#wen ruohan Tumblr posts

  • bookwyrrm
    25.07.2021 - 1 hour ago

    What are everyone’s favorite Wen Ruohan moments? I’ll start with a couple: 

    1) He sits on his circle throne that has absolutely no back support (and also spikes? coming out of it) and then wonders why he needs constant acupuncture from his niece 

    2) The dude has a lava pit in his throne room. Sure, it’s a cool aesthetic but he also keeps a bunch of zombies wandering around said lava pit. Do you think any of them ever fell in 

    #cql#wen ruohan#mdzs #mo dao zu shi #chen qing ling #qishan wen
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  • offaeandcreation
    24.07.2021 - 22 hours ago

    A Pearl Lost and Found

    “This is the composition I made for my final exam; its name is ‘A Pearl Button Lost and Found.’” She announced. Finally, she settled her fingers on the guqin and rang her first chord.

    Meng Shi waited and waited. Trained A-Yao in everything she knew; reading, writing, music, even squirreling away every extra coin on cultivation manuals. A-Yao must be ready for when Jin Guangshan returned for them. For him. For her. Day in and day out. He trained. She worked.

    Jin Guangshan did not return.

    CW: Implied/Referenced Prostitution, Implied/Referenced Dubious Consent, Financial Issues Referenced

    AO3

    A breeze rushed through the open hall, sweeping the white and blue banners of the Gusu Lan Sect into a dance. Though the noise never passed a whisper, a hush settled as a young woman ambled into the hall. With her guqin tucked in a silk sleeve under her arm, robes curling around her like blooming petals of a flower, Meng Shi settled in her place at the front of the hall like an immortal cultivator, long fingers ghosting over the qin strings.

    “This is the composition I made for my final exam; its name is ‘A Pearl Button Lost and Found.’” She announced. Finally, she settled her fingers on the guqin and rang her first chord.  

    ~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~

    She dreamed Jin Guangshan would return for her. Constructed fantasies where one night he would sweep into the brothel, take A-Yao into his arms, smiling as he did so, and ferry them away. Far away.

    Deep in the nights, while a client would take their pleasure inside her, Meng Shi would dream: it was him, not a client. She was in Jin Guangshan’s bed, married and unworried when her next meal would be. And A-Yao was practicing cultivation and studying the six arts, not hidden in a closet away from wandering eyes. Sometimes, when the client was especially rough, not bothering to even use oil, (or letting her slip it on), she would clutch the pearl button he had given her so tightly she would find its imprint inscribed into her palm the next morning.

    A button and a dream. That’s all she had.

    Meng Shi waited and waited. Trained A-Yao in everything she knew; reading, writing, music, even squirreling away every extra coin on cultivation manuals. A-Yao must be ready for when Jin Guangshan returned for them. For him. For her.

    Day in and day out. He trained. She worked.

    Jin Guangshan did not return.

    ~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~

    The chords soft and slow, required Meng Shi to hold down zither strings while plucking others. And then the pause. The last note hung in the air, stringing the audience into an uncomfortable pause. Made them freeze, spines akin to metal spikes – waiting for the breath, the respite. Just like she was all those years. At least, they had the privilege of it lasting only for a moment.  

    ~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~

    The one who freed her out of the brothel did not wear gold. At least in his robes; he brought no buttons or promises.

    In fact, when they first met, she didn’t even know who he was.

    The last visages of sunlight vanished beneath the horizon. A couple days off, only during the time she bled. Cramps tightened their grip around Meng Shi’s waist and it must have shown on her face for A-Yao crept closer, clutching at her skirt. She squeezed his hand with a smile, making certain her eyes crinkled. A-Yao returned the grin. She wondered if it was as false as her own.

    The merchant selling the cultivation manuals often took his place at the end of the street, just at the intersection between the poor and rich red district in Yunping. She scanned the crowd for the familiar squirrelly-mustached man in blue or green hemp. Loud chatter boomed in the busy street as vendors and prostitutes called out to potential customers. Potential coin. Another meal. Another day.

    “Are you looking for your friends?” A voice said very much close by. The sort of slurred smirking tone Meng Shi was all too familiar with. She pulled A-Yao close, using her sleeve and skirts to hide him, her fingers dug into her purse, nails scraping through the thin material into the too little coin. She peered over her shoulder, scanning for the drunkard.

    Not even a couple paces away, said drunkard lounged on a nearby pillar, liquor pouring down his chin as he looked down on what appeared to be a cloaked person—their back to her. The fabric looked thin, and it shimmered against the torchlight.

    Red silk, most likely. Rich.

    Though the weather wasn’t as humid as it usually was this time of year, it was obvious the person wished to hide their identity. As if a rich man could shed his origin so easily in these parts.

    “I asked where Yunmeng is.” A youthful voice replied, coming from the throat of someone who just stepped over the door’s ledge of adolescence into adulthood thoug it didn’t crack, “either tell me or I’m leaving.”

    A gold piece flashed in the torchlight.

    Her coin purse too light.

    The merchant may raise the price again. And she wouldn’t even be able to afford a meal for A-Yao.

    “A-Niang?” A-Yao asked. They had stopped walking.

    The drunkard’s eyes glittered, a slow dripping grin spread on his face, “Ah, what a junior, so impatient. Too embarrassed to enter a brothel? With your pretty face, you may get even a discount!”

    The young man bristled, hand flying to his side. The drunkard’s smile fell away into horror, skin sheet-white.

    “I’m sure if I swing around your pretty face, anyone would give me a discount.” The young man hissed.

    Meng Shi frowned. Rich and spoiled. Likely to flash a weapon he couldn’t even yield.

    She pulled A-Yao along. Not worth the risk.

    “A-Niang,” A-Yao said as they slipped back into the flow of the crowd, “I think he is a cultivator.”

    ~~~

    The merchant raised the price.

    Meng Shi tucked the booklet into her sleeve alongside the painfully empty purse. A-Yao dragged his feet on the pebbled ground, kicking up dirt clouds. They walked down a smaller street now, crowds and people leaning more into the open, brightly colored shops. Surprisingly enough, this side of the street remained empty. Not even drunkards or thieves hung around. Something about a ghost wandering the area. Not that she had ever seen it.  

    “What’s wrong?”

    He didn’t answer, frowning at her sleeve before pulling at her skirt to continue back to the brothel, “It’s nothing, A-Niang.”

    The third time he got like this.

    “A-Yao, please-” Meng Shi stopped, clutching the book closer to herself.

    “The cultivator is here.” A-Yao interrupted, pointing behind her instead.

    Meng Shi turned, and indeed a silhouette with a cloak leaped from balcony to balcony, right to the roof of an abandoned tea-house. No one had picked up the place due to the leaky, broken roof…

    “Master cultivator! Watch out!” The cry tore out of her throat.

    The moment the words left her mouth, the cultivator sunk into the rooftop as if it devoured him. A loud, painful crash.

    Meng Shi covered her mouth with her sleeve. The tea-house simply too unsafe for her to enter, and what even could she offer?

    What is it with rich men fooling around and getting themselves into trouble?

    She should just leave. Perhaps the cultivator broke a bone or two, but he had the funds for a doctor, while if she so much as attempted to climb into the unstable building, a scratch could kill her.

    A red light blinked in the holes of the house. Bright. Like a silent firework.

    And the young cultivator shot up through the hole in the roof, cloak billowing around him like a flying flag. Sword beneath him, engulfed in the colors of a scarlet star.

    Is this how Jin Guangshan flew? Would A-Yao one day be like an immortal, flying above them all?

    She clutched the book closer. Hopefully.

    The red light remained only for a moment, disappearing before anyone in the crowd noticed him.

    He landed right in front of them. The wind swirled around him, cupping his figure in the air. A slow descent, a god. Meng Shi pulled A-Yao close, bowing her head.

    “Is this esteemed cultivator injured?” She asked, eyeing the red, bleeding slashes on his exposed hands and chin. Her mind raced, tracing the building of the local doctor on a mental map. Yes, down two streets and-

    “No need.” The cultivator replied.

    A-Yao’s gasp tore her attention back to him.

    The red slices slowly shrunk and disappeared, like wiping off makeup.

    The cloak’s hood that framed his face slipped to reveal dark hair wound up in an elaborate hairstyle, clipped probably with some luxurious pin, hidden in shadow. Round red eyes met hers, “I appreciate your warning, however.”

    Irises scanned her before shifting to A-Yao, peeking his head from behind her. He too must have seen how his wounds vanished in a flash.

    “What a sweet-faced son, impressed?” Voice tilted up with a pride of a purring cat. Crescent smile to match.

    A-Yao nodded, though his white-knuckled grip on Meng Shi’s skirt revealed his trepidation.

    The cultivator slid a sword into its sheath, gold with motifs woven in. But the light from the shops and vendors proved to be insufficient lighting to see what they were.

    Very expensive. Perhaps when Jin Guangshan took A-Yao to the Jinlintai, he would finally get one.

    “Perhaps you can help me with a matter.” The cultivator said, “do you know-”

    “Yunmeng is on the northern end of the city which you can find the lake to cross to reach it following up this street,” A-Yao said, pointing behind the cultivator.

    Meng Shi squeezed A-Yao’s shoulder, “do not interrupt someone, A-Yao.” Much less a rich, dangerous cultivator.

    The cultivator blinked before bursting into laughter, “I actually was going to ask something else, but clearly you must have walked by me earlier to overhear that interesting conversation.”

    A cold pit dropped into Meng Shi’s gut. She swung her sleeve to cover A-Yao. Maybe he wouldn’t punish them for the interruption. Maybe-

    The booklet went flying, clattering into the dirt as its flimsy spine snapped. Colorful papers skidded across the ground, flashing their contents for all to see.

    And the coin purse slumped to the ground, not even containing a coin for a single clunk.

    Meng Shi gasped. A-Yao scrambled on his hands and knees, picking up the scattered paper. She too, though tears blurred her vision, never mind her skirt, scrambled the precious paper up from the ground. There is no way the merchant would even allow them to exchange the book! He would demand money. And the pages were out-of-order now, not even numbered. How would A-Yao use it now?!

    “What is this?” The cultivator leaned over, picking up a sheet.

    Meng Shi bowed her head, shoulders shaking. Please don’t laugh at her. Please don’t-

    “A cultivation manual, esteemed cultivator,” A-Yao answered, also bowing his head, remembering his manners.

    Meng Shi dared to look up. The cultivator frowned at the sheet, flipping it back and forth. The line between his brows growing into a crevice. His gaze shifted back to A-Yao, “You eagerly want to become a cultivator?”

    A-Yao hesitated, glancing at Meng Shi for assurance.

    “I’d prefer you wouldn’t lie to me. There won’t be a consequence for your answer, but I hate liars.” The cultivator interrupted. He crossed his arms, but the page didn’t so much as crinkle. Long sharp nails barely ghosting the fragile paper.

    “My father is a cultivator,” A-Yao replied, voice even.

    “Oh?” The cultivator leaned back, posture relaxing a bit, “And who is this man? I might know him.”

    “Sect Leader Jin Guangshan.”

    The cultivator… flinched. He opened his mouth, paused, before closing.

    Did something happen to Jin Guangshan? Why did he flinch? Was he this cultivator’s sworn enemy? Were they in danger?

    He said nothing. And A-Yao remained in his spot, not so much as flinching or trembling under the red-eyed stare. Even with placid smile—the same mask Meng Shi wore with the more difficult clients.

    The cultivator finally sighed, breaking the silence, and changing the subject, “What do you think of this… manual?” The way the words came out sounded like he just had eaten some strange-tasting fruit.

    Meng Shi’s hand curled into a fist, hidden beneath her sleeve. How dare he? She stayed up night after night, working, spreading her damned legs for ferocious beasts to claw a meal for them. To get A-Yao schooled. To get those manuals so he could leave and never look back. Meng Shi would bet her pearl button given as a gift, as a promise, that this man wouldn’t survive one night working as a prostitute. And he had the gall to look down at the manual. At her?

    A-Yao’s gaze flittered to the ground.

    “Remember, I don’t like liars.” The cultivator reminded him.

    “These manuals are useless,” A-Yao said. Now he shook, eyes flitting between her and the cultivator.

    The wind stole her breath.

    No.

    No, he had to be incorrect.

    A-Yao must have been doing something wrong, perhaps the manuals were too advanced or-

    The cultivator smiled, sharp-edged like the sword he wore on his belt, “Correct. These are more likely to give you Qi deviation than anything else. A useless endeavor.” He then turned to her.

    Only clasping her hands together, digging nails into her flesh kept her from bursting into tears, “You have a clever son. A shame really that-” he paused, frowning at her. The relaxed arrogance in his posture dissipated. Tht stupid smirk fell away.  

