- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Action Adventure
Wei Ying paused at the base of the long staircase to the gates of Cloud Recesses and took a deep breath. Looking up at the majestic mountain shrouded in mist, he felt so small and insignificant against such a titan; and for a split second, he balked at the daunting task that lay ahead.
But that feeling lasted only half a heartbeat as the sounds of the Wens shuffling behind him bolstered his resolve. His lips curled in a small, impish smile.
“Ok people, before we go on, just remember one thing…”
He spun on his heel sharply and looked back to where the rest of the delegation stood in in neat formation, all of their attention on him.
“… no matter what happens today, we will be having dinner at the inn tonight so try not to die from the super bland food they serve at the Welcoming Banquet ok? I’ve heard GusuLan cuisine tastes like rabbit food boiled in the worst medicine and I’ve been force fed enough of that stuff by Qing-jie to know what I’m talking about.”
He shuddered and gestured to the quaqin pouch hanging next to his Yunmeng Bell and the carved onyx token given to him by Wen-Zongshu.
“If it gets to been too much, I have some spices here that you can sneak ok? Don’t despair. Your Weixiong is here to help you.”
Fourth Uncle choked into his sleeve as Wen Qing’s eyes narrowed dangerously, her mouth pressed into a thin white line.
“Wei. Wuxian.” she all but growled, slapping at his arm.
But Wei Ying only grinned at her, his job at dispelling the building tension a success. Poor Wen Ning had been starting to look a little green around the gills. Now he was flushed from trying to stifle his giggles, his shoulders relaxed.
They’d left two of the disciples back at the inn to guard the rooms and their belongings as they were not being hosted within the Lan compound itself. Only the major clans and the more important minor clans got that privilege. The rest of the attendees had to find their own lodgings within Caiyi Town or, if they were too poor of too late to find rooms; set up camp on the outskirts.
Luckily, Wen Xu was a fucking master at thinking ahead and had booked them rooms at a nice enough inn whose owner appreciated money and discretion more than he disliked Wens.
Which was fortunate because Wei Ying was 110% sure that Lan Qiren would rather eat glass and die horribly than have them stay in his precious Lan dormitories.
Wen Qing huffed and deftly passed out their Conference invites, the white cloud motif upon the sky blue binding making even such a simple thing look so elegant. Wei Ying turned it over in his hands, huffing an incredulous laugh. If there was one thing GusuLan had without doubt, it was aesthetic.
The steps took forever, thank god for their golden cores, and soon enough they were standing in front of two surprised looking Lan Disciples. Wei Ying named them Frowny and Fidgety in his head, biting back a smile as they all but tripped over themselves at the sight of him and the Wens behind him.
“Uh…um… ” Fidgety fumbled as Frowny inspected their invites like he was afraid that they were forgeries that would come alive and bite off his nose.
“Is there a problem gentlemen?” He gave them his most charming smile and thoroughly enjoyed how they both blanched in response. “Aren’t you going to let us in?”
“The Discussion Conference does start today.” He raised a curious eyebrow. “… and those are GusuLan Official invitations are they not?”
“Of course… but….”
“Then what seems to be the hold up?”
There was another Minor Sect coming up the stairs behind them and the Wen Siblings were already starting to look uncomfortable. Wei Ying narrowed his eyes, his smile sharpening enough to make both Lans shuffle back a step.
“You still haven’t told us what the problem is or why we are still standing here or did you think that we wouldn’t actually show up?”
“But you… I mean.. ” Frowny stuttered. “… the Wens never come to Conference.”
“Oh I see. So these are just courtesy invites then? Just so that your clan can say that protocol had been followed? Does that mean that the great reputation of the GusuLan Sect has been lip service all this time?”
“You!” Frowny Lan jerked forward before remembering himself and stepping back. “… and… why do you even care about this anyway? You’re not even a Wen!”
Wei Ying’s eyes went wide with surprise, his lips curling at such rudeness. Gasps and whispers broke out behind him as Frowny seemed to realize what he had just done and went ghastly pale. His companion was no better but before he could squeak a word a strident voice rang out.
