- Action Adventure
He was already into his first bottle of Emperor’s smile when Jiang Cheng showed up at his room at the inn, slinging open the door and striding in with that abrupt way of his. Wei Ying had just poured him a cup without a word as his brother dropped to sit by his side; leaning close so that their shoulders were pressed together.
There was a street artist singing somewhere outside in the busy street and they sat in easy silence for a while, listening through the open window. Jiang Cheng smelled like Lotus Pier, that warm smell of sun and spice, shijie’s soup and lotus blossoms.
His puffs of breath and steady heartbeat calmed Wei Ying’s restlessness immensely. The strength of his shoulder and the rustle of his purple sect robes soothed the senses in ways only being home could and Wei Ying was eternally grateful.
“It’s getting near to nine pm. You’re going to miss curfew and get stuck outside.”
His brother scoffed and threw back the rest of his wine. “I’m spending the night here, dumbass. You need me more than they do. You met your guide today. You shouldn’t be alone tonight.”
Wei Ying closed his eyes against the sting and let his head fall unto the other man’s shoulders.
“Thank you, Chengcheng.” he smiled through his quiet tears, his voice barely a whisper. “He’s so beautiful.”
Jiang Cheng nodded sagely, grabbing the bottle from Wei Ying’s lax fingers and taking a swig. “Tell me about it. The Twin Jades are too fucking gorgeous for it to even be legal. If Lan Xichen had presented as a guide, I would have been one of the first to toss my hat in that ring. He’s like a ball of condensed sunshine and that smile of his… fuck me sideways.”
He shrugged indelicately. ” Lan Wangji on the other hand… meh… a bit too cold for my taste but you’ve always been a weirdo. He might just be perfect for you.”
That brought a slightly hysterical giggle from Wei Ying. “I never thought … I told myself even if I found a match… no guide would ever want to bond with a feral.”
“Hey, shut up about that now.” Jiang Cheng shrugged his shoulder, making Wei Ying whine and rub his head. “Don’t go believing your own hype. You’re not a monster. You’re certainly not some mindless beast who would drive a guide dormant. Fuck that shit.”
“Jiang Cheng…” Wei Ying’s voice was small and sorrowful.
“NO!” the younger man was livid as he turned to face his brother. “What happened when you were eleven was a result of years of abuse, pain and torture under an evil man. You did what you had to do to survive and nobody… no fucking body gets to judge you for that unless they’ve been where you have.”
He shook his head with disgust. “Wen Rouhan deserved his death and you deserved the opportunity to claim revenge on behalf of you and your parents.”
He slung an arm around Wei Ying and pulled him close.
“What you did that day doesn’t define you. It never did. You are so much more than some feral who doesn’t have a mind of his own. You’re one of the most brilliant, brave, creative, frustrating, endearing people I know and if others don’t want to take the time to get to know how amazing you are then it’s their loss.”
He curled his lip. “And that goes double for Hanguang-Jun himself. If that ice sculpture ever hurts you I’ll break his fucking legs.”
Wei Ying’s breath hitched as he grabbed Jiang Cheng and yanked him into a hug. “Wah, A-cheng! When did you get so grown up and wise?”
“I’ve always been more mature than your childish ass, Xiao Xianxian” Jiang Cheng barked a laugh. “Even though you are technically older than me, I’ve always felt like an older brother. I told you back then that I would protect you and I always will. In fact, you should start calling me Da-ge from now on.”
Wei Ying let out a peal of laughter, falling into his brother’s lap as he giggled. “Fat chance at that Cheng-didi. This Wei Ying will be your shixiong forever.”
Jiang Cheng just scoffed softly for him to shut up and started getting them both ready for bed. They’d shared a bed before, when Wei Ying had first arrived at Lotus Pier. Too many nights had been broken by blood curdling screams that left the family shaken and Wei Ying all but unresponsive in the mornings.
Young Jiang Cheng had taken to sneaking into his room at night with his dogs, all of them curling around the trembling boy until he settled down for a proper restful sleep. As they grew older, that habit had eventually tapered off.
Once in a while though, Jiang Cheng’s spirit guide, a pure black husky named Moonbeam; would manifest and make her way to Wei Ying’s room and snuggle up to the whimpering sentinel.
When Jiang Cheng would sneak to check on them, he would find them both and Wei Ying’s black and orange spirit fox Huanxun all curled up together in a puppy pile.