    A rich. Spoiled. Brat-

    “Your name?”

    He suddenly wanted to know her name?!

    “Meng Shi.” She hissed, grinding her teeth together to keep angry words from spilling.

    At A-Yao, “and yours?”

    “Meng Yao.” Obediently, responded with a salute.

    “We’ll meet again then.” The cultivator said with a wave, cloak billowing like a curtain in the wind as he walked away, without a goodbye.

    “A-Niang…”

    “Let’s go home.”  

    ~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~

    The melody changed to something heavier, sadness into tension, but a playful sharp tune echoed within the pauses. How else would she paint their benefactor? Outer appearance merely a veneer of youth. Sharp-edged and almost bordering cruel. But unlike a certain man with a certain button, the man kept his promise. Foreshadowed in a lack of a goodbye and by the tune she plucked on the zither.

    ~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~

    Two nights later, as Meng Shi calculated the number of clients she would need to take on extra to buy a refill of rouge, anything but to think about the collection of false manuals stacked in a corner behind A-Yao when a rapid knock forced her to open her door early.

    Sisi waited with a frown on her face. Lips already painted in her favorite deep rose pink, “Madame says someone is here for you.”

    Meng Shi’s fingers dug into the old wood. Nails too short, clipped to defenseless crescent-moons, unable to even make a scratch on her damn door.

    “A-Yao.” She gestured at her son, who had looked up from his poetry book when the door knocked, skin turning pale, “go hide. Only come out when I come for you.”

    He nodded, slipping past her and Sisi with his shoulders hunched.

    “Watch over him, please-”

    Sisi grabbed her hand, warming her cold, trembling fingers between her palms, “I’ll scratch out anyone who so much as looks his direction.”

    Meng Shi nodded, touching her hair, making sure not a single stubborn strand stood out of place. And she went to the first floor.

    Madame Meng stood at the front room of the brothel with a cloaked man, taller than the young cultivator she met a few nights before but wearing the same color outer robes, standing akin to a column holding up a temple, with a stone expression to match.

    “It appears a Young Master bought your contract.” Madame Meng twitched a false smile as Meng Shi lifted her head from her bow, “and your son’s.”

    Meng Shi’s jaw dropped. She stared at the Madame before shifting to the unexpressive, unfamiliar man.

    “Take any possessions and your son. I’ll escort you to your carriage.” The man said.

    The debt? The contract? Everything? Paid?

    The glimmer of excitement popped. The red robe. He must have been that youngster’s servant or something. Most likely, he bought her to be his concubine.

    But a concubine didn’t have to take on clients.

    Better than a prostitute.

    Maybe if she asked nicely, she could ask for A-Yao to learn cultivation…

    “Of course, please give me half a sichen.” She bowed again. Her throat closed up.

    ~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~

    Meng Shi’s hands flew on the guqin. The melody bright, full of scales and chords, forcing her arms to run up and down the entirety of the instrument. Sweat trickled down her spine. Above the fast-paced song, murmurs among the crowd hummed in the background.

    And then a pause, before she started the remix, a softer, sweeter tune than the first set of verses she played.

    ~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~

    The youngster cultivator ended up to be older than she was, revealing himself to be Sect Leader Wen.

    He had no interest in making her his concubine.  

    Instead, he had A-Yao immediately swept away to join the other junior cultivators. And herself, a two-story house within Nightless City, with two servants, and an allowance.

    Meng Shi waited with baited breath for the ‘but.’ When Sect Leader Wen announced it, he easily read her.  

    “All talent should be part of my sect. Why should I let anyone else snatch your son up?” The response came with another of his sharp-toothed smiles.

    Well… as long as A-Yao wasn’t in any danger…

    That was it. Right? A-Yao studied cultivation under the banners of the greatest Sect in the cultivation world. She no longer had to take clients to bring food to the table. And she bought Sisi’s contract as well.

    But her hands itched.

    “The Gusu Lan Sect’s expertise is in musical cultivation,” A-Yao mentioned offhandedly once, among a tirade of other information about the Great Sects.

    An idea popped like a firecracker. At the very least, she would have fun for an evening if it didn’t go as planned.

    ~~~

    The Wen Clan had more than enough money to throw at almost any form of entertainment while juggling the expenses of running the biggest sect there was without a hitch. Every couple of evenings, entertainers would perform for the clan in their private dining room. Guests, lucky enough to be invited, often came back with stories such as the one time Madame Wen paid a troupe of fire-breathing acrobats to accompany an announcement of her pregnancy. By coincidence, A-Yao befriended First Master Wen Xu and had been invited to dine with the main branch more than a handful of times. He mentioned Sect Leader Wen paid musicians this time around.

    Asking permission to play one song on the guqin on that nights proved to be quite easy: certainly helped to slip a bag of coins to the troupe leader and flutter her eyelashes.

    She prepared like she would for work, excluding the ruffling of fabric and sewing of her sleeves so they would hitch up whenever she twisted her wrist. With her guqin in its silk sleeve, she slipped into the room, earning a nod from the musicians and a confused stare by the bodyguard Wen Zhuliu.  

    “It’s just a performance. Don’t worry.” She whispered to him, placing a manicured finger to her lips.

    It earned her more blinking, but he let her in.

    Servants milled about the never-ending sea of tables in the private dining hall. Members of the Wen clan with their flame robes sat in sections, eating and talking, passing and turning the revolving trays filled to the brim with soups, meats, and noodles. And at the back of the room, on an elevated platform, the main branch with their fiery collars towered above the rest. And A-Yao.

    He quickly noticed her presence, followed by Sect Leader Wen. A raised eyebrow, but she only bowed in his direction before taking a seat where the musicians set up.

    Straight back, head angled, guqin propped on the carpeted. And she played.

    It was a melody she composed many years ago. Sweet like the lychee she peeled for A-Yao, sprinkled with a little Yunmeng spice she could afford once a year.

    The piece came to an end to a silent room. Disciples and elders alike all watched her with mesmerized gazes. And then the clapping began.

    ~~~

    “An excellent performance; I didn’t hear such quality for many years.” Sect Leader Wen mentioned the following day. On purpose, Meng Shi escorted A-Yao to his classes, something she hadn’t done since the first six months of their arrival. And as she prepared to leave, Sect Leader Wen materialized behind her.

    Meng Shi bowed, “many thanks to Sect Leader.” She clutched her sleeves to not flick her wrists.

    Sect Leader Wen tilted his head, “but I’m guessing you didn’t perform just for fun.”

    Meng Shi returns a smile, “I was hoping to showcase my abilities, so Sect Leader may consider allowing me to continue my music study?”

    “Oh?~” A pause as Sect Leader Wen tapped under his chin, most likely pondering the matter, “This year, the Gusu Lan Sect will host a discussion conference. Perhaps you wish to come with Meng Yao?”

    ~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~~🎵~~~🎵~~~🎵~

    The music ended. A long chord held with crescendoing trills before drifting off into oblivion. Only its echo remained in the quiet hall.

    Unlike the private dining hall of the Wen clan, the Lan Sect clapped quietly—crisp and polite.

    Even A-Yao matched their volume and rhythm, though she could read his posture to be restless with how wide his grin spread on his face and how the muscles in his hands twitched.

    Meng Shi saluted, signaling the end of her examination

    Lan Qiren, acting Sect Leader, gave a single curt nod. Perhaps it was just the light, but she swore he wore a tiny twitch of a smile, “The examiners and I will return once we have our verdict.”

    Even with the budding...relationship? between them, she was sure Lan Qiren would judge her purely on merit and performance.

    An incense stick later, with a smile no longer hidden, he announced:

    She passed.

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  • robininthelabyrinth
    21.07.2021 - 3 days ago

    Spilled Pearls Extra 1

    - ao3 -

    Lan Xichen spent a lot of time learning his family’s rules.

    They were important to his uncle, who raised him, and that meant that they were important to him. They were his heritage and his birthright, and anyway he loved his uncle and it made him happy which was good enough for Lan Xichen, but that didn’t make learning them easy or anything. Each rule had to be learned both by itself and in context with others; it wasn’t as simple as memorizing a list and calling it done. You had to learn them and know them and then live up to them to the best of your ability, and that was the work of a lifetime – which Lan Xichen, now six years old, had been informed was an awful long time.

    Moreover, though his uncle had never said so, Lan Xichen had heard from the other people in the sect that learning the rules was important because following the rules would make sure he didn’t turn out like his father, who had let down so many people in their sect. Many of the elders said things like that when his uncle wasn’t around, though his uncle never did – his uncle spoke well of their father, although in abstract tones, but sometimes he looked sad about it, too, and therefore Lan Xichen was determined to listen and learn the rules well so that he would never disappoint his uncle the way his father had.

    Of course, there were other advantages to learning the rules.

    The commentary, for instance.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    1

    Talking behind other people's backs is prohibited.

    “Unless it’s really funny,” Lan Yueheng said, and – as always – seemed not to notice the way Lan Xichen’s uncle glared at him. “Oooh, actually, let me give you an example, I just heard the best story –”

    -

    “If you don’t understand those around you, you will be at their mercy, rather than they at yours,” Wen Ruohan said, perfectly poised and with a sharp smirk, just the way he always was unless he happened to be talking to Lan Xichen’s uncle. “How better to learn to understand people than to know what others say about them when they are not around?” His smirk widened. “Look at what people say about me.”

    -

    “What are you supposed to do if you don’t?” Lao Nie asked, grinning wickedly. “Say mean things about them in front of their faces instead? I can do that!”

    -

    “I mean, if it’s news, it’s not gossip, right?” Cangse Sanren said, tapping her cheek while pretending to be thoughtful as if it would hide her great big smile. “I’m sure that’s how I learned it, and I was a very good student – no, no, don’t listen to what your uncle says!”

    -

    “Well, I wish my mother would do less of it,” Wen Xu said, rolling his eyes. He’d come along to visit with his father again the way he always did – he was always tagging along with his father, really, and his father indulged him more often than he probably should, according to both sects’ elders. Not that Wen Ruohan listened to anyone but Lan Xichen’s uncle. “Sometimes I think that’s all she does! It’s boring!”

    -

    “If you mean what you say and say what you mean, then your friends will never doubt you whether you are in front of them or not,” Nie Mingjue said, then frowned. “I mean, I think?”

    -

    “Listen to A-Jue,” Lan Xichen’s uncle said when Lan Xichen reported on the discussions, throwing up his hands in disgust. “He’s the only one of the lot of them worth anything.”

    “It’s his mother’s contribution,” Lao Nie opined.

    “It’s certainly not yours,” Wen Ruohan said. “Anyway, what was wrong with A-Xu’s answer? It was accurate.”

    “It has nothing to do with the rule!”

    “That’s because I’ve already mastered it years ago,” Wen Xu said cheerfully. Surprisingly cheerfully, given that Nie Mingjue was sitting on him again; maybe he’d gotten used to Nie Mingjue always winning.

    Lan Xichen’s uncle rubbed his forehead. “A-Xu, if you really want to go copy the rules on humility a few more times, you don’t have to wait for me to instruct you to do so –”

    “He’s right, though,” Cangse Sanren cackled from her husband’s lap. “Madame Wen is an amazing source of gossip, but it does get a bit boring sometimes. You can’t punish him for being right!”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    2

    Do not succumb to rage.

    “Unless there’s a very good reason,” Lao Nie said, picking Lan Xichen up in one arm as if he weighed as little as a feather, and Nie Mingjue in the other just as easily, even though he was much bigger. “In the world there are many injustices, and it is your duty to fight against them with everything that you have – if you are wholly above the feeling of rage, then you have forgotten your empathy, and soon will follow the crooked path into indifference.”

    -

    “The issue is succumbing to rage,” Wen Ruohan said. “You can be angry, or even furious, but you should always maintain your self-control. Once you’ve mastered yourself, you can master others.”

    -

    “He means get revenge,” Wen Xu said knowledgably. “You get angry, then you get even.”

    -

    “Oh, rage?” Cangse Sanren asked, rolling up her sleeves. “Well, as it happens, I’m going to go have a chat with your mother, I’ll give you a good demonstration of –”

    “You are doing no such thing,” Lan Xichen’s uncle said, exasperated. “Get back here.”

    -

    “It’s a waste of time,” Lan Yueheng said. “Getting angry takes time and energy. Why not be happy instead?” He thought about it. “Well, I mean, sometimes cursing a little bit when something goes wrong is nice. Even the calmest concoction needs to blow off steam sometimes to retain its equilibrium!”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    3

    Do not disrespect your elders.

