Securing Sect Leader Jin
Chapter 1 - Before securing Sect Leader Jin, you must first secure the donkey.
Disclaimer: This will be a mix of canons so like in CQL, Wei Wuxian goes travelling after the temple’s events. However, he has been resurrected in Mo Xuanyu’s body rather than his own, like in the novel. Also I do not own MDZS/CQL that belongs to MXTX.
“Wei Wuxian?! What are you doing here?” Jiang Cheng scowled.
“Shhhhhh! They’ll hear us!” he hissed, barely refraining from clapping a hand over Jiang Cheng’s mouth. That would have certainly gotten them caught because Jiang Cheng would probably have murdered him on the spot.
Jiang Cheng reluctantly shut up but glared fiercely at him. The effect was rather lessened by the fact that they were both hiding like thieves behind a large bush and spying on their nephew.
“Wen Ning couldn’t come today so I’m following the juniors in his place,” he whispered.
It had been a few months after the incident at Guanyin Temple, and while travelling was something he’d always wanted to do, he could admit to himself it was a bit lonely when his only company was a recalcitrant donkey. By chance he had stumbled across Wen Ning and A-Yuan who had just set out on their journey to give the Wen Remnants a proper send off and Wen Ning had expressed his dismay that he would not be able to look out for Jin Ling during night hunts while he was gone (he still felt guilty for being partially responsible for the death of the boy’s father and had dedicated himself to keeping him safe, especially since Jin Ling seemed to have forgiven him). Wei Wuxian had enthusiastically volunteered to be his replacement while the newly discovered uncle-nephew pair took the time to bond with each other. “Everything will be fine Wen Ning, you’ll see! I’ll be Jin Ling’s guard until you get back!”
It had reassured Wen Ning only partially, because while he could agree that Jin Ling would be safe, he worried that Wei Wuxian would not be. Far be it for him to comment on Wei Wuxian’s choices but he did worry for his friend who had no self-preservation skills whatsoever. But regardless, Wen Ning went along with A-Yuan and trusted that Wei Wuxian would keep both Jin Rulan and himself safe.
He did however forget to warn Wei Wuxian that he might bump into Sect Leader Jiang, who took his nephew’s safety very seriously and followed him along on night hunts (in secret because Jin Ling was now Sect Leader Jin and he felt it was beneath his dignity to have his uncle trailing after him the entire time.)
To Jiang Cheng it just seemed like his little nephew was whining about being ‘a big boy now jiujiu’ and ‘you don’t have to hold my hand anymore jiujiu’ (well Jin Ling hadn’t used those exact words but Jiang Cheng had on jiujiu-coloured glasses). Jiang Cheng, of course, disagreed with Jin Ling’s assertion that he didn’t need to follow him. Being Sect Leader Jin actually brought Jin Ling even more danger than before because his position was not solid and many people wanted to kill him to take over the sect themselves or to destabilise the sect even more than it already was. So like it or not, when Jin Ling was on a night hunt, Jiang Cheng would be following closely behind. No assassin was going to get Jin Ling on his watch!
Luckily for our two stalkers the night hunt was relatively simple and Jin Ling, together with the loud Lan and the lone Ouyang with any sense in his head, had finished it up swiftly and they were just looking for an inn to stay the night before heading back to their sects in the morning. The boys got their rooms and tiredly went to take baths before dinner, unaware that they had been followed. This left Wei Wuxian and Jiang Cheng standing awkwardly outside the inn (because they couldn’t stick too close, they’d be noticed!), neither knowing what to say to the other. It was much easier back in the forest where they couldn’t speak because neither wished to be caught skulking around.
“Ah Jiang Cheng could you um….” Wei Wuxian rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, “Uh, nevermind…”
“What is it?”
“It’s nothing, don't worry,” he said nervously. He was always nervous around Jiang Cheng now. Their days of easy camaraderie were a thing of the past.
Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes, “Just spit it out!”
That was familiar enough that the words spilled out before he realised it. “Uh so I left Lil Apple tied at the edge of the forest and I need to go feed him or he’ll get cranky and will wake up the entire town with his braying tonight. I just wondered if you would maybe, um..reserve-a-room-for-me-as-well when you go in…” he said, rushing the words, then stammering, “B..but it’s okay if you don’t want to! I’ll just try to get one afterwards, if they have any left by then haha.”
“Still travelling with that ridiculous donkey then are you? I thought you’d be holed up in the Cloud Recesses with Lan Wangji. Didn’t you leave together with him?” Jiang Cheng scoffed.
“Hehe, well Lan Zhan is busy, you know. Zewu-Jun is in seclusion so he has to help Lan Qiren run the sect.”