It was no surprise then when both Moonbeam and Huanxun turned up and hopped into the bed as well. He just shrugged and tucked himself next to an already sleeping Wei Ying, both animals finding spots to curl in.
As he drifted off to a sweet wine hazy sleep, he heard a soft ‘Thank you Da-ge’ in the warm quiet of the night. Mouth widening into a smug smile, he just hummed and tucked his face into the cool pillow, letting slumber pull him under.
“Holy Shit, A-Ning! You look just like a bride.”
The young man in question blushed red under his exquisitely done make up, his elaborate head piece jingling as he ducked his head shyly.
“Th.. Thank you, Wei-quanbei… you look pretty too.”
Wei Ying threw his head back and laughed, running his hands down his own elaborate robes with a pleased flush. “Aww. Stop. You’re making this one blush.”
Wen Ning rolled her eyes at them both, muttering something about thick faces, as the young guide giggled behind his sleeve. Accustomed to their antics, Fourth Uncle just sighed in fond exasperation and stepped forward to fidget with Wei Ying’s robes, smoothing out a stray wrinkle.
It felt like such a fatherly gesture that Wei Ying couldn’t help but blush for real, ducking his head with a little smile. Wen Qing caught his eye and they shared a understanding look over everyone’s head.
Despite his amused outburst before, Wei Ying was correct about how stunning the young man looked. Wen Ning’s debut robes were elaborate and masterfully done. Delicate Qishan silk embroidered in pearlescent white thread that shimmered like pale moonlight were stitched among shades of red that danced and glowed like fire.
Gold accessories had been spun with the most delicate of designs, following a dragon motif that belied both beauty and strength. Both of which Wen Ning had in spades, despite his bashful demeanour. Wei Ying had long come to learn of the spine of steel that all Wens seemed to possess.
It was the same straight spine and lifted chin that Wen Ning was holding himself with as they got ready to leave the inn, his sword gleaming at his belt, his own onyx Wen talisman hanging beside it. Wen Qing was a smiling vision of the proudest sister in her own formal robes, embroidered red upon deeper red, her gold hairpiece dotted with rubies.
The attendants had spent the morning polishing the ornate pinyin, making sure that everything was ready for the debut. It was a long standing tradition for a formal debut and even though he thought the whole thing old fashioned and a shameless display of a sect’s wealth, he was more than proud would be walking to the front of Wen Ning’s carriage while Uncle four and Wen Qing would escort from behind.
They made quite a spectacle walking through the streets of Caiyi Town, people oohing and aahing as they craned their necks to watch. He kept the pace slow and regal, making sure that everyone rubber necking had a good look at the skill and effort the Wens had put forward for the occasion.
Hey, if they were going to put on a show, they may as well make a spectacle of it. Besides, word of mouth was a great driver of business to the Qishan Art District and proved that Wen Xu really did think of everything.
Suddenly, there was a commotion ahead of them as they met up with another pinyin had a crowded junction. The crowd’s murmur dipped and swelled as shouting could be heard and Wei Ying raised a hand, bringing the small procession to a stop.
Another pinyin came bouncing into view from an adjacent street, draped in some of the tackiest pink gauze and gold painted fittings that he’d ever seen. Several scowling attendants were in front, rudely hustling people out of the way and leaving a disgruntled crowd in their wake.
A squat and uncomfortable looking little man, no doubt the Sponsor, huffed along behind them; sweat beading along his brow as he clutched his voluminous robes with one hand and steadied his tall hat with the other.
Wei ying raised a brow as a voice hissed from within the pinyin, urging the harried attendants to move even faster, the hand held carriage rattling as they rushed to reach the junction first. He could just make out a heavily veiled young woman sitting in the jostling pinyin, her knuckles white as she clutched at the sides to keep her balance.
Wei Ying waved his people back with a puzzled yet polite smile, giving the other delegation ample space to pass. He was confused at their hurry. It wasn’t as if the debut ceremony would start any sooner or that it would finish any faster. Besides, Cloud Recesses already had a long ass staircase, he wasn’t going to tire out their faithful attendants for some foolish notion of importance.
Angry murmurs followed the scurrying group as they disappeared around a next corner and Wei Ying just shook his head, walking over to an old lady whose orange basket had been knocked over in the hustle.