    “And I,” Wen Ruohan said, looking positively gleeful, “am the eldest.”

    “Don’t listen to him,” Lan Xichen’s uncle said at once. “Xichen, you hear me? Don’t listen to him.”

    -

    “There’s a difference between disrespect and disobedience,” Cangse Sanren said. “Being old doesn’t mean being right, it means that there’s a greater probability that they’ve encountered something in their lifetime that will give them an insight you lack. You should honor and respect their insight, but always make your own decisions in the end.”

    -

    “I mean, you could always listen to me, instead,” Lao Nie said. “I’m your elder too, aren’t I?”

    -

    “Don’t listen to either Uncle Wen or my father,” Nie Mingjue said, looking long-suffering. “They both like to play tricks.”

    -

    “Wait,” Lan Yueheng said. “I’m an elder? Since when? That’s a terrible idea!”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    4

    Do not take advantage of your position to oppress others.

    “Don’t listen to Wen Ruohan,” Cangse Sanren said.

    -

    “Don’t listen to Sect Leader Wen,” Lan Yueheng said.

    -

    “Definitely do not listen to Hanhan,” Lao Nie said. “At all. In any way.”

    -

    “Probably best not to listen to A-Xu’s dad,” Nie Mingjue said, and glanced over apologetically.

    “No, no, you’re right,” Wen Xu said, nodding furiously. “He’s kind of awful about these sorts of things.”

    -

    “They’re all being absolutely ridiculous,” Wen Ruohan said. “I’m perfectly reliable on such matters. After all, what’s the point of working so hard to obtain and maintain power if you don’t oppress those that deserve it? If you don’t take advantage, who will?”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    5

    Do not make assumptions about others.

    “I used to assume that Cangse Sanren was  a normal human being,” Lan Yueheng said. “Goes to show what I know, right?”

    -

    “I used to assume that Wen Ruohan was a perfectly normal self-absorbed murderer that would keep his greedy hands to his own people,” Cangse Sanren said, sounding irritable. “And not have perfectly ordinary rogue cultivators followed around by complete weirdos because he’s secretly worried about them like a mother hen!”

    -

    “I used to assume that people would be grateful when someone rescued them and their husband from near certain death,” Wen Ruohan said.

    -

    “I used to assume that the funniest thing in the world was watching Hanhan argue with your uncle,” Lao Nie said, chin on his hands. “Little did I know that adding Cangse Sanren to the mix made it even funnier.”

    -

    “Grown-ups are stupid sometimes,” Wen Xu said. “That’s why you have to verify everything they say for yourself.”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    6

    Embrace the entirety of the world.

    “By being righteous,” Nie Mingjue said.

    -

    “By taking it all over, as far as I can tell from my father,” Wen Xu said.

    -

    “Depends on what you define as the world, doesn’t it?” Lao Nie said.

    -

    “Be ambitious,” Wen Ruohan said. “Define it broadly.”

    -

    “I mean, I don’t think your arms are quite long enough yet, the world’s pretty big,” Lan Yueheng said. “But I pick you up and swing you around, maybe they’ll stretch a little. Want to try?”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    7

    Do not associate with evil.

    “I mean, it’s true, but you have to think carefully about what you categorize as evil,” Lao Nie said. “Just being a man-eating nation-destroying inhuman amoral nine-tailed fox isn’t automatically enough to qualify, right?”

    -

    “That’s, uh, a really weirdly specific example,” Lan Yueheng said. “I feel like at least three of the things on that list probably rise to the level of evil? Or have I missed something?”

    -

    “Lao Nie said – oh no, not again,” Wen Ruohan said, and patted Lan Xichen on the head before he stalked out the door. “I’m the only evil you should associate with, you hear me?”

    -

    “I bet she’s got teeth in interesting places,” Cangse Sanren said. “I’ve got to meet her…hmm? Evil? Does that really matter? It’s going to be funny.”

    -

    “She’s not evil,” Nie Mingjue said. “She’s pretty nice, actually. She calls me ‘meatball’ and ‘pork bun’ and says I’m so cute that she wants to eat me right up.”

    -

    “I’m pretty sure she means it literally,” Wen Xu said. “Gear up, Xichen! We’ve got to go save Mingjue!”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    8

    Do not tell lies.

    “People don’t believe the truth, so why not tell it?” Cangse Sanren said.

    -

    “Using the truth makes your misdirections more believable and your critiques more devastating,” Wen Ruohan said.

    -

    “Why would you even want to lie?” Nie Mingjue asked, puzzled.

    -

    “There’s a difference between not telling lies and not having the slightest bit of tact,” Lao Nie said, rubbing his face. “Maybe you can help A-Jue figure that out.”

    -

    “Silence is always a good alternative when you don’t want to admit to stuff you’ve done that maybe, just maybe, might annoy some people,” Lan Yueheng said, looking over his collapsed laboratory with a wince. “Not that I’d know anything about that, of course.”

    -

    “Telling a lie will only get you into more trouble later when they figure it out,” Wen Xu said. “Because then they’re angry at you for what you did and for lying about it. It’s just not worth it!”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    9

    Do not disregard the rules.

    “Unless they’re really stupid,” Lao Nie said.

    -

    “I mean,” Nie Mingjue said, wrinkling his nose. “As a general rule, yes. But it’s different if following the rules would permit injustice to happen, that’s for sure.”

    -

    “It’s a matter of picking what rule is the relevant one,” Wen Ruohan said. “Be thoughtful, and you can have the moral high ground in any situation…your uncle is irritatingly good at that.”

    -

    “You’ve got to know what the rule is before you break it,” Wen Xu said. “That way you can decide if it’s worth the cost of breaking it or not.”

    -

    “If there’s any you think are wrong, you should say something,” Lan Yueheng said. “The rules are a gift handed down from our ancestors and ought to be respected, but each of us has a duty to put in our own thoughts as well – our contribution to the next generation down. Anyway, your uncle will probably be able to put together a reasonable argument as to why changing the rule is appropriate and truer to our sect’s principles than the version carved on the wall. He’s good at that!”

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    10

    “I want the rules to be a foundation under your feet,” Lan Xichen’s uncle said. “They should give you confidence in your actions and pride in your family and sect; they should not feel like they are binding you. If they are, you’d tell me, wouldn’t you?”

    Maybe if it was just Lan Xichen and his uncle, the two of them and maybe also little baby Lan Wangji and the rather unreliable Lan Yueheng and the even more unreliable Lao Nie, Lan Xichen would immediately and unhesitatingly agree, and then never say anything anyway no matter what he felt. He loved his uncle so much, and every one in a while his uncle seemed so sad; he couldn’t bear to be the one to add more pain and burden to his uncle’s shoulders, already weighed down with the expectations of the sect that should have been his father’s responsibility and would one day be Lan Xichen’s.

    But it wasn’t just them, and Lan Xichen frowned a little, really thinking about it. “Maybe,” he said after a while. “Or maybe I’d tell Uncle Wen about it, and then he’d find a way to fix it, or to tell you about it in a way that didn’t make you sad. Does that work, too?”

    His uncle looked amused.

    “Yes,” he said. “That works. Just remember –”

    “Don’t listen to him about ‘oppressing others’?”

    “Exactly.”

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  • songofclarity
    21.07.2021 - 3 days ago
    #anon #asked from above #madam wen#wen ruohan #wrh x madam wen #mdzs thoughts #ty for sharing this with me anon i love it! #i am also trying not to cram right before a big test #and this is such a sweet and fun thing to think about instead #madam wen feels safe and loved so doesn't start sh*t #vs wang lingjiao who feels the carpet being pulled out from under her feet
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  • thebiscuiteternal
    21.07.2021 - 4 days ago
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  • thebiscuiteternal
    19.07.2021 - 5 days ago

    Amusing thought for the “Wen Ruohan gets turned into a bird and cuddled into a better person by bitty!Nie Huaisang” post:

    They can’t figure out what species he is. 

    Huaisang owns more bird books than literally anyone in the jianghu and all of them have been brought to Qishan, but nothing lines up the way it should. He’s too big for this species, his neck is too long for that one, his talons are weird, his beak is the wrong shape...

    And then Lan Qiren has the horrifying realization that because this happened due to a curse, he might not be an ordinary bird species at all, and the last thing they need is for someone as temperamental as Wen Ruohan to have access to a completely uncatalogued form of magic, especially around a child. 

    (Then they find him quietly puffing different colored flames to amuse his caretaker and... maybe... this won’t be so bad.)

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  • thebiscuiteternal
    19.07.2021 - 5 days ago
    #mdzs#papa nie#lan qiren#wen ruohan#nie huaisang #in which being turned into a bird gets wrh the happiest week of his life #fanfic
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  • wouldyoulikeacupofteadear
    19.07.2021 - 5 days ago
    #Wenqi#mine#the untamed #let's see if I can make it till day 7 XD #Lan Qiren#Wen Ruohan #I'm a sucker for flower symbolism #Guess who is going shopping for better art supplies tomorrow #Or at least better than a near empty fineliner and the back of a notepad XD #and definitely a circle thingy #Wenqi week
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  • robininthelabyrinth
    19.07.2021 - 5 days ago

    Spilled Pearls

    - Chapter 29 - ao3 -

    “In the future, you should send your children to the Cloud Recesses for me to teach,” Lan Qiren said. He was sitting with Wen Ruohan on one of the rooftop gardens in the Nightless City, watching the moon and stars from a pavilion placed there for that purpose; their bodies were pressed close together, and it felt as if they were far away from all the things that were familiar. “You and Lao Nie both, and naturally I’ll come visit with you often as well, bringing my nephew. Between the three of us, we might even be able to teach them how to be proper human beings.”

    Wen Ruohan laughed in his ear and pressed his lips to his cheek – he had taken to kissing him at random, spontaneous, as if still overwhelmed by the fact that he now had the right to do it.

    “I will,” he promised. “I agree, I think they’ll turn out better that way…you would really have me educate your precious little A-Huan?”

    “If I’m willing to entrust myself with you, why not him? Anyway, I can teach him music, and with the aid of the other teachers in my sect the sword in the Lan sect style, but you can teach him much more than that. You know how to look at the world and see it for what it is, and then bend it to your will, make it sing to your tune. He’ll be sect leader in the future; he needs to learn that, and you can teach it to him.”

    “I can, and I will,” Wen Ruohan said, then thought for a moment and asked, “What does Lao Nie bring to the table?”

    “Flexibility, mostly.”

    Wen Ruohan barked out a laugh. “He certainly has that.”

    He didn’t even sound bitter about it any more.

    Lan Qiren smiled.

    “In the meantime, I will handle the rest of it,” Wen Ruohan added, and Lan Qiren looked at him in silent question. “Come now, Qiren. Did you really think that I would allow you to remain caged in the Cloud Recesses your whole life?”

    Lan Qiren paused. That was the sorest part of his heart, his most painful misery, but he didn’t think Wen Ruohan would bring it up casually. If anything, he was a bit more afraid of what Wen Ruohan might get into his head to do about it – there was very little Wen Ruohan wouldn’t dare.

    “Da-ge –” he started warily.

    “No, no,” Wen Ruohan said, lightly scolding. “Little Lan, be serious! I already rejected the opportunity to cage you here at the Nightless City, playing only for me, despite how much I longed to do so. I refused to do it – me, refusing myself – because I knew it would only make you sad. Do you really think I would allow other people a privilege that I have denied myself?”

    Lan Qiren did not laugh, but he dearly wanted to. It might be the first time he’d ever wanted to laugh about his situation – not even Cangse Sanren had managed that. “Has anyone told you that you are extremely self-absorbed?” he asked instead. “Arrogance is forbidden. Do not be haughty and complacent.”

    Wen Ruohan smirked back at him. “All true, little Lan, but don’t forget your favorite: Do not tell lies.”

    Self-absorbed, narcissistic and arrogant, Lan Qiren concluded, and there was no helping it. It was clearly a terminal case.

    He used his sleeve to hide his laughter.

    “What are you planning, exactly?” he asked once he had recovered. “If you harm my sect, whether directly or indirectly by denying them my services, I would be even more upset than if you tried to lock me away in here.”

    Wen Ruohan waved a hand dismissively. “Do you think me so incapable? I have already begun making arrangements. Discussion conferences may only be once or twice a year, being as they are tremendously irritating to arrange, but there’s no reason that we of the Great Sects should not recognize our greater duty towards the smaller sects, and not to mention our obligations to protect the mortal world –”

    “You know that it exists, then?”