“Allow them entrance at once.” the voice was deep and struck something deep inside Wei Ying’s chest, making his breath hitch. “And report to Lanshi for punishment when your duties are done.”
Both Frowny and Fidgety deflated at the words, their faces a blotchy red. They bowed low, murmuring mortified apologies before stepping aside to let the Wen Delegation passed.
Wei Ying nodded magnanimously at them as he glided forward, flicking his hair over his shoulder in an aloof manner, even though he was cackling like a fiend inside.
He swept up the final flight of stairs, arrogance in his every step as he led his small delegation towards the greeting pavilion. He looked up, hoping to see whomsoever it was that had smoothed things out for them and froze mis step, almost making Wen Qing walk into him.
Standing before him, at the top of the stairs, was the most beautiful man Wei Ying had ever seen. He looked like an exquisite jade statue, stunning and elegant in his GusuLan white and blue robes.
He had golden eyes that shone like the last gasped breath of sunset and his long ebony hair was as graceful as the ink black night.
His heart shuddered in his chest as he gazed upon such beauty in the elegant curve of a pale jawline, such strength in the breadth of broad shoulders. Such grace in the hands that gripped a gorgeous blue and silver Sword.
Everything else in the world seemed to have slowed to just that one ethereal moment and all other thoughts fled Wei Ying’s mind.
‘Fuck’ said his head
‘Mine’ said his heart.
“Guide” said his mouth.
“Sentinel” said the stunning mystery Lan.
“Holy shit” Wen Qing murmured under her breath.
“Oh My” hummed Fourth Uncle.
Wen Ning just…. squeaked.
“Hanguang- jun” gasped a nearby Lan Disciple.
There was a heavy pause, then all hell broke loose.
“I refuse. I absolutely forbid it!”
Lan Qiren’s apoplectic face was just as satisfying to witness as Wei Ying had envisioned and it warmed the cockles of his little black heart to see the man so affected.
Much to his glee, the whole greeting ceremony had promptly fallen apart and it had taken the infinite patience and some seriously clever sweet talk from the famous First Young Master Lan Xichen to get things settled and flowing again without bloodshed.
Wei Ying had been suitably impressed, he’d heard of the Twin Jades of Gusu but he’d never had the honour of meeting them in person. Both Zuwe-Jun’s and Hanguang-Jun’s reputations preceded them just like it did him.
But unlike the utter hogwash that fuelled most of his reputation, the rumours of their peerless beauty did not do the real thing justice.
The main Hall was still in an uproar when they were ushered in, a wave of silence sweeping over the gathered cultivators as nervous looking Lan Disciples showed them to their seats.
They had been placed at the very end of the line, most likely because no one thought that they would even attend and he leaned back unto the cushions with an easy smile, nodding simple greetings to anyone who was brave enough to catch his eye.
His jaw hurt from holding back laughter. This was already too much fun by half.
The rest of the Wens fell into formation in the seats behind, their backs straight, shoulders wide, chins up in that Wen Pride that many had called arrogance but that Wei Ying knew to be self-respect and confidence in the face of such hostility.
A nervous maid served them fresh fruit and fragrant tea and he took adverse pleasure in popping juicy grapes into his mouth as he took in the spectacle before him.
Further up near the front where the main sects were seated, both Jiang Cheng and his father were sitting serenely, deftly fending off busybodies and smirking into their cups.
They’d arrived the day earlier and had agreed to stay neutral until their support was needed. They also agreed not to interfere with Wei Ying’s machinations so their Sect would not be connected to the amount of mischief he’d already planned to perpetrate.
Plausible Deniability, he’d told them with a wide and wicked grin, hugging a frowning Jiang Cheng around the shoulders before he left on his donkey. It was better for everyone if they were just as surprised as the rest of their peers.
His eyes roved over the room, snagging on the different cliques that were clustered together; no doubt breaking at least a dozen Gusu Lan rules; gossiping shamelessly while taking what they assumed to be surreptitious looks at the Wen delegation.