“Here popo, let this one help you.” he smiled as he bent over, grabbing up some fruit that had rolled away. Several people gasped, including the old woman but he ignored it, picking up more of the rolling oranges.
Fourth Uncle joined him when it became evident that everyone one standing around were just going to stare, not moving a muscle to even help; and soon enough, all the oranges were back in the basket once more.
The old lady was the first one who seemed to snap out of her stupor and gave a shaky, gap toothed smile. “Thank you, young man.”
Wei Ying just grinned and gave her a respectful bow, making people gasp and whisper once more. “Ah Ah, popo. It is the duty of all young men to come to the rescue of such a beautiful lady as yourself.”
She cackled gleefully, patting her white hair as several people huffed laughter around them. “Cheek brat.”
The crowd seemed friendlier after that, smiling more often than not as their procession once again. This time with an orange in each of their pockets for good luck.
Wei Ying strutted like a proud peacock the rest of the way, the fresh smell of the orange lifting his spirits as they started up the stairs, his robes swishing around his feet like the bird’s flamboyant tail.
His own formal robes felt like heaven against his skin, just the right weight to have each layer fall perfectly, his own headpiece feeling like a crown. He hadn’t noticed before but thin black chains beaded with jet fell from the piece into his hair, sparkling in the sunlight as he moved.
Wen Qing had also applied make up to his face, highlighting his eyes and roughing his lips and cheeks. He normally didn’t go for too much of that but he had someone special to impress now.
He wanted Lan Wangji to be stunned at the sight of him. He wanted those golden eyes fixed upon him, alight with need. He wanted Hanguang-Jun to know that the Yiling Laozu was his equal in fame and strength, that Wei Ying was worthy to be his sentinel and his partner in life.
Their passage at the gate went much smoother than the day before, the new guard disciples letting them in with much more respect and enthusiasm. Well, not so much enthusiastically as not so unenthusiastically. At least they didn’t flinch or frown when he smiled at them.
Jaws dropped as they made their way to the Conference Hall, all conversation coming to a cease as Wen Ning’s pinyin pulled up behind the no-name young woman who had hurried past them.
She had been in the middle of gracefully descending from her fugly pinyin when all the attention that had been on her jumped to the Wens. Even her Sect Leader, the still somewhat rumpled but still self-important looking man who had been announcing her formal name to the crowd, had stumbled on his words in the middle of it.
It turned out that her name was Wang Lingjiao and he was her father, Wang-zongzhu. He certainly saw the similarity between them when she nearly ripped back her heavy veil with a scowl.
Wei Ying bit back a grin as he caught her heated glare, only giving her a respectful nod in return, a pleasantly bland expression on his face.
After her awkward and hurried entrance- she’d practically rushed passed her flushed sect leader and a puzzled Lan delegation – it was Wen Ning’s turn.
Catching Jiang Fengmian’s proud smile and A-Cheng’s knowing smirk, he smiled widely; confident in the fact that his beauty was especially dazzling in that moment. His eyes searched for a particular Lan, his smile going gooey and warm as shimmering golden eyes locked with his.
As Wen Ning descended from the pinyin, shocked gasps echoed through the room. It seemed that people had finally realized just how stunning Wen Ning truly was, especially when he smiled that sweet, shy smile of his.
Good thing Wen Qing was such an expert with her needles and Wei Ying with his sword. They both would need all the help they could get to fend off the unscrupulous suitors that were sure to start crawling out of the woodwork, seeking to take advantage of the young guide for his ability, his family name or wealth.
In a strong and confident voice, Wei Ying went into his introductory speech; his words eloquent and echoing in the great acoustics of the Lan Great Hall. When he was done, the delegation bowed in tandem and he took Wen Ning’s hand, placed it into the crook of his elbow and began to make a circuit around the hall.
Lan Qiren was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a tall man who looked eerily similar stood with the Twin Jades. He introduced himself as Qingheng-Jun and Wei Ying had to hide his surprise. Everyone who was anyone knew that Wangji’s and Xichen’s father, the famed Lan Sect Leader, had been in deep seclusion in the back mountains of Gusu for many, many years.
For the man to break his solitude and attend the conference was nothing short of startling and he felt a bit flattered that the main reason for that was probably little old him.
“Lan-Zongzhu, Zewu-Jun, Hanguang-Jun.” he executed a perfectly respectable bow and salute. “This one respectfully presents to you Wen Ning, courtesy name Qionglin. Emergent Guide of the QishanWen. It is the honour of this humble Yiling Laozu to stand as Sponsor for him on behalf of Wen-Zongzhu.”