    Wen Ruohan ignored him. “The resources of cultivation clans are limited, and the world large. There are many places which would benefit from aid that do not see any simply because they are far away or tucked in inconvenient places, and no sect lives nearby – naturally, it is our duty to fight evil no matter where it is encountered. Lao Nie has already agreed that it is critical that the sect leaders demonstrate our sincerity by fulfilling this duty in person, leading by example.”

    Lan Qiren’s heart had already felt as if it were overflowing with warmth, and it felt even more so now, almost squeezed to pain by how much joy was there. More than he had known he could contain.

    Bad luck in brothers, he thought to himself - but oh, he had such good luck in friends!

    “I see,” he said, thankful that his usual neutral tone concealed how happy he felt. “And naturally, where you and Lao Nie go, Sect Leader Jin cannot be far behind in his eagerness not to lose out, and where three of the five Great Sects lead, naturally the rest cannot be far behind. So I, too, will be obligated to...what? Go out on night-hunts in inconvenient places?”

    “The world is too large, and the number of cultivators too few – and at any rate, there’s no point in setting up a full night-hunt which draws in every person from a thousand li for a few paltry fierce corpses or a ghost or two. I propose, instead, that we would send cultivators out alone, in pairs or in small groups, to wander for a few months through the remote places in the world and clean them up. Then, at the next discussion conference, the Great Sects could jointly agree that whoever was most enterprising would receive a reward, and naturally, stories of various exploits could be exchanged – ”

    “Ah. Another reason for young men and women to gather and boast of improbable exploits.”

    “Think of it as giving them more opportunities to win glory,” Wen Ruohan said. “And stop talking down about ‘young men’; you are a young man. Naturally you are also qualified to go out to do such things. Required, even: if our Great Sects do not set a proper example, who will?”

    “Mm. A proper example. Even if I coincidentally happen to spend more time playing music than hunting demons?”

    Wen Ruohan’s eyes were bright. “Even so. And naturally, you could always bring along someone more powerful to do the demon-hunting for you…”

    “How convenient.”

    Wen Ruohan smirked. “Do you doubt that I will be able to make it happen, little Lan?”

    “No,” Lan Qiren said, then added, honestly: “I think you could take over the world if you wished.”

    “Naturally! But it would be quite irritating, I think, if I had to also ensure that both you and Lao Nie did not disapprove of my methods…” He paused, lips twitching. “By coincidence, while we’re discussing convenience, I was thinking that it would be dangerous to send all those wild and reckless young men out there without proper support. Surely it would be only reasonable to set up a few convenient places here and there, not so far away, to provide them with supplies and a place to rest and recover –”

    Convenient places that would fly the Wen sect’s flag and spread its influence, Lan Qiren presumed. Lanling Jin would be furious – using wealth to buy influence was their favorite technique, and they resented other people copying it – and would immediately insist on establishing their own set of “supply stations”, and then the rest of them would have to catch up and make their own. Yet another expense, and the Great Sects would need to do more than most; it would probably wreck havoc with the Lan sect’s annual budget.

    On the other hand, well the remote parts of the world really did need the help. One of the Lan sect’s newly recruited guest disciples had been talking about a place not far from his hometown that specialized in making coffin goods; it was, according to him, the most inauspicious place that could possibly be imagined…

    Not a place anyone might want to go, unless they truly were intent on traveling.

    Lan Qiren smiled once again. He thought he might never stop smiling.

    “Indeed,” he said, trying to sound dry and rational. “Very coincidental. No one will doubt that this is nothing but a scheme to expand your reach and power, rather than any personal motive.”

    Wen Ruohan did not answer, but instead, matching a smile of his own to Lan Qiren’s, pressed his lips against Lan Qiren’s once more.

    After a little while of silence, Lan Qiren cleared his throat and asked, “Do you intend to tell people?”

    He was not referring to Wen Ruohan’s plans for the future.

    Wen Ruohan understood.

    “In time,” he said. “As much as I would love to shout that you are mine and I am yours from the rooftops and perhaps have bulletins be posted to every town -”

    Lan Qiren grimaced. It would be one thing if he thought Wen Ruohan was exaggerating for romantic effect, but unfortunately it would be just like him to engage in that level of over-the-top grandstanding.

    “– but your position is not yet certain, and my reputation is too questionable. People would make assumptions and spread malicious gossip, and I – I would not harm you to please myself.”

    “Sweet-talker.”

    “It’s not sweet-talking when it’s true,” Wen Ruohan protested, although he was chuckling. “When you are more renowned as a teacher than a sect leader, when little A-Huan is old enough to have passed the worst stretches of childhood – then we will announce it, and let the rest of the world choke on it if they like. You, me, Lao Nie…hmm. Jin Guangshan will probably think we’re concealing a conspiracy and ask to join in.”

    Lan Qiren gagged. “I refuse,” he said. “I don’t care if I’m not physically involved, neither you nor Lao Nie are allowed to even think about it. That man has visited so many prostitutes that one might be forgiven for thinking he believes that the road to immortality is paved with venereal disease.”

    “…thank you, that was an image I did not require.” A pause. “Jiang Fengmian –”

    “Remember when he punched me in the face in a fight over a girl I didn’t even want?”

    “It wasn’t a serious suggestion.” Wen Ruohan chuckled once more and pressed another kiss to his cheek. “Some years ago now, I swore to your Cangse Sanren that I would do right by you. I ought to invite her here and show her that I’ve made good on it.”

    “You haven’t made good on it.”

    “I haven’t?”

    “No. Such a promise is fulfilled through the keeping – if you want to do right by me, there is no one singular moment that would qualify, but rather a continuing obligation.” Lan Qiren smiled up at him. “I’m sorry, da-ge. You’ll have to continue to do right by me for the rest of our lives.”

    “I will,” Wen Ruohan said, and smiled back. “It would be my pleasure.”

    -END-

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  • wangsxiansmusic
    19.07.2021 - 5 days ago

    Chi Feng Zun & Wen Ruo Han must team up to track down Xue Yang. It will end in perfection

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  • robininthelabyrinth
    18.07.2021 - 6 days ago

    Spilled Pearls

    - Chapter 28 - ao3 -

    The answer, it turned out, was paint.

    It wasn’t an answer that Lan Qiren would have anticipated in any way, shape, or form. He had been under the impression, as had Lao Nie, that Wen Ruohan had stopped painting long ago. After some teasing by Lao Nie, the man had even off-handedly confirmed it at a private dinner they’d shared at a discussion conference – there had been more than usual planned in this past year, accounting for the fact that all of the Great Sect sect leaders (except Wen Ruohan) were unusually young, and therefore active. And although no one acknowledged it as a reason, everyone knew that it was also meant to help calm the concerns of the smaller sects regarding the chaos in their Great Sect leaders’ personal lives, between Jiang Fengmian losing his servant to his beloved or possibly the other way around, Lao Nie’s extremely bizarre marriage situation, and Lan Qiren stepping up unexpectedly to the position of sect leader on account of his brother’s retreat from the world.

    According to Wen Ruohan, it hadn’t been anything in particular that had made him stop painting, only a lack of time and then of interest; there had been a severe crisis some time ago, long before either of them were born, and he had been obligated to devote himself exclusively to those affairs for an extended period of time. When he had finally resurfaced, years later, he had returned and found an old painting sitting there half-finished, and staring at it, realized that he was no longer the same man who had begun it.

    He had never painted again.

    Lan Qiren was unsure if this was a real story or not – Wen Ruohan, he had learned, seemed to consider the truth about his past to be little more than a gentleman’s agreement between friends – as it seemed to be an especially pointed reminder aimed at Lan Qiren’s situation in particular. 

    Lao Nie had certainly taken it as such, throwing in his own concerns about Lan Qiren’s work schedule, and when even Cangse Sanren had joined the growing mob of all the rest of his friends, Lan Qiren had finally, if reluctantly, agreed to defer to their concern. He’d finally taken a step back and reorganized his duties as sect leader, standing his ground against the elders and insisting on having more time to devote to his own interests, including those outside of his work as a teacher – music, study, quiet contemplation, even maintaining his training with the sword, despite the fact that he would never match his brother as a sword cultivator.

    It had, in fact, made him a better sect leader, less prone to working until he burned out, and he was grateful to his friends for their wisdom and steadfastness in the face of his stubborn grief.

    At any rate, though, Wen Ruohan was no longer the painter he had been in his youth, and the hints of burning that marked all such paintings that Lan Qiren had seen suggested that the transition had been an unpleasant one for him. It was a surprise, therefore, to receive, as a gift from the Nightless City, a painting in that immediately recognizable hand which was so freshly made that Lan Qiren imagined he could still smell the grinding ink.

    The painting depicted a dragon amidst a misty bamboo forest, its massive coils interwoven throughout the bamboo until it appeared almost part of the earth from which they sprung, or alternatively that speared through from above by a rain of spears; in its claw it held a beauteous dragon pearl, shining bright against the dark haze that surrounded the rest of the painting, and its eyes were fixed upon it as if it had forgotten all else.

    The pearl, Lan Qiren presumed, was himself, given Wen Ruohan’s fondness for comparing him to one, which Lan Qiren still did not entirely understand – while he knew it was a sign of Wen Ruohan’s appreciation for him, and an indication that he treasured him, he thought that the particular choice in the type of precious stone was likely to be due to the fact Lan Qiren largely preferred white and grey and silver for his clothing. 

    (Privately, he had determined that one day, out of sheer spite, he would wear an outfit primarily composed of blue for no other reason than to give the other man a shock; he just hadn’t found a reason yet to justify the expense of having such clothing made when he would only use it the once.)

    Similarly, the dragon was the symbol of imperial might, of overweening power and influence and even arrogance; naturally that would be Wen Ruohan himself. But as for the rest of it – the lonely but beautiful bamboo forest, often associated with moral integrity and loyalty, yet juxtaposed in this painting as piercing spears, penetrating the dragon’s hide as if attacking him – the dark mist that seemed to envelop the dragon, held at abeyance only through the light of its pearl –

    Lan Qiren did not understand.

    There were too many meanings possible, and he did not know how to differentiate between those that were there and those he only wanted to read into it. There was nothing for it, but that he would need to ask the artist himself what was meant.

    When, as expected, an invitation came a few days later, requesting that Lan Qiren visit the Nightless City in his capacity as Wen Ruohan’s sworn brother, Lan Qiren accepted.

    There were all the necessary pleasantries when he arrived, of course. No longer could he just slip in through the back door, a younger brother come to leech off some resources from an elder; he was the Lan sect leader, and that came with certain obligations even on a casual visit. There were a few formal procedures, and then dinner with Wen Ruohan and his wives, with whom his dynamics had completely reversed – Madame Wen had thawed towards Lan Qiren on account of his new position as sect leader, which guaranteed that he would never be able to move to the Nightless City and thereby obstruct her personal power, while the new concubine, former maid, seemed to think that his involvement in her ascension to the position she now held was a matter of embarrassment, resulting in her wanting to snub him whenever possible.

    Wen Ruohan largely ignored their antics, his eyes fixed on Lan Qiren throughout their meal, and afterwards, he had finally dismissed them all and taken Lan Qiren back to the small study he preferred to use for their time together.

    “The painting you sent was lovely,” Lan Qiren said, playing a little with the cup of tea that was warm and aromatic in his hands. “You have lost none of your skill.”

    “I rebuilt it,” Wen Ruohan corrected, looking amused. “You ought to have seen the first few efforts; I think I wasted enough paper to feed a small family for a year.”

    Lan Qiren smiled at the thought. He could scarcely imagine Wen Ruohan struggling the way he described, making an effort and finding his ability wanting; still less could he have once imagined Wen Ruohan having admitted to that fact in front of another.

    It was a little like what Lao Nie had said, that between the two of them they were excavating the residual humanity left in Wen Ruohan, slowly and methodically moving aside stone and dirt in order to find the treasures lurking beneath.

    “I like it even more, then,” he said, and decided to be a little bit bold. “I like knowing that you thought of me for as long as it took you to make it.”

    Wen Ruohan’s eyes curved in delight. “You need not be concerned on that score,” he said, his voice still calm and unhurried as always. “You are not so easily expelled from my thoughts, now that you have entered them…ah, little Lan, little Lan, you make me impatient! I had made plans on how to broach the subject with you, and yet now that you are here, I find myself rushing forward, intent to get to the point like some savage Nie.”

    A savage Nie of whom he was exceedingly fond, he did not say, and Lan Qiren managed not to roll his eyes at him.

    Instead, Lan Qiren put down his cup and folded his hands in his lap. “Don’t hesitate on my behalf,” he said, then added, a little dryly, “I’ve had enough indirect statements to last a lifetime.”