“That doesn’t explain why you’re not there with him. I mean I never expected you to fall for Lan Wangji of all people especially when you’d have to live in Cloud Recesses with their 4000 rules and Grandmaster Lan who hates your guts, but hey there’s no accounting for taste.”
“Hey! Lan Zhan is great! Anyone would be lucky to have him even with their 4000 rules. And I told you, we’re just friends, it’s not like that,” he replied, pouting slightly. The truth was Lan Zhan hadn’t asked him to stay and he… well he didn’t want to impose. He’d already caused Lan Zhan so much trouble, with his sect and otherwise. It’s not as if he could have stayed forever anyway, he wasn’t a Lan and Jiang Cheng wasn’t wrong, Lan Qiren did hate him.
“Right, so you bowed in the ancestral hall for no reason other than to pay respects together with your “very good friend”, nothing more to it?”
“Exactly!” he replied brightly.
Jiang Cheng huffed in disbelief but didn’t pursue the matter. He couldn’t tell if the sarcasm was lost or if Wei Wuxian was being purposefully obtuse. But whatever, far be it for him to help out that condescending, Wei Wuxian-stealing, Lan Wangji anyway.
“What have you been doing if you haven’t been in the Cloud Recesses then?”
“Oh you know, just travelling here and there. Seeing the world. All that good stuff. Experiencing the life of a rogue cultivator.” He didn’t really have a place to go back to after all, travelling was all he could do, but it felt pathetic saying it out loud.
Jiang Cheng raised an eyebrow, “Then how did you land up back here, checking on A-Ling? Isn’t that what The Ghost General does now that he has more free time than he knows what to do with? What could he have possibly been busy with that he had to ask you to do it? Not like he needs to eat or sleep.”
“How did you know Wen Ning does that,” Wei Wuxian asked, surprised. Jiang Cheng scoffed again, “Who do you think I usually end up behind bushes with Wei Wuxian? I’m surprised he didn’t warn you that I would be there.”
Wei Wuxian grinned slyly, “Behind bushes with Wen Ning huh, and here I thought you didn’t like him.”
It took him a second but the comment registered and his face turned red. “Wei Wuxian you..!”
Jiang Cheng was ready to throw hands. Wei Wuxian laughed and dodged and for a second the sense of familiarity was so strong it felt like no time had passed at all. But the moment soon evaporated and they were both left feeling wrong-footed. Wei Wuxian shifted nervously once more, fidgeting with his sleeves.
Jiang Cheng cleared his throat, “Well anyway your picky donkey isn’t going to feed itself is it? Get going Wei Wuxian! I really don’t need to wake up to the sound of an angry donkey in the middle of the night.”
“Right, well uh I’ll just go.. do that...” he dashed away quickly to escape the awkwardness.
Jiang Cheng sighed forlornly. It never used to be so difficult to be around each other. But he didn’t know how to interact with Wei Wuxian anymore. He’d fall back into his natural mode of grumpiness only to realise that instead of laughing about it Wei Wuxian would get nervous. Like just now. When he literally ran away to go spend time with a donkey instead of Jiang Cheng. Once upon a time he used to be the stubborn ass in Wei Wuxian’s life. Oh to get replaced by an animal! Called Lil Apple! Who’d bite his master if he displeased it! At least Jiang Cheng didn’t bite. He pouted internally. Shaking himself out of his thoughts as a large group of people passed him by to get into the inn, he made his way to the counter, even more annoyed now that he’d have to wait in a line to book a room. He’d normally warrant attention because of his status but it was crucial that he keep a low profile at the moment thus he didn’t draw the innkeeper’s attention to himself. As such, he ended up not-so-patiently waiting in line like a normal person.
Meanwhile Wei Wuxian felt like he could breathe freely again. “Ah Lil Apple, at least I know what to expect with you,” he said, trying to pat the donkey and almost losing a finger for his efforts. “Fine, fine, you only want me for the food don’t you?” he groused, pulling out a few apples and leaving them on the ground. “You’re a smart donkey aren’t you? I’ll be back in the morning so be sure not to eat them all at once or you’ll be stuck with this forest grass.” Lil Apple brayed contemptuously. “Oh don’t use that tone with me! Do you want to go back to the Cloud Recesses and share with the bunnies instead?” Lil Apple side-eyed him but took a deliberately slow bite out of an apple to show he understood the threat and would heed his master’s words, but that he did not appreciate it. When he was in the Cloud Recesses those darned furry rodents had covered almost every inch of grass and he could not get a bite in between. He had unhappily brayed, hoping to get some of those carrots the young humans would bring for the rabbits to sate his hunger, only to be unceremoniously tossed out when his master came back because the older white clad humans had been annoyed by his hungry cries. One of them in particular, the one with a tail on his face, also seemed to hate his master. He made sure to spit on his robes before he left. Only he could dislike his master. He really did not want to go back there, so he just ate his apple mutinously.