He could hear Lan Qiren’s strident voice amongst the cultivators groups near the main dais, almost unintelligible with rage. He couldn’t see the man but his imagination gave him a pretty good idea of how he looked.
What he could see, however, were glimpses of the alluring guide who’d taken all of his senses captive. The stern down turn of his mouth, the graceful line of his neck, the trim dip of his slender waist.
Wei Ying had centred on his heartbeat ever since the man had called to his sentinel and it had taken everything in him not to leap into those strong looking arms and kiss him stupid.
He smelled like sandalwood, old paper and ink with the faint smell of gentian blossoms, his voice deep and reverberating as he stoically gave curt answers to the clamouring voices around him.
He seemed uncomfortable being crowded as such and the only thing stopping Wei Ying from jumping up and pushing his way through the crowd and herding the quiet young man away from all the chaos was the presence of his older brother at his side.
Wei Ying breathed through his instinctual need to lay claim to the stunning jade, pushing down his primal urges so that his mind could stay clear. He needed all his faculties to get them all through this safe and smelling like daises.
Lan Zhan. Lan Wanji. Hangguang-Jun. The names sounded delicious on his tongue and he hummed low in his chest as he turned them over and over. They burst like sweet berries over his tongue, dripping down his throat like honey and pooling warm in his gut.
He’d heard of the man of course. Elegant and peerless in strength and beauty. Number two on the list of most desirable bachelors behind his older brother. Wielder of the legendary sword Bichen with a reputation for appearing amidst chaos.
Wei Ying had never met the man in person, either at Lotus Pier or even by accident on a random night hunt. The last time that he’d been among the cultivation gentry had been that emergency conference years ago and he’d been loathed to hob nob among the hypocritocracy ever since then.
Still, if he’d had he vaguest clue that he would find a match in such a glorious and magnificent guide, he would have at least made an effort at a Searching Ceremony years ago.
He was snapped out of his musings by the acting Lan-Zongzhu stomping up to his table. Lan Qiren’s face was a ruddy red, his lips curled back in a pained looking snarl.
“You!” he pointed a sharp finger at a lounging Wei Ying. “You don’t even belong here! You can’t be here.”
“Oh?” Wei Ying raised an eyebrow at the spittle flying from the man’s mouth, white foam gathering on the corners of his lips. “I thought the Discussion Conferences were open to all cultivators, no matter the Sect. I have an invitation. I have every right to be here.”
“But… You’re not even a Wen!” one of the random cultivators piped up, face flushed with anger. “Why are you here with them?”
“That’s right.” another stepped forward, suddenly brave as well. “You can’t come in on a Wen Invite. That’s deceit.”
Wei Ying barked a laugh, making many people grumble and mutter under their breaths. He pinned the two culprits with an unblinking look that had them both shying back into the safety of the crowd.
“Not that it’s any of your business.” his voice was smooth and deadly, his smile just as menacing. “But both the Conference Code of Conduct and the Sentinel/ Guide Codex permits a Sect Leader to step in for another by request, especially when it comes to escorting a young sentinel or guide to their debut. They are also allowed to stand as Sponsor in the Searching Ceremony.”
Thank God for Wen Xu and his amazing skills at research.
“But … But…” another stupidly brave soul retorted, “You’re nothing but a… What Sect could you even be the leader of?”
Many heads turned to where Jiang Fengmian was still sitting serenely, sipping his tea. Feeling eyes upon him, the older man looked up from his cup and gave a small, calm smile.
“To my knowledge, the YilingWei was recognized as an official Sect by the Cultivation World almost three years ago with Wei Wuxian as its head. I’m not mistaken am I son?”
Without missing a beat, Jiang Cheng coolly replied, as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “No, Jiang-Zongshu, you are not mistaken. I remember quite clearly as I was there for the official signing of the Sect Charter.”