    “Welcome to politics,” Wen Ruohan responded, just as dry, but his smile faded and his expression grew more intense; he stood and came closer to Lan Qiren, looking down at him for a long moment before taking a seat beside him. “Qiren, why are you here?”

    Lan Qiren blinked, a little confused by the question, but before he could put together an answer, Wen Ruohan continued. “You are sincere and true to yourself; you follow your sect’s rules because you believe in them whole-heartedly and wish to live up to their strictures. Yet do they not say Do not associate with evil?”

    “I don’t think you’re evil,” Lan Qiren said. “I think we disagree on what actions constitute evil, on what divides good from evil, and that you are more comfortable walking closely along that line than I. I think that there will be many times in the future where we disagree once again on what is or is not the straight path, and what is the crooked, but – fundamentally, I don’t think you’re evil.”

    He considered the question for another moment longer, then added: “And if you were, what is there to do about it? You’re still my sworn brother, bound by oath and blood, and that makes you my responsibility whether I like it or not. Even if you were evil, the only thing that would be left for me to do would be to try my best to lead you out of the dark and back to the light.”

    Wen Ruohan was watching him again. His red eyes were narrowed a little, his gaze as intense as it had been when Lan Qiren had been little more than a child, although experience had made it a little less overwhelming.

    “You know that I see you as a pearl in the palm of my hand,” Wen Ruohan finally said. His voice was low and intimate, and Lan Qiren shivered to hear it. “A treasure I never expected to find, a gem of such surpassing purity that I fear it will burn me to dare profane it with my touch. Time is eternal; the pearl flows, the jade turns, and yet I remain, walking my crooked path and you your straight broad bridge, shining with righteousness. I see you and yearn for you both day and night, and even in my dreams…”

    He reached out and put his hand on Lan Qiren’s. “I would have you be mine, if you would have the same.”

    No hollowed-out puppets soon to be discarded here, Lan Qiren thought nonsensically, and swallowed.

    “I am yours,” he said carefully, pronouncing each syllable at a time. He had to get this right, he thought, and he would only ever have this one singular chance to do so, or else he’d lose something as bright and shining as the pearl Wen Ruohan was always comparing him to. “I am your sworn brother, as you are mine; I will always be yours.”

    “I know,” Wen Ruohan said, and it seemed for once that Lan Qiren had expressed himself clearly rather than muddling it up: he hadn’t misunderstood him into thinking that what Lan Qiren had said was a rejection. “If I were not one of those evil men that your rules warn you against, I would find it in myself to be content with that. But I am, and I am not.”

    Lan Qiren wet his lips with his tongue. “You know what I told you,” he reminded him. “About how I – I could compromise myself if I had to, if it made you happy, but I don’t want to have to. That is not who I am, what I am. I don’t want to have to bend and yield. I don’t want to break under the weight of love the way my brother did.”

    Wen Ruohan was watching him, patient and waiting.

    “I’m not comfortable with that type of intimacy, the type shared between lovers since the start of time,” Lan Qiren finally said. “I don’t want it intrinsically, and I don’t think I want it logically, either. More than that, I don’t think, having never wanted it before and not wanting it now, that I will ever want it. My brother once compared me to a block of ice or a mountain lake frozen over in winter, frigid, and there was something true to what he said. There is no heat that will make me melt as others do…and yet.”

    “And yet?”

    “And yet you are not the only one who wishes to possess.” He met Wen Ruohan’s eyes. “I, too, would have you be mine.” 

    His stupid Lan sect heart, burning a hole in his chest; it should have been enough to make him forget his own wishes and be willing to give in, to want to give everything to his beloved no matter the cost to himself, but it wasn’t – he wasn’t. And yet, at the same time, he judged his own affections to be no less than his brother’s for all that they were quieter and less flamboyant, understated rather than loudly proclaimed

    Wen Ruohan leaned forward, bringing their faces closer together. “Then why don’t you claim me?”

    “Because I cannot offer you what I should,” Lan Qiren said truthfully. “What you would expect –”

    “And when,” Wen Ruohan cut him off, “have I ever cared for the expectations set out by the rest of the world? Would I have done half the things I did if I cared for the world’s conventions and determined my aims through their lens?”

    Lan Qiren had to admit that he had a point.

    “I know what you are,” Wen Ruohan said. “To taint you would be to ruin my own pleasure, to force you would be to deny myself – and I never deny myself. I am greedy, little Lan; I am not content with what the world would have me want, not when I can have what I really want.”

    “And what is it that you want?”

    “Lao Nie told me that he told you about his wife,” Wen Ruohan said. “How he stayed and she went, and they were still happy…I want that, with you.”

    Lan Qiren frowned, not understanding.

    “I want you,” Wen Ruohan told him, and his long-fingered hand traced over Lan Qiren’s cheekbone. “I want to have you, to own you, to keep you. I want to possess you down to the marrow of your bones; I want every inch of you in every way that I can have you. I want you to be mine – and I don’t need to fuck you to have it.”

    Lan Qiren stared at him.

    Wen Ruohan smile was like his smirk, triumphant and arrogant, certain of his impending victory. “If I want sex, I have my wives or Lao Nie for that, don’t I? To my wives I have only promised power, which I have given them. As for Lao Nie, I know now that he cannot promise me his heart: he is too facile, too free, too easy with others – he is compelled to share not only his body, which I wouldn’t mind, but also his heart, and I find that I am as unwilling to share in matters of the heart as you are to share your body.”

    He shifted closer yet again, until their eyes were level with each other and their breath intermingled in the air between them.

    “You will not be like him,” he said, voice dark and certain. “You’re barely willing to divide your attention to things you consider less important than your particular interests. Your heart is your clan’s curse and its treasure, taking you to the heavens and casting you down to the hells – if you give me your heart, full and entire, it will be as if you have removed it from your chest and put it in my hand. No one else will have any part of it, not like this, not in this way. It will only be me.”

    “That is true,” Lan Qiren said. “I love no less deeply than my brother. My heart is a placid lake with a surface as clear as glass – you can see everything therein. Within it, there are only my interests, my nephew, my few friends, and you.”

    Wen Ruohan’s smile widened.

    “What exactly are you thinking?” Lan Qiren asked. His heart was beating in his chest so fast that it hurt. “If you want the assurance, you have it already: I am yours, and you are mine, and it would shatter me to let you go now. Is that what you want?”

    “It is.” Wen Ruohan laughed, and it was full of pleasure. “Ah, little Lan! It is, it is.”

    “What does it change?” Lan Qiren asked. “How is it different from what we have already?”

    “It changes everything,” Wen Ruohan said simply, and Lan Qiren thought about and felt that he was right. “Knowing that you are mine makes it easier to release you into the world, to watch you shine and others see it; let them all look and know that it will never be theirs. All good things in the world are mine, and you are the best among them.”

    “Pretty words,” Lan Qiren said, aiming for dry but probably just coming off as short of breath. “I’m a little more interested in the practical.”

    “I would have you share my pillow while you are here,” Wen Ruohan said. “I do not need you to share your body with me, but I would have your company as a husband has his wife’s…and there are things that can be done without involving your body, depending on your tolerance.”

    “Oh? Like what?”

    Wen Ruohan grinned. “As it happens, that’s a matter I’ve given some considerable thought to…”

    Lan Qiren rolled his eyes, and felt the heat in his ears fade a little; he appreciated the small reprieve from the emotional intensity, the humor breaking the tenseness of the moment.

    “You know I find you beautiful,” Wen Ruohan said, and this time his hand came to rest on Lan Qiren’s cheek, his thumb brushing over his lips, and as quickly as that the reprieve was gone. “Perhaps you would permit me to find my own pleasure beside you, gazing upon you, or even invite another to share the bed while you busy yourself with your work – you are never as beautiful as when you are focused, your soul and mind wholly absorbed in your passion for the subject. Perhaps I would invite you to read a spring book for me, spilling out dirty words in that cool tone of yours that you use regardless of the circumstance, so that I might torment myself with hearing you at any time and think of that…I have a thousand and one ideas, little Lan, and I would try them all to see which ones you like and which ones you don’t, to yield to your preference and glory in so yielding.”

    None of that sounded like something Lan Qiren would dislike, he thought to himself; it really was only his own personal involvement in the act that he truly objected to. And if Wen Ruohan had Lan Qiren’s heart and Lao Nie’s body, and both their friendship besides, perhaps even he in his ceaseless ambition could find a way to be satisfied with what he had for a time.

    “I would like that,” he said honestly.

    “Then having gained a cun, I will take a chi,” Wen Ruohan said. “I would like to kiss you.”

    Lan Qiren swallowed.

    “…all right,” he said. “You may.”

    And he did.

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  • angstymdzsthoughts
    18.07.2021 - 6 days ago
    #MDZS #Corperate Spy AU #Wen Ruohan#Wei Wuxian
    View Full
  • drawing-kitty1
    17.07.2021 - 1 week ago

    Me about Wen Ruohan

    #Mdzs#mdzs #mo dao zu shi #wen ruohan
    View Full
  • View Full
  • robininthelabyrinth
    14.07.2021 - 1 week ago

    Spilled Pearls

    - Chapter 26 - ao3 -

    “Qiren-xiong, would you like me to keep them back a little longer?” Lan Yueheng asked anxiously. He’d been biting his lip and wringing his hands and pacing hard enough to leave a mark on the floor. Lan Qiren really ought to let him go back to his mathematics and his alchemy, to abandon this sad sorry world of politics that the rest of them were mired in for the purer joys of academic discovery. “It’s just, they’re getting really insistent on talking with you…”

    Lan Qiren sighed and put down the cup of tea that had already cooled without him taking a single sip.

    “No,” he finally said. “It’s fine. I’m amazed you managed to keep them back this long.”

    He had been working very hard these past few days. He’d just wanted a short break. An afternoon of silence, or even just a few shichen...

    Apparently, he couldn’t even get that now. 

    Lan Yueheng beamed. “I got Zhang Xin to help! She’s keeping them all back – elders and teachers and fellow disciples and all.”

    Lan Qiren frowned a little, thinking of the lady in question, who was fierce and fiery but definitely not fearsome or well-respected enough to hold back the teeming tide of Lan sect members desperate for Lan Qiren to stop ignoring them. “…do I want to know how?”

    “With a club!”

    Lan Qiren did not want to know how.

    “I put explosives in the –”

    “Please stop explaining,” Lan Qiren begged.

    “You asked.”

    Technically, Lan Qiren had asked if he wanted to know, but he shouldn’t stand on technicalities. Especially not now that he was –

    He stopped that thought before completing it.

    “Go out and tell them that I will not be taking any questions on my living conditions, quarters or clothing, any of the current rule modification proposals - it’s far too soon - and certainly none that are just about the current situation, and also that anyone who doesn’t have a question is not welcome,” he decided. “If there’s anyone left over, they can come inside and pose their question. If it’s not a good one, I will impose punishment on the basis of Concentrate on cultivation.”

    In the end, there were only three people admitted out of the disappointed throngs of disciples outside. The first two questions were appropriate ones, being both purely administrative and critically necessary to the running of their sect; the last, however…

    The disciple in question was one of the gate-guards.

    He saluted. “There are visitors on the way in,” he reported. “From other sects.”

    “Didn’t I already give orders that all access tokens not currently in the Cloud Recesses be revoked, and no new ones issued?” Lan Qiren asked curtly. “We are not currently accepting guests, and will not be until matters have been settled. You may inform them as much.”

    The disciple hesitated.

    “What is it?”

    “The visitors in question…” The disciple hesitated again, and Lan Qiren frowned. “It’s Sect Leader Nie and Sect Leader Wen.”

    Lan Qiren had been reaching for his cup of tea again, but his fingers stopped in mid-air.

    “They’ve been very stubborn. Neither has agreed to go, no matter what we tell them, and they’ve been there all day, saying that they’ll stay standing at our gate until we let them in. Do – do the same orders apply to them?”

    Lan Qiren looked down at his hand, frozen in midair. His fingers were trembling a little. Strain, probably; he’d had a very bad time for quite a while now, and even though he’d taken the time for it, he hadn’t actually slept properly. He’d only lain in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling, trying to absorb whatever little rest he could.

    “They do,” he finally said, putting his hands back into his lap as if he could hide his misery from himself. “Dismissed.”

    The last disciple left.

    “Why won’t you let them in?” Lan Yueheng asked from behind him. “They’re your friends, aren’t you?”

    He paused, falling silent for a brief moment.

    “You could use friends right now, Qiren-xiong,” he finally said. “You really could.”