Qingheng-Jun nodded serenely, a mysterious smile on his handsome face. He looked so much like Lan Xichen that Wei Ying couldn’t help but glance between them. The same gentle eyes, the same cupid’s bow lip. It was evident that the elder son had inherited his father in looks and that meant that stunningly exotic looking Lan Wangji had taken after his mysterious mother.
As Wen Ning stepped forward to greet the Lans, Wei Ying’s gaze kept snagging on the stoic guide standing at his father’s side. The younger Jade looked resplendent in his white robes with intricate pale blue embroidery and set crystals in a cloud motif. His hairpiece was a gleaming silver and looked hideously sharp and complicated against his jet black hair.
Their gaze connected, heat blooming in Wei Ying’s chest as those gold eyes dilated. Those perfect lips parted in a soft gasp and Wei Ying pulled in a hissed breath in response, his heart starting to race.
It was Wen Qing who saved him from certain embarrassment, poking a sharp finger nail in his back, cutting off the rumbling in his chest and bringing him back to the present with a soft choled meep. He blinked rapidly and flushed to find both the Lans and the Wens all staring at them. Lan Wangji’s ears went red at the scrutiny and Wei Ying couldn’t help but smile sheepishly, his gut flip flopping at such an adorable sight.
Holy fuck he had it bad.
He took in a deep breath of the guide’s unique smell and forced his shoulders to relax, meeting the Lan Sect Leader’s unreadable gaze steadily. A few tense moments passed like that before Qingheng-Jun’s face broke into a smile, a pleased look in his eyes.
Wei Ying had the weird feeling that he’d passed some kind of exam and let out a soft, relieved breath when that intense gaze left him. They took their leave, bowing once more, leaving behind a smugly grinning father, a still blushing younger brother and a stunned looking older brother staring at red tipped ears with amazed wonder.
The YunmengJIang were next, Wei Ying exchanging grins with Jiang Cheng as they bowed and began formal introductions. It felt weird being so formal with his family but he also felt like a true grown up in many ways he hadn’t before. This wasn’t Wei Ying being acknowledged by this adopted family, this was the YilingWei and the Qishan Wen being formally acknowledged by the YunemngJiang in front of the eyes of the entire Cultivation World.
As Wen Ning stepped forward to chat with Jiang Fengmian and Jiang Cheng, he felt a surge of pure affection and pride for them all. Wen Ning was being exceptionally charming, more than likely taking lessons from Wen Xu, who was a notorious charmer and sweet talker himself. Both Jiangs were chuckling, their smiles honest and easy by the time the young guide stepped back to Wei Ying’s side and Wei Ying winked at A-Cheng who scoffed but curled his lip in return as they took their leave to greet another sect.
The Nie brothers of Qinghe were a sight to behold in their gold and green. Both sentinels, they were so different in so many other ways. Nie Ningjue was tall and heavily muscled, his scowling face and often abrupt demeanour had led to people calling him beastly; his title of Red Blade Master one that had been well earned.
Wei Ying had met him once or twice, most times while lurking in the background of the Jiang Compound and that one time when they’d both ended up running for their lives from a night hunt gone hilariously wrong. He’d been one of the people who had supported the YilingWei being added to the Sect Charter and they had a kind of ‘live and let live’ agreement between them.
Nie Huisang on the other hand, Wei Ying had never met. The delicate and beautiful young master rarely left the Unclean Realm and the protective watch of his older brother. He’d debuted just the year before and talk of his beauty and grace had come back with the Jiang disciples who’d attended. Even Jiang Cheng had flushed and grudgingly admitted that the svelt youth he’d known as a boy had grown into his beauty.
“Red Blade Master. Second Young Master Nie.” he bowed respectfully. Nie Mingjue’s eyes narrowed as he fell on the Wens behind him, his known hatred for the Wens on a whole well known. It had been assuaged somewhat by the gruesome death suffered by his father’s killer but there was no love lost between him and the Sun Clan.
“Yiling Laozu.” he grunted in response, snapping a sharp salute.
“Ah. Wie-Zongshu! Wen-Gonzi! Wen-guiniang!” Huisang jumped in with a wide smile, waving his fan in front of him as if to disperse the serious atmosphere. “What an entrance! What spectacle! There’s hasn’t been a debut this exciting since Jin Zixuan stood as his half-brother’s Sponsor when Jin Guangshan refused to acknowledge him.”