Wei Ying thought he might burst a blood vessel from not laughing. He’d never loved his father and brother more than he did at that moment. He used his pinky finger to wipe away a mock tear from the corner of his eye then turned back towards the irate Lan.
“That would settle it then, don’t you agree Lan Shifu?”
“I … You…. You’re not allowed in here. There are rules!”
“Actually… there aren’t any rules in GusuLan that specifically forbid my entrance. “Wei Ying tilted his head and blinked innocently, “We checked.”
Thanks again Wen Xu.
“That doesn’t matter. I’m instilling one right now. Get off this mountain right now you… you fell beast!”
A growl rumbled in Wei Ying’s chest as his teasing smile lost its humour and turned practically leonine.
“Oh…” his voice went low and deadly. “So I guess the age old tradition laid down by the legendary Lan An of new GusuLan rules being approved and instated by a panel of elders is only relevant on your whim alone?”
He shook his head in disgust. “Will the famous peerless reputation of Cloud Recesses become one of Double Standards and Hypocrisy? Heavens forbid.”
Lan Xichen, probably seeing how close his uncle was to suffering a qi deviation, stepped in to smooth all the ruffled feathers and all but shuffled his still spitting uncle out of the room. Unfortunately the man hadn’t spit up blood yet but Wei Ying had hope for the rest of the week.
Once again he was impressed by the level of diplomacy the Older Lan Jade seemed capable of pulling out if his ass and his respect for the beautiful man grew.
Now that the main source of entertainment was gone, the rest of the room seemed to quiet down, many settling into their seats as a stone faced Lan Wanji was left to play host until his bother came back.
Thankfully for the younger Lan, the QingheNie-zongzhu – Nie Mingjue, reputed long-time friend and sworn brother of Zewu-Jun, took pity on his er-ge’s didi and stepped up, bluntly telling everyone to sit the hell down and drink their damned welcome tea. And so Chifeng-Zun commanded, so the Cultivation World obeyed, although somewhat grudgingly.
And so did the Yiling Laozu obey as well, sipping his tea with a delighted hum. Wen Qing huffed behind him, finally feeling comfortable enough to speak.
“You really know how to roll on everyone’s bad side don’t you?”
“Hn. It’s a talent.” he grinned over his shoulder, happy to see her eyes dancing with mirth even though her face was scowling. He waved a lazy had at them. “As soon as the toasts are done you should go mingle. Meet people. That’s what we’re here for right?”
He’d been enough of a distraction that people wouldn’t be thinking so much about the Wens in their presence. It was the perfect time for a little informal interaction.
“Tomorrow we’ll do the official introductions after the Debut. Then the real fun begins.”
The Wens all nodded, settling back to their tea and chatting easily amongst each other, much more relaxed than they had been all evening. He considered that a mission well accomplished. They deserved to have a little enjoyment as this week was sure to be full of trials.
At least they got to go back to the Inn every evening. He was already missing wine and there was still that case of Emperor’s smile that Wen Xu had gotten for him.
Plus, he’d need the alcohol to stop him from coming back up the mountain, sneaking over the walls and climbing his breath-taking Guide like a fucking tree.
Sweet ancestors, the man was hot like burning.
Speaking of Lan Wanji, he’d been joined once again by his brother who was serenely guiding those collected through the mandatory welcoming toasts. The younger brother seemed to breath a small sigh of relief as he stepped back to his brother’s side and the soft, sweetness of that sound made something clench in Wei Ying’s gut.
Fuck. Fuuuuck. Fuck.
His hand clenched around Chequing as he tried to wrangle his control back into something less than the wild that was growing in his chest.
He leaned closer to Wen Qing, pitching his voice so that only she could hear. “If I make to jump for him, feel free to stick me full of needles.”
Her eyes widened for a brief moment before her face cleared and she nodded resolutely. He gave her a thankful smile, sagging in relief.
‘This…’, he thought to himself as he was briefly ensnared in that golden stare before the beautiful Jade Guide looked away, his ears tipped adorably pink, ‘… was going to be a problem.’