    “I know,” Lan Qiren said, and felt the bitterness rise up in his throat until it almost choked him. “They are my friends, and one even more, my sworn brother. They are that, but they are not only that – they are also the sect leaders of two of the other Great Sects. Even if they don’t want to cross me or hurt me, their sect obligations must be always in the forefront of their minds, be their primary care and consideration, just as the Lan sect must be mine.”

    Now, he added. Must be mine, now.

    “But…”

    “The sect comes first, Yueheng-xiong.” Lan Qiren was so tired that it felt like a physical ache. “It has to come first. First and foremost, above everything else. Haven’t we seen what happens if that’s not what’s done?”

    Wasn’t everything they were suffering now all because his brother had put himself first, instead of the sect? He had equated his interests with the sect and in doing so harmed the sect so deeply, harmed all their family and all the rest of them, everyone that relied on them...how could Lan Qiren willfully repeat such a mistake, no matter how much he longed sometimes to do so?

    “But -!”

    “I’ve made my decision.”

    “It’s the wrong one,” Zhang Xin said from the door, still holding that club of hers and looking as fierce as a small angry dog. “You’re the rule expert, aren’t you? Stop thinking about your brother for a moment and focus on them. As far as I’ve always heard, the rules say that you can’t just care for the sect, you have to care for yourself, too. Or else who’d be left to care for the sect?”

    Lan Qiren flinched and looked down at his hands again.

    He supposed she had a point.

    “Yueheng-xiong,” he said.

    “Yes?”

    “Go after that disciple. Tell him…tell him that they still can’t enter, but that he should pass along a message to them. Tell him to tell them…” He hesitated. “If they truly wish to remain nearby, I will be available to meet with them in Caiyi Town ten days from now.”

    That should be enough time to settle everything if he really exerted himself, Lan Qiren thought. All the preparations that needed to be made before the world could find out what had happened.

    “They don’t have to,” he added, bitterness curling in his gut even as he tried to make it clear that he was speaking in earnest. “If they don’t want to. I won’t be offended if they don’t.”

    After all, it would be asking rather a lot, forcing them to stay outside doing nothing for such a long time. Wen Ruohan and Lao Nie: they were sect leaders both, Great Sects at their command, and not possessed of a great deal of spare time. More than that, neither of them were especially patient people in the best of times, and much less so now that they were currently at odds with each other – though perhaps the fact that they’d put up with each other’s company long enough to yell at his gate-guard suggested that their recently frozen-over relationship had perhaps at last started to thaw. 

    Anyway, Lan Qiren wasn’t even doing them the courtesy of offering them accommodations within the Cloud Recesses, as anyone might reasonably expect. They’d have to stay in Caiyi Town instead, take a room at an inn like any ordinary mortal…truly, it would not be a surprise if they did not choose to stay.

    It would be fine if they didn’t stay. It would be.

    “I’ll pass it along,” Lan Yueheng promised, and ran out the door. Zhang Xin sniffed, but said no more. It was clear she would have preferred he do more, perhaps go and speak to them immediately, but she also knew that she’d pushed her insolence about as far as she could take it. 

    She was very brave.

    “You should marry him,” Lan Qiren told her, thinking to himself that someone ought to be happy even if it wasn’t him, and she blinked at him. “Yueheng-xiong. He looks at you like you hung the moon in the sky.”

    Zhang Xin blinked again, and then flushed. “Well…”

    “You like romances, don’t you? Why not take the next step on this one?”

    She waved her hands at him. “We’ll get there! Don’t rush us.”

    “You don’t have parents, right?” Lan Qiren pressed. “If you like, I can act for them in making the arrangements –”

    “I’ll consider that,” she hissed, her face now bright red. She pointed the club at him, and Lan Qiren hastily raised his hands in surrender; he knew what Lan Yueheng’s explosives were like. “Go back to moping. I’m starting to think I liked you better that way.”

    Lan Qiren didn’t think she did.

    “I need more ink,” he said instead. If he was going to have to make up for all of his brother’s failings and get the Lan sect into the state it needed to in order to be ready to face the storm that awaited them outside their gates within ten days, he would need to work hard, and that meant starting now. “Please fetch some for me. I promise not to bring it up again.”

    She eyed him suspiciously, but bustled off, and Lan Qiren turned to apply himself to work.

    Work was – he could do the work.

    As long as he didn’t have to think about why he was doing it, or how long he would need to do it, not think about how this work wouldn’t just be for now but for the rest of his life, he could do it.

    It took the full ten days and several sleepless nights, interspersed with sleep borne of pure exhaustion, but in the end Lan Qiren managed to make all the preparations he thought were necessary to minimize or at least endure the loss of face that the Lan sect would subject to once the world heard of rumors of what had happened. Even with the sanitized, filtered, cleaned-up version of it that they intended to spread, it would still hurt their reputation.

    “You should take several days to yourself,” his music teacher advised, looking genuinely concerned, and his swordsmanship teacher nodded in agreement. “There will be more work to come, but none so soon.”

    Lan Qiren nodded, being too tired to care about them worrying about him now, and went to the gate.

    “Zhu Dawei,” he called, recognizing the disciple there. It was the same one who had brought him the news, ten days back; the one he’d sent back with the message. “Was there…”

    He trailed off, not sure how to ask the question without seeming overly pathetic – by chance, do you know if my sworn brother and best friend abandoned me and returned to their sects, as any reasonable person would, or did they decide to wait an unreasonably long time in order to talk to me?

    Zhu Dawei saluted adroitly. “Sect Leader Wen and Sect Leader Nie said to tell you that they will be waiting for you at the inn along the main waterway in Caiyi Town, the one with the red awning. They’re planning on dining at you hour if you would like to join them.”

    He had good friends, Lan Qiren thought, feeling stabbing pains of emotions in his chest that he thought might even be a good thing. He nodded. “My thanks,” he said, and headed down the mountain.

    Wen Ruohan and Lao Nie were there in the inn in one of the private suites that were available for rich guests, sitting at a table laid out with all the local specialties: six different dishes and tea and wine. They were bickering over something or another – Lan Qiren didn’t strain himself to listen, only paused a little outside the door, watching them both for a moment. 

    Having been forced to spend ten days’ time in close proximity had clearly been good for them: they were practically back to the way they had been before they’d fallen out, each one clearly genuinely at ease - Wen Ruohan with his smirks and his haughty sneers, Lao Nie with his booming laugh and expressive scowls. Perhaps they had even had the opportunity to actually talk to each other, to clear the air between them and make plain their respective positions, which Lan Qiren had been starting to think they never would - that Wen Ruohan would grow so resentful that he’d shut off his heart again and take Lao Nie back on the condition that he never speak of it again, and so let it fester as an unhealed wound. Lan Qiren had worried about the terrible things that might come of such lingering rage. He had not liked it, but had felt helpless to change it: after all, who on earth could force these two men to stay near to each other when they did not want to?

    Him, apparently.

    They looked good together, suited each other, he thought, watching them both. They were both tall and strong, fine men that exuded power and fierceness and determination in equal measure; it was a real pity that they weren’t quite the right match for each other.

    Lao Nie caught sight of Lan Qiren standing at the door first. The moment he did, he turned away and rose to his feet. “Qiren! There you are – come in – sit! Sit, sit – have you eaten?”

    “Earlier,” Lan Qiren said, coming in and trying to raise his hands in a salute that got quickly knocked aside. “I could eat again.”

    “We insist on it,” Wen Ruohan said, looking him over with a judgmental frown. “I think you’ve gotten thinner…he’s gotten thinner, hasn’t he, Lao Nie?”

    Lao Nie held Lan Qiren at arms length and looked him over critically. “Normally, Hanhan, I’d accuse you of being a mother hen and never let you live it down ever again,” he remarked, “but in this case I really think you’re right. His face is thinner than it was before, definitely a sign of losing weight too rapidly…tell us what happened, Qiren. There’s been no news at all from the Lan sect, only that there was some sort of crisis – some violence – and then all the gates to the Cloud Recesses were shut.”

    “Yes,” Lan Qiren said, rubbing at his temples. He didn’t really want to think about it, but there was no avoiding it. “They were. The full details will be announced at the next discussion conference, which is coming up rapidly.”

    “It is,” Lao Nie said. “I should know; I’m hosting. Will you tell us in advance what the news is?”

    “I will.”

    “Food first,” Wen Ruohan interjected. “No talking during meals, remember?”

    Lao Nie made a face at him, but Lan Qiren smiled thinly at his sworn brother’s poorly concealed kindness and sat down. He ate quickly, the food largely tasteless on his tongue even though it was finely made and featured many of his favorites. They must have ordered them especially, knowing that he was coming tonight.

    The quiet was a welcome reprieve, and allowed him to think over what he was going to say a little more thoroughly. He’d known, of course, that he’d have to tell them, but he hadn’t yet settled on exactly how to force the words from between his teeth…

    When dinner was done and the dishes cleared, the only thing left on the table being the tea and the wine, he cleared his throat. “Did you rent the room?” he asked, and they nodded. “For how long?”

    “We booked the whole month,” Wen Ruohan said carelessly. “It didn’t cost as much as all that.”

    Caiyi Town was the nearest town to the Cloud Recesses, which was full of very rich cultivators. The prices here were far higher than a comparable inn in another place, and were nowhere near cheap even for a night - much less a month. More than that, Lan Qiren hadn’t seen any other guests, which made him suspect that Wen Ruohan had rented not only the room but the entire inn, making it the sort of expenditure more commonly seen among the scions of Lanling Jin.

    Still, Lan Qiren did not complain or point out the inaccuracy. Not when he had hoped for something exactly like that.

    “Good,” he said, and reached up to his forehead ribbon.

    Both Wen Ruohan and Lao Nie gaped at him in stunned disbelief as he removed it, carefully folding it up like the precious thing that it was and tucking it away into his sleeve for safekeeping – even though the process took some time to accomplish, they had not yet recovered by the time he was done. They looked a bit like gawping fish.

    “The forehead ribbon reminds you of your self-restraint,” Lan Qiren quoted. “I do not intend to maintain it tonight.”

    More gawking. He ignored it.

    “I’m intending on getting drunk,” he clarified, nodding at the jars of wine on the table. “I’ll drink as much as you allow me to. Could you keep an eye on me and make sure I don’t leave the premises? I can’t lose face for the sect right now, but both of you are considerably stronger than me, and faster, too. You can keep an eye on me and restrain my behavior, if necessary, and I would appreciate it if you would.”

    “…of course,” Wen Ruohan said, exchanging glances with Lao Nie. “If that’s what you want, little Lan. We’ll care for you.”

    “Can we ask why?” Lao Nie asked, always the blunt one.

    Lan Qiren looked down at the table, gathered his courage, and looked back up at them. “I’m going to be attending the next discussion conference,” he said, and even he could hear how dull and depressed his already monotonous voice was. “At that time, you will need to call me Sect Leader Lan.”

    “Sect - Sect Leader…? You?” Lao Nie was gaping again. “But – you –”

    “What happened to Qingheng-jun?” Wen Ruohan asked, his eyes already narrowed as his mind rapidly churned over the information. 

    “He has entered permanent seclusion,” Lan Qiren said. His fingers had tightened into fists again, and his knuckles were white from the strain. “Along with his wife.”

    “His – wife?”

    “He Kexin?” Wen Ruohan asked. “He’s married – no, she married him?”

    “Yes,” Lan Qiren said, because friends or no, brother or no, they were still sect leaders, still outsiders. He could not share with them the full story, at least not yet, not until he’d made sure they couldn’t use it against his sect. Not until there was a story that the whole world would accept as the truth. “They are married, and secluded. I am the next in line, and have therefore taken on the position.”

    “But you wanted to travel,” Lao Nie said. “To play music, to go see new places. You had all those plans –”

    Lan Qiren flinched.

    “Be silent,” Wen Ruohan told Lao Nie. “Can’t you see you’re just making it worse? He knows.”

    Yes, Lan Qiren knew. No one knew better than him the dreams he’d had, the plans he’d made, how much it had been a fixed part of his life – stronger than mere hope, it had been an expectation. He had never imagined that his life wouldn’t be what he planned to make of it.

    He never imagined his life would be…like this.

    “It is temporary,” he added, the rotten feeling of disappointment coating his tongue like a swallow of bitter medicine. “An examination has revealed that He Kexin is pregnant with my brother’s child. Although it is far too early for any medical indications, divination suggests that it will be a boy.”

    And even if it wasn’t, well, Lan Yi had set a precedent for women to be allowed to be sect leaders, too.