“Huisang” Mingjue snapped, but the younger man only demurred sweetly, snapping his fan open and fluttering.
“I’m sorry brother. Of course. No gossiping allowed in Cloud recesses.” his eyes crinkled over his expertly painted fan. “But it was just so exciting. Oh, your fan is exquisite. Did you paint it yourself?”
The taller man gave a long suffering sigh as his brother pulled a stunned Wen Ning into a hearty discussion over fan painting and other artistic pursuits, disrupting the usual introductions. He ended up trading a commiserating glance with Wen Qing over their little brothers but it was brief and left both of them quickly looking away, equally uncomfortable with finding common ground with each other.
Wei Ying just cackled internally and found a way to ease a grinning Wen Ning away from his new found compatriot. As much as he loved the easy comradery the two youths enjoyed, they did have more introductions to get through.
Hopefully, the Nie-zongzhu would be open to letting the friendship develop further. It would prove a coup if Qishan and Qinghe were to form a strong allegiance in the future because of it. Wen Xu for sure would be both please and relieved.
The last of the Major clans was the LanlingJin with their golden robes and their Sparks Amidst Snow flower motif. Madam Jin stood proud at the head of the delegation, her face somehow stern and pleasant at the same time.
She’d become Jin-zongzhu in the past year taking over as regent when her husband and infamous lech, Jin Guangshun died of what was hotly rumoured to be a sex related illness. After a few rounds of drinks in private, Wei Ying had been able to convince Wen Qing to share what she’d heard along the medical grapevine.
Syphilis. In the end his mind had been like swiss cheese and he’d had to be confined for his wildly erratic behaviour. Wei Ying had laughed himself sick and had to be knocked out by the doctor when it had turned hysterical.
God, what fucking divine justice that had been. The vain bastard had been amongst those who voted strongest for Wei Ying to be kept like some kind of trained beast, a deadly little pet on a leach. To find out that the man had gotten both his brain and his dick rotted away never failed to pull a but busting laugh from him.
He smiled genially at Madam Jin, saluting her and young men standing behind her. There was her true son, Jin Zixuan, Sentinel and former pompous peacock whom Wei Ying had the displeasure of knowing all too well. At least the man was more tolerable now that he’d pulled his giant head out of his ass and was courting Jiang Yanli properly.
The amount of times the fool had made his shijie cry since her Searching Ceremony had matched them both still burned Wei Ying under the collar so things would never be truly easy between them. Still, Yanli loved him with all her heart and Wei Ying supported her all the way.
Next to him stood his half-brother and Guide Jin Ziyao, formerly Jin Guangyao, formerly Meng Yao; son of Jin Guangshun and a mundane prostitute. His arrival at Koi Tower had raised such a scandal that Madam Jin had needed to descend from those elevated steps to deal with it personally.
Already weary of her husband’s shameful dalliances, she’d almost thrown the boy out on his head. It was only her son, influenced for the better by Yanli’s kind compassion, who convinced her to give the boy a chance. It wasn’t his fault their father was such a scoundrel.
After their father’s death, Madam Jin gave him a proper name, one more suited for their generation and formally inducted him unto the family charter. Wei Ying knew him to be a sweet boy, loyal to his brother and somewhat of a genius. Wen Xu had an entire dossier on the man and many of the tactical moves and improvements coming out of the LanlingJin could be traced directly back to the those sharp eyes and humble smile.
“Jin-zongzhu. Young Master Jin. Second Young Master Jin. ” he rose from his bow gratefully. “This one greets you and is glad to see you well.”
Madam Jin smirked as he went into his introduction of Wen Ning, her eyes sharply observing the younger man as he bravely stepped forward. Wei Ying exchanged a short nod with Jin Zixuan, subtly stepping back as both men engaged the young Wen in polite conversation.
He knew that he had to let Wen Ning handle this on his own. The connections he made today would be the seeds of the alliances he forged in the future. We Ying felt inordinately proud of the young guide, even when faced with the barely respectful presence of the pug-faced shit stain of a cousin, Jin Zixun.