Satisfied that Lil Apple would be sated and would not cause a disturbance, Wei Wuxian made his way back to the inn.
“You there, with the flute!”
“Who me?” he asked, surprised.
“Yes, you. Your companion has booked you room 13,” said the woman, who he realised was the innkeeper, “He’s ordered dinner to be brought to the room when you arrive, so you should probably head upstairs. Dinner will be served in thirty minutes.”
So Jiang Cheng did reserve a room for him after all. He let out a sigh of relief. He’d wondered on his way back if he’d come back to find that he’d been left to find another inn as this one would surely have been full by the time he got back (he had sat for a while just chilling with Lil Apple). He’d even been ordered dinner. Jiang Cheng was being particularly generous. He wondered how he’d pay him back though. The silver Lan Zhan gave him was running kind of low.
He opened the door to room 13 (which he suspected was close to the juniors’ rooms given that it seemed to be one of the inns’ better ones) and came face to face with Jiang Cheng. He startled a bit but before he could say anything Jiang Cheng scowled, “There you are. I was wondering if you’d decided to disappear with the damn donkey. What took you so long? Don’t you know it’s a chilly night? What if you catch a cold with that weak body of yours?”
“You were looking for me? I was just reassuring Lil Apple, nothing major. Thanks by the way, for ordering a meal. And for the room. I promise I’ll pay you back as soon as I can. You can go back to your room, I’ll be fine, I’ve lived through worse than a cold night,” he said, touched that Jiang Cheng had come to check on him.
“I am in my room,” Jiang Cheng said nonchalantly, “And don’t be ridiculous, did anyone ask you to pay? Dinner will be here soon, you should probably go wash the eau de donkey off of you before it arrives.” “
“Oh. Sorry, I must have gotten the wrong room then, which one is mine?”
“You are also staying here.”
“Huh?” came his bewildered reply. Did Jiang Cheng just not want to bother paying for a room for him? He’d still be grateful for dinner and at least the floor of the inn was clean as opposed to outside in the dirt but he couldn’t help but feel a little disheartened. He had gotten his hopes up for a bed.
Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes, “Whatever you’re thinking, just stop. There were no other rooms left. So you can either suck it up and share with me for a night or go sleep on the donkey.”
When Wei Wuxian looked like he might actually be considering going back outside, Jiang Cheng’s scowl returned with a vengeance. “Oh I see how it is. You can go gallivanting around half the jianghu, sharing rooms with Lan ‘just a friend’ Wangji but you can’t stay one night with me, who you lived and shared a room with for years before...shit happened.”
“Th..that’s not it! And how do you know that anyway?” he sputtered, slightly impressed with Jiang Cheng’s knowledge of things that he wasn’t present for given that he didn’t think Jin Ling talked with his uncle about that time in their lives.
“Juniors talk to each other on night hunts, Wei Wuxian. I have overheard some conversations.”
Ah. Eavesdropping. He was slightly less impressed.
“A..anyway it’s not like that!”
“Then what is it like? You got him drunk and he tied you up with his forehead ribbon and then you went to the same bedroom. You can’t seriously expect me to believe it isn’t a little ‘like that’.”
“What’s the big deal with everyone and that damned forehead ribbon? It’s not like I stripped him,” he huffed.
Jiang Cheng was astonished. “You mean to tell me all of these years later and you still don’t know?” Shit, he was starting to feel a sliver of pity for Lan Wangji.
“Look I know it was my bad the last time at the archery competition, but this time it really wasn’t me! He did it on his own. And he was drunk, he had no idea what he was doing. So whatever importance it has to the Lan at least this time I wasn’t the one who started it.”
Yup, that was definitely pity he was feeling. The poor sod. He absconded with him in front of all the sect leaders who would have been happy to think Lan Wangji was being deceived, hid him from said sect leaders, bowed in the ancestral shrine with Wei Wuxian, shared a bed with him, tied him with his ribbon, and still got called just a friend. Any lesser man would break.
But also, wait… “If it’s not ‘like that’ then why did you act all shameless and say he was your type?” Jiang Cheng grumbled, annoyed upon remembering that first day of meeting him as Mo Xuanyu. “And then go on to share a bed with him in Cloud Recesses and in all those inns?” he continued.