    The sect elders had compared the exceptional qualities of Lan Qiren’s brother against Lan Qiren’s own, compared their respective talents for cultivation and temperaments and their ways with people. That analysis complete, they had suddenly changed their tune: no more did they try to comfort Lan Qiren for his crushed dreams by painting pictures of the power he would obtain, of his children inheriting after him – as if Lan Qiren had ever cared about power, he who had never coveted the position of sect leader even once in his life, and had on account of his inclinations, or lack thereof, had already given up hope of children – and instead they spoke instead of Lan Qiren’s duty to his brother’s legitimate bloodline, his duty to the sect overall.

    Lan Qiren had listened in silence for a while, barely restraining from sneering at their shallow and obvious hypocrisy, before striking a deal with them: he would take on the role of acting sect leader, as he had already known he had no choice but to do, and in time he would willingly step aside for his brother’s heir or heirs, if there was more than one, but he insisted on being the one to raise them.

    He didn’t especially want to raise children, having no idea if he would be any good at it, but he didn’t trust anyone else in his sect to prioritize raising the children as children – as people of their own, rather than extensions of their father, as another chance to correct the mistakes of the past. To raise them with the rules as guidance, as support in times of weakness and pride in times of strength, not as an obstacle to be overcome; to try to do whatever he could to help them avoid the faults of the prior generation without crushing their souls the way his brother had tried to crush his.

    He would give this unborn nephew or nephews everything he could. He would give them the rules, and he would protect them from them; he would spend the rest of his life exerting himself to clean up the sect until it was something worth inheriting, and then he’d give them that, too.

    “Congratulations,” Lao Nie said blankly, and Wen Ruohan elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

    Lan Qiren chuckled humorlessly. “He’ll be only a few years younger than yours,” he said to Lao Nie. “And about of age with your second when he’s born, da-ge.”

    “You don’t deserve this,” Wen Ruohan said, his mouth twisted with bitterness that for once had nothing to do with his own desires. “You deserve better.”

    Lan Qiren appreciated the thought.

    He appreciated them both being angry on his behalf, which they so clearly were. Lao Nie’s face had grown black with rage, his brows tight as if pulled taut with a string, and while Wen Ruohan’s face was calm and sedate as always, his qi seethed and hissed and coiled around them all as if he could keep away Lan Qiren’s duties by sheer force of will. He might even try, if it was something Lan Qiren would consider letting him do.

    It wasn’t, though.

    “The sect’s needs come first,” he said simply. “You both put your sects above yourselves; you know how it is. It’s the same for me.”

    “You still deserve better,” Lao Nie said, and shook his head. “Hanhan’s right. You really do. I’m so sorry, Qiren. I should’ve been there to help more – shouldn’t have been so distracted –”

    “Nothing could have been done to change it,” Lan Qiren said. He didn’t disagree, knowing as he did how careless Lao Nie had been over it all, but if he were to blame Lao Nie, he might as well blame Wen Ruohan, who he knew for a fact did know about it and didn’t bother to try to intervene – but he didn’t want to blame his sworn brother, who had no responsibility here, and he didn’t much want to blame Lao Nie, either, even if he’d said some very stupid things from a distance. It had only ever been his brother’s fault; there was nothing else for it. “It’s…”

    He trailed off, not able to say it was fine, because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t true.

    Do not tell lies.

    “I’ll live,” he said instead, because that was. No matter what, he had to live. His sect depended on him, his not-yet-born nephew depended on him. “I’m going to become a teacher, instead. It’ll give me something to do.”

    He would have more than enough to do as the sect leader, of course, acting or otherwise, and with him just barely into his early twenties he was very young to be a teacher. But he desperately wanted something that wasn’t just the sect’s, something all his own, and he had planned on being a teacher, too. Much later in life, of course, but – it was still something.

    Something of his own.

    Maybe he’d push the elders for permission to have children from other sects come for lessons, just to mimic the variety of the world that he was no longer permitted to go see. Sect leaders feather their own nests with the stories of others, he’d once told Cangse Sanren, that’s a way of living, too…

    He had to think of it that way. If he didn’t, he’d think instead of what she said, a caged lark singing only for a select few, and that would be worse. 

    “Do you have any more questions?” he added, not wanting to think of anything at all any longer. “If not, I would very much like to get drunk on your wine, if you don’t mind.”

    Wen Ruohan and Lao Nie exchanged glances again, some secret communication that Lan Qiren didn’t bother to try and fail to decipher – truly, if there was one good part to the entire disaster it was that they had overcome their distance in truth rather merely on the surface – but then Wen Ruohan nodded firmly and Lao Nie began to set out the drinking bowls.

    “For once, I’m almost looking forward to hearing about your sect rules,” Wen Ruohan remarked. “As long as you just tell me about them, this time, and don’t knee me in the –”

    Lan Qiren grabbed at the drinking bowl, glaring at him, and Lao Nie laughed. “Let’s see how much you can tolerate,” he said cheerfully. “The liquor here is pretty mild, so start with one bowl and tell me how you’re feeling after –”

    Lan Qiren drank the bowl, grimacing a little at the taste, and remembered nothing more.

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  • eldritch-bisexual
    11.07.2021 - 1 week ago

    Tip to my writer mutuals out there:

    If you're writing one of those sexy villains you want to make sound mysteriously overpowering, there's a playlist on Spotify called "Vaguely Threatening Music" (which i discovered by searching those exact words) and that first song SLAPS.

    #i'm writing Wen Ruohan btw #;)
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  • thebiscuiteternal
    11.07.2021 - 1 week ago

    Sort of proving my point that chapter 2 had utterly kicked me in the teeth, chapter 3 of “And One in the Cage” is already finished!

    In which we find out exactly what the binding array does, things get considerably creepier in the palace, there is some discussion of how Wen Ruohan is out of his fucking mind, and Nie Mingjue finally appears!

    https://archiveofourown.org/works/31722535/chapters/80641621

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  • songofclarity
    11.07.2021 - 1 week ago
    #anon#mdzs thoughts#madam wen#wen ruohan #wrh x madam wen #asked from above #1000 stories about possible madam wen scenarios to tell #and in the top tier is It Began With A Dance
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  • flautistsandpeonies
    10.07.2021 - 2 weeks ago

    Sword Names

    In most fics, people always have [Name]Sect!WWX sword named Suibian, but I don't see that happening? WWX was having trouble naming his sword, so he gave it to Jiang Fengmian to name, so if we go by that logic, depending on whatever sect he's apart of someone else would name it. It wouldn't be named "Whatever".

    Sooooo.... Let's get creative.

    Headcanons:

    WenSect!WWX

    Sword named “Yin” (Silver) by a teacher/senior disciple. Later, when Wen Ruohan recognizes his skill and begins to favor him, he is given a fancier sword. However, he never names it and mostly keeps it as decor in his quarters. When asked why, Wei WuXian commented, “Yin has been by this one’s side since he was lucky enough to be brought up in the Wen Sect. My strength, my knowledge, my everything that I give to you Sect Leader Wen, I wish to do so with them by my side.”

    NieSect!WWX

    Saber named "Tiger” by Nie Mingjue. Sect Leader Nie is greatly amused when Wei WuXian creates the Stygian Tiger Seal during the Sunshot Campaign and comments that “Sooner or later you’ll be walking around with a pride!”

    JinSect!WWX

    Sword named “Canary” by WWX's teacher/senior disciple. During his adolescence, Wei WuXian once commented after beating Jin ZiXuan in a spar that “My Canary doesn’t like your haughtiness, you Peacock. Just because you’re Sect Leader Jin’s son doesn’t mean I won’t toss you into the mud. Come on, stand up and let’s go again; you’re fast on your feet; I like that.”

    LanSect!WWX

    Sword named “Meiling” (Beautiful Spirit) by Lan Qiren or another Lan elder. During the Sunshot Campaign, Lan Qiren, while not liking or approving the demonic flute, ChenQing, commented that the “Name was appropriate, but will need a thorough and proper cleansing once the war was over.”

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  • robininthelabyrinth
    09.07.2021 - 2 weeks ago

    Spilled Pearls

    - Chapter 23 - ao3 -

    Lan Qiren woke with a start at the sound of something slamming to the point of cracking – a door thrown too hard, perhaps, or the shattering of a piece of furniture under the strength of a powerful cultivator.

    Dazed at having been woken so abruptly at such a late hour, he at first thought that the sound was an aberration of some sort, someone making too much noise by mistake, even some cultivation maniac doing exercises in the middle of the night that had briefly lost control, but then the sounds continued, crashing and slamming and even indistinct shouting.

    Indistinct, and unfamiliar, but still recognizable – that was Wen Ruohan’s voice.

    Lan Qiren had never heard him shout before.

    He stood up, instinctively checking over his clothing and fixing his forehead ribbon, and padded out towards the door to the hallway. The array used to create enough silence to let him sleep was glowing faintly, doing its work against overwhelming odds, but Lan Qiren didn’t hesitate to dismiss it and pull open the door, poking his head out to see what was going on.

    “ – what use are you?” Wen Ruohan was shouting, some distance down the hall. “Good-for-nothing bitch! What do you think I got you for in the first place?”

    He was standing outside his wife’s door.

    Lan Qiren had not seen Madame Wen on this visit, other than in passing. He’d been relieved to discover that he had heard accurately and that she had not suffered on account of what she had done, except perhaps as a result of her husband making clear that he would give her exactly what he had promised her out of their marriage and nothing more. Despite that, every time she saw him, she generally had an expression that resembled smelling something bad, and he didn’t especially want to deal with her irrational jealousy. 

    (Lan Qiren could understand and even appreciate the truth that she had shown him, but it didn’t mean he appreciated the reasoning behind her actions - just as Wen Ruohan might appreciate the cunning and ambition demonstrated by her actions, and begrudgingly acknowledge that the real fault for their divide was his own actions, but not feel any more inclined to her as a result.)

    Lan Qiren thought he might have to deal with her more, particularly on the few times he had visited little Wen Xu, who was already a size or two larger than he’d started out – it was simply shocking in terms of how much time had passed since he’d had his argument with Wen Ruohan – but he found that the child was largely being watched by servants, not the Madame, who was busy ruling the social scene of the Nightless City. Whether that was true or merely an excuse, by now it was clear that they were in mutual agreement that they did not want to spend any time in each other’s presence.

    She was also, very clearly, refusing to let Wen Ruohan into her bedroom.

    Lan Qiren couldn’t blame her: he’d never seen Wen Ruohan in a state like this. His clothing was mussed up, his hands clenched, his face red, his aura frighteningly strong and overwhelming, his monstrously powerful qi roiling the air in the hallway into an incipient storm – and even from the distance he was standing, Lan Qiren could smell the distinct odor of strong liquor, suggesting that Wen Ruohan had overindulged in alcohol at some point after Lan Qiren had gone to sleep. Based on casual mentions in prior conversation, Lan Qiren knew that Wen Ruohan’s cultivation level was so high as to render him largely unaffected even by significant drinking, but the fact that he had bothered to try to seek solace in the wine jar suggested that there was something incredibly wrong with his mental state. 

    It wasn’t a qi deviation - the violent emanations were unsettled, but not distorted - but it wasn’t good, either.

    Wisdom would counsel that Lan Qiren keep back and not get in Wen Ruohan’s way.

    Righteousness, on the other hand…

    Anyway, Wen Ruohan was his sworn brother. What sort of brother would Lan Qiren be if he took only the good and not the bad?

    “Da-ge?” he called, stepping out into the hallway. “Da-ge, come away from there.”

    Wen Ruohan turned to him, and his expression was frightening. “Fine. You’ll do,” he growled, and it was only because Lan Qiren had grown wiser and stronger that he realized what was about to happen and dodged before Wen Ruohan could grab him, darting back into his room.

    Wen Ruohan followed him in.

    “What happened?” Lan Qiren asked, still backing away. “You were fine at dinner – what happened since then?”

    For some reason, that set Wen Ruohan off again, turning his attention away from Lan Qiren, and he grabbed the table and threw it into the wall, smashing it all to pieces. 

    “That fucker,” he snarled, his eyes blank and distant. He wasn’t angry at Lan Qiren, that much was clear, but he was filled with ceaseless rage, and he was taking it out on everything around him. “That fucker got married! He’s got a son!”

    Lan Qiren blinked. “…what?”

    Smash went the cabinet, and all the various things on it. At least Wen Ruohan hadn’t started in on the paintings, which were the only aspect of the room Lan Qiren actually cared or worried about.

    “Who got married and had a son?” Lan Qiren asked, even though he knew it would only inflame Wen Ruohan further. At this point, it was clear that Wen Ruohan’s had gotten stuck in his chest, like black blood that needed to be coughed; he needed to vent his anger or else it would curdle within him and he would suffer. “Normally that’s a good thing, a cause for celebration. Why is it bad here?”

    “Because it’s Lao Nie!” Wen Ruohan burst out, and Lan Qiren rocked back on his heels in shock.

    It wasn’t that he hadn’t known that Lao Nie had been unusually distracted these past few months, even most of a year – the way he’d ignored or disregarded Lan Qiren’s letters about the situation with He Kexin, the breezy and almost manic tone of his replies to Lan Qiren’s brother, which Lan Qiren had seen, it all spoke of distraction and carelessness, all typical of Lao Nie, albeit of far greater severity than usual.

    Nor was it truly a surprise that none of them had been informed: the Qinghe Nie had always been idiosyncratic about their personal details, unusually secretive and fiercely proud of it. They did not share their birth date or even year, other than for arranging a marriage. If Lan Qiren had thought about it, he wouldn’t have been at all surprised to find out that Lao Nie would have married and had a child all without having shared any information on the subject until afterwards.

    Only…

    “But aren’t you – with him?” he asked, and knew immediately that he had asked the wrong question.

    Wen Ruohan roared and smashed yet another thing, sending a palm strike through a dresser and denting the stone wall with the power of it. “He’s mine,” he spat. His eyes were even redder than usual, the sclera becoming red alongside the iris; it made him look almost possessed, almost as if he really were having some sort of qi deviation. “He’s mine, damn it! Who is he to give himself to another? And he didn’t even tell me…!”

    They were definitely in a relationship, Lan Qiren confirmed to himself. His guess had been right. There could be no doubt about it. And yet, despite it all, Lao Nie had –

    No, he couldn’t even express surprise. Lan Qiren knew Lao Nie, knew what he valued and how he valued it: Lao Nie had always been passionate and powerful, strong and superior, friendly and often kind, and yet at his core he was ruthless, careless, and selfish, just like Wen Ruohan was so often selfish. He did not concern himself overmuch with questions of righteousness, other than to the degree necessary to win glory to his sect as one on the righteous path. After his sect, which he valued most of all, he was an indolent pleasure-seeker, with terrible taste in partners, the more dangerous the better; Lan Qiren had seen him flirting with people left and right long after he’d concluded that he’d entered into a relationship with Wen Ruohan.

    In the past, Wen Ruohan hadn’t seemed to mind. If anything, he’d even encouraged him, looking smug and amused by the flirtations, taking the other man’s victories as his own; during one incident that Lan Qiren could recall, he’d all but applauded when Lao Nie had successfully wooed some rogue cultivator and taken her back to his bed, turning instead to his own separate amusements after.

    Then again, that wasn’t a marriage.

    (Of course, Wen Ruohan himself had also gotten married…)

    “How dare he,” Wen Ruohan said, panting a little from his own exertion, clearly more moved by the feelings raging within him than any type of physical exhaustion. “How dare he – does he think I’m desperate? Pathetic? Does he think I’d run after him, begging and humiliating myself..? I don’t need him at all!”

    He turned once more, and this time his gaze focused on Lan Qiren.

    “I have something of my own already,” he murmured, and this time Lan Qiren wasn’t fast enough to stop him as he caught him up in his arms, slamming his back against the wall.

    Lan Qiren tensed, suddenly for a moment back in his rooms in the Cloud Recesses, looking up at a different brother who wanted to hurt him – but no, Wen Ruohan wasn’t the same, Wen Ruohan liked him. He was acting out of fury, not malice; there was no He Kexin here to goad him on, nothing like that.

    Even the force of being pushed against the wall hadn’t actually hurt – Wen Ruohan had been careful even in his mindless rage, making sure that any impact was cushioned by his own arms rather than Lan Qiren’s back; Lan Qiren hadn’t even had the breath knocked out of him.

    “Da-ge…!”

    Wen Ruohan didn’t want to hear him. He put his hand on Lan Qiren’s mouth and pressed down, cutting off speech at once. They were pressed together so closely that the movement inadvertently dragged his sleeve onto Lan Qiren’s throat, almost making him gag, and he instinctively tried futilely to kick his way out – it didn’t work, of course.

    Wen Ruohan pressed up against him, the front of his body burning like flame against Lan Qiren.

    “You’re mine,” he said, reaching in to nuzzle the side of Lan Qiren’s head with his cheek. “My blood brother, bound by oath and blood; my shining pearl, untouched by the world. All good things should belong to me.”

    Lan Qiren reached up to try to push away the hand at this mouth, wanting to speak even though he did not know what he would say, and at first he thought he’d done it. But then suddenly he was in motion, his back landing hard on the bed he’d been given, the impact softened by the blanket Wen Ruohan had wrapped around him when he’d brought him back to the Nightless City from the Cloud Recesses. Shocked by the unexpectedness of the abrupt movement, he gasped, a wordless inhale rather than any coherent words.

    Less than a heartbeat, and Wen Ruohan was on top of him, pressing him down. His body seemed even hotter than usual, as if his whole spirit were aflame, his qi boiling in the air around them until Lan Qiren had the impression as though he ought to be able to see steam; his hands were hot where they pressed down on Lan Qiren’s shoulders, his lips burning as they pressed against his collarbone, and between his legs there was something hot pressing against him, too.

    And still, Lan Qiren – was not afraid.

    He wasn’t sure why. He’d been terrified when it had been his brother who had stood against him, disgusted when it had been He Kexin pawing at him in ways he did not and had never wanted, but Wen Ruohan, who was bound to him through nothing but a tricked oath…

    “Da-ge,” he whispered. “Please stop.”

    Wen Ruohan stilled. He didn’t get up or pull away, but he didn’t make any further movements.

    “Please let me go.”

    Wen Ruohan’s breathing was harsh in his ear. “You, too, little Lan?” he asked. “Just like him, making me think – don’t you like me?”

    “I do,” Lan Qiren admitted. He might be stupid when it came to social interactions, might be slow and miss things that were obvious, but even he could figure out what Wen Ruohan meant, with his confession of how Lan Qiren lingered in his thoughts and in pressing him down on the bed like this while mourning the loss of Lao Nie, his lover. And maybe sometimes he needed Cangse Sanren to point things out to him, but most of the time he knew himself. This past week had made clear enough that he enjoyed Wen Ruohan’s endless indulgences in a spirit that was more than just pure brotherhood. “I do like you. But I don’t like – this.”

    Wen Ruohan was silent for a long moment.

    “Not this, with me,” he finally said. “Or not – at all?”

    “At all,” Lan Qiren said. He had thought when he was younger that he might change, but he was increasingly sure that he wouldn’t, that this was just what he was like. “I was never like the others my age. Even Yueheng-xiong, who I would’ve thought loved nothing but mathematics and explosions, has found himself distracted by the shape of the one he likes. But not me. I don’t yearn the way they do. I can love a person’s spirit, but I never much cared for the flesh.”

    “Love,” Wen Ruohan echoed, his voice oddly uneven. “You speak of - love?”

    “…isn’t that what we’re talking about?”

    Wen Ruohan laughed, a jagged and choked up thing, and then he pulled away, letting Lan Qiren go, sitting up on the bed and burying his face in his hands. The qi around him was still too-hot, overwhelming, pulsing with his feelings, even as his shoulders shook and he stared blankly at the wall; any other man, and Lan Qiren might think he was crying, but he could see Wen Ruohan’s face through his fingers, and there were no tears there.

    Perhaps he’d forgotten how.

    Lan Qiren slowly sat up himself.

    He could still feel the mild stiffness of old healing injuries, but he ignored them and got up off the bed, going to the one side table that had yet to be destroyed – the one where he’d laid his guqin to rest. It turned out that Wen Ruohan had only destroyed the things he himself had put into the room; he hadn’t touched anything of Lan Qiren’s.

    Lan Qiren settled in front of his guqin and began to play.

    Out of all the compositions he had created, his favorite was the one he had first created at the Nightless City, that strange hypnotic melody that brought to mind spilled pearls, but unlike some of the others he’d worked on, it had never felt fully completed. The music wrapped itself around the listener, at first intimate and then oppressive, a heavy stone in their chest and pressure on their skull, growing darker and darker, just as he’d written it – but now he played onwards, elaborating on the theme in ways he hadn’t planned or expected, letting the solemn notes brighten, the overwhelming pressure turning from suffocating into safe as it became clear that it would cause no harm, the storm passing by overhead and leaving things clean and clear and better, the lingering euphoria of finding oneself supported, rather than alone.

    When his fingers finally stilled, Lan Qiren looked up and saw Wen Ruohan sitting there with his back straight again, hands resting gently in his lap, eyes closed as if in meditation and face calm once more. His qi no longer coiled around him, lashing out; it had settled once more.

    “You will,” Wen Ruohan said without opening his eyes, “be an excellent traveling musician, little Lan. People will fight for the right to hear you, and you will never go without an audience.”

    Lan Qiren hesitated, not sure what to make of such a compliment, or what Wen Ruohan meant by it. He’d only intended to play something to help him settle his qi and soothe his rage, which he’d clearly accomplished. He hadn’t even meant to play that particular song, other than in the way that he tended to default to it when he had nothing else specific in mind. It had always been unsatisfying, like an itch, but now it finally felt complete.

    “Da-ge –” he started to say, not knowing what he would say next, but at any rate he never had the chance to continue.

    “When you do finally go to fulfill your dreams, leaving the dust of the world behind you, I hope that you visit the Nightless City often,” Wen Ruohan said. His tone was still calm, settled, but not, Lan Qiren observed, peaceful: there were all sorts of seething emotions underneath it. “But for the moment, I think it is better if you return to the Cloud Recesses.”

    Lan Qiren hesitated once again, this time feeling a little hurt. “You don’t want me here?”

    “I do,” Wen Ruohan said, and his lips curved into something that was not a smile; it seemed almost painful a shape to contort into, and his eyes reflected no humor at all when he opened them. “Very much. Ah, little Lan, if only you knew…despite that, I would still have you go. Having made my views on you clear to your brother, it should be safe, and I do not want you to see what beast I make of myself when I am denied.”

    Lan Qiren bowed his head a little. “About Lao Nie…”

    “I know what he’s like,” Wen Ruohan said. “I’ve always known, from the start. If you had asked me a few days ago, I would have said that I did not have any illusions…”

    He smiled bitterly.

    “It seems that I misjudged myself.”

    “I’ll go,” Lan Qiren said. He didn’t especially want to, but Wen Ruohan wasn’t in a rage, nor lashing out unthinkingly. To refuse him would be to deny him, to treat him as if he could not make his own decisions, and that, he thought, would be worse. “If you want me to, I’ll go, and later, I’ll return.”

    Wen Ruohan said nothing, but he watched as Lan Qiren pulled on some more clothing, not caring which one it was, and did his hair back up in the simplest style, favoring speed over substance; he packed away his guqin and his sword and one of the paintings that he had liked best, but took nothing else – after all, it wasn’t as if he were going away for good.

    He made it to the door before hesitating, then turned back to look at Wen Ruohan, who was still watching him.

    “Is there anything…?” he asked haltingly. “Something I can get you…?”

    “Send one of the maids to me,” Wen Ruohan said. “Any of them, it doesn’t matter which. If they’re still hanging around in the family quarters after an eruption like that, it can be seen that their ambition has overcome their good sense, making them a perfect match for me. It would be a shame to deny them the fruits of their victory.”

    Lan Qiren didn’t quite understand, but he knew enough to get the gist; he felt his cheeks and ears go hot. Still, he had offered, and it wasn’t something he was willing to do himself, so there was really no basis for refusing to pass along the request. He nodded and slipped out – as Wen Ruohan predicted, there was one of the maids lingering at the far corner, looking around in blatant curiosity. She was pretty enough, Lan Qiren supposed, with an upturned nose and a slightly arrogant air, her clothing carefully arranged to be just a little mussed in a way that Lan Qiren understood most men to find attractive.

    “Your sect leader is in my room,” he told her, and she blinked at him. “If you go to him now, he’d probably accept. Up to you, though.”

    She stared at him for a moment, then nodded. He left, his head held high; when he glanced back anyway, he saw her going into his room, hair patted down and clothing even more carefully arranged – Wen Ruohan hadn’t been wrong when he speculated as to her ambitions. The life of a powerful sect leader, Lan Qiren supposed: desired but never known, as distant from those around him as Lan Qiren but as a consequence of his position rather than his inclination.  

    He would definitely return, Lan Qiren decided. Perhaps he would even make the Nightless City the first destination on his travels. After all, why should he not? Was Wen Ruohan not his sworn brother, too?

    Yes, Lan Qiren thought. That was right.

    Wen Ruohan deserved to have someone possess him as he longed to possess others.

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