The little asshole knew better that to get too disrespectful within Wei Ying’s sight though. It was a lesson he’d learned all too well at Lotus Pier. Let’s just say that the day ended with Yanli wiping away drying tear tracks, Jin Zixuan almost speechless with anger on her behalf and Jin Zixun getting his ass beat like a drum by both Wei Ying and Jiang Cheng on the training grounds under Madam Yu’s severe gaze.
He’d limped back to Lanling properly cowed with his crooked tail between his legs and had never stepped a foot out of place since then. It helped that Madam Jin loved and adored Jiang Yanli more than she ever cared for that fool’s worthless ass and couldn’t stand for anyone to make her future daughter in law cry.
When all conversation was done Madam Jin gave Wen Ning the tiniest nod of approval and he could hear Wen Qing and the rest of the Wens give small sighs of relief. The Jin would have been the hardest nuts to crack and he was glad that Wen Ning was able to impress them enough to be open for future thoughts.
The LanlingJin had been, under the former Sect Leader, the most vocal of those seeking to grab former Wen territories and had led most of the smear campaigns against Wei Wuxian in the past.
He still thought them all a nest of vipers and wished that his beloved sister wasn’t going to be married into them but in both Jin Zixuan and Jin Ziyao, as well as a smaller brother they’d recently found named Mo Xuanyu, he was willing to give them a chance to change the sect for the better.
Now that the major clans were taken care of, they made a foray into the smaller clans, making a circuit around the room in tandem with the three other debutantes. It was hit or miss with these as they had such differing opinions of Wei Ying himself and the Wens in general.
This was where Wen Ning truly shone, taking the good and the bad with a polite equanimity and natural grace that spoke of good breeding and pedigree. Not that Wei Ying cared about bloodlines and all that shit but it was utterly delightful to see the smaller clans flounder in the face of Wen Ning’s gallant elegance.
Beside, where the four majors clans went, the rest of the cultivation world usually followed.
They paused to greet the Wang Clan, the leader’s face going a ruddy red when his daughter all but turned up her nose at the Wen delegation, being rude to the point where other clans were starting to notice and frown at her behaviour. There was a difference between being uncivil in conference setting and being childishly petty.
Wang Lingjaio’s somewhat pretty face was marred by the black look on her face as she sneered and glowered at them, almost squealing in surprise when her father all but yanked her away, babbling excuses as they left the room in a flurry of horridly gaudy robes.
Wen Ning just stared after them in shock, not knowing what to do in such a situation so Wei Ying stepped forward with a smile, pulling attention with a witty comment and a joke as the young guide collected himself.
After what seemed like years of small talk and making nice, they were finally settled for the feast. Wei Ying made a face behind his sleeve at the repast, groaning softly that it would be hours yet before they could head back to the Inn for proper food.
After the spice debacle the night before, he’d grumpily told each of the Wens to procure their own spice pouch, seeing as they didn’t appreciate his refined tastes as well as he did. Just because Fourth Uncle almost choked to burst a blood vessel didn’t mean that his spices were too hot.
Ah well, to each his own and all.
He powered his way through the meal, grazing just enough to seem polite and feeling seven levels of pity for all the Lan sentinels. Eating this had to be some kind of self-flagellation. He absently wondered if there was a rule about it.
He looked over to where a happy Wen Ning was deep in discussion with both Nie Huisang and Jin Ziyao, watched over by both Wen Qing and Nie Mingjue respectively and felt at ease enough to take a break from all the socializing.
Despite how he felt about the great clan itself, Cloud Recesses was a truly breath taking place to look at. He made his was down a shot stone to a sheer cliff dominated by a large tree. The roots and trunk were huge and gnarled, belying its advanced age.
It felt old and powerful, as if it had been soaking up the cultivation qi for centuries and as he settled unto one of the thick twisted roots, he gave a deep and cleansing breath.
This truly was a place of peace.
The familiar scent of sandalwood and gentians floated across the breeze as a near silent step grew closer. Wei Ying inhaled deeply, eyes falling closed as all of his senses sharpened steeply. He tried to keep his voice even but it still came out a bit sharp.
“You’re brave to come find me without a chaperone, Guide Lan.”
“Wanted to ask a question.” A soft huff came from behind him “Mn. Didn’t think it would be an issue.”
Wei Ying’s brow furrowed in confusion, hand already fisted in his robes. “Why would that not be an issue?”
There was a hesitant pause. “You haven’t…. since yesterday.”
It took a few second to get what the other man was implying. Wei Ying laughed incredulously, throwing his head back.