“You’re not still hung up on that, are you Jiang Cheng?” he pouted, “You know, I was just trying to escape; from both of you at the time. I didn’t mean anything by it. Don’t you remember how easy it was to rile him up when we were in Cloud Recesses? Anything I said or did was against the rules. He’d get mad so easily. I tried my best to scandalise him this time so that he would kick me out and I could go off on my own but I had no idea he’d grown so tolerant in the years I’ve been gone. I only got away from you because of A-Ling. As for him, I thought it would be easier to escape so I did things that would make him want to kick me to the curb. But nothing I did helped me to escape. Not even getting drunk, in fact, he even joined me in drinking once! I never thought I’d see the day. Eventually we got caught up in the mystery and he stood by my side when things went pear-shaped. You know I always considered him a friend even though I thought he hated me. Turns out he didn’t really hate me after all! Isn’t that great? You always said he did!” he accused.
“He always seemed like he did! Even you agreed. He was always so stiff. It’s not like we could have read anything else from his perpetually stony expression. I had no idea how he really felt until...well...” Jiang Cheng trailed off awkwardly.
Clearly Wei Wuxian was also not keen on broaching the ribbon or the shrine topic so he sidestepped it easily and went back to Lan Wangji. “Yes, exactly. Lan Zhan is such a good friend. I’m really glad that he doesn’t hate me. I value his friendship very much so don’t badmouth him Jiang Cheng, okay? You can badmouth me all you like but Lan Zhan is a good person and he doesn’t deserve it.”
He certainly doesn’t deserve this level of obliviousness, thought Jiang Cheng. It was somehow both good and bad for Lan Wangji that Wei Wuxian didn’t realise it. If Wei Wuxian did not return those feelings and truly did see him as a good friend, he wouldn’t have to go about feeling all guilty and obligated about it because that would 100% happen and Lan Wangji himself wouldn’t want Wei Wuxian to bear that burden. On the other hand it was bad because Lan Wangji would just be there pining away with no definitive answer and getting his feelings inadvertently stepped on when Wei Wuxian did something that was like rubbing salt in his wounds. But hey, he still didn’t like the man so, not really his problem. Especially since he would have had no feud with him if Lan Wangji himself hadn’t started acting like Jiang Cheng was enemy number one. He would have thought Lan Wangji of all people would know better than to listen to rumors. Clearly Lans did gossip after all. Wei Wuxian on the other hand...well he’d been dead for thirteen years, he had to get his news from somewhere.
He had such complicated feelings when Wei Wuxian first came back to Lotus Pier, and even though the truth had not yet been revealed, he’d still wished they could somehow go back to the way they were. That was until Wei Wuxian broke their unspoken mode of communication (through arguing of course), by actually physically attacking him in his own ancestral hall. Though he was starting to realise that maybe their shrine talk had devolved so completely because of the presence of Lan Wangji. If Lan Wangji hadn’t been there without his permission then Jiang Cheng would have had nothing to say about him. But he had been an outsider in a private space and had the nerve to bow in front of Jiang Cheng’s parents with Wei Wuxian like he was family. It had rubbed Jiang Cheng the wrong way and his words were even more scathing than usual. After now being explicitly told that he shouldn’t badmouth the man in front of Wei Wuxian, he really believed that things wouldn’t have gone so poorly if Lan Wangji just wasn’t there. Wei Wuxian was always the type to get mad on everyone’s behalf but his own, and in this case, he thought highly of Lan Wangji which didn’t help. All Jiang Cheng was looking for was an explanation, instead he had gotten an unwanted show.
“Anyway,” Jiang Cheng deflected, scrunching up his nose, “Whatever my thoughts on Lan Wangji, at least the man is always clean. You stink. Go wash up idiot.”
“Is it really that bad?” he sniffed himself. Okay it wasn’t that bad, A-Cheng, rude! But he was smelling a bit like a barnyard animal so he went behind the screen to take a quick wash before their dinner arrived. There was a basin with water and a clean washcloth to the side. Jiang Cheng had already freshened up since there was a scrunched up cloth in the corner. He felt like he was having an out of body experience. How many times in their youth had they been in this situation? Him coming in all messy from creating mischief somewhere and Jiang Cheng chiding him while making sure he took a bath and didn’t get sick. Jiang Cheng never said what he meant. Always scolding him but worrying about him at the same time. Back then they were carefree kids, a vast difference from their current situation but maybe, just maybe, that at least was still the same.
Back then also had two beds, he thought mournfully, as they finished up an awkward dinner and he was faced with the reality of having to sleep on the floor.
Author's Note: So I had this idea and have been trying to finish it for the longest time, but I decided to post chapter one at least and see how it goes because it is taking me longer to finish than I hoped.