you must know those are A-Ying's inner robes you're wearing!"

 

"Shut up!" 

 

They hear a loud thump after that and muffled noises. Hanguang Jun approaches the jingshi, the juniors following behind him. He slides the door open and they find the Yunmeng brothers playfully wrestling on the ground, still in each other's inner robes.

 

"A-Cheng! Give me my inner robes first!" Wei Wuxian wiggles his fingers teasingly. 

 

"No way! Give me mine first!" Jiang Cheng huffs, slapping those roaming hands without using much spiritual energy. Wei Wuxian was sitting on his brother's chest and it was getting harder to breathe.

 

They didn't even notice the audience as they continued to tussle.

 

Hanguang Jun clears his throat and the two seniors stop their tussle. "Is the curse fully extinguished from your bodies?"

 

Wei Wuxian grins at his husband, "Of course, Pretty Gege! Nothing left in A-Ying!"

 

Jiang Cheng grunts as he pushes Wei Wuxian off of him. "All clear. Golden cores unharmed but still weak."

 

"Jiujiu!" Jin Ling kneels in front of his uncle but stops himself from wrapping his arms around him. "Y-You're sure everything's fine?"

 

Jiang Cheng sighs heavily before he reaches to pat his nephew on the head affectionately. "We're fine."

 

"That's good." Jin Ling averts his eyes, not shying away from his uncle's touch but actually draws himself closer.

 

Wei Wuxian as shameless as he is, envelops his beloved in a tight hug, "My zhiji, did you miss me? Or do you prefer A-Ying more?" he grins slyly.

 

Hanguang Jun automatically wraps his hands around his beloved's waist, "Mn."

 

A harsh slap to the back of Wei Wuxian's head causes him to yelp and Hanguang glares icy daggers at the obvious perpetrator.

 

"Have some decency, you fool! Save that when the rest of us are out of here!" Jiang Cheng glares harshly, already dressed properly. The juniors only silently agree as their eyes are everywhere around the jingshi except on the two.

 

Wei Wuxian releases his hold on his husband and laughs, "Of course, how can I leave my guests to themselves? A-Cheng and the rest must be hungry, huh? Let's eat!" he grins as he feels Hanguang Jun wrap his robes around him for warmth.

 

"We're going then." Jiang Cheng slides the door open and the juniors follow behind. The last one being Lan Sizhui turns back to his adoptive parents.

 

Wei Wuxian smiles softly, "Go on. We'll catch up."

 

He nods and closes the door. Their footsteps slowly quiets as they walk further away from the jingshi.

 

"My dearest, I missed you." Wei Wuxian turns to his husband, cupping his face in both his hands.

 

Hanguang raises his hands to his face and intertwines them with Wei Wuxian's. "You are cold."

 

"Then warm me up, won't you?" Wei Wuxian smirks before sealing their lips in a kiss.

 

"Mn."