“You… You think I’m keeping away from you because I’m rejecting you. Are you fucking kidding me?” he shook his head, muttering under his breath. “And here I thought you Lans were geniuses.”
There was a faint smell of burnt flowers and he recognized it as hurt. His heart twisted in his chest and he pressed a hand against it.
“You could not be more wrong, Guide Lan. In fact, I want you so badly that if I were to move from where I am right now I would not be able to keep my hands off you. We would be bonding faster than the rabbits I heard you keep on the back mountain. I can guarantee that.”
The sweet scent of embarrassed arousal floated towards him and he choked, slapping a hand to his lips as saliva pooled in his mouth. That velvet voice came once more.
“Then why haven’t you?”
Sweet ancestors. The man was trying to kill him. Desire burned like lava through his veins at the innocent want in those words.
“First of all, … ” his voice was remarkably steady. “… I’m here as Sponsor to Wen Ning and I have a responsibility to see it through to the end of the Conference.”
He took a thready breath.
“Secondly , you really think that I would what? … jump you at first sight and ravage you? Bond with you without even getting to know you first?”
He chuckled bitterly.
“Even if I didn’t immediately lose my head to Lan Chord Assassination and have my poor broken body tossed down the mountain for defiling Gusulan’s rarest pearl, I highly doubt your family will be too happy with their newest in law.
Do you really think your clan is just going to accept your bonded sentinel being the Yiling Laozu without throwing an epic fit? That your Uncle won’t try to strangle me with his bare hands?”
“Mn. Do not kill within Cloud Recesses” came the soft reply.
“Yeah. There’s also stay away from bad men. So, you know.” He chuckled at the almost petulant tone. “Forgive me if I don’t want to beard the dragon in his den without some kind of formal petition.”
“Ah.” Wangji’s voice went soft with wonder. “You would seek to court me?”
Wei Ying whimpered, biting back a moan as those word set his body alight. Desire surged, blotting his brain white and setting his very skin burning. Sweet holy fuck, he needed to touch, to taste, to gorge himself on his beautiful guide.
A growl rumbled from deep in his chest and he bent forward, pulling in a ragged breath.
“Wei Wuxian.” There was a soft step forward
“Please… ” His voice broke as he spoke. “I think… I think that you need to leave now.”
There was that smell of burnt flowers again. Shit. He tried to concentrate. Wei Ying hands were white where he gripped the tree. “Lan Wangji. This sentinel needs you to be out of reach right now. Do you understand?”
The younger Jade seemed frozen, a small gasp falling from his lips. Just then, when Wei Ying was about to weep from frustration, another voice pierced the tense quiet.
Wei Ying did weep in relief at that, hot tears leaking from his tightly shut eyes.
“Zewu jun. Thank god you’re here. Please escort your brother back to the banquet. Thank you.”
Xichen took in a sharp breath. “I see. Thank you. Wei Wuxian. Come, Wangji. We must go.”
He listened for their steps until they got to the door of the hall, only slumping when they were swallowed by the noise of the banquet. He shuddered as he slumped to the ground, his cock hard and aching as his lungs stuttered behind his ribs.
His head rang from the scent of his guide and the overwhelming desire to do… well to do everything. He wanted everything. Everything Wangji could give. He wanted to consume the man in every way he could. And let the man consume him in turn.
He pressed trembling hands to his heated face, trying to calm his racing heart. The night was quiet and cold and for a long time all he could hear was his own ragged breaths.
There was the swish of robes, the scent of Yunmeng spice, lotus blossoms and honeyed tea as Jiang Fengmian sat on the tree root, letting Wei Ying lean against his leg. A warm hand rested on his neck and he leaned into the welcome comfort.
“Shushu” Wei Ying gasped, pressing his face into the older man’s robes. “How?”
“Mmmm. Wen Qing sent me. After she sent Xichen. She would have come herself but…”
“…. she needed to stay with Wen Ning.” Merciful heavens he loved that woman something fierce. “Yeah, she’s incredible like that.”
The older man hummed in agreement. “So… I’ve already sent a message to my Lady Wife to start the process of formal bond courtship between the YunmengJiang and GusuLan. I think it’s best to start as soon as possible, don’t you?”
Wei Ying laughed wetly, closing his eyes to the stark and relentless beauty around him and sniffling into his uncle’s robes.
“Yes, I think that would be for the